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I'll be back in two weeks

The hard-line fundamentalist clerics who run Iran may yet yield their grip on power under pressure from its burgeoning - and restless - population of 20-somethings. But until then, their morals police have found a new source of crime on which to crack down: barbers. Barbers? Yes, earlier this month in Isfahan, the nation's No. 2 city, the cops swooped in and arrested two for cutting the hair of female patrons so short that they can pass for males ... and thus go out in public minus the mandatory head scarves and neck-to-toe garments that hide their shapes. One of those arrested was a woman dressed as a man.

Money's tight this year

If survey results mean anything, it's just as well that the US doesn't need to count on the people of Belgium to make the year-end holidays a commercial success. The consulting arm of international accounting giant Deloitte Touche Tomatsu found Belgians plan to spend less, on average, than any other Europeans on all aspects of Christmas: $608. By contrast, respondents in the Republic of Ireland said they're shelling out $1,395 per capita.

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Rating states on accidents where alcohol is a factor

To kick off a new effort to discourage drunk driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the results of a comprehensive study. It found 0.63 alcohol-related fatalities nationwide last year per 100 million vehicle miles - less than half the 1982 rate. But state rates varied widely. States with highest and lowest rates, according to the NHTSA study:

Lowest rates
1. Utah 0.29
2. Vermont 0.36
3. New York 0.38
4. Minnesota 0.42
5. New Jersey 0.43
Highest rates
1. South Carolina 1.27
2. Louisiana 1.08
3. Montana 1.04
4. Washington, DC 1.01
5. South Dakota 0.98
- Associated Press

Today's quote

'Consumers seem to be saying one thing and doing another. They're saying they're cutting back, but then they're coming in and buying from our higher-end ... stores.'

- Monica Davis of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., on the final weekend of the Christmas shopping season.


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