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THE WINNERS AND THE LOSERS

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* WINNERS: Members of the police force in Elgin, Ill. After police Lt. Bruce Zweig became so ill he exhausted all the sick leave he had accrued during a 30-year career, his fellow officers gave him their leave. What a good idea for other employers. It costs them nothing and makes employees feel good about themselves and about the availability of similar help for themselves if they ever need it.

LOSERS: Americans - whose honesty seems to be slipping. That's the word from Money magazine, which conducted a recent survey to follow up on a similar one in 1987. Seven years ago 4 percent of respondents said they would pocket a lost wallet containing $100; these days 9 percent would do the same. In 1987, 15 percent of the adults polled would not correct a waiter who undercharged them; now the figure is 24 percent.The survey identified some other disturbing trends: The young generally are less honest than the old, men are greedier than women, and the rich are more likely to cheat Uncle Sam than the poor.

LOSERS: The homeless. Life on the streets is so hard that, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, a homeless person is three and a half times more likely to die in any given year than someone with a place to live.

The survey came up with another finding that should interest relief agencies: Most deaths of homeless people occur in the summer - possibly because outreach workers tend to concentrate more of their efforts on cold winter days.

LOSERS: Frank Balun of Hillside, N.J. - and the Associated Humane Societies. The group is trying to get Balun slapped with a $250 fine and possibly six months in jail just for killing a rat that was eating his tomato plants. Never mind that the administrator of the local Board of Health thinks the charges are ridiculous. If this case is any indication, professional pest exterminators in New Jersey could be in big trouble.

LOSERS: Half of the adults in California - and many elsewhere across the country. That's how many of the Golden State's residents can't read or do math well enough to keep up with today's technologically changing world, according to a new study from the U.S. Department of Education. Though the situation in California is worse than it is in other Western states, the California figures mirror literacy rates for the nation as a whole. Ouch!