2005 in review - Around the World

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Royalty lacking loyalty

An estimated U.K. audience of 12 million people watched the wedding of Ken Barlow and Deirdre Rachid, two characters on TV's Coronation Street, about five million more than tuned in to the real-life wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles the next day. Coronation Street spokesperson Alison Sinclair said she wasn't going to crow about the ratings victory. "Coronation Street has a very, very loyal following, and it was on at 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night. The royal wedding was on sporadically throughout Saturday, which is a very busy day for a lot of people."

Eurocratic red-tape herrings

The London branch of the European Commission's press office released a list of what it termed misrepresentations of European Union policies printed in British media. Those included demands that strawberries must be oval, yogurt and mushy peas would be banned, circus performers have to wear hardhats, and signs reading "High Up" would have to be placed on mountains.

Bars and grill

Highdown prison in Surrey, England, announced it would open a restaurant called The Clink, which would serve gourmet meals prepared by prisoners.

Beer with byte

Following the model of some computer software, a group of students at the University of Copenhagen created the world's first "open source" beer recipe, which can be used, sold, or modified by anyone who wishes, creating what might become "the Linux of beers". "Why not take the legal framework, the open-source licences, and apply them on analog products?" said Rasmus Neilsen.

Beating it out of them

Municipal tax collectors in Hyderabad, India, began hiring teams of drummers to play in front of the homes of residents in arrears. "When the owners come out to complain, we tell them how much tax they need to pay to halt the music," said tax commissioner T?S?R Anjaneyulu.

Petroglitch

The self-described "art terrorist" known as Banksy placed a piece of fake prehistoric art on display in the British Museum as a hoax. The image, painted on a rock, showed a spear-wielding caveman pushing a shopping cart.

Descent into barberism

The Guardian News Service reported on a five-episode North Korean state television series called Let's Trim Our Hair in Accordance With the Socialist Lifestyle, which advised men to keep their hair to between one to five centimetres in length, with a seven-centimetre exclusion for balding men over 50. The shows claim that long hair is unhealthy, impacts intelligence, and drains the brain's energy because growing hair "consumes a great deal of nutrition".

A smotherer's love

A woman whose daughter attends an elementary school in Zuidhorn, Netherlands, was banned from the school and forbidden to contact teachers or board officials except for a single monthly piece of paper listing her complaints. During the 2004-2005 session, the unidentified woman had sent more than 100 letters and e-mails to various government agencies criticizing the education her daughter received and the safety of the school.

Childhood's end

A British parliamentary committee advocated providing career advice to kids as young as five. According to Labour MP Barry Sheerman: "For too many children, a future as a fairy princess or pop star is the only dream they have, and it doesn't occur to them to go to university, be a doctor or a scientist."

Clothes unmake the man

Frederick Chiluba, who spent a decade as Zambia's president, was angry after anticorruption police seized hundreds of his shirts, shoes, and designer suits from a warehouse under the suspicion they were purchased with misappropriated funds. Chiluba claimed that Zambians "know that I have always dressed very well" and says the actions were intended to expose him to ridicule. "What they have done is bring my underpants out to the general public."

A peak into the future

The 5,895-metre-high Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has lost its snow coverage for the first time in an estimated 11,000 years, which researchers say demonstrates that global warming is well-established.

Astrological sign-off

Thaksin Shinawatra, prime minister of Thailand, who has been accused of being hostile to the media, announced he wouldn't answer reporters' questions at all until the end of 2005 because the alignment of the planet Mercury was not in his favour. "I'll just wait until next year to talk," he said.

Martial errors

Veterans attending a major Gallipoli anniversary event in Sydney, Australia, complained after organizers played music videos on a large screen to entertain the crowd of around 20,000 waiting for the dawn service. Selections included works by Eric Clapton as well as the Bee Gee's "You Should Be Dancing" and "Staying Alive".

Half-time score

The backers of Artemis, which they claim is the largest brothel opened in Germany since prostitution was legalized in 2003, showed off the building to reporters and confirmed that the business, conveniently located near soccer stadiums, would be open for business in time for the World Cup tournament in 2006. "I think football and sex go together," said spokesperson Norman Jacob.

Flex crime

The Indian government established a task force on traditional cultural knowledge and intellectual property, including the appropriation of ancient yoga techniques by westerners. "Yoga piracy is becoming very common and we are moving to do something about it," said commission head Vinod Gupta.

Better red than dead

Despite speculation about a decline in the Cuban leader's health, Fidel Castro's head doctor Eugenio Selman-Housein claimed, "He could perfectly well live until 120 years old."

Creme de la Kremlin

"Unless we are able to consolidate our elites, Russia as a single state may disappear. Whole empires have been wiped off the face of the Earth when their elites lost their unity and engaged in deadly battles."-Kremlin chief of staff Dmitri Medvedev, commenting on the divisions between business and the remnants of the old power structure

X-rated family fare

Italy's draft budget included a provision to add a 20-percent tax on sales or rentals of pornographic videos and on televised or Internet porn. This would raise an estimated $82 million, which would be used to provide tax breaks for parents with child-care expenses.

Space woks

The Land Spring Garden restaurant in Sunhe Township near Beijing in China features vegetables grown from seeds carried into space, mutated by radiation, and bred for at least four years to develop specific strains. Government media sources claim: "Vitamin content of vegetables grown from space seeds is 281.5 percent of that of ordinary vegetables."

Asking questions later

The morning after the second, failed, terror attack on the London public-transit system, Jean Charles de Menezes, an electrician from Brazil, was killed by police on a train. Initial reports were that he was fleeing police, had jumped a fare turnstile, and was wearing an unseasonably bulky coat that could have concealed a bomb, but eyewitness testimony contradicted that. He wasn't running, was wearing a lightweight jacket, had paid his fare, stopped to buy a newspaper, and had taken his seat before several officers restrained him and then shot him multiple times in the head.

Club dread

"We're not saying that ugly people are the best. But by coming together, we hope to show that we, too, have something to offer and that the world doesn't just belong to beautiful people."-Harald Gasper, cofounder of Hamburg's Ugly Club. The club's sole membership requirement is that members identify the things about themselves that make them unhappy. Stomachs top the list, followed by noses and hips

Where there's smoke, there's fired

Sandro Beier of Berlin, Germany, was dismissed from his job after the printing company he worked for hired a private detective who caught Beier smoking in his back yard, even though he was collecting a bonus of 100 euros a month by claiming to be a nonsmoker. "If somebody steals from their company, it is normal that they are punished," said Babett Deuse of Laserline.