CHICAGO — Authorities on Thursday were on the hunt for coyotes in downtown Chicago after two reported attacks, including one where passersby said they had to pull a wild canine off of a 6-year-old boy who was bitten in the head. The reported attacks come amid an increase in sightings of coyotes in the nation’s third-largest city, including one in the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood that briefly prompted the lockdown of two schools on Thursday. Neither the boy nor a man who showed up at a hospital with what he said was a coyote bite suffered life-threatening injuries. Officials were confident the animal who attacked the boy was a coyote, based on witness interviews, Kelley Gandurski, executive director of the Chicago Animal Care and Control, told reporters. If true, it would mark the first time in the state that a coyote has attacked a human, according to a wildlife biologist with the Urban Coyote Research Project. The 5-year-old was attacked Wednesday while outside the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park. Gandurski said the animal may have been surprised by the boy as the child ran along a path. Later Wednesday, a man walked into the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a scratch on his behind, police said. He told police a coyote bit him, but Gandurski could not confirm his account because her staff had not yet interviewed him. While coyotes don’t usually bite humans, there have been confirmed minor attacks in other U.S. cities, Stan Gehrt, a wildlife ecology professor at Ohio State University who helped launch the Urban Coyote Research Project with Anchor in 2000.
Video in Epstein suicide try is lost
NEW YORK — Video footage of the area around Jeffrey Epstein’s jail cell on a day he survived an apparent suicide attempt “no longer exists,” federal prosecutors told a judge Thursday. Officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York believed they had preserved footage of guards finding Jeffrey Epstein after he appeared to have attempted suicide, but actually saved a video from a different part of the jail, prosecutors said. The FBI also has determined that the footage does not exist on the jail’s backup video system “as a result of technical errors,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maurene Comey and Jason Swergold wrote in a court filing. The revelation came despite assurances prosecutors made that jail officials were preserving the footage at the request of a defense attorney for Nicholas Tartaglione, a former police officer who shared a cell with Epstein in July when the wealthy financier was after discovered with bruises on his neck and then placed on suicide watch. Epstein later hanged himself in jail Aug. 10 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, officials said. Tartaglione’s defense attorney, Bruce Barket, intends to ask U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas to hold a hearing with “live testimony” to determine what happened to the missing video. Tartaglione is charged in what prosecutors have described as the “gangland-style” killings of four men who disappeared during a cocaine-related dispute. One of Epstein’s attorneys, Marc Fernich, said the missing video “only adds to the unanswered questions and deepens the air of mystery surrounding (Epstein’s) death, feeding the perception that the public will never really know what happened — and that the powers that be aren’t really interested in finding out.”
Iranians shot down jetliner
WASHINGTON — Evidence indicates it is “highly likely” that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile downed a Ukrainian jetliner near Tehran late Tuesday, U.S., Canadian and British officials said Thursday. They said the strike, which killed all 176 people on board, could well have been a mistake amid missile launches and high tensions throughout the region. The crash came just a few hours after Iran launched a ballistic attack against Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops amid a confrontation with Washington over the U.S. drone strike that killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general. Four U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, said they had no certain knowledge of Iranian intent and the airliner could have been mistaken for a threat. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country lost at least 63 citizens in the downing, said in Toronto: “We have intelligence from multiple sources including our allies and our own intelligence.
Town buys weed odor device
BESSEMER, Mich. — Is that a skunk? No, it’s marijuana. A small town in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula is buying an odor-detection device and drafting an ordinance to crack down on the unpleasant smell of blooming marijuana plants. Bessemer City Manager Charly Loper said the Nasal Ranger could be used to check a variety of bad-air complaints, but she acknowledged that marijuana appears to be the key target. “The city of Bessemer stinks,” council member Linda Nelson said Monday as the council voted to buy the device, which will cost $3,400 with training. “You can smell marijuana everywhere. We’ve got people who can’t sit in their backyard because the smell from their neighbor is so bad.” Medical marijuana has been around since 2008. But Michigan’s 2018 law, which cleared the way for homegrown pot for recreational use, has brought challenges to communities. The odor problem in Bessemer, population 1,905, occurs when marijuana plants are in bloom, especially during warmer months, Loper told The Associated Press. “The bloom period lasts six to eight weeks,” Loper said Thursday. “A lot of people describe it as a skunk-like odor. It can be strong. “We’re treading very softly in this area,” she said. “People have a right to grow marijuana in their house, but everyone needs to be considerate of their neighbors so the odor isn’t affecting their enjoyment of the outdoors.” Bessemer is 6 miles from the Wisconsin border. The Michigan law has attracted people from Wisconsin and Minnesota who are buying houses and growing marijuana indoors, Loper said.
PR quake aftermath deepens
SAN JUAN — More than 2,000 people in shelters. Nearly one million without power. Hundreds of thousands without water. The aftermath of a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that killed one person, injured nine others and severely damaged infrastructure in Puerto Rico’s southwest coast is deepening as the island’s government says it is overwhelmed. Many in the affected area are comparing the situation to Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit in September 2017, as hundreds of families who are unable to return to their damaged homes wonder where they’ll stay in upcoming weeks and months as hope fades of electricity being restored soon. “We have to remain outside because everything inside is destroyed,” said 84-year-old Brunilda Sanchez, who has been sleeping outdoors in a government-supplied cot in the southwest coastal town of Guanica. “We don’t know how long we’ll have to stay here.” President Trump declared an emergency in Puerto Rico several hours after Tuesday’s quake hit, a move that frees up federal funds via the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency for things ranging from transportation to medical care to mobile generators. But some local officials worry the help won’t arrive soon enough. Complicating efforts to restore power are strong aftershocks, with more than 40 earthquakes with a 3.0-magnitude or higher occurring since Tuesday’s quake, according to experts. Every time it shakes, personnel have to evacuate and further damage to the plant’s infrastructure is feared. Power company director Jose Ortiz said he expects nearly all customers to have electricity by early next week, adding that extremely preliminary assessments show that at least $50 million in damage occurred. On Thursday, transportation officials closed a portion of one of Puerto Rico’s busiest highways because of what they called serious structural failures related to the quake.
DiCaprio to aid Australia relief
LOS ANGELES — Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental organization is donating $3 million to help wildfire relief efforts in Australia. DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance said in a statement Thursday that the organization has created the Australia Wildfire Fund to help with an “international response to the catastrophic bushfires” currently raging in the country. The Academy Award-winning actor co-chairs the organization was launched last year to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. The wildfires have scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland. The blazes have killed 25 people and destroyed 2,000 homes. The fires, fueled by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record, have been raging since September, months earlier than is typical for Australia’s annual wildfire season. The fund will work with local Australian partner organizations including Aussie Ark, Bush Heritage, and Wires Wildlife Rescue. All funds will go to assist firefighting efforts in New South Wales and aid other communities affected by the wildfires. DiCaprio joins a growing list of other celebrities that have rallied to donate big bucks. Australian actor Chris Hemsworth and Elton John who each offered $1 million through social media earlier this week. Nicole Kidman, Pink and Keith Urban have donated as well. Metallica said they will donation $750,000 to a firefighting agency and emergency services agency in Victoria. Phoebe Waller-Bridge said she would auction off her Globe outfit and have the proceeds go to firefighter relief at the Golden Globes on Sunday.
Drivers shocked by road sign
PINE KNOT, Ky. — Drivers traveling along a Kentucky highway didn’t have to check their direct messages to receive the infamous sexting request: send nudes. An electronic road sign that was hacked early Thursday morning asked drivers on Highway 92 in Pine Knot to “send nudes,” news outlets reported. Officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said someone had hacked through the password-protected system. The sign belonged to a contractor doing construction work on the Ky. 92 realignment project through McCreary and Whitley counties, near the Tennessee border. Driver Tevon Stephens told news outlets he noticed the “clearly hacked” sign while going to work. “But seriously, we needed to bring awareness to it so the road departments would add cameras or add locks to the equipment to keep from distracting the drivers,” Stephens said. It’s unclear how long the message was on the screen. The contractor said none of their employees were involved in the prank.
Burglar prepares food, takes nap
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Taco Bell wasn’t open on Christmas Day but a burglar in Georgia decided he wanted a festive feast anyway — and to take a nap while he was at it. Police have asked for the public’s help in identifying the man who broke into the restaurant, prepared food and fell asleep early Christmas morning. At around 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 25, a man approached a Taco Bell in unincorporated Lawrenceville and entered through the drive-thru window. Surveillance video showed him using the fryers to make himself a meal. After eating, he proceeded to take a nap on the restaurant floor. Prior to leaving about three hours later, the suspect stole a laptop and tablet, investigators said. The suspect was described as a black male wearing black sweatpants, a black hooded sweatshirt, and black sneakers.
Searchers find third body
Buried under about 10 feet of snow after an avalanche this week at an Idaho ski resort, Bill Fuzak made peace with his predicament and prepared for death. “I had already relegated myself to the inevitable as I knew the air would not last long,” Fuzak, 62, wrote on a public Facebook page for skiers. “I’m really surprised how calm I felt but knew there was nothing I could do but wait and pray.” His prayers were answered and Fuzak became one of four survivors extricated from Tuesday’s avalanche at the Silver Mountain Resort near Kellogg, Idaho. Two other skiers were killed and the body of a third skier was recovered on Thursday. The resort remained closed Thursday.
Two men banned from park
MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. — Two men who pleaded guilty to trespassing on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park were sentenced to 10 days in jail and have been banned from the park for five years. Park employees and other witnesses saw two people on the geyser on Sept. 10 taking photos with their phones. At least one witness shared photos with park rangers, who cited the two defendants. Eric Schefflin, 20, of Lakewood, Colorado, and Ryan Goetz. 25, of Woodstock, New York, were sentenced on Dec. 5 by U.S. Magistrate Mark Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, park officials announced Thursday “Visitors must realize that walking on thermal features is dangerous, damages the resource, and illegal,” Chief Ranger Sarah Davis said in a statement. The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin and there is scalding water just below the surface, park officials said. Visitors must always remain on boardwalks and exercise extreme caution. Schefflin and Goetz were also ordered to pay $540 in restitution and were placed on unsupervised probation for five years.
Murder suspect killed on freeway
NIPTON, Calif. — A 27-year-old man killed his mother and drove about 200 miles through the Mojave Desert before he was fatally shot by police on a freeway, stranding motorists for up to 19 hours and backing up traffic for miles on the main route between Southern California and Las Vegas. The investigation began Wednesday when Kern County deputies found 55-year-old Guadalupe Adams dead with “traumatic injuries” in Tehachapi, which is about 35 miles east of Bakersfield. Kern County deputies believed an “armed and dangerous” man — identified as the woman’s son, Madison Adams — driving a 2017 Nissan was involved in the killing and asked the San Berndardino Sheriff’s Department to watch out for him. Officers from the California Highway Patrol found the Nissan stopped on the freeway’s shoulder in Nipton, which is near the Nevada state line. Authorities from CHP, San Bernardino and the Nevada Highway Patrol conducted a “high-risk” traffic stop. Officers from each agency opened fire amd Madison Adams was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation closed the northbound Interstate 15 on the California side through 3 p.m. Thursday and caused a backup between 5 and 8 miles long. Some motorists were forced to sit at the roadblock through the night and much of Thursday.
Gives birth to ‘miracle’ baby
A woman who gave birth to a boy she carried inside a transplanted womb said Thursday that the experimental procedure delivered a “miracle.” Jennifer Gobrecht and her husband, Drew Gobrecht, appeared Thursday at a news conference in Philadelphia. Their child, Benjamin, was the first baby born as part of Penn Medicine’s 2-year-old uterine transplant trial, and the eighth baby in the United States to be born to the recipient of a uterus transplant, according to Penn. Jennifer Gobrecht, 33, who was born without a uterus, underwent a 10-hour transplant procedure in 2018. The uterus came from a deceased donor. “This journey has not been easy, but every time I look at Benjamin’s face, I know it was worth it,” she said. “Benjamin is truly a miracle, and we feel beyond lucky to have him.” There have been about 70 uterus transplants performed worldwide. Penn Medicine said its trial is one of the few to accept donations from both living and deceased donors, an approach it said that could pay dividends in the form of an expanded pool of donor organs. Most transplant programs accept only from living donors, according to Penn. Some medical ethicists and transplant experts have expressed concerns about uterine transplants, questioning whether the benefit justifies the risk. But Dr. Kathleen O’Neill, one of the lead trial investigators at Penn, said uterine transplantation could give couples like the Gobrechts another option besides adoption and the use of a gestational carrier. “Uterus transplant is the only path to parenthood that will actually allow these women to carry their own pregnancies,” she said.
As fires get worse, smoke spreads,
PARADISE, Calif. — First came the flames, a raging firestorm propelled by 50 mph wind gusts that incinerated Kelsey Norton’s house and killed 85 people in her community. Then came the smoke — not just from the forest but also from some 14,000 houses and their contents that burned, generating a thick plume that enshrouded portions of Northern California for weeks and left Norton gasping. “I don’t want to have cancer in my 50s because I inhaled smoke in my 30s,” she said. The immediate toll of lives and property lost in 2018 when a fire tore through the Sierra Nevada foothills town of Paradise, California is well documented. Still unknown is the long-term impact of the intense smoke exposure suffered by the tragedy’s survivors and the hundreds of thousands of people living in communities downwind of the blaze. Increasingly intense wildfires are scorching forests from California to Australia and stoking concern among residents and health professionals about long-term health impacts from smoke exposure.