Acting on an anonymous tip, authorities in DeKalb County, Alabama, raided the Rainsville Wastewater Treatment Plant on Dec. 17 and discovered a large illegal winemaking operation that appeared to have been in operation for a long time, reported WHNT. The next day, plant supervisor Allen Maurice Stiefel, 62, of Fyffe, was charged with unlawful possession of illegally manufactured alcohol and suspended without pay, according to Rainsville Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt. The operation was found in a little-used building at the plant, where, Lingerfelt said, "Things happen like that." The sale of alcohol had been illegal in Rainsville until the city council passed an ordinance approving it in September.
As Delta Flight 462, en route to Atlanta, began to taxi away from the gate at La Guardia Airport on Dec. 21, passenger Brian Plummer noticed a man and woman with a service dog changing seats several times on the less-than-full plane, he told The New York Times, and heard the man say, "If I sit down, I'll freak out." Plummer soon felt the plane come to a stop, and flight attendants revealed why: The man, Antonio Murdock, 31, of Florida, had forced open an emergency exit door, causing a slide to activate, and picking up the dog, slid down to the ground with the woman, Brianna Greco, 23, according to a complaint filed in Queens Criminal Court, where the two were arraigned on a number of mischief and endangerment charges. "This doesn't happen every day at the airport," said Lenis Valens, a spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. No one was injured in the incident, but the flight was delayed for hours.
Didn't get what you wanted for Christmas? The North Carolina Department of Transportation put nine vintage train cars up for auction on Dec. 15 that it purchased from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus after it ceased operation in 2017, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. NCDOT bought the cars for $383,000 to refurbish for use between Raleigh and Charlotte, but federal grants have enabled the department to buy new cars instead. "These cars have a great and amazing history," said Jason Orthner, director of the NCDOT rail division. Bidding continues until Jan. 4, but at press time, there were no bids on the cars.
Andrea Ellis of East Moline, Illinois, was wrapping presents on Dec. 19 when she opened a package of garden flags she intended to give her grandmother and noticed something extra in the bottom of the padded envelope. It turned out to be a biohazard bag containing a Virginia woman's COVID-19 test. Ellis told the Quad City Times that when she failed to reach the woman, she called police, who sent an officer to retrieve it, but 15 minutes later, he returned with the bag, saying, "I was told to bring it back to you." A representative of the Rock Island County Health Department picked up the sample the next day and will try to return it to the Virginia patient. Ellis has also heard from a vice president at Kohl's, where she bought the flags, who said the company is working hard to find out what happened and prevent it from happening again.
Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, is asking luxury goods company Louis Vuitton to stop selling a yoga mat made partially of leather, calling the product "hugely insensitive" because Hindus regard cows as sacred. In a Dec. 22 statement, Zed said the idea "of yoga ... being performed on a mat made from a killed cow is painful," The Associated Press reported. The mat retails for $2,390 online; Paris-based Louis Vuitton has not responded.
French artist Gaetan Marron presented a new performance piece in December titled "Non-Essential," in which he locked himself for 10 days inside a clear Plexiglas cube at a shopping mall in Marseille. Euronews reported the artist described his work as an attempt to "bring culture, which clearly saved us during this lockdown, back to the center of the subject." The cube, large enough for Marron to stand up in, also contained a few nonessential items, including a TV and coffee machine; Marron left the cube to use the restroom. "I have the feeling that ... we miss what is really the real human contact ... we have really lost social links in this period," Marron said.
Police in Perth, Western Australia, are asking for the public's help in locating a thin, well-dressed man with olive skin and short black hair who was captured on surveillance cameras using an electric bicycle to draw lewd pictures of a penis on a city sidewalk on Nov. 30. "The man has appeared to spin the wheels ... in order to draw explicit images with the rubber from the tires," Crimestoppers WA announced. A police Facebook post about the incident drew scorn, news.com.au reported: "Whatever his punishment," one user wrote, "I'm sure he will have to write it out on the board 100 times at recess."
The 69 passengers who boarded Buddha Air Flight U4505 in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Dec. 18, expecting to fly to Janakpur, about 140 miles southeast, were surprised when they arrived instead in Pokhara, about 125 miles in the opposite direction. Weather and flight delays may have been factors, an airline spokesperson told The Kathmandu Post, resulting in "a miscommunication between the ground staff and the pilots." The passengers were promptly flown to their preferred destination a few hours behind schedule, and Buddha Air managing director Birendra Bahadur Basnet announced that a committee has been formed to investigate the incident.
The Passing Parade
Police were called to a home in Tijuana, Mexico, to break up the fight that broke out after a man identified only as Jorge discovered a tunnel leading from his home to that of a neighbor, Alberto, who had been having an affair with Jorge's wife. Trouble began, reported the Daily Mail, when Jorge arrived home early from work and surprised his wife and Alberto, a bricklayer who was also married. Alberto hid behind a couch before disappearing down the tunnel, which appeared in photos to be professionally constructed. Jorge followed Alberto down the tunnel, eventually confronting him in Alberto's house.
News That Sounds Like a Joke
Micheline Frederick of Queens, New York, is still recovering from the wounds she suffered in what she described as a brawl with a squirrel on the front stoop of her home just before Christmas. "This was an MMA cage match!" she told WLNY. "And I lost!" Several neighborhood residents have reported run-ins with aggressive squirrels, including Vinati Singh, whose husband has been attacked twice, and Licia Wang, who was bitten on the arm while walking home. A trapper has been hired to capture the rodents, and while squirrels are rarely found to have rabies, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health is advising victims to contact their doctor if they've been bitten.
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