News In Brief

WE'VE GOT A SITUATION HERE

When a family of ducklings fell through a Vancouver sewer grate, their mother did what any parent would do: She summoned the police to help. It took a few tries, though, to get a cop's attention. "I thought it was a bit goofy, so I shoved it away," said Ray Peterson when the duck first grabbed him by the pant leg. But mom persisted. Then she waddled to the grate, sat down, and waited for him to follow. "I [walked] up and saw eight little babies in the water below," Peterson said. They were lifted to safety. Mom and offspring soon departed for a nearby pond.

fastER, honey!

If you're keeping score at home, an Estonian couple beat 21 other teams to win the world wife-carrying championship for the fourth time. In the competition, held annually in the Finnish village of Sonkajarvi, husbands race 250 yards toting their wives (via whatever way is easiest) to the finish line. Winners Margo Uusorg and Birgit Ullrich finished the course in 56 seconds.

For low-tax lodging, head to Erie, Billings, or Trenton

For hotel guests, sticker shock often occurs at checkout time, when lodging taxes are added to the basic room rate. In many communities they increase the final bill by a good 10 percent or more. Lodging taxes are a combination of state and city taxes that help pay for such things as convention centers, police protection, and traffic control. In a study of 200 locations, Runz-heimer International, a Rochester, Wisc., consulting firm, found that these cities had the highest and lowest percentage tax rates for lodging:

Highest-tax locations

Houston 17.00%

San Antonio 16.75%

Knoxville, Tenn. 16.25%

Columbus, Ohio 15.75%

Seattle 15.60%

Lowest-tax locations

Billings, Mont. 4.00%

Erie, Pa. 6.00%

Trenton, N.J. 6.00%

Cheyenne, Wyo. 7.00%

Portland, Maine 7.00%

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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