Show Mobile Navigation
Our World |

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (5/11/19)

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

It is time, yet again, to look at some of the more unusual or unique stories that made their way through the news cycle over the last several days. Click here to check out last week’s offbeat list.

This week’s list is feeling a bit intoxicated, as it has stories on beer, meth, and psychoactive drugs. There are also a few bizarre crimes to talk about, including a man who tried to deport his wife and a woman caught trespassing in search of “Agent Penis.”

10 Will Japan Run Out Of Beer?

For the first time, Japan will be hosting the Rugby World Cup. Local businesses are only now finding out something that might become a problem later on: Rugby fans drink a lot of beer.

The organizing committee for the 2019 Rugby World Cup had a planning meeting with Japanese business operators in which they raised concerns that Japanese bars and hotels will be unable to cope with the huge demands for beer from the approximately 400,000 international visitors expected to show up between September and November. This would cause bad publicity, upset traveling fans, and cost local venues substantial business.

The committee informed them that, during the previous world cup hosted in England, beer consumption at the games was six times more than at football matches in the same venues.

One prefecture has already taken measures by asking brewers to increase their supply and local bars to extend their opening hours. However, officials still say that, following the briefing from the rugby committee, a beer shortage is “a realistic problem.”[1]

9 G.I. Joe Versus The Volcano

Last Wednesday, a man fell 21 meters (70 ft) into the most dangerous volcano in the United States and survived.

The 32-year-old was a soldier deployed on a training mission on Hawaii’s Big Island. In his spare time, he decided to visit Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. He was part of a group that stopped at the Steaming Bluff overlook when the man decided to take a closer look down into Halema’uma’u Crater.

There was a safety railing in place, but the tourist decided to climb over it.[2] The ground gave way under him, and he fell down a 90-meter (300 ft) cliff to his certain doom. However, it seems that Madame Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire who lives inside the crater, was feeling benevolent that day. Instead of plummeting all the way to the bottom, the man landed on a ledge.

He was rescued a few hours later. He was seriously injured and was airlifted to a medical center. Since then, his condition has been upgraded from critical to stable.

8 Take My Wife, Please

A man from Portland, Oregon, received four months in federal prison for trying to bribe an immigration agent to deport his wife.

Last May, 48-year-old Antonio Burgos met up with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer in a parking lot in Vancouver, Washington. He then offered the agent $3,000 to deport the wife he was divorcing back to El Salvador, where the couple met.[3]

The officer reported the incident and set up a sting operation. He recorded two phone calls in which Burgos repeated his proposition. During a face-to-face meeting, the man upped his offer to $4,000 if the agent would also deport his stepdaughter.

Burgos was arrested and pleaded guilty to one count of bribery of a public official in November. He was sentenced this Monday.

7 How To Party Shaman-Style

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presented the analysis of a 1,000-year-old pouch thought to have belonged to a shaman. Unsurprisingly, it revealed that people back then liked to get really wasted.

Anthropologists found the pouch back in 2009 in a rock shelter known as Cueva de Chileno in Bolivia’s Lipez Highlands. It was made out of three fox snouts stitched together and contained traces of multiple psychoactive substances. Scholars believe it could represent the earliest known evidence of ayahuasca, an entheogenic brew used by shamans in spiritual ceremonies.

A chemical analysis revealed the presence of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), benzoylecgonine (BZE), bufotenin, cocaine, and possibly psilocin.[4] Also at the site were other items, such as a headband, a snuffing tube, two snuffing tablets, two bone spatulas, and an anthropomorphic figurine. Researchers believe all of them were used in a burial ceremony, as Cueva de Chileno was once a burial site.

6 Agent Penis Reporting For Duty

A woman was arrested for trespassing at the CIA headquarters in Virginia and demanding to speak with “Agent Penis.”

On May 3, Jennifer Hernandez approached a security officer at the CIA’s visitor center. She wanted two things: to get back her North Carolina ID card and to speak with Agent Penis.

A quick check of their records revealed to CIA officials that Hernandez had made multiple appearances over the last few weeks. Each time, she said she was there to talk with her recruiter regarding a job at the CIA. This wasn’t true, so she was told to leave because she was trespassing. The last time this happened, security officers accidentally kept her ID card after officially citing her.

Hernandez received her ID back. Agent Penis, however, was unavailable. Other officers escorted her to the bus stop to make sure that she left the premises.[5] When the bus arrived, however, she refused to depart, even when told that she would be arrested otherwise. In the end, she was charged with remaining on an Agency installation after being ordered to leave.

5 Across The Atlantic In A Barrel

Photo credit: AFP

People on the tiny Dutch island of St. Eustatius were surprised this week to see an oil tanker with a unique payload. It was carrying a giant, orange barrel with a 72-year-old French ex-paratrooper inside.

Back in December, we talked about Jean-Jacques Savin and his plan to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a barrel. He set off a day after Christmas and reached the Caribbean this week. He spent around four and a half months in a capsule which he built himself. It did not have an engine and instead relied on the ocean current to guide its 4,715-kilometer (2,930 mi) journey.[6]

Savin was a bit off the mark in his calculations. He believed he might reach the Caribbean by late March. Fortunately, he planned ahead and had enough provisions and was also able to fish from his barrel. Savin also hoped he might reach a French island to cut down on paperwork. Although he ended up in the Caribbean Netherlands, a tugboat later delivered him to the French island of Martinique.

4 A Typo In Australa

Photo credit: AP

Late last year, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) released a new A$50 note. It had an abundance of innovative, next-generation anti-counterfeiting measures, but it also contained a typo that went overlooked for half a year. Now, the RBA estimates that there are around 46 million of these misprinted banknotes in circulation.

The typo itself isn’t particularly egregious. One side of the note features Edith Cowan, first female Australian member of parliament. In the background, there is a building with a lawn. Upon closer inspection, the lawn is actually made up of tiny rows of words which quote one of Cowan’s speeches. In it, the word “responsibility” is missing the last “i.”[7]

The mistake is hardly visible with the naked eye, which is probably why it took six months for someone to spot the error. The RBA says it became aware of the typo back in December and will correct it for the next print run of the note.

3 Wasp Logic

A new study from the University of Michigan published in the Royal Society Biology Letters has high praise for wasps. It claims that they are the first invertebrates found to use a form of logical reasoning.

The type of logic is called transitive inference. If we know that A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then we can conclude that A is greater than C. It is a basic form of reasoning common in humans. Whether other animals actually employ it or are simply well-trained is still a matter of debate.

A team led by Elizabeth Tibbets used 40 paper wasps in their experiment. They put the insects individually in the middle of a rectangular container. The goal was for them to pick the correct end to fly to, as the wrong end resulted in an electric shock.

Each end was assigned a different color and a letter from A to E, with the letter that comes later in the alphabet always being the incorrect one. Therefore, A > B > C > D > E. The wasps were first presented with adjacent pairs to choose from: A/B, B/C, C/D, and D/E. After ten trials, the insects were then made to pick between B/D and A/E.

Around 65 percent of wasps made the correct choice, which is considered better than chance.[8] The same test had previously been run with honeybees, but they didn’t seem to use this deduction process. Tibbets opines that the wasps’ success could be due to the strict hierarchies present in wasp societies, where transitive inference could play a role in establishing one insect’s dominant rank.

2 A Different Kind Of LEGO Brick

People keep sending their meth to the wrong address. Last week, we talked about an elderly Australian couple who had 20 kilograms (44 lb) of methamphetamine delivered to their house by mistake. This week, we have a woman from Georgia who bought a LEGO box, only to discover that it had $40,000 worth of meth inside.

The unnamed woman made a stop at a consignment shop in South Carolina and bought a LEGO toy. The young child she gifted it to opened the box to find 1.3 kilograms (3 lb) of methamphetamine in a vacuum-sealed bag.[9]

The woman called the sheriff’s office, which turned the case over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA agents believe the LEGO box was probably sent by a dealer to an empty or abandoned address, and the postal worker didn’t leave the parcel. Afterward, it was sold in an auction for unclaimed packages before making its way to the consignment store. Officers don’t foresee any charges being filed in the matter.

1 Satisfaction Not Guaranteed

As it turns out, all those spam e-mails lied to us all. A new study from King’s College London concludes that penis extensions do not work. They come with a small rate of satisfaction, carry a lot of risks, and, in most cases, are unnecessary.

A team of doctors and researchers led by urologist Gordon Muir reviewed 17 previously published studies that covered 21 different penis enlargement procedures carried on almost 1,200 men. They found that the satisfaction rate for patients was never any higher than 20 percent.[10] Besides this, there was the risk of major complications, such as shortening, penile deformity, and erectile dysfunction.

The procedures were also very expensive, costing up to £40,000 ($52,000). Muir labeled many practitioners who offer these kinds of services as “charlatans” because they prey on vulnerable men and convince them to get unnecessary and dangerous medical procedures. Researchers believe that many patients are actually averagely endowed but feel inadequate due to obsessive conditions such as body dysmorphic disorder or penile dysfunction disorder. Therefore, an ethical medical professional would dismiss them as suitable candidates following physical and psychological examinations.


Read more offbeat stories you might have missed from May 4, 2019, and April 27, 2019.

fact checked by Jamie Frater