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HO, HO, HO, HOLDUP? Two banks in Switzerland have ordered their branches not to admit anyone dressed in that seasonal red costume with the white beard and trim and shiny black boots. The reason for the new policy, said spokesmen for UBS and Raiffeisenbank: Such people could be robbers hiding behind a common and readily available disguise. "Elves," whose costumes traditionally include blackened faces, are banned too. No word on whether the policy will be abandoned after Christmas.

FIDO, SHHHHHHH! His new decree, Mayor Maurizio Faccincani admits, is "a little absurd." Nonetheless, if it's not complied with, each violation will be punished by a fine of up to $500. The order: no barking by dogs in the town of Villafranca, in northern Italy, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and again between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. Villafranca is near an air base, and, Faccincani claims, already puts up with too much noise from military jets. Look for sales of muzzles to soar at local pet shops.

Rating the top threats to US children at century's end A coalition of nonprofit groups released early this week a list of "critical" threats to children in the US. The report from the National School Boards Association; the National League of Cities; Hollywood, Fla.-based Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital; Youth Crime Watch of America; and the National Association of Child Advocates is entitled "Ten Critical Threats to America's Children: Warning Signs for the Next Millennium." For each of the threats, it also offers one or more suggestions, such as raising the minimum wage and universal health care. The groups' list of top threats: Teen pregnancy Abuse and neglect at home Inadequate child care Poor schools Lack of health care Substance abuse Poverty Absent parents Crime Dangers in the environment - Associated Press

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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