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In Watanobbi, Australia, the family and friends of Margaret Cole are especially happy for her these days. Why? Because after living only in rented apartments since 1976, she has just won a 30-year mortgage from ANZ Bank to buy her first house, a three-bedroom cottage. The guarantor will be her daughter, Jean Buckley. What's so special about that, you ask? Only that Mrs. Cole will be 93 on her next birthday. "They were very nice to lend me the money," she said. "I thought they'd think I was too old ..."

Don't mess with the monks

Calling it "our unshirkable historical responsibility," Abbot Shi Yongxin is vowing defend his Shaolin Temple. From what? Commercial abuse. The Buddhist temple, built in AD 496 in central China, is considered the birthplace of gongfu, or kung fu, the martial art popularized by stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. With more than 100 businesses in China alone using Shaolin to hawk everything from cars to furniture to alcohol, the temple is seeking to trademark its name – and vowing "appropriate action" against violators.

Website of the week

WHAT: A news website for teens from public television's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" nightly newscast.

BEST POINTS: Short current-events stories written for a 10th-grade audience are posted every Wednesday night. Past stories are divided into academic subjects such as math and economics, US history, or arts and English. Student contributors argue different sides of current events and offer personal narratives in the Speak Out! section. And in The Road Taken section, students read about various career paths, including those of a poet, a modern dancer, and a White House press secretary.

Teachers can access online lesson plans by subject on topics ranging from avoiding plagiarism to club drugs. Each lesson plan contains a link to the transcript of a "Newshour" segment, discussion questions, a teacher's strategy guide, and possible additional activities. The most recent lesson plan is always displayed in the left hand column.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: To receive weekly updates on new stories and lesson plans, you need to supply an e-mail address.

Publisher names 'smartest' states

HARTFORD, CONN. – Connecticut's the smartest state. At least, that's what a Kansas-based research and publishing company says. In its first ranking of the quality of state elementary and secondary education, Morgan Quitno Press has declared Connecticut tops. Morgan Quitno Press said it weighed 21 factors in making its ranking, including per-pupil expenditures, public high school graduation rates, average class size, student reading and math proficiency, pupil-teacher ratios, and teacher salaries. Rounding out the Top 5 were Vermont, Montana, New Jersey, and Maine.

Testing error saves failing students

BOSTON – More than 600 students who thought they had failed the Grade 8 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) history exam earned passing scores after a sharp-eyed teacher spotted a mistake in one of the questions.

Social studies teacher John Gibbons Jr. found a multiple-choice question that actually had two correct answers. The mistake prompted the Department of Education to review responses for 75,000 eighth-graders and credit those who filled in an answer previously thought to be wrong.

The question asked students to choose the correct power of senators and representatives elected to Congress: to control the military, conduct foreign affairs, make laws for the nation, or collect taxes? The state said the right answer is to make laws. But Mr. Gibbons, a constitutional aficionado, found the fourth choice – the power to collect taxes – also correct.

Teacher's salary skyrockets, temporarily

DETROIT – A Detroit public school teacher's pay was enough to make Bill Gates or Donald Trump envious. Thanks to a computer glitch, the teacher was paid $7.9 million before taxes for 18 minutes of work. Someone alerted the school district earlier this month, and the money was returned after six days, chief financial officer Ken Forrest said in Thursday's Detroit News. The error occurred when a clerk entered an employee number in the hourly wage field for the teacher's check.

Dressing up Oct. 31: More pop culture than vulture

(PR Newswire) With sales and advertising topping $6 billion last year, Halloween is the second-biggest holiday for US retailers, after Christmas. Candy is the top seller; costumes are No. 2. And when it comes to "trick or treat," iParty says the trend at its 35 stores in New England and Florida is toward popular TV and film characters. The top 10 most popular outfits in 2002, according to iParty:

1. "SpongeBob" (TV show)

2. "Spider-Man" (comic, film)

3. "Spy Kids 2" (film)

4. Divas, pop idols

5. "Bob the Builder" (TV show)

6. "Austin Powers" (film)

7. "Scream" (film)

8. Retro attire – '60s to '80s

9. Gothic attire

10. Customary favorites (witch, cheerleader, etc.)

- Compiled by staff

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