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July 12, 2003

Rise of the machine: AI robot escapes from custody
BBC | Submitted by: poorjon
"Two airports have been alerted after a giant robotic balloon escaped from a science centre in South Yorkshire. Staff at the Magna Science Adventure Centre, in Rotherham, were forced to inform aviation authorities after the 'flyborg' floated off into the sky as it was being moved. The 13-feet long airship can expand to four times its usual size as it flies, and could fly for a week before it deflates. ... The flyborg has a computerised brain which allows it to avoid obstacles."

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Life sentence for sucking boy toes
Fox News | Submitted by: boat6float
"The former supervisor of a Newport Beach youth program was sentenced Friday to life in prison on 25 counts of lewd conduct and assault for sucking the toes of 20 boys. Trenton Veches, 32, will be eligible for parole in 15 years. ... Veches' mother, Joyce Ormes, said the sentence was too harsh. 'I don't know how he can spend life in prison for this when there was no sexual contact with the genitals, things like that.'"

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Hacker extorts porn sites
Wired | Submitted by: poorjon
"Pay me, or I'll crash your porno website. That's the threat Internet smut-slingers say they've been receiving from a hacker with a vendetta against the adult industry. And it appears to be more than just tough talk. Several sites have been temporarily taken offline in the last 10 days, battered by massive denial-of-service attacks, according to website operators. ... One erotica operator, who asked not to be named, said that beefed-up security measures have kept attackers at bay, after Deepsy allegedly crashed his site. This webmaster said he'd like to tell the FBI about his troubles. But he and others in the porn world are reluctant. ... 'Try going to the FBI computer crimes division and saying you run analsex.com.'"

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Woman ineptly torches skeleton to fake death
WKMG-TV 6 Orlando | Submitted by: Tim Howard
"A South Carolina woman accused of putting a disinterred skeleton in her car and setting the vehicle on fire in an attempt to stage her own death has been arrested in Florida. Sandra Grice, 37, of Dillon County, S.C., was charged with desecration of human remains, arson and violation of federal probation, said Sheriff Billy Page of Marion County in South Carolina. ... Grice staged her death last year to avoid appearing in court on federal drug charges... Last October, a passer-by discovered a female skeleton in Grice's 1998 smoke-filled Ford Contour, which was abandoned near a wooded area of Marion County. But the flames had gone out because the doors were closed and the windows were rolled up, so the fire ran out of oxygen."

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More bomb technology to worry about
canada.com | Submitted by: Tim Howard
"Canadian defence scientists are leading an international effort to devise protection against new and more powerful terrorist explosives designed to flatten buildings and rupture people's internal organs. The weapons, referred to as thermobaric explosives, were developed during the Cold War in the Soviet Union, but there are concerns the devices may have now made their way into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations. At the same time, some terrorist bombs, such as the one detonated last year by al-Qaeda operatives on the Indonesian island of Bali, use the same principles that are behind thermobaric explosives."

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More plagiarism by British Intelligence in Iraq reports
Independent | Submitted by: prettynwitty
"The document, released last September, shows at least six separate items on Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction were lifted from reports up to 21 months old. ... Mr Blair wrote: 'This document is based, in large part, on the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) ... Its work, like the material it analyses, is largely secret. It is unprecedented for the Government to publish this kind of document.' Although the action may be unprecedented, much of the information was freely available on the internet."

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Woman allegedly stalked self
canada.com | Submitted by: Sellasia
"Court documents show the husband of beleaguered Lethbridge alderman Darlene Heatherington gave investigators key evidence against his wife -- suggesting she penned sexually lurid letters to herself that supposedly came from a stalker. ... The 40-year-old was charged last month with public mischief for misleading Lethbridge police into believing she was the target of a stalker in her home town. ... in a dramatic news conference last month, Darlene Heatherington insisted she was abducted by a man in Montana who drugged her drink and took her to Las Vegas. Heatherington also said she was injected with drugs and sexually assaulted four times."

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Susan Smith looking for pen pals
AZ Central | Submitted by: prettynwitty
"Convicted child killer Susan Smith has placed an online personal ad from behind bars, seeking pen pals with a list of loves including Mickey Mouse, rainbows and waterfalls. 'I hope to receive letters from those who are not judgmental and who are sincere,' reads the ad... Smith, who is serving a life sentence, gained notoriety in 1994 for going on national television to tearfully plead for the return of her missing sons. She later admitted strapping 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex into their car seats and rolling the sleeping boys into a lake."

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Brothers charged with matricide get new lawyers
Sacramento Bee | Submitted by: Tim Howard
"Attorneys for two half-brothers accused of decapitating their mother quit the case Friday, saying the family was unable to pay for their legal services. ... Orange County Superior Court Judge Daniel Didier appointed public defenders to represent the brothers, who are accused of decapitating their mother after authorities say they watched an episode of 'The Sopranos.' ... Bautista and Montejo, who has been charged as an adult, allegedly killed their mother on Jan. 14. Investigators allegedly found her head and hands in a duffel bag in a closet in the family apartment in Riverside; the rest of her remains were found in an Orange County ravine."

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12-year-old convicted of assault with deadly weapon
Times Herald-Record | Submitted by: prettynwitty
"Family Court Judge Carol S. Klein decided [that the 12-year-old] did break into Calvary Presbyterian Church June 4 [and] used a desk and a chair to beat his teacher, Ertha Augustin. ... Cops say the boy, his 17-year-old brother, William Ramos, and their mother, Jamie Lynn Mereness, all participated in the beating that left Augustin unconscious."

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Japan's answer to Mike Tyson: hair-pulling sumo wrestler
CBS News | Submitted by: Reid Fleming
"For the first time ever, a wrestler ranked at the top of Japan's venerable sport of sumo wrestling was disqualified for grabbing a fistful of his opponent's topknot and yanking him down to the dirt -- and Japan is duly scandalized. 'Topknot grabber, unheard of,' read a headline Friday in the nation's largest newspaper, the Yomiuri. 'A first that has sullied the honor of sumo's highest rank,' blared another in the Nikkan Sports tabloid, a photo of the hair-grab covering its front page. ... 'He showed a complete lack of class,' said fishmonger Toshikazu Sudo, likening the foul to boxer Mike Tyson's infamous ear-biting incident."

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Burundi a hazardous place to be
allAfrica.com | Submitted by: Reid Fleming
"Preliminary reports from the UN Office in Burundi showed that 170 people have been killed and between 6,000 and 7,000 civilians displaced since rebels began attacking the capital, Bujumbura, from 7 July. ... Fighters loyal to Agathon Rwasa's faction of the Forces nationales de liberation have been shelling the city since Monday. The Burundian army was reported to have responded, and that it had killed 15 rebels. ... the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), reported that there were explosions of mortar rounds in densely populated sectors of the city, and that rebels and military officials had encouraged civilians to flee the conflict areas."

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Random audit of USDA workers reveals $6 million stolen
AZ Central | Submitted by: Tim Howard
"Agriculture Department employees used government credit cards to pay tuition for bartender school, to buy Ozzy Osbourne concert tickets, lingerie and tattoos and to make a down payment on a car. Based on a random audit of 300 cardholders, the department's inspector general estimated that 15 percent of the 55,000 USDA employees who carry the government credit cards, or 8,250 employees, made a total of $5.8 million in purchases other than for bona fide travel expenses. ... Among the uses were paying for 900 purchases at Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target and making car payments. The auditors also examined accounts of 25 USDA employees who obtained the most amount of cash out of ATMs. Twelve of the 25 'never traveled for official government purposes, (but) their card usage amounted to almost $196,000.'" [By checking 300 out of 8,250, the government has scrutinized only 3.6% of people carrying USDA credit cards.]

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Woman sues Toys "R" Us over toiletcam
WPVI-TV 6 | Submitted by: Reid Fleming
"A woman who says she noticed a video camera in the ceiling of an Alpharetta Toys 'R' Us restroom is suing the retailer for invasion of privacy. Tamara Perez says she noticed a hole in the ceiling above the commode while visiting the suburban Atlanta store on March 21. According to her lawsuit, Perez quickly left the women's restroom and asked her husband to investigate. Walter Perez moved a ceiling tile and found a video camera with a transmitter device, according to the lawsuit. ... 'The camera was not one of our surveillance cameras, nor was it placed with the knowledge of anyone associated with Toys "R" Us,' spokeswoman Susan McLaughlin wrote in a statement."

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Cop refuses donut bribe
South Florida Sun-Sentinel | Submitted by: Tim Howard
"Trying to bribe a deputy with a stack of Dunkin' Donuts coupons was the suspected drunken driver's first mistake. ... 'You can have these if you just let me park the car and I'll walk home,' the deputy reported Matakaetis told him. ... In the breath-test room, Matakaetis told the deputy, 'You're done, you're done. You're gonna get a bullet. ... You should've let me go,' the report states."

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Optimus Prime requires assistance
wkyc.com | Submitted by: george_lazenby
"The Cuyahoga Falls man who changed his name to Optimus Prime, a Transformers toy and leader of the Autobots, has been granted leave from active duty in the Gulf. In addition to a death in the family, a fire destroyed the house where he planned to move. ... If you would like to help Optimus, please call Vanessa Martin."

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Man stabs brother to death over Yankees cap
New York Newsday | Submitted by: Tim Howard
"A Brooklyn man was arrested after allegedly stabbing his brother to death in a fight over a Yankees cap, police said Friday. [He] was caught minutes later by police on patrol. 'I don't know what you're talking about,' he said, despite the fact his clothes were covered in blood, a police source said. 'I didn't stab anyone.'"

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Twinkie defense resurrected with jasmine tea
Salon | Submitted by: prettynwitty
"Criminal charges were dropped against a man whose defense lawyer claimed that drinking jasmine tea made him temporarily insane before he smashed his way into a neighbor's house and chased the woman with a dagger. Police said they found a wild-eyed Gilbert Walker, 43, outside the house in nearby Callaway yelling 'I'm crazy' after he had broken a glass door with a brass duck. ... Jasmine is an herb commonly taken to calm the stomach but is also used as a love potion in satanic and cult rituals, defense lawyer Mike Hunter said. ... Walker's former girlfriend gave him the tea to settle his stomach, but didn't warn him to limit his intake and he consumed up to 10 cups daily."

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Disneyland relaxes employee dress code
WKMG-TV 6 Orlando | Submitted by: Rockpile
"Under a new policy adopted last month, male park workers, for the first time, can wear braids provided they are above the collar, neatly tied close to the scalp and in straight rows. Female workers, who can now wear small hoop earrings, have been able to braid their hair for years. ... The last time Disney changed its grooming policy was in 2000 when the company allowed workers to grow mustaches. In 1994, female theme-park workers were permitted to use eye shadow and eyeliner and balding men were allowed to wear toupees. ... Even though Walt Disney wore a mustache, he was a stickler when it came to the grooming of park employees, wanting them to maintain clean-cut images at Disneyland."

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Battlestar Galactica actor to fans: don't watch the show
Kansas City Star | Submitted by: kade
"Edward James Olmos, the star of the new Battlestar Galactica, has some advice for devoted fans of the 1970s sci-fi series: Don't watch the remake. As executives of the Sci Fi channel cringed, Olmos told reporters during the Television Critics Association summer tour that he 'would not advise them to watch this program. It will hurt them ... The intent and the way we've built the reality is very different from the reality of the original.' ... The new Battlestar -- which will make its debut in December as a four-hour mini-series but is expected to become a series -- is not going to be a faithful re-creation of the original." [Fewer Mormon influences, perhaps?]

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American marketing efforts based on fear
Guardian | Submitted by: Otis Criblecross
"Politicians and terrorists are not the only propagandists who use fear to drive human behaviour in irrational directions. ... President Bush himself appeared in TV commercials, urging Americans to 'live their lives' by going ahead with plans for vacations and other consumer purchases. 'The president of the US is encouraging us to buy,' wrote marketer Chuck Kelly in an editorial for the Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune, which argued that America was 'embarking on a journey of spiritual patriotism' that 'is about pride, loyalty, caring and believing' -- and, of course, selling. 'As marketers, we have the responsibility to keep the economy rolling,' wrote Kelly. 'Our job is to create customers during one of the more difficult times in our history.'"

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