Mad Minute stories from Monday, January 16th - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Monday, January 16th

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- How high is too high for a pile of chicken manure?
Eight feet, apparently.
Chicken waste is an excellent fertilizer, but with the growing season still weeks away it's piling up in barns across the South. To reduce the risk of fire from spontaneous combustion, poultry experts are warning farmers that piles 6½- to 7-feet high are high enough. One pile caught fire in western Arkansas this week, triggering a wildfire that destroyed a mobile home.
"This hit the sweet spot," said Karl VanDevender, a professor and extension engineer for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, after describing the mix of moisture, texture and decomposition needed to produce a burning pile of waste.
Normal composting at 130 to 145 degrees will kill pathogens, but extra moisture in the stack can help drive temperatures over 170 degrees, raising the risk of a fire, he said.
"If you see smoke, it's kind of iffy. If you break in, you may introduce oxygen and set it off. Have water nearby," he said. "If you have litter stored and stacked, keep an eye on it."
Charleston Mayor Sherman Hiatt, who is also his town's assistant fire chief, said the manure stack that caught fire Wednesday was 8 or 9 feet high. It set nearby hay ablaze and then flames jumped a highway and raced away on a steady 25 mph wind. It took about four hours to douse the flames; no one was injured.
"I think most farmers are pretty diligent in their methods, but sometimes freak things happen," said Hiatt, himself a cattle farmer who worked a poultry waste fire at another farm two years ago.
Arkansas is among the nation's leading poultry-producing states, with Georgia and Maryland. Agriculture schools in chicken country have published brochures on how to store chicken litter, and the University of Maryland goes so far as suggesting having the fire department on hand if farmers intend to move a smoldering pile of waste.
VanDevender said that because so many factors go into igniting a waste pile, it's difficult to predict when one might catch fire.
"With biological processes, we throw precision out the window," he said.

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LEBANON, Va. (AP) -- Now, that's a lot of change.
A Virginia man used 300,000 pennies to pay sales tax on two cars at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Bristol Herald Courier reports that Nick Stafford delivered five wheelbarrows full of change, mostly pennies, at the DMW office in Lebanon, Virginia, on Wednesday. The coins weighed in at 1,600 pounds.
Stafford said he paid in coins to "inconvenience" the DMV.
Stafford was upset because he was unable to find out the direct number to the Lebanon DMV until filing a Freedom of Information Act request. He later sued the state because he says he was denied direct phone numbers to other DMV offices in his area.
Stafford ended up filing three lawsuits, which were dismissed Tuesday.

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Luke and Hillary Gardner never have a problem remembering each other's birthday. After all, the husband and wife were born the same day. And so was their son, 27 years later this past December.
The odds of that happening are about one in 133,000, statisticians say. And that's a lot less likely than getting hit by lightning sometime in your lifetime, which some put at roughly one in 12,000.
They weren't aiming at a joint birthday when their son Cade Lee Gardner was conceived, said Luke Gardner, an assistant pastor at a Baptist church in northeast Mississippi and a student at a nearby campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
"I really didn't even put it together until we got pregnant," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "Then we realized, 'Oh, wow!'"
Using a smartphone app, he said, his wife calculated a due date of Dec. 15, three days before their joint birthday. Her obstetrician called it for Dec. 19.
So the couple from Baldwyn, Mississippi, got in some exercise to try to hurry the baby up a bit. The night of Dec. 17, Gardner said, "we went walking" around the parking lot at First Baptist Church of Baldwyn, where Gardner is outreach pastor.
Whether or not the exercise sped things up, Cade was born at 10:01 a.m. on Dec. 18 - exactly 27 years after his parents' birthdate.
"Hillary is exactly six hours older than me," Luke Gardner said. She was born at 8:10 a.m. and her husband at 2:10 p.m. on Dec. 18, 1989.
They learned about their shared birthday before they started dating, while just part of a group of friends who hung out together.
"I saw it on a Facebook page first and asked about it," Gardner said. "I couldn't really believe it when I saw it. I had to confirm it with her."
The chance of meeting someone born the same day as you is one in 365, explained Tumulesh Solanky, chair of the math department at the University of New Orleans. He said the chance of two people being born on the same day and having a baby on their birthday is about 1/365 times 1/365.
"That comes out to .0000000751 - seven zeros and then 751," or about 7.5 in a million, he said, which comes to about one in 133,000. Statisticians note that this ignores such factors as leap years and the fact that births are not evenly spaced throughout the year.
Gardner joked that if he and Hillary Gardner have more children, they may have to try for December.
"If we have any more kids, if we don't get pregnant in March, we'll have to wait till the next year," he said.

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PERKASIE, Pa. (AP) -- A Pennsylvania high school is apologizing after students were given a math homework assignment that asked which family member had sexually assaulted a girl.
The assignment focused on Maya Angelou and her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." It provided an algebra formula that asked: "Angelou was sexually abused by her mother's --- at age 8, which shaped her career choices and motivation for writing." Pennridge High School students needed to solve the formula before deciding whether the answer was boyfriend, brother or father.
Screenshots of the homework posted by news organizations showed the subsequent question reads: "Trying to support her son as a single mother, she worked as a pimp, prostitute and ---." Another formula must be solved to determine if the answer was bookie, drug dealer or nightclub dancer.
The homework was coupled with a word puzzle about the book and author, The Intelligencer newspaper reported Friday.
The assignment was from a website that allows teachers around the world to share resources.
"We apologize to anyone who was offended by the content of the assignment and have taken steps to avoid such occurrences in the future," Pennridge Superintendent Jacqueline Rattigan said in a statement, adding the district had received complaints.
A similar homework assignment caused controversy in Fort Myers, Florida, in 2015. In that case, a middle school teacher also downloaded the algebra homework from an external website. The district said the veteran teacher didn't carefully examine the homework and called it an oversight that wouldn't be repeated.
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," published in 1969, is assigned reading in many high schools, but is also occasionally attacked for its content.
Angelou's passages about her rape and teen pregnancy have made it a perennial on the American Library Association's list of works that draw complaints from parents and educators.
"'I thought that it was a mild book. There's no profanity," Angelou, who died in 2014, told The Associated Press. "It speaks about surviving, and it really doesn't make ogres of many people. I was shocked to find there were people who really wanted it banned, and I still believe people who are against the book have never read the book."

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NEWPORT, Vt. (AP) -- This Perry Mason has pleaded guilty and been convicted.
Perry Mason of Hardwick, Vermont - not to be confused with the fictional television criminal defense lawyer played by Raymond Burr - pleaded guilty Thursday to breaking into a Greensboro jewelry store in 2014 and stealing $110,000 worth of items.
The Caledonian Record reports the 48-year-old Mason received a sentence of two to 30 years, most of it suspended. Before reaching a plea agreement, Mason had been facing up to life in prison as a habitual offender with three or more prior felony convictions, including burglaries.
Mason was arrested after some of the jewelry was sold to a Burlington pawn shop. The shop owner recognized it and alerted police. Since then, two other men have been charged with possessing stolen property.

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) -- More than 21,000 students enjoyed what will essentially be counted as a "snow day" on an Arkansas school district's calendar - except that temperatures were in the 60s.
A break in a main water line serving much of Springdale burst early Thursday, interrupting service for 25 of the district's 31 schools.
Service was restored, but it took workers nearly all day Thursday to flush lines and fill reservoirs with clean water. Classes resumed Friday.
District spokesman Rick Schaeffer said Friday the day off for the million-gallon spill would be treated like a snow day in the northwestern Arkansas city.
Utility workers don't know why the line failed.

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WEEHAWKEN, N.J. (AP) -- Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police have arrested a man who owes $12,000 in unpaid tolls and fees.
Police arrested 42-year-old Julian Garcia, of Morris County, after authorities say he attempted to avoid paying the toll at the Lincoln Tunnel on Thursday.
The Towaco man was charged with theft of service and theft by unlawful taking after police discovered how much he owed.
Garcia's Honda Civic was impounded. It's unclear if he has an attorney who could comment.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Alaska Airlines says that a nontoxic de-icer caused attendants to fall ill on a flight, triggering a hazardous material response when the plane landed in San Jose, California.
The airline says two flight attendants reported feeling ill Thursday after a white powder fell from an air vent in the galley in the front of the plane.
One attendant was taken to a hospital to be evaluated. She has been released and reported feeling fine Friday, the airline said in a statement.
The plane was removed from service and its ventilation system "will be thoroughly cleaned" before the aircraft is put back into service, the statement said.
The airline says it uses a de-icing fluid that is non-toxic.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Ann Zaninovich said no passengers reported any symptoms and that the pilots weren't affected.
A preliminary investigation had revealed the substance was probably residue from the aircraft's de-icing system.

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TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- A new display featuring photos of former mayors from Ohio's fourth-largest city turned up a discovery: A photo thought to be of Toledo's first mayor is actually a photo of his son.
The mistake was discovered a few years ago by family members of the first mayor and local historians but wasn't widely known until now, The Blade reported.
They found that a photo believed to be John Berdan who was elected the first mayor of Toledo in 1837 is actually of his son who also was named John Berdan.
"I don't know who made the original mistake," said Donna Christian, a librarian in the local history and genealogy department at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. "If you didn't know the mayor died so early, it's always possible that he did have a photo taken when he was older, but he died much too young."
She started researching the photograph a few years ago after a library patron asked about it.
The image of a John Berdan wearing a white button-down shirt, bow tie and overcoat had been used in newspaper articles and other publications.
"I've never been able to locate any kind of likeness that was the mayor," Christian said. "The chances that John Berdan had a photograph taken, I would say, is about nil, when you look at the history of photography."
That's because John Berdan, the mayor, died in 1841 just after the first photographic process was introduced and before it became popular.
The error became known about a week ago after a display of photos featuring former mayors was dedicated in the city's government building.
The photo of the wrong John Berdan was first part of the display but replaced with an avatar a few days later.
Mike Berdan, a great-great-great grandson of the first mayor, said he was always told that the same portrait hanging in the family home was the first mayor until he started his own research a couple of years ago
He said he has never seen an image or painting of the elder John Berdan.
During his research, he also found out that several references online that indicate where Mayor John Berdan was buried were wrong too.

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A book of short stories titled "Forty Minutes Late" has been returned to a San Francisco library - 100 years late.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Bay Area resident Webb Johnson returned the book Friday. There was no fine.
Johnson's great grandmother had checked it out from the city's old Fillmore branch in 1917. She passed away a week before the due date, and the Fillmore branch is no longer around.
Johnson found the 1909 book, by F. Hopkinson Smith, in an old steamer trunk in 1996. He assumed the library wouldn't want it back, but a recently announced "fine forgiveness program" that runs through Feb. 14 inspired him to return it.
Head city librarian Luis Herrera said the library was glad to, finally, get the book.

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