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Oddities News from across the world.

Large African cat escapes owner, prowls Detroit suburb

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) — A large cat native to Africa is on the loose in a suburb north of Detroit after escaping from its owner. The caracal was reported missing around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in Royal Oak, authorities said. The cat's weight is estimated at 50 pounds (22.6 kilograms). It was among four big cats held in cages that allowed them to go in and out of the owner’s garage. Two escaped through a gate that was left open. The owner used raw meat to lure one back to the enclosure, the Detroit Free Press reported. The missing cat last was seen near an elementary school, according to the newspaper. Royal Oak police Lt. Albert Carter told The Detroit News that the cats are classified in an animal category that isn’t regulated by the state. The cats have got away from their owner’s home on at least two other occasions, Carter said. They prey on rodents, other small mammals and birds. They also are native to the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. “The owner says they present no harm to humans,” Carter said. “They are very passive, nocturnal animals.”

Capone's belongings go for at least $3 million at auction

CHICAGO (AP) — Al Capone may have died nearly 75 years ago but it's clear interest in the infamous Chicago gangster is very much alive after some of his prized possessions were auctioned off over the weekend for at least $3 million. The Chicago Tribune reports that Capone's family sold several of his belongings, including what was billed as his favorite gun, at auction in California, where his three surviving granddaughters live. The event, called "A Century of Notoriety: The Estate of Al Capone,” was held at a private club in Sacramento and attracted nearly 1,000 registered bidders, including 150 who attended the nearly four-hour-long event in person. Among the items up for auction was a bear-shaped humidor as well as diamond jewelry and some family photographs. The most popular item proved to be Capone's favorite Colt .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, which went for $860,000. Most of the buyers' identities were kept private. But one whose name has been made public is Kevin Nagle, a Sacramento investor and business owner. Among the items that once belonged to “Scarface” Capone that he picked up was a decorative humidor for $120,000 and an 18-karat yellow gold and platinum belt buckle for $22,500. Capone's story is a familiar one, thanks in large part to a host of movies, television shows and books about the mobster. Called Public Enemy No. 1 after the 1929 "Valentine's Day Massacre" in which seven members of a rival bootlegger gang were gunned down in a parking garage, Capone was convicted of income tax evasion in 1934. He spent 11 years locked up in Alcatraz, a federal prison in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, and died of a heart attack in 1947 in the Florida home where he and his associates were believed to have plotted the massacre years earlier.

Top dog: Greek leader's pet interrupts news conference

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Peanut has met several visiting European leaders since becoming Greece’s top dog back in April. On Thursday, the golden-haired former stray decided to give himself a louder introduction -- briefly interrupting a news conference being held by the prime ministers of Greece and Slovakia. Greek Premier Kyriakos Mistotakis expressed support for the country’s Balkan neighbors efforts to join the European Union, and froze momentarily as Peanut could be heard barking loudly a few meters away at the prime minister’s official residence. “That is the dog we recently adopted who is often quite lively,” Mitsotakis said, turning to Slovakia’s Eduard Heger, who laughed as he listened through an interpreter. “This is the first time he has intervened during a press conference. Usually, he just greets guests at the door and is more polite,” Mitsotakis said. He adopted Peanut after visiting animal welfare volunteers on World Stray Animals Day in April. The dog, who typically wears a blue bandana over his collar, has been spotted roaming the rooms of the official residence, known as Maximos Mansion. Mitsotakis’ government has led efforts to crack down on animal cruelty. Parliament last year voted to make serious animal abuse punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Last week, lawmakers approved plans to create a national pet registry with DNA samples of cats and dogs that have not been sterilized. Last year, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, a former senior judge, adopted Calypso, a stray cat rescued on the island of Karpathos. The two have been photographed together for social media posts.

Basta! Romans say enough to invasion of wild boars in city

ROME (AP) — Rome has been invaded by Gauls, Visigoths and vandals over the centuries, but the Eternal City is now grappling with a rampaging force of an entirely different sort: rubbish-seeking wild boars. Entire families of wild boars have become a daily sight in Rome, as groups of 10-30 beasts young and old emerge from the vast parks surrounding the city to trot down traffic-clogged streets in search of food in Rome’s notoriously overflowing rubbish bins. Posting wild boar videos on social media has become something of a sport as exasperated Romans capture the scavengers marching past their stores, strollers or playgrounds. As Rome gears up for a local election next weekend, the wild boar invasion has been used as a political weapon to attack Mayor Virginia Raggi over the city’s formidable garbage collection problems. But experts say the issue is more complicated and tied at least in part to a booming boar population. Italy's main agriculture lobby, Coldiretti, estimates there are over 2 million wild boars in Italy. The region of Lazio surrounding Rome estimates there are 5,000-6,000 of them in city parks, a few hundred of which regularly abandon the trees and green for urban asphalt and trash bins. To combat their growing numbers, Lazio launched a program in 2019 to capture the beasts in park cages for slaughter, and last month approved a new decree to allow selective hunting of boars in some parks, which until now had been strictly forbidden. Maurizio Giubbiotti, in charge of Lazio’s parks, says the region needs to increase the boar cull from 700 over two years to at least 1,000 annually to get the situation under control. In Italy’s rural areas, hunting wild boar is a popular sport and most Italians can offer a long list of their favorite wild boar dishes, including pappardelle pasta with boar sauce and wild boar stew. But animal rights groups have been adamantly opposed to mass culling. Those beliefs are not shared by some urban residents. “I am afraid of walking on the sidewalk, because on one side there are the dumpsters for the rubbish and they (the boars) jump on me,” said Grazia, a 79-year-old grandmother waiting outside an elementary school to pick up her grandchildren. She did not give her last name. Just down the street, a family of wild boars was snorting through the trash. Her concerns are not misplaced: Wild boars can weigh up to 100 kilos (220 pounds), reach 80 centimeters (2.6 feet) in height and measure 150 centimeters (5 feet) long, a not-insignificant threat especially to the elderly and young children. “We have been invaded here,” lamented Pino Consolati, who runs a restaurant on a busy street corner in Rome's Monte Mario neighborhood. He said families of wild boars routinely wander through his outdoor eating area looking for food. One day this week, he said, his sister found 30 boars outside her shoe store when she left at 8 p.m. “It is not a pleasant situation,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.

White catfish catch shatters state, and maybe, world record

A white catfish caught in Connecticut last month has smashed a state record and could also be a world record for the species — though the evidence has been eaten. Ben Tomkunas, 25, caught the 21.3-pound (9.66-kilogram) fish late at night in Coventry on Aug. 21. It was longer than 3 feet (about a meter). Connecticut Fish and Wildlife confirmed in a Facebook post that the catch was a white catfish and that it easily broke the previous state record for the species of 12.7 pounds (5.76 kilograms). “We were just sitting back and drinking a couple of beers and next thing you know, my reel just starts screaming like I had a 30-pound striper on there,” Tomkunas, of Coventry, told the Hartford Courant. Tomkunas' friend, Chris Braga, had a digital scale and took a photo of the fish coming in at the record-breaking weight. The International Game Fish Association has recorded the world record for a white catfish catch to be 19.3 pounds (8.75 kilograms) for a fish caught in 2005 in California. White catfish are one of several species of catfish in Connecticut, and officials said they scrutinized this catch to confirm it was not a channel catfish, which are generally larger. Other species of catfish, like blue catfish or catfish found in Asia, can dwarf the white catfish. Tomkunas said he intends to submit a claim to the association to secure the new world record. But he also told the newspaper that he gave the fish to his grandfather the next morning. “It kind of got eaten,” he said.

Identical: Nicolai Højgaard duplicates twin brother's win

GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — Identical twins, identical results. Nicolai Højgaard sunk a birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the Italian Open on Sunday, a week after his identical twin brother, Rasmus, won the European Masters in Switzerland by also making a birdie with his final stroke. “To finish it off like this, and to do it a week after Rasmus won, it’s perfect,” Nicolai said. It marked the first time in European Tour history that brothers have won back-to-back tournaments. The 20-year-olds from Denmark are considered two of the continent’s brightest prospects. In a nod to the future, Nicolai’s success came on the redesigned Marco Simone course just outside Rome that will host the 2023 Ryder Cup. “In a couple years I could definitely see myself playing," Nicolai said after collecting the winner's check for 485,000 euros ($575,000). "That’s one of my biggest dreams — to win the Ryder Cup. Not just to participate but to win ... and I would love to come here to Rome in ’23.” And he doesn't need to look far for the perfect partner for foursomes and fourball. “Me and my brother would love to play together," Nicolai said. "We’ve been doing that back home when we’re playing events. So that’s definitely a goal of ours and I can’t wait to come back.” For his first European Tour victory, Nicolai shot a final-round 71 to finish one stroke ahead of 2018 Ryder Cup standout Tommy Fleetwood and Adrian Meronk of Poland. Rasmus, who finished in a tie for 18th this week, walked the course again shortly after his final round to watch his brother complete the victory, then rushed out onto the 18th green for a celebratory hug with Nicolai. And to think that Nicolai was the last man added to the field this week with a wild card from the Italian Golf Federation. Nicolai held the lead going into the final round but risked ending up in a playoff when his tee shot on the 626-yard, par-5 18th hole landed in the left rough. After laying up safely, though, Nicolai spun his third shot to within four feet of the hole and then made the ensuing putt to clinch the trophy. “On 18 I knew I had to make four," Nicolai said. "I’ve been nervous many times before but nothing like it (on 18). I couldn’t almost move the putter to be honest. “I was getting quite emotional when I holed that putt and looked over to see my caddie and Rasmus with my girlfriend and his girlfriend here." Nicolai’s previous best result was a second-place finish behind Sergio Garcia at the 2019 Dutch Open, while Rasmus’ victory in Crans-Montana was his third on the European Tour. Nicolai drove the green for an eagle at the par-4 16th hole on Saturday. “I drove the ball very good the first three days and today was a bit shaky," Nicolai said. "Everything was a little bit shaky today but I would say my length off the tee was probably the biggest advantage this week.” Francesco Laporta of Italy finished fourth, two strokes back. ___ More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Woman using gun's laser sight to play with cat shoots friend

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin woman accidentally shot a friend while using the laser sight on a handgun to play with a cat, authorities said. A criminal complaint charging the 19-year-old woman with negligent use of a weapon said she was visiting a Kenosha apartment on Tuesday afternoon where a 21-year-old man had brought a handgun. The woman, who a witness said had been drinking, picked up the handgun, “turned on the laser sight and was pointing it at the floor to get the cat to chase it,” when the gun went off, the complaint filed Thursday said. The man, who was standing in a doorway, was shot in the thigh, authorities said. He left and went into another apartment, where police found him after responding to a 911 call, the Kenosha News reported. A tourniquet was applied to his leg to stop the bleeding before he was taken to a hospital. There's no word on his condition, but authorities said he was facing charges for violating bond conditions that prevented him from having a weapon. The woman told police she thought the magazine had been taken out of the gun and said it “accidentally went off,” according to the complaint.

Boston's famed Skinny House back on market, listed for $1.2M

BOSTON (AP) — Boston's famous Skinny House is on sale again for a whopping $1.2 million. The vertically rectangular-shaped house was listed Monday, the first time it's been on the market since 2017. Four years ago, it was sold for $900,000, The Boston Globe reported. The home, located in Boston's North End, is about 1,165 square feet (108 square meters). But more interestingly, the house is barely 10 feet (3 meters) wide at its widest point. The humble abode narrows in the back, ending at 9.25 feet (2.8 meters). There are four stories in the home and a private deck that displays views of the Boston Harbor. Also, the house offers updated appliances, hardwood floors and exposed brick, and a Juliet balcony facing private gardens. The home does not have a front door. Guests enter through a private side door and they're met with a somewhat full-sized kitchen and dinning room. The second floor holds the living area and the house's only bathroom. The third level has a living space and a bedroom. Lastly, the upper level of the house has the only other room — a master bedroom. Appointments are available to view the home, but potential buyers may want to act quickly because the quaint house was sold in less than three months in 2017.

Woman convicted of swapping pebbles for gems in London heist

LONDON (AP) — A woman who secretly swapped seven pebbles for 4.2 million pounds ($5.7 million) worth of diamonds has been sent to prison for her role in the audacious heist at a luxury jewelry store in London’s tony Mayfair district. Lulu Lakatos, 60, was sentenced Wednesday to 5 1/2 years in prison after a jury at Southwark Crown Court in London found her guilty of conspiracy to steal. Lakatos was part of an international gang that fled to France after stealing the diamonds from Boodles on New Bond Street on March 10, 2016. The gems haven't been recovered. “This was an audacious theft, carried out in plain view of experienced and professional staff at a renowned jewelers,” Detective Sgt. William Man of London’s Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement. “The meticulous planning and execution of this theft reveals to me that those involved were highly skilled criminals.” In the days leading up to the heist, the criminals held a series of meetings with Boodles staff on the pretense that they represented a wealthy Russian investor who was looking to purchase gems, police said. Lakatos, who was born in Romania and lived in France, posed as a gem expert named “Anna” who then went to Boodles to value seven diamonds for the buyer. After she inspected the gems, which included a 20-carat heart-shaped diamond valued at more than 2.2 million pounds, they were individually wrapped and placed in a locked bag that was supposed to be held in the jeweler’s vault until payment was received. But when Boodles’ own expert became suspicious the next day, the bag was X-rayed and the store discovered nothing but seven ordinary pebbles. Lakatos had used a distraction to swap the bag containing the diamonds for an identical one containing the pebbles before it was locked in the vault, according to security camera video released by police. After leaving the store, Lakatos handed the bag containing the diamonds to one of her female accomplices, before ditching the long coat, hat and scarf she wore as a disguise and boarding a high-speed Eurostar train to France. She was arrested on a European arrest warrant last September and returned to Britain to stand trial. Two men who worked with Lakatos previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and were sentenced to 3 years and eight months in prison. Police are still investigating the involvement of two other women.

Hoe no! Facebook snafu spells trouble for gardening group

Moderating a Facebook gardening group in western New York is not without challenges. There are complaints of wooly bugs, inclement weather and the novice members who insist on using dish detergent on their plants. And then there's the word “hoe.” Facebook's algorithms sometimes flag this particular word as “violating community standards," apparently referring to a different word, one without an “e" at the end that is nonetheless often misspelled as the garden tool. Normally, Facebook's automated systems will flag posts with offending material and delete them. But if a group's members — or worse, administrators — violate the rules too many times, the entire group can get shut down. Elizabeth Licata, one of the group’s moderators, was worried about this. After all, the group, WNY Gardeners, has more than 7,500 members who use it to get gardening tips and advice. It's been especially popular during the pandemic when many homebound people took up gardening for the first time. A hoe by any other name could be a rake, a harrow or a rototill. But Licata was not about to ban the word from the group, or try to delete each instance. When a group member commented “Push pull hoe!" on a post asking for “your most loved & indispensable weeding tool," Facebook sent a notification that said “We reviewed this comment and found it goes against our standards for harassment and bullying." Facebook uses both human moderators and artificial intelligence to root out material that goes against its rules. In this case, a human likely would have known that a hoe in a gardening group is likely not an instance of harassment or bullying. But AI is not always good at context and the nuances of language. It also misses a lot — users often complain that they report violent or abusive language and Facebook rules that it's not in violation of its community standards. Misinformation on vaccines and elections has been a long-running and well-documented problem for the social media company. On the flip side are groups like Licata's that get caught up in overly zealous algorithms. “And so I contacted Facebook, which was useless. How do you do that?" she said. “You know, I said this is a gardening group, a hoe is gardening tool." Licata said she never heard from a person and Facebook, and found navigating the social network's system of surveys and ways to try to set the record straight was futile. Contacted by The Associated Press, a Facebook representative said in an email this week that the company found the group and corrected the mistaken enforcements. It also put an extra check in place, meaning that someone — an actual person — will check offending posts before the group is considered for deletion. The company would not say if other gardening groups had similar problems. (In January, Facebook mistakenly flagged the U.K. landmark of Plymouth Hoe as offensive, then apologized, according to The Guardian.) “We have plans to build out better customer support for our products and to provide the public with even more information about our policies and how we enforce them,” Facebook said in a statement in response to Licata's complaints. Then, something else came up. Licata received a notification that Facebook automatically disabled commenting on a post because of “possible violence, incitement, or hate in multiple comments." The offending comments included “Kill them all. Drown them in soapy water,” and “Japanese beetles are jerks."