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News » News of the Weird

News You Can Use

A weekly roundup of international news oddities



News You Can Use
Engineers at Japan's Gifu University have developed a robotic device that re-creates the experience of holding another person's hand—without the other person. "My Girlfriend in Walk" attaches to the user's forearm, and the metal hand is covered with a soft, gel material that simulates human skin, even allowing custom fragrances to be added to the artificial sweat. A heater provides warmth and a pressure sensor duplicates the strength of the wearer's grip, according to Oddity Central. An accompanying smartphone app can emit sounds including footsteps, breathing and the sound of clothes rubbing against skin.

Kimberly Ragsdale's apparent plan to get free food at a Chick-Fil-A in Rockmart, Georgia, ended in her arrest on charges of impersonating a public officer on Nov. 5. According to police, Ragsdale, 47, of Dallas, had repeatedly visited the restaurant, telling workers she was an FBI agent and threatening to arrest them if they didn't serve her a complimentary meal. Ragsdale continued her charade, the Associated Press reported, telling arresting officers her credentials were electronic and talking "into her shirt like she was talking into a radio," the arrest report noted. Rockmart Police Chief Randy Turner said in a statement to news outlets, "You will not hear a real officer demand a meal anywhere."

• Two men have been arrested on suspicion of conning an unnamed doctor in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh into paying $41,600 for an "Aladdin's lamp" that the sellers promised would bring him "wealth, health and good fortune." The two con artists even conspired to conjure a genie from the lamp, which turned out to be one of the men, to convince the doctor of its authenticity, the BBC reported. According to local police, the con men had duped other families in the same way.

• Mayor Yutaka Umeda of the Japanese town of Yamato was puzzled when his name started trending on social media after the U.S. presidential election, but he is now hoping his newfound fame will help him "promote the town," United Press International reported. The extra attention online came because the Chinese kanji characters used to spell Umeda's name can also be pronounced "Jo Baiden"—strikingly similar to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. "Although there are differences in the positions of a U.S. presidential candidate and the mayor of Yamato ... our passion is the same," Umeda said.

• A couple hiking in Ingersheim in northeastern France in September came across a tiny aluminum capsule that turned out to contain a message in German dropped by a carrier pigeon 110 years ago, CNN reported. Curator Dominique Jardy at the nearby Linge Memorial museum, dedicated to a battle between French and German forces in 1915, determined the message was sent from one German officer to another, detailing military exercises taking place in the area. The find, Jardy said, "is really very, very, very rare," and the message will go on display at the museum.

Bright Ideas
In September, police in Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic, where a 9 p.m. curfew has been imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, came upon a man pulling a toy plush dog behind him late at night in the town's center, reported. "I'm walking a dog here. I'm not doing anything illegal here," the man told officers. Walking a dog is permitted after curfew, but the police gave him a warning and sent him and his "pet" on their way.

People With Issues
Police in Fruitland Park, Florida, arrested Ronni Leigh Kimberlin of Leesburg on Oct. 31 on charges of theft and disturbing a grave after she allegedly repeatedly removed items left at her ex-husband's grave by his fiancee. The grieving fiancee first complained to police in late September, records show, saying items missing from the grave included a pair of $250 sunglasses, hanging LED lights, hanging planters, artificial flowers, a ring and assorted other items—all valued at more than $400. Kimberlin denied involvement, WKMG reported, but the arrest affidavit noted an ex-roommate came forward saying she was with Kimberlin when she stole the items, and police found some of the missing planters at Kimberlin's brother's home.

Recent Alarming Headlines
Police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, continue to investigate two explosive incidents in area port-a-potties, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. No one was injured in either explosion, the first of which occurred Nov. 5 in Lawrenceville and was strong enough to blow apart the toilet and damage a nearby home, police said. The second came on Nov. 10 in East Allegheny. Pittsburgh's Bomb Squad and Crime Unit is working to determine what types of explosives were used and whether the events are related.

Government in Action
Indonesia has the highest death toll from COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, and officials are getting creative with punishments in addition to fines for not complying with mask laws. Metro News reported on Nov. 11 that regional governments are forcing scofflaws to do pushups, pull weeds, clean riverbeds and dig graves for coronavirus victims. Coffee-shop owner Evani Jesselyn of Jakarta said she could either pay a fine or clean public toilets after she was caught not wearing a mask in her car.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Motorists in Woodbury County, Iowa, started alerting State Conservation Officer Steve Griebel on Nov. 9 that hundreds of ducks had been killed after mistaking wet roads for wetlands, KCRG reported. The ducks, including bluebills, mallards, buffleheads and teal, were migrating south and landed on the wet pavement in parking lots and on highways, where the next day, Griebel said, he counted more than 200 that had been hit by unwitting drivers.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit
In China's Lishui City, Zhejiang Province, 27-year-old Luo Qingjun has found his calling as a "bad uncle" for hire by parents wanting him to scare their children into obedience, Oddity Central reported. Luo creates a short custom video, using the child's name and making scary faces while threatening them to behave. "If you don't do your homework, don't eat and don't go to sleep, I will take you away!" Luo warns on one video. One happy customer posted, "My 3-year-old son was scared at first sight, and he was immediately obedient."

Recurring Themes
More than 22,000 votes were cast in the race for mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, on Nov. 3, and the winner, with 13,143 of those votes, was Wilbur Beast, a French bulldog, Fox News reported, beating out Jack Rabbit the beagle and Poppy the golden retriever. Rabbit Hash's mayoral election is a fundraiser for the town historical society, with each dollar buying one vote. Mayor Beast's spokesperson/owner, Amy Noland, thanked his supporters for their vote of confidence and encouraged them to reach out on social media, where Beast will be "all ears."

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