Democracy Dies in Darkness


The most bizarre stories from around the world in 2017

December 30, 2017 at 5:00 AM

It’s been a chaotic year, and a strange one. So much of what’s happened seems scary, or at least unsettling. But it wasn’t all bad.

Here are some of our favorite chronicles from 2017:

‘Adorable children crash a live BBC interview to bother their apologetic dad’

It was supposed to be a staid and serious interview about a corruption scandal in South Korea. Instead, a professor was interrupted by his two adorable children — and harried wife — on live TV, apologizing all the while. The professor, Robert E. Kelly, managed to keep a straight face throughout, and he and his wife became viral stars. They later explained that their daughter was in a “hippity hoppity mood.”

Einstein scribbled his theory of happiness in place of a tip. It just sold for more than $1 million.’

A man at the Winner's auction house in Jerusalem displays one of two notes written by Albert Einstein in 1922 on hotel stationery from the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

The story goes like this: Einstein wanted to tip a hotel helper in Japan. Either he refused or Einstein had no small bills. Instead, he scribbled two short notes on happiness (“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness,” reads one of the notes, written in German on the hotel’s stationery), assuring the recipient that they’d probably be worth a lot of money some day.

He was right.

An anti-immigrant group mistook empty bus seats for women wearing burqas’

Johan Slattavik was bored one day when he decided to play a prank on Fatherland First, an anti-immigrant group in Norway. So he posted the above photo, with a simple question: “What do people think of this?” More than 100 comments quickly poured in. “It looks really scary, should be banned. You can never know who is under there. Could be terrorists with weapons,” one user wrote. Others described it as “frightening” and “tragic.”

Except, of course, take a second look: Those aren’t women in burqas. They’re bus seats.

‘Terrorists are building drones. France is destroying them with eagles.’

What if a terrorist drone got loose in Paris? The French military was in search of a way to knock potential attack drones down without guns or missiles. The solution they happened upon? Eagles. As my colleague Avi Selk reported: “Under French military supervision, four golden eagle chicks hatched last year atop drones — born into a world of terror and machines they would be bred to destroy. The eagles — named d'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis — grew up with their nemeses. They chased drones through green grass that summer, pecking futilely at composite shells as seen in Sky News footage. They were rewarded with meat, which they ate off the backs of the drones. When the eagles were ready — this month — d'Artagnan launched screeching from a military control tower across a field, Agence France-Presse reported. The bird covered 200 meters in 20 seconds, slamming into a drone, then diving with the wreckage into the tall grass.”

The story only gets better from there.

It’s now illegal in Russia to share an image of Putin as a gay clown’

A protester holds up a sign showing Russian President Vladimir Putin wearing lipstick during a protest of Russian anti-gay laws in 2013. A similar image has been declared “Internet extremism.” (Denis Doyle/Getty Images/)

Even for Russia, it’s strange: Item 4071 in a list of things the government deems “extremism” is a picture of a Putin-like person “with eyes and lips made up,” captioned with an implicit anti-gay slur, implying “the supposed nonstandard sexual orientation of the president of the Russian Federation.” But what, exactly, was the law referring to? A mystery only Post reporters could solve.

Amanda Erickson writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Previously, she worked as an editor for Outlook and PostEverything.

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