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In Las Vegas, the money is on insurance fraudsters

Winning in Vegas

"This gambling mecca [Las Vegas]has long been a magnet for folks hoping to strike it rich," says. "Now a new study shows that more and more folks seek not to beat the house but instead to convincingly pretend that they've fallen, can't get up and want to be compensated. 'Many forms of insurance fraud increase during a down economy,' said James Quiggle, spokesman for the watchdog group Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. 'People's finances are crumbling, they're trying to shore up their income and many normally honest people won't hesitate to try to bilk their insurance company.'"

Patriotic songs

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- "Venice's gondoliers have been criticized for serenading tourists with 'culturally deficient' songs that have no relation to the lagoon city," The Daily Telegraph reports. "The boatmen are under attack for ignoring local ballads and instead crooning songs from other parts of Italy, such as O Sole Mio. … Tourists pay up to €200 [$280]to be serenaded as they are taken around the lagoon city's canals."

- "The Philippine House of Representatives has approved a bill criminalizing the improper singing of the country's national anthem," BBC News reports. "If the Senate passes the bill into law, performers who deviate from the official version could face a fine of more than $2,000 [U.S.]rdquo; and up to two years in jail. The bill states the anthem should be sung to a marching tempo, 100 to 120 beats per minute. When played at public gatherings, all citizens should stand at attention and sing it with fervour as a sign of respect.

Robot bartenders?

Got a spare $420,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Silicon Valley start-up Willow Garage is selling its PR2 robot, New Scientist reports. "The robot's two gripper-equipped arms, laser scanner and multiple cameras allow it to fold towels, fetch a beer and plug itself into [a wall outlet]when it needs to recharge." It has open software and the most likely customers will be academic and corporate research labs. A German rival, the YouBot, will soon be on the market.

What she means

Translations of a woman's telephone greetings, from British Esquire:

- Hi! (She likes you!);

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- Hey, you (She's been thinking about you);

- Hell-o (She's been thinking about sleeping with you);

- Hey (Impossible to tell);

- Hi there (She's probably not interested);

- Yo (She'd love to stay friends);

- Who is this? (She doesn't know who you are).

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The arts today: Final act?

In four decades as a performance artist, Marina Abramovic has had a stranger point a loaded gun at her head, sat in silence for 700 hours and set herself on fire. Now she is preparing for a new show in which she enacts her own funeral.

The Observer

Criminology: Not mine

When sheriff's deputies in Florida allegedly discovered bags of marijuana and cocaine between a man's buttocks, he told them, "The white stuff is not mine, but the weed is."

Associated Press

Small government: $75

Firefighters in rural Tennessee let a home burn to the ground last week because the homeowner hadn't paid a $75 fee for fire coverage. The family lost all their possessions along with three dogs and a cat. The homeowner said he called 911 but the operators told him "we wasn't on their list."

Getaways: Convictourism

"Tasmania is proud of its convict heritage - so much so that the official tourism board is promoting travel to landmark prisons around the island as part of a new type of getaway dubbed 'convictourism.'"

Word watch: Dad dancing

The twitchy moves a poor dancer makes when he does one thing over and over.

The Week

Thought du jour

"The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention."

- Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79), British portrait photographer

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