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Whale spotted spending New Year's Eve in New York City's East River

The lure of New York City's massive New Year's celebrations is irresistible to many – even, apparently, giant mammals.

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Officers patrolling New York City's harbor on Saturday spotted a whale swimming in the East River in Manhattan. The police department's special operations division posted a pair of photos of the traveler Saturday morning on the division's Twitter page.

"Even the wildlife want to ring in #NYE2017 in #NYC," police wrote.

#Harbor spotted another whale in the E. River this morning right next to Gracie Mansion. Even the wildlife want to ring in #NYE2017 in #NYC— NYPD Special Ops (@NYPDSpecialops) December 31, 2016 <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard told The Associated Press that they had yet to see the whale. It appeared to be a humpback whale, the same species spotted last month in the East River.

Police tweeted on Nov. 25 when a whale was spotted near Governor's Island.

The #Harbor Unit's PO Ripple took this whale of a shot while patrolling the NY Harbor in the vicinity of Governor's Island #Humpback #Whale— NYPD Special Ops (@NYPDSpecialops) November 25, 2016 <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

Coast Guard Petty Officer Frank Iannazzo-Simmons told the AP that authorities inform mariners of any whale sightings in busy waterways and "let the whale be the whale."

Soldier proposes as revelers ring in New Year

Thousands of people funneled into Romare Bearden Park in Charlotte, North Carolina on Saturday evening, looking to ring in the New Year.

The festivities featured live music, crafts and even a marriage proposal ahead of the crown lighting at midnight.

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U.S. Army soldier Aniel Rivera proposed to his girlfriend, Naadira Davis, amidst a roaring crowd in Charlotte's Center City.

Rivera said he wasn't phased by the crowd, but was most nervous to hear her response.

She said yes.

"I'm happy with how everything went," he said. "I'm really blessed."

Davis, who was nearly lost for words, described the moment as "amazing."

"I wasn't expecting this at all," she said.

Security for New Year's in uptown was increased after city officials declared the celebration an extraordinary event earlier in the week.

Law enforcement officials with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department could not speak in specific terms, but said officers were brought in from all over the city to help with the event. 

The declaration also enabled officers additional search powers, and the ability to ban specific items, if necessary.

The Charlotte celebration went on in the shadow of news of an attack at an Istanbul nightclub during its New Year's Eve celebration.

A CMPD source said the department "beefed up" its law enforcement presence in light of the attack.

Photos: World rings in 2017

History of the New Year's Eve ball drop in Times Square

Each year on Dec. 31, many people across the country gather to ring in the new year, and thousands of people show up and tune in to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

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This year will be the 109th iteration of the tradition, which started in 1907 in Manhattan.

But the tradition of dropping a "time ball" dates back even further. 

According to Time, time balls "covered in black or red canvas" were first used in England in the 1820s to help sailors and ship captains keep track of time during the day.

The first time ball built in the U.S. was erected in 1845 atop the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Years later, the Boston Time-Ball went into operation in 1878, and others were showcased in other U.S. cities. 

According to Alexis McCrossen, author of "Marking Modern Times: A History of Clocks, Watches, and Other Timekeepers in American Life" and history professor at Southern Methodist University, "the vast majority of clocks were put up by government entities to assert their right to control the time."

But the famous ball didn't become a staple in New Year's Eve celebrations in New York until the New York Police Department to put a ban on fireworks in the city in 1904.

According to PBS, New Year's Eve festivities in New York were once celebrated at the Trinity Church in Manhattan, where bells chimed and fireworks burst when the clock struck midnight. But the police department enacted a ban on the fireworks after there were issues with hot ashes falling on the streets.  

Walter Palmer, chief electrician of "The New York Times," suggested the newspaper's owner, Adolph Ochs, employ a new, unique method of ringing in the new year by combining the concept of the time ball and electricity. 

According to PBS, the first time ball in Times Square was 700-pound ball made of iron and wood with 100 25-watt light bulbs attached to its surface. Today, the ball has been renovated seven times. It's currently covered in more than 2,500 Waterford crystals and is illuminated by more than 32,000 LED lights. It weighs 11,875 pounds.

Each year, the ball descends 141 feet from the top of the One Times Square building.

New Year's Eve is No. 2 holiday for vehicles being stolen

It's New Year's Eve. Do you know where your car is?

No, no one's accusing you of having, um, misplaced it after a few too many adult beverages.

There's an excellent chance it's been stolen.

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New Year's Eve is the second most popular holiday among vehicle thieves, according to a "New Year's Fun Facts" graphic compiled by Wallet Hub. Yeah, fun: In 2015, 2,227 vehicles were stolen while their owners were innocently watching the ball drop or whatever. Only Halloween, when a whopping 2,238 vehicles went vamooski, was worse.

(And don't be getting all cocky if your car's still right where you left it a midnight. Last year, a still very respectable 2,029 cars were stolen on New Year's Day, good enough for sixth on the list).

Wallet Hub's figures come from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which compiles an Annual Holiday Vehicle Theft Report covering 11 major holidays. The good news, if there is any, is that at least 2015 wasn't 2013, when New Year's Day ranked No. 1 for car thefts (2,184). On the other hand, New Year's Eve ranked a piddling No. 9 in 2013 and has been climbing the list ever since (it also was No. 2 in 2014).

To sum up: New Year's is not a good time for anyone worried about losing weight or their cars.

Still, it appears even car thieves must take a holiday now and then: For the last three years, Christmas Day ranked 11th and last on the NICB naughty list. In 2015, "only" 1,620 vehicles were reported stolen on Christmas.

As far as anyone knows, none of them by a jolly fat man accompanied by eight tiny reindeer.

Macy's, Best Buy, Walmart: What time do stores open on New Year's Eve, New Year's Day

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day can bring out the shopper in some of us, even after the holiday gifts have been opened.

If you still want to get out and about this New Year’s weekend, here’s a list of stores that will be open.

Remember, check with your local store as times can vary by location.

Best Buy: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Jan. 2

Costco: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. New Year’s Eve; closed New Year’s day; regular hours Jan. 2

Dick's Sporting Goods: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day; 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m. on Jan. 2

Dollar General: Open regular store hours per location

JC Penney: 6 a.m.-5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve; 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; regular hours Jan. 2

Kohl's: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. on Jan. 2

Macy’s: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on New Year’s Day

Target: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. on New Year's Eve, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. New Year's Day and 8 a.m.-11 p.m. on Jan. 2

Toys "R" Us: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. on New Year's Eve; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on New Year's Day; regular hours on Jan. 2

• Walmart: Open regular store hours per location

Which restaurants are open on New Year's Eve, New Year's Day?

The new year is only hours away, and if you are like most of the rest of us, the holiday season has probably worn you quite thin.

About half of all Americans plan to stay in for New Year’s Eve. Of those who leave the house, 1 in 10 will go to a bar or restaurant to celebrate.

In the event you want to let someone else do the cooking as you ring in the new year this weekend, here’s a list of some of the restaurants open on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Be sure to check with local chain restaurants for opening and closing hours. Many local properties set their own hours.

Woman shares Christmas with teen who has her son's heart

A woman in Georgia who lost her teenage son spent Christmas with the boy who wouldn't be alive without her son's heart.

The decision to donate his organs has built a unique bond. 

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"It will probably stay this way, just because this was so Tyler," Janece Risty said from her son Tyler's bedroom. She visits the room when she misses him the most.

The snowboards on the wall, the photographs he took and his collection of books are all pieces that help fill the void that he left when he died two years ago at the age of 16.

"I give thanks to God every day that I had Tyler as long as I had him," Risty said.

Tyler was a healthy and active Coweta County high school student, a devout Christian who dreamed of working for NASA.

One day in 2014, he collapsed.

"He was fine all day, then all of a sudden he complained of a headache and started to seize and became unresponsive," Risty said.

>> Related: Preschool teacher donates kidney to save 4-year-old student

It's still a mystery what caused the massive bleeding in his brain that led to his death a week later.

Even though he died, Risty said, Tyler never stopped building a legacy.

"All these kids went to the youth group Wednesday night to celebrate his life, and 30 kids gave their lives to Christ that night," Risty said.

But his mother knew that there were even more ways for her son to not only change lives, but save lives.

>> Related: Man donates liver to stranger; she gives him her heart in return

"At that point, I decided we need to make him an organ donor," Risty said.

Tyler's organs, bone and tissue went to 23 people across the country, including Lance Frye, who was in desperate need of a new heart.

If it weren't for the organ donation, "I would probably be dead," Frye said.

The 19-year-old Pittsburgh man was born with a congenital heart defect.

"It doesn't just save your life," Frye said. "Now I can do things I couldn't do with the heart I was born with."

>> Related: Bride donates kidney to new husband

Tyler was a student at Northlake High School in Newnan. It's one of the places that Frye saw when he spent time with Tyler's family for Christmas.

"I think it helps to know that this heart came from such a wonderful family and such a wonderful kid," Frye said.

Risty said it's fitting that Tyler's big heart keeps bringing people together, especially on Christmas.

"I think it will bring joy into my home, and that's what Christmas is about -- Christ, and having life after death with him," Risty said.

Sons save for 10 years, surprise mom with dream car for Christmas

A pair of dedicated brothers in Australia were so grateful to their single mother, that they wanted to thank her with a special gift. It took them 10 years, but they finally saved enough money to surprise her with the car of her dreams.

“Showing gratitude to our beautiful Mum who's worked so hard to give us everything in life,” Daniel Knust said in an Instagram post.

Showing gratitude to our beautiful Mum who's worked so hard to give us everything in life. Compared to the sacrifices she has made for us over the years, this is nothing.  A little gift to show her how much we appreciate everything she's done for Jason and I.  I've wanted to do this for 10 years, and today a long term dream came true.  Hard work pays off, and that's something our Mum taught us from a very young age that we'll never forget.  #grateful #family  @takeaphotoitwilllastlonger.gif @natgerada @mrs_knuts A video posted by Daniel Knust (@daniel_knust) on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:14pm PST

“Compared to the sacrifices she has made for us over the years, this is nothing,” he added.

 Knust posted the video of him and his brother, Jason Knust, surprising their mom with a BMW 3 series with a bright, red bow on the hood.

>> Read more trending stories

“Hard work pays off, and that’s something our mum taught us from a very young age that we’ll never forget,” Knust said.

Child receives Christmas surprise after mom charged with killing four siblings

Less than six months after a mother, Shaynthia Gardner, was charged with killing a child's four siblings, a Memphis man decided to give the child who survived a special Christmas.

Chris Lark said he has never forgotten the events of early July when a mom was accused of killing four of her children. Lark said he has children, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the boy who survived.

So this Christmas he wanted to do something special for the child.

>> Read more trending stories 

"I reached out to my barber and he told me that the kid liked Batman and Xbox games and he told me he didn't have a bike, so I said most definitely that was the first thing I had to do it," Lark said.

On Christmas Eve, with a bike and other gifts provided by the community, Lark finally met the boy he often thought of.

Lark says he never remembers what he got for Christmas, but he always remembers what he gave. But the gifts he gave this year, to this boy, pale in comparison to the old saying that now speaks volumes.

It's the thought that counts.

“He was very thankful and the dad was very thankful as well. Dad said he really needed that, because as you know it hasn't been easy for the family," Lark said.

Lark said he plans on keeping in touch with the family, as well as giving back in the future. He also said his son has a new friend and a new outlook about Christmas.

"This is the best Christmas ever because I was able to do that for family. And just able to see the look on their faces when I did that. It was.... words can't really describe it,” said Lark.

Lark said it was important for his children to be a part of this process as motivation for them to do the right things, for the right reasons.

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