New York City officials are cracking down on Elmo, Cookie Monster and Hello Kitty impersonators. Times Square is a tourist trap, and these colorful characters often demand money from those who snap pictures with them. The city wants to stop the characters from behaving badly. Things got violent last weekend when a man dressed as Spider-Man disputed a woman’s $1 tip, saying he only takes $5, $10 and $20. When police intervened, the costumed web-slinger punched an officer. “This has gone too far,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week. City Councilman Dan Garodnick is drafting legislation to address the “harassment,” but legal experts say requiring licenses and background checks could violate free-speech rights. “If you can prove that they are there to seek money, not simply conveying a message … they are subject to greater regulation,” said Jesse Choper, a constitutional law professor at the University of California. Pablo Fuentes, a 40-year-old unemployed construction worker and dad of four who dresses as Minion from “Despicable Me,” said licenses would be a good thing for customers and characters alike: “This is a job, and we’re not doing something wrong. Everybody needs a job.”
Rats with good taste
Parisian rats have good taste, non? But of course! The unwelcome rodents are scampering about—not in alleyways or underground tunnels—but in the Louvre Museum’s elegant garden. The rats, roaming the grass in daylight, scare tourists and evade extermination. They aren’t necessarily art lovers—food scraps from picnics attract the vermin. The Louvre has been trying to eradicate the animals for months but haven’t made progress. Animal lovers have been digging up poison and feeding them water. Maintenance worker Traore Massamba said he sees about 10 or 15 rats every day. Dutch tourist Evelyne Delemarre screamed after seeing a rat scamper by: “I normally don’t see any rats. They’re not really clean animals.” But maybe it’s the dirty habits of the Louvre’s visitors that are to blame: “There’s so much rubbish, it’s quite dirty,” Ariane Dalle, an artistic director who works nearby, told France 24. “There are cigarette stubs everywhere and leftover food. The problem is that people don’t have respect for the environment.”
Send your dog’s ashes to space
A Houston company announced Wednesday it will begin sending dog and cat ashes to space this fall. Since the 1990s, Celestis Inc. has taken human remains on rocket trips, called “memorial spaceflights.” The cost for a spaceflight that returns the ashes to Earth is $995 for pets and humans alike. More expensive options include launches into Earth’s orbit, the Moon’s orbit, or deep space, where your pet can “stand watch among the stars.” Fido and Fluffy can even travel postmortem to the lunar surface. The Celestis website says many people asked about a pet version of the services: “Celestis Pets is the most compelling pet memorial service on or off the planet.”
An Indianapolis man has won two $1 million lottery prizes in three months. In April, Robert Hamilton won his first $1 million. Last week, he won again, taking home another million from a convenience store scratch-off ticket. Hamilton said he used his first prize to pay off debts, buy a home, take a vacation, and buy a truck for his dad. He also invested in his business and told CBS he has no plans to quit working. Lottery officials say the odds of winning a top prize from the game are one in 2.1 million. Hamilton’s wife Donna told CBS the money won’t go to their heads: “We’re just everyday, normal people.” What does he plan to do with his most recent winnings? “After he won the first time I told him he could buy a motorcycle if he hit it again,” Donna said, according to WTHR 13.