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Americans parade into the new year

Hundreds of thousands of revelers welcomed the new year Saturday by lining the streets to watch the 116th Rose Parade, featuring a 45-foot-tall replica of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle and a train more than 200 feet long _ the longest float in parade history.

For others, the day wasn't complete without the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, where spectators watched elaborately dressed marchers in temperatures that soared to a record 63 degrees.

The Rose Parade featured 50 flower-covered floats reflecting the theme "Celebrate Family" with a fanciful mix of characters, including a 50-foot rocket man, a dragon teaching its child to fly and a family of frogs on a bicycle trying to escape a menacing French chef.

Laser beam investigators question N.J. residents

TRENTON, N.J. _ Authorities investigating two incidents in which laser beams were aimed at aircraft flying over northern New Jersey have questioned several people but made no arrests, the FBI said Saturday.

The pilot of a corporate jet first reported seeing the green lasers on Wednesday as he came in to Teterboro Airport. A police helicopter flew over the area Friday and also spotted the lasers.

FBI Special Agent Steve Kodak said Saturday that no one was in custody. A spokesman for the Port Authority said a Parsippany resident was among those questioned.

Federal agents are looking into similar incidents involving lasers and aircraft, including cases in Cleveland, Washington, Houston, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Medford, Ore. Laser beams can temporarily blind or disorient pilots.

Alert bank tellers foil crime against couple

UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio _ Two men accused of invading a couple's home and forcing an elderly man to withdraw cash from his bank were arrested after tellers noticed a bruise on the 73-year-old man's forehead and alerted police.

Two men entered the home of John and Judith Hansel in a Columbus suburb Friday, said police spokesman Officer Don Stanko.

According to police reports, Robert E. Jackson, 23, forced John Hansel to drive his car to a bank while Michael Lathon, 19, stayed with Judith Hansel, 66. Jackson allegedly ordered Hansel to withdraw an undetermined amount of cash, but suspicious tellers called police, Stanko said.

Police chased the car, which Jackson crashed nearby, Stanko said. He was arrested, and Hansel told officers his wife was at home with Lathon.

A police SWAT team sent a trained dog into the couple's home and Judith Hansel escaped, Stanko said. Lathon surrendered, police said.

Jackson and Lathon each were being held Saturday on two charges of kidnapping and three charges of aggravated burglary, said sheriff's Deputy Daniel Kish. Arraignments were set for Monday.

The Aqua String Band performs Saturday in the Philadelphia Mummers Parade. The parade is the nation's oldest folk festival, featuring string bands and costumed participants competing for $100,000 in prizes from the city.

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