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How About a Get-Busy Signal?

In Austin, Tex., when state employees tried to cash in on a $1,000 radio call-in contest, they dialed a wrong number as far as state officials were concerned. The Capitol’s telephone system came to a crashing halt within a minute of the start of a contest by a local radio station--twice. “We thought we had just had an equipment failure,” said Carl Stringfellow, state director of telecommunications. “But the second time it went down, one of our employees suggested it was at the same time as one of the radio contests.” The system has about 14,000 lines, and its usual capacity is about 2,000 calls at any one time. But the radio contest bumped the phone traffic up to 8,000 calls, Stringfellow said. Officials reset the phone system to block calls to the exchange set aside for radio call-in contests. It was not known if any state employees actually won the $1,000.

--You’re probably feeling sorry for yourselves right now, after hearing the 14,691st commercial touting one of the myriad of auto insurance initiatives on the California ballot, right? Well, pity the poor Montanans who have to listen to ads placed by the opponents of a bottle bill who go by the name of the Committee Against Forced Deposits: Montana Grocers, Recyclers, Soft Drink Bottlers, Beer Distributors, Container Manufacturers and their National Affiliates, and other Montana Businesses and Concerned Citizens--CAFDMGRSDBBDCMNAMBCC for short. Montana law requires that any political action committee must include its name in recorded or printed advertisements. Because it takes about 14 seconds for most people to read the group’s name slowly, the committee is looking for a fast talker who can cram the name into its radio and TV spots. “If we’re going to have to make a mockery about what we’re doing, it’s best to bring it out in the open,” committee treasurer Frank Capps said.

--Forgive and forget. That’s what the son of fugitive Ronald Biggs is hoping Queen Elizabeth II will do and allow Biggs, a member of the gang that pulled off the notorious Great Train Robbery of 1963, to return home. Mike Biggs, 14, arrived in London seeking a royal pardon for his father, who has lived in exile in Brazil since 1970. The senior Biggs, 59, took part in the $7-million robbery from the Glasgow-to-London mail train on Aug. 8, 1963. At the time, it was Britain’s largest heist. Less than $980,000 was recovered, and most of the 15 gang members, including Biggs, were caught and sent to jail. He escaped in July, 1965. In 1985, Biggs said his reported $325,000 share of the loot was long gone.


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