Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why They Lobby

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In April, University of Kansas researchers disclosed that a single tax provision in a 2004 law allowed U.S. multinational corporations to largely avoid federal taxes on foreign profits—a move that earned a typical company $220 for every $1 the company had spent lobbying Congress to enact the provision. Among the big winners was the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company, which spent a reported $8.5 million to lobby for the law and gained a tax break of more than $2 billion. Lobbyists claimed that the lower tax would enable the companies to create more jobs, but the Congressional Research Service found that most of the tax savings went to pay dividends or buy back company stock.

 The Miracle Drug

 (1) An intoxicated, 44-year-old man was arrested in Ann Arbor, Mich., in March, because he allegedly blocked traffic by approaching an officer and requesting a big hug—and then cursing the officer when he declined. (2) A tipsy, 22-year-old soccer fan celebrating on a chartered bus after a match in West Bromwich, England, in January, was run over by a motorist after he fell out the back door of the bus, believing it led to the restroom.

 Family Values

 (1) An Oregon, Wis., man was arrested in February after his 9-year-old son wrote a school essay about the time his dad shot him in the buttocks with a BB gun because he was blocking his view of the TV set. (2) A 58-year-old man was arrested in Baltimore in February for allegedly stabbing his 19-year-old son after an argument over the son's refusal to remove his hat during church service.

 The Continuing Crisis

 Be Wary of Discount Funeral Services: (1) A 2004 burial in Allendale, S.C., is now being investigated after relatives learned that the deceased, a 6-foot-7 man, was somehow laid to rest in a 6-foot-long coffin that was part of his prepaid plan. (2) Authorities in Houston are investigating a funeral home that handles burial of paupers on contract from the county because, somehow, a 91-year-old male (who was supposed to be preserved for viewing) was cremated instead of a female who was scheduled for the service.

 Least Competent Criminals

  • Tim Grim, 39, was arrested in Shreveport, La., in April after swiping several garments from the rehearsal room of the Shreveport Opera and dashing off. The conductor and three others took chase and cornered Grim several blocks away, still in possession of one part of a diva's outfit, which he immediately offered to sell back to the opera. By the time police arrived, Grim had cut his asking price to $1.
  • Not Ready for Prime Time: A 16-year-old boy was arrested in Centerville, Utah, in April as he roamed a neighborhood at night trying to break into several cars. The last vehicle he tried was the private car of a sheriff's deputy, who was still in it, in uniform and finishing a phone call after coming off his shift. After arresting the kid, the deputy reported that the boy had been so stunned when he saw the deputy inside the car that he had soiled his pants. Said the deputy, "You could smell him."

 Building a Risk-Free Society

Safety First in Britain: (1) Recently, 118 local government councils conducted formal tests on their cemeteries' gravestones to see how susceptible they were to toppling over and hurting people, according to an April report in the Daily Telegraph. (2) In April, a circus clown performing in Liverpool was ordered not to wear his classic oversized shoes anymore because he had fallen and injured his foot a week earlier. (3) BBC producers, wielding a "telephone-book-size" set of safety precautions while making a recent adventure documentary, ordered Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (the first person to sail single-handedly and nonstop around the world) not to light a portable stove unless a "safety adviser" supervised.

 Recurring Themes

 In April, the City Council of Vero Beach, Fla., grappling with the question of how much skin can legally be exposed in public, adopted the definitions used by two other Florida jurisdictions: "Buttocks," for example, is "the area at the rear of the body which lies between two imaginary lines running parallel to the ground when a person is standing, the first or top such line drawn at the top of the nates (i.e., the prominence of the muscles running from the back of the hip to the back of the leg) and the second or bottom line drawn at the lowest visible (sic) of this cleavage or the lowest point of the curvature of the fleshy protuberance, whichever is lower."

  2009 Chuck Shepherd

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