2002's Strangest Stories

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5. Professional Pigs — Gluttony is not just a growing health problem. Now, it's a sport, complete with a sanctioning body and championship matches all over the world, where fans watch their champions devour hot dogs, pizza, pickles, matzo balls and chicken wings in mass quantities.

Top eaters from around the world met Feb. 21 in Las Vegas at The Glutton Bowl, competing for a top prize of $25,000, eating everything you can imagine, including butter and ice cream by the pound.

It's more than money. Pizza champ Ed "Cookie" Jarvis — who's been known to chow down a 17-inch pie in three minutes — is just happy the sport's finally getting the recognition it deserves.

"In the last year, I've traveled all over the country," he said. "I can't believe how many people have come up to me and said, 'Aren't you that food guy?'"

The International Federation of Competitive Eating has 300 registered "athletes" and sanctions events in chicken wings, matzo balls, oysters, burritos, onions, pickles and hamburgers. Legends like jalapeņo pepper champ Jed Donahue ate 152 jalapeņo peppers in 15 minutes.

"Nobody has ever been hospitalized at one of our events," said Federation president Richard Shea. "There's an EMT there, just like a football game."

6. Donald Duck's Political Career — Al Gore and Strom Thurmond aren't the only people without a political future. You wouldn't be surprised Donald Duck had a political career if you were a fan of Swedish politics.

Swedes have a tradition of writing in joke candidates for president. Fringe groups like the Tax Evader's National Party, the Beer Party and the Professional Bachelors Party vie for seats each year in the Riksdag, Sweden's 349-member parliament.

But it's clear who's the big bird of the disenfranchised. In fact, over the last 20 years, the Donald Duck Party — better known in Sweden as "Kalle Anka" — has scored enough write-in votes at points to theoretically be the country's ninth-most-popular political organization.

Now, Sweden is changing election rules. By 2006, voters will be prohibited from choosing nonexistent candidates, eliminating the potential embarrassment of having to open an embassy in Tomorrowland.

While Donald's now a political lame duck, he can rest assured that he's consistently outpolled Bugs Bunny, SpongeBob SquarePants, and even his old rival, Mickey.

7. Kingdom of Dracula — You can probably imagine how long your wait would be at airport security if your passport read "Kingdom of Dracula."

Still, the last known relative of Vlad the Impaler — the medieval Romanian nobleman who inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula — led a tax revolt in his hometown outside Berlin, threatening to turn it into a vampire paradise.