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PYONGYANG—Hailing it as a significant step forward for their ballistic weapons program just hours after suffering a failed missile launch, North Korean leaders announced Monday they had successfully detonated a nuclear scientist.

Tokyo Portal Outage Delays Millions Of Japanese Warp Commuters

TOKYO—Saying the outdated system needed to be upgraded or replaced to avoid similar problems going forward, millions of inconvenienced Japanese warp commuters expressed frustration Thursday following a Tokyo portal outage that caused delays of up to eight seconds.

Earth Ranked Number One Party Planet

FRAMINGHAM, MA—Noting its high concentration of nightlife, droves of attractive singles, and atmospheric conditions allowing liquid alcohol to exist, the ‘Princeton Review’ on Monday ranked Earth the Milky Way galaxy’s top party planet for the fifth year in a row.

Nuclear Warhead Thrilled For Chance To Finally Escape North Korea

PYONGYANG—Saying its spirits were immediately buoyed upon hearing Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s recent statement that the military was close to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, a North Korean nuclear warhead reported Tuesday that it was thrilled for the chance to finally escape the country.

Pope Francis Carves Roast Cherub For Vatican Christmas Dinner

VATICAN CITY—After pulling a probe thermometer from its thigh and tasting a piece of crispy golden-brown skin, Pope Francis began carving a slow-roasted 18-pound cherub for the Vatican’s annual Christmas feast, sources within the Holy See reported Sunday.

Vatican Putting Out Feelers For How Public Would React To Another Children’s Crusade

VATICAN CITY—Saying they had been giving some thought recently to the idea of sending legions of Christian boys and girls to retake the Holy Land and wanted to gauge the level of support, Vatican officials reportedly began putting out feelers Wednesday to determine how the public might react to another Children’s Crusade, much as was attempted in the year 1212.
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World Bank Offers Indonesia Totally Free Checking

JAKARTA, INDONESIA—Its currency and economy decimated by the lingering Asian financial crisis, Indonesia received welcome news Tuesday, when the World Bank announced it would offer the struggling nation totally free checking.

Indonesia map

"Indonesia can say goodbye to high checking fees," World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn said. "No monthly service charge, no per-check fee, and free touch-tone balance information are just some of the benefits Indonesia will enjoy with the World Bank's 'Totally Free Checking' program. And there are no strings attached and no hidden fees—that's the World Bank guarantee!"

Wolfensohn added that if Indonesia opens a Totally Free Checking account by Oct. 15, it will receive a free athletic bag.

Indonesia is believed to be seriously interested in the World Bank offer, as the Southeast Asian nation's dissatisfaction with its current bank, Banc One, is well known. For years, Indonesian finance minister Bambang Subianto has been highly critical of Banc One's $2 fee for transactions with a teller, and has openly questioned the bank's commitment to customer service.

"In 1988, when Indonesia first opened its Banc One account," Subianto told reporters, "our personal banker wouldn't even activate the account until we produced three forms of ID, and he put a five-business-day hold on all deposits for the first six months. That was particularly inconvenient if a weekend coincided with the hold period."

Relations between Indonesia and Banc One further deteriorated in July of this year, when an International Monetary Fund check was held by Banc One for over a week.

"Our economy collapsed, the rupiah lost nearly all of its value, thousands of Indonesians lost their jobs, and mass rioting broke out in the streets of Jakarta and elsewhere," said Ginandjar Kartasasmita, Indonesia's top economic minister. "None of this would have happened if Banc One weren't so strict about holding check funds for new accountholders."

At a press conference Tuesday, Kartasasmita said he feels the World Bank has a better grasp of Indonesia's banking needs, praising its "hassle-free, customer-friendly policies." A number of other top Indonesian officials at the press conference, however, expressed skepticism over the World Bank offer.

Indonesia will receive this attractive, durable athletic bag, a $35 value, if it opens an account with the World Bank by Oct. 15.

"Contrary to the World Bank's claim of 'no strings attached,' some hidden costs do indeed exist," Indonesian deputy finance minister Malang Payaheislam said. "The World Bank charges an annual $12 non-refundable fee for its ATM card, regardless of what type of checking account you have. Free checking accounts do not pay interest, and there are penalties if the balance in your Investors Plus money-market account drops below $1,000. Furthermore, the insufficient-funds penalty is $5 more per check than at Banc One. Not that we intend to bounce any checks, but still."

Payaheislam also pointed out that while Banc One has a branch in Jakarta, conveniently located just a block from the Presidential Palace, the nearest World Bank branch is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"The World Bank branch in Kuala Lumpur is five hours away by plane and only open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday," Payaheislam said. "Someone would have to skip an entire day of work just to travel there to make a deposit."

Inside sources also confirm that several high-ranking officials dislike the check styles offered by the World Bank, which include Maxfield Parrish, classic muscle cars and The Family Circus. And Defense Minister Ujung Bukit, reportedly among the most reluctant to part ways with Banc One, has gone on record as saying that the Looney Tunes checks Indonesia currently uses are "just adorable."

Responding to the criticisms levied by top Indonesian officials, World Bank personal-account representative Mary Probert insisted that the World Bank is the best choice for Indonesia.

"Since 1945, the World Bank has been proudly serving the needs of its developing Third World customers," Probert said. "Whether you're looking to consolidate a debt to Japan or need $3 billion to rebuild a city destroyed by a tsunami, the World Bank has the answers to your questions."

Probert added that the problem of location could be solved if Indonesia arranged to have its paychecks deposited electronically. She also said that the World Bank would be willing to waive the ATM service fee for the first year, as well as give Indonesia a complimentary "Playful Kittens And Puppies" 1999 desk calendar.

"No other bank can match our low-interest loan rates, our friendly, professional staff, and our convenient drive-thru access," Probert said. "Give us a try, Indonesia. You'll like what you see!"

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