Oddly Enough

Bees, brothels and monkey selfies: oh my; 2018 abuzz with odd U.S. stories

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A hive of honeybees in the heart of New York City, a monkey with a photographer’s eye, a brothel full featuring robotic sex dolls and a political candidate who carried the day from his grave were among the characters featured in the strangest stories of 2018.

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One of the most inexplicable animal stories of the year unfolded on a hot August afternoon, when a menacing horde of honeybees descended on a hot dog vendor’s umbrella, bringing Times Square to a standstill and drawing swarms of gawking tourists.

After a brief flurry of excitement, the buzzing interlopers were apprehended by a police officer armed with a vacuum cleaner-like device that sucked them up. The bees were then whisked away to safety.

Clearly, bees do not enjoy the right of free assembly in New York City.

In April, a California court ruled that the animal kingdom does not have much in the way of property rights, either, in a case involving a Celebes crested macaque who took a selfie using a nature photographer’s camera.

The court rejected a lawsuit filed on the monkey’s behalf by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which argued the primate was the legal owner of all photos he took. In a decision that likely left the plaintiffs crestfallen, the court ruled that monkeys cannot sue for copyright protection.

Animal antics and weird human behavior met up in New Hampshire in January, when a man bit a police dog whose team was investigating a reported shooting. Authorities were attempting to arrest the man on an outstanding warrant when he bit a state police dog, who bit back and then watched while the man was Tasered.

In July, in a tourist section of Miami Beach, Florida, a homeless man with no arms was charged with stabbing a Chicago man with a pair of scissors, using his feet. The assailant claimed self-defense, but the victim said he was only asking for directions when he was attacked.

A list of annual oddities would not be complete without a Texas entry, and Houston obliged as its City Council moved quickly in October to derail the prospect of becoming the first U.S. city to host a brothel featuring robotic sex dolls. Upon learning of the plan by Toronto-based KinkySdollS to open in the city, local laws were altered accordingly. Henceforth, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, “you cannot engage in sexual activities with any inanimate objects at the business.”

Low-tech brothels also made the news a month later, when a Nevada Republican who owned multiple houses of prostitution and strip clubs won election to the state legislature thanks to support from evangelical Christian voters, who overlooked both his sex business and the fact that he had died a month earlier.

In December, four months after a swarm of bees descended on Times Square, a British couple visited the famed Manhattan crossroads where the man had asked his beloved for her hand in marriage. The woman, who had promptly answered “Yes!” to the marriage proposal, gasped “No!” as her engagement ring tumbled down a subway grate.

After contacting New York police, who searched unsuccessfully for the ring, the devastated couple returned to Britain without leaving their names with the officers. Days later, police managed to locate the ring in the bowels of Manhattan and then - putting Twitter to the test - were able to track the unnamed lovebirds across an ocean and reunite them with the ring.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Scott Malone, Frank McGurty and Bill Berkrot