News In Brief

SO THAT'S WHERE THEY WENT!

To save money when it was low on funds back in 1996, Australia's University of Western Sydney rid itself of 10,000 surplus books not by putting them in storage, but by burial in a trench next to the athletic fields. Now that the deed and volumes have been exposed, no one appears willing to admit responsibility. And, not surprisingly, their further usefulness is zero. Said a school official: "They are not in terrific shape."

PRETTY PLEASE

In Ipoh, Malaysia, two brothers early one morning last week heard noises in another part of their house that shouldn't have been occurring. Through a window, they saw a burglar running away as though he'd been disturbed before swiping everything he wanted. End of story? Not quite. Within minutes, he was back, asking for his car keys, left behind in haste, and pleading with the brothers not to call police. When they said no, he took off again, but not before removing the license plates and tax sticker from the vehicle. The cops planned to try tracing him through the serial number on the chassis.

Dining out: THE favorite way to dispose of leftover cash

Americans say they'll spend an average of $9,312 this year on discretionary items such as fast food, birthday gifts, and health and beauty aids, a new survey by American Express shows. Slightly more than half of respondents said such spending would remain flat this year, while 20 percent said they planned to spend less than before. A reason for their hesitation could be that those same consumers predict fixed household expenses will rise to an average $23,545, up from $20,885 in 2000. Here's how respondents said they'd spend discretionary dollars, on average:

Dining out $1,188

Charitable giving 960

Birthday/anniversary/ holiday gifts 948

Entertainment 852

Home decorating 768

Fast or takeout food 732

Health, beauty aids 396

Cellphone service 384

- Reuters

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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