Beer for Jesus offered
The South Australian Brew-ing Company is offering six cases of beer to anyone who returns a statue of the baby Jesus stolen from a nativity scene earlier this week, officials said yesterday. Managing director Mark Powell said security footage showed a man scaling a fence and lifting the figurine from his manger. "We are very concerned about the well-being of baby Jesus and we are calling for his swift and safe return," Powell said. A reward would be given to anyone who returns the statue, he said. "That said, you would have thought that the incentive of a guaranteed exit through the right door after purga-tory would be enough of an incentive in itself," he said.
Beach goes dry for Xmas
An annual Christmas beach party that attracts tens of thousands will be alcohol-free next month, after more than 100 inebriated party-goers needed to be rescued last year. Authorities have banned alcohol at Bondi Beach during the holiday because of safety concerns over drunken revelers, a local official said yesterday. Police and security guards will patrol the beach over the holidays to strictly enforce the no-alcohol policy. Party-goers, however, can pay A$30 (US$23), however, to drink inside Bondi Pavilion, which will be set up behind the beach, an official said.
Police have arrested a man for attempting to extort money out of seven Beijing supermarkets by poisoning their food, state media said yesterday. Yin Gang, an unemployed man from Heilongjiang Province, made calls to seven supermarkets last week claiming he had injected pesticides into food, the Beijing News said. He threatened to poison more food if money was not paid into a bank account, which he had opened under a fake name. Police ordered food to be taken off the shelves for testing and sent warnings to other supermarkets. Yin was tracked down through his bank account information, the report said. He had previously extorted money out of four supermarkets in other cities.
`Honey' tree draws crowds
Crowds are flocking to a Hindu temple on Bali for a glimpse of an ancient banyan tree which has begun oozing a honey-like substance said to have mystical properties. The sweet-tasting liquid started drizzling from the canopy of the tree onto temple buildings at the village of Baktisegara last month, the state Antara news agency said. Priests say many onlookers attending a ceremony to purify the liquid showed symptoms of being possessed by spirits -- run-ning around the temple grounds and clambering into the tree's branches, according to Antara.
Mangled anthem dooms man
A Colombian detained over a Tokyo burglary and facing a possible deportation tried to convince police he was a Mexican legally in the coun-try but failed when he mangled Mexico's anthem, reports said yesterday. Alejandro Gonzales, 20, was arrested with two other foreigners on Tuesday, accused of stealing some ?1.23 million (US11,800) in money and goods from two homes this month, police said. Gonzales started singing the anthem when taken into custody, but a translator pointed out, "it's full of mistakes," the Asahi Shimbun reported. Mexi-cans can stay in Japan with-out visas for up to six months.
■ United Kingdom
Punk band's role panned
A clergyman has criticized a city's decision to ask an aging punk band to switch on its annual civic display of Christmas lights. The Damned, the Reverend Stephen Leeke said Wednesday, do not really encapsulate the spirit of the season. "I do not think they are the best people to be switching on the Christmas lights," said Leeke, vicar of St Martin's Church in Cambridge, 80km north of London. "I think perhaps it would be more appropriate for them to switch them off," he said. Lead singer Captain Sensible,defended the band, saying The Damned represented the true spirit of Christmas. "It's a time to behave disgracefully and slob out in front of the TV," he told Independent Radio News. "The Damned are particularly good at that sort of thing."