QUIRKY WORLD ... Teacher’s war of words with Scrabble body ends in draw

AUSTRALIA: A long-running war of words between an Australian and the official Scrabble body has finally been declared a draw by a state court.

QUIRKY WORLD ... Teacher’s war of words with Scrabble body ends in draw

The Victoria state magistrates’ court ruled the local chapter of the Australian Scrabble Players’ Association must overturn a years-old ruling that retired teacher Mohammed Hegazi had behaved in a manner “unbecoming” to the popular boardgame.

But Hegazi failed to persuade the court to declare he had never cheated while playing the 77-year-old game that’s played in 121 countries in 29 languages, Hegazi’s lawyer Robert Frajsman said.

Hegazi was also ordered to pay costs of A$3,000 (€2,000).

“Who would have thought that Scrabble would be a bloodsport?” Frajsman said.

Hegazi had agreed in 2008 to a 12-month suspension from the association after it found him guilty of bullying competitors, cheating and unprofessional conduct.

But despite returning to competition once the ban was up, Hegazi maintained he never cheated and asked the association to overturn its finding.

Pasty protection


Cherished delicacies such as the Cornish pasty will not fall victim to international imposters, after fears a pact between Europe and the US could threaten the product were allayed.

A selection of products currently benefit from geographical indications, a distinctive sign used to identify it as originating from a certain place.

The list includes the Cornish pasty, Roquefort cheese and Parma ham.

Blue flu


Were hundreds of Roman traffic police who called in sick on New Year’s Eve playing truant?

Inspectors have been dispatched to find out.

Nearly 85% of some 900 traffic officers scheduled to work did not turn up as revellers jammed streets and 130,000 flocked to a free outdoor concert.

Most cited illness, while about 10% claimed they were donating blood.

Mayor Ignazio Marino claims the stay-at-homes were protesting against his new policy to give raises only to harder workers.

The new year’s ill humour may have been contagious: Naples rubbish collectors and Bari bus drivers also called in sick in droves on New Year’s Eve.

They are also under investigation.

Lightning strikes


A white monocled cobra which briefly became a national celebrity after it roamed a Southern California neighbourhood for several days last September now has a new name.

San Diego Zoo told the Los Angeles Times that the cobra will be called Adhira, which in Hindi means lightning.

The newspaper said Adhira came in first in an online poll to find a name for the venomous snake which was captured in Thousand Oaks and, after a period of quarantine, joined the zoo’s reptile house.

Plane daft


A new flight between the capitals of Austria and Slovakia may be the world’s shortest with less than 20 minutes in the air.

But considering the ride to the airport and check-in time, it may be faster to take the bus.

The Vienna-Bratislava flight by Air Berlin subsidiary Niki launches on April 1, and will cover less than 50km.

State broadcaster ORF called it the shortest commercial route in the world.

But it is a 15-minute drive to the airport from central Bratislava, and 20 minutes from Vienna.

That and early arrival for check-in mean the intercity bus trip of about an hour should be quicker — and a lot cheaper.

Niki officials say the flights make sense for those taking connecting flights from Vienna.

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