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News That Sounds Like a Joke

A weekly roundup of international news oddities



News That Sounds Like a Joke
Remember Bernie Sanders' look at the 2021 inauguration? Cozy parka, heavy knitted gloves? You, too, can pull off the Bernie look for Halloween, The Boston Globe reported. For just $85, partygoers can don the "Once Again Asking Costume Set" from Dolls Kill. It includes the coat, mittens and surgical mask. Sen. Sanders' office even commented: "If fans of Sen. Sanders' mittens are looking for a real scare this Halloween, they should see how hard the wealthy and world's biggest corporations are fighting to stop Congress from finally addressing the long-neglected needs of the working class," said spokesperson Mike Casca.

Bright Idea
File this one under Marketing Ideas Gone Wrong: Speech Academy Asia in Singapore planted clowns outside multiple primary schools in early September in an effort to persuade students to enroll in public-speaking courses, The Straits Times reported. In response, principals and parents urged students to stay away from strangers, including the clowns. Kelvin Tan, the director of the academy, apologized for alarming people. He explained that "road show" employees were told to put on "cute mascot" costumes, but he wasn't aware they'd be wearing clown getups. "Maybe the clowns were too scary. It's wrong and we won't do it again," he said.

New World Order
The divorce of Valeria Udalova and Danila Medvedev, former co-owners of cryonics company KrioRus in Moscow, Russia, has turned ugly as they battle over 81 bodies of KrioRus clients, Slate reported. On Sept. 7, Udalova reportedly broke into a cryostorage facility that is under Medvedev's control and loaded containers with dead bodies onto a truck, causing damage and spilling liquid nitrogen in the process. Both parties now own separate cryonics businesses, but police continue to investigate who controls the 81 bodies, which in the meantime rest at Medvedev's facility.

Compelling Explanation
• An elderly woman in Okemos, Michigan, moved to a nursing home, and an auction company was hired to clear out her home, reported on Sept. 22. One of the items found by Epic Auctions and Estate Sales' Brad Stoecker was a 5-foot-tall granite headstone with the name Peter J. Weller on the front. Apparently, the woman's family didn't know the origin of the stone, saying they used the reverse side of it to make fudge. Stoecker donated the stone to the Friends of Lansing's Historic Cemeteries, but a genealogist was unable to find any surviving family members of Weller, who died in 1849. However, they did track down his grave, which had been moved in 1875. That's probably when the gravestone was lost, experts believe. Cemetery preservationists restored the stone to Weller's current resting place and repaired and cleaned those of his family members nearby.

• Some students at Piedmont High School in Union County, North Carolina, were upset after a sign reading "WHITE" was placed on a drinking fountain at the school, The Charlotte Observer reported on Sept. 23. A Snapchat video of the sign circulated on social media, and parents became upset, prompting a response from Principal Dylan Stamey, who said he had investigated and the placement of the sign "was not intentional." "During practice, a cheer sign was left just outside the gym on the floor, and it was picked up and placed on a water fountain. We apologize if anyone was offended," he said.

Family Values
As a 48-year-old man pumped gas in St. Louis on the morning of Sept. 21, a woman approached and said she and her son needed a ride to her mother's house. He agreed, KSDK-TV reported, but when they arrived at the home, the woman reportedly grabbed the keys from the ignition, and her 11-year-old started pistol-whipping him in the head. The woman then dragged the victim out of his car and sped away with her son. Police are still looking for the carjacker.

On Sept. 17, at a penguin colony near Simonstown, South Africa, 63 endangered African penguins were killed by a swarm of bees, CNN reported. South African National Parks issued a statement saying that the "deaths occurred suddenly sometime between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning." Examinations revealed that "all the penguins had multiple bee stings," many of which were around the birds' eyes, which one expert called a "fluke."

Least Competent Criminal
Timothy Wolfe of Lake City, Florida, arrived at the Lake City Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership on Sept. 20 to buy a new car, WTLV-TV reported. And, bonus, he had a trade-in. But when employees checked the VIN of the trade, they found it was a car that had been stolen from that dealership just a few days earlier. Police were called, and Wolfe admitted to the theft, which had been captured on a surveillance camera. He was charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property, among other crimes.

Too Good To Be True?
Two men in Byram, Mississippi, couldn't believe their luck on Sept. 19 when they came across an Acura with keys in the ignition and a "free car" sign, reported. They drove the car to a family member's home and started to check it out, and that's when they found a surprise in the trunk: the body of 34-year-old Anthony McCrillis. The body had been there at least 24 hours, noted Copiah County Coroner Ellis Stuart. The men called 911 and waited for authorities; the car was registered to McCrillis, and his death is a mystery: He had "no visible signs of trauma," Stuart said. An autopsy is underway.

• Betty Reid Soskin, a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, has been on the job for 15 years, but that's not what she was celebrated for on Sept. 22. Soskin, whose tours are some of the most popular at the park, according to, turned 100 years old that day. She is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service. In 2015, she said she is not "a trained historian n my tours are necessarily a way to share my oral history with the public. I tell the story of the African American workers."

• In Summit County, Colorado, schools are struggling to find bus drivers, but Josh Smith, 12, has a solution. Smith, who lives with his parents in Silverthorne, approached them about kayaking to school across Lake Dillon, rather than having them drive him the long way. "I have a 12-year-old who wants to be adventurous, wants to do something none of his buddies would do, and how can I say no to that?" said Jason, Josh's dad. KDVR-TV reported that on Josh's first commute, he arrived almost on time. "I was late to one of my classes, and everyone was like, 'Josh, where were you? We were worried,' and I was like, 'Oh, I was kayaking to school,'" Josh said.

A funeral home in Ahoskie, North Carolina, was reportedly trying to apologize to the family of Mary Archer after an incident at her viewing on Sept. 7, the New York Post reported. When Archer's two daughters arrived at Hunter's Funeral Home, they found a woman wearing Archer's clothes in the casket -- but it was not Mary. "There's no similarity in the person," Jennetta Archer said. "Their size was way off ... she was so small compared to my mother." At first, funeral home personnel argued that it was indeed Mary in the casket, but then they found her body in the embalming room. While the funeral home claims to have reached out to apologize, the sisters say they haven't heard from the business.

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