WHAT THE WORLD
Police reports, plot twists, weird stuff ... from everywhere.
WHAT THE WORLD
Bertrand Hauger

French Master Forger Dies After Being Mugged For His (Fake) Luxury Watch

Eric Piedoie, a French master forger known as "the art pirate," has died after being mugged in Cannes over his luxury watch — which (like his own work) was a fake. French daily Le Parisien highlighted the irony, calling his death Sunday from heart failure after the attack "one last snub" from a man who spent his life copying other people's work.

Miro, Giacometti, Niki de Saint Phalle, Yves Klein, Toulouse-Lautrec, Chagall: Beginning in the 1980s Eric Piedoie made a (devilish) name for himself by masterfully forging and selling works by the world's greatest artists, deceiving gallery owners and specialists alike.

Local daily Nice-Matin estimates that this colorful dandy had earned between 15 and 20 million euros from his imitations — a fortune he is believed to have squandered, mostly by gambling. In 2009, Piedoie was sentenced to 4 years in prison for forgery, and had since given up his illicit forgery activity.

WHAT THE WORLD
Anne-Sophie Goninet

Magnet Fisherman Finds Cartier And Bulgari Treasures At Bottom Of French Canal

Magnet fishing isn't what it might sound like. The pastime has nothing to do with pulling in big fish, but rather hooking treasures thanks to a long rope and a strong neodymium magnet cast into your local (polluted) body of water.

The usual catches are hardly shiny trophies: discarded bicycles, shopping carts, tools, old boots, nuts and bolts, and other debris that have been rusting at the bottom of a pond, river or lake for years. (Yes, the hobby is also ecological!)

But last month, a Frenchman was lucky enough to find the holy grail of magnet fishers in the canal of the northern town of Neuville-sur-Escaut: two small safes. And while one was empty, the other contained an actual treasure, reports local daily La Voix du Nord. And inside? Mud, rocks … and a 1982 Cartier watch and a Bulgari one that he later authenticated. There were also coins from the 1960s and a magnifying glass made out of "9 or 18 carats gold" that transforms into theater glasses.

The man authenticated two watches from his treasure — Photo: La Voix du Nord

The lucky magnet fisherman isn't interested in selling his treasure but instead plans on "conducting a search to find the owner" of the safes. The question for him or her will be the same for the launchers of the various bicycles and shopping carts too often pulled out of the local river: Why?

WHAT THE WORLD
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

No More Monkey Business: Antwerp Zoo Bans Woman From Seeing Her Chimp Chum

"He loves me and I love him. Why would you take that away?"

There's only so much monkeying around the Antwerp Zoo will tolerate. Belgian woman Adie Timmermans learned this recently, having developed what she called a special "relationship" with Chita, a 38-year-old chimpanzee whom she visited almost every day for four years. Zoo authorities now think the bond might have grown too strong and decided to ban Timmermans from visiting her monkey friend.

Whenever Timmermans came to the zoo, Chita would walk over to the glass enclosure, blowing kisses and scratching his head. So why separate the interspecies pals? Sarah Lafaut, the zoo's mammal curator, tells Belgian news channel ATV that Chita ended up paying too much attention to Timmermans and was at risk of being excluded from his primate peers.


Adie Timmermans and Chita kissing through the Antwerp Zoo glass enclosure — Source: De Telegraaf screenshot

The Belgian woman received a letter from the zoo, saying that she could still visit, but was only allowed to take a quick look at the chimpanzee habitat. As curator Lafaut explains to ATV, "Of course, we are happy when our visitors connect with the animals, but animal welfare comes first here."

Chita's interest in humans likely comes from her growing up as a household pet until the age of 8, when he was given to the zoo because of behavioral issues. While he eventually learned to live among other chimpanzees, his attachment to people remained.

As for Timmermans, she believes she is being unfairly singled out, as she tells Flemish newspaper the Nieuwsblad: "That animal really loves me and I love him. Why would you take that away?"
Weird
Anne Sophie Goninet

A Swiss Thief With A Fondue Fork Tries To Dip Into Till At Funeral Home

Switzerland is famous for its fondue, a national specialty that is eaten by dipping bread into melted cheese, using uniquely shaped long-stemmed forks. Now a 60-year old Swiss man has found a rather unexpected use for his fondue fork, reaching with the length of the utensil and its sharp prongs to steal envelopes containing condolence cards from boxes in funeral parlors. He managed to fork 17 envelopes in three different funeral homes in the towns of Delémont, Bassecourt and Porrentruy, reports Swiss daily Le Matin. The thief, who later admitted that he was hoping to find money left in the cards by mourners to the deceased's family, was eventually caught by an undertaker last April.

It is unclear whether the man actually found money, as no banknote was recovered by the police in his house, but in July, a court ruled his "motives were financial" and condemned him to a fine of 600 Swiss francs ($663) plus 570 CHF to cover fees, for theft, property damage, disorder of funeral service by inappropriate behavior and for undermining the peace of the deceased.

The court also confiscated the crime weapon. "I couldn't see myself giving the fondue fork back to him, as it's with this object that the man stole condolence cards," said prosecutor Marc Bouvier, as reported by the Swiss daily.

Society
Genevieve Mansfield

Coffee On The Road? French Motorists Loot Capsules After Nespresso Truck Spills Over

What else...?

Weary motorists between Basel and Mulhouse, in eastern France, were treated to something of a jolt last week when a truck transporting a load of Nespresso coffee pods crashed, sending hundreds of capsules into the road.

The accident took place on the eastern A35 highway during a traffic jam caused by the Tour d'Alsace cycling event, the local daily L'Est Républicain reports. Unaware, apparently, of the vehicles backed up ahead of him, the Nespresso driver slammed into two trucks, sending hundreds of coffee capsules flying across the highway. Perhaps he'd been running latté?

By the time police arrived on the scene, several drivers had already gotten out of their vehicles and begun helping themselves to the brand-name (and relatively expensive) coffee doses.

"People were stopping to pick up the capsules from the road," a local gendarmerie officer told reporters. "I think they saw that they were Nespresso capsules, and with the usual price per capsule, they thought: Let's help ourselves."

A video published on the Twitter account "Info Trafic Alsace" shows drivers stopped on the side of the road, collecting scattered pods, some even scoring several boxes worth. Luckily, no injuries were reported, and police opted against booking any of the coffee scavengers. No mug shots, in other words.

Society
Bertrand Hauger

In Monaco, Four-Year-Old Runs Over Man With Dad's Bentley

The idea that the streets of Monaco are lined with luxury vehicles isn't an overstatement. The recently crowned "supercar capital of the world" also comes with risks, as stretch limousines and sports cars must navigate the tiny city-state's meandering streets and narrow squares.

Yet last Friday, when a Bentley crashed into a Belgian man outside the Place du Casino, the driver at fault turned out to be quite a wildcard: a four-year-old boy.

Police report that the child slid into the driver's seat when his father, an Armenian visiting from Prague, stepped out of the vehicle to give the car keys to the hotel valet. The boy then managed to hit the gas pedal, making the big British car lurch forward a dozen meters, where it ran over the unfortunate pedestrian.

The 53-year-old victim had to undergo emergency surgery in nearby Nice after being trapped under the wheels of the 2-ton Bentley, but is now out of danger, reports local daily Nice-Matin.

Belgian daily Le Soir writes that the ongoing investigation by the Monaco police will determine how the boy was able to drive forward if the father had brought the keys to the valet. First-world problems, Monaco-style.

Weird
Alidad Vassigh

It's Raining Fish, Hallelujah! Mysterious Lluvia de Peces Lands Again In Honduras

Residents near the Caribbean coast of Honduras have been witness to an unlikely, and much welcome, event: fish that seem to arrive from the skies. Or maybe from somewhere else?

CENTRO POBLADO — "Sunny with a chance of fish..." In one area of northern Honduras, weather forecasters await the unlikely arrival of a kind of "fish storm" in the summer months, which allows locals to feast on small silver pesces. It's a phenomenon with no clear scientific explanation. Sound fishy?


The most recent "Lluvia de Peces' ("Fish Rain") happened in Yoro, the department along the country's Caribbean coast, as the Honduran daily El Heraldo reports. Locals say it has been observed in parts of Yoro since the 19th century. After a strong rainstorm subsides, they go out with buckets to collect the fish — experts have compared them to sardines — and enjoy them collectively; in many places the bounty is distributed equally and it's looked down on to profit from the harvest. Indeed, many in this religiously devout region see the bizarre event as a blessing.


The sardine showers occur after particularly intense storms in the rainy months from May to October. Some have suggested that a powerful, coastal gust must carry and drop the little creatures onto some lucky district. The problem is that some Fish Rain hotspots are not near water: the village of Centro Poblado is 200 kilometers from the coast. La Tribuna, another local paper, reports that Honduran weather officials and U.S. experts who investigated the fish in 1970 found them to be freshwater, not sea fish. The observations that clarified little — they were still alive when rainfall had ceased and not endemic to the region.

Others believe the fish come from underground.

Another theory posits that the fish do not fall from the heavens but rise to the surface with underground waters during heavy rains. This is why they come back to the same places year after year. This explanation has been used for other animal showers, which are rare but maybe not as much as you would think: Spiders, frogs and worms have reportedly fallen from the sky in places ranging from Singapore to Australia to Ethiopia.


In Honduras, many locals prefer another explanation, that the fish began to appear after Catholic missionary Manuel de Jesús Subirana prayed to God to alleviate the poverty he saw in Yoro when he arrived in 1858. It seems he got his loaves and fish, and then some.

Weird
Genevieve Mansfield

Popular Taiwanese Cactus Toy Raps In Polish About Cocaine

If not for a Polish shopper, it might have remained lost in translation for all the Taiwanese parents who've bought their kids the popular toy cactus that raps in some exotic language.

But a Polish mother living in the city of Taichung was doing some grocery shopping with her baby at the local Carrefour when she heard something that made her ears perk up: a foul-mouthed Polish rap song referencing cocaine and suicide. It turned out that the source of the obscene music was the singing cactus.

It was just "cocaine and suicide attempt, repeated over and over again. It is really shocking," the Polish woman recounted. She contacted another Polish friend of hers in Taiwan, Ela Sobczak who took the matter of the rude cactus very seriously and notified Taiwan News.

"The song itself is definitely inappropriate to play in front of children," said Sobczak.

The 32-centimeter-high cactus, which moves and grooves along to the tune, is programmed to sing a number by the Polish rapper, Cypis. The video of the cactus doing its thing, along with a cat that apparently has heard it all before, is quite something ...

Society
Genevieve Mansfield

Tokyo Olympic Protest: Woman Tries To Extinguish Torch With Squirt Gun

Many Japanese want to Games cancelled because of COVID risks.

Less than three weeks from the start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, much of the Japanese public continues to demand the Games be cancelled because of the risks associated with COVID-19.

After weeks of street protests and petitions, Kayoko Takahashi found a creative way to demonstrate her disapproval: trying to extinguish the Olympic flame with a squirt gun.

Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported that the Olympic torch, which is being symbolically carried across the nation in the lead-up to the Games, passed through the Ibaraki prefecture near Takahashi's home on Sunday. A video shows the 53-year-old raising the plastic toy gun and taking aim at the flame, which was being carried by an elderly man.

Police immediately arrested Takahashi, fearing she may have sprayed another liquid besides water onto the flame.

"I am against the Olympics. Stop the Olympics," Takahashi can be heard saying after spraying toward the torch. For the record: The runner kept going, and the flame kept burning. Opening Ceremonies are set for July 23.

Weird
Clémence Guimier

Tarmac Voodoo: Plane Struck By Lightning Exorcized After Landing

What happens when lightning strikes a plane? First, thanks to modern safety features, it flies on and lands without incident. But in Togo, airport staff last week made sure one such plane was thoroughly *explored and inspected.

With bolts of lightning regularly striking airplanes, aeronautics has long since developed technologies to ensure the planes can withstand the impact, and pilots and passengers can safely continue their journey.


Yet last week in the West African country of Togo, an extra-layer of security was added after the plane landed safely: an exorcism ritual on the tarmac.


Like the millions who go to airport chapels before take off, religions around the world seem to have a special relationship with modern air travel. In Togo, where voodoo is widespread and highly respected, other measures are employed.


The Ethiopian Airlines plane that regularly serves the New York-Lomé route, was hit just before landing June 20 at the airport in Togo's capital. Slightly damaged and unable to take off again, a group of voodoo priests were called in to exorcize the plane the following day.


Algerian daily El Watan reports that the ceremony consisted of splashing the plane with water and pouring liquor as an offering to appease the anger of Hiébiésso, the "divinity of thunder" in Mina, a local language spoken in South Togo. (Here's a video of the rite)


"When lightning strikes, it is our duty, for the sake of people's security, to identify and purify the area struck by this natural phenomenon." said Togbé Assiobo Nyagblondjor, president of the country's traditional priests confederation.


Originally from Benin and Togo, the voodoo religion counts 50 million believers around the world, including many in the Caribbean, Brazil and the U.S. state of Louisiana.


While Togo is officially a secular state, voodoo is widely accepted. The president of the National Agency of civilian aviation, colonel Latta Gnama, was personally present at the ritual held on the tarmac. "Everything was done to help them in their task," he said.


Gnama also confirmed the necessary repairs to the damaged airplane were completed before the jet took to the air again. Either way you look at it, best to be double covered when flying.

Weird
Clémence Guimier

Budapest or Bucharest? A Tale Of Very Lost French Soccer Fans

Let's be honest, as European capital names go, Budapest (Hungary) and Bucharest (Romania) are pretty similar. It's even slightly closer in French: Budapest and Bucarest. Still, for six French football fans who wanted to watch last week's France v. Hungary match live, we can only wonder how this geographic blooper could have gone this far.

Oui, oui...the supporters of les Bleus wound up in Bucharest, watching the game on television, rather than the stadium Budapest where France and Hungary finished in a 1-1 draw.

It's unclear who bought the plane tickets, but as local Romanian newspaper Jurnalu National reports, these fans took quite a while to realize their mistake. Non, non, it wasn't at the airport or hotel: Indeed, they still thought they were going to see the game live when they spotted other football fans on the streets of Bucharest wearing yellow and blue outfits.

"We thought they were Hungarian supporters who were also going to the stadium," they told Jurnalu National. In reality, they were a group of Ukrainian supporters, who had arrived early before their country's game, scheduled a few days after in the Romanian capital. (Also, Hungary's colors are red and green ...)

The French fans eventually found out they travelled to the wrong country while sharing beers with the Ukrainian supporters. "We should learn more about Europe," one of the confused supporters confessed.

The European football championship is usually hosted in only one or two countries, but this year's matches are spread around 11 nations, giving soccer fans a chance to improve their knowledge in geography — or get lost on their way to the stadium.

Next up for the French team, which qualified for the round of 16, is Switzerland, a game that will take place Monday ... in Bucharest. So maybe our lovably lost fans just showed up early?

Society
Clémence Guimier

French Church Installs COVID-Compliant, Automatic Holy Water Dispenser

The pandemic has radically changed the way we manage hygiene in public spaces. Some new things are added, like hand sanitizer distributors at the entrance of shops; some are taken away, like holy water from the decorative font of your local church. But what if the former concept were applied to the latter?


In Rennes, in western France, Notre-Dame-en-Saint-Melaine Church invested in some sacred innovation: a holy water automatic distributor. According to French newspaper Ouest-France, the device works just like any disinfectant distributor, with a religious twist: when a believer puts their hand under the machine, a sensor detects it and delivers a few drops of holy water.


The cupola-like device is forged with modern, minimalistic elements: a curved hand symbol, the words eau bénite explaining its nature, and an inscription: "In the name of the Father, and the Holy Spirit."


A local priest, Father Nicolas Guillou, explains that the 1,200-euro metal font container has a 10,000 drops capacity for each refill. "And the water that doesn't fall into people's hands is collected in a small tank," to prevent any waste of the holy liquid.


While the device helps you clean your soul, regular washing of your hands with soap is still recommended against COVID-19.