Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, January 18th - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, January 18th

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The forces behind the mysterious "fairy circles" that dot a desert in southern Africa do not appear to be supernatural, but they are intricate and complex.
The formations are circles of land dozens of feet wide that create a stunning pattern in the Namib desert and have mystified locals and scientists for ages. Inside the circles it looks like nothing is growing, while plants grow well on the land surrounding them. Similar patterns have also been seen in Australia.
Paranormal powers like fairies and even dragon breath have been credited with creating them. But Princeton University ecologists have come up with a much less shadowy - and maybe less charming - explanation for what's afoot. Using computer simulations, they say an intricate combination of animals and plants cooperating and competing help explain the unusual patterns, according to a study in the journal Nature Wednesday.
Corina Tarnita, the study's lead author, calls it "simple and elegant geometry on such enormous scale."
Until this study, there were two competing explanations: Termites created the pattern or plants surrounding the circles did it. Tarnita's theory borrows from both. The giant circles - from six to 100 feet in diameter - are mostly from termites that cooperate with others in their colony, but compete against other colonies, she said. The unusual patterns seen between circles are plants that establish an orderly root system so they don't compete too much for limited water.
"Out of all these processes, where each is doing what they need to, emerges this large scale pattern," Tarnita said.
The circular shape is a result of termites venturing as far as possible from their own colony's nest without encroaching on a competing colony.
It's not quite a conspiracy, says co-author Robert Pringle, because the creatures aren't trying to make the patterns. "There's no master plan, there's no kind of blueprint for what's supposed to emerge," he said.
Several outside experts contacted by The Associated Press weren't convinced by the study, because they weren't comfortable with the author's assumptions about rainfall and especially termite colony lifespans.
They did not, however, argue that it was fairies at work.

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TARENTUM, Pa. (AP) -- A Pennsylvania mall that was foreclosed on after its owners failed to repay $143 million has been auctioned off for $100.
Wells Fargo Bank was owed the money from a 2006 loan and submitted the winning bid for the 1.1 million-square-foot Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills on Wednesday. The bank was acting as trustee for MSCI 2007 HQ11, the trust that bought the mall in suburban Frazer Township.
Wells Fargo foreclosed last year on the mall, which opened in 2005. The mall once was worth $190 million but recently was appraised at just $11 million and is slightly more than half occupied. Pittsburgh Mills Limited Partnership defaulted on the loan.
Wells Fargo and the mall's new owners haven't commented on the purchase.

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IRVING, Texas (AP) -- 7-Eleven is offering a breakfast pizza.
The convenience store chain says that it combines the convenience of eating leftover pizza for the first meal of the day with traditional breakfast foods.
The chain announced the creation Tuesday. It has a biscuit crust topped with bacon, sausage, ham, scrambled eggs, cheese and cream gravy. 7-Eleven vice president Nancy Smith bills it as "a hearty option for customers craving a warm breakfast."
The Irving, Texas-based company says hot pizza has become one of its biggest ready-to-eat sellers, and mornings are the busiest time of day in its stores.
During test runs, 7-Eleven says the breakfast pizza became its second-most popular pizza with customers.

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LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -- Video of a massive alligator caught walking through a Florida nature reserve in front of stunned onlookers has prompted crowds of people hoping to catch their own glimpse.
The video taken by a visitor to the Circle B Bar Reserve on Sunday shows the gator estimated to be about 12-feet long lumbering across a trail.
WFLA-TV reports officials are concerned the increased attention brought on by the video could pose a danger to the gators. Polk County Natural Resources Director Jeff Spence says they've already asked one person to leave who ran off a trail hoping for a picture of the animal.
If a person is involved in an incident with a gator, Spence says the animal will most likely have to be killed.
He says they don't want to have to do that "because someone is doing something they shouldn't."

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OAKWOOD, Ga. (AP) - The 55,000-pound excavation truck wasn't in the area for a wash, but it may need one after being partially swallowed by a sinkhole in north Georgia.
News outlets report the truck owned by a company based out of Canada fell into the sinkhole Tuesday morning and shut down a side road that runs next to the parking lot of a car wash northeast of Atlanta. Crews worked throughout the day trying to remove the truck, which had its front wheels sticking in the air.
Hall County Fire Services Capt. Zachary Brackett says the truck was carrying 1,600 gallons of water at the time. Crews emptied the tanks, but they were still unable to lift the truck out of the 10-foot hole Tuesday evening.
Oakwood Public Works department officials say the sinkhole appears to have been caused by an old storm drain that caved in.

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NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Officials say a juvenile sea lion was so happy to be rescued after getting hooked by fishing gear off Southern California, it jumped into a Coast Guard boat.
The Coast Guard says a Los Angeles-area crew on patrol pulled the sea lion free Saturday near Newport Harbor.
Officials say after a little persuasion, the sea lion hopped aboard the boat and posed for photos.
The animal was handed off to a crew from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, which brought the sea lion to its rescue facility. It will be rehabilitated and released.

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ATHENS, Ala. (AP) - Searchers spent time looking for a missing hunter in north Alabama until officers realized he was actually in jail.
Relatives of 50-year-old Randy Keith Holt of Hartselle reported the man missing Monday afternoon after he failed to return from a hunting trip. Holt didn't have a cellphone with him, so no one could contact him or track him.
The Limestone County Sheriff's Department, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, firefighters, dog handlers, a helicopter and others joined in a search.
But officers realized Holt was in the Limestone County Jail once they heard his last name. He had been arrested for public intoxication near the search site before the manhunt began.
Authorities say relatives of the man didn't realize he was in custody and reported him missing.

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Harlem, NY -- A 12-year-old boy allegedly pulled a gun on a classmate and demanded she give him a chicken nugget earlier this week, NYPD officials said.
It was his second attempt to get a chicken nugget from the girl, police said. The boy noticed the girl buy chicken McNuggets at a Lexington Avenue and East 103rd Street McDonald's on Tuesday. He asked her for a McNugget and she refused.
The boy allegedly followed the girl into the 103rd St. No. 6-train station, pointed a gun at her head and demanded a McNugget again, police said. The girl smacked the gun away from her head and told the boy to leave her alone.
She boarded the train unharmed, police said. The girl later saw the boy showing the gun to another child on the train.
Police took the boy into custody on Wednesday after the girl reported the incident to school officials.

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - A little splat of bird droppings on one's vehicle every now and then is nasty, yet completely normal.
But when human feces comes spraying down from the heavens, all normalcy flies out the vehicle's window.
"It's disgusting."  Bethany Bowker lives right below the flight path of Salt Lake International Airport and sees dozens of commercial planes every day.
For the second time in a matter of a few years, her driveway has been the target of falling human fecal matter.
"At first I thought, 'Wow, some bird really took a dump on my car!'" Bowker told KSL News.
She soon realized the stinky splatter did not come from birds. "This is undeniable," Bowker said. "I just want it to stop."
Bowker is one of many who have complained over the years about what the Federal Aviation Administration calls "blue ice" - wastewater from airline toilets that leaks out onto the plane, freezes at high altitudes, then falls when it melts as the plane descends.
The FAA states on its website:  "Many people assume that aircraft lavatories dump overboard when they are flushed; they do not. The aircrew cannot dump the wastewater in flight because the waste valve is located on the exterior of the aircraft and only ground crew can operate valve."
Either way, blue ice has hit homes all over the world, as one Philadelphia teen experienced in 2015 right in the middle of her "Sweet 16" party.
Karen Bass experienced a similar smelly downpour down under in 2014 and tells The New Zealand Herald, "I'm absolutely disgusted at the moment. The amount of crap everywhere is horrendous."
In England in 2013, a "frozen lump of wee" went shooting like a meteor through the roof, then straight through the floor of Caroline Guy's motor home.
She saved the large yellow chunk of ice in her freezer.
"It is just a miracle that neither myself nor my children were in there when it came crashing down. It could have killed someone," Guy told The Sun.
Aviation authorities say the frozen mass also could have come from a plane's air conditioning system.
As for the damage, Guy was stuck with the bill since it happened while she was gone and she couldn't pinpoint a specific airline.
In 2012,  a New York couple enjoying some quality time on their back patio soon found themselves drenched in sludge.
Artie Hughes told CBS New York, "It was oily in substance, blackish-greenish oil. I thought it was hydraulic fluid and then the policeman came down and said 'No I don't think so. Looks like something nastier than that.'"
So, what do you do if you're the victim of blue ice? Call the FAA immediately.
Officials will try to track down the specific aircraft that accidentally dropped the doo.
As for who is responsible for cleaning up the matter, a spokesperson for Salt Lake International Airport says victims should call their city and ask for a hazardous material clean up.

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Police arrested a 20-year-old man at a Disney property near Orlando, Florida on Sunday as the man allegedly urinated on officers after bringing him into custody, WKMG-TV reported. 
According to the WKMG report, Joseph Murphy was charged with battery on an officer, indecent exposure of sexual organs and resisting an officer without violence. The incident took place near the Disney Springs resort. 
After Murphy was placed into a Florida Highway Patrol cruiser, police reported that he banged his head into a partition and tried to choke himself. He then yelled expletives at law enforcement. Murphy also reportedly yelled "(expletive) Donald Trump" at the officers. 
Officials told WKMG that Murphy began urinating on the floor of the detention center, leaving a wet spot on one of the officer's uniform. 
 

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