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Weird National Briefs (06/23/2021)

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Breaking bear

THORNTON, N.H. (AP) — Surveillance video helped police get to the bottom of a series of vehicle break-ins in town of Thornton.

Home security footage captured the bandit — a black bear — opening the door of a vehicle and then crawling inside.

Police believe the bear was rummaging for food and that the bear is responsible for damaging other vehicles. Police warned residents to remove food from their vehicles to avoid enticing the bear.

The good news is the criminal is unarmed, and probably not dangerous. Officials say that making loud noises is usually enough to send a black bear scampering away.

TME –Among the bears of interest are notorious food thieves Yogi and Boo Boo.

Pilgrim’s (lack of) progress

PLYMOUTH, England (AP) — The Mayflower had a few false starts before its trailblazing sea voyage to America more than 400 years ago. Now, its artificial intelligence-powered namesake is having some glitches of its own.

A sleek robotic trimaran retracing the 1620 journey of the famous English vessel had to turn back Friday to fix a mechanical problem.

Nonprofit marine research organization ProMare, which worked with IBM to build the autonomous ship, said it made the decision to return to base “to investigate and fix a minor mechanical issue” but hopes to be back on the trans-Atlantic journey as soon as possible.

With no humans on board the ship, there’s no one to make repairs while it’s at sea.

Piloted by artificial intelligence technology, the 50-foot (15-meter) Mayflower Autonomous Ship began its trip early Tuesday, departing from Plymouth, England, and spending some time off the Isles of Scilly before it headed for deeper waters.

It was supposed to take up to three weeks to reach Provincetown on Cape Cod before making its way to Plymouth, Massachusetts. If successful, it would be the largest autonomous vessel to cross the Atlantic.

There is some historical precedent for the malfunction: The original Mayflower that carried Pilgrim settlers to New England was supposed to set sail in the summer of 1620 but twice turned back to England because of a leaking problem affecting its sister ship, the Speedwell.

TME – April flowers bring May flowers, but June tech glitches apparently don’t.

Marine monikers

A Connecticut aquarium plans to auction off the chance to name three of its five recently arrived beluga whales to raise money for their care and to offset the cost of transporting them from Canada.

President and CEO Stephen Coan said the Sea Research Foundation has teamed with the New York-based auction house Guernsey’s to hold a fundraising auction on Aug. 19 at the Mystic Aquarium, which it operates.

“The three whales will get what we refer to as stage names, and they would be referred to by those names going forward,” he said. “We’ve named other animals in the past and people get very excited about the opportunity. It really makes the animals part of the community and the community feels they are part of the experience of welcoming the new animals.”

The aquarium hopes to raise $4 million at the auction, which will also include donated art, perhaps a boat or vintage car and some unique experiences — such as educational dive trips with scientists to places such as the undersea Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean, Coan said.

It will cost the aquarium about $5 million a year to care for the belugas, he said. That includes about $250,000 a year to pay for food and veterinary care for each animal, as well as costs associated with running the habitat and research.

The foundation also spent millions of dollars last month transporting the whales from their previous home at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, using custom-made stretchers and special tanks inside a C-130 cargo plane, Coan said.

Mystic Aquarium, which specializes in beluga research, spent months securing the needed approvals from both nations and overcoming challenges from some animal rights groups, which had opposed the move.

The auction announcement comes the same day the whales were fully integrated into the main part of the aquarium’s 750,000-gallon beluga habitat with its three existing whales — Kela, Juno and Natasha.

TME – Get ready for “Whaley McWhaleface.”

Water tower whoopsie

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A small town in Florida accidentally sold its water tower in a blundered real estate transaction.

A businessman purchased a municipal building underneath the city of Brooksville’s water tower last April for $55,000 with the goal of converting it into a gym. However, when Bobby Read went to the county to get an address for his new business location, he was told the parcel he bought included the entire water tower site, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Luckily for the town, Read was willing to give it back. County records show he transferred the water tower back to Brooksville through a warranty deed last month. The town of 8,500 residents is located 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Tampa.

“I don’t know where the blame falls here,” said Blake Bell, a city council member. “We’re council members and we rely on the city manager. We assume that he has done his due diligence.”

City Manager Mark Kutney blamed the use of a bad legal description for what happened. The city’s redevelopment agency director resigned after the accidental sale.

“We’re human,” Kutney said. “Sometimes we make a mistake.”

TME – Too bad – it could have become the secret lair of Florida Man.

Dumpster dive dividend

BERLIN (AP) — German police appealed Friday for information about the possible owners of two 17th-century paintings discovered in a highway rest stop dumpster.

Police said a 64-year-old man found the oil paintings at the rest stop near Ohrenbach in central Germany last month.

He later handed them in to police in the western city of Cologne.

An initial assessment by an art expert concluded the two framed paintings were originals, police said.

One is a self-portrait by Pietro Belloti showing the Italian artist smiling and dating to 1665.

The other is a portrait of a boy by the 17th-century Dutch artist Samuel van Hoogstraten, date unknown.

TME – You know what they say – one man’s trash is another man’s original van Hoogstraten.

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 June 2021 05:39

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