KIDS THESE DAYS!
Among the students featured in Popular Science’s September list of young inventors was Fabian Fernandez-Han, 14, of Conroe, Texas, who invented a bicycle that, when pedaled, also desalinates seawater (via reverse osmosis) from replaceable 15-gallon canisters. One hour of pedaling produces 20 gallons of drinkable water. Jack Andraka, 15, from Maryland, created a test for pancreatic cancer that is demonstrably much faster and more accurate than current diagnostics (using carbon nanotubes that can be specially activated by applications of the signature pancreatic-cancer protein, Mesothelin).
CAN’T POSSIBLY BE TRUE
School officials in Grand Island, Neb., told Hunter Spanjer that the way he signs his name violates the schools’ anti-weapons policy and that he’ll have to abandon it. Hunter is three and a half years old, deaf, fluent in the language Signing Exact English, and uses a hand flourish as his unique signature (registered with SEE), except that officials say the flourish looks like Hunter is threatening with a weapon. At press time, Hunter’s parents were still negotiating with officials.
LEAST COMPETENT SEX OFFENDER
Police in Seneca Falls, N.Y., arrested Dawn Planty in August and charged her with statutory rape. Planty came to officers’ attention when she called 911 to ask if the dispatcher knew the age of consent in the state because she had had sex with a 15-year-old boy recently and wanted to clear her conscience.
The Washington Post, reporting in August the existence of a newly declassified communication between a cooperating Guantanamo Bay detainee and his lawyer, revealed that the “high-value” prisoner had, without explanation, been rewarded with a pet kitty cat. And on July 4, two peace activists who own a small advertising agency in Malmo, Sweden, pulled off their most audacious stunt yet by hiring a small plane to drop 800 teddy bears emblazoned with democracy-promoting messages over the capital of Belarus. The country’s strongman president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, later fired two generals for their inability to prevent the breach of the country’s airspace.
Many Americans are still outraged that no major banking officials were punished for the malpractices that produced the 2008 financial collapse. However, in July, Richard Eggers, age 68 and with an otherwise-unblemished record, was fired by Wells Fargo because of a 49-year-old conviction for attempting to rig a laundromat machine by making a “dime” out of cardboard. Wells Fargo said its hands were tied by a new federal law requiring dismissal of anyone with past convictions for “transactional crimes” (aimed at identity theft and money-laundering). Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which administers the law, has a waiver procedure, but the process is complicated, and Wells Fargo said it feared being fined if it did not terminate Eggers promptly.
MOTOR CITY BLUES
Ever since Detroit prosecutor Kym Worthy found 11,000 “rape kits” lying idle on police shelves in 2009, she has been seeking funding to test them. In a progress report in August 2012, of the 400 kits deemed most likely to yield results, 21 “serial rapists” were identified. (Manpower to find the men is unavailable, and yet to be learned is whether any have committed additional rapes since 2009.) And two hours after an early morning multiple-shooting in Detroit on Sept. 1, a 36-year-old man reported to a fire station to turn himself in. But firefighters were unable to persuade police to come arrest him, and eventually, reported WXYZ-TV, the firefighters put the man in a taxi and sent him to a police station.
UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT
A 30-year-old man told Providence, R.I., told police in August that he was the victim of a sexual assault, and police are investigating. The man said he had gone to the North Main Street Spa for a professional massage and was unable to avoid a sex act administered by his “masseuse,” “Yo Yo.” (The Providence Journal did not publish his name because he claims to be the victim of a sex crime.)
In July, Labor Party councillors in the Netherlands demanded that weather forecasters be punished for incorrect predictions–since poor weather drives down resort business, resulting in slower hiring. One hotelier in Hoek van Holland lamented that the forecasters, ironically, were getting worse “[d]espite having more forecasting tools than ever before.” A week before that, tourist managers in Belgium reportedly called for “less pessimistic forecasts,” and one urged meteorologists “to pay as much attention to sun as they do to rain.”