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News In Brief


P.R. Sheaffer was just trying to be a good cop when he stopped to help a Ravenna, Ohio, motorist whose car had become stuck in a snowbank. He emerged from the experience an even better one. As troopers do, Sheaffer took a moment first to glance inside the man's vehicle, where he saw credit cards and other items stolen from a local Baptist church. In fact, some of them had come from the desk of Sheaffer's wife, who is an employee of the church. Yes, there was an arrest.

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The 6,000 employees of the Muscogee County, Ga., public school system have more in common besides the organization for which they work. "We are all," one middle-school teacher says, "dead." It seems the computer that generated W-2 earnings statements for their 1998 income-tax returns checked - not the pension-plan box - but the one marked "deceased." The error, however, is unlikely to get them very far with the Internal Revenue Service, which will look for another type of check - payment of the amount due.

'Varsity Blues' scores well in movie-theater debut

The football film "Varsity Blues" - starring James Van Der Beek, grabbed the top spot at North American theaters over the four-day holiday weekend. Three other new films - "At First Sight," "Virus," and "In Dreams" - opened to relatively disappointing ticket sales. "The Thin Red Line," a war film, went into expanded release for the first time and brought in a respectable $11.4 million to take fourth place. Reported grosses at North American theaters Jan. 15-18 (in millions):

1. "Varsity Blues" $17.5

2. "A Civil Action" 12.0

3. "Patch Adams" 11.8

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4. "The Thin Red Line" 11.4

5. "At First Sight" 8.4

6. "Stepmom" 7.8

7. "You've Got Mail" 6.6

8. "The Prince of Egypt" 6.3

9. "Virus" 6.0

10. "Shakespeare in Love" 4.7

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

Compiled by Robert Kilborn and Lance Carden

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