Rakhi Desai of Houston didn't think much at first of the gift she brought home from a white elephant party in mid-December—a brown stuffed bear with a stitched-on heart. As she looked it over later, Desai noticed the words "Neptune Society" stitched on its foot, "and then I started to feel, and it's almost like little pebbles or rocks" inside, she told KTRK-TV. That's when it hit her: The bear was filled with someone's cremated remains. The friend who brought the bear to the gift exchange got it at an estate sale, so Desai called the Neptune Society, hoping to reunite the bear with the family it belongs to, but the organization doesn't track the bears. However, there is a name on the bear's tag, and Desai is hoping to find the owner through that. "This bear is very special to somebody and belongs in somebody's family," she said.
On Christmas Day, the website Deadspin shared a "verbatim" list from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission of emergency room visits paid by Americans who inserted items into various body parts and shouldn't have. Here follows an edited sampling. Into the ear: "Popcorn kernels in both ears, 'feeds her ears because her ears are hungry'"; "Was cleaning ear with Q-tip, accidentally walked into a wall, pushed Q-tip into ear"; "Placed crayon in ear on a dare." Into the nose: "Sneezed and a computer keyboard key came out right nostril, sneezed again and another one almost came out"; pool noodle; piece of steak; sex toy. Into the throat: mulch; "Swallowed a quarter while eating peanuts"; plastic toy banana. And finally, into the rectum: "Significant amount of string"; cellphone; Christmas ornament ball; "Jumped on bed, toothbrush was on bed and went up patient's rectum."
Vanessa Elizabeth Helfant, 38, of Knoxville, Tenn., floated a "man bites dog" defense at her DUI hearing on Dec. 13, arguing that several parked cars struck her on March 25, 2017. The jury, however, didn't buy her story after hearing evidence: Witnesses at the scene followed Helfant to her destination, and when officers arrived and knocked on the door, Helfant called 911 to report people knocking on her door. WATE reported that she eventually admitted that she had drunk half a pint of vodka and smoked marijuana. Helfant, who had no prior offenses, was convicted and faces at least 48 hours in jail and her license will be suspended for a year.
Tiffany Butch, 33, of Timmins, Ontario, Canada, might go down in history not for her psychic gifts, but for being the last person ever charged in Canada with "pretending to practice witchcraft." On Dec. 11, Butch, whose nickname is the White Witch of the North, was charged under Section 365 of the Criminal Code for demanding money in return for lifting a curse. Two days later, that law was repealed. Marc Depatie, spokesperson for the Timmons police force, said Butch gave a customer "a sense of foreboding that a dreadful thing was about to happen to their family ..." But Butch denies the charge, saying other psychics framed her. "People proclaimed me a witch here and gave me a nickname, but I'm not a witch. I'm a psychic," she told CBC News. Butch is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 22.
On Jan. 1, Camron Jean-Pierre, an 11-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., boy, lost his life after apparently suffering an allergic reaction to the smell of the fish his family was cooking for dinner, reported the New York Daily News. His parents used an unspecified medical device to try to help him, but he lost consciousness and emergency services were called. Camron was taken to Brookdale Hospital, but he couldn't be revived. Scientists have noted that people with food allergies can react strongly to odors from food, and inhaling these odors can cause extreme asthmatic reactions.
People Different From Us
Asparagus is healthy and delicious. But for 63-year-old Jemima Packington of Bath, England, the columnar vegetable is much more: Packington is an asparamancer, a person who can foretell the future by tossing the spears into the air and seeing how they land. "When I cast the asparagus, it creates patterns and it is the patterns I interpret," Packington said. "I am usually about 75 to 90 percent accurate." In fact, out of 13 predictions she made for 2018, 10 of them came true. What's in store for 2019? Packington tells Metro News that England's women's soccer team will win the World Cup; "A Star Is Born" will win an Oscar; and fears over Brexit will be largely unfounded. Oh, and asparagus will see an all-time high in sales.
Alarmed neighbors in Perth, Australia, called police after hearing a child screaming and a man repeatedly shouting, "Why don't you die?!" on Jan. 1, according to the Evening Standard. Multiple units of officers arrived at the property, only to learn that the unnamed man, an extreme arachnophobe, had been trying to kill a spider. His wife confirmed to police that her child had been screaming, and her husband apologized to police for the confusion. The spider didn't survive.
Weapon of Choice
Rogelio Tapia, 26, was arrested in Des Moines, Iowa, on Dec. 31 after a dispute at a QuikTrip around 3 a.m. The store clerk and witnesses told police Tapia chased the clerk around the store and assaulted him with a banana after the clerk tried to intervene in a domestic situation. According to KCCI, Tapia caused about $1,000 in damage; he was charged with assault and third-degree criminal mischief.
If super-sharp shears snipping near your ears isn't enough of a rush, you might want to visit Madrid, Spain, and the salon of Alberto Olmedo, who uses ninja swords and blowtorches to cut hair. Claiming his approach is inspired by Renaissance tradition, Olmedo told Euronews that swords allow a hairdresser to cut hair from both sides of the head at once, resulting in a more even finish. He started perfecting the skill when he became "disillusioned with scissors." Olmedo also offers a cut with claws worn on the ends of his fingers, and plans are in the works to bring lasers into his work.
Armed and Clumsy
Despite a flood of warnings from law enforcement about the dangers of shooting celebratory gunfire into the air on New Year's Eve, an unnamed Kansas City, Kan., man just couldn't resist. As he prepared to head outside at midnight with his .22-caliber handgun, he "sat the gun down in the couch [and] accidentally shot himself in the stomach," tweeted Police Chief Terry Ziegler. The Kansas City Star reported Ziegler's department conducted a "tweet-along" during the evening, with multiple reports of shots fired—so many that at 11:50 p.m., officers headed to a parking garage to take cover from the bullets that were expected to rain down at midnight. At 12:01 a.m., the department tweeted, "Gunfire EVERYWHERE." Thankfully, no injuries were reported in the city as a result of the merrymaking.
You've seen photo books and calendars depicting swaddled infants surrounded with flowers. In Irmo, S.C., on Dec. 29, photographer Stephanie Smith re-created the look using her high school friend Nicole Ham, according to FOX13 News. Ham, who is "336 months old," was swaddled in a pink blanket and wore a giant gold bow on her head as she lay within a circle of garland and flowers. A sign next to her read: "Loves—champagne. Hates—dating in 2018. Go Tigers!" "We couldn't keep a straight face," said Smith, adding that she and Ham are already brainstorming ideas for future funny photo shoots.
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