The Odd Side – August 19, 2014

Woman cited for climbing into zoo’s giraffe pen 

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Police say a California woman was cited after climbing into the giraffe exhibit at a Madison zoo and getting kicked in the face.

A police report says 24-year-old Amanda Hall, of San Luis Obispo, California, climbed over one fence and almost got over the second fence of the giraffe enclosure at the Henry Vilas Zoo about 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

A 2-year-old, 12-foot-tall giraffe named Wally gave Hall a lick, then turned and kicked her in the face.

Zoo staff told police that giraffes are capable of killing lions, so the woman was fortunate that her injuries were not life-threatening.

Police ticketed Hall for harassment of zoo animals, which has a fine of $686.

The police report says Hall told officers she climbed into the exhibit because she loves giraffes.

Sweet job: England seeks ‘choc doc’ to study candy 

LONDON (AP) – Is there a doctor of chocolate in the house?

Cambridge University in England is seeking a doctoral student to pursue what sounds like the sweetest job in the world: studying the fundamentals of chocolate.

The research goal, according to the job description, is to identify ways of keeping chocolate-based food from melting in warm climates. That’s a challenge given that even the best-quality chocolate starts going soft around 34 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit), below human body temperature.

A solution could fatten the profits of the world’s top 10 chocolate companies, which last year posted confectionary sales exceeding $85 billion.

Only European Union citizens can apply for the post under the direction of experts in chemical engineering, geotechnical engineering and soft matter physics.

Man unharmed after crashing car into pool 

ALTADENA, Calif. (AP) – A man was unharmed Saturday after he crashed his car into a backyard pool, authorities said.

Officers responded around 11:45 a.m. to a report in Altadena of a car crashing into a pool in the 2700 block of Scripps Place, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told KNBC.

The man was pulling into his garage when the crash occurred, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Jeff Sims told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

The car went through a rear garage door and into a backyard swimming pool, ending up fully submerged, Sims said.

Officials say the driver of the white sedan was able to get out of the car unharmed. No one else was in the car or pool at the time.

The driver told authorities that his flip-flops were entangled with the pedals and caused him to lose control of his car.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the incident.

Los Angeles looks into making ballot bankable 

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Los Angeles is considering turning voting ballots into lottery tickets.

With fewer than a fourth of voters showing up for recent local elections, the city’s Ethics Commission voted to recommend that the City Council consider a cash-prize drawing as an incentive to vote.

Commission President Nathan Hochman said a pilot program should be used first to find out the number and size of prizes that would bump up turnout.

“Maybe it’s $25,000 maybe it’s $50,000,” Hochman said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “That’s where the pilot program comes in.”

The Thursday vote was unanimous. The issue now moves to the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee headed by City Council President Herb Wesson, who said he’s intrigued by the idea but wants to hear what neighborhood councils and “legal beagles” think.

“I can’t wait to have this conversation,” he said, but added that he didn’t want to be the “poster child” for the proposal.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether there was any precedent in other cities or states for such a move, which brings with it questions of propriety and legality.

Federal law prohibits payment for voting, but Ethics Commissioner Jessica Levinson, who is also an attorney and law school professor, says that statute wouldn’t apply to elections without federal races on the ballot.

California law prohibits money or gifts for votes for a particular candidate or measure, or payment to stay away from the polls altogether.

Hochman said the proposed prizes would be for simply entering the voting booth.

“If they truly think there are no good candidates,” he said, “we’re not going to force them.”

The idea may require a ballot measure for approval, depending on the source of the funding.

Other ideas for turning up turnout — including changing municipal elections to even-numbered years to sync with federal elections — could prove longer and more laborious, making faster, blunter approaches more desirable.

“We have turnout in citywide elections in the high teens and low 20s and I think that’s pretty dismal,” Levinson said.

Massachusetts to use more humor on highway signs 

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation on Thursday announced the winners of a contest to come up with humorous yet important driver safety messages for electronic highway message boards.

The contest was inspired by a message posted on highways in May that encouraged drivers to “Use Yah Blinkah” — or turn signal — when changing lanes.

The winners were “Make yah Ma proud, wear yah seatbelt,” to encourage belt use, submitted by The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program team of Safe Roads Alliance; “Keep Calm and Drive On,” to prevent road rage, submitted by Patrick Casey of Boston.

The winners get gift cards from gas stations and restaurants.

More than 500 entries were received.

“We received some very creative, thoughtful and funny message suggestions,” Transportation Secretary Richard Davey said.

The winning messages will be displayed on hundreds of message boards during busy travel periods in the coming months.

“With the ‘Use Yah Blinkah’ sign, we got people’s attention,” said Highway Administrator Frank DePaola. “By changing the routine messages, we hope to bring a new light to important public safety messages that sometimes may be overlooked.”

Truck spills cranberry sludge on Boston-area road 

WOBURN, Mass. (AP) — A truck has spilled its load of what was described as “cranberry sludge” on a Boston-area highway, painting the roadway red and slowing traffic during the morning commute.

The state Transportation Department tweeted that the truck shed its load on Interstate 95 north in Woburn at about dawn on Thursday, forcing the closure of the one lane and an off-ramp.

According to broadcast traffic reports, cleanup crews used shovels and hoses to clean up the slippery mess, and then sanded the area, but the highway retained a distinct reddish hue.

There was no immediate word on what caused the spill or exactly how much of the sludge spilled on the highway.

Bondsman: Alleged cookie thief can’t make $5 bond 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – An Albuquerque man charged with stealing cookies can’t get out jail. That because a bail bond agent says the $5 bond is too high for him.

KOAT reports that Lucky Crowder is sitting in an Albuquerque jail at around $80 a day since no one will pay his $5 bond fee.

Bail bond agent Gerald Madrid says Crowder called for his help but the jail doesn’t allow a bondsman to post cash bail.

Court records show Crowder was arrested last month on shoplifting items worth less than $250.

He was later charged with biting a health care worker but that case was later dismissed by the district attorney leaving the $5 bond his ticket out of jail.

No attorney is listed for Crowder.