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COPY-Around the Water Cooler

Associated Press - June 15, 2007 3:13 AM ET

A daily collection of the "Best of the Rest" -- Water Cooler Stories from the past 24 hours:

Over-the-Top Spending

NEW YORK (AP) - Experts say luxury goods are booming.

Gone are the days when $350 stilettos were bling. These days, shoes with status carry a thousand-dollar price tag. And A-listers wouldn't dream of carrying a purse costing less than $5,000.

Splurging by the wealthy has risen to gaudy proportions as the super rich seek new heights in pampering and 1-of-a-kind items that set them apart.

Luxury sales worldwide topped $150 billion last year, of which 30% came from the US.

For example, Montblanc recently sold a 700,000-plus pen just a few days after it showed up in the New York store. The pen is adorned with rubies, sapphires and diamonds.

Hybrid Rentals

NEW YORK (AP) - Car rental companies are going "green."

Many drivers will soon be able to choose a hybrid vehicle.

Hertz says it will spend $68 million to add 3,400 Toyota Prius (PREE'-us) hybrids to its fleets by 2008. And Avis says it plans to make a-thousand hybrid Prius vehicles available for rent as early as next week.

Teen Sex Case

ATLANTA (AP) - Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are blasting a Georgia man's 10-year imprisonment for consensual sex with a 15-year-old when he was 17 years old.

They call the sentence "abusive and excessive" and accuse Georgia's attorney general of seeking to "perpetuate the injustice." A rally last night outside the state Capitol drew about 150 protesters.

Earlier, this week a state judge ordered the release of Genarlow Wilson. The attorney general appealed the ruling. Now, the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the state's arguments for keeping Wilson in prison. The hearing is set for October.

The attorney general says he will not oppose bond for Wilson while the appeal moves forward. Wilson, now 21, has already served more than 28 months in jail.

Sex Offender Crackdown

HOUSTON (AP) - Texas officials have targeted convicted sex offenders on MySpace. Seven men with profiles on the social networking Web site were arrested.

They were picked up after MySpace released the names of offenders with online profiles to the Texas attorney general's office.

The site has supplied names to attorneys general in other states, after it was criticized for failing to protect underage subscribers.

It has also begun checking subscribers' criminal histories through a database of registered sex offenders.

Obesity Surgery

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Researchers have found that weight-loss surgery doesn't carry quite the same benefit for people who suffer from depression or anxiety.

They've found that extremely obese people with mood or anxiety disorders tend to lose less weight after the surgery than mentally healthy people do.

And they say that suggests that those patients could benefit from treatment beforehand.

They found that people with depression or anxiety lost an average of 81 pounds in the six months after gastric bypass surgery. That compares to a loss of 86 points by their counterparts.

The lead author, from the University of Pittsburgh, says people with a history of mental health problems "might benefit from closer surveillance."

The research was presented at a conference in San Diego.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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