It's the thought that counts

Recently married, are you? Then if the results of a new nationwide survey in Britain are any indication, this may be the last year that you buy expensive Christmas presents for your spouse. The RBS Advanta research organization asked 1,000 people their marital status and how much they typically spend on a wife, husband, or - if still single - that special someone to put under the tree for the big day. Bottom line: The longer the relationship, the less pricey the gift. Couples who have been together less than two years said they spend $150 to $300 apiece, on average. After two years: half that. And once children become part of the equation, most respondents told the survey they substitute "practical" gifts for romantic ones.

Today's quote

'With a few keystrokes, these men essentially picked the pockets of tens of thousands of Americans and ... took their identities, stole their money, and swiped their security.'

- US Attorney James Comey, of three suspects in an identity-theft ring that scammed an estimated $2.7 million.

Taking the checkered flag: 2002's top NASCAR drivers

Tony Stewart, who began the year with a blown engine at February's Daytona 500 and ended on probation for repeated displays of ill-temper, still won the Winston Cup championship in the just-concluded NASCAR racing season. Ryan Newman, who won rookie of the year honors, was sixth in the rankings, which are determined by points awarded for the order of finish in each of the 36 races, plus the number of laps a driver led. NASCAR's top 10 Winston Cup series drivers, their respective scores (in parentheses), and 2002 winnings (in millions):

1. Tony Stewart (4,800) $4.70
2. Mark Martin (4,762) 5.28
3. Kurt Busch (4,641) 3.72
4. Jeff Gordon (4,607) 4.98
5. Jimmie Johnson (4600) 2.85
6. Ryan Newman (4,593) 4.37
7. Rusty Wallace (4,574) 4.09
8. Matt Kenseth (4,432) 3.89
9. Dale Jarrett (4,415) 3.94
10. Ricky Rudd (4,323) 4.01

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