Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, December 30th - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, December 30th

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Drunken-driving charges against an upstate New York woman have been dismissed based on an unusual defense: Her body is a brewery.
The woman was arrested while driving with a blood-alcohol level more than four times the legal limit. She then discovered she has a rare condition called "auto-brewery syndrome," in which her digestive system converts ordinary food into alcohol, her lawyer Joseph Marusak said in interviews this week.
A town judge in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg dismissed the drunken-driving charges this month after Marusak presented a doctor's research showing the woman had the previously undiagnosed condition in which high levels of yeast in her intestines fermented high-carbohydrate foods into alcohol.
The rare condition, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, was first documented in the 1970s in Japan, and both medical and legal experts in the U.S. say it is being raised more frequently in drunken-driving cases as it is becomes more known.
"At first glance, it seems like a get-out-of-jail-free card," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. "But it's not that easy. Courts tend to be skeptical of such claims. You have to be able to document the syndrome through recognized testing."
The condition was first documented in the U.S. by Barbara Cordell of Panola College in Texas, who published a case study in 2013 of a 61-year-old man who had been experiencing episodes of debilitating drunkenness without drinking liquor.
Marusak contacted Cordell for help with his client who insisted she hadn't had more than three drinks in the six hours before she was pulled over for erratic driving Oct. 11, 2014. The woman was charged with driving while intoxicated when a Breathalyzer test showed her blood-alcohol content to be 0.33 percent.
Cordell referred Marusak to Dr. Anup Kanodia of Columbus, Ohio, who eventually diagnosed the woman with auto-brewery syndrome and prescribed a low-carbohydrate diet that brought the situation under control. She is currently free to drive without restrictions.
During the long wait for an appointment, Marusak arranged to have two nurses and a physician's assistant monitor his client for a day to document she drank no alcohol, and to take several blood samples for testing.
"At the end of the day, she had a blood-alcohol content of .36 without drinking any alcoholic beverages," Marusak said. He said the woman also bought a Breathalyzer and blew into it every night for 18 days, registering around .20 every time.
The legal threshold for drunkenness in New York is 0.08.
While people in cases described by Cordell sought help because they felt drunk and didn't know why, Marusak said that's not true of his client.
"She had no idea she had this condition. Never felt tipsy. Nothing," he said.
Marusak submitted medical evidence of his client's condition to the judge, who dismissed the DWI charges Dec. 9.
Assistant Erie County District Attorney Christopher Belling said the matter is being reviewed and his office doesn't comment on open cases.
Marusak declined to name the woman, citing medical confidentiality laws. He said the case has been sealed since the charges were dropped. The Buffalo News described her as a 35-year-old school teacher, and quoted the arresting officer as saying she had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and failed several field sobriety tests.
Turley noted that auto-brewery syndrome was only a valid defense in this case because the woman was unaware she had it. He said courts have long recognized that people who know they have medical conditions can be found liable for failing to take reasonable measures in light of that knowledge.
Kanodia, the Ohio doctor, said two DWI cases where auto-brewery syndrome is being used as a defense are currently being tried in Texas and Oregon.

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Philippine Roman Catholic Church officials have reprimanded a priest for riding a hoverboard and singing a song during Christmas Eve Mass.
The Diocese of San Pablo, south of Manila, said the Rev. Albert San Jose apologized for his action, which was caught on video and widely shared on YouTube.
The video shows the priest in a white cassock gliding up and down the church's aisles on the two-wheeled electric scooter while singing a Christmas song. Some members of the surprised congregation applaud as he pivots and moves backward.
The performance came just before the final blessing in the Mass at the church in Binan city in Laguna province.
"That was wrong," the diocese said in a statement late Tuesday, emphasizing that celebrating the Mass is the church's "highest form" of worship and "demands utmost respect and reverence."
"It is not a personal celebration where one can capriciously introduce something to get the attention of the people," it said.
The priest could not immediately be reached for comment.
Philippine church officials have urged priests to live simply and humbly as they minister to the poor in the Asian bastion of Catholicism, especially under the leadership of Pope Francis, who is known for his frugal lifestyle.

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NORTH OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Sarah Crenshaw was edging along a familiar mountain road when her SUV hit a patch of black ice and slid over a precipice.
"I started praying, 'Don't let me die on Christmas,'" the Utah woman later told the Standard-Examiner (http://bit.ly/1VpEmk7).
Crenshaw, 48, survived the 320-foot tumble into a ravine on the morning of Dec. 20, escaping with only minor injuries. She recounted the harrowing experience in an interview this week with the Ogden newspaper.
Crenshaw had driven the stretch of road hundreds of times and was being cautious in that morning's foggy snowstorm. She had her Jeep Liberty in four-wheel drive and low gear, and a Weber County Sheriff's Office report estimated she was going only about 20 mph.
"I was creeping around the corner, and it was like someone sprayed black ice," Crenshaw said. "The next thing I know, my car was sliding toward the embankment, but sliding parallel. I was still aimed in the right direction but just slid off and over the edge, and I could see it coming."
She couldn't see past the snow but knew she was going off something steep. So Crenshaw tucked in her elbows, bowed her head and tried not to panic.
The Jeep rolled a number of times, smashing into boulders and trees. Its convertible top was shredded.
"Every time it rolled, I saw a boulder and something crunched, and trees were coming in," she recalled. "It seemed like it went on forever."
But Crenshaw suddenly felt calm when the Jeep came to a stop. Sitting in the quiet SUV amid falling snow, she remembered something her late grandfather often told her: "Sarah, at least you stuck the landing."
"I started laughing. Yeah, I stuck the landing."
Another driver saw her vehicle go off the cliff and called 911. A rescuer climbed down the mountain to reach her.
Crenshaw was taken to an Ogden hospital, where she was treated and released later that day. She had only a minor cut, black eyes, scratches and bruises.
And one week after the crash, Crenshaw was back on North Ogden Canyon Road. She has driven it almost daily for the past eight years to care for her elderly parents, her older sister, and their horse and llama.
"I'm not going to let myself be afraid of it. ... Every time you drive it, you see something different - the wildlife, the beauty," Crenshaw said. "It might be a scary road, but if you're not stupid and you drive like you're supposed to, you're OK.
"I just would not suggest doing it in a snowstorm."

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STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Thirty-five asylum-seekers have asked to be relocated from a refugee housing facility in southern Sweden because they believe it's haunted by ghosts, officials said Wednesday.
The asylum-seekers were spooked by flickering lights and noise in the plumbing system at the facility in Grannaforsa, a small village in Smaland province, said Magnus Petersson, a local manager at the Swedish Migration Agency.
Petersson said 35 of the 58 people living in the shelter came to the agency's office in the nearby town of Alvesta on Tuesday, demanding to be relocated. They reluctantly returned to the shelter at the end of the day after being told there were no ghosts - and no alternative housing available - Petersson said.
"I know that in their faith there is a different view on spirituality," he said. "We were responsive to them but somewhere you have to use your common sense and believe in science."
Sweden has received a record 150,000 asylum-seekers this year, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The large influx has left the Swedish Migration Agency scrambling to find housing, including in remote villages surrounded by thick forest and roaming wildlife.
Hamid Alojaili, a Syrian resident of the Grannaforsa facility, told local newspaper Smalandsposten "we are sure" that the building is haunted.
"Doors are getting reopened by themselves," he said in English in a video clip posted on the paper's website. "And there is no one outside."
Many get the feeling they are not alone even in the bathroom, he said, adding that the residents would rather stay in tents than in Grannaforsa "because it's too dangerous to be there."
Stefan Johansson, a co-owner of the facility, said it was built in the 19th century and was long used as a home for disabled people. During World War II, it housed German deserters.
Johansson said there are natural explanations for all the things that frighten the asylum-seekers.
"It's an old house and the doors maybe are a bit crooked," he said. "Sometimes there are cracking noises in the pipes."
The flickering lights were caused by glitches in electrical switches, he said.
"We have explained all this to them. How much of it they took in I don't know," Johansson said.

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QUINCY, Mass. (AP) -- A Massachusetts health insurer is apologizing after sending automated phone calls to as many as 10,000 senior citizens in the wee hours of the morning.
Tufts Health Plan accidentally sent the robocall between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Tuesday to remind patients to get their flu shots.
A spokeswoman for the insurer tells the Patriot Ledger of Quincy that the call was supposed to go out between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and attributed the mistake to "human error."
She says the calls went out to people over 65 enrolled in the Tufts Medicare Preferred HMO option.
Several clients called the health care provider to ask about the early call.
One man said he was having coffee at 4:45 a.m. when the phone rang and thought it was an emergency.

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VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) -- A pregnant New Jersey woman managed to deliver her child in the cab of a pickup truck as her husband drove to the hospital.
Keshia Melchiorre and her husband, Steve, were heading from their home in Southampton to Virtua Hospital in Voorhees early Tuesday but the baby wasn't waiting, she told WPVI-TV.
Melchiorre safely delivered her daughter Portia in the front seat of the pickup. Her husband didn't even have time to pull over.
The baby wasn't due until Jan. 23.
She wrapped the baby in her sweat shirt and her husband had to remind her to check if it was a boy or a girl, she said, adding that "it was just complete shock."
Portia was born 4 pounds, 12 ounces, and a medical team rushed out to cut the umbilical cord when the family arrived at the hospital.
Keshia Melchiorre said she went through 10 or 12 hard hours of labor with her other daughter, Penelope.
Mother and baby are in good condition at the hospital.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- An Ohio man took cellphone video of himself drinking while driving and posted it on Facebook, leading to his arrest hours later in a case that illustrates how social media can help law enforcement, a sheriff's office said.
Someone tipped off deputies about the video after it was posted Monday, and the vehicle was stopped that afternoon south of Columbus, in Hamilton Township, the Franklin County sheriff's office said.
A copy of the 12-second video provided by the sheriff's office shows a man sitting in a vehicle, looking into the camera while music plays in the background, then raising his eyebrows and taking a swig from a partially covered bottle. He doesn't speak. As the clip ends, the camera is flipped around to show a hand with only one finger raised to guide the steering wheel as a wiper moves across the vehicle's windshield.
The driver, Dustin Rittgers, 28, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Franklin County Municipal Court on five misdemeanor charges, including operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and having an open container in a vehicle.
Rittgers, of Obetz, had no publicly listed phone number. A public defender listed in his court docket didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.
Court records indicate Rittgers pleaded guilty earlier this year in a separate impaired-driving case stemming from a September 2014 stop by state troopers.

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VISE, Belgium (AP) - Throughout history, borders have caused unfathomable bloodshed, ageless feuds and decades-old legal disputes, which makes plans for a friendly exchange of land between the Netherlands and Belgium all the more remarkable.
The reason for such magnanimity? "Because it makes sense to do so," says Marcel Neven, the mayor of Vise, Belgium.
Well, that and perhaps a little help from a headless body.
While Belgium will be losing a splendid piece of nature that juts into the Meuse River dividing the two nations, it will also unburden itself of a jurisdictional nightmare that developed over time as the river meandered to turn the portion of land belonging to Belgium - about 15 soccer fields worth - into a peninsula linked only to the Netherlands.
Over time, the area was rumored to be increasingly lawless, a haven for drug dealers and illicit sexual escapades. Then, some three years ago, passersby stumbled onto a headless body. "They alerted Dutch authorities, who told them it was Belgian territory," said Jean-Francois Duchesne, police Commissaire of the Lower Meuse region.
In short, the Dutch could not go there because it was Belgian territory, and Belgian police and judicial authorities found it extremely tough to get there. They are not allowed to cross into the Netherlands without special permission and the peninsula had no proper landing zone for boats or equipment coming in by water.
"So we had to go there by boat with all that was needed - the prosecutor, the legal doctor, the judicial lab - we had to do round trips over the water. It really was not very practical," Duchesne said.
And beyond that, Neven remembered: "You had to jump from the boat onto the shore. You needed to be in shape for this."
But soon there will be no more wading in water, and a peaceful swap should be reality.
"We should have done it a long time ago," Neven said.
Preparatory work has been done and the two nations' parliaments should be able to complete a deal sometime in 2016, Neven said, almost two centuries after the 1843 border posts were set. And all with a smile on everyone's face, even though Belgium will get only a tiny part around a lock that has been built to promote traffic between the two nations.
"In essence, it is very rare but it can happen," said barrister Malcolm Shaw, an expert on international border disputes. He highlighted how complicated history has woven the borders in the area close to where Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany touch, leaving enclaves and strangely twisted borders.
Border swaps can happen but mostly after bitter quarrels.
On the Indian-Bangladeshi border this summer, a dispute that raged since India's independence from British colonialists in 1947 was settled when the countries swapped more than 150 pockets of land.
Earlier this month, it took the United Nations' highest court to settle a dispute between two Central American nations. The court ruled that Nicaragua violated Costa Rica's territorial integrity in a longstanding fight over a small chunk of land near the shores of the Caribbean Sea.
Belgian military historian Luc De Vos said that friendship between neighbors makes all the difference.
"It is possible between Belgium and the Netherlands because these countries have a lot of ties for centuries and after the second World War territory was no longer that important," De Vos said.

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OIL CITY, Pa. (AP) - Police say a northwestern Pennsylvania man faked having a brain tumor to bilk a church and some friends out of nearly $3,000 in cash and other assistance.
The Derrick newspaper reports Oil City police determined 36-year-old Matthew James Wilson created "an imaginary, fictitious brain tumor."
The Franklin resident is accused of using the story to borrow money from an Oil City church, its pastor and others to deal with the tumor and debts.
Police say one couple at the church lent Wilson $400 and then he borrowed their new $450 electric generator and returned it "broken and unusable."
Police filed charges of theft, receiving stolen property and forgery against Wilson on Monday.
Online court records don't list an attorney for Wilson, who doesn't have a listed telephone number.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A stray dog wandered into an Africa exhibit at the Columbus zoo, but fortunately none of the wild animals were around.
The staff at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is trying to figure out how the year-old border collie mix got into the Heart of Africa exhibit last week.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that zoo security heard the dog barking in the exhibit's watering hole area, which wasn't inhabited by its usual residents because it's winter.
Someone at the zoo posted the dog's photo on a lost pets Facebook page, and she was reunited with her owners. They had lost the dog, named Zoey, that evening when she slipped out of her collar during a walk and ran away. The zoo is about 3 miles away.


 

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