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The Continuing Crisis

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Be Wary of Discount Funeral Services: A 2004 burial in Allendale, S.C., is just 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.

Authorities in Houston are investigating a funeral home that handles burial of paupers on contract from the county after, somehow, a 91-year-old male (who was supposed to be preserved for viewing) was cremated instead of the female who was scheduled.

Lobbying Pays: University of Kansas researchers, reporting in April, disclosed that a single tax provision in a 2004 law (allowing U.S. multinational corporations to avoid federal tax on foreign profits) gained a typical company $220 for every $1 the company had spent lobbying Congress to enact that provision. Among the big winners was the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company, which disclosed spending $8.5 million to lobby for the law and gaining a tax break of more than $2 billion. (The lobbying emphasized 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.)

In a study of the last six years' admissions at hospital emergency rooms in the Austin, Texas, area (reported in April), 900 people were identified as using ERs six or more times in the previous three months, and nine specific patients had made a total of 2,678 visits in the six-year period.

Mixed Signs From the Middle East: In March, at a soccer match in Hilla, Iraq, between two local teams, as a player with the ball approached the goal to attempt a tying kick late in the game, an overenthusiastic spectator drew his gun and shot him dead.

In more hopeful news, authorities in Ramallah said that the March 24 bank robbery by armed gunmen who snatched the equivalent of $30,000 was pulled off by five Palestinians and an Israeli Jew, working together.

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