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

Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, November 30th

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Penn State students know her as the Squirrel Whisperer, or even Squirrel Girl. Which suits Mary Krupa just fine.
Four years ago, the 22-year-old senior became an internet sensation for placing tiny hats on the ubiquitous rodents that live near Penn State's landmark Old Main building, and coaxing them to hold miniature props.
Though her Penn State career is winding down, Krupa is still up to her old tricks. Her photos of "Sneezy the Penn State Squirrel" continue to garner thousands of likes on Facebook and have been featured in magazines and calendars.
"It's nice to make something and see that people like it. But I didn't think it would last this long or become this popular," said Krupa, who graduates next month.
She began interacting with Penn State's famously friendly gray squirrels her first week on campus in 2012. Krupa idly wondered what one would look like with a hat on its head, and, pleased with the result, sent a photo to her grandmother, who loved it.
With Penn State reeling from the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, Krupa decided her fellow students could also use a laugh.
"Everyone was really just down in the dumps, and I figured that Penn State needed something good to take their mind off things, cheer up. And so I started posting these pictures on Facebook."
Krupa's anthropomorphized Sneezy would become an unofficial mascot - Penn State's very own Rocket J. Squirrel or Chip and Dale - and, over the course of her college career, the English major dreamed up many amusing scenes for the squirrelly star.
There's Sneezy pushing a tiny shopping cart filled with acorns. Sneezy holding a jack-o'-lantern at Halloween. Sneezy raking leaves, rooting for the home team and drinking tea, mostly while wearing an assortment of squirrel-size hats.
Mara Fitzgerald, 21, a Penn State student from Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, is a longtime fan.
"I honestly knew who she was before I even got to Penn State because my older sisters went here and they told me about her," she said. "My mom knows who she is. I think everybody does."
Krupa is an unlikely celebrity. Growing up in a wooded neighborhood outside State College, she had always been fond of the birds, squirrels and other wildlife around her house.
People were another matter.
Diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a milder form of autism, Krupa said she was a loner in high school, antisocial and awkward. Sneezy helped Krupa come out of her shell.
"The squirrel's actually a good way to break the ice, because I'll be sitting here patting a squirrel and other people will come over and we'll just start like feeding the squirrels together and chatting about them," she said. "I am a lot more outgoing."
On a mild November afternoon, Krupa looks for Sneezy in and around the majestic trees bracketing Old Main, calling softly, a container of roasted, unsalted peanuts under one arm.
A few minutes later, a plump female climbs up Krupa's arm and takes a seat on her lap. It's the current incarnation of Sneezy (there have been several). Krupa strokes the squirrel, then places her favorite hat - a fruited concoction made with her brother's 3D printer - atop Sneezy's head. It promptly falls off, and the squirrel scampers away.
Even after she graduates, Krupa plans to stay in the area - ready to welcome the next class of Penn State squirrels.
"They're definitely wild animals, and I always respect them for being wild animals," said Krupa, who is minoring in wildlife science. "But at the same time, it's neat that they're willing to let me interact with them. We do seem to have this mutual trust."

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LONDON (AP) -- The Bank of England's new plastic 5-pound note is stronger, cleaner and safer - but apparently not suitable for vegetarians.
Vegans and vegetarians are calling for the new bank notes, which have only been in circulation for two months, to be replaced because they are made with a substance derived from animal fat.
The Bank of England confirmed on Twitter that the notes contain "a trace of a substance known as tallow" - a rendered form of animal fat, processed from suet, which is sometimes used in soaps and candles.
An online petition against the notes has been getting attention Wednesday. The petition says the use of tallow is "unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the U.K."
The Bank of Canada says their bank notes also have tallow, according to a CBC report.

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Police in New York City are looking for a quick-thinking thief who stole an 86-pound bucket of gold flakes worth nearly $1.6 million off an armored truck in Manhattan.
The unidentified thief swiped the 5-gallon metal bucket off the back of the vehicle on Sept. 29 when a guard briefly went to the truck's cab to reportedly retrieve his cellphone.
The incident occurred in broad daylight on West 48th Street in Midtown Manhattan.
Security video shows the black bucket on a pallet inside the open back door of the truck. The man looks around, approaches the truck and lifts the bucket out.
Two men are standing on the sidewalk beside the truck, engaged in animated conversation, and don't appear to notice the man with the bucket walking past them.
Lots of other pedestrians and vehicles stream past as he heads down the sidewalk with one arm wrapped around the bucket and his other hand beneath it.
At one point, he sets it down at the curb, takes a breather for a few seconds, then hoists it again and steps into the street.
Police say it took the thief an hour to complete what would normally be considered a 10-minute walk. He then hopped into a white van and fled.
Police say the suspect likely didn't know what the bucket contained.
The suspect is believed to be hiding out in Florida.

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KENSINGTON, Prince Edward Island (AP) - A police department in Canada's province of Prince Edward Island is threatening to impose "the Nickelback treatment" on anyone who drinks and drives.
The Kensington Police Service shared a social media post over the weekend promising to force any drunk drivers it arrests to listen to the Canadian band while in the back seat of a cruiser.
The band has been a huge commercial success, with multiple awards in Canada, but is also gleefully maligned by some detractors.
Constable Robb Hartlen says on Facebook that if you are foolish enough to get behind a wheel while drinking, then a little Chad Kroeger and the boys is a perfect gift. The officer posed alongside a photo of the band's breakthrough album, Silver Side Up.

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Alma, New Brunswick, Canada - A massive lobster was caught in the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada.
He was then bought by a vegan activist so it could be released to its natural home.
King Louis as he's been dubbed, is a 23 pound lobster. For the last few days, his home has been the Alma Lobster Shop, but today he was on the move.
The Alma Lobster shop received a lot of suggestions on what to do with the giant lobster, but this morning a woman from Nova Scotia called wanting to buy King Louis.
"So, the lobster was 23 pounds at $9.99 a pound so I paid $230 dollars," explained Katie Conklin. Her wish was to have him returned to the sea, so that's what the owners of Alma Lobster Shop did.
At 23 pounds, people in Alma say King Louis is about 100-years-old. Now that he's been returned to open water, who knows how long Louis will continue to reign.

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Belgium, Brussels - The next time you raise a glass of Belgian beer, rest assured: it's a cultural experience.
Wednesday, UNESCO added Belgian beer to its list of the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity".
The decision was made by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage at the headquarters for the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Belgium is known throughout the world for its wide array of tastes, from extreme sour to bitter, produced in just about every city and village across the west European nation of eleven million people. 
The history of Belgian suds stretches back centuries to medieval monks and has been celebrated in paintings by Pieter Brueghel and in countless songs since.
In days when alcohol abuse becomes an ever bigger concern, UNESCO said it was about more than just drinking.
UNESCO said in a statement that "beer is also used by communities for cooking, producing products like beer-washed cheese, and paired with food." 

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NEW YORK -Someone renamed Donald Trump's midtown Manhattan building on Google Maps, and the new moniker isn't very flattering.
Instead of Trump Tower, it was briefly renamed "Dump Tower."
WPIX-TV reports that users of the mapping service began noticing the new name for the Fifth Avenue building on Saturday and some took to social media to report it.
Trump, the Republican president-elect, has not yet commented on it. Trump has been using Trump Tower as his transition headquarters.
A Google spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the company has changed the name back to its original.
The spokeswoman said user contributions help provide an up-to-date map, but also occasionally lead to inaccuracies.

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MOSCOW, Pa. (AP) -- Police are searching for two people they say stole a dump truck from a housing development then used it to drag an automatic teller machine out of a grocery store in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Police in Covington Township say the men attached a chain to the machine at Bill's ShopRite grocery shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday.
The theft, captured on surveillance video, shows the men were driving a truck from Thornhurst Country Club Estates. Officials there have confirmed the vehicle is a $70,000 plow and dump truck that was stolen sometime between 1 p.m. Monday and 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The stolen truck has since been recovered, as has part of the ATM.
Police haven't said how much money was stolen. The men were wearing masks and heavier clothing with hoods.

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DAYTON, Ohio - A pair of newlyweds made the best of a traffic jam that interrupted their wedding plans Saturday.
The couple was driving from their wedding ceremony to their reception with their photographers and videographer Levi Curby of Levi Curby Media when traffic screeched to a halt on U.S. Route 35.
They were stopped for about an hour before someone in another car suggested that they have their first dance on the spot, Curby said.
Soon after that, they were rescued and taken to their reception, where they were greeted with loud cheers.

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Lake Park, FL - A Florida man, 74, is accused of using his oxygen tank as a weapon. 
On Tuesday afternoon, deputies said Lawrence Starr became upset because a tow truck driver wouldn't move his vehicle at the U.S. Post Office on Park Avenue in Lake Park.
Deputies said Starr took the keys out of the truck's ignition so the tow truck driver in turn did the same to Starr.
Deputies said that's when Starr hit the victim with his oxygen tank, and later confessed to doing so.
 

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