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December 26, 2012

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When elves go rogue

HOUSTON - One Houston-area woman received what seemed like an early Christmas gift: her yard neatly decorated with festive ornaments.

But there was a big problem. The decorations were stolen from some neighbors, and the present apparently was a prank.

Police in Friendswood say the ornaments included a gingerbread man, Cat in the Hat, Christmas flamingo, and a bear with a Santa hat and reindeer.

Word spread of the strange incident earlier this week, and several neighborhood residents stopped by to retrieve their missing decorations. The rest were taken to Friendswood police.

The Houston Chronicle reports that investigators say they don't have any suspects.

TME Apparently Clark Griswold sleepwalks.

Mammoth immolation

SALT LAKE CITY - Residents in a tiny Southern Utah town have spent months building a life-sized wooly mammoth out of sticks, branches and tree bark.

But the unique piece of public art wasn't built to stand the test of time. The plan is to burn it down Friday night in the town of Bluff, with men shooting flaming spears at it to celebrate the winter solstice and bring attention to the area's history.

It will be bittersweet for one of the two artists who spearheaded the project, J.R. Lancaster. He even named the 16-foot-high beast Methuselah.

'I've been with this baby every day for months,' Lancaster said Friday afternoon. 'Tomorrow I'm going to be looking at a pile of ashes.'

Petroglyphs that may be 13,000 years old show that wooly mammoths once roamed the area, said Fort Lewis College history professor Andrew Gulliford. This event shines a light on the significance of the area.

'It's a tribute to an animal that once inhabited this region and to the people that hunted it,' Lancaster said.

The town of a few hundred people, about 65 miles south of Moab, is no stranger to large fires. Every year, residents gather their yard waste and make a large bonfire on New Year's Eve, said Bluff resident Teri Paul.

TME Some towns just want to watch the world burn.

It's-a me! Mario!

NEW YORK - Police say a man dressed as a Super Mario Brother has been arrested for groping a woman in New York City's Times Square.

An NYPD spokesman says 34-year-old Damon Torres of North Bergen, N.J., was charged with forcible touching on Wednesday. Police say Torres blocked a 58-year-old woman's path in front of 4 Times Square and grabbed her thigh before walking away.

The woman notified police officers, who arrested Torres at the famous tourist attraction. Torres was also charged with marijuana possession.

TME It could have been worse. It could have been Luigi.

Fruitcake friars

AVA, Mo. - Once the bane of pot-luck parties, the fruitcake has been turned into a sought-after treat by Trappist monks secluded in the Missouri Ozarks who some say bake cake that's nothing short of heavenly.

Between February and mid-December, monks at the Assumption Abbey in Ava, Mo., produce about 25,000 fruitcakes. The monks have gained a national reputation for carefully controlling the production. They marinate the fruit, age the cakes and even package and ship the product from their foothills monastery.

Before each two-pound cake leaves the abbey, it gets a special prayer from the monks aimed at all those who eat the cake.

At $31 apiece, the cakes allow the monks to live out solitary lives of work and prayer on their compound southeast of Springfield.

TME Prayer-flavored fruitcake sounds delicious.

Boogie-woogie blue

PROVIDENCE, RI - Officer Tony Lepore is a holiday tradition in Rhode Island, the state that issued the first jail sentence for speeding 108 years ago. Since 1984, he has entertained drivers, pedestrians and gawkers with dance moves in downtown Providence - all while directing traffic.

The routine, Lepore says, was born not at Christmas but in the month of May, out of the boredom and aggravation that officers typically experience while directing rushing drivers and jaywalking pedestrians.

Positive publicity encouraged officials to endorse the dancing cop, who continued to perform until he left the job in 1988.

In 1992, Lepore says, he got a call from city officials asking him to rejoin the force to dance and direct traffic around Christmastime as they pushed to redefine the city's image and bring visitors downtown. So every year he signs up as a reserve police officer for 10 days.

He says his body takes a pounding and that he has had knee surgery, pulled some muscles and even suffered stress fractures.

TME 'Seasonal dancing traffic cop' might be the best job description ever.

Self-serve justice

SPOKANE, Wash. - Instead of letting a robber get away, a witness to a convenience store stickup in Spokane, Wash., caught the armed man and held him for police.

The surveillance camera at the G & B Grocery shows a man wearing a ski mask, threatening the clerk and other people in the store, including three children. He grabs the money and is trying to run out of the store when one of the customers chases him.

KREM reports it was the clerk's brother.

He tackled the fleeing man Monday going out the door. Officers arrived a few minutes later and arrested a 25-year-old man for investigation of robbery, assault and possession of a stolen firearm.

TME Who knew Batman vacationed in Spokane?

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