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OK, BUT BEWARE NEXT TIME A lot of Australians are in debt even though they didn't actually lose the cash they'd been willing to invest in an Internet scam. As an April Fool's hoax to test the gullibility of the public, the national Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) set up a bogus insurance company offering policies to cover Y2K computer problems. The "Millennium Bug Insurance" Web site received 233 hits from people willing to buy in - to the tune of $2.6 million. Only later did ASIC 'fess up. But it's promising to keep the identities of the would-be investors secret.

THEY ZIGZAGGED The Swiss-British team whose historic nonstop, round-the-world flight in a hot-air balloon ended March 21 does, indeed, hold the new distance record, the International Aeronautics Federation has confirmed. But FAI checkers subtracted 3,694 miles for course corrections, making the total 25,362.

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Personal incomes were up in all 50 states last year

The economy lifted incomes faster than inflation in every state in 1998, the Commerce Department reports. The US average was $26,412, up 4.4 percent from 1997. The figures include wages, salaries, and other sources such as investment earnings and government benefits. By state, per capita incomes ranged from $37,598 in Connecticut to $18,958 in Mississippi. Per capita growth was highest in North Dakota, where farmers hurt by falling commodities prices received federal relief payments. It was lowest (2.1 percent) in Hawaii. The 10 states with the biggest percentage increase in personal income during 1998:

State Percent increase

North Dakota 7.8

Colorado 6.1

Washington 5.7

Texas 5.3

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Massachusetts 5.0

Vermont 5.0

New Jersey 4.9

New York 4.9

South Dakota 4.9

Virginia 4.9

- Associated Press

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