Mad Minute stories from Monday, February 12th

HONOLULU (AP) - Two Hawaii men who grew up as best friends recently learned that they're actually brothers and revealed the surprise to family and friends over the holidays.

Alan Robinson and Walter Macfarlane have been friends for 60 years. Born in Hawaii 15 months apart, they met in the sixth grade and played football together at a Honolulu prep school.

Macfarlane never knew his father, and Robinson was adopted. Separately, they sought answers about their ancestry.

Macfarlane turned to family history and DNA-matching websites after unsuccessful searches on the internet and social media, Honolulu news station KHON-TV reported .

"So then we started digging into all the matches he started getting," said his daughter, Cindy Macfarlane-Flores.

A top match - someone with identical X chromosomes - had the username Robi737. Robison's nickname was Robi and he flew 737s for Aloha Airlines, Macfarlane-Flores said.

It turned out Robinson used the same website to find answers about his family. They later learned they have the same birth mother.

"It was a shock," Macfarlane said.

They revealed the relationship to friends and family during a party Saturday night.

"It was an overwhelming experience, it's still overwhelming," Robinson said. "I don't know how long it's going to take for me to get over this feeling."

They have plans to travel and enjoy retirement together.

"This is the best Christmas present I could ever imagine having," Robinson said.


Jeffrey and Lorrie Agan got married in 1989. The couple from Bowling Green, Ohio had eight children together, but divorced in 2014.

"Both of my parents each went on a separate journey for self renewal," their son, Jeff, said.

His father went back to school for nursing after 20 years as a truck driver. He also started working out and writing poetry. Jeff said his mother, "found peace in nature, through meditation and self empowerment."

The pair started dating again. On Friday, Jeffry presented his ex-wife with a special Christmas gift: a poem he wrote. Then he presented Lorrie with a ring.

Jeff recorded the proposal and posted it on Twitter. Nearly 10 million people have watched the touching moment.

Jeff was stunned by the outpouring of support and by the number of people wanting to help pay for his parents' second wedding. He created a GoFundMe account, where he described his mother and father's story.



A Florida man is charged with making a violent written threat after school officials found a rudimentary drawing of a gunman shooting people outside a burning school on a kid's homework, authorities said.

The man, Robert Paul Alexander Edwards, 33, of Mexico Beach, Fla., was arrested Friday on a charge of making a written threat to kill or do bodily injury, a second-degree felony, Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison said Monday.

Edwards is being held on $150,000 bond pending a Jan. 2 hearing in Gulf County Circuit Court. If he is convicted, he could face as long as 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Harrison said he had no reason to believe that Edwards intended to carry through on the implied threat, which staff found in the homework of a student at Port St. Joe Elementary School in the town of Port St. Joe.

But, he said, "Our country has been affected one too many times with horrific school tragedies. We take matters like this very seriously."

The student wasn't identified.

The blue-and-white drawing depicts a school building in flames and a person shooting several other people, with two more people lying on the ground in what appear to represent pools of blood. The words "Pew, Pew, Pew" are written next to the gunman.

Authorities said the investigation determined that it was Edwards who drew the image, not the student.

"This action was perceived as a potential threat and immediate action was the only recourse," Gulf County Schools Superintendent Jim Norton said in a statement to NBC affiliate WJHG of Panama City. "These matters will never be taken lightly and they may not be simply considered erring on the side of caution."

No further information was immediately available. Edwards doesn't appear to have a criminal record in Florida, and no attorney was listed in county case records. 


This lawsuit may never be forgotten.

In the first case of its kind in the United States, an animal rights group has filed suit seeking legal personhood for elephants who are being kept at a Connecticut zoo.

"The Nonhuman Rights Project's lawsuit on behalf of the elephants - Minnie, Beulah, and Karen - marks the first time in the world that a lawsuit has demanded that an elephant's legal right not to be imprisoned and treated as a thing be recognized," said Steven Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), which filed the suit.

Wise is arguing that animals such as elephants, which have complex cognitive and social abilities, should not be counted as "things" under the law, meaning they "lack the capacity for any kind of legal rights," he said. Instead, the group is pushing for the courts to give the elephants the capacity for "personhood."

Wise stressed that seeking "personhood" for the elephants is not the same as seeking the full gamut of human rights.

"The only thing we're seeking is the single right of bodily liberty that is protected by habeas corpus," he said.

The group is working to have the three elephants removed from the R.W. Commerford and Sons Traveling Petting Zoo in Connecticut and taken to a sanctuary. The zoo has been found in violation of meeting the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act more than 50 times, according to NhRP.

The zoo did not return a request for comment from NBC News on Monday.

The violations included failure to have an employee present during periods when the public is in contact with the elephants, failure to give adequate veterinary care to treat an excessive accumulation of necrotic skin on the elephants' heads, and inadequate drainage of an elephant enclosure, according to the group.

The elephants are also subjected to participating in a traveling circus and to being ridden by humans, Wise said.

The three elephants range from 36 to 50 years old and were all born in the wild, according to the group.

Wise said the suit would rely on the testimony of many experts and scientists who say elephants are "autonomous beings" with complex cognitive abilities and social structures.

"It is simply immoral and it ought to be illegal to imprison an autonomous being against their will without due process," he argued.

No stranger to the issue, Wise has also filed habeas corpus petitions on behalf of two chimpanzees, Kiko and Tommy, living in New York. A new York judge ruled against the group in June, but the case is under appeal.

The case, and Wise's 25-year quest for animal rights, was documented in the In the 2016 HBO documentary "Unlocking the Cage."

Despite the setback last summer, Wise pointed to small steps of progress in other places around the world, such as in Argentina, where in November 2016, a judge ruled that a chimpanzee named Cecilia was a "nonhuman legal person" and agreed that the ape had "inherent rights."

Wise argued that animals are already afforded a legal rights in Connecticut and New York, where a pet trust statute allows people to make animals the beneficiaries of a trust.

"We're looking for a second legal right," he said.

Connecticut also enacted a law last year that legal experts said was the first of its kind to permit judges to appoint advocates for dogs and cats in cases involving cruelty, abuse and neglect.

"That allows courts to tap volunteer students or lawyers to act as advocates for justice in cases involving the abuse of dogs or cats and this legislation is aimed to support more vigorous enforcement of our existing anti-cruelty laws," said Jessica Rubin, a professor of law at the University of Connecticut who helped write the legislation.

Rubin said she is hopeful the courts in Connecticut will side with the nonhuman Rights project and that the fight was indicative of the increase of public awareness of animal rights and capabilities.

"I think things are changing and that change is supported by science and increasing data about cognition and emotion and our shifting morals and tolerance of abuse of other beings," she said. 


(NPR) So there's a dog working shifts for the Transportation Security Administration at Chicago's Midway Airport who is leaving her mark on holiday air travel. She's a 2-year-old German Shepherd. The TSA doesn't reveal names, so travelers can't distract the dogs as she sniffs. And she sniffs for bombs. But the dog is still so skittish around crowds after four months at work that she reportedly relieves herself in the concourses and terminals. Well, who hasn't felt that way in a crowded airport?

Kevin McCarthy, who heads up the TSA at Midway, says that they will work with the dog until she can calm down. It's not going to ruin her career, he told the Chicago Sun-Times. It doesn't impact her ability to do the job. So by all means, fly the friendly skies. Just watch where you step.


(AP) O Christmas Tree! A Grinch of a storm has toppled the official holiday spruce in Tennessee's capital city.

Area media outlets report that Nashville's 40-foot (12-meter) Norway spruce was toppled overnight, with officials blaming a combination of wind, rain and possibly a defective anchor.

More than 2,000 people had turned out Dec. 1 for the tree's lighting ceremony with Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, including a performance by the husband-and-wife duo of Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires.

The Tennessean reports city officials won't right the tree. They plan to haul it from Nashville's Public Square Park because they don't have the time or manpower to stand it up again and redecorate it.

But not all is 'bah humbug': A twinkling 35-foot (10-meter) tree still stands outside the state Capitol nearby.


Birzai, Lithuania - A Lithuanian man took on the challenge to break a crossword puzzle record in his country--and blew it away.

A 62-year-old man living in the Lithuanian town of Birzai has created a 150 meter long crossword with 12,757 words to break the country's record, earlier set at 7080 words.

Former newspaper distributor, 62-year-old Dainius Pipyne made his first crossword in 1989. 

In 2012, he started gluing one crossword to another. 

His mammoth project now comprises over 600 pages glued edge-to-edge which he keeps on a paper roll holder at home.

Pipyne used encyclopedias and dictionaries, sometimes finding words that were 20 letters long.

Most words are related to sports as Pipyne used to be an amateur runner.

The final measurement was carried out at the Renaissance-Baroque style local Castle of Birzai, which houses a library and the regional history museum "Sela", founded in 1928.

Lithuanian agency "Factum", which registers record-breaking attempts in the country, has confirmed that Pipyne's crossword is the longest in the country.


Berlin, Germany - Germans feeling guilty about the size of their plates at Christmas dinner, turned to a post holiday tradition and their running shoes to make amends... well, sort of.

Dozens of runners attempted to part with the extra weight they put on at the 19th annual 'Roast Goose Digestion Run' in Berlin.

The Tuesday morning run brought out over two hundred participants, who were possibly looking to end the year on a health kick rather than the heavy side. 

But then in the middle of the 10K course, runners are given a chance to get back some of the calories they burned off, as there's a wine and pastry station set up. 

A fitting offering for those who want to finish the race buzzed and with sugar rush.   


LEE'S SUMMIT, MO (KCTV) - A brand new holiday attraction in Lee's Summit is getting a lot of attention - and it serves the same purpose as the city's famed "magic tree." 

A portable commode left behind from a highway construction site has been dubbed the "Magic Potty." 

The outhouse was placed out there for road crews working a stretch of Blue Parkway. After the job was over, the potty was left right by a Lee's Summit home. 

As a joke, the family placed strands of Christmas lights on it and it captured the Christmas spirit so well, people started stopping by to take selfies. 

That's when a family placed a donation bin outside and started collecting canned goods. 

In a matter of days, they filled up their garage and they say they averaged a barrel full of donations for Coldwater of Lee's Summit. 

They've also collected coats and money. 

"The kids race to the barrel every day to see what's in it," said Troy Jackson, who decorated the potty. "Every day they're checking on it, running over to the barrel. It's been fun to not park my car in the garage because of all this food. It's been a lot of fun. It's been a blast."

The family says a few days ago, the company who rents out the potty actually did come to retrieve it, but when they saw what the family was doing with it, they agreed to let it stay until after Christmas. 


YAKIMA, WA - One of the best parts of the holidays is Christmas lights, and Papa John's in Yakima uses them as their secret weapon.

He's a delivery driver with a whole lot of Christmas spirit. Those pizza drivers are only at your door for about 30 seconds, but Yakima Papa John's employee - Brian Kemper - has a hard time leaving houses during the holidays.

For the last five years, his car has become an awe-inspiring Christmas display.

"Thought I'd be kind of cool to decorate the car, and when I had done it, it turned out pretty good," said Kemper.

Every year it gets more elaborate. There's hundreds of lights, fake presents in the backseat, a star on the antenna, and even the hubcaps are decorated. But Kemper's message is still very simple.

"I tried to explain Christmas and what it's about as much as possible on my car," Kemper said. "I think with the nativity scene on the back end and Santa Claus that pretty much does it."

Families who order pizza request to have Kemper and his Christmas car deliver to them. But not everyone gets to.

"It's just a random-type thing," he explained. "I can't be jumping in front of people and taking their deliveries or anything like that."

And when he comes down the street, kids are not the only ones who are trying to get a closer look.

"I think the parents are faster than they are getting out there," Kemper said. "I think everybody loves it. It's not just the kids."

It's not a surprise that Kemper's favorite holiday is Christmas. And not just because of gifts or decorations.

"There's more than just family that you have with you present now, it's the family that you've lost, too," he said. "That's the other reason that I do it. I've had a brother that I've lost, and my father."

But Kemper is quickly running out of room to put anything else on his car. Don't worry though - he has one idea.

"Probably going to have to move on up to getting...a trailer, maybe, or something? I don't know," Kemper laughed. "I've got a truck. So who knows, I might be pulling a trailer and have this (car) on it."

And it took Kemper 40 hours to decorate the car. 

When he's working, he says people are constantly honking and flashing their lights at him. He also goes to local hospitals and nursing homes so people who may not be able to get out to go look at lights get the chance to see them.


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