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RULES ARE RULES Reporters who love to look for ironies in presidential election campaigns found a beaut last weekend - if accounts from Nigeria are accurate. Interim military ruler Abdulsalam Abu-bakar, who's responsible for calling the election in the first place to restore long-sought civilian government, didn't even get to cast a ballot. It seems he spent so much time touring polling places that when he arrived at his own it was too late to have his registration card stamped. Said General Abubakar: "I'm told that I am disqualified. A presidential candidate has lost one vote."

SEEKING SOCIAL APPROVAL When you dine out, how much do you usually tip: 20 percent? More? Does it matter that researchers have decided your generosity may be more an indication that you want your server to like you than that he or she was especially attentive? Cornell University Prof. Michael Lynn, quoted in Travel Holiday magazine, also says his studies show servers tend to induce larger tips by such gestures as crouching beside your table and drawing smiley faces on your check.

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Day-care fees in Boston are rated the nation's highest In some metropolitan areas, day care costs more than twice as much as in others, a national survey indicates. The least-expensive average monthly rate - $260 - was found in Tampa, Fla. The next-lowest - $311 - was reported for New Orleans. The 1998 study - conducted by Runzheimer International, a Rochester, Wis.,-based management-consulting company - compares monthly fees in 75 urban areas for a three-year-old child, five days a week in a suburban, for-profit day-care center. The 10 cities found to have the highest monthly costs:

1. Boston $718

2. New York 661

3. Washington 631

4. Manchester, N.H. 584

5. Chicago 545

6. San Francisco 543

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7. Wilmington, Del. 540

8. Minneapolis 536

9. Milwaukee 533

10. Portland, Ore. 527

Compiled by Robert Kilborn and Lance Carden

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