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Bits and bytes from the new-media front.

Gates of heaven. This phony, but hilarious, "news" release was found floating on the Internet: "In a joint press conference in St. Peter's Square this morning, Microsoft Corp. and the Vatican announced that the Redmond software giant will acquire the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for an unspecified number of shares of Microsoft common stock." Microsoft's plans, according to the story, include making the sacraments available online through the Microsoft Network and appointing Pope John Paul II as senior VP of a new Religious Software Division. "If the deal goes through," the fictitious story noted, "it will be the first time a computer software company has acquired a major world religion." Now that's powerful.

A ho-ho-home page. Writing to Santa just isn't the same anymore. In what we're sure is a sign he's no old-fashioned guy, the jolly old elf has taken up residence in nearly 15 different Internet sites. A free-lance writer (and California mother) has voluntarily compiled a running log of all Santa sightings-including a review of Santa's behavior, a contact name for the elves running the show and an address. To get started, e-mail [email protected] Or go straight to some sites: or or e-mail [email protected] for a personalized message from the man himself. No doubt he's depending on Rudolph to guide the way.

Greetings from Kansas City. Forgot Mom's birthday and no time to go to the card store? Never fear, CompuServe and Hallmark will rescue you. For $2.95 plus the price of a stamp, CompuServe subscribers can now send a personalized greeting card, courtesy of Hallmark. Choose from 75 to 100 designs online, charge it to your credit card and Hallmark takes care of the rest. Cards are mailed within two days from Hallmark's Kansas City, Mo., headquarters. It's up to you to explain the postmark.

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