New Zealand Is Hosting A Country-Wide Secret Santa Gift Exchange

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in New Zealand. 

The country is in the midst of a nationwide Secret Santa exchange, with some 2,000 citizens taking to Twitter to send hints about the gift they’re coveting.  

To my #nzsecretsanta – I know most of my recent tweets are about earthquakes. Please don’t get me another earthquake. Thanks. @nzsecretsanta

— Dan Bowden (@danbowden) November 27, 2016

Hello #nzsecretsanta ! Please know that anything you send will be accepted with joy ❤️

— Holly Campbell (@Hollymollysee) November 25, 2016

Podcaster Sam Elton-Walters founded the project in 2010 and it’s now run by self-described holiday elves, also known as’s New Zealand’s state-owned postal service.

New Zealanders signed up from Nov. 10-24 and were then matched with a fellow Santa one day later. Participants are then encouraged to stalk whoever they’ve been matched with on Twitter in order to determine the perfect gift. Then users send their gifts to a distribution center that delivers them to the selected recipients. 

HAPPY MATCHING DAY! Registrations have officially closed! Stand by for some time to find out who you’re Santa for! ^Aj

— NZ Secret Santa (@nzsecretsanta) November 24, 2016

Gifts have to be postmarked by Dec. 4 to make it in time for Christmas. 

Happy holidays!

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‘Mars Rover Rescue’ Will Get Your Preschooler Ready For A Mission To The Red Planet

Is your little one already planning a trip to Mars

A new project on Kickstarter could be the first step in getting him or her there someday. 

The upcoming book, “Mars Rover Rescue,” is a little bit like a G-rated version of “The Martian” ― and while it’s aimed at little kids, it’s full of real science on what it would take to live and work on the Red Planet.

The project’s creator, aerospace engineer Andrew Rader, said the book is aimed at kids between the ages of 1 and 6 years old and written in rhyme, and he hopes it will help inspire future scientists and engineers. 

“The generation who are kids today will be the first of our species to venture out into the solar system and live on other worlds,” Rader said via email. “Our goal is to help stimulate that process from an early age, while generally producing exciting and educational science-based books of the kind that enthralled us when we were young.”

The book is a sequel to “Epic Space Adventure.” Both are illustrated by Galen Frazer, and feature the rapping “giraffestronaut” from his “Space Rap” animated video.

In this new adventure, the giraffe is joined by a team of lovable animal pals as they work together to rescue a Mars rover. 

Rader said they’re hoping to turn the series into cartoon next, sort of a “Star Trek” aimed at children.

“My goal in life is to help get our species permanently established beyond our planet, and that depends upon encouraging the support of people of all ages, and also motivating young people to pursue scientific and engineering careers,” he said.  

“Mars Rescue Rover” is available on Kickstarter through Wednesday night, where it’s already fully funded and will ship in time for Christmas. Rader says the book will also be available via Amazon.

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Rescuers Taxi 1,400 Migrants From Libyan Coast to Italy

ROME (AFP) – Rescuers saved some 1,400 migrants off the coast of Libya on Monday as Italy announced a record number of people arriving this year after crossing the Mediterranean, authorities said.

Massive Wildfire Engulfs Tennessee Resort Towns, Forces Evacuations In Gatlinburg And Pigeon Forge

A massive wildfire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has forced evacuations in and around the Tennessee resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

At least 30 structures are on fire in Gatlinburg, according to WVLT, the CBS station in Knoxville. Mandatory evacuations were ordered and the National Guard was mobilized to Sevier County.

The Dollywood resort in Pigeon Forge was also evacuated although the fire had not yet reached the property, the station reported. 

“We were just told by the Gatlinburg Fire Department that they had told everybody in Gatlinburg to get out,” Judy Tucker, director of Sevier County’s E-911 call center, told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “… No one’s getting through to anyone. Phones are ringing and not being answered anywhere. It’s chaos.”

Shelters have been set up in the area for evacuees.

We urge the public to pray. We urge the public to stay off the highways. The traffic that is on the roads is emergency equipment. If (the public) could just stay home and stay tuned to their local media outlet,” Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said, according to WBIR, the NBC station in Knoxville.

NBC News said the fire appears to have been human-caused.

“Fire was coming over the mountains, and the smoke was so bad we could barely breathe as we were trying to pack up,” Mike Gill, who was trying to evacuate, told the network.

People in the area shared images of the blaze on social media: 

Video of folks evacuating Gatlinburg. Multiple sirens around the city.

— Kyle Grainger WVLT (@KyleGrainger) November 29, 2016

This has broken my heart. Smokey Mtns on fire, gatlinburg evacuated. This is the spur, next to the road.

— Anne Marie Stills (@thepooh912) November 29, 2016

This is a BIG deal – downtown Gatlinburg being evacuated right now because of approaching wildfires. Most visited Nat’l park in country

— Chris Conte (@chrisconte) November 29, 2016

Just got a group of people off the mountain after two of the three routes off the mountain were blocked. The spur was on fire. #Gatlinburg

— Treyton (@treyton) November 29, 2016

#Gatlinburg park vista Hilton hotel

— ローガン Logan (@Redwolfstone123) November 28, 2016

 This is a developing story and will be updated as new information comes in. 


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