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News That Sounds Like a Joke 

A weekly roundup of international news oddities.

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News That Sounds Like a Joke
In Turkmenistan's capital, Ashgabat, drivers of black cars are facing high costs to repaint their cars white or silver after President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov banned black vehicles because he thinks the color white brings good luck. Police began seizing dark-colored vehicles in late December, and owners have to apply for permission to repaint and re-register them. The average wage in Ashgabat is about $300 a month (or 1,200 manats); one Turkman told Radio Free Europe that he was quoted 7,000 manats for a paint job, but was told that the price would rise within a week to 11,000 manats. "Even if I don't spend any money anywhere, I will be forced to hand over pretty much my entire annual salary just to repaint," the unnamed man said, adding that his black car had already been impounded.

Bright Idea
Noting that "nobody else has done it," on Jan. 4 Nebraska state Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus proposed a novel constitutional amendment with the goal of stimulating growth in western Nebraska: Delegate complete or partial sovereignty over a designated, limited and sparsely populated area. "If I were a major business, I would not want Omaha or Lincoln ... telling me what to do," Schumacher said. The Lincoln Journal Star reported that the senator believes his concept would attract businesses looking for no state or local taxes and no state or local regulations. It presents the opportunity to "have your own state," he explained. The Nebraska legislature must approve the resolution before citizens get a chance to vote.

Public Safety
Tennessee's legislature has a newly renovated home in the Cordell Hull building in Nashville, so Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell have been busy outlining some new rules. "Hand-carried signs and signs on hand sticks" will be strictly prohibited because they pose a "serious safety hazard." Animals, too, will be turned away at the door, reported The Tennessean on Dec. 21. But in a dizzying twist of irony, McNally and Harwell will continue a policy they enacted last year, which allows holders of valid gun permits to bring their weapons into the building.

• A Facebook event calling for a candlelight vigil to remember a destroyed Taco Bell restaurant in Montgomery, Ala., started as a joke. But according to United Press International, about 100 people showed up on Jan. 21 to pay their respects to the popular fast-food restaurant, which burned down on Jan. 17 after electrical equipment sparked a fire. The owner promised to rebuild and "have a true celebration upon re-opening."

Take That!
In Dresden, Germany, police reported that two men were injured on Jan. 15 after hitting each other with their cars in consecutive accidents. The first man, 49, pulled into a handicapped parking spot, then saw his mistake and backed out, accidentally hitting a 72-year-old man walking behind the car. The two men exchanged information for a report, then the older man got into his car and reversed out of his parking spot, hitting the younger man. Both men suffered only slight injuries, according to the Associated Press.

For the Love of Animals
Richard the 15-year-old pony, of Bridgton, Maine, has had a rough winter. He was suffering from cancer of his penis and infection when temperatures plummeted to negative 25 degrees, which caused frostbite. As a result, part of the animal's flesh broke off while he was being examined, the Associated Press reported. The Animal Rescue Unit in Bridgton has taken responsibility for the pony and has raised more than $4,000 for his care, including reconstructive surgery. Brogan Horton of Animal Rescue Unit said the goal is for Richard to live out his life pain-free.

Cliche Come to Life
Outdoorsman Sergey Terekhov, 64, had just let his dogs out to run before a January hunting outing in Russia's remote Saratov region when one of the dogs bounded back to him and clawed the trigger of Terekhov's double-barreled shotgun, shooting the man in the abdomen. The Telegraph reported that his brother rushed Terekhov to the hospital, but he died less than an hour after the shooting.

Road Rage
Distracted driving caused long backups and at least one minor traffic accident on Jan. 20 as a man wandered along I-95 in Philadelphia—in the buff. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the stripped-down man walked along the shoulder and in and out of the right lane around noon, throwing items at cars before being taken into custody by police. His name was not released.

Compulsions
Bradley Hardison, 27, of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, achieved minor celebrity status in 2014 when he won a doughnut-eating contest sponsored by the Elizabeth City Police Department. (He ate eight glazed doughnuts in two minutes.) At the time, police had been looking for Hardison as a suspect in break-ins going back to 2013, so they arrested him, and he received a suspended sentence that ended in October 2017. But a doughnut habit is hard to break: The Virginian-Pilot reported that Hardison was charged on Jan. 18 with robbing a Dunkin' Donuts store on Nov. 21.

Fooled Ya!
Montreal, Canada, machinist and cabinetmaker Simon Laprise, 33, took advantage of a recent snowfall to carve a DeLorean DMC-12 (the "Back to the Future" car) in the snowbank in the street in front of his home on Jan. 16. "I decided to do something out of the mountain of snow, to do a little joke to the snow guys," Laprise told Vice. In a "stroke of luck," Laprise found a windshield wiper across the street, which he placed on the snow-car's windshield. He missed a visit from the Montreal police, but others, who snapped photos, caught them looking perplexed at the "car" parked in a no-parking zone. In the end, they left Laprise a "ticket" that read, "You made our night." Sadly, the snowplow drivers weren't as generous, and Laprise's snow-car was reduced to the junkyard of history.

• Levi Miles, 28, took a bold gamble on July 27 when he and Chloe Rimmer, 24, approached a valet desk at the posh Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Fla., and demanded the keys to the $300,000 yellow 2014 Ferrari 458 Italia Spider sitting nearby. The valet stand was busy, and Miles told the clerk his ticket was inside the car. The valet gave him the keys but stopped paying attention when Miles didn't return with the ticket and a tip, reported the Tampa Bay Times. Eventually, the car drove off, but within minutes was stopped by police for non-working taillights, and officers found cocaine on the dashboard. The couple were taken into custody. Miles explained to police that he was only trying to impress Rimmer, whom he had just met. Rimmer admitted she thought it was odd that Miles didn't seem to know how to drive the car, but he did manage to "move it." The car's owner filed a lawsuit for negligence against the resort and the parking operator in January.

My Kingdom for a Burrito
Tampa, Fla., resident Douglas Jon Francisco, 28, was arrested for DUI after he mistook a Spring Hill bank drive-thru lane for a Taco Bell. On Jan. 17, around 5 p.m., the bank branch manager noticed a driver passed out in a blue Hyundai sedan in the drive-thru lane. When the manager went out to the car and banged on the window, Francisco woke up and tried to order a burrito, according to the Tampa Bay Times. After being set straight about the bank not serving Mexican fast food, Francisco drove around to the front of the building and parked, where deputies found him and administered a field sobriety test, which he failed. "He made several statements that were differing from reality," a Hernando County Sheriff's deputy reported.

Update
If you've been wondering whatever happened to Barney the Dinosaur, the Daily Mail has the answer for you. David Joyner, 54, romped inside the big purple suit for 10 years on the 1990s "Barney & Friends" show on PBS. Today, he's a tantric sex guru in Los Angeles who says he can unite his clients' body, mind and spirit through tantric massage and unprotected sex. Joyner credits his tantric training with helping him endure the 120-degree temperatures inside the Barney suit. While "surprised," Stephen White, former head writer on the show, said he sees Joyner's new vocation as the "'I love you, you love me' deal, but different. I don't judge or anything, but that's a side of David I didn't know."

Send tips to weirdnewstips@amuniversal.com.

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