Mad Minute stories from Monday, February 12th

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- This is one cosmically cool sax - and saxophone player.

France's musical astronaut Thomas Pesquet is enjoying a special birthday present delivered to him up at the International Space Station. The saxophone arrived in a SpaceX cargo ship on Feb. 23, and his crewmates kept it hidden until his 39th birthday on Feb. 27.

He revealed the birthday surprise this week via Twitter.

"Totally pumped to hear @Thom-astro rock his sax on orbit! Happy belated birthday buddy!" future space station crewmate Jack Fischer tweeted Monday. The NASA astronaut is scheduled to blast off next month from Kazakhstan.

"You might reconsider when you hear the cacophony. Now ace those final exams and get up here!" Pesquet replied Tuesday.

Pesquet has been in orbit since November and has three months remaining in his mission. He's a former pilot for Air France.

This isn't the first time a sax has flown in space. Shuttle astronaut Ronald McNair took one up in 1984, two years before he died aboard the Challenger.

Other out-of-this-world musical instruments: piano keyboard, flute, guitar, bagpipes and even an Australian didgeridoo.


OCALA, Fla. (AP) -- Police and wildlife officials are searching for a tan and yellow monocle cobra that apparently escaped from a Florida home.

The Ocala Star-Banner reports a man was shadowing the snake's owner so he could get a license to handle poisonous or venomous reptiles and snakes. He was at the home late Monday while the owner was working.

Police say he opened the cover of the cage and the snake jumped at him and then slid away. The man called the owner who rushed home. When they couldn't find the snake in the sealed room, they called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Neighbors told the newspaper they were notified overnight about the missing snake.

Wildlife officials say the apprentice shouldn't have been left alone in the sealed room.


NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- It's three strikes and take your seat - in a cell - for a thief with a sweet tooth.

New Jersey prosecutors say a Newark man pleaded guilty Monday to robbing the same 7-Eleven store three times in four days. Each time, Idris Allen grabbed candy from the store and brandished a knife.

About 14 hours after the last robbery in December 2015, Allen was captured after he went to the back of the store, took merchandise and left. The shift manager followed him and pointed him out to police.

Authorities say Allen was arrested across the street from a police precinct building.

Allen is expected to face seven years in prison when he's sentenced next month.


NAPA, Calif. (AP) -- Rescue workers had to remove part of a wall to pull a naked man out of a sandwich shop where he spent the night trapped inside a narrow passage.

San Francisco television station KRON-TV reported that a construction crew arriving at a Napa job site Tuesday heard faint calls for help coming from the closed shop.

Authorities say it appears the man fell into the shaft from the roof of the building.

A construction worker told the television station the man said he was looking for a wishing well when he became trapped.

Workers removed a portion of the shop's front wall to rescue the man. He was not identified and taken to a hospital for treatment.


HAMILTON, N.J. (AP) -- Authorities say a Massachusetts man led New Jersey state troopers on a nearly 30-mile chase on the New Jersey Turnpike.

State police say 45-year-old Sean Orgel refused to stop when a trooper tried to pull him over for a traffic violation around 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

They say Orgel led the trooper on a chase and was only stopped after police deployed spike sticks in Hamilton.

Orgel was charged with eluding and given other traffic summonses. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney to comment on his behalf.

No one was injured in the chase.


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An Anchorage, Alaska, man has been charged with a snatch-and-grab theft with a twist - the use of heavy equipment to do the grabbing.

Federal prosecutors have charged Adrian Turnbow, 25, with bank larceny in the attempted theft of an ATM with a front-end loader.

The FBI is investigating three other Anchorage ATM thefts with heavy equipment since Dec. 25. Excavators in at least two previous cases were stolen from Turnbow's former employer.

Turnbow remains jailed. His attorney, federal public defender Darrel Gardner, said Turnbow has not been required to enter a plea.

A security guard called Anchorage police early Monday to report a front-end loader trying to take an ATM from an east-side bank, according to an FBI affidavit.

Responding officers spotted the loader attempting to flee. The loader became stuck in a parking lot embankment and police detained the driver who was wearing a ski mask and carrying a loaded handgun.

Alaska State Troopers on March 1 arrested three people in possession of an ATM stolen that day from a bank in south Anchorage. They are charged with possession of stolen bank property. Turnbow's truck was found at the scene. He had reported it stolen.


MORAGA, Calif. (AP) - There wasn't cake, but a giant sinkhole east of San Francisco got a balloon, streamers and a hand-lettered sign wishing it a "Happy 1st Birthday."

The East Bay Times reports Monday that the sinkhole formed last March at a major intersection in Moraga, which is about 25 miles east of San Francisco.

The town approved a $3.3 million fix to the sinkhole last May. But repairs were delayed following some red tape in the federal aid funding approval process. Town staffers say there should be a permanent fix by the summer.

The happy birthday sign was posted on the chain link fence behind an orange safety barrier surrounding the sinkhole that formed after a series of storms. It wasn't clear who posted the sign and hung the balloon and streamers.


NEW YORK (AP) - Two little ponies broke free from their New York City stables during the storm that's pounding the East Coast with snow, sleet, rain and wind.

An off-duty police officer saw the animals roaming the snowy streets of Staten Island and wrangled them using straps for towing vehicles. He tied the ponies to a lamppost and called for backup.

A police car arrived and the ponies - one sandy brown and one chocolate brown - were returned safely to their stables.

New York Police Department Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan says the runaways are doing great.

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued thanks to "our cowboy officer."


HONOLULU (AP) - A Hawaiian Airlines flight from Las Vegas had to divert to Los Angeles after a passenger complained about the cost of a blanket.

The airline confirmed that flight HA7 from Las Vegas was about an hour into its trip Wednesday when the plane turned and stopped in Los Angeles, KHON-TV reported.

There was a dispute between a 66-year-old male passenger and the flight crew over the cost of a blanket, said Rob Pedregon of the Los Angeles Airport Police. After being informed a blanket cost $12 the passenger "made a statement that he wanted to take somebody behind the woodshed over this, which prompted the flight crew to contact the captain who then in turn diverted the aircraft to LAX."

Los Angeles Airport Police and the FBI met the aircraft at the gate once it landed in Los Angeles. The passenger was not arrested.

Officials say the passenger did not make a credible or direct threat and no crime was committed.

"(The crew) took offense to the statement that he made. Maybe they felt uncomfortable with it, which is well within their rights to divert the plane and refuse service," Pedregon said.

Passengers on the flight had mixed reactions to the delay. Bianca Moors said she understood that the crew was just trying to stay safe.

"They're doing it to protect the passengers as well as the crew, because I think this is a very expensive stop for Hawaiian," she said.

Dallas resident Claudia Rodriguez said she wished the crew had been more communicative about the diversion and delay.

"The thing we were most upset about was when we got off the plane, when they deplaned us after sitting for an hour, we talked to one of the staff and we asked them what we would do next, and we were not given a lot of information," she said. "They told us to go ahead and seek other options, so we went ahead and bought another ticket for my husband and I and we're not going to get a refund on that one. We ended up losing $600."

The flight departed Los Angeles a few hours later.


SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) - An Orange County bomb squad carefully disposed of a live grenade that was being used as a decoration at a San Clemente business.

Sheriff's Lt. Kevin La Pyrne says deputies responded after someone reported the explosive Wednesday afternoon.

Deputies determined it was a military grenade - and it was live.

A bomb squad was called and rendered it safe, though it was unclear if it was detonated.

The Orange County Register reports it wasn't immediately known what kind of business had the grenade or who reported it.

No injuries were reported.

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