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The Weird Week in Review

Tuba Thefts Linked to Banda Music

A rash of tuba thefts may be attributed to the popularity of a genre of music called banda. High schools all over Southern California report thefts of Sousaphones and concert tubas, which may be sold on the black market to banda musicians. Mexican banda music has been growing in popularity over the past twenty years, and the tuba is the most important instrument for the distinctive sound. Banda bandits are suspected because other instruments that are easier to carry off and sell for scrap have been left behind in the break-ins.

Courthouse Evacuated Over Coconut

A deputy at the Frederick County Courthouse in Maryland spotted a coconut on Wednesday morning. The coconut was placed on one of the building's columns, and appeared to have been split open and pieced back together. The courthouse was evacuated and the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Bomb Squad responded. Upon examination, they determined that the coconut was no threat. The investigation continues.

738-pound Tuna

Nathan Adams caught a pretty big fish, considering he was only using a rod and reel and fishing from a 20-foot boat. Adams landed a Pacific bluefin tuna that weighed in at 738 pounds! Bigger tuna have been caught, but the New Zealand fisherman may have set a world record for a rod and reel. Tuna that size can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars at a fish market, but Adams cannot sell the tuna for meat, as New Zealand law bans selling fish caught from a registered recreational vessel. He is considering having the fish mounted, which means Adams cannot eat the tuna himself, either.

Giant Chicken Stolen

A 10-foot-tall chicken was stolen last week from a poultry farm in Windham Township, Ontario. The fiberglass rooster had been guarding the farm since it was imported from Texas in 2004. Thieves broke the $3,000 chicken and made off with it, leaving its feet behind. An anonymous caller reported the bird's whereabouts, and police found it in a backyard in Milton. The homeowner, 36-year-old Brent Smith, was arrested for fowl play possession of stolen property. The farmers, Sonia and Frank Dierick, are hoping that an auto body shop may be able to reattach the big bird to its feet.

Terrifying Tom Turkey

Edna Geisler of Commerce Township, Michigan, is afraid to leave her home, because she is being stalked by a turkey. The 69-year-old woman calls the big tom "Godzilla." The bird stakes out her front lawn from sunup to sundown, and attacks if she tries to cross the yard. It has bumped her and even clawed her once. A wildlife expert says the behavior is unusual, but it appears the gobbler is defending its territory. Geisler just hopes Godzilla leaves before gardening season begins.

Town Covered in Spider Webs

Townspeople in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia, were evacuated during recent floods. When they returned, the fields surrounding the town were covered with a blanket of spider webs! Experts explained that the local wolf spiders threw out webs hoping to escape the danger of flooding, a process called "ballooning." The water made the webs more visible to the human eye. The water also makes the webs stickier, which means they trap more insects. The many webs are actually advantageous to people, as they help capture mosquitoes, which normally thrive during floods.

Steven Seagal Sued over Raid

The expected response to a story we posted here a year ago has come about. Last March, actor Steven Seagal assisted the Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff's office in a raid over suspected cockfighting. They showed up with an armored vehicle and a SWAT team and busted through a wall at the home of Jesus Llovera. The raid, during which Llovera's dog was shot, was filmed for the TV show Steven Seagal: Lawman. Llovera initiated a lawsuit this week against Seagal and the sheriff. The recorded raid was for an episode that was supposed to be aired in January, but the show was pulled from the A&E network lineup.

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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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