It was just a joke, really

"We're doing fine. Please don't call the police" is what the Becker family of Gladsaxe, a suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark, is telling callers these days. What prompted the unusual request? The family's previous answering machine message, which said: "We have been taken hostage by two children. Hurry. Help us after the beep." Relatives mistook the jest for a genuine plea for assistance and summoned police, who sent the antiterrorism squad to investigate.

They loved the sauerkraut

The offer was simple but generous: free lunch one day a week for any pregnant woman. When Vildo Polikarpus, owner of the Eesti Maja restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia, began it in September, he figured he'd feed a dozen or so and help to offset the rising cost of raising a family - widely blamed for a birth rate that's fallen sharply since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. But soon 200 women were turning up for the stewed sauerkraut, marinated eel, and other dishes - at a cost of $2.66 per meal - leaving no room for paying customers. Also, notes Polikarpus, "I still had to pay taxes on all of it." The Eesti served its last freebie Dec. 31.

Getting to the point of the Gospel

A Texas man who uses tattoos to spread the Gospel believes he set a new world record during the weekend by adorning the skin of one of his friends - non-stop for more than 30 hours.

Tattoo artist Bobby Doran, who says he shares his Christian faith while tattooing, went to work on his friend Bill Davis, and after 30 hours and 15 minutes of continuous work, covered much of his body with images of skulls, dragons, lightning, clouds, and Jesus. "I can talk a little gospel to the people," Doran said of his work.

According to Guinness World Records, the longest continuous tattoo session had been 27 hours, 12 minutes set in Britain about two years ago. Davis did not pay for Doran's work. He was to help paint and renovate flooring at Doran's studio in exchange. "There ain't no tattoo in the world better than a free tattoo," Doran said.

Quote of the day

'I concluded that I want to be here in the Senate, making a difference for my state and my country,'

- Sen. Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota, announcing in a written statement that he won't run for president in 2004.

Top color pick for world's drivers? Hi-ho silver!

Shades of silver and gray were the most popular colors worldwide for vehicles produced in model year 2002, catching up with or surpassing frequent favorites white (in the US and Japan), and blue (in Europe). That's according to PPG Industries, which has tracked automotive color trends for more than 20 years. PPG's list of the top colors for vehicles made in North America last year, by percentage:

1. Silver/gray 22%
2. White 16%
3. Red 14%
4. Blue 13%
(tie) Naturals (gold, copper, champagne, and pale shades of brown and yellow)
6. Black 10%
7. Green 8%
8. Other 4%
- PR Newswire

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