Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, February 21st - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Wednesday, February 21st

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FERNDALE, Mich. (AP) - Authorities say a man destroyed a suburban Detroit home while trying to use a smoke bomb to rid a crawlspace of skunks.
The Detroit Free Press reports the man's attempt sparked a fire Monday that quickly spread from the crawlspace to the first floor. The fire eventually spread through the walls and attic of the rental property.
Ferndale Fire Chief Kevin P. Sullivan says the house was a complete loss. He says no skunk carcasses were found.
Sullivan says the department advises that people hire pest control professionals for such work. But he says if someone is "an absolute die-hard do-it-yourselfer, please read and understand the directions and warning labels" on such devices.
A responding firefighter suffered a sprain, but no other injuries were reported from the incident.

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DEWITT, N.Y. (AP) - The feeding habits of a Cooper's hawk may fascinate birdwatchers, but employees of a New York bank are fed up with the feathery remnants of slaughtered pigeons.
A hawk has been killing and devouring pigeons near the entrance to M & T Bank in suburban Syracuse for several weeks. Property manager Joseph Mathlin tells the Syracuse Post-Standard that bank staff are terrified and disgusted.
Mathlin says the bank tried putting up a fake owl to shoo the hawk away. Jake McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology says the hawk probably won't care about the owl but its pigeon prey might be scared off.
Colorful crow-sized Cooper's hawks have become common in cities and suburbs where flocks of pigeons and birdfeeder visitors make easy pickings.
 
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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A New York economic development agency report meant to show the state's growth was illustrated with an 8-year-old photo showing construction cranes in South Africa.
The Associated Press discovered the photo in this month's report from Empire State Development. The photo, showing seven towering heavy-lift cranes being used to build a stadium in Cape Town for the 2010 soccer World Cup, is a cropped version of one owned by Getty Images, available for licensing on its website for up to $575.
The photo apparently was used to give the impression of heavy construction activity in the state.
Empire State Development said on Tuesday the photo was "a generic stock image" and will be replaced with an image of ongoing economic development in the state.
"We thank the AP for bringing the matter to our attention," the agency said.
The gaffe comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's economic development programs face questions over their effectiveness.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said the programs have brought hundreds of thousands of jobs to the state. Critics, though, question those numbers along with the multibillion-dollar corporate incentives paid with taxpayer dollars.
"Certainly sticking in construction cranes from half a world away isn't going to build confidence in their credibility," said E.J. McMahon, founder of the conservative Empire Center for Public Policy.
The annual comprehensive report from Cuomo's main economic development apparatus was mandated last year by the Legislature amid increased criticism of the governor's efforts to boost business across the state, especially in distressed upstate areas. The report compiles the previous fiscal year's statistics for each economic development program run by the agency. It wasn't released until Feb. 5, 36 days after its Dec. 31 deadline.
Included in its 127 pages of tables, charts and details of economic success stories are plenty of photos of people working at New York businesses and people visiting New York tourist attractions. Cuomo appears in several photos. Other images appear to be stock photos. None of the photos has a caption with specific information on it.
The South Africa photo, taken from ground level looking up at the cranes set against a clear-blue sky, appears on Page 6 of the report. The next page features copy under the heading "Our Investment Strategies" overlaid on a second, less-defined photo of the cranes taken from a slightly different angle.
Word of inclusion of the South Africa photos in a public state document came a day after the New York Post reported that the economic development agency approved a $1 million grant to Cadillac so the General Motors subsidiary could put it toward the $12.7 million renovation at its new Manhattan headquarters.
Alex Camarda, a senior policy adviser at Reinvent Albany, a state government watchdog group, called the Cape Town cranes being passed off as New York economic activity "another example of a lack of transparency" by Cuomo's economic development office.

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EAST LANSDOWNE, Pa. (AP) - Police in a Philadelphia suburb received an unusual report about a dinosaur on the loose.
But officers in East Lansdowne did not panic and took things in stride when they realized what was happening.
They posted a video showing a person in a Tyrannosaurus rex costume "taking their kid to school" on Tuesday.
Officers concluded their report: "No problem. Clear."

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BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts transportation officials are under fire for authorizing a no-bid contract for a tiny, $100,000 bathroom inside a state office building.
WCVB-TV reports that the 115-square-foot bathroom and adjoining kitchenette was installed last year at the State Transportation Building inside the new state Transportation Department and MBTA board room.
The project was fast-tracked and not put out to bid, which is usually done for state projects to make contractors compete for the work and keep costs down.
Greg Sullivan, a former state inspector general who's now research director at the Pioneer Institute, called the cost "outrageous."
The bathroom is about 40 steps from a spacious public bathroom on the same floor. A spokesman for the Transportation Department says board members are sometimes followed to that bathroom by reporters during public meetings.

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) - A local governor in Poland says a cow that escaped while being taken to a slaughterhouse is still avoiding capture even though the order to kill it has been canceled.
The red Limousin beef cow that fled last month has gained celebrity status as it defends its life and freedom, roaming a lake-filled region near Nysa, in the southwest of the country.
Governor Czeslaw Bilobran said Wednesday the cow is "cunning and clever and uses the difficult terrain to trick the search group," swimming from island to island.
When caught, it will be put in a local animal reserve.
"It is so brave and strong-headed that we decided to keep it," Bilobran told The Associated Press.

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CAPE CORAL, Fla. (AP) - Authorities say a Florida man who was taking target practice in his home was arrested after bullets went through the wall into his neighbors' apartment.
A Cape Coral police news release says 61-year-old Ivan Bakh was arrested Sunday and charged with firing a weapon in public and shooting into a dwelling.
Police say Bakh's neighbors called them Sunday morning after awaking to a loud bang and finding holes in their bedroom and living room walls.
When officers went to Bakh's apartment, they reported seeing holes in the wall he shared with his neighbors, as well as several books taped together with a red target drawn on them. Police say they also found a loaded 9mm handgun.
Bakh was released Tuesday on $10,000 bail. Jail records didn't list an attorney.

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NEW YORK (AP) - A New York City bicyclist delivering Chinese food is blaming the Waze navigation app for directing him into the busy Lincoln Tunnel, where bikes are banned.
A Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman says 19-year-old Bruce Lee was stopped Tuesday evening after he pedaled into the tunnel, which connects Manhattan and New Jersey.
The Staten Island man told police that he was directed into the tunnel under the Hudson River by the Waze app on his phone.
He was arrested on charges of trespass and criminal possession of a weapon after a dagger was found in his possession. It wasn't immediately clear if he had a lawyer who could comment.

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(Cincinnati.com) A Loveland man was arrested Saturday after police said he abducted an 84-year-old woman forcing her to give him money, buy him fast food and drive him to a drug deal.
Brett Engel, 31, is facing felony aggravated robbery and abduction charges.
Police said Engel jumped into the woman's car holding a box cutter in the parking lot of a Symmes Township CVS pharmacy on Feb. 15.
The suspect ordered her to drive to a bank and withdraw $200, which he took, according to court records.
Then Engel is accused of forcing the woman to take him to Wendy's and buy him food.
At several points during the incident, police said the suspect used the victim's cell phone to make calls.
He then ordered her to drive him to a gas station and then a Norwood White Castle, court documents state.
At the White Castle, police said the victim reported Engel appeared to buy something from two other men.
Back in the car, the suspect injected himself with a drug and told the woman to drive to two different apartment complexes, then to a gas station at the corner of Montgomery and Kemper roads in Symmes Township, the documents state.
Investigators state the victim said the suspect wiped down places in the car he touched with a napkin. He told her he knew where she lived because he saw driver's license and not to call police, court record state. Then he left the scene.
Police said Engel was identified in a photo line-up and was observed on surveillance footage from at least one of the gas stations.
Engel is being held on a $750,000 bond at the Hamilton County Justice Center. A trial date has not been scheduled.

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McDonald's is tweaking its beloved Happy Meal once again.
On Thursday, McDonald's announced plans to remove excess calories, sodium and saturated fat from its Happy Meal offerings, largely by reformulating or removing certain Happy Meal staples - namely cheeseburgers and chocolate milk - from the menu.
As part of its new initiative to "offer more balanced meals," McDonald's has vowed that, by 2022, at least 50 percent of its Happy Meal menu offerings in major markets across the world will be limited to 600 calories or less, with only 10 percent of those calories coming from saturated fats and 10 percent from added sugar. On-menu meal combinations will also be limited to 650 milligrams of sodium.
In the U.S., however, McDonald's has imposed even stricter criteria. According to a press release, "100 percent" of all Happy Meal combinations offered on menus across the country will clock in at 600 calories or less by June 2018. All will also conform to the company's new criteria for saturated fat and added sugar, while 78 percent will be compliant with the new sodium standards.
In addition, U.S. menus will no longer offer a cheeseburger Happy Meal on its official menu, even though the item will still be available "at the customer's request," McDonald's says. The same goes for chocolate milk, which will be removed as an on-menu option while the current recipe is reformulated to reduce excess sugars.
Chicken McNugget Happy Meals will also look a bit different as of June 2018, with kids-sized fries replacing the "small" order that is currently included.
"Given our scale and reach, we hope these actions will bring more choices to consumers and uniquely benefit millions of families, which are important steps as we build a better McDonald's," said McDonald's president CEO Steve Easterbrook.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has since commended McDonald's for its efforts, via a statement obtained by NPR.
"This is an important step in the right direction and we look forward to seeing how today's announcement will lead to kids eating fewer calories and less sugar, saturated fat and sodium," said AHA CEO Nancy Brown.
2018's revised Happy Meal offerings will be the second major change to the kids' meals in less than a year, following an announcement in September that the chain would be swapping OUT its Minute Maid apple juices for a lower-sugar, lower-calorie replacement.

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