A BEAUTIFUL Christmas tale? Northwest Airlines announced...

A BEAUTIFUL Christmas tale? Northwest Airlines announced that it is cutting its holiday fares up to 40 percent: round-trip tickets from Boston to Chicago will be $238 instead of $363, and $159 from Los Angeles to Seattle instead of the standard price tag of $373.

For Baltimoreans wanting to reach the West Coast, there is a round-trip price of $340 from BWI to Los Angeles -- a savings from the original $557 fee.


American Airlines quickly stepped into the ring and matched Northwest fairs in all routes where the companies compete.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Well, there is a catch. These non-refundable tickets must be bought 14 days in advance. Your travel plans must be before Jan. 15, and the sale "is for a limited time only" -- ending this Friday.


So you better act fast because this Christmas sale will be long gone before Jack Frost has a chance to nip at your toes -- or even before you have a chance to put out all the pumpkins for Halloween.

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THERE are plenty of reasons not to smoke, but now it appears that quitting smoking can reduce the risk of a custody suit. Earlier this month, a smoking mother, Susan Tanner, was ordered by a California judge to give up her 8-year-old asthmatic daughter because of the danger of second-hand smoke. The father, Steve Masone, believes that smoking by his ex-wife aggravated the child's condition.

Mr. Masone's lawyer presented to the court laboratory results of a urine sample from the child that showed levels of nicotine equal to a pack-a-day smoker. Ms. Tanner, who has been twice ordered by the courts not to smoke in front of her daughter, says that the father is pushing this issue in response to her allegation that he is an unfit parent.

The judge awarded temporary custody to the child's 59-year-old grandmother and ordered the parents to receive psychiatric evaluations and further medical tests. Wouldn't it be easier just to send the mother to Smokers Anonymous?