News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

LEAD STORY -- Inexplicable

Firefighters with Essex County (England) Fire and Rescue Service were called to a derelict laundromat in Epping on Oct. 30, where three young men had become trapped inside an industrial-sized tumble dryer. Two of them had climbed all the way into the dryer, while the third had managed to get his ankles trapped in the door. Firefighters were joined by Essex Police, a medical helicopter and the ambulance service as they employed "a lot of heavy equipment" to free the men, watch manager Glenn Jackson told Sky News. No word on what they were looking for in there. [Sky News, 10/31/2020]

Rise of the Machines

-- A thief in Lippstadt, Germany, was foiled by his own booty on Oct. 27 as he tried to make off with a robotic lawnmower. The Associated Press reported that the robot sent a message to the owner's smartphone, alerting the man that it had been flipped upside down. When the owner went to investigate, he saw the thief with the robot under his arm. Police said the thief then dropped the lawnmower and fled. [Associated Press, 10/30/2020]

-- Craig Hershoff of Miami has invented a robot to help people like himself who may have difficulty using the special contact lenses they wear for vision problems that can't be helped with regular contacts. The Cliara Lens Robot can insert and remove the lenses by voice activation. "It really helps with dexterity," Hershoff told WPLG, especially for elderly or disabled people. The robot is being tested in a clinical trial in Boston, and he hopes to have FDA clearance on it early next year. [WPLG, 11/2/2020]

-- Fans of the Caledonian Thistle soccer team in Inverness, Scotland, were frustrated as they watched a broadcast of the club's Oct. 24 game against rival Ayr United when the new robotic cameras programmed to follow the ball around the pitch focused instead on the bald head of one of the game's linesmen. The team had proudly announced a week earlier that it would be replacing human camera operators with a new system "with in-built, AI, ball-tracking technology" to stream live HD footage of home games to season ticket holders and fans who purchased the service. IFLScience reported that while many fans complained, others "saw this as a bonus, given the usual quality of performance." [IFLScience, 10/29/2020]

Bright Ideas

-- Two passengers traveling together on an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Miami on Oct. 30 were removed before taking off after one of the women attempted to sneak from coach into first class and hide in the footwell of her friend's seat, Fox News reported. The flight had already been delayed because of a catering issue, according to a witness, who said, "Apparently the plan was for this woman's friend to remain there the entire flight ... (as a stunt to) drive viewers to their YouTube channel." Flight attendants discovered the plot when they noticed an empty seat in coach, and the plane returned to the gate so the friends could be removed. The witness reported an unrelated passenger was also removed after he "cussed out" a flight attendant over the delay. [Fox News, 11/2/2020]

-- An unnamed man from Idaho Falls, Idaho, pleaded guilty in a Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, court on Sept. 10 to citations including walking in restricted thermal areas of Yellowstone National Park after park rangers found him with a cooking pot and a burlap sack containing two whole chickens near a hot spring. Witnesses tipped off rangers on Aug. 7 that a group of 10 people, including a child, were seen hiking toward Shoshone Geyser Basin carrying cooking pots, reported. The man was ordered to pay fines and has been banned from Yellowstone for two years. [, 10/30/2020]

Government in Action

The San Diego City Council blocked funding last summer for its controversial smart streetlights program, which features not only streetlights but also a video surveillance system that has been used by the San Diego Police Department, and on Sept. 9, Mayor Kevin Faulconer ordered the cameras turned off. But Voice of San Diego reported the cameras and streetlights are connected to the same power supply, so turning them off would have left the city in the dark. Florida-based Ubicquia owns the underlying technology, but the company has been reluctant to work with the city because of unpaid bills amounting to $771,000. Meanwhile, the cameras are still recording and storing footage for five days. [Voice of San Diego, 11/2/2020]


-- Julie McSorley of San Luis Obispo, California, and her friend Liz Cottriel were enjoying a sunny day of kayaking and whale-watching at Avila Beach on Nov. 2 when they were overturned by a humpback that got too close while feeding. "I saw the big pool of fish, the big bait ball come up out of the water. ... All of a sudden, I lifted up and I was in the water," McSorley told KMPH. "I thought it was gonna land on me," Cottriel said. Other paddleboarders and kayakers came to their rescue, thinking the whale may have bitten the women, but it merely pushed them underwater. "We got back to the car, I was shaking my shirt and a bunch of fish came out of my shirt," Cottriel said. [KMPH, 11/2/2020]

-- Loyola University graduate Brianna Hill went into labor within minutes of sitting down to take the Illinois bar exam on Oct. 5, but "I didn't think about it because I was in the test," she told NBC5 in Chicago. Hill continued and finished the first part of the test, then gave birth to a healthy son hours later at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois. She tackled the second part of the exam the next day, from the hospital, breastfeeding during breaks. The whole experience was "definitely a little crazy," she said. She'll find out if she passed in December. [NBC5, 10/9/2020]

I Knew I Forgot Something

Deputies of the Anderson (Tennessee) County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of a stolen log splitter in Marlow on Oct. 22, and discovered a severed finger among items left at the scene. Hugh Seeber, 50, later appeared at a local medical center with a missing finger, WATE reported, and was taken to UT Medical Center in Knoxville, where Anderson County Det. Sean Flynn met him with the severed digit. Seeber was charged with felony theft. [WATE, 10/23/2020]

The Foreign Press

Police in Boa Vista, Brazil, raided the home of prominent Sen. Chico Rodrigues on Oct. 14 as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption and found the senator hiding the equivalent of $5,400 in his underwear. Rodrigues, 69, a close ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, who campaigned in 2018 on an anti-corruption platform, had no explanation for the money in his underwear, but claimed innocence, The Guardian reported. Brazilians quickly shared the news on social media, many commenting that the incident would go down "in the anals of history." [Guardian, 10/15/2020]

The Litigious Society

Dwight Turner, 50, is suing the owner of a backyard animal sanctuary in Davie, Florida, after the "full-contact" encounter with a black leopard that he paid $150 for turned into a mauling. Investigators said sanctuary owner Michael Poggi sold Turner time with the leopard to "play with it, rub its belly and take pictures" on Aug. 31, but the leopard attacked as soon as Turner entered its enclosure, leaving his scalp "hanging from his head," WPLG-TV reported. Authorities said Poggi is licensed to have the leopard, but he has been cited by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation for allowing the contact and for maintaining captive wildlife in unsafe conditions. [WPLG-TV, 10/29/2020]

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