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News of the Weird

  • Article by: CHUCK SHEPHERD
  • October 5, 2012 - 2:33 PM

Researchers from North Carolina State University have demonstrated their latest technological advance in aiding "first responders" to disasters: cockroaches. Outfitting Madagascar hissing cockroaches with electronic backpacks that include antennas, batteries, cameras and microphones, the scientists hacked the bugs' nervous systems to steer them remotely into the tiniest of openings -- a crucial step toward finding survivors of earthquakes or bomb damage in densely built-up and populated areas. One researcher told ABC News, "[S]omewhere in the middle [of tons of rubble] your kid is crying," and huge machines are "not very efficient" at finding him.

21st-century weapon

Thousands of farmers in the northeastern India state of Assam are growing the world's hottest chili peppers and selling them to the army to make weapons, reported London's The Guardian in a July dispatch. One expert said a "few drops" of "bhut jolokia" "could make you senseless." Blasting a container of it into a terrorist hideout, he said, would "make them all drop their guns" after "just one breath." (Bhut jolokia has also been used traditionally to repel elephant attacks.)

Vandal's better vocab

Because the words were not those ordinarily used by vandals keying a car's paint, Newcastle, England, police looked immediately to a better-educated vandal and arrested University of Newcastle professor Stephen Graham, who had been a prominent critic of neighborhood parking rules that allowed outsiders to use the few spaces on his street. Scratched into several outsiders' luxury cars' exteriors were words such as "arbitrary" and "really wrong" and "very silly" (as opposed to the usual crude vandal references to anatomy and maternal promiscuity).

Courtroom follies

Missouri Associate Circuit Judge Barbara Peebles was suspended in September and recommended for removal by the state judicial commission for various offenses. The most serious charge, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, was that she allowed her clerk, Whitney Tyler, who was Peebles' friend and hairdresser and had no formal legal training, to dispose of as many as 350 cases. Said one lawyer, "Until the judge [showed up], [Tyler] was the judge."

Not-somber memorial

A sign at the entrance of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor asks that visitors "conduct yourself with dignity and respect at all times. Remember, this is hallowed ground." However, as the New York Post reported in September, visitors to the National September 11th Memorial in New York City show no such restraint, with some treating that hallowed ground more like a "Disney attraction." They sit -- or worse, lie down -- on the bronze-plaque names of the dead, and lay drink cups on them, creating an "almost cheerful" atmosphere, the Post said. The head of New York City's retired association of emergency medical service firefighters said the elegant memorial more resembled a visitor's "kitchen table."

No quick getaway

The two aspiring robbers arrested for hitting Zhen Yang's convenience store in Gatineau, Quebec, in June were also immortalized by the store's surveillance video. As Yang resisted the masked, knife-wielding men, he spritzed one with a can of bear spray, temporarily blinding him and sending the second man fleeing. As the heavily doused man tried to climb over the counter, Yang punched him repeatedly on his buttocks. Police picked up both suspects shortly afterward.

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