Etc...

THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE

The suspects in a narcotics ring in north London presumably were on the lookout for a potential police raid. At the first sight of an approaching cruiser, they'd flee – to deal their illegal drugs another day. Yet, 10 of them were caught late last month in precisely the type of crackdown they sought to avoid. How? Because the cops, in their superintendent's words, thought "outside the box." Seventy-eight of them arrived at a pub where the suspects were known to be ... aboard one of the city's traditional red double-decker buses.

I HOPE YOU CAN FORGIVE ME

There's word from France that exceeding the speed limit, making U-turns, illegal parking, and other offenses are on the increase. And all because of this month's presidential election. So, how do you explain that? Well, it seems that there's a tradition of bestowing presidential pardons for minor violations in an election year. And in this one the front-runners – incumbent Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin – are so close in the opinion polls that neither wants to risk alienating the "motorist vote" by pledging to end the custom.

Italy, Britain rate highest with shop-'til-you-drop set

Italians are Europe's most pleasure-seeking shoppers – likely to spend a leisurely day going store to store, just for fun. The Dutch are the most principled, zeroing in on organic, nongenetically modified goods. That's according to international property consultants Healey & Baker, which surveyed the purchasing habits of 7,000 Europeans. The 10 nations where shoppers appear to have the most fun:

1. Italy

2. Britain

3. Poland

4. Portugal

5. Germany

6. Belgium

7. Czech Republic

8. Spain

9. Sweden

10. Hungary

– PR Newswire

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