At a conference in August, researchers from North Carolina State University demonstrated their latest technological advance in aiding “first responders” to peacetime and wartime 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.
CUE THE BLACK HELICOPTERS
A website that tracks sometimes-obscure federal government purchases disclosed in August that the Social Security Administration had recently requested a price for 174,000 hollow-point bullets and that the National Weather Service had requested a price for 46,000 rounds of ammo for semi-automatic pistols. (The latter was subsequently corrected; it was actually the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Office that needed bullets.) Both agencies told reporters that they have armed officers investigating potential crimes.
Thousands of farmers in the northeastern Indian 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.)
DESPERATE CRIES FOR HELP
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, sending the second man fleeing and temporarily blinding the first. As the heavily doused man tried to climb over the counter, Yang punched him, over and over again, on his buttocks. Police picked up both shortly afterward. (2) Latasha Singletary, 30, was arrested in Fall River, Mass., in June after allegedly robbing the same liquor store three times in a 24-hour period. The owner recognized her immediately because she had robbed the store two years earlier, as well.
THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS
Arrested in New York City in August on charges that he used a tiny camera in a folded newspaper to crudely peek up female subway riders’ skirts: Dr. Adam Levinson, assistant professor at the prestigious Mount Sinai school of medicine. And arrested in Beverly Hills, Calif., in July and charged in a string of vandalism incidents (shooting metal marbles from a slingshot at windows of dozens of businesses and homes): investment banker Michael Poret, 58, of the Rodeo Drive office of UBS Financial Services.
Carl Funk, 58, told Broward County, Fla., judge John Hurley (on a video feed from jail to a courtroom) that he is innocent of the seven-year-old charges (trespassing and open-alcoholic-container counts) and that, besides, he is now wheelchair-bound in pathetic medical condition and should be allowed to go home. The judge was skeptical, but finally, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report, he offered to fine Funk only $50 on the charges, and Funk agreed to plead guilty. “Good luck, Funk,” said Judge Hurley. At that point, Funk rose from his wheelchair and quickly walked away. Wrote the Sun-Sentinel: “Raising both hands, Judge Hurley declared, ‘he’s been cured.’”
Missouri Associate Circuit Judge Barbara Peebles was suspended in September and recommended for removal by the state judicial commission for various offenses, including being late for work and destroying a court document in order to avoid embarrassment. The most serious charge, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, was that she allowed her “clerk,” Whitney Tyler, who was Peebles’ personal friend and hairdresser [and apparently without formal legal training], to dispose of as many as 350 cases as Tyler saw fit. Said one lawyer, “Until the judge [showed up, Tyler] was the judge.”
DONE IN BY PROPER SPELLING
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).