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10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (6/1/19)

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Another week is in the history books, so it’s time to take a gander at a few bizarre and unconventional news items that you may have overlooked. You can click here to catch up on last Saturday’s list.

This week, we have Canadian cheese thieves, tortoise-eating chimps, and a London pub for nudists. A laptop infested with viruses sells for over $1 million, while an English port town pays tribute to gangsta rap.

Featured image credit: The Coach & Horses

10 You Can Leave Your Hat On

Photo credit: The Coach & Horses

Londoners can now head on over to the Coach & Horses, take off all their clothes, and enjoy a pint in a historical pub that has been officially granted a nudist license.

Built in the early 19th century, the Coach & Horses gained its notoriety in the following century for being run for over 60 years by Norman Balon, a man dubbed “London’s rudest landlord.” Since 2006, the pub has been in the hands of Alastair Choat, who gave it a more bohemian atmosphere. However, that might go away in the near future, as Choat’s lease is about to expire, and the company that owns the pub, Fuller’s Brewery, plans to bring in new management.

Although the brewery claims it will maintain the same atmosphere, Choat tried one last-ditch effort to raise money for a new lease with a 16-month nudie calendar featuring the staff and regulars.[1] In order to do so, he needed a special license similar to that given to adult entertainment establishments.

Word of the calendar spread around town, and the Coach & Horses began receiving numerous calls inquiring if the pub is now naturist-friendly. While you can’t just enter the bar and drop your pants, Choat announced plans to hold a “nude night” sometime in June.

9 The Great Cheese Caper

The city of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, is being terrorized by a pair of cheese-stealing women. The dairy-loving duo has struck three times in less than a month.

The criminals first struck on April 5, when they entered a Fortinos supermarket and made off with multiple wheels of cheese worth hundreds of dollars. They robbed another grocery store named Longo’s that same day.

The two women actually tried to steal from the same Longo’s the next day. They were recognized by staff members, who alerted authorities, but the women managed to leave before police arrived.

During their latest heist, the women entered the same Fortinos as before and stole $580 worth of cheese wheels. In total, police estimate that they have purloined over $1,500 in cheese.[2] Authorities speculate that the product was sold to restaurants under the table. Despite the fact that the women revisit the same stores, and police have clear surveillance photos of their faces, they remain at large.

8 A Bestiary Of Viruses

Photo credit: Guo O Dong

One of the strangest art projects in recent history is a laptop that sold at auction in the United States for $1.3 million. Called The Persistence of Chaos, it had been purposely infected with six of the most notorious malware viruses ever programmed.[3]

The venture is a joint affair between artist Guo O Dong and cybersecurity company Deep Instinct. Guo sees the project as a “bestiary” which catalogues some of the most dangerous threats of the Internet age. He put them all in the same 11-year-old laptop because it is more fun “to see beasts in a live environment.”

The six viruses include some which have wreaked havoc in recent years and infected tens of millions of computers, such as ILoveYou and WannaCry. Certain precautions had to be taken to ensure that the laptop is isolated from other networks and cannot spread the infection. According to the terms and conditions, the buyer will receive the computer “as a piece of art or for academic reasons” because, otherwise, it would be illegal to sell the malware.

Bemused cybersecurity experts suggest that, instead of spending millions of dollars, people looking for such a laptop could simply connect it to the Internet for a few days without any security measures.

7 Dove From Above

A dove saved a speeding driver from a stiff fine by flying in front of his car and obscuring his identity when the camera took his picture.[4]

A few days ago, a motorist was rushing through the German city of Viersen, traveling at 54 kilometers per hour (34 mph) in a zone with a 30-kilometer-per-hour (18 mph) speed limit. Normally, this would be a €105 fine. However, the driver’s face was not visible in the shot snapped by the speed camera because a white dove was flapping its wings right in front of it. Although the license plate is clearly visible, per German laws, both car and driver must be identifiable in the image.

Viersen authorities suggested that the unlikely scenario could have been the result of divine intervention, seeing the dove as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. They advise the speeding motorist to take the “hint from above” and drive slower in the future.

6 Drink, Dance, And Be Merry

Rome is still revealing its ancient marvels. A few weeks ago, we talked about archaeologists who stumbled upon a secret chamber built by Emperor Nero. Now, new excavations under the heart of the city uncovered a giant marble head believed to depict Dionysus, the god of wine, theater, and fertility.

In an act of medieval recycling, the head had been reused as construction material and was built into a wall. The statue is believed to date back to the Roman imperial era, sometime between the first century BC and the second century AD, while the wall came much later, during medieval times.

The refined, young, and feminine features of the head make archaeologists think it belongs to Dionysus, the Greek god that the Romans later worshiped as Bacchus. His eye sockets are empty, most likely because they were once filled with jewels or glass.[5] Other than that, the statue is in excellent condition. Researchers think they could even find traces of its original color once it is given a thorough cleaning.

5 Straight Outta Newhaven

Photo credit: BBC News

The British port town of Newhaven, East Sussex, unveiled a memorial bench this week. It honors the “Godfather of Gangsta Rap” Eazy-E, despite there being no connection between the two.

The whole thing started as a joke by local hip-hop fan Guy Stevens. The town is no stranger to memorials that seem out of place. It already has a sculpture of communist leader Ho Chi Minh, which was a gift from Vietnam. It is believed that Ho Chi Minh traveled to Newhaven on a cross-channel ferry during World War I. Stevens thought it would be funny if there was a statue of Eazy-E to sit alongside it, but eventually, he downgraded to a bench.

His campaign proved rather successful, and he raised over $2,000, which was $500 more than needed.[6] The additional funds were donated to HIV charities since the rapper died of AIDS in 1995.

Donors to the campaign either share Stevens’s sense of humor or are hoping the added publicity will put Newhaven on the map. The rap aficionado has more semiserious suggestions, which include continuing the trend with memorial benches for 2Pac and Biggie or renaming the town to Newcompton.

4 A Hard-Shelled Snack

According to a study published in Scientific Reports, primatologists have seen chimpanzees indulging in a new type of snack: tortoises. This marks the first time that we have observed the primates eating not just tortoises but any kind of reptile.

In order to crack the hard shells of the animals, chimps smash them against trees. This does require a fair bit of strength, which is why the practice is most common among adult males. Researchers noted three instances involving two females and a juvenile who were unable to smash the tough exteriors of the tortoises and, instead, gave them to larger members of the group. The bigger chimps were successful and shared the spoils with their weaker companions.

The German team of scientists behind the study observed chimps in their natural habitat at Loango National Park in Gabon. They reported 38 “prey events” involving tortoises, of which 34 were successful. Most intriguing was the behavior of one adult male who showed future planning. He cracked open a tortoise, ate half of it up a tree, and stashed the rest. He then returned and consumed the leftovers the next day.[7]

Curiously, the chimps were only seen eating tortoises during the dry season. Although there were plenty of other food sources available, researchers believe this is because the reptiles were particularly easy to detect rustling through the crunchy, dry leaves.

3 An Inside Job

A bizarre trial started this week at the Oita District Court in Japan. A 44-year-old man has been charged with restraining and assaulting his wife after finding out that she had been trolling his YouTube videos for half a year.

The husband wanted to become a YouTuber, so he started posting videos highlighting the restaurants, landmarks, and sightseeing spots in Oita. All of his posts were soon flooded by offensive comments, calling him names such as “idiot” or “baldy.”[8] This might sound like par for the course with YouTube videos, but in March, the man discovered that his wife was the one leaving most of the negative comments. Moreover, she asked acquaintances to do the same.

In a fit of rage, the husband restrained his wife using tape and kicked her repeatedly. He admitted to the attack and will face up to three years in prison.

2 Gold Is A Fungus’s Best Friend

Photo credit: CSIRO

According to Nature Communications, Australian researchers found a new type of fungus with a unique obsession: gold. This strain of Fusarium oxysporum collects the precious metal from its surroundings, dissolves it, and precipitates it in order to coat itself in gold.

Although fungi often interact with other materials, both organic and inorganic, Dr. Tsing Bohu described this unusual relationship as something that “had to be seen to be believed.” Scientists are not sure yet why exactly the fungus does this, but initial observations suggest that the fungi coated in gold grow larger and spread faster than their non-auric counterparts.[9]

Researchers believe that the discovery of these new fungi could prove to be a real boon for the gold mining industry, as their presence could possibly indicate untapped gold deposits. Others go a step further and opine that the fungus could be used to retrieve gold from waste products such as electronics. It could even be used as a “pathway” to transport gold from the depths of the planet to higher, shallower soil.

1 Green Me Up, Scotty

The West Virginia National Guard had a strange mystery on its hands. One day, it found that one of its Korean War-era tanks on display in a park had turned a bright lime green. The conundrum was solved after the sponsor of a local science fiction club wrote to a newspaper and admitted that they accidentally painted it the wrong color.

An M41 Walker Bulldog sits in Lotito City Park in Bluefield. The city also has the Bluefield State College, which is home to the USS Yeager chapter of Starfleet International, the largest Star Trek fan club in the world. The organization has taken responsibility for the upkeep of the tank and has been cleaning and painting it for almost two decades.

Recently, the trekkies decided it was time for the Bulldog to get a new coat of paint. They took a sample to a local supplier and walked away with 7.5 liters (2 gal) of fresh “tank green” paint.[10]

Once they opened the cans, they discovered that the paint inside did not match their sample. In a highly illogical move, they painted the tank anyway, assuming that the color would turn more olive drab after it dried. It didn’t.

Local officials seemed to take the blunder in good humor. City Manager Dane Rideout said his staff is working in conjunction with the Starfleet International chapter to find historically accurate paint for the tank.


Read more offbeat stories you might have missed from May 25, 2019, and May 18, 2019.

fact checked by Jamie Frater