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2008 had its share of bizarre stories

The year 2008 is slipping by fast, so let's waste no time revisiting some of those foreign events that made headlines, along with a few that didn't:

Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks are so 2007

Since an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at President Bush during a Dec. 14 news conference in Baghdad, his Turkish-made footwear has become all the rage. "Thanks to Bush, orders are flying in like crazy,'' said Ramazan Baydan, whose Istanbul-based Baydan Shoe Co. has hired 100 extra staff to handle the demand.

Iraqis aren't the only ones with good aim

Thousands of angry Icelanders threw potatoes at Parliament buildings last month to protest the current government and dramatize the country's growing poverty. After years of rampant borrowing, Iceland's three major banks collapsed in October, causing widespread job losses. Just a year ago a U.N. index ranked Iceland as among the world's best places to live.

Brother, can you spare $200-million …

President Robert Mugabe's ruthless and inept rule of Zimbabwe has saddled his 11-million people with the world's highest inflation rate — 231-million percent a year. Don't ask us how that's calculated, but the bottom line is that a loaf of bread costs 100-million Zimbabwean dollars.

But it's yo, ho, ho in another part of Africa

The pirates of Somalia have drawn worldwide attention for brazenly hijacking dozens of ships, including a Saudi oil tanker longer than three football fields. With ransom payments averaging $2-million per ship, the pirates are splurging on big houses, luxury cars and even a PR man to put a positive spin on things. "Think of us as the coast guard,'' he told reporters.

Here, honey, you take the dress, I'll keep the bag

A French court has ruled that a clothing company must pay French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy 40,000 euros ($58,000) for using her nude photo on a line of shopping bags without her permission. The photo, which shows Bruni-Sarkozy's hand covering her pubic area, is from her days as a top model. The company says it will appeal, claiming it was entitled to use the image because Bruni-Sarkozy is a "public woman.''

Why didn't you tell us that before you got in trouble?

On his way out of office in a corruption scandal, once hawkish Israeli Prime Ehud Olmert said his country will have to withdraw from "almost all" the land it captured in the 1967 war and divide Jerusalem in order to make peace with the Palestinians and Syria.

Make that the world's 499 best hotels

In its December issue, Travel & Leisure magazine lists the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, India, as one of the world's top 500 hotels. The issue went to press before Islamic militants stormed the Taj and nine other sites in Mumbai, killing 164 people in a three-day wave of terror. The Taj Mahal remains partially closed.

If you go to the slammer, leave me your styling brush

Few hairstyles elicited more comment in 2008 than those of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who looks like a beaver died atop his head, and eccentric British politician Boris Johnson, who once attributed his unruly blond mop to "random and competing forces of nature.'' While Blagojevich could face years in prison for allegedly trying to sell Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat, among other things, Johnson stunned pundits by being elected mayor of London.

He took the 'pub' out of public transportation

One of Johnson's first acts was to ban alcohol on London's buses and underground. Before the ban took effect June 1, thousands of drunken revelers rampaged through the city's subways, resulting in numerous arrests, station closures and thousands of dollars in damage.

Please welcome our newest Siberia correspondent

The editor of the Moscow Korrespondent resigned and the paper was shut down after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, 56 and married, angrily denied the paper's report in April that he was having an affair with Alina Kabaeva, 31 years his junior. Kabaeva, a member of parliament, is a former Olympic gymnast and nude model.

On a clear day you can see the 'B' in Beijing

China's efforts to clear Beijing's notoriously polluted air for the Summer Olympics paid off. Recently released NASA satellite data show that pollution levels dropped dramatically in August. The bad news: Now that everyone but the Chinese has left, the air is as dirty as ever. In some areas this month, the pollution index has hit 399, nearly four times acceptable levels.

And the Optimists of the Year Award goes to:

Tourism officials in Afghanistan, who envision it as the world's next great vacation spot despite an ongoing war and a resurgent Taliban. Says Deputy Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Ghulam Nabi Farhai: "Afghanistan, with its beautiful landscape, its pleasant climate and rich culture and history, will become a perfect place for tourists.'' All the country needs, he adds, is "security, good roads and hotels.''

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at susan@sptimes.com.

2008 had its share of bizarre stories 12/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 29, 2008 6:09pm]
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