Mad Minute

DICKINSON, Texas (AP) — The race to be the mayor of a Houston suburb ended this week with the winner’s name being drawn from a top hat.

Sean Skipworth and Jennifer Lawrence were vying to be the next mayor of Dickinson, but they each ended up with 1,010 votes after a runoff election last month and a recount earlier this week.

According to Texas law, a tie in a race for public office can be resolved by casting lots.

Skipworth became mayor after a ping pong ball with his name was pulled out of a hat during a ceremony Thursday that lasted about 10 minutes, the Galveston County Daily News reported.

“I just thank everyone for coming out and voting,” Skipworth said after he became mayor. “Literally, every vote counted.”

Lawrence, meanwhile, said she trusted the process and believed the drawing “went how it was supposed to go,” TV station KTRK reported.

“I’ve had dozens and dozens of people praying about this,” she said. “I told Sean I would support him, and I will, and I think unity is the way to go to get stuff done.”

Dickinson, located about 40 miles southeast of Houston, has more than 21,000 residents.


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — In the "gamblers will bet on absolutely anything" category, here's a new one: A major sports book is taking bets on aerial drone races.

DraftKings said Friday it is taking bets for this weekend's championship of the Drone Racing League, in which pilots fly aerial drones in races.

Betting on the league's drone races is legal in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee and West Virginia, with regulatory approvals pending in additional states.

"The sky is now the limit for DRL fans to get skin in the game, and we're thrilled to partner with DraftKings to transform our high-speed race competition into the ultimate sport to bet on," Drone Racing League President Rachel Jacobson said. "The opportunity for us to elevate our engagement through all forms of gaming and gambling will only increase as mobile betting becomes more adopted across the country."

The sports book and the league are hosting "pre-flight shows" Friday night on Twitter ahead of the live events, in which expert sports bettors and top drone pilots will educate fans on how to participate.

Championship events begin on Saturday.

Jacobson said its races are all virtual this year, taking place in a simulation in which real-life drone physics are incorporated. But is also hosts live drone racing in venues that have included Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida; Alexandra Palace in London, and an auto-museum in Munich.

DraftKings says there's a market for this. It offered free-to-play contests on drone races last year to gauge interest in the activity, and the response was 30% higher than usual for a new sport introduced to the betting platform. There have been more than 150,000 entries into these free contests so far.

As is the case with major sports including football, baseball and basketball, gamblers will be able to make bets before the races as well as during them.

DraftKings said consumer research has shown that drone racing fans are three times more likely to place a bet than fans of major sports leagues, and are 90% more likely to be interested in sports betting in general than the average sports fan.

The drone league is a privately owned New York company founded in 2015. It has held events in six countries.


Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Animal control officers in Colorado responded to a resident's home to rescue a ring-tailed cat that wandered into the house and took up residence in the boiler room.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said animal control officers were dispatched to a home in Evergreen where a resident discovered the ring-tailed cat -- a wild animal related to raccoons -- in the rafters of their boiler room.

The officers set a trap for the animal, which was ensnared within an hour, the sheriff's office said.

The ring-tailed cat was released into a nearby wooded area. The sheriff's office said the species is native to Colorado, but they are nocturnal and are rarely spotted by the state's human residents.


BERLIN, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down at a bakery in the western German town of Dortmund, which is celebrating the year of the coronavirus vaccine with syringe-shaped cakes.

It is not the first time Schuerner's Baking Paradise has sold coronavirus spin-offs: last year, as household essentials vanished from supermarket shelves in panic buying, they created cakes shaped like newly-scarce toilet-rolls.

But owner Tim Kortuem initially worried that baking up a tasty syringe would be a step too far.

With vaccination now under way in most of the world, public health officials fret that nervousness about new medicines will slow the uptake of vaccines designed to end a pandemic that has claimed some 2 million lives and devastated the global economy.

"First we were a bit skeptical whether it would be a bit too macabre," he said. "But then we did it after all. Because even for anti-vaxxers it's funny. It is a vaccine without any side effects. And you can come back and get another one because it is so yummy."

There is no evidence that this cake, flavored with marzipan, will do anything to protect buyers from the coronavirus. Indeed, given the correlation between excess weight and serious cases of the disease, it may do just the opposite.

But nobody eats cakes for health reasons.


JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Being tall is the giraffe's competitive advantage, giving it the pick of leaves from the tallest trees, so scientists were stunned to find two giraffe dwarves on different sides of Africa.

"It's fascinating what our researchers out in the field found," Julian Fennessy, co-founder of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, told Reuters in a videocall on Friday. "We were very surprised."

Most giraffes grow to 15 - 20 feet (4.5 - 6 metres), but in 2018, scientists working with the foundation discovered an 8 1/2-foot (2.6 metre) giraffe in Namibia. Three years earlier, they had also found a 9-foot 3-inch (2.8 metre) giraffe in a Ugandan wildlife park.

They published their findings in the British Medical Journal at the end of last month.

In both cases, the giraffes had the standard long necks but short, stumpy legs, the paper said. Skeletal dysplasia, the medical name for the condition, affects humans and domesticated animals, but the paper said it was rare to see in wild animals.

Footage taken by the foundation showed the Ugandan giraffe standing on thick, muscled legs in the dry savanna of Murchison Falls national park in northern Uganda, while a taller animal with the usual long, stick-like legs walked behind it.

"Unfortunately there's probably no benefit at all. Giraffes have grown taller to reach the taller trees," Fennessy said. He added that it would most likely be physically impossible for them to breed with their normal-sized counterparts.

Numbers of the world's tallest mammal have declined by some 40% over the past 30 years to around 111,000, so all four species are classified by conservationists as 'vulnerable'.

"It's because of mostly habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, growing human populations, more land being cultivated," Fennessy said. "Combined with a little bit of poaching, climate change".

But conservation efforts have helped numbers start to recover in the past decade, he added.


( Ahead of CES, Mercedes-Benz is showing off a 56-inch screen it plans on fitting in its cars.

The MBUX Hyperscreen is so large it covers the entire dash of the vehicle from left to right. The same system also ditches the traditional buttons and knobs found inside a car in favor of a touch-screen experience.

Apps, vehicle functions, climate control, navigation, and entertainment have all been consolidated inside the screen, said Sajjad Khan, chief technology officer for the automaker, during today's announcement.

Although the curved display is packaged as one piece, it contains three separate OLED screen panels, which have been configured to blend together seamlessly under the Gorilla Glass surface.

Mercedes-Benz is hyping up the touch screen as a powerful computing system. But the company also promises it'll be easy to use through an interface that contains no menu levels.

"Thanks to the so-called zero layer, the user does not have to scroll through submenus or give voice commands," the automaker said. "The most important applications are always offered in a situational and contextual way at the top level in view."

Essentially, the Hyperscreen is supposedly smart enough to know what you want, thanks to the AI-powered algorithms behind the software. The display also contains 12 actuators capable of providing haptic feedback on the screen. In addition, the company has coated the glassy surface to reduce reflections and make it scratch resistant.

In terms of specs, the Hyperscreen uses an eight-core CPU and 24GB of RAM. The system can also load up to seven different driver profiles, so you can customize how you'd like the interface to appear.

The Hyperscreen is the latest advancement to the company's MBUX infotainment system, which is already available in Mercedes-Benz cars. The automaker plans on installing the Hyperscreen later this year in the all-electric EQS sedan.


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — There is an interesting development underway in taking care of the local crow migration that's become a real nuisance for businesses in downtown Sacramento.

Day-to-day operations downtown are in jeopardy all thanks to a pesky, black-feathered foe.

City officials with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership said the crows have left them with no other choice.

"The crows got to go," said Dion Dwyer, the public space services director for the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.

Every day at sunset, thousands of crows flock in to rest their wings on parked cars, outdoor patio furniture and nearby trees, while leaving behind unpleasant surprises along the way.

"Two years ago, it was exceedingly bad to the point where we were having complaints from restaurant patios and patrons at our ice rink and just coming down for the holidays," Dwyer told FOX40.

Andy Duong, who lives on K Street, can attest to the crow chaos.

"Crows do what crows do. They squawk and they leave my black clothes polka-dotted," he said.

But help is flying in thanks to Adam Baz with Integrated Avian Solutions and his wingman, Jasper.

"We use the art of falconry, which is flying trained hawks and falcons to help manage flocks of birds that are causing some sort of a nuisance," Baz explained. "In this case here in downtown Sacramento, it's about five (thousand) to 10 thousand crows that come in."

Jasper's bird-of-prey presence humanely forces the crows to scatter to different areas outside of the city, creating a much better outcome for everyone in the air and on the ground.

"We just finished our first year and I can tell you that we've seen a vast improvement," Dwyer said. "We're taking care of the air so that you can come down, get your meals, go back home and shelter in place."

Baz said Thursday the job was not done. They'll be back periodically to make sure the crows are good and gone. And if they're still there, Jasper will take care of it.


Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A cat that escaped from her owner at a security checkpoint in New York's LaGuardia Airport was returned to the distraught traveler after spending 11 days hiding in the hub's ceiling.

Taylor Le said she was in the process of moving from New York to Orange County, Calif., when she booked a Christmas Eve flight for herself and her 6-year-old cat, Muji.

Le said TSA agents had her remove Muji from her carrier at the security checkpoint, despite her protestations that the feline was likely to flee. Le said Muji panicked, as she had predicted, and led her owner and airport staff on a chase that ended when the cat climbed a series of platforms to a ceiling enclosure and disappeared inside.

The Queens Lost & Found Pets group received word of Muji's plight from Le's Facebook post, and pet-flying advocacy group Where Is Jack? Inc. became involved and helped Le arrange for a tracking dog to visit the airport.

The dog, a golden retriever named Abby, indicated Muji was still in the ceiling, and Le caught a flight back to New York.

She attempted to lure the cat out of the ceiling, but Muji didn't emerge. Finally, 11 days after the cat had fled from security, Le received word that she had emerged and been safely caught in a trap.

Le said Muji was taken to an animal hospital in Long Island, and she was reunited with her pet. The duo are scheduled to fly to California on Saturday.

"This time, I have a TSA harness for her, and I'm going to insist on having a private screening," Le told the New York Post.


TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese cheerleaders danced and cheered on commuters outside a Tokyo rail station on Thursday in a bid to lift spirits with the capital heading into another state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Let's go, fight!" the four-person squad shouted out to passers-by in front of Shimbashi Station, with their protective face shields fogging up in the chilly Tokyo morning as they waved gold pom poms.

Japan is planning a one-month state of emergency for the greater Tokyo area beginning Friday to contain a record surge in coronavirus infections.

Head cheerleader Kumi Asazuma said the group had been performing for more than 10 years to help energise morning commuters, but their mission had taken on new meaning during the pandemic.

"Especially now, the spread of the coronavirus isn't stopping, people have lost their jobs ... I think this is a period where people are really suffering a lot," Asazuma, 37, who works as a freelance event emcee and presenter, told Reuters.

"We want to deliver a smile to cheer people up. We're doing this hoping that people can feel even a little bit better."

Cheerleaders from her group generally perform Thursdays in Tokyo and Fridays in neighbouring Kanagawa prefecture, with the number of performers depending on the availability of members as they also have jobs.

But they will likely have to perform remotely, posting videos on social media, during the state of emergency, she said.

About a dozen people stopped to take smartphone photos and videos while others watched as they filtered out from the station towards their offices.

"I think it's wonderful what they're doing in the current situation," said Tomoko Tsudanuma, 48, an office worker.

"I'll be working at home from next week and it's hard but I feel encouraged from watching this kind of activity,"


(CNN) Students and staff at the University of California, San Diego, can now get Covid-19 tests by picking them up -- from vending machines.

The self-administered tests, which are free for students and staff, became available at 11 locations around campus on January 2, according to the university's website.

Users can conduct their own nasal swabs and return their samples to the machine within 72 hours. They can then use the UC San Diego app to scan the test kit and receive their results.

Students are required to be tested once a week, and employees who work on campus have to answer a daily symptom screening and test for Covid-19 on weekly basis.

The university is not the alone in rolling out vending machines for Covid-19 testing.

Residents of Hong Kong were able to get tests from vending machines starting on December 7, 2020, according to a news release from the government. The machines were placed in transit stations.

Latvia also installed vending machines for testing on December 11, 2020, in the Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital in the city of Riga, Reuters reported.