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POSTED December 27, 2013 10:13 p.m.

NO BEER LED TO CERAMIC SQUIRREL STABBING: NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina authorities say a 44-year-old woman angry at a man for returning home without beer on Christmas beat and stabbed him with a ceramic squirrel.

The Charleston County Sheriff's office says in a report that deputies found a man covered with blood when they arrived at Helen Williams' North Charleston home early Wednesday. She told investigators the man fell and cut himself, but couldn't explain why her hands and clothes were also bloody.

Deputies say the man said Williams was so angry when he returned without beer because stores were closed on Christmas Eve that she grabbed a ceramic squirrel, beat him in the head, then stabbed him in the shoulder and chest.

 

NEW YEAR'S JAM: PA. STRAWBERRY BUSTED IN TEST DROP: HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — An 80-pound illuminated strawberry that's lowered every New Year's Eve in downtown Harrisburg has ended up in a messy jam.

The berry fell three stories and smashed during a practice run at the Hilton Harrisburg on Friday. Officials say a faulty harness clip is to blame.

The Hilton is working to build a new strawberry for revelers to ring in 2014 on Tuesday night.

The strawberry drop started in 1989. The berry that broke Friday had been used for around 10 years.

 

ARIZONA FAMILY SAYS CRUCIFIX FORMED ON CHEESECAKE : SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — A suburban Phoenix family says their Christmas cheesecake sent them the message of a holiday miracle.

When the family in Scottsdale, Ariz., pulled their dessert out of the oven, it cracked as it cooled and formed a crucifix.

The family members, who have not given their names publicly, say the crucifix is a message.

They say they won't be eating the cheesecake. Instead, they plan on selling it and donating the money to a local charity or church.

 

NORAD TRACKS SANTA LOGS 19.58 MILLION WEB VISITS: PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AP) — The North American Aerospace Defense Command's Santa-tracking program logged 19.58 million unique visitors to its website on Christmas Eve.

NORAD said Thursday that volunteers answered 117,371 calls from children seeking information on the jolly old elf's whereabouts. First lady Michelle Obama was among the program's 1,200 volunteers.

An additional 146,307 followed Santa's progress on Twitter. The program also got 1.45 million "likes" on Facebook.

Those numbers are up from last year when volunteers answered 114,000 phone calls from around the world. The website had 22.3 million unique visitors. NORAD Tracks Santa had 1.2 million followers on Facebook and 129,000 on Twitter.

 

BRITNEY SPEARS BEGINS LONG-TERM LAS VEGAS GIG: LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas is getting its newest pop fixture.

Britney Spears begins her two-year residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Friday, just in time to catch the town's massive New Year's Eve crowds.

The Grammy-winning singer will perform 50 shows each in 2014 and 2015. Casino executives say the gig may be extended if it proves a success.

Spears, 32, will recap her biggest hits, including "Oops. I Did It Again," ''...Baby One More Time" and "Toxic."

She will be singing along to a soundtrack of her own voice.

Kelly Frey, a spokeswoman for Planet Hollywood parent company Caesars Entertainment Corp., said the track is intended to help Spears through the more physically grueling sets.

A collection of pop stars, including Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, are expected to attend the opening.

Spears is among the youngest stars to have settled down to quasi-retirement in Las Vegas. Other successful Strip headliners include Celine Dion and Elton John.

The show takes place in a relatively intimate theater with nightclub touches, including table and bottle service. Tickets range from $59 to $179.

 

WASHINGTON JUDGE STRIKES PART OF WAGE HIKE MEASURE: SEATTLE (AP) — A Washington state judge has struck part of the voter-approved $15 an hour minimum wage measure for airport workers in SeaTac.

King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas says the measure applies to about 1,600 hotel and parking lot workers in the city of SeaTac, but does not apply to employees and contractors working within Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is operated by the Port of Seattle.

Darvas said the state Legislature has given municipalities like the Port of Seattle "exclusive jurisdiction" over their operations.

Supporters of the measure say they will file an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

 

UNION CHIEF SAYS BOEING'S LATEST OFFER A $1B GAIN: SEATTLE (AP) — The international president of the Machinists union has told members that Boeing's revised contract offer is an improvement of more than $1 billion.

In a letter to union members that was dated Thursday, Tom Buffenbarger said the offer that workers will consider next week is a significant improvement over a contract the union rejected last month. Buffenbarger has scheduled the Jan. 3 vote despite the objections of local union leaders who say the latest contract offer is too similar to the last one.

Boeing is seeking a new contract with Machinists in the Puget Sound area that would move workers away from traditional pension plans. In the revised offer, Boeing has backed away from a proposal that would have slowed the rate at which employees rise up the pay scale. The company is also offering $5,000 in additional bonus money and improved dental coverage.

Boeing has vowed to build the company's new 777X airplane in the Puget Sound if the Machinists agree to the new contract.

 

CHRISTMAS TREES SOUGHT AS TREAT FOR COLORADO GOATS: GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Your trash could become a holiday treat for some goats in western Colorado.

The Top of the Hill Ranch in Collbran, about 40 miles east of Grand Junction, is offering to pick up discarded Christmas trees from nearby homes to give their goats some extra roughage during the winter. Rancher Teresa Fletcher said the goats can devour a tree in less than an hour.

 

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