At year's end: Batman, Lennon's tooth kept news weird in 2013

By BEN HOOPER, United Press International  |  Dec. 22, 2013 at 7:01 AM
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When history books talk about 2013, they may want to omit the time a toothbrush shut down part of an airport or the dentist who wanted to clone John Lennon.

Each new year brings with it new opportunities for humans to outdo themselves in feats of weirdness, and 2013 was certainly no exception, starting with a bang -- or at least the fear of one -- when a vibrating bag checked onto an AirTran flight in the morning of Jan. 4 caused officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to shut down a portion of the North Terminal.

Officials told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution service was interrupted for a little more than 30 minutes while investigators examined the bag, which turned out to contain an electric toothbrush, not explosives.

A different flavor of panic was triggered in February when the distillers of Maker's Mark bourbon whiskey announced the alcohol content of the beverage would be cut from 45 percent to 42 percent. CNNMoney reported the company backtracked within days, saying it had reversed its plans due to thousands of phone calls, emails and social media posts from angry customers.

"You spoke. We listened. And we're sincerely sorry we let you down," the company's statement read. "While we thought we were doing what's right, this is your brand -- and you told us in large numbers to change our decision."

In other booze news, a pair of doctors in Texas discovered a 61-year-old man who appeared to be constantly drunk for five years had a rare condition that caused his stomach to turn food into alcohol.

Dr. Barbara Cordell, the dean of nursing at Panola College in Carthage, Texas, and Dr. Justin McCarthy, a Lubbock gastroenterologist, said the man's blood alcohol content was consistently high for five years because the yeast in his stomach was turning carbohydrates into ethanol.

The man was treated with anti-fungal medication to bring about a sober state and what was likely the hangover of a lifetime.

Super heroes made the news in 2013 for more than just a string of successful cinematic outings when Stan Worby, 39, donned a Batman costume to drop friend Danny Frayne, 27, off to police in Bradford, England, to face a burglary charge.

Worby told the Sun his friend agreed to turn himself in to police, but he wanted Worby to accompany him in a Batman suit. He defended his overweight appearance in police pictures by saying he was layering his clothing.

"I've got my full tracksuit underneath. I'm not just wearing this -- it's too thin," he said.

The "Star Wars" franchise's beloved Chewbacca also made headlines this year when Peter Mayhew, the actor who portrays the furry Wookie, lost his cane briefly to Transportation Security Administration agents at Denver International Airport.

Mayhew, 69, said he was flying out of the airport in June after attending Denver Comic Con when agents took his cane, which was custom made to resemble a light saber, CNN reported. He said the cane was returned when he threatened to spread word of its seizure on social media.

"Magic words to TSA are not 'please' or 'thank you'.. It's 'Twitter'.. cane released to go home," Mayhew tweeted.

Comedian and musician Steve Martin thanked a real-life hero in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., when an honest pedestrian found a wallet dropped by the performer while he was out cycling and returned it to the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts where Martin was due to perform.

Martin thanked the man in private and offered a public thanks during his show.

"I had a great bit of fortune in your city today. Did you see this in the news? That is a slow news day," Martin told the crowd. "I didn't even have a joke for him. I said, 'Oh, thank you.'"

The German language also suffered a loss during the summer when its longest word, Rindfleischetikettierungsuberwachungsaufgabenubertragungsgesetz, was officially dropped from the tongue.

Britain's the Daily Telegraph reported the word, the title of a law regulating beef testing, was banished to obscurity when the law was overturned by officials in response to the European Union dropping requirements for mad cow disease tests to be carried out on healthy cattle.

There was good news in April for committed couples with an affinity for pancakes when the Las Vegas Denny's opened the chain's first wedding chapel.

Denny's officials told the Las Vegas Sun the Denny's Wedding Chapel is offering nuptial packages starting at $95 for a ceremony, a bottle of champagne and a cake made from pancake puppies. Wedding parties also receive 20 percent off their total food bills, Denny's said.

Another food chain, Taco Bell, found itself receiving unwanted attention this year when a photo appearing to depict an employee licking a stack of taco shells went viral online.

The company announced in June the employee seen licking the shells, which officials said were not served to customers, and another worker were fired because of the picture, CNBC reported.

"The behavior is unacceptable for people working in a restaurant. Our franchisee is responsible for the employment and conduct of his restaurant's employees and he has informed us that he immediately suspended the employee shown in the photo and is in the process of terminating his employment. The employee who took the photo no longer works there," Taco Bell's statement read.

The cringe-worthy news didn't stop there, as dentist Michael Zuk of Red Deer, Alberta, announced his intention to use a tooth he purchased for $30,000 to clone rock 'n' roll icon John Lennon.

Zuk told the Globe and Mail he sent the tooth, which was from the collection of record executive Alan McGee and was sold to Zuk at an auction, to Penn State University, where "scientists are considering ways to extract the genetic code from the fragile specimen."

"I am nervous and excited at the possibility that we will be able to fully sequence John Lennon's DNA, very soon I hope," Zuk said. "With researchers working on ways to clone mammoths, the same technology certainly could make human cloning a reality."

Perhaps the birth of John Lennon's clone will end up as one of the top stories of 2014.

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