CHICAGO — Anyone who’s left so much as a hat on a Chicago Transit Authority train knows that whatever leaves the station without its owner often is gone forever.
Except, apparently, a $22,000 gold and silver flute. Donald Rabin is once again holding — and playing — the flute left to him by his grandmother that he forgot on a train seat when he hopped off last week in the Logan Square neighborhood. “I’m just thankful that I have the flute in my hand, that I can make music again and I can make people smile,” said Rabin, a 23-year-old Boston-based flutist. Rabin was riding a Blue Line train from O’Hare International Airport during a layover before his return to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. When he got off, he realized he’d left behind his flute. He said he rode the train for hours in hopes of finding the flute. When he came up empty, he reported the missing instrument to police and took to social media to tell people about what happened. According to the Chicago Tribune, a CNN reporter told Rabin as he was about to fly out of Chicago that there was a comment on Facebook about the flute showing up in a pawn shop, that a homeless man had found it and used it as collateral for a $550 loan. The pawnshop owner, Gabe Cocanate, was holding onto the flute, trying to determine if it was as valuable as it looked, when he and his wife saw the story of the missing flute on the news. So when the homeless man returned to the shop, “I go, ‘Listen man, it’s been all over the news. It’s not your flute,’” Coconate told the Chicago Sun-Times. Police picked up the flute and contacted Rabin, who flew back to Chicago this week, retrieved it and treated officers to a brief concert. Rabin knew the odds of ever seeing something so valuable ever again. And yet, he said: “For some reason, I knew in my heart and soul it would be found. I knew my grandmother would never leave me.”
Arson suspected in Texas fire
MASON, Texas — A suspect has been arrested been taken into custody following a massive fire that destroyed all but the rock outer walls of an 111-year-old Texas courthouse. The fire at the Mason County Courthouse in Mason, about 100 miles northwest of Austin, started Thursday night. No one was in the building. Mason County Judge Jerry Bearden said the flames could be seen from miles away. “Right now, it’s just a shell,” he said. “It just breaks your heart to look at it.” He told The Associated Press on Friday that fire investigators suspect arson in both the courthouse fire and another blaze around the same time at a house about a mile away. The courthouse, made from local sandstone, was being prepared for renovations, so all of the county records had been moved out, Bearden said. He said only some furnishings were in the building. Bearden said the courthouse’s bell tower, which featured a clock, was destroyed. Bearden said officials will have an engineer check the outer walls in hopes of eventually rebuilding the “grand old lady.” Mason County has a population of about 4,300.
It will be an unusual Super Bowl
TAMPA, Fla. — Elizabeth Reed dances at Scores Gentleman’s Club, a strip club near the stadium hosting the Super Bowl, and says wearing masks while working is like “doing cardio” with her nose and mouth covered. It’s uncomfortable and sweaty, and her makeup is often ruined. She’s also wary of dancing close to patrons wearing thinner face coverings. “It’s not the same,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want to complain because front-line health care workers have to wear masks for hours on end. “It’s been an adjustment. Now I face away from the customer a majority of the time.” Still, she’s hopeful she’ll make $1,000 a night during Super Bowl week, and she’ll wear sequined masks that match her outfits. When Tampa was chosen host of this year’s Super Bowl, strip club owners anticipated a windfall week. Now, though, making it rain is less of a guarantee. There’s a global pandemic, citywide mask mandates and an attendance cap of one-third of the stadium’s capacity, so only 22,000 fans can go. Plus, the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the game, which means fewer people will be traveling and spending money. That leaves the owners and dancers of Tampa’s numerous strip clubs worried about how this year will shake out. “I’m thinking we’ll get an increase in business but it’s not going to be like anything it was,” said Joe Redner, the owner of Mons Venus, an all-nude strip club within walking distance of Raymond James Stadium. “This COVID makes it a whole different world.” The last time the Super Bowl was in Tampa — in 2009 — Redner’s landmark nightspot raised its cover charge from $20 to $50 the week of the big game. “People were lined up outside, handing us $50 bills,” he recalled.
66 rescued from ice floes
STURGEON BAY, Wis. — The U.S. Coast Guard and several other agencies rescued 66 people stranded on ice floes in a bay in northeastern Wisconsin. Ice boats and helicopters were used to bring the people who were ice fishing to safety Thursday in Door County. Three separate ice floes broke away after cracks developed between the shore and groups of people. High winds associated with an approaching winter storm pushed the floes further from shore. No one was injured. Coast Guard Ice Rescue teams from Sturgeon Bay, Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay, two helicopters from Traverse City, Mich., the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and local agencies assisted in the rescue, which took four hours to complete. Helicopter crews lowered rescue swimmers to the ice to help coordinate the rescues as local first responders and the Coast Guard’s ice boats arrived.
Wallet lost in Antarctica is back
SAN DIEGO — Paul Grisham’s wallet was missing for so long at the bottom of the world he forgot all about it. Fifty-three years later, the 91-year-old San Diego man has the billfold back along with mementos of his 13-month assignment as a Navy meteorologist on Antarctica in the 1960s. “I was just blown away,” Grisham told The San Diego Union-Tribune after the wallet was returned on Saturday. “There was a long series of people involved who tracked me down and ran me to ground.” The wallet contained his Navy ID card, driver license, a pocket reference card on what to do during atomic, biological and chemical attack, a beer ration punch card, a tax withholding statement and receipts for money orders sent to his wife. Grisham, who was raised in Douglas, Arizona, enlisted in the Navy in 1948. He became a weather technician and then a weather forecaster. He was assigned to Antarctica as part of “Operation Deep Freeze,” which supported civilian scientists, and shipped out to the frozen continent in October 1967. At the time, he was in his 30s and married with two toddlers. “I went down there kicking and screaming,” he told the Union-Tribune. At some point while down on “The Ice,” Grisham lost the wallet, something he later forgot about. t was found behind a locker in 2014 during demolition of a building at McMurdo Station on Antarctica’s Ross Island. But finding its owner took emails, Facebook messages and letters exchanged among a group of amateur sleuths.
Yankee Stadium is mass vax site
NEW YORK — Yankee Stadium was opened as a COVID-19 mass vaccination site Friday by officials trying to boost inoculation rates in surrounding Bronx neighborhoods hard hit by the pandemic. The megasite is being restricted to residents of the New York City borough with the highest percentage of positive coronavirus test results. Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “a different kind of opening day” hours after a long line formed outside the stadium on a damp morning. “This is about protecting people who need the most protection because the Bronx is one of the places that bore the brunt of this crisis of the coronavirus,” he said at a stadium-side news conference. “The Bronx has suffered.” De Blasio, a Red Sox fan, donned a Yankees cap in gratitude to the team and declared himself a fan of Boston’s archrival “for one day only.” The site established with help from the city and state has registered about 13,000 of the 15,000 appointments available in its first week, officials said. It will initially be open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Russia expels EU diplomats
MOSCOW — Russia said Friday it was expelling diplomats from Sweden, Poland and Germany, accusing them of attending a rally in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as international tensions grew over the jailing of the Kremlin’s most prominent foe. The announcement came as the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the treatment of Navalny represents “a low point” in relations between Brussels and Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Swedish and Polish diplomats in St. Petersburg and a German diplomat in Moscow of taking part in what it called “unlawful” rallies on Jan. 23. Tens of thousands of people across Russia took to the streets that day to protest Navalny’s arrest. The diplomats were declared “persona non grata” and were required to leave Russia “shortly,” a ministry statement said.
Actor Christopher Plummer dies
Christopher Plummer, the dashing award-winning actor who played Captain von Trapp in the film “The Sound of Music” and at 82 became the oldest Academy Award acting winner in history, has died. He was 91.Plummer died Friday morning at his home in Connecticut with his wife, Elaine Taylor, by his side. Over more than 50 years in the industry, Plummer enjoyed varied roles ranging from the film “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” to the voice of the villain in 2009’s “Up” and as a canny lawyer in Broadway’s “Inherit the Wind.” But it was opposite Julie Andrews as von Trapp that made him a star. He played an Austrian captain who must flee the country with his folk-singing family to escape service in the Nazi navy, a role he lamented was “humorless and one-dimensional.” Plummer spent the rest of his life referring to the film as “The Sound of Mucus” or “S&M.” “We tried so hard to put humor into it,” he told The Associated Press in 2007. “It was almost impossible. It was just agony to try to make that guy not a cardboard figure.” The role catapulted Plummer to stardom, but he never took to leading men parts, despite his silver hair, good looks and ever-so-slight English accent. He preferred character parts, considering them more meaty. Plummer had a remarkable film renaissance late in life, which began with his acclaimed performance as Mike Wallace in Michael Mann’s 1999 film “The Insider,” continued in films such 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind” and 2009’s “The Last Station,” in which he played a deteriorating Tolstoy and was nominated for an Oscar.
Canada blocks cruise ships
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Canadian government has extended a ban on cruise ships through February 2022, which is expected to block many ships from visiting Alaska this year. Transport Canada on Thursday announced the extension of the ban enacted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada blocked cruise ships of more than 100 passengers starting in spring 2020. Most large cruise ships visiting Alaska are registered in foreign countries. U.S. federal law prohibits foreign-registered ships from sailing between two American ports without stopping at a foreign port between. Large cruise ships bound for Alaska either begin voyages in Canada or stop there on the way. Most of Alaska’s 1.3 million visitors two years ago were cruise ship passengers visiting southeast Alaska.
Chameleon among smallest reptile
BERLIN — It fits on a human fingertip, but this chameleon could make a big splash. Scientists from Madagascar and Germany say a newly discovered species of chameleon is a contender for the title of world’s smallest reptile. Frank Glaw, who was part of the international team of researchers that classified the new species and named it Brookesia nana said the body of the male specimen appeared to be just 13.5-millimeters-long (a little more than a 1/2-inch.) That’s at least 1.5 millimeters smaller than the previous record holder, another member of the Brookesia family. Glaw, a reptile expert at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich, said the tiny male and a slightly larger female were spotted on a mountainside by a local guide during a 2012 expedition. “You really have to get down on your knees to find them,” Glawsaid. “They are obviously camouflaged and they move very slowly.” Glaw and his colleagues performed a CT scan of the female and discovered that it harbored two eggs, confirming that it was an adult. For the male, the researchers took a close look at its “well-developed” genitals, which in chameleons come in pairs known as hemipenes. They found that the genitals of the Brookesia nana specimen were almost one=fifth of its body size, possibly to allow it to mate with the larger female. “I have few doubts it’s an adult male,” Glaw said. “If we had a pair mating it would obviously be better proof.”
Biden dogs will be in Puppy Bowl
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s dogs will make an appearance during the Puppy Bowl this weekend. The two German Shepherds, Champ and Major, will appear alongside first lady Jill Biden in a public service announcement focused on mask-wearing set to air during Puppy Bowl XVII. The event, which features a group of rowdy puppies playing in a model stadium and airs as an alternative to the Super Bowl every year, is focused on raising awareness about adopting shelter pets — something the Bidens have experienced themselves. They adopted Major from the Delaware Humane Association, and he is the first shelter dog to move into the White House. In the 30-second spot, Jill Biden sits with the family’s dogs before a fire at the White House and speaks about how, for many Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, “our pets have been such a source of joy and comfort.” “The unconditional love from a dog is one of the most beautiful things on earth, and we owe it to them to keep ourselves healthy,” she continues. “So please keep wearing your masks, even when you’re out walking your dog, right guys?” The ad closes with a bark, and directions to visit the Centers for Disease Control’s website for more information about preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Arrest in 2003 Georgia murder
COLUMBUS, Ga. — Georgia police detectives said a fingerprint match more than 15 years after a killing led them to arrest a man in January in South Carolina for a 2003 killing. A judge on Friday declined to set bail for Alvin Barfield, 46, refusing arguments from the defense that Barfield, who’s charged with murder, was not a flight risk due to his cooperation with detectives. Columbus cold-case investigator Stuart Carter testified Friday that he was assigned to investigate the 2003 death of Albert Carter Woolfolk. The Ledger-Enquirer reports the 45-year-old was found stabbed more than 20 times and strangled in his home, apparently after leaving a bar with three men around midnight. Investigators noted that a big-screen TV, an unusual luxury item in 2003, was missing. Police found the cable box that had been atop it upside-down on the floor of a sun room, Carter said. From that box, police lifted a fingerprint and found that it matched neither Woolfolk nor anyone in his family. Carter said he asked a crime scene technician to run the fingerprints through an FBI database in August, matching to prints taken from Barfield after an unrelated arrest.
A meager gain in US jobs
WASHINGTON — America’s employers barely added jobs last month, underscoring the viral pandemic’s ongoing grip on the economy and likely adding momentum to the Biden administration’s push for a bold rescue aid package. The increase of just 49,000 positions in January made scarcely any dent in the nearly 10 million jobs that remain lost since the virus intensified nearly a year ago.
Woody-Mia fallout explored
LOS ANGELES — A documentary series examining Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s doomed relationship and its fallout, including allegations that he sexually abused a daughter, will air on HBO. “Allen v. Farrow” will include the “charmed courtship” of filmmaker Allen and actor Farrow; daughter Dylan Farrow’s allegations of abuse as a child, and Allen’s relationship with Mia Farrow’s adult daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, who became his wife, HBO said Friday. The documentary will explore the “private story” through interviews with Mia, Dylan and Ronan Farrow and investigators, and an examination of court documents and previously unreleased material, the channel said. Film experts will discuss Allen’s work and its re-evaluation in light of his personal life. Allen and Previn didn’t participate in the documentary, nor did Moses Farrow, the son of Allen and Mia Farrow. Allen has long denied sexually abusing Dylan. In a 2020 memoir, he said he “never did anything to her that could be even misconstrued as abusing her; it was a total fabrication from start to finish.” Two separate investigations were conducted in the 1990s and Allen wasn’t charged. Dylan Farrow has maintained that she was abused and her allegations have been embraced in the #MeToo era.
Nursing home cases drop
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Coronavirus cases have dropped at U.S. nursing homes and other long-term care facilities over the past few weeks, offering a glimmer of hope that health officials attribute to the start of vaccinations, an easing of the post-holiday surge and better prevention, among other reasons. More than 153,000 residents of the country’s nursing homes and assisted living centers have died of COVID-19, accounting for 36% of the U.S. pandemic death toll, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Many of the roughly 2 million people who live at such facilities remain cut off from loved ones because of the risk of infection. The virus still kills thousands of them weekly. The overall trend for long-term care residents is improving, though, with fewer new cases recorded and fewer facilities reporting outbreaks. Coupled with better figures for the country overall, it’s cause for optimism even if it’s too early to declare victory.
Capitol invader pleads not guilty
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas man who was photographed sitting with his feet on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during last month’s riot at the U.S. Capitol pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges stemming from the breach. Richard Barnett, 60, was arraigned in federal court on seven counts from the Jan. 6 riot, including entering and remaining in a restricted building with a dangerous weapon, theft of government property and disorderly conduct. The next hearing for his case was set for March 4.
Major unemployment fraud
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Unemployment agencies across the U.S. became lucrative targets for criminals when they were bombarded with claims last year as millions lost jobs due to coronavirus shutdowns. Now, simple tax forms being sent to people who never collected unemployment benefits are revealing that their identity was likely stolen months ago and used to claim bogus benefits that have totaled billions of dollars nationwide. Unemployment benefits are taxable, so government agencies send a 1099-G form to people who received them so they can report the income on their tax returns. States are mailing 1099-Gs in huge numbers this year after processing and paying a record number of claims. In Ohio, Bernie Irwin was shocked two weeks ago when she opened the mail and found a 1099-G form saying her husband had claimed $17,292 in unemployment benefits last year. The only problem: Jim Irwin, 83, hadn’t worked in 13 years. Bernie Irwin, 86, said her daughter-in-law and a friend also received the tax forms. So did Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, his wife, Fran, and Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, even though none of them had claimed unemployment benefits. Nearly 26 million people requested unemployment aid in the initial months after states began ordering shutdowns. The unprecedented surge strained unemployment offices that are governed by federal rules but administered in patchwork fashion by state governments, with many relying on 1960s-era software to process applications and issue payments. The federal government, as part of its $2 trillion relief package approved in March, significantly expanded jobless aid, making it a richer target for fraud. By November, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General estimated states had paid as much as $36 billion in improper benefits, with a significant portion of that blamed on fraud. In California alone, officials say the fraud totaled at least $11 billion, with $810 million paid in the names of ineligible prisoners.
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