Mad Minute stories for Friday, December 4th - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories for Friday, December 4th

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MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) -- It's not that an oversized tree adorned with ornaments is uncommon as a student choir sings carols in the days leading up to Christmas. It's more that the towering steel tree is decorated with garland, twinkling lights ... and hundreds of teenagers.
The Mona Shores Singing Christmas Tree combines the usual elements into an unusual show that will draw thousands of spectators this weekend. The 67-foot-tall tree features 25,000 lights, 5,000 linear feet of greenery, and 15 tiers on which about 220 choir members stand. About 50 other students sing from positions near the base of the tree.
"It's basically ... a bunch of choir students standing in a tree singing Christmas music," said Brynne Wilcox, a Mona Shores High School senior who is taking part in her fourth and final set of shows, which run through Saturday at the Frauenthal Center in Muskegon.
Freshmen are relegated to the bottom of the five-story tree, while sophomores and juniors populate the middle. Seniors set up shop in the upper levels. The very top is the domain of the "Tree Angel," a senior selected by Shawn Lawton, the director of the Mona Shores High School Choir.
"It's not that kid who's the greatest singer, necessarily," Lawton said. "But instead just someone with a lot of heart and maybe has lived through a lot and still smiles."
Lawton picked two Tree Angels this year, marking only the second time that's been done in the 31-year history of the show. They are alternating shows atop the tree.
Wilcox is positioned just below the angel. "It's definitely a little scarier when you're 14 rows up than when you're standing on the ground," she said.
But Wilcox needn't worry, because Darcy Welsh and her fellow "tree monkeys" are never too far away. Welsh is one of the two dozen or so choir moms and dads who climb into the innards of the tree and stand watch on platforms located behind the singers, ready to assist those who are overcome by the height and heat from the lights shining on them.
"If we have to bring them out of the tree, we have an area with nurses, and there is food and drink," said Welsh, herself a Mona Shores High graduate and a former Singing Christmas Tree participant.
All 275 student singers made it safely through a free dress rehearsal Wednesday night for members of the community with special needs, the elderly, and others who might not otherwise be able to come to the show.
Audience members roared in approval when the Singing Christmas Tree - shrouded in darkness at the start of the show - burst into light as the choir belted out "Gloria."
"It means the world to me to carry on the tradition," Lawton said.

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MOSCOW (AP) -- Lawmakers in Russia-occupied Crimea, which is grappling with a nearly two-week-long blackout, are suggesting parents name their newborn boys Generator to mark the ordeal.
Unknown attackers blew up electricity pylons in Ukraine on Nov. 22, leaving the peninsula largely without power. After Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, it began building an underwater electricity cable system to Crimea from Russia's Krasnodar region, and Russia President Vladimir Putin traveled there on Wednesday to inaugurate the first delivery of Russian power.
Russian news agencies on Friday quoted local parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov suggesting that parents name their newborn girls Sveta, or "light" in Russian, and boys "Generator" to highlight the government's efforts to overcome the crisis.
At least half of Crimea's 2 million population was believed to be without electricity at mid-week.

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A man in Essex, England was apparently so nervous about being in court, a judge let him to bring his cat into the courtroom to calm him down. 
The black cat named Taylor sat in a shopping cart while his owner, 72-year-old Aiden Wiltshire faced stalking charges. 
The cat frequently made sure Wiltshire was okay, by popping his head out of the cart so he could pet him. 
Wiltshire's attorney says the cat provides emotional support for his owner, which is why the judge allowed it. 
Wiltshire hasn't entered a plea yet for two stalking charges stemming from incidents between 2013 and 2015. His case will resume in 2016.

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State wildlife officers say they shot and killed a 9-foot-long green anaconda in central Florida.
Florida Today reports that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received a report about the non-native snake Monday evening.
FWC spokesman Lenny Salberg says the snake was found on a St. Johns River embankment near Midway Airboat Rides. The spokesman says officers tried to capture the snake but ended up shooting it when it tried to escape.
Green anacondas are native to South America and can grow to nearly 30 feet long. Officials weren't sure how Monday's snake got to Florida. They are illegal to own as pets.

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A hairdresser in Madrid, Spain certainly has a unique way of cutting hair; he uses swords, Worlverine-style claws, and fire. 
Alberto Olmedo says he likes to cut hair in the most insane way possible, but he also claims the crazy tools let him give exact and precise haircuts. 
He says the swords in particular help him give more symmetrical haircuts.

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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- St. Louis police say the Budweiser brewery got an unwelcome visit from a man with a memorable name.
Nineteen-year-old Bud Weisser was cited for trespassing and resisting arrest. Police say he was found in a secured area of the brewery Thursday evening.
Police say in a news release that officers were called after security officers told Weisser to leave and he resisted arrest.
Weisser was taken into police custody, then issued summonses for trespassing and resisting arrest.

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A 12-year-old boy in Queensland, Australia caught a stingray, but it's what happened next that was really wacky. 
Miller Wilson says he found the stingray next to his kayak, and minutes later, she started giving birth On his YouTube channel he posted a video of the ordeal, saying, "So after thinking that there was something wrong with her, I found out that she was pregnant... and I ended up witnessing the delivery of 12 Baby Stingrays!!" 
He called the creature "Big Mama," and said she looked like she was having a tough time, and probably liked the help.
Experts say although this particular situation worked out for the best, it very well could have ended very differently. It's a risky behavior to help stingrays and most wild animals while they're giving birth. 

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An artist in St. Petersburg, Russia is paying a tasty homage to his country's president. He made a life size statue of Vladimir Putin, but the artist says there will be "no touching, licking or biting" of his creation. 
Nikita Gusev sculpted the model for the city's upcoming chocolate festival. He says it's the perfect material, since chocolate is soft and moveable, while also becoming very hard -- which in his opinion, is much like Putin himself. 
In the past, Gusev has made smaller sculptures of Stalin, Peter and Catherine the Great and Michael Jackson.
This time around, he also made a life-size display of Putin's dog, Connie, who recently died. 
Organizers of the chocolate festival plan to offer the statue of Putin to the president himself. No word yet it he plans to eat it. 

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Santa is getting an update to his old red suit. 
"Hipster Santa" is posing for pictures with children at a mall in Portland, Oregon this week. He wears sport jeans, a sweater, and even a man bun. Hipster Santa is also health conscious. He gives the sleigh a break and tools around on his bike when he's not delivering toys.

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Fort Worth Police are trying a new way to recruit possible officeres. 
They posted a video on their Facebook page, featuring Darth Vader in a mock interview, where the Dark Lord of the Sith says his "rule over the imperial force" qualifies him to be a cop.
The lighthearted post is supposed to be a recruitment tool, and it's already pretty popular. In just three hours, the video got more than 800 likes and 1,000 shares. 
Here's how it went down: 
Interviewers: "Well I appreciate your interest in wanting to be a Fort Worth police officer. What makes you think your qualified?"
Vader: "As you can see on my resume, I have ruled over the imperial force for some time and had great success ruling over the galaxy's."
Interviewers: "What is this about a death star blowing up under your command?" 
Vader: "I was cleared in that. Not my fault. You can see per my resume, I'm proficient at using the force."
Interviewers: "Well we refer to it as use of force and I don't think it's quite the same thing as you think it is. Also we require our recruits to pass a physical assessment test and quite honestly, you sound like you have a deep breathing issue. Do you think that's going to be a problem."  
Vader: "You don't have to worry about my breathing because I can disarm a suspect without having to chase him." 
Interviewers: "How can you do that? Okay, I think we're done here." 
Vader: "You want to hire me." 
Interviewers: "What?" 
Vader: "I am the recruit you are looking for."
Interviewers:  "Okay. Thanks for your time. We'll let you know."  
     The video included the caption, "breaking news - Darth Vader fails FWPD Police interview. Maybe we should have interviewed Yoda."

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