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Michael Serazio, staff writer for the Houston Press, has been named a finalist in the national Livingston Awards competition. Judges selected him for his feature story "Gambling on Iraq," in which he tells about people so desperate to earn money for themselves and their families that they sign on for civilian duty in Iraq.

The Livingston contest is open to writers under 35 years old, and is designed to "recognize and further develop the abilities of young journalists." Following the next stage of judging in May, the winner will be announced.

Serazio also has been named a finalist in the Maggies, or Magazine Awards of the Western Publications Association. He was selected in the Best Feature category, again for "Gambling on Iraq."

Two other Press staffers also are finalists in the Maggies contest, which covers publications west of the Mississippi.

Writer Josh Harkinson has been selected in two categories. He is a finalist in Best Public Service Series or Article for his feature "Thrilled to Death." It tells about the dangers of local and state amusement park rides. And he has gained finalist honors in the Best News Story category for his "Ship Wrecked," about the oil tanker Prestige, which broke up in the Atlantic. The ship, which had been certified as seaworthy by a Houston firm, caused the worst environmental disaster in Spain's history.

Editor Margaret Downing has been named finalist in the Best Signed Editorial or Essay category for "Up in the Air," an accounting of recent episodes of bizarre behavior during airline flights, and the justifiable fear that these could be dry runs for terrorist attacks.

Maggies winners will be announced in April.


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