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LOOSE CHANGE

THINGS COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE: Companies are trying to boost morale amid layoffs and cutbacks, some in unusual ways. For example, Tempe, Ariz., software company Whitehat Inc. has volunteers help at a soup kitchen. "Hopefully, seeing how bad it can be for others will improve our morale," human resources manager Joyce Corley says.

CHICKEN FIGHT: The inventor of Steak-umm is suing Tyson Foods for allegedly copying how it cuts chicken thighs. Food product company Visionary Design says it has a patent on cutting skinless thighs into the shape of a parallelogram, giving them "an aesthetic appearance which encourages consumers to consume the product."

BOTTOM OF THE CLASS: Teachers rank last in a study of how well prime-time television shows portray a dozen public-sector occupations. They fare worse than even elected officials, the Council for Excellence in Government study shows.

WOMEN RULE: More than twice as many women held executive-management posts in the 500 top U.S. companies in 1999 as did in 1996, an International Labor Organization survey shows. Still, it's a meager 5.1 percent, up from 2.4 percent.

WAR OF WORDS: A quarter of the cases before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year involved employers accused of retaliating against workers who spoke their mind. The number of such cases doubled since 1990.

14-MILLION: That's how many employees have their Internet use and e-mail monitored continuously by commercially available software, the Privacy Foundation estimates. That's about a third of the total U.S. online work force.

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