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The Weird Week in Review

Violinist Gives Thank You Concert for Cabbies

Violinist Philippe Quint took a cab home from the airport in New Jersey last month, and left his 285-year-old Stradivarius in the car. Cab driver Mohamed Khalil returned the $4 million instrument to Quint. As a "thank you," Quint performed a special lunchtime concert for about 200 cabbies in the parking lot at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Artificial Beak for Bald Eagle

Beauty is an Alaskan bald eagle whose beak was shot off several years ago. She was taken to a refuge, but her beak did not grow back. Next month, Beauty will get a new nylon-composite beak, thanks to the work of volunteer engineers and veterinarians. The bird must remain in captivity, but will be able to drink and eat properly.

Self-tracheotomy with a Steak Knife

55-year-old Steve Wilder of Omaha, Nebraska awoke one night and couldn't breathe. He had a similar episode once before, in which his air passage swelled shut. Figuring he didn't have time to wait for emergency medical help, Wilder used a steak knife to cut a small hole in his throat, which allowed air to enter his windpipe. Doctors expect no adverse effects from the self-tracheotomy.

Chunky Monkeys Put on Diet

fat-monkey.jpgVisitors to Ohama Park in Sakai, Japan love to feed the monkeys. Now 30 percent of the monkeys at the zoo are so fat they have trouble getting around, and some weight three times as much as they should! Zookeepers have instituted a strict diet, and visitors are asked not to feed the monkeys.

X-ray Shows Python Swallowed Kitten

An eight-week-old kitten in Australia's Northern territory was killed and consumed by a five-foot python. The cat's head was three time the size of the snake's head, but the python unhinged its jaw and swallowed the kitten whole, as an x-ray shows. The kitten's owner found the bulging snake, and called a snake wrangler after rounding up the other cats. The python will be released after he has digested his big meal.

World Record Lego Tower

150legotower.jpgLegoland Windsor in Berkshire, England has the world's largest Lego tower ever! The tower, shaped like a Viking longboat, was completed with the help of park visitors. Children built 20 cm sections, which were hoisted in place by crane. The previous record is held by a 96-foot tower built in Toronto last year.

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Billions of Cockroaches Are Bred in China to Create a ‘Healing Potion’
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Insectophobes would probably agree that any place that breeds billions of cockroaches a year is akin to hell on Earth.

That place actually exists—in the Sichuan Province city of Xichang—but China's government says it's all for a good cause. The indoor farm is tasked with breeding 6 billion creepy-crawlies a year to meet the country's demand for a special "healing potion" whose main ingredient is ground-up roaches.

While there are other cockroach breeding facilities in China that serve the same purpose, the one in Xichang is the world's largest, with a building "the size of two sports fields," according to the South China Morning Post.

The facility is reportedly dark, humid, and fully sealed, with cockroaches given the freedom to roam and reproduce as they please. If, for any odd reason, someone should want to visit the facility, they'd have to swap out their day clothes for a sanitized suit to avoid bringing pollutants or pathogens into the environment, according to Guangming Daily,a government newspaper.

The newspaper article contains a strangely poetic description of the cockroach farm:

"There were very few human beings in the facility. Hold your breath and (you) only hear a rustling sound. Whenever flashlights swept, the cockroaches fled. Wherever the beam landed, there was a sound like wind blowing through leaves. It was just like standing in the depths of a bamboo forest in late autumn."

Less poetic, though, is the description of how the "miracle" potion is made. Once the bugs reach maturity, they are fed into machines and ground up into a cockroach paste. The potion claims to work wonders for stomach pain and gastric ailments, and according to its packaging, it has a "slightly sweet" taste and a "slightly fishy smell."

The provincial government claims that the potion has healed more than 40 million patients, and that the Xichang farm is selling its product to more than 4000 hospitals throughout China. While this may seem slightly off-putting, cockroaches have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Some studies seem to support the potential nutritional benefit of cockroaches. The BBC reported on the discovery that cockroaches produce their own antibiotics, prompting scientists to question whether they could be used in drugs to help eliminate bacterial infections such as E. coli and MRSA.

In 2016, scientists in Bangalore, India, discovered that the guts of one particular species of cockroach contain milk protein crystals that appear to be nutritious, TIME reports. They said the milk crystal could potentially be used as a protein supplement for human consumption, as it packs more than three times the energy of dairy milk.

"I could see them in protein drinks," Subramanian Ramaswamy, a biochemist who led the study, told The Washington Post.

However, as research has been limited, it's unlikely that Americans will start to see cockroach smoothies at their local juice bar anytime soon.

[h/t South China Morning Post]

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Massive Tumbleweeds Invaded a California Town, Trapping Residents in Their Homes
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For Americans who don’t live out west, any mention of tumbleweeds tends to conjure up images of a lone bush blowing lazily across the desert. The reality is not so romantic, as Californians would tell you.

The town of Victorville, California—an 85-mile drive from Los Angeles—was overtaken by massive tumbleweeds earlier this week when wind speeds reached nearly 50 mph. The tumbleweeds blew across the Mojave Desert and into town, where they piled up on residents’ doorsteps. Some stacks towered as high as the second story, trapping residents in their homes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

City employees and firefighters were dispatched to tackle the thorny problem, which reportedly affected about 150 households. Pitchforks were used to remove the tumbleweeds, some of which were as large as 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.

"The crazy thing about tumbleweeds is that they are extremely thorny, they connect together like LEGOs," Victorville spokeswoman Sue Jones told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't reach out and grab them and move them. You need special tools. They really hurt."

Due to the town’s proximity to the open desert, residents are used to dealing with the occasional tumbleweed invasion. Similar cases have been reported in Texas, New Mexico, and other states in the West and Southwest. In 1989, the South Dakota town of Mobridge had to use machinery to remove 30 tons of tumbleweeds, which had buried homes, according to Metro UK.

Several plant species are considered a tumbleweed. The plant only becomes a nuisance when it reaches maturity, at which time it dries out, breaks from its root, and gets carried off into the wind, spreading seeds as it goes. They’re not just unsightly, either. They can cause soil dryness, leading to erosion and sometimes even killing crops.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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