NEWS AND BLUES
by Roland Sweet - Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

11-20-2013

Curses, Foiled Again

Anthony J. Thomas, 33, walked into a gas station in Ocala, Fla., to apply for a job, but when the clerk turned away, Thomas stole $130 from the cash register. Sheriff’s deputies identified Thomas as their suspect by using information he had provided on his job application. (Orlando’s WESH-TV)

Second-Amendment Follies

Steve Faler, the president of American Legacy Firearms, defended the inclusion of the Kennedy Memorial on his company’s “Dallas Heritage Rifle.” Calling John F. Kennedy’s assassination one of the city’s most significant events, along with the Dallas Cowboys, he explained, “I do things that are historically, things that happened, and they’re not always good.” He pointed out he has produced commemorative guns for more than 130 cities and even sold one after Sept. 11, 2001, that featured the Pentagon and the still-standing twin towers. Ads for his Denver rifle appeared within days of the deadly theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. (Dallas’ WFAA-TV)

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)

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 foolproof; 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 Steinbrüück 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)

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)

Forbidden Fruit

When a KFC franchise opened in El Arish, Egypt, Khalil Efrangi, 31, organized a delivery service to smuggle meals into Gaza, where the entry and exit of goods and people are restricted. Efrangi, who operates a legitimate delivery service called Yamama in Gaza City, waits until he gets enough orders to make the venture profitable–usually 30–and then phones the KFC in El Arish and wires payment. Using two taxis and one of the scores of tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt, Efrangi collects the contraband and delivers it to his Palestinian customers by motorcycle. The entire journey takes about four hours. “It’s our right to enjoy that taste the other people all over the world enjoy,” said Efrangi, who nets about $6 profit per meal. (The New York Times)
Seattle butcher William von Schneidau teamed up with a medical marijuana grower to feed the remnants of pot plants to his pigs. Von Schneidau, who operates BB Ranch Meats in Pike Place Market, said the meat, including pot-infused bacon, “tasted savory.” (Seattle’s KOMO-TV)

This Ain’t No Karaoke

American tourist Bobby Ray Carter Jr., 51, was killed at a bar in Thailand’s Krabi province after he insisted on singing with the band. “Witnesses said Carter got angry when the band played ‘Hotel California’ instead of the song he requested, and he refused to step down,” Krabi city police chief Col. Taksin Pochakorn said. The band then stopped playing and argued with Carter until at some point one of the musicians stabbed Carter in the chest. (Associated Press)

How the 1 Percent Play

Some wealthy visitors to Disney World are hiring disabled people to pose as family members so they don’t have to wait in lines. Social researcher Wednesday Martin, who said she uncovered this underground network while studying New York City’s Park Avenue elite, said the black-market Disney guides charge $130 an hour. Instead of having to wait hours in lines, Disney allows guests with wheelchairs or mobility scooters to bring up to six guests to a “more convenient entrance” at the front of each attraction. “It’s insider knowledge that very few have and share carefully,” Martin said. (New York Post)

Life Imitating Star Trek

The State Department ordered the nonprofit software distributor Defense Distributed to take down online blueprints for a 3-D printable handgun, called the “Liberator.” The single-shot firearm can be created by anyone with the blueprints and access to a 3D printer. The file was downloaded more than 100,000 times in its first two days online. (Forbes)
Replicating devices might be able to feed crews on missions to Mars. NASA awarded Texas-based Systems and Materials Research Corp. a $125,000 grant to develop a 3-D printer able to create “nutritious and flavorful” food suitable for astronauts. The printers will use a “digital recipe” to combine powders to produce the food, according to project manager and SMRC engineer Anjan Contractor, who said he got the idea after using a 3-D printer to print chocolate for his wife. The project’s initial goal is to re-create pizza. Eventually, SMRC said, the technology could allow astronauts to replicate their favorite recipes from Earth or even feed this planet’s hungry people. (The Washington Post)

Smoking Hazard

A jogger told police in Bowling Green, Ky., that two men robbed him while he stopped for a cigarette break on his evening run. The assailants took $7 and the jogger’s remaining cigarettes. (Bowling Green Daily News)

Hidden Costs

U.S. military services have spent more than $12 million to design 10 new camouflage patterns for their uniforms, and millions more to buy, stock and ship them, according to the General Accountability Office. Eleven years ago, the military had two camouflage patterns: a green one for woods and a brown one for the desert. Then the Marine Corps implemented two new patterns, followed by the Army, Air Force and eventually even the Navy, which developed water-colored uniforms that some sailors objected to because it made them hard to spot if they fell in the water. The Air Force eventually ordered its personnel in Afghanistan to switch to the Army camouflage because it worked better in battle conditions. (The Washington Post)
After tests by the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility determined that the camouflage working uniforms most sailors wear at sea are flammable and would “burn robustly,” fleet commanders announced that all sailors afloat would be issued fire-retardant clothing. Submarine crews will continue to wear the flammable polyester and cotton coveralls because of low-lint requirements. (Navy Times)

News and Blues is compiled from the nation’s press. To contribute, submit original clippings, citing date and source, to Roland Sweet in care of The Syracuse New Times.