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The Weird Week ending January 18th

Children Given Mercury as Toy; Hazmat Crew Responds

The Salinas, California hazardous materials response team was called in after a doctor had found the children in the home had high mercury levels. The health department red-tagged the home and relocated the family until the home can be professionally decontaminated. The source of the mercury? Their mother's boyfriend had given the children a jar of mercury as a gift about a month ago.

A Protest with Balls: Half a Million of Them125_balls.jpg

The famed Piazza de Spagna in Rome resembled a children's playground as a half-million brightly colored balls bounced down the steps and into the street on Wednesday. The display was a protest engineered by Graziano Cecchini, who last year had staged a protest by pouring red dye into the Trevi Fountain.

When Mr Cecchini finally appeared, walking down the steps with balls bouncing around him, he said he had done it to raise the profile of Burma and the Karen people.

The Karen are a minority who have fought for an independent state since 1949, and accuse the military junta of ethnic cleansing.

A city official said the stunt was "quite unacceptable."

The Blackest Black Yet

On Tuesday, a US research announced the production of the darkest material on Earth. The material is made from carbon nanotubes standing on end, so black it absorbs more than 99.9 percent of light. It is three times darker than the previous darkest material. The researchers are looking into seeking a Guiness World Record designation.

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Newsflash: Children Don't Like Clowns

A poll taken by the University of Sheffield confirms what many of us already knew: children don't like clowns. 250 hospital patients between the ages of 4 and 16 all expressed their dislike for clowns.

"As adults we make assumptions about what works for children," said Penny Curtis, a senior lecturer in research at the university.

"We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."

Man Shows Up at His Own Funeral

24-year-old Oum Souv of Cambodia was thought to be dead after he was missing for two days -especially after an unclaimed decomposing body turned up in a nearby jungle. But Souv walked in during his own funeral service, just as the distraight family began to cremate the body! He had been drugged, beaten, and left for dead in a neighboring village.

140wineprices.jpgHigher Wine Prices Boost Drinking Pleasure

People enjoy expensive wine more than cheap wine, regardless of the actual quality. Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology gave the same wine samples labeled with different prices to 20 different people, while monitoring their brains. The subjects reported greater pleasure when told the wine was expensive, and their brains showed more activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, known as the brain's pleasure center. The part of the brain that registers taste was not effected.

Family Continues Road Trip After Grandma Dies

In a story reminiscent of the movie National Lampoon's Vacation, a family on a cross-country trip continued to their destination after their 79-year-old matriarch died of renal failure. The family was traveling from Oregon to Arkansas, and was in Wyoming when the death occurred on Friday or Saturday. Hillsboro (Oregon) Police Department Lt. Mike Rouches said, "They haven't broken any laws, as far as me or anybody else has been able to find."

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The TSA's Top 10 Strangest Finds of 2017
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Airport security checkpoints are dull for everyone except Bob Burns, the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) witty social media lead. For the uninitiated, Burns—who’s also known as “Blogger Bob”—keeps track of the strange, hilarious, and dangerous things people try bringing on planes, and posts pictures of the more unusual items onto the organization's Instagram page. Among the many strange items Burns has encountered are countless knives and guns, a tiny dog trapped in a checked suitcase, a sandwich slicer, and even a life-size corpse prop from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Bob Burns, the TSA's social media lead
Courtesy of Bob Burns

To commemorate yet another year on the job filled with bizarre checkpoint finds, Burns recently created the video below. It highlights the top 10 weirdest TSA finds from 2017, which range from bladed metal knuckles Burns dubbed “Satan’s Pizza Cutter” to narcotics disguised as Christmas presents.

“We hate to tear open a perfectly wrapped gift, but as you can see from this [video], the contents of the gifts aren’t always sweaters, socks, and underwear,” Burns tells Mental Floss.

While making the video, Burns didn’t have pictures on hand of every single strange object he wanted to include. If so, he might have added a weaponized paint roller that was discovered inside a carry-on bag at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. It “looks like something out of a Mad Max movie,” Burns says. “It’s as if Mad Max wanted to paint the Thunderdome with the blood of his victims. It’s a paint roller wrapped in sandpaper and wire with nails protruding.”

A weaponized paint roller discovered by the TSA in 2017
Courtesy of Bob Burns

Other items that weren't captured in Burns's video that piqued the social media guru’s interest included grenade-shaped salt and pepper shakers and a knife concealed inside a container of Dove men’s deodorant. “Now I get why [the label] reads ’48 hours of protection,'” Burns says.

A knife hidden inside a deodorant container, discovered by the TSA in 2017
Courtesy of Bob Burns

Watch the video below to view Burns’s entire top 10 list of unusual checkpoint finds, and when you're done, check out the TSA's Instagram for more of his signature hilarity.

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Declared Dead, Spanish Prisoner Wakes Up in Morgue Just Before His Autopsy 
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A prisoner in northern Spain survived his "death" and lived to tell the tale when he woke up in a hospital mortuary after being officially certified as deceased. He was scheduled for an autopsy, and remains under hospital observation in Oviedo, Spain, according to the BBC.

Gonzalo Montoya Jiménez, 29, was discovered unconscious in his cell on Sunday, January 7, Spanish news outlets report. It's now thought that he might have suffered from catalepsy, a condition in which people become immobile and cease responding to external stimuli. With waxy, flexible limbs and slowed vital signs, patients with catalepsy can appear dead—which might be why not one but three physicians concluded that Jiménez had crossed over to the other side. 

Jiménez was moved to the Institute of Legal Medicine in Oviedo after doctors ordered an autopsy on the inmate's body, IFL Science reports. Family members—who had been informed that Jiménez was dead—said the prisoner’s body was already marked up for dissecting when he began showing signs of life. A forensic team noticed and moved Jiménez to an intensive care unit, where the patient ultimately regained both his memory and speech.

Catalepsy is associated with epilepsy, schizophrenia, nervous system drug toxicity, and other conditions, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Jiménez reportedly has epilepsy, and it's unclear whether prison doctors knew that when they first declared him dead. 

[h/t BBC News]

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