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US Postal Service grinches Christmas

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The US Postal Service has pulled the plug on a Santa Claus letter service which has run since 1954.

Thousands of letters sent by children around the world to "Santa Claus, North Pole" were opened by volunteers and replies written and sent. Envelopes were returned with a North Pole postmark. [The North Pole in question is in Alaska]

But last year a postal worker recognised one of the volunteers in Maryland as a registered sex offender. The offender was stopped before getting hold of any letters but the incident has led to big changes in how the programme operates.

Volunteers now have to go through ID checks and no longer get access to kid's names and addresses. Instead they get the letter, with names redacted, with a code number in place of the address. After the reply is written it is matched with a code to find the correct child's name and address. But not all post offices can deal with the hassle involved.

The changes have proved too much for volunteers in Christmas-obsessed North Pole, Alaska.

A Postal Service spokeswoman based in Anchorage told USA Today: "It's always been a good program, but we're in different times and concerned for the privacy of the information."

So the Operation Santa Program will still work, but those letters with the North Pole mark won't be handled by volunteers in the town. ®

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