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January 1, 2015

Cat Sold In Bed Is Home Again, Safe

Portland, OR (AP) Camo is hiding no longer.

The Oregon cat accidentally sold with a mattress set is home after 10 days on his own. Roy Dufek wrote in a statement that his girlfriend, Hayley Crews, caught Camo in a trap Saturday night after he was reportedly seen near the Hillsboro Airport west of Portland. The trap was baited with sardines in oil and familiar scented clothing.

People across the Portland area and beyond had been on the lookout for Camo after his unusual disappearance got national attention.

Dufek sold his girlfriend’s mattress set Dec. 17 without realizing the cat was likely in a favorite hiding spot: the box spring. Unable to find Camo at the mattress buyer’s home, Dufek took to social media for help tracking down the 5-year-old cat that likely scurried out of the box spring when the buyer, who lives near the airport, took it off the car roof. Dufek wrote that Camo was 2 pounds lighter after 10 days outside, and had a cut lip, broken nails and a bleeding paw. On Sunday, Camo was examined by a veterinarian and given a bath by Crews.

``We can’t even imagine what he’s been through in a week and (a) half running wild near the countryside, especially in this weather,’’ Dufek wrote.

The couple thanked everyone for their help, saying it’s great to know friends and strangers had their back in time of need.

``We can’t ever repay or say thank you enough to all the people that spent their cherished holiday time, and resources to help us bring Camo home,’’ Dufek wrote Sunday. ``It was quite emotional last night, we’re in shock of this whole experience, and have been holding him tight!’’

This Week In The Civil War

By The Associated Press

This Week in The Civil War for Sunday, Jan. 4: The Confederacy digs in.

The Richmond Enquirer, in the final months of the Civil War, exulted in early January over news that Confederate troops at Fort Fisher near Wilmington, North Carolina, had successfully rebuffed a Union attack. According to the Southern paper, initial ``apprehensions in the community were that Wilmington our last seaport would succumb to the immense force sent against it.’’ But the paper noted that Union forces were turned back, boosting Southern moral. It said ``the enemy having expended their utmost strength on Fort Fisher, an outpost of Wilmington, (has) been badly beaten’’ in a ``most gratifying triumph’’ for the Confederacy in defending its last major seaport. Nonetheless, that news was tempered in the South by fresh reports about Union troops in Savannah, Georgia, which was captured by Maj. Gen. William Sherman.

``Where the next blow will be struck is not developed; but every man in the army talks of a grand and overwhelming march’’ into South Carolina, reports speculated on Sherman’s next moves. In the North, meanwhile, some were already seeking to profit from past tales of war, including a veteran of the 1st Regiment of New York Mounted Rifles who promoted sales of a story called ``Life in The Saddle’’ with ``most graphic, exciting and thrilling portraiture’’ of past military campaigns in Virginia.

This Week in The Civil War for Sunday, Jan. 11: Union closes last Atlantic seaport for Confederacy, storming Fort Fisher in North Carolina.

A heavy Union bombardment and second assault within weeks led to the federal capture of Fort Fisher in North Carolina. For Southerners who only recently rejoiced over an early Confederate success in turning back a Union attack on the fort in December 1864, it was demoralizing news. The fall of the fort effectively shut off the last Confederate seaport on the Atlantic coast. In the attack this month 150 years ago in the war, nearly 60 Union vessels rained hundreds of shells down on the stout parapets. Within two days, the Confederate garrison in the fort was overrun and had surrendered. Union troops would then march inland to ensure Wilmington was shut off from the coast, enduring heavy casualties en route.

Weirdness Everywhere — Thank Goodness — In 2014


Associated Press

Boston (AP) Pigs nearly managed to fly in Connecticut, terrorized hikers in Maine and drew a police response with squeals that turned out to be X-rated. It was the Chinese year of the horse, but porkers hogged the headlines in New England in 2014.

There was no shortage of weirdness involving other species, too, including Homo sapiens. Here’s your guide to some of the region’s goofiest stories from the past 12 months:


U.S. Airways ordered a leashed pig off a plane at Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport after the crew decided it was disruptive. Its owner had tethered it to her armrest when it relieved itself while running back and forth. Meanwhile, in Maine, an 80-pound runaway domestic pig chased children and adults on a walking trail before it could be captured. And officers responding to reports of screaming at a home found an amorous boar squealing with joy after he’d been placed in a pen with five sows in heat.


A candidate who legally changed his name to human—with a lowercase ``h’’—lost his bid to run for office in New Hampshire. The would-be legislator formerly known as David Montenegro lost in the primary, cutting short his campaign to make the state House of Representatives just a little more human.

Happy happy happy boar!


A Maine man caused a stir when he ordered a tree removal crew off his property and they told police he had a gun. It turned out to be a realistic-looking tattoo of a handgun, inked on his belly to appear as though a weapon was tucked into his waistband. When he was arrested in a separate incident a few months later, he was packing the real thing.


``Sleepwalker,’’ a lifelike sculpture of a man in an eyes-closed, zombie-like trance and wearing nothing but underpants, drew a mixed reaction from the women of Wellesley College. Some students called it threatening and demanded its removal from campus; others posed with it for selfies. Vandals eventually defaced it with yellow paint.


Providence police arrested a man who allegedly wielded a potato during a robbery attempt. Authorities said the suspect used the spud to pretend he had a gun when he demanded money from a convenience store and a dry cleaner. The convenience store manager chased him off with a baseball bat, and a dry cleaner employee gave him a fake $20 from a decoy register.


A Connecticut woman became concerned when she heard someone calling ``Daddy’’ repeatedly near a school. She looked for a child and instead found a large green parrot up in a tree. Firefighters and animal control captured the bird, which they said never stopped saying, ``Daddy,’’ ``Hello,’’ ``What?’’ and other words.


Electronic highway message boards across Massachusetts started admonishing motorists—also known as drivahs—to ``Use Yah Blinkah.’’ That’s Boston-speak for blinker, otherwise known as a turn signal. The message was among several chosen in a state contest. Other winnahs included: ``Make yah Ma proud, wear yah seatbelt;’’ and ``Put down the phone! Your LOLs and OMGs can wait.’’


A pet psychic, a dozen volunteers, traps and bacon couldn’t retrieve this golden retriever. Three-year-old Murphy ran off after he was spooked by a car accident in a mountainous corner of Vermont, eluding pursuers for months despite numerous sightings, including some captured on camera.


Talk about a lot of d’oh! A Rhode Island developer who mistakenly built a $1.8 million waterfront house on parkland in Narragansett was ordered to remove it. Four Twenty Corp. began building the home in 2009 but didn’t discover the error until it tried to sell it in 2011. The company argued it shouldn’t be penalized for an innocent surveying mistake.


Rick Mastracchio delivered the commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Connecticut, and his remarks were out of this world. The astronaut recorded the speech from the International Space Station, and it was shown on video boards at UConn’s Gampel Pavilion to 5,000 people, including more than 400 graduating seniors.

Old-School Booksellers Find A Niche In The Digital Age


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh (AP) John Schulman didn’t think much of the Internet back in the early 1990s, when he and his wife opened Caliban Book Shop in Pittsburgh.

He still has reservations about the web, but he and his wife, Emily Hetzel, have learned to benefit from it: About 60 percent of their sales happen online.

Caliban specializes in hard-to-find, out-of-print and author-signed books: It has 30,000 books at its shop on Craig Street in Oakland and 150,000 more in a Wilkinsburg warehouse.

The real joys of owning a bookstore, Schulman said, come from meeting interesting people who pass through the shop’s door and the serendipity of finding a rare book.

``Despite the Internet, Pittsburghers are prone to going out shopping, being friendly and not being isolated,’’ said Schulman, 50, of Squirrel Hill. ``There’s something about the culture of Pittsburgh that lends itself to the book scene.’’

Even in the age of e-books and’s dominance of online book sales, old-school retailers in Pittsburgh are finding a niche from trading on their knowledge of books, their connections to local authors and the customer experience of poring over shelves of dusty tomes.

``Some are just beautiful to look at,’’ said Jenny Soracco, 22, of Lawrenceville, who was flipping through the pages of a book on Eskimo basketry with a friend from Singapore. Both graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in the spring.

``There’s a little bit of history in each book with the people who owned it before,’’ she said.

Independent booksellers who feared the Internet would put them out of business have found advantages online, said Susan Benne, executive director of The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, a trade group based in New York.

The group has 440 members—fewer than it did 20 years ago, but a consistent number over the past decade. Books once deemed to be scarce are common online, and booksellers have gotten smart about selling wares by using social media, Benne said.

``Certainly it’s still evolving, but one thing we do notice is that different methods of selling, like social media, are having a positive impact,’’ she said. ``Using social media as advertising and promotion really requires only the cost of one’s time and the use of wit.’’

Inventory from varied sources

Caliban gets many books from people unloading them for one reason or another—a death in the family, downsizing, divorce.

Bruce Miller, 57, of Oakmont hoped to sell an 1897 copy of ``Messages and Papers of the Presidents.’’ A friend gave Miller the book for painting a room, but Schulman said so many copies exist that it has little financial value.

Playwright Attilio ``Buck’’ Favorini, 71, of Squirrel Hill stopped by a short while later with a box of books from his career in the theater. He gave away about half of his collection before retiring last year, but he has 22 cartons at home. Schulman gave him $20.

Books at Caliban range from free, donated items on the street to rare books worth thousands of dollars, including a first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ``Uncle Tom’s Cabin’’ priced at $12,000. Schulman acquired the book from the widow of a collector.

Signed books fetch big bucks

A set of six signed books by author Michael Chabon is listed for $2,500. The autographs are inscribed to Jay Dantry, the former owner of Jay’s Book Stall, an Oakland shop that closed in 2008, or his partner, Harry Schwalb.

Chabon, who worked for the bookstore while attending CMU, is the acclaimed author of ``The Mysteries of Pittsburgh’’ (1988); ``Wonder Boys’’ (1995); ``The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’’ (2000); ``The Yiddish Policemen’s Union’’ (2007); ``Gentlemen of the Road’’ (2007); and ``Telegraph Avenue’’ (2012).

Schulman recently purchased a handmade book, ``Im Nebel,’’ published in Rheinback, Germany. Beyond its craftsmanship, Schulman said, the book has value because only 40 copies were made and none is available on the Internet.

Other books are more affordable: Signed copies of David McCullough’s ``The Johnstown Flood’’ and Hillary Clinton’s ``It Takes a Village’’ are listed at $125 each. The store recently sold a signed copy of August Wilson’s ``Three Plays’’ for its list price of $170.

The store has a ``signed’’ first edition of Jack London’s ``White Fang’’ for $100. Unsigned copies can go for $200, but this copy has a bogus signature, written in ballpoint pen and dated 1907, years before the pens were invented. The seller purchased the book online.

Schulman said he bought the book as proof of the uncertain authenticity of items online and the relevance of booksellers who can verify them.

``Indie bookstores do worry about an age that will come when we’re no longer regarded as purveyors of information but as curio shops of things that people used to find useful and interesting,’’ he said.

The Caliban Book Shop in Pittsburgh, PA

Christmas Tree Science: How To Limit Needles Dropping


AP Science Writer

New York (AP) The presents are unwrapped. The children’s shrieks of delight are just a memory. Now it’s time for another Yuletide tradition: cleaning up the needles that are falling off your Christmas tree.

``I’m not particularly worried about it ... I’ll just sweep it up,’’ said Lisa Smith-Hansford of New York, who bought a small tree at a Manhattan sidewalk stand early this week. She likes the smell of a real tree, she said, comparing it to comfort food.

But others do mind. Consumers consistently cite messiness as one of the most common reasons they don’t have a real tree, says the National Christmas Tree Association.

Keeping a tree well-watered goes a long way toward minimizing the needle problem. But beyond that, scientists are trying to find ways to make trees less messy and keep them fresh through the holidays.


Some kinds of trees, like the noble fir or Fraser fir, are better than others at maintaining moisture and keeping their needles once they’re in your house, says Gary Chastagner of Washington State University. But even within a given species, some trees are better than others, he said. Needle retention is an inherited trait: if a tree does well, so will the offspring that grow from the seeds in its cones.


At a research station in Puyallup, Washington, Chastagner works to identify individual trees that hold onto their needles best. He tests branches cut early in the fall, which encourages needle loss because they haven’t experienced cold weather. He lets them dry out and his team evaluates them after about 10 days, looking for branches that do not shed any needles. Needles start to fall off branches from some trees within three to five days when the branch is gently rubbed, even if they aren’t dry and brittle. A poor performer may lose all of them within a week.


If a branch does well, it means the tree has good genetics for keeping needles. So growers can seek out seeds from those trees to produce seedlings for future planting. These progeny should do well, too. With a federal grant, Chastagner is also working with others to identify genetic markers that indicate whether a tree will resist needle shedding. That would make the tree-screening process much faster and perhaps lead to breeding experiments to produce superior trees.


Trees that experience warm autumns tend to have more needle loss later, Chastagner said. So if global warming leads to warmer falls in the future, it could be bad news for Christmas trees, he said. But since his studies focus on tree branches harvested before cold autumn weather sets in, they may identify trees that will do well in a warming world, he said.


Chastagner emphasizes that homeowners can minimize needle shedding by keeping their displayed trees well-supplied with water. In fact, when he has set up trees for research in early December and kept them watered, some species, like noble and Nordmann fir, have gone even three months with only minimal shedding. ``The potential is phenomenal,’’ he said.












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