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BOOSTING SARKOZY'S IMAGE: A SHORT STORY

From elevator shoes to step-up boxes behind podiums, and even his own tippy-toes, Nicolas Sarkozy and his handlers have tried to compensate for his height - or lack thereof. Now, a factory worker claims that she was chosen to stand near the French president during a photo shoot at an auto parts plant in Normandy because she is short, rankling Sarkozy's office. "I've been told you were chosen on height criteria," a Belgian television reporter asked a dark-haired woman in the lineup. "Is that true?" "Yes, yes," she said. The reporter pressed on: "That you shouldn't be taller than the president?" "That's right," she replied. Two presidential spokesmen denied the allegation, terming it "absurd and grotesque" and saying no such order had come from Sarkozy's office. The company says it organized the event and said Sarkozy's office made no special requests. A spokesman said he didn't know the president's exact height, but said it's about 5 feet 7. Stage-managing appearances is nothing new, and Sarkozy and his aides are known to skillfully craft his image. His wife, former model Carla Bruni, often wears flats in appearances with her husband. Author Jean-Pierre Friedman said Sarkozy "has had a complex with his height that has given him a sense of inferiority ... so he has had to prove himself." "Take a look at the way he walks - it's very particular," he said. "It almost seems as though he has lifts in his shoes that seem to disrupt his balance."

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Blago: Tapes are out of context

Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says his words on FBI wiretap tapes have been taken out of context and will vindicate him when played in their entirety, but he still worries about the possibility of going to prison. Blagojevich is in New York to promote his new book, The Governor, which went on sale Tuesday. He started the day with an appearance on NBC's Today show, followed by more interviews. Prosecutors say Blagojevich tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat.

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Parents promised to marry, and do

The parents of a 7-year-old boy who died after a car crash in upstate New York have fulfilled his wish that they get married, and they did it at the child's funeral. Amilcar Hill and Rahwa Ghirmatizion got married during Monday's funeral service in Buffalo for their son, Asa Hill. Asa died a day after his grandfather's car was involved a chain-reaction highway crash last week. Hundreds of people packed the church for Asa's funeral. The couple surprised attendees by getting married, which the parents say their son had been asking them to do.

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Montana wild horses rounded up

Federal officials say they will complete a wild horse roundup along the Montana-Wyoming border within the next few days. As of late Monday, Bureau of Land Management contractors had gathered 131 wild horses as part of the agency's effort to reduce the size of the herd in the Pryor Mountain National Wild Horse Range. Critics say the roundup threatens to ruin the genetics of a herd descended from animals brought to North America by Spanish conquistadors. About 70 of the range's 190 adult horses will be offered for adoption, scheduled for Sept. 26. The remainder will be released, with most mares receiving a fertility control injection.

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By the numbers

49 percent

British teachers who admit to making assumptions about students based solely on the student's name. Names the teachers associate with bad kids: Brandon, Callum, Charlie, Chelsea, Connor, Courtney, Chardonnay, Aliesha, Casey, Crystal. Names the teachers associate with good kids: Alexander, Adam, Christopher, Benjamin, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emma and Hannah.

Results from a poll of 3,000 teachers conducted by British parenting club Bounty.com

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