From airport stowaways to Bigfoot hunting law, check out some more of these crazy news stories that are happening in 2021!
1. A man has been found living in an airport for 3 months
A man too afraid to fly home due to COVID-19 fears has been detained after living in Chicago International airport for three months.
Aditya Singh, 36, was arrested on Saturday, 13th January, after airline staff asked him to produce official identification. He presented an airport worker ID that had been reported misplaced by an operations manager three months prior.
Singh reportedly found the ID badge in the airport and used it to remain undetected between October 2020, to January 2021. He survived by eating food offered by other sympathetic passengers.
According to a statement from Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Hagerty, Singh had no criminal background prior to his arrest on Saturday morning by Chicago police. The native Californian has a master’s degree in hospitality and is currently unemployed.
Cook County judge Susana Ortiz reacted with disbelief that the man had remained undetected for so long.
You’re telling me that an unauthorised, non-employee individual was allegedly living within a secure part of the O’Hare airport terminal from 10th October 2020, to 16th January 2021, and was not detected? I want to understand you correctly.
Ortiz later stated to the court in closing
The court finds these facts and circumstances quite shocking for the alleged period of time that this occurred. Being in a secured part of the airport under a fake ID badge allegedly, based upon the need for airports to be absolutely secure so that people feel safe to travel, I do find those alleged actions do make him a danger to the community.
Singh’s bail was set at $1,000 (£736). Should he be able to post bail, he is barred from re-entering the O’Hare International airport.
This isn’t the first time a person has been found wandering around an airport without permission. In 2020 a tourist travelling from Thailand was detained in a Philippines airport for 110 days after his entry visa was rejected due to pandemic restrictions. The Estonian had reportedly been travelling around Southeast Asia during the height of Coronavirus and became trapped in limbo after not being able to book a flight back to Thailand, nor be able to return home.
After the man took to social media to be released from his airport prison, the Estonian government issued a statement saying “It is important to note that he flew to the Philippines during a time when countries had announced emergency situations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had given a travel warning.”
The man was finally able to return to his native Estonia shortly after taking to social media in July 2020.
In 2018 a British man was detained in a Russian airport for two weeks after his Russian residency permit expired.
2. A driver had his ham sandwiches confiscated at the Dutch border
A Dutch TV network filmed border officials confiscating food, including ham sandwiches, from drivers arriving in the Netherlands from the UK, under post-Brexit rules.
Dutch officials were seen on camera explaining new import regulations to travellers entering the country since the UK formalised its separation from the EU.
One driver, with sandwiches wrapped in tin foil, asked if he can keep the bread and relinquish the meat, but was told by an official: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to the Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”
The Dutch customs agency also warned UK travellers of similar restrictions on social media, writing on Instagram in November that from 1st January 2021: “Typical products like cheddar, clotted cream, and Scottish haggis will no longer be allowed with you.”
As a gesture of solidarity, Subway launched a “Sandwich passport” for all diners that plan to take a footlong across the border. Several long haul lorry drivers were also spotted stocking up on vegan sandwiches at supermarkets before heading off for a days work.
Ham sarnies aren’t the only thing being taken away from Brits at the border. A British ex-pat had his weekly shop confiscated at the Spanish border after returning home from a day’s work in Gilbraltar. Among the items considered too risky for Spanish culture was a bottle of Nando’s Peri-Peri sauce, which contained processed onion.
Sometimes people are finding that they cannot cross the border at all. Reports for January indicated that up to 200 lorries a day were refused entry to the EU on the grounds of missing, incomplete or inaccurate paperwork.
3. An Oklahoma Lawmaker wants to create an official Bigfoot Hunting Season
A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season.
Rep. Justin Humphrey introduced the bill to the Oklahoma legislature earlier this month. The bill reads that the hunting season would be regulated by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, which would set annual dates along with specific hunting licenses and fees.
“Tourism is one of the biggest attractions we have in my House district,” Humphrey said. “Establishing an actual hunting season and issuing licenses for people who want to hunt Bigfoot will just draw more people to our already beautiful part of the state. It will be a great way for people to enjoy our area and to have some fun.”
Humphrey said he doesn’t want people to actually kill Bigfoot, so he will be working with the state wildlife and tourism departments to craft final language for his bill that specifies only the trapping of Bigfoot. He also hopes to secure at least $25,000 that can be used as a bounty for the first person to trap the creature.
“A lot of people don’t believe in Bigfoot, but a lot of people do,” Humphrey said. “Just like some people like to go deer hunting, while some don’t. Having a license and a tag would give people a way to prove they participated in the hunt,” Humphrey said. “Again, the overall goal is to get people to our area to enjoy the natural beauty and to have a great time, and if they find Bigfoot while they’re at it, well hey, that’s just an even bigger prize.”
Micah Holmes, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, which oversees hunting in Oklahoma, told television station KOCO that the agency uses science-driven research and doesn’t recognize Bigfoot, also noting surprise that they had not heard of the proposed bill until they were contacted by the news network.
4. Residents of Plymouth “Hoe” say they’re tired of being censored on social media
Facebook has apologised for repeatedly removing posts involving the use of “Plymouth Hoe,” a popular coastal destination for Instagram users.
The Devon city seafront has repeatedly been shamed by the social media algorithm for “offensive language.” Facebook users complained after their seemingly innocuous posts were removed from the website for breaching cyber-bullying rules. In some instances, users reported that they had been banned from certain Facebook groups for good after posting comments linked to the waterfront.
Facebook said in a statement that it will “take steps to rectify the error.”
Apparently, divine will is also out to get the risque named neighbourhood. Over the weekend it was reported by Plymouth locals that the historic “Hoe” steps, after being battered by months of bad weather, had partially fallen into the sea.
Local councillor C Penberthy said in a statement “There’s no point trying to patch it up in the middle of storm season, so we’ll be looking at it once the main storm season is over.”
Poor Plymouth Hoe.
5. Microsoft has patented a chatbot that would let you talk to dead people, and apparently, it’s too creepy to develop
If you’ve ever seen the popular BBC Netflix show “Black Mirror” then you were probably surprised to hear that the plot of one of the episodes might be a little bit closer to becoming reality than previously thought.
Microsoft has acquired a patent to develop a chatbot that would simulate a person’s social media feed.
The patent granted to Microsoft in December details a method for creating a conversational chatbot modelled after a specific person, a “past or present entity such as a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure,” according to the filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Under the patent, Microsoft can create an artificial intelligence bot “based on images, voice data, social media posts, electronic message, and more personal information” of a living or deceased person.
The technology is reminiscent of a fictional app in an episode of the technology-driven dystopian TV series “Black Mirror” which allowed the main character to continue chatting with her boyfriend after he dies in a car accident, by pulling information from his social media pages.
The internet reacted to the news with a range of emotions, with some saying it was “too creepy for words” while other opined that it may be a good tool to help people in a time of grief.
Tim O’Brien, Microsoft’s GM of AI programming and advocate for AI policy & ethics, said in a tweet that he was “looking into this” and that “yes, it’s disturbing” but he also provided both sides of the aisle in the argument on when and where it could be possible to use the theoretical technology in the future
I do see benefit in legacy preservation – for ex. this 60 Min piece on the Shoah Foundation’s use of AI so future gens can “talk to” Holocaust survivors is excellent
But there are sizable ethical issues to consider, including form factors, privacy, control, myriad ways bad actors could/would use, and many more. Just not a scenario we’re working on.
O’Brien also stated that the patent was filed in April 2017 and predates the “AI ethics reviews we do today.” Microsoft currently has an Office of Responsible AI, and an AI, Ethics, and Effects in Engineering and Research Committee, which help oversee its inventions.
6. Scientists have taught spinach to send emails and detect landmines
Scientists have managed to engineer spinach plants that are capable of sending emails.
Using nanotechnology, engineers at US-based MIT have transformed the plants into sensors that can detect explosive materials. They then wirelessly relay this information back to the scientists via email.
When the spinach roots detect the presence of nitroaromatics in groundwater, a compound often found in explosives like landmines, the carbon nanotubes within the plant leaves emit a signal. This signal is then read by an infrared camera, sending an email alert to researchers.
While the purpose of this experiment was to detect explosives, Professor Michael Strano and other scientists believe it could be used to help warn researchers about pollution and other environmental conditions such as drought. Because of the vast amount of data plants absorb from their surroundings, they are ideally situated to monitor ecological changes.
Plants are very environmentally responsive, they know that there is going to be a drought long before we do. They can detect small changes in the properties of soil and water potential. If we tap into those chemical signalling pathways, there is a wealth of information to access.
In the early phases of plant nano bionic research, Strano used nanoparticles to make plants into sensors for pollutants. By altering how the plants photosynthesized, he was able to have them detect nitric oxide, a pollutant caused by combustion.