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The Weird Week in Review

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Lonely Pig in Quarantine

Due to fear of swine flu, Afghanistan has quarantined its pig. Yes, the nation's only pig, normally on display with other exotic wildlife at the Kabul Zoo. In accord with Muslim dietary restrictions, pork and pork products are illegal in Afghanistan. Some visitors to the zoo expressed concern that the zoo pig could spread the new strain of swine flu.

"For now the pig is under quarantine, we built it a room because of swine influenza," Aziz Gul Saqib, director of Kabul Zoo, told Reuters. "We've done this because people are worried about getting the flu."

Runner Expected to Finish Marathon in 13 Days

Army Major Phil Packer began the London Marathon when everyone else did, but his doctor will only allow him to walk two miles a day, so he is expected to finish on Saturday, 13 days after starting the race. Last year Packer was seriously injured in Iraq and was told he probably would never walk again. However, he is walking the marathon on crutches to raise money for Help for Heroes, a British organization that supports wounded veterans. Packer's goal is to raise £1 million; he has so far raised over half the amount.

Speed Camera Boss Banned for Speeding

Tom Riall, a divisional chief executive at Serco, was banned from driving for six months by a court in London after a camera recorded him driving at 103 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone. Riall heads the Home Affairs division of Serco, the company that has installed 4,500 speed cameras to date in Britain.

Man Caught with Songbirds in Pants

150_smuggledbirds.jpgCustoms agents at the Los Angeles International Airport noticed bird droppings and feathers on 46-year-old Sony Dong's shoes. They discovered that Dong had 14 Asian songbirds hidden in his pants legs. Dong said that he had purchased the bul-buls, thrushes, and magpies robins in Vietnam for $50 each and could sell them for several hundred dollars apiece. Another California man, 34-year-old Duc Le, was arrested in the bird smuggling operation after a search at his home revealed 51 more songbirds. The birds were placed in quarantine.

It Was An Accident

A 30-year-old woman in China was performing oral sex on her boss in a parked car when a van crashed into their vehicle. The impact caused the secretary to bite off the man's penis! Emergency services were called by an investigator who had been following the couple. The investigator was hired by the secretary's husband because he suspected her of being unfaithful. The woman took the severed organ to the hospital, but it was not reported whether it was reattached.

Beetle Named for Stephen Colbert

150colberti2.jpgHumorist Stephen Colbert had expressed a wish to have a species named after him, specifically "something cooler than a spider." Insect researchers Quentin Wheeler of Arizona State University and Kelly Miller from the University of New Mexico have granted his wish and named a newly identified beetle Agaporomorphus colberti in his honor. There will plenty more beetles to be named, as there are an estimated 1.5 million species yet to be studied.

Giant Spiders Invade Outback Town

Bowen, Australia is seeing in influx of eastern tarantulas, also known as "bird-eating spiders". Dozens of spiders have crawled out of gardens and have made their way into public areas of the town. These spiders grow up to 2.4 inches long with a leg span of over six inches! Their bite can kill a dog or make a human very sick.

Audy Geiszler, who runs a local pest control service, caught one this week that more than covered his hand after he killed it.

"I think I'm going to mount this one in acrylic to show people how big it is. It'll make a great paperweight."

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Thanks to a Wet Winter, New Zealand Faces a Potential Potato Chip Shortage
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New Zealand has plenty of unique and tasty snacks, but kiwis also love potato chips. The universal comfort food is in danger Down Under, however, as an unusually wet winter has devastated the island country’s tuber crops, according to BBC News.

Twenty percent of New Zealand’s annual potato crop was wiped out from a series of major storms and floods that ravaged the nation’s North and South Islands, The Guardian reports. In some regions, up to 30 percent of potato crops were affected, with the varieties used to make chips bearing the brunt of the damage.

Potato prices spiked as farmers struggled, but the crisis—now dubbed “chipocalypse” by media outlets—didn't really make the mainstream news until supermarket chain Pak’nSave posted announcements in potato chip aisles that warned customers of a salty snack shortage until the New Year.

Pak’nSave has since rescinded this explanation, claiming instead that they made an ordering error. However, other supermarket chains say they’re working directly with potato chip suppliers to avoid any potential shortfalls, and are aware that supplies might be limited for the foreseeable future.

New Zealand’s potato farming crisis extends far beyond the snack bars at rugby matches and vending machines. Last year’s potato crops either rotted or remained un-harvested, and the ground is still too wet to plant new ones. This hurts New Zealand’s economy: The nation is the world’s ninth-largest exporter of potatoes.

Plus, potatoes “are a food staple, and this is becoming a food security issue as the effects of climate change take their toll on our potato crop,” says Chris Claridge, the chief executive of industry group Potatoes New Zealand, according to The Guardian.

In the meantime, New Zealanders are preparing to hunker down for a few long months of potential potato peril—and according to some social media users, kale chips are not a suitable alternative. “Chipocalypse” indeed.

[h/t BBC News]

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Supermarket Employees to Compete in National Bagging Competition
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In today’s busy world, efficiency is king—especially at grocery stores, where long checkout lines can turn even the most patient shopper into a petulant purchaser. It only makes sense, then, that a nationwide competition exists among supermarket employees to determine the country’s best bagger.

As the Associated Press reports, Alysha Orrok, a teacher from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, recently won her state’s Best Bagger competition. She’s now headed to the U.S. finals, which will take place in Las Vegas in February 2018 and is sponsored by the National Grocers Association (NGA).

In Las Vegas, finalists from more than a dozen states—ranging from Washington to Florida—will duke it out onstage to see who’s truly king or queen of the checkout line. Competitors will be judged on weight distribution, appearance, speed, and technique (no smushed bread or bruised fruits allowed).

Orrok, who works evenings and weekends at a local grocery store, says she was initially clumsy on the job. “My first day as a bagger I dropped a soda and it exploded everywhere,” she told NBC Boston.

Over time, though, Orrok got so good at her side gig that she decided to compete in the New Hampshire state bagging competition earlier this month. At the tournament, "I was like 10 seconds faster than the next person," Orrok said. "I feel like I get in the zone and I just fly."

Competitors heading to 2018’s Best Bagger competition will face off to see who can achieve the best customer service in the shortest time span. The grand prize is $10,000, which will be awarded to a deserving grocery store employee “with infectious company pride and an enthusiastic commitment to customer service,” according to the NGA.

[h/t NBC Boston]

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