Welcome to the Latitude News Mishmash — our weekly round-up of the weirdest stories from around the world. It’s the perfect cure for those Sequestration Blues.
I said extra cheese!
It doesn’t get any weirder than this: in Russia, a former army sniper named Alexander Kupstrov took hostages in a college classroom and threatened to blow the building up if police failed to provide him with pizza and a soft drink. RIA Novosti, Russia’s state-run news agency, reported the bizarre incident, which took place in the southern city of Astrakhan.
Kupstrov apparently hoped his display of recklessness would impress his ex-girlfriend, a 17-year old who was among the hostages. After devouring his snack, Kupstrov demanded $1,630, some anti-anxiety medication and an SUV to make his escape. As the stand-off escalated, Russian media quickly dubbed him “the pizza terrorist.”
But police soon stormed the classroom and disarmed Kupstrov of what turned out to be a toy gun and fake bomb. Kupstrov, believed to be between 25- and 30-years old, could face up to 15 years in jail. His girlfriend was also briefly detained for failing to cooperate with police. “[She] was trying to calm him down, [and] there was a certain tenderness between them,” one hostage said.
Next time, Alexander, just send flowers.
Ukraine’s “Killer Navy Dolphins” not actually killers
Well, it didn’t take long to prove this tall tale a hoax. But boy was it fun while it lasted.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian news outlets reported a too-good-to-be-true story: the Ukrainian navy had trained several dolphins into lethal killing machines and strapped modified pistols to their heads before allowing three of the dangerous critters to escape into the Black Sea.
As it turned out, the media had based its reports on a supposed “naval document” that had been forged. But as RIA Novosti points out (funny how many Mishmash stories happen in the former USSR), the story does have a grain of truth to it.
In the 1960’s, the Soviet navy began training dolphins to find mines and other military equipment near the port of Sevastopol, Ukraine. They were also encouraged to attack divers, but it’s unclear if they were ever given weapons. From time to time, those dolphins would temporarily escape.
“There were repeatedly cases in the 1980s when control was lost over dolphins,” a former Soviet naval officer told RIA Novosti. “If a male dolphin saw a female dolphin during the mating season, he would immediately set off after her and would no longer obey any commands. But in a week or so he’d come back.”
The Ukrainian navy does still care for those dolphins and their descendants. But in a statement it said the dolphins are used to provide swimming therapy to children with special needs, not for military purposes. Even so, Latitude News urges tourists to the Black Sea to be on the look-out for armed dolphins.
Grandpa loses job after saving toddlers from shark
Talk about just desserts: a vacationing British grandfather won praise after wrestling a shark away from a group of small children on a beach in Australia. But his employers back in Wales saw a news report about what happened and gave him the pink slip.
Not sure how we got from Point A to Point B there? Neither are we.
According to a report in The Australian, Paul Marshallsea, who is 62, was on sick leave from the charity he works for in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales because of his stress. He and his wife, who works for the same charity, decided to take a relaxing holiday to Australia. Marshallsea’s employers, it seems, decided he should have been sitting at home on his couch. They sent a letter to him, saying his actions merited a “breakdown” in trust. That letter was reprinted in part by the English tabloid The Daily Mail:
Whilst unfit to work you were well enough to travel to Australia and, according to recent news footage of yourself in Queensland, you allegedly grabbed a shark by the tail and narrowly missed being bitten by quickly jumping out of the way. The breakdown of the trustees’ confidence and trust in you and your ability to perform the role is so great that we find that dismissal is the only course of action we can recommend.
Marshallsea’s not sure what he’ll do next. “What am I going to do now?” he said. “There’s not much call for shark-wrestlers in Merthyr Tydfil.”
Well, if those killer dolphins really do exist, you might want to try looking in the Black Sea.