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Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 03:29 pm

News Quirks 8/1/13

Curses, foiled again
• Police charged four people with theft after they used a stolen credit card to buy tickets at a movie theater in Crofton, Md. Anne Arundel County police identified the three teenagers and a 20-year-old as suspects after they posed for pictures in the theater’s souvenir-photo booth. After police posted the photos, community members provided their names. (Bowie, Md., Patch)
u  Ontario police caught Jorden Morin, 25, driving a stolen vehicle 90 miles to a Toronto-area jail to serve his weekend jail sentence for assault. “It’s clear from the record, you are not getting the message of deterrence,” Judge Kevin Sherwood said after adding time to his sentence for violating probation and possession of stolen property. (Canada’s QMI Agency)

Spaced out
• The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology approved funding for NASA but specifically banned the agency from moving forward with President Obama’s proposed mission to capture an asteroid. It also sharply cut money to research climate change. The asteroid retrieval mission (ARM) would entail using an unmanned spacecraft to use a giant net to haul in an asteroid 20 to 30 feet wide and release it into an orbit around the moon. Astronauts would then examine the asteroid to learn how to develop ways to deflect any larger asteroid headed directly for Earth. Denying that the party-line vote was an automatic anti-Obama response, Rep. Steven M. Palazzo, R-Miss., insisted that NASA’s priority should be human spaceflight: “launching American astronauts on American rockets from America.” (The Washington Post)

• A bill introduced in Congress would create a U.S. national park on the moon. H.R. 2617 – “The Apollo Lunar Legacy Act” – identifies six Apollo landing sites with artifacts that could be pirated away “as space-faring commercial entities and foreign nations begin to achieve the technical capabilities necessary to land spacecraft on the surface of the moon,” the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., explained. Among the designated artifacts are the Eagle lunar lander’s descent and ascent stages, lunar exploration vehicles and three golf balls. (Brevard County’s Florida Today)

Happy ending
• After a Chinese court overturned prostitution charges against a Foshan hair salon whose staff provided sexual services, Chinese media and law enforcers began a national debate on whether sexual services that don’t involve actual sexual intercourse count as crimes. The Foshan Intermediate People’s Court ruled that oral sex and other types of sexual services facilitated by body parts excluding genitals fall outside the legal definition of prostitution. On its official microblog, however, the court urged the legislature to clarify the matter, noting that, though legal, such services “significantly damage social order and have a certain degree of social harm.” (Associated Press)

Drive-in service
• Austrian firefighters were doing chores at their station in Pregarten when a car pulled up with flames shooting from beneath it. Fireman Roland Brandl said one firefighter grabbed an extinguisher and doused the blaze, which apparently was caused by a cleaning cloth that had been left under the hood. (Associated Press)

Drone on
• The Air Force has been flying U.S. flags on secret drone flights out of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, then retrieving them from the 22-hour round-trip missions and presenting them to visitors or delivering them to stateside recipients. Each flag is accompanied by a personalized certificate that includes details of the surveillance operation and the Predator drone that carried the flag. “A lot of people don’t know about it until we present it to someone they know or a friend,” an Air Force captain identified only as “Cedric,” commented on the Incirlik Air Base website. “Then they’re like, ‘Oh, I want one. What do I need to do?’” (The Washington Post)

• A Philadelphia dry cleaner began using a drone to deliver clothes to customers. “I’m all about technology, and I see a lot of these cleaners, it’s so old school. You come in and you just pick it up,” Harout Vartanian, 24, the owner of Manayunk Cleaners, said, explaining he converted an unmanned four-bladed DJI Phantom quadracopter, designed for taking aerial photography. “We fly it to your house, it makes a noise, you pick it up, and that’s that.” Vartanian said he doesn’t think Federal Aviation Administration guidelines on unmanned aircraft systems apply to him because it’s “just a toy” used to promote his business. (Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV)

Date of the week
• A grand jury in Butler County, Ohio, indicted Edwin Charles Tobergta, 34, after police reported he “stepped out of his back door, naked, and was having sexual relations with a rubber pool float … in front of several children who saw his genitals and his actions with the float.” It was not Tobergta’s first pool-toy encounter. In 2011, he was accused of having sex with a neighbor’s pool float, and in 2002, a woman told police he had sex with an inflatable pumpkin in her yard. (Cincinnati’s WLWT-TV)

Just what we needed
• A French company has developed an analytical tool to detect sarcasm. Spotter said its analytics software uses a combination of linguistics, semantics and heuristics to create algorithms that can recognize sarcastic comments posted online. It has an accuracy rate of up to 80 percent, according to Spotter’s U.K. director Richard May, who conceded, “Nothing is fool-proof; we are talking about automated systems. But five years ago, you couldn’t get this level of accuracy. We were at the 50 percent mark.” Noting that one of Spotter’s clients is Air France, May explained that one of the most common subjects for sarcasm is bad service. (BBC News)

Pry them from my cold dead hands
• Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, 94, is hoarding 38,000 menthol cigarettes because he fears the European Union might ban them. Schmidt, who is allowed to smoke wherever and whenever he pleases, has stockpiled 200 cartons of Reyno, his preferred brand, enabling him to smoke a pack a day until he turns 100, according to Chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück of Schmidt’s Social Democrats party, who revealed news of Schmidt’s stash while admitting he has his own stash of special French light bulbs that he fears the EU will ban. (Germany’s The Local)

Where’s a good Second Amendment when you need one?
• After evacuating flooded High River, Alberta, Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized “a large quantity of firearms” from vacated homes and set up a blockade at a checkpoint to keep out residents. “This,” resident Charles Timpano declared, pointing to the blockade, “is the reason the U.S. has the right to bear arms.” (Canada’s National Post)

Compiled from mainstream news sources by Roland Sweet. Authentication on demand.
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