Watch: Firefighter raises spirits by riding inflatable whale through US floodwaters

The remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon have caused severe flooding in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, but one firefighter was able to see the funny site of the situation as he took to an inflatable whale in a township for some light relief.

Video of the whale rider firefighter, decked out in his firefighting suit and helmet, was supplied to WTAE-TV Pittsburgh, which posted it on its Facebook page.

"Sometimes you need a raft. Other situations call for ... an inflatable whale?" the TV station wrote with its post.

"Thanks to a WTAE viewer for sharing this video from the Buena Vista community in Elizabeth Township."

The firefigjhter grins as he rides the black and white inflatable whale.

Pittsburgh is now above its usual total annual rainfall, after the storm moved through over the weekend. 

The firefighter's whale riding outing has drawn many comments on Facebook.

"Finding joy in a horrible situation," one user wrote.

Another offered: "My grandson has an alligator you guys can borrow."

But another complained: "I doubt anyone living in the area found humor in it."

The focus is now turning to Hurricane Florence, a powerful storm expected to make landfall along the US east coast sometime Friday NZT, though its eventual track is still uncertain.



Rare beluga whale sighting in the River Thames

A beluga whale was spotted in the River Thames outside the British capital today, officials said.

The unusual sighting happened in the Gravesend area about 50 kilometres east of London. It was reported to be feeding near a number of barges.

TV news helicopters filmed the whale from the air as officials asked the public not to get too close to the animal.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation group said that beluga whales are identified by distinctive white markings and are typically found farther north.

"Beluga whales inhabit cold, arctic waters off Greenland, Svalbard and in the Barents Sea," the group said in a statement. "There have only been around 20 sightings of beluga whales off the UK coast previously, but these have occurred off Northumberland, Northern Ireland and Scotland."

The RSPCA animal welfare group said that it's "working with other agencies to monitor the situation" and sent researchers to the scene.

It says it is ready to provide help to the whale if asked to do so by other agencies.

Images posted on Twitter showed a white whale in the water.

The River Thames, one of the longest rivers in England, runs through several major cities and towns, including London, Oxford and Windsor.

A beluga whale was spotted about 50 kilometres east of the city. Source: BBC

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US woman who cut baby from her neighbour's womb says her boyfriend pressured her for a child

A North Dakota woman convicted of killing her pregnant neighbour by cutting the baby from her womb testified today that her boyfriend had pressured her to "produce a baby" after figuring out she had lied about being pregnant.

Brooke Crews told the court that she had concocted a phony pregnancy to keep from losing William Hoehn, who is on trial for conspiracy in the August 2017 death of 22-year-old Savanna Greywind. Hoehn has admitted helping to cover up the crime, but says he didn't know that Crews had planned to kill Ms Greywind and take her baby. Crews testified that she never "explicitly" told Hoehn that was her plan.

Crews said Hoehn appeared surprised when he entered the bathroom in their apartment and discovered she had cut Ms Greywind's baby from her body. Crews said Hoehn then retrieved a rope and tightened it around Ms Greywind's neck, saying: "If she wasn't dead before, she is now."

Ms Greywind's daughter survived and is being raised by family.

Hoehn spoke regularly with his attorney, Daniel Borgen, during Crews' testimony but showed little emotion. Crews was crying and sniffling throughout.

"You never told Will that you had planned to do this, is that right?" Borgen asked.

"Not kill Savanna for her baby, no," Crews replied.

"In fact, there was never a conversation at all about killing Savanna and taking her baby," Borgen said.

"Not explicitly," she said.

It wasn't immediately clear what Crews meant by "explicitly".

Crews described her relationship with Hoehn as rocky and violent, saying it was fuelled by drugs and alcohol. She said they broke up at one point, and that's when she lied to him about being pregnant. She went so far as to email him a phony positive pregnancy test and sonogram photo.

In early August, Hoehn told Crews he didn't believe she was pregnant and said she needed "to produce a baby". Crews said she believed this was "an ultimatum".

"I took that to mean I better have a baby, no matter how it happened," Crews said.

Crews originally told police that Ms Greywind had given her the child. She later told police they had argued and that she pushed Ms Greywind down and knocked her out before cutting her open. A medical examiner testified Monday that there was no evidence of any head injuries.

Crews stuck to her story today, saying she pushed Greywind, who was knocked out when her head hit the bathroom sink. Crews said that's when she got a knife and began cutting the baby out.

Crews said the couple kept ropes around the house because Hoehn liked to tie her up during sex, including around her neck. She also said Hoehn expressed fantasies about killing people and Crews said she initially told him she would be interested in that too.

The medical examiner who performed the autopsy, Dr Victor Froloff, testified yesterday that he isn't sure whether Greywind died from blood loss or strangulation.

Ms Greywind's disappearance sparked several searches before her body was found several days later, shrouded in plastic and dumped in the Red River. Crews testified today that police missed Ms Greywind's body and her baby during three searches of the couple's apartment.

Crews testified that Ms Greywind's body was in the bathroom closet and the baby was covered up next to Hoehn on a bed during one of those searches. She said Hoehn eventually moved Ms Greywind's body to a hollowed-out dresser and the two of them carried it out of the apartment.

Fargo Police Chief David Todd did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Crews' testimony.

Crews pleaded guilty to murder and is serving life in prison without parole. She said she has no agreement with prosecutors for a lesser sentence in exchange for testifying.

Ms Greywind's death prompted North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to introduce Savanna's Act, which aims to improve tribal access to federal crime information databases and create standardized protocols for responding to cases of missing and slain Native American women. A similar bill has been introduced in the House.

FILE - This combination of file photos provided by the Cass County Sheriff's Office in Fargo, N.D., shows William Hoehn, and his girlfriend Brooke Crews, the two people charged in connection with the murder of Savanna Greywind in North Dakota in August 2017. Greywind was eight months pregnant. Crews, ultimately admitted killing Greywind and cutting her baby from her womb. Hoehn, goes on trial Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, for conspiracy to commit murder. He has admitted helping cover up Greywind's murder. (Cass County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
William Hoehn and his girlfriend Brooke Crews. Source: Associated Press

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Priest who blamed child sex abuse on cancer he didn't have to stand trial for crimes

A former New Mexico priest, who fled the US decades ago amid allegations of child sex abuse and once blamed his behaviour on a cancer diagnosis which prosecutors say he didn't have, is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow.

Arthur Perrault is expected to appear in US District Court in Albuquerque for a detention hearing as prosecutors seek to hold the 80-year-old priest until his trial for aggravated sexual abuse.

Court documents filed in federal court said victims described Perrault showering them with gifts and meals before abusing them. Victims also collaboratively described Perrault as someone who smoked pipes and wore silk underwear.

Documents also said the Connecticut-born Perrault wrote an apology letter to the parents of one victim in 1971 and blamed his actions on cancer, which prosecutors said he was never diagnosed with.

Perrault was extradited to New Mexico last week from Morocco in connection with sexual abuse cases that are alleged to have taken place between 1991 and 1992 at Kirtland Air Force Base and Santa Fe National Cemetery.

The former Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and a former Air Force chaplain has been charged in a federal indictment with seven counts of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact.

Perrault pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance Friday. He also told a US magistrate judge he'd had a stroke three years ago, was deaf in one ear, and had trouble walking.

Perrault, a one-time pastor at St. Bernadette parish in Albuquerque, is one of many priests sent to New Mexico in the 1960s from around the country for treatment involving paedophilia.

Victims, lawyers and church documents show the priests were later assigned to parishes and schools across New Mexico — especially in small Native American and Hispanic communities.

Perrault vanished in 1992, just days before an attorney filed two lawsuits against the archdiocese alleging Perrault had sexually assaulted seven children at his parish.

The FBI said Perrault first fled to Canada and then to Tangier, Morocco, where he worked until last year at an English-language school for children.

Perrault denied abusing children in a handwritten letter to a judge related to sexual abuse lawsuits in Albuquerque. Perrault said his assets included money from military retirement and Social Security.

Church records released last year by a New Mexico judge show Perrault is also accused in state lawsuits of sexually abusing at least 38 boys in other cases.

Records also show Perrault was sent in 1965 to Servants of the Paraclete — a religious order that ran a treatment centre for paedophile priests in Jemez Springs, New Mexico — after he was accused of molesting young men while serving in Connecticut.

FILE - Perrault, who fled the U.S. decades ago amid allegations of child sex abuse and once blamed his behavior on a cancer diagnosis which prosecutors say he didn't have, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (The Albuquerque Journal via AP, File)
This 1989 file photo shows Father Arthur Perrault in Albuquerque, N.M. Source: Associated Press


'America's Dad' Bill Cosby is now headed to prison, a 'sexually violent predator'

His Hollywood career and good-guy image in ruins, an 81-year-old Bill Cosby was sentenced overnight to three to 10 years behind bars for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman, becoming the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be sent to prison.

The punishment all but completed the dizzying, late-in-life fall for the comedian, former TV star and breaker of racial barriers.

"It is time for justice. Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The time has come," Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill said.

He quoted from victim Andrea Constand's own statement to the court, in which she said Cosby took her "beautiful, young spirit and crushed it."

Cosby declined the opportunity to address the court before the sentence came down.

The punishment came at the end of a two-day hearing at which the judge declared Cosby a "sexually violent predator" — a modern-day scarlet letter that subjects him to monthly counselling for the rest of his life and requires that neighbours and schools be notified of his whereabouts.

The comic once known as America's Dad for his role on the top-rated "Cosby Show" in the 1980s was convicted in April of violating Constand, Temple University women's basketball administrator, at his suburban Philadelphia estate in 2004.

It was the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.

Cosby faced a sentence of anywhere from probation to 10 years in prison. His lawyers asked for house arrest, saying Cosby — who is legally blind — is too old and vulnerable to do time in prison.

Prosecutors asked for five to 10 years behind bars, saying he could still pose a threat to women.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele rejected the notion that Cosby's age and infirmity entitle him to mercy.

"He was good at hiding this for a long time. Good at suppressing this for a long time. So it's taken a long time to get there," Steele said.

In the years since Constand first went to authorities in 2005, more than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, though none of those claims have led to criminal charges.

The judge ruled on Cosby's "sexually violent predator" status after a psychologist for the state testified that the entertainer appears to have a mental disorder that gives him an uncontrollable urge to have sex with women without their consent. When the ruling came down, a woman in the courtroom shot her fist into the air and whispered, "Yessss!"

In a statement submitted to the court and released this morning, Constand, now 45, said that she has had to cope with years of anxiety and self-doubt. She said she now lives alone with her two dogs and has trouble trusting people.

"When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities," she wrote in her five-page statement.

"Now, almost 15 years later, I'm a middle-aged woman who's been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward."

She also wrote of Cosby: "We may never know the full extent of his double life as a sexual predator, but his decades-long reign of terror as a serial rapist is over."

Constand went to police a year after waking up in a fog at Cosby's gated estate, her clothes askew, only to have the district attorney pass on the case.

Another district attorney reopened the file a decade later and charged the TV star after stand-up comic Hannibal Buress' riff about Cosby being a rapist prompted more accusers to come forward and after a federal judge, acting on a request from The Associated Press, unsealed some of Cosby's startling, decade-old testimony in Constand's related civil suit.

In his testimony, Cosby described sexual encounters with a string of actresses, models and other young women and talked about obtaining quaaludes to give to those he wanted to sleep with.

Cosby's first trial in 2017 ended with a hung jury. He was convicted at a retrial that opened months after the #MeToo movement had taken down such figures as Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein, NBC's Matt Lauer, and actor Kevin Spacey.

Constand said Cosby gave her what she thought were herbal pills to ease stress, then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized on a couch. Cosby claimed the encounter was consensual, and his lawyers branded her a "con artist" who framed the comedian to get a big payday — a $3.4 million settlement she received over a decade ago.

Five other accusers took the stand at the trial as part of an effort by prosecutors to portray him as a predator.

Cosby, whose estimated fortune once topped $400 million, broke barriers in the 1960s as the first black actor to star in a network show, "I Spy." He went on to superstardom as wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," a sitcom that showed America a new kind of black TV family: a warm and loving household led by two professionals, one a lawyer, the other a doctor.

He also found success with his Saturday morning cartoon "Fat Albert," appeared in commercials for Jello-O pudding and became a public moralist, lecturing the black community about young people stealing things and wearing baggy pants. He won a Presidential Medal of Freedom and countless Emmys, Golden Globes and Grammy awards.

As the allegations mounted, his career all but collapsed, "Cosby Show" reruns were taken off the air, and one college after another stripped him of his honorary degrees.

A victim said she felt robbed of her youth by the 81-year-old comedian.


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