We'll be extending your stay

It's been a mixed holiday for the crew of the North Korean-flagged ship Elisabeth. Eight Ukrainian nationals aboard were rescued from the partially sunken freighter by the Greek Coast Guard on Christmas Eve, in an incident that drew heavy media coverage there. But when authorities checked the vessel for leaks Dec. 26, they found not the declared cargo of cement, but 35 tons of cigarettes. The shipmates are now under arrest on smuggling charges.

Hi, I'm calling about your ad

The headline in a Shanghai newspaper earlier this month read: "Phone war waged on illegal posters." That's putting it mildly. City officials have a new strategy to deal with people who tack ads and fliers on lampposts, walls of buildings, and other public places. And how will they do this? By placing computerized phone calls to the numbers that appear on the unsightly pages - every two hours at first, then more frequently until there's one every eight seconds. The calls will demand that posters remove the ads and either delist the phone numbers or appear in court and be fined up to $60.

What does this mean? Most looked-up words of 2003

Merriam-Webster, publisher of dictionaries since 1843, has joined those organizations that issue lists of the year's "top 10." In this case, of words that curious Internet users looked up most often on its various websites. According to president John Morse, the company found that the most frequent searches were for "not so much new words as newly popular words" heard in conversation or seen in news headlines and "other kinds of daily reading." Herewith, the "words of the year," based on hits to Merriam-Webster's websites:

1. democracy
2. quagmire
3. quarantine
4. matrix
5. marriage
6. slog
7. gubernatorial
8. plagiarism
9. outage
10. batten

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