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SALLYING FORTH WITH SILLY SAYINGS, CRISP CANDOR

Though most Americans consider the economy the No. 1 story of the year, plenty was happening around the globe. Here's a look at some of the big (and no so big) doings on the foreign front.

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So much for respect

"If someone criticizes me, I respect them because it means they care about me and about my country.'' - Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, as quoted on his personal Web site.

In November, authorities yanked all copies of the London Sunday Times from Dubai newsstands because the paper ran a double-page spread showing Sheik Mohammed drowning in a sea of red ink due to the emirate's free-spending ways. The sheik considered the illustration and accompanying story "offensive,'' a government official said.

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Next time, he'll run for mayor of Chicago

Afghan President Hamid Karzai won 54 percent of the vote in August's presidential election but was forced into a runoff after allegations of widespread fraud. In one district, all 46 polling sites were closed, yet 23,900 ballots were cast - every one of them for Karzai.

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Well, he was right that Canada is north

Hugh Segal, a Canadian lawmaker, issued a quick response after U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky singled out a hospital in Segal's district as an example of all that is allegedly wrong with Canada's universal health care system.

"Unfortunately, Sen. McConnell's facts and statistics were absolutely incorrect,'' Segal said. "He informed the United States Senate that there is a 196-day waiting period for hip replacement at (Kingston General Hospital). The actual number is 91 days. He stated that it takes 340 days, on average, for knee replacement surgery. The actual number is just over 100. He maintained that cancer surgeries, including brain surgery, can take upwards of three months. At KGH, the waiting period is eight days for neurosurgical cancer, 16 days for breast cancer and 49 days for prostate cancer.''

As a coup de grace, Segal noted that life expectancy in Ontario is five years longer than in McConnell's home state.

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And next year, she's vacationing in Darfur

The reigning Miss Universe blogged about her visit in March to "beautiful'' Guantanamo Bay and the U.S. prison camp for terror suspects. "We took a ride around the land and it was a lot of fun,'' gushed Dayana Mendoza, a Venezuelan.

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Speaking of Venezuela ...

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who said he "smelled sulphur'' after George W. Bush spoke at the United Nations in 2006, was his lovable old self at the recent climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. "I don't think Obama is here yet,'' Chavez said of the current U.S. president. "He got the Nobel Peace Prize almost the same day as he sent 30,000 soldiers to kill innocent people in Afghanistan.''

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Now, let me get this straight - an Iranian in Britain did what?

Prince Harry, attending a show in London in February, caught flak after telling a comedian that "you don't sound like a black chap.''

In the prince's defense, a source at the show said the remark wasn't racist, explaining that "Harry had just been talking to a Iranian actor who had done an impression of a Nigerian.''

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Don't sugarcoat it, just tell it straight

After Pope Benedict XVI called AIDS a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money or the distribution of condoms, former Oxford professor Richard Dawkins said the pontiff was "either stupid, ignorant or dim.''

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Cross-cultural product of the year

Wine burqa (made by the Women of Hope Project), for hiding that holiday cheer from the Taliban

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Give him a free triple Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino and maybe he'll go away

British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson flew into a rage after Starbucks founder Howard Schultz said the British economy was in a tailspin. "Why should I have that guy running down the country?" Mandelson fumed. "Who the f--- is he?''

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An image we'd rather not think about

"To work out how to operate a television set, you practically have to make love to the thing." - Prince Philip, the 88-year-old British royal, complaining about the difficulty of using modern remote controls.

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The "Persistence of the Decade'' Award

Cha Sa-Soon, a 68-year-old South Korean woman. After taking her country's written driver's license exam 949 times, Sa-Soon finally passed on the 950th try.

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They must have taken security lessons from the White House staff

Italian police were embarrassed after a mentally ill man got close enough to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Dec. 13 to hurl a metal statue at him, breaking his nose and two teeth. Two days later, another man almost made it into the prime minister's hospital room before guards overpowered him.

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Pickup line of the year

"I wouldn't mind being resuscitated by you.'' - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi toDr. Fabiola Carrieri, a striking redhead from Milan, while visiting survivors of an earthquake last spring in the central region of the country.

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at susan@sptimes.com.

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