Backtalk 10/08/2009

Oct. 5, 2009
Students are always looking for ways to buy a little extra time on homework deadlines.

Detecting fake techno-excuses
Students are always looking for ways to buy a little extra time on homework deadlines. Why not send your professor a corrupted document, which appears to be legitimate. When the teacher tries to access the file and can’t, blame will be placed on computer error and the student will have bought some extra time, be it hours or days.

As a joke, the creator of offered unreadable Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files that appear to be legitimate. For $3.95, a “completed” assignment file is sent to the buyer within 12 hr. The student renames and submits the assignment. By the time a professor gives up on the bogus file, hopefully the student will have the real assignment complete.

The glitch is there are ways to identify these frauds. T. Mills Kelly, an associate dean at George Mason Univ., said the idea could work because professors are busy with work and grading and occasionally get a corrupted file. But don’t try this on him. “Every time a student e-mails me a paper, I open the file to make sure that it will open so I know that the paper is turned in, and if it doesn’t work, I write them on the spot: ‘You have to send me a new copy,’” Kelly says. “If they don’t send it right away, my brain starts ticking over.”

Mr. Kelly said that by checking a document’s properties, you can see what computer the file was created on, the date, and how many times it’s been edited. “What are the odds that you wrote a 10-page paper 10 minutes before you e mailed it to me, without an edit?” he says. He feels that intentionally using a corrupted file is cheating. “I always recommend failure for the course.”

The site’s owner says he doesn’t believe his Web site promotes cheating since users aren’t plagiarizing others or using an essay mill, but just buying some extra time.

Own a piece of history for $129,000
The presidential limousine from the Somoza family dictatorship in Nicaragua was put up for sale on eBay. The 1957 custom-build Mercedes 300D features a champagne bar, high-torque engine, telephone, parade light, siren, flag holder hood ornament, and air conditioning with “Polar-matic.” is making the vehicle available to the public for the first time in 30 years. On September 17, 1980, the 43-year dynasty of the Somoza family ended with the assassination of Anastasio Somoza Debayle.

An official Daimler-Benz letter indicates that Luis Somoza ordered the car on September 14, 1957. He said the limousine was to have special features including refrigeration, radio-telephone, a military siren, and blue parade lamp. The car also featured a fuel-injected engine and double-acting telescopic coil springs. Mr. Somoza stated his intended use did not require armor plating. On March 2, 1958, the auto was shipped to Nicaragua.

Twenty years later in December 1977, Anastasio Somoza signed the car over to Julio Cesar Gallardo, as a Christmas present for his long-time service to the family. There were provisions Gallardo had to keep: He had to restore the car in minute detail; it was to be considered a museum piece and national treasure; and it was never to leave Nicaragua.

On Wednesday, Sept. 17, 1980, Somoza Debayle and Gallardo were killed when a bazooka rocket hit the limo broadside, tearing the roof away.

When the Sandinistas party came into power in 1979, they confiscated all of the Somoza family property, including the car.

Pictures and additional information are available online at

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