Mad Minute

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch motivational speaker Emile Ratelband may feel like a 49-year-old but according to Dutch law he is still 69.

A Dutch court on Monday rejected Ratelband’s request to shave 20 years off his age in a case that drew worldwide attention.

“Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly,” Arnhem court said in a press statement . “But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”

Ratelband went to court last month, arguing that he didn’t feel 69 and saying his request was consistent with other forms of personal transformation which are gaining acceptance in the Netherlands and around the world, such as the ability to change one’s name or gender.

The court rejected that argument, saying that unlike in the case of a name or gender, Dutch law assigns rights and obligations based on age “such as the right to vote and the duty to attend school. If Mr. Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

Ratelband, perhaps unsurprisingly given his background as self-described advocate of positive thinking, was undeterred by the court’s rejection and vowed to appeal.

“This is great!” he said. “The rejection of (the) court is great ... because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go in appeal.”

He said he was the first of “thousands of people who want to change their age.”

The court said it acknowledged “a trend in society for people to feel fit and healthy for longer, but did not regard that as a valid argument for amending a person’s date of birth.”

Ratelband also insisted his case did have parallels with requests for name and gender changes.

“I say it’s comparable because it has to do with my feeling, with respect about who I think ... I am, my identity,” he said.

The court said Ratelband failed to convince the judges that he suffers from age discrimination, adding that “there are other alternatives available for challenging age discrimination, rather than amending a person’s date of birth.”

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A holiday display meant to re-create a scene from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” looked a little too real and caused a veteran to spring into action.

The Heerlein family placed a dummy representing Clark Griswold dangling from the gutter of their Austin, Texas, home, with a ladder tipping beneath him.

A veteran passing by thought it was the real thing and wrestled the ladder up while shouting, “Can you reach it?”

KVUE-TV reports the man called police, who arrived and advised the family they were getting calls about the display.

They have since put up a sign that says “Clark G is part of our Christmas display please do not call 911.”

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FOREST LAKE, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota church has ended its 70-year tradition of serving a dinner of lutefisk, a Nordic dish of dried cod soaked in lye, and the pastor has penned a eulogy for the dinner's end.

Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake, Minnesota, would serve a Scandinavian dinner featuring the pungent, jellylike fish the first Tuesday in December.

But the Rev. John Klawiter wrote an obituary for the annual dinner in the community newspaper last month.

Klawiter wanted the obit to read as a tribute to the seven decades the church in east-central Minnesota has served hundreds of pounds of lutefisk at the annual dinner, dubbed "Holy Tuesday," the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported .

"There was a lot of pride that this made it to 70 years," said Klawiter, a self-described "lutefisk convert."

The dinner would require about 190 volunteers. Planners had to find ways to fill gaps left by volunteers who had died or grown too frail.

This fall, the group also wondered how the event could draw more young families from the congregation and from Forest Lake, a town of about 20,000 about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Minneapolis. Most of the 500 people who went to the church and waited their turn for the $20 meal were not members of Faith Lutheran or even residents of Forest Lake.

Planners wondered if a turkey dinner would be a better option, but decided a menu change would not make things easier for the volunteers.

While no immediate replacement was announced, the pastor says the focus now will be on creating a new tradition. And the obit notes that lutefisk lovers still have other options nearby, with Scandinavian dinners in other area towns listed as "survivors."

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Roll in dough, Tide!

FanDuel sportsbook is paying out bets from people who picked Alabama to win the college football national championship — over a month before the game will be played.

The company announced Friday night it is treating the top-ranked Crimson Tide as the winners already, and paid out single-game bets to customers' online or mobile accounts. Those who made bets in person can bring their winning slips to that location to be paid.

Alabama also is being marked as a winner on parlay bets that included the necessity of it winning the title.

FanDuel says the move could cost it $400,000. Should Alabama not win the national championship, FanDuel will pay out bets on whichever team wins the title.

It says it wants to reward customers for betting on a team with odds that were so lopsided it was difficult to make money.

"It has been a dominant season for the Crimson Tide and our traders have seen enough," the company said in a statement Friday night.

The payout involved all future bets on Alabama to win it all that were made before 5 p.m. Friday. The Tide opened at nearly 2-to-1 odds before the season started, or plus 195, meaning a $100 bet would return $195.

But its season has been so dominating that Alabama is now listed at minus 280, meaning a gambler would have to put up $280 of his or her own money in a bet to win $100 on Alabama.

The point spread on most of its games has been in the 20- to 30-point range, with one game against Citadel going off with Alabama as a 53.5 point favorite. (They did not cover that spread). And money line bets on Alabama, meaning a bet on them just to win the game without doing so by a certain amount of points, have often been astronomical.

"It's a way to reward our customers for betting on Alabama when the odds were really hard to make any money doing it," said FanDuel spokesman Kevin Hennessy.

It's also a way for the company to grab attention as it attempts to gain market share in the rapidly growing legal U.S. sports betting market. FanDuel in September agreed to pay out an $82,000 bet to a New Jersey customer that its computers mistakenly promised on what should have been a low-odds development on a Denver Broncos-Oakland Raiders game.

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LONDON (AP) — A 7-year-old Scottish boy who sent a birthday card to his father in heaven has received a heart-warming reply.

A Royal Mail official responded to Jase Hyndman after seeing the card addressed: "Mr. Postman, Can you take this to heaven for my dad's birthday."

The Royal Mail's Sean Milligan wrote back, saying, "This was a difficult challenge avoiding stars and other galactic objects on route to heaven. However, please be assured that this particular important item of mail has been delivered."

Jase's mother, Teri Copland, posted images of the letters on Facebook, which have been shared more than 260,000 times.

Copland says, "I actually cannot state how emotional he is knowing his dad got the card. ... You've just restored my faith in humanity."

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BYRON, Ill. (AP) — Ten football players at a Northern Illinois high school were suspended from the team for three games last month after they ran across a field naked with Oreo cookies wedged between their buttocks.

The Rockford Register Star reports that the Byron High School players were suspended for indecent exposure but that school administrators concluded they went on the "Oreo Run" at the school's football field voluntarily and were not victims of hazing.

The paper reported the story after obtaining a letter sent to parents of students who admitted to participating in the run in October.

The students were forced to sit out games on Nov. 19, 17 and 23 — the last of which was the Class 3A state championship game in which Byron lost 24-20 to Monticello High School.

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AMES, Iowa (AP) — As if getting a parking ticket wasn't bad enough, the city of Ames is informing those who recently paid parking fines that their private information — including credit and debit card numbers — may have been stolen.

The city said in a news release Friday that a data breach may have affected 4,600 people who paid parking tickets using the online system between Aug. 10 and Nov. 19.

Data that may have been revealed includes names, mailing and email addresses and credit and debit card numbers.

The city says it learned of the compromise on Nov. 18, took the system offline and replaced the web server. The system was brought back online Nov. 20.

Ames Finance Director Duane Pitcher apologized for the breach and said the city is "confident we've addressed the vulnerability and corrected it."

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska jury has ordered the buyer of a news website to make good on a payment promise she had scrawled on a cocktail napkin.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that jurors on Thursday ordered Alice Rogoff to pay more than $850,000 to Tony Hopfinger.

Rogoff purchased a majority stake in the Alaska Dispatch website from Hopfinger in 2009. Her company bought the Anchorage Daily News in 2014 and merged the businesses.

Hopfinger sued Rogoff, claiming she failed to pay him $100,000 annually for 10 years as promised in a note on the cocktail napkin.

Rogoff's attorney argued that terms were stated to commit Hopfinger to work for a decade and that he deserved nothing when he left.

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (AP) — A Penn State University student group is helping soothe sick students with a chicken soup delivery service.

The Daily Collegian reports Penn State Hillel's Chicken Soup Hotline program runs Monday through Thursday. Student manager Matt Altman says the Jewish student life group offers free "kosher-style matzah ball soup in chicken and vegetable options."

The soup is prepared every month at a kosher kitchen in the university's spiritual center before it's frozen. Students then reheat and deliver the soup to their sniffling peers on campus and in the downtown area.

Noah Bender, who supervisors the soup operation, says donations from across the country support activities like the hotline. Bender says the program has helped him gain valuable managerial experience while supporting fellow students.

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Dec. 3 (UPI) -- A British company is selling a unique Christmas tree online that features only the top half of an artificial conifer to protect it from babies and cats.

Catalog retailer Argos posting a listing online for a 6-foot "Half Parasol Christmas Tree" that only features branches on the top half of the artificial tree.

"Keep your perfectly placed baubles, bows and bells out of reach of curious, crawling kids or your cats' playful paws with this 6-foot parasol tree," the website says.

"If Santa's been extra generous, there's plenty of room to stack pressies underneath rather than scattering them around it. It's also a great alternative to the traditional tree if you're a tad tight for space," the listing states.

The tree costs $42.47, while a second version coated in artificial snow sells for $47.78.

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