This week in odd news: Burrito beaning; Cow's new pals
BY RICHARD A. SOMMA
Jan. 27, 2018
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A farmyard cow in Poland has chosen freedom this winter, roaming with a herd of bison for three months after escaping its pen.
The reddish brown cow has been spotted following bison across corn and rapeseed fields bordering the Bialowieza Forest in eastern Poland as they forage for abandoned corn cobs and other food.
Rafal Kowalczyk, a bison expert who has managed to photograph the unusual sight, said the cow seems to be in good condition. That indicates that she is managing to find food, even though she is sometimes spotted on the margins of the herd. Thick fur common to her Limousin breed and the mild winter in eastern Poland so far this year have also helped her, he told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Kowalczyk, director of the Mammal Research Institute at the Polish Academy of Sciences, described the situation as exceptional, saying it's the first time he has witnessed a cow living among bison. But it's also dangerous to both sides.
If the cow mates with male bison and gets pregnant, she could die during delivery because her hybrid calf would be bigger than a normal cow calf.
Any offspring could also contaminate the gene pool of the tiny and endangered bison population in Poland, which became extinct in the wild after World War I and has been restored based on some captive survivors.
For now, the story of a rebel cow who defied the fate of the slaughterhouse to roam free with the bison is a hit on Kowalczyk's Facebook page.
One of his followers reposted the photo with the words: "Next time when I think that something stops me from fulfilling my dreams, I will remember the cow who became a bison."
But scientists will want to remove the cow from the herd by summer to prevent the risk of mating, though Kowalczyk said that won't be an easy operation.
"One question is whether when winter ends the cow will follow the bison into the forest, which is not the habitat that this cow knows," Kowalczyk said. "The more time she spends in the herd, the riskier it will be."
WEST COVINA, Calif. (AP) — It was less an arrest than a roundup.
Police say a donkey led more than a dozen sheep and goats on a stroll through a suburban West Covina neighborhood east of Los Angeles.
Police were called around 12:30 a.m. Thursday by reports of a herd of animals walking the streets.
The animals were finally corralled with the help of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities say the animals escaped their owners' property in neighboring Valinda through an unsecured gate.
The owner was contacted and took the herd back home.
No injuries were reported but police say it raised a few eyebrows among officers who thought they'd seen it all.
EUFAULA, Okla. (AP) — Talk about hitchhikers you really can't pick up: Four circus elephants were briefly stuck along an Oklahoma road waiting for a ride.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says a truck carrying them to Iowa broke down Wednesday.
Trooper Dwight Durant said Thursday that the floor of the trailer carrying the pachyderms had started to give way and was dragging on the road, sparking grass fires along the way.
The elephants disembarked near Eufaula, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) east of Oklahoma City, after someone noticed the problem from another vehicle traveling behind the truck.
The elephants were transferred to another trailer and moved to a nearby veterinarian's property before another vehicle arrived to take them to Iowa.
Durant said the elephants belong to Carson & Barnes Circus, based in Hugo, Oklahoma.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Police say a fast-food worker upset at having to work a morning shift has given new meaning to a burrito to go, slinging a hot one at his Taco Bell supervisor.
Police in South Carolina say officers were called to the Spartanburg eatery Monday, where a supervisor reported telling the worker to "stop being a crybaby" — just before being beaned with the food-filled projectile.
A police report says the supervisor had turned away when melted cheese from the airborne burrito splattered her left arm, side and leg. Gooey stuff also "made a mess of the entire kitchen," police say.
Police say the worker didn't stop there, adding they were told he took off his headset, broke it on his knee and "stormed out."
No arrests have been made.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Cathy Stepp wore a fake nose and sunglasses to try to help her daughter pass a 2011 Wisconsin driving test after she failed her initial attempt.
Stepp had her daughter, Hannah, introduce her to staff on Jan. 11 after President Donald Trump appointed the former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources secretary to be the EPA Region 5 administrator, the Chicago Tribune reported .
staffers were nervous about meeting her because she cut scientists at the Wisconsin DNR and scrubbed language stating that humans are causing climate change from the agency's website, the paper reported. The number of environmental enforcement cases decreased sharply during her Wisconsin tenure as well.
Stepp asked her daughter to introduce her in an attempt to humanize her, according to the Tribune. During the introduction, Hannah Stepp said her mother wore the fake nose and sunglasses so she could follow someone taking the Wisconsin driver's test. She said she had failed her first test and her mother wanted to learn the route to help her practice for her second attempt, which she passed.
She told the newspaper that her mom always carries a fake nose around.
An EPA spokeswoman had no immediate comment Friday. Hannah Stepp didn't immediately return voicemail, email and text messages.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The owner of a $300,000 Ferrari is suing Marriott International, saying a hotel valet gave his keys to a young man who was trying to impress a woman he just met.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that 73-year-old attorney James "Skip" Fowler parked his yellow 458 Italia Spider outside the Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club last July 27 while attending a lawyer's convention in St. Petersburg.
There the 2014 Ferrari remained for more than 12 hours, until Levi Miles, then 28, showed up. Miles said he told the woman it was his and demanded the keys, telling the valet that the ticket was in the car and he'd bring it back. He never did. The two sat in the car for "quite a while," according to a St. Petersburg police report. Eventually, the valet said he stopped paying attention after he "figured he wasn't getting a tip."
Miles drove off with Chloe Rimmer in the passenger seat until an officer stopped him for driving without taillights. The police report noted that the driver had "difficulty" handling the car, that cocaine was found on the center console, and that Rimmer had marijuana in her purse.
Miles told several stories. Then he said he had just met Rimmer, and she asked if the Ferrari was his. "Yeah, that's my car," he said he told her.
"I was just trying to impress the girl I just met at the Vinoy," he told officers.
But Miles says he's innocent of grand theft, because the valet gave him the keys. He also faces charges of cocaine possession and habitually driving with a suspended or revoked license. Rimmer faces a charge of marijuana possession.
Fowler, meanwhile is accusing the hotel and valet, 717 Parking Enterprises, of negligence. He said had to spend "significant sums" on car inspections, repairs and legal fees after he got his Ferrari back, and that its value had been "diminished."
FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey couple recently changed their wedding venue from a judge's chambers to a courthouse bathroom after a relative had an asthma attack.
Brian and Maria Schulz were set to tie the knot when the groom's mother had difficulty breathing. She was taken to a women's room at the Monmouth County Courthouse, where sheriff's officers administered oxygen and called EMT's.
If they had postponed the wedding, they would have had to wait 45 days for a new marriage license. So one of the officers suggested holding the ceremony in the bathroom.
In a video posted on the sheriff's office Facebook page, Judge Katie Gummer performed the ceremony.
The groom's mother is doing fine.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri State University student who feared he swiped a potential sweetheart out of his life with a dating app mishap has emailed every Claudia on campus to find her.
The freshman meant to swipe right on the woman's Tinder profile — a sign that he wanted to meet her. Instead he swiped left, rejecting her.
All he knew was her first name and that she also was a Missouri State student. Over the weekend, he began emailing the 22 Claudias on campus, offering to take the one that got away out for doughnuts.
When freshman Claudia Alley got the email, she knew it was about her because it referenced a joke in her bio on the app. She told the Springfield News-Leader she's agreed to the doughnut date.
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — For the first time since it started 15 years ago, the World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade will include a marching band
The parade covers 98 feet along Bridge Street in downtown Hot Springs. The Mountain Pine High School band director, Chris Johns, says it is an honor to have the first band in the parade.
The March 17 parade takes 40 entries each year. So far, it has 27 for this year's festivities.
The Sentinel-Record reported Joey Fatone of (asterisk)NSYNC will be this year's celebrity grand marshal and Jon Heder of "Napoleon Dynamite" is the official starter.
This year's parade will start at 7:30 p.m. — an hour later than usual — to allow time for Oaklawn Park patrons to attend after that day's Rebel Stakes.
KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) — An airplane approaching a central Idaho airport had to abort its initial landing after a mountain lion was spotted on the runway.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials said a conservation officer later killed the mountain lion in order to keep the public safe.
The Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey on Saturday night was delayed about 20 minutes due to the mountain lion, the Idaho Mountain Express reported .
"We were on an approach for landing and all of a sudden the pilot pulled up," said Diane Cordes, a Hailey resident on the flight. "After a couple of minutes, he came on the loudspeaker and said the tower called and we had to pull up because there's a cougar on the runway."
After the mountain lion was spotted, airport manager Chris Pomeroy said workers attempted to corral the animal. The airport does have a plan in place for wildlife management, he noted.
"We thought we had it contained but it did spring loose and walk across the runway when the Delta flight was several miles out," Pomeroy said.
Pomeroy used a car to chase the cougar into a fenced-off section surrounding the control tower, he said.
The conservation officer shot the lion as there was no way to safely trap it in a timely manner, said Kelton Hatch, a spokesman for the fish and game department. The mountain lion was less than a year old, he said.
The officer did not have access to a tranquilizer gun, and the department does not typically relocate large predators that have become accustomed to being near people, said Mike McDonald, the department's regional wildlife manager.
MILFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut woman says she recently discovered an etching her late father grabbed from a Yale University dumpster close to 20 years ago is a valuable piece of art.
Cheryl Conroy Warren tells the New Haven Register on Tuesday she learned from an appraiser with the television show "Antiques Roadshow" the etching is an original work by Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki. Its estimated value is between $10,000 and $15,000.
The appraiser told her the piece is titled "Flora and Fauna" and it's No. 190 of the 200 the artist made.
Warren says her father, Arnold Conroy, had a habit of picking up items from worksites while he worked construction.
Warren says she plans to sell the piece and give the money to her mother.
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina man who made headlines when he was caught for break-ins after winning a doughnut-eating contest has been arrested again. And this time he's accused of stealing from a doughnut shop.
The Virginian-Pilot newspaper reports 27-year-old Bradley Hardison of Elizabeth City was charged Thursday with stealing from a Dunkin' Donuts in November.
An Elizabeth City Police Department statement says he's charged with felonies including breaking and entering and larceny. It wasn't clear if he helped himself to any doughnuts.
A phone listing for Hardison rang disconnected.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that in 2014, Hardison won a doughnut-eating contest put on by Elizabeth City police while he was wanted on suspicion of several break-ins. Investigators said they arrested Hardison after his win prompted further scrutiny, and he was convicted, according to the paper.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — It still won't make her smile, but Grumpy Cat has won some scratch.
A California jury gave the furry frown queen more than $700,000 this week in a federal lawsuit over the use of her identity.
According to documents obtained by The Washington Post, owner Tabatha Bundesen of Morristown, Arizona, won the lawsuit first filed three years ago against the Grenade beverage company.
She signed on for the cat to endorse a "Grumpy Cat Grumpuccino," but the company subsequently used the cat's image to help sell other products, which an eight-person jury on Monday found was unauthorized.
Grumpy Cat, whose dwarfism and underbite give her the permanent frown she's famous for, became an online phenomenon-turned-merchandising-machine after Bundesen first posted pictures of her in 2012.
LYNN, Mass. (AP) — An anonymous donor has paid a more than $600 veterinarian bill for a cat rescued from a Massachusetts apartment fire.
The Daily Item reports that the 1-year-old cat named Christopher survived the fire earlier this month that left his owner homeless, but required a week at an animal hospital.
The cat is being taken care of by another couple while the owner, Michelle Dupont, gets back on her feet.
That couple set up a crowdsourcing site to pay the $623 bill, but a woman who wanted to remain anonymous took care of it.
The donor says she was "touched" by Christopher's story and hopes donations to the online fundraiser go toward Dupont's recovery.
Dupont says she is thankful for the help and "good things are coming out of bad things."
BERLIN (AP) — It's that time of the year to fulfill those ambitious New Year's resolutions again: More vegetables, less alcohol, sign up for the gym.
But not for Torben Bertram. Fed up with colleagues who kept pressuring him to join workout sessions during his lunch break, the 39-year-old Berliner founded Germany's first couch potato club.
Bertram says his Sofa Sports Association is proudly geared toward the non-vegan, non-overachieving, non-career-obsessed masses.
"I just didn't like this constant pressure to improve myself," Bertram said, adding that he is the antithesis of many young people in Berlin: Skinny, well-groomed but stressed.
Club activities include swaying back and forth, like in a beer hall; the "Tarzan yell" — beating your chest with your fists and yelling; and the potato chip competition, consisting of eating a plastic cup full of chips without using one's hands — a favorite among the club's child members.
The club has been meeting for about a year at bars and pubs in the German capital and now boasts 25 members from 8 to 64 years old. Men, women and children are all welcome. Bertram's wife initially thought sofa sports was "nonsense" — but she joined anyway, Bertram said with a smug smile.
The father of two, who works in political communications, sports a goatee and has a penchant for cycling shirts that are too tight around the belly. He speaks with eyes full of mischief, suggesting one shouldn't take everything he says at face value.
Lounging on a worn-out couch at one of his favorite bars in Berlin, Bertram said the club only meets in bars with sofas, where everyone is encouraged to participate in the club's unique fitness program.
The association's "sofa exercises" aren't just bar games, Bertram said with a deadpan expression. Some strengthen back and arm muscles, or burn calories. The beer-hall sway, for example, is said to combine popular German traditions with eastern-Asian forms of body awareness including elements from the Chinese Qigong system of body coordination.
"We are no regular couch potatoes because we're not idling away our time in front of the TV," he said. "We've put some serious thought into this."
It was the traditional beer-mug hoisting that convinced Patricia Bernreuther to join the club.
"It's really just a variety of what we've been doing in Bavaria for generations," the 28-year-old parliamentary aide said while holding a heavy glass of beer in her outstretched hand with ease. "It makes me feel like I'm back home."
Unlike southern Germans, who competitively carry more than 20 mugs at the same time, the Berliners are satisfied to exercise with one glass at a time, at a sloth-like speed. Most importantly, sessions are fun.
Norbert Buddendick, a 50-year-old lobbyist, said the couch potato meetings are much more fulfilling than his previous gym workouts.
"I like the whole-body approach," he said, tongue-in-cheek, as he ordered another glass of wheat beer. "And it's really great to mingle with like-minded people."
It's not just fun and games — the club wouldn't be German without some serious rules and order. Bertram has taken out accident insurance for the group, registered it with fiscal authorities and applied for membership in the regional sports association.
And the couch potatoes have their own ambitions, too.
"We are convinced that we will grow and expand across country borders," Bertram said. "For 2019, we envision a European championship in sofa sport exercises."
NORTHVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Call them freezy riders. These motorcycle racers seem to defy physics by buzzing around slick tracks plowed out atop frozen lakes and rivers each winter.
The riders on upstate New York ice this winter are butchers, contractors, maintenance workers, fathers and sons.
Some compete for money, with purses up to $500 on a recent race day. But most are amateurs, risking the ever-present threat of slipping sideways across the ice for thrills and post-race laughs.
Racers ride standard dirt bikes with special screws in the tire treads. Sharp heads on the screws allow riders to hit fast straightaway speeds and turn without sliding into snowbanks. Racers claim the traction is actually better on ice than on dirt or pavement.
MIAMI (AP) — Looking for stripper poles, a coffin with cherry red lining and a velociraptor? You might want to check out the upcoming auction of gaudy items that decorated two mansions once owned by a former developer in South Florida.
The Miami Herald reports the former estate of Thomas Kramer will be sold in one package to the highest bidder on Feb. 14.
The auction followed the seizure of Kramer's Star Island mansions following a judgment his former in-laws obtained against him. Kramer's extravagant South Beach lifestyle was fueled by the millions given him by father-in-law Siegfried Otto, a now-deceased German businessman.
Later, a battle ensued over whether it was a gift or loan. Kramer lost the case, his home and possessions. Kramer, now living in Europe, is only allowed to keep his personal photos.
PARIS (AP) — Brawls have broken out in French supermarkets as shoppers scramble to get their hands on discounted pots of chocolate and hazelnut spread.
Chaotic scenes were filmed in several supermarkets across the country operated by the Intermarche chain, which offered massive discounts on pots of Nutella.
The promotion, launched on Thursday, reduced the price of more than a million 950-gram pots from 4.70 euros ($5.85) to 1.41 ($1.75).
In one video posted on Twitter, customers are seen shoving each other and shouting as they try to get as many pots as possible. According to Le Parisien newspaper, shoppers started to fight in the northern town of Ostricourt, prompting police to step in.
Intermarche did not immediately answer a message from The Associated Press seeking comments. Ferrero, the company that produces Nutella, decried the incidents and distanced itself from the supermarket chain.
"We want to clarify that the decision for the special offer was taken unilaterally by Intermarche," the company said in a statement. "We regret the consequences of this operation, which created confusion and disappointment in the consumers' minds."
The discount was meant to last until Saturday but stocks ran out very quickly at many supermarkets. Sales went smoothly in some places, however, with no incidents reported in several supermarkets taking part in the promotion.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Police in North Carolina have come up with a hot plan to curb a spike in local car thefts.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department announced at a news conference Wednesday that drivers visiting a designated convenience store next Tuesday will get a free coffee — or soda — if they show their car keys to officers there.
CMPD Capt. Jonathan Thomas said part of the issue is people leaving cars running to warm up, but he said too many people keep an extra key inside their cars for convenience.
Officials say more than 230 cars have been stolen in Charlotte in 2018, a 31 percent increase over the total at the same time last year. Thomas says 37 percent of those thefts involved keys being left inside the car.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A kangaroo named Paul has become the oldest living tree kangaroo in the country.
Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence says the Matschie's tree kangaroo turned 23 years, three months and four days old on Friday.
The zoo says it knows of no other male tree kangaroo to reach this age anywhere.
Paul has good genes. His mother lived to age 27 at the zoo in Miami.
To celebrate, Paul may get extra sweet potatoes, his favorite.
Paul retired two years ago so he's kept in a habitat that's closed to the public.
The zoo says Matschie's tree kangaroos are native to Papua New Guinea and live to about 8 years old in the wild or 14 years old in captivity.