WTF Fun Fact 13428 – Montana Principal Horses Around

A Montana principal got an equine surprise thanks to a loophole in the law that some students decided to exploit as a senior prank. It involved a group of horses and a solemn duty to make sure they got fed.

Pranking the Montana principal with horses

What makes this story heartwarming is the unique blend of mischief and reverence for their rural roots. The graduating class of Conrad High School decided to give a nod to their cowboy culture. They swapped out the traditional senior prank with something far more creative – and far less destructive.

This merry band of seniors decided that the best way to celebrate impending graduation was by saddling up their horses. Then they took the 4 mile journey to class.

Twelve seniors at Conrad High School took advantage of what they believe is an old law. It mandates that if kids ride their horses to school, the principal has to care for them. The law remains unconfirmed, but the principal played along anyway.

“Montana has an old law saying if a student rides their horse to school, the school principal has to feed and tend to the horse throughout the day,” the school district said. “It looks like Mr. DeBruycker has his work cut out for him today,” noted the Charlotte Observer.

Just horsing around

The school’s principal, Raymond DeBruycker, was surprised by the unusual sight when he arrived to find these seniors had decided to carry wander in like cowboys. Far from being irritated, DeBruycker took the horseplay in stride.

Rather than meting out punishment, DeBruycker saw the humor and chose to honor the spirit of camaraderie and tradition. Clearly, he know it wasn’t causing any harm. In fact, it was connecting students to a facet of Montana’s cowboy culture in a fun and memorable way.

Even in the face of this unconventional situation, DeBruycker’s response was a testament to the tight-knit community at Conrad High School. It was clear that everyone wanted to honor the historical customs.

Whether or not there is a bona fide law permitting students to ride horses to school, one thing is certain. This tradition is becoming an endearing prank at a few different Montana schools.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Students ride horses to school, and Montana ‘law’ means principal has to care for them” — Charlotte Observer

WTF Fun Fact 13365 – The Copyright to “Happy Birthday to You”

For decades, the familiar tune of “Happy Birthday to You” was under strict copyright protection. That meant that any commercial use of the song required permission and a fee. This was the case until 2015.

The origins of “Happy Birthday to You”

The melody for “Happy Birthday to You” was composed in the late 19th century by sisters Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill. Originally known as “Good Morning to All,” the song aimed to greet children in a classroom setting.

In 1935 the Clayton F. Summy Company registered the melody and lyrics of “Happy Birthday to You” for copyright. This copyright protection granted them exclusive rights to the song. Technically, this restricted its public use without obtaining a license or paying royalties. As a result, countless public performances and recordings of the song required legal authorization.

Over the years, “Happy Birthday to You” became an iconic cultural staple, sung in homes, schools, restaurants, and even movies. Despite its widespread use, the song’s copyright remained firmly in place.

Ending the Happy Birthday copyright

The extent of the copyright’s reach became a topic of curiosity and controversy. In 2013, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Nelson sought to produce a film about the song’s history but was required to pay substantial licensing fees to include the song. Intrigued by the song’s copyright status, Nelson embarked on a legal battle to challenge its validity and uncover the truth behind this enduring musical monopoly.

In 2015, after years of legal proceedings, a federal judge ruled that the copyright claim to “Happy Birthday to You” was invalid. The court determined that the melody and lyrics of the song had long been part of the public domain. This released the song from its decades-long copyright imprisonment.

According to the Hollywood Reporter (cited below) Warner/Chappell Music, the company that held the copyright to “Happy Birthday to You,” agreed to pay a $14 million settlement in 2016. This settlement came after a class-action lawsuit challenged the validity of the copyright and sought reimbursement for years of licensing fees paid.

Entering the public domain

The resolution of the lawsuit marked a turning point, not only in the financial aspect but also in the recognition that the song rightfully belonged in the public domain. It allowed people worldwide to freely sing and share the timeless birthday anthem without any further encumbrance of licensing fees.

The release of “Happy Birthday to You” from copyright restrictions marked a significant milestone. It ensured that the song could be freely performed, recorded, and shared by people around the world.

Following the court ruling, Warner/Chappell Music faced a wave of legal claims seeking reimbursement for years of licensing fees paid. In 2016, Warner/Chappell Music agreed to settle the class-action lawsuit. They paid a $14 million settlement, finally closing the chapter on the decades-long copyright controversy.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Warner Music Pays $14 Million to End ‘Happy Birthday’ Copyright Lawsuit” — The Hollywood Reporter

WTF Fun Fact 13350 – Netherlands Sperm Donor

A Netherlands sperm donor has been told to stop donating after skirting the law and fathering over 550 children worldwide.

Sperm donation is a valuable service that can help countless couples and individuals realize their dreams of parenthood. However, the story of a man referred to only as “Jonathan” raises crucial questions about the potential consequences and ethical considerations surrounding sperm donation.

His prolific donations eventually led to him being banned from further donations due to concerns about the potential implications of having such a high number of offspring.

Netherlands sperm donor raises issues about genetic diversity

One of the primary issues arising from a single donor fathering a large number of children is the potential lack of genetic diversity within the donor-conceived community. This diversity is essential for maintaining a healthy population and avoiding potential genetic disorders. That’s because a limited gene pool increases the risk of inherited diseases and conditions. This can have long-term implications for the affected individuals and their families.

When a single donor has an excessive number of offspring, it increases the likelihood of his genetic traits being overrepresented within the donor-conceived community. This can lead to unintentional relationships between closely related individuals.

Donor regulations

This case highlights the importance of implementing stricter regulations on sperm donations. This includes limiting the number of offspring per donor and providing greater transparency in the industry. In fact, some countries have already implemented such measures.

In the Netherlands, where the prolific sperm donor’s case took place, they already strict regulations that govern sperm donation. Dutch law dictates that a sperm donor can father a maximum of 25 children.

However, the man managed to father over 550 children by bypassing these rules. He donated sperm at multiple fertility clinics and engaged in private arrangements outside of the Netherlands.

The lack of a centralized system to track donations across different clinics and private agreements facilitated his ability to donate far beyond the legal limit.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Sperm donor who fathered 550 children ordered to stop” — BBC News

WTF Fun Fact 13343 – Saverland v Newton

In 1837, a British man named Thomas Saverland took Miss Caroline Newton to court after she bit off part of his nose after he forcibly kissed her at a party. While Saverland v Newton went to a jury, the magistrate told them in advance that he would not punish the woman.

Saverland v Newton – No means no

Newspapers reported that Saverland showed up in court with the left part of his nose visibly damaged. But the injuries did not sway the magistrate. It appears he considered it an act of self-defense.

He told the jury that whatever verdict they returned, he would not punish the defendant. His reasoning was “if a man attempts to kiss a woman against her will, she has a right to bite his nose off if she has a fancy for so doing.”

It’s important to note that the fact-checking website Snopes looked into the ordeal and found it to be true. However, the note:

“…modern knowledge of Saverland v Newton comes to us not through a transcript of the court proceedings, or from the hearing’s having been included in a legal casebook of the time, but from an account published in a London newspaper (Bell’s New Weekly Messenger) on 30 April 1837. Early 19th-century newspaper reports being what they were (and sometimes still too often are), we can’t vouch for how much this account might have accurately reflected any genuine court proceeding.”

Reporting on the assault case

We’ll likely never know precisely what happened in the court (unless someone uncovers legal records). But the press reported that the injury was severe.

It all occurred in a tap room on the day after Christmas. Newton and her sister were apparently joking around about how the latter was there without her partner and had promised him not to let anyone kiss her in his absence. Saverland overheard this and apparently saw it as a challenge.

He kissed the sister, who reportedly took it as a joke. But Caroline Newton did not. After Saverland took the liberty of forcibly kissing her as well, they scuffled over his assault on the two women.

Saverland eventually went to another part of the room, and Newton followed him and struck him again. He tried to forcibly kiss her once again. But he got quite a surprise when she bit off part of his nose in self defense.

The man cried out and was reportedly covered in blood. Newton was seen spitting out the small piece of his nose she bit off.

Insults and injuries

According to the newspaper report:

“The defendant, a fat, middle-aged woman, treated the matter with great levity, and said he had no business to kiss her sister, or attempt to kiss her, in a public house; they were not such kind of people. If she wanted to be kissed, she had a husband to kiss her, and he was a much handsomer man than [complainant] ever was, even before he lost his nose.”

The jury’s acquittal of Newton may come as no surprise. The magistrate overseeing the trial potentially influenced it with his statement that if the jury found her guilty, “the court would not fine her more than 1s., as the prosecutor had brought the punishment on himself.”

Reportedly, “The Chairman told the prosecutor he was sorry for the loss of his nose, but if he would play with cats, he must expect to get scratched.”

The courtroom also had a good laugh at the complainant’s expense.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Curious Case of the Bitten-Off Nose Kiss” — Snopes

WTF Fun Fact 13330 – Kamikatsu Recycling

Kamikatsu recycling is intense. Citizens are expected to separate their recycling into 45 different categories! Kamikatsu is a small town located in Tokushima prefecture in Japan. It has become a paragon of innovation in waste management and, more specifically, recycling.

How did the strict Kamikatsu recycling program begin?

They began their journey to zero waste began in 2003 when the government mandated a policy to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. The town stepped up in a big way, making its unique zero-waste initiative become a model for sustainability.

Kamikatsu’s strict recycling program requires residents to sort their waste into 45 different categories. The program is designed to maximize the amount of waste that can be recycled or reused and minimize the amount of waste that goes to landfills.

Some of the categories include:

  • Paper (including newspapers, magazines, cardboard, and packaging)
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Aluminum cans and foil
  • Steel cans
  • Plastic containers (sorted by type)
  • PET bottles (sorted by color)
  • Tetra Pak packaging (such as juice boxes)
  • Food waste (to be composted)
  • Textiles (such as clothing and fabric)
  • Appliances and electronics
  • Batteries
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Bulky waste (such as furniture and mattresses)
  • Construction waste

Residents are even required to wash their waste before placing it into the correct bins.

What are the challenges of this type of program?

The town’s recycling facility has separate areas for each category of waste, and staff members carefully sort the materials. Of course, this comes with challenges. One is the cost of transportation – the town is in a remote location.

The second challenge is one all towns and cities face – the need to change the mindset and behavior of residents. The town has implemented a variety of programs to educate residents about the importance of waste reduction and recycling, including workshops, events, and campaigns.

However, changing deeply ingrained habits and attitudes takes time and persistence. As you might imagine, the town’s strict recycling requirements have been met with mixed reactions from residents. Some find the requirements to be burdensome and time-consuming.

Nevertheless, Kamikatsu has become a model for sustainable waste management and has earned international recognition for its sustainability project.

Meeting goals

Originally, the goal was for Kamikatsu to become a zero-waste town by 2020. While the town did not exactly happen, it has made significant progress in reducing its waste output.

By 2020, over 80% of its waste was being recycled, composted, or reused. The town has also taken steps towards becoming carbon-neutral, building a solar power plant and financing a project to turn food waste into biogas.

In 2016, the town opened its Zero Waste Academy to educate visitors about its recycling program.

Kamikatsu’s journey towards zero waste and carbon neutrality is a glimpse into a sustainable future and an inspiration to individuals and communities around the world.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “‘No-waste’ Japanese village is a peek into carbon-neutral future” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13227 – The First Insurance Company

The first insurance company was established in the city of Genoa, Italy in the late 14th century. It provided coverage for ship captains and merchants in case their cargo was lost at sea.

Technically, it was the first modern insurance company, since insurance goes back to roughly 2000 BC.

What do we know about the first insurance company?

The city of Genoa, Italy was a center of commerce and trade in the 15th century. That’s partly because it was a natural stop for merchants and ship captains traveling across the Mediterranean to trade goods.

With so much trade and commerce taking place, loss was inevitable – especially at sea. it was only natural that a system of risk management would develop to protect merchants and ship captains from financial loss. In fact, these types of contracts had existed for over 1000 years, but had previously been tied to loans.

While we don’t know much about the group that constituted the first insurance company Genoa in the late 14th century, it appears to have been created as a mutual aid society. In other words, members paid premiums and shared the cost of losses in case their cargo was lost at sea.

By the mid-15th century, insurance was a well-established industry in Genoa, and the city became known as a hub of insurance and risk management.

However, the insurance industry did face challenges at the start. For example, the city and its docks were at constant risk from attacks by pirates and other thieves. As a result, insurance companies had to find ways to provide coverage in the midst of many unpredictable dangers.

Of course, the insurance industry became incredibly lucrative. So much so that the government subjected it to hefty taxes.

Much of what we know about the details of Genoa’s early insurance days comes from two contracts. They were signed by seafarers in 1343 and 1347. These were the first insurance contracts not to be tied to marine loans. This made them unique by tying them to a company that solely dealt in risk management. In other words, the first insurance company.

The first insurance contracts

But insurance itself doesn’t begin in Genoa.

Insurance contracts have a long history, dating back to ancient civilizations. Over 2000 years ago, people would pool their resources to protect against financial loss. The loss could have been caused by unforeseen events such as fire, theft, or death. While it’s unlike the modern contracts offered by insurance companies today, this concept of mutual protection and risk sharing is considered to be the earliest form of insurance.

We know this took place in ancient Babylon because we still have fragments of the stones the contracts were chiseled into. They indicate that merchants would pool resources to protect against losses from shipping and trade. If a merchant’s goods were lost or damaged during transit, the other members of the pool would share the cost of the loss.

Merchants in the Roman Empire also used mutual aid insurance to protect against the loss of cargo and ships during sea voyages. Merchants would form associations to share the risk of loss.

While this may seem benevolent in terms of modern life, a person who engaged in mutual aid could rest easier knowing that it was unlikely that one event would cost them everything.

These early forms of insurance were informal. Many times, there were no formal contracts or regulations, and the terms and conditions of the insurance arrangements were often defined by custom and tradition.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Earliest Insurance Contract. A New Discovery” — The Journal of Risk and Insurance

WTF Fun Fact 13131 – Queensland’s Rabbit Laws

We’ve heard of rabbit control, but Queensland’s Rabbit Laws are a bit on the strange side. For example, you cannot own a rabbit in Queensland unless you can prove you are going to display it for an acceptable purpose.

Queensland, Australia’s unique outlook on rabbits

It’s illegal to keep a rabbit as a pet in the state of Queensland. But according to the state’s business website: “…you can obtain a European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) for the purposes of exhibiting to the public. Under the Exhibited Animals Act 2015 (EAA) rabbits are category B species and may be exhibited for purposes such as educational exhibits or for entertainment.”

Those who work with rabbits much apply for a license and the premise at which the exhibition takes place needs to be licensed as well. “An example may include an invasive pest educational centre, or a zoo where the public enter the regular enclosure site to view the rabbit.”

The rules continue: “Rabbits may also be obtained solely for the purposes of exhibition outside of the premise where the licence is issued to (off the regular enclosure site). An example of activities permitted solely off the regular enclosure site include persons in the business of conducting magic performances at children’s parties.”

Queensland’s rabbit laws, continued

You must apply to exhibit a rabbit using an authorized form as well as submit a management plan detailing the way you are going to exhibit the rabbit and deal with it on a daily basis.

The management plan must address “animal welfare, human health, safety and wellbeing, social amenity, the economy and the environment…” People need to be aware of their obligations.

Why is this all such a big deal? Well, rabbits are an invasive species that Queensland has been trying to get rid of since the 1880s!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Exhibiting a rabbit” — Business Queensland

WTF Fun Fact 13080 – Errors in Hair Analysis

Crime scene analysis and the scientific investigation of crime scenes got a lot of attention once we started seeing them on television. More people than ever wanted to go into the field. But the science underlying some of these investigations is shaky at best. And in 2015, the FBI had to admit that at least one aspect of their crime scene analysis training was seriously flawed. Over 3000 cases needed to be rechecked for errors in hair analysis.

The Innocence Project

Sometimes we think the science on biological evidence left at a crime scene must be iron-clad or prove that a person was there. But that’s simply not the case.

In fact, it was the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Innocence Project, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) who jointly reported that:

“…the Department and the FBI are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI also are committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis testimony, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science. The Department and FBI have devoted considerable resources to this effort and will continue to do so until all of the identified hair cases are addressed.”

Improving the science going forward

Of the past errors, the statement also revealed:

“These findings confirm that FBI microscopic hair analysts committed widespread, systematic error, grossly exaggerating the significance of their data under oath with the consequence of unfairly bolstering the prosecutions’ case,” said Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “While the FBI and DOJ are to be commended for bringing these errors to light and notifying many of the people adversely affected, this epic miscarriage of justice calls for a rigorous review to determine how this started almost four decades ago and why it took so long to come to light. We also need lawmakers in Washington to step up and demand research and national standards to prevent the exaggeration of results in reports and in testimony by crime lab analysts.”

Sadly, many who were perhaps wrongfully convicted still had to wait for evidence to be reassessed.

“It will be many months before we can know how many people were wrongly convicted based on this flawed evidence, but it seems certain that there will be many whose liberty was deprived and lives destroyed by prosecutorial reliance on this flawed, albeit highly persuasive evidence. Just as we need lawmakers to prevent future systemic failures, we need courts to give those who were impacted by this evidence a second look at their convictions,” said Norman L. Reimer, Executor Director of NACDL.  WTF fun facts

Source: “FBI Testimony on Microscopic Hair Analysis Contained Errors in at Least 90 Percent of Cases in Ongoing Review” —

WTF Fun Fact 13056 – Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin

Did you know a woman was elected to Congress before women in the U.S. even had the right to vote? Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin was elected to represent the state of Montana in 1916. That was four years before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

Who was Jeannette Rankin?

Born in 1880 near Missoula, Montana (then a territory), Rankin was born to a prosperous rancher who had emigrated from Canada.

Jeannette Rankin was educated at what was then called Montana State University in Missoula (now known as the University of Montana). She graduated in 1902 with a biology degree, became a teacher, and then an apprentice to a seamstress.

After a trip to San Francisco in 1904, Rankin started volunteering and developed an interest in social work. She graduated from the New York School of Philanthropy (now called the Columbia University School of Social Work) in 1909. Then she moved to Spokane, Washington to take a job helping children in need.

Rankin served two nonconsecutive terms in the House during World War I and II but was known for voting against America’s entry into those wars. Her platform largely centered around expanding women’s voting rights, ensuring better working conditions for American laborers, and improving access to healthcare for women and children.

In 1917, when she took office, she said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress. But I won’t be the last.”

Jeannette Rankin’s road to Congress

Rankin then traveled around the country, doing everything from organizing immigrant laborers after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to supporting nationwide suffrage for women.

She played one of the most significant roles in helping women gain the right to vote in Montana and then decided to run for one of Montana’s at-large House seats in 1916. While there was no national right to suffrage for women at the time, many Western states had passed their own laws.

When Rankin ran for office, she was one of many women who ran that year but the only female winner. In Kansas, over 300 women ran for office. In her own state, Rankin’s campaign was entirely ignored by the local press.

According to her webpage on the U.S. House of Representatives website (cited below), she won the Republic primary by more than 7000 votes. “Her platform supported several prominent issues during the Progressive Era—including nationwide suffrage, child welfare legislation, and the prohibition of alcohol.

“Because Montana was so sparsely populated, election results trickled in over three days. But in early November 1916, news arrived that Rankin had become the first woman in American history to win a seat in Congress. Although she trailed the frontrunner, Democratic Representative John Morgan Evans, by 7,600 votes, Rankin secured the second At-Large seat by topping the third-place candidate—another Democrat—by 6,000 votes.”

Not surprisingly, as the first female member of Congress, she was held to different standards, often being asked about her clothing more often than her politics.

But when she was sworn into office, she was greeted with loud applause.

Rankin’s political career

As a pacifist, she was criticized often, despite correspondence from her constituents leaning in favor of the U.S. staying out of WWI. But once the U.S. entered the war, she turned her attention to ensuring troops had what they needed while continuing to fight for national suffrage and workers’ rights in factories.

Redistricting eliminated her at-large House seat in 1917, so she ran for Senate in 1918. However, she lost by 2000 votes.

She continued her service work outside of Congress until 1940, when she challenged an anti-Semitic House Representative for Montana’s western district. She won the primary and then the election, returning to the House with 54% of the vote.

When Jeannette Rankin returned to Congress decades after her first stint, she sat alongside six other women.

However, her second stint was less successful since her pacifism was even less popular during WWII. She did not run for re-election in 1942. At the time of her death in 1973, however, she was considering another House campaign to protest the war in Vietnam.  WTF fun facts

Source: “RANKIN, Jeannette” — U.S. House of Representatives