Etc...

Wanted: homes for gnomes

For some years now, police in France and Belgium have been dealing with a crime wave of sorts: the theft of precast garden ornaments. But 75 were recovered in 2001 when a group calling itself the Garden Gnome Liberation Front left them on the steps of a cathedral in a suburb of Strasbourg. Late last month, the town's police spread the word that ripped-off owners could come and reclaim their property. Alas, only one did. Said a spokesman for the force: "In wanting to set them free, the liberation front has virtually imprisoned them." An auction may be the next step.

No to the IPO: America's largest private companies

Initial public offerings of stock, or IPOs, can quickly - at times dramatically - raise a firm's market value. But they can also bring strong pressure to meet earnings targets, and regulatory scrutiny, Forbes magazine notes in its 2003 list of the largest US firms that have opted not to go public. The list ranks for-profit companies with revenues above $1 billion, whose shares are not widely held. Forbes' top 10 and their estimated 2002 revenues (in billions):

1. Cargill Inc. $59.9
2. Koch Industries $40.0
3. Mars Inc. $16.8
4. Publix Super Markets $16.0
5. PricewaterhouseCoopers $15.9
6. Ernst & Young $13.1
7. Bechtel Group $11.6
8. C&S Wholesale Grocers $11.3
9. Meijer Inc. $10.9
10. H.E. Butt Grocery $10.7

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