Hey, we can't all be no. 1

Not every nation would appreciate being known for bringing up the rear, but evidently Malta does. The Mediterranean island is already the smallest current or soon-to-be member of the European Union. Now, its National Statistics Office has reported study results that conclude Maltese women will be the shortest, on average, in the 25-member bloc. How short? Five feet four inches, compared to 5-feet 5-1/2 inches for all other EU member states. What about its men? They average 5 feet 8 inches, a tad taller than those of last-place Portugal. The EU male average is 5-10.

Now that IS big!

Villagers on Indonesia's main island of Java are laying claim to a size record as well: for the largest snake ever caught. The reticulated python in question reputedly weighs 985 pounds and is 49 feet long - 17 feet more than the current colossal-snake listing in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Subway remains on track as nation's 'best franchise'

The Subway restaurant chain was rated the nation's No. 1 franchise opportunity - its 12th such title - by Entrepreneur magazine. The publication's 25th annual ranking evaluated companies that have at least 10 outlets - with at least one located in the US - and took into account such factors as financial strength, growth rate, startup costs, and litigation involving the parent firm. Entrepreneur's top 10 franchises for 2004, and their respective positions last year:

1. Subway (fast food) (1)
2. Curves (fitness centers) (2)
3. Quizno's Franchise Co. (fast food) (7)
4. 7-Eleven Inc. (convenience stores) (3)
5. Jackson Hewitt Tax Service (9)
6. The UPS Store (package delivery) (15)
7. McDonald's (fast food) (4)
8. Jani-King (commercial cleaning services) (5)
9. Dunkin' Donuts (fast food) (24)
10. Baskin-Robbins USA Co. (ice cream) (14)

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