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Sign of the Times 

A weekly roundup of international news oddities

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Sign of the Times
In South America, some families of people who have died of COVID-19 have had to wait days for a coffin, either because of the short supply or because they were unable to afford one, the Associated Press reported on May 8. In response, ABC Displays, a Colombian advertising company, has developed a cardboard hospital bed with metal railings that can be converted into a coffin. The beds can hold a weight of 330 pounds and will cost about $85 each, company manager Rodolfo Gomez said. He plans to donate 10 beds and hopes to receive orders for more from emergency clinics that might run short on beds.

Not Men From Outer Space
People in Washington's Puget Sound were startled on the evening of May 6 by a brilliant streak of light across the sky followed three minutes later by a loud explosion. "Huge boom that shook the house. It was the loudest boom I've ever heard," one witness in Brier reported, according to KOMO. The American Meteor Society investigated the many reports it fielded and determined the noise came from an exploding meteor entering Earth's atmosphere. The meteor may have been part of the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which occurs when Earth moves through the remnants of Halley's comet.

Bright Ideas
Restaurants have adapted to local lockdowns with curbside and drive-thru services, so it's no surprise that other businesses are following suit. Minx Gentlemen's Club in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is offering drive-thru pole dances and other entertainment in a makeshift outdoor space, according to The Sun. Dancers were showered with bills or grabbed their tips using a trash picker to reach into vehicles as patrons enjoyed the performances from the safety of their cars. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Little Darlings is offering completely nude drive-up strip teases. "Guests can drive up to the front door, and we're going to have dancers separated by the 6-foot separation rule, and (customers) can enjoy a totally nude show right from the seat of their car," a Little Darlings spokesperson told KSNV.

Recent Alarming Headline
In Clocolan, Free State Province, South Africa, where the now-seven-week-long lockdown includes a ban on buying or selling alcoholic beverages, thieves broke into the Rest in Peace funeral parlor and made off with 4 gallons of exhumation liquid, the Daily Mail reported on May 12. The fluid, used to preserve body parts that have been exhumed, is 97% alcohol, police spokesperson Brigadier Motansi Makhele said, and the burglars had to break through roller blinds and into a locked steel cabinet to get to the liquid. A forensic officer predicted: "If the thieves drink that liquid without watering it right down, then they will drop dead themselves!"

Inexplicable
In 2006, Armin Meiwes, now 58, was convicted of killing, dismembering and slowly eating Bernd Brandes, 43, over a number of months in Rotenburg, Germany, but today, the man who advertised himself as a "friendly and polite" cannibal, goes for "walks around town" with a police escort and wearing sunglasses and a cap to disguise himself. Meiwes had advertised in 2001 on a website called The Cannibal Cafe for "a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed," and Brandes answered the ad. At trial, Meiwes told the court he had always dreamed of having a younger brother "to be a part of me" and thought cannibalism would be a way to satisfy that obsession. Two officers accompany Meiwes on his outings, reports the Daily Mail, and he is described by his keepers as a "friendly, outgoing, polite" prisoner who is helpful to others, attends church services and works in the prison laundry.

Questionable Judgment
Curtis L. Fish, 48, arrested and charged with kidnapping and raping a woman on New Year's Day in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was released when the COVID-19 crisis erupted in jails, according to PennLive.com. On May 12, police responding to reports that Fish tried to break into the Crossroads Tavern in Hilltown Township attempted to Taser Fish, but he fled to his home nearby, where he set off and aimed fireworks at a SWAT team before his house suddenly caught fire. "Fireworks outside and fireworks inside," said tavern owner Mike Mrozinski. "So, I believe that's what lit the house on fire." A body thought to be Fish's was found inside. Mrozinski said Fish, whom he had known for 16 years, was "not the same guy I had known him to be" before the rape charges.

• Joseph Todd Kowalczyk, 20, tweeted at the FBI on May 10, threatening that he had "10 bombs ready to go off ... in my basement ... come get me you guys have till 8 before I make this city in my own little hell #forwaco." The FBI determined the tweet came from a mobile home park in Clinton Township, Michigan, according to The Detroit News, and officers showed up at Kowalczyk's home the next day, where he explained that he was "testing the government" and was upset that they had not responded more promptly. He told agents he had no weapons and would not make any more threatening tweets, but as the day wore on, Kowalczyk taunted the FBI in further posts, disparaging the agency and police for their slow response. On May 12, he was arrested and charged with transmitting a threat to injure, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Paying the Price
Restaurants in West Plains, Missouri, endured a social media storm in early May after a customer posted a photo of a receipt that included a "Covid 19 Surcharge." But the restaurants pushed back, according to KY3. "It's not a tax. It's basically just a small percentage to cover all of our extra expenses," said Bootleggers BBQ owner Brian Staack. Kiko Japanese Steakhouse manager Sarah Sherwood said prices on most items have doubled, and Ozark Cafe co-owner Heather Hughes confirmed: "Every day there's something else (food suppliers) can't get or the prices have gone up exorbitantly." The restaurateurs say it's easier to add the 5% surcharge than constantly change the menus, and they've been upfront with customers, using signs and notes in their menus. While the initial response was surprise, Sherwood says the community has "really come together to support the local businesses."

Florida
A Mother's Day bouquet became a weapon during an altercation in Pinellas County, Florida, early on May 11. Sandra Kay Webb, 32, allegedly became angry with her husband because he bought flowers for her children to give her for Mother's Day. The Smoking Gun reported that Webb threw the bouquet at her husband and hit him with it, then spit on him. Webb was charged with domestic battery; she admitted throwing the flowers, but denied the spitting.

Send weird news items to WeirdNewsTips@amuniversal.com.

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