Spain’s Robin Hood mayor steals for the poor

Plus a Muslim sect spends 10 years underground - literally - and a seal's "G-string" up for auction

Jack Rodolico By Jack Rodolico

If you’re looking for hard news, look elsewhere. This is the “Mish Mash,” Latitude News’ weekly tally of the weirdest stories we could find in the global press. As always, let us know if you spot something we can use next week.

Spanish mayor robs grocery store

Fed up with a nearly 25 percent unemployment rate? Having trouble paying the bills? It might be time to start stealing from the grocery store.

Marinaleda Mayor Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo poses in the camp where protestors are squatting on government-owned land, August 9, 2012. The protestors were evicted on Friday. (Reuters/Jon Nazca)

So reasoned Juan Manual Sánchez Gordillo, mayor of Marinaleda, a village in Spain’s Andalucia region, whose inhabitants are known for their political activism.

The mayor is on a roll. To date he and a local labor union have robbed two grocery stores and occupied a Seville estate belonging to the Ministry of Defense.

“Someone has to do something so that families can eat,” says Mayor Sánchez Gordillo, a member of the left-wing group United Left. El País calls him the “Robin Hood mayor.”

To be clear, Mayor Sánchez Gordillo didn’t steal anything – he stood outside the store with a megaphone, shouting commands to a hoard of disgruntled Spaniards who did the taking. The mayor orchestrated one robbery, while the general secretary of the worker’s union stood watch at the second grocery store. The team walked off with about two-dozen shopping carts full of staples like oil and milk.

Two of the union workers were arrested and released on bail. The mayor made no apologies for his actions.

“All we did was make a symbolic and peaceful gesture,” he says. “The crisis has a face and a name. There are many families who can’t afford to eat.”

The mayor and fellow protestors were evicted from the government-owned property on Friday.

Turn on the lights…slowly, please

A Muslim sect in Russia is seeing the light of day for the first time.

Fayzrahman Satarov took his personal brand of Islam underground – literally – after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Calling himself a prophet and claiming his home an independent Islamic state, Satarov and his followers, called Fayzarahmanists, moved into an eight-story underground bunker about a decade ago.

Now, authorities have forced the sect members into the light. Hurriyet Daily Times reports that 70 people, including 20 children, were living in the bunker. The youngest was 18 months old, and many of the children had never seen the light of day. Sect members were forbidden from leaving the bunker, attending school and seeking medical assistance. The bunker is on the outskirts of Kazan, a city about 500 miles east of Moscow.

A criminal investigation is underway, and the sect will be forced to disband if it continues to deny its members basic services like medical care.

Seal’s “G-string” up for auction

A seal yawns at Wellington’s south coast. (Reuters/Jacky Naegelen)

It’s more common than you might think: seals and other marine life swim through some debris, the trash is wrapped around the critter’s neck or fin, and the junk is stuck for life, sometimes strangling the animal. (Think Lovelace, the Rockhopper penguin in the movie Happy Feet, who gets the plastic rings of a six-pack stuck around his neck.)

Wildlife officials in New Zealand received a call about a seal with something tangled around its neck. After a bit of a scuffle, officials removed the item, which was initially thought to be a G-string.

As the Otago Daily Times now reports, the item is more likely a hat than a thong.

“I wouldn’t wear them either way,” says Marine Ranger Jim Fyfe, “and the owner should have made sure they didn’t end up in the marine environment.”

It makes no difference to the young seal, which was set free after the item was cut loose from its neck. Now, the Department of Conservation is auctioning off the thong – or whatever it is – mounted inside a frame.

The money (somewhat counterintuitively) will go to the Million Dollar Mouse campaign, an attempt to eradicate invasive mice from the Antipodes Islands, about 400 miles southeast of the bluff where the seal was rescued.

The campaign is halfway to its million-dollar goal, but it doesn’t look like the tattered G-string-hat-thing will help too much: bidding had reached $187 U.S. late this week.

Every little bit counts.