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News » News Quirks

Better World Without People



Curses, Foiled Again
Police said they received their "strongest investigative lead" in the case of 80 frozen pizzas stolen from a warehouse in Gambell, Alaska, when John Koozaata, 29, and Lewis Oozeva, 21, called the police station and tried to sell the pizzas to on-duty officers. (Anchorage's Alaska Dispatch)

• Police who found a 43-year-old man covered with blood in Suffern, N.Y., said the victim said his son stabbed him several times in the head with a screwdriver during an argument. After putting out a description of suspect Jared Hudson, 23, officers received a call from police headquarters that a man fitting Hudson's description had just been spotted running into the station to use the bathroom. He was promptly arrested. (New York's The Journal News)

Better World Without People
Nevada granted permission for Daimler to test self-driving trucks on public roads. Daimler's Wolfgang Bernhard said autonomous trucks were likely to be on the road before driverless cars because they operate "in a less complicated traffic environment" on open highways, whereas passenger cars spend more time in congested urban settings. The 18-wheelers still need human drivers to perform more challenging off-highway maneuvers, such as backing into loading docks. Bernhard said he expects other states to join Nevada, resulting in a regulatory framework and providing an incentive to truck operators, who would save on fuel and wages. "These guys have to make money," he pointed out. (Reuters)

• Google Inc. disclosed that 11 of its driverless vehicles have been involved in minor accidents on California roads since testing began six years ago. The incidents involved "light damage, no injuries," Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project, explained. "Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident." (Associated Press)

• Google announced that its self-driving cars are capable of interpreting the hand signals of bicyclists. A patent issued to the company says its system uses a combination of sensors to determine when a bicycle is present and to track arm angles indicating a turn. (The Washington Post)

Corpse Follies
Shaynna Lauren Sims was arrested for illegal dissection at a funeral home in Tulsa, Okla., for cutting a deceased woman's hair, smearing makeup on the woman's face and using a box cutter to make "a large vertical cut starting from the hairline stretching to the tip of the nose," according to the arrest report. Sims is dating the dead woman's ex-boyfriend. (Tulsa World)

Sons of Beaches
The world is running low on sand, a finite resource that's the material basis of glass and concrete. Both are vital to construction, the prime user of sand. Sand is also used in detergents, cosmetics, toothpaste, solar panels and silicon chips. Demand is causing riverbeds and beaches worldwide to be stripped bare to provide the more than 40 billion tons of sand that people consume every year. That figure is increasing due to the worldwide construction boom, particularly in the Arab world, whose abundant desert sand is unsuitable for concrete. As a result, criminal gangs in some 70 countries are dredging up tons of sand to sell on the black market. In India, for example, "sand mafias" have killed hundreds of people, including police officers and government officials, to capitalize on demand for sand. "The fundamental problem is the massive use of cement-based construction," said Ritwick Dutta, an Indian environmental lawyer. "That's why the sand mafia has become so huge." (Wired)

Litigation Nation
James Brickman filed a lawsuit against Fitbit, claiming that his wrist-worn Fitbit Flex "consistently overestimated sleep by 67 minutes per night." The suit, filed in a San Francisco federal court, accused the company of misleading consumers by touting that its gadgets present "exact" sleep data. "Thinking you are sleeping up to 67 minutes more than you actually are can obviously cause health consequences, especially over the long term," the lawsuit states. Fitbit insisted the suit has no merit, pointing out, "Fitbit trackers are not intended to be scientific or medical devices, but are designed [to help users] reach their health and fitness goals." (Britain's Daily Mail)

• Dominique Sharpton, 28, is suing New York City for $5 million, insisting she was "severely injured, bruised and wounded" when she stumbled over uneven pavement on a downtown sidewalk. "I sprained my ankle real bad lol," Sharpton posted on Instagram after last fall's incident. She claims "permanent physical pain," even though subsequent social-media postings show her wearing high heels and climbing a ladder to decorate a Christmas tree. Sharpton is the eldest child of Al Sharpton, whom critics accuse of using threats of protests and boycotts to shake down major corporations for cash donations to his causes. (The New York Post)

• Jennifer Burbella, a nursing student at Pennsylvania's Misericordia University, is suing the school after failing a required course twice because, she claims, her professor didn't do enough to help her pass. She acknowledged that he provided a distraction-free environment and extra time for her final exam the second time, but said she "broke down and wept more than once" because he didn't respond to telephoned questions as he had promised. (Wilkes-Barre's The Citizens Voice)

• Fred Habermel, 72, filed a lawsuit against Norton Healthcare for losing part of his brain. The complaint said doctors at Norton Cancer Institute in Louisville, Ky., extracted a piece of brain tissue to use to develop a vaccine to inject into Habermel's head in an experimental procedure to fight a brain tumor that had resisted previous treatment. "I can see losing a blood sample, but how do you lose brain tissue?" his attorney, Gary Weiss asked. "I can't imagine worse negligence." Weiss said Habermel doesn't have enough of the affected tissue left in his brain to undergo the procedure again. Despite his client's poor prognosis, Weiss noted one silver lining: The hospital told them they wouldn't have to pay for the surgery. (Louisville's The Courier-Journal)

• Melanie Nash, 53, admitted smashing the concrete vault that held her father's corpse, along with three other people, and rifling through the casket in search of his "real will" because she felt she hadn't received her proper inheritance. Instead, she found only vodka and cigarettes. Police in Colebrook, N.H., discovered the crime the next day when a patrolman reported "the gravesite of Eddie Nash did not look right," Judge Peter Bornstein said when he sentenced Nash to 1-1/2 to three years in prison. "That is the understatement of the century." (Associated Press)

Compiled by Roland Sweet. Authentication on demand.