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You hear the assurances almost every day, from government agencies, banks, airlines, electric utilities, and the like. They're Y2K ready. But from all corners of the world comes this request from telephone companies: Please don't call a friend or relative at midnight Dec. 31 just to check whether you still have a dial tone. Experts say there should be no concern that computer problems will knock out service. Instead, an increase in volume by as much as 50 percent above normal levels would impose a burden the networks aren't up to.

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Robbery suspect Kenneth Richardson needed paper on which to write the holdup note he handed to a First Citizens Bank teller in a Charleston, S.C., suburb. But although his demand was met and he made it out the door with $85, he was soon tracked down and arrested. The note, police say, was scribbled on a check stub that also bore his name and Social Security number.

Magazine ranks values of pro basketball's franchises

The Chicago Bulls basketball team may be fading fast in its division this season, but the value of the franchise is still rising. According to the latest Forbes magazine survey, the six-time National Basketball Association (NBA) champions are worth an estimated $307 million, a $4 million increase over last year. Chicago is no longer No. 1 in value among NBA franchises, however. In the new Forbes listing, that honor goes to the New York Knicks, at an estimated $334 million - up from $296 million last season. The values (in millions) of the top 10 NBA franchises, as estimated by Forbes:

1. New York Knicks $334

2. Chicago Bulls 307

3. Los Angeles Lakers 282

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4. Portland Trail Blazers 257

5. Phoenix Suns 239

6. Philadelphia 76ers 231

7. Detroit Pistons 226

8. Utah Jazz 215

9. Washington Wizards 209

10. Boston Celtics 187

- Associated Press

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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