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Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Trump Organization said Saturday that the company has no plans to expand in Taiwan and that “rumors” to the contrary are false.

After President-elect Trump spoke Friday with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen -- breaking nearly four decades of sensitive U.S. policy toward China -- media reports surfaced saying that the Trump Organization is considering investing in Taiwan.

The Taiwanese and Chinese media reports said that a representative of the Trump Organization visited a city in Taiwan in September and expressed interest in the company's investing in a large-scale urban development project there.

The mayor of the city of Taoyuan reportedly said that the Trump Organization is considering building hotels and resorts in the city but that, as the large development project there is under review, the interest expressed by the Trump Organization representative during the visit was merely speculative.

But the Trump Organization's vice president of marketing, Amanda Miller, told ABC News in a statement, "There are no plans for expansion into Taiwan, nor are any of our executives planning a visit. The rumors of a planned development there are simply false."

Miller also responded to a recently surfaced Facebook post by Anne-Marie Donoghue, who is global director of transient sales and Asia at Trump Hotels. She posted a picture on her Facebook on Oct. 15 from Taipei and in the comments described her visit there as a "work trip."

Miller said Donoghue's visit had nothing to do with any planned development by Trump Organization in Taiwan.

"In terms of Anne Marie, she is not part of our development team which is overseen by our hotel company CEO," Miller said. "There have been no authorized visits to Taiwan on behalf of our brand for the purposes of development nor are there any active conversations."

The Trump transition team has not yet responded to requests by ABC News for comment on this issue.

The issue presents another thread in a story that has gained momentum as Trump assembles his administration, whether the interests of his global business could intertwine or affect his actions as president.

Trump said earlier this week he will be holding a major news conference with his children on Dec. 15 to lay out how he plans a "total" separation from his business while he is president.

In a Nov. 22 interview with The New York Times, Trump noted that the president is exempt from a conflict-of-interest statute that applies to other government officials. However, he also tweeted that it would be "visually" important to show the American people he can govern without any conflicts.

Trump's call with on Friday sent shock waves through at least part of the U.S. diplomatic establishment and led China to lodge a formal diplomatic protest with the U.S.

Taiwan has held that it is an independent nation since it split from the Chinese mainland in a 1949 civil war. But the U.S. has maintained a "one China" policy since establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, meaning that it has not recognized Taiwan as its own country and rather as a part of China.

Since then, no phone calls between a U.S. president-elect and a Taiwanese leader have been publicly reported, according to Center for Strategic and International Studies China expert Bonnie Glaser.

The U.S. does have a "robust unofficial relationship" with Taiwan and commits to defending it in the event of a Chinese attack, according to the U.S. Department of State's website.

According to a press release from the Trump transition team about the phone call, Taiwan's president offered her congratulations to the president-elect, and he offered the same to her for her election victory this year. They discussed the "close economic, political, and security ties between Taiwan and the United States," the Trump transition team said.

The Taiwanese president's office said in a statement that the telephone call lasted 10 minutes and that Tsai and Trump were joined by Taiwan's National Security Council secretary general Joseph Wu Chao-hsieh, foreign minister David Li Ta-wei, acting secretary general Liu Jianxi and spokesman Huang Yan.

"During the conversation, President Tsai and President Trump also exchanged views and ideas on the future governance, especially the promotion of domestic economic development and the long-term strengthening of national defense, so as to enable the people to enjoy a secure and better life," the statement from Tsai's office read.

Meanwhile, Trump appeared to seek to dismiss concerns about the call in a series of tweets on Friday night, saying that he was on the receiving end of the call and noted that the U.S. has recently approved major arms sales to Taiwan.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ALEPPO, Syria) -- Half of the rebel-held areas in east Aleppo have been re-taken by Syrian government troops, a military spokesperson tells BBC News. Gen. Samir Sulaiman said he hoped all of Aleppo would be under government control within the next few weeks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a humanitarian monitoring group in the region, said the district of Tariq al-Bab was seized by government troops after being under rebel control for four years.

The group said dozens of soldiers on both sides of the conflict were left injured or killed in the fighting, and at least 300 civilians have been killed in rebel-held districts since the government intensified its push to retake the city in November.

Stephen O'Brien, humanitarian affairs chief at the United Nations, said food was running extremely low in rebel-held areas under government siege, and UN officials on the ground told BBC News they were preparing for a wave of civilians fleeing the violence.

On Thursday, Russia (an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) said it was ready to discuss opening corridors into the city for humanitarian access. Approximately 250,000 people remain trapped in parts of the city that are under government siege, according to BBC News.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(ROME) -- Stephen Hawking has been released from a hospital in Rome after a two-day stay.

Gemelli Hospital tells ABC News that the English theoretical physicist was discharged on Saturday after feeling unwell on Thursday evening.

Hawking was speaking at a Vatican conference on the origins of the universe. He suffers from a rare form of ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

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JOE RAEDLE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President-elect Donald Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen by phone on Friday, according to the Trump transition team, breaking with decades of delicate U.S. policy on China.

Friday night, Trump issued two tweets defending the move, which may cause tensions with China.

 

The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2016

 

 

Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2016

 

Since 1979, a phone call between a U.S. president-elect and a Taiwanese leader has never been publicly reported, according to Center for Strategic and International Studies China expert Bonnie Glaser.

During the conversation, the Taiwanese president offered her congratulations and Trump offered the same to her for her election victory this year, according to a Trump team press release. They discussed the "close economic, political, and security ties between Taiwan and the United States," the Trump transition team said.

That the conversation took place at all is "highly unusual" and "significant," said Dr. Claude Rakisits, of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, an expert in U.S.-South Asian affairs.

"The fact that Trump actually spoke with Taiwan [president] would irritate the communist leaders in China, in Beijing, because they would wonder, 'Is this an indication of the sort of relationship that one could expect between the U.S. and China during his presidency?'"

Taiwan's status has been a sensitive topic in the United States' relationship with China. The U.S. has maintained a "one China" policy since establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, meaning that it has not recognized Taiwan as its own country, but rather as a part of China.

But the U.S. does maintain a "robust unofficial relationship" with Taiwan and commits to defending it in the event of a Chinese attack.

Since it split from the Chinese mainland in a 1949 civil war, Taiwan has maintained that it is an independent nation, despite China's and the United States' denial of this claim, and has seen a growing body of support among Taiwanese youth.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council said there is "no change to our longstanding policy on cross-Strait issues. We remain firmly committed to our 'one China' policy based on the three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act."

"I've lived with this policy area my entire adult life and I've lived with the arguments around this for more than 25 years. To me, I am thrilled that this call took place," a former Republican White House national security official told ABC News. "It will upset an apple cart that has needed upsetting for a long time."

"No one should be telling the U.S. president who he can and cannot talk to," the official said. "Especially if a very powerful competitor in the world is saying there's a risk of conflict over this territory, it's even more important for our leader to have communication with that leader."

In the past, Trump has voiced support for a weapons deal with Taiwan, advocating a tough stance against China.

 

Why is @BarackObama delaying the sale of F-16 aircraft to Taiwan? Wrong message to send to China. #TimeToGetTough

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2011

 

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iStock/Thinkstock(BANJUL, Gambia) -- Gambia's authoritarian president of 22 years is stepping down after a shock election defeat.

In a concession speech on state TV Friday, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh accepted his loss to property developer Adama Barrow and said he would "help him work towards the transition," according to BBC.

Human rights groups have criticized Jammeh for restricting freedom of the press, his calls for anti-gay violence, and for claiming he could cure HIV/AIDS and infertility.

Hundreds of Barrow's supporters took to the streets in Gambia, that has a population of about 2 million, to celebrate the election results, BBC reports.

The president-elect promised voters he would revive Gambia's struggling economy and would impose a presidential term limit, according to BBC.

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RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images(MEDELLIN, Colombia) -- As Colombian plane crash survivor Erwin Tumiri heads home to Bolivia, dramatic new video from local police shows the moments after he was pulled from the wreckage.

Clad in a yellow police jacket, Tumiri – one of just six people who survived the plane crash that killed 71 in Medellin on Monday – sobbed in Spanish for "my crew."

“Calm down, don’t worry, we are here to help you, and your friends also,” a first responder replies in Spanish.

A clearly stunned Tumiri tells the responder his spine and arms hurt, then cries out two names.

“Don't scream technician, calm down,” the responder says. “Don't wear yourself down, technician, don't wear yourself down.”

Shortly after the crash, Tumiri, a flight engineer, reportedly told media outlets that he survived by curling up in the fetal position with a bag between his knees as the jet careened toward the mountainside.

“I put the bags in between my legs to form the fetal position that is recommended in accidents,” he told Fox Sports Argentina in Spanish. “During the situation, many stood up from their seats, and they started to shout.”

He and one other crew member, flight attendant Ximena Suárez, survived, as did four passengers on board: a journalist and three members of the Chapecoense soccer team. The team’s goalie has already had one leg amputated; the other survivors remain hospitalized.

The charter plane, which apparently suffered an electrical failure, ran out of fuel before it slammed into the side of a mountain not far from the airport, authorities said.

A government official confirms to ABC News that the jet was supposed to refuel en route to Medellin. The pilot chose not to, the official said.

The flight’s operator, LAMIA, has had its permits and certifications suspended, the Bolivia Civil Aviation Authority told ABC News.

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Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Adult coloring books are a hot craze that has grownups hiding crayons from their kids, and now we're learning the duchess of Cambridge is yet another convert to the trend.

Prince William revealed the secret pastime of his wife, Kate, to illustrator and author Johanna Basford at an investiture at Buckingham Palace this week. William said Kate likes to color in Secret Garden, Basford's first coloring book that has sold more than one million copies.

“I’m working on a new book just now and it’s set in a castle, funnily enough, so I will definitely try to remember everything,” Basford told reporters after the ceremony. “I’m sure little snippets of today will feature in the book.”

William awarded Basford the Order of the British Empire for services to art and entrepreneurship.

“I think people are just craving a digital detox,” Basford said of the appeal of adult coloring, or “color therapy” as it is sometimes called.

Kate, 34, received her degree in art history with honors from St. Andrews, where she and William met and fell in love. She is a big supporter of the arts and has made arts education and art therapy for struggling children one of the cornerstones of her charitable work.

Kate is also patron of the National Portrait Gallery.

The duchess met last week with a group of children at London's Natural History Museum. Kate joined the children as they decorated "dinosaur" eggs.

She revealed that Prince George, her 3-year-old son with William, is obsessed with dinosaurs, particularly the Tyrannosaurus rex because “it's the noisiest and the scariest.”

William on Wednesday also revealed another of Prince George’s fascinations -- planes and trains. William was visiting Derby, where he tried his hand at conducting a train.

William later remarked how Prince George would "love it" and would be excited about seeing his father drive a train.

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iStock/Thinkstock(KALISZ, Poland) -- A pedestrian in the central Polish city of Kalisz can credit a lamp pole with saving her life.

Surveillance cameras captured the tense moment when a woman narrowly escaped catastrophe. She was walking along a sidewalk next to a building situated at a busy intersection in Kalisz, Poland.

At the same time, a white car was attempting to make a left turn adjacent to the building. Suddenly, a black sedan enters the frame and hits the white car, causing the sedan to careen toward the building, with the pedestrian in its path.

The sedan instead crashes into a lamp post on the sidewalk, just inches away from the woman, bringing the out-of-control vehicle to a stop and saving the pedestrian’s life.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Melania Trump has hired the well-respected law firm Pirc Musar & Partnerji in her native Slovenia to warn people against profiting off her name and image.

Honey jars "from Melania's home garden," pancakes with golden dust and a special breakfast with strawberries -- these are just a few of the many products that Slovenian entrepreneurs have been offering for sale since her husband, Donald Trump, became president-elect of the United States.

“We just want to draw public attention to the fact that the names Trump or Melania Trump are protected as a trademark,” Natasa Pirc Musar, director of the law firm, told ABC News. “We issued a press release and sent it to all Slovenian media. Now we count on people’s prudence to stop the practice.”

She added that Melania Trump does not want to sue anyone.

“Of course, my client does not want any legal proceedings, no lawsuits. That’s out of the question,” said Pirc Musar. “We are closely monitoring the situation and I am in contact with my client on a weekly basis.”

In the tiny factory town of Sevnica, where the future first lady, then known as Melanija Knavs, grew up, a cottage industry hawking Melania Trump-associated products from quintessential Slovenian honey to pastries has sprung up.

Bruno Lojze Vedmar, a local Sevnica entrepreneur and a pizzeria owner, was the first to produce a breakfast dessert made of yogurt, strawberries, mascarpone, cream, cookie base and silver or gold sugar pearls — and he called it Melanija, with a "j."

“It is a best-seller at my place, and since I don’t use a picture of Melania, I am not worried about copyright infringement,” he told ABC News.

Franc Krasovec, a Slovenian pancake master who has created a Melania Trump-themed pancake, says he's not worried about copyright infringement either. “I don’t really know what copyright infringement is so I shall not worry about it," he told ABC News.

He said that he has had 20 different kinds of pancakes on the menu for decades and that people from all over Europe have come to taste them. "Only now that the White House is so close to Sevnica, I invented a 21st pancake with the finest ingredients: wild blueberries picked around the cottage, the finest bourbon vanilla filling and ice cream with edible gold dust to spice it up,” he said.

Pirc Musar said that it's items using her client's photo or last name that concern her. “[It's] not a problem. No photo or last name is attached to it,” said Pirc Musar of Vedmar's breakfast dessert. “We personally tasted it and it’s very good." She said that she doesn’t mind that a giant Christmas tree in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana is called Melania either.

Pirc Musar pointed instead to a billboard advertisement erected in Sevnica featuring the future first lady without her consent. “A huge billboard in Sevnica with Melania’s picture, erected by a private web company for commercial purposes, is problematic," as are "honey jars from 'Melania’s home garden' with Melania’s image and Slovenian and American flags," she said. "That is Slovenian copyright infringement.”

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Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS says 54 more civilians were inadvertently killed in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that took place between March 31 and October 22. Since they began in August of 2014, the coalition has reported 173 civilians killed by coalition airstrikes and another 37 injured.

"We regret the unintentional loss of civilian lives resulting from Coalition efforts to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria and express our deepest sympathies to the families and others affected by these strikes," said a statement released Thursday by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR).

The coalition investigates reports of civilian casualties to determine if they are credible and periodically releases updates about its investigations.

As of November 17, U.S. and coalition aircraft have conducted a total of 16,291 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with 12,633 conducted by American aircraft.

The coalition statement said their team "investigates all reports of possible civilian casualties using traditional investigative methods, such as interviewing witnesses and examining the site, the Coalition interviews pilots, reviews strike video when available, and analyzes information provided by government agencies, non-governmental organizations, partner forces and traditional and social media."

"In addition, we consider new information when it becomes available in order to promote a thorough and continuous review process," they continued.

In this recent investigation, 276 allegations of civilian casualties were investigated; they found 83 of them to be credible.

They described 7 incidents between March 31 and October 22 that resulted in 54 civilian fatalities, two of which resulted in 39 of the 54 civilian deaths detailed in the coalition's statement.

Airstrikes on July 18, 2016, near the northern city of Manbij, Syria, killed nearly 100 ISIS fighters, destroyed 13 fighting positions and 10 vehicles, according to the report. But the coalition's investigation determined that up to 24 civilians "interspersed with combatants were inadvertently killed in a known ISIL staging area where no civilians had been seen in the 24 hours prior to the attack."

According to the statement, the ISIS fighters were preparing for a large counterattack against Syrian rebel forces who were fighting to retake the ISIS-held city.

"Unknown to Coalition planners, civilians were moving around within the military staging area, even as other civilians in the nearby village had departed over the previous days," the Centcom statement said.

Another 15 civilians were killed in an airstrike on July 28, 2016 near Arghanndorh, Syria that targeted a moving ISIS vehicle. "15 civilians were inadvertently killed when the munition struck the vehicle after it slowed in a populated area after the munition was released," said the statement.

Investigations determined that twelve alleged reports of civilian casualties between September, 2015 and October, 2016 were not found to be credible. Three additional allegations remain under investigation.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The co-pilot of the plane that crashed Monday night in Colombia and killed 71 people was completing her first flight with LaMia, the Bolivian airline chartered to operate flight 2933, her father said in an emotional interview.

Sisy Arias was trying to build up her flying hours, according to her father, Jorge Arias, a Bolivian journalist.

Jorge Arias said he doesn't blame anyone for the crash but he is upset at the pilot for miscalculating how much gas much has was left on the aircraft and what was needed to land safely. He also said he cannot blame the air traffic controller for making the pilot wait because the controller didn't know the full extent of how low the plane was on fuel.

"Those five minutes cost all of those people their lives," Jorge Arias told reporters, calling the tragedy a "direct flight over there to the sun" and a "flight without a return."

Arias' last words to her father were, "Don't worry. We'll see each other Saturday," Jorge Arias said.

"And Saturday will come, but without her," the grieving father said.

 The charter flight was carrying Chapecoense, a Brazilian soccer team on its way from Bolivia to play against Medellin's Atletico Nacional in the finals of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana on Wednesday.

The plane did not have enough of the required reserve fuel needed in case of an emergency, Aerocivil, Colombia's civil aviation authority, announced Wednesday. The plane suffered an electrical failure before the crash, according to the official Twitter account for Jose Maria Cordova International Airport.

Six people survived the crash, including three players, two crew members and a journalist.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The United States government returned a collection of stolen artifacts to Egypt on Thursday, including an ancient wooden sarcophagus, a mummy shroud and mummified hand.

The items were seized by federal agents after dual investigations: "Operation Mummy’s Curse" in New York and "Operation Mummy’s Hand" in Los Angeles. They were returned to Egypt at a ceremony with U.S. and Egyptian officials at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

"While we recognize that cultural property, art, and antiquities are assigned a dollar value in the marketplace, the cultural and symbolic worth of these Egyptian treasures far surpasses any monetary value to the people of Egypt," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah R. Saldaña in a statement.

Repatriation is the final step in federal law enforcement's ongoing effort to track down the theft and trafficking of antiquities from around the world -- many of which end up in the United States. Customs law gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the authority to seize stolen cultural property that has been illegally imported into the country.

 In the past year, ICE returned more than 200 artifacts to India, as well as a stolen 1493 copy of Christopher Columbus’ letter describing his discoveries in the Americas to Italy.

"Each of the artifacts returned today tells a story –- a human story, our story. History comes alive when someone is able to not only read about the past, but is also able to visit the historical sites, watch and enjoy the artifacts, appreciate the images and see the actual writings of our ancestors," read a statement from Foreign Minister of Egypt Sameh Shoukry.

Federal authorities aim to create good will and bolster diplomacy between the U.S. and foreign governments through these types of investigations and returns.

In a statement thanking the work of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE, Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. Yasser Reda included special praise for the agents working on the case.

"The tireless work of these men and women may often go unseen. But it is nothing short of vital for the preservation of ancient cultures from around the world," said Reda.

Here is a list of the items of "cultural significance" from 8th century BC returned to the Egyptian government:

Linen Mummy Shroud

Mummified Hand

Child’s Wooden Sarcophagus

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  One of the five survivors pulled from the wreckage of the Colombian plane crash that killed 71 people Monday reportedly told South American media he curled up in the fetal position with a bag between his knees before the jet slammed into a mountainside.

"I put the bags in between my legs to form the fetal position that is recommended in accidents," flight technician Erwin Tumiri told Fox Sports Argentina in Spanish. "During the situation, many stood up from their seats and they started to shout."

 Tumiri suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to the hospital treating him. Others found alive amid the plane’s mangled remnants suffered more serious injuries, including thoracic trauma and spinal damage. One person had a leg amputated.

But the majority of passengers –- most members of a Brazilian soccer team, the Chapecoense, as well as journalists and crew aboard the charter from Bolivia -– perished when the plane, plagued by an electrical problem and running out of gas, was ripped to shreds on impact.

According to the fire chief of the town La Union, Arquimedes Mejia, the aircraft clipped the top of the mountain on its way down, breaking the jet into two pieces. Some in the rear of the plane survived.

"We saw dead bodies everywhere at the site," Mejia said in Spanish, in a video distributed by Reuters. "And there were people screaming for help. They were crying for help."

The charter company, LAMIA, has had permits and certifications suspended, the Bolivia Civil Aviation authority told ABC News Thursday.

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NASA/Bill Ingalls(NEW YORK) -- Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, has arrived in New Zealand after he was medically evacuated from the South Pole.

Video from TVNZ shows Aldrin being transferred from a Safair cargo plane to an ambulance upon arriving in Christchurch at just before 6 a.m. local time Thursday. He was then transferred to a medical facility, according to the National Science Foundation.

Aldrin, 86, was visiting the South Pole as part of a tourist group run when “his condition deteriorated” and it was decided that he should be evacuated as a “precaution,” according to White Desert, a private tourist firm.

Aldrin’s “condition was described as stable” when he was handed over to the U.S. Antarctic Program medical team and evacuated. He was accompanied by a member of his team and was under the care of a doctor with the U.S. Antarctic Program, White Desert said.

The National Science Foundation said it provided the “humanitarian medical evacuation flight” for the “ailing” former astronaut. The U.S. government agency flew out Aldrin from its Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to McMurdo Station on the Antarctic coast. From there, Aldrin embarked on the flight to New Zealand.

In 1969, Aldrin became one of the first men to ever set foot on the moon as part of the famed Apollo 11 mission, accompanying Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins. The New Jersey native posted pictures on his official Twitter account earlier this week showing him preparing for his trip to Antarctica.

"We're ready to go to Antarctica! May be our last opportunity to tweet for a few days! We're go for departure to the launchpad!" Aldrin tweeted on Tuesday.

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iStock/Thinkstock(AUCKLAND, New Zealand) -- Nearly 2,000 New Zealand residents signed up for a countrywide “Secret Santa” game this holiday season, continuing an annual tradition in which complete strangers mail presents to each other after learning their interests on social media.

The massive gift exchange, sponsored by the nation’s postal service, and this year drawing 1,979 participants, assigns Kiwis a recipient with a Twitter profile, where past postings can provide clues as to what type of present one might want.

The country of 4.5 million has a relatively close-knit community of Twitter users, uniquely lending itself to such a game, according to Sam Elton-Walters, a government worker who founded the exchange in 2010, after the idea popped up in an online conversation.

“You know how you have six degrees of separation in most places in the world?” Elton-Walters told ABC News. “In New Zealand, it’s more like two degrees.”

The gifts have been diverse: a hand-crafted chili chocolate for lover of spicy food; a crocheted rock; laptops and cellphones gifted by companies; a 3-D printed silhouette of the recipient face-to-face with Harry Styles from the band One Direction; and a painting of a Christmas tree decorated with pumpkins for Elton-Walters, who grows giant ones in his free time. The suggested $10-value limit often flies out the window.

Some participants make specific asks with their tweets, while others work to obfuscate their research by following and liking posts from dozens of people using the #nzsecretsanta hashtag.

Three-time exchanger Alison Poulter, a social media marketing specialist from Christchurch, New Zealand, tweeted in 2014 that she broke her garden hose’s nozzle, before “suddenly, a few weeks later, a new one arrived from Twitter,” she told ABC News.

“It’s quite cool to get to know somebody, and obviously you’re trying to stalk someone as much as you can online,” Poulter said. “It’s kind of creepy, but kind of cool.”

Organizers shy away from encouraging Kiwis to “stalk” each other, according to AJ Sheterline, a "Secret Santa" organizer at New Zealand Post dubbed the "head elf.”

“We prefer to call it ‘sleuthing,’” Sheterline said. “Very Sherlock Holmes-y.”

In its beginning years, Elton-Walters actually sent participants the addresses of their recipients so they could mail gifts directly -- which led to at least one uncomfortable instance of an unwanted hand-delivery. Since the postal service took over in 2012, gifts have flown through a central facility run by the postal service.

When people do not send a present as promised, the gift intended for them will go to young cancer patients instead.

Dan Bowden, an IT engineer in Wellington, New Zealand, told ABC News he once sent vinyl records customized to show members of the Beatles, after his recipient expressed an interest in art and the band. This year, he sent a coffee mug with a photograph of a British opera singer printed on it.

The exchange has proven to be an escape for Kiwis saddened by recent earthquakes and flooding there, according to Sheterline.

“It’s fun to jump on Twitter and watch all the people tweeting about it,” Bowden said of the exchange. “You kind of feel like you’re part of this community.”

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