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Freaky Friday news: Park visitors urged not to pee near trails

Fri., July 8, 2011, 2:09 p.m.

Unusual news nuggets from around the globe:

PORT ANGELES, Wash. — Visitors to Olympic National Park are being urged not to urinate along trails frequented by mountain goats, to avoid turning trails into “long, linear salt licks” and attracting goats. It’s a new measure park officials are instituting as part of their revised mountain goat action plan. That plan includes safety-inspired trail closures of two weeks or more and “aversive conditioning” of the animals when they become too aggressive. The plan, released Thursday by the park, also urges visitors and park staff to keep at least 50 yards distance from all mountain goats regardless of the animals’ behavior. It was approved Tuesday by park Superintendent Karen Gustin in the wake of the Oct. 16, goring death of Port Angeles resident Bob Boardman, 63, on Switchback Trail near Klahhane Ridge. It calls for one-week trail closures in areas where goats persistently follow people and repeatedly enter campsites.

NYC pet store bans drunken puppy-buying

NEW YORK — A New York City pet store that’s surrounded by bars has banned drunken puppy-buying. Workers at Le Petite Puppy in Greenwich Village say customers tend to stumble in after happy hour and purchase a dog without thinking. Drunken customers now are forbidden to even hold the puppies, because they can drop them. Store owner Dana Rich tells WINS-AM that she instructs people who have clearly been drinking to come back the next day. Employees say they stress how much work it is to own a dog. They say they would rather lose a sale than send a puppy into an unsafe home.

Ohio shop’s gorilla mascot attacked by banana

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — The manager of a cell phone store in Ohio called 911 to report a gorilla had been attacked by a banana. The Wireless Center in Strongsville, near Cleveland, advertises at curbside with a man in a gorilla suit. Manager Brandon Parham says he was watching last week as a kid dressed as a banana emerged from some bushes and took a flying leap at the store mascot. Parham says the attacker looked like a Spartan from the movie “300” — except he was a banana. The gorilla was knocked down but got back up, adjusted his head and went back to work. WJW-TV reports the banana split — running down the street with other teens. Police think it was a prank. They weren’t able to find the offending fruit.

Court: Firing worker who took hot dogs unjustified

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Court of Appeals says a department store wasn’t justified in firing a worker who took two leftover hot dogs from a company picnic, so it must pay him unemployment benefits. The court ruled Thursday in the case of Nolan Koewler, who was fired from a Dillard’s store in Evansville a year ago. Dillard’s hosted a Fourth of July cookout for employees. Afterward, a manager ordered the leftovers stored in a break room freezer until Labor Day. The next day, Koewler took two hot dogs and ate them, an act caught on surveillance video. He claimed he never heard the instruction to save the hot dogs, and the three-judge panel sided unanimously with him. The opinion didn’t reveal the amount of unemployment benefits at stake.

Philly judge solves case of his missing robe

PHILADELPHIA — The case of the Philadelphia judge’s missing robe has been solved. A municipal judge who thought his robe had been stolen said Thursday that it was all a big misunderstanding. A day earlier, Judge Joseph Waters Jr. said his official garb had been taken from the unlocked robing room at the courthouse while he was in the men’s room. An email was sent out to judges and courthouse staff asking people to keep an eye out for it. Waters now tells the Philadelphia Daily News that a court employee mistakenly picked up the garment, thinking it belonged to another judge. The staffer returned it Thursday morning.

Intoxicated men take dead alligator off-roading

HOWELL, Mich. — Authorities say three intoxicated men stole a 14-foot flattened and preserved alligator, strapped it to a pickup truck and took it off-roading. The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reports that 55-year-old Douglas Ward of Linden, 60-year-old Roy Griffith of Linden and 53-year-old John Sanborn of Harrison are charged with breaking and entering. The charges stem from a June 25 theft from a barn in Hartland Township, about 40 miles northwest of Detroit. Sheriff Bob Bezotte says the alligator’s owner found tire tracks near his barn and followed them to a party in Deerfield Township where the men were driving their vehicles around in the mud.

Phoenix suburb considers dog waste as power source

GILBERT, Ariz. — Officials in a Phoenix suburb are considering a plan that would turn dog waste collected from an area park into an energy source. Don’t pooh-pooh the idea before you hear it out. The Arizona Republic reports that students from Arizona State University would design and create a “dog waste digester” that the city of Gilbert could use to turn pet leavings into methane gas that in turn generates power. The proposed project would use the new energy source to run a street lamp first, and possibly other uses later.

‘Fore’-legged duffer found wandering NY golf club

MARATHON, N.Y. — Anyone lose a small horse near the ninth hole at a central New York golf course? A Maple Hill Golf Club employee was watering the greens early Wednesday morning when he spotted a miniature pony along one of the fairways. Course owner David Barton says a lead was attached to the horse. Workers tied it to a garage while they checked with nearby farmers in the rural town of Marathon, 40 miles south of Syracuse. No one reported missing a miniature pony. Barton says the horse appeared tired and hungry. He called state police, who turned the pony over to the Cortland County SPCA. Troopers say Thursday they’re still looking for the pony’s owner.

Tweets in French earn USC professor knighthood

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A University of South Carolina professor who encourages her students to use Twitter in French class will be getting honorary knighthood from the French government. University spokeswoman Peggy Binette says associate professor Lara Anderson has been awarded the Order of Academic Palms for advancing the French language. The honor was established by Napoleon Bonaparte. Binette says the award and medallion will be presented by the French consul this fall. Anderson is the author of a book about using social networking and online study to advance foreign language instruction and has promoted new technologies for foreign language teaching techniques. Anderson says the use of Twitter in the classroom allows students to develop conversation skills and build a sense of communal language learning in and out of the classroom.

Lightning strikes twice for NJ’s Lucy the Elephant

MARGATE, N.J. — Who says lightning never strikes twice in the same place? Certainly not Lucy the Elephant. The national historic landmark on the Jersey shore was damaged over the weekend by a lightning strike that knocked out electrical, computer, alarm and air conditioning systems. Richard Helfant, executive director of the group that operates Lucy, says Sunday’s lightning strike could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to fix. Lucy was also hit by lightning in 2006. That hit caused $162,000 worth of damage to her riding carriage, called a howdah. After that incident, lightning rods were installed. They may have helped limit the damage from Sunday’s strike. The popular 65-foot tall wood and metal tourist attraction just south of Atlantic City remains open and will mark its 130th birthday in two weeks.

Jail inmate: Lack of porn violates US Constitution

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. – A Michigan jail inmate says he’s being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because he can’t have pornography. In a handwritten lawsuit, 21-year-old Kyle Richards claims his civil rights are being violated at the Macomb County Jail. Richards says denying his request for erotic material subjects him to a “poor standard of living” and “sexual and sensory deprivation.” The Michigan Department of Corrections tells The Detroit News that prisons allow some pornographic material, though it’s banned at the jail. The American Civil Liberties Union says prisons have a lot of leeway. Richards was charged with bank robbery after police followed a trail of snowy footprints and dropped money to his apartment from a bank robbery scene in January in Fraser, north of Detroit. Richards pleaded guilty. Sentencing is Aug. 2.

Thieves steal air conditioners from Arizona church

MESA, Ariz. — Parishioners at a suburban Phoenix church had to sweat through a service after thieves stole two of the church’s three air conditioners. Authorities say the units weighed 5 tons each. Pastor Tommy Foster tells The Arizona Republic that the theft from Mesa’s Harmony Community Baptist Church happened sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning. The church’s third unit did little to cool the building Sunday, which saw temperatures around 100 degrees at mid-day. Parishioners had to try and stay cool at Sunday services by fanning themselves with Bibles and morning programs. Mesa police say air conditioner thieves typically will tear up the units and sell off copper parts and compressors, sometimes selling the parts over the Internet.

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