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Heartfelt thoughts

Here are some stories from around the world for this Valentine's Day:

Taxi driver wins San Franciscans' hearts: "Good Samaritan" taxi driver Charles Hollom may have run afoul of the law but not the hearts of San Franciscans.

The city known for its bleeding-heart liberalism has donated thousands of dollars to help Hollom pay the $25,000 a jury ordered him to pay a mugger.

In 1989, Hollom, 51, witnessed a purse snatching and captured the culprit, Ocie McClure, by pinning him against a wall with his vehicle. McClure's leg was broken in two places.

A civil court jury decided Hollom used excessive force and ordered him to pay McClure's medical expenses. McClure is now in prison.

As Hollom arrived Wednesday for a fund-raising dinner on his behalf at the Fior D'Italia restaurant, he was greeted with applause and shouts.

Restaurateur Bob Larive served up a special creamed garlic dish dubbed "Pasta Hollom" and donated about $1,000 from the night's proceeds.

"Turning a Good Samaritan into a victim is unconscionable," said Larive.

Hollom said all money collected for him would be turned over to a fund for crime victims.

A radio talk show has collected more than $25,000, which is expected to go to the victims' rights fund.

Hollom plans to appeal the jury verdict, and his employer has promised to pay any amount that may be upheld in the courts.

German hearts not in unification: While Ina was pondering the paintings at Berlin's Altes Museum, Ralf was pondering Ina. He struck up a conversation, and they hit it off.

She was East, he was West, and the twain not only met, they married. A happy story, and a rare one.

Most of the love between eastern and western Germans is largely platonic. Even with the Berlin Wall gone, few of Cupid's arrows can clear the old barriers.

"We're united, but we're still two societies, two people," says Ralf Penke, a west Berlin firefighter who married Ina in November 1990, a month after the two Germanys tied the knot.

There are few statistics to measure how much wooing is occurring over the old border. But it's clear more thawing is needed in the Cold War relationships.

Of the 12,233 marriages in Berlin during the first eight months after Germany's unification in October 1990, only 256 were East-West unions, according to the Berlin statistics office.

Who kisses best? East or West: Passion-starved romantics in France, Britain, Germany, Australia and Greece complain that they don't get kissed enough, a survey published Thursday said.

Contented Italians, Americans, Dutch and Spaniards said they got enough kisses, while the Japanese just wished their partners kissed better, the survey by romantic fiction publishers Mills and Boon and Harlequin found.

The German idea of the perfect setting for a romantic kiss is on a beach at sunset, while the chilly British opt for their passion in front of a blazing fire.

Most Germans, British and Dutch had their first romantic kiss on the doorstep, according to the survey, which questioned 4,500 romantic fiction addicts in 11 countries.

The searching prince: Crown Prince Naruhito's love life hasn't bloomed in the glare of publicity, so the Japanese news media have decided to give it a chance to flourish in darkness.

The Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association said Thursday that its members will withhold reports on Naruhito's search for a bride for at least three months upon request by the Imperial Household Agency.

The crown prince, who turns 32 this month, has been under pressure to find a bride following the marriage of his younger brother, Prince Akishino, in 1990.

Public attention is high about the crown prince's love life, or lack of it.

In June, a weekly magazine angered the palace when it ran 11 photographs of the crown prince, 10 of which were altered to show him with different hairstyles. In the accompanying text, the magazine suggested a new hairdo might help him find a bride.

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