Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, December 20th - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, December 20th

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ROME, Italy -- Rome's official christmas tree, set up in the center of piazza Venezia, was shedding its needles  Tuesday and facing public ridicule.
Since it was first lit on december eighth, the condition of the tree has worsened.
Romans have since nicknamed it 'spelacchio', roughly translating as mangy or threadbare.
Around 600 silver reflective baubles hang on bare branches.
Rome's city hall has declared they will conduct an investigation into how the tree arrived in Rome in such disastrous shape.
the city paid 56-thousand dollars to transport it from the Trentino region of Italy.
Nearby, the Vatican has had a little more luck with its tree.
A 75-foot spruce tree from Poland seems to be holding up perfectly well in St. Peter's square.

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DALLAS (AP) - A former NBA player has taken to Twitter to complain that a toilet was among the items stolen from his Dallas home during a burglary.
Thirty-three-year-old Charlie Villanueva, a former first-round pick who most recently played with the Dallas Mavericks, posted a photo of the space in his bathroom where his toilet once stood.
In a series of sometimes potty-mouthed tweets , Villanueva says his home appliances also were taken during the burglary Tuesday.
The former Detroit Piston described the episode as "mind blowing," saying he's "in shock."
Villanueva criticized police for a slow response to his burglary report, saying he called four times about the purloined toilet.
Another Twitter user created the handle "Stolen Toilet" and responded to one of his tweets by asking: "Charlie are u looking for me?"
 
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BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) - A Vermont museum says a local family will match dollar for dollar all donations to help a friendly snapping turtle get a new tank for Christmas.
Michael Clough is assistant director at the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum in Marlboro. He said last week the museum was seeking $5,500 for a custom-made tank for Basil the turtle.
Clough tells The Bennington Banner the museum had already reached $4,000 when the family announced its donation pledge. The family wishes to remain anonymous.
Clough says Basil was raised as an illegal pet and arrived at the museum five years ago. Snapping turtles are known for their vicious bite, but Basil is unafraid of humans and dogs.
The museum plans for the tank to allow Basil to swim freely once he's fully grown.

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - A Colorado man landed in jail after offering to trade illegal homegrown marijuana for an SUV listed on Craigslist - a vehicle that happened to be owned by a sheriff.
The Gazette reports that Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell recently received a text from a 39-year-old Vail man offering to buy his SUV.
The man sent photos of the product, and Mikesell says he showed the texts to detectives. A meet up was scheduled in Woodland Park in late November.
The man and a 41-year-old woman arrived for the swap and were arrested. Authorities say they found about 4 pounds (2 kilograms) of illegal marijuana in the duo's car.
The man and woman were charged with possession with intent to sell.
Mikesell says he won't relist the SUV on Craigslist.

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WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina environmental officials are trying to discover the cause of a cat urine smell in a coastal city where residents say the odor is overwhelming on some days.
The StarNews of Wilmington reports more than a dozen residents alerted the state Department of Environmental Quality on Nov. 25 because the smell was so bad.
DEQ officials are investigating several industries as a source. Brad Newland of the state Division of Air Quality's office in Wilmington says it's possible that all those industries are causing the smell.
The odor isn't new. Newland was part of a team that studied it in the 1990s.
Residents should call to report smells. Newland says investigators should be alerted immediately because it's difficult to find a cause once the odor has dissipated.

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SEDALIA, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri city has unveiled a Christmas stocking it hopes will make the cut for the world's largest.
Sedalia's red-and-white stocking was officially measured Tuesday as 177 feet (53.95 meters) tall for entry to Guinness World Records, the Sedalia Democrat reported . The city is trying to beat a record set by the Italian city of Carrara in 2011.
The Missouri city's stocking is almost 10 feet (3.05 meters) longer. It's so large that with a few more inches, it would not have fit in the Missouri State Fair arena, where it was unveiled. It's 72 feet (21.34 meters) wide and weighs a whopping 820 pounds (371.95 kilograms).
It's so tall that Sedalia doesn't have a building that's high enough to hang it from, Mayor Stephen Galliher said.
Sedalia radio show host Charlie Thomas came up with the idea for the giant stocking as a way to promote Community Santa, a local program that gives presents to children during the holidays. He expects verification of the record to take about 12 weeks.
Members of a church sewing group started working on the stocking in early October. About two dozen children helped unroll the stocking for its unveiling, which drew applause from a crowd of roughly 200 people as Christmas music blasted in the arena.
The stocking also drew praise from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who called it a "Christmas miracle."
"Sedalia's tight-knit community and its abundance of Christmas spirit has made Missouri quite proud of this massive holiday feat," McCaskill said in a written statement.

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WATERTOWN, Mass. (AP) - A Massachusetts grocery store employee has surprised shoppers with his operatic renditions of popular Christmas music.
Tony Russo, owner of Russo's Market in Watertown, tells The Boston Globe he had no idea Guilherme Assuncao could sing when the 23-year-old volunteered to sound check equipment Friday night for an upcoming weekend performance.
His voice shocked his co-workers, and Assuncao was invited back to the stage to perform for shoppers. One woman who visited the store Saturday says everyone stopped what they were doing when they heard Assuncao sing.
One video of him performing "O Holy Night" has since garnered more than 56,000 views on Facebook.
Assuncao moved from Brazil to the U.S. in 2015 to attend school. While he hasn't performed in years, Assuncao says "music is my life."

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ST. HELENS, Ore. - Tis' the season to be merry, and that might include having an adult beverage or two, but if you do, please make sure you don't drive drunk. 
Law enforcement agencies across the country are conducting emphasis patrols to get drunk drivers off the road, including the St. Helens Police Department in Oregon. 
On Monday morning, the department's honorary patrol officer, Officer Claus, assisted other St. Helens officers with a traffic stop at 8:00 a.m. Dispatch received several calls about a driver swerving between lanes and even sideswiping a parked car. 
Officer Claus found St. Helens resident "Abominable T. Snowman" behind the wheel. Mr. Snowman was arrested and charged with reckless driving and DUI after his BAC was found to be at .16 percent, twice the legal limit. 
"Mr. Snowman admitted that he was driving home from a holiday party where he drank a little too much peppermint schnapps," said Officer Claus. "He thought that he would be okay to drive the short distance back to his house. Clearly, that was not the case."
Abominable is scheduled to be arraigned at the Columbia County Courthouse on Wednesday, December 20 and faces up to 365 days in jail and a maximum fine of $6,250, according to the department. 
"Mr. Snowman is very lucky that more serious property damage or injury to a pedestrian or fellow driver did not occur," said Officer Claus. "However, his holiday season will be significantly less cheery this year as he faces potential jail time and fines. We hope that he can be a lesson to anyone that may consider drinking and driving during the holidays."
The St. Helens Police Department offered the following tips if you're going to hit up some holiday parties this season (or anytime for that matter): 
Plan ahead. If you are planning to drink, plan ahead: volunteer to be a designated driver, designate a sober driver or arrange for a taxi to pick you up at a set time.
Be responsible. If you are hosting a party, offer plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and help your guests be responsible. Don't let someone who has been drinking get behind the wheel.
Walking or bicycling after dark? Wear bright clothes to help you stand out.
Buckle up, every trip, every time.
Drive defensively at all times.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as many as 10,000 Americans die each year in alcohol related crashes. Over a five-year period, almost 4,000 people died in drunk driving crashes during December.
Be safe out there, everyone. Don't end up like Mr. Snowman. 

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Emma Gibson was conceived in 1992 but not born until 2017.
Gibson, born November 25, was frozen as an embryo and donated to a Knoxville faith-based clinic that specializes in embryo donation and adoption, doctors and her parents said.
"Do you realize that I'm 25 years old? If the baby was born when it was supposed to born, we could have been best friends," Emma's mother, Tina Gibson, told local NBC affiliate WBIR.
"I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago," Emma's dad, Benjamin Gibson, said in a statement.
While it's not possible to know if the birth is a record, it's likely close, the clinic's president and medical director, according to Dr. Jeffrey Keenan.
"We had our medical library, which is very good at finding things, look to see if they could find anything older than that and they could not," Keenan, who performed the embryo transfer, told NBC News.
"But it is kind of neat that this embryo was conceived just a year or so before the mother was."
Fertility clinic records are private and there are no official databases on the ages of embryos when transferred to a woman's uterus. But outside experts said it's possible Emma's birth set a record.
It's a claim that difficult to verify, said Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
"These are not the kind of claims that are generally made in peer-reviewed scientific publications. They are typically the kind of claims that are made by marketers," he said.
"I think it is probably fair to say if it is not the oldest, it would be among the oldest," said Dr. David Adamson, CEO of Arc Fertility in San Jose, California.
"I'm not personally aware of a medical report where an older embryo has resulted in a live birth."
Emma would have been conceived a year and a half before her mother, Tina Gibson, was born.
"I think it makes it all that much more of a miracle," Tina Gibson said.
Not that it matters, the experts agreed.
"Medically, the amount of time an embryo is frozen is not very important," Tipton said.
"The babies are the same," Adamson said. "Overall, IVF babies do very well. Over all, the frozen embryos do just as well as the fresh embryos."
The risks all come at the moment of thawing out the embryo, Keenan and Adamson both said. If an embryo survives being thawed out, then it's no less likely than any other embryo to result in a healthy pregnancy.
And there is no evidence that frozen embryos, no matter how old, have any higher risk of birth defects.
Keenan's clinic, the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), exists to save frozen embryos from destruction.
"It's a God thing," Keenan said.
There are no standard statistics on how many frozen embryos are in storage in the U.S. but the NEDC and other organizations estimate that it may be as many as a million.
People who have embryos frozen for fertility treatment often end up with more embryos than they will need for pregnancies. They have to decide whether to store them for later, usually at a cost; dispose of them; donate them for scientific research; or donate them to a clinic like the NEDC.
Keenan and his colleagues make it clear they believe they are saving human lives. "We are a faith-based group," he said.
"As an organization guided by our religious faith and protected by the Constitution of the United States, the NEDC firmly believes in the sanctity of life beginning at conception and recognizes marriage as a sacred union between man and woman as defined by scriptures of the Holy Bible," the NEDC says on its website.
"We accept all embryos," Keenan said. But only couples who meet the clinic's religious criteria may adopt embryos from the center.
The not-for-profit clinic receives federal funding and doesn't charge donors, although it does charge embryo recipients.
Keenan said there wasn't anything unusual about the Gibsons. "It was a routine fertility story," he said.
He said he transferred two embryos to Tina Gibson, and one baby resulted. "That's very common, that (all embryos) might not all survive," Keenan said.
The Gibsons said in media interviews that they were looking for an embryo whose parents looked like them. They were not looking to set records in bearing a child.
That sounds right to Adamson.
"Individuals and couples tend to choose either sperm or eggs or embryos that have characteristics similar to their own," he said.
"These include physical characteristics of height and weight; hair color and eye color; body build type as well as, of course, race; often religion or cultural background; education; physical activities; other talents and activities such as being interested in music or being interested in art or being mathematically inclined or scientifically inclined," he said.
"Reproduction is a pretty personal thing."
Keenan said he hoped the publicity around Emma's birth would encourage more people to donate embryos to other people.
Adamson doesn't see a downside, even if he does not share the religious motivations.
"I think it's a good thing when an embryo can bring so much happiness to a couple," he said.
"This is a wonderful capability, that a little frozen embryo from 25 years ago can do that. At the end of the day there's a lot of social good here and I don't see social harm," he said.
"People say, oh it's science but no, I think it's a gift from the Lord," Tina Gibson said. 

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A liver surgeon accused of branding his initials into a patient's liver has resigned after a disciplinary hearing.
Simon Bramhall, who worked at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, told the BBC he had made a mistake and had apologised.
The surgeon was suspended before Christmas following a claim he marked a patient.
University Hospitals Birmingham said Mr Bramhall's resignation had been accepted.
Mr. Bramhall, a highly-regarded liver, spleen and pancreas surgeon, had worked in the Queen Elizabeth liver unit for 12 years.
The decision to resign was due to the stress of the past five months, he said.
He was suspended just before Christmas after the alleged branding was discovered by another surgeon.
Liver surgeons use an argon beam to stop livers bleeding, but can also use it to burn the surface of the liver to sketch out the area of an operation.
A highly placed source said it was not harmful to the liver and the marks normally disappeared.
It appears the liver in question was otherwise damaged and as a result did not heal itself in the normal manner, allowing the marks to be seen.
Part of the allegation was that Mr Bramhall signed his initials more than once.
He told the BBC he had made "a mistake".
He said: "I had a disciplinary meeting on 15 May. I was not dismissed. I made the decision on 16 May I would hand in my notice. It is a bit raw and I have to move on."
The trust said: "During the course of an internal disciplinary investigation into the conduct of Mr Simon Bramhall, the consultant liver surgeon has tendered his resignation which has been accepted by the trust."
Mr Bramhall came to attention in 2010 when he transplanted a liver saved from a burning aircraft into a patient.
 

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