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The Weird Week in Review

Counterfeiter Used Wrong President

Dana Leland of Central Falls, Rhode Island, was arrested in Massachusetts for trying to pass counterfeit $100 bills at a Target store. The bills were discovered to be fake because they bore the portrait of president Abraham Lincoln. Benjamin Frankllin is normally found on a $100 bill. Leland's lawyer says he suffers from mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse.

History Transformed in Exam

If you are in charge of finding graphics for any serious purpose, you might want to slow down and pay attention when you grab something from an internet search. In Australia's year 12 student history exam, a question involved the artwork Storming the Winter palace on 25th October 1917 by Nikolai Kochergin, which depicts the Russian Revolution. What actually ended up in the test was the illustration with a BattleTech Marauder inserted on the horizon. Looks like the revolutionaries had a bit of futuristic help!

A spokesman for the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) said the image was "sourced and acknowledged by the VCAA as coming from the Internet".

"The image has been altered but the alteration of the image won’t impact on the students’ capacity to answer the examination question," he said.

Having an image sourced as "coming from the internet" doesn't quite make it genuine -or original.

Camera Taken from Bird

Karen Gwillim of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, saw a cormorant near the town of Craven that was struggling with something. She was surprised to find the bird with a camera strap hanging on its neck! The camera was still attached, weighing the bird down. The bird allowed her to approach and remove the camera, then flew off. After drying out the camera and its memory card, Gwillim found about 200 photos. That was two months ago. Gwillim posted the pictures on Facebook, hoping to find the owner of the camera. Nothing happened until she told her story on television, then a man stepped forward who says he knows who the owner is, and arranged for the owner to claim it.

Boy Steals Parents’ Savings to Buy Candy

A family in Konotop, Ukraine, had a stash of $3,300 and €500 hidden under the sofa. It was their life savings. When the money was discovered missing, the family's unnamed 9-year-old son admitted he took the money -and spent it on candy. The child had converted the cash into Ukrainian hryvnas with the help of an adult, who is said to have a mental disorder. The boy found that he couldn't eat that much candy, so he shared it with his friends.

Sewage Dropped on Fire -and Firefighters

Firefighters were battling a 30 hectare brush fire in Kew, near Port Macquarie, Australia on Tuesday. A helicopter sucked up water from a pond, flew over the fire, and dumped the water on the blaze. But the pond, at a wastewater treatment plant, was the wrong one to draw water from - it was full of "secondary treatment" water, also known as sewage.

An RFS spokeswoman said 12 firefighters had been directly exposed to the "secondary treatment" water, while a further seven were in the general area.

"All 29 firefighters on the fireground and their equipment were immediately withdrawn and decontaminated by Fire and Rescue NSW," the spokeswoman said. "As a precaution, each firefighter has since been provided with further medical follow-up. At this time, no firefighters have complained of any ill-effects. They will continue to be monitored by the Rural Fire Service."

The fire was fully under control by Thursday.

The Carrot Rebellion

Spain recently raised the value-added-tax (VAT) on cultural activities to 21%, which didn't sit well with theater owners. One theater in Bescanó staged a revolt. Theater owner Quim Marcé decided they would sell carrots instead of tickets. Theater patrons love the idea, and bought plenty of carrots at €13. The theater then gave free theater admission away to patrons who bought carrots, which are taxed at 4%. Marcé also has the support of the local mayor, but other officials say the scheme is plainly tax evasion.

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iStock
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London's Sewer-Blocking 'Fatbergs' Are Going to Be Turned Into Biodiesel
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iStock

UK officials can't exactly transform the Whitechapel fatberg—a 143-ton trash mass lurking in London's sewer system—into treasure, but they can turn it into fuel. As The Guardian reports, Scottish biodiesel producer Argent Energy plans to convert parts of the noxious blockage into an environmentally friendly energy source.

For the uninitiated, fatbergs (which get their names from a portmanteau of "fat" and "icebergs") are giant, solid blobs of congealed fat, oil, grease, wet wipes, and sanitary products. They form in sewers when people dump cooking byproducts down drains, or in oceans when ships release waste products like palm oil. These sticky substances combine with floating litter to form what could be described as garbage heaps on steroids.

Fatbergs wash up on beaches, muck up city infrastructures, and are sometimes even removed with cranes from sewer pipes as a last resort. Few—if any—fatbergs, however, appear to be as potentially lethal as the one workers recently discovered under London's Whitechapel neighborhood. In a news release, private utility company Thames Water described the toxic mass as "one of the largest ever found, with the extreme rock-solid mass of wet wipes, nappies, fat and oil weighing the same as 11 double-decker buses."

Ick factor aside, the Whitechapel fatberg currently blocks a stretch of Victorian sewer more than twice the length of two fields from London's Wembley Stadium. Engineers with jet hoses are working seven days a week to break up the fatberg before sucking it out with tankers. But even with high-pressure streams, the job is still akin to "trying to break up concrete," says Matt Rimmer, Thames Water's head of waste networks.

The project is slated to end in October. But instead of simply disposing of the Whitechapel fatberg, officials want to make use of it. Argent Energy—which has in the past relied on sources like rancid mayonnaise and old soup stock—plans to process fatberg sludge into more than 2600 gallons of biodiesel, creating "enough environmentally friendly energy to power 350 double-decker Routemaster buses for a day," according to Thames Water.

"Even though they are our worst enemy, and we want them dead completely, bringing fatbergs back to life when we do find them in the form of biodiesel is a far better solution for everyone," said company official Alex Saunders.

In addition to powering buses, the Whitechapel fatberg may also become an unlikely cultural touchstone: The Museum of London is working with Thames Water to acquire a chunk of the fatberg, according to BBC News. The waste exhibit will represent just one of the many challenges facing cities, and remind visitors that they are ultimately responsible for the fatberg phenomenon.

"When it comes to preventing fatbergs, everyone has a role to play," Rimmer says. "Yes, a lot of the fat comes from food outlets, but the wipes and sanitary items are far more likely to be from domestic properties. The sewers are not an abyss for household rubbish."

[h/t The Guardian]

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Kevin Burkett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
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Restaurant Seeks Donations to Big Mouth Billy Bass Adoption Center
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Kevin Burkett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’ve ever wondered where all those Big Mouth Billy Bass singing fish that flew off shelves in the early 2000s have gone, take a look inside a Flying Fish restaurant. Each location of the southern seafood chain is home to its own Big Mouth Billy Bass Adoption Center, and they’re always accepting new additions to the collection.

According to Atlas Obscura, the gimmick was the idea of Dallas-based restaurateur Shannon Wynne. He opened his flagship Flying Fish in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2002 when the Big Mouth Billy Bass craze was just starting to wind down. As people grew tired of hearing the first 30 seconds of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” for the thousandth time, he offered them a place to bring their wall ornaments once the novelty wore off. The Flying Fish promises to “house, shelter, love, and protect” each Billy Bass they adopt. On top of that, donors get a free basket of catfish in exchange for the contribution and get their name on the wall. The Little Rock location now displays hundreds of the retired fish.

Today there are nine Flying Fish restaurants in Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee, each with its own Adoption Center. There’s still space for new members of the family, so now may be the time to break out any Billy Basses that have been collecting dust in your attic since 2004.

And if you’re interested in stopping into Flying Fish for a bite to eat, don’t let the wall of rubber nostalgia scare you off: The batteries from all the fish have been removed, so you can enjoy your meal in peace.

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