Don't take the money and run

There are people who look forward to their Christmas bonuses, and then there's Antoinetta Molinaro. The Laviano, Italy, resident is especially eager for the occasion this year but not for the reason you might think. It's because she's due to deliver a baby about then, and doing so will earn her cash from the town treasury. It seems tiny Laviano is losing population due to its relative isolation, flagging economy, and low birth rate, and Mayor Rocco Falivena has come up with the idea of rewarding all new mothers with a onetime payment of $12,000. "This," he says, "is our top priority. We are talking about the very survival of our town."

Up to speed: toyota's Hybrid makes 2004 best-car list

For the first time, Car and Driver magazine has added a gas-electric hybrid - the Toyota Prius - to its annual list of the best cars sold in America. To be eligible, a model must be in showrooms by January and at a list price below $69,000. A panel of 13 editors determined the winners after test drives of 57 nominees. Ford and General Motors each had one car on the list, with the rest from foreign automakers. The top 10, in alphabetical order, and the number of times the vehicle has made Car and Driver's list (in parentheses):

Acura TSX (1)
Audi S4 Quattro (1)
BMW 3-Series/M3 (13)
Chevrolet Corvette (10)
Ford Focus (5)
Honda Accord (18)
Honda S2000 (4)
Infiniti G35 (2)
Mazda RX8 (1)
Toyota Prius (1) - PR Newswire

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