Check back here daily for the latest oddball stories that just may give you a chuckle or leave you scratching your head.
Rookie bomb-sniffing dog at airport has pooping problem
CHICAGO — A rookie bomb-sniffing dog at Chicago's Midway International Airport is having a little trouble waiting to poop in the proper place.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports the dog has been pooping in the terminals and concourses.
Kevin McCarthy, who heads up Transportation Security Administration operations at Midway, says it doesn't impact the dog's ability to do her work looking for contraband. The dog is four months into her job and McCarthy says he's confident the problem will eventually stop.
The newspaper says the 2-year-old dog has been getting jittery in crowds, but any mess she leaves is quickly cleaned up. Of the issue, McCarthy says: "It's not going to ruin her career."
Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://chicago.suntimes.com/
No Tannenbaum: Senator says rule keeps trees from US troops
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York's U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer says a federal rule change that's stopping donated Christmas trees from being sent to American troops overseas is straight out of the Grinch's playbook.
The top Senate Democrat sent a letter to the U.S. postmaster on Thursday urging her to immediately waive procedural changes that are preventing New York residents from sending trees to military bases abroad.
Schumer says at least 40 trees donated by community groups and others this year were returned to New York farmers. He blames a last-minute policy change that strictly limits the size of packages that can be shipped to overseas bases in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany.
The U.S. Postal Service hasn't commented.
Grizzly crime solved: Candy factory's stolen bear found
ABILENE, Kan. — Police say a sweet tip led to the recovery of a bear statue that was stolen from outside a candy factory in central Kansas a year ago.
Abilene Police Department assistant chief Jason Wilkins says the Russell Stover Candies sculpture, depicting a sitting teddy bear covered in chocolate, was found Wednesday in a Salina home following a tip from someone apparently unconnected to its theft.
Det. Karmen Kupper says a suspect has been identified but hasn't been arrested.
Wilkins tells The Wichita Eagle that early leads in the November 2016 theft from the company's Abilene factory didn't pan out and that the bear investigation had "become a running joke."
Kupper describes the 150-pound, 4-foot tall (70-kilogram, 1.2 meter tall) sculpture as a "huge landmark" and a popular backdrop for pictures.
Homeless man finds $354,000 in room at Paris airport
PARIS — French police say a homeless man found a huge amount of cash last week at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport and was able to leave the complex with 300,000 euros ($354,000).
Two police officers, who are not allowed to speak publicly on the case, said Thursday that video surveillance showed the man looking in the trash and leaning against a nearby door.
Airport police union official Jean-Yann William Airport told France Info television that "to his surprise, the door is opening, he's entering and finds out there's huge amount of money" in the room of cash transport company Loomis.
Video then shows the man leaving the airport with two big bags.
Police recognized him as a homeless man living in the airport area. He is being actively sought.
Gaza eatery offers discounts to North Koreans but no takers
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A Gaza eatery is offering massive discounts to North Korean diners but there is just one problem — there are no North Koreans in Gaza.
Ibrahim Raba, manager of a shawarma restaurant in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp, says he is offering the 80 percent discounts to show his appreciation for North Korea's rejection of President Donald Trump's recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
He has also placed a large photo of reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the glass door entrance to his restaurant.
A new Kim fan, Raba likes to quote the North Korean leader, saying: "Trump proved he is mentally deranged."
And though Raba knows there are no North Koreans in Gaza, he hopes they will come someday, perhaps after joining other foreign aid workers.
C-A-T named D-O-G is star canine trainer
ST. LOUIS — A cat with an unlikely name has an important job at a training center for dogs.
Support Dogs, Inc. in St. Louis took in the black and white cat over the summer and named him D-O-G. He's more than a mascot - officials say he plays a key role getting the dogs comfortable around other animals. Assistance dogs need to be well-behaved and not be distracted in their job helping people who are deaf or have mobility problems.
Support Dogs president and CEO Anne Klein says D-O-G is "fearless" around the larger canines and plays with their tails, sleeps in their beds and eats and drinks from their bowls instead of his own.
The dogs go through a two-year training program before they're given to clients for free.
Expecting dad stages own pregnancy photo shoot, shows belly
PEABODY, Mass. — An expecting father in Massachusetts has shown off his paternal glow with a pregnancy photo shoot.
Peabody resident Nick Roberts surprised his pregnant girlfriend with the photos at their gender reveal party in June before their son Logan was born. Some of the photos show Roberts posing at a beach in the town of Nahant, cradling his visible belly.
The couple's son has since been born.
Roberts says he and his friend, who is a photographer, grabbed some fast food before the shoot to "try to look a little pregnant."
Roberts' girlfriend, Brianna Magee, tells WHDH-TV she flipped through the pictures and "just started laughing harder and harder."
Roberts says the photo shoot was "extremely difficult because we just kept laughing."
Goodyear blows up new home for airship: an inflatable hangar
CARSON, Calif. — Morning commuters on a Southern California highway were greeted Wednesday by a huge structure that wasn't there the night before.
In a matter of hours overnight, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. raised a giant inflatable hangar that will be the permanent home of one of the company's new airships, which replaced its original blimps.
The building standing nine stories and stretching the length of a football field went up along Interstate 405 south of Los Angeles in suburban Carson.
It will house Wingfoot Two, which began flying over college football games in Los Angeles in October. The company says its new airships are easier to maneuver than the original ones.
Goodyear said the hangar, manufactured by United Kingdom-based Lindstrand Technologies and constructed with ultralight high-tech material, is the largest structure of its type in North America. Twenty fans inflated the hangar's air cells and will maintain pressure.
Wingfoot Two, which is technically a dirigible rather than a blimp, is scheduled to leave its temporary home at Long Beach Airport and arrive in Carson on Friday.
Goodyear has operated the base in Carson since 1968 and plans to mark its 50th anniversary next year.
In need of workers, Maine hires contractors to plow roads
PORTLAND, Maine — Worker shortages in Maine have forced the state Department of Transportation to hire private contractors to plow roads.
The Portland Press Herald reports the state Department of Transportation has awarded a contract to the Ohio-based company First Vehicle Services. The contractors will work in southern Maine.
MDOT has struggled to keep highway workers in recent years. The department currently has 50 open positions.
Dale Doughty, MDOT's Director of Maintenance and Operation, says some workers might be attracted to higher wages at private companies.
Maine State Employees Association interim Executive Director Ginette Rivard says a bill that would have raised the starting hourly wage of highway workers was recently voted down by the Legislative Council. Rivard says the raise could've helped with recruitment and retention.
Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com
Family's 'A Christmas Story' house may become Lego set
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A central New York family is campaigning for their carefully crafted recreation of the house from "A Christmas Story" to become an official Lego set.
WSTM-TV in Syracuse reports Jason Middaugh's small family project to recreate the house from the classic holiday film turned into a six-month undertaking. Middaugh says he and his family, who live in Marcellus, scoured the internet to find the 2,000 pieces needed to construct the home.
The Middaugh family included the character Ralphie in a bunny suit, a shipping container with a "fragile" sign and the notorious leg lamp.
Lego reviews set proposals when 10,000 people support a project on their special site. The Middaugh family's "A Christmas Story" set has received nearly 9,000 endorsements.
Information from: WSTM-TV, http://www.wstm.com
US Sen. Elizabeth Warren gets 2nd turn as comic book hero
BOSTON — All comic book heroes need a sequel — even U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The Massachusetts Democrat was the focus last year of a 22-page comic titled "Female Force: Elizabeth Warren," which told the story of Warren's rise from Oklahoma schoolgirl to U.S. senator and champion of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
Now publisher TidalWave Comics is bringing out a sequel, "Female Force: Elizabeth Warren #2," chronicling the early days of Warren's 2012 U.S. Senate campaign and her rise to power.
Instead of Batman battling the Joker, readers can follow along as Warren battles Congress to ease the burden of crushing student loan debt.
Past subjects of the "Female Force" series include Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres (dih-JEN'-ur-us) and Nancy Pelosi (puh-LOH'-see).
Ancient penguin was as big as a (human) Pittsburgh Penguin
NEW YORK (AP) — Fossils from New Zealand have revealed a giant penguin that was as big as a grown man, roughly the size of the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The creature was slightly shorter in length and about 20 pounds (9 kilograms) heavier than the official stats for hockey star Sidney Crosby. It measured nearly 5 feet, 10 inches (1.77 meters) long when swimming and weighed in at 223 pounds (101 kilograms).
If the penguin and the Penguin faced off on the ice, however, things would look different. When standing, the ancient bird was maybe only 5-foot-3 (1.6 meters).
The newly found bird is about 7 inches (18 centimeters) longer than any other ancient penguin that has left a substantial portion of a skeleton, said Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany. A potentially bigger rival is known only from a fragment of leg bone, making a size estimate difficult.
The biggest penguin today, the emperor in Antarctica, stands less than 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall.
Mayr and others describe the giant creature in a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications. They named it Kumimanu biceae, which refers to Maori words for a large mythological monster and a bird, and the mother of one of the study's authors. The fossils are 56 million to 60 million years old.
That's nearly as old as the very earliest known penguin fossils, which were much smaller, said Daniel Ksepka, curator at the Bruce Museum of Greenwich, Connecticut. He has studied New Zealand fossil penguins but didn't participate in the new study.
The new discovery shows penguins "got big very rapidly" after the mass extinction of 66 million years ago that's best known for killing off the dinosaurs, he wrote in an email.
That event played a big role in penguin history. Beforehand, a non-flying seabird would be threatened by big marine reptile predators, which also would compete with the birds for food. But once the extinction wiped out those reptiles, the ability to fly was not so crucial, opening the door for penguins to appear.
Birds often evolve toward larger sizes after they lose the ability to fly, Mayr said. In fact, the new paper concludes that big size appeared more than once within the penguin family tree.
What happened to the giants?
Mayr said researchers believe they died out when large marine mammals like toothed whales and seals showed up and provided competition for safe breeding places and food. The newcomers may also have hunted the big penguins, he said.
Follow Malcolm Ritter at @MalcolmRitter His recent work can be found at http://tinyurl.com/RitterAP
Fetid attraction: London fatberg to go on museum display
LONDON — Part of a monster fatberg that clogged one of London's sewers is destined for fame in a museum.
The Museum of London says it will put the only remaining chunk of the 130-metric-ton (143-U.S.-ton) mass of oil, fat, diapers and baby wipes on display early next year.
Workers for utility company Thames Water spent weeks this year dislodging the smelly 250-meter-long (820-foot-long) blob by breaking it up with high-powered hoses.
The museum's shoebox-sized chunk is all that remains. The rest has been converted to biofuel.
Curator Vyki Sparkes said Tuesday that it will be "one of the most fascinating and disgusting objects we have ever had on display."
It has been air-dried to reduce the smell and will be displayed in a sealed unit.
Police: Man posed as officer, tried to get discounted coffee
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Police in western New York have charged a man who they say impersonated a police officer in an attempt to get discounted coffee.
WIVB-TV reports the man flashed a fake badge and gun at a Starbucks in Buffalo around 11 p.m. Friday. Police say the man claimed he was a detective and asked for a discount.
Authorities say the man then left Starbucks and tried to get into Spot Coffee after closing time by claiming he was a police officer. He was later arrested.
Police say the man was carrying a BB gun.
Police have charged the 48-year-old Buffalo man with criminal trespassing, criminal impersonation of a police officer and menacing.
Information from: WIVB-TV, http://www.wivb.com
Red-suited man on a sled rescues a deer on frozen pond
SALEM, Ore. — Reindeer are supposed to pull Santa Claus' sleigh, but in Oregon recently, a red-suited man on a sled wound up pushing a deer.
The reverse-reality Christmas-season tale played out when a deer wandered onto a frozen golf course pond in Sunriver, Oregon, on Friday and then lost its footing.
Try as it might, it couldn't get all its legs underneath him. It skidded and slithered, and its legs buckled.
Along came firefighter Jeff "JJ" Johnston, astride a new ice-rescue sled that was as bright red as the suit he wore, and as the nose on Rudolph the reindeer, which guided Santa's sleigh one foggy Christmas Eve.
Benjamin O'Keefe, a captain in the fire department of the resort and residential community, had his camera rolling. His video has become a sensation, garnering millions of views and picked up by broadcasters in the United States and overseas.
The young deer's hind legs began pumping, but it couldn't get up on its front legs. It was on an icy treadmill, going nowhere.
Johnston got close, spoke calming words to the deer and — slipping a bit himself as a tried to gain traction — gently pushed it with the front of the sled to the edge of the pond. Even then, the deer needed some coaxing. It seemed to have enjoyed the slippery ride.
Johnston tapped it on the head with the back of his gloved hand, then scratched the top of its head and ears, like you'd pet a dog.
The deer tried to get onto the sled before it turned around. Pushed once more to the snowy ground, it gained solid footing and, with a wave from Johnston, scampered off, presumably to join its mates in some deer games.
"JJ was talking to it the whole time," said Tammie Waters, office manager for the Sunriver Fire Department. "The deer played along pretty good."
It was the inaugural rescue mission for the sled, which was purchased with a grant from Firehouse Subs, a sandwich restaurant chain, she said. She hopes it never happens, but when someone falls through the ice or is stuck on thin ice, the sled will be put to use.
"It was a great way to get training, and rescue a deer," Waters said.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky