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RECORD LOW: The ruble fell to a record low value of 2,460 to the dollar Thursday as Russia's Central Bank stayed out of the market, apparently to ease pressure on the beleaguered currency. The 5.3 percent drop was the largest single-day decline since January, when a government crisis sent the ruble reeling by 6.8 percent in one day. Pressure on the ruble has been growing since August because of a huge increase in government spending, traders said.BIG APPETITE: With the world's biggest population, China not surprisingly has the world's biggest appetite. It devours 60,000 tons of pork, 10,000 tons of oil and 750,000 tons of grain daily, the official China Daily said Thursday. What's worse is that the population of 1.17 billion is growing at the rate of 60,000 each day, for a net gain of about 16 million people per year, the newspaper said.

REPATRIATION: A defiant handful of boat people made a last-ditch attempt Thursday to avoid being sent home, but Hong Kong managed to transport 33 Vietnamese back to Hanoi in the first of two forced repatriation flights this week. Three women had to be carried on the plane and at least one man struggled with authorities just before being pushed aboard, officials said. Two other boat people who reportedly attempted suicide were treated at a hospital Wednesday night after slashing their wrists. They were also carried on board the flight, Deputy Secretary for Security Ken Woodhouse said.

Across the nation

SPY: A former anti-war activist charged with spying out West Germany's nuclear secrets says he was working for the United States, not East Germany, the San Francisco Examiner reported. Former CIA officials call Jeffrey Schevitz's claim "farfetched" and "absurd." Schevitz said he spied on West Germany while working at a nuclear research center, but not for the Stasi, East Germany's security ministry, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

EMBEZZLEMENT: A former college president with a flair for finance is accused of embezzling more than $1 million - which he said went to needy students - for personal use, including prostitutes. Lewis Nobles Jr., who resigned as president of Mississippi College last year, was indicted Wednesday in Jackson on charges he stole $1.2 million from the Baptist college over the last five years. Nobles was hired in 1968 for his financial skill and fund-raising ability and was told he had "broad authority" with the school's money, said Nobles' lawyer, Amy Whitten.