90 Miles From Tyranny : 10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (12/15/18)

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Saturday, December 15, 2018

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (12/15/18)

With another week in the history books, it’s time to sit back and review some of the stories that made the news over the last few days. Click here if you want to learn about the major headlines; otherwise, read on for unexpected and outlandish stories.

Even though Christmas is fast approaching, this week’s list feels better fitted for Halloween. There’s talk of ghost pirates, Dracula ants, ancient skeletons, alien noises, guys in robot suits, and, of course, a river of chocolate.

10Sister Act 3: Viva Las Vegas

Two nuns have been accused of embezzling at least half a million dollars and using the money to take lavish gambling vacations.

Up until this year, Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper served as principal for the St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California, while her friend, Sister Lana Chang, was a teacher. The two had access to an account nobody else was aware of, which was opened in 1997 under the name of “St. James Convent” instead of “St. James School.” The nuns often used it to embezzle tuitions, donations, and other fees. The $500,000 figure is just what forensic auditors were able to find by going through six years of bank records, and the real sum could be much higher.

The two nuns enjoyed taking vacations to casinos and, according to a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, “used the account as their personal account.” Whenever questioned about their gambling trips, the duo said they were gifts from a rich relative. Meanwhile, parents were told that the school operated on a shoestring budget, and teachers were denied salary increases.

Both Kreuper and Chang have retired. Parents were further outraged when they found out that the archdiocese will not be pursuing criminal charges against the two nuns because they showed remorse.[1]

9The Mysterious Seal-Eel Connection

Photo credit: Brittany Dolan/NOAA Fisheries

There’s a new fad out there which has baffled scientists and poses a serious health risk: sticking eels up your nose. There’s just one catch, though. It’s not teenagers who are doing it but rather juvenile Hawaiian monk seals.

The story got picked up after the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) posted a picture of a seal with a dead spotted eel stuck up its nose on its Facebook page. The image puzzled animal experts, who’d never seen the bizarre phenomenon before. According to NOAA, the organization has been monitoring the endangered species for almost 40 years and had only noticed the odd incident on a few occasions, and they all happened in the last three years.

Charles Littnan, head of NOAA’s Hawaiian monk seal research program, said the first instance occurred in 2016.[2] He received an e-mail from a field researcher which, basically, said, “Found seal with eel stuck in nose. What do we do?” There was no protocol set in place back then, but now, standard procedure is to capture the animal and pull the eel through the nostril. So far, all the eels have died, but none of the Hawaiian monk seals seemed affected by the incident.

There’s still the question of why is this happening, and so far, there is no satisfying answer. NOAA has ruled out the work of a deranged person with a vendetta against seals. Littnan said it could be that the seal is regurgitating the eel, or the fish purposely swam inside the nose while the seal was hunting it, but doesn’t consider either hypothesis plausible.

8Shiver Me Timbers

Photo credit: Amanda Teague
A woman from Northern Ireland ended her marriage with a 300-year-old ghost pirate.

Amanda Teague first made headlines at the start of the year, when she announced that she’d wed a man named Jack. Nothing unusual at first, except that Jack was an 18th-century pirate from Haiti who was executed for thievery. The 45-year-old woman, who happens to work as a Jack Sparrow impersonator, had her ceremony in international waters off the coast of Ireland. A medium was present so that Jack could say, “I do.”

Their love story began in 2014, when Jack began visiting Teague at nights. The two spent a lot of time together, developed feelings for one another, and even started having sex. That’s when Teague decided that it would be proper for them to get married, even though Jack “would have been happy like most men with just sex.”[3]

Alas, it seems like it was not meant to be, as Teague recently announced that their marriage is over. She said she will explain everything “in due course” but, for the moment, advised everyone to be careful when taking part in spiritualism.

7The Speed Of The Dracula Ant

The Dracula ant has claimed the title of fastest movement in nature. Specifically, it can snap its jaws 5,000 times faster than a human can blink an eye.

The tiny creature can be found throughout Australia and tropical parts of Africa and Asia. It draws its name from the fact that it engages in larval hemolymph feeding, more colorfully known as nondestructive cannibalism. In other words, it sucks the blood of its own larvae.

Another unique feature of the ant is its mandibles. Their tips are pressed against one another, spring-loaded and ready for action. Instead of using them to bite its prey, though, the ant lets one mandible slide off the other one, smacking the target. This likely leaves the other critter stunned and fit to be delivered to the nest.

The motion of the mandibles is similar to a finger snap, except that it is much faster. Researchers from the University of Illinois and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History had to use high-speed cameras to capture the movement. They discovered that the jaws snap at 320 kilometers per hour (200 mph), making them the fastest movement in nature.[4]

6Boris The Not-So-Robot

Photo credit: MBKh Media
Russia recently hosted a technology forum dedicated to robotics. State television channel Russia-24 lavished particular praise on a robot named Boris. There was just one problem, though—Boris was a guy in a suit.

Soon after the channel showed footage of the “robot,” various blogs and news agencies started bringing the report into question. Some questioned why Boris had no external sensors or why it made many human-like movements. Others pointed out that certain photographs clearly showed that Boris had a visible neckline. The clincher came courtesy of MBKh Media, a news agency which obtained a picture of the actor prior to putting on the Boris head.[5]

As it turned out, Boris was actually “Alyosha the Robot.” It is a pricy £3,000 costume made by a company called Show Robots, which creates the “near total illusion that before you stands a real robot.”

The Proyektoria Technology Forum is hosted every year and is dedicated to the “future intellectual leaders of Russia.” According to its organizers, they never tried to pass off Boris as a genuine machine and don’t know how the Russian television channel got confused.

5No Use Crying Over Spilled Chocolate

Photo credit: Reuters
It was a sad day in the German town of Westonnen as a ton of chocolate spilled onto the street.

On Monday evening, a tank tipped over in the factory of confectionery company DreiMeister. There was so much overturned chocolate that it burst out of the door and onto the nearby road. The cold weather quickly hardened the sugary treat, and the road had to be closed due to its Willy Wonka-style makeover.

Twenty-five firefighters armed with shovels worked hard to remove the chocolate, which covered around 10 square meters (108 ft2) of road surface.[6] They also had to use hot water and blowtorches to melt and remove the confection, which got stuck inside cracks and holes.

Company president Markus Luckey said that standard operations would resume on Wednesday and assured people with a sweet tooth that this setback will not lead to a chocolate-free Christmas.

4Bad Santa

It’s not often that Santa Claus goes on the “naughty list,” but one Kris Kringle from the English town of St Ives, Cambridgeshire, had a...

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