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Happy Easter: Watch What Happens When You Put A Peep In A Vacuum

Posted by Austin Tedesco April 16, 2014 06:47 PM

Don't like the taste of Peeps? Well, here's something else you can do with the classic Easter candy:

Twitter considers abandoning the ‘retweet’

Posted by Joseph Dussault March 27, 2014 11:45 AM

Twitter is experimenting with a change that is catching some users off guard. The social media company is replacing the “retweet” with a generic “share” function for a small sample of users, according to Business Insider.

The company is currently experimenting with a version that doesn't have a "retweet" function. Instead, the buttons display the word "share," which is a sort of generic command used by a lot of social media companies to encourage people to repost or, er, retweet stuff so that their friends will see it.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo believes that jargon like “retweet” is daunting to new users, Business Insider reports. The new “share,” which is only in the testing phase, has the same function as the “retweet.” The only apparent difference is in the name.

Twitter plans to guage user reactions to the change before it makes any permanent changes. From the look of it, many users haven’t taken too kindly to the switch.

Reach me at joseph.dussault@globe.com. Follow me @josephdussault

Officials can't decide whether there's a mountain lion in Winchester

Posted by Doug Saffir March 21, 2014 05:37 PM

An ongoing dispute between Winchester police and wildlife officials has resulted in nothing but confusion for Winchester residents who are concerned a wild mountain lion might be roaming their town.

In two separate incidents, people have reported spotting an animal described as a large cat. But in neither instance has the animal been confirmed as a mountain lion.

According to CBS Boston, Winchester police sent footprints collected from each incident to a wildlife expert. A statement on the Winchester police website said the expert determined that the prints belong to a mountain lion.

But that is where things start to get cloudy. Multiple reports have said that Massachusetts wildlife officials were quick to refute the claims made by Winchester police.

A report from WCVB said a mountain lion sighting hasn't been confirmed in the state in over 150 years and that wildlife officials believe the prints belong to a dog. More from their report:

"We stand by our contention that this is absolutely not a mountain lion. We have sent the photos to several out-of-state experts, including a western mountain lion biologist, and all the feedback we have received is supportive of our original interpretation that these tracks were made by a coyote or dog," state wildlife officials said in a statement to NewsCenter 5.

The last confirmed mountain lion sighting in Massachusetts was in 1858, in the western part of the state. Numerous sightings have been reported since then, but none have been confirmed.

So with no clarity whatsoever on the issue, Winchester residents are left to wonder whether the mountain lion is real. Unfortunately, the issue is raising lots of other important questions like: "Is it safe to go outside?" and "Should I start carrying a weapon?"

Of course, just because officials can't make up their minds, that doesn't mean people can't decide for themselves using evidence beyond the foot prints.

For example, people may want to consider the fact that the Winchester mountain lion has created a Twitter account. Demonstrating surprisingly good typing skills for an animal without thumbs, the alleged mountain lion has insisted that it is "wicked real" and is cracking jokes about all the commotion surrounding its sudden appearance.

You might be skeptical, but those tweets make for some pretty compelling evidence.

So take caution everybody: there's a dangerous mountain lion out there and It's the perfect combination of speed, size, and social media savvy. If it doesn't get you with its claws, it will get you with its wit.

Reach me at douglas.saffir@globe.com. Follow me @dougsaffir

State law gives Hawaii cops right to have sex with prostitutes on the job

Posted by Chris Caesar March 21, 2014 06:53 AM
By Chris Caesar

Giving cops a "get out jail free card" to have sex with the very prostitutes they’re investigating - hey, what could go wrong?

A lot, say critics of the unusual Hawaiian law. State legislators included language to end the practice in a new bill cracking down on prostitution this week, though the change was removed following police testimony that claimed the protection was essential for undercover operations.

The amended bill passed the state house and is scheduled to go before a Senate committee Friday. However, some local advocates seek to get the ban reinstated at that Senate reading.

Local Hawaiian news station KITV-TV reports:

"The original [bill] would have nullified the existing exemption, preventing officers from enforcing prostitution laws," said the Honolulu Police Department in a written statement.

"As it is, we are already subject to 'cop checking' where prostitution subjects do certain acts or attempt to do certain acts to determine whether the person is an undercover officer," said Major Jerry Inouye, Honolulu Police Department Narcotics/Vice.

But experts criticized those claims:

[Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery Executive Director Kathryn] Xian doesn't believe HPD's claim and says none of the former prostitutes she's helped has ever "cop checked."

"We've had one survivor who was a victim of misconduct and she was in prostitution for seven years and not once did she ever cop check," said Xian.

Bill supporters emphasize how other states manage to prosecute prostitutes at a high rate without letting law enforcement use sexual penetration during their investigations.

Sam Eifling of the Associated Press observes:

There have been instances of police being accused of victimizing sex workers across the nation. In Philadelphia, a former officer is on trial facing charges of raping two prostitutes after forcing them at gunpoint to take narcotics. A former West Sacramento, Calif., officer is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of raping prostitutes in his police cruiser while on patrol. And last year in Massachusetts, a former police officer pleaded guilty to extorting sex from prostitutes he threatened with arrest.

Hawaii’s police misconduct disclosure laws make it “impossible to know” if any officers have faced disciplinary repercussions for having sex with prostitutes on the job, he adds.

Chris Caesar can be reached at Christopher.Caesar@globe.com, or via Twitter @ChrisCaesar.

Reports: Abington teen suffers serious injuries after setting off commercial firework

Posted by Doug Saffir March 21, 2014 12:40 AM
 

Reports late Thursday night indicated a 17-year-old in Abington suffered serious injuries after setting off a commercial-grade firework.

WBZ said that fire officials indicated the fireworks were set off inside an apartment building. They added that the boy suffered serious injuries and was taken to the hospital.

We will update this story with more information as soon as it becomes available.

Police: Fatal shooting victim was Waltham High School student

Posted by Doug Saffir March 21, 2014 12:32 AM

Update 1:49p.m.: The Middlesex District Attorney and Waltham Police Chief Keith MacPherson released a joint statement today, confirming the fatal shooting of Tyler Zanco, 17.

"At approximately 10:08 p.m. Thursday evening, Waltham Police responded to a report of shots fired in the parking lot at 31 Middlesex Circle. Upon their arrival, police discovered a male victim suffering from a gunshot wound in the parking lot.

"The victim, Tyler Zanco, 17, of Waltham, was transported to Newtown Wellesley Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

...

"No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing. However, at this point, authorities do no believe this was a random attack."

Waltham Public School Superintendent Susan Nicholson also released a statement this afternoon:

It was with great sadness that we were informed of the tragic death of one of our students. Staff and students at Waltham High School and in the district mourn the profound loss of a member of our high school. As a school community, we have come together to support one another during this difficult time.

School adjustment counselors, guidance counselors, and support personnel from outside of the district are working with our students and staff. A ConnectEd call was sent to parents and guardians earlier today. In consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education we have postponed today’s scheduled MCAS. We have encouraged all students to seek out an adult if they feel confused, unsafe, or simply need to talk to someone.

After school events will occur today and support staff will be available for our students. Please note that MCAS will be re-scheduled late next week.

Resources for students, families, and staff will be posted on the district website. We encourage all families to access them and use them as a vehicle to discuss and process thoughts and feelings.

Waltham High School will be open tomorrow from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. We will have support personnel available to meet with students and families from any of the schools in the district.

Waltham High School’s students and staff and in fact the entire school district are known for being caring and supportive. Together we will get through this tragedy.

Original story:

Police are investigating a shooting death at an apartment complex in Waltham late Thursday night, the second incident of gunplay in the neighborhood since November.

Wicked Local Waltham is reporting that the shooting happened around 10:30 p.m. at the Gardencrest Apartments complex and that there was a heavy police presence.

The victim appeared to have been shot in the parking lot, and suffered life-threatening injuries.

At about midnight, several cruisers and some unmarked vehicles were still at the scene. About 10 officers were in sight looking around the area.

WBZ has since reported that investigators confirmed the shooting was a homicide.

It is the second shooting in the area in the past four months - in November, Kayla Spangenberg, 20, of Brighton was charged with attempted murder after allegedly shooting a 20-year-old man near the apartment complex.

His injuries were not life-threatening.

This Is Why Astronomers Love The South Pole

Posted by Austin Tedesco March 19, 2014 03:34 PM

A group of scientists led by a Harvard astronomer made a groundbreaking discovery on Monday that strengthened the Big Bang theory.

The scientists directly observed gravitational wave patterns using this telescope in the South Pole:


Keith Vanderlinde/Reuters/National Science Foundation

National Geographic explains:

Using a small but powerful telescope at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station high up on the Antarctic plateau, the team of researchers put up with the harsh conditions to come up with one of the most important breakthroughs in cosmology.

"The South Pole is the closest you can get to space and still be on the ground," said John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts, and leader of the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP) collaboration. "It's one of the driest and clearest locations on Earth, perfect for observing the faint microwaves from the Big Bang."

Here's another look:


Associated Press/Steffen Richter

Police confirm Whole Foods suitcase no longer suspicious

Posted by Chris Caesar March 19, 2014 12:35 PM

Bomb Suit2.jpgCourtesy of Zac Loomer.

Update 1:03 p.m.: Universal Hub reports that the suitcase is considered no 'longer suspicious' by investigators. The Symphony Whole Foods has since re-opened.

A spokesman for the Boston Police confirmed officers responded to Whole Foods at 11:57 a.m., and that the scene has been cleared.

Original story: Universal Hub is reporting that a suspicious package at the Symphony Whole Foods has prompted an evacuation and police response.

Authorities were alerted to an unattended silver briefcase in the Westland Avenue store around noon Wednesday, according to editor Adam Gaffin:

Boston.com will provide more updates as they become available.

Elementary school choir sings "Happy," follows simple framework for viral videos

Posted by Doug Saffir March 18, 2014 07:40 PM

If you're looking to make a viral video and you're simply out of good ideas, here's a simple checklist to help you along:

1) The catchiest song of the year (so far).

2) Adorable children.

3) A camera.

In most cases, the kids don't even have to be able to sing, but that's what you'll need.

Of course, when it comes to Pharrell's hit song "Happy," the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences choir has already nailed it with plenty of style and talent. Check, check, check, and then some.

You'll just have to wait until a new peppy Top 40 song arrives. It shouldn't take too long.

(H/T Huffington Post)

Reach me at douglas.saffir@globe.com. Follow me @dougsaffir

Aviation blogger has surprisingly simple theory about missing Malaysia airliner

Posted by Chris Caesar March 18, 2014 02:21 PM

677c94118c78481a9929f2baca5dd3c7-677c94118c78481a9929f2baca5dd3c7-0.jpg

For all of the wild speculation surrounding the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, one pilot’s theory about the missing airliner has gone viral for a different reason: it - at least on its face - seems to make a lot of sense.

Aviation blogger Chris Goodfellow has flown commercial aircraft for 20 years, and posted the take on his Google+ page.

In short, Goodfellow theorized the plane experienced an emergency fire, prompting the pilots to turn around and attempt an emergency landing at a nearby airport in Palau Langkawi, a small island off the western coast of Malaysia.

This pilot did all the right things. He was confronted by some major event onboard that made him make that immediate turn back to the closest safe airport.

For me the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense if a fire. There was most likely a fire or electrical fire. In the case of fire the first response if to pull all the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one.

Goodfellow theorizes the smoke may have incapacitated the crew and passengers before they were able to reach an available airstrip.

You can read Goodfellow's full article here.

Amateur sleuths on the Reddit's MH370 discussion boards have started a thread to analyze Goodfellow's theory.

Update: Man arrested for attempting to burn 'place of worship'

Posted by Chris Caesar March 17, 2014 09:00 PM

A man was apprehended by witnesses as he attempted to light furniture on fire inside of the Grand Lodge of Masons on Tremont Street near Boston Common Monday night, WCVB-TV is reporting.

Firefighters responded to the scene around 8 p.m.

Fire officials said a man, who has yet to be identified, walked into the building on Tremont Street and doused some couches with lighter fluid.

Officials said he was trying to light a lighter when security tackled him to the ground.

No injuries were reported, fire officials told WCVB.

A request for comment to a Fire Department spokesmen was not immediately returned Monday night.

Update: @BostonFire tweeted some updates about the incident Monday night:

Police detonate suspicious package in Brighton

Posted by Chris Caesar March 17, 2014 07:58 PM

Google  Map.png

By Chris Caesar

Boston Police detonated a suspicious device discovered by a local bar owner on Western Ave. in Brighton early Monday evening.

Conor Hoey, who runs The Boyne Irish Pub, said he discovered the device about 25 feet from his restaurant and quickly alerted a nearby police officer.

“I saw a wire hanging out of it,” he explained.

Hoey said police told him the device was an abandoned pressure cooker, adding that police used a water cannon to discharge the device.

One witness on Twitter reported hearing "a massively loud" explosion.

"[An] officer said the pressure cooker appeared empty, but 'we blow 'em up anyway' (controlled) to be safe," @maffematician tweeted.

The restaurant was closed for approximately an hour and a half, but re-opened Monday night, Hoey said.

An email and phone call to the Boston Police Department for further information was not immediately returned, but we’ll update the story as official information is made available.

Chris Caesar can be reached at Christopher.Caesar@globe.com or on Twitter at @ChrisCaesar.

New Yorkers get paired up to kiss random strangers

Posted by Austin Tedesco March 17, 2014 07:45 PM

By Rachel Raczka

It was only a matter of time: New York-based filmmaker Hye Yun Park made a "real life" version of the beautiful kissing strangers/paid professionals video that went viral last week. It crushed our pitter-patter hearts to pieces when it was exposed as nothing more than a marketing campaign for fashion brand Wren and its "strangers" were more like celebrity offspring and hipster limelight regulars.

Park's version for Wifey.TV uses real strangers, in all their blemished awkward glory, making out for the first time. The pairs, who were recruited via "word of mouth," are blindfolded before they're put face-to-face for the first time, make a bit of forced small talk, and lock lips. A peppy pop track by Jennifer O'Connor plays and the 28 strangers proceed to aimlessly kiss. Is it sweet? Sure. Is it beautiful? Sort of.

Is it a marketing campaign? No. And maybe that's the most wonderful part of it all. Check it out below:

It's cool guys, Courtney Love found the missing Malaysian airliner

Posted by Chris Caesar March 17, 2014 07:00 PM

06252010_25hole-7637935.jpg

By Chris Caesar

More than 25 countries, 43 ships and 58 airplanes have searched for over nine days to find any sign of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

But did anyone think to ask Courtney Love?

The former Hole frontwoman and pop culture curiosity has posted a screenshot from the satellite imaging website Tomnod, which has seen a surge in traffic from amateur sleuths scanning ocean photographs for signs of the plane.

“I’m no expert,” Love observes on her Facebook post, “but up close this does look like a plane and an oil slick.”

We’re not so sure, but readers can decide for themselves at Courtney Love’s Facebook or Twitter page.

Chris Caesar can be reached at Christopher.Caesar@globe.com or via Twitter @ChrisCaesar.

Former bank employee pleads guilty to stealing over $2 million from customers

Posted by Chris Caesar March 17, 2014 06:22 PM

2014-01-30T180416Z_789335550_GM1E91I0LNZ01_RTRMADP_3_BANKOFAMERICA-SELLING.jpg

A former personal banker with Bank of America pleaded guilty in Middlesex Superior Court today to stealing more than $2.1 million from 31 investors, mostly from friends and elderly customers.

Elaina Patterson, 54, of Wilmington pleaded guilty to 15 counts of larceny over $250 from a person over sixty and 16 counts of larceny over $250.

Patterson reportedly persuaded friends and family to invest money in accounts she claimed offered high interest rates - normally between 10 and 15 percent - while working at a Bank of America branch in Reading from 1999 to 2011.

She would use that money - at one point totaling nearly $4.5 million - to fund payments to other investors and launder money into her personal accounts. At one point, Patterson stole more than $95,000 and $220,000 from two 90-year-old victim’s by forging their signatures.

Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat sentenced Patterson to three to five years in state prison, with ten years of probation following the completion of her sentence.

Investigators ultimately uncovered just under $6 million in fraudulent transactions, with Patterson returning almost $3.8 million to investors and more than $2.1 million for herself. Patterson will also face a restitution hearing that will be scheduled at a later date.

“This defendant’s gross violation of trust negatively impacted more than 30 victims, many of whom were her friends and family, and others who were long-time and often elderly customers,” state Attorney General Martha Coakley wrote in a statement.

“Through today’s state prison sentence, she is being held accountable for her deceitful and illegal actions.”

More arrests in Jeremiah Oliver case

Posted by Chris Caesar March 17, 2014 05:15 PM

unnamed23.jpg

Police have announced three additional arrests in the case of missing Fitchburg boy Jeremiah Oliver, according to the Sentinel and Enterprise newspaper.

Cailey Thibeault, 23, Christian Sierra, 21 and Ashley M. Cormier, 24, all of Fitchburg, were arrested and charged with intimidation of a witness.

Investigators believe Christian Sierra, 21, of Fitchburg lied to the grand jury about details related to the case, which may have slowed down or misled the investigation, according to court documents at Fitchburg District Court, where the arraignment was held.

Also arraigned were Ashley Cormier, 24, of Fitchburg and Casey Thibault, 23, of Fitchburg, both of whom are identified as friends of Jeremiah Oliver's mother and her boyfriend. They are each being held on $2,500 cash bail.

Sierra is the brother of Jeremiah Oliver's mother's boyfriend, according to the report. Jeremiah's mother, 28-year-old Elsa Oliver, and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Alberto L. Sierra Jr., were also arrested on child abuse charges in connection with the case last year.

The five year old boy has been missing since September.

Mixed reactions to news that anti-gay pastor is on death bed

Posted by Chris Caesar March 17, 2014 11:12 AM


How does the Internet react to the news that a notoriously anti-gay, anti-veteran pastor - who believed 9/11 was an expression of “God’s wrath” and picketed gay funerals with signs like “AIDS kills fags dead” - is lying on his deathbed?

Pretty much the way you’d expect.

Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps has been a notorious lightning rod for Internet hate since the founding of his flagship website GodHatesFags.com in 1999. Since then, the Topeka-based "church" claims it’s held over 52,000 pickets in 921 cities, often most controversially at the funerals of gays or military veterans.

The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the church a hate group.

So, it’s with a certain irony that Phelps’s estranged son Nathan Phelps posted news of his father’s imminent death - that of a man who so prolifically protested the funerals of thousands of others - on his Facebook page late Friday night:

“I've learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the "God Hates Fags" Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the "church" back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.

I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.”

As news spread, social media exploded over whether Phelps' critics should respond in kind to his own funeral, or ignore the event entirely. Equality Kansas executive director Thomas Witt asked Phelps' critics to respect the family's privacy.

"This is our moment as a community to rise above the sorrow, anger, and strife he sowed, and to show the world we are caring and compassionate people who respect the privacy and dignity of all."

Others on Twitter were wholly unsympathetic, even cruel.

Some even cracked jokes.

"If I had the money, I'd pay the Marine core [sic] to march "Stars and Stripes Forever" riiiight through the funeral home and follow them to the grave site," Reddit user bananafish707 wrote. "They'd go into the quiet parts and just as they try to say something nice it goes right back to the loud finish."

"I would pay the Village People to perform YMCA," user Abomonog quipped in reply. "I guess I'm that much meaner than you."

Photo by Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Don’t rock the lobster anymore, says B-52s frontman

Posted by Jack Pickell March 17, 2014 06:29 AM

You couldn’t avoid the song “Rock Lobster” in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but now B-52s, frontman Fred Schneider says lobsters should be left alone to roam.

It’s the 35th anniversary of the new wave anthem, and in case you need a refresher:

On this anniversary, Schneider has issued a shocking admission: He hasn’t eaten lobster (or any seafood boiled alive) since he was four, the Associated Press reported:

Fred Schneider says he stopped eating crustaceans after going crabbing with family...and watching them boiled alive at age 4. The life-long vegetarian said in video narrated for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that he views crabs and lobsters not as seafood but as ‘‘sea life.’’

So why would he sing about a “Rock Lobster?” Blame disco. Schneider was in an Atlanta club in the ‘70s where he saw images of lobsters projected on the wall. He liked the play on words of a “rock lobster” and ”rock music."

In a public service announcement he voiced for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Schneider says it really “Burns his butt when people drop (lobsters ) in boiling water.”

As New Englanders know, the Maine lobster and the rock (or "spiny") lobster are different crustacean variations, according to Food Editorials.com:

The difference in taste between the spiny lobster and the Maine lobster is significant. The spiny lobster is much more mild and bland tasting, being quite close to tasteless. The Maine lobster has a very pronounced, succulent taste that is somewhat on the sweet side, although the meat is extremely low in sugars and carbohydrates

One last cold dip before Spring, forecast suggests

Posted by Chris Caesar March 16, 2014 10:47 PM

Stay strong, New England - relief from March’s wicked cold spells is on the way. But, be warned: it will get worse before it gets better.

Data from the National Weather Service shows a brief chill is in the mix for the Boston area early this week, with nighttime temperatures dropping to the low teens and 20s Monday through Wednesday.

We’ll all get a break when daytime highs will reach the low 50s this Thursday and Friday.

According to accuweather.com, those temperatures should hold mostly consistent as we enter a (hopefully) much warmer, sunnier April.

Video shows man allegedly claiming Secret Service credentials to avoid train fare

Posted by Chris Caesar March 16, 2014 08:40 PM

MBTA Secret Service guy   YouTube.png

While I’m no expert, I’m pretty sure the first rule of being an undercover federal agent is: don’t loudly and publicly announce you are an undercover federal agent.

But apparently even that baseline level of discretion is no match for the indignity of a $10 commuter rail fare. Reddit user icu_ posted this video of a man who allegedly angrily claimed to be a U.S. Secret Service agent - in the midst of an investigation! - when asked for his ticket by an MBTA conductor.

The video starts in the middle of the confrontation, with the passenger in question demanding the conductor “run [his] license.”

“You don’t mess with Secret Service, I’ll tell you that right now. I don’t care who you are. You’re just a conductor on a train, alright? Don’t interrupt my investigation, alright, tough guy? What do you work for, Al-Qaeda?”

“[The] guy went on and on the whole ride in the back of the car,” icu_ wrote on Reddit. “I wonder if this usually works for him.”

Impersonating a federal officer is a felony with maximum punishments of up to a $1,000 fine and three years in prison.

A message to the MBTA Transit Police seeking comment on the incident was not immediately returned. We'll update the story with more information when it becomes available.

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