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AND WE'RE ALWAYS OPEN

On its face, the special promotion seems almost too good to be true: free transportation to our secure location, free bed and breakfast, free TV, free medical checkup, and the possibility of free 10-year memberships in an exclusive club. Until you discover that it's the kickoff of the annual Christmas-season highway safety campaign by Britain's South Yorkshire police. Borrowing from tourist-industry advertising tactics, the department is putting up posters touting the "benefits" of being caught operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The secure location: jail. The checkups are breathylizer tests. And the 10-year memberships? They're the maximum sentence for a drunk-driving conviction.

THE ULTIMATE THRILL RIDE?

Zero to 107 m.p.h. in just 1.8 seconds. Sounds like the launch of a space shuttle, right? Well, close. It's the new world's fastest rollercoaster. The $24 million "Dodon-pa," which debuts Dec. 21 at Fujikyu Highlands amusement park west of Tokyo, carries just eight people at a time, each of whom will pay $8 for an excursion into weightlessness that lasts ... one minute.

New mothers - and the rate at which they return to work

The number of women working later into pregnancy and returning sooner to work after giving birth has plateaued, according to the Census Bureau. But new data suggest a shift to more part-time work is occurring, both before and after childbirth. The bureau's researchers studied maternity leave and employment records of women after delivering a first child, comparing data over five-year intervals between 1961 and 1995 (the most recent year studied). The percentage of women who returned to work within six months after their first birth:

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1991-94 52.3%

1986-90 52.9

1981-85 48.3

1976-80 32.2

1971-75 21.9

1966-70 18.3

1961-65 13.7

- Associated Press

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