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THIS IS EMBARRASSING

Ever lost a quarter in a pay phone and stuck a finger under the little flap to feel whether your change might be there? Then you'll be able to relate to Raul Chamorro. That's what he did last Saturday night while out on the town in Madrid. Bad move. The phone had an anti-theft mechanism that clamped down on his finger and wouldn't let go. A team of firefighters couldn't free him and three hours later he was still stuck until the phone company sent a technician to the rescue.

IT'S ALSO TOO LONG, SO CUT IT

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In Hong Kong, news reports say, four of the territory's policewomen are under an internal-affairs investigation and face possible disciplinary action. What could they have done that brought matters to such a pass? Accept bribes? Let some crime suspect get away? Perhaps they were trafficking in illegal drugs? Not even close. Their crime: using light brown hair dye in defiance of a new order requiring members of the force to keep their locks the original color.

Executive branch: four times larger than it was in 1961

John Ashcroft, President Bush's most controversial nominee to date, has been sworn in as attorney general. But the process of staffing the executive branch is hardly over. When it is, in fact, about 800 top-level posts will have been decided upon. "There are a zillion lists of names floating around Washington right now," says Marshall Wittman, a senior fellow at the Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute. Yet it wasn't always this complicated: In 1961, there were fewer than 200 top-level executive-branch positions. An enumeration of those posts, with the 1961 figures in the left column and 1998 figures in the right, according to Paul Light in his book, "The True Size of Government":

Cabinet secretaries 10 14

Deputy secretaries 6 23

Undersecretaries 15 41

Assistant secretaries 87 212

Deputy assistant secretaries 78 484

- Associated Press

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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