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10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (8/31/19)

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

It is time, once again, to check out some of the strangest and most unusual stories to hit our headlines this week. If you missed the last offbeat list, you can catch up here.

We have two space stories this week. One involves NASA investigating the first alleged crime in space, while the other looks at the possible end to the decades-old tradition of astronauts peeing on the bus wheel on the way to a launch. There is also a story that will make arachnophobes sleep with earplugs on, a remarkable discovery made in ancient puma poop, and a stunning look at a ship “lost in time” for a century and a half.

10 Naked On The Streets Of Philly

Photo credit: David Cimetta/AP

Thousands of cyclists stripped down and took to the streets of Philadelphia in the 11th annual Philly Naked Bike Ride.

The goals of the au naturel event include advocating for cyclist safety, promoting positive body image, and minimizing our dependence on fossil fuels. The riders get naked, but exactly how far they go is up to them: Some dress down to their tighty-whities, others cover up in body paint, and some go full commando. They then embark on a 16-kilometer (10 mi) course through Philadelphia which includes some of the city’s most notable landmarks, such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.[1]

In previous years, the Philly Naked Bike Ride was held in September, but organizers moved it up to August for a warmer, more nude-friendly weather.

9 Crime . . . In Space

Reportedly, NASA is investigating the first allegation of a crime committed in space after astronaut Anne McClain accessed the bank account of her former spouse without permission.[2]

McClain married Air Force intelligence officer Summer Worden in 2014 and divorced her four years later. During that time, the astronaut helped raise Worden’s son, Briggs. McClain admitted that she had accessed the bank account during a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS) but denies any wrongdoing. She claims she only wanted to make sure that there were sufficient funds to care for her son. In turn, Worden filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that McClain committed identity theft. She also brought a complaint with NASA’s Office of Inspector General.

McClain said through her lawyer that she had merely continued existing behavior that had been approved by Worden in the past to oversee the welfare of six-year-old Briggs. On the other hand, the Air Force officer claims this is just another move in a long-standing strategy on behalf of the astronaut to gain custody of her son.

No NASA or FTC officials have made a statement on the matter yet, although they did specify that this could, potentially, be the first crime committed aboard the ISS.

8 Eight-Legged Surprise

Photo credit: WDAF-TV

Arachnophobes beware: If you are squeamish about spiders, you might want to skip this one.

A woman from Kansas City, Missouri, went to the doctor because she thought she had water in her left ear. Turns out it was actually a brown recluse spider that had ended up in her ear canal.

When Susie Torres woke up last Wednesday morning with sloshing and popping sounds in her ear, she didn’t think too much of it. It was probably just some water that got stuck in there. She decided to get it looked at, anyway. Torres got a sense that something was wrong when the medical assistant who was checking her ran out of the exam room and came back with six more people, including a doctor. They tried to break the news gently that she had a spider inside her head.[3]

The doctor first tried to flush the arachnid out, with no success. Eventually, he managed to pull it out in one piece. The nurses told Torres that the spider was dead, although she thinks they could have said that just to keep her calm.

Surprisingly, the spider went in and out without biting the woman once. She believes that it could have entered her ear canal while she was sleeping and swears that she will be using earplugs from now on.

7 Karma Is A You-Know-What

WATCH: Man’s Pickup Truck Stolen While He Allegedly Robbed Store Across Street

In a stunning case of instant karma, a man from Kennewick, Washington, had his truck stolen while he was allegedly busy robbing a store across the street.

Early Sunday morning, the Kennewick Police Department received a report from 42-year-old William Kelley that somebody had stolen his Chevrolet pickup truck. According to his statement, he had been drinking at the tavern where the vehicle was parked on Saturday night. Not wanting to drive drunk, he left the truck there and went home.

However, surveillance footage told a different story. Police say that Kelley parked his car in front of the bar at 5:30 AM and then broke into and robbed the business across the street.[4] While this was happening, another man on a bike drove past his truck and noticed the keys were left inside. He then put his bicycle in the bed of the vehicle and drove off.

Kelley already had an outstanding warrant, so he was arrested for that and charged with a new count of burglary. The other man remains unidentified.

6 Groin-Assisted Surgery

Photo credit: The Telegraph

English surgeons managed to save the hand of a man who had almost chopped it off completely by sewing it to his groin for two weeks.

Forty-six-year-old carpenter Anthony Lelliott was rushed to St George’s Hospital in London with one of the most complex amputations that doctors there had ever seen. He suffered an accident with a revolving saw and nearly severed half of his palm and his first two fingers.

He went into surgery for 17 hours. Doctors first fixed his broken bones and then used nerve and vein grafts from his forearm and foot, respectively. His middle finger was beyond saving, so instead, surgeons decided to use what was left of it to help reconstruct the palm.

Despite these procedures, there was still not enough skin to fix the damage. Therefore, doctors cut a flap in Lelliott’s groin and attached his hand to it.[5] After two weeks, enough extra skin grew to finish the procedure. Since then, Lelliott has regained feeling and some movement in his hand.

5 Coin Hoard Reveals Medieval Scam

A coin hoard found back in January in England not only represents the largest-ever cache from the period immediately following the Norman conquest but also contains examples of a medieval coin scam.

The year 1066 was a pivotal moment in English history. William the Conqueror overthrew the Anglo-Saxons and became the first Norman king of the country. Fast-forward almost 1,000 years, and a couple of metal detectorists stumbled onto a giant cache of coins while teaching some friends to use metal detectors. They were in a field near Chew Valley in Somerset, and almost as soon as they got started, one of them found a single coin depicting William the Conqueror. This was an exceedingly rare find in and of itself, but the group then discovered another 2,500 coins.

Researchers could tell the coins came from the early Norman period because half of them featured William, while the other half had his Anglo-Saxon predecessor, Harold II. Closer examination identified at least three of the coins as “mules.”[6] That means that they were a combination of the two different types of coins, with style and language elements from both the Anglo-Saxon and the Norman variants. These changes were enough to fool your average illiterate Anglo-Saxon and pass the “mules” off as legal tender.

4 Puma Poop Produces Parasite Publication

According to a new study published in the journal Parasitology, a piece of prehistoric puma poop yielded the oldest parasite DNA ever recorded.

The 17,000-year-old coprolite was discovered in Argentina’s Catamarca province, in a layer of sediment within a rock shelter over 3,500 meters (11,500 ft) above sea level. Researchers were able to rehydrate and sieve the poop and, then, recover parasite eggs that still contained DNA. Analysis showed that they belonged to Toxascaris leonina, a type of roundworm that still infects animals today.

This study is notable for two reasons. For starters, it has pushed back the maximum age for recovery of DNA from a coprolite, undoubtedly helped by the ideal conditions inside the rock shelter, which included cold temperatures and a high salt concentration.[7] Furthermore, it debunks the idea that these parasites were brought to the American wild by cats and dogs domesticated by ancient humans. This latest sample predates the arrival of people in the area by 6,000 years.

3 Not Enough Jazz

An angry jazz enthusiast called the Spanish police during a festival to complain that the artist onstage was playing contemporary music instead of jazz.

American saxophonist Larry Ochs has been playing jazz for 40 years, but this latest episode might give him an identity crisis. On Monday, he was onstage with his Sax and Drumming Core group at the Siguenza Jazz Festival in Spain. Although most people probably enjoyed his performance, one attendee simply wasn’t having it. He concluded that Ochs was playing contemporary music, which had no place at a jazz festival.

The man said that his doctor called it “psychologically inadvisable” for him to listen to anything that sounds like contemporary music.[8] He wanted his money back, and when organizers refused, he called the cops. The Civil Guard arrived to investigate the case, and after listening to Ochs play, they decided that the festivalgoer had enough of a case to register his complaint and pass it on to a judge.

As for Ochs, he seemed to take the bizarre incident well, saying that at least he has a story to tell his grandchildren.

2 Astronauts Enter No-Fly Zone

Photo credit: Sergei Bobylev/Tass

A redesign of Russian space suits will prevent cosmonauts from continuing a decades-old tradition of peeing on the way to the launch for good luck.

The ritual started all the way back in 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. On route to the launchpad at Baikonur Cosmodrome, he had to relieve himself, so the bus pulled over, and Gagarin peed on the back wheel while wearing his astronaut suit. Since then, the stop has been reenacted during every trip to Baikonur, with most male cosmonauts and astronauts peeing on the same wheel for good luck. Some of their female counterparts even brought along vials of urine so that they could splash them on the wheels and continue the tradition.

The practice can no longer take place in the new Sokol-M suit, which has a diagonal zipper instead of a V-shaped opening like its predecessor.[9] According to Sergei Pozdnyakov, director of Zvezda, the company that made the suit, the design specifications never stated that the suit must allow astronauts to pee on the bus wheel.

The Sokol-M suit will be worn by everybody who travels to the ISS aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. Since the new design is a prototype, it will be possible to make modifications to it, although Zvezda has made no mention of any such plans so far.

1 Aboard The HMS Terror

Parks Canada Guided Tour Inside HMS Terror

A new study came out on Wednesday which showed the results of the first-ever trips inside the HMS Terror after the ship was found back in 2016. One archaeologist described the sunken wreck as “seemingly forgotten by the passage of time.”[10] Researchers are hopeful that they might find intact logs, maps, and other objects despite the ship staying on the bottom of the ocean for almost 170 years.

Franklin’s lost expedition had been one of the greatest maritime mysteries for over a century and a half. Led by Captain Sir John Franklin, the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus left England in 1845 to traverse the final unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage. All crewmen perished on this trip, but their true fate remained unknown until 2014, when archaeologists found the Erebus thanks to Inuit oral history passed down from generation to generation. Two years later, they also discovered the site of the Terror.

This August, a joint effort by Parks Canada and Inuit researchers conducted a 3-D survey of the wreck site of the Terror but also made seven trips inside the ship with a remotely controlled submersible. They were able to explore almost 90 percent of the lower deck and discovered that the frigid waters of the Arctic did a remarkable job of preserving the interior. Moreover, many cabinets and drawers have been buried in silt, and researchers are confident that their contents will be mostly intact and even legible, thus providing an unprecedented look into the doomed Franklin expedition.


Read more offbeat stories you might have missed from August 24, 2019, and August 10, 2019.

fact checked by Jamie Frater