The week in odd news: Woodpecker 'wrecker;' Pumpkin lineup
BY RICHARD A. SOMMA
Oct. 28, 2017
BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts woman is generating online buzz for accidentally sharing more than she intended on The New York Times' website.
Christine McMorrow says she was using her iPhone's voice-to-text function to leave a comment on a political story Thursday when she was interrupted by a friend's visit.
She says the phone continued transcribing parts of their conversation and posted it online.
It starts out, "Zero optimism that the Democrats can ever regain," before shifting to a rambling run-on sentence with references to hard-boiled eggs, a visit to Cape Cod and a knee that needed to be iced.
The comment was shared thousands of times online, with New York Magazine calling it the "single best comment of the year."
McMorrow told The Boston Globe it was "embarrassing" and "very weird."
CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cincinnati Zoo's popular baby hippo, Fiona, has drawn a lot of love but perhaps none quite like this moment: From her exhibit, she got a front-row seat to a wedding proposal between two of her fans.
A snapshot shared on Instagram shows the hippo underwater with her face near the glass, watching as Nick Kelble got down on one knee in front of her with a ring box for his smiling girlfriend, Hayley Roll.
Roll accepted the proposal and shared the photos earlier this month, noting that she and her fiance are glad the hippo was part of their special day.
Fiona was born premature in January, weighing only about 29 pounds. She overcame early health scares and now weighs more than 500 pounds.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — In Alaska, it's not uncommon for wildlife like polar bears to wander onto an airport's runway, but a lounging seal is far more unusual.
But that's what workers found at the airport in the nation's northernmost city on Monday. A seal estimated to weigh 450 pounds (204 kilograms) was removed from the runway at the airport at Utqiagvik (pronounced (oot-GHAR'-vik) by way of sled, KTVA reported .
A photo and video of the bearded seal lounging on the runway in the town formerly known as Barrow was shared by Scott Babcock on Facebook .
The state Department of Transportation got in on the fun by warning pilots of "low sealings" at the airport.
Meadow Bailey, the department's communications director, said Utqiagvik, an Arctic Ocean coastal community on Alaska's North Slope, experienced heavy storms Monday. Staff found the seal while clearing the runway.
The department's staff members are not allowed to handle marine mammals, so the seal was removed by North Slope Animal Control.
The workers have seen birds, caribou, polar bears and musk ox on the runway, but the seal sighting was a first, Bailey said.
"Wildlife strikes to aircraft pose a significant safety hazard and cost the aviation industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year," Bailey said. "Birds make up over 90 percent of strikes in the US, while mammal strikes are rare."
CHELAN, Wash. (AP) — A driver in Washington state escaped injury when a bighorn sheep jumped from a hillside and landed on his car.
The Washington State Patrol says the driver was near the town of Chelan in central Washington on Tuesday when he saw a herd of bighorn sheep on the hillside above the roadway.
One of the animals, a ewe, jumped and smashed the car's windshield.
The driver was not hurt and managed to pull his car over.
The sheep died.
MONTREAL (AP) — A Canadian man's decision to belt out a 1990s dance hit while inside his car has landed him a $149 ticket for being too loud in public.
But Taoufik Moalla said Monday he'll fight the ticket and denies his singing was as deafening as authorities claim.
Moalla says he was happily singing along with the windows mostly rolled up to C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," which neared the top of the Billboard chart in 1991, when he was stopped.
He says he initially thought Montreal police wanted him to move out of their way.
He says was asked if he was yelling and he said no. One of the officers walked away and returned with the fine for screaming in a public place.
MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. (AP) — Police who caught three teenagers orange-handed with 48 stolen pumpkins — and one gourd — are asking residents of a St. Louis suburb to view a "pumpkin lineup" online to see if their Halloween squash are among those recovered.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that pumpkins began vanishing last week from subdivisions of Maryland Heights. Police quickly tracked down the boys and their pumpkin-crammed SUV that Capt. Scott Will says was "top-to-bottom orange."
The next day, officers snapped a picture of the abducted decor and posted it to Facebook . Will says police have been "inundated" with people coming to track down their Halloween pumpkins. About a dozen remained unclaimed Tuesday. None are carved.
Two 18-year-olds are charged with misdemeanor stealing, while a 16-year-old has been referred to juvenile court.
BERLIN (AP) — A baby in Germany won't be named Lucifer after authorities intervened.
A registrar in the central city of Kassel sought clarification from the local district court after a couple sought to give their son the name. Court official Matthias Grund told news agency dpa Wednesday that the registrar suspected the name could endanger the child's well-being.
The parents, who were not identified, were persuaded to relent during a closed-door hearing at the local court and decided to call their son Lucian instead. That saved the court from having to decide whether Lucifer was acceptable.
Authorities in Germany can decide not to accept names for children though there is no outright ban on any specific names.
NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City mayoral candidate says he's "shocked" that so little attention has been paid to his arrest for trying to hijack an airliner at gunpoint 17 years ago.
In July 2000, Aaron Commey (KOH'-may) boarded a National Airlines plane in New York and ordered the pilots to fly to Argentina or Antarctica. It never took off and nobody was injured.
He was acquitted by reason of insanity in 2003 and was released from a prison medical facility in 2015.
The Libertarian candidate tells the news magazine City & State New York that it's reasonable for voters to wonder if he's suited for office.
He says he has fully recovered and is "committed to nonviolence."
Commey says he has experienced and witnessed injustice and wants to change the system.
PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron's dog Nemo interrupted a meeting his master was having with members of his government when he urinated against a fireplace in the Elysee Palace.
French TV channel LCI on Sunday broadcast the incident, which was caught on film in a gilded and chandeliered room in the presidential palace.
When Macron realized his black Labrador-Griffon cross had just relieved himself nearby, he told the ministers that the dog "was doing something quite exceptional."
Asked by one if it happened often, Macron laughed and told him: "You have triggered completely unusual behavior in my dog."
Nemo was adopted in August by Macron and his wife, Brigitte, and named after Captain Nemo, the fictional hero of Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea." Macron is a fan of the book.
Nemo was adopted from an animal shelter and is believed to be about 1 to 2 years old.
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (AP) — A California surfer has won a recycled surfboard contest with an entry covered with 10,000 cigarette butts.
"This is the most polluted item picked up on the beach," creator Taylor Lane told the Orange County Register. "And no one thinks twice that you can do anything with it."
Lane, 24, from Santa Cruz had the top entry amid an assortment of boards made from potato sacks, used packaging and stuff picked up from Dumpster dives. An Australian entry was made from an old bathroom door.
The entries were for the third annual "Creators & Innovators Upcycle Contest," hosted by the Vissla surfing gear brand and the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.
A dozen entries were displayed last Friday at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano.
"Who would have thought cigarette butts would have been beautiful?" said visitor Karyn Buky of Rancho Santa Margarita, California. "It gives you an awkward feeling, that something so pretty is so icky at the same time. It's amazing."
Lane and his friend, Ben Judkins, spent the summer plucking butts from the sand, beach parking lots and local paths in Santa Cruz. The board also uses Styrofoam from fish markets.
"It's visually disgusting — but awesome in how gross it is," Judkins said. "It just ties together surfing and something we care about — the environment, the ocean and the health of the ocean."
Contestants had three months to make their surfboards.
Last year's winner, Francois Jaubert of France, came in second with a board made with wood from a box that once held carrots. His entry last year was made from scrounged cardboard.
"I did this with garbage. We can have a little bit of thinking, a little bit of creativity," Jaubert said. "And it's way more fun to give a new life to a dead material. This used to hold carrots. Now, it's surfing."
"We should be smart enough to use what society gives us for free," he said.
Vissla founder Paul Naude said the contest was designed to encourage creative thinking about sustainability. "This new culture is asking questions today. What are we doing to the environment?" Naude said.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Authorities say a Utah man who was hiding from police and fled arrest had to call 911 to be rescued after getting stuck in his hiding spot.
Salt Lake City police say 46-year-old Shane Paul Owen called dispatchers for help on Tuesday, more than six hours after he accidentally locked himself in a church's boiler room.
Officers were looking for Owens on Monday because he is a suspect in a string of burglaries and had warrants out for his arrest.
Police say an officer spotted him and attempted to pull his vehicle over, but Owen fled, got out of his car and ran into the church.
A SWAT team held a standoff at the church until Owens called to be rescued.
DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware judge says a woman who says she slipped on the remnants of a sandwich can continue her lawsuit against a popular convenience store chain.
Lisa Donovan says she slipped and fell on "hoagie guts," or discarded sandwich pieces, in the parking lot of a Wawa store in 2014.
Defense attorneys asked for summary judgment in their favor, arguing that Donovan had failed to identify a liability expert on the issue of whether the store was negligent.
Donovan argued that an expert was unnecessary because the need to sweep up trash in a parking lot is something the average person can understand.
The judge agreed with Donovan last week, saying a splattered hoagie in a parking lot is no different than water on the floor of a grocery store.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Police say a 29-year-old Florida man slapped a police horse on the hindquarters while it was on patrol with an officer.
News outlets report Casey Waldner was walking down a street early Sunday when he was accused of slapping Izzy, a 13-year-old horse that has been with the Orlando Police Department for five years. The slap startled Izzy, who spun around.
A police report says Waldner ran, but was caught by a nearby officer.
The report says officers searched Waldner and found cocaine.
Police spokeswoman Michelle Guido says Izzy didn't need veterinary care.
Waldner was charged with injuring a police horse, resisting arrest without violence and cocaine possession.
Waldner, who lives in Pace in Florida's Panhandle, was released on a $1,250 bond. Jail records don't list an attorney.
PROVO, Utah (AP) — A Utah mom in her final days of pregnancy gave her baby an eviction notice and made it official with a judge's signature. Incredibly, the baby obeyed.
Kaylee Bays was pregnant with her third child, a girl, and thought she was going into labor last week, but it stopped.
She went back to work to her job as a judicial assistant at the Fourth District Court in Provo, and jokingly asked Judge Lynn Davis to serve an eviction notice on her baby.
He did. And It worked. Less than 12 hours later, baby Gretsel was born, the Daily Herald reported .
Bays said Davis told her it was his first baby eviction notice in his 31 years as a judge.
"He told me, 'If it really works, I want it framed.' It did, and I'm going to frame it for him," Bays said.
Bays said the eviction notice gave her baby three days to "vacate the premises."
The notice was addressed to Gretsel at Mommy Belly Lane, in Womb, Utah.
"She came 12 hours later. So far, she's a good listener," she joked. "She didn't want to be in contempt of court."
HENRIETTA, N.Y. (AP) — A runaway garbage truck has slammed into the front of a New York gift shop named A Beautiful Mess, causing extensive damage.
Owner Jeri Flack says he received a call from police on Monday informing her that a garbage truck rolled away from a gas station in Henrietta, traveled across the street and crashed into Flack's retail store.
WHAM-TV reports that gas station workers say the truck driver parked there to use the bathroom and the truck had rolled away by the time he returned.
No one was injured, but the truck's impact caused serious structural damage to the 200-year-old brick building.
Flack says she doesn't know if she'll be able to reopen in time for the Christmas shopping season.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hope is the thing with feathers, poet Emily Dickinson wrote. For Richard Thorns, the feathers are pink.
Thorns' hope? To prove that a colorful duck is not extinct. This week, he launches a seventh expedition into the inaccessible wilds of Myanmar to search for the pink-headed duck that hasn't been seen alive since 1949, and that was in India. No one has seen the bird alive in Myanmar in more than a century.
Thorns, a British writer who quit his shop clerk job 20 years ago after reading about the pink-headed duck in the book "Vanishing Birds," has spent $20,000 of his own money on previous fruitless trips. His birder brother called him mad.
"I could have had a lot of nice things," the 53-year-old said. "I don't want nice things. I want to see a pink-headed duck."
This time, he is backed by the Global Wildlife Conservation group, which launched a hunt for "lost species " — 25 quirky and elusive plants and animals beginning with the duck. A sports optic company and cheesemaking company are also helping pay.
Thorns and three others plan to head to the wetlands north of the vast Indawgyi Lake during the rainy season where they believe they have a better chance of spotting the duck. And Thorn thinks he has a secret weapon: elephants.
He used canoes in the past and thinks he probably spooked the shy birds. Now he plans to bring elephants stomping through the wetlands.
"Clearly a bird isn't going to hunker down if there are 2-ton elephants," said Thorn.
As crazy as it may seem, Thorns may be onto something, said ornithologist Kevin McGowan at Cornell University who isn't part of the expedition.
"Fairly regularly birds get rediscovered," says McGowan, who has gone on unsuccessful expeditions for the ivory-billed woodpecker. "We don't see all the world that is in front of our eyes."
A Cornell student found Bermuda petrels, rare seabirds thought to be extinct for 300 years. Other rediscovered animals include a crow species in Asia and a nocturnal parrot in Australia. These birds survive by not being noticed "so what's your certainty that it's gone?" said McGowan.
One thing that keeps Thorns going is the thought that someone else might find the pink-headed duck first.
Every time he goes out, the bird "breaks my heart," he said. "Sometimes I wish I hadn't seen that picture."
SNELLVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Authorities say a pesky woodpecker has been breaking car mirrors in Georgia.
WSB Radio reports over a dozen cars in a Snellville neighborhood were damaged last week. Snellville police took several written reports and stepped up patrols before receiving a tip about the likely suspect.
The police department said in a Facebook post that a witness observed a pileated woodpecker breaking her car mirror in the neighborhood. Authorities say they'll continue their patrols, although they believe that the case is solved.
WSB reports some residents are covering their mirrors with bags to prevent any further damage.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Complaints about food are common in prison, but some inmates at the Columbia River Correctional Institution are more concerned with the dishes.
Inmates tell The Oregonian/OregonLive they've been eating off dirty trays and using grimy utensils since the minimum-security prison in Portland switched from a dishwashing machine to washing dishes by hand.
Michael Page says he was served beans and discovered cereal from breakfast stuck to the edge of the bowl. He now brings his own spoon and reuses a soda bottle for water to avoid using prison-issued dinnerware.
The Oregon Department of Corrections says the prison moved to hand washing two years because it requires less water and the machine was unreliable and expensive to maintain.
Spokeswoman Betty Bernt says the agency follows rules to ensure cleanliness and the most recent visit from a health inspector found no significant issues at the prison.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Officials are trying to determine the cause of some reported rumblings that shook areas of southern New Jersey.
Residents in several counties reported hearing booms or feeling the ground shake early Wednesday.
But the United States Geological Survey didn't report any earthquake activity in New Jersey. And National Weather Service officials say there's "nothing weather-related" that would cause the booms.
Officials say sonic booms have been caused in the past by military planes doing supersonic drills along the east coast, but it wasn't immediately clear if that's what happened Wednesday.
No injuries or damage were reported.