QUIRKY WORLD ... A daily look at some of the world’s stranger stories

Innovative inmates circulate free sheet

QUIRKY WORLD ... A daily look at some of the world’s stranger stories

FREE SHEET

ENGLAND: Conscientious objectors who were imprisoned for their beliefs during the First World War kept in touch with each other in prison by circulating a journal handwritten on toilet paper.

The story behind the secret newsletter which was passed around at Winchester Prison is told in a new BBC film and radio documentary as part of a season of programmes looking at the impact of the war on life in the UK.

The paper, called ‘The Winchester Whisperer’, would be handed around the “conchies” for news and entertainment, with articles, sketches, and poetry submitted by inmates to their editor.

Prison warders were unable to locate any copies of the Winchester Whisperer, and the only surviving edition is now housed at the Society of Friends library in London.

MAKING A MEAL

USA: A Detroit pastor’s vision of guiding thousands of volunteers to pack 2m meals over a three-day weekend has come true — and he said it was better than he imagined.

Brad Powell’s 2 Million Meals effort reached its goal — and when it did, the seven digits were displayed on a giant video screen, and volunteers cheered and danced as the sports anthem ‘Rock & Roll, Part 2’ filled the convention hall in Novi.

In all, 8,810 volunteers — working in 11 two-hour shifts — packed 2,029,536 meals from Friday to Sunday.

The food is a mixture of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and 21 vitamins and minerals which will be shipped to El Salvador, Haiti, and the Philippines, where it can provide one meal a day for a year to 5,560 children.

SIBLING SURPRISE

USA: The lives of five brothers and sisters born in North Dakota who were separately adopted at infancy took the twists and turns that 50 years bring.

Some moved to different states, some married, some had children. But none of them ever knew the others existed. Then, the obituary of their biological mother helped bring them together, and one brother realised he was not so unfamiliar with one of his siblings.

John Maixner, 57, says he had been greeted half a dozen times or so by his sister at their local Wal-Mart in Dickinson, North Dakota, where she has worked for 23 years.

Maixner’s sister, 56-year-old Buddine Bullinger, worked at the store as a customer service manager and greeted shoppers. All five siblings have now reunited.

FAST-MOVING GAGS

ENGLAND: Eight comedians are to perform on board a train as they travel to a comedy festival.

Passengers in the designated “comedy carriage” on the Virgin Trains London to Glasgow service on February 27 will be entertained by host Bruce Devlin, plus Patrick Monahan, John Hastings, Damian Clark, Jojo Sutherland, Ray Bradshaw, John Gavin, and Phil Nichol.

They will be travelling to the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, which runs from March 14 to April 5.

The comedy carriage will have unreserved seating and entry will not cost more than the price of a train ticket.

SAUSAGE SAVED

ROMANIA: This national dish looks like it will be granted an EU reprieve, with officials in Brussels set to allow the use of bicarbonate of soda, which gives spicy “mici” bullet-shaped grilled meat delicacies their springy texture.

Romanian officials have been lobbying Brussels since a ban last July on mici. The EU’s food safety committee will vote tomorrow on the additive, followed by a vote in the European Parliament.

Mici originated in Turkey during the days of the Ottoman Empire, and Romanians eat 25 tonnes of the skinless sausages a day. A culinary staple in the Balkans, other variants such as cevapcici and Greece’s soutzoukakia are also expected to be allowed to contain bicarbonate of soda.

HORMONE CRISIS

ENGLAND: Financial crises can be made worse by the hormones of stressed bankers, a Cambridge University study suggests. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol are likely to make traders risk-averse when the going gets tough, say researchers.

But this is often just the time when the economy needs them to keep their nerve and start buying instead of selling or sitting put, it is claimed. In the latest study, involving volunteers playing a financial risk-taking game, a strong link was seen between higher cortisol and a drop in willingness to take risks.

Dr John Coates, a member of the research team and a former Wall Street derivatives trader, said: “It is frightening to realise that no one in the financial world — not the traders, not the risk managers, not the central bankers — knows that these subterranean shifts in risk appetite are taking place.”

The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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