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Suicidal roller coaster in works
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An option for suicide "with elegance and euphoria" is how Lithuanian-born Ph.D. candidate Julijonas Urbonas described his Euthanasia Roller Coaster, currently on the drawing board. Urbonas' model of "gravitational aesthetics" would be a third-mile-long, 1,600-foot-high thrill ride engineered to supply 10 Gs of centrifugal force (a spin at about 220 mph) to induce cerebral hypoxia, forcing blood away from the head and denying oxygen to the brain.
Euphoria (and disorientation and anxiety, but not pain) are likely states to precede the brain's shutdown. Urbonas insisted users would have the option through the first two minutes of the three-minute ride to rethink their decision and bail out (or else to push the final "FALL" button). Suicide is legal in four European countries and Oregon and Washington.
   
Government in Action!
An open-government advocacy group's survey of federal agencies, released in July, revealed eight of them have unresolved Freedom of Information Act requests that are over a decade old, including one pending for more than 20 years. The 1976 FOIA law requires resolution within 20 business days, with a 10-day extension under "unusual circumstances."
Also, regarding the FOIA, a June 2011 request by the city of Sioux City, Iowa, for background documents regarding the recent Postal Service decision to move jobs from Sioux City to Sioux Falls, S.D., was met promptly -- by the Postal Service's forecast that the likely fee for the documents would be $831,000, even though under the law the first two search hours and the first 100 documents are free.
• The Office of Personnel Management's inspector general denounced the agency in September for promiscuously continuing to pay pension benefits to deceased federal retirees -- citing a 70 percent rise in bogus payments over the last five years. However, another federal inspector general (the Social Security Administration's) chastised its agency for the opposite reason: About 14,000 people each year are cut off from benefits after erroneously being declared dead.
   
News That Sounds
Like a Joke
The convenience store clerk, Ms. Falguni Patel, was giving testimony in the September trial of Morgan Armstrong (charged with robbing her in Hudson, Fla., in 2009) when she began shaking and then passed out while seated in the witness box. A relative of Patel's approached, removed her sneaker and held it to Patel's face, without success. The relative explained that Patel was subject to such blackouts and that sniffing the sneaker often revives her. After paramedics attended to her, Patel took the rest of the day off and went back to court the next morning.
   
Great Art!
Two women were charged in September with what was likely a major art theft for Johnson City, Tenn. Connie Sumlin, 45, and Gail Johnson, 58, were identified from surveillance video as the ones who snatched two pieces of art off the wall in the entrance of a local Arby's restaurant (a picture of some pears, and a metal art object, with an alleged combined value, according to the police report, of $1,200).

Undignified Death
An inquest in Yorkshire, England, in September found the February death of Brian Depledge, 38, was accidental -- that he had inadvertently strangled himself after falling onto a folding clothes horse (of the kind often used to hang recently washed laundry on to dry). The coroner concluded that Depledge's body had become trapped between rungs in such a way that the more he moved his arms to extricate himself, the tighter was the pressure that was unavoidably placed on his neck.