Originally created 05/25/04

Odds and Ends



CROWN POINT, Ind. -- Plenty of lawyers have dogs - but how many dogs have lawyers?

At least one. And his name is Cabic.

Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo appointed an attorney Thursday to represent Cabic at a hearing to determine whether he is a wolf-dog hybrid.

For Cabic, the outcome is a matter of life and death.

Cabic bit one of his owner's Cedar Lake neighbors, Mark Schilling, in the thigh when Schilling came to borrow a power tool April 18. The dog's owner, Nancy Armalius, does not dispute that.

But Schilling became ill a few days later and doctors told him the bite wound was infected. Animal Control authorities put the dog on a 10-day quarantine to determine if he has rabies.

However, the 10-day waiting period does not apply to wild animals.

Under Indiana law, wolf-dog hybrids are considered wild, said Nicholas Doffin, the county health administrator. Schilling believes that Cabic is a German shepherd-wolf mix; Armalius is not certain.

If the judge rules that Cabic is a hybrid, the animal must put down and it's remains sent to the state Health Department laboratory to be tested for rabies.

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PITTSBURGH -- Robots can scamper across the surface of Mars, defuse bombs and vacuum floors. Now they also can fold small pieces of paper.

Officials at Carnegie Mellon University are excited about a graduate student who has developed a robot capable of doing origami - the traditional Japanese art of folding paper to make figures or sculptures.

"Origami is way out there - it's like a space shot," said Matthew Mason, a professor of computer science and robotics. Doctoral candidate Devin Balkcom has created a robot that can make paper airplanes and hats.

Origami has important research applications because although robots have been taught to manipulate rigid objects such as golf clubs, they struggle when the objects are flexible, like paper or the human tissues that surgical robots must navigate.

Balkcom's robot uses a suction cup to pick and move paper, which is manipulated over a gutter on a metal surface. The paper is then pushed down into the gutter using a straight-edge ruler attached to the robotic arm, and the gutter closes on the paper to crease it.

Balkcom is scheduled to earn his Ph.D with the project in August.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- State lawmakers are throwing mud over a proposal to name an official state soil.

The state House voted 177-22 two weeks ago to designate Hazleton soil as the official state soil. The soil, named for the city in Luzerne County, is found in 34 counties.

The Pennsylvania Association of Professional Soil Scientists has pressed for the designation, which awaits Senate action, but some lawmakers say the Legislature should be dealing with more important issues.

"Enough is enough," said state Rep. Kelly Lewis, who previously cast votes against naming celestite the state mineral and polka the state dance. "I'm sure Hazleton soil is important to someone in the state. My people didn't elect me to worry about that stuff."

But Bruce P. Willman, president of the soil association, said that having a state soil would bolster Pennsylvania's credibility when it hosts the 18th World Congress of Soil Science in Philadelphia in 2006.

"We are asking only a symbolic acknowledgment from our state government for the value of soils in our state," Willman said. "This is not a trivial undertaking and is not presented as a whimsical pursuit."

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LAS VEGAS -- Something is raising a stink in Las Vegas.

City officials, fearful that the smells emanating from downtown alleys is hampering the area's economic resurgence, have launched an assault on stench.

"People are walking downtown and holding their noses," said David Semenza, Las Vegas' neighborhood response manager. "What good is redevelopment when you have this stench?"

The stinky problems involve everything from rotting food to people relieving themselves wherever they please.

Since April, crews from the city's Rapid Response Team have spent thousands of dollars a week clearing out debris from alleys and spraying them with an odor-eating, enzyme-producing bacteria.

The enzyme, which the maker claims is nontoxic and biodegradable, has an odor akin to laundry detergent, some say. Others, like Deputy City Manager Betsy Fretwell, whose nose the city relied on in choosing among several deodorizers in tests, describe it as antiseptic.

The deodorizing of downtown is scheduled to end July 1.

"It's very expensive but it's part of what a city has to do," Mayor Oscar Goodman said. "You don't want noxious odors to affect the experience of people who come downtown."