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Barney runs riot

Washington, Dec. 18 (Reuters): President George W. Bush helped read a Christmas classic to third-graders yesterday in a light-hearted ceremony disrupted by a “near riot” of school children frightened by his black Scottish terrier.

Bush exchanged winks and jokes with the nearly 60 school children gathered in the Roosevelt Room as First Lady Laura Bush read from The Night Before Christmas.

Bush, who handed off the book to his wife after reading just one page aloud, complimented the children on their “nice boots” and exclaimed: “Pretty exciting so far isn’t it'”

Many of the children were startled when the dog, Barney, entered the room unexpectedly. “He’s pretty ferocious looking when you first look at him,” Bush said of the overly eager little black dog, conceding the surprise “created a near riot.”

Jury jinx

San Antonio (Reuters): Peace on Earth and good will toward others may be in the spirit of the holiday season, but one Texas prosecutor thinks it is bad for business. Bexar county district attorney Susan Reed on Tuesday ordered a halt to all major criminal trials until after next week. Reed said she was concerned jurors might bring the holiday spirit into deliberations and be less likely to convict or hand out harsh punishments. “Nobody wants to be Scrooge,” she said. “Jurors are very sympathetic at Christmastime, and that’s just human nature. We have very serious cases to present and we don’t want to risk that.” Under Texas law, jurors decide the guilt or innocence of defendants and also their punishment. Reed has made the holiday break an annual practice. Reed says the best time of year to bring cases to trial is around the US income tax deadline of April 15. “There’s no doubt about it,” Reed said. “Jurors are good and angry.”

Senate sin

Washington (Reuters): A Senate recording studio worker who broke the rules by dubbing a pornographic movie at work compounded his sin by inadvertently showing the film on an internal Senate television station, an official said on Tuesday. The Senate sergeant-at-arms office said the employee was placed on administrative leave for the December 6 event, in which an unidentified pornographic film was put on a closed circuit channel available in Senate offices. Because it was about 7 am on Friday when the Senate was in recess, relatively few people saw the movie, which was interrupted when some Capitol police noticed it. The Senate recording studio is usually used for making videotaped copies of speeches.

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