Moose drowns in US lake after being crowded by onlookers taking photos

A moose drowned in Lake Champlain after people crowded around the animal to take its picture, Vermont wildlife officials said.

Fish and Wildlife Warden Robert Currier said the moose swam across the lake from New York to South Hero, Vermont, on Sunday.

He said it made it onto land but was forced back into the water, likely feeling threatened by onlookers. The moose succumbed to exhaustion and drowned.

Mr Currier said he wasn't there when the moose re-entered the water, but believes onlookers played a role based on what he heard from them and from local authorities. He arrived shortly before the animal drowned.

"It was struggling pretty good at that point. We were waiting for a boat to respond to try to assist it, but before the boat arrived, it had drowned," he said today. "It was really rough out there, probably 4- to 5-foot swells and high wind."

Mr Currier said when the boat arrived, he got in the water and attached a rope to the moose to remove it.

Bernadette Toth was in the area Saturday morning with her 17-year-old daughter, who was having her senior photos taken. She saw the moose swim to shore, but left before it re-entered the water. She said there were about half a dozen people nearby and noted that the incident happened near a bike path popular with tourists.

"They made it sound like it was this big mob of people. No, this is a heavy trafficked area for South Hero," Ms Toth said. "That is always a very busy, busy area."

Mr Currier said moose respond to threats by leaving an area or getting aggressive.

"I would advise the public to keep their distance from the animal, give it a lot of space and notify the Department of Fish and Wildlife," he said.

A moose stands in Lake Champlain in South Hero, Vermont. Source: Associated Press



California jury finds career criminal guilty of raping, murdering two teens four decades ago

A Northern California jury today found guilty a career criminal thought to be the "Gypsy Hill Killer" of raping and murdering two teenage girls more than 42 years ago.

The San Mateo County jury deliberated for a little more than an hour before finding Rodney Halbower guilty.

Authorities believe the 69-year-old is responsible for other rapes and murders of young women in Northern California and Reno, Nevada, over a five-month span in 1976. In 2004, advances in DNA technology connected Halbower to the murders. He was in an Oregon prison at the time.

Halbower is scheduled to be sentenced on October 10 in Redwood City, about 40 kilometres south of San Francisco. The judge is required to sentence Halbower under the sentencing laws of 1976, the year the crimes occurred.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the stiffest sentence available then was life with the possibility of parole. Mr Wagstaffe said the judge can impose consecutive sentences, meaning if Halbower was given parole for one murder, he would start serving the life sentence for the second.

"Our expectation is that this monster of a killer will never, ever, be allowed to be free on our streets again," Mr Wagstaffe said.

The six murders remained a mystery for four decades until a cold-case detective re-opened the investigation. He scraped DNA samples from cigarette butts found at the scene and in 2014 they were discovered to match Halbower's genetic makeup. DNA taken from the victims also matched Halbower's DNA, prosecutors told jurors.

It took four years to start Halbower's after he was charged with two of the murders. He routinely fired his attorneys and demanded to represent himself. A judge also ordered a trial to determine if he was sane enough to stand trial. A jury in 2017 found him sane.

The start of the murder trial almost ended as soon as it started on September 7 with Halbower disrupting the proceedings.

"I am not guilty!" he yelled at the jury. "I have never raped or murdered in my life!"

The judge declined public defender John Halley's calls for a mistrial and Halbower ceased his outbursts.

"He doesn't get to set up his own mistrial," Judge Mark Forcum said.

He stopped the outbursts after that and Wagstaffe said Halbower calmly congratulated prosecutor Sean Gallagher after the verdicts were read.

Prosecutors said they charged him with the two murders with the strongest evidence and expected he would be locked up for life if convicted.

Mr Gallagher told the jury about the two teen girls who were abducted, raped and killed in a once-tranquil suburb, and that DNA from semen found in both women and preserved for decades matched Halbower's DNA. One of the victims was stabbed to death and the other was beaten in the head with concrete and stabbed in her heart.

Authorities in the 1970s said the killings were linked and dubbed the attacker the Gypsy Hill Killer for the location where one of the first victims was found. Halbower is also suspected of raping and killing a nursing student in Reno during the same period as the five California killings.

It's possible that Halbower would never have been linked to the attacks had he not escaped from a Nevada prison in December 1986. He made his way to Oregon, where he was arrested on suspicion of rape and attempted murder within days of his escape.

An Oregon jury convicted Halbower and sentenced him to 15 years in prison in that state. First, he was returned to Nevada to finish that state's prison term.

When Nevada paroled him in 2013, he was sent back to Oregon, where prison officials took a DNA sample and submitted it to the national database investigators use to revive stalled investigations. Authorities say the results linked him to the Gypsy Hill case.

Court records show Halbower has spent the past 53 years in prison or on the lam.

This undated file photo provided by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office shows Rodney Halbower. Source: Associated Press

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Pasifika leaders call for action after Florida bar trademarks Fijian bula greeting

Pasifika leaders in New Zealand are calling for people to post one-star reviews for a Florida bar that has trademarked the word 'bula'.

The commonly-used Fijian greeting was trademarked this month by United States businessman, Ross Kashtan.

This sparked outrage online.

Ross Kashtan owned three "bula" businesses spread across Florida - Bula Kafe, Bula on the Beach and Bula Coco Beach.

He probably did not expect a huge backlash when he went to trademark the word "bula".

But he got one.

Among those to express their fury online was Josiah Tualamali'i, who is one of the members of the Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry panel and the chairperson of New Zealand Pasifika youth charity PYLAT.

Mr Tualamali'i wanted people to leave one-star reviews on the Facebook page of one of Mr Kashtan's bars.

"I just thought 'well they have 4.9 as their overall rating so let's pull that back a bit'," said Mr Tualamali'i.

"We know they are listening because they removed my comment and some others, so this has got to them and that was the point."

Dozens of angry people have left such reviews.

The word Bula itself is a commonly-used traditional Fijian greeting.

Trademarking it meant Mr Kashtan could attempt to prevent other businesses like his using the word.

"They are trying to steal something that doesn't belong to them," said Mr Tualamali'i. "It really has to end."

Mr Kashtan's bula logo appeared on many of his business' products and advertising, from signage and bottle branding, to "bula babe shorts".

Checkpoint repeatedly tried to get in touch with Mr Kashtan, but only got as far as one of his workers who was well aware of the unfolding drama.

"It's not to inhibit anyone to use it, we just don't want anyone calling their businesses that because we have a ten-year-old business called 'bula'," the worker said.

"It's not too hurt anybody...we are really good people I promise."

He said he would pass along Checkpoint's contact details to Mr Kashtan, but we have not heard back.

It's not the first time United States businesses have been accused of cultural appropriation.

Illinois restaurant chain Aloha Poke Company copped criticism just last month for sending cease and desist letters to other restaurants using the word 'aloha'.

The US Patent and Trademark office lists 43 companies which have trademarked the word 'bula".

The New Zealand government was unimpressed with this recent trademark.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, said more needed to be done to stop this kind of thing happening.

"This is a disturbing revelation and will be distressful not only to Fijians in New Zealand but to all Fijians throughout the world," he said.

"It is unbelievable that a company from another country can trademark what belongs to another group of people."

- by Logan Church

rnz.co.nz

Bula Kafe. Source: Facebook

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Black-market home-brew kills Sydney man

Black market home-brew is believed to be behind the death of a 57-year-old Sydney man, prompting a warning from police.

The man was admitted to Liverpool Hospital on September 11 after a fall and police were alerted.

His condition deteriorated through the week until he died on Tuesday.

"Investigators have been advised by health authorities that the man was suffering the effects of acute methanol poisoning, with a post mortem examination still to be conducted," NSW Police said in a statement on Wednesday.

The man was a regular drinker but not to excess, investigators have been told - and the alcohol may have been illegally sourced home-brew.

It's feared the alcohol, known as Rakia or Rakija, is being sold in the community.

Ten bottles of the alcohol have been seized from the man's home in West Hoxton Park and taken for forensic tests.

A report is being prepared for the coroner.

Group of home brew craft beer bottles
Home-brew alcohol (file picture). Source: istock.com


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Reality show doctor and woman allegedly used 'good looks' to lure victims into California drug rapes

A California physician who appeared in a reality TV dating show and an alleged female accomplice have been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting two women, and authorities said today there could be many more victims.

Orthopedic surgeon Grant W. Robicheaux, 38, of Newport Beach and Cerissa Laura Riley, 31, of Brea were arrested September 12 after being charged with rape by use of drugs, oral copulation by anaesthesia or controlled substance, and other crimes, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told a news conference in Santa Ana.

Investigators were meticulously going through "thousands and thousands of videos and images on Robicheaux's phone, many also including Riley," Rackauckas said.

Some videos show women who "appear to be highly intoxicated beyond the ability to consent or resist, and they're barely responsive to the defendant's sexual advances. Based on this evidence, we believe that there might be many unidentified victims out there," he said.

The district attorney showed reporters video of Robicheaux from a now-cancelled Bravo TV show called "Online Dating Rituals of the American Male" in an episode titled "Three's A Crowd."

"We believe the defendants used their good looks and charm to lower the inhibitions of their potential prey," Rackauckas said, releasing an array of information about many locations and events associated with Robicheaux and Riley.

The defendants, who were released on $US100,000 bail, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Grant W. Robicheaux and Cerissa Laura Riley. Source: Associated Press