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facts & arguments

Father Christmas and Mrs Christmas pose for photographers at Harrods department store in central London on July 28, 2011,

Most popular incumbent

"More than half of U.S. voters approve of God's job performance, according to a new poll, making God more popular than all members of Congress," reports the Religion News Service. "The poll - which was conducted by the Democratic research firm Public Policy Polling - surveyed 928 people and found that 52 per cent of Americans approved of God's overall dealings while only 9 per cent disapproved."

And did those feet?

"A museum dedicated to Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger at his childhood home [opened last month]" Orange News U.K. says. "The star gave the project the thumbs up during a visit [in June]to the house near Graz, Austria, where he grew up. Visitors can see the first weights that a teenage Arnie started bodybuilding with, [which]took pride of place behind his desk from his term as governor of California." It took two years to convert the home, complete with all the family furniture, into a shrine to the star.

The Xmas rush begins

"It is a tradition for Harrods to start their Christmas festivities early, but this year is the earliest in their entire history," The Telegraph reports. "At 8 a.m. July 28, the department store opened its Christmas range to the public." Another British store, Selfridges, has also launched its Christmas display early. "Harrods stressed the need for the early launch, saying that there is increasing demand from international shoppers for Christmas products. 'The peak for international shoppers begins at the start of July so we tried to cater to this early demand where possible,' said a spokesman."

Tooth Fairy cuts benefits

"It looks like American businesses aren't the only ones hoarding cash these days," says The Huffington Post. "According to a survey recently released by Visa, so is the fabled Tooth Fairy. Last year, children who left teeth under their pillow received an average of $3 [U.S.]per tooth. This year, in comparison, that amount plunged to $2.60."

Arf arf? Not free speech

"Ryan Stephens did not have a constitutional right to bark and hiss at a police dog last April, a [Cincinnati]municipal judge ruled [last month]" reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. "That leaves Stephens to face possible trial on a charge of teasing" the animal. The defendant's lawyer had argued that his client had a First Amendment right to bark at the dog. However, the prosecution argued that his barking should be considered "fighting words" and an exception to free speech. When police ticketed him, Mr. Stephens maintained that "the dog started it," according to police reports.

The varied orca diet

"Among orcas, food preferences tend to be distinct," Smithsonian magazine reports. "Resident orcas [in the coastal waters of British Columbia and Washington state] researchers found, eat Chinook and chum salmon. And orcas share meals, particularly between mother and offspring. A mother orca - a 7,000-pound behemoth - will hold a salmon in her mouth while her calves chew on it. … 'Transient' orcas, which swim in the same waters as residents but roam more widely, hunt marine mammals such as seals, porpoises and sea lions. 'Offshore' orcas, which are found 10 miles or more from shore from Alaska to California, eat so much shark their teeth get worn to the gums from chewing their prey's sandpapery skin."

Size matters

- U.S. astronaut Scott Altman has flown four space shuttle flights. His dream was to go to Mars, says The Sunday Times of London, but now "he cannot go into space at all. Not only does the end of the space shuttle program leave the United States reliant on lifts on Russian rockets, but Captain Altman is too tall for the Russian Soyuz capsules. 'When I flew the shuttle for the last time I realized I couldn't go to the space station again because I couldn't fit in Soyuz,' he said. 'Everyone has to have a ride home and I didn't have a ride to orbit any more - I'm 6-foot-4.'"

- "Some hotels have begun designing rooms especially catered to larger-sized athletes in an attempt to lure customers from this niche market," The Huffington Post says. "Hotels such as the J.W. Marriott Marquis in Miami provide athletes with larger sized beds and higher raised sinks so as to prevent them from having to bend over while washing their hands."

Hip, urban county fair

"Denver has an ambitious plan to revive the county fair: blend throwback chic with urban grit to draw crowds celebrating everything weird and crafty," reports Associated Press. "Mix funnel cakes with drag queens, add a dash of old-time quilting and newly hip knitting, and the recipe could produce what organizers hope is a new flavour of county fair. Fair staples … are on proud display at the Denver County Fair; there's even a Ferris wheel in the parking lot. But [all]the contestants in Saturday's Miss Denver County Fair are drag queens. There's a speed text-messaging contest, and the highlight staple of a Western fair, a rodeo, has been replaced with a bicycle rodeo and a troupe of performing pigs."

Thought du jour

"A good definition of an equitable settlement is one that will make both sides unhappy."

Henry Kissinger (1923-), U.S. diplomat