Pope lights St. Peter's Nativity scene
VATICAN CITY, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI began his eighth Christmas since his election by participating in unveiling the Nativity scene in Vatican City's St. Peter's Square.
The Pope illuminated the "Light of Peace" on this year's display from the window of his apartment, after it was revealed to the public Monday.
The ceremony will be followed by his celebration of the annual Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Basilica, and Christmas Day he will deliver his Christmas message and offer the "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City of Rome and to the World") blessing from St. Peter's central balcony, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Monday.
Brownells says business booming
MONTEZUMA, Iowa, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Brownells Inc., a major supplier of firearms accessories, says business has been booming since the Connecticut school massacre.
The Iowa firm says it has sold 3 1/2 years worth of ammunition magazines in three days, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.
Brownells President Pete Brownell, in a statement attributed to him on gun owner forum AR15.com, said that level of demand is "unprecedented" and apologized for a backlog in completing orders.
"The demand for magazines actually exceeded the ability for the system to keep up with the volume that was being ordered," he wrote.
"We're working like crazy to get these orders to you as quickly as possible."
The Tribune said several major firearms retailers are being more muted in their response to the Newtown shooting. For example, Cabela's said it would not sell the AR-15 at its Connecticut store and Dick's Sporting Goods said it removed all guns from its Newtown store and suspended sales of modern sporting rifles nationwide.
Bieber is Canadian newsmaker of the year
Bieber led a survey of his fellow Canadians with 19 percent of the votes, followed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper with 15 percent, the poll conducted for Postmedia News and Global Television indicated.
They were followed by the Shafia family of Kingston, Ontario, three of whom died in a family honor killing; Toronto Mayor Rob Ford; Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Morois; and Luka Magnotta, a porn actor accused of dismembering a victim and mailing his limbs to separate locations.
The online survey of 1,021 adult Canadians was conducted Dec. 7-12, and is considered accurate to within 3.5 percentage points.
Decorations include letter from labor camp
DAMASCUS, Ore., Dec. 24 (UPI) -- An Oregon woman says she is mindful of the origin of holiday decorations after finding a letter from a Chinese labor camp in purchased Halloween supplies.
Julie Keith, 42, of Damascus said she contacted a human rights organization after finding a letter tucked into a plastic "graveyard kit" of Halloween decorations, purchased at Kmart, allegedly describing conditions in Unit 8, Department 2 of the Masanjia Labor Camp in Shenyang, China.
The handwritten letter, in English with occasional Chinese characters, read in part, "If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under persicution [persecution] of the Chinese Party Government will thank and remember you forever."
The letter mentions overwork, punishment and "nearly no payment," The (Portland) Oregonian noted Monday.
Iceberg 1 crew freed after 3 years
GARAAD, Somalia, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The crew of the MV Iceberg 1, a Panama-flagged vessel that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2010, was freed after spending 1,000 days in captivity.
The liberation of the 22 remaining crew members of the Iceberg 1 came after a two-week operation by the Puntland Maritime Police Force in Garaad in the Mudug region of Somalia, the International Maritime Bureau reported Monday.
Some of the freed crew members needed medical attention and showed signs of physical abuse and illness. Two members of the crew died since the vessel was hijacked in March 2010 off the coast of Yemen.
An IMB spokesman commented, "Whilst this is a successful rescue operation, our thoughts are with the remaining 139 hostages still held by pirates, 28 of whom have been there for just under two years."