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We can't escape the news. Fortunately, a good deal of it is strange (and often funny), so it doesn't seem like such a burden. Read on!


Not the actual mall Santa.

SANTA'S KNEE OFF LIMITS IN NEW ZEALAND TOWN
(New Zealand) - A small town in New Zealand has banned children from sitting on Santa's knee because organizers fear liability if anything goes wrong. Instead, children in the South Island village of Mosgiel will be asked to sit next to Santa, on specially decorated "elf chairs," as they discuss their Christmas wish list. Organizer Gail Thompson, secretary of the Mosgiel Business Association that is organizing the event, says the precaution is "ridiculous" but necessary. She fears children could come back in at a later date with allegations about Santa's behavior. Graham Glass, who will be Santa, was less than impressed. "It's bloody ridiculous. I can't believe we have become so politically correct."

VOYEUR FALLS TO DEATH PEERING AT NAKED WOMAN'S CORPSE
(China) - A voyeur fell to his death in southern China after climbing up the side of a building to get a better look at a woman's naked body. The woman was a prostitute, who leapt to her death from an apartment in Shenzhen after being held hostage. The man climbed up the building after a large crowd gathered around the body, the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily reported. His death set off rumors that the ghost of the woman had lured the man to his death to be her companion in the afterlife, the newspaper said. Two men have been arrested over her death.

ENDLESS CAROLS TORTURE STAFF
(Austria) - An Austrian trade union has claimed the repetitive playing of Christmas carols in department stores is "psycho-terrorism" for salespeople. From morning to night, week after week, the same Christmas music was played in department stores over and over again, Gottfried Rieser, of the Union of Private Employees, said. "Many staff in the retail sector suffer psychologically from it. They get aggressions and aversions against Christmas music. On Christmas Eve, with their families, they can't stand 'Silent Night' or 'Jingle Bells' any more," he said. His union had already tried without success to take legal steps. It is now appealing to department store owners to use "moderation" and to play Christmas music for only a few hours each day.

MAN CHARGED AFTER FIRING GUN AT GAME CONSOLE
(Maryland) - Anne Arundel County police say they have discovered the cause of a shooting in Edgewater, Maryland: an Xbox game system. Angry that his roommates were being too loud at 2:00 a.m., Robert Preston Kersey, 34, stormed into the living room and fired a single gunshot into the game system, disabling it, police said. The gunshot did not penetrate the system and did not injure anyone at the scene, police said. Kersey has been charged with two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of destruction of property, police said.

CHEEKY BANDIT HUNTED
A thief left a bizarre calling card after breaking into a Darwin city business recently. The thief left several images of their backside created by an office photocopier. Detectives have yet to identify the thief's gender. The images have been seized by police for forensic testing. The thief also left behind DNA. Senior Sergeant Scott Pollock said it was not the first time his office had dealt with a break-in where the offenders had left photocopied "calling cards." "We've had people photocopying their faces. I don't know what it is about these photocopiers," Pollock said.

VET AWED BY FAMILY'S BUNNY BREEDING CLAIM
(Czechoslovakia) - A Czech family say they've bred a rabbit with three penises. The Samek family says two other rabbits they bred, but killed and ate, each had two penises. Lenka Samkova, 14, said, "We went to see a vet and he was puzzled. He said he'd never seen anything like this rabbit with three penises."

BURGLARS GO BACK TO ASK FOR RECEIPTS
(Brazil) - Three burglars were arrested in Brazil after they returned to a house and asked for the receipts for the goods they had stolen. The young thieves told the owners of the house in Belo Horizonte that they were struggling to sell the stereo, TV and mobile phones because they didn't have the original receipts. A police spokesman said, "We have never seen anything so stupid. It was obvious that when they rang the bell the owner of the house would call us straight away and they were all arrested. They are all underage and I think they were just really naive and thought they would get away with going back."

DEAD MAN'S PHONE RINGS INSIDE COFFIN
(Belgium) - The family members of a dead motorcyclist are pressing charges against bungling Antwerp undertakers after the man's mobile phone began ringing in his coffin as they sat beside it in a chapel. Marc Marchal, 32, was killed when his motorbike collided with a tractor near his hometown of Rochefort. Marchal was so badly mutilated in the accident that undertakers advised his family that the coffin should remain closed as they said their last farewells. The family gathered for a private remembrance service in the undertakers' premises the night before Marchal's funeral and were horrified when his mobile phone began ringing from within the coffin. Some of the relatives were so shocked they ran into the street, while undertaker staff rushed to remove the cell phone from the dead man's clothing.

MAN DIES FROM PET EMISSIONS
(Netherlands) - Police suspect that a man found dead in his home was poisoned by ammonia gas from the excrement of his pet parrots and ferrets that had been badly cared for. The man reported feeling unwell early in the morning in his house in the town of Tegelen in North Limburg. An ambulance reached his home by 7:00 a.m., but he was already dead. A postmortem is to be carried out on his body to confirm the cause of death. A spokesman said it appeared the victim had not cared for his parrots and ferrets well and ambulance workers were struck by a "penetrating odor" when they entered the house. It is suspected the animals' excrement was allowed to accumulate in the building over a long period of time and that it began releasing toxic amounts of ammonia. Normally, police seal off a property where a person dies in suspicious circumstances, but in this case, the windows and doors were opened to clear the ammonia vapors. Locals reported the parrots' screeching was heard all around the town.

FLORIDA WOMAN HAS STROKE, GETS BRITISH ACCENT
(Florida) - A Sarasota County woman says she felt like she was "losing her mind" when she suffered a stroke and wound up with a British accent. Judi Roberts was doing a crossword puzzle four years ago when her right hand went numb. She suffered a stroke, which left her paralyzed on her right side and unable to talk. But when her speech finally returned, her deep northern accent was gone. Roberts now speaks with a higher-pitched British accent. A University of Central Florida expert says Roberts has an extremely rare disorder called "foreign-accent syndrome." Few than 20 cases have been reported worldwide since 1919. UCF professor Jack Ryalls is an expert on speech and language disorders. He has conducted a series of tests on Roberts and says the syndrome is the only explanation. Roberts say she has been accused of faking the accent. She became a recluse and even contemplated moving to England until she read about the disorder last spring and contacted experts.

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