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Bright Ideas 

A weekly roundup of international news oddities

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Bright Ideas
Commuters in Berlin, Germany, are required to wear masks on public transportation, and are subject to fines if they don't. Despite that, reports Deutsche Welle, so many people wear their masks incorrectly (covering the mouth but not the nose) that Berlin's transport company, BVG, is now suggesting that riders skip deodorant when they're getting ready for the day, in hopes that the body odor on crowded trains will keep those masks in place. "Given that so many people think they can wear their masks under their noses, we're getting tough," read a bright yellow posting from July 1 on Twitter. "The BVG is calling for a general deodorant waiver. So now do you still want to have your nose out?"

• Farm families in Botswana living beside the Chobe River have long battled herds of elephants that often pass through their fields at night, trampling crops as they move toward the river. Barking dogs and fences have failed to stop the elephants, the BBC reported on July 7, but farmers are having remarkable success with a new weapon: disco lights. Scientists from Elephants Without Borders placed solar-powered strobe lights that flash color patterns along the sides of fields elephants are known to walk through, frightening the elephants away. One farmer reported that before he had lights, "I had more elephants raid ... but in these two seasons with lights, I have harvested successfully."

News That Sounds Like a Joke
A man attempting to elude police in a stolen Toyota Land Cruiser on July 5 in Newberg, Oregon, crashed into a woman driving a Buick Regal that had been reported stolen three weeks before, giving police a two-fer. Newberg-Dundee police said they arrested the driver of the Toyota, Randy Lee Cooper, 27, and then found the driver of the Buick, Kristin Nicole Begue, 25, to be under the influence of intoxicants and arrested her, too, KOIN reported. Neither driver was injured

Suspicious
Liberty County (Georgia) sheriff's officers who found a body lying next to a railroad track in Allenhurst on July 14 followed protocol by covering the body with a sheet and waiting for the coroner. When the coroner arrived, detectives looked for injuries and quickly discovered the body was a female sex doll. WSAV reported that the doll was fully clothed and was anatomically correct. Officials think they may have been victims of a prank.

Least Competent Criminal
Wendy Wein, 51, of South Rockwood, Michigan, was arrested July 17 after offering an undercover state trooper $5,000 to kill her ex-husband and giving him money for travel expenses, WXYZ reported. Wein met the trooper after allegedly visiting the fake website rentahitman.com, where she completed a form requesting a consultation and named her ex-husband as the target. The owner of the website contacted Michigan State Police, who sent the undercover officer. "I'm very surprised that someone thought this website was a true website," said state police spokesman Lt. Brian Oleksyk. The website owner said over the last 15 years he's been contacted a number of times by people wanting someone killed, and he turns all of those requests over to law enforcement.

Wait, What?
Iceland is offering a stressed-out world a unique way to blow off some steam, reports Sky News n scream therapy. The country's tourist board is inviting people worldwide to record their screams to be played over loudspeakers in one of seven remote locations. "You've been through a lot this year," says the project website, "and it looks like you need the perfect place to let your frustrations out. Somewhere big, vast and untouched. It looks like you need Iceland." Psychotherapist Zoe Aston approves: "Using a scream as a way to release pent-up emotion allows you to ... reclaim the power that is inside you." Iceland has suffered relatively little during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 1,905 cases of the disease and 10 lives lost.

Compelling Explanation
What started as a report of a naked man running down a road hitting cars in Owensboro, Kentucky, on July 16, soon turned into a home burglary in progress, reports WFIE. Daviess County Sheriff's deputies said they arrived at the home around 1:30 a.m. to find John Stefanopoulos, 41, standing inside, naked and covered with mud and blood. Authorities said the suspect rushed the officers while repeatedly telling them he had used "mushrooms with Jesus and that they were playing a virtual reality video game together." Stefanopoulos was eventually tased and taken into custody.

"Incorrigibel"
Robert Berger, 25, of Huntington, New York, was scheduled to be sentenced last October after pleading guilty to possession of a stolen Lexus and attempting to steal a truck, but in an effort to avoid jail, he tried faking his own death, prosecutors charged on July 21. The scheme, they said, unraveled when authorities discovered a spelling error and inconsistencies in the font styles and sizes on the fake death certificate submitted by his lawyer. Further, The Associated Press reports, while Berger was "dead," he was arrested in Philadelphia for providing a false identity to police and stealing from a Catholic college. "It will never cease to amaze me the lengths some people will go to to avoid being held accountable on criminal charges," Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. "It's never a good idea to submit phony documents to the district attorney."

Suspicions Confirmed
Andrea Balbi, president of the Gondola Association in Venice, Italy, announced on July 22 that the organization is reducing the maximum capacity allowed on the iconic boats from six persons to five, CNN reported. The change comes not because of social distancing, but because "over the last 10 years or so, tourists weigh more," Balbi said. He noted that heavier loads often mean the boats take on water, which makes it harder for the gondoliers to navigate in heavy traffic. "Going forward with over half a ton of meat on board is dangerous," remarked Raoul Roveratto, president of an association for substitute gondoliers.

The Passing Parade
Fashion designer and activist Vivienne Westwood, 79, dressed in canary yellow, perched on a swing inside a giant metal birdcage outside London's Old Bailey court on July 21 and led a crowd in chanting, "Free Julian Assange!" Fox News reported Westwood said freeing Assange would mean "journalists can continue to tell the truth." The Wikileaks founder is being held in London awaiting an extradition hearing now scheduled for Sept. 7.

Send your weird news items to WeirdNewsTips@amuniversal.com.

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