Odd news items
Items which may have escaped your attention are presented here as an enormous public service for those of you who have no interest or concern for political news, no opinions on controversial topics, and no great concern about high taxes, loss of individual liberties, lack of privacy, or abuse of power.  These news stories are for simple amusement, and they are on display here for entertainment only.

100 trees felled for solar project in office park.  A company that manages an office park on Garret Mountain plans to build a large array of solar panel canopies over its parking lots that will generate enough energy to power two buildings on the site.  To make way for the canopies, the company recently cut down more than 100 trees in the grassy medians between rows of parking spaces on the property, near Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park.  Putting a solar array on commercial property is part of a larger trend in New Jersey, one that is greatly encouraged by environmental groups wherever there is room to harness the sun's energy.  But the environmental irony in this case is hard to miss.

Car-stealing 'mystery device' uncovered.  The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has gotten hold of a "mystery device" that thieves have been spotted on security cameras using to electronically open and start cars.  The organization says that it obtained it through an outside security expert who purchased it overseas.  It describes it as a "relay attack" unit that was originally designed for manufacturers to test the security of their wireless systems, but it and others like it have made their way into criminal hands, and handmade versions have also been discovered.

Retired Air Force officer claims he saw infamous UFO sighting.  A retired US Air Force officer claims he had a close encounter in a British forest nearly four decades ago.  Steve Longero revealed Monday that he was a witness to the infamous 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident in Suffolk, England — dubbed "Britain's Roswell" — where military personnel claimed they saw a UFO during a stretch of three spacey December nights.

Weapons From the Future That Are Actually Here Now.  It may sound like the kind of science fiction contraptions that would show up in a James Bond film or some other futuristic Hollywood spectacle... but these weapons are now making their way to the battlefield.  The technology that is understood by the general public is seriously outdated.  There has been a revolution of new advances in technology, and much of it draws heavily from the use of electromagnetic energy, lasers and A.I. robots.  The future is downright deadly — that is, if you wind up in the crosshairs.

Megaphone Translator in Japan Makes It Easy to Shout in Different Languages.  Japan's obsession with keeping order and tech prowess has reached its natural conclusion with an intelligent megaphone that can issue commands in Chinese, English and Korean.  Panasonic Corp. recently unveiled the device — essentially a smartphone paired with a handheld loudspeaker — betting that police, event organizers and transport staff seeking to control crowds will be eager to get their hands on something that lets them bark orders to a large group of people at once.

Restaurant requires costumers to solve complex math equation to get Wi-Fi.  A San Antonio Thai restaurant, Yaya, will let you use its Wi-Fi for free — but only if you can solve this insanely complex math equation.  Reddit user "Joshua_Glock" posted a picture of the restaurant's handwritten Wi-Fi equation this past weekend, but no one has been able to connect to the network yet, First We Feast reported.

4 Common Buttons That Probably Don't Even Work.  There's no more satisfying way to signal intent than to firmly press a button.  But you should know that not every button or dial you see actually works.  Some are placebo buttons, buttons that do nothing.  A psychological paper written in 1975 by Ellen Langer suggests a compelling argument for these sorts of buttons.  People are calmer when they feel they have control, and buttons help them do that whether those buttons work or not.  But more often than not, these non functional buttons used to do something; they have just been turned off in favor of an automated solution and it's simpler to leave them there than it is to remove them.

How A Few Words To Siri Unlocked A Man's Front Door And Exposed A Major Security Flaw In Apple's HomeKit.  [Scroll down]  He then shouted, "Hey Siri, unlock the front door."  The door unlocked.  The iPad Pro sitting in the living room was able to hear Mike through the front door and issued the unlock command.  Marcus was stunned.  The two laughed it off.  Marcus then tried to repeat the unlocking trick several more times and was surprised by how easy it was.  He didn't even have to yell that loud.

How to tell if your co-worker is a psychopath.  Groundbreaking research presented at the Australian Psychology Society Congress in Melbourne this week reveals that one in five corporate workers may have the disorder — as many as in the prison population.  Forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks found that psychopathic traits are common in the upper echelons of the corporate world, with a prevalence of between 3 and 21 percent (the latter in a study of supply chain professionals).  The term "successful psychopath" describes high flyers with psychopathic traits such as insincerity, a lack of empathy or remorse, egocentricity, charm and superficiality.

Police: Pennsylvania man stole 300,000 pennies from employer.  He's accused of taking a steel drum filled with $3,000 worth of pennies from Pyne Freight Lines, where he worked as a mechanic.

Facebook fires human editors, algorithm immediately posts fake news.  Earlier this year, Facebook denied criticisms that its Trending feature was surfacing news stories that were biased against conservatives.  But in an abrupt reversal, the company fired all the human editors for Trending on Friday afternoon [8/26/2016], replacing them with an algorithm that promotes stories based entirely on what Facebook users are talking about.  Within 72 hours, according to the Washington Post, the top story on Trending was about how Fox News icon Megyn Kelly was a pro-Clinton "traitor" who had been fired (she wasn't).

Kansas couple sues over hellish IP address quirk.  James and Theresa Arnold rented a farmhouse in Potwin [Kansas] in 2011.  That's when the problems started. [...] The Arnolds filed a lawsuit against MaxMind on Monday [8/8/2016], seeking more than $75,000 in damages, KMBC reports.  The lawsuit claims the tech company made the Arnolds' farmhouse the default physical address of any website for which it couldn't locate an IP address.  (The home's front yard happens to be the center of the US, per the Eagle.)  Over 14 years, the farmhouse became the default location for 600 million IP addresses.

Man Shares Horrifying Tale After Roomba Vacuum Tracks Poop Across Home.  An Arkansas family went to bed expecting to get a restful night's sleep — but what they got was anything but restful.  In a Facebook post, Jesse Newton explains that his puppy, Evie defecated in the living room at some point after the family went to bed for the night.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the family's Roomba vacuum cleaner (which was programmed to start vacuuming the house at 1:30 am) then proceeded to track Evie's surprise all over the house as it attempted to clean overnight.

The Future Of Crime:  The Drone Era, Part I.  Drone tech has been driven by a strange confluence of improvements in miniaturization (nano-technology), increased transistor density, and materials science.  While the majority of drone applications appear to be in more traditional ventures such as aerial photography and exploration, a little-discussed aspect relates to how drones could be leveraged for criminal activities.  Likewise, for firms focused on security, there will be a growing need to create drone countermeasures.

Study: 98% Of Us Will Sign Away Our Firstborn Because We Don't Read The Terms Of Service.  A new study from researchers at two universities has confirmed what most of us already anecdotally know:  nobody's actually reading the fine print, even if they should.  And how did the researchers find this, you may ask?  By creating a fictitious social networking site that research participants signed up for.  The privacy policy and terms of service for this fictitious site were modeled on existing documents on another social network (LinkedIn), and checked in at roughly 8000 and 4000 words respectively.  But this fake site's policies included a few extra clauses that should have raised eyebrows.

How Subarus Came to Be Seen as Cars for Lesbians.  In the 1990s, Subaru's unique selling point was that the company increasingly made all-wheel drive standard on all its cars.  When the company's marketers went searching for people willing to pay a premium for all-wheel drive, they identified four core groups who were responsible for half of the company's American sales: teachers and educators, health-care professionals, IT professionals, and outdoorsy types.  Then they discovered a fifth: lesbians.  "When we did the research, we found pockets of the country like Northampton, Massachusetts, and Portland, Oregon, where the head of the household would be a single person — and often a woman," says Tim Bennett, who was the company's director of advertising at the time.  When marketers talked to these customers, they realized these women buying Subarus were lesbian.

Watch the world's biggest plane land in Australia.  Tens of thousands of Australians turned out to gawk as the world's largest plane descended into Perth's airport on Sunday.  The hulking Antonov An-225 cargo plane, which boasts six engines and wings that measure almost 300 feet long, was delivering a 100-plus-ton generator for a refinery.  It landed smoothly with puffs of smoke from its many wheels.  [Video clip]

Chinese woman trapped for a month in an elevator starves to death.  Elevator maintenance men returning to work after a month-long break for Chinese New Year made a horrific discovery last week when they opened the cab of a broken lift and found the body of a woman who had been trapped inside since late January and starved to death.

The Editor says...
Apparently the elevators in China do not have ALARM buttons.

This fake swimming pool messes with your mind.  Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich created a mind-bending exhibit at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan that gives visitors the illusion that people are submerged in nine feet of water. [...] Erlich's work tries to "undermine the human senses," and "enter into relationships with spaces, and grasp reality."

Man walks into unlocked, empty Arizona Wells Fargo bank on Veterans Day.  An Arizona man walked into his local Wells Fargo Bank on Wednesday [11/11/2015], which was also Veterans Day, only to find no one working in the building.  Rey Lopez told KTVK he didn't even realize it was holiday, but when he walked around the Mesa bank he knew something was off as no one was around.  Lopez said he called out to see if anyone was in the back and then he checked the office.  Nobody was there.

Somehow, a Gitmo Detainee Was on Match.com.  [A]ccording to reports, a Guantanamo Bay prisoner was looking for love on Match.com, declaring himself "detained but ready to mingle."  Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani, who was believed at one time to have close ties to Usama bin Laden, maintained the dating profile for three years, according to his attorney, Carlos Warner.  The prisoner's location is set to Guantanamo Bay, and his tagline reads, "Detained but ready to mingle."  Still, he reportedly gets matched with other users daily.

How Alcohol Made America Great (Most of the Time).  Much like her late father, [Susan] Cheever is a terrific writer as well as a recovering alcoholic.  "I haven't had a drink in more than 20 years," she maintains.  But there's another pattern here.  She points out that "all five of our twentieth-century Nobel laureates were alcoholics — Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O'Neill, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck."  And, of course, there's F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edgar Allan Poe.  American writers like to drink.  A lot.

Guy Named Vince Creates 'Reply All' Chaos at Reuters.  Ever done something you wished you could take back?  Like accidentally sent an email to 33,000 Thomson Reuters employees?  That's what some guy named Vince apparently did yesterday [8/26/2015], flooding inboxes and setting off a "reply all" chain that some say slowed down Reuters email and provided the Internet with Twitter gold, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Study: Playing Tetris can help ease cravings.  Playing the block-stacking video game Tetris can ease cravings for food and drugs by about one-fifth, researchers found in a study of people in natural settings outside a laboratory.

Map from Carpe Diem Blog
A map of what every state would be if it were a country.  The American economy is really big.  That's the takeaway of this fascinating map of the United States from Mark Perry, an economist who runs the Carpe Diem blog at the American Enterprise Institute.  The map, which has been around for a while, has a lot of explanatory power when it comes to America's position in the global economy.  For each state, Perry finds a country that had a roughly similarly sized economy in 2013.


Tweeting Fridges and Web Controlled Rice Cookers: 9 of the Stupidest Smart Home Appliances.  There are a lot of incredible smart home devices out there that are worthy of your time and money. [...] But then there are the WiFi enabled, smartphone-powered appliances that aren't quite as useful.  The kinds that should never see the light of day.  Here are 9 of the worst.

Highlands woman held hostage asks for help in online pizza order.  A quick-thinking Highlands County woman saved herself and her children from possible harm when she ordered an online pizza with a secret message saying she was being held hostage.

IG Audit: 6.5 Million People With Active Social Security Numbers Are 112 or Older.  Many people are living longer, but not to age 112 or beyond — except in the records of the Social Security Administration.  The SSA's inspector general has identified 6.5 million number-holders age 112 — or older — for whom no death date has been entered in the main electronic file, called Numident.  The audit, dated March 4, 2015, concluded that SSA lacks the controls necessary to annote death information on the records of number-holders who exceed "maximum reasonable life expectancies."

LA Health Officials Take Action After Local Supermarket Sells Raccoons As Food.  The Health Department has taken action after a local supermarket's frozen foods section featured an unusual item.  Inspectors from the LA County Health Department visited the Metro Supermarket in Temple City on Tuesday [2/10/2015], after being informed that the market was selling raccoons as food.  Employees at the market declined to appear on camera, but did show entire raccoons, frozen, bagged, and selling for $9.99 per pound.  The employees say raccoon is considered a delicacy in China.

The secret railway under the Waldorf Astoria.  These rusted and decaying railway tracks may seem like any of the thousands of feet of disused track that snake under midtown Manhattan.  But this discreet siding, Grand Central Terminal's 'Track 61' was once a vital tool in the arsenal of wartime President Franklin D Roosevelt and could yet spring into action again.

The Town Without Wi-Fi.  The residents of Green Bank, West Virginia, can't use cell phones, wi-fi, or other kinds of modern technology due to a high-tech government telescope.  Recently, this ban has made the town a magnet for technophobes, and the locals aren't thrilled to have them.

Man From Fruitvale Arrested For Pointing Banana at Officer Bunch.  Nathen Channing, a 27-year-old resident of Fruitvale, Colorado, was taken into custody on Sunday night for pointing a banana at a pair of Mesa County Sheriff's deputies, both of whom initially believed the piece of fruit was a handgun.  The two involved Mesa County deputies were identified as Joshua Bunch and Donald Love, both of whom were identified as victims in the case against Channing, who was arrested on two counts of felony menacing.

The Secret Life of Passwords.  Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives.  They derive from anything:  Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages.  Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.

Dead California candidate leads in race.  A candidate for a seat on a Central California board may win his race, despite having died last month in a small plane crash.

Rocket-Propelled Bicycle Breaks World Record At 207 MPH.  François Gissy of France attached rockets to a bicycle that was reportedly 90% homemade and featured hydrogen peroxide-powered rockets attached to the rear of the two-wheeler.  Gissy reached a blistering 333 km/h in just 4.8 seconds and set a new record while on the famous Circuit Paul Ricard located at Le Castellet in South of France.

Anti-violence activists charged in vicious attack.  Two "Stop the Violence" organizers allegedly beat one of their colleagues so severely that he vomited blood and was left unconscious in critical condition.

A lot of the celebrities who appeared in the midterm Rock The Vote PSA didn't actually vote in the last midterm.  Rock The Vote released a public service announcement last month with a parody of Lil Jon's "Turn Down For What" that featured public figures who explained why they planned to vote in the midterm elections, but according to public records, a number of them didn't vote in the last midterm election.

Camel maker Reynolds halts workplace smoking.  The nation's second-biggest tobacco company informed employees Wednesday [10/22/2014] that beginning next year, the use of traditional cigarettes, cigars or pipes will no longer be permitted at employee desks or offices, conference rooms, hallways and elevators.

Burger King in Japan introduces an all-black cheese burger.  The cheese looks like slices of processed American cheese singles — but dark as night — and reportedly made with smoked charcoal.  The cheese is layered on a beef patty, which contains black pepper and topped with a black sauce made with onion, garlic, and squid ink.  All of this is placed between two buns, also made of charcoal.

Why One West Virginia Town Has Banned Cell Phones.  Only four hours west of Washington, there is a town where cell phones and wireless Internet are outlawed.  Commercial radios are banned, and microwaves aren't welcome either.  Green Bank might sound like a Luddite's dreamscape, but the West Virginia hamlet's self-imposed blackout is being done all in the name of science:  Green Bank is home to the world's largest radio telescope, a 100-meters-in-diameter dish that is the crown jewel of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Why car thieves love to steal Honda Accords.  Ever get a sinking feeling when you're looking for your car in a parking lot and can't find it? If you drive a Honda Accord, you are more likely than those who drive other cars to find an empty spot where your car used to be.

Owl enters 10th story apartment, kills canary.  An owl flew into a 10th story apartment in Coeur d'Alene, apparently opened a bird cage and killed one of two canaries inside, the residents said.

New York's smallest piece of private land.  The Hess Triangle is a tiny piece of private property in Greenwich Village.  Manhattan historian Joyce Gold explained the origins of the property:  After World War I, New York City seized a beautiful residence and tore it down so it could extend Seventh Avenue and the west side subway below it.  The city left the building's owner, David Hess, only a tiny scrap of property so small it requested he donate the triangle to make way for a sidewalk.  Hess refused, took the city to court, and won.

Why Criminals Are Afraid of Classical Music.  Many young people, especially the anti-social, dislike classical music so much that it can be played to discourage them from intimidating, harassing and robbing.  This experiment has been successful over many years in countless locations. [...] In the UK, the first to do so was the Tyne-and-Wear Metro system in 1997, following Montreal's underground system in Canada.  Other British transport providers, including the much bigger London Underground, imitated the scheme.  The most effective deterrents were anything sung by Pavarotti or written by Mozart.

Paper or Power: Nothing Cut and Dried About Hand Washing in Restrooms.  Over the past decade, dryers have become faster and cheaper.  But despite technological advances, hand dryers leave millions of Americans unsatisfied.  In [Stacy] Hafeman's opinion, dryers circulate bathroom bacteria and dump germs onto her hands.  For her, the old-fashioned paper towel is the way to go.  But manufacturers think they will soon gain an upper hand in this soap opera, with a new generation of machines they say will make the drying process more efficient, cleaner and downright pleasurable.

Felon killed the same day a jury accidentally set him free.  Just hours after he was released from prison because of a California jury's error, an accused burglar was killed in a violent fight.  "Thirty-seven-year-old Bobby Lee Pearson was accidentally released when a jury in Fresno, California, filled out a not guilty form instead of telling a judge they were deadlocked."  "Police say that Willie Gray, the boyfriend of Pearson's sister, killed him during a dispute when he returned home."

Germans have a really hard time saying 'squirrel'.  A few years ago, Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson pointed out that the best way to expose a German spy would be to ask them to say the word "squirrel," because "no German, no matter how well they speak English, can say 'squirrel.'"  So naturally, someone tested the premise and made a video of it.

Meal Sickens People at Food Safety Summit.  Maryland health officials are investigating possible cases of food poisoning at what may be the worst-ever venue — a gathering of government and industry leaders attending a national Food Safety Summit.  At least four people called the Baltimore City Health Department this week to report that they developed diarrhea, nausea and other symptoms about 12 hours after eating a meal April 9 during the conference at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Why UPS Trucks Don't Turn Left.  When better tracking systems emerged in 2001, the package delivery service took a closer look at how trucks performed when delivering packages. [...] UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency.  Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents.  By mapping out routes that involved "a series of right-hand loops," UPS improved profits and safety while touting their catchy, environmentally friendly policy.

Court stenographer endlessly types 'I hate my job,' puts cases in jeopardy: report.  A New York City court stenographer may have botched dozens of transcripts in an apparent meltdown, leaving legal teams scrambling to repair the damage.  Daniel Kochanski, 43, typed gibberish on some 30 Manhattan court cases and may have jeopardized hard-won convictions, the New York Post said.  "It should have been questions and answers — instead it was gibberish," a source said.  "He hit random keys or wrote, 'I hate my job.  I hate my job.  I hate my job,' over and over," another source said.

Ridgewood inspector admits to stealing $460,000 in quarters from village.  There are coin collectors, and then there's Thomas Rica.  While the true hobbyist seeks quality coinage, Rica was more interested in quantity — amassing 1.8 million individual quarters.  Unfortunately, he acquired them illegally.

Update:
Ridgewood officials: Probe finds another $340,000 in meter quarters stolen.  The great quarter heist from Ridgewood Village Hall was even greater — $377,526 more than originally thought, according to the results of a forensic audit into the theft of parking meter revenue by one employee.  Auditors found that nearly $850,000 was stolen from the now-infamous coin room where collected parking meter quarters were stored.  Thomas Rica, the village's former public works inspector, admitted in March that he had pilfered fistfuls of quarters from the room, to the tune of $460,000.  The audit found that he may have actually taken $471,815, but that still leaves more than $377,000 unaccounted for.

The Editor says...
$100 in quarters weighs five pounds.*  $377,000 in quarters would weigh 9.4 tons, so they're probably not in somebody's attic.

Intruder scared away by Big Mouth Billy Bass.  The crime scene of a break-in at a Rochester's Hooked on Fishing shop showed evidence that a burglar got scared off by a motion-activated, singing bass, authorities said.

Smart refrigerators and TVs hacked to send out spam, according to a new report.  A new report shows cyberattacks aren't relegated to laptops anymore:  Now, even a fridge or a TV can send malicious emails.  Security firm Proofpoint has uncovered a cyberattack that involved the hacking of "smart" home appliances connected to the Internet.  Hackers broke into more than 100,000 gadgets — including TVs, multimedia centers, routers, and at least one fridge — and used the appliances to send out more than 750,000 malicious emails between December 23 and January 6.

Cyber criminals hack a Refrigerator.  Home automation, once relegated to the timing of porch lights, can now be used to control almost anything in the house.  From the kettle in your kitchen to the lock on your front door, nearly every item in the home can be connected to the internet.  Now, California-based security group, Proofpoint, has uncovered the first wide-scale hack involving television sets and at least one fridge.

FDA Seeking Gum Chewing Tester.  The Food and Drug Administration is seeking a small business to potentially supply the federal agency with a chewing gum tester.  Despite the frivolous sounding nature of the announcement, the search is a serious one, and apparently a growing need.  Chewing gum-based pharmaceuticals (such as nicotine gum) are already in use in the United States, and the FDA is looking for a way to measure the dosage and delivery (dissolution) of the medication in such products.

The most famous nameless person in America:
Who is that girl? The mysterious face of Healthcare.gov.  She smiles back at countless frustrated Americans as they tried to log on to the ObamaCare website, the picture of youthful health and wholesome trust in her government.  Her long brown locks are pulled back behind her face, as she flashes an alluring grin that some say makes her the "Mona Lisa of health care."  She could be the girl next door, someone you might see in the supermarket.

The Case of the Vanishing Obamacare Girl.  The smiling young woman whose visage for more than three weeks greeted visitors to Healthcare.gov has vanished from the site. [...] The identity of the woman who became the face of Obamacare had become a subject of much speculation since the site launched October 1.

Obamacare girl vanishes!  Ever since the shaky launch of the Obamacare website, people have been wondering about the identity of the woman whose picture was used on HealthCare.gov's homepage.  Now we may never know who she is since her picture was taken down from the site this weekend.  In her place is a new graphic that explains the four ways people can sign up to get coverage.

Pakistan quake island off Gwadar 'emits flammable gas'.  Barely half an hour after they were jolted by a major earthquake on Tuesday, people of the Pakistani coastal town of Gwadar had another shock when they saw a new island emerge in the sea, just over a kilometre from the shore.  A local journalist, Bahram Baloch, received the news via a text message from a friend.  "It said a hill has appeared outside my house," Mr Baloch said.

World's First Virtual Store Opens in Korea.  A major South Korean retailer has opened what it appears to be the world's first virtual store geared to smartphone users, with shoppers scanning barcodes of products displayed in a Seoul subway station. [...] Seven pillars and six platform screen doors have been plastered with images of life-size store shelves filled with goods — such as milk, apples, a bag of rice or school backpacks — which each carry a small barcode.  Shoppers download a related application on their smartphone and make purchases by taking photos of the barcodes.

Judge appoints $600/hour attorney to monitor excessive fees in Detroit bankruptcy.  The legal bills are quickly adding up in Detroit's bankruptcy — and the person assigned to monitor the legal spending is charging some big fees of his own.

47-story skyscraper would be more user-friendly if it had an elevator.  If you're building a 47-story building, you're going to need an elevator.  Unfortunately, that was a point overlooked by the architectural brain trust who designed the Intempo skyscraper in Benidorm, Spain.

Pitch Drop in Australia Attracts Global Attention.  For more than 50 years, Professor John Mainstone has stared at a shiny dark blob dangling from a glass funnel hoping to see it drip.  The substance — a form of pitch — hovers at the border of liquid and solid.  It has dripped only eight times since the experiment was launched in 1927.  No one has ever seen it happen.

Head Of Chicago Anti-Violence Group Arrested For Allegedly Hitting Wife.  The head of a publicly funded anti-violence group is now facing charges after allegedly attacking his wife inside their suburban home.

S.C. unemployment agency to lay off 100.  South Carolina's unemployment agency will lay off 100 employees in June as part of a statewide reorganization that directs anyone seeking jobless benefits to use its upgraded online system, the agency's interim director announced.

Can you believe these are actually apartments?  Thousands of tiny high-rise apartments in Hong Kong.

Broadcasters worry about 'Zero TV' homes.  There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007.

Employees use social media to identify shoplifters who complained.  Two shoplifting suspects were so upset with how they were treated in one store, they called another location to complain.  The store manager did a little investigative work of his own and was able to identify the criminals using social media.

Intrusion embarrasses 'Fort Knox of uranium'.  Officials like to refer to the Y-12 National Security Complex as the Fort Knox for highly enriched uranium, which is why an unprecedented incursion by an 82-year-old nun and two fellow protesters has critics mocking the notion that the weapons plant is secure.

Inside Scrabble's Cheating Scandal.  Yesterday [8/14/2012], those outside the inner echelons of the competitive Scrabble-playing world were shocked to hear of a scandal beyond anything we could have imagined:  Cheating at Scrabble Nationals, resulting in the eviction of a player from the tournament, and all manner of unfortunate, if amusing, media attention.

The Case of the Stolen Blanks.  [T]he mood after the revelation was less shock that someone had cheated — cheating is rare in Scrabble, but as in any competitive endeavor, it happens — than relief that the fraud had been unmasked.  And beneath that, sadness — for the adolescent boy, who would no doubt be facing shame and scorn in and out of the Scrabble world, and for the game, which I knew would be taking another turn in the media dunk tank.

Navy radio might be crippling Connecticut garage doors.  A radio signal being transmitted out of a submarine base is likely behind reports of garage doors failing to open and close in southeastern Connecticut, the U.S. Navy said Monday [7/23/2012].

At Clifton's Cafeteria, someone left a light on. For 77 years.  During renovations of the Broadway eatery, a neon lamp that was switched on during the Great Depression is found behind a partition.  The owner estimates it's generated more than $17,000 in electric bills.

The couch potato's hero.  Eugene Polley invented the world's first wireless television remote.  He died of natural causes on Sunday [5/20/2012] at the age of 96 at the Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Illinois.  Mr Polley started his 47-year career at Zenith, earning the company some of its greatest achievements, with the invention of two wireless remotes in 1955 and 1956.

Cursing Is Legal (at least, for now, in Texas).  On April 6, 2012, Religion News Service carried a story originally reported in the Dallas Morning News.  Judge Martin Hoffman, of the Dallas district court, dismissed a lawsuit brought by Mikey Weinstein against Gordon Klingenstein.  Weinstein, a former Air Force lawyer, is an avowed atheist and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which opposes what it claims to be unconstitutional religious activities in the armed forces.  Klingenstein is a former Navy chaplain and an ordained minister of the Dallas-based Full Gospel Church, a very conservative Protestant congregation.  What led to the lawsuit was the fact that Klingenstein had made public a so-called "imprecatory prayer" directed against Weinstein — that is, a prayer that asks God to harm somebody.

Physicist Writes Mathematical Study to Avoid Traffic Ticket.  A physicist faced with a fine for running a stop sign has proved his innocence by publishing a mathematical paper, and has even won a prize for his efforts.

12 Mysterious Google Maps Sightings

10 Places You're Not Allowed to See on Google Maps

Surge in Obesity Sparks Crematorium Blazes.  As the number of obese Germans rises, the funeral industry is scrambling to make adjustments in how larger bodies with more fat can be safely incinerated.  A number of crematoriums have suffered severe damage when burning fat overwhelmed their emergency measures.

Tungsten-Filled 1 Kilo Gold Bar Found In The UK.  The last time a story of Tungsten-filled gold appeared on the scene was just two years ago, and involved a 500 gram bar of gold full of tungsten, at the W.C. Heraeus foundry, the world's largest metal refiner and fabricator.  It also became known that said "gold" bar originated from an unnamed bank.

Exxon Valdez sold for scrap.  Oriental Nicety, the vessel formally named Exxon Valdez, was sold for around $16 million for scrap to Global Marketing Systems Inc., a company in Maryland.  Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989, resulting in the worst oil spill in U.S. waters until the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

FBI Can't Crack Android Pattern-Screen Lock.  Pattern-screen locks on Android phones are secure, apparently so much so that they have stumped the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The bureau claims in federal court documents that forensics experts performed "multiple attempts" to access the contents of a Samsung Exhibit II handset, but failed to unlock the phone.

New winged roller coaster 'the Swarm' rips the arms off crash test dummies.  A theme park in London is set to debut a powerful new winged roller coaster this month, but only after first figuring out how not to dismember its riders.  Time reports that Thorpe Park has been conducting test runs of its new coaster, the Swarm, even enlisting fighter pilots who described the ride as "gut-wrenching."

Mass. school quickly fixes racist typo on menu.  Superintendent Judith Scannell tells The Eagle-Tribune the menu was supposed to list KK Chicken Tenders, with the KK standing for a creatively spelled "Krispy, Krunchy," but an employee mistakenly hit the "K" key one too many times.

174 names for dust bunnies.

The strangest packaged foods of all time.  A multitude of bizarre packaged foods and beverages exist for those who are willing to look hard enough and experiment.

Man says 9-foot tapeworm came from undercooked salmon salad.  Anthony Franz had started to eat healthy, but the salmon salad he ordered for lunch from Shaw's Crab House in August 2006 wasn't the best choice, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.  Franz says he became violently ill for several days after eating that salad and later "passed a 9-foot tapeworm."  A pathologist determined the giant tapeworm only has one source — "undercooked fish, such as salmon," according to court papers.

Run on safe deposit boxes.  It might be a good idea to get yourself a safe deposit box while they are still available.  Some countries are running out of them.

Pitched directly at dogs, the advert that whistles.  A television advert with a soundtrack only dogs can hear will be broadcast in the UK for the first time today [2/12/2012].  The pet food commercial features a high-pitched sound, similar to a dog whistle, which is inaudible to humans.

Legally Indelible Graffiti.  [Creative designer Sean Click's] seed bomb ad for the fast-food chain uses California poppy to "spell out" McDonald's iconic golden arches.  That's all well and fine except for one small thing:  California poppy is a state flower protected from being picked, destroyed, or dug up under penalty of law.

State Department boosts passport fees, sets cost of citizenship.  Under new consular fees published Thursday [2/2/2012] in the Federal Register, the cost of processing a formal renunciation of U.S. citizenship skyrocketed from $0 to $450.

Microsoft Patents 'Avoid Ghetto' Feature For GPS Devices.  Microsoft has been granted a patent for its "avoid ghetto" feature for GPS devices.  A GPS device is used to find shortcuts and avoid traffic, but Microsoft's patent states that a route can be plotted for pedestrians to avoid an "unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures."

The Editor says...
If the locations of America's ghettos are well documented, I should be able to sell several copies of The Atlas of American Ghettos.  Coming soon to a bookstore near you.

Hospital splashes cash on 'electro-allergy' room.  Falköping hospital in southern Sweden recently spent just under a million kronor ($146,130) to have a room adapted to suit the needs of the "electro-oversensitive", despite the fact that the allergy hasn't been scientifically proven to exist.

Cheetah the chimp from 1930s Tarzan flicks dies.  A Florida animal sanctuary says Cheetah the chimpanzee sidekick in the Tarzan movies of the early 1930s has died at age 80.

Man leaves $1.28 million dollars at Sydney restaurant.  Australian police are looking for a good explanation of why someone would walk into a Sydney eatery, exit in a seeming panic — and leave a suitcase containing more than a million dollars behind.

The Coca-Cola drinks you won't find in U.S. stores.  While "Mexican Coke" continues to surge in popularity across the United States, there are some 3,500 other products produced by Coca-Cola in more than 200 counties, most of which you'll never have the chance to see or taste.

Virtuoso's trip destroys priceless Stradivarius.  David Garrett, 26, one of the nation's foremost young concert performers, had an accident that every world-class musician must dread:  at the end of a concert at the Barbican he tripped and landed on his violin.  The instrument is a 290-year-old Stradivarius, so rare that it would be almost impossible to estimate its value.

Gas pump handles top study of filthy surfaces.  Just when you thought filling up your car could not hurt any more, researchers may have found another reason to avoid touching the gas pump:  germs. ... A team of hygienists swabbed hundreds of surfaces around six U.S. cities to see what everyday objects are breeding grounds for the worst bacteria and viruses.  The top offenders, following gas pumps, were handles on public mailboxes, escalator rails and ATM buttons.

The Fed Has a $110 Billion Problem with New Benjamins.  A significant production problem with new high-tech $100 bills has caused government printers to shut down production of the new notes and to quarantine more than one billion of the bills in huge vaults in Fort Worth, Texas and Washington, DC, CNBC has learned. ... The total face value of the unusable bills, $110 billion, represents more than ten percent of the entire supply of US currency on the planet, which a government source said is $930 billion in banknotes.

Why have 165 people gone missing from cruise ships in recent years?  According to the U.S.-based International Cruise Victims Association, 165 people have gone missing at sea since 1995, with at least 13 this year alone — many of them from vessels popular with British holidaymakers.

George Ballas dies at 85; inventor of the Weed Eater.  While driving through an automatic carwash in 1971, George Ballas watched the whirling nylon bristles glide around the contour of his vehicle and wondered if he could adapt the technology to remove the weeds around trees in his yard.  At home, he punched holes in a tin can, threaded it with wire and fishing line and bolted it to a rotating lawn edger.  He called it the Weed Eater, and when he couldn't sell the concept, he founded his own company and built it into a $40-million-a-year business.

Last Typewriter Factory in the World Shuts Its Doors.  I've owned at least two typewriters over the years.  They were passed down to me from other family members; I think one I discovered in my grandmother's basement and begged her to let me take it home with me.  She obliged and I used the thing, banging out random nonsense, until I ran out of tape.  There's something about the large, clunky, medieval device that appeals to the aspiring writers among us; they make you feel more connected to your work.  When a story is done and has been pulled off the roller, you can still feel it in your fingers.

The Editor says...
It's called a typewriter ribbon, not tape.

Exams in Turkey were all coded!  It turns out the majority of the entrance exams recently conducted (the last several years), anything from entrance to the police academy to entrance to universities have been coded.  That is, the multiple choice answers were not random, but used some simple patterns that have no doubt been whispered into the ears of the selected few that were meant to be admitted. ... The state-appointed directors that created these exams have denied any wrongdoing and that the "computer" must be at fault, as usual.

The Most Expensive Town in America.  The lowest-priced single-family home on the market in Aspen is listed for $559,000.  It's located in a trailer park.

Are U.S. government microwave mind-control tests causing TV presenters' brains to melt down?  Judith Sheindlin, the fast-talking judge on Judge Judy, was taken to hospital on Wednesday after she began speaking a nonsensical string of words during a live recording of her courtroom TV show. ... Her verbal breakdown is the fourth such recent case and the odd coincidence has prompted feverish speculation over the cause.  No video has been released of the Judge Judy incident but footage of the other three has rapidly gone viral on the internet.  The first victim was Serene Branson, a Los Angeles reporter for CBS, who delivered a completely incoherent piece to camera on the Grammy music awards last month.

Second Chance for "Golden-Voiced" Homeless Man?  Get ready to start hearing about Ted Williams — not the baseball player but the "golden voiced" homeless man about to get a second chance in Columbus, Ohio.  Williams, a panhandler near Interstate 71, solicits donations with a sign saying that he's an ex-radio announcer with a "god-given gift" who has fallen on hard times.

Coded American Civil War message in bottle deciphered.  A message in a bottle delivered to a Confederate general during the American Civil War has been deciphered, 147 years after it was written.  In the encrypted message, a commander tells Gen John Pemberton that no reinforcements are available to help him defend Vicksburg, Mississippi.  "You can expect no help from this side of the river," says the message, which was deciphered by codebreakers.

How 'Jingle Bells' by the Singing Dogs Changed Music Forever.  The late '40s and early '50s were a heady time for music recording, thanks largely to the defeat of the Nazis.  Germans had perfected magnetic tape recording and they kept it under tight wraps.  Live-sounding broadcasts of Hitler's speeches confounded the Allies:  How could der Fuhrer be in so many locations at once?  Besides having the capability to run for longer stretches of time than the phonograph (allowing for uninterrupted stretches of propaganda), the new tape technology had much higher fidelity.

Dead woman wins election in California.  Jenny Oropeza trounced her opponent on Tuesday in a race for California's state Senate, but she won't be reaping the rewards of her win.  That's because she died two weeks before the election.

Doctors treat Thomas The Tank-obsessed boy.  A child obsessed with watching Thomas The Tank Engine has alarmed doctors after failing to make friends at school, instead wandering around in a daze mumbling lines from the show.  Specialists are so concerned about the three-year-old American, known only as 'Max', that a report has been published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Man says cocaine cops found in his buttocks isn't his.  A search of a 25-year-old man following a traffic stop Wednesday morning [9/29/2010] revealed one bag of marijuana and one bag of cocaine in the driver's buttocks, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.  The driver said only the marijuana belonged to him.

The Commission to Study Deficits is Broke.  As reported by The Fiscal Times, President Obama's commission to study the problem of what to do about the government running short of money is running short of money.

Lightning strike kills woman before her boyfriend could propose.  A Tennessee man says he planned to propose to his girlfriend along a North Carolina hiking trail when she was struck and killed by lightning.

Hilarious web addresses revealed in new book.  A list of the internet's most inadvertently amusing web addresses — such as the home page for celebrity agent database Who Represents, or www.whorepresents.com — have been compiled in a new book.

Volvo Crashes During Crash-Avoidance Demo.  A great reputation for safety doesn't count for much if your car crashes during a demonstration of its crash-avoidance technology.  That's exactly what happened to Volvo this week as it showed off the collision-avoidance system in the new S60 sedan.

Caller ID Spoofing Puts Innocent Man In Jail.  [Scroll down]  At the time he was living on the second floor of an apartment building in Quincy.  On the first floor lived a single woman.  Court documents and audio recordings obtained by the I-Team show one night she started getting threatening sexually explicit voice messages one after another. ... The only problem was he didn't make any of them.  Someone else did using a "caller ID" spoofing service.

Liberal Fascism:  The Font.  [Scroll down]  In a way, Helvetica is the font of liberal fascism; it's certainly the font of corporatism.  To this day, it's on the side of every one of the airplanes owned by American Airlines, a private corporation.  But it's also the font of the New York Subway system, both the work of Italian designer Massimo Vignelli, now in his late '70s, and interviewed in the Helvetica film.  And since Amtrak's inception via Congress and President Nixon in 1971, the typeface on sides of its cars and locomotives is Helvetica as well.  Helvetica symbolizes order and authority... And it's the font of IRS's tax forms.

Some Indian call centres resorting to trickery.  [Scroll down]  It's standard practice in so-called "accent neutralization" classes to teach new employees how to sound North American.  In a chilly office two floors below Rungsung's cubicle, an instructor gives nine new employees tips for pronouncing words like "turtle" and "bucket" as westerners do.

Nuclear Waste Leaves Workers Near Death in India.  At least seven people are battling for their lives in India after being exposed to the deadly radioactive element Cobalt-60.  In critical condition and near death is Deepak Jain, an Indian scrap metal dealer, in whose shop "eight bags" of radioactive wires and metal scraps were found.  In late March, after cutting into a "mysterious shining object" that began to ooze white liquid, Jain was exposed to potentially lethal doses of Cobalt-60.

Excessive cleanliness may boost allergies.  Put away the hand sanitizer.  It's not necessarily the grime, dust bunnies, cat dander or pollen causing those miserable springtime allergies.  The culprit actually may be too much cleanliness.  "Allergies have become widespread in developed countries:  hay fever, eczema, hives and asthma are all increasingly prevalent.  The reason?  Excessive cleanliness is to blame," said Dr. Guy Delespesse, an immunologist and director of the Allergy Research Laboratory at the University of Montreal.

Woman charged with killing husband is lobbyist.  A 45-year-old woman, charged with ending a domestic dispute by killing her 26-year-old husband of five days, is a registered lobbyist for a group fighting domestic violence.

Global Warmists' Mouths Frozen Shut.  [Scroll down]  British senior citizens are burning books to keep warm.  As one bookstore worker in Wales said, "Book burning seems terribly wrong but we have to get rid of unsold stock for pennies and some of the pensioners say the books make ideal slow-burning fuel for fires and stoves.  A lot of them buy up large hardback volumes so they can stick them in the fire to last all night."  Apparently, it's cheaper to burn an encyclopedia than coal.

Floor collapses at Swedish Weight Watchers clinic.  The floor of a Weight Watchers clinic in Växjö in south central Sweden collapsed on Wednesday night [1/13/2010] beneath a group of about 20 participants in the weight-loss programme.

Judge sworn in with hand on dictionary.  A judge in New York state took the oath of office with his hand placed on a dictionary rather than a book of scripture because officials could find no Bible.

A fool and his money:
Man 'buys' $3 billion CD-ROM on Amazon — just to see what would happen.  A man in the U.S. has 'bought' an item on Amazon with a price tag of nearly three billion dollars — just to see what would happen.  Brian Klug spotted the copy of the Discovery Channel's 'Cells' CD-ROM for sale at $2,904,980,000.  Out of sheer curiosity, convinced the price tag was a mistake, he put in his credit card details to buy it and stepped back to see what would happen next.

Lottery numbers the same in consecutive draws in Bulgaria.  Bulgaria's Sports Minister Svilen Neykov has ordered a special review of the national lottery after the same numbers were picked in straight draws.  The numbers 4, 15, 23, 24, 35, and 42 were drawn on September 6 and again on September 10 in consecutive lottery rounds.

The Day the Muzak Died.  Throughout the mid-20th century Muzak oozed into America's airports, grocery stores, dentist offices and bank lobbies, reaching at its peak 100 million listeners a day.  But by the late 1960s, rival companies appeared on the scene, most delivering original rock tunes instead of square old Mantovani covers.  By the 1980s, background music was no longer simply a strategy to boost productivity; it was ingrained in the culture.  People grew anxious and edgy in its absence, not unlike junkies in need of a fix.

Naming cows isn't udder nonsense.  Cows that are given names produce more milk than those that are not, says a new study out of England.  The study, conducted by Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson at Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, discovered that more affectionate treatment of cattle — including giving cows names — can increase milk production by more than 68 gallons annually.  An average cow produces about 2,000 gallons of milk a year.  Douglas says the positive effect of naming cows has always been a belief among farmers, but until now, there was no scientific evidence.

Japan's sewers paved with gold.  A sewage treatment facility in Nagano prefecture, north-west of Tokyo, has reported a yield of gold extracted from sludge to rival production levels at some of the best mines in the world.  Tens of thousands of pounds worth of gold has been found at the Suwa treatment facility in the past year, with more than 1,890 grammes of gold per tonne of ash recorded from incinerated sludge.

Scientists exploit nature to cut mosquitoes' life short.  Old mosquitoes usually spread disease, so Australian researchers figured out a way to make the pests die younger — naturally, not poisoned.  Scientists have been racing to genetically engineer mosquitoes to become resistant to diseases like malaria and dengue fever that plague millions around the world, as an alternative to mass spraying of insecticides.

Material slicker than Teflon discovered by accident.  A superhard substance that is more slippery than Teflon could protect mechanical parts from wear and tear, and boost energy efficiency by reducing friction.  The "ceramic alloy" is created by combining a metal alloy of boron, aluminium and magnesium (AlMgB14) with titanium boride (TiB2).  It is the hardest material after diamond and cubic boron nitride.

Bailiff's mistake leads to mistrial in Harris murder.  The Harris County jury returned a guilty verdict after deliberating 45 minutes in a murder case, but the judge realized he had a real problem.  Sitting in the jury box were 13 citizens.  Instead of sentencing Charles Mapps to prison in the shooting death of his girlfriend, state District Judge Mark Kent Ellis on Tuesday declared a mistrial.

Darlington will have Australia's first vertical cemetery.  Up to 100 Victorians have registered their interest in being buried standing up at Australia's first vertical cemetery, due to open in January. ... People who choose a vertical burial will be placed in biodegradable shrouds and buried in cylindrical holes feet first.

Cows have magnetic attraction to lying north to south.  With the help of Google Earth images, Sabine Begall, of Germany's University of Duisburg-Essen, led a research team that looked at satellite images of 8,510 cattle in more than 300 pastures around the world.  Their findings, published in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, claimed that the earth's magnetic field is "the only common and most likely factor responsible for the observed alignment".

Fifty-two cows are killed after lightning hits a wire fence.  The Hereford and Normandy breed cows were discovered by the ranch manager in the field.  A veterinary expert who examined the carcases said they had been killed by lightning hitting the wire fence bordering the field where the animals were stood.

Man calls 911 after Subway left sauce off sandwich.  Jacksonville police say Reginald Peterson needs to learn that 911 is not the appropriate place to complain that Subway left the sauce off a spicy Italian sandwich.

Fort Pierce woman calls 911 when McNuggets run out.  Told McDonald's was out of Chicken McNuggets after paying for a 10-piece, a local woman called 911.  Three times.  "This is an emergency, If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one," Latreasa L. Goodman later told police.  "This is an emergency."

Spam Turns Serious and Hormel Turns Out More.  The economy is in tatters and, for millions of people, the future is uncertain.  But for some employees at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant here, times have never been better.  They are working at a furious pace and piling up all the overtime they want.  The workers make Spam, perhaps the emblematic hard-times food in the American pantry.

Grandmother had the only cake in the contest — and still came second.  When her Victoria sponge earned second place in a cake competition, Jenny Brown was naturally delighted.  That is, until she found out she was the only entry.  Officials at her village fete apparently felt her baking just wasn't worthy of a first-class ribbon.

This is an original compilation, Copyright © 2013 by Andrew K. Dart

Law exam a breeze for 8-year-old.  An 8-year-old boy with dreams of becoming a judge has passed a law school entrance exam — shocking Brazil's legal profession and prompting a federal investigation.  The Universidade Paulista, a multi-campus private university, issued a statement acknowledging that Joao Victor Portellinha de Oliveira had passed the entrance exam and that it initially enrolled him.  But he was turned away from classes when he showed up on Thursday [3/6/2008] with his father.

One in Nine Berliners Wants the Wall Back, Study Shows.  Every ninth Berliner would prefer the barrier which used to divide and encircle the city was still in place, according to a survey carried out on behalf of Berlin's Free University.

Gifted but dumb.
Gifted Student Hospitalized After Drinking Liquid Nitrogen.  A gifted 15-year-old student from India had to be rushed to the hospital after drinking liquid nitrogen during a science class at Princeton University.

Date palm seed from Masada is the oldest to germinate.  Scientists using radiocarbon dating have confirmed that an ancient Judean date palm seed among those found in the ruins of Masada in present-day Israel and planted three years ago is 2,000 years old — the oldest seed ever to germinate.

Firefighters fined for speeding to blazes.  Firefighters are being issued speeding tickets by the NSW Government for rushing to life-threatening emergencies in fire engines.  In an astounding case of bureaucracy gone mad, the Government is sending infringement notices to the homes of individual fire truck drivers.

Texas man tries to cash $360bn cheque.  Forth Worth police earlier this week slapped the cuffs on a 21-year-old music biz wannabe who decided the best way to raise some venture capital was to cash a dodgy cheque for $360 billion, NBC 5 reports. … [The police] arrested Fuller on suspicion of fraud, as well as unlawfully carrying a weapon and marijuana possession since he'd decided to make his play while packing a pistol and a small amount of weed.

The Editor says...
Unless he got the money in billion-dollar bills, he would have a hard time leaving the bank with that much money.  In $20 bills, that quantity of cash would be almost as big as the bank itself.  My guess is that he probably is a product of the public schools, where hardly any student knows the importance of correctly placing a decimal point.

Father of LSD takes final trip.  The father of LSD and the first person to experience an "acid trip", Albert Hoffman, has died aged 102.  Swiss-born Hoffman was renowned by chemists, pharmacists and hippies the world over for stumbling across the world's first synthesised hallucinogen, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), in 1938.

His brick of dried noodles fed countless.  We can hope that Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen noodles who died last week at age 96, had a fulfilling life.  We know we'll always be full thanks to his ingenious cheap eats.  After its introduction in the States in 1972, ramen noodles quickly became a food staple for dorm and apartment dwellers on limited budgets.

Colin Murdoch:  The disposable syringe, the silent burglar alarm, the childproof medical bottle and the animal tranquilliser dart — all were invented by Colin Murdoch.  His inventions have had a beneficial impact on the lives of millions of people, though did little to enrich Murdoch himself.

Inventor of Gatorade Dies at 80.  Dr. Robert Cade, who invented the sports drink Gatorade and launched a multibillion-dollar industry that the beverage continues to dominate, died Tuesday [11/27/2007] of kidney failure.  He was 80.

Richard Knerr,  co-founder of Wham-O Inc., which unleashed the granddaddy of American fads, the Hula Hoop, on the world half a century ago along with another enduring leisure icon, the Frisbee, has died.  He was 82.

Chemical plant accident creates laughing gas cloud.  An accident in a chemical plant Friday [6/6/2008] created a frightening-looking cloud of "laughing gas," government and emergency officials said.  Nobody was reported to be injured — or to be giggling uncontrollably.

A dark discovery — no, really, this stuff is dark.  A scientist at Rice University has created the darkest material known to man, a carpet of carbon nanotubes that reflects only 0.045 percent of all light shined upon it.  That's four times darker than the previously darkest known substance, and more than 100 times darker than the paint on a black Corvette.

Unexplained beer injuries.  Doctors have always used a tribal vocabulary to communicate between themselves, but now their secret lingo is been enriched by the electronic media and urban slang. … [For example,] CTD means "Circling The Drain", GPO signifies "Good for Parts Only" and Rule of Five means that if more than five of the patient's orifices are obscured by tubing, he has no chance.

AK-47 Inventor Doesn't Lose Sleep Over Havoc Wrought With His Invention.  Sixty years after the AK-47 went into production, Mikhail Kalashnikov says he does not stay awake at night worrying about the bloodshed wrought by the world's most popular assault rifle.

Anti-swimmer system bad news for frogmen.  The system is designed to protect commercial piers, government and military vessels, cruise ships, terminals, and other high-value assets, but it'll work just as well for your hideaway surf break.  You know it's good if the oil sheiks buy it.  Kongsberg installed an integrated system at a "High-Value Seaside resort" in the United Arab Emirates; the exact location is classified.

Sudoku-playing Jurors Make Judge Stop Drug Trial.  A judge aborted a drug conspiracy trial Tuesday [6/10/2008] after some jurors were found to have been playing the puzzle game Sudoku while evidence was being given. … The judge was alerted after it was observed the jurors were writing vertically, rather than horizontally.  It had been assumed they were taking notes.

MADD warns off foe of illegal aliens.  Michelle Dallacroce was hopping mad when she received a letter from Mothers Against Drunk Driving demanding she change the name of her organization, Mothers Against Illegal Aliens.  "I couldn't believe it," Mrs. Dallacroce said.  "I don't know who would be confused by this.  We don't even have the same acronym."  Mrs. Dallacroce, … received a certified letter Oct. 10 stating that MADD owns the rights to the name "Mothers Against" and giving her 10 days to stop using it.

'I never saw Taylor eat people'.  In March, a witness told the Special Court for Sierra Leone that Taylor ordered fighters in his National Patriotic Front of Liberia to eat their enemies as a way of striking terror into his opponents.  Joseph "Zigzag" Marzah, who described himself as Taylor's chief of operations and head of a death squad before Taylor became president, said African peacekeepers and even United Nations personnel were killed and eaten on the battlefield by Taylor's militiamen.  He also said he had sat with Taylor as he ate a human liver.

Biodegradable coffins rise up.  Biodegradable coffins are part of a larger trend toward "natural" burials, which require no formaldehyde embalming, cement vaults, chemical lawn treatments or laminated caskets.  Advocates say such burials are less damaging to the environment.  Biodegradable containers cost from around $100 for a basic cardboard box up to more than $3,000 for a handcrafted, hand-painted model.

Oops!
Scientists Find Oldest Living Animal, Then Kill It.  The team from Bangor University in Wales was dredging the waters north of Iceland as part of routine research when the unfortunate specimen, belonging to the clam species Arctica islandica, commonly known as the ocean quahog, was hauled up from waters 250 feet deep. Only after researchers cut through its shell … and counted its growth rings did they realize how old it had been — between 405 and 410 years old.

Smiling can seriously damage your health.  Real emotions, Makoto Natsume says, are being dangerously suppressed by the "smile masks" that [Japanese] women wear all day at work and the psychological effects he sees among patients are devastating.  Depression, mental illness and other disorders are spreading fast, he cautions, and smile-mask syndrome could soon become a serious national health issue.

Bagpipes a threat to the environment (and we're not talking noise pollution).  Traditionally the chanter on the bottom of Highland pipes, which is used to create the melody, was made from native woods such as bog oak.  But Scottish mariners who travelled to Africa in the 18th century returned with supplies of African Blackwood, which proved to be far more resilient and produced a sweeter sound.  Since then the species, known as Mpingo in Swahili, has been a staple component of most quality pipes.

Disco-dancing dentist sued for drilling disaster.  A dentist was dancing to a song on the radio while drilling on a woman's tooth, and she wound up in the hospital when the drill bit snapped off and lodged near her eye, a lawsuit alleges.  Brandy Fanning, 31, said she had to undergo emergency surgery and spent three days in the hospital because of the October 2004 mishap.

Once in a while, justice is swift.
Fleeing Robbery Suspect Eaten By Alligator.  A Florida man police said was breaking into cars at Miccosukee Resort and Gaming was attacked and killed by a 9-foot alligator while trying to run from police. … One of the men was quickly captured by officers during the incident last week but the other robbery suspect tried to elude officer by jumping into a large pond behind the facility, according to a WJXT-TV report.

Photo Experts Say 'Stop Deleting!'  Look through any old photo album and you'll find them:  terrible family photos — the crying baby, the poorly lighted shot, the out-of-focus family, the off-center portrait.  But the new digital ritual is changing all that.  Some call it the lost art of bad photography.

Cards for inmates say it all for you:  The cards displayed on the bookstore rack stopped me in my tracks.  They shared a simple cover drawing — a delicate yellow rose with a barbed-wire stem — but their greetings suggested an unconventional audience:  "Sorry to Hear About Your Arrest."

Sigbritt, 75, has world's fastest broadband.  A 75 year old woman from Karlstad in central Sweden has been thrust into the IT history books — with the world's fastest internet connection.  Sigbritt Löthberg's home has been supplied with a blistering 40 Gigabits per second connection, many thousands of times faster than the average residential link and the first time ever that a home user has experienced such a high speed.

Roswell aliens theory revived by deathbed confession.  Last week came an astonishing new twist to the Roswell mystery.  Lieutenant Walter Haut was the public relations officer at the base in 1947 and was the man who issued the original and subsequent press releases after the crash on the orders of the base commander, Colonel William Blanchard.  Haut died last year but left a sworn affidavit to be opened only after his death.

Nissan warns U.S. cellphones can disable car keys.  Nissan North America has a warning for customers:  placing your electronic key too close to your cellphone could leave you stranded.  The automaker is asking customers driving new models of two of its flagship sedans to keep their car keys and cellphones at least an inch apart to avoid disabling the "intelligent keys."

No such thing as a free lunch?  They eat food they find in bins and are driven by conscience, not financial need.  Meet the freegans.  According to the saying there's no such thing as a free lunch, but freegans beg to differ.  They only eat food they can scavenge for free from supermarket dustbins.  Most is only just past its sell-by date, some is still within it but the packaging has been damaged.  The freegan philosophy of "ethical eating" is a reaction against a wasteful society and a way of highlighting how supermarkets dump tonnes of food every year that is still edible.

Mice move in to new New York Times building.  The New York Times just moved into a new $600 million, 52-story building and all people want to talk about is the mice.  Or the leaks.  Or the screwy elevators.

Is the Vatican a Rogue State?  The top crime neighborhood in the world isn't in Sao Paulo or Lagos.  It's not the Bronx in New York, or even Wedding in Berlin.  It's the small city ruled by Pope Benedict XVI, which apparently sees more criminal cases per capita than any other part of the world.

Italian woman finds live grenade in potato bag.  A 74-year-old Italian grandmother who bought a sack of potatoes at the her local market found a live grenade among the spuds. ... Police said the pine cone-shaped grenade, which had no pin and was still active, was the same type used by U.S. soldiers in Europe in World War Two.

No More Monster Bunnies for North Korea.  The fate of 12 German giant rabbits delivered to North Korea is in doubt.  The breeder who sent them suspects they have been eaten by top officials rather than used to set up a bunny farm.

Cooking spray:  Prevents TV outages?  Consumers can purchase a variety of products, such as heaters and covers, to prevent snow build-up on their dishes.  Heaters can cost upwards of $100 to $200 depending on the size of the dish.  A can of Pam cooking oil spray can also do the job.

Your car will talk to other cars — soon.  Researchers from the Network Research Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and car manufacturer BMW are working on an autonomous, self-organising communication network that connects cars to each other, allowing them to collect data from their immediate surroundings, process it and exchange it with other cars.

Plastic duck armada is heading for Britain after 15-year global voyage.  A flotilla of plastic ducks is heading for Britain's beaches, according to an American oceanographer.  For the past 15 years Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been tracking nearly 30,000 plastic bath toys that were released into the Pacific Ocean when a container was washed off a cargo ship.

Male gators attracted to tuba's B flat.  Mating Florida alligators respond to the note of B flat — at least when played on a tuba through the wood of a boardwalk.  At least that's what a Tampa Tribune reporter discovered in an attempt to replicate a 1944 experiment, "Response of Captive Alligators to Auditory Stimulation," conducted at the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Oven door passed off as flat-screen TV in scam.  An unsuspecting woman purchased a "flat-screen television set" at a bargain price, the package even bubble-wrapped and complete with cord and controller. … Despite the bizarre fraud, police say oven doors are an increasingly hot item in area burglaries.

ATMs blown up with gas.  Dutch banks said on Monday [2/27/2006] they are to take urgent measures to end a spate of thefts from automatic telling machines (ATMs) by criminals blowing them up with gas. … Thieves drill a hole into the machine, pump gas in, retire to a safe distance and then detonate the gas, blowing the notes inside onto the street for gathering up.

Stay calm everyone, there's Prozac in the drinking water.  Prozac, the anti-depression drug, is being taken in such large quantities that it can now be found in Britain's drinking water.

Kodak to Discontinue Black-And-White Paper.  Ending a century-old tradition, Eastman Kodak Co. will soon stop making black-and-white photographic paper, a niche product for fine-art photographers and hobbyists that is rapidly being supplanted by digital-imaging systems.

Microchip Pioneer Jack Kilby Dies at 81.

What are you laughing at?  In 1953, Charles Douglass invented a machine called the "laff box," which we commonly refer to today as the "laugh track," ushering in a new era of comedy on television.  Counterculturalist Paul Krassner once called the laugh track "the epitome of televised hypnotic suggestion."

Britain Moves Against Windfall for Rapist.  Home Secretary David Blunkett said Thursday [8/12/2004] he planned to bar convicted felons from benefiting from financial windfalls while behind bars after a jailed rapist won 7 million pounds (12.6 million) on the national lottery.

Doctor abandoned surgery patient to cash a check:  A Cambridge orthopedic surgeon had his license suspended by the state medical board yesterday for leaving the operating room during spinal surgery - to go to the bank to cash a check.  Dr. David C. Arndt of Mount Auburn Hospital was found to pose an "immediate threat to the public health" after he allegedly abandoned a patient already under anesthesia with an incision on his back to go to a Harvard Square bank.

Einstein's theory may be relatively wrong:  The crux of Einstein's theory of relativity -- that E = mc² -- is under challenge, following evidence that the speed of light might be slowing down.  The discovery, made by a team of Australian scientists, undermines Einstein's key formula which maintains that the speed of light must remain constant.

Have You Ever Tried To Sell A Diamond?  The diamond invention -- the creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem -- is a relatively recent development in the history of the diamond trade.

The Army's Best Invention:  It was developed in just 30 days in the summer of 1942 by the Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chicago.  And never in its 52-year history has it been known to break, rust, need sharpening or polishing.  Perhaps that is why many soldiers, past and present, regard the P-38 C-ration can opener as the Army's best invention.

Intentional:
NY Restaurant Charging $41 for Burger:  The Old Homestead restaurant in New York bills it as "The World's Most Decadent Hamburger."

Unintentional:
Man is charged $4,334.33 for four burgers.  An AP item datelined Palmdale, California notes that George Beane was charged $4,334.33 for four burgers at Burger King.  To make a long story short, the cashier entered $4.33 and then forgetfully reentered the same amount again, resulting in a debit-card charge that instantly was paid out of his Bank of America account, wiping out his balance.

Sonygate, Part 2: Fake "Patriots":  Maybe they should change the name from Sony to phony.  Just a week after the studio grudgingly admitted its advertising executives faked a film critic in print ads for several of its movies, Sony's facing another in-house case of fakery.  Daily Variety reports the studio passed off two of its employees as faux fans in commercials hyping last year's The Patriot.

Bank chief mugged at cash machine:  Multi-millionaire Sir George Mathewson was robbed by two muggers who distracted him by saying he had dropped a 5 note.  Mathewson, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, was withdrawing cash from a central London automated teller machine when two con men approached him.

Smart People Live LongerBritish scientists say their research suggests that the smarter you are, the longer you live — but they don't know why.

Air Force Colonel Jailed for Sexual Harassment He is believed to be the highest-ranking Air Force officer ever convicted on sexual harassment charges.

Parking lot saliva brings murder arrestPolice wanted to find a DNA sample ...and they got it when the suspect spat.

Cop Killings Hit 35-Year LowForty-two law enforcement officers were feloniously killed by others in the line of duty across the nation in 1999, the lowest number in 35 years, according to new statistics released by the FBI on March 15, 2001.

Man Gets $218 Trillion Phone Bill.  A Malaysian man said he nearly fainted when he received a $218 trillion phone bill and was ordered to pay up within 10 days or face prosecution. … The guy is actually lucky because at least this amount is obviously stupid.  It could just as well have been an erroneous number which was vaguely reasonable but expensive and because the computer says it, it must as we all know, be right.

Electricity shut off in Flint home over a penny.  Jacqueline Williams, 41, of Flint had an electricity bill of $1,662.08 and paid all of it, except for one cent.  That wasn't enough for the power company, which blacked her out for seven hours Wednesday [5/10/2006].

Politicians share personality traits with serial killers: Study.  Using his law enforcement experience and data drawn from the FBI's behavioral analysis unit, Jim Kouri has collected a series of personality traits common to a couple of professions.  Kouri, who's a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.  These traits, Kouri points out in his analysis, are common to psychopathic serial killers.



Superstition in the news

This sounds like a story out of a thousand-year-old newspaper.
Nigerian police detain goat over armed robbery.  Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery.  Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323.

This phone number will NOT kill.  Nigeria's government is assuring people in Africa's most populous nation that a phone call can't kill you.  A text message has spread across the country in recent days, warning that people will die if they answer mobile phone calls from 09141.

Mysterious 'Dog-Headed Pig Monster' Terrorizes Africa.  One Namibian official, regional councilor Andreas Mundjindi, was quoted in Informante newspaper as saying, "This is an alien animal that the people have not seen before.  We don't have a forest here, only bushes.  So, this must be black magic at play."

Indian villagers hold frog wedding to bring rain.  With five priests chanting scriptures, a frog groom named Punarvasu and his amphibian bride Pushala were joined in holy Hindu matrimony by villagers hoping the ancient custom will bring monsoon rains to their drought-stricken district.

Indian police arrest 2 men for sacrificing child.  Two men have been arrested in central India for allegedly killing a 7-year-old girl and cutting out her liver in a ritual sacrifice to ensure a better harvest, police said Monday [1/2/2012].

45 people lynched amid Haiti cholera fears.  Angry Haitian mobs have lynched at least 45 people in recent weeks, accusing them of spreading a cholera outbreak that has killed over 2500 people across the country, officials said.  The number included at least 14 suspected sorcerers previously known to have been lynched in the far southwestern region of Grand'Anse as local people feared they were spreading cholera with a magical substance.  The area has been largely spared by the outbreak.



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