News Quirks | News Quirks | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published January 22, 2014 at 8:56 a.m.

Property Rites

The Broward (Fla.) Property Appraiser’s Office denied agricultural tax exemptions to 127 properties that it said used a common practice called “rent-a-cow” to qualify. In one case, Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that runs state prisons, paid a land seller $10 a year to keep a few cows on the property so it got the tax break. Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish said declassifying the property will save the county $50,000. (Miami’s WPLG-TV)

Performance Anxiety

The more students use their cellphones, the more anxious they become overall and the lower their grades drop, according to researchers at Ohio’s Kent State University, who suggested students who feel constantly obligated to keep in touch with friends experience stress when they’re disconnected. Contrary to previous research that cellphones improve social interaction and reduce feelings of isolation, this study, reported in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that students who used their cellphones more were less satisfied and happy than other students, and their grade point averages were lower. (Time)

Securing the Homeland

After Nerf guns caused a lockdown at Missouri State University, school officials announced they were considering a ban on the toys. The incident occurred during a semiannual campus-wide game of Humans vs. Zombies. A professor mistook one of the neon toys for a real gun and called police, resulting in the lockdown. Saying a ban was “an option that we’ll discuss,” Don Clark, head of MSU’s Department of Safety and Transportation, noted that several colleges already have banned Nerf guns. (Washington Times)

Privy Peril

London firefighters have been called to rescue 3,012 people locked in toilets in the past four years. The London Fire Brigade reported that these and other “locked-in” emergency calls cost taxpayers nearly $16,000 but that they’re seldom real emergencies. “Ringing just because you don’t want to pay a locksmith is not good enough,” LFB Third Officer Dave Brown said. (Britain’s London24)

Digital Crime

When Bloomberg TV anchor Matt Miller showed a certificate for $20 in digital currency, known as bitcoins, he inadvertently displayed the digital QR code. A viewer used his smartphone to scan the code and steal the money. (Business Insider)

New Market for Ring Tones

As electric cars, which typically move soundlessly below 20 mph, add synthetic motor noise to alert blind and inattentive pedestrians, sound engineers are developing sounds with different pitches for different models: “sonorous purring” pitched higher than conventional vehicles for the Mercedes e-Smart city car and “huskier tones” to reflect the power of the company’s $569,600 SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive. Renault’s Zoe hatchback also offers a choice of car tones: pure, glam and sport. “People expect some exterior noise from a vehicle, because we all grew up with the vroom vroom of combustion engines,” said Christoph Meier, head of powertrain acoustics for German-based Daimler. Mercedes mimics a combustion engine by getting louder as the car accelerates, but Ralf Kunkel, head of acoustics at Audi, said, “Simply imitating the sound of a combustion engine was not an option” for the tone he developed for Audi’s new A3 E-tron plug-in hybrid after “we discarded ideas of giving electric vehicles sounds such as birds twittering or leaves rustling.” (Washington Post)

Second-Amendment Follies

A 32-year-old man accidentally shot himself in the buttocks at a Home Depot store in Brighton, Mich. Police Chief Tom Wightman said the man, who had a license to carry a concealed weapon, was reaching for his wallet when he triggered the .40-caliber Glock pistol. (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)

Deputies investigating the shooting death of Bruce Fleming, 69, in Deltona, Fla., said they believe the victim was struck by a stray bullet coming from his neighbor’s home. Volusia County Sheriff’s Office official Gary Davidson said the neighbor had recently installed a shooting range with a raised berm in his backyard. (Daytona Beach’s WNDB Radio)

When Pit Bulls Aren’t Enough

Drug dealers are turning to alligators to protect their stashes, according to law enforcement officials who’ve found the reptiles in raids from coast to coast. “My first thought was we’re definitely not touching it,” a police detective in Anne Arundel County, Md., said after a raid in which officers encountered a three-foot alligator in a walk-in closet with 5 ounces of marijuana. “It kept hissing, like, ‘Leave me alone.’” Jeffrey Hyson, a professor at Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s University, suggested that for someone with stuff they’d like to guard, “a pit bull is great, but a gator is even better.” (Washington Times)