5 Famous News Stories You Didn't Know Had Insane Epilogues
The news cycle tends to operate with the attention span of a coked-up fruit fly. Things happen, things get reported, let's move on to the next thing. But life doesn't stop going on just because the media turns its watchful eye away. Sometimes, what happens after a huge news story you may half-remember reading about is as interesting and/or insane as the original story. Stories like ...
Alexander Litvinenko's Assassination Led To The Most Dangerous Autopsy In History
The Story You Know:
Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the KGB and FSB who had escaped court to Britain and received political asylum. As a high-profile Kremlin critic, he was precisely the kind of figure who gets a knife in their back 15 minutes into a spy movie, prompting Sean Connery to say something like "Well, Q, Litvinenko always was a little ... too sharp." And that's fairly close to what actually happened. In 2006, the world could only gawk as Litvinenko painfully perished to multiple organ failure brought on by a cup of tea which was poisoned with a radioactive polonium isotope.
The Insane Aftermath:
The thing about dead guys is that you can't just leave them lying around, especially if they were murdered. There are all sorts of questions that it takes an autopsy to answer. In Litvinenko's case, this presented a problem: By the time he died on November 23, his body was so radioactive that the hospital just sort of left it on the bed for two days afterward, still hooked up to all the drips and life support machines. He was full of polonium-210, a substance that can excruciatingly murder your ass with just a few nanograms. And someone had to do the postmortem, which is kind of like asking a person to spoon an atom bomb.
The unenviable task of what serious professionals straightfacedly refer to as "the most dangerous autopsy in history" fell on consultant forensic pathologist Dr. Nathaniel Cary. Wisely, he approached the task in the time-tested "wear a second condom, just in case" fashion. Wearing not one but two protective suits, two pairs of gloves, and a shitload of tape to secure the wrists, he ventured into Litvinenko's hospital room and carefully disconnected the body from the machinery, put it in two body bags (notice the theme?), and took it to wait for autopsy in a recovery operation he doesn't elaborate on but adamantly calls "very hazardous." This leads me to believe that the situation played out like that old Laurel and Hardy sketch wherein they try to move a piano up a giant flight of stairs. Just a couple of increasingly panicked doctors in hazmat suits running after the body bag as it tumbles around in increasingly slapstick fashion.
The actual autopsy took place on December 1 at London's Royal Hospital. This time, the crew included Dr. Cary, another pathologist, a cop, a photographer, and a dude whose sole function was to wipe all errant blood drops from people's clothes, lest they become polonized. Nearby, an ambulance staff was watching over them in case someone fainted or collapsed. Everyone was wearing the same two-suit getup as Cary, complete with custom battery-powered, air-circulating hoods. If Litvinenko had against all odds opened his eyes, he'd have thought he'd been abducted by a bunch of extremely nervous aliens.
Oh, and ultimately, the terror autopsy didn't even play that huge a part in determining Litvinenko's cause of death. They uncovered a whole bunch of interesting information about radiation poisoning, but they might have missed the cause of death entirely if someone hadn't ordered a test for polonium's signature alpha radiation on a hunch before Litvinenko had even died. That's right: After preparing for a radioactive threat to the point of almost hiring Godzilla as a bodyguard, the whole thing was solved by fucking accident.
Samsung Phones Kept Catching Fire ... And Then Their Factory Did As Well
The Story You Know:
In October 2016, Samsung's newfangled Galaxy Note 7 phones started mysteriously catching fire. After ascertaining that the situation was caused by faulty batteries instead of, say, a curse by the vengeful spirit of Steve Jobs, the company was forced to recall and ultimately discontinue the Note 7, costing them a whopping $5.3 billion and causing a massive dent in their reputation, to say nothing of the charred holes in various pairs of jeans.
The Insane Aftermath:
Let's say you're in charge of a Samsung factory in Tianjin, China. Your company has just recalled an entire line of phones, and a bunch of those piece of shit batteries are now YOUR problem. There's only one possible way for you to deal with the situation: Just throw those bastards in the trash and move on. After all, what's the worst that could happen? It's not like they have a history of, haha, spontaneously catching fire or anything.
And that, friends, is how a Samsung factory managed to catch fire in February 2017.
Fortunately, there were no casualties, and the incident was immediately reported as a "minor fire" on their waste processing site. To be fair, it totally was fairly minor, if you compare the 110 firemen and 19 trucks that the scene required to, say, the entire population of China. And yes, the fire department verified that the fire was caused by those discarded phone batteries at the heart of the whole scandal, thus neatly capping the garbage fire that was the Note 7 line with a literal garbage fire. Just imagine the faces of Samsung executives when they heard about that one. I will go to my grave believing that not a single table in that meeting room was left unflipped.
The Fukushima Disaster Site Has Turned Into A Strange Robot Battle
The Story You Know:
On March 11, 2011, Japan was on the unfortunate receiving end of a domino line of disasters. First there was an earthquake, which caused a tsunami. This in turn caused a fucking nuclear disaster, as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant gave in to the rage of the elements. This resulted in three nuclear meltdowns and radioactive contamination which marked the worst such event since Chernobyl.
The Insane Aftermath:
I love a good "Goddammit, Japan" joke as much as the next guy, and holy shit does the following give me ammunition for that. However, this isn't one of those times. See, the Tohoku earthquake and its assorted horrors claimed the lives of almost 16,000 people (not counting the missing 2,500). The Fukushima disaster forced 160,000 people to evacuate. So out of respect for them, I'll just report the events as professionally as I can. And to record my innate inability to do anything with a straight face, I'll denote every time I catch myself instinctively trying to jokingly compare the situation to a similar scenario from Japanese pop culture with an asterisk. Here goes:
The Fukushima disaster's cleanup has predictably been a bit of a nightmare. Japan has been unwilling to build a Chernobyl-style "sarcophagus" around the plant, opting instead for other methods to study, contain, and eventually clean up the site. A major challenge has been that the plant's debris and reactors are extremely dangerous to humans, which is why Japan has taken to fighting its radiation-related disaster woes with robots*. Authorities have been using specially equipped robots* with names like "Scorpion"* and "Warrior"*** to roam the radioactive ruins* of Fukushima, in the hopes that they could locate and hopefully ultimately remove the radioactive fuel within. However, so far, the disaster is winning*. Robot missions* keep failing* as hitherto unexpected radiation levels blast them* and break their systems. The area has already devoured* "at least" seven robots, and authorities are starting to get pretty desperate*.
Fortunately, there's still a chance that Japan will win the fight* against monstrous* radioactivity. Recently, a new robot* has been introduced to the Fukushima battlefield*: Little Sunfish, an unassuming-looking* swimming robot that has managed to navigate the radiation-riddled maze* of Fukushima's Unit 3 reactor, and may even have succeeded to locate some of the radioactive fuel. And like that, Japan juuuust might be back in the fight.*
Charlie Hebdo Has Been Oddly Dickish Since The 2015 Attack
The Story You Know:
On January 7, 2015, two al-Qaeda-affiliated brothers stormed the offices of French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo and started shooting everyone in sight. The attack was provoked by the satirical paper's frequent lampooning of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, and it left 12 dead and 11 wounded. The incident and the magazine's tenacity became symbols for free speech, and you probably posted something about "Je Suis Charlie" once or twice before getting distracted by the trailer for The Force Awakens or whatever.
The Insane Aftermath:
At some point after the attack, Charlie Hebdo started acting a little weird. And not in a good, fun way.
A satirical magazine is meant to provoke and cause controversy, but the golden rule of comedy applies: You should always, always punch up. Otherwise you're just piling on the little guy. Charlie Hebdo has generally been well aware of this. Take a look at their more controversial covers before the attack, you'll notice that they are pretty edgy in that underground publication sort of way, where offending people is both a tool and a goal. A bin-Laden-themed cover for 9/11. The pope advising a pedophile bishop to "go into movies, like Polanski." Gleefully iconoclastic and provocative imagery that stems from the simple fact that the magazine is self-admittedly atheist. Cheap potshots at the British, because this is still a French paper we're talking about.
Ultimately, this is fairly generic "fuck religions, fuck politics, fuck countries, fuck celebrities" fare which by and large remembers to set its targets high and makes a pretty clear distinction between crazy fundamentalists and the rest of the world. One previous depiction of the Prophet specifically has him cursing out fundamentalists and lamenting that it's hard to be loved by idiots.
Recently, however, it seems to me that Charlie Hebdo has been less about sniping targets and more about closing their eyes and throwing wild haymakers in every direction, regardless of who they hit. The paper reacted to the 2016 Brussels bombings by straight-up blaming each and every Muslim out there for "contributing to the atmosphere" that led to the attack. In 2017, they did the same in the aftermath of the Barcelona vehicle-ramming attack, with a cover that featured a caricature of the incident and sarcastically proclaimed Islam a "religion of peace." It's not just about Islam, either. In 2016, the paper mocked the victims of a large earthquake in Italy with a cartoon that featured burnt, bloodied, and crushed victims and compared the style of their injuries to various pasta dishes. Then they went on to claim that all of those crumbled houses were just shoddily built by the mafia anyway. That dead Syrian toddler on the beach from October 2015? According to Charlie Hebdo, he would just have grown up to be a molester. Oh, and here's how they reacted to the plight of the victims of Hurricane Harvey:
Charlie. Dude. I know you're not a physical entity that can actually hear me, but are you OK? It's one thing to use satire to shake up the establishment and provoke change. But when you start reacting to natural disasters by insinuating that the victims were all Nazis who totally had it coming, or comparing crushed apartment buildings with multiple dead inside to a fucking lasagna, you've got to ask yourself if you're actually trying to say something important or if you've just decided to hatefully kick the world in its collective balls.
Rio De Janeiro's Olympic Structures Are A Wasteland Now
The Story You Know:
Ah, the Summer Olympics! In 2016, everyone's favorite source of doping scandals, "Will they be ready in time?" media hand-wringing, and Ryan Lochte stupidity took place in Rio de Janeiro amidst the usual construction panic (and slightly less usual insane pollution levels). But the occasional poop-water bay aside, Rio still attracted a whole host of tourists for the event, and even after the Olympics and Paralympics were over, the city would greatly benefit from the new infrastructure it'd built for the competition ... R-right?
The Insane Aftermath:
While Rio was building megastructures for the Olympics, Brazil was suffering from a massive case of what economists call "no dang money" and corrupt officials. Impeached presidents, that kind of thing. (Though in this case, it wasn't the impeached president who was corrupt.) The country's still not what you'd call a paragon of fiscal stability, and it turns out that countries are just like people: In financially tough times, the first thing that goes to shit is all the ridiculously expensive, high-maintenance crap you bought to impress your friends.
What's impressive, however, is just how quickly Rio managed to turn its prized Olympic venues into post-apocalyptic scenery. After about six months, all that's left from the elaborate $13 billion Olympics was a bunch of debt-riddled, polluted, filthy hellscape structures that would make a Fallout character complain about the hamfisted atmosphere. Athletes have been replaced by looters and vandals. Mud and rat shit encrusts the Olympic pools ... which, now that I think about it, should be an Olympic event all on its own. The 100m filth trudge. Even the pride and glory of the event, the Maracana Stadium, now stands a darkened, barren husk that owes almost $1 million in electricity costs alone.
The locals have been fucked over way worse than the venues themselves, as most of the Olympic buildings and infrastructure were supposed to ease everyone's life in some way or another. Some of the venues were intended to be transformed into schools. (Nope!) The athletes' village was supposed to be converted to high-demand apartments. (Only 10 percent of the units have been sold!) The canoe slalom pool was supposed to stay open as a free swimming pool for a poor neighborhood. (Totally closed now!) The rapid bus lines that caused at least one favela's sole leisure space to be completely torn down were supposed to help the community. (The buses still work, but the poor community has no access to them because there's no terminal!)
And while the Olympic park does remain open to the portion of the public that's not too wary of tetanus or radscorpions, its complete lack of basic services, such as functional bathrooms (hey, that might explain those brown pools!), has pretty much left it a wasteland. The officials keep making promises that things will turn around, and who knows? Maybe one day in a distant, better future, they even might make good on their promises, provided that super mutants haven't declared the Maracana an independent state by then. For now, everyone seems to talk about the Olympics and their impact on Rio and the whole country as a white elephant.
But surely, the Olympics were at least good for Brazil's athletes? They won 19 medals and garnered worldwide attention, for fuck's sake! Well, don't say that to Philip Wu, who took home a silver medal in the 10m air pistol event. Instead of getting showered in accolades, financial dire straits and lack of funding have forced him to cut his competition and traveling schedule, and he recently got evicted for his troubles. Open water swimming bronze medalist Poliana Okimoto flat out states that her life is somehow more difficult than before winning the medal. In fact, the entire Brazilian sports scene is suffering the kind of crisis that'll affect this generation of athletes and the next. The government can't afford them anymore, sponsors have dried up, training centers are getting closed down, and elite coaches have fled the country like it was on fire. But hey, at least they have that kickass opening ceremony to reminisce about, right?
Pauli Poisuo is a Cracked columnist and freelance editor. Here he is on Facebook and Twitter.
The Samsung Galaxy Note is a lot better now as the Galaxy Note 8. You won't explode.
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