Mad Minute stories from Tuesday, December 22nd - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Tuesday, December 22nd

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BARNAUL, Russia (AP) -- Tired of the dog-eat-dog politics in their Russian city, the residents of Barnaul say they want a cat to be their next mayor.
The Siberian city of 650,000 people, which lies 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) east of Moscow, is to get a new mayor next week when a commission comprising the city council and the regional governor choose from among six candidates.
But none of the six appear to spark much affection among Barnaul's residents. An informal online poll asking residents to express their preferences among the six and a Siamese cat named Barsik showed the feline nabbing more than 90 percent of the vote.
Barsik has attracted much amused attention in the Russian news media. Still, some local politicians understand there's a more serious message coming from the people of Barnaul, which like many Russian cities has been riddled with alleged corruption.
"Through the image of Barsik the cat, our people are sending definite wishes to the future head of Barnaul," says regional Gov. Alexander Karlin.
"The conclusion has been made that there's absolutely no trust among voters for any of the candidates," said local Communist Party official, Ivan Karpov.

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Is it a dime? Or is it a nail?
In probably one of the oddest items to come to the world of coin collecting, Dallas-based Heritage Auctions has announced the sale of a Roosevelt dime that was accidentally (or some say deliberately) struck onto a zinc nail.
Yes, that piece of ironmongery used to repair your roof.
The dime/nail is estimated to be worth roughly $10,000.
In the billions of coins it has made over its history, the U.S. Mint has made more than a few errors. There were Lincoln pennies that were struck onto the material for a dime, Washington quarters struck more than once, wrong dates on coins, etc. Most errors are caught by the Mint, but occasionally a few make it out into circulation. Those error coins have been highly sought by collectors.
This error coin coming to auction in January in Tampa, Florida, is one of the more bizarre errors to come to public attention. In a weird linguistic twist, another name for the 2-inch nail is a sixpenny nail.
"It is certainly the most unusual item I have had to catalog in my career," said Mark Borckardt, the senior numismatist at Heritage New York-based Auctions. A numismatist is person who studies or collects coins or bank notes.
It is not the first coin printed onto a nail, however, said Fred Weinberg, a coin dealer considered one of the top experts in error coins. A few pennies in the late 1970s were struck onto nails. This dime/nail is undated, so there is no way to tell when the item was created. Weinberg said it is possible the dime/nail was made on purpose by a rogue Mint employee.
Despite it not being one of a kind, Weinberg says, there are probably only about a half dozen coin/nail examples known and only two dimes. He expects the dime/nail to sell for roughly $10,000, but public interest could raise that amount.
A spokesman for the U.S. Mint was unavailable to answer the question of whether the nail/dime is considered valid currency.
The Heritage auction that includes the nail/dime also includes several other notable error coins. There will be a 1943 Lincoln penny struck in bronze, which would seem not out of the ordinary except for the fact that the U.S. Mint changed the composition of the penny in 1943 to steel to save copper for the war effort. 1943 bronze pennies typically sell for $200,000 to $300,000.
On the flip side, Heritage will also be auctioning a 1944 penny that was struck in steel, not bronze.
The auction for the dime/nail will be Jan. 6 as part of a larger Heritage auction. Electronic bidding for the coin has already started, however. The current price for the item is $3,200.

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Apparently anything goes in Holland. Cabinet ministers have decided students can now pay for driving lessons with sex.
Lawmakers reportedly agreed that it was prostitution, since sex wasn't being sold, even though prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. 
Opponents of the "ride for a ride" concept are worried that this kind of deal couldn't be taxed, because the "escort" isn't licensed properly - for sex that is, not for driving. 
But lawmakers say as long as the instructor makes the deal and both adults are okay with it, it's perfectly legal. 

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Three friends involved in buying tickets and claiming jackpots that were allegedly fixed by a state lottery insider have something else unusual in common, prosecutors say: They hunt for Bigfoot in their spare time.
In a legal motion that is as strange as the elusive humanoid, Iowa prosecutor Rob Sand asked a judge Monday to bar any discussion of Bigfoot hunting at the upcoming trial of Eddie Tipton, the lottery official accused of fixing multiple jackpots.
"The prejudicial effect could potentially be as strong as Sasquatch itself," Sand wrote. "Jurors could be incredulous. They could find it unusual enough that it outweighs other evidence in their mind."
Tipton is the former Multi-State Lottery Association security director who is accused of rigging jackpots in Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma from 2005 to 2011 to enrich himself and his friends. Investigators say he manipulated the computers that run games for dozens of state lotteries so he could know winning combinations in advance. Then, they say he worked with accomplices including his brother Tommy Tipton to play those numbers and claim jackpots worth millions.
Eddie Tipton has been convicted of fraud in an attempt to claim a $16.5 million Hot Lotto jackpot in Iowa. He's expected to soon stand trial a second time on charges of ongoing criminal conduct and money laundering related to the jackpots in other states.
Sand wrote in his motion that Iowa's lengthy investigation has found that Bigfoot hunting is a hobby that Tommy Tipton - who recently resigned as a justice of the peace in Flatonia, Texas - shares with two unidentified friends who "were involved in purchasing or claiming jackpot-winning tickets." He said their relationships can be established without mentioning that quirky pastime, and that hauling Bigfoot into the proceeding would have "no probative value on the ultimate question."
The motion noted that members of the Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization - which is dedicated to searching for the hairy humanoid in Southern states -"prefer to keep a low profile, due to the repercussions from their peers or employers."
That group distanced itself from the lottery scandal Tuesday, saying it hasn't had a Tommy Tipton sighting in years.
"It's been right at, or nearly 15 years since any of us, has conversed with him in any way, shape or form," founder Bobby Hamilton said.
Eddie Tipton's attorney, Dean Stowers, called the motion "kind of comical" and a publicity stunt. He contends that any evidence to prove the state's claim that his client tampered with machines is what's elusive.
"I think their whole case is a Bigfoot hunt. And now they want to prevent us from introducing evidence about real Bigfoot hunters?" he said, laughing.
Asked whether his client is known to search for Sasquatch as well, Stowers was unsure.
"I don't know if Eddie Tipton wants to be disclosed as a Bigfoot hunter or not but we'll certainly look into the whole Bigfoot issue and file a response," he said.

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - Authorities say a man who posted a photo and videos of himself on Instagram robbing a Virginia Beach bank has pleaded guilty.
Multiple media outlets report that 24-year-old Dominyk Antonio Alfonseca pleaded guilty to one count of robbery Monday in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.
Police said Alfonseca walked into a TowneBank in May and handed the teller a note asking for $150,000 in bonds - and including the word "please." He recorded the incident on his cellphone and posted videos and photo of the note online. Officers arrested Alfonseca shortly after the incident, carrying a gym bag full of money.
In a jailhouse interview, Alfonseca told WAVY-TV in May that he didn't think asking for money was a crime.
He faces the possibility of life in prison when sentenced in March.

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Everyone knows Rudolph has a red nose but what about his eyes?
Prompted by questions from his 4-year-old daughter, Dartmouth College anthropology professor Nathaniel Dominy recently wrote a scholarly paper on how the unique properties of reindeer eyes might explain the advantage of having a very shiny nose, particularly if it produces red light.
Dominy, who specializes in primate vision, was already familiar with recent research on reindeer eyes when his daughter asked him about Rudolph's nose. Scientists in Great Britain have discovered that unlike most mammals, reindeer can see ultraviolet light, meaning white polar bears or wolves that absorb UV light would stand out more against a snowy background. Reindeer eyes also include reflective tissue that appears to glow when light hits it - familiar to anyone who's seen a pet or wild animal illuminated by car headlights. But in reindeer, the tissue changes from a golden color during the summer to a deep blue in winter.
"What happens is that at night, the animals are trying to dilate their pupils to allow as much light into the eye as possible, and because those muscles are so active, it actually blocks little valves in the eye," Dominy explained. "The pressure in the eye builds up and compresses that tissue in the back of the eye, which causes the refractive properties to change."
While that change could boost an animal's ability to spot food in the snow when daylight in the Arctic is dim and purplish, it would be a distinct disadvantage on a foggy Christmas Eve because fog blocks blue light, Dominy said.
Enter the red nose.
Of all the colors, red light travels through fog fastest, making it ideal for guiding Santa's sleigh. But there's also a downside to red noses, he warns.
Other researchers have discovered that reindeer noses have a complex system of tiny blood vessels that prevent them from freezing but also results in a loss of body heat.
"That's bad. You want to retain as much heat as possible. If Rudolph has a very bright, glowing nose, he must have an unusually rich microvascular system, and he's probably losing a ton of heat through his nose," he said. "So Rudolph, more than other reindeer, is probably risking his life by losing so much heat."
His suggestion? Skip the carrots on Christmas Eve and leave Rudolph some cookies instead.
"One way to heat your body is to burn fuel. You do that by burning fat and calories," he said. "Children should be aware of Rudolph's condition and leave high-calorie foods for him."
At the Santa's Village amusement park in northern New Hampshire, Jim Miller said Tuesday that he was unaware reindeer had such unusual eyesight and he chuckled when he heard about Dominy's conclusions. The park has a herd of about three dozen reindeer.
"I think that theory is quite good, and as anyone will notice when they visit Santa's Village, Rudolph is indoors for us because we're sensitive to that issue of him losing heat through his nose," said Miller, who gave his job title as "Santa's Helper."
Dominy's paper, published by Frontiers for Young Minds, adds to Dartmouth's special connection to the classic Christmas story. Rudolph first appeared in a 1939 book written by advertising copywriter and Dartmouth alumnus Robert L. May to drive traffic to Montgomery Ward department stores. May later left Montgomery Ward to essentially manage the reindeer's career, which really took off after his brother-in-law Johnny Marks wrote the song (made famous by Gene Autry in 1949), and the release of a stop-motion animated television special in 1964.

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) - An Oklahoma suspect accused of robbing another man at knifepoint has been arrested after the victim described his attacker's distinctive facial tattoos, including a pair of horns and an anti-police obscenity.
Tulsa police officer Leland Ashley says 27-year-old Paul Wayne Terry was arrested Saturday on a complaint of robbery with a dangerous weapon. He's being held on $100,000 bail.
Ashley says the victim told police that Terry and a woman knocked on his apartment door on Friday, forced their way inside, and that Terry threatened to stab him if he didn't turn over his wallet. He told police that Terry had horns tattooed on his forehead.
Ashley says Terry was arrested the next day, adding: "He wasn't hard to identify."
Jail records don't indicate if Terry has an attorney.

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LONDON (AP) - Thousands of people - including many in druid and animal costumes - have descended on Britain's Stonehenge to see the sun rise on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.
Some 5,000 people traveled to the prehistoric monument before dawn to celebrate the annual event, which marks the point when the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun. After Tuesday, the hours of daylight become longer, symbolizing the return of hope.
This year's solstice took place on a particularly mild winter's day, with temperatures Tuesday in London as warm as 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit).
The stone circle in southern England, believed 4,500 years old, is a World Heritage site known for its alignment with the movements of the sun.

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A woman who lives in Brown Deer, Wisconsin was clearly just trying to keep her country safe from people who she thinks are terrorists.
The 82-year-old told police she heard her neighbors screaming "ISIS is good. ISIS is great" while they were having sex.
Police looked into it, and have suggested what she may have heard was "Is it good, is it great?" instead.

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) - A struggling Colorado busboy who returned $3,000 in cash that he found on the floor is getting rewarded with a big tip.
As of Monday, people impressed with Johnny Duckworth's honesty have raised more than $3,800 through gofundme.com.
He found the cash Tuesday at Randy's Southside Diner in Grand Junction, and handed it over to his boss, Randy Emmons.
The money was in an envelope behind a booth. There was also a bank ATM slip inside, and the bank was able to return the money to its owner, who gave Duckworth a $300 tip.
Emmons told KKCO-TV that Duckworth rides his bike to work, and his paycheck is garnished for medical bills.
Duckworth says he never thought of keeping the money, saying "I work for a living."

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