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Blue moon, supermoon, total lunar eclipse rolled into one
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The moon is providing a rare triple treat this week.
On Wednesday, much of the world will get to see not only a blue moon and a supermoon, but also a total lunar eclipse, all rolled into one. There hasn't been a triple lineup like this since 1982 and the next won't occur until 2037.
The eclipse will be visible best in the western half of the U.S. and Canada before the moon sets early Wednesday morning, and across the Pacific into Asia as the moon rises Wednesday night into Thursday.
The U.S. East Coast will be out of luck; the moon will be setting just as the eclipse gets started. Europe and most of Africa and South America also will pretty much miss the show.
A blue moon is the second full moon in a month. A supermoon is a particularly close full or new moon, appearing somewhat brighter and bigger. A total lunar eclipse — or blood moon for its reddish tinge — has the moon completely bathed in Earth's shadow.
"I'm calling it the Super Bowl of moons," lunar scientist Noah Petro said Monday from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Others prefer "super blue blood moon."
Either way, it's guaranteed to impress, provided the skies are clear.
The moon will actually be closest to Earth on Tuesday — just over 223,000 miles (359,000 kilometers). That's about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) farther than the supermoon on Jan. 1. Midway through Wednesday's eclipse, the moon will be even farther away — 223,820 miles (360,200 kilometers) — but still within unofficial supermoon guidelines.
While a supermoon is considered less serious and scientific than an eclipse, it represents a chance to encourage people to start looking at the moon, according to Petro.
"I'm a lunar scientist. I love the moon. I want to advocate for the moon," he said.
Throw in a blue moon, and "that's too good of an opportunity to pass," according to Petro.
As the sun lines up perfectly with the Earth and then moon for the eclipse, scientists will make observations from a telescope in Hawaii, while also collecting data from NASA's moon-circling Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2009.
Just like the total solar eclipse in the U.S. last August cooled the Earth's surface, a lunar eclipse cools the moon's surface. It's this abrupt cooling — from the heat of direct sunlight to essentially a deep freeze — that researchers will be studying.
Totality will last more than an hour.
"The moon is one of the most amazing objects in our solar system," Petro said. "It really is the key to understanding the solar system, through interpreting the geology and surface of the moon."
NASA plans to provide a live stream of the moon from telescopes in California and Arizona, beginning at 5:30 a.m. EST.
Couple, married 70 years, renew vows — this time in church
UXBRIDGE, Mass. — A Massachusetts couple have finally gotten the church wedding they always wanted — 70 years after first tying the knot.
The Telegram & Gazette reports 90-year-old Edward Gouin and 89-year-old Lena Gouin renewed their vows Saturday at the Roman Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd in Uxbridge thanks to some careful planning by their family.
Edward is Catholic and Lena is Congregationalist so a wedding in a church was barred when they were first married. Instead, they were wed in a church rectory.
Attitudes have since changed.
Edward says, "Today, it can happen."
The World War II veteran says the secrets to a long marriage are never go to bed angry and kiss your wife every time you leave the house.
The couple have three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Information from: Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), http://www.telegram.com
Hawaii man snags foot-long venomous centipede, preserves it
HILO, Hawaii — A Big Island resident has a centipede that's more than 1 foot long (30 centimeters long) on display at his home.
Retired taxidermist Clayton Cambra spotted the 14.5-inch (37-centimeter) insect in woods behind his home and decided to capture it with a bucket, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.
Cambra said the venomous arthropod stood up "like a cobra" when he captured it.
"Standin' right up. It's creepy," Cambra said. "He crawled out of that bucket four or five times before I got him here."
He got the centipede inside a plastic bag and froze it in his freezer.
Cambra then thawed the centipede, pinned it to a Styrofoam board and injected it with formaldehyde.
"It's a monster. Even when it was dead, I was nervous touchin' it," Cambra said.
Dan Rubinoff, an entomologist and director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum, said he thinks the bug is a Vietnamese centipede.
"It's definitely got to be the largest individual I've ever seen of it," Rubinoff said. "I get 'em in my yard all the time, 6 to maybe 7 inches. Definitely, I've never seen one that big."
Rubinoff said there are other species in Southeast Asia that grow even larger.
"Those are really frightening," Rubinoff said.
Cambra said he rejected a $1,000 offer for the centipede.
"I don't want to sell it," Cambra said. "I want to keep it. People collect all kinds of things. I know people on the computer (who) collect these alive and keep 'em as pets."
Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/
German police hunt thieves who stole 44 tons of chocolate
BERLIN — Police say two truck trailers loaded with 44 tons (48.5 U.S. tons) of chocolate were stolen in southern Germany and there's no sign of the sticky-fingered perpetrators.
Police said Monday the trailers packed with 400,000 euros ($496,100) worth of chocolate were stolen from an industrial park in Freiburg on Friday night.
One was found Saturday hauled by a Polish truck that had stopped at a rest area near the German-French border. The driver fled on foot and the trailer was still full of the stolen chocolate.
The second trailer was found in Lahr, also near the border with France. Two thirds of the chocolate — and the thief — were gone.
Police say they've launched a search for the thieves and are appealing for any witnesses to come forward.
Old laws in Rhode Island govern dueling, horses on highways
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Archaic laws that are a holdover from a time when people fought in duels a la Alexander Hamilton and rode horses on highways would be struck from the books in Rhode Island if a lawmaker has his way.
House Majority Whip John Edwards picked some of the silliest laws to start with. Since at least 1798, it's been illegal to arrange to meet another person and engage in a fight. Testing the speed of a horse on public highways was banned in 1896.
"Right now I just picked the low-lying fruit," he said Thursday. "These are the most embarrassing of the group."
Edwards, a Democrat, has tried for years to create a joint committee within the General Assembly to review laws and recommend which ones are no longer needed. That idea didn't gain traction so he's now introducing bills to repeal old laws individually.
He has introduced five so far. He hopes to file up to 50 bills this year to remove arbitrary statutes and cumbersome regulations that he feels can choke the economy and cause confusion.
"People do spring cleaning in their houses," he said. "We need to do a little spring cleaning in our regulations and laws."
Edwards still introduced a bill to create a committee in case House leaders change their mind about the idea, but Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has felt that a committee isn't necessary. He wanted appropriate House committees to consider each law on its merits.
A look at the first laws targeted by Edwards:
SEAWEED: Edwards' bill would repeal a law restricting the amount of seaweed Barrington residents can take from the public beach to use as fertilizer and forbidding residents of other towns from taking seaweed. It has been on the books for about 200 years.
DUELING: Edwards' bill would repeal a law that forbids being the "second" of either party in a duel where a mortal injury is inflicted, which was a person who ensured the duel was carried out honorably. A separate statute bans dueling.
HORSERACING: Edwards' bill would repeal a law that makes it illegal to race or test the speed of a horse on public highways. The current law calls for a fine of up to $20 or no more than 10 days in jail.
DRIVING: Edwards' bill would amend a law that requires who pass another vehicle on the left to give a "timely, audible signal," such as honking or shouting. It would change the word "audible" to "visible," meaning the use of a directional signal. The original 1916 law specified that a bell or horn should be used.
TORPEDO PRACTICE: Edwards' bill would repeal a law that prohibits anyone from interfering with torpedo practice off Goat Island in Newport, Rhode Island. The U.S. Navy used to have a torpedo station there.
Daughter: EPA official wore disguise to spy on driving test
MADISON, Wis. — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Cathy Stepp wore a fake nose and sunglasses to try to help her daughter pass a 2011 Wisconsin driving test after she failed her initial attempt.
Stepp had her daughter, Hannah, introduce her when she addressed her staff for the first time Jan. 11 after President Donald Trump appointed the former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources secretary to be the EPA Region 5 administrator, the Chicago Tribune reported .
Staffers were nervous about meeting her because Republican Gov. Scott Walker's 2015-17 Wisconsin state budget eliminated nearly 19 scientist positions at the Wisconsin DNR. Walker appointed Stepp as secretary. During her tenure, the agency also scrubbed language stating that humans are causing climate change from its website and the number of environmental enforcement cases decreased sharply.
Stepp asked her daughter to introduce her in an attempt to humanize her, according to the Tribune. During the introduction, Hannah Stepp said her mother wore the fake nose and sunglasses so she could follow someone taking the Wisconsin driver's test. She said she had failed her first test and her mother wanted to learn the route to help her practice for her second attempt, which she passed.
She told the newspaper that her mom always carries a fake nose around.
Cathy Stepp issued a statement Friday through EPA spokeswoman Rachel Bassler saying "this was a lovely opportunity for my daughter to help me introduce myself to my new colleagues. She told an exaggerated, humorous story to poke a little fun at me. It surprises me that anyone would take it otherwise."
Bassler declined to comment when asked what parts of the story Hannah Stepp exaggerated. Hannah Stepp didn't immediately return voicemail, email and text messages.
Heavy rain unearths ancient graves in backyard in Gaza
BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — A Palestinian says he has discovered an ancient burial ground in the backyard of his house in the Gaza Strip.
Abdelkarim al-Kafarna said Friday he found a tomb consisting of nine burial holes with bones and some clay pots.
Archeologists in Gaza believe the site is about 2,000-year-old, dating back to the Roman era, when the territory was part of the far-flung Roman Empire. But they say further tests are needed to determine the exact age.
Al-Kafaran said he found it by accident after heavy rains this week unearthed parts of the underground chamber.
Gaza, now ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, is on the route between Egypt and ancient Levantine civilizations. It is packed with ancient archaeology endangered by urban sprawl, conflict and years of neglect.
Tons of Mardi Gras beads down the drains in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS — Let the good times roll — just not into New Orleans' storm drains.
That's the plea from city officials.
Local news outlets report cleaning crews have sucked out more than 46 tons (42,000 kilograms) of Mardi Gras beads from catch basins on along a five-block stretch of St. Charles Avenue downtown, a popular parade route.
Department of Public Works Interim Director Dani Galloway said Thursday that the four-month emergency program had cleaned 15,000 catch basins altogether as of Wednesday, removing roughly 7.2 million pounds (3.3 million kilograms) of debris.
It's part of a $22 million contract to tackle city's drainage system in response to heavy August flooding.
Galloway asked residents to step up and clear neighborhood catch basins, and said the city is looking at installing temporary "gutter buddies."
Finns to lobby EU for abolition of daylight saving time
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Finland says it will lobby for the abolition of daylight saving time within the European Union after more than 70,000 Finns signed a petition last year.
Anne Berner, Finland's transportation and communications minister, said Friday on Twitter that the government's goal "would be to abandon (the practice) in a uniform manner within the EU."
No EU member can independently end the practice of advancing clocks by an hour during summer months so that evening daylight lasts longer. All 27 member states must make the change together.
A parliamentary committee in Finland has concluded changing the clocks causes short-term sleeping disorders, reduced performance at work and could also lead to serious health problems.
In Finland, parliament must consider a petition containing at least 50,000 signatures.
The Finns may be particularly irritated by daylight savings because they see little benefit to themselves from it.
One of the world's northernmost countries stretching some 1,160 kilometers (720 miles) from north to south, the sun does not set for 73 consecutive days during summer at Finland's northernmost point. During the winter months, the sun doesn't rise at all for 51 days in Lapland, northern Finland.
Police corral urban herd after midnight Los Angeles stroll
WEST COVINA, Calif. — It was less an arrest than a roundup.
Police say a donkey led more than a dozen sheep and goats on a stroll through a suburban West Covina neighborhood east of Los Angeles.
Police were called around 12:30 a.m. Thursday by reports of a herd of animals walking the streets.
The animals were finally corralled with the help of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities say the animals escaped their owners' property in neighboring Valinda through an unsecured gate.
The owner was contacted and took the herd back home.
No injuries were reported but police say it raised a few eyebrows among officers who thought they'd seen it all.