Maybe we'll hang popcorn

This holiday season is shaping up as a dark and cheerless one for Diss, a town in eastern England. Requests for donations to the annual Christmas-light display - mailed to 250 local businesses and advertised in newspapers - netted a mere £5 ($8.50). The entire amount came from a single shopworker. "We didn't expect to get nothing after all our hard work," griped Ken Wells, chairman of the local Chamber of Trade, to the Eastern Daily Press newspaper. Last year, "people really did rally to the cause," Wells said, taking in £6,500 ($10,000). It wasn't immediately clear how he'll spend the minuscule decorating budget.

She's got some extra dough

Then again, perhaps the above townsfolk should make a pitch to British author J.K. Rowling. Sales of her first five "Harry Potter" novels passed the quarter-billion mark Monday. The books, detailing the exploits of a trainee wizard, are available in more than 200 countries and in 60 languages.

States most conducive to a long and healthy life

Minnesota and New Hampshire are tied for first place as the healthiest states in the country, according to a new study. The 14th annual ranking by the United Health Foundation, a nonprofit based in Minnetonka, Minn., evaluated states on such factors as infant and premature mortality rates, as well as on infectious disease, violent crime, prevalence of smoking, uninsured residents, and support for public health care. The states that rated highest and lowest in 2003 health study:

Top five

1. Minnesota (tie) New Hampshire
3. Utah
4. Vermont
5. Massachusetts
Bottom five
46. Tennessee
47. Arkansas
48. South Carolina
49. Louisiana
50. Mississippi

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