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Occasionally, transit companies offer the public free rides. In Northern Ireland late last week, the rail system Translink went one better. It offered to pay 50 passengers $143 each for a trip from Dublin to Belfast. Yes, the train was three hours late in arriving - at 2 a.m. But there is more: It sat broken down for much of that time, 100 yards from the station, waiting for a replacement engine. For their safety, riders weren't allowed to walk the rest of the way due to darkness, high winds, and rain.

Survey of world's ultrarich finds fewer than last year

For a change, the rich got ... poorer last year, amid a global economic downturn worsened by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. According to Forbes magazine's annual tally, there are 497 billionaires in the world - 83 fewer than last year. Microsoft chief Bill Gates is still the top tycoon, but he saw his fortune dwindle by $6 billion. The magazine's 10 richest people in 2002, their estimated net worth (in billions), and its source:

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1. Bill Gates (Microsoft) $52.8

2. Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway investments) 35.0

3. Karl and Theo Albrecht (Aldi supermarkets) 26.8

4. Paul Allen (Microsoft) 25.2

5. Lawrence Ellison (Oracle Corp.) 23.5

6. Jim Walton (Wal-Mart Stores Inc.) 20.8

7. John Walton (Wal-Mart) 20.7

8. Alice Walton (Wal-Mart) 20.5

(tie) S. Robson Walton (Wal-Mart) 20.5

10. Helen Walton (Wal-Mart) 20.4

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