Dateline: China—A regional government has backed off a rule urging local government workers to smoke more in order to boost tax income. Authorities in Gong’an County ordered civil servants and teachers to smoke 230,000 packs of the locally made Hubei brand cigarettes each year. Those who did not smoke fast enough or used brands made in other provinces were fined or even fired, reports the BBC. The government backtracked after an official was interviewed in a local newspaper. “The regulation will boost the local economy via the cigarette tax,” Chen Nianzu, a member of the cigarette market supervision team in Gong’an county, Hubei Province, told the Global Times newspaper. As the story spread, the local government’s website published a statement saying simply, “We decided to remove this edict.”
Dateline: Afghanistan—Life just got lonelier for Afghanistan’s only known pig, who is now locked away at the Kabul Zoo over fears he could infect visitors with swine flu. The small white pig is something of a curiosity in the Muslim nation, where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious. “For now, the pig is under quarantine. We built it a room because of swine influenza,” Aziz Gul Saqib, director of Kabul Zoo, told Reuters. “We’ve done this because people are worried about getting the flu.” Saqib did acknowledge that people can’t actually catch swine flu from pigs. “We understand that, but most people don’t have enough knowledge. When they see the pig in the cage, they get worried.”
Dateline: Somalia—Pirates failed spectacularly in their bid to hijack a French Navy ship. Apparently mistaking the heavily armed Nivose for a commercial vessel, a pirate mothership and two assault boats approached the naval craft “at great speed,” according to ship Capt. Christophe Prazuck. A helicopter patrolling with the warship fired warning shots at the assault boats. A total of 11 pirates gave up and were captured without a fight.
Dateline: Germany—Police say an elderly man became so infuriated at hearing his neighbors play the same tune over and over again that he called authorities—who quickly discovered the source of the trouble was a musical greeting card sitting on the man’s windowsill. Police said the 82-year-old from Goslar, in central Germany, told officers he was sick of the music, which would come at irregular intervals at all times of the day and night. Upon further investigation, police discovered a musical greeting card propped up on the man’s windowsill. Occasional breezes blowing through the window would open the card, causing it to play a short tune. The retiree said he was relieved to find that his neighbors weren’t trying to annoy him.
Dateline: Dominican Republic—It’s a good day to be Dummy Ruiz. A judicial panel has ruled that Dominicans are free to name their kids Dummy Ruiz, Dear Pineapple and whatever other unusual names they choose. Central Electoral Commission Judge Jose Angel Aquinas had called for a crackdown on nontraditional names after the country’s civil registry showed some families were naming their offspring after cartoon characters, car brands and other sources of pop cultural inspiration. The proposed ban would have prevented names that could be confusing or give no indication of gender, such as Querida Piña (Dear Pineapple), Tonton Ruiz (Dummy Ruiz), Seno Jimenez (Breast Jimenez), Toshiba Fidelina and Mazda Altagracia. The Central Electoral Commission rejected Aquinas’ proposal, however, saying that it was inappropriate for government to dictate what parents name their children.
Dateline: New York—An article in the New York Post fingers Teresa Tambunting, 50, for allegedly stealing more than 500 pounds of gold from her employer. Tambunting, a married mother of three, is accused of patiently smuggling as much as $12 million’ worth of the precious metal out of Jacmel Jewelry over the course of the last six years by stashing small pieces in a handbag with a false bottom. Investigators have so far recovered about $7.3 million in gold that Tambunting kept stashed in 12 large plastic treasure chests in her Scarsdale home. Nearly $5 million in gold is still unaccounted for, though investigators have found no evidence so far that Tambunting converted the jewelry into cash. Sources quoted in the Post said that Tambunting may have a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that leads her to hoard items. She is currently free on $100,000 bond.
Dateline: New York—Prompted by the outbreak of a rare animal-borne disease, officials from New York City’s Department of Health are warning parents to supervise their children and “not allow them to eat raccoon feces.” Two recent cases of raccoon roundworm in Brooklyn have left a teenager blind in one eye and an infant with brain damage. Prior to these cases, investigators had turned up fewer than 30 human cases of raccoon roundworm in all of medical literature. Roundworms lay their eggs in raccoon feces. The eggs hatch after being ingested and travel throughout the body causing nausea, nerve damage and even death. So, to reiterate: No more eating raccoon poop, kids of New York.