Christmas Goes Nuts in Cincinnati

Christmas at the Cincinnati Zoo would be more festive if it weren't for the squirrels.

The tree-dwelling rodents, which aren't part of the zoo's official animal population, steal Christmas light bulbs, reports WLWT-TV.

Apparently, the squirrels think the bulbs are nuts and unscrew them from the displays for the zoo's famed Festival of Lights (search).

"I don't think they actually bite into it. I think they figure out they can't crack it," said zoo employee Frank Moore. "So, [since] it's not a nut, they just throw it away."

Some zoo visitors think that if the zoo fed the squirrels, they might leave the bulbs alone, but Moore disagrees.

"They get enough food as it is," he told the TV station. "We tell people not to feed the animals and they feed the squirrels anyway."

The zoo has to replace about 75,000 of the more than 2.5 million bulbs in the Festival of Lights each year.

Christmas Shopping Turns Violent

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — It wasn't holiday cheer that poured out of two cars, but rather three holiday shoppers who spilled out with tempers flaring over a parking space.

The dispute Sunday led to the arrests and court appearances for two women and a teenager for breach of peace.

Police said the confrontation developed just after 3:30 p.m. in the crowded lot of the Corbins Corner Shopping Center (search), home to Best Buy, Toys "R" Us and other retailers.

When a parking space opened up, two cars turned up to fill it.

A woman riding in one of the cars tossed an orange peel at the other vehicle. Angry words erupted and three people jumped out of the cars and, within moments, Officer Kevin McCarthy said, "all three went to the ground."

"It turned into a little free-for-all," McCarthy said.

No one was hurt, but Luz Alicea, 43, Jasmin Kurtz, 16, both of Hartford, and Julia Baldini, 22, of Suffield, were all charged with breach of peace.

They were scheduled to appear in community court in Hartford Tuesday.

Santa Brings More Than Just Good Cheer

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) — A man who visited a middle school dressed as Santa Claus on Thursday left with a citation for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

The 40-year-old Detroit man faces up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine after a small plastic bag of marijuana was found in the pocket of his street coat, which he left in a school restroom, Wayne County Sheriff's Department officials said.

A deputy who works at the school found the marijuana while searching the coat for identification after a teacher found it in the bathroom. The man dressed as Santa approached the deputy a short time later and identified the coat.

The man denied the pot was his. His wife, who was at the school to take pictures of Santa with the students, apparently did not know the marijuana was in her husband's coat, officials said.

"She was not happy," Lt. Paul Jones said. "It's going to be a long ride back to the North Pole."

Social Security Check Donated to Salvation Army

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A prosperous businessman didn't think he was entitled to his 2004 Social Security payments, so he became an early Santa Claus for the Salvation Army (search).

Two weeks ago, the man dropped a check for $14,845 into a bell ringer's red kettle outside a bookstore in downtown Minneapolis.

On Dec. 10, the man, who declined to be identified, released a written statement through Salvation Army spokeswoman Annette Bauer, who had sought out the man for an explanation.

He said he will receive $20,295 in Social Security payments in 2004 and didn't really need it because "I have considerable income now and should continue to have considerable income if I ever do retire."

He considered sending the checks back to the government, but hit on a better solution. He deducted the amount of Social Security taxes he will pay this year, $5,450, from the total and came out with the $14,845.

He noted the donation was tax deductible, adding, "Undoubtedly, the Salvation Army will make more productive use of the money than would be the case if I returned it to the government."

Church Miraculously Reunited With Stolen Instruments

LA MESA, Calif. (AP) — A Baptist church music director who needed to replace equipment that was stolen days before a scheduled holiday performance is thankful for a case of good fortune.

Shortly after Nathan Robinson arrived at a music store to buy a new electronic piano and a soundboard, in walked a young man carrying the church's Yamaha keyboard hoping to sell it to the store.

"It was 'Twilight Zone'-y" Robinson said. "A guy walked through the door holding our equipment."

As the fellow negotiated with a clerk, Robinson alerted the store's management to the theft. While awaiting police, an employee tested the keyboard and detained the seller.

When police arrived, the man bolted out of the store, leaving behind the keyboard, a driver's license and thumb print. He also left behind a soundboard that had been stolen from the church.

Lt. Raul Garcia, a spokesman for the La Mesa Police, said Tuesday that investigators are trying to find the man and to determine whether the Wisconsin license he left behind was legitimate.

Love to Watch Them Fire Engines

STOWE, Vt. (AP) — A former volunteer firefighter is facing charges that he made a series of false 911 calls so he could watch fire engines race toward fabricated emergencies.

Donald Griggs, 19, has pleaded not guilty to charges of false public alarms and false reports to law-enforcement officials. He was released on conditions following his arraignment earlier this month in Vermont District Court in Barre, said Evelyn Bailey, executive director of the Vermont Enhanced 911 Board.

"It puts everybody in jeopardy," said Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux, who helped investigate the calls. "We're pretty busy as it is. To chase around false calls makes things even tighter."

Court documents say Griggs used a cell phone he found in a Morrisville parking lot to call the emergency phone number about 15 times between Nov. 21 and Dec. 8. The phone was not associated with a wireless-service provider, so the only number it could call was 911, Bailey said.

Griggs' calls included one in which he reported a three-car crash in Johnson that left people trapped and vehicles on fire; and a report that a dairy farm in Stowe was engulfed in flames, according to court papers. At least twice Griggs hid and watched the emergency response his calls generated, according to court papers.

Police were able to track Griggs because they recognized his voice, Marcoux said.

The documents say Griggs told police he made the calls because "he is infatuated with fire trucks" and had felt like "a big dog" while responding to emergencies with the North Hyde Park Fire Department (search).

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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