No, you may not light it

The new ban on smoking in public places in New York means the absolute disappearance of tobacco from all of the city's eating places, right? Dream on. It took the coowners of Serafina Sandro, a trendy Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, all of three days after the restriction kicked in March 30 to introduce a menu featuring filet mignon in a tobacco sauce, gnocchi made from tobacco, and tobacco panna cotta, a creamy custard dessert. Said one of the partners: "It's the invention of a new spice into the cuisine."

You never learn, do you?

Perhaps you've read about the criminal trials that began Feb. 25 in Vietnam, whose government has billed them as the biggest in the nation's history. Among the offenses with which the 155 defendants are charged: gambling. So you might wonder what one of them, free on bail for that very crime, was thinking when the police caught her in - yup - a makeshift casino in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon. If convicted, she could be sentenced to spend most of the rest of her life behind bars.

Western cities dominate in 'tax procrastinators' survey

As the April 15 income tax-filing deadline nears, millions of Americans are digging out W-2 forms and receipts for the annual chore. Then again, if you live in Houston, you may think there's plenty of time left. According to Inuit, maker of TurboTax, a preparation software, that's where the highest number of federal returns were filed via its online service April 13-15, 2002 (47 million returns, or 36 percent, were filed electronically last year). The 10 cities with the most last-minute filers:

1. Houston
2. San Francisco
3. San Diego
4. Chicago
5. New York
6. Austin, Texas
7. Oklahoma City
8. Tulsa, Okla.
9. Los Angeles
10. Atlanta

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