If you own a taxi service in Germany, what may you not do? Answer: paint your cars any other color but pale ivory. We know this because a bureaucrat in the Saarland region along the border with France challenged that 33-year-old national rule as a perfect example of German overregulation. He got as far as a cab would with four flat tires. Nein, huffed the Transportation Ministry in Berlin, adding: Even a small child "can recognize a taxi because of its color. Any marketing manager would be glad to have such high recognition."


In Heilbronn, Germany, police were called to a preschool by teachers "trembling with fear" because of a giant spider that apparently had invaded a classroom sandbox. The area was cordoned off and strategies were being considered for capturing the menacing-looking critter when someone realized it was ... a rubber toy.

All-time No. 1 country song: The vote goes to 'Stand by'

Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man" is the "prototypical country song," says Kaye Zusman, a vice president of Country Music Television (CMT). The paean to spousal devotion was judged best country tune of all time in a survey by the cable channel of singers, songwriters, musicians, and other industry insiders. CMT's top 10, and the artists who first made them popular:

1. "Stand by Your Man," Tammy Wynette
2. "He Stopped Loving Her Today," George Jones
3. "Crazy," Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson
4. "Ring of Fire," Johnny Cash
5. "Your Cheatin' Heart," Hank Williams
6. "Friends in Low Places," Garth Brooks
7. "I Fall to Pieces," Patsy Cline
8. "Galveston," Glen Campbell
9. "Behind Closed Doors," Charlie Rich
10. "Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson - Associated Press

Workplace dress codes relax a little more

Plenty of neckties and nylons are worn in American offices, but according to a recent survey, so are an increasing number of sweat shirts and sandals. It's not just a summer spike.

Seventy-seven percent of employed adults usually dress casually for work, whatever the season, according to a survey of 1,000 people by Roper-ASW. That's up from 2000, when only 73 percent of those polled said they dressed casually.

Still, not everyone is getting their wish: Eighty-four percent said they would prefer to dress casually if they thought they could get away with it.

On that front there's an interesting gender disparity. Only 80 percent or professional and executive men actually prefer to dress casually. Of that group, 82 percent say they do so. As for professional women, 78 percent say they want to dress casually, but only 67 percent allow themselves to wear more comfortable clothes.

The survey explained the gap by saying women feel they are taken less seriously than their male counterparts when not dressed appropriately.

Also unclear for women is what "business casual" exactly means - few apparel labels have marketed to women the clothing equivalent of Levi's Dockers for men.

New on TV: More ads placed in programs

In order to avoid watching commercials, television viewers may soon need to stop watching the tube altogether. Advertisers' practice of paying TV networks to use products as props in a given program is becoming much more prevalent, according to a recent survey by InsightExpress, an online research firm.

About half of all television viewers surveyed said they have noticed a clear uptick in product placements in TV programs. Moreover, it seems to work: 25 percent of those polled said they had gone so far as to purchase one of the products they had seen placed in a program.

Possible reasons for the perceived increase, according to InsightExpress: An effort on the part of advertisers to reach viewers who now use digital video recorders to skip through commercials, and the perception that products used by an actor in a popular program - a kind of subliminal endorsement - will receive more attention than an ad aired during the course of the program.

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