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Xmas for the birds

Washington, Nov. 21 (Reuters): Christmas at the White House this year is for the birds. Decorations will go to the dogs. And the cats. Also an alligator and a pony.

First Lady Laura Bush announced she has chosen as a holiday theme the pets that have lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over the years. “Our pets have been such a source of comfort and entertainment to us,” she said. White House residence staff have been working since mid-summer on replicas of 25 first family pets that will be displayed on mantels and tables.

They include an alligator John Quincy Adams received as a gift from Marquis de Lafayette, the French soldier and statesman, Caroline Kennedy’s pony, Macaroni, and Gerald Ford’s golden retriever, Liberty.

The Bush’s own pets — Barney the Scottish terrier, Spot the springer spaniel and India, a cat of indeterminate origin — will be prominently featured among the papier mache menagerie.

Diva cash

London (Reuters): Multi-millionaire pop singer Madonna had to borrow money in a London restaurant after finding herself short of cash to buy a slice of cake for her son, a British newspaper reported on Thursday.

The Sun said Madonna told two sisters, Mimi and Titi Negussie, that she had forgotten her purse when she went into the restaurant with film director husband Guy Ritchie, their son Rocco and her daughter Lourdes. “A woman came up and said: ‘Excuse me, but you look like really nice people. Can I borrow some money' We forgot our wallets’,” Mimi Negussie told the Sun. Titi, who did not recognise the singer, gave the Material Girl a £2 coin to help her cover a £1.25 shortfall in her £5.25 bill. A spokesman for Madonna told the Sun the sisters would be sent CDs and a cheque to cover the loan. Madonna was the highest earning musician in Britain in this year’s Sunday Times Pay List, with estimated annual earnings of £36 million.

Doctor slice

London (Reuters): A maverick doctor defied British authorities by slicing open a human body before a packed audience and television cameras in the country’s first public autopsy since 1830. Police weighing up a possible prosecution were among 350 or more fascinated spectators watching German Prof. Gunther von Hagens cut into the corpse of a 72-year-old German businessman during the two-hour post mortem in a disused London brewery. Von Hagens could face three months in prison if authorities decide he has contravened the Anatomy Act by returning to the days when autopsies were a popular public spectacle in Britain.

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