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by LLOYD SHEARER BECAUSE OF VOLUME OF MAIL RECEIVED. PARADE REGRETS IT CANNOT ANSWER QUERIES ABOUT THIS COLUMN. in this country -- not- too long gone --when a salary of $100 a week, or $5200 a year, was regarded as a benchmark of accomplishment. How, the Labor Department reveals, a family of four with that income ' lives below the poverty level. The cost of living has risen to the point where the government's definition of poverty for a non- farm family of four is approximately $5500. And that is the income level the Labor Department will use this year to determine eligibility for its job training, employment and other programs. In 1975 the poverty level for a non-farm family of four was $5050. Last year, according to the Census Bureau, 17.3 percent of the population, or 33.2 million Americans, were living below the poverty level, an increase of 36.6 percent from 1974. Because of the water short- PARENTAL CERTIFICATE ties in Southern England recently issued 50,000 leaflets advising families to climb into the bath together. "It may sound like a joke," says water authority Bryan Parker, "but we are quite serious about it." Explaining the leaf..lets--which say, "Mum, Dad and the kids: Bathing together is fun."--Parker points out, "The drought ,, situation here is serious. ? Weather experts are pre- P dieting drought conditions 2 this summer unless we get 7 some extra rain. Every bit g of water people can save | will help." 22 Last month, three of the regional television networks in West Germany began telecasting a new type- of instructional course leading to a "Parent's Certificate." Entitled "How to Be a Good Parent to Small Children," the program features psychologists, educators and physicians who inform parents how to rear children. If the fathers and mothers who participate in the television course can correctly answer 32 out of 36 questions posed in the 12 programs, they will receive a "Parent's Certificate," personally signed by the German Minister of Health, Ms. K. Focke. U.S.POSTM BATES YEAH 1957 1958 1963 1968 1971 1974 1976 Rate of 20 years. 1ST CLASS POSTAGE 3 cents an ounce 4 5 6 8 10 13 " iÂ» increase 333# in THAI GIRLS An increasing number of beautiful Thai girls are traveling to Hong Kong these days. Purpose: matrimony. The girls, mostly from farming families in upcountry Thailand, are usually unemployed or in debt to landlords. They therefore contact agencies in Bangkok that act as marriage brokers and travel agents and advance them money for their trips. The girls then sign documents promising to repay with a portion of the dowries they expect from their future husbands . The demand for Thai girls, 18 to 25, comes from middle-aged Chinese in Hong Kong who speak the Chiu-Chow dialect. Generally 'they are thrifty, industrious factory-workers who are largely excommunicated from much of Hong Kong's social life because of their dialect, which not too many of the Hong Kong girls speak. Chiu-Chow, however, is the main Chinese dialect spoken in Thailand, which is why Thai girls are so desirable in Hong Kong. In many of these arranged marriages, however, the wife disappears with her dowry two or three weeks after the wedding. Generally, the Hong Kong husband will pay a dowry of 50,000 baht ($2500-considered an enormous sum in rural Thailand). Last year more than 100 men in .Hong Kong complained to the authorities that, within a month of ART MART their marriages, their wives had fled to Thailand with their dowries. The police suspect that the Bangkok agencies may be involved in a lucrative racket conspiring with the girls. Sotheby's and Christie's, the two largest fine art auctioneers in Ion- don, have introduced a 10 percent buyer's fee which may well affect London as the capital of the international art market. For years auctioneers charged only the seller, who paid a commission ranging from 10 to 15 percent. Now the buyer has to pay a 10 percent fee, which means the art auctioneer gains from both ends of the deal. In Wew York buyers pay no commission; thus New York could steal away a good portion of London's highly remunerative art auctioneering. GENERAL ANDRE EIDOT RE Valerie Andre, llnOI III recently appointed France's first woman general, has more combat experience to her credit than many of the male officers in the French army. At 54, Mme. Andre is a doctor, a wife, a parachutist and a helicopter' pilot who flew almost 500 combat missions in the Algerian and Vietnamese wars. After General Andre was appointed to her new position, the French press pointedly explained that she now outranks her husband, who is only a colonel in the -reserve.