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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Corinne Gaby (right) works with her teacher at Notch Peak Elementary in Albany County, Wyo. (Shannon Broderick/Laramie Boomerang via AP)

Top of their classes

A school district in Wyoming is planning to operate two schools next year at a cost of $150,000. That may seem thrifty, except that each school will have exactly one student. The Albany County School District already operates one of the one-student schools, and it will open the second in the fall when a single kindergarten student begins classes at the Cozy Hollow School. The schools are not far apart, but roads in the area are impassible during winter months, making a combined two-student school impractical.


Krieg Barrie

Krieg Barrie

Going nuclear

Neighbors of a Memphis, Tenn., teenager may want to order some lead smocks. According to an independent analysis, Jackson Oswalt has become the youngest American ever to construct a nuclear fusion reactor, and he did it at home. Jackson flipped the switch in his homemade lab in January 2018, just hours before his 13th birthday. The boy smashed two molecules of deuterium gas in his reactor and was able to coax the molecules to eject an electron. Just over a year later, Richard Hull, a 72-year-old retired electronics engineer and a verifier with the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, was able to confirm that the experiment met the technical definition of a fusion reaction. Now 14, Jackson hopes to become a nuclear engineer someday.


Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP

Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP

The first and the last

Volkswagen has built a new car that sports a 16-cylinder engine with six exhaust pipes, but don’t expect to find it at a local dealership. Volkswagen-owned Bugatti unveiled “La Voiture Noire” (“The Black Car”) at the Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 5. The car is a one-off luxury sports car that had already sold to an anonymous buyer by the time of the auto show. Its reported price: $18.9 million, a record for a new car. For the same price, a car buyer could purchase 844 Volkswagen Jettas.


Sue Ogrocki/AP

Charles Lamb (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Graveyard politics

Charles Lamb is headed to a runoff in the Edmond, Okla., mayoral race, but he won’t be actively campaigning for the job. Lamb, the incumbent, died suddenly in December at age 72—after he had filed the paperwork to challenge former Mayor Dan O’Neil. Despite his death, Lamb finished second in a three-man primary race on Feb. 12, qualifying him to participate in the April 2 general election. Spokesman Casey Moore explained that at the time of Lamb’s death, it was too late for the campaign to put forward another name.

—This story has been corrected; Casey Moore did not urge citizens to vote for Lamb.


Missouri Department of Conservation via AP

Missouri Department of Conservation via AP

Field of vultures

You can’t blame Alice Sthurghill for not liking the symbolism. The 80-year-old resident of DeSoto County, Miss., says that since January dozens of vultures have overrun her property. Feeling too uneasy to go outside, Sthurghill called sheriff’s deputies, but officers said they weren’t allowed to remove them because vultures are a protected species. “It looked like I was being invaded,” Sthurghill told WMC. “I felt like they would pick me up by my shirt and carry me away.” Sthurghill believes the scavenger birds are actually interested in a neighboring property where chickens and goats are raised.


Krieg Barrie

Krieg Barrie

A case of mistaken identity

Back in April, Norwalk, Conn., police stopped driver Jason Stiber and ticketed him for violating a law against distracted driving. The alleged distraction: either a cell phone or a fast-food hash brown. Officer Shawn Wong Won testified at trial on Feb. 22 that Stiber was holding an illuminated cell phone in front of his face when he stopped the driver. But according to Stiber, the police officer confused his McDonald’s hash brown for his phone. Stiber has paid nearly $1,000 in legal fees to fight the $300 ticket.


Hawaii News Now via AP

Hawaii News Now via AP

Rush to judgment

A Hawaiian man’s scheme to avoid his civic duty backfired when his temper tantrum led to him spending the night in jail. Authorities say Jacob Maldonado began yelling, “He is guilty, he is guilty,” outside a courtroom on Feb. 26 despite the fact he had been called to serve on a jury for an assault case. The judge, believing Maldonado was attempting to be dismissed from the case, cited the man with contempt of court, ordered him jailed, and set his bail at $10,000. The next morning, the judge allowed the man to go free without charges.



Anglian Water/SWNS

The U.K. sewer drain clogged with Yorkshire pudding (Anglian Water/SWNS)

Down the wrong pipe

A public utility in the United Kingdom has asked local residents to stop flushing food down toilets. Officials with Anglian Water located north of London posted pictures of a sewer drain clogged with Yorkshire pudding on Feb. 15. While working to clear a backed-up pipe in Ipswich, employees discovered someone had flushed enough of the popular doughy dinner to cause the clog. “Yorkshire puddings are for Sunday dinners, not sewer dinners,” an official tweeted. British water utilities have recently been working to train the public to use the nation’s Victorian-era drainpipes responsibly. In January, utility workers in Devon discovered a 210-foot “fatberg” composed of fats and wet wipes.



Geir Helgemo (YouTube)

Bridge suspension

First baseball, then cycling, now the competitive bridge world. The World Bridge Federation suspended bridge world champion Geir Helgemo on March 1 after he tested positive for synthetic testosterone and a female fertility drug at a professional event in Orlando, Fla., in September. Helgemo, 49, was born in Norway but now competes on the world stage for Monaco. A spokesman for the Norwegian Bridge Federation defended Helgemo, claiming the drugs he tested positive for were not performance enhancing. Nevertheless, the WBF revoked his accomplishments in 2018 and banned him from competition for a year.