This week in odd news: Lettuce lizard; Dog and pony show
BY RICHARD A. SOMMA
Feb. 10, 2018
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — How safe is it to eat snow? A Romanian university has published the results of just such a study.
The 2017 experiment showed it was safe to eat snow that was a half-day old, and safer to eat it in the colder months. But by two days old, the snow is not safe to eat, Istvan Mathe, a professor at the Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, told The Associated Press.
Scientists collected snow from a park and from a roundabout in Miercurea Ciuc, central Romania, in January and February and placed it in hermetically-sealed sterile containers. They then tried to grow bacteria and mold in them.
The study took place in temperatures ranging from minus 1.1 degrees Celsius to minus 17.4 C (30 degrees to 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the city, one of the coldest in Romania.
After one day, there were five bacteria per millimeter in January, while in February that number quadrupled.
"Very fresh snow has very little bacteria," Mathe said Thursday. "After two days, however, there are dozens of bacteria."
He said the microorganisms increase because of impurities in the air.
Mathe first had the idea for the study when he saw his children eating snow.
"I am not recommending anyone eats snow. Just saying you won't get ill if you eat a bit," he said.
KITTERY, Maine (AP) — A Maine woman who prepared a salad says she realized after a couple of bites that her fork was stuck in a 3-inch lizard, minus the tail.
After vomiting and getting over her shock, Michelle Carr, a nurse from Kittery, said she feared she could have ingested harmful bacteria. A biologist friend believes she found a blue-bellied lizard from California.
Carr said she bought a bag of store-brand romaine lettuce at a supermarket in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Jan. 26. The lettuce was distributed by a California company. A supermarket spokeswoman said it notified the supplier.
Carr also called the state Health Department. A spokesman said because the lettuce was packaged and shipped from another state, any investigation would be conducted by the Food and Drug Administration.
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — Police say an extremely simple sketch helped investigators identify a suspect in a theft from a Pennsylvania farmers market.
Lancaster police say the suspect pretended to be an employee before stealing an undisclosed amount in cash from a stand inside Central Market last month.
A witness provided the minimalist black-and-white drawing to officers. Police say while the sketch was cartoonish, it helped remind an investigator of a potential suspect.
A photo of the suspect was given to the witness, who made a positive identification.
Police are searching for 44-year-old Hung Phuoc Nguyen, who is facing two counts of theft.
A spokesman for the police department says that as of Friday afternoon, Nguyen still hadn't been arrested.
LONDON (AP) — Crouching tiger, hidden ... toy.
Police in Scotland were called by a farmer who thought a big cat had invaded his cow shed. They ended up in a 45-minute standoff with a large stuffed tiger.
Police thought they had the tiger by the tail when they were deployed to a farm in Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, sending in a number of units, including an armed response team. The authorities eventually realized it was a toy.
Peterhead Inspector George Cordiner says "until you know exactly what you are dealing with, every option has to be considered."
Police describe the incident as a "false call made with genuine good intent," though they did allow that officers had a "roaring shift on Saturday night."
The Scottish edition of the Sun newspaper reported that the farmer, Bruce Grubb, went out to check on his cows while he was having a housewarming party and saw the 'tiger" on a ramp.
The paper quoted Grubb as saying: "I was stone cold sober, drink had nothing to do with me thinking it was real."
BOLIVAR, Mo. (AP) — A dog riding a one-eyed pony into the night is a surely a spectacle that needs video proof. A Missouri woman made sure to get exactly that.
The Springfield News-Leader reports that Callie Schenker pulled into her driveway Thursday to the sight of her neighbor's Corgi sitting on her horse, Cricket. She recorded a 15-second video of the pony trotting away into the darkness as the canine sits atop, looking at the camera.
The 22-year-old posted the video on Facebook with the message, "I can't make this stuff up!!! So we pull back in our driveway tonight and this is what we see. This is not our dog! But apparently him and Cricket the one-eyed wonder pony are best friends." The video has received 5.3 million views as of Tuesday morning.
Schenker says the Corgi's owners are Mennonites who avoid going online, so they likely don't know their dog is gaining internet fame.
TITUSVILLE, Fla. (AP) — When a young Florida boy wanted a stuffed toy, he crawled inside a claw-style vending machine in the play area of a restaurant to fetch one. And, he got stuck inside the glass-encased structure.
Thankfully, off-duty firefighter Jeremy House was also having dinner at the Beef O'Brady's restaurant in Titusville, on Florida's Atlantic coast. He yelled for someone to call 911 and his colleagues from a nearby fire station joined him in rescuing the boy named Mason.
"He went in, but obviously he couldn't come back out the same way," Battalion Chief Gregory Sutton told The Associated Press.
Mason sat atop the stuffed toys while firefighters took just 5 minutes to get him out.
Sutton says the boy was embarrassed, but wasn't in distress. And the machine sustained minimal damage.
ROCKFORD, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan couple with 13 sons is expecting a 14th child in April but waiting until birth to learn the sex.
Jay and Kateri Schwandt say adding another child to their large family won't be too big of a logistic change or financial burden, WOOD-TV reported . Kateri Schwandt said she's used to large families, as one of 14 children herself.
"If you have three, it's the same as having 10 at this point, if you ask me," Kateri Schwandt said. "It's just more chaos, more noise. It's nothing we're not used to at this point."
Like with their last few children, the couple has decided against learning the baby's sex before the birth.
"I would love to have a girl, but I just don't think it's in the cards," Jay Schwandt said.
This will likely be their last child, he added.
"It just feels like this is going to be it, and we're going to enjoy every second of it," Jay Schwandt said.
But Kateri Schwandt said the couple also thought their 13th baby would be their last. The couple said it's hard to imagine their home without a baby in it.
The Schwandts live in Rockford, north of Grand Rapids.
ACTON, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts couple says it was fun when they started receiving free mystery packages from Amazon they hadn't ordered.
Now they want it to stop.
Mike and Kelly Gallivan, of Acton, tell The Boston Globe the first package arrived in October. They have continued to receive one or two a week with mostly cheap stuff like plastic fans and phone chargers.
The Gallivans say Amazon told them the merchandise was paid with a gift card with no sender's name.
Two experts say the Gallivans are likely being used to manipulate Amazon buyer reviews. The anonymous sender is likely writing glowing reviews of their own product.
An Amazon spokeswoman said the Seattle-based company is investigating inquiries from consumers who have received unsolicited packages and will ban vendors who abuse the reviews system.
BOSTON (AP) — For $3,000, patrons at one Boston restaurant can order a burger that comes with an engagement ring on the side.
Pauli's, in the city's North End, says with 48-hours' notice, the restaurant's Big Boy burger will arrive with a 7/8 carat Neil Lane ring nestled in the bun. The ring will come framed with round diamonds and a 14 karat gold band.
The restaurant says the burger is part of a Valentine's Day special.
Restaurant owner Paul Barker says there are no confirmed orders so far, but there are several "very interested" people.
NEW YORK (AP) — It's a beautiful day in the postal neighborhood.
The U.S. Postal Service plans to issue a new stamp featuring Mister Rogers, the children's television host known for his zip-up cardigan, sneakers and soothing manner.
The Forever stamp will be unveiled March 23 in the same Pittsburgh public television station where "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" was produced. The stamp features Fred Rogers and the royal puppet King Friday XIII.
Rogers produced, wrote and hosted "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" for more than 30 years. He died in 2003 at 74 after battling stomach cancer. His message remained a simple one throughout the years, telling his viewers to love themselves and others.
LONDON (AP) — London's newest museum attraction is greasy, smelly — and a glimpse at the hidden underside of urban life.
The Museum of London on Thursday unveiled its latest display, a chunk of a 130-metric-ton (143-U.S.-ton) fatberg that but was blasted out of a city sewer last year.
It took sewage workers with jet hoses nine weeks to dislodge the 250-meter (820-foot) -long mass of oil, fat, diapers and baby wipes from beneath Whitechapel in the city's East End.
The museum has lovingly preserved a chunk the size of a shoe-box, whose mottled consistency a curator likens to parmesan crossed with moon rock. Close examination reveals the presence of tiny flies. Three nested transparent boxes protect visitors from potentially deadly bacteria, and from the fatberg's noxious smell.
Curator Vyki Sparkes says the lump started out smelling like a used diaper "that maybe you'd forgotten about and found a few weeks later." The pong has now mellowed to "damp Victorian basement."
"It's disgusting and fascinating," she said of the fatberg. "And that's what's been great to work with — it has this impact on people."
The museum is so confident of the item's ick-appeal that the exhibition — titled Fatberg! with an exclamation point — comes with a selection of merchandise including T-shirts and fatberg fudge.
Sparkes considers the fatberg a natural for the museum, which charts the city's ancient and modern history. The word itself, a hybrid of "fat" and "iceberg," is one of London's gifts to the world: It was coined by the city's sewer workers and entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015.
Fatbergs are a growing menace for cities around the world, but they remain mysterious.
"Fatbergs aren't really that well understood — how they form, how quickly they form and what they are," said Sparkes.
She said museum curators struggled to figure out how to preserve their volatile sample of the mass of detritus mixed with cooking fat, palm oil and oils found in products like hair conditioner and body lotion.
They debated pickling, but "decided no, it would probably dissolve and turn into toxic sludge." Freezing was also rejected. In the end, the sample was air dried. The first chunk to undergo the process crumbled, but a second attempt succeeded.
The exhibition is a sobering look at the effects of daily waste, but it does contain some good news. Most of the Whitechapel fatberg was delivered to Argent Energy, a company that turns waste into biofuel. Some of the sludge that once choked the sewer system is now fueling London's red double-decker buses.
"There is an upside," said Argent spokesman Dickon Posnett. "(But) it would be nicer for us if we could collect the fat before it even goes into the sewers. It would be nicer for the people of London, as well. So there is a way to go."
The fatberg is on display from Friday until July 1. Admission is free.
BUNNELL, Fla. (AP) — Looking to stay at the Green Roof Inn? Probably not.
A Florida sheriff says rooms are available and a new retro-neon sign purchased with drug-seized assets features a blinking "vacancy" light.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly has dubbed the county jail the Green Roof Inn. A sign lists the amenities at the facility north of Daytona Beach. There is no privacy, group bathrooms and no meal selection.
But inmates do get free transportation to court and state prisons, designer handcuffs and leg irons, color coordinated jumpsuits and shoes.
A sign at the jail's exit lets inmates know the Green Roof Inn "always has a light on" and beds are available if they break the law again.
Staly says it's a warning that jail is not a "5-star hotel."
NEW YORK (AP) — Don't expect to see "lady Doritos" on store shelves. The company behind the cheesy chips said Tuesday that it's not developing a line of Doritos designed specifically for women, despite widespread online speculation that it was.
The phrase "lady Doritos" trended on social media after PepsiCo's longtime CEO Indra Nooyi said on a podcast that unlike men, women don't like to lick their fingers after eating a bag of Doritos.
"Women would love to do the same, but they don't," Nooyi said in an interview on the Freakonomics podcast. "They don't like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don't lick their fingers generously and they don't like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth."
Nooyi, who has run the soda and snack company for more than a decade, later said the company is "getting ready to launch" snacks that are "designed and packaged differently" for women. "Women love to carry a snack in their purse," Nooyi said.
But PepsiCo said the interpretation of her comments to mean that female-friendly Doritos were in the works were "inaccurate."
"We already have Doritos for women — they're called Doritos," the company said in a statement Tuesday.
DALLAS (AP) — Authorities say a man took a sledgehammer to about a dozen squad cars in a Dallas police station parking lot.
Police say the man walked into the Dallas Central Patrol parking lot at the city's marshal's office detention center before dawn Sunday and started hitting the cars. The center holds people arrested for public intoxication and other low-level misdemeanors.
His name hasn't been released and other details of the incident haven't been disclosed.
Authorities say the man has been taken to jail.
DEDHAM, Maine (AP) — A Maine man says he punched and kicked a 150-pound bear, scaring it away after it attacked his puppy in the woods.
Twenty-nine-year-old Dustin Gray said the bear lunged at him and his 11-month-old puppy on Monday. The 6-foot-5 man tells the Bangor Daily News that he punched and kicked the bear until it fled and knocked him over in the process.
Gray suffered scratches and bruises, but his Labrador mix, Clover, suffered severe puncture wounds. The dog was being treated.
Gray said the attack happened near Route 1A in Dedham when he stopped to let the puppy relieve herself. The Maine Warden Service is investigating.
Bear attacks are unusual and even rarer in the winter when bears are supposed to be hibernating.
OOLTEWAH, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities say a teenager whose cat was stuck in a tree is in bigger trouble after falsely reporting a fire to attract help.
The 911 center's operations director in Hamilton County, Tennessee, Jeff Carney, tells WRCB-TV that multiple agencies responded to what they thought was a fire Monday at the home of 18-year-old Trevor Austin Lane.
Lane's arrest report says his cat had been stuck in the tree overnight, and he figured the fire department's "big ladders" would be of use.
He was charged with a 911 violation and jailed on $1,500 bond. It's unclear whether he has a lawyer.
Carney says dispatchers would have connected Lane with the appropriate resources had he been honest. He says such false calls are wasteful and dangerous as responders rush to the scene.
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — A man is accused of causing massive flooding at a South Carolina strip club through the destruction of a toilet.
News outlets report a Myrtle Beach incident report says police were called to the Treasure Club early Monday after 20-year-old Pedro Alberto Bernar-Santiago was seen "kicking down the top of the toilet that holds all the plumbing."
The report says the assault on the porcelain throne destroyed the $1,000 toilet and $3,000 worth of carpeting, as the water seeped into the main lobby of the club.
Bernar-Santiago fled the scene, and was later arrested behind a storage facility. He's charged with malicious injury and public intoxication. It's unclear whether he has a lawyer.
There's no indication on the club's website or social media accounts that the damage has shuttered service.
CLEVELAND (AP) — A convention center in Cleveland says it's turning a Cold War-era aircraft into a stationary restaurant in a bid to attract more visitors with a distinctive dining experience.
The Plain Dealer reports the Boeing KC-97G Stratofreighter used for mid-flight refueling had been mothballed in Arizona for several decades before the International Exposition Center bought it last year and relocated it near the exhibition hall. The I-X Center hopes to renovate the interior of the air tanker into a 50-seat restaurant by 2020.
The industrial artist leading that task, Mike Ensminger of Elyria, says he would like to leave the aircraft as historically accurate as possible.
The I-X Center has put $600,000 into the project so far, and officials anticipate spending another $500,000.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The NASA spacecraft that gave us close-ups of Pluto has set a record for the farthest photos ever taken.
In December — while nearly 4 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) from Earth — the New Horizons spacecraft snapped a picture of a star cluster. The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1.
New Horizons took more photos as it sped deeper into the cosmos in December. These pictures show two objects in the Kuiper Belt, the so-called twilight zone on the fringes of our solar system.
NASA released the images this week.
New Horizons flew past Pluto in 2015. It's headed toward a close encounter with another icy world, 1 billion miles beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — An environmental group wants couples to think of wild animals before acting like them this Valentine's Day.
The Center for Biological Diversity is handing out endangered species condoms at the Carnegie Science Center's adults-only Valentine's event Friday in Pittsburgh.
The wrappers feature colorful artwork and slogans like "Before it gets any hotter...remember the sea otter," and "Can't refrain? Think of the whooping crane."
The group hopes to show how human population growth negatively affects wildlife.
The center, based in Tucson, Arizona, is also handing out condoms Friday at an after-hours event at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
Lamont Craven, adult programs coordinator at the Carnegie Science Center, says "the condoms are a perfect fit for our event. The packaging highlights a dire topic, while the contents are actionable ways to solve the problem."
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican inspectors have found tigers in all sorts of situations: on leashes, in neighbors' yards and wandering the streets.
But the office for environmental protection announced a new twist Wednesday: Someone tried to express-mail a tiger cub.
The cub was sedated and packed into a plastic container. Nobody realized it was there until a sniffer dog looking for contraband detected it.
The cub was mailed in the western state of Jalisco to an address in the central state of Queretaro. It was dehydrated but otherwise well, and was handed over to an animal management center.
The tiger's papers were apparently in order, but it was seized because the mailing constituted mistreatment.
The agency says the case is under investigation.
BERLIN (AP) — The Leipzig Zoo says a baby gorilla born in December is a boy and has been named Kio, meaning "the Strong."
Kio lived up to his name Wednesday, holding on tightly to his mother Kumili, who is 13.
The zoo in the eastern German city says Kio is "very stable in his development, strong and starting to sit on his own."
The zoo now has three young gorillas which it says is great "for their social development and for the zoo itself."
LONDON (AP) — Gibbons Jimmy and Yoda, Max the Eurasian eagle owl and Bhanu the lion have stood up to be counted as London Zoo conducts its annual audit of creatures big and small.
Zookeepers tallied 19,289 animals in the annual count of every mammal, bird, reptile, fish, amphibian and insect at the famous zoo.
The penguins, at least, made it easy Wednesday, lining up flipper to flipper. Some concessions are made. Ants, for example, are counted en masse.
This year's event was delayed after a fire just before Christmas that killed four meerkats and an aardvark.
But Mark Haben of the Zoological Society of London says the count "brought everyone together and really allowed us all to support each other, and really focus on our animal breeding for this year."