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News » News of the Weird

Unclear on the Concept

A weekly roundup of international news oddities.



Unclear on the Concept
WJAR reported that an unnamed substitute teacher was fired on Dec. 16 for smoking marijuana in a classroom at North Attleborough High School in North Attleborough, Mass. Peter Haviland, the principal, said students reported the incident and the teacher was removed from the school premises. Haviland also said the teacher not only used the drug, but led a discussion in class about marijuana. Campuses in the district are drug-free. Well, they were.

Last year during the holiday season, former NASA engineer Mark Rober of Santa Clarita, Calif., created a glitter bomb exploding package in response to having a package stolen from his front porch. This year, Rober has a new and improved version: When it is touched, the BBC reported on Dec. 17, the box explodes in glitter and emits an unpleasant odor along with a soundtrack of police chatter. As a coup de grace, it also takes a video of the thief and uploads it to the cloud. One of the sponsors for Rober's project is "Home Alone" actor Macaulay Culkin. Rober calls it a labor of love: "I have literally spent the last 10 months designing, building and testing a new and improved design for 2019," he said.

Family Values
It might not be the oldest fruitcake still (mostly) uneaten, but it could be the most beloved. The Detroit News reported that the Ford family of Tecumseh, Mich., has been cherishing Fidelia Ford's fruitcake since 1878—over five generations. Julie Ruttinger, great-great-granddaughter to Fidelia, inherited the confection from her father, Morgan Ford, who kept it in an antique glass compote dish in his china cabinet until his death in 2013. It doesn't much look, or smell, like a fruitcake anymore ("Smells like old people," Morgan once said), but Ruttinger is determined to keep Fidelia's legacy alive. Each year, Fidelia made a cake that was meant to age until the next Christmas season. But in 1878, she died before her cake could be enjoyed. When Morgan was buried, the family tucked a piece of the cake into his jacket pocket. "He took care of it to the day he left the earth," Ruttinger said. "We knew it meant a lot to him."

Two workers with the Chicago Park District were spreading salt on an icy lakefront bike path on Dec. 11 when their pickup truck hit a slick spot and slipped into Lake Michigan, the Associated Press reported. It was halfway into the water before it got stuck on a breakwall. The workers were able to escape the truck and move to the shore uninjured. Park District spokesperson Michelle Lemons reminded Chicago residents that the path slopes toward the water and lake levels are high. "It might not look like it's dangerous, but it could still be a sheet of glass," she said.

No Good Deed
Virginia Saavedra, 37, ran to a home in Sophia, N.C., on Dec. 11, telling the resident she had just escaped being kidnapped by a stranger. When the man let her sit in his truck to warm up while he called 911, Saavedra allegedly stole the truck, according to the Randolph County Sheriff's Office. Officers responding to the 911 call spotted the truck and engaged in a 26-mile high-speed chase before trapping the truck. The Associated Press reported Saavedra then rammed a patrol car before trying to flee on foot. She was eventually charged with more than a dozen crimes, including felony assault with a deadly weapon on a government official.

Bright Idea
Around 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 18, an unnamed 17-year-old girl jumped a fence at Fresno Yosemite International Airport in Fresno, Calif., and climbed into the cockpit of a private airplane parked there. She put the pilot's headset on and was able to start one of the engines of the small plane, but instead of flying away, she steered the plane into a chain-link fence, causing substantial damage to the aircraft, the Fresno Bee reported. Airport officials said she appeared disoriented when officers reached the plane, but no others were endangered in the incident. She was booked into juvenile hall on charges of theft of an aircraft.

Government in Action
A sharp-eyed Twitter user spotted an unexpected country on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Tariff Tracker list: Wakanda. The fictional country from the "Black Panther" film made the list of free trade agreement partners. USDA spokesperson Mike Illenberg told NBC News on Dec. 18 the agency had used Wakanda to test the tracking system and had forgotten to remove it from the list. "The Wakanda information should have been removed after testing and has now been taken down."

Compelling Explanation
Police in Tooele, Utah, conducting a welfare check on 75-year-old Jeanne Souron-Mathers on Nov. 22, found the woman dead of natural causes in her apartment, but as they searched further, they came upon the body of her husband, Paul Edward Mathers, in a freezer chest. With his body was a notarized letter, signed by Mathers and dated Dec. 2, 2008, stating that his wife didn't kill him. "We believe he had a terminal illness," police Sgt. Jeremy Hansen told Fox 13. Paul was last seen alive on Feb. 4, 2009, at a doctor's appointment at a Veterans Affairs hospital. Investigators are probing whether the couple made the plan so that Jeanne would continue to receive her husband's government benefits. A neighbor, Evan Kline, said: "The story ... was her husband walked out on her. ... It was probably the plan for her to keep the money because it was her only source of income." Officials believe she received at least $177,000 in benefits over 10 years.

A driver in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, caused an "enormous bang," according to witnesses, on Dec. 14 when he lighted a cigarette in his closed car after spraying air freshener. Nearby buildings shook from the impact, and the car's windshield was blown out, along with windows of nearby businesses, the Manchester Evening News reported. The driver sustained only minor injuries. West Yorkshire Police said the situation could have been worse and implored people to open their windows when using aerosol cans and open flames.

Holiday Shenanigans
A group of Santas participating in SantaCon—a bar-hopping tradition in New York City—brought muscle along with Christmas cheer to a Long Island Railroad train on Dec. 14. According to the New York Daily News, two men were fighting on the train around 6 p.m. when one of them, a 45-year-old, stabbed the other, 22, in the leg. Neither of the men was dressed as Santa, but the Santas on the train subdued the suspect until the train reached Queens. The victim was taken to a hospital, and the MTA arrested the stabber.

• Security officers at Vilnius Airport in Lithuania got in the holiday spirit with confiscated items seized during the screening process, reported United Press International on Dec. 12. Apparently having a lot of time on their hands, the officers built a Christmas tree using items such as scissors, knives, lighters and other goods. Lithuanian Airports called the tree an "educational masterpiece" and warned: "If you don't want your personal, yet prohibited, belongings to land on our next year's Christmas tree—better check out the baggage requirements before you pack for your next flight."

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