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Actors are rehearsing the musical to be staged later this year by the National Theatre in Baghdad. It's a romantic fable about a king who falls in love with an unhappily married woman, avenges her honor after she's molested by a band of cruel men, but then - alas - dies before he can yield the throne to his successor. It will be, reports say, "an epic ... the largest production in the long history" of local drama. Oh, the playwright? Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who joins Libya's Muamar Qaddafi as the only Arab heads of state to publish works of fiction.

OOPS, SORRY

Boston's Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. wants 179,000 college grads to know it meant no offense when it confused them with those from a rival school in a promotion for discounted policies. The solicitations went to University of Minnesota alumni. Only they were assumed to have attended the University of Michigan. Both institutions refer to themselves as the "U of M."

How states are using all that tobacco-settlement cash

More than half the money from the landmark $206 billion legal settlement of 1998 between tobacco companies and state governments across the US is being spent in ways totally unrelated to smoking, a new report by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) shows. In fact, only a 5 percent chunk is going to smoking prevention, although it was expected that the money would be used to combat tobacco addiction. The settlement, meant as reimbursement for funds used in treating ill smokers, may be spent at the discretion of the states involved. Of the $21 billion from the settlement doled out for fiscal years 2000-2002, NCSL found it allocated in the following ways:

Healthcare 36.1%

Bolstering endowments or budget reserves 26.0%

Schools/youth programs 9.5%

Smoking prevention 5.0%

Research 4.5%

Training tobacco growers for other work 3.2%

- Associated Press

Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn, Stephanie Cook, and Matthew MacLean

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