Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, November 9th - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, November 9th

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GENEVA (AP) -- More valleys, fewer peaks: The maker of Toblerone Swiss chocolate has widened the spaces in some of its iconic, triangle-array bars, offering about 10 percent less product for the same price. Fans are outraged.
The multinational says the move - which affects products globally, though mainly in Britain - was necessary to cope with higher prices for ingredients. But many consumers are livid at the perceived sleight of hand and the change to the traditional look of the treat, first created in 1908 in Switzerland.
"The shape of the bar may have looked like the Swiss Alps before, now it's a bit more Holland," said British consumer Tony Mathews.
For many, the Toblerone is linked to travel - a gift purchased at the airport before boarding a plane home - though it is increasingly available in supermarkets and shops.
Mondelez International, based in Deerfield, Illinois, said that pricing targets by U.K. discount customer Poundland prompted the change in Britain. It said the retailer, which sells goods for one pound ($1.22), resisted a price increase, leading to the solution of offering less chocolate instead.
Poundland declined to comment.
Mondelez said that Britain's vote to leave the European Union was not to blame. But it comes as British food retailers have faced rising prices for imported goods due to the drop in the value of the pound since the June vote.
In a shift akin to widening a donut's hole, the tweak in Britain involves shrinking a 170-gram Toblerone sold by British discounters like Poundland to 150 grams, said Mondelez spokeswoman Heide Hauer. The price remains the same.
Some British consumers likened the new shape to a toothless comb, others to the mouth of a crocodile. Some joked about how the issue was grabbing headlines on the same day as Americans were electing a new president.
The signature 100-gram Toblerone bar and other vendors are not affected, Hauer said. But Toblerone also has trimmed its super-sized 400 gram product - often sold in airports - to 360 grams globally, for the same recommended retail price, said Hauer.
Michael Payne, executive director of the International Association of Airport Duty Free Stores, noted that duty free stores sell Toblerone in a variety of sizes, so he's not sure how this change would affect sales.
Hauer from Mondelez cited "a multitude" of factors like rising commodity prices, a regular review of pricing and the fallout from a weakening of the Swiss franc in early 2015 that caused a spike in production costs.
The switcheroo in Britain, which began in September, was weeks in the making: Toblerone's official Facebook page featured a post on Oct. 15 explaining that the company was facing higher costs for "numerous ingredients."
"We carry these costs for as long as possible, but to ensure Toblerone remains on-shelf, is affordable and retains the triangular shape, we have had to reduce the weight of just two of our bars in the U.K., from the wider range of available Toblerone products," it said.
Economist Pippa Malmgren, who has studied what she calls the corporate practice of "shrinkflation," believes the company was using the recent political situation in Britain to test to see if people would notice.
"Whole divisions of major companies" are devoted to shrinking a product while keeping the price stable, she noted. She estimated that about 10 percent of the Toblerone candy bar was dropped.
"This is an art form," she said. "This is not random."
Another analyst warned of a possible consumer backlash more broadly.
Robert Haigh, director at consultancy Brand Finance, said the move by Mondelez was "quite risky" and could be seen as "deceptive."
"They don't seem to have the reverence for traditional confectionery that the previous owner did," said Haigh said, comparing the chocolate bars to a well-known British savory spread made from yeast extract. "Like Marmite, Toblerone has an impact on the cultural consciousness that far outweighs its actual popularity."

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- A California woman stumbled upon a voice from the past during a trip to Ohio when she discovered her Uber driver was the man behind America Online's famous "You've Got Mail" greeting.
Brandee Barker was in the Cleveland area over the weekend for the presidential campaign when she got into an Uber driven by Elwood Edwards. After Edwards told her about his claim to fame, she took a video of him saying the phrase and posted it on Twitter .
Edwards told The Associated Press in 1999 that he recorded his AOL greetings in 1989. He was also the voice of AOL's "Welcome," ''Goodbye" and "File's Done" messages.
"You've Got Mail" became a pop culture catchphrase in the late 1990s and served as the title of a 1998 Tom Hanks film.

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MAYS LANDING, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey state police say two people have been charged with stuffing material into toll baskets on the Atlantic City Expressway to prevent coins from going in and then returning to steal the money.
Troopers said Monday that 54-year-old Angela Freeman-Poles and 57-year-old Aljah Reaves were arrested and charged with theft in the scheme.
The South Jersey Transportation Authority over the summer had alerted investigators about several toll basket failures and toll shortages at the Exit 5 entrance and exit ramps.
Police say the Atlantic City residents were captured on surveillance footage tampering with the baskets and stealing coins off the ground at the toll plaza.
Both suspects are jailed on $35,000 bail. It's not clear if they have attorneys.

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Authorities say an Oregon hunter has been hospitalized after being impaled by the antler of an elk he had just killed.
KATU-TV reports that Crook County Sheriff's Office deputies say 69-year-old Gary Heeter of Bend went hunting Saturday and was dragging the elk's carcass behind his four-wheeler. Deputies say the vehicle flipped, sending Heeter backward onto the elk's antler.
Hospital officials said Monday that Heeter was in fair condition.
Sheriff's Sgt. Ryan Seaney says Heeter was hunting with a group and members of his party started first aid before first responders arrived.

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DEAL, N.J. (AP) -- Authorities say two men took a taxi to a home they planned to rob but then stiffed the driver on the fare, leading him to report them to police.
Deal police say 46-year-old Kenneth Burke and 38-year-old Timothy Foote are charged with burglary, conspiracy, theft and criminal trespass.
Authorities say the men told the driver to wait outside the home Friday, and they soon returned with a television and liquor bottles. The driver then took them to an apartment in Asbury Park, but they didn't pay the fare.
The driver called Asbury Park police, who soon notified Deal police about the burglary.
Bail was set at $20,000. It wasn't clear Wednesday if either had an attorney.

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CHICAGO (AP) -- A law clerk who faces charges of impersonating a judge has been elected as a judge in the Chicago area even though she's been barred from taking the office.
Rhonda Crawford had been expected to win Tuesday's election over a write-in opponent, as she was the only name listed on the ballot. The 45-year-old can't be sworn in to the $180,000-a-year job unless she's cleared of wrongdoing.
The former nurse was fired from her courthouse job and criminally charged for donning a black robe and presiding over traffic cases that should've been heard by a real judge. The Illinois Supreme Court temporarily suspended her law license.
Crawford has said she'd been shadowing judges, observing how they work, when Judge Valarie Turner "encouraged" her to put on the robe and preside.

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FRANKENMUTH, Mich. (AP) - Bridget Smith wanted voters not to elect her to Frankenmuth's school board -- and they didn't.
Smith filed earlier this year to run for one of three four-year terms on the school board, but afterward was hired to serve as Frankenmuth's city manager.
When she was being hired by the Bavarian-themed community about 75 miles northwest of Detroit, Smith indicated that she would drop her school board bid. But the deadline to withdraw had passed and her name remained on Tuesday's ballot.
She encouraged voters not to cast ballots for her and Smith placed last among the four candidates.

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire police are asking for help from the public in identifying a man and a woman who investigators believe stole 68 bras worth almost $4,000 from Victoria's Secret.
Surveillance video from the store at the Steeplegate Mall in Concord shows two people shoveling the bras into a bag on Oct. 14.
The bras range in size, color and price.
WMUR-TV reports that employees believe the two have been involved in thefts from other Victoria's Secret stores in New Hampshire.

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BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Police say a South Florida man was caught naked driving slowly through a neighborhood with children with electrical wires protruding from his penis.
News outlets report 56-year-old Kurt Jenkins faces lewd and lascivious exhibition, exposure of sexual organs and resisting a law enforcement officer without violence charges.
A Boynton Beach police report shows a witness Monday said the naked man, identified as Jenkins, drove by him, gesturing for him to look toward Jenkins' groin area.
That's when the witness saw an electronic device with wires attached to Jenkins' penis.
The witness said Jenkins asked him to get inside, but he declined and called police.
Arriving officers says Jenkins refused to comply to police commands. He was eventually taken to the ground and handcuffed.
It's unclear if Jenkins has an attorney.

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Pyatigorsk, Russia - Firefighters in Russia rescued a raccoon that was stuck in a more than 32 foot high tree. 
In the southern Russian city of Pyatigorsk, firefighters arrived at the scene to find a raccoon stuck in a tree more than 32 feet high. 
As one rescuer attempted to carry the animal down, the raccoon jumped off the tree, scaring the firefighters. 
The raccoon, however, survived the jump.

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