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SHORT TAKES

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

In Britain, girls are being asked to listen to tapes of crying babies as part of a $16 million government program to cut the number of teen pregnancies. The hope is that the crying sounds won't be music to the teens' ears, and -- as a result -- girls will hold off on becoming sexually active.

PINK BOOT, RED FACE?

The state of Virginia has plans to surprise parents who aren't paying their child support with pink and powder-blue boots. The boots won't be the tiny knitted kind meant for baby feet. Instead, they'll clamp around a car's front tire, immobilizing the vehicle. Delinquent parents also will be greeted with a sticker on their windshield that reads: "This vehicle has been seized by the sheriff for unpaid child support." The state, the first to try such tactics, is hoping the boot and sticker will embarrass parents into making payments.

WRESTLEMANIA

More schools are cracking down on kids who imitate pro wrestling moves for fun. The Boston Globe reports that kids who get caught mimicking body slams, headlocks and other violent-looking wrestling maneuvers on school grounds are getting pinned with detentions -- or worse, suspensions. Some public schools have even trained teachers to recognize the hand signals that double as cuss words. Educators say that they're afraid students are going to hurt themselves and that play fighting can easily turn into real fighting. They also say the expressions used by wrestlers are crude and rude.

SLOTS FOR TOTS?

New slot machines with cartoon themes are worrying regulators, who say the machines could make gambling appealing to kids. The Nevada Gaming Control Board is drafting rules that would ban any machines with cartoon and comic-book characters. (The board already has informally rejected machines with "South Park" and Spider-Man themes.) Plus, a U.S. Senate committee has promised to investigate the issue. Machine makers say the themes make gambling more fun for adults who aren't big-time gamblers. They also point out that it's against the law for kids to use the machines anyway. But critics say that the machines are in Nevada airports, supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants, so kids are exposed to them.

OVERSEA IMPORTS

If all goes as planned, teachers soon will be crossing the ocean for the chance to work in Chicago. Chicago, like other school districts nationwide, is having a tough time finding enough qualified math, science and foreign language teachers. So the federal government has agreed to issue 100 temporary work visas a year to foreign teachers who are willing to move to the city to teach. So far the Windy City is the only public school district in the nation to arrange such a recruitment program. But if it's a success, educators expect Congress to adopt a similar program nationwide.

-- Knight Ridder

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