In this week's installment: Monsanto creates a "gene gun" for superweeds, the threat of surgically implanted explosive devices, and Britain’s government concludes that the best way to get the economy moving is to raise the highway speed limit.
Curses, Foiled Again
Armed with a handgun and an assault rifle, Terry “T.J.” Newman, 25, and John “Pimp” Roberts invaded a home in San Antonio, Texas, and demanded money. Authorities said that when the homeowner’s son came out of a bedroom with his own assault rifle and started firing, the two robbers fled, leaving their getaway car idling in front of the house. They returned 15 minutes later for the car, by which time members of the household had armed themselves with a second assault rifle and opened fire. Police arrived, only to have Newman ram their patrol vehicle with a second vehicle. He was arrested and convicted of aggravated assault. (San Antonio Express-News)
Authorities quickly identified three youths who broke into a house in Newton County, Ga., because they left behind pictures of themselves on the homeowner’s camera. (Atlanta’s WSB-TV)
What Could Go Wrong?
Fresh from beating human contestants on television’s “Jeopardy,” IBM’s Watson supercomputer system has been hired by health insurer WellPoint Inc. to help diagnose medical problems and authorize treatments for its 34.2 million members. (Associated Press)
Scientists announced they have genetically engineered grass able to withstand the “prodigious amounts” of herbicide needed to kill Roundup-resistant “superweeds.” Developed by chemical and seed company Monsanto, the strain of Kentucky bluegrass isn’t subject to federal regulations because instead of relying on bacteria, which the USDA does regulate, Monsanto scientists used a “gene gun” to shoot the modified gene into the grass’s DNA. (Wired, The New York Times)
Witnesses agreed Alvin Merriwell Lewis Jr., 67, made no threats while demonstrating how he would defend himself with a pocketknife, but Thomas Larry Bolds, 67, picked up a pistol anyway and shot Lewis eight times. Pensacola, Fla., authorities charged Bolds with murder. (Alabama’s Mobile Press-Register)
When a wounded grizzly bear attacked Steve Stevenson, 39, while he and Ty Bell, 20, were hunting in a Montana forest, Bell tried to save him by shooting the bear. He killed the bear, according to Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe, but also killed Stevenson with a shot to the chest. (Associated Press)
A 53-year-old man went to his ex-girlfriend’s house in Charleston, W.Va., put a .380-caliber handgun to his head and threatened to shoot himself if she didn’t take him back. He eventually lowered the weapon, according to police Sgt. Eric Hodges, but while doing so accidentally shot himself in the hand and foot. (The Charleston Gazette)
A United Nations firearms instructor from France accidentally shot himself in the thigh while undergoing recertification training at a firing range in Springfield, Mass., according to police Sgt. John Delaney, who declined to identify the shooter. (WWLP-TV)
Charge or Charge?
Money is disappearing, according to the Treasury Department, which last year printed the fewest $1, $5 and $10 bills in 30 years. Two reasons for lower demand are the increased use of credit and debit cards, which people are using more instead of money, and the increased longevity of circulating bills. The average dollar bill lasts 2.2 times longer than 20 years ago, according to Federal Reserve estimates. Bucking the trend is the $100 bill, which is a leading American export and is hoarded like gold in unstable places. Last year, the Treasury Department printed more $100 bills than dollar bills for the first time, and the Federal Reserve estimates that foreigners hold two-thirds of the seven billion $100 bills in circulation. (The New York Times)
Least Surprising Results
Larger women are more likely than others to have sex on the first date, according to a survey of 10,000 members of a British dating website. Freedating.co.uk’s “Dating Profile Attributes vs. First Date Outcomes” revealed that men and women who don’t drink, don’t smoke and like bicycling are the least likely to have sex on the first date. The less education women have, the more willing they are to have sex on the first date, whereas better educated men are the most willing to have sex on the first date. (United Press International)
City officials in Chattanooga, Tenn., hired consultants from Birmingham, Ala., to come up with a new name for Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport that would create better brand awareness. Big Communications recommended calling it Chattanooga Airport. Deleting “Metropolitan,” the company said, creates simplicity. (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Terrorists could start boarding airliners with surgically implanted explosive devices, a Department of Homeland Security senior official warned, adding the agency has already informed foreign governments of the potential threat. “New intelligence indicated at least a fresh look at this possible tactic,” the DHS official said, linking the threat to al-Qaida. Noting that scanning equipment used in airports can’t penetrate skin and couldn’t detect implanted devices, Transportation Security Agency official Greg Soule said the agency would rely on behavior-detection officers to help identify travelers with embedded body bombs. (The New York Times)
Police in Prince George’s County, Md., attributed the 12.1 percent decline in violent crimes during the first nine months of 2011 to paying off 67 known offenders. “We basically called them in,” Police Chief Mark Magaw said, “and basically said, ‘What do you need?’” Magaw explained the targeted violent offenders, who were identified by parole and probation records, were offered everything from food stamps to job programs.” Magaw said that since the initiative, none of the targeted offenders has been arrested. (Washington’s WUSA-TV)
School officials in Camden, N.J., offered 66 high school students $100 apiece not to skip school. The program, dubbed “I Can End Truancy,” or “ICE-T,” is funded by a state grant. (The Washington Times)
Road to Recovery
Britain’s government has concluded that the best way to get the economy moving is to raise the highway speed limit. Noting the current limit of 70 miles per hour is 50 years old, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond declared, “Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80 mph would generate economic benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds through shorter journey times.” (Reuters)
Why Space Exploration Matters
After astronomers announced the discovery of a planet some 200 light years from Earth that has two suns, a member of the discovery team, Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, announced the finding’s implications: “It’d be a weird cocktail hour. The sun would go down and you’d have a drink and then, a few hours later, the other sun would go down while you have another drink.” (The Washington Post)
Compiled from mainstream news sources by Roland Sweet.