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Leading Economic Indicators

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People With Too Much Money: The owner of a local ski shop told the Vail (Colo.) Daily in November that he was confident he could sell his parking space in a town garage for his asking price of $500,000. After all, he said, it was on the top floor and next to an exit.

The upscale residents of Gate Mills, Ohio, near Cleveland, are so grateful to their town's 61 government employees that they volunteered $50,000 in holiday tips in December.

Among the best-selling and most controversial toys of this past holiday season were the $39.95 Mattel "Gotta Go" Doll and the $59.95 Hasbro Baby Alive, both because of their interactive features, especially their digestion/excretion functions. The latter doll comes with its own food ("green beans," "bananas") and a warning ("May stain some surfaces"). The Gotta Go includes a toilet and brings the flushing process to life for the child. An industry insider told the Washington Post that next season's toys would be even more realistic.

The Economy in Crisis: The Platinum Lounge, a lap-dancing club in Chester, England, announced in November that it would begin selling advertising, in 4-by-6-inch body-paint squares, on dancers' derrieres. Said the club's agent, "I had to do a lot of research ... to come up with the optimum size for the (ads)!"

In the midst of widespread unemployment in Sweden, the Haxriket i Norden company announced in November it would hire 20 professional witches well-versed in tarots, crystals, herbs, exorcism, and "contact with the other side," in the expectation that desperate consumers increasingly would require counseling.

Although to many outsiders, the concept of "clothing" on Muslim women suggests full-body veils, many married women in Syria are decidedly more playful, feeding a market for daring and quixotic underwear (to be worn in private, of course, and only for one's husband). Musical panties (some that glow in the dark), bras with "hands" covering the cups, and underwear designed to collapse and fall to the floor at the sound of hands clapping are just three of the popular items at boutique shops, according to a December BBC News dispatch from Damascus.

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