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 V.13 No.42 | October 14 - 20, 2004 

Odds & Ends

Dateline: Brazil—A rancher accused of ordering the murder of four government agents inspecting claims of slavery has been released from jail after being elected mayor of his home town. Anterio Manica was let out of prison last Tuesday night after his landslide victory for mayor of Unai, a rural town 90 miles from the capital of Brasilia. A Brazilian court ruled that Manica could take office on Jan. 1 while the justice system investigates federal police accusations that he and his brother hired the gang that executed three labor ministry inspectors and their driver earlier this year. The agents were ambushed near Unai as they were looking into reports of forced labor on a black bean plantation owned by Manica's brother Norberto, who is one of the world's top bean growers. Although Norberto remains in custody, Anterio is free to pursue his political career. “As he was elected mayor, there is little concern he would try to flee,” said a Federal Police spokesman.

Dateline: Romania—Villagers in Cristinesti fled their hometown last week after mistaking disco lights in a nearby town for an alien invasion. According to the Adevarul daily, locals thought they were under attack by aliens when they suddenly saw bright, multicolored lights in the sky. “Everybody was out on the streets and wondering what to do if the aliens landed,” Cristinesti inhabitant Costel Roman told the newspaper. Police who were called out to investigate discovered the lights were coming from an open air disco in the town of Herto near the Ukrainian border.

Dateline: India—The entire staff of the Rajendra Memorial High School in West Champaran has been fired after it was discovered that none of them had been to work in 23 years. The 11 employees, including eight teachers, only showed up to the school twice a year on occasions of national importance. The scam came to light after the Bihar School Examination Board Chairman Subhash Sharma carried out a surprise inspection of the school in eastern India. The inspection team found three men who claimed to be “dummy teachers” hired by the government-appointed regulars in February 1981. The Statesman of Calcutta quoted the three “dummy” teachers as saying, “Initially, we were paid about $10 a month. Now it has risen to $20. The principal resides about 20 miles from here. At the beginning of every month, we have to formally contact him by phone for our salary. He never disappoints us.” In addition to the truant staff, the inspection team also discovered that the names of most of the students enrolled in the school were fake.

Dateline: Hong Kong—Authorities at the DBS Bank admitted that some 83 safety deposit boxes were accidentally destroyed during a recent branch renovation in the urban Kowloon neighborhood. The boxes were apparently mixed up with 900 empty, unused lockers and were crushed as scrap metal by contractors last Saturday. “When we discovered the error, we spent all of Sunday and Monday trying to contact the affected customers,” said a DBS spokeswoman. “They were understandably upset, angry and disappointed.” DBS said it was unable to put a value on the lost items contained within the safety deposit boxes, but expects the error to run into the millions.

Dateline: Michigan—A woman who admitted she sold stones to rioters in Benton Harbor last year has pleaded no contest to a felony charge and faces up to 10 years in prison. According to police, Yuolanda Taylor, 32, lugged rocks through a riot-wracked neighborhood on the night of June 16, 2003. She sold smaller stones for $1 and bigger rocks for $5. The rocks were thrown at police, prosecutors said. Taylor told police she collected about $70, but quit when she got pelted by some of her own merchandise. She later used the money to pay for her cable TV bill. Taylor was one of six people charged about one year after mobs burned houses and assaulted police and firefighters in two nights of violence. Ten people were arrested at the time of the riots. The rest, including Taylor, were charged after a lengthy task force investigation.

Dateline: California—A $40,000 ceramic mural was recently unveiled outside Livermore new city library. Although the mural contains the names of 175 famed thinkers, such luminaries as Einstein, Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo and seven others are misspelled. “Our library director is very frustrated that she has this lovely new library and it has all these misspellings in front,” City Councilwoman Lorraine Dietrich told the Associated Press. Mural creator Maria Alquilar, perhaps overestimating public library users, told reporters, “The people that are into humanities and are into Blake's concept of Enlightenment, they are not looking at the words. In their mind, the words register correctly.” Despite Blake's concept of Enlightenment, the Livermore City Council has authorized another $6,000 plus expenses to fly Alquilar up from Florida to correct her errors.

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to devin@alibi.com.

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