CURIOUS TIMES FEB. 18 EDITION 

HOW TO AVOID THE TOURIST HORDES

The first tourist to set foot in Iraq since 2003 has been put on a plane and sent back home after a short tour of Baghdad and Falluja. Somehow, the 33-year-old Italian man acquired a visa for Iraq in Turkey and managed to travel 200 miles overland to arrive at the Coral Palace hotel in Baghdad. The shocked hotel manager called the military police for advice on how to handle the Western tourist, and after making sure that he wasn't some crazy terrorist, they allowed him to take a short sightseeing trip through the cities of Baghdad and Falluja before forcing him to take the first flight back to Italy. (Herald Tribune)

HOTEL 666

While Iraq probably boasts the world's most dangerous hotels, America still ranks No. 1 in filth. So if you're planning a holiday, you'd be well advised to stay away from the 10 dirtiest hotels in America based on traveler reviews at tripadvisor.com. At the very top of this list sits the Hotel Carter near Times Square, New York City. According to one reviewer, the hotel is infested with "roaches, rats, mice, horrible smells, dirty sheets, horrifying bathrooms, outlets that hang out of walls ... But the worst part about it was that at 4 a.m. I woke up to a bunch of guys breaking into our hotel room while we were sleeping." Another reviewer claims, "It's like a horror movie in real life, it's so bad that it's just not for real." All this for only $130 a night.

ONE LAST CHANCE TO TELL EVERYONE WHAT YOU REALLY THOUGHT OF THEM

An inventor in California has applied for a patent for a video-equipped tombstone that will allow the dead to get the last word. Robert Barrows calls it "history from the horse's mouth," a deluxe headstone fitted with a flat LCD touch screen and a hard drive or microchip that would allow one final message to be delivered by the recently departed. If the patent is approved, Barrows hopes to create ever more elaborate final resting places at ever-increasing costs. "Cemeteries are places where people try to outdo each other, display their wealth and power," commented a professor in American studies. "This would certainly be a new way to do that." (New Scientist)

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

Astronomers from the University of Edinburgh have crunched the numbers and now claim that there are an estimated 37,964 planets with life in our galaxy. The calculation used data from the 330 planets known to man and extrapolated the number across the entire Milky Way. The astrophysicist who led the research also promised that as many as 361 of those planets would be home to intelligent civilizations at least as developed as our own and guessed that it will take about 300 to 400 years to achieve contact with one of our neighbors. (The Telegraph)

TOKE AND GROW RICH

As a tribute to the magic herb that made Michael Phelps the most successful Olympic athlete of all time, coedmagazine.com has compiled a list they call "The 10 Most Successful Potheads on the Planet ... Cool Enough to Admit It!" This list doesn't even attempt to be comprehensive, bypassing all of the greatest creative geniuses of all time ("Every actor, musician and artist ever is a huge pothead. It's a fact, don't dispute us," they claim), but does prove once and for all that smoking a bit of grass now and then won't turn you into an apathetic slob (not that there's anything wrong with that). So if you're looking for role models try these: Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin empire multi-billionaire who claims that if pot were legal, he would sell it; Aaron Sorkin, multiple Emmy Award-winning writer and producer of the West Wing; Rick Steves, world traveler, TV host and author of 27 best-selling travel guides; Ted Turner, creator of CNN and the largest private land owner in America; Steven King, author of 50 novels that have sold more than 500 million copies worldwide; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar, who radically liberalized the medical marijuana laws in California; and, last but not least, President Barack Obama, who wrote about his stoner past in his book and once told an interviewer, "When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently. That was the point."

INTERNET FACT OF THE WEEK

Picking up the garbage in high-crime areas lowers the crime rate by 20 percent.

Get way more bizarro news at curioustimes.com.

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