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In Shizuoka, Japan, efforts are under way to determine whether the local TV station was unethical, forgetful - or simply altruistic - in failing to air 3,702 commercials since early 1996. The ads were worth upwards of $1 million dollars. Sponsors seem not to have noticed that they weren't getting what they'd paid for - until tipped off by an anonymous source. No, there were no viewer complaints.

SIBLING RIVALRY

The contest came down to two finalists who know each other extremely well. Ten minutes went by as they battled in Tulsa for the right to represent eastern Oklahoma in the National Spelling Bee. Back and forth they went as one, then the other got a challenging word right. Finally, eighth-grader Aaron Beaver tripped up on "matrifocal," meaning a pattern in which a married couple lives with the wife's parents. His opponent spelled it correctly and will go to Washington next month. The winner: Aaron's twin brother, Allen.

Bank survey finds ATM fees increased about 10% in '98

More than 90 percent of US banks charge consumers for using ATM machines that belong to their competitors - up from 71 percent a year ago, a consumer group reported last week. The US Public Interest Research Group said the average surcharge ($1.37) is 14 cents higher than a year ago. The surcharges, paid to banks operating the automated teller machines, come on top of fees customers pay their own banks when using ATMs. Bankers say the surcharges are outweighed by the convenience ATMs afford their customers and are needed to make ATMs profitable. Here are some major findings of the survey, which covered 336 banks and 31 credit unions in 23 states and the District of Columbia:

Average surcharge $1.37

Most common 1.50

Highest 2.50

Lowest .50

Average for big banks 1.42

Average for small banks 1.30

Average for credit unions 0.98

- Associated Press

Compiled by Robert Kilborn

and Lance Carden


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