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News Quirks 

Published May 2, 2012 at 10:34 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Investigators identified Thomas McMartin, 56, as the person who planted a motion-activated camera in a women’s locker room at New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute because he inadvertently photographed himself setting up the camera. “We have recovered numerous still photos which do indicate numerous female adults in various stages of undress, and we have recovered digital evidence which implicates the defendant,” Troy police Captain John Cooney said. (Troy’s Record)

Reply-All Follies

London-based Aviva Investors inadvertently sent an email notifying its entire worldwide staff of 1300 workers that they’d been dismissed and reminding them to turn over company property as they left their workplace. “It was intended that this email should have gone to one single person,” company official Paul Lockstone explained, adding, “From time to time, things go wrong.” (Bloomberg News)

Shortsighted Marketing

When earthquakes in Indonesia revived memories of the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed 230,000 people, including more than 8000 in Thailand, KFC Thailand recognized an opportunity to sell fried chicken. It posted a Facebook message urging people to “hurry home and follow the earthquake news. And don’t forget to order your favorite KFC menu.” (Associated Press)

A Chinese company whose slogan is “You see the world, the world sees you” has begun selling Helen Keller-brand sunglasses. Company official Chen Wenjing said the marketing team was aware of Keller’s blindness but insisted the glasses were inspired by her traditions of philanthropy and optimism. (Time)

Tease of the Week

German researcher Thomas Hildebrandt heads a project called Project Frozen Dumbo, whose mission is to collect semen from wild elephants to avoid inbreeding among zoo elephants. Hildebrandt, of Berlin’s Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, travels to South Africa and searches for wild bulls by helicopter. He immobilizes the animals using a narcotic dart, then applies a procedure called “electro-ejaculation,” which uses a 5- to 15-volt charge to force out a sperm sample. The challenge, Hildebrandt explained, is that the anesthetic in the dart triggers a muscle contraction that causes the elephant’s 1.5-meter-long penis to retract into its cavity. “In order to extract the sperm hygienically, we have to get the tip out and clean it,” Hildebrandt explained, noting that doing so takes some teasing. The sperm is then collected and immediately frozen. It costs roughly $130,000 to collect three liters of elephant sperm, enough to impregnate 65 cows — theoretically speaking, because although Project Frozen Dumbo has been collecting semen this way for two years, no female elephant has yet to be successfully inseminated with sperm that has been previously frozen. “But we’re close to it,” Hildebrandt said. “We’re very, very optimistic.” (Sweden’s Local)

Good News for Ted Nugent

Mayor Bob Buckhorn issued a list of items that will be considered security threats at this summer’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. On it are masks, plastic or metal pipe, string more than six inches long, air pistols, and water pistols. Real pistols, however, are allowed. “If we’d tried to regulate guns, it wouldn’t have worked,” city attorney Jim Shimberg said, noting that state law bans all restrictions on carrying firearms in public places. “Any local ordinance that regulates guns is void.” (Tampa Bay Times)

Bovine Episodes

A sheriff’s deputy who pulled over a Honda Civic in Luna County, N.M., reported the vehicle contained three men and a 220-pound calf in the backseat. When the men couldn’t produce a bill of sale for the animal, they were arrested on suspicion of rustling. (Carlsbad Current-Argus)

After two hikers found six frozen cows wedged inside a remote log cabin in the Colorado Rockies, the U.S. Forest Service said it faces the problem of how to dispose of the carcasses now that they’re thawing. “They’re going to be scavenged,” Forest Service official Steve Segin said, identifying the biggest concern as bears coming out of hibernation. “We don’t want a bad encounter between people and wildlife.”

Because the cabin is in the protected Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area outside Aspen, restrictions hamper the cows’ removal. “We can’t use any mechanical means,” Segin said. “No aircraft, no helicopters, no chain saws, no ATVs.” There’s also a fire ban. As a result, the Forest Service is considering blowing up the cabin with the cows inside. The Colorado Cattleman’s Association said the animals probably entered the cabin seeking shelter during a snowstorm, couldn’t figure out how to exit it and starved to death. (Denver’s KMGH-TV)

How Other Governments Define Cheating

Pal Schmitt announced his resignation as president of Hungary after Budapest’s Semmelweis University revoked his doctorate because he plagiarized most of his dissertation. Schmitt, who was elected to a five-year term in 2010, told Parliament his “personal issue” is dividing the country. (Associated Press)

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About The Author

Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet was the author of a syndicated column called "News Quirks," which appeared weekly in Seven Days.


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