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Weird National Briefs - (11/18/15)

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Pay to sleigh

CHERRY HILL, N.J. - Children wanting to see Santa Claus at a southern New Jersey mall will now have to pay.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports admission to the Cherry Hill Mall's Adventure to Santa costs between $35 and $50. The packages come with photos or video of the visit.

The move has sparked anger from many parents, some of whom say the charge inherently pushes away low-income families, which they say runs counter to the spirit of the holiday.

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which manages the mall, says the exhibit is one of only 12 Adventure to Santa attractions in the country. The attraction was free last year.

The display features characters from the Shrek movies as well as a virtual sleigh ride, a concert performed by elves, and various games.

TME Mall managers Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch were unavailable for comment.

Tech ticket

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.- A California police officer made a traffic stop, but wrote no ticket. There was no driver to give it to anyway.

Mountain View police said in a statement that an officer pulled over a Google self-driving car that was being tested on local roads Thursday.

The officer noticed the car going a road-clogging 24 mph in a 35 mph zone and realized it was a Google Autonomous Vehicle. He stopped the car and contacted its operators to let them know it was impeding traffic, but no citation was given.

A person is required to sit behind the wheel of self-driving cars.

The Google project responded in a blog post, saying it's never received a ticket and adding, 'Driving too slowly? Bet humans don't get pulled over for that too often.'

TME Robot cars? More like slow-bot cars, am I right?

Butt-dial busted

LEWISTON, Maine- Police in Maine say a teenager's pocket dial to 911 led to three arrests for vandalism that included damage to a fleet of school buses on Halloween.

The Sun Journal reports that the errant call in Lisbon led police to the teenagers, who were charged with illegally consuming alcohol and vandalizing school buses. Police say the teenager who accidentally called police had 911 on speed dial.

Two 18-year-olds, one from Old Orchard Beach and one from Sanford, along with a younger boy from Old Orchard Beach were charged with criminal mischief. Police say damage to the buses is about $1,500. It was not immediately clear if the three had lawyers.

Investigators did not say which of the teens placed the pocket call.

TME They really know how to party in Lewiston.

Steal wheels

NEW YORK- A man with a long history of pretending to be a transit worker and commandeering subway trains for joy rides was arrested Wednesday after stealing a commercial passenger bus, police said.

Darius McCollum was arrested by officers who spotted the Greyhound bus traveling down a street in Brooklyn, police said. They were still investigating how and from where the bus was stolen. Police initially said the bus had been taken from New Jersey but said later they suspect it had been stolen from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the nation's busiest.

McCollum become a celebrity of sorts for escapades that began in 1981 at age 15, when he piloted a subway train six stops without any passengers noticing. He grew up in Queens near a station serving two Metropolitan Transportation Authority lines and learned the mechanics of the transit system from workers who took an interest in him.

Over the years, McCollum has had more than two dozen transit-related arrests. In 2008, he was arrested for stealing a Trailways bus from Hoboken, New Jersey.

After he was paroled on the bus theft in 2013, McCollum told The Associated Press he planned to get in touch with a nonprofit to help him find a therapist, and work or vocational school.

TME He's the hero public transit deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

Gone girl

BEAVER, Pa.- A western Pennsylvania woman has admitted she stole a police cruiser and led police officers on an 80 mph chase - all while her hands were cuffed behind her.

Twenty-eight-year-old Roxanne Rimer, of Chippewa Township, also pleaded guilty Tuesday in Beaver County Court to an unrelated theft charge.

Defense attorney Steven Valsamidis said she was sentenced to four to eight years.

Authorities say Rimer was handcuffed and placed in the back of the cruiser after being accused of shoplifting in January. Officials said she squeezed through an unlatched opening and crawled into the front seat, then zoomed off and led officers on a nearly 10-mile chase, weaving in and out of traffic, before crashing.

TME This is more impressive than anything else - the logistics alone are mind-boggling.

Zooming zebras

PHILADELPHIA- When you hear hoofbeats, the saying goes, you should think horses, not zebras. In Philadelphia on Sunday, you would have been wrong.

A pair of zebras escaped from a circus and went running through the streets of west Philadelphia before they were recaptured, police said.

The two animals somehow fled the UniverSoul Circus outside the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in west Philadelphia at about 2 p.m. Sunday. A circus spokesman told The Philadelphia Inquirer in a statement that the animals 'briefly went on the loose.' No injuries were reported.

Witnesses took to social media to post photos and video footage of the animals running through the streets before police confirmed their recapture at about 3 p.m. Sunday.

'Zebras in custody,' police said on their Twitter account. 'They are already sporting old-timey prisoner getup ahead of trial and sentencing. Have faith, fellas.'

TME Is this what they mean by racing stripes?

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