The Odd Side – April 12, 2016

Swedes Invite World to Call ‘Random’ Citizens on New Hotline

STOCKHOLM (AP) – Ever felt like calling up a complete stranger in Sweden?

Now is your chance.

The Swedish Tourist Association has set up a hotline that lets callers worldwide “get connected to a random Swede.”

The nonprofit group says the idea is “to spark people’s curiosity about Sweden — our culture, nature and mindset. To help us do this, we have the people of Sweden.”

It’s not completely random. The Swedes who take the calls have volunteered. But they are not vetted or given any instructions about what to say.

“It’s like when Swedes travel the world. You don’t know who they’re going to talk to and what they’re going to say,” said Magnus Ling, the head of the Swedish Tourist Association.

About 3,000 people had dialed the “Swedish Number” by midday Thursday, a day after it was launched, and roughly the same number of Swedes had signed up to answer calls, Ling said.

The website says the initiative honors the 250th anniversary of Sweden’s 1766 Freedom of the Press Act, believed to be the world’s first law supporting the freedom of expression.

Ling admitted there was another motive: recruiting members to the tourism association, which is funded through membership fees. Swedes who sign up to receive calls will receive an email inviting them to join the group, he said.

The calls are not monitored but they are recorded, “so that if someone says I was threatened or harassed we can go back and see who it was and even block that number,” Ling said.

The biggest number of incoming calls has come from Turkey. Ling said he didn’t know why, but thought it had to do with the initiative getting attention there both in traditional media and social media.

After signing up to test the service, this Stockholm-based AP reporter received four calls, about one an hour. The first was a woman from Turkey with limited English skills. The second hung up. The third was an engineering student from Britain. And the fourth was another journalist: Tim Nudd, creative editor at Adweek in New York.

He, too, was writing an article about it.

Chase Ends With Burglary Suspects Taking Selfies, Chatting

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Authorities arrested two burglary suspects who led them on a long, bizarre chase Thursday in a top-down convertible through Southern California that ended with the men stopping to exchange high-fives with onlookers and take selfies before being handcuffed. The afternoon escapade stretched from Cerritos onto freeways and through Hollywood and other parts of Los Angeles for more than an hour before winding up in a South LA neighborhood.

The chase began around 2 p.m. with a report of a home burglary in Cerritos, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.

During the chase, two men sped along freeways and wove through jammed streets. At one point, the Mustang clipped another car. In the heart of Hollywood, the Mustang slowed to avoid people in crosswalks.

At one point, a tour bus boxed in the Mustang before another car moved off and the vehicle was able to get around it.

During the chase, the passenger waved to other motorists, stood up, and danced. The driver also stopped on slick streets to skid the car in circular “donuts.” Pursing patrol cars backed off several times for safety reasons, authorities said.

Shortly after 3 p.m., the car pulled up on a South Los Angeles street where a group of young men were standing. The driver got out and sat on the hood. Both men took selfies and exchanged hugs, high-fives and conversation with the group of apparent friends or well-wishers.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived a few minutes later, the two men calmly surrendered and were handcuffed as onlookers took videos of the scene.

Guards Hop to It: Huge Rabbit Artwork Gets 24/7 Security

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Several large illuminated rabbits installed at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza will have round-the-clock security until the exhibit comes down this month. San Francisco station KPIX reports Monday that the giant inflatable bunnies are part of a public art installation.

To prevent vandalism, the bunnies will get 24-hour security until the exhibit ends April 25.

The two-story art piece by Australian artist Amanda Parer toured much of the world before arriving at the steps of City Hall.

Kate Patterson of the San Francisco Arts Commission says the exhibit is ideal because it’s in a space where people can come and enjoy it and “take what they want from it.”