Odds And Ends

Devin D. O'Leary
4 min read
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Dateline: Saudi Arabia

A prominent Muslim cleric is urging women not to drive because it could damage their ovaries and result in children with clinical problems. In the statements, published on the sabq.org website, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan said, “If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards.” The cleric’s comments came in response to a campaign urging women to defy Saudi Arabia’s anti-women drivers policy with a “protest drive” on Oct. 26. It is not actually against the law for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, but the government refuses to grant licenses to women, and women can be fined, detained or put on trial for driving without a license. The sheikh, who serves as a judicial advisor to an association of Gulf psychologists, said women should put “reason above their hearts, emotions and passions” and warned that “those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees.” King Abdullah has allegedly pushed some “cautious” reforms aimed at expanding women’s freedoms in Saudi Arabia but has remained silent on the issue of female drivers. The website for the protest drive campaign was blocked within the country earlier this month.

Dateline: Venezuela

A state agency has seized control of a major toilet paper factory after embarrassing shortages of the staple have left Venezuelans high and dry. Critics of President Nicolas Maduro say the crippling product shortages, involving everything from bathroom tissue to milk, are a sign that his socialist government is on the verge of failure. The national agency Sundecop, which enforces price controls, issued a statement saying it would occupy one of the factories belonging to paper producer Manpa for 15 days with National Guard troops in order to “safeguard” the facility. “The action in the producer of toilet paper, sanitary napkins and disposable diapers responds to the state’s obligation to ensure a steady supply of basic goods for the people,” Sundecop said in its statement. Supporters of Maduro say the successor to the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez is doing his best to stop unscrupulous capitalists from hoarding valuable supplies in order to make quick profits. Critics, on the other hand, say shortages of consumer goods are being caused by businesses’ inability to import raw material and machinery due to a shortage of hard currency caused by the government’s rigid price and currency controls.

Dateline: England

Villagers in a small Welsh town are debating whether they want to be authentic or ridiculed. Welsh language campaigners have proposed changing the name of Varteg, in South Wales, to the more correct Welsh spelling—Y Farteg. Though Welsh has no letter V, the two consonants are pronounced the same. Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones waded into the controversy, telling the UK’s
Mirror it would not be sensible to correct the spelling “for obvious reasons.” Villager Sioned Jones—unrelated to the First Minister—addressed it more directly to Wales Online, saying, “Just imagine how embarrassing it will be to have the word fart in your village’s name. Never mind being followed by egg.” The local government said the Welsh Language Commissioner had proposed the name change, but residents would be consulted before anything becomes official.

Dateline: Washington

Rather than leave her 9-year-old daughter’s birthday cake in a car with her dog, a woman in Washington state opted to take it with her into a courthouse. The cake passed through a metal detector at the Cowlitz County Hall of Justice and was sitting on a table when 50-year-old Robert Eric Fredrickson mashed his hand into the purple frosting. A security officer asked Fredrickson to stop. That’s when he lunged for the cake. “I was pissed when he stuck his hand in it the first time,” the cake’s owner, Michelle Flavin, told
The Daily News of Longview. “I was like, ‘Hey!’” “Then he went back for seconds!” her sister, Tina Ghee, added. A sheriff’s deputy tackled the cake-taker, pulling him over the plastic folding table and pushing him onto the ground. The frosting-smeared Fredrickson was arrested and charged with suspected third-degree theft. Authorities say Fredrickson was due to appear in court on a charge of indecent exposure. A local Safeway store offered to replace the birthday cake for free.

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

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