Mad Minute stories from Thursday, January 13th | Strange

WESTBROOK, Maine (AP) — A swirling disk of ice on a Maine river is drawing onlookers in the heart of winter once again.

The disk has formed in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook. A handful of dog-walkers and onlookers stopped to gaze at the curious ice formation on a chilly Thursday morning around dawn.

The disk drew fans from around the globe when it first appeared in the river in 2019. It also partially formed in 2020.

Ice disks can form because of a current and vortex under ice. The ice sheets spin and form into circles. Officials with Westbrook have cautioned against attempting to go out on the ice disk.


Jan. 12 (UPI) — A California city in which thousands of crows have become a public nuisance is turning to a potential high-tech solution: lasers.

Residents of Sunnyvale said the crows frequently are seen flocking over the downtown area, covering sidewalks and outdoor seating areas with their droppings.

Locals also complained that the crows create a large amount of noise at night with their calls.

“We have Caltrain right there, and it actually competes with Caltrain in terms of noise pollution in the downtown area,” Vice Mayor Alysa Cisneros told KNTV.

Mayor Larry Klein said the city has tried numerous methods of driving the birds away, but none showed any long-term success.

“We’ve tried multiple things. In the past, we’ve had falcons, we’ve put reflectors in our trees, and nothing seems to help,” Klein told KGO-TV.

The city is preparing to start a pilot program to test green lasers to drive the crows away.

“It’s far better than spending hundreds of dollars to spray wash the sidewalks every few weeks or spray wash Murphy Avenue because of that health risk,” Klein said.

Officials with the Audubon Society said they are worried about the plan.

“I have real concerns about the use of lasers,” said Matthew Dodder, executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. “Lasers can blind the birds, which is a death sentence for the birds because they can’t see, they can’t fly or feed properly.”


FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — Gruyere cheese does not have to come from the Gruyere region of Europe to be sold under the gruyere name, a federal judge has ruled.

A consortium of Swiss and French cheesemakers from the region around the town of Gruyeres, Switzerland, sued in U.S. District Court in Virginia after the federal Trademark Trials and Appeals Board denied an application for trademark protections.

The consortium said gruyere — often a mild, smooth-melting cheese that’s a favorite for fondues — has been made to exacting standards in the region since the early 12th century and cheese made outside the region can’t truly be called gruyere, similar to the argument that champagne can be only be applied to sparking wines from the Champagne region of France.

But the U.S. Dairy Export Council and other groups opposed the trademark protection. They said American consumers understand the gruyere name to be generic, applying to cheeses of a certain style regardless of their place of origin.

In a decision made public last week, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis ruled against the Swiss consortium, finding that American consumers do not associate the gruyere name with cheese made specifically from that region. While similar trademark protections have been granted to Roquefort cheese and Cognac brandy, Ellis said the same case can’t be made for gruyere.

“It is clear from the record that the term GRUYERE may have in the past referred exclusively to cheese from Switzerland and France,” Ellis wrote. “However, decades of importation, production, and sale of cheese labeled GRUYERE produced outside the Gruyère region of Switzerland and France have eroded the meaning of that term and rendered it generic.”

Among other things, he cited the fact that the Food and Drug Administration regulates use of the gruyere name and that none of the requirements specify its place of origin.

The gruyere consortium is appealing Ellis’ ruling.

Shawna Morris, a senior vice president for trade policy with the U.S. Dairy Export Council, said the legal battle over gruyere is part of an increased effort in Europe to seek international trade protection for a variety of products, including gorgonzola, asiago and feta cheeses and bologna lunch meats.

“We’re thrilled that the judge made a great call here, in our view,” she said.

The European consortium did not return an email seeking comment. In court papers, its lawyers argued that Swiss and French gruyere is “painstakingly made from local, natural ingredients using traditional methods that assure the connection between the geographic region and the quality and characteristics of the final product.” They said allowing others to use the gruyere name would confuse American consumers.


Jan. 13 (UPI) — Passengers on a London Underground train were shocked to come face-to-face with an unusual straphanger — a tarantula.

The RSPCA said commuters spotted the tarantula in a plastic tub on a train that arrived at the London bridge station.

The tarantula was handed off to station staff members, who contacted the RSPCA.

Animal Rescue Officer Mat Hawkins visited the station to bring the spider, identified as a pink-toed tarantula, to specialists at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital.

“Passengers got more than they bargained for when they spotted this little guy on the train! He was shut inside a plastic tub so we believe he had been abandoned in the carriage,” Hawkins said in an RSPCA news release.

“Thankfully, passengers alerted staff, who kept him safe in their office until I could arrive to collect him.”

Pink-toed tarantulas are native to Central and South America and islands in the Southern Caribbean. They commonly are kept as pets.

The South Essex Wildlife Hospital said the apparently abandoned tarantula will be given a new home.


Jan. 12 (UPI) — A Canadian man collected a $71,000 prize from a scratch-off lottery ticket just five months after winning an $80,000 jackpot from a ticket bought from the same store.

James Courtemanche, 43, of Sudbury, Ontario, told Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. officials he bought an Instant Wild 8 ticket from Minnow Lake Kwik Way in Sudbury and took it home to scratch it off.

Courtemanche said he wasn’t sure if the ticket was a winner until he scanned it with the OLG app, revealing a prize of $71,102.40.

The winner previously visited lottery headquarters five months earlier to collect an $80,000 jackpot from an Instant Money Match ticket he bought from the same store.

“I couldn’t believe it happened again! I was so surprised — and then I remembered good things happen in 3’s, so I’m ready for my next one,” Courtemanche told OLG officials.

The winner said he does not have any immediate plans for his prize money.

“With the current pandemic, it’s not a good time to make plans. I’m still waiting to book a trip from my first winnings,” he said.


Jan. 13 (UPI) — A Colorado sheriff’s deputy called to help wrangle a loose horse climbed onto the panicking equine’s back and rode the animal back to its home.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office said Deputy Ian Sebold was among those who responded to a call about a loose horse wandering through busy roads in Centennial.

The sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post that the horse “tried to make a clean getaway but Deputy Sebold was much too quick.”

“The cowboy cop responded to the call, wrangled the horse, jumped on its back and rode it to safety,” the post said.

Sebold said the horse was panicking when he arrived on the scene.

“I saw the horse crossing the road, and it’s a four-lane major roadway. I could tell he was terrified,” Sebold told McClatchy News. “A citizen was walking nearby, trying to stop traffic to allow him to get across.

“You could see in his face, he didn’t know what to do on a major roadway. He just wanted to go home, but didn’t know how to get there.”

Sebold and other deputies were able to corner the horse in an apartment complex parking lot.

“With no trailer to take him home, the simplest idea was to ride him back,” Sebold said. “There was no saddle, no halter, but I got a boost — old school way — and hopped on.

“To me, the biggest question was how to get this horse safely out of a major residential area. We were not walking those 2.6 miles.”

Other deputies provided an escort with their vehicles to allow Sebold to safely ride the horse back to its home.

Sebold’s actions earned praise from the sheriff’s Mounted Unit on Facebook.

“That’s some incredible horsemanship, to say the least,” the unit wrote.


(WSB-TV) Officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that the agency will no longer define what can be marketed as French dressing.

In a statement, the FDA said it was revoking its standard of identity of French dressing, a regulation that required the sauce to contain at least 35% vegetable oil, and vinegar, lemon juice or both. In 1977 — the last time the FDA revised its definition of French dressing — officials said the sauce could also contain salt, tomato paste, tomato puree, ketchup or sherry wine, although none of those ingredients were required.

Standards of identity set requirements for what food products contain and how they’re produced. The FDA first established a standard of identity for French dressing in 1950. At the time, it was one of three types of dressings identified, along with mayonnaise and “salad dressing.”

In a notice published Thursday in the Federal Register, officials with the FDA said the definition “no longer promotes honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers.”

“Revocation of the standard of identity for French dressing will provide greater flexibility in the product’s manufacture, consistent with comparable, nonstandardized foods available in the marketplace,” officials said.

The decision came decades after the Association for Dressings and Sauces, a group representing salad dressing, mayonnaise and condiment manufacturers, filed a petition seeking to revoke the standard identity of French dressing. In the 1998 petition, ADS argued that the regulation restricted innovation as consumer expectations changed. Other dressings, such as Italian and ranch, are not subject to such standardization.

Diana R. H. Winters, deputy director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, told The Wall Street Journal that the long delay between the filing of the petition and the FDA’s response shows that, at the FDA, “the wheels are turning, but extraordinarily slowly and in a way that is somewhat inexplicable.” She added that the change in definition is unlikely to affect what products appear on market shelves.

“It seems like the industry’s already been pushing at the edges of this standard of identity,” she said, according to the Journal. “You’re not going to see an actual big difference.”

Under the FDA’s previous standard, some manufacturers resorted to labeling their dressings as “imitation” French dressings to get around the regulation, The Washington Post reported, pointing to the Illinois-based Mullen’s brand. On its website, the company noted that its “Imitation French Dressing” was so named because it “contains about half the fat of a regular French dressing.”

“In order to meet state and federal law requirements, we chose to change the name rather than add more oil to the original recipe,” the company said.


Jan. 13 (UPI) — A New Zealand man who initially thought he had water trapped in his ear said the true cause of the blockage turned out to be something far more shocking — a live cockroach.

Zane Wedding, 40, of Auckland, said he went swimming at a local pool Friday and later felt the sensation of blockage in his ear.

“I used some drops to clear it up and fell asleep on the couch later that night,” Wedding told CNN.

He said his ear still felt blocked the next day, so he went to see a doctor, who advised him to try using a hairdryer to dry up the water inside his ear canal.

Wedding said the feeling persisted, so he went to see an ear, nose and throat specialist on Monday.

He said the doctor expressed shock immediately upon looking inside his ear.

“She said: ‘I think you have an insect in your ear,'” Wedding told the New Zealand Herald.

Wedding said it took the doctor about five minutes to extract the cockroach.

“Every time she touched it I just imagined her squishing a cockroach into my eardrum, so I wasn’t the perfect patient,” he said.


Hong Kong (CNN)It was supposed to be a quick get-to-know-you — but a snap Covid lockdown forced a Chinese woman to stay with her blind date at his house for days on end.

The 30-year-old woman, identified only by her surname Wang, went to meet her blind date for a home-cooked dinner on January 6 in her hometown of Zhengzhou, a city in central China grappling with a coronavirus outbreak.

“I’m getting old now, my family introduced me to 10 matches,” she said in a video on social media. “The fifth date wanted to show off his cooking skills and invited me over to his house for dinner.”

Just when Wang was about to go home after the meal, she found out the whole neighborhood had gone into a swift lockdown, she said.

China regularly seals off communities after Covid infections are detected among residents. These sudden lockdowns — along with mass testing and extensive quarantine — are part of the country’s stringent zero-Covid strategy to quickly stamp out local outbreaks.

Unable to leave, Wang was stuck at her date’s house for days. She posted videos of her unexpected co-living experience on social media, showing her date cooking meals for her, sweeping the floor and working on his laptop. The videos quickly went viral, with Wang’s encounter becoming a top trending topic on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

Wang, 30, posted updates to social media from her blind date's house during a Covid-19 lockdown in Zhengzhou, China.

Wang, 30, posted updates to social media from her blind date’s house during a Covid-19 lockdown in Zhengzhou, China.

Wang had returned to Zhengzhou from the southern city of Guangzhou recently ahead of the Lunar New Year, and spent a week meeting potential suitors her family had set up for her, she told state-run news outlet The Paper on Tuesday.

“During quarantine, I feel that apart from him being reticent like a wooden mannequin, everything else about him is pretty good. He cooks, cleans the house and works. Although his cooking isn’t very good, he’s still willing to spend time in the kitchen, I think that’s great,” she told The Paper.

In Wang’s videos, her date is seen serving stir-fry meals such as tomato and scrambled eggs — a popular dish in China.

Wang said in a post Monday that she had hidden her original video from her account after it went viral. “Right now I’m still at the man’s house. He’s an inarticulate, honest person and he doesn’t talk much. After my video became trending (on Weibo), some friends started calling him — I think it has affected his life. That’s why I removed it,” she said.

“Thanks everyone for your attention … I hope the pandemic will end soon and that single girls can find a relationship soon.”

As of Thursday, it is unclear whether Wang is still living at her date’s house.

Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, has reported more than 100 Covid-19 cases in its ongoing outbreak. Authorities on Tuesday shut all non-essential businesses, such as beauty salons, banned dine-in at restaurants and suspended buses and taxis in higher risk areas.


The Portland Pickles baseball team is in a real pickle after the team mascot posted a photo on social media that may have left a sour taste in fans’ mouths.

On Wednesday, the minor league team decided to let “Dillon,” their dill pickle mascot, take over the team’s Twitter page.

However, it was the next post that really aroused interest, especially since it was cropped in a very, well, suggestive manner.

A few minutes after that post, it appeared that the Pickles’ had soured on the mascot takeover.

“It’s come to our attention that this photo can be misinterpreted as a disturbing image,” the next post read. “Dillon would like to go on record and say that he was trying to give his fans a thumbs up.”

A short time later, the team tried to turn the incident into a cautionary tale and warned followers to “ALWAYS double check before posting.”

However, many Twitter users suspected the posting of the pervy pickle pic was no accident since the team tagged Oscar Meyer, Corn Nuts and Manscaped in the tweet, among others.

People had thoughts.