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The 20 Weirdest News Stories of 2014

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Almost every Friday, you can catch The Weird Week in Review here at mental_floss. The time has come to go back through those weekly columns and select the most memorable so we can take another look at year’s end. There were probably some weirder things that happened in the world that never made the list, because I tend to skip stories that are overly prurient or tragic, and stories that are not available in English. That leaves about 300 news items to select from. So let’s check out the 20 weirdest of the weird news stories of 2014.

20. Smelly Cat Finds a Home

Lenny the cat has a story that most cats can’t match -he suffered a failed adoption because he farts too much. Lenny was found at a park in Rochester, New York, in February and taken in to Scottsville Veterinary Adoptions in Scottsville. He was adopted out, but was returned two days later. His Facebook update said,

Hello! I was returned today because I fart too much. I am hoping I can find a person who can love me even with my stinky farts. I am a 19 month old neutered male and would love to be your smelly cuddle cat. I am very friendly and love to be petted and held. I even am wearing a tuxedo so I'll look snazzy if you come to see me.

The veterinary clinic could find no problem with Lenny, and did not notice him to be overly gassy. But the story has a happy ending. Lenny has since found a new home.

19. Pilot’s Arm Falls Off While Landing Plane

A UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch report revealed an incident in February in which a pilot was landing a small commuter jet in Belfast when his arm fell off.

The 46-year-old pilot, described byFlybe as among is “most experienced and trusted” pilots, wears a prosthetic limb and said that he believed he had securely fixed the arm in place earlier, but with heavy winds, once he deactivated the Dash 8 aircraft’s autopilot as he prepared to land the plane that’s when the arm troubles began.

Asked why a pilot with only one arm was flying a plane in the first place, Flybe’s safety director, Captain Ian Baston, said that the budget airline had a policy of equal opportunity employment and therefore “in common with most airlines, we do employ staff with reduced physical abilities.”

The pilot lost control of the plane only briefly and still guided it to a safe and bumpy landing using one arm. He promised to secure his arm better in the future.

18. Reservoir to be Drained Due to Urination (Again)

The Mount Tabor Reservoir in Portland, Oregon, was taken offline in April because a man was seen on security video urinating into it one Wednesday morning about 1AM. Two other men tried to scale the fence, one successfully. As a result, 38 million gallons of clean water were flushed from the reservoir. This is not the first time the Mount Tabor reservoir has been drained because a man peed in it. An incident in 2011 caused 7.8 million gallons to be replaced. Federal regulations now say that water reservoirs must be covered, a project that Portland plans to complete in 2015.

17. Dog Coughs Up Missing Wedding Ring Lost 6 Years Ago

Lois Matykowski of Wisconsin lost her diamond wedding ring six years ago. She searched everywhere, as the ring was fairly new and not insured, but never found it. This past June, her ten-year-old dog Tucker swallowed a popsicle stick. Tucker is famous for stealing food and eating anything that isn’t nailed down. A veterinarian advised her to feed the dog a Vaseline sandwich, which she did, and he threw up the popsicle stick. Two days later, the dog threw up again, and this time, Matykowski’s wedding ring came up! It had apparently been inside the dog all those years. The veterinarian says the popsicle stick must have dislodged it. Now Matykowski is getting jokes from friends who are jealous that she has a dog that pukes up diamonds.

16. Don't Use Fire to Remove TP from Tree

Photograph by Linda Spears.

Cheryl Crausewell of Dora, Alabama, found that someone had TPed the trees in her yard one night in January. The family tried to clean up the mess, but some of the toilet paper in a magnolia tree was out of their reach. What to do? Maybe they should have tried a ladder, but instead they set it on fire. A small piece of paper drifted out to the yard and ignited the grass.

"It just popped out into a little patch and we tried to put it out and it just kept going, so I was trying to keep it from going down the front porch and came down the bank and around the back of the house," she said.

Within seconds, Crausewell said the fire spread to the backyard where the propane gas tank from a grill may have added fuel to the fire.

Crausewell, her son, her elderly aunt, her mother and her aunt's caregiver were all at home when the fire started around 2 p.m. Everyone was able to get out safely.

The video at WBRC shows the scorched yard and toilet paper still in the trees, as well as the house, which is a total loss.

15. Drunk Driver Busted by Parrot

Guillermo Reyes was driving home from a bar in Mexico City when he encountered a DUI traffic stop. When police talked to him, they heard a voice from inside the car saying, "He's drunk! He's drunk!" They shone a light into the car, but there were no other passengers, just Reyes' parrot. Apparently he'd heard people say that phrase enough to learn it. The cops gave Reyes a Breathalyzer test, and concluded that he was, indeed, driving while impaired. Reyes was sent to the drunk tank overnight, and the parrot was allowed to accompany him. The original story is in Spanish at El Universal. Google translation.

14. Car Enters Garage Through the Roof

Photograph by George Strother.

George Strother and his wife, of Escondido, California, thought they felt an earthquake early on December 10th. It was only when an Escondido police officer knocked on their door that they found out a car had crashed through the roof of their garage! A BMW had broken through the roof and landed on Strother’s Nissan Pathfinder. His Mazda Miata was also damaged by the falling roof. The driver of the BMW, which was loaned out from a car dealer, didn’t stick around to face the damage. The Strothers' home sits around twenty feet below a roadway, and police estimate that the driver of the BMW took a turnoff too fast. The garage can be repaired, but the two cars were totaled.

13. Man Fights Off Shark, Stitches Up Leg, Goes to Pub

James Grant of Colac Bay, New Zealand, was spear fishing with friends when he was attacked by a shark. He stabbed the shark with a knife, which caused it to leave. When he got out of the water, he saw a deep gash in his leg where the shark bit him. Grant, a junior doctor, removed his wetsuit and stitched up the wound, using supplies from a first aid kit. Then he and his friends went to the Colac Bay Tavern. The bar staff gave him a towel because his wound was bleeding onto the floor. Sometime afterward, he went to a hospital for a proper re-stitching. Grant planned to return to the water as soon as the stitches are out.

12. Epic Spelling Bee Ends

In March, the Jackson County, Missouri, Spelling Bee finally came to an end -after two weeks and more than 90 rounds of elimination. Or actually, attempts at elimination. The final two contenders, fifth-grader Sophia Hoffman and seventh-grader Kush Sharma, went 66 rounds and spelled their way through the entire list of available words during the initial spelling bee in February. Officials called a delay while they gathered more words. Two weeks later, the two students went another 30 rounds to decide a winner.

"It took us an hour to find more words," head judge Kaite Stover, a librarian at the Kansas City Public Library Central Branch, told Carter of the competition's first day, on Feb. 22. "And we were looking for words that were not completely archaic and uncommon."

But Hoffman, 11, and Sharma, 13, answered the challenge each time, relying on their knowledge of word origins and prefixes to see them through. After more than five hours, organizers threw up their hands to set up today's event.

The judges brought a fresh batch of 200 words to bear Saturday, from a list provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. They also had around 60 backup words just in case they're needed, the library says.

In the end, Hoffman was eliminated by the word “stifling,” and Sharma correctly spelled “definition” and will advance to the national bee. But officials should start preparing now because both students will still be eligible to compete next year.

11. A Visit to the Collision Repair Shop

Photograph by Jennifer Lapier.

Jennifer Lapier of Colleyville, Texas, was contacted by police New Year's night and was told that someone had entered her business, Lone Star Collision Repair. That someone was driving a GMC Yukon. The SUV had crashed into a sedan and then into the building, right under the sign.

A grandfather who was driving the sedan that was hit was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries along with his granddaughter, who was in the passenger seat.

"Had somebody been in the backseat, they would not have survived," said Captain Robert Hinton with the Colleyville Police. "There was very little left of the car."

The shop was open the next day, and Lapier said no cars were damaged, but the storage room had a big hole in the wall. The unnamed driver of the SUV was taken into custody. Police believed that alcohol may have been a factor.

10. Snake Eats Golf Balls, Undergoes Surgery

A gray rat snake was found in a chicken coop in north Georgia. The snake had two large round objects in its stomach, which, from the fact that it was in a chicken coop, you’d think would be chicken eggs. The snake apparently thought so, too, but they were golf balls. Now here’s the really weird part: the chicken owner took the snake to get help for its problem! A team of veterinarians at the Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island performed surgery and removed the golf balls from the snake. The reptile recovered, and was to be returned to the wild when deemed healthy. No doubt it headed straight to the nearest chicken coop- or a golf course.

9. Two Dogs Take Truck on Joyride

A pickup truck came very close to plunging into the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahoma in February. The truck, belonging to a man identified only as Scott, was parked on a hill. While Scott was inside a house, his two dogs Luna and Roscoe were left in the truck.

"I got around to the front of the house where the truck was, and it's like not there," he said. "And I was like 'did I get towed?' and I just thought no it didn't."

One of the dogs put the car into gear and they took off.

"Approximately three blocks down a hill," Tulsa firefighter Clay Ayers said.

The dogs missed drivers on Riverside Drive, runners on the trail and narrowly missed landing in the Arkansas River.

The truck was stopped by the brush along the river. The vehicle was badly damaged. Roscoe and Luna were uninjured, and were let go with a warning.

8. Virginia Man Claims African Country to Make Daughter a Princess

Photograph by Jeremiah Heaton.

Bir Tawil is a stretch of land between Egypt and Sudan that neither country wants. Jeremiah Heaton of Abingdon, Virginia, now claims it as his own. Last winter, Heaton’s six-year-old daughter Emily asked him if she could be a princess. He said yes, and has worked since then to make it so. To that end, Heaton has claimed the 800-square-mile territory of Bir Tawil, renaming it the Kingdom of North Sudan. He planted a flag there on June 16, Emily’s seventh birthday. That makes him the king, and Emily a princess.

Sheila Carapico, professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond, told the Bristol Herald Courier last week that Heaton would need legal recognition from neighboring countries, the United Nations or other groups to have actual political control of the land.

Heaton, who ran for Congress out of Virginia’s 9th district in 2012 and lost, plans to reach out to the African Union for assistance in formally establishing the Kingdom of North Sudan and said that he is confident they will welcome him. Representatives from the Egyptian and Sudanese embassies in Washington did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

The area is desert, but Heaton plans to turn it into an agricultural area, which should please both Egypt and Sudan. Read about Heaton’s journey to his new kingdom at the Washington Post.

7. China Performs Cavity Searches on 10,000 Pigeons

Photograph from People's Daily via Twitter.

October first is National Day in China, commemorating the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. As part of the celebration in Beijing, 10,000 pigeons were released over Tiananmen Square. But first, each pigeon had to undergo a security check, which included an anal probe. The process was videotaped by authorities. The procedure drew widespread derision on social media.

“I have not heard of pigeons released at National Day requiring security checks, but it is possible for them to carry things such as explosives,” Mr Yang of website China Pigeon Net, told the New York Times.

“They could carry something on their legs, under a wing, or in their anus. If they carried out security checks they would find them, just like on a person when they get on an airplane,” Mr Yang said.

That last sentence should make anyone wary of booking a flight out of a Chinese airport.

6. Risque Ads Cause 517 Auto Accidents in Moscow

The Russian firm ADVtruck sells advertising on large trucks. As a promotional stunt intended to show how noticeable the ads are, 30 trucks were decorated with a picture of a woman’s breasts. In the first day that the trucks were deployed in Moscow, 517 traffic accidents were blamed on the distracting image. Moscow police were dispatched to impound all the trucks until the pictures were removed. The ad agency says that the company will compensate drivers for any damages that their insurance does not cover.

5. Hearse with Deceased Inside Stolen from Funeral

Prominent Sydney human rights lawyer Seth Richardson died at age 52 and the funeral was held a couple of days later in November, but not without incident. During funeral preparations, a man jumped into the hearse and drove off- with Richardson in a coffin in the back! Richardson’s brother Tobias called police, who at first thought he was reporting a murder when he said a man drove off with his dead brother.

Tobias Richardson took matters into his own hands, jumping into his car and giving chase. Fortunately the hearse had turned into a cul-de-sac and Tobias Richardson blocked the only way out with his own car.

The police arrived moments later and detained the driver.

The driver turned out to be a man with dementia who had walked away from his nursing home. He was taken to a hospital and no charges were filed. The incident was resolved in 20 minutes, and the funeral proceeded on time.

"Seth would have thought this was so funny, he had a wicked sense of humour," Ms West said.

Read the rest of the story at the Sydney Morning Herald.

4. Sinkhole Swallows Eight Corvettes

Of all the places a sinkhole can open up and swallow cars, would you believe it had to be in the National Corvette Museum? Western Kentucky is full of underground holes, the most famous of which is Mammoth Cave. On February 12th, another one was born, right under six rare 'Vettes owned by the museum and two on loan from General Motors.

"It's devastating to look at these beautiful cars. They're covered in dirt and rocks but it's incredible though looking at it and seeing how this happened," said WKU mechanical engineering student Darren Tinker.

No one was injured. The Corvettes were pullled from the hole in March. 

3. Teenager Gets 232 Teeth Pulled

Seventeen-year-old Ashiq Gavai of Buldhana, India, suffered a growth and pain in his jaw, but local doctors could not diagnose the problem. Fearing cancer, his father took him to J J Hospital in Mumbai, where doctors diagnosed Gavai with composite odontoma, a tumor in the part of the jaw that produces teeth.

Ashiq was diagnosed with a condition called composite odontoma or a benign tumour of the tooth, which can cause difficulties in eating, swallowing, and lead to a grotesque swelling of the face, though it is not life-threatening.

"The condition has been known to affect the upper jaw and a maximum of 25 teeth have been extracted from the tumour. But in Ashiq's case, the tumour was found deep in the lower jaw and we removed more than 232 teeth," Dr Sunanda Dhiware, head of the J J Dental Department, said.

A team of two main surgeons and two assisting surgeons performed an intra-oral procedure as they tried to remove every bit of the tumour. "While a few teeth were loose, others were in clumps which made it difficult to count. The tumour was an abnormal growth of the second molar which did not come out. It was also pressing on the wisdom tooth which we had to remove," Dhiware said.

Gavai was left with only 28 normal teeth, but will require followup surgery to repair the hole in his jaw. The hospital is going to forward the case to the Guinness Book of World Records for the most teeth extracted from one person. See more pictures here.

2. Sewer Blocked by Big Pooh

Photograph by Scottish Water.

Scottish Water, a national public utility, has found some unusual objects blocking the sewers underneath Scotland over the past year. That includes a huge plush Winnie-the-Pooh bear in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire. But they say the list also contains a fax machine, a bike, a snake, and blue jeans. How does anyone get such items down the drain? But the most common objects that block a sewer are grease, diapers, and baby wipes. A new public awareness campaign hopes to discourage people from putting anything into the sewer system that will cause blockages. Unstopping the pipes costs the utility more than £7 million every year.

1. Surgery for Pet Goldfish

In September, Dr. Tristan Rich at Lort Smith Animal Hospital in North Melbourne, Australia, performed surgery to remove a tumor from a goldfish. The hospital explained the procedure in a Facebook post

Dr Tristan Rich, head of Lort Smith’s exotic and wildlife vet team, set up three buckets – one with a knock out dose of anaesthetic, one with a maintenance level of anaesthetic, and one with clean water as the recovery unit.

Once George was asleep, Dr Tristan ran a tube from the maintenance bucket which was being oxygenated, into George’s mouth, so that the water with the maintenance dose of anaesthetic washed over his gills.

Dr Tristan worked quickly to remove the large tumour, although the size of it meant that he had to use a gelatine sponge to control the bleeding during surgery. The size of the wound meant it was difficult to seal, so Dr Tristan put in four sutures then sealed the rest of the wound with tissue glue.

The goldfish, named George, is ten years old. The surgery to remove the tumor from the fish’s head is the first of its kind for Lort Smith, and possibly anywhere.

See also: Miss Cellania’s Top 20 Weird News Stories of 2013, 2012, and 2011

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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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