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Weekly weird news: Jan. 11

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 12:01 am

Mayor gets piece of NYC's mind on pizza etiquette

NEW YORK — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio got a bit of a scandal on his hands, once he put his fork down: how to eat a slice of pizza.

He used a knife and fork to nosh his slice at a Staten Island pizza joint Friday. That's a no-no for most New Yorkers, who are very opinionated when it comes to proper pizza-eating technique.

Many advocate using their hands to hold the slice, folding it like a taco and then taking a bite.

An Associated Press photo of de Blasio using utensils spread across Twitter and prompted mock outrage on blogs and elsewhere.

De Blasio later explained that he eats pizza the way they do in Italy. He starts with a knife and fork then uses his hands.

He also noted his slice had a lot of toppings.

Police: Pa. man stole sanitizer to make cocktails

ALTOONA, Pa. — Authorities say a man stole 12 bottles of hand sanitizer from a central Pennsylvania hospital so he could mix it with orange juice and drink it for the alcohol it contained.

The Altoona Mirror reports 51-year-old Lee Ammerman has been mailed a summons requiring him to surrender Feb. 5 on charges of theft and receiving stolen property.

Police say an employee at UPMC Altoona hospital saw Ammerman steal a bottle of sanitizer in October by hiding it in an arm sling he was wearing. They say Ammerman returned to steal more sanitizer twice in December.

Police say they confronted Ammerman, who acknowledged stealing the sanitizer, saying, "I mix the liquid with orange juice."

The hospital is seeking about $80 in restitution.

Ammerman doesn't have a listed phone or an attorney named in court records.

Car stolen in Washington state found in Key West

KENNEWICK, Wash. — A car stolen from a Kennewick car dealership was recently found more than 2,500 miles away in Key West, Fla.

Sgt. Ken Lattin tells the Tri-City Herald stolen cars are usually stripped or taken for short joy rides. It's unusual to find one clear across the country.

People at the car dealership in south-central Washington say the 2000 Nissan Sentra was parked on a back lot in November because of engine problems and they were surprised it made it all the way to Florida.

Report: New Mexico dog positive for cocaine, pot

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico woman whose dog tested positive for cocaine and marijuana is fighting to get the canine back after surrendering the Labrador retriever because of a $2,000 vet bill.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that 1-year-old Maddie showed "strong positive cocaine" and active marijuana traces in urine tests conducted this week by an Albuquerque clinic.

A clinic report says veterinarians saw the dog twitching, shaking and walking with poor balance after owner Arlene Saiz brought her in.

The report says because Saiz couldn't pay the vet bill, she signed the dog over to the city Animal Welfare Department.

Saiz says she regrets the decision.

City officials said police found no evidence to file charges against Saiz, who said she doesn't know how the animal consumed the drugs.

Texas firefighter uses beer to put out tire blaze

HOUSTON — An off-duty Houston firefighter made the best of his resources when trying to put out a truck tire fire: He used beer the rig was hauling.

Fire Capt. Craig Moreau and his wife were driving home Monday night after a trip to Austin when they came upon an 18-wheeler on fire. Moreau and the trucker, whose brake problems started the fire, tried using a small extinguisher.

Moreau says he thought the fire was out, but then noticed the blaze had flared up after crawling under the truck to check.

The firefighter then asked the driver what he was hauling. When he learned it was beer, he had his solution.

Both men began shaking and spraying cans of beer on the blaze, and the fire went out.

No injuries were reported.

Pair accused of smuggling rare Brazilian snake

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal prosecutors this week indicted a brother and sister from Utah on charges of illegally importing a rare boa constrictor from Brazil.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah accuses Jeremy Stone, 39, and his sister, Keri Stone, 34, of bringing the snake into the country in a shipment that went through Miami.

Authorities say the Stones paid thousands of dollars to administrators at a Brazilian zoo to get the white leucistic boa, and falsely reported the snake had been caught in the wild in Guyana.

Jeremy Stone bred the boa constrictor with other snakes at his reptile business in Lindon, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City. He then sold the offspring for tens of thousands of dollars, prosecutors said.

Los Angeles attorney Larry Bakman, who represents Jeremey Stone, said his client denies the allegation. Bakman said he looks forward to contesting the charges in court, though he declined to provide specifics.

Leucism is a condition in snakes, birds and other animals in which pigmentation cells fail to develop properly. It can cause white patches on skin, hair or feathers, or make animals completely white.

Man crashes into gas station, steals banana

NEWINGTON, Conn. — Call it the case of the banana-eating bandit.

Police in Connecticut say they're looking for a man who smashed his vehicle into a gas station in Newington, swiped a banana from a shelf and ate it before leaving early Wednesday morning. Nothing else was taken.

The store's surveillance video shows a Ford Freestyle with Connecticut license plates backing repeatedly into the store and breaking the glass doors, which set off the burglar alarm at about 2 a.m.

The man was gone before police arrived.

Police say the station wagon has damage to the driver's side taillight and rear bumper.

Police: In cold, escaped inmate turns himself in

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Just how cold was it in Kentucky? Apparently cold enough for an escaped prisoner to decide to turn himself in.

Authorities said the inmate escaped from a minimum security facility in Lexington on Sunday. As temperatures dropped into the low single digits Monday, officials say the man walked into a motel and asked the clerk to call police.

Robert Vick, 42, of Hartford told the clerk he wanted to turn himself in and escape the arctic air, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said.

Vick was checked out by paramedics and returned to Blackburn Correctional Complex, Roberts said.

"This was definitely of his own volition," she said. "It's cold out there, too cold to run around. I can understand why the suspect would turn himself in."

Vick would have been dressed in prison-issued khaki pants, a shirt and a jacket when he escaped, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said. Wind chill readings were 20 below zero Monday in Lexington.

The Lexington Fire Department treated Vick for hypothermia Monday evening, Roberts said. A call to the department was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.

Vick was serving a six-year sentence for burglary and criminal possession of a forged instrument at the time of the escape from Blackburn Correctional Center.

There was no answer at the Sunset Motel and Restaurant, where Roberts said Vick surrendered, on Tuesday morning.

Diapers in dump truck trigger radioactive alarms

VIENNA — Austrian hazmat specialists called in after Geiger counters showed alarmingly high readings for a dump truck arriving at an incinerator have found the problem — radioactive adult diapers.

After unloading the truck, firefighters from the hazardous materials unit of the city of Linz found nearly two dozen diapers from a hospital that had become contaminated with radioactive iodine. The substance is swallowed during some medical and diagnostic procedures.

While radiation levels were substantially above normal, unit leader Dieter Jonas says no one was in danger during Tuesday's incident.

Austrian officials, however, are tracing the truck's route. And the truck will stay in a metal container at the incinerator for eight days — the time it takes for the emissions to reach safe levels.

Naked Aussie freed from washer with olive oil

SYDNEY — A naked Australian man who became stuck in a washing machine as part of an ill-planned practical joke was freed from the appliance with the help of an unusual rescue device: olive oil.

The 20-year-old man, identified only as "Laurence," told Australia's Fairfax Radio that he was on his way to take a shower Jan. 4 when he decided to climb into the top-loader to have a bit of fun. The fun quickly evaporated, however, when he realized he couldn't budge.

He called out to his friend for help, who rang the police. They responded to the scene, along with firefighters, paramedics and a search and rescue squad.

"He was very well wedged in there and we were concerned for his health and well-being," Shepparton police Sgt. Michelle De Araugo told the Shepparton News. "It was just a game gone wrong. It would be fair to say the gentleman was very embarrassed."

Rescuers tried in vain to pull Laurence from the machine. But when it became clear he was seriously stuck, they grabbed a bottle of his favorite olive oil to help lubricate his escape. The oil worked, and he popped out.

"I was quite disappointed they used my good olive oil," Laurence told Fairfax Radio. "As soon as the washing machine went on its side, it was a bit like a birthing."