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The Amazing Parrot That Tells Alexa to Zip It

Not everyone is a fan of Frank Sinatra. Some might think that’s blasphemy, but the night lounge crooner isn’t on the top list of everybody’s easy listening portfolio. Where it really gets interesting, however, is when the 1950s singer catches the attention of one particular parrot, Mr. Magoo. Now, everyone knows parrots have an interesting ability to make repeat sounds that are very similar to human language. That is in fact where the word “parrotting” comes from in terms copying the statements of someone else repeatedly. But simple copying isn’t necessarily anything to write home about. Animals copy things all the time. Where it becomes interesting, however, is where sound from an animal shows intelligence and considered response to stimuli. In the case of Mr. Magoo, that bird wasn’t very pleased with the stimuli that comes out of an Alexa when it plays Frank Sinatra songs.

The first time it was noticed, Mr. Magoo was likely assumed to be simply squawking as parrots normally do. However, the bird’s owner began to pay attention and realized a particular pattern. Every time a Sinatra song was played on the nearby Alexa, Mr. Magoo would make it very clear the song needed to stop. Not only did Mr. Magoo figure out the word stop gets the machine to change its play list, the bird deduced it was the most effective way to get Sinatra songs in particular to stop playing. Mr. Magoo’s owners are so amazed by this simple by amazing behavior, they videotaped it for everyone to see themselves online.

And true to his nature, Mr. Magoo let’s loose his sentiments about Frank Sinatra’s singing trying to get the nearby Alexa to either stop or do something else, preferably play different music. Whether Mr. Magoo likes any music at all isn’t really clear or scientifically proven, but he does consistently show a clear negative reaction to crooning tunes. And Alexa understands the command to change the lineup, which makes the entire experience that much more interesting.

Now if it was someone’s dog, there would likely be a lot of howling but hardly any kind of sound that one could attribute to language. If it was a cat, the animal would likely just disappear and leave the room. But like his parrot brethren, Mr. Magoo is the kind of bird that confronts a problem directly and let’s loose his feelings on the matter. Amazon probably never anticipated its digital voice interface would be working with a parrot, but that’s the reality with the consumer public. All sorts of things can happen that the marketing department couldn’t possibly anticipate. And when it involves a feisty parrot named Mr. Magoo, you can bet that the designers of Alexa didn’t have a vocal bird on their list of test voices to generate product instructions.

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Georgia Police Sergeant Praises K9 Companion in New Book: Made Him a ‘Better Human’

Kelly Taylor

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In a heartwarming story from Georgia, Sgt. Mark Tappan of the Alpharetta Police Department shares the incredible bond he has with his K9 partner, Mattis, in his new book, “A Dog Named Mattis.” This book explores 12 life lessons that Tappan learned through his experiences with his skilled K9.

For Tappan, who deeply values his faith, the connection with Mattis is much more than that of a man and his dog. “When I looked at him, I saw so many qualities that I thought if I could emulate in my own life — I would be a better human, a better husband, a better father, a better Christian,” he said.

Tappan began his service career as a rifleman in the Marine Corps. Later, he became interested in working with K9 units after seeing the respect and attention service dogs receive from the public. When he tested Mattis as a potential K9 partner, the dog exceeded all his expectations. “He was focused and calm amid chaos. That is something special,” Tappan remarked.

Being a K9 handler is a 24/7 commitment. “They go home with you. They go to work with you. And you’re always training or un-training that dog,” Tappan explained. “Every interaction you have with that dog is on purpose.”

During his six-and-a-half years as a dual-purpose patrol K9, Mattis’ responsibilities included narcotics detection, tracking, apprehension, and protection work. One of the most important lessons Tappan learned was to trust his dog. He shared a story from the book about Mattis’ first track, which took place on a rainy day. Despite Tappan’s doubts and exhaustion, Mattis led them to the suspect by finding his shoes in a sewer. “This dog knows what he’s talking about. I need to trust him,” Tappan realized.

Mattis mastered his skills and became one of the most decorated police K9s of all time. Tappan said, “It took six-and-a-half years of training, two hours a day, every day, to get him to that point. The more you pour into the dog, the deeper your bond becomes, the more he can learn.”

After Mattis retired, Tappan reflected on the impact the dog had on his life. “As a police officer, you go through the darkest times in life. To be able to get into my police car and open the pass through, and his head would pop through, and I could just scratch his head was one of the best things in the world.”

Tappan called handling a dog for a living the “best job in the world.” He noted that K9s are “incredible tools” for police departments, not only for their physical abilities but also for bridging gaps within the community. Mattis gained a large following on social media, with his TikTok account (@k9_mattis) having 5.1 million followers. “When you wear the uniform, a lot of times people won’t approach you, but if you have a dog, they’re immediately interested,” Tappan said.

Tappan hopes readers are “fascinated” by the work K9s do and take away valuable lessons from Mattis’ story. “There’s always a lesson to be learned with whatever you’re going through,” he said. “And if they fall in love with Mattis, that would be pretty cool, too, because he’s an amazing dog.”

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Family in Windsor Receives Much-Needed Car from Student Group

Shannon Jackson

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In Windsor, a group of students is making a big difference in the community. The students at École secondaire catholique E.J. Lajeunesse, part of a group called Rebuilding Wheels, Rebuilding Lives, gave a family a refurbished car on Tuesday. This group has been working on rebuilding cars since 2014, and this was their 17th project.

The lucky family to receive the car was Ifeoma Ihedioha and her children. They received a 2011 Jeep Compass, completely free of charge. Ifeoma came to Canada from Nigeria five years ago and has been getting around with her kids using friends, buses, and cabs, which can be very expensive.

“I lack words; I really can’t find the right words to express my gratitude to the students, teachers, donors, partners, the United Way itself,” Ifeoma said. “It really has not been easy as a single mom, [as an] immigrant … I am grateful.”

For the students, this project was not just about learning to fix cars; it was about making a real impact. Grade 10 student Cielle Levesque was excited about the project from the start. “I’ve been looking forward to this since we started,” she said. “Our teacher told us this isn’t just a regular car. This is a car we’re going to fix up entirely. We’re going to make sure everything is perfect for this family. It just became something I was really passionate about working on.”

Graziella Mocri, another Grade 10 student, felt the same way. “I feel a lot more comfortable with working on cars,” she said. “Or if I ever have to help my father with his car, now I can help him, and even if he doesn’t know, I might know.”

Teacher Antoine Labbé also found the project rewarding. “It’s a gift for students and for me as a teacher,” he said. “Why not use our talents to do something to give back to the community?”

The car, with about 78,000 kilometers on the odometer, still had plenty of life left in it. “It was a great candidate, didn’t need a lot of repairs,” Labbé said. “But it did need some repairs on the suspension, you know, tuning up the engine, oil changes, your regular maintenance items and stuff like that.”

Shelley Ryan, another teacher, shared how meaningful it is for the students to see their hard work pay off. “When they see the recipient drive away today with the vehicle, you hear students going, ‘I did that because I had some skills that I didn’t realize were so important, I can actually change someone’s life.’ So it’s really, really nice to see them being so excited about their skills and what they can offer.”

The program is supported by local automotive shops and dealerships like County Chevrolet, Benson Auto Parts, and Beverly Tire. These partners help by providing cars for the students to work on and assisting with parts, inspections, and paperwork.

With her new car, Ifeoma plans to take a drive around town and pick her kids up from school. For her and her family, having a reliable vehicle will make life much easier and more convenient.

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Itchy Hand Leads to $30,000 Lottery Prize

Kevin Wells

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A woman from South Carolina won $30,000 in the lottery, thanks to an old superstition about itchy palms.

The woman, from the Midlands, told officials from the South Carolina Education Lottery that she stopped at the Walmart Fuel Station on Pinewood Road in Sumter because her hand was itching a lot. According to the superstition, an itchy palm means good luck is coming, especially with money.

Believing in this, she bought a $2 “20X The Cash” scratch-off ticket. She scratched the ticket in her car and discovered she had won $30,000.

Now, the woman is deciding what to do with her winnings. “I don’t have any plans for it yet,” she said.

Superstitions about itchy palms aren’t new. There have been other times in history when people believed these kinds of signs led to good luck. For example, in many cultures, an itchy right palm means you will receive money, while an itchy left palm means you will lose money. While it might just be a fun belief, sometimes it seems to pay off, like it did for this South Carolina woman.

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Tired Deer Rescued from Beach

Renee Yates

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A very tired roe deer was rescued from Cleethorpes beach, according to a wildlife group.

Emergency services were called on Monday evening by people worried the deer was stuck in the mud.

Volunteers from Cleethorpes Wildlife Rescue (CWR) found the scared deer with its face in a fence near the water’s edge. They used a deer net to catch the animal, which was then treated by a vet and later released in a safer place, CWR said.

Earlier, the deer had been seen swimming in the estuary, which is usually normal, CWR explained on Facebook. However, they later got reports – not confirmed – that the deer had been chased by dogs on the beach.

Volunteers watched the deer and saw that its condition was getting worse. They quickly planned a rescue and were able to capture the deer in just a few seconds with good teamwork.

The deer was taken to Medivet in Swanland, East Yorkshire. After treatment, the deer became much more alert, and its condition improved a lot on the way back to Cleethorpes, CWR said.

The wildlife group thanked the volunteers, vets, and emergency services who helped with the successful rescue.

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Chicago Teen Earns Doctorate at 17

Kelly Taylor

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By age 14, Dorothy Jean Tillman had already earned her associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Despite these remarkable accomplishments, she confided to her mother, Jimalita Tillman, “I think I want to pursue a doctorate.”

Her mother was initially taken aback. It was the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Dorothy was busy with her newly launched STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) camp startup, seeking funding for the organization. “I was just like, ‘why?’ I thought you were done,” Jimalita recounted to CNN.

Dorothy’s goal was to make a positive impact on young people’s mental health, and with that explanation, her mother fully supported her.

Two years later, Dorothy, at 17, successfully defended her dissertation. Now 18, she graduated from Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions on May 8, officially becoming Dr. Dorothy Jean Tillman.

Seeing her daughter’s accomplishments has been a humbling experience for Jimalita. “I knew what it took for her to go through that. She had to sacrifice a lot. A lot of her fears and going through different things during the pandemic,” she said. “She emerged as a leader without fear, showing them how to navigate online schooling.”

Dorothy’s academic prowess was evident from a young age. By 7, she was doing high school work and soon began taking college-level exams to earn credits toward higher education.

Reflecting on her journey, Dorothy said, “It was always a very hard thing to kind of stomach mentally being so young. When you get out of college, you’re thinking, ‘what do I do next?’ Now I am able to sit in the comfortability of being a teenager and being OK with the fact that I don’t have to figure out what comes next.”

At Arizona State University, she studied integrated behavioral health. Her dissertation examined the stigma preventing university students from seeking mental health treatment.

In addition to her academic pursuits, Dorothy runs the Dorothy Jeanius STEAM Leadership Institute. This program encourages hundreds of underserved young people in Chicago and internationally, in countries like Ghana and South Africa, to explore STEAM careers. The institute offers guest speakers and open discussions in each STEAM field. “We just want to provide them with all the resources possible and the best foundation to be able to start walking on that pathway to their dreams,” she explained.

Despite her extraordinary achievements, Dorothy remains a typical teenager, enjoying time with family and friends. She credits her mother as her biggest supporter. “I definitely couldn’t have gotten this far without her; she’s the best teammate, the best supporter,” she said.

Another significant influence is her grandmother, former Chicago alderwoman Dorothy Tillman, who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.

After completing her degree at ASU, Dorothy aims to expand her camps and integrate her studies on behavioral health into her work. She envisions franchising the camps to reach more children and plans to engage more with youth in Africa.

“I’ve been focusing on my studies a lot and I don’t go nearly as much as I should,” Dorothy remarked. “Now I’m glad to have the time for things like that.”

Dorothy emphasizes the importance of a supportive family in her success. “It’s teamwork that makes the dream work,” she said. “It is a village that builds the land. It’s having those people there with you that is going to, you know, uphold you at the end of the day.”

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