BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – This Christmas, a family here may keep a closer eye on their statue of baby Jesus.

Last year someone plucked it from the nativity scene in their front yard and spent eight months traveling the state, returning it complete with plenty of photos of where it had been.

“When we tell people about it, they just look at us and say, ‘Wow, that really happened?”‘ Joan Leising said. “Then, we show them the photo album.”

The statue was taken Dec. 23, and a note – promising to return the baby Jesus in three days – was left in the statue’s place.

Eight months later, Joan’s husband, John Leising, opened the front door and found the statue on his porch, along with a photo album that showed images of the figurine in front of highway signs in Binghamton, Rochester, Albany and Poughkeepsie. It was photographed at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, and posed on a bicycle, on a horse, in a car wearing a seat belt, in a chair next to a campfire and in someone’s kitchen.

“The real Jesus Christ would have forgiven them for that,” John Leising said. “And we do, too.”

Pimp to promote safety for teens

PHOENIX (AP) – A convicted pimp has been asked to make a video – for educational purposes.

Antoin Thurman helped with the making of an anti-prostitution video by describing how he recruited girls at malls and clubs and lured them into selling their bodies. “I’ve realized I wouldn’t want to see my daughter, my mother or sister in this predicament I had these girls in,” said Thurman, serving a three-year sentence.

The 20-minute video, the brainchild of Judge Lex Anderson of Lake Pleasant Justice Court, will be completed by the end of January. Anderson said about 1,500 DVDs are to be distributed.

Million-mile man takes free ride

MILWAUKEE (AP) – Peter Gilbert has been given a brand new Saab for free, but he first had to log more than 1 million miles on his old one.

Last summer, Saab executives verified the mileage on Peter Gilbert’s old car and talked about exhibiting it in a Swedish museum but didn’t. Gilbert, a traveling salesman, then donated the 1989 Saab 900 SPG to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time he was a little disappointed he hadn’t gotten so much as a Saab T-shirt, much less a replacement auto. Once Gilbert’s story was told, the company decided to provide him with a new Saab 9-5 Aero and offer one to anyone who put 1 million miles on a Saab as the original owner.

Bus driver gets to keep Santa hat

COMMACK, N.Y. AP) – A school bus driver got into trouble because he refused to take off his Santa Claus cap while driving his route.

Kenneth Mott, 65, who has a white beard and an ample belly, added an extra touch to his Santa Claus look – a fuzzy red-and-white hat.

Last Thursday, when he returned from driving children to school at the Commack School District, he said his supervisors at the Baumann and Sons bus company demanded that he take off his Santa hat.

He was told that a parent complained that their child doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and was bothered by the hat.

He said that after he told parents that Friday might be his last day on the job because of the hat, supervisors suddenly told him he could wear the hat after all.

Mott said he doesn’t pretend to be Santa while driving, nor does he play Christmas carols or decorate his bus.

Commack School District Superintendent James Feltman said he told the district’s transportation supervisor that the hat could stay since it was not a religious object, was not distracting to the driver and didn’t interfere with the driver’s duties.

Bird is the word

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, what will four birds in a pocket and three in a fanny pack bring?

If border agents notice, a $1,000 fine and maybe worse.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents said Monday they seized seven birds from two men as they re-entered the United States from Canada via Buffalo’s Peace Bridge.

The duo caught the attention of officers when they said they had gone to Canada on Friday not for the usual gambling or theater excursions but to buy 25 pounds of millet bird seed.

The agents searched the men and found seven undeclared live finches, each worth $50 to $200 in the U.S. market. Four of the birds were in the liner of a coat pocket and the other three were in toilet paper rolls inside a fanny pack, agents said.

The Buffalo-area men each were fined $1,000, customs spokesman Kevin Corsaro said. Federal wildlife and agricultural officials are looking into possible criminal charges.

“The smuggling of such birds increases the chances that a communicable bird disease, such as Exotic Newcastle or avian influenza, could enter the United States,” Corsaro said.

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