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

Mad Minute stories from Tuesday, May 16th

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NEW YORK (AP) -- It takes a certain something to be a good storyteller: enthusiasm, timing and a flair for the dramatic. Performers at a children's story hour at a New York City library have all that and then some - they're drag queens.
About once a month since last fall, the Brooklyn Public Library has been presenting Drag Queen Story Hour, where performers with names such as Lil Miss Hot Mess and Ona Louise regale an audience of young children and their parents. There's even a drag-queen version of "Wheels on the Bus" in which Lil Miss Hot Mess sings of hips that go "swish, swish, swish" and heels that go "higher, higher, higher."
"Drag queens and children don't usually get together, which I think is a shame and one of the benefits of a program like this," Lil Miss Hot Mess said while putting on an outfit that included a silver sequin dress with rainbows, blue and silver glitter eyeshadow and an enormous wig of curly blond hair. The Associated Press agreed not to use the performer's legal name because of fears of harassment.
"It's great that it teaches them self-acceptance in a very general way," she said of the program, which got its start in San Francisco.
At the most recent story hour, children ranging from infants to preschoolers heard about Penelope the hippo, the main character in "You're Wearing THAT to School?!" by Lynn Plourde, which explores ideas of fitting in versus standing out. The children got up and danced and ended the session wearing paper crowns.
Kesa Huey and Sarah Baratti were among the parents who brought their children to the event, and they were glad they did.
"I think we're just looking for exposure to positive role models in as many forms as possible," Huey said.
Baratti said she had taken her daughter to a previous drag queen story hour, and when she asked the girl if she wanted to go again, it "didn't take a lot of convincing."
Something like this program "could be a really positive model for kids," especially since kids in the preschool age range are open to the idea of dressing up and fantasy, said Christia Spears Brown, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Kentucky.
It "ultimately provides children with a really flexible model of gender," Spears Brown said.
"And that mental flexibility about gender will benefit all kids, regardless of how gender-typical they themselves are," she said.
The response has been largely positive, said Kat Savage, a children's librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library. She said the readers select the books they want to read, though the library does maintain lists of suggested books for a range of topics.
And for those who don't approve?
"We just tell people: 'If it's not for you, you don't have to come,'" she said.

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PLAISTOW, N.H. (AP) -- Police say a man donned an orange Home Depot apron and posed as an employee to steal air conditioners in New Hampshire. But a manager noticed the name on the garment didn't match that of any worker at the store.
Police arrested 53-year-old Bernardo Calana, of Haverhill, Massachusetts, on Saturday.
WMUR-TV reports Calana loaded two air conditions into his pickup truck in Plaistow and went back inside. A manager noticed the apron with the name "Shannon" with flowers drawn on it and called police.
Calana later told police he didn't know anything about the air conditioners, but a Home Depot apron was found in his back pocket.
Calana was released on bail. The voice mailbox for a listed phone number for him was full.

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LONDON (AP) -- Social media users in London are buzzing about an apparent swarm of flying insects that has descended on one part of the city.
Videos posted to Twitter Tuesday show people ducking as the insects descend on Greenwich in southeast London. It's not clear what the bugs were or why they appeared in unusual numbers. Some say they're bees, but others describe them as wasps.
Transport for London, which oversees public transport in the capital, posted a picture from a traffic camera showing large numbers of the insects collecting on a traffic light, and warned drivers that a pedestrian crossing was "partially obstructed by bees." It warned: "Please approach with caution."
London police didn't immediately return a request for comment on whether they've received reports on the insects.

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LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. (AP) -- A Rhode Island school district with a shrinking student body is opening its doors to out-of-town kids - for a price.
WJAR-TV reports that Little Compton schools will start welcoming students from neighboring communities next fall for $6,000 in annual tuition.
The district's enrollment has been dropping for years. This year, it has 241 students from elementary through middle school and an average class size of around 14 pupils. High school-age kids already go to Portsmouth High School.
School Superintendent Robert Power says the district is willing to take a few kids at each grade. He adds that the quality of education will not be affected.
The tuition money will go toward maintaining equipment and hiring teachers.
Newspaper ads for the program are expected to run soon.

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Maybe the next round is on him: A New York City bartender who hit a $7 million lottery says he has "no clue" what he'll do with his winnings.
The New York Lottery said Tuesday that Michael Moriarty gets to keep around $4 million after required withholdings.
The 56-year-old says he'll take care of his family and then consider any leftover funds.
Moriarty popped into a gift ship and bought the Cash Blowout scratch-off ticket after dropping off his laundry. That made him two minutes late meeting his daughter.
Moriarty notes he's a "very punctual person." He says after the shock of winning a lottery wears off he might want to add "very lucky" to that description.

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ADDISON, Maine (AP) -- A Maine lobsterman's buoy has been found in France, 2,500 miles away from his boat.
WCSH-TV reports Adrian Batson offered Gilbert Mellaza some Maine lobster to ship his buoy from where it washed up in Brest, France.
Mellaza had posted a photo of the buoy on a Facebook group called "Lost at Sea." Members of the group used its ID number to track it to Batson.
Batson says the buoy's design is from 15 years ago. He knows because he paints each of his more than 600 buoys its own color.
He says his buoys break apart to protect sea life. He plans to give the buoy to one of his grandchildren.

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Nearly 700 parking meters have been stolen from downtown Stockton, California, over the past year.
"We don't understand why they're down here because they're not making that much money," Stockton police Officer Joe Silva said.
One thief was caught on surveillance video cutting of the heads of several parking meters. Police released the man's photo Monday, describing him as a white man with a mustache and was seen pushing a large baby stroller. 
Some meters are being stolen during the day. One meter was stolen from outside the Stockton Police Department.
"So, very bold, what these suspects are doing," Silva said.
The city said each meter theft costs them $800, including lost revenue and installation fees. 

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VIENNA (AP) -- Some situations leave even the most seasoned diplomats unprepared. Take a British ambassador's encounter with a wild boar.
Leigh Turner, Britain's ambassador to Austria, says he was left shaken and lightly injured after being chased recently by a hostile boar in Vienna's Lainzer Tiergarten nature park.
He wrote that a "massive" boar charged at him after he chanced upon a group of the animals - several adults and some piglets - in the woods. He said the boar "never made contact," but he sustained minor injuries caused by slipping while trying to climb a tree.
Although Turner says he escaped with only scratches and bruises, his blog shows a photo of what he calls a "pity-inducing splint" on his hand, meant to stabilize it until the swelling goes down.

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What if you loved a burrito so much you married it? 
A teenager in Loudoun County, Virginia, loved a burrito so much she had beautiful, backlit "wedding" photos taken with it. Her mom, a professional photographer, did the shoot.
Photographer Laura René and her family were having make-your-own burrito night at their home in Round Hill, Virginia, late last month when her 14-year-old daughter, Emma, took a bite of her chicken burrito with guacamole and chipotle hot sauce and went into a reverie. 
"She looked at me after taking a bite and said, 'I really want to marry this burrito. I would give anything to marry this burrito,'" René said by phone Friday.
"Then, she turned her head kind of creepily and said, 'I know what we're doing next weekend. I have to marry this burrito. I'm in love with him. We have to do a burrito photo shoot. I need it to look like a real wedding,'" René recalled.
A few days later, the eighth-grader put on a floral dress and a flower crown for the photo shoot. René built an arbor out of florist supplies and sticks they picked up on their farm.
René said she shot the burrito wedding photos just like she shoots real family and event photos.
"My whole style is very light and airy," she said.
In several photos, Emma sweetly kisses the burrito. In another, she presses it to her cheek.
Technically, Emma's wedding photos were not taken with the actual burrito she loved so much. She ate it. And her 10-year-old brother ate all the leftovers. So, the photos were taken with an XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito she and her mom got from Taco Bell. But the sentiment was the same, René said.
Shooting burrito wedding photos is better than shooting regular wedding photos, René said. "Shooting an actual wedding, you're always under a time crunch. People at actual weddings tend to be pretty stressed," she said. "This wedding was very simple and filled with a lot of strange burrito love and laughter."

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New Zealand has set itself an environmental goal so ambitious it's been compared to putting a man on the moon: ridding the entire nation of every last rat, possum and stoat.
The idea is to give a second chance to the distinctive birds that once ruled this South Pacific nation. When New Zealand split away from the supercontinent Gondwanaland 85 million years ago, predatory mammals hadn't evolved. That allowed birds to thrive. Some gave up flight altogether to strut about the forest floor.
Then humans arrived, bringing predators with them. Rats stowed away on ships. Settlers introduced brushtail possums - an Australian species unrelated to North American opossums - for the fur trade and weasel-like stoats to control rabbits. The pests destroyed forest habitats and feasted on the birds and their eggs. More than 40 species of birds died out and many others remain threatened, including the iconic kiwi.
Now people want to turn back the clock. Yet the plan sounds impossible. How do you kill millions of vermin across a country that's the size of the United Kingdom? How do you ensure a few furtive rats won't undo all the hard work by surviving and breeding?
Scientists are talking about the mission in military terms: choking off pests on peninsulas and then advancing the front lines from there; developing new traps and genetic weapons; winning the hearts and minds of children and farmers alike.
Momentum began growing five years ago when the nation's leading scientist, Sir Paul Callaghan, delivered an impassioned speech. When it comes to heritage, he said, England has its Stonehenge, China its Great Wall, France its Lascaux cave paintings. What makes New Zealand unique, he asked? Its birds.
Callaghan was suffering from advanced cancer and could barely stand. But for over an hour he outlined his predator-free vision, saying how growing up he was inspired by efforts to reach the moon and how saving the birds could become New Zealand's own Apollo program. He died a month later, but the vision grew.
Nine months ago, it became official government policy. Then-Prime Minister John Key announced a goal to wipe out the nuisance animals by 2050, calling it the "most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world."
The goal has been embraced by many, although even its strongest supporters say it will require scientific breakthroughs. Some critics argue the plan should also have targeted feral cats or worry mice numbers might explode if rats disappear. Others say the effort is underfunded and overly ambitious.
"It's a fantasy science fiction," says Wayne Linklater, a wildlife biologist at the Victoria University of Wellington. "And it really is seriously distracting us from some really big changes and improvements we can make in biodiversity and the environment now."
The number of pests in New Zealand is many times larger than the human population of nearly 5 million. Possum numbers in 2009 were estimated at 30 million. Scientists can't hazard a guess at how many rats there are because their numbers fluctuate wildly.
So far, the government has committed only a few tens of millions of dollars toward the project, which is estimated to cost billions. Officials say more money will come from local authorities and philanthropists.
Many aren't waiting for that. Along a popular forest trail a 10-minute drive from the bustle of central Wellington, Jonathan Moulds takes breaks from his run to clamber up banks and check rat traps.
He's among 50 volunteer trappers who incorporate pest control into their regular workouts at the Polhill Reserve. Many became inspired three years ago after rare native birds that disappeared from the region a century ago began breeding there again.
Paul Ward, who leads the volunteer group, lists ways that birds have seeped into the culture, from the country's music awards that are named after the boisterous tui to the nickname for a New Zealander: kiwi.
"It's about looking after our identity as much as it is looking after the birds," he says.
James Russell, a scientist at the University of Auckland, has great hopes for the eradication plan. And he knows exactly how hard it can be to catch a single rat. During his doctoral research 15 years ago, Russell released monitored rats on small islands to see if they would take over.
The first rat he released, named Razza, evaded recapture for 18 weeks. It even swam to another island. The story inspired a local author to write a children's book in which Razza defiantly repeats the line, "Can't catch me."
But Russell, heartened by the progress since then, says New Zealand leads the world in clearing vermin. Rangers have wiped out pests from more than 100 small islands, which are providing a breeding ground for rare birds. Yet making the much larger main islands pest-free remains an enormous leap.
Russell is helping lead an effort to find scientific breakthroughs, such as changing pest genes to make them die out, using biosensors to target individual pests over vast areas, and using powerful new lures that rely on the scent of sex rather than food.
The Goodnature company in Wellington is coming up with its own innovations. It has developed traps that use pressurized carbon dioxide to reset themselves. Left alone, one trap can kill 24 rats over six months.
Robbie van Dam, a company founder, says that cuts down on the expense of employing trappers, which is particularly useful in remote areas. Van Dam says the company is now investigating the use of drones to help place traps.
Other pest control methods have proved contentious, including use of the poison 1080, sodium fluoroacetate. Hunters say the toxin sometimes kills their dogs, and animal advocacy groups say it's inhumane.
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says a benefit of wiping out pests would be ending the use of such toxins. She says taxpayers stand to save tens of millions of dollars a year that's spent on pest control.
Barry looks about the Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington, where raucous kaka parrots and fidgety saddlebacks are among the rare birds protected from predators by a specially designed fence that stretches for miles. She says she hopes one day the whole country will look, and sound, as idyllic.
"The momentum has been fantastic," Barry says. "Street by street, town by town, city by city, we will join forces and achieve this thing."

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