Odds & Ends
By Devin D. O'Leary
FEBRUARY 1, 1999:
Dateline: England--A small-town Englishman has broken the
world's record for being buried alive. Geoff "The Human Mole"
Smith, 37, was buried in a coffin-like box last August in the
garden of his local pub in Mansfield, England. Smith's voluntary
underground burial lasted a record-setting 150 days. The box in
which Smith lived for the past 5 months was only seven feet long
and 2.5 feet wide. To keep him entertained, the coffin was stocked
with books, a cell phone, a television and family photos. Visitors
and well-wishers could talk to Smith via a ventilation tube, which
also allowed him to receive fresh food and drink. The father of
three has reclaimed for his family a record previously held by
his mother, whose 101-day burial was broken in 1981 by an American.
Should anyone best his record, Smith has said his 13-year-old
son is prepared to spend 200 days underground in order to uphold
the family honor.
Dateline: Mexico--Dying of a gunshot wound to the face,
a Mexican woman was able to finger her own murderer--scrawling
out the patrol car number of the police officer who allegedly
shot her. Raquel Newman, 46, was attacked in Mexico City's downtown
Historic Center last Monday. By the time rescuers arrived on the
scene to give aid, Newman had written a crude note on a scrap
of paper. "I have been shot by a transit policeman,"
read the note, which was later reproduced in Mexico's Reforma
newspaper. "The number of the patrol car ends with 418."
Newman died from her injuries at a hospital two days later. The
officer who allegedly shot Newman abandoned his patrol car and
remains a fugitive. Mexico City's police force of 36,000 is notoriously
corrupt. Mexican President Cardenas' government recently launched
a high-profile campaign to clean up the law enforcement branch.
Dateline: Spain--The mayor of tiny Brunete, Spain, is giving
birthday presents to all his 5,000 constituents, but not all of
them are grateful. It's not that the presents--which have ranged
from slippers to stuffed animals to bicycle pumps--are cheap.
Some residents are upset that the mayor is using their own money
to buy the presents. Since he began his re-election bid, Julio
Fernandez has handed out about a dozen gifts a day at $1.40 a
pop. Money for the gifts has come from an expense account earmarked
for the mayor and the city council. So far, Fernandez has spent
some $2,800 of this public money. Many locals feel that the mayor
is simply trying to buy votes for the upcoming election in June.
"If he paid for the gifts himself, it would be all right,"
said Antonio Fernandez, a 53-year-old barber who scored some slippers,
"but to do it with public money is immoral."
Dateline: Colombia--Inspired by his country's dubious distinction
as "kidnapping capital of the world," a Colombian-based
priest has abducted a saintly statue and demanded a ransom to
help fund church repairs. Italian-born Roman Catholic missionary
Maurilio Bianchi "kidnapped" a statue of St. Paul from
the altar of his church in the town of San Pablo last August.
The 50-year-old statue, to which residents of the town have attributed
various miracles, has remained hidden from public view ever since.
Bianchi was asking for an eight million peso ($5,000) "ransom"
for the return of the statue in order to complete much needed
church repairs. Bianchi told a local radio station last week that
the ransom had been met. St. Paul was released in time for his
feast day on Monday. Colombia has one of the world's highest human
kidnapping rates in the world, with more than 2,300 reported last