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Claus for Alarm: Too Few Fat Santas

November 29, 1998

A roundup of unusual news stories:

A Shortage of Fat Santas: British stores are desperately seeking fat elderly men to play Santa in their Christmas displays.

"We cannot find any suitable actors who are still on the porky side," said a spokesman for the Ministry of Fun entertainment agency. "All the applicants seem to live on salads and look after their bodies. You cannot just strap a cushion on them and hope to fool the kids."

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Dead Man Watches TV Five Years: A dead German sat in front of his television set for five years, the lights on his Christmas tree flashing beside him, and none of his neighbors noticed. The landlords came knocking only after the bank account from which his rent and bills were paid ran dry.

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Foot Fetish Phone Freak: An Ohio man's fetish for stinky feet is sending him back to prison. David Donathon was convicted of calling people and asking them whether their feet stink. He was sentenced to one year in prison on telephone harassment charges.

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Eclipse Pregnancy Alert: Women in Cornwall, England, are being warned not to get pregnant this month in case they end up giving birth in the middle of next year's solar eclipse. Doctors fear there will be so many people in the area in August to watch the rare total eclipse that women in labor will not be able to get to the hospital through the traffic-clogged roads.

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Animal Revolt Update: A Malayan tapir bit off the arm of a female keeper who was feeding the animal in its pen, Oklahoma City zoo officials said.

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Controversial Christmas Tree Axed: A concert in New York that would have featured a Christmas tree bedecked with condoms to mark World AIDS Day was canceled after opposition from city officials. The artificial 30-foot "Tree of Life" would have been part of an event sponsored by Levi Strauss & Co.

"I think it is one of the most idiotic ideas I have ever heard of," New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.

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Thief Practices Unusual Restitution: Sheriff's deputies in Illinois say a burglar didn't leave his victims empty-handed: He loaded them up with Monopoly money. In one case, the thief left $15 in play money in lieu of a wallet. In another, he left a pile of fake bills in exchange for a pair of sunglasses.

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News McNuggets:

* A small town in Michigan plans to sell its fire truck to a rural fire department in Georgia in exchange for 500 pounds of pecans. Tawas City officials estimated their truck's value at $2,500 to $3,500. With pecans selling at $5 to $6 a pound, they figured 500 pounds would make a fair exchange.

* A Thai man, depressed by his inability to keep harmony among his three warring wives, jumped to his death from a hospital building.

* The Mexican Catholic Church plans to excommunicate kidnappers in a campaign to battle soaring crime, a church leader said.

* The Salvation Army is giving its holiday credit-card kettle the old heave ho-ho-ho. Two years ago, the group's Akron, Ohio, chapter started encouraging credit-card donations and equipped its standard red kettle to accept them. But the concept failed to draw enough money.

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Wide World of Weird is published on Sundays. Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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