With motorists in China's major cities finally permitted to buy six-digit vanity license plates, eager car-owners camped out on the doorsteps of the issuing agencies in Beijing and other major cities a day early to make sure they got what they wanted. Oh, there were the predictable "DAD ZHU" and "VIP LEE." Curiously, though, one buyer asked for and was issued "USA 911," a reminder of last September's terrorist attacks.


Speaking of motorists, authorities in Bangkok, Thailand, have begun a campaign to ease reckless driving and road rage via the Buddhist ethics of compassion and patience. Billboards have gone up around the city urging "Have the wisdom to prepare your journey before leaving home" and "Have mercy and lend a helping hand to motorists with car trouble." Bangkok has more than 4 million registered vehicles, not counting those streaming in from outside the capital each day, slowing traffic to an average flow of 6 m.p.h.

UN panel rates the globe's top economic powerhouses

The US tops a list of the world's 100 biggest economic entities, compiled by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Twenty-nine corporations also made the list, chief among them ExxonMobil (No. 45, ahead of Pakistan) and General Motors (No. 47, ahead of Peru). Countries are ranked by their gross domestic products, and corporations by the sum of their pretax profits, salaries, amortization, and depreciation in 2000. The top 10 economic entities, and their worth (in trillions of dollars unless otherwise indicated) as cited by UNCTAD:

1. US $9.81

2. Japan 4.72

3. Germany 1.86

4. Britain 1.42

5. France 1.29

6. China 1.08

7. Italy 1.07

8. Canada 701 billion

9. Brazil 595 billion

10. Mexico 575 billion

– Associated Press

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