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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes


Carbon equation

It’s probably not what climate change activists had in mind. Saying the company was focused on making “low-carbon investments,” Houston-based Occidental Petroleum proudly announced in October that it had opened its first solar farm. Energy collected at the 120-acre solar farm near Odessa, Texas, will power the company’s high-carbon investments like oil and gas drilling operations in West Texas. The company also said it plans on purchasing solar power to energize other drilling efforts in the Permian Basin.


KSL screen capture

Scott Brown (top) and the warehouse (KSL screen capture)

In the zone

Scott Brown of Millcreek, Utah, says he bought his home two years ago for the view of Mount Olympus. “In the evenings you get the alpine glow of the sunset off the peaks,” Brown told KSL. “And in the morning, you get the sunrise.” But in September, Brown said, he noticed a new construction going up just feet away from his home. By October his view of the 9,026-foot mountain was obstructed by a blue 37-foot warehouse that shouldn’t be there. Millcreek Planning Director Francis Lilly apologized on Facebook and called the approval of the warehouse a zoning error. But there’s not much she can do now, she said. Brown said the blue monstrosity has kept him off his back porch, and, though it’s tempting to move, “nobody says, ‘I want to buy that house,’ because there’s a giant warehouse behind it.”


Krieg Barrie

Krieg Barrie

Intelligence-gathering operation

A Pennsylvania high school is blaming a data breach of a school server on an ongoing water gun battle between students. Officials with the Downingtown Area School District in suburban Philadelphia discovered on Oct. 11 that their system had been hacked for confidential student records. “An attack like this is an attack not only on the school district, but it’s also an attack on our students and their families,” school district official Jennifer Shealy told KYW-TV. But district officials later said the hack was less malicious than originally thought. Apparently students trained in coding had accessed student records including addresses in order to gain an advantage in the “Senior Water Games,” a traditional contest between high-school seniors who try to track fellow students and shoot them with water guns outside of school.




Seven-hour sale

All but the timeliest lovers of specialty Spam missed out on a pumpkin spice version of the canned pork meat product. Hormel Foods rolled out Pumpkin Spice Spam using its own website as well as Just seven hours later, the limited-edition Spam sold out, leaving hopeful customers asking Hormel if it planned on making more. Unfortunately for fans, Hormel said it had no plans to make any more of the pumpkin spice meat product.




Lionel Heap Photography

Lionel Heap Photography

Flood drivers

One British motorist had a simple explanation for accidentally driving into a flood: He forgot he was driving a van rather than piloting his boat. Firefighters near Leicester, U.K., used an inflatable raft to reach the unidentified motorist stranded in a flooded street on Oct. 15. But that driver wasn’t the only one confused. Two separate Mercedes drivers had to be pulled from the waters, prompting a local flood warden to muse on Twitter, “I sometimes think, ‘Why do I bother advising drivers when they think ‘I know better’?”



Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office

The four captured inmates (Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office)

Breaking and re-entering

Four inmates of a Texas federal prison were captured by authorities outside Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Southeast Texas. But they weren’t breaking out of the prison; they were sneaking back in after escaping and gathering contraband. Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies and U.S. marshals caught the four inmates of the low- and medium-security prison complex cutting through a nearby ranch. According to prison officials, escapes and reentries had become routine at the prison, and an investigation turned up contraband whiskey and cell phones smuggled in by inmates who had escaped and then returned.



Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Gavin Newsom (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Eating out in California

Something new is on the menu for Golden State residents. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that will permit residents to pick up and eat roadkill from California highways. The bill, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Bob Archuleta, who represents parts of Los Angeles County, will go into effect in 2021. According to the new law, drivers who strike or find downed deer, elk, antelopes, or wild pigs will be able to apply for a “wildlife salvage permit” through a mobile app and take the meat home. The law specifically excludes roadkill reclamation on interstate highways and will allow certain counties to opt out of the program.



NBC news screen capture

The accused thief (top) and stolen artwork (NBC news screen capture)

Off the wall

San Francisco police are looking for a bold thief who walked into a Bay Area art gallery and walked out holding an original by a Spanish surrealist master. Police say the person walked into Dennis Rae Fine Art on Oct. 13 while the gallery was open and the gallery’s owner was present. Security footage showed the thief walking away carrying a frame containing Salvador Dali’s artwork titled Surrealistic Bullfight: Burning Giraffe, a painting the Spanish artist finished in 1967. A gallery official, who valued the artwork at $20,000, said the thief simply took the painting off the wall.




Robert Kochalle’s death notice (Handout)

Dead on arrival

A Kenyan Cabinet official is facing questions after making an unusual appointment to a government body. On Oct. 17, Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications Secretary Joseph Mucheru reappointed Robert Kochalle to a seat on the Kenya Film Classification Board for another three-year term. The problem: Kochalle died on May 29, 2018. At the time, the Film Classification Board put out a death notice and published a memorial. On Twitter, Mucheru ally and Film Classification Board President Ezekiel Mutua claimed that criticism of Mucheru was unwarranted. “Small issue being blown out of proportion,” he said.