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Read Between the Lines 

A weekly roundup of international news oddities

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Read Between the Lines
"Forever in our hearts until we meet again, cherished memories, known as our son, brother, father, papa, uncle, friend, & cousin." The message on Steven Paul Owens' tombstone at the Warren-Powers Cemetery in Polk County, Iowa, reflects the sentiments of the family the 59-year-old

left behind when he died in September of 2021, but the message within the message has the community in an uproar, WHO-13 reported. That's because if one reads the first letter of each line vertically, the phrase "F--- OFF" can be found. Owens' daughter said not only was the message intentional, but her dad would have loved it: "It was a term of endearment. If he said that to you, it meant he liked you. If he didn't like you, he didn't talk to you." A statement from the board of trustees that oversees the cemetery says community members are organizing a legal response and "will not stop until the headstone is removed."

What a Catch?
When Richard Kaser of Shelbyville, Indiana, took his friend Jon Hoop out fishing in the Ohio River on June 5, the hope was that Hoop would catch his first blue catfish, Fox 59 News reported. And Hoop succeeded with the first fish he hauled in, though the fish's stomach seemed unusually lumpy. Expecting to discover upon cutting it open that the catfish had swallowed another fish or perhaps a turtle, Kaser instead found a foam ball, part of a fish and ... a rather large sex toy. "When it came out, Jon, my wife and I started laughing," Kaser recalled in a Facebook post. "My wife immediately covered my daughter's eyes and turned her away from it." No word on when Hoop's next fishing outing will be, but it will be hard to top his first.

Lost and Found
Daniel Hughes was kayaking recently in the Ohio River in Maysville, Kentucky, when a bright yellow object tangled in debris on the riverbank caught his eye, KDKA-TV reported. Upon closer inspection, Hughes discovered that the object was a helmet—specifically a firefighter helmet with markings identifying it as property of the Franklin Park Fire Department in Pennsylvania, some 422 miles away. The helmet had an ID card still attached, and when Hughes shared photos to the Franklin Park FD Facebook page, Chief Bill Chicots got in touch and shared the whole story. "The helmet belonged to Dave Vodarick, he's been a member of our fire department since 1974; he lost the helmet during a water rescue in October 2019," Chicots said. The rushing water failed to sweep Vodarick away three years ago, but succeeded in ripping off his helmet, and efforts to find it had come up empty. The helmet is set to return to Franklin Park, where it will be displayed in the fire department's trophy case.

Better Late Than Never
It's not unheard of for a library to receive a late book return in the mail, but the package the Tooting Library in London received from Canada recently won't be forgotten anytime soon. CBC News reported that the package contained a copy of the book A Confederate General From Big Sur by Richard Brautigan, a book that had last been checked out in 1974—making it approximately 48 years and 107 days overdue. Efforts to track down and thank the borrower were successful, and Tony Spence, 72, a retired judge living in British Columbia, will be spared the late fees—not only the $7,618.10 that would be charged if the fines weren't capped, but also the $10.50 maximum fine. "We're pleased to have the book back in a condition good enough to return to the shelves, if we wanted, and under the circumstances we're waiving the fines," a statement from the library said.

Let Me Off Here
A bus driver from Boston learned the hard way that in areas where cannabis is legal, it pays to read every label. As AP News reported, on March 13, police found Jinhuan Chen, a 10-year veteran driver for Go Go Sun Tour with an exemplary record, unconscious at the wheel of a bus pulled over on the side of Interstate 95 in Stratford, Connecticut. Chen, who, according to his manager, "doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke, but he has a sweet tooth and likes candy," had been transporting 38 passengers and munching on a package of gummy candies when he blacked out. Turns out the gummies were Smokies Edibles Cannabis Infused Fruit Chews, and toxicology reports revealed a high level of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, in Chen's bloodstream. "This would never have happened a couple of years ago," Go Go Sun Tour manager Victor Chen said, "but now there's marijuana everywhere here." Jinhuan Chen will face 38 counts of reckless endangerment.

Public Notice
When you gotta go, you gotta go, and apparently people gotta go quite often in Boston elevators. So much so, in fact, that AP News reports that the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority is incorporating new technology in four downtown elevators to help solve the problem of public urination. The new sensors, which use a fan to draw in odors and detect if urine is present, will alert transit ambassadors, who will send cleaning crews to deal with the situation.

The Carter County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee has requested the public's help in finding the owner of a pig at large—and we do mean large. The animal weighs an estimated 300 pounds, and it has helped itself to homeowners' plants and destroyed property during its wandering, reported WJHL-TV. "We have nowhere to put a 300-pound pig ... safely," said Shannon Posada, director of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter. "We have no way of transportation for that large of an animal." Posada said local farmers may be called upon to help if the owner isn't found.

One Person's Trash
The '80s ruled in a batch of auctions that may send folks into their attics for forgotten treasure. The Houston Chronicle reported that a shrink-wrapped, near-mint condition 1986 Back to the Future VHS tape sold for an astounding $75,000 in a Heritage Auction on June 9, the highest price ever fetched at auction for a sealed and graded VHS cassette. It didn't hurt that the item came from the personal collection of actor Tom Wilson, who portrayed Biff Tannen in the movie trilogy, and that Wilson added a handwritten note and offered to sign the container. Wilson also sold sealed and graded VHS copies of Back to the Future II ($16,250), Back to the Future III ($13,750) and a '90s-era Back to the Future Trilogy boxed set ($10,000). Other highlights of the '80s-era VHS auctions included copies of blockbusters Goonies ($50,000), Jaws ($32,500), Ghostbusters ($23,750) and Top Gun ($17,500).

Say It, Don't Spray It
There's a big difference between paying one's respects and spraying one's disrespect, and Laurie Lynn Hinds, 51, of Quitman, Texas, knows better than anyone. KLTV-7 reports that Hinds was arrested on June 5 and charged with state-jail abuse of corpse for a November 2021 incident in which Hinds walked into a Tyler, Texas, funeral home, made her way directly to an open casket and spit on the corpse inside. A witness to the incident said Hinds was angry with the family of the deceased. Abuse of a corpse is a state-jail felony in Texas, punishable by six months to two years in a state jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

More Gas Prices on the Rise
New Zealand's Ministry for Environment recently proposed a plan to help curb the country's greenhouse gas emissions, Reuters reported on June 8. The gist: charging farmers for cow burps. The country is home to 5 million people, but twice that many cattle—and 26 million sheep, to boot—and almost half of its greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Even so, agricultural gases have so far been exempted from the country's emissions trading program. Well, your free ride could soon be over, Bessie: Starting in 2025, farmers would have to pay for their livestock's emissions by volume. The proposal includes incentives for farmers to reduce gases through feed additives, and to use on-farm forestry to offset emissions.

They're Taking Our Robo-jobs!
As much fun as it is to yell "REFILL PRESCRIPTION" at the pharmacy's robo-receptionist (only for it to claim, "Sorry, I didn't get that"), the Spanish government wants to put an end to the practice for its citizens: A proposed customer service bill that would require companies to connect callers with an actual human upon request. The bill would also seek to force companies to answer calls within three minutes. "Far too many companies create bureaucratic labyrinths to stop you from exercising your right to service," said Consumption Minister Alberto Garzon. If it passes Spain's Parliament, the law would apply to all companies over a certain size, as well as all utility providers, regardless of size.

Send your weird news items to WeirdNewsTips@amuniversal.com

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