x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Charlie the fag-puffing chimpanzee quits for good

News You Can Lose offers a round-up of the offbeat stories you may have missed this week.

Charlie, a chimpanzee famous for smoking cigarettes, has died at the age of 52. He picked up the habit years ago after visitors to Mangaung Zoo, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, started to throw him lit cigarettes. 

His keepers had been fighting a losing battle for years, trying to get him to kick the habit, but despite his addiction Charlie survived for about 10 years longer than the average lifespan for chimpanzees.

Dead people get cheques 

The US Social Security Administration, charged with issuing US$13 billion in one-off "stimulus payments" as part of the government's efforts to kickstart the economy, may have overestimated the power of financial revival, a report by the inspector-general's office has found. 

About 72,000 cheques or electronic transfers worth a total of US$18 million, were sent to people who would have qualified for the payments were it not for the fact that they were dead. Only about half of the money has been returned.

Postie faces letter of the law 

For two years, Paul Noga appeared to be the ideal postman, volunteering for extra shifts and overtime and frequently offering to deliver his colleagues' mail. 

This week, however, he was jailed for 14 months after a court in Newcastle, England, was told he had stolen so much post that he had been obliged to move out of his flat to live with his mother. Noga admitted stealing, hiding or burning up to 50,000 items of post over a two-year period, netting a meagre haul of vouchers worth £150 (Dh875) and about £1,000 in cash. 

"The overriding feature of this offending is its lack of sophistication," Noga's lawyer told the court. "This man has behaved in a way that is nothing short of ludicrous." As well as his liberty, Noga's crime spree has cost him his pension. That, said the Royal Mail, had been spent delivering some of the items he had hoarded.

Rodents hold up trains 

Rail commuters in the UK are used to extraordinary explanations for delays - leaves on the track, the "wrong sort" of snow - but travellers from Little Kimble, a small village in the Buckinghamshire countryside, found their journeys delayed this week by a family of rare dormice that had taken up residence in the station's ticket machine. 

The four tiny animals, members of a protected species introduced to the country after escaping from a private collection in the early 20th century, have been rehoused at St Tiggywinkles animal hospital.

President plays dirty 

Politics can be a vicious game in South America, but Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, took it to fresh depths during a "friendly" game of football in La Paz when he kneed an opposing player in the groin. 

Mr Morales, who claimed he had been fouled, attacked the defender Daniel Gustavo Cartagena, a civil servant. It was Mr Cartagena, however, who was sent off by the referee and escaped being arrested by the president's security men only when the local mayor intervened. 

The game, played to inaugurate a new pitch, ended in a 4-4 draw.

Cuba tailors official look 

Cuban officials no longer have to waste time worrying about what to wear to official events. 

The foreign ministry in Havana has ordered male and female employees alike to adopt the guayabera, a loose, pleated white shirt with four large pockets, worn untucked, for all state events. 

The shirt, says the edict, "constitutes one of the most authentic and legitimate expressions of Cubanism". Women may wear a different colour.