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Those bicycle saddlebags we gave you for Christmas: Give 'em back, the Environmental Ministry of the Netherlands told its 4,500 employees. No, the agency chiefs didn't suddenly turn miserly. They did, however, discover that the bags are treated with higher levels of cadmium than are allowed under Dutch law. The metal was used as a preservative to ward off premature aging and, while not dangerous to human health, could pollute soil and water when thrown away. The recipients will be issued new ones and the tainted bags will be disposed of in - what else? - an environmentally friendly manner.

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Christmas season in Annapolis, Md., isn't without a discordant note, either. Some residents of the capital are upset over a 22-foot downtown yule tree that celebrates the state's agricultural heritage with ornaments representing ears of corn, baskets of fruit, bunches of leaf tobacco, and such implements as pitchforks and rakes. "It looks,"huffed one critic, "like a barnyard."

For baby names, Americans liked Jacob, Emily this year

According to Social Security Administration records, Michael is no longer the most popular name in the US for baby boys. After reigning for decades, Michael has been eclipsed this year by Jacob - although Michael would still be No. 1 if the alternative spelling of Jacob, with a "k," was considered separately. Among girls' names, Emily brought a halt to the one-year stay at the top for Kaitlyn, which slipped all the way to No. 7. The top five names for both sexes:

Boys' names

1. Jacob

2. Michael

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3. Matthew

4. Nicholas

5. Christopher

Girls' names

1. Emily

2. Sarah

3. Brianna

4. Samantha

5. Hailey

- Associated Press

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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