QUIRKY WORLD ... A daily look at some of the world’s stranger stories

NORTH POLE: Many of us cannot recall the last time we got a letter in the post, but Santa will this year receive a record 8m of them, the UPU has said.

QUIRKY WORLD ... A daily look at some of the world’s stranger stories

Global postal services expect to sort through that number of wish lists by the time Christmas rolls around, according to a survey by the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which coordinates the world’s postal systems.

That is 2m more than the haul estimated in a similar survey in 2007.

Postal services in Ireland, France, Spain, and Canada, “are reporting increases in the number of letters sent to Santa, Père Noël or the Three Wise Men, from last year”, UPU said in a statement, referring to the French and Spanish versions of the famous gift-deliverer.

Last year the French held the record with 1.7m letters, followed by Canadians, who penned 1.35m.

Frequently addressed just to “Santa, North Pole”, these letters are handled by some 20 postal services worldwide. Many have created formal programmes to help answer the missives, UPU said.

Electronic tag jingles bells

ENGLAND: A man has walked free from court on a breach of bail charge after reportedly setting off his electronic tag while collecting Christmas decorations from his attic.

Harry John Nicholson, 41, of Sewell Place, Currock, Carlisle, was tagged and put on a house curfew earlier, but triggered an alarm when he entered the loft, not realising it was not covered by the monitoring equipment.

Stevenage Magistrates’ Court staff confirmed that Mr Nicholson faced the charge on Monday but it was not proven, allowing him to walk free.

Mr Nicholson reportedly contacted Group 4, which operates the equipment, and explained he had only been in the loft to get decorations, but was told police had already been contacted.


ENGLAND: David Cameron has been sarcastically thanked for saving an MP’s marriage by offering a “sweet £150 tax break”.

Labour’s Tom Harris joked that his wife Carolyn was about to sign the divorce papers until she heard reports of the married couple’s allowance, which is expected to be worth up to £200 a year for an estimated 4m couples from 2015.

Mr Harris also questioned the prime minister on why the divorce rate has gone down since Labour abolished the previous married person’s tax allowance in 2000. Mr Cameron hit back with his own joke as he suggested Labour leader Ed Miliband only tied the knot with Justine Thornton when the government started proposing the married couple’s tax allowance.


MEXICO: A shipment of highly radioactive cobalt-60 has finally been safely recovered after sitting in a Mexican cornfield where it was found a week ago when truck thieves dumped it.

A robot was used to scoop up the dangerous material and deposit it in a safe container for transporting to a nuclear waste treatment plant.

It came from obsolete medical equipment used in radiation therapy, which was being transported in a truck that was stolen at gunpoint at a filling station in Hidalgo state.


USA: Students have created a robot arm that can help people carry up to 40lb loads.

The Titan Arm is a battery-powered brace attached to a backpack costing just under $2,000 (€1,450).

Its designers at the University of Pennsylvania say it has the potential to prevent injuries in workers whose jobs require repetitive heavy lifting.


GERMANY: Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is likely to remain unavailable in Germany after Bavaria’s state government said it will try to keep it out of publication when copyright expires in 2015.

This reverses a previous decision to support new editions with critical commentary.

Mein Kampf is not banned in Germany, but Bavaria has used its ownership of the copyright to block publication. The copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death.

The Bavarian governor’s chief of staff, Christine Haderthauer, said Hitler’s anti-semitic book amounts to incitement and the government will file a criminal complaint if anyone tries to publish it in future.

Governor Horst Seehofer pointed to Bavaria’s participation in a drive to have modern Germany’s main far-right party banned and said that does not fit with supporting publication of Mein Kampf.


USA: Former CIA director Leon Panetta revealed secret information to Zero Dark Thirty scriptwriter Mark Boal when he gave a speech at the agency’s headquarters marking the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, according to newly declassified documents.

Mr Panetta said through a spokesman that he did not know Mr Boal was in the room.

Judicial Watch, a conservative group, filed a request for the more than 200 pages of documents, which the CIA has now released. The files concerned the internal investigation of its role in the acclaimed film about the capture of bin Laden.

“I had no idea that individual was in the audience,” Mr Panetta said in a statement. “To this day, I wouldn’t know him if he walked into the room.”

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