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NASCAR LOSES A LEGEND: It would be easy to pontificate about the need for better safety measures and the use of available restraint devices in NASCAR racing, but that's all beside the point. Racing is an inherently dangerous sport. And right now, the only real point is that it has lost a legend.

Dale Earnhardt Sr., seven-time Winston Cup winner and one of the greatest drivers of all time, was no stranger to risk. In fact, his daring style of driving was his trademark. That doesn't lessen the tragedy of his death at the age of 49, in a head-on collision with a concrete wall on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

Risk is part of the reason they race, and part of the reason the rest of us watch. But that doesn't make the price any less painful.

HOW DOES THIS GO? 40 DAYS HAS . . .: Indiana police officers who confronted two Vermont teenagers wanted for the murders of two Dartmouth College professors didn't have to wait long for their quarry to trip themselves up.

"The reason I knew that it was a false date of birth was that for the day he was born he said the 40th," said Deputy Landon Dean, who first questioned one of the youths at a truck stop.

BEAT THIS, PRICELINE: For almost an hour on Jan. 31 on its Web site, United Airlines inadvertently listed fares as low as $25 round-trip to Europe. You could have booked a ticket from San Francisco to Paris for $24.98. There were also similar prices to Hong Kong and other cities.

After initially refusing to honor the tickets, United correctly decided to drop the matter. It seems to us that 143 tickets don't amount to enough money for the airline to fight over. And for the 143 people who snatched them up, it's an early Christmas present. United can be assured of one thing -- more people now will be tuned in to its Web site.

HEY, GUYS, THINK LOW-TECH: Scientists attending the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week heard about research into a blood test that will warn people who eat high-fat foods whether that kind of diet will make them fat.

We were just wondering: Isn't that what they make scales for?

WE LIKE ABBOTT AND COSTELLO BETTER: Now that the great Grammy kaffufle is over, with the rapper Eminem and pop star Elton John having sung their duet without incident, we've got ask: What was the fuss about?

OK, we know what it was about. Gays and lesbians have good reason to protest Eminem's vulgar, homophobic lyrics and, at first blush, it may have seemed self-defeating for John, who is gay, to have agreed to sing with the rapper during Wednesday's awards ceremony. But think about it: Who co-opted whom? Who was shown to be the phony? It seems more like a move of brilliance than of betrayal.

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