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Desperate Times

A weekly roundup of international news oddities



Desperate Times
Passers-by were reported to be incredulous at signs posted since mid-September outside Trillade elementary school in Avignon, France, asking parents to refrain from throwing their children over the locked gate when they are late to school. "Parents who arrived after the ringtone literally threw their children away," Principal Sanaa Meziane told La Provence with a nervous laugh. "It hasn't happened that many times ... but we preferred to take the lead." While there were no injuries, the practice alarmed school officials enough to create the signs, which feature an adult stick figure tossing a child-size stick figure over the gate.

Uniform Complaints
The BBC reported that Police Constable Simon Read of the Cambridgeshire Police will be the subject of a misconduct hearing on Nov. 25 after being accused of switching prices on a box of doughnuts in February. Read, shopping at a Tesco Extra store while on duty and uniformed, allegedly selected a $13 box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and replaced its barcode with one from the produce section that lowered the price to 9 cents, then went through the self-checkout line. In papers filed before the hearing, Read was said to bring "discredit upon the police service ... because a reasonable member of the public ... would be justifiably appalled that a police officer had acted dishonestly and without integrity."

• San Juan, Puerto Rico, police officer Fernando Leon Berdecia, 46, is accused of stealing $1,300 worth of merchandise from a Home Depot on Nov. 16 while wearing his uniform. The Associated Press reported Puerto Rico Police Chief Henry Escalera said Leon has been suspended from the department, and a court date has been set for Dec. 2.

Fake News
Readers of Radio France Internationale's website were alarmed to learn on Nov. 16 of the passing of dozens of world leaders and celebrities, The New York Times reported. Obituaries for Queen Elizabeth II, Clint Eastwood, soccer legend Pele and about 100 others were posted on the broadcaster's website, and it was several hours before the notices were removed. The station issued a statement apologizing to "those concerned" and noting that the prewritten obituaries were accidentally posted as the website was moved to a new content management system.

Line Crossed
Typo, a gift and stationery retailer in Australia known for its tongue-in-cheek merchandise, is drawing fire from moms and dads Down Under after marketing a Christmas ornament that features a small elf holding a sign that says, "Santa isn't real," 7News reported. One dad posted that the item led to an awkward discussion with his son and encouraged other parents to "complain and get these things taken off the shelves." The store said the ornament, which is part of its "naughty" line, has been removed from Typo's in-person and online stores. "Sometimes we do make mistakes," a spokesperson admitted. "We certainly don't want to take the fun out of Christmas for anyone, especially after the year we've all had."

Twenty concerned citizens in Norman, Oklahoma, turned out on Nov. 17 to help George Simmons, an arborist from Idaho, continue the search for his missing pet raccoon, an effort that had stretched into its second week and included support from the Norman Fire Department, which deployed its thermal imaging technology. Coonsie had accompanied Simmons when he traveled to Oklahoma to help cut trees around power lines after a freak October ice storm, KFOR reported, but Coonsie got loose in Nov. 6, and Simmons delayed his return to Idaho in hopes of locating her. He has been overwhelmed with gratitude for the Norman residents who are helping him look for Coonsie every night: "I've been all over the United States and never seen the hospitality like I have here," Simmons said. As of press time, Coonsie was still missing.

Finders Keepers
Douglas Allen Hatley, 71, of Lakeland, Florida, was arrested on Nov. 16 after the Florida Highway Patrol said he found a metal light pole by the side of the road in Tampa and tried to sell it to Eagle Metals Recycling. The Tampa Bay Times reported the recycling center turned him away because he didn't have documentation for the pole, and officers responding to reports of a 1997 Camry with a pole twice its length strapped to the top pulled him over soon afterward. Hatley told troopers a highway maintenance worker "gave it to me." He was charged with third-degree grand theft.

Bad Behavior
Police in Middlesbrough, England, are asking for the public's help in locating those involved in an apparent egg fight at a local Tesco supermarket during the two minutes of silence meant to honor fallen service members on Nov. 8. Most shoppers at the store on Remembrance Sunday stood still and quiet for the observance, but one customer continued shopping and talking, reported Metro News, and objected when asked to be quiet. "We were all stood still, observing the two minutes' silence when we heard lots of screaming and shouting," one witness said. Police noted "a man allegedly assaulted two women ... following a verbal altercation."

Bright Idea
Two recent graduates of the Sydney Grammar School in Australia hatched a plan to skirt COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings to host a graduation party while their parents were out of town. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 30 people, and indoor events are capped at 10, the Daily Mail reported, but up to 150 guests can attend weddings if they follow social distancing protocols. On Nov. 12, the unnamed best friends "married" in a backyard ceremony and planned a 150-person party to follow, until their parents caught wind of the event online and returned to put an end to it: "We shut down the planned private celebratory event as soon as we found out about it, and thankfully, nobody was put at risk," one of the lads' dad said.

Unclear on the Concept
Charlene Stanton passes a book donation box in the Roxbury Park neighborhood of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on her daily walks, and told WTAJ on Nov. 18 that lately she's become concerned about the bags of raw meat she regularly sees left hanging on the side of the box. She has seen both fresh and frozen meat left at the box, and someone keeps taking them, which alarms her "because so many ... illnesses could be caused by leaving meat out unrefrigerated." Officials suggest donating food to a food bank, rather than leaving it at a book collection site.

The mayor of Oudenburg, Belgium, said it was not the city's intention that new Christmas decorations it installed resemble an iconic part of the male anatomy. City officials had set out to create lighted columns that looked like candles, the Daily Mail reported, but decided to do something different and placed blue spheres on top instead of flames. "I only realized (they looked phallic) when they were illuminated," Mayor Anthony Dumarey said. "I see the funny side of it myself (and) I see no reason to remove or replace them ... we will have the country's most talked-about Christmas lights this year."

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