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For those who have everything
October 28, 2012

Scratch a chore off the fall to-do list without the normal fuss. Simply "set the iRobot Looj 330 ($300) at one end of a gutter and watch it brush away debris at 500 RPM." Made by the same company that gave the world the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, this gadget needs just five minutes to clear a 30-foot stretch of dirt and leaf clutter. The waterproof machine can even operate in damp gutters and be cleaned up with a quick spray from the hose. The detachable handle doubles as a remote control. Source: Better Homes and Gardens The Week Staff

they're cousins
11:34 a.m. ET
Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

During a joint news conference, comedian Amy Schumer joined forces with her cousin, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to call for tougher restrictions on guns in light of recent mass shootings.

Amy Schumer was compelled to speak out after a screening of the film Trainwreck, which she wrote and starred in, was broken up by a fatal shooting of two women in July. The male shooter was reportedly anti-feminist. When the daughter of a Sandy Hook shooting survivor wrote an open letter to Schumer urging her to do more about gun violence and specifically the danger women face, the comedian replied on Twitter, "Don't worry I'm on it. You'll see."

Colin Daileda at Mashable reports Schumer & Schumer, as they referred to themselves Monday, proposed three main ideas during their conference: rewards and penalties enticing states to comply with submitting background-check records, full funding from Congress of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and a Department of Justice report comparing state standards on involuntary commitment to mental health facilities.

"I have a lot of press conferences, but I almost never get this much attention," the senator joked, thanking his celebrity cousin. Julie Kliegman

please leave a message after the beep
10:49 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It's 2015 and most of us have long been tired of checking our voicemail — what kind of monster even leaves one instead of sending a text, anyway? Good thing Apple employees are apparently testing a major upgrade to Siri that would let her field your calls and transcribe your messages, unnamed sources told Business Insider on Monday.

The new iCloud Voicemail system could mean Apple does away with the cell phone carrier's traditional voicemail system. Apple's system reportedly may even be able to provide the caller with information about why you can't pick up the phone (you're too busy watching Netflix, obviously).

Apple Insider reports the company first filed a patent for such a voicemail system back in 2012, and Business Insider says the new feature could be unveiled as early as 2016, as part of iOS 10. Julie Kliegman

Ongoing investigation
10:38 a.m. ET
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Leaked data from the results of 12,000 blood tests taken between 2001 and 2012 from 5,000 athletes allegedly reveal the "extraordinary extent of cheating" occurring at some of the world's top sporting events, according to a report released by The Sunday Times and the German broadcaster ARD/WDR. The Sunday Times and ARD/WRD allegedly obtained access to the files belonging to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) "without consent," and proceeded to use two of the world's "foremost anti-doping experts" to analyze the data, revealing some potentially shocking findings.

The experts say at least one in seven athletes in the files had blood test results that were "highly suggestive of doping or at least very abnormal." Doping was found to be particularly prevalent among endurance athletes. The BBC reports that "a third of medals (146, including 55 golds) in endurance events at the Olympics and World Championships between 2001 and 2012 were won by athletes who have recorded suspicious tests."

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is creating an independent commission to further investigate these claims. Since the information was leaked, the International Olympic Committee announced it would punish any athletes found guilty of doping in WADA's investigation. Becca Stanek

baaahh!
10:12 a.m. ET
iStock

The ricotta was not really ricotta, if you catch my drift.

The BBC reports that 11 men were arrested in Italy for their connections to the fugitive head of the Sicilian mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro. Denaro, who has been on the run since 1993 and is the successor of two jailed godfathers, once boasted he could "fill a cemetery" with his victims.

As much as this sounds like a scene from The Godfather, one detail was, well, less Hollywood-ready than the others: The mafia boss reportedly communicated with his henchmen using sheep-related codes. By leaving scraps of paper on a farm in western Sicily, Denaro transmitted messages to his followers such as, "the sheep need shearing," or "the hay is ready," or "I've put the ricotta cheese aside for you, will you come by later?"

The BBC reports that "officers do not believe that the alleged criminals were really discussing agricultural matters." Jeva Lange

Awkward
10:11 a.m. ET

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah got plenty of cheers at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, as a crowd of more than 60,000 celebrated his latest triumph at the 2015 Haskell Invitational race. Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was on site to present the trophy in the winner's circle, received no such warm welcome.

As Christie came into view, he was met with long, loud booing from the tens of thousands of New Jerseyans in the audience. Booing subsided as others took the mic, only to resume once Christie's name was brought up again.

A June poll found that Christie's approval rating is at a dismal 30 percent in his home state, a figure the governor says will improve after he wins the presidency. Bonnie Kristian

Ferguson
10:02 a.m. ET
St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/Getty Images

Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in August 2014, believes systemic racism is a thing of the past. Wilson, who has been cleared of wrongdoing in Michael Brown's death, gave The New Yorker a rare interview in a profile published Monday:

"I am really simple in the way that I look at life. What happened to my great-grandfather is not happening to me. I can't base my actions off what happened to him. We can't fix in 30 minutes what happened 30 years ago. We have to fix what's happening now. That's my job as a police officer. I’m not going to delve into people's life-long history and figure out why they're feeling a certain way, in a certain moment." [The New Yorker]

Wilson also admitted that he hasn't read the Justice Department's report on systemic racism in the Ferguson police department because he doesn't want to "keep living in the past."

Another striking detail from The New Yorker profile: Mike McCarthy, a field-training officer who helped guide Wilson in a previous job, conceded that the escalation of Wilson's confrontation with Brown probably could have been avoided. Check out the whole profile here. Julie Kliegman

injustice system
9:25 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As the investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding Sandra Bland's death in a Texas jail cell continues, a Department of Justice report (PDF) on jail deaths in America provides shocking broader context: Some 73 percent (698 out of 958 total deaths in 2012) of prisoners who die in jail have not been convicted of anything.

Exorbitant bail rates for relatively minor crimes, an issue brought into sharp relief by the 2015 suicide of Kalief Browder, is a primary reason for often lengthy pre-trial detentions during which these deaths occurred. Deaths were most common among older inmates, particularly in the 45-54 age group, and 29 percent of people who died in jail were black, more than twice the national population ratio of African-Americans.

For more on this topic, read The Week's Ryan Cooper on "the national horror of jail suicides," which accounted for 31.3 percent of jail deaths in 2012. Bonnie Kristian

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