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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

WEIRD NEWS

You Get an Extra Day to File!!!
The IRS is giving all taxpayers an extra day to file after its website went down on Tuesday - the original deadline. The agency announced that individuals and businesses with a filing or payment now have until midnight today (Wednesday). It said no additional paperwork is needed to get the extension. The IRS website to make payments and access other key services was down much of Tuesday, though it appeared to be back to normal late in the day. The IRS said in a statement that "certain IRS systems are experiencing technical difficulties." It also said that at this point, the problem appears to be a hardware issue. The agency advised taxpayers to "continue filing their tax returns as they normally would." It's unclear how many people were impacted Tuesday but, by comparison, about 5 million tax returns were filed on the final day of last year's tax season. The IRS snafu also caused problems for popular third-party tax preparers such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block. Both said that they will hold onto customer tax returns and file them as soon as the IRS system reopened. Tax day fell on April 17 this year because April 15 was a Sunday and April 16 was Emancipation Day, a holiday in Washington, DC. (IRS)

Your Fired! Why? Whole-Grain Pancakes!
Kyle Byler is a beloved 8th-grade teacher at Lancaster, Pennsylvania's Hand Middle School and says his students "worked their butts off" during last week's standardized testing. He wanted to help the kids and reward them, so while they were working hard on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, he plugged in an electric griddle and made each kid a single whole-grain pancake to eat during the test. Now he'll probably be fired. Per Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) stats, all but 5% of Hand's students hail from low-income families, and "for some, whole-grain pancakes may be the only hot meal they've gotten that day," says Lancaster Education Association president Jason Molloy. But after the assistant principal walked into the class during the test, Byler was told he'd be fired for causing a distraction. The 38-year-old teacher, who has been with the school as a social studies teacher since 2013, says that's hogwash. "I don't understand what I did wrong. There was no infraction whatsoever." The PDE has no rule that bans making or serving food during the testing, though a rep for the department said that making the pancakes could have hindered Byler's ability to "actively" monitor the testing. Though more than two dozen students staged a 2-hour protest on Friday, Lancaster Online reports the school board is expected to green light Byler's termination. Lancaster Online's Facebook post on the issue is full of comments in support of Byler, with many recalling being fed snacks by teachers during their own testing, and one noting, "this is as stupid as the lunch ladies that have gotten fired at other schools for paying for school lunches for kids." (Lancaster Online)

Guy Attacks Three Others With Knife. He's 8!
Hard to believe but an 8-year-old second grader took a kitchen knife to a central Minnesota elementary school and randomly attacked three other children. Police Chief Perry Beise said the victims - aged 8, 9 and 13 - suffered "superficial wounds" requiring stitches in the attack at Pleasantview Elementary in Sauk Rapids. No one else was hurt. There is no known motive. Beise said, "He randomly cut three students then walked into the office and set the knife down." School Superintendent Bruce Watkins said the boy lashed out at the other students until an adult intervened. The incident lasted about 5 minutes and took place in a school hallway. It happened about 7:15am as students were arriving for class. After putting his backpack away, the second-grade student took out a knife and slashed three students with it. School officials immediately called police and an ambulance. By the time officers arrived the boy was in an office with a counselor and the three injured students were being treated by the school nurse. He said the boy was cooperative with investigators. He said he didn't know if the boy had been bullied, or if he had mental health issues. Beise said the boy was released to his parents but will not be allowed back in school. You can hear it now: The only thing that will stop a bad second-grader with a knife is a good second-grader with a knife. Right? (Newser)

The Alex Jones Lawsuits Begin
In the five years since the Sandy Hook shooting, Infowars host Alex Jones has repeatedly labeled the Sandy Hook massacre a hoax involving actors, ran a segment last April called "Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed," and accused CNN and Anderson Cooper of using a green screen to stage scenes. Now, the parents of two 6-year-old sons killed at the school are finally fighting back and suing over defamation, with the two suits filed Monday saying the lies shoveled by Jones and Infowars (which is still running a story headlined "FBI Says No One Killed at Sandy Hook") have spurred death threats. Each suit is seeking more than $1 million in damages. Neil Heslin, father of one of the boys, also named Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer in his suit. In a 2017 interview with Megyn Kelly, Heslin spoke of holding his dead son "with a bullet hole through his head." Shroyer said Heslin must be lying, because the children were ID'd through photos, not in person. Heslin counters that he absolutely did hold his son when the body was released to him for burial. As for the death threats, there's an Infowars connection: Lucy Richards was last summer sentenced to five months in prison for leaving parent Leonard Pozner voicemails threatening death; his suit notes that her sentence barred her from visiting Infowars. The suits were filed in Travis County District Court in Austin, where Jones resides, by Houston lawyer Mark Bankston. It's not Bankston's first defamation filing against Jones and Infowars: He filed such a suit in April over their false ID of a Massachusetts man as the Parkland school shooter. (New York Times)

How Much Does Your Grocery Store Waste?
As the saying goes, waste not, want not. It's apparently not an adage that America's grocery stores have taken to heart, at least according to a new report from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign. They scored ten US supermarkets on their efforts to reduce food waste and conclude that "unfortunately, US grocers focus on donating and recycling food waste, rather than preventing it - and they're not even tracking food waste throughout their entire operations." And they're certainly not reporting it, something the organizations see as key to accountability. Of the ten, only Ahold Delhaize (the company behind Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Peapod, etc.) publicly reports it. Here's how the various chains did out of a possible score of 60:
Walmart: B, 32
Ahold Delhaize (Food Lion, Stop & Shop and Peapod): C, 26
Kroger: C, 24
Albertsons: C, 22
Target: D, 17
Trader Joe's: D, 16
Whole Foods: D, 14
Costco: D, 14
Publix: D, 11
ALDI: F, 7

(Newser)

The Man with Three Faces
Face transplants are no longer such a medical rarity that they generate widespread coverage, but a new one in France is an exception. That's because patient Jerome Hamon has become the first person in the world to receive two face transplants. Hamon says, "I'm 43 and the donor was 22, so I'm 22 again." He suffers from a genetic condition that resulted in disfiguring tumors covering his original face. He had a successful transplant in 2010, and things were fine until he caught a cold in 2015 and went on antibiotics. They interfered with the drugs he was already taking to prevent his body from rejecting his new face, and it had to be removed in 2017. Then came a stretch hard to fathom: Hamon lived in a hospital room in Paris for about three months without a face, unable to see, speak, or hear until the new donor face emerged in January. "If I hadn't accepted this new face it would have been terrible," he says from the hospital where he continues to recuperate. "It's a question of identity," he adds. But "it's good, it's me." Hamon's new face is still not quite aligned, but doctors are optimistic about both his individual recovery and the bigger picture. "Today, we know that a double transplant is feasible," says Dr. Laurent Lantieri, who performed both of Hamon's transplants. "It's no longer in the field of research." (BCC)

And The Planet of the Apes Begins
Is the rising of the planet of the apes underway? Texas Biomedical Research Institute officials are making changes to their enclosure after four baboons briefly escaped from the facility. The animal care team determined the baboons rolled a 55-gallon barrel upright near a wall of their open-air enclosure, then climbed it, which allowed them to escape. The enclosure was built nearly 40 years ago and all three escaped baboons were recovered within 30 minutes. Officials initially thought a fourth remained on the loose but after completing a head count of all the animals determined it had returned to the enclosure almost immediately. Oh God - please tell me his name wasn't Caesar!!!! (My San Antonio)

What the What?
Meanwhile in Britain, 18-year-old Sean Gibson has made local headlines for his attempt to fulfill a dream of taking an actual bath in KFC gravy. The boy started a GoFundMe campaign to make it into a reality. On his donation page Gibson writes: "You may be thinking, ‘why does this young man desire such a strange venture? Long and short of it is, I bloody love KFC gravy and it would a pleasure of not just mine but also other lovers to see such a feat." He's asking for 475 GBP and so far has raised exactly zero. Godspeed, Gibson. Godspeed. (MyRecipes.com)

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