Funny old world: The week’s offbeat news

From a disastrous leadership election to some not-very-smart AI… Your weekly roundup of offbeat stories from around the world.

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Austrian politician Hans Peter Doskozil was convinced he was just one step from becoming the country’s next chancellor when was elected leader of the opposition Social Democrats last week with 53 percent of the vote.

He spent the weekend celebrating, telling journalists what he would do in power.

It took until Monday for party apparatchiks to realize that someone had made a mistake on the vote’s Excel sheet and that Doskozil had actually lost.

No one knows how they broke it to him, but the 53-year-old took it so well that he immediately quit national politics.

“It wasn’t a great day,” he later admitted.

The reputation of the Social Democrats — who were already trailing the country’s far-right — has gone down the pan with Doskozil’s dreams. “They will never live this down,” one political commentator declared.

Hi ho, hi ho

You can love your job too much. Take the French supermarket worker who was suspended for singing too loudly as he restocked beer and wine aisles. This being France, unions and customers rallied to his aid to protest, gathering to sing as loudly and as badly as they could in the store at Louvroil near the border with Belgium.

No butts in Ashgabat

Another glorious new dawn for Turkmenistan, which basks in the enlightened leadership of “Hero Protector” Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the world’s only singing dentist turned dictator.

The fitness fanatic — who made his son Serdar president last year so he could devote more time to writing songs about “how wonderful and dazzling is my splendid Turkmenistan!” — wants to ban smoking completely in the closed and deeply repressive Central Asian country.

Cynics might see this great leap forward as a smokescreen to hide the colossal methane emissions from its poorly run gas fields, which scientists say are having an outsized effect on heating up the planet. But thankfully critics do not exist in Turkmenistan.

It was ChatGBT, stupid

Artificial intelligence can make you look pretty dumb. Just ask New York lawyer Steven Schwartz who used ChatGBT to find precedents for a court case he was fighting. But six of the cases he submitted “appear to be bogus judicial decisions with bogus quotes”, a judge found before ordering Schwartz and his partner to appear before him to explain themselves.

27th time lucky

A self-made millionaire determined to finally get into university is taking China’s grueling “gaokao” entrance exam for the 27th time.

Despite his riches, Liang Shi, 56, dreams of going to the top-tier Sichuan University and “becoming an intellectual”.

And he’s so desperate to get in this time that he has given up drinking and playing mahjong to get up at dawn to study for 12 hours a day.

Asked if he was doing it for publicity, Liang replied, “No one in their right mind would spend decades taking the gaokao for a stunt.”

Liang is planning to make up for lost fun after he sits the exams this weekend. “I’m going to play mahjong with my friends for three days and three nights,” he told AFP.