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Matt Zencey
Matt Zencey

The Weird Week in Review

Matt Zencey
Matt Zencey

Bad Review from 1863 Finally Retracted

This newspaper retraction took 150 years to see print, but like they say, better late than never. The Patriot News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, published a bad review of a local speech which they referred to as "silly remarks" that "deserved the veil of oblivion." That speech was later known as the Gettysburg Address, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the new Soldier's National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, the newspaper published an apology for its earlier review, even going so far as to use the style of the Address as a framework for its own mea culpa. The paper could be forgiven the original remarks: after all, the president himself said that "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here," which also turned out to be wrong.

Batman Suparman on the Wrong Side of the Law

Batman bin Suparman changed his name legally to reflect two comic book superheroes a few years ago. Now it appears that the crime-fighting moniker has had little influence on his life. A judge in Singapore sentenced the 23-year-old Suparman to two years and nine months on charges of breaking and entering, theft, and heroin use. It all started when his older brother reported $650 missing from the bank account behind his ATM card. An investigation led to the arrest of Suparman after he was observed on a surveillance video taking money from GF Billiards & Marketing during a break-in. He was arrested on August 19th, at which time the heroin charge was added. If he had taken some inspiration from his name, he might have tried wearing a mask or at least using a secret identity.

Police Respond to IKEA Assembly

If you thought the confusion one confronts when assembling IKEA furniture was because the instructions are Swedish, this story should reassure you that they are just as baffling to Swedes as to the rest of the world. A family in Strömstad, Sweden, on the country's western coast, were assembling furniture at 1AM. The banging, or possibly the swearing, woke their baby, who began screaming. The neighbors, alarmed at the commotion, called the local police.

When officers arrived on the scene, they found the couple was engaged in that most Swedish of activities, assembling Ikea furniture, and that the crying did indeed come from an infant child. It remains unclear if the baby was simply crying in need of attention, or whether it too was frustrated by the complexity of the Ikea instructions.

The police understood completely.

Executives Watching Porn Is a Leading Cause of Corporate Malware

Ah, the perks that come from being the boss! Surfing for porn on the internet is a fireable offense for most employees, but who is going to report a CEO? A survey of security analysts at 200 firms finds that 40 percent of the respondents have had to remove malware from a senior executive's computer or mobile device after they perused porn. Senior executives who open spam emails were also a significant cause of malware in the workplace. However, the IT department is wary of reporting such incidents: 57% of data breaches are not publicly reported.

Impersonating a Police Officer to Get Discounted Donuts

From Florida comes the story of 48-year-old Charles Barry, who apparently has a habit of demanding a discount on donuts from his local Dunkin' Donuts outlet in Pasco County. Employees say that Barry had presented himself as a U.S. Marshal on several occasions, in order to receive a discount. When he came in on a weekend and demanded a discount for his whole family, the management rescinded his privileges. But Barry kept demanding his "police discount," and even showed a badge and flashed a gun at the drive-through window a week ago. By then, police had set up a surveillance operation to catch Barry in the act, and he was arrested as he left the donut shop. Barry has been charged with impersonating an officer and improper exhibition of a firearm.

Deer Leaps Through Trailer Wall

An unnamed woman from Las Vegas was driving through Utah when she felt as if her vehicle had hit an animal or something, although she didn't see anything. She called the local sheriff's office, which sent Conservation Officer Micah Evans to investigate. He found the trailer with a hole torn in the front of it -about four feet off the ground. There was no blood visible on the trailer. Evans went inside the trailer, half expecting to find a scene of carnage. Instead, there was a deer standing there, seemingly uninjured!

"I can hear the jaw moving, and I can hear the tongue working," Evans said. "It was either licking its front leg or licking something that spilled on the floor. And as I'm looking at this animal, I'm thinking, 'Man, how the heck am I going to get this thing out of the trailer?'"

Standing in the doorway, Evans took a picture with his camera of the buck. The flash went off and the buck sprang toward the doorway, Evans jumped out of the way, then the buck leapt over a barbed wire fence and ran away, according to the sheriff's office.

The deer, a three-point buck, declined to tell his side of the story.

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History
3 Fascinating Items in Abraham Lincoln's Newly Released Archives

The Abraham Lincoln collection in the Library of Congress just got a major boost. The 16th president’s full papers are now entirely available online in full color for the first time, giving you high-resolution access to his letters, campaign materials, speeches, and more.

Lincoln’s papers took a roundabout route to the Library of Congress. After his assassination, Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln sent the president’s papers to one of the former congressman’s associates in Illinois, Judge David Davis, who worked with Lincoln’s presidential secretaries to organize them. Robert Todd Lincoln gave them to the Library of Congress in 1919, and in 1923, deeded them to the archive, mandating that they be sealed until 21 years after his death. They were opened in 1947.

This isn’t the first time some of these documents have been available online—scanned images of them first appeared on the Library of Congress’s American Memory website in 2001—but this 20,000-document collection provides higher-resolution versions, with new additions and features. Previous papers were uploaded as image scans from microfilm, meaning they weren’t particularly high quality. Now, researchers have better access to the information with scans from the original documents that you can zoom in on and actually read.

There are searchable transcriptions for about 10,000 hand-written documents in the collection, including those written in Lincoln’s hand, along with annotations that provide contextual explanations. Here are three items in the collection not to miss:

1. THE EARLIEST VERSION OF THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

Lincoln read this early version of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in July 1862, telling them he was going to propose freeing slaves held by Confederate rebels. Secretary of State William Seward convinced him that he should wait until there was a major Union victory to announce the proclamation.

2. A LETTER FROM MRS. LINCOLN

In the fall of 1862, Mary Todd Lincoln wrote her husband during her month-long trip to New York and Boston about her dressmaker and confidant, a former slave named Elizabeth Keckley, asking him for money to give to her to buy blankets for escaped slaves, then referred to as “contrabands.”

3. A DRAFT OF THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

This may be the only copy of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address that was drafted before he delivered it. There are five known drafts of the speech, but three were written out for people who requested copies afterward. It’s unclear if one of the other copies was made before or after the speech, but this one was definitely drafted beforehand. It belonged to Nicolay Hay, Lincoln’s secretary, who also helped organize his papers after the president’s death. It differs a little from the speech we’re familiar with, so you should definitely read the transcript. (Click “show text” above the image on the Library of Congress page for the text and annotations.)

You can see all the documents here.

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Keystone/Getty Images
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History
5 Intriguing Details Found in the Newly Released JFK Assassination Papers
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

JFK assassination conspiracy theorists just got a major windfall, but so did history buffs. In 1992, Congress passed a law that ordered all federal agencies to transfer any records they had pertaining to the investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the National Archives. The vast majority of those records were declassified before this, but some were withheld or redacted. But the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act stipulated that all records that had been withheld, either partially or in full, would be released to the public 25 years later, on October 26, 2017.

Well, the time has come to open up the files, and there is plenty of intriguing content in the 2800 newly released documents to sift through. (At the last minute, the government withheld 300 more documents, which will have to undergo classified review over the next six months.) Here are five things we’ve learned so far—not all about the assassination itself—from the documents.

1. IN THE WAKE OF THE ASSASSINATION, THE FBI SOUGHT INFO FROM A STRIPPER’S UNION.

As the Boston TV station WCVB spotted, an FBI memo [PDF] from January 1964 detailed the agency’s search for a stripper connected to Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who killed Lee Harvey Oswald. The FBI was trying to determine the identity of the performer, who went by the stage name “Candy Cane,” but only knew that her first name was Kitty. They went as far as to contact the American Guild of Variety Artists in New Orleans, who told them that one performer by that name had died several months before the JFK assassination, and the only other (whose real name was Vivian) had seemed to have left town sometime after paying her August union dues. The memo doesn’t say just how Ruby and Candy Cane were related or if they ever tracked her down.

2. THE SOVIETS WORRIED THE WHOLE THING WAS A COUP.

The USSR was no fan of the U.S., obviously, but the Soviets didn’t cheer JFK’s death. The news “was greeted with shock and consternation and church bells were tolled in the memory of President Kennedy” in the USSR, a Soviet source reported. Communist Party officials, for one, went on high alert, worrying that it was part of some far-right coup.

“They felt that those elements interested in utilizing the assassination and playing on anticommunist sentiments in the United States would then utilize this act to stop negotiations with the Soviet Union, attack Cuba, and therefore spread the war,” the FBI memo [PDF] from December 1966 states. And even if it wasn’t part of a larger plan, they thought it could still lead to big trouble: “Soviet officials were worried that without leadership, some irresponsible general in the United States might launch a missile at the Soviet Union.”

Plus, they were very much of the 'devil you know' mindset. Soviet diplomats understood JFK and respected that he had “to some degree, a mutual understanding with the Soviet Union” and a desire for peace between the two powers, and they had no idea what to expect from Vice President Lyndon Johnson. “The Soviet Union would have preferred to have had President Kennedy at the helm of the American government,” the memo said, citing the USSR’s UN representative Nikolai T. Fedorenko.

3. THE SOVIETS CALLED OSWALD A “NEUROTIC MANIAC.”

In 1959, long before Kennedy's assassination, Oswald had traveled to the Soviet Union. Shortly after arriving, he contacted the KGB asking to defect, but the Soviet spy agency “decided he was mentally unstable and informed him he had to return to the United States upon completion of his visit.” He was hospitalized after cutting his wrists in his Moscow hotel room, and was allowed to remain in Russia for some time afterward, even marrying a Russian woman. After he returned to the U.S., he sent a request through the Soviet embassy in Mexico just a few months before the assassination, asking to come back to the USSR.

In the wake of the assassination, the USSR reiterated that it wanted nothing to do with Oswald, and never recruited him for espionage. “Soviet officials claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald had no connection whatsoever with the Soviet Union,” the memo states. “They described him as a neurotic maniac who was disloyal to his own country and never belonged to any organization.”

4. THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT WAS KIND OF GIDDY.

Perhaps unsurprisingly—what with all of those assassination plots, invasion attempts, and blockades—the Cubans were pretty stoked to see JFK go. “The initial reaction of Cuban Ambassador Cruz and his staff to report of assassination President was one of happy delight,” a CIA source reported on November 27, 1963 [PDF]. However, the Cubans realized that undisguised glee wasn’t going to be a good look for them. “Cruz thereupon issued instructions to his staff and to Cuban consulates and trade offices in Toronto and Montreal to ‘cease looking happy in public,’” the memo says.

5. THE CIA ONCE TRIED TO HIRE THE MOB TO KILL FIDEL CASTRO.

The CIA’s foiled plots to kill the Soviet-aligned Cuban leader Fidel Castro are well known, but somewhat tangential to the assassination of JFK lies yet another misguided attempt to bump off Castro. In a top secret report [PDF] prepared during Gerald Ford’s administration, the agency admits that it tried to recruit the Mob to help. In “Phase I” of the assassination plot, formed sometime in 1960 or 1961, the CIA plotted to make poison botulism pills, then get members of the Mafia to deliver them to Cuba, into the hands of someone who could drop them into Castro’s drink. They tested out the pills on guinea pigs to make sure they worked, and set aside the money to make it happen.

In 1960, the CIA reached out to Chicago mobster Sam Giancana through an intermediate, and the agency approved a $150,000 payment for whatever contact in Cuba actually accomplished the task. The mobsters didn’t get any money, and they repeatedly said they didn’t want any, anyway—they were just looking to get back into the Havana gambling business. The “asset” assigned to slip the pills to Castro got scared, though, and didn’t actually do it, even though he worked in the Cuban prime minister’s office and had access. Then the CIA recruited a staffer at a restaurant Castro frequented, but by the time the pills arrived, Castro had stopped going there.

The plot was called off after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and in 1967, J. Edgar Hoover sent the U.S. Attorney General a memo that referred to the plot as the CIA’s “intentions to send hoodlums to Cuba to assassinate Castro.”

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