Quick Takes: Pulling the plug | WORLD
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Quick Takes: Pulling the plug

Government official drains reservoir to retrieve dropped phone

Illustration by Phil Foster

Quick Takes: Pulling the plug
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First, the divers gave it a go. But after their efforts proved futile, a minor Indian government official ordered the draining of a water reservoir in May so he could retrieve his cell phone. Food inspector Rajesh Vishwas dropped his phone in the body of water while taking a selfie. A viral video circulated on Indian social media showing Vishwas sitting beneath a red umbrella as diesel pumps drained about 500,000 gallons of water from a reservoir in Chhattisgarh state. Eventually Vishwas retrieved his phone, which he claimed contained sensitive government data, but the Samsung mobile device was too waterlogged to operate. The phone wasn’t the only thing in deep water: Officials later suspended and fined Vishwas for being wasteful with water that could have irrigated farmland during India’s hot summer months.

Chatbot v. judge

Representing a client in a personal injury case filed in federal court in New York, attorney Steven A. Schwartz composed a 10-page brief citing numerous precedents to support his client’s argument. But when opposing attorneys tried looking up the cases, they ran into a snag: The cases didn’t exist. Eventually, Schwartz confessed he’d used the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT for research and didn’t notice the cases were made up by the questionably reliable chatbot. Schwartz apologized to the judge presiding over the case on June 8 and may face disciplinary measures.

Too close for comfort

Researchers at California State University, Long Beach, wanted to know how close humans and sharks got in the waters off Southern California’s beaches. The answer? Closer than people thought. Using drones to observe 26 beaches between 2019 and 2021, the study found juvenile white sharks routinely swam within 50 yards of the wave breaks near paddleboarders and surfers, though the humans didn’t notice the sharks’ presence and no shark attacks were reported during that time.

Penny windfall

A California family that found about $10,000 in pennies while cleaning out a family member’s house had trouble cashing in on the cache. Rather than lose a percentage at a coin kiosk, the family tried offloading the vintage coins at various banks, but the banks said no. Presuming some rare pennies existed among the roughly 1 million coins, the family listed the lot for sale for $25,000. After media covered the story, over 1,000 offers came in. An anonymous buyer nabbed the lot for an undisclosed amount.

Ducky on the loose

By the time authorities got the call, Quackers the inflatable duck had drifted about 200 yards out to sea with three souls aboard. The June 6 incident took place near Britain’s seaside village of Westward Ho!. The men had inflated their large duck raft on the beach before sailing into the ocean accompanied by a friend in a kayak. But the kayaker was unable to keep the inflatable raft from drifting farther from shore. Before the coast guard could arrive, a man on shore also noticed the trouble and was able to paddleboard out and tow the inflatable duck close enough to land that the three friends could swim back to the beach.

Senior pranksters

Officials at a high school in Fort Meade, Md., had just one problem with this year’s senior prank: the price. The graduating seniors of Meade Senior High School purportedly listed a 12,458-­square-foot property on the real estate app Zillow with aerial ­pictures of the school and an ­asking price just over $42,000. According to the listing, the property offered 20 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, and a private ­basketball court. A spokesperson said school officials were taking the prank in stride: “This is incredibly creative advertising, but we are stunned that the ­listers so vastly underestimated the value of this prime real estate with such amazing amenities.”

Not a ride-share

Without a ride and running late, an Illinois man stole a backhoe from a job site to get to the airport, authorities say. In May, sheriff’s deputies responded to a call at Veterans Airport in Marion, Ill., when airport staff noticed a backhoe in the parking lot. When the owner of the equipment arrived and confirmed he left it parked about 10 miles away at a job site, authorities began investigating for theft. Security footage revealed a man parking the machine and walking toward the airport, where he was seeking to catch a flight to Portland, Ore. Deputies later located the suspect in Nevada and had local authorities place him under arrest for felony theft.


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