This week in odd news: Fatberg on display and a 'java jam'
BY RICHARD A. SOMMA
Dec. 16, 2017
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A cow in Philadelphia apparently wanted to be away from the manger, as it escaped twice Thursday morning from a church's live nativity scene.
Stormy, the 7-year-old brown and white Hereford, was back munching hay at Old First Reformed Church of Christ by 7:15 a.m. after two sets of adventures on snowy downtown streets.
Police first got reports of a cow near an Interstate 95 on-ramp around 2 a.m. Thursday.
One of the state police troopers who responded has a cattle ranch in New Jersey and knew how to handle the situation, WPVI-TV reports . Officers put a lead rope on the cow and walked her to a nearby parking lot with police vehicles helping shepherd Stormy back to church. Some lanes of the highway had to be shut down as the cow was wrangled.
But for Stormy, all was not calm and bright. She fled again around 6 a.m., despite Rev. Michael Caine's best efforts to stop the 1,500-pound animal. She then ambled toward a major thoroughfare as the morning rush got underway.
"If you're in the area of 4th and Market, beware of traffic delays. A cow is loose. Again. No, we can't believe we are tweeting this either," the police department tweeted just before 7 a.m.
This time, the bovine was tracked down on the fourth floor of a parking garage about a block south of the church.
By late morning, Stormy was loaded into a trailer to head back to the Manatawna Saul Farm, which is a high school 4-H club that owns her.
Scott Moser, who helps the students with the animals, told The Associated Press because Stormy figured out how to push open the gate — despite its beefed up latch system — it seems to have become a bit of a game for her.
They decided to use her understudy, a cow about half her size named Ginger.
As for Stormy, Moser said she has never been a troublemaker before.
"She's a very calm cow," he said. "Nothing really fazes her."
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A cat with an unlikely name has an important job at a training center for dogs.
Support Dogs, Inc. in St. Louis took in the black and white cat over the summer and named him D-O-G (dee-OH'-jee). He's more than a mascot - officials say he plays a key role getting the dogs comfortable around other animals. Assistance dogs need to be well-behaved and not be distracted in their job helping people who are deaf or have mobility problems.
Support Dogs president and CEO Anne Klein says D-O-G is "fearless" around the larger canines and plays with their tails, sleeps in their beds and eats and drinks from their bowls instead of his own.
The dogs go through a two-year training program before they're given to clients for free.
SALEM, N.H. (AP) — A routine oil change has turned into an unusual owl sighting for one car owner.
The police department in Salem, New Hampshire, said Friday a mechanic popped the hood of a car and found an Eastern Screech owl sitting on the engine. The department said the car owner had no idea how the owl got there. Police guessed he was either seeking warmth or chasing a mouse.
Police posted photos of the owl on Facebook. They named him "Shazam" and said he was very friendly.
Shazam was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center for evaluation.
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Reindeer are supposed to pull Santa Claus' sleigh, but in Oregon recently, a red-suited man on a sled wound up pushing a deer.
The reverse-reality Christmas-season tale played out when a deer wandered onto a frozen golf course pond in Sunriver, Oregon, on Friday and then lost its footing.
Try as it might, it couldn't get all its legs underneath him. It skidded and slithered, and its legs buckled.
Along came firefighter Jeff "JJ" Johnston, astride a new ice-rescue sled that was as bright red as the suit he wore, and as the nose on Rudolph the reindeer, which guided Santa's sleigh one foggy Christmas Eve.
Benjamin O'Keefe, a captain in the fire department of the resort and residential community, had his camera rolling. His video has become a sensation, garnering millions of views and picked up by broadcasters in the United States and overseas.
The young deer's hind legs began pumping, but it couldn't get up on its front legs. It was on an icy treadmill, going nowhere.
Johnston got close, spoke calming words to the deer and — slipping a bit himself as a tried to gain traction — gently pushed it with the front of the sled to the edge of the pond. Even then, the deer needed some coaxing. It seemed to have enjoyed the slippery ride.
Johnston tapped it on the head with the back of his gloved hand, then scratched the top of its head and ears, like you'd pet a dog.
The deer tried to get onto the sled before it turned around. Pushed once more to the snowy ground, it gained solid footing and, with a wave from Johnston, scampered off, presumably to join its mates in some deer games.
"JJ was talking to it the whole time," said Tammie Waters, office manager for the Sunriver Fire Department. "The deer played along pretty good."
It was the inaugural rescue mission for the sled, which was purchased with a grant from Firehouse Subs, a sandwich restaurant chain, she said. She hopes it never happens, but when someone falls through the ice or is stuck on thin ice, the sled will be put to use.
"It was a great way to get training, and rescue a deer," Waters said.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — There's only one thing under the Christmas tree decorating Poplar Boulevard in Jackson — a pothole that residents hope will get fixed soon.
WLBT-TV reports somebody placed a tree fully decorated with ornaments and lights in the sinkhole that appeared weeks earlier in the Belhaven neighborhood. A sign on the tree says: "From our sinkhole to yours."
Resident Kelsey Berry says the pothole posed a hazard to unsuspecting motorists because the street isn't lit very well. The tree's lights turn on at night to help warn drivers to swerve around it.
Many Jackson residents are all too familiar with holes in the roads. On one street where a pothole blew out several tires recently, people built a makeshift graveyard of hubcaps.
PEABODY, Mass. (AP) — An expecting father in Massachusetts has shown off his paternal glow with a pregnancy photo shoot.
Peabody resident Nick Roberts surprised his pregnant girlfriend with the photos at their gender reveal party in June before their son Logan was born. Some of the photos show Roberts posing at a beach in the town of Nahant, cradling his visible belly.
The couple's son has since been born.
Roberts says he and his friend, who is a photographer, grabbed some fast food before the shoot to "try to look a little pregnant."
Roberts' girlfriend, Brianna Magee, tells WHDH-TV she flipped through the pictures and "just started laughing harder and harder."
Roberts says the photo shoot was "extremely difficult because we just kept laughing."
HAMDEN, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut police are looking for the suspect in the theft of a bag of cheeseburgers.
Hamden Police Capt. Ronald Smith says the 23-year-old victim was walking on the street carrying the bag of cheeseburgers Saturday night.
The New Haven Register reports he was then held up by an armed man who fled on foot with the victim's cheeseburgers.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Hamden police.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Police in western New York have charged a man who they say impersonated a police officer in an attempt to get discounted coffee.
WIVB-TV reports the man flashed a fake badge and gun at a Starbucks in Buffalo around 11 p.m. Friday. Police say the man claimed he was a detective and asked for a discount.
Authorities say the man then left Starbucks and tried to get into Spot Coffee after closing time by claiming he was a police officer. He was later arrested.
Police say the man was carrying a BB gun.
Police have charged the 48-year-old Buffalo man with criminal trespassing, criminal impersonation of a police officer and menacing.
NEW YORK (AP) — Fossils from New Zealand have revealed a giant penguin that was as big as a grown man, roughly the size of the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The creature was slightly shorter in length and about 20 pounds (9 kilograms) heavier than the official stats for hockey star Sidney Crosby. It measured nearly 5 feet, 10 inches (1.77 meters) long when swimming and weighed in at 223 pounds (101 kilograms).
If the penguin and the Penguin faced off on the ice, however, things would look different. When standing, the ancient bird was maybe only 5-foot-3 (1.6 meters).
The newly found bird is about 7 inches (18 centimeters) longer than any other ancient penguin that has left a substantial portion of a skeleton, said Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany. A potentially bigger rival is known only from a fragment of leg bone, making a size estimate difficult.
The biggest penguin today, the emperor in Antarctica, stands less than 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall.
Mayr and others describe the giant creature in a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications. They named it Kumimanu biceae, which refers to Maori words for a large mythological monster and a bird, and the mother of one of the study's authors. The fossils are 56 million to 60 million years old.
That's nearly as old as the very earliest known penguin fossils, which were much smaller, said Daniel Ksepka, curator at the Bruce Museum of Greenwich, Connecticut. He has studied New Zealand fossil penguins but didn't participate in the new study.
The new discovery shows penguins "got big very rapidly" after the mass extinction of 66 million years ago that's best known for killing off the dinosaurs, he wrote in an email.
That event played a big role in penguin history. Beforehand, a non-flying seabird would be threatened by big marine reptile predators, which also would compete with the birds for food. But once the extinction wiped out those reptiles, the ability to fly was not so crucial, opening the door for penguins to appear.
Birds often evolve toward larger sizes after they lose the ability to fly, Mayr said. In fact, the new paper concludes that big size appeared more than once within the penguin family tree.
What happened to the giants?
Mayr said researchers believe they died out when large marine mammals like toothed whales and seals showed up and provided competition for safe breeding places and food. The newcomers may also have hunted the big penguins, he said.
LONDON (AP) — Part of a monster fatberg that clogged one of London's sewers is destined for fame in a museum.
The Museum of London says it will put the only remaining chunk of the 130-metric-ton (143-U.S.-ton) mass of oil, fat, diapers and baby wipes on display early next year.
Workers for utility company Thames Water spent weeks this year dislodging the smelly 250-meter-long (820-foot-long) blob by breaking it up with high-powered hoses.
The museum's shoebox-sized chunk is all that remains. The rest has been converted to biofuel.
Curator Vyki Sparkes said Tuesday that it will be "one of the most fascinating and disgusting objects we have ever had on display."
It has been air-dried to reduce the smell and will be displayed in a sealed unit.
SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (AP) — Police have charged a man they say rigged a parent-teacher organization raffle so he won two prizes and then stole a third prize.
Officials say 35-year-old Alexander Stewart, of Southington, is charged with forgery and three counts of sixth-degree larceny. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment this week and was freed on $1,000 bond.
Police say Stewart placed almost 200 tickets he didn't buy into a drawing at a PTO event in October and as a result won prizes worth $40 and $45. He then allegedly took a third prize he hadn't won and walked to his car. He told police he inadvertently took the third prize.
He was arrested after not responding to requests to settle the matter out of court.
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Fairfax County police say a man stripped off his clothes and jumped on a passing vehicle after a road accident near Washington Dulles International Airport.
A statement from the Fairfax County Police Department says the bizarre incident occurred Tuesday afternoon and caused "major traffic delays" during rush hour around the major international airport.
The man, who was not immediately identified, is facing multiple charges.
Officials say the naked suspect was found on Dulles airport property after fleeing the accident scene. He was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
Nobody else was injured during the road accident or what the police describe as an assault on a passing vehicle.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City native Gayla Peevey has welcomed another hippopotamus to the city's zoo, more than 60 years after her song about wanting one for Christmas helped the facility purchase its first.
The singer was on hand as the 26-year-old pygmy hippopotamus Francesca made her first Oklahoma public appearance since moving from the San Diego Zoo.
In 1953, the then-10-year-old Peevey sang the novelty hit, "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas." It led to a statewide fund drive in which children donated dimes to purchase and bring a pachyderm to the zoo.
Peevey also was there in December 1953 when the Nile hippopotamus Mathilda arrived.
Francesca joins 43-year-old Wolee in the zoo's pachyderm exhibit.
Pygmy hippos are listed as endangered, with fewer than 3,000 remaining in the wild.
EDMOND, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma mother and father couldn't figure out what was happening to their child's pacifiers until the baby's grandmother saw the family dog swipe one off a counter.
One nauseous pooch and a trip to their veterinarian's office confirmed the couple's hunch: Dovey had 21 pacifiers lodged in her stomach.
The couple told the veterinarian Dovey had slowed her eating and was vomiting for a few days, but other than that, they thought she seemed fine.
KFOR-TV reports that at first, the veterinarian thought there were only seven to nine pacifiers in Dovey's stomach, but the surgery proved otherwise.
Dovey is on the mend and has already gone home.
The veterinarian cautioned pet owners in a recent Facebook post that "dogs will eat anything, anytime and at any age."
GREENPORT, N.Y. (AP) — A cat that scaled a tree on Long Island and became trapped for five days has been rescued following a townwide effort to save it.
Newsday reports the Shamrock Tree Co. and the North Fork Animal Welfare League were finally able to coax a stressed cat down from a tree in Greenport in Suffolk County on Tuesday. The freed feline ran away after it was saved.
Southold Animal Shelter manager Gabby Stroup says residents and town officials had worked to free the cat to no avail. The cat ran farther up the large tree when a bucket truck tried to reach the cat Friday.
Shamrock owner Jonath Shipman says he has rescued cats and a red-tailed hawk with his 60-foot bucket truck. Shipman says the rescue only took a couple minutes.
BERLIN (AP) — A pilot has traced a virtual Christmas tree over Germany on a test flight with an Airbus A380.
Airbus spokesman Heiko Stolzke told news agency dpa Thursday that the nearly 5½-hour flight the previous day was "a standard internal Airbus test flight before the delivery of a new aircraft."
He said the idea for the Christmas tree pattern of the flight, which took off from and landed at the company's plant in Hamburg, came from the pilot and engineers on the flight and it was carried out in cooperation with air traffic control.
The plane turned several corners and loops during its flight to produce a pattern in the shape of a tree complete with baubles.
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Officials say they found gold coins among the donations in a Salvation Army kettle in Florida.
A Sun Sentinel report says it's the fourth consecutive year that someone has dropped gold 1947 Mexican 50-peso coins into the kettle outside a store in Pompano Beach.
The Salvation Army of Broward County said two of the coins were discovered Wednesday. Another one was found Nov. 27.
Officials said all the coins were wrapped in dollar bills.
Each coin is worth a little more than $1,300.
Alyse Gossman, the Salvation Army of Broward County's director of development, says a donor typically purchases the coins after the Christmas season.
The organization says holiday donations in the red kettles help provide meals, shelter, clothing and social services to more than 25,000 people in the county.
PARIS (AP) — French police say a homeless man found a huge amount of cash last week at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport and was able to leave the complex with 300,000 euros ($354,000).
Two police officers, who are not allowed to speak publicly on the case, said Thursday that video surveillance showed the man looking in the trash and leaning against a nearby door.
Airport police union official Jean-Yann William Airport told France Info television that "to his surprise, the door is opening, he's entering and finds out there's huge amount of money" in the room of cash transport company Loomis.
Video then shows the man leaving the airport with two big bags.
Police recognized him as a homeless man living in the airport area. He is being actively sought.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A Gaza eatery is offering massive discounts to North Korean diners but there is just one problem — there are no North Koreans in Gaza.
Ibrahim Raba, manager of a shawarma restaurant in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp, says he is offering the 80 percent discounts to show his appreciation for North Korea's rejection of President Donald Trump's recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
He has also placed a large photo of reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the glass door entrance to his restaurant.
A new Kim fan, Raba likes to quote the North Korean leader, saying: "Trump proved he is mentally deranged."
And though Raba knows there are no North Koreans in Gaza, he hopes they will come someday, perhaps after joining other foreign aid workers.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Zoo has thrown a birthday party for 37-year-old Coldilocks, the oldest polar bear in captivity in the United States.
The zoo says they celebrated her birthday Thursday with a peanut butter, honey, raisin and fish cake. Guests at the party braved a cold, icy day to sing "Happy Birthday" to the bear.
Zoo officials say the average lifespan for polar bears in captivity is 23 years. They credit Coldilocks' long life to the care she receives from her keepers and veterinary staff.
Coldilocks lived with her partner Klondike for more than three decades before the bear died in 2015 at age 34.
Polar bears as a species are listed as vulnerable. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in January that about 26,000 specimens remain in the wild.