Employees in Russia were recently taught to smile so they would appear friendlier to foreigners. The BBC reports that the nation's public transport authorities are providing special smile training for workers at organizations like Russian Railways, Fifa and the Moscow Metro in preparation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. According to the The Atlantic, there's an old Russian adage that says, “Laughter without reason is a mark of fools.” Smiling at a stranger can reportedly be considered a sign of stupidity or deceitfulness in Russian culture. Film director Yulia Melamed told reporters that she was once stopped by a Russian police officer for smiling on the street. Authorities worried that this cultural difference could cause misunderstandings as millions of tourists were expected to make their way to the country during the World Cup, prompting them to initiate the smile training sessions. While Russian train workers were being taught to be more welcoming, a member of Parliament warned the country's women to avoid having sex with foreign men of different races, the New York Times reports. Another cautioned against hugging or touching visitors, as they might carry infectious diseases.
A man who believed he'd been sold tainted crystal meth brought it to a police station to be tested. Last week, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office in Florida posted a notice on Facebook stating they will now offer free drug testing to anyone who believes they were sold bad drugs. According to the post, Douglas Peter Kelly contacted the sheriff's office and told them that he had purchased illegal methamphetamine a week earlier and had suffered a “bad reaction” after smoking it. He reportedly told officers that he was concerned he had been sold the wrong drug and wanted to have the substance tested. If it wasn't methamphetamine, he said he wanted to “press charges” against the person who sold it to him. In an “effort to ensure the quality of the drug,” detectives invited Kelly to the sheriff's office to have the substance tested at no charge. The man drove to the station and surrendered a clear, crystal-like substance to detectives, who immediately tested it. They delivered the good news to Kelly: The substance was indeed crystal methamphetamine. He was then arrested and charged with possession of an illegal drug. He is currently being held on $5,000 bond, according to law enforcement officials, who say they are “always ready to assist anyone who believes they were misled in their illegal drug purchase.”
A university is offering $3,500 to anyone willing to be exposed to the flu virus at the “Hotel Influenza.” Scientists at the new Extended Stay Research Unit at St. Louis University's Center for Vaccine Development want to begin conducting “human challenge influenza studies.” Volunteers will receive either a vaccine or placebo and then be exposed to the influenza virus. They will then be quarantined in SLU’s challenge unit for around 10 days. Guests at the Hotel Influenza will be treated to the “trappings of a staycation,” and will enjoy private hotel-style accommodations, including television, internet and private bathrooms. A common area provides comfortable seating for socializing and entertainment, and catered meals will be served in the dining room. There's even exercise equipment for those who have the strength. Researchers say the human challenge study will assist scientists in developing a universal influenza vaccine. Currently, new flu vaccines have to be developed annually, as each one only targets a specific strain. A universal vaccine would protect people from many strains of flu. Scientists at SLU also hope the new Extended Stay Research Unit will provide better drug studies relating to other illnesses in the future.
A skyscraper-climbing raccoon has become an internet star after it scaled a 25-story building in downtown St. Paul, Minn. The animal was spotted trapped on the ledge of a building last week. According to Vox, maintenance workers attempted to rescue the animal, but it became frightened and ran to a neighboring building—where it began climbing upward. The raccoon's stunt caused a stir on various social media sites, where numerous images and videos were posted live by onlookers. After nearly 16 hours on the building, the raccoon safely made it to the roof of the building, where authorities were able to trap it. Wildlife Management Service later posted a video of the animal being released in a nearby suburb.
The mayor of a small town in North Dakota won the election thanks to three unanimous votes. NPR's “Morning Edition” reports Bruce Lorenz, mayor of Ruso, N.D.—the state's smallest incorporated city—was reelected last week with 100 percent of the 3 votes cast in the election. According to the report, the mayor, who is 86-years-old had forgotten it was election day until his daughter reminded him. It is unclear what the outcome would have been had voter turnout been lower.