What's that, you say?

You've long suspected that your pet dog's bark actually communicates a message, right? If only you could understand it. Well now, from Japan, comes word of a new high-tech system that interprets for Fido what he can't put into words. It consists of a tiny microphone attached to his collar that transmits to a palm-size console with a display screen. The latter classifies each woof into one of six emotional categories, such as happiness or frustration, and then into specific sentiments. Example: "I want to play." The product isn't yet available in the US but, once imported, is expected to sell for something less than its Japanese retail price: $123. Oh, the name you'll need to ask for if you want one? Bowlingual.

Well give you a great price

Speaking of high-tech, two 20-something postal workers in Nuremberg, Germany, are in jail for allegedly stealing a package of telecommunications equipment. They were arrested at a local store, where they tried unwittingly to peddle the stuff ... to the same dealer who had put it in the mail earlier that day.

* 'We don't comment on unattributed comments.'

- A spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien, after a newspaper quoted one of his

senior aides at the NATO summit as calling President Bush "a moron" because of his stance on disarming Iraq.

World's freest economy: It's close, but Hong Kong wins

For a ninth straight year, Hong Kong topped the Index of Economic Freedom, but Singapore managed a close second in the annual study by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. North Korea finished last in the survey, which rated 156 countries on such factors as trade policy, government intervention, property rights, and black market activity. In all, 74 nations were found to be economically freer than last year. The top 10 economies, and their ratings on the "freedom index:"

1. Hong Kong 1.45
2. Singapore 1.50
3. Luxembourg 1.70 (tie) New Zealand
5. Ireland 1.75
6. United States 1.80 (tie) Denmark (tie) Estonia
9. Australia 1.85 (tie) Britain - Associated Press

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