4th gator sighting in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH — A baby alligator was found far from the tropics in the parking lot of a grocery store outside Pittsburgh on Friday morning, the fourth alligator discovered near the city since May. An employee found the 2-foot-long creature near a garbage can at the Giant Eagle grocery store in Shaler, about 10 miles north of Pittsburgh. “It looks like a little baby alligator,” Shaler Township Police Lt. Dave Banko told the Tribune Review newspaper. “Someone dropped it off or lost it.” Paul McIntyre, of Big Daddy Wildlife Removal, came to take the animal from police and said it was healthy and docile. “It was somebody’s pet, I can guarantee you,” McIntyre told the newspaper. “He’s so friendly. Somebody had him as a pet, couldn’t take care of him and let him go.” Police speculate that the spate may at least partly stem from people who bought the animals as pets when they were little decided to release them when they started getting too big. It’s not illegal to own an alligator in Pennsylvania. “We strongly discourage anyone from having a pet alligator. Just because you buy one that’s 8 inches long doesn’t mean it will stay that size,” said Pittsburgh police spokesman Chris Togneri. “And it’s very irresponsible to just let it go.” On June 8, a 2¢-foot-long alligator was found on a home’s porch. Two days earlier, a man walking his dog spotted a 5-foot-long alligator in front of a garage. On May 18, a 3-foot-long gator was captured near a riverside park. Police determined the 5-foot-long alligator — which was named Chomp — had escaped from a home. Chomp’s owner is now facing 33 counts of neglect, along with single counts of animal cruelty and recklessly endangering another person. Police removed 32 animals from the owner’s home, including three more alligators; three snakes, including Burmese pythons, a lizard and some iguanas. Multiple dead animals were also discovered.
New home for elusive gator
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — An alligator that eluded capture for days in a Chicago lagoon is settling in its new home in Florida. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park said in a Facebook post Friday that it welcomed the reptile known as Chance the Snapper with a banner, pizza and Chicago’s greatest hits. The park that now houses Chance recommended the Florida trapper Chicago officials flew in to capture the gator. The 4-foot, 18-pound American alligator became an instant sensation from the day he was spotted in the Humboldt Park lagoon and photos popped up online. Investigators don’t know why the animal was in the lagoon, but experts say it wouldn’t have survived the winter. Park director John Brueggen says Chance will stay alone for 90 days to make sure he is illness-free, and then join other gators.
Iran seizes two British ships
LONDON — Britain’s foreign secretary said Iranian authorities seized two vessels Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, actions signaling intensifying tensions in the strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint between Tehran and the West. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said one of the seized ships was British-flagged and the other sailed under Liberia’s flag. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency tweeted shortly after Hunt’s statement that the second tanker had left Iran’s territorial waters. “These seizures are unacceptable,” Hunt said as he prepared to enter an emergency government meeting Friday night. “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.” The seizing of the British tanker marked perhaps the most significant escalation since tensions between Iran and the West began rising in May. At that time, the U.S. announced it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and additional troops to the Persian Gulf, citing unspecified threats posed by Iran. The ongoing showdown has caused jitters around the globe, amid fears that any misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war.
Epstein’s work release probed
MIAMI — A Florida sheriff launched an investigation Friday into whether his department properly monitored the wealthy financer Jeffrey Epstein while he was serving a sentence for soliciting prostitution from underage girls. The inquiry will focus on whether deputies assigned to monitor Epstein in a work-release program violated any rules or regulations, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said in a statement. Under a 2008 plea deal, Epstein was allowed to spend most of his days at the office of his now-defunct Florida Science Foundation, which doled out research grants, rather than in the county jail. “All aspects of the matter will be fully investigated to ensure total accountability and transparency,” Bradshaw said. Epstein, 66, was convicted on one count of procuring a person under age 18 for prostitution and one count of solicitation of prostitution. He served a 13-month sentence, registered as a sex offender and paid restitution to victims. While only convicted on two counts, prosecutors alleged that Epstein had been involved with dozens of underage teenage girls. His plea deal helped him avoid more serious federal charges. But news reports of the deal sparked a public outcry, and federal prosecutors in New York charged him with sex trafficking involving underage victims. The charges led to the resignation of President Donald Trump’s labor secretary, Alex Acosta, who was Miami U.S. attorney when the deal was signed. Epstein has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison. A judge on Thursday denied bail, saying the financier is a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Apollo 11 astronauts reunite
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reunited Friday on the eve of the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first moon landing. They gathered in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump, who got a rundown on his administration’s plans to get astronauts back on the moon by 2024 and then on to Mars in the 2030s. “We’re bringing the glamour back” to the space program, Trump said. Both sons of the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the moon on July 20, 1969, also attended, as well as first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. The moon versus Mars debate as astronauts’ next destination arose again Friday.
No lunch money, no kids
KINGSTON, Pa. — A Pennsylvania school district is warning that children could end up in foster care if their parents do not pay overdue school lunch bills. The letters sent recently to about 1,000 parents in Wyoming Valley West School District have led to complaints from parents and a stern rebuke from Luzerne County child welfare authorities. The district says that it is trying to collect more than $20,000, and that other methods to get parents to pay have not been successful. Four parents owe at least $450 apiece. The letter claims the unpaid bills could lead to dependency hearings and removal of their children for not providing them with food. “You can be sent to dependency court for neglecting your child’s right to food. The result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care,” the letter read. After complaints, district officials announced they plan to send out a less threatening letter next week. Luzerne County’s manager and child welfare agency director have written the superintendent, insisting the district stop making what they call false claims. Their letter calls the district’s actions troubling and a misrepresentation of how the Children and Youth Services Department and its foster care program operate.
Bounce house victim dies
RENO, Nev. — A 9-year-old Reno girl has died from injuries she suffered when strong winds blew an inflatable bounce house with three children inside into power lines last weekend. The family of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Hammond issued a statement Friday confirming her death from the incident last Sunday, and thanking first-responders and law enforcement for their help and support. Law officers and emergency personnel were among the hundreds of people who lined the hallways of Renown Regional Medical Center Friday when Hammond’s family donated her organs for transplants during an honor walk. The bounce house was uplifted about 10 feet and got caught on the lines in a south Reno neighborhood. Deputies and firefighters rescued the children. They treated two for minor injuries at the scene and transported Hammond to the hospital, where she had been since Sunday.
2 new films in ‘Halloween’ saga
LOS ANGELES — Universal says it will release two new “Halloween” films, including one with the ominous title “Halloween Ends.” The studio said Friday that the first of the films, “Halloween Kills,” will be released in 2020 and the second film will come in 2021. A teaser video includes the voice of Jamie Lee Curtis, who starred in the original 1978 film and last year’s blockbuster sequel, “Halloween.” The video states the saga of Curtis’ character, Laurie Strode, and villain Michael Myers “isn’t over.” Last year’s film set records and earned $253.5 million worldwide. Curtis is also serving as a producer on the films, which are being overseen by Blumhouse Productions.
Events fall as mercury rises
NEW YORK — New York City officials have canceled an outdoor festival featuring soccer star Megan Rapinoe, musician John Legend and “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah because of the heat forecast for the weekend. OZY Fest had been scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Central Park. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday it has been canceled. A de Blasio spokeswoman says a Times Square commemoration of the 1969 moon landing has been canceled, as well. Officials earlier announced the cancellation of the New York City Triathlon, which was scheduled for Sunday. De Blasio has directed owners of office buildings over 100 feet tall to set thermostats to 78 degrees through Sunday to conserve energy.
Idaho music event canceled
JEROME, Idaho — A music festival in southern Idaho has been canceled because organizers say they feared potential raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The music festival called the El Tour de Idaho de Los Inquietos was supposed to take place in Jerome on Saturday. Leo Morales of ACLU of Idaho said he couldn’t confirm that any ICE agents were in southern Idaho, but he said community members were panicked. “Immigration is doing their work on a daily basis, that is true,” Morales said. “That’s what they do. It is important for all community members, regardless of their immigration status, to know their rights in regards to law enforcement.” Jerome City Police Dan Hall said he didn’t have information about ICE agents in the area. “It is absolutely possible that ICE could do a raid and we wouldn’t know about it.”
Pocket-sized shark is a new species
NEW ORLEANS — A pocket-sized pocket shark found in the Gulf of Mexico has turned out to be a new species. And the mysterious pouches that it’s named for, up near its front fins? Scientists say they squirt little glowing clouds into the ocean. Researchers from around the Gulf and in New York have named the species the American pocket shark, or Mollisquama (mah-lihs-KWAH-muh) mississippiensis (MISS-ih-sip-ee-EHN-sis). It’s only the third out of more than 500 known shark species that may squirt luminous liquid, said R. Dean Grubbs, a Florida State University scientist who was not involved in the research. He said the other two are the previously known pocket shark and the taillight shark , which has a similar gland near its tail. “You have this tiny little bulbous luminescent shark cruising around in the world’s oceans and we know nothing about them,” said Grubbs, the immediate past president of the American Elasmobranch Society — scientists who study sharks, skates and rays. “It shows us how little we actually know.” Like the only other pocket shark known to science — a 16-inch adult female found in the Pacific Ocean off Peru — this 5.6-inch newborn male fished out of the Gulf has a pouch next to each front fin. But with this one, scientists figured out what they’re for. The muscular glands are lined with pigment-covered fluorescent projections, indicating they squirt luminous liquid, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ichthyologist Mark Grace and his collaborators wrote in “Zootaxa.” The shark also has clusters of light-emitting cells dotted on its belly. That makes it likely the one caught in 1979 and now in a Russian museum was also a light-squirter with a bioluminescent abdomen, though four decades pickled in formaldehyde probably have made it impossible to tell. The luminescence might conceal the shark from prey or from predators, he said.
Poet laureate pick dropped
CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is abandoning his pick for the state’s poet laureate amid growing criticism of the poet’s work and how he was chosen. Though he never formally nominated him, Sununu earlier this year chose Daniel Thomas Moran. Some say Moran is not qualified. The surfacing this week of a sexually suggestive poem Moran wrote about former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice only intensified criticism. Sununu’s spokesman said Friday the governor only recently became aware of the poem and finds it offensive, but he chose Moran based on the entirety of his work.
Rapper convicted of murder
FORT WORTH, Texas — A Texas jury has convicted a teenage rapper of murder in the 2016 shooting death of a man during a home invasion. The Tarrant County jury on Friday found 19-year-old Taymor McIntyre of Arlington guilty for his role in the death of 21-year-old Ethan Walker at Walker’s home in Mansfield, southeast of Fort Worth. The man who shot Walker was sentenced last year to life in prison. Prosecutors have said McIntyre was charged with murder because he recruited the triggerman and organized the robbery. He faces life in prison. McIntyre rapped under the name Tay-K and his 2017 single “The Race” appeared on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Ex-NSA contractor sentenced
BALTIMORE — A former National Security Agency contractor who stored two decades’ worth of classified documents at his Maryland home was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison. Harold Martin, 54, apologized to the federal judge who sentenced him for a theft that prosecutors have called “breathtaking” in scope. “My methods were wrong, illegal and highly questionable,” Martin told U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett. The punishment was in line with the nine-year sentence called for under his plea agreement, in which he admitted guilt to a single count of willful retention of national defense information. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Martin gets credit for the nearly three years he has spent behind bars since his arrest. A prosecutor and defense attorney both noted there is no evidence that Martin intended to transmit any of the classified information to anyone, but the judge said the trove of records contained “very sensitive material.”
2 more right whales dead
The Canadian government says two more rare North Atlantic right whales have been found dead in the country’s waters, worsening a disastrous year for the marine mammals. Fisheries and Oceans Canada says the causes of the animals’ deaths aren’t yet known. One whale was spotted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The other whale was first seen off Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and was identified Friday. Right whales number only about 400, and eight of them have been found dead off Canada this year.
1 killed when flight aborted
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Authorities say one person was killed and four others were injured Friday morning when a floatplane’s takeoff was aborted with seven people on board. The incident occurred at the mouth of Tutka Bay south of Homer. The Coast Guard says there were three adults and four children aboard the plane. Homer Fire Chief Mark Kirko says one person is in critical condition and was flown out of town for treatment. The FAA says the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver crashed under unknown circumstances on takeoff. Coast Guard Petty Officer Amanda Norcross, however, says the lodge manager reported the aircraft never left the water. Anearby vessel transported all on board to Homer.