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New Year Around the Globe

New Year revelers around the planet will welcome 2011 in a blaze of fireworks and parties Friday, temporarily banishing the misery of extreme weather which has struck countries across the world.

Some 1.5 million people will cram Sydney's foreshore for fireworks on the Harbour Bridge, with sunshine attracting record crowds in the afternoon even as the country's northeast battled devastating floods.

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Boney M's Bobby Farrell Dies

Bobby Farrell, singer and dancer with 1970's disco group Boney M, died early Thursday in a hotel room in Saint Petersburg, where he had been performing, city officials said. He was 61.

The Saint Petersburg investigative committee of prosecutors said the Aruba-born Dutch singer was found dead in his bed by a staffer at the city's Ambassador hotel.

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New Jersey Mom Hopes to be World's Fattest Woman, Gets 30,000 Calories during Christmas

A New Jersey mom who hopes to become the fattest woman in the world got 30,000 calories with a Christmas feast that could have fed dozens of revelers, the British tabloid The Daily Mail reported.

Sitting in a reinforced metal chair, Donna Simpson had the world's biggest Christmas dinner as she ate for two straight hours.

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Web Helps Revival of Zajal Poetry in Lebanon

Zajal, an old form of improvised Arabic poetry that enjoyed its heyday in Lebanon before the 1975-1990 civil war, is making a tentative comeback with thousands of fans on Facebook and YouTube.

Traditionally an emotional oratory duel between two men, zajal once drew crowds of tens of thousands who revered its artists as poets of the highest order. It also enraptured fans who sat glued to their black-and-white television sets for the shows.

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Iraqi Shoe Thrower Signs Book in Beirut: Last Salute to Bush

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former President George W. Bush said Tuesday he is suing Iraq's prime minister for his detention and alleged torture during the nine months he spent in custody.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi spoke during the signing in Beirut of his first book, entitled "The Last Salute to President Bush."

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Ukraine Firm Offers Drinking Buddies

With the holidays approaching fast, are you in need of a drinking companion? Hire one, offers a group of entrepreneurial Ukrainians.

For just up to 150 Ukrainian hryvnias (18 dollars), an entertainment firm in eastern Ukraine will provide you with a drinking buddy with whom you can talk everything from politics to art to women or simply bemoan the condition of the world.

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Rat Curry!

Police are investigating the chef at a canteen of a leading university in Bangladesh after a student found a rat's head in a bowl of chicken curry, sparking protests.

The student made the gruesome discovery while eating lunch on Monday and fell sick immediately, the head of security at Rajshahi university in western Bangladesh, Chowdhury Muhammad Zakaria, told Agence France Presse.

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Mimix Seeking to Win Global Title, Asks for Lebanese Support

Mimix, a technology that translates spoken and written words into sign language backed by a Lebanese team, is now in a standoff against Brazil's Mindle to win the Global Title.

Mimix won the regional award during YallaStartup weekend in Beirut. It then competed against 13 global cities and won the Global Startup Battle 2010.

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Shark Attacks Tourists in Sharm el-Sheikh

An oceanic white tip shark badly mauled four Russian tourists swimming close to their beach hotels in two separate attacks at an Egyptian Red Sea resort, a local conservation official said on Wednesday.

Director of Sinai Conservation Mohammed Salem said the shark attacked two Russians swimming in the Ras Nasrani area near the famed Sharm el-Sheikh resort in the Sinai Peninsula and bit their arms off.

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Aussie 'Spiderman' to Live, Sleep with Hundreds of Arachnids

An Australian man Monday said he was "a bit silly" to live in a shop window with hundreds of poisonous spiders for three weeks for charity, but was confident he would not be bitten.

"Spiderman" Nick Le Souef hopes to raise as much as 50,000 U.S. dollars for a children's charity by spending the next few weeks eating, sleeping and working among hundreds of Australia's famously dangerous, eight-legged inhabitants.

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