Researchers at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology have developed goggles that can enlarge the image of a bite of food so that the eater might fool himself into thinking he has consumed more than he has (and thus, that his hunger might dissipate sooner). The software is so sophisticated, they said, that the food carrier (a fork, or the eater’s hand) is not transformed and appears at normal size. In basic tests, according to a June Agence France-Presse report, a 50 percent increase in imagined cookie size reduced actual consumption by 9 percent.
Prolific inventor Nobuhiro Takahashi announced in May that he had created a silicone-and-foam “buttocks robot” that can clench, twitch or protrude when probed (primarily for training proctology students to deal with patient anxiety).
In May, two members of the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee requested the total number of U.S. citizens who have been legally spied upon (by phone calls, e-mail, etc.) since 2008 by the National Security Agency, but the NSA’s inspector general said he was prohibited from answering. To go back through agency records, he said, would violate the privacy rights of those spied-upon U.S. citizens, which the agency cannot do without judicial warrant.
Pushing for an Oklahoma state senate bill authorizing the open carrying of guns (which eventually passed), Sen. Ralph Shortey explained in a March committee hearing that it was an incident from his past that convinced him of the need to carry a gun openly. “I was in oil and gas. I was out on a lease at one time, and I got attacked by a turkey. Wait until you get attacked by a turkey. You will know the fear that a turkey can invoke in a person. And so I beat it with a club. That was all I could do. And (then) I started carrying a gun in my truck after that without a license because I didn’t want to get attacked by a mountain lion.”
Jerry Patterson suffered a road-rage pummeling on June 12 at the hands of three men who beat him into unresponsiveness on the side of Interstate 5 in Los Angeles, with the incident captured on cellphone video by a passing motorist. Six days earlier, Patterson had himself been arrested for allegedly administering his own road-rage beatdown of another motorist, who suffered two black eyes.
Generally, airbags save lives, but apparently not Ronald Smith’s. According to a coroner’s inquest in Darlington, England, in May, Smith’s airbag deployed, but in the process was cut open on jagged glass, which forced a rush of the bag’s gas and talcum powder (used as a lubricant by many manufacturers) into his lungs. Smith soon afterward developed fatal bronchial pneumonia from inhaling the substances.
Sentencing statutes and guidelines generally assign heavier penalties to those more culpable for criminal enterprise — but not always. Houston grandmother Elisa Castillo, then 53, was convicted in 2009 of conspiracy to smuggle a ton of cocaine from Mexico and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole (a penalty authorized by statute), despite substantial evidence that she was a minor figure and despite her previously clean criminal record. According to a May Houston Chronicle investigation, several higher-up drug smugglers, including those on law-enforcement’s “most wanted” lists, have received much lighter prison terms than Castillo’s, precisely because, being so high up, they have inside information that they can bargain with prosecutors over. Castillo, relatively insignificant, had nothing to trade.
As the court-appointed trustee seeking as much of Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoff’s ill-gotten gains as possible to pay back his victims, Irving Picard has secured, according to a May New York Times report, $330 million to distribute. During the same time, Picard and his associates have billed the court (in fees that run as much as $850 per hour) $554 million.
(The Ponzi scheme “earned” around $65 billion, but much of that consisted of the fantasy “profits” that had so impressed clients to invest with Madoff in the first place.)
After Nechemya Weberman, prominent in the Brooklyn, N.Y., ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, was accused of 88 counts of sexual misconduct against underage girls and others, the district attorney arrested four men and charged them with using extortion and bribery ($500,000 worth) to silence one accuser and her boyfriend.
The Hasidic community is deeply split on whether “outsiders” (like district attorneys, for example) should judge its members.
Donnell Battie was in a Wal-Mart two years ago when a teenage boy commandeered the store’s public address system and, as a prank, ordered all black people to leave. The boy was arrested days later on harassment and bias intimidation charges, but Battie, who is black, claimed in May 2012 that the boy’s announcement still haunts him.
He filed a $1 million lawsuit against Wal-Mart in Camden, N.J., claiming that he has required medical care due to the “severe and disabling emotional and psychological harm” of the boy’s words.