OUR GOVERNMENT IN ACTION
The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to fine the CBS television network and its affiliates $3.3 million fine for airing an “indecent” episode of the drama Without a Trace in December 2005 despite the fact that just two viewers complained out of the estimated 8.2 million who watched the show, according to records that CBS cited in a June filing to the commission. Those two (plus 4,209 complaints from people who apparently only heard about the show) did arrive at the FCC until 12 days after the episode—the same day a family watchdog organization began alerting its members about the show. The same CBS program aired in 2003 with no complaints.
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT
The San Diego firm Allerca Inc. announced in June that it is accepting advance orders (at $5,000 each) for hypoallergenic cats it intends to create by cross-breeding species that lack the noxious bacteria that most cats produce that are so dangerous to asthmatics and others. A competitor, New York’s Transgenic Pets, is after the same result by modifying the actual gene that produces the cat saliva bacteria.
THE MARCH OF SCIENCE
Researchers at England’s University of Birmingham announced in May that they had powered a fuel cell by giving chocolate waste to E. coli bacteria, which converted the sugar into hydrogen. The bacteria are also expected to produce precious metals from discarded automobile catalytic converters. And researcher Mayu Yamamoto of Japan’s International Medical Center said her team succeeded in extracting vanilla from cow dung, though she conceded the flavoring could only be commercially used in non-food products like shampoos.
LEADING ECONOMIC INDICATORS
Zimbabwe’s world’s-worst inflation officially reached 1,042 percent in April, with prices doubling every three or four months and unemployment rising to 70 percent. Only the unsophisticated fail to spend any money they have promptly, even though, for example, toilet paper sells for $145,000 a roll (about 69 U.S. cents). According to an April New York Times dispatch, President Robert Mugabe’s remedy is simply to print the trillions of dollars in new money he needs to keep his government workers loyal and to prop up his dictatorship.
As Congress debates whether to retain the federal estate tax, two advocacy groups released evidence in April that 18 super-rich families—including the owners of Wal-Mart, Gallo wine, Campbell’s soup and the Mars candy company—spent as much as $500 million in the last 10 years through industry and trade associations to urge abolition of the tax, and if their campaign is successful, the families will have saved themselves an estimated $71 billion in taxes, a return of 142 times the investment. Polls show that around 70 percent of Americans favor abolition, even though only one taxpayer in 400 owes any tax.
In May, The Times of London reported on Japan’s Shingo Village, which is well known to locals, and practically no one else, as the burial place of Jesus Christ. According to documents written in ancient Japanese, Jesus supposedly moved to Shingo from Jerusalem as a young man, married Miyuko, became a farmer, and died at age 106. But that can’t be true, according to Katherine Jhawarelall, 35, a Hindu woman living in Durban, South Africa. She became certain that she is Jesus Christ after awakening one day in 2004 with a swollen arm containing a miracle-producing stigmata, according to a report in Durban’s Post. MTW