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COAST TO COAST

So far, the FAA has not said much. "It's under investigation at this point," said Tom A. Drake of the FAA flight standards office in San Antonio. "I can't talk about it."

-- Sylvia Moreno


Illinois state Sen. Donne E. Trotter wants to prevent injuries from heavy book bags. (File Photo)

Swarms of Rats Encroach On the Mouse's Territory

The city famous for a cartoon mouse is struggling with real-life rats.

Complaints about swarms of rats in downtown Orlando are generating some embarrassing press for a city that does one heck of a job of promoting its squeaky-clean, family-getaway, Disney World-adjacent image. The griping about rats, though not necessarily much fun for city officials, is a boon to exterminators.

Rodent chasers, such as Jon Van Galder and his partner, David Seerveld, decided to capitalize. They launched a Web site called OrlandoRats.com.

Business is good for Van Galder and Seerveld, particularly because they haven't had awkward confrontations with any real-world Mickey Mice. In two years, Van Galder said, they haven't seen a single mouse. But rats, well, that's another story. They've found entire family trees of rats, stretching back for generations.

"Sometimes people will call and say they have a mouse, but it is really a young rat," he said. "Yeah, maybe Mickey is just a young rat."

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Gibberish Passes Test For Computer Confab

Annoyed by a barrage of e-mail invitations from the organizer of a computer science conference in Florida, Jeremy Stribling and two fellow doctoral students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to get even.

They wrote a program designed to generate nonsensical papers packed with academic buzzwords and submitted two of the results to the Ninth World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, scheduled for July in Orlando.

In early April, they were notified that a four-page treatise, perplexingly titled "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" was accepted.

A second, equally gibberish-filled submission did not make the cut.

"It shows that this conference basically functions as a vanity press under the guise of a serious academic conference," Stribling, 25, said.

When conference organizer Nagib Callaos learned the paper was phony, he refunded the MIT students' $390 registration fee, rescinding their invitation.

Callaos, a retired professor from the University of Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela, said that a heavy volume of submissions meant the paper was not evaluated before the deadline established to notify applicants.

It was therefore accepted as a "non-reviewed" submission.

"The scientific endeavor is based on faith, and we had faith people were not doing this kind of thing," he said. "We are reviewing our procedures."

-- Jonathan Finer


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