Let's say you're absorbed in a movie at your local theater when another patron's cellphone rings. Are you annoyed? Would you be less so if the thing emitted, say, a chirping sound instead? Then an innovation developed in Britain by Nokia and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds may interest you. For a $4.30 fee that includes a donation to the society, cellphone users may select one of 38 digitally sequenced warbles and, as a spokesman puts it, "thrill to the calls of the oystercatcher, wigeon, and lapwing." More on the program can be found at


Speaking of Britain and cellphones, a prankster has been leaving text messages for users that it's urgent they ring the unidentified number at the bottom of their screens. Result: thousands of calls to the official residence of Prime Minister Blair. In fact, they account for 80 percent of the traffic on the 10 Downing Street switchboard. In self-defense, a new private line has been installed with the number given out only on a need-to-know basis.

Nordic nations, Canada best at safeguarding environment

Finland is the best in the world when it comes to environmental sustainability, while the US is 51st, according to a joint study by Yale University, Columbia University, and the World Economic Forum, a group better known as a target of environmental protest. The study, released early this month at the forum's annual meeting in New York, ranks 142 nations on topics such as environmental systems and stresses, human vulnerability, and stewardship of shared resources. The top 10 countries in the 2002 index:

1. Finland

2. Norway

3. Sweden

4. Canada

5. Switzerland

6. Uruguay

7. Austria

8. Iceland

9. Costa Rica

10. Latvia

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