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Watercooler Stories

By United Press International
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Teddy Bear flap grows

SHELBURNE, Vt., Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The president of the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. said she's sorry if her decision to keep selling the straitjacket-wearing bear has offended anyone.

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A day after the Vermont Human Rights Commission asked the company to pull the "Crazy for You" bear from its shelves, Elisabeth Robert said she has first-hand knowledge of how horrific mental illness can be.

"You know, I feel as if I am being talked at, as if I don't know what pain can be caused," Robert told the Rutland, Vt., Herald.

"I have, in my family, experienced real, profound pain over mental illness."

The commission's campaign that started a month ago has drawn national attention and even prompted Gov. James Douglas to write a letter saying the bear is in poor taste and should not be sold.

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Robert said sales of the $70 bear picked significantly since word of the controversy spread. Response has split almost evenly between commission supporters and those who think the campaign smacks of political correctness.


Japan suicides most common on Monday

TOKYO, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Suicides in Japan are most likely to occur Mondays and least common on Saturdays, Mainichi Daily News reported Sunday.

In 2003, Japan's worst year for suicides with 32,109, men were 30 percent more likely to kill themselves on Mondays than any other day, the government said.

"Fatigue from vacation that prevents increased efficiency on Mondays also makes it easier to feel depressed," psychologist Minori Yasumoto said.

Some 23,396 men and 8,713 women committed suicide in Japan during 2003, with 64.1 men taking their lives every day, but 80.7 of men killing themselves on Mondays.

Women averaged 23.9 self-inflicted deaths daily, and 27.3 on Mondays. On Saturdays, the average fell to 53.5 for men and 21.2 for women.

Men tended to commit suicide from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., while women more frequently killed themselves during the hour following noon.


Aussie pool goers joined by crocodile

DARWIN, Australia, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Swimmers evacuated a Darwin, Australia, pool when they spotted a saltwater crocodile swimming laps, the Sydney Daily Telegraph reported.

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The young croc, just over one yard long, was spotted in the Palmerston Leisure Center pool by four swimmers who came for morning laps.

"They were regulars, they got a bit of a shock," a center spokeswoman said. "But it really wasn't big enough to hurt anyone."

Police and parks officials were called in to remove the croc, which was reportedly calm and in poor health. It was taken to a crocodile farm on the outskirts of Darwin.


City rejects nude calendar funds

CARMEL, Calif., Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The city of Carmel, Calif., has rejected a cash donation from a group of women who posed for a nude calendar to raise funds.

City officials said the more than $40,000 raised by the Carmel Fire Belles' fund-raising calendar cannot be accepted because it could offend sensibilities and expose the city to costly sexual harassment lawsuits, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.

"I feel belittled and insulted by the people responsible for bringing down a good cause and good people," calendar girl Paula Weber, 85, told city officials at a public hearing. The most senior of the calendar models, Weber is pictured hiding coyly behind a pair of firefighters' coveralls.

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City Administrator Rich Guillen said that if the city accepted the proceeds of a nude calendar, it might encourage city staff to post the calendars in their offices.

"If the council accepts that money, anyone could say that (the city) is sanctioning the calendar," Guillen said. "An employee might want to hang it on the wall, and somebody from the public or a staffer would find it offensive. And that is my concern."

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