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News » News Quirks

Another Nail in Journalism's Coffin



Curses, Foiled Again
Police couldn’t help but arrest Mahogany Mason-Kelly, 20, in Jefferson County, Texas, after the Lamar University student Tweeted, “I still got a warrant in Pearland … Those pigs will NEVER catch me!!! … NEVER!!!!” It was only a traffic warrant, but Mason-Kelly “kind of put it out there, didn’t she?” Randy Martin of the Lamar police department said after transferring custody to Pearland officers. “It’s a pretty good theory that there was probably more effort in this case.” (Beaumont Enterprise)

Police accused Joshua Hughes, 25, of hiding in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Love Library North after hours and setting fire to three books. Hughes was arrested after he called 9-1-1 for help because he couldn’t find his way out of the library when the fire started. The only damage was the three burned books. (Associated Press)

Another Nail in Journalism’s Coffin
Robots are being taught to write news stories. Programmers at Chicago-based Narrative Science have developed computer algorithms that initially produced rote summaries of sports games and stock market data but have advanced to learning human sensitivity, enabling them to recognize a team’s strong performance or pick up on trends and details that human reporters might miss. Robot reporters are already getting bylines for earnings forecasts at (Wired)

After former Defense Secretary Robert Gates complained that his department was “awash in taskings for reports and studies,” he ordered a study to find out how much the studies cost. Two years later, the Government Accountability Office undertook its own study of the Defense Department’s study of studies and concluded it was a failure. Its “approach is not fully consistent with relevant cost estimating best practices and cost accounting standards,” the GAO reported. The Pentagon said it “partially concurs” with the GAO’s findings. (ABC News)

The nonprofit Pew Research Center, one of the country’s most reputable polling organizations, discovered that barely 10 percent of Americans contacted for its surveys respond. That compares with a response rate of 36 percent just 15 years ago. The pollsters identified two big reasons for the drop in responses to its telephone surveys: people switching from landlines to cell phones and caller ID. (Slate)

Litigation Nation
When William Martinez, 31, saw a cardiologist in Gwinnett, Ga., about chest pain that radiated into his arm, the cardiologist determined the man was at “high risk” of having clogged heart arteries. He ordered a nuclear stress test to be done in eight days. The day before the test, Martinez and a friend had sex with a woman who was not his wife. He died shortly after the threesome. Martinez’s widow and their two children sued the cardiologist, insisting he should have had Martinez tested immediately or at least warned him to avoid physical exertion. A jury awarded the family $3 million. (Gwinnett Daily Post)

After the body of electrical engineer Paul Martin, 35, was found lying naked from the waist down in his Spencerport, N.Y., basement, hooked up to an electrical device attached to his genitals, his insurance company denied his widow’s claim for accidental-death benefits, declaring Martin died from “a deliberate act on his part.” Amanda Martin sued The Hartford life-insurance company, She lost, but an appeals court vacated the decision, declaring The Hartford’s position “would exclude injuries resulting from merely negligent acts, even if the insured did not intend to injure himself”—i.e., accidents. The court directed the insurance company to reconsider paying Amanda Martin’s $81,000 accidental-death claim. (New York Post)

Infamous Firsts
Police who arrested Chad Lee Lindley, 40, in Fargo, N.D., identified him as the first person in North Dakota to be charged with pimping. “We are not going to tolerate this,” Lt. Joel Vettel announced. (Fargo’s WDAY-TV)

Retired judge Jacques Delisle, accused of murdering his wife of 50 years, was identified as the first member of Canada’s judiciary to stand trial on such a serious charge. Authorities said Delisle was living a double life and seeing his secretary when partially paralyzed Marie-Nicole Rainville, 71, was found dead at the couple’s Quebec City apartment with a revolver lying beside her. Delisle called 9-1-1 and reported the death as a suicide. When the operator asked him if Rainville had mentioned taking her own life, Delisle answered, “It’s a long story.” (CBC News)

Igniting Outrage
Citizens in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, objected after their long-time “eternal flame” was extinguished for five hours. The 28-year-old flame, a tribute to Soviet soldiers who died in World War II, burns in Victory Square in front of a statue of a woman symbolizing those who waited for loved ones to return from the war. Yevgeniy Orlenko, deputy director of the state-owned energy supplier KyrgyzGaz, explained the gas was shut off because the local government’s unpaid bills totaled $9,400. After the incident was reported abroad, KyrgyzGaz officials re-explained that the gas had actually been turned off for maintenance. (The Washington Times)

Salesmanship Follies
During a tour of six Asian countries, Russia’s newest civil airliner, the Sukhoi Superjet 100, took passengers on demonstration flights. In Indonesia, the aircraft completed its initial flight, but on its second flight later that day, it disappeared 21 minutes after take-off while flying over a volcano south of Jakarta. The crash killed all 45 on board. Earlier this year, two Superjet 100s operated by Russia’s Aeroflot had to make unscheduled landings because of faulty landing gear. (CNN)

Computer Justice
A computer glitch resulted in 1,200 citizens being summoned for jury duty all at once at the Placer County, Calif. The system’s error caused a rare traffic jam on Interstate 80 in Auburn as 800 of the jurors actually showed up for the 8 p.m. Tuesday session. Court executive officer Geoff Brandt explained the technical error caused the juror-summoning system to go into default mode, “and we were unaware the default mode was to call in every jury panel we had scheduled for the week.” Although Brandt added, “We apologize profusely,” the people who showed up were informed that they’d still have to show up on their real scheduled day. (Sacramento’s KVOR-TV)

Instant Karma
Even though Spain’s King Juan Carlos, 74, is honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund, in April he made a secret trip to Botswana to hunt elephants. While on safari, the monarch fell and broke his hip. (Associated Press)

Compiled from the press reports by Roland Sweet. Authentication on demand.