There were kangaroos in Austria
Austria is sometimes confused with Australia, and tourists have been known to ask where the nearest kangaroos can be found. T-shirts emblazoned with "No kangaroos in Austria" sell well.
Monday, the joke backfired when a motorist ran over and killed one of the hopping marsupials in the mountainous southern Austrian province of Styria. The kangaroo had escaped from a zoo to enjoy a taste of freedom before being run over six miles from where he had been kept.
Cash-strapped first lady
Russia's first lady, Lyudmila Putin, had to borrow a few roubles on Thursday to cover her purchases at a charity bazaar in a plush Moscow hotel. The President's wife insisted on paying for all the gifts she bought during an International Women's Club annual bazaar in Moscow's Radisson-Slavyanskaya Hotel, but ran out of cash.
However, her translator came to her aid, dipping his hand into his own wallet to cover the cost of a trinket.
The Vatican defended itself on Thursday against increasing criticism over next week's planned meeting between Pope John Paul and Austrian far-right leader Jörg Haider, saying the Church was open to everyone.
Haider, still a dominant force in Austria's far-right Freedom Party despite resigning as its leader in May, is due to meet the Pope on 16 December to present him with a Christmas tree from the Austrian province of Carinthia, where he is governor.
That had to hurt
Norway castrated 414 people from 1934 to 1969 as part of a crackdown on rapists and others, including mental patients, homosexuals and epileptics, a historian says. "Castration was to prevent sexual crimes, but it quickly took on a much broader scope," Per Haave, who has had access to Norwegian health archives, told NRK public radio on Thursday.
He said 370 men and 44 women were victims of a policy which peaked in the late 1940s. More than 100 people were castrated from 1948 to 1950 alone.
Neighboring Sweden revealed in 1997 that it had sterilized about 63,000 people between 1935 and 1975, many against their will, as part of a campaign to improve racial purity in the Nordic nation.
Budget-busted King needs money
With the ever-rising costs of raising the royal family and keeping up the palace and parklands, even a monarch can face a year-end budget crunch. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has exceeded the royal household's government-paid budget by more than USD 205,500, or some five per cent, in the first half of the year.
So he has requested more money from the state coffers to cover his costs, including the needs of Crown Princess Victoria, who returns from the United States next year after completing her studies, the tabloid Aftonbladet said Friday.
The king is not without resources. His private fortune is worth some $33 million.
The model made me do it
Posters of Claudia Schiffer in her bra and panties are driving Frankfurt residents to theft. Of 600 display cases in the city showing the picture of the scantily clad model, 300 have been broken into according to Deutsche Staedte-Medien, the agency which hung the advertisements.
To discourage people from stealing the ads, the advertising gives them away at the end of each campaign. Accordingly, on Thursday morning a line formed outside the firm's Frankfurt office.
Big decision for patriotic Russians
Russian television viewers can tune out the revived Soviet-era national anthem by tuning in to risque late-night private channels. Some deputies in Friday's parliamentary session that voted for the anthem's reinstatement said the racy content of some all-night private channels made it impractical to make them screen the tune as suggested at 06:00 and midnight.
"If the anthem interrupts a show of this sort at midnight, let's adopt a law banning such shows at that time," said Communist Alexander Saliy to stirs from the benches. "They must show respect for the state."
In the end, deputies confined the requirement to state networks, defeating by about 30 votes an amendment which would have obliged private channels to adopt the same practice.
"I don't believe in Beatles..."
A German newspaper paid an unusual tribute to former Beatles star John Lennon on Friday, the twentieth anniversary of his, basing all its headlines on the lyrics of his songs.
Left-wing daily Tageszeitung's front-page headline ran: "It was 20 years ago today," a line from the band's 1967 Sergeant Pepper album, poignantly recalling Lennon's killing outside his New York apartment on 8 December 1980 by crazed a fan.
Inside, an article on two men arrested for a recent fire-bomb attack on a Duesseldorf synagogue was headlined "No Hell Below Us," stealing a line from Lennon's solo hit "Imagine."
A feature on attempts by European Union leaders to revamp decision-making structures at a summit in the French city of Nice earned the wry headline "You Better Get Yourself Together."
Compiled by Robert L Salvato, 8 December 2000
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