The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gift from the sky

Moscow, Dec. 27 (Reuters): A town in Russia’s far east put up a real fir tree after President Vladimir Putin said an artificial one was not good enough for residents preparing for New Year and Orthodox Christmas celebrations.

Russian television showed a helicopter dropping the 65-foot tree into Birobidzhan, near the Chinese border, a week after Putin told 11-year-old schoolgirl Natalya Bugayeva that local authorities could do better than a plastic tree.

He suggested the local governor should put up a real tree ahead of Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 7. Television said authorities had put up the artificial tree because they could not afford the $15,000 for the three-hour helicopter rental to bring in a real one. A local air company provided the helicopter, this time free of charge.

Barbie blues

New York (Reuters): Barbie having babies' Stick to playing nurse and Rapunzel, say Wal-Mart shoppers. Barbie’s long-time pal, Midge — now married and pregnant — was yanked from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. shelves after customers complained, a company spokeswoman said. Midge is sold as part of the “Happy Family” set, wearing a tiny wedding ring and a detachable stomach with a curled-up baby inside. Her husband, Alan, and three-year-old child Ryan are sold separately. The spokeswoman refused to say whether shoppers objected specifically to the doll being sold alone, which may suggest teenage pregnancy, rather than being sold with the rest of the family.

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