Mad Minute stories from Monday, December 26th - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Monday, December 26th

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Sri Lanka unveiled a towering Christmas tree, claiming to have surpassed the world record despite constructions delays and a shorter-than-planned finished product.
The 73-meter (238-foot) artificial tree in capital Colombo is 18 meters (59 feet) taller than the current record holder, organizers said. The tree's steel-and-wire frame is covered with a plastic net decorated with more than 1 million natural pine cones painted red, gold, green and silver, 600,000 LED bulbs and topped by a 6-meter (20-foot)-tall shining star.
The tree costs $80,000 and was criticized by the Catholic Church as a "waste of money." The church suggested that the funds better be spent on helping the poor.
Hundreds of port workers and volunteers struggled for four months to put up the tree in time for the holidays. Work was suspended for six days in early December after Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith - representing the island nation's 1.5 million Catholics - lambasted the project. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe responded to the criticism by saying the tree was not being built with public money, but with donations from individuals and private firms.
The Guinness World Records is yet to confirm if this is the tallest artificial Christmas tree. Currently, the record is held by a Chinese firm that put up a 55-meter (180-foot) tree-like tower of lights and synthetic foliage, ornaments and lamps in the city of Guangzhou last year.
Sri Lankan organizers said they wanted the tree to help promote ethnic and religious harmony in the Buddhist-majority island nation, where a long civil war ended in 2009 but reconciliation remains a challenge.
"This is just to show the world that we can live as one country, one nation," said Arjuna Ranatunga, a former cricket player and the minister of ports and shipping. He said Sri Lanka still is still grappling with issues regarding religion, caste and race.
Minority Christian and Muslim communities complain of state-sponsored discrimination, and there are allegations of widespread abuses against minority ethnic Tamils both during and after the war.

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COCOA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Yes, Virginia, there are surfing Santas in Florida.
Hundreds of surfers in Santa costumes and thousands of spectators descended Saturday on Cocoa Beach for the eighth annual Christmas Eve Surfing Santas extravaganza.
The Santas surfed the waves all morning to raise money for two charities by selling T-shirts.
One charity is the Florida Surf Museum. The other charity provides financial assistance for cancer patients needing to travel for their treatment.
The first surfing Santas event started in 2009 when George Trosset, his son and daughter-in-law thought it would be funny to dress up as Santa Claus and his elves and go surfing.
A photo of them hit the front page of the local newspaper, and a Cocoa Beach tradition was born.

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Authorities say two men have been arrested after one chased the other after he stole his ninja sword at a New Jersey train station.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said that 61-year-old Leon Cureton was arrested Thursday morning after he took a katana-type sword wrapped in a black garbage bag from 29-year-old Fernando Pellot.
Pellot then chased after Cureton through Newark Penn Station before police stopped the two men.
Cureton was charged with theft and receiving stolen property and was being held on a bench warrant from New York at the Essex County Correctional Facility.
Pellot was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon.
It wasn't immediately clear if either man had an attorney to comment on their behalf.

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Got milk? Twenty-five bipartisan members of Congress say if it's from soybeans, almond or rice, it should not be labeled as milk.
Democratic Vermont Rep. Peter Welch and Republican Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, leading the charge against "fake milk," signed a letter along with other Congressional members, asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate and take action against manufacturers of "milk" that doesn't come from cows.
They want the FDA to require plant-based products to adopt a more appropriate name, other than milk, which they say is deceptive.
"We strongly believe that the use of the term 'milk' by manufacturers of plant-based products is misleading to consumers, harmful to the dairy industry and a violation of milk's standard of identity," the letter states.
Dairy farmers are struggling with "deep cuts in income" following a 40-percent drop in milk prices since 2014, the members of Congress say. The forecast is for prices to remain low. In recent years, the sale of plant-based products, often labeled as milk, has jumped in recent years, the letter states.
They say milk has a clear standard of identity: "obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows," among other qualities.
"While consumers are entitled to choose imitation products, it is misleading and illegal for manufacturers of these items to profit from the 'milk' name," the letter states. "These products should be allowed on the market only when accurately labeled."
The Soyfoods Association of North America said the term "soymilk" has been used on products for over 100 years. It asked the FDA in 1997 to recognize the one-word name "soymilk" but that the FDA has not made a decision on the petition.
The FDA said Friday that it had received the Dec. 16 letter and planned to respond directly to lawmakers.

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WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) - With her Marine son unable to come home for Christmas, Deana Folz was in such a funk that she joked that she was going to stay in bed for the holiday season.
Tampa television station WFTS reports that three deputies in the Tampa area helped Folz get out of her funk on Friday.
The deputies came to her Wesley Chapel, Florida home and made up a story to get Folz and her husband to come out of their home.
They said they had a man outside without any ID and was seeking their help.
When Folz and her husband came outside, their son, Logan hopped out of the deputies' patrol car and into his mother's arms.
Two of the deputies are former Marines.

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Madinat Zayed, United Arab Emirates - A beauty contest in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday featured some unusual contestants -- camels.
Dozens of camels strutted their stuff in front of crowds of spectators. 
The event forms part of an annual cultural festival in the UAE.
Judges rate the animals on criteria, including firmness of ear, straightness of leg and the size of their toe cleft.

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WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) - Two juvenile big cats have been stolen from a private zoo in Virginia.
The Frederick County Sheriff's Office says two Siberian lynx were taken from their secured kennel at Wilson's Wild Animal Park in Winchester.
The owner of the zoo reported that the animals were taken sometime between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon.
The lynx are 10 months old and worth about $4,000 each.

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(YAHOO) A huge seal lumbered through an Australian neighborhood Monday, leaving dented cars and confused residents in its wake.
After a homeowner in Newstead, Tasmania alerted authorities to the seal at 5:45 a.m. local time, wildlife officers spent hours trying to catch it. Local reports estimated the Australian fur seal, dubbed "Mr. Lou-Seal" by Tasmanian police, weighed as much as 200kg or 440 pounds.
At one point, the seal climbed on top of a parked car, denting its hood and cracking its windscreen. It then took a nap behind the vehicle.
"We got up and there was this great big seal on the roof of the car, which is definitely not what you'd expect on Boxing Day," a resident, Will Gregory, told ABC in Australia. "You kind of wake up and you wonder, 'Is this really happening, am I really seeing this or am I still dreaming?'"
Mr. Lou-Seal was eventually tranquilized by wildlife officers near a home and put into a trailer.
"After a sealiously big morning, 'Mr. Lou-Seal' is now a sealebrity," police wrote on Facebook Monday. They added he will be released back into the wild after a medical check-up.
While Newstead is more than 30 miles from the ocean, it's close to the North Esk River, giving some explanation as to how Mr. Lou-Seal ended up in the neighborhood.
According to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, it is not uncommon for seals to be found in its towns inland after traveling through rivers.

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(YAHOO) Tupac Shakur's music has reached a new level. One of Shri Lanka's largest Christmas carol services apparently mixed up Pac's "Hail Mary" lyrics with a traditional Catholic prayer.
According to reports, the lyrical mishap went down at Colombo's Nelum Pokuna Theatre earlier in the month. More than 1,000 programs featured the late rap legend's "Hail Mary" lyrics, during a charity event billed as a "festival of music for peace and harmony."
Regardless of whether this was an actual mistake or a hoax of some sort, listening to Pac's music can be a religious listening experience. On the flip side, "Hail Mary" opens with: "I ain't a killa' but don't push me, revenge is like the sweetest joy next to getting pu**y."
That's probably not appropriate for a Christmas event.

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(FOX) CLEVELAND, OH - A Cleveland police officer has made this Christmas one that he and his girlfriend will never forget. There was a very important traffic stop, Sunday.
Cleveland Police Officer Tim Cramer was waiting for his girlfriend to get home from work so he could pull her over and propose.
"Oh my God," Liz Anderson said.
"Will you marry me?" Officer Cramer asked.
"Yes, of course."
Liz Anderson is the lucky lady and she was all smiles!
She just moved to her neighborhood near Rocky River Dr., Cleveland recently. Immediately, new neighbors were out of their homes to wish the happy couple congratulations.
Officer Cramer said he knew he wanted to propose on Christmas. Plus, he said he had a good plan.
"It's very simple. I'm a cop; I just thought it would be funny to pull her over. She's a little bit of a nervous person and I thought it would be funny to pull her over. Anyone would be nervous; I wanted to throw her off and it gives us a good story."
I guess we can now officially say fiancé. Congratulations!
By the way, we wanted to let you know that everyone involved in the proposal came in early to make it happen.

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