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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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