Monday, May 10, 2010

Extra, extra: In Other News, online

Posted By on Mon, May 10, 2010 at 9:00 AM

In this week's installment of odd news happenings: Advice on talking with aliens, cheating to win a bass fishing tournament and the magic of the Livestock Power Mill.

Curses, Foiled Again
Robby Rose pleaded guilty to felony cheating in a fishing tournament in Rockwall County, Texas, after he was caught stuffing a one-pound lead weight into a bass to try to win top prize: a bass boat. Tournament officials became suspicious when they placed the fish in a holding tank before weighing it, and it sank to the bottom. “As far as we’re concerned, the case was about a $55,000 boat,” county prosecutor Kenda Culpepper said, “not a 10-pound fish.”

Police arrested a 44-year-old man for DUI after he drove his pickup truck onto a racetrack in Bremerton, Wash. Officers were already on the scene, using the track to conduct emergency vehicle training.

Unfriendly Skies
Europe’s Ryanair confirmed it intends charging passengers to use the restroom on flights lasting an hour or less. The coin-operated lavatory will cost either 1 euro or 1 pound. The airline also plans to reduce the number of restrooms. “By charging for the toilets, we are hoping to change passenger behavior so that they use the bathroom before or after the flight,” Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said. “That will enable us to remove two out of three of the toilets and make way for at least six extra seats.”

Reasonable Explanations
Police said Hope L. Neff, 35, admitted setting a fire that destroyed an apartment building in Juniata, Pa., explaining she was curious to see “how fast a mattress would burn.” Fire officials estimated the damage at between $350,000 and $500,000.

After four people reported they were shot with blow darts from a passing van while walking in downtown Stevens Point, Wis., police arrested Paula Wolf, 41, who explained “she liked to hear people say ‘ouch.’”

Schoolwork in Later Life
After a camera caught his wife running a red light in Collier County, Fla., math tutor Mike Mogil insisted the ticket was illegal because the yellow light didn’t last long enough. County guidelines state the yellow light should be 4.5 seconds, but Mogil tested it 15 times and found it averaged only 3.8 seconds. He challenged the ticket, and a special magistrate dismissed it. Not content to stop there, Mogil said he checked 65 of the county’s 200 intersections with red-light cameras and found that only seven yellow lights are long enough.

ET Stay Home
Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, 68, warned that communicating with aliens could be “too risky.” He explained that a visit to Earth by extraterrestrials would be like Christopher Columbus arriving in the New World, “which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Weekend at Bernie’s IV
British authorities arrested two women at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport for trying to board a flight to Germany with a dead man in a wheelchair wearing sunglasses. When check-in staff questioned Gitta Jarant, 66, she assured them her 91-year-old husband, Willi, was just resting and had on sunglasses because he wanted to spare passengers from looking at an unsightly eye. Told he was indeed dead, she insisted he’d been alive when they arrived at the airport. The other woman, Willi Jarant’s stepdaughter, agreed. “He was pale,” Anke Anusic, 41, said, “but he wasn’t dead.”

Perpetual Motion
Noting cows walk about eight hours a day while grazing, Irish farmer William Taylor calculated that if the world’s 1.3 billion cattle used treadmills for those eight hours, they could produce 6 percent of the world’s power. To that end, he developed the Livestock Power Mill, which consists of a feed box hooked to the front, a non-powered, inclined belt, and a gearbox that powers a generator. Each cow can produce 2 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power four milking machines. Taylor, who operates a prototype on his farm in Northern Ireland, estimates that a small farm using the system for 50 cows could earn back its $100,000 price tag in three years.

Inmates at Tent City Jail in Phoenix, Ariz., who want to watch television have to pedal stationary bikes customized to power the sets. The bikes generate 12 volts of electricity to operate the sets, and an hour of pedaling equals an hour of TV, according to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who started the program, called “Pedal Vision.”

Shot in the Dark
When a light is turned on at night, even briefly, it triggers cellular changes that might lead to cancer, according to researchers in the United Kingdom and Israel. Writing in the journal Cancer Genetics and Cytogenetics, Dr. Rachel Ben-Shlomo of the University of Haifa recommended, “If you want to get up to go to the toilet, you should avoid reaching for the light switch.

Eighth-Amendment Follies
After a Nevada judge sentenced Michelle Lyn Taylor, 34, to life in prison for forcing a 13-year-old boy to touch her breasts, public defender Alina Kilpatrick pointed out, “She is getting a greater penalty for having a boy touch her breast than if she killed him.”

Watching the Defectives
An inspector general’s report that high-ranking employees in the Security and Exchange Commission violated SEC rules “by viewing pornographic, sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images using government computer resources and official time” cited as one example a staff accountant who tried to access pornographic websites nearly 1,800 times in a two-week period, using her SEC laptop, and had some 600 pornographic images saved on her laptop hard drive. The report also said a senior attorney admitted to spending up to eight hours a day downloading pornography to his government computer, so much pornography, in fact, “that he exhausted the available space on the computer hard drive and downloaded pornography to CDs or DVDs that he accumulated in boxes in his office.”

Not-So-Great Escape
Sheriff’s deputies who went to a farm in Albion, Ind., to arrest Thomas Hovis Jr., 52, on drug charges, said that when they arrived, Hovis ran from the house to a small outbuilding. They used tear gas to try to flush him from the building, but he remained inside. Finally they entered the building, where they found him neck deep in a pit filled with hog and dog feces. Chief Deputy Doug Harp said Hovis stood in the manure pit for at least an hour and had to be treated for hypothermia.

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