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SHORT TAKES

LI'L PENNY ON PAPER

Li'l Penny Hardaway has written a book. You know, Li'l Penny, the in-your-face puppet that stars with Orlando Magic basketball star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway in Nike commercials.

Sure, the commercials are funny. (Comedian Chris Rock, the voice of Li'l Penny, is a truly funny guy.) But the life story of Li'l Penny, as told in "Knee High and Livin' Large" (Crown, $14), is overkill.

The book invents a lifestyle of the rich and famous for Li'l Penny, which gets pretty annoying. If the book had used Li'l Penny to narrate the life of the real Penny, it would have been better. After all, he's a real-life superstar and a class act.

TASTES LIKE CHICKEN

Does the thought of munching down on bugs, uh, bug you? The December issue of National Geographic World features bugs people eat around the world, like an Indonesian boy chewing roasted bugs as if they're popcorn. Find out where people eat worms, water bugs, termites and other yummer creatures. And find out why it's not such a bad thing (like, bugs are nutritious ... if you can keep 'em down).

PRIME CRIME TIME?

More and more cities are using curfews to reduce youth crime. According to a recent survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 270 of 387 cities polled had nightly curfews. Still, some officials dislike curfews, saying they turn police into baby sitters and treat kids as if they're delinquents. But others say not only are nightly curfews good, but daytime curfews can help keep kids in school.

THIS IS ONLY A TEST

When President Clinton recently said drug companies should test their products on children before marketing them, his idea was applauded. After all, doctors now have to guess at what doses to give their young patients. That could be ineffective -- even way dangerous. But now some experts warn that tests could harm the kids being tested. Plus, they ask, it's one thing getting an adult to consent to tests -- but is it fair to test kids when they're probably too young to know what they're getting into?
-- Knight-Ridder

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