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All 1,694 residents of US town becoming Scottish landowners
SCOTLAND, Conn. — Residents of the rural town of Scotland, Connecticut, are becoming lords and ladies in the United Kingdom country of the same name.
The Scottish land preservation company Highland Titles said Tuesday it's gifting all 1,694 residents 1 square foot (0.09 square meters) of land on its nature reserve in Glencoe Wood, Scotland. The residents will get courtesy titles of Lord or Lady of Glencoe and instructions on how to visit their plots.
The company sells forest land ranging from 1 square foot (0.09 square meters) to 1,000 square feet (93 square meters) so they can't be developed.
Scotland First Selectman Dan Syme says the Connecticut town was settled by a Scotsman named Isaac Magoon in 1700 and celebrates that heritage by hosting an annual Highland Festival.
Highland Titles says residents have to call Town Hall to claim their free plots.
Voice of a grocery store angel: Shoppers get operatic treat
WATERTOWN, Mass. — A Massachusetts grocery store employee has surprised shoppers with his operatic renditions of popular Christmas music.
Tony Russo, owner of Russo's Market in Watertown, tells The Boston Globe he had no idea Guilherme Assuncao could sing when the 23-year-old volunteered to sound check equipment Friday night for an upcoming weekend performance.
His voice shocked his co-workers, and Assuncao was invited back to the stage to perform for shoppers. One woman who visited the store Saturday says everyone stopped what they were doing when they heard Assuncao sing.
One video of him performing "O Holy Night" has since garnered more than 56,000 views on Facebook.
Assuncao moved from Brazil to the U.S. in 2015 to attend school. While he hasn't performed in years, Assuncao says "music is my life."
Colorado man arrested after offering weed for sheriff's SUV
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A Colorado man landed in jail after offering to trade illegal homegrown marijuana for an SUV listed on Craigslist — a vehicle that happened to be owned by a sheriff.
The Gazette reports that Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell recently received a text from a 39-year-old Vail man offering to buy his SUV.
The man sent photos of the product, and Mikesell says he showed the texts to detectives. A meet up was scheduled in Woodland Park in late November.
The man and a 41-year-old woman arrived for the swap and were arrested. Authorities say they found about 4 pounds (2 kilograms) of illegal marijuana in the duo's car.
The man and woman were charged with possession with intent to sell.
Mikesell says he won't relist the SUV on Craigslist.
Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com
Family to match donations for snapping turtle's $5,500 tank
BENNINGTON, Vt. — A Vermont museum says a local family will match dollar for dollar all donations to help a friendly snapping turtle get a new tank for Christmas.
Michael Clough is assistant director at the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum in Marlboro. He said last week the museum was seeking $5,500 for a custom-made tank for Basil the turtle.
Clough tells The Bennington Banner the museum had already reached $4,000 when the family announced its donation pledge. The family wishes to remain anonymous.
Clough says Basil was raised as an illegal pet and arrived at the museum five years ago. Snapping turtles are known for their vicious bite, but Basil is unafraid of humans and dogs.
The museum plans for the tank to allow Basil to swim freely once he's fully grown.
Information from: Bennington Banner, http://www.benningtonbanner.com
Baltimore's enduring eccentricities shine at Christmas
BALTIMORE — From kitschy ornaments to model train extravaganzas and a holiday song dedicated to bottom-feeding crustaceans, Baltimore's unique brand of quirky creativity really shines at Christmas.
For moviemaker John Waters, the city's favorite offbeat son, the Yuletide season offers up a parade of unconventional delights. The pop-culture icon dubbed the "Pope of Trash" tours the country with a one-man show devoted to Christmas themes and decorates the front door of his Baltimore home with a thorny wreath to snag guests' clothes.
Waters loops lights around an electric chair featured in his outrageous comedy "Female Trouble" and sticks unflattering photos of loved ones on tree decorations.
"I like it (Christmas) because it's excessive, it's crazy, you can't ignore it, and it makes people nuts," said the director of the underground classic "Pink Flamingos" and the acclaimed-comedy-turned-Broadway-hit "Hairspray."
While Baltimoreans enjoy "The Nutcracker" and other noel classics, there's no shortage of natives who tweak festivities with some of their hometown's enduring eccentricities.
Wrapped around a cove of the Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore has its own seasonal carol paying homage to its favorite delicacy. David DeBoy wrote "Crabs for Christmas" in 1981 and more than 35 years later, it's become a holiday staple. While some snicker at the title, he swears it's about seafood.
The song tells the story of a "big fella" from Maryland who finds himself in Texas at Christmas time. Perched on Santa's knee at a department store, he pines for a Baltimore feast: "Oh, I want crabs for Christmas/ Oh, only crabs will do/Oh ho, with crabs for Christmas/My Christmas wish'll come true."
DeBoy said Christmas in Baltimore has its own unique expression because, well, Baltimoreans are often a unique sort.
"They're very proud of who they are. Yeah, they're quirky, but they're proudly individual and they're just fine with that," said DeBoy, who has written other Baltimore-specific holiday tunes like the doo-wop "Christmas on the Stoop," which details seasonal obligations such as stringing tinsel through window burglar bars.
In Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood, an explosion of multicolored lights, glittering snowmen and designs of Maryland's beloved crabs line a block of row houses. Known as "The Miracle on 34th Street," the over-the-top Christmas decor is perhaps the city's most beloved seasonal institution, attracting thousands each December. It's now in its 71st year.
"This is just neighbors coming together. It's 100 percent Baltimore," said resident Shacara Waithe, across the street from a yard dominated by a Christmas tree made entirely of hubcaps and ornaments fashioned from cartons of Old Bay seafood seasoning.
The oldest Baltimore-area holiday custom is "Christmas Gardens," which has roots in its 19th-century German immigrant community. The "train gardens" are a fading tradition, but some firehouses still set up the imaginative displays of model trains chugging past fantastical townscapes that firefighters spend months planning and assembling each year.
Each year, the mayor's annual Christmas parade includes nods to some of Baltimore's idiosyncratic customs, including women dubbed "hons" — in honor of a ubiquitous term of endearment — in cat-eye glasses and beehive hairdos, as well as a handful of vendors known as "arabbers," mostly African-American men, who sell fruits and vegetables from painted horse-drawn carts.
Waters' annual 70-minute monologue called "A John Waters Christmas," wrapping up an 18-city tour this month, includes anecdotes of Christmases past in Baltimore and pep talks about what to do if you're forced to participate in a living Nativity scene against your will.
In his 1920s-era Baltimore house on a recent afternoon, Waters brainstormed new images for a popular projector device he loathes that illuminates holiday scenes on homes.
"I would like to design like a really hideous one — Santa screaming or something," Waters told The Associated Press with a chuckle. He was decked out in a red velvet jacket over a black turtleneck and sporting his trademark pencil mustache.
Dean Krimmel, a historian and 55-year resident of Baltimore, suggested that Baltimoreans are not necessarily quirkier than people elsewhere, they just happen to be more comfortable sharing, celebrating and promoting their eccentricities.
"What others now call eccentric and pay good money to experience when they visit us, read about us, watch movies about us, even buy tickets on Broadway for a glimpse into our quirky lives, well, we call that our inheritance. Our 'value-added' in an increasingly homogenized world," Krimmel said in an email.
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Marijuana activist since 1960s facing California pot charges
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A marijuana activist whose advocacy dates to the 1960s counterculture has been arrested in California toting 22 pounds of illegal marijuana, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Irvin Dana Beal, 70, of New York, was arrested Saturday in far Northern California after prosecutors said his rental car was spotted weaving across the road and driving 20 miles below the speed limit. James Statzer, 51, of Michigan, also was arrested.
The arrest occurred along a well-traveled highway in California's famed Emerald Triangle area, known for its high-grade pot. A police dog smelled marijuana during the stop and 22 pounds of the drug was found.
Both men pleaded not guilty to charges of possessing drugs for sale and felony transportation charges and were being held in lieu of $75,000 bail.
Beal has been promoting marijuana's medical benefits for decades. His activism dates to the 1960s heyday of Abbie Hoffman and the Youth International Party, known as the Yippies.
Recreational sales of marijuana become legal in California on Jan. 1, and medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1996. But it's still illegal to transport large quantities of the drug or to take it out of state.
It's not uncommon for traffickers to think they can now transport pot risk-free, said Deputy District Attorney Colleen Murray, who is prosecuting the case.
"People are like, 'It's legal.' So often they're very open with officers, 'Oh hey, I have 100 pounds,'" she said. "That's not the way it works."
Defense attorney Tom Ballanco said it's not clear if his two clients thought they were acting legally.
Friends were raising money for Beal's bail, Ballanco said, concerned that he is a heart attack survivor and has other illnesses. Beal isn't a flight risk and looks forward to fighting the charges, Ballanco said.
"The nature of his life, really, is one of activism. He's not the type of person who's going to flee from this," Ballanco said. "He's certainly a very colorful figure. I'm happy to be representing him and his co-defendant."
For law enforcement, these were routine arrests in an area where traffickers typically tote hundreds if not thousands of pounds of famed Emerald Triangle pot to East Coast states.
"People can buy it here for maybe $800 or $1,000 a pound," Murray said. "Once they get back there ... they're going to get maybe $3,000 to $4,000 a pound for it. That's a nice profit."
Court: Charity stuck with fan payouts after holes-in-one
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Most golfers like short par 3s, but West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice probably wishes No. 18 at the Greenbrier Classic in 2015 was a little longer — 33 yards longer to be exact.
In 2015, Justice's charity promised fans at the 18th hole $100 for the first hole-in-one and $500 for the second in 2015. Professionals George McNeill and Justin Thomas aced the 137-yard hole, forcing the charity to give almost $200,000 to fans around the green.
The charity took out an insurance policy on the payouts, but a federal appeals court says the policy only covered holes at least 170 yards long.
Old White Charities Inc. accused the insurer of breach of contract for not covering the payout, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that claim.