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Loose change

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 19, 2002

FOOD FACTOR: Federal officials estimate that driver distraction, including eating, is involved in 20 to 30 percent of crashes. Now Hagerty Classic Insurance has determined the "10 deadliest foods to eat while driving." Drawing from federal figures, claim statistics and interviews, the insurer of collector vehicles says coffee tops the list. A spill can be painfully hot, and people want to get it off their clothing. Second-worst is soup, followed by tacos, chili, hamburgers, barbecued food, fried chicken, jelly and cream-filled doughnuts, soft drinks and chocolate.

WINE SLUMP: A surplus of wine is pressing the nation's vintners to lower prices. Weaker consumer demand and stronger competition from imports have cut into sales. Hardest hit, analysts say, are wines that sell for $3 to $6 a bottle. Consumers have traded up as low-cost imports from Australia have entered the market and as more high-quality wines become available for less than $10.

CREATING JOBS: A survey of jobless executives found those who earned at least $100,000 were 60 percent more likely to start their own business than job seekers who earned less. One out of six, or 16 percent, did so between Oct. 1 and March 31, according to Chicago outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Chief executive John Challenger points out the higher-earning executives tend to be older and have more experience and business contacts that are vital in starting a business.

TOUGH ODDS: In the search for steady work, this spring's 1.2-million college graduates could have their work cut out for them. Outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. did an analysis of entry-level positions offered on the four largest Internet job sites and determined as many as 106 graduates could be competing for each job. And that's not counting competition from workers laid off in the past year.

DOWNSIZING: It's the latest in consumer convenience: the mini-watermelon. Two seed companies have developed two varieties of a seedless watermelon that's about the size of a cantaloupe. They will start showing up in grocery stores this summer.

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