Farmers hope to fill caviar void
BOISE — With the federal government’s ban on beluga caviar from the Black Sea basin taking effect just before the busy holiday season, all eyes are turning to — Idaho?
The state’s burgeoning aquaculture industry is hoping its farm-raised white sturgeon caviar will help fill the gap left by beluga on upscale menus. Several Idaho caviar farmers are starting their first commercial harvest this week.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials have listed beluga sturgeon populations as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. On Friday, the agency said imports of beluga sturgeon would be banned immediately from several Eastern European countries.
Mice found to sing like birds
ST. LOUIS — Songbirds may be the Sinatras of the animal world, but male mice can carry a tune too, say Washington University researchers who were surprised by what they heard.
Scientists have known for decades that male lab mice produce high-frequency sounds, undetectable by human ears, when they pick up the scent of a female mouse. But it turns out those sounds are more complex and interesting than previously thought.
“It soon became … apparent that these vocalizations were not random twitterings but songs,” said researcher Timothy Holy. “There was a pattern to them. They sounded a lot like bird songs.”
Shopper finds her old prom dress
HARRISON — Marlene Wyatt went to a secondhand store to buy a Halloween costume last week. What she found was eerie: the prom dress she had made 33 years ago when she was in high school.
“I thought, ‘This material looks familiar,’” Miss Wyatt said. “Then I thought, ‘Surely not,’ and finally, ‘That’s my dress.’”
Melissa Martin, proprietor of the Fashion Exchange, said she knew something special had happened because of the look on Miss Wyatt’s face.
“This is amazing,” she said. “What are the odds of something like this happening?”
Miss Martin doesn’t remember where she got the white double-knit polyester dress, which she had labeled “Way Retro” in her inventory. Miss Wyatt now has it in her sewing room.
Father wins fight over soldier’s remains
SAN FRANCISCO — A judge in a bitter dispute between divorced parents over where to bury a son killed in Iraq sided with the soldier’s father yesterday, saying he did not believe the mother’s tearful testimony.
Army Staff Sgt. Jason Hendrix should remain buried in his father’s home state of Oklahoma, despite his mother’s assertion that he wanted to be laid to rest in California, Superior Court Judge Robert B. Yonts Jr. ruled.
“May this brave soldier, Sergeant Jason Hendrix, rest in peace,” Judge Yonts said.
The case focused attention on a little-known Pentagon policy that says if a slain soldier is unmarried and has no children, the remains go to the elder surviving parent. Staff Sgt. Hendrix’s father, Russell Hendrix, is 48; his mother, Renee Amick, is 45.
Because Staff Sgt. Hendrix left no will, the only evidence of his desire to be buried in California was Mrs. Amick’s testimony that he told her so about a year before he died. That wish was not put into writing, and the judge did not believe the mother’s story.
Wilma slices citrus harvest
LAKELAND — Hurricane Wilma will cause the loss of $180 million worth of Florida’s citrus crop, including nearly half of the state’s grapefruit crop, preliminary estimates show.
Wilma cut the overall citrus harvest for the upcoming season by an estimated 17 percent of the total crop, or about 35.7 million boxes of fruit, Florida Citrus Mutual said.
Hamburger wins hot dogs in contest
DES MOINES — A Hamburger who likes hot dogs has won his weight in franks.
Chris Hamburger, a senior at Drake University in Des Moines, said yesterday he was reading For Him magazine — a publication featuring scantily clad women — when he came across, and entered, an essay contest offering to match the winner’s weight with hot dogs.
He won 255 pounds of hot dogs, which arrived at his apartment in the form of 600 five-packs of franks, along with coupons for another 200 packages. Mr. Hamburger, who says he doesn’t really care for burgers but likes franks, has given away most of his prize.
A member of the Drake soccer team, Mr. Hamburger says his name has made him a lifelong target of puns. In high school, broadcasters and writers had him making “a whopper of a pass” or his team “trying to play ketchup.”
Mr. Hamburger says his winning entry was “in the style of the magazine” but otherwise “inappropriate” for a wider audience.
Mayor charged in corruption probe
SPRINGFIELD — The mayor of Chicopee was arrested yesterday, charged a week before Election Day with extorting $10,000 in campaign contributions, the FBI said.
Mayor Richard Goyette, 36, accepted two illegal campaign contributions of $5,000 each, said the FBI’s Michael O’Reilly. By law, candidates can accept a maximum of $500 per donor.
Mr. Goyette, a Republican running for a second term in next week’s election, appeared in court yesterday afternoon. He did not enter a plea and was released on personal recognizance, and a grand jury now is expected to hear the case.
An FBI affidavit unsealed yesterday describes a pair of surveillance videos that reportedly show Mr. Goyette accepting $5,000 cash contributions from two business owners — a towing-company owner and a developer — who agreed to cooperate in the investigation.
Mr. Goyette reportedly told the developer that problems with a project would be smoothed over. The towing-company owner said he donated the money to keep his contract with the city, according to the affidavit.
Contracts canceled for 427 wild horses
LAS VEGAS — Federal officials are seeking homes for 427 wild horses after buyers pulled out of revised contracts imposing criminal penalties for selling animals to slaughter.
Twenty individuals and two tribes canceled contracts after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) suspended its sale program amid reports of horse slaughter, according to interviews with BLM officials and records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Widow threatened over unpaid bills
SANTA FE — The city is threatening to cut off a widow’s water service because her husband had failed to pay their sewer and garbage-collection bills for about 20 years.
Kathleen Martinez’s combined water, sewer and garbage bill is $12,201.83, with more than $9,000 in finance charges.
Mrs. Martinez didn’t realize her bills were going unpaid until her husband died in 1998. He paid most of the household bills but apparently fell behind after losing his state job, Mrs. Martinez said.
Democrat gets donkeyas birthday present
FARGO — Former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Heidi Heitkamp, a well-known Democrat, received a surprise birthday present from her brother: a donkey.
Miss Heitkamp said she woke up Saturday morning to find a young donkey in her yard, a 50th birthday present from her brother, Joel.
“It’s just about the cutest thing you ever want to see,” she said. “My biggest problem is, I can’t figure out how to warm up a 2-quart bottle.”
She said her family has a history of unusual gifts.
“We’re fond of giving each other live animals, and these animals have only progressively gotten larger,” she said. “So Joel, he’s going to get something very large and four-legged.”
Bank robber dressed as witch
OLYMPIA — A woman dressed as a witch robbed a bank and vanished in the smoke of an exploding security dye pack, then apparently reappeared in street clothes and held up another bank, police said.
The Halloween holdups were less than an hour apart at bank branches in Olympia and neighboring Lacey, authorities said.
The first robbery was reported when a woman wearing a shiny purple witch hat, cloak and long blond wig handed the teller a note indicating she had a weapon and demanding cash, Lacey police Lt. Phil Comstock said.
As the woman ran from the bank, the dye pack exploded and she dropped the money and her hat, authorities said.
From wire dispatches and staff reports