Mad Minute stories from Thursday, December 1st - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Thursday, December 1st

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FAIR HAVEN, N.J. (AP) -- Some pollution-sniffing dogs at the Jersey shore have shown they're No. 1 at sniffing out No. 2.
A team of specially trained dogs has pointed out more than 70 spots in three towns near the Navesink River where human waste may be making its way into the waterway, parts of which are closed to shellfishing because of high bacteria levels.
They sniffed out potentially broken or leaking sewer pipes, failed septic systems, and places where waste might be mishandled or improperly disposed, according to a report released Wednesday by the Clean Ocean Action environmental group.
Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said the dogs were invaluable in laying out in just a few days' time a map for the town to make repairs.
"At first the scientists and the PhDs we brought down to look at the problem kind of looked at the dogs and said, 'What can they do?'" he said. "It turns out the dogs were excellent. What started out as 'Are you kidding?' evolved into 'Wow, this is awesome!'"
Lucarelli said his town has $250,000 set aside in its capital budget that it can draw on to do the repairs, which will include snaking cameras along sewer pipes to pinpoint where a fix may be needed.
He also said he particularly liked the way the environmentalists worked with the towns: "No blame, just find it and fix it," he said.
The issue is taking on urgency in and near the Navesink, which remains a popular spot for crabbing, boating and sailing. Multimillion-dollar mansions line the river's Middletown shoreline, including one belonging to rock star and philanthropist Jon Bon Jovi.
Environmental groups including Clean Ocean Action brought the dogs from Otisfield, Maine-based Environmental Canine Services to Fair Haven, Red Bank and Middletown, New Jersey, in September. The company's dogs have helped find and eliminate sources of pollution in Bayview State Park in Washington state; along Lake Michigan; and in Bridgman, Michigan, among other spots.
Environmental and government officials in those places gave the dogs high marks in quickly and efficiently sniffing out the source of pollution that humans were then able to fix.
Scott Reynolds, who runs Environmental Canine Services with his, wife Karen, said the dogs were needed to help reverse pollution into the Navesink, whose water quality "is significantly deteriorating day by day."
The dogs are rescued from shelters and specially trained to detect human waste in the same way that other dogs are trained to sniff out drugs or explosives. They give an alert either by barking or sitting down when they detect something. As important as what they find is what they don't find: places where the dogs don't alert are generally considered to be safe.
Comparisons with laboratory tests - which are more expensive and take longer to get results - show the dogs are highly accurate and will not react to the presence of animal waste.
"Now these places can really go to town and investigate those areas," said Cindy Zipf, executive director of New Jersey's Clean Ocean Action group. "Once you find it, you can fix it."
In addition to potentially broken or leaky pipes, the dogs scouted out pollution from unlikely sources, including trash bins outside a nursing home where human waste may have been dumped and leaked from rainfall or after having been washed.
Problems were found on public and private property, as well as at several commercial establishments.
"This showed us where we need to pay attention," Lucarelli said. "It proved incredibly effective."

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MOSS LANDING, Calif. (AP) -- A friendly otter joined a couple celebrating a birthday in Northern California by jumping into one of their kayaks and making itself at home, rolling around and even nibbling on some shoes.
Heather VanNes said Wednesday she and her husband, John Koester, were celebrating his birthday Monday in a slough near Moss Landing and had just gotten in the water when they spotted a raft of otters.
They went by to watch them from a distance of at least 50 feet when one of the otters began swimming toward her husband's kayak and jumped right onto it.
Koester says the otter plopped into the front of the boat, rolled around, scratched his belly and ears and nibbled on rope and his shoes.
He says it appeared the otter "was having a good time."
Koester says the otter was at least 80 pounds and stayed on the kayak for at least 10 minutes until. After he started paddling, the otter jumped back into the water.

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BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (AP) -- Frustrated with the prostitutes who he says walk in front of his home day and night, a West Virginia man has put up signs urging them to take their business elsewhere.
Jeffery Blankenship tells the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that prostitutes walk along his street at all hours, seeking clients.
Three weeks ago, he began putting up anti-trespassing signs outside his Bluefield home, including one that reads, "Attention prostitutes ... Do not walk by this house 1000x a day waving your hand."
The signs also warn that he has set up video surveillance equipment and sends any footage of suspected illegal activity to the police.
Blankenship says he plans to move from Bluefield next year, but plans to leave the signs up until then.

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CORTLANDVILLE, N.Y. (AP) -- A New York man whose driver's license has been suspended nearly four dozen times was arrested for speeding on Interstate 81 south of Syracuse.
Fifty-one-year-old Darwin Barnes was pulled over by New York State Police in Cortland County around 10 p.m. Wednesday after troopers say he was observed going 95 mph in a 65 mph zone.
State police say the trooper who stopped Barnes found that the Rochester man didn't have a valid license. A check of Barnes' driving record showed that his license has been suspended a total of 46 times.
Barnes was charged with first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, a felony. He has been released from the county jail after posting bail. It couldn't immediately be determined if he has a lawyer.

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SLICKVILLE, Pa. (AP) - A western Pennsylvania couple is jailed on charges they stole items from worshippers' cars parked at three churches during religious services.
Thirty-five-year-old Catherene Reed and 31-year-old Frederick Stormer were charged with theft on Sunday, but police say they're suspected in other thefts from vehicles in church parking lots going back to October.
State police say a bystander saw Stormer opening cars in a church lot on Nov. 8 and recorded phone video.
That prompted police to put the Westmoreland County couple under surveillance Sunday, which is when troopers followed them as the suspects stole items from cars parked outside churches in Indiana Borough, Ligonier and Fairfield. Police stopped the couple at a fast food restaurant a short time later and recovered the stolen items.

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HOUSTON (AP) -- A 53-pound snapping turtle is recovering at a Houston wildlife rehabilitation center after fire-rescue crews saved it from a drainage pipe.
The Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the specimen, one of a threatened species known as alligator snapping turtles, was found wedged Tuesday in the pipe in a new residential development near Hockley, about 35 miles northwest of Houston.
Fire-rescue crews used a spreader to open the pipe enough to remove the turtle, which had struggled to keep its head above water. Several drowned alligator snapping turtles flowed from the newly unblocked pipe.
The SPCA said it also is rehabilitating one other alligator snapping turtle, which had an embedded fish hook and other serious wounds. Both will be returned to the wild after recovering.

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) - Authorities say a man in northern Utah was arrested after he was caught wandering naked on the grounds of a Mormon temple and told police he was looking for a wife.
The Herald-Journal newspaper in Logan reports that 53-year-old Kelly Thayne Archibald dropped a blanket around his waist and climbed the gate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Logan on Nov. 13.
Police say he told investigators that he was naked because that's how he entered the world.
He's charged with lewdness by a sex offender, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. Archibald served prison time in Idaho after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a child under 16.
His lawyer didn't have comment on the case Wednesday. His next court hearing is Dec. 5.

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - An Omaha resident who lost a lawsuit over outdoor amenities he added to his suburban property, including a putting green, has refused to abide by a court order to remove some of them.
Eric Marsh spent about $350,000 eight years to install tee boxes, boulders, fire cauldrons, the putting green, a sport court and an infinity-edge pool. The Fire Ridge homeowners association sued Marsh four years ago, saying his development strayed from approved plans.
A judge ruled in favor of Fire Ridge last year and ordered Marsh to remove some items, including the tee boxes and flagpoles. He was allowed to keep other additions, including the pool, a basketball court, a tether-ball pole and a hog-roasting pit.
Marsh, 47, appealed the case to the Nebraska Supreme Court, but the high court also ruled in favor of Fire Ridge.
Marsh is scheduled to appear in court in December to explain why he hasn't complied with the court order, the Omaha World-Herald reported. If he continues to refuse compliance, he could face a contempt-of-court action and possibly further fines and jail time.
Marsh said he will continue to fight the case.
"I plan to do what I absolutely have to do," he said. "I'll stand my ground as long as I can."
According to Marsh's appeal, Fire Ridge officials haven't bothered to enforce neighborhood covenants on other homeowners.
But the Supreme Court's ruling stated: "Major violations were consistently and reasonably enforced when the members knew of them. The evidence also showed there had not, in the past, been a violation of the scope or nature at issue here."
Fire Ridge board member Mark Ringsdorf said the lawsuit against Marsh "is not personal," and that the board just wants to protect its approval process for projects. Ringsdorf said if the board lets this go, other neighbors could start all kinds of unapproved projects.
Marsh said he has spent $40,000 in legal fees. Fire Ridge attorney David Welch said this case was by far the most costly and time-consuming.

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NEW YORK (AP) -- It took two hours of sifting through more than 200 bags of garbage at a New Jersey trash-transfer station before a New York City woman was reunited with three rings she mistakenly discarded.
The New York Daily News reports the 34-year-old woman was preparing Thanksgiving dinner at her Tribeca apartment when she removed the rings and placed them on a paper towel by the sink.
The jewelry, which included the woman's diamond-studded wedding band and engagement ring, accidentally wound up in the trash and was picked up by garbage collectors on Friday.
By the time the woman contacted the city Department of Sanitation, the rings were among 13 tons of waste in a collection truck.
The woman, three relatives and sanitation workers helped search for the rings.
Sanitation officials say the rings were found because junk mail identified the woman's trash.

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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The slow recovery of the U.S. economy is continuing to keep the cost of Christmas - or at least the gifts listed in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - from spiraling out of control.
The price of two turtle doves jumped from $290 to $375 this year, but nine of the other 12 gifts listed in the carol stayed the same price or became cheaper, including a partridge in a pear tree, according to the 33rd annual PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index released Thursday.
As a result, the overall cost of the gifts listed in the song increased 0.7 percent to $34,363, up $233 from last year's total of $34,131.
PNC Financial Services Group releases the price index each year as a whimsical way of tracking inflation.
Besides the turtle doves, only the cost of 11 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming - both up 2.8 percent - increased.
Thomas Melcher, chief Investment officers for PNC Asset Management Group, said the increasing wages of drummers and pipers could signal a march toward higher wages for a broader range of workers in 2017. He said he wouldn't be surprised to see increases coming for the eight maids-a-milking, nine ladies dancing and 10 lords-a-leaping.
"There are some underlying inflationary pressures that seem to be building," Melcher said.
The price of five gold rings, as tracked by PNC, hasn't gone up in three years, even though the price of gold as a commodity has.
"At a certain point, the end product should begin to reflect the price appreciation of the commodity," Melcher said.
PNC calculates the prices from sources including retailers, bird hatcheries and two Philadelphia dance groups, the Pennsylvania Ballet and Philadanco.
The cost of buying the same gifts online is $44,603 this year, up 2.2 percent from $43,627 last year. But Melcher cautioned that's largely because it costs more to transport animals and performers - 10 lords-a-leaping cost $5,509 in-person, but $13,373 online because of transportation costs - than the cost of the items themselves.
"In most instances, it's cheaper to shop online," Melcher said. "I've never personally shipped a swan, but I imagine it's not the cheapest endeavor in the world."
A buyer who purchased all the gifts each time they are mentioned in the song would spend $156,507, up $1,100 from last year.
The full set of prices for purchasing the gifts from a bricks-and-mortar business, not online, is:
- Partridge, $20; last year: $25
- Pear tree, $190; last year: same
- Two turtle doves, $375; last year: $290
- Three French hens, $182; last year: same
- Four calling birds (canaries), $600; last year: same
- Five gold rings, $750; last year: same
- Six geese-a-laying, $360; last year: same
- Seven swans a-swimming, $13,125; last year: same
- Eight maids a-milking, $58; last year: same
- Nine ladies dancing (per performance), $7,553; last year: same
- 10 lords a-leaping (per performance), $5,509; last year: same
- 11 pipers piping (per performance), $2,708; last year: $2,635
- 12 drummers drumming (per performance), $2,934; last year: $2,855
 

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