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While You Were Sleeping 

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On August 17, police in Lancaster, Ohio, responded to a report of a man darting in and out of traffic and yelling threats out a K-Mart. When police arrived on the scene, they saw 31-year-old Daniel Wood (pictured above), a homeless man with a criminal record, inhaling gas from an aerosol can. In an attempt to subdue Wood, who bit one of the arresting officers, another officer zapped Wood with a Taser. Wood immediately burst into flames that covered the upper half of his body, due to the flammable gas he had been inhaling. The officers put Woods out and then took him into custody, with second-degree burns.
Source: Columbus Dispatch

From 2006 to 2008, carriers of hazardous materials failed to report 1,199 serious incidents, such as spills that cause evacuations and road closures. The Department of Transportation, the agency that oversees hazmat transportation, has sanctioned just seven carries since 2006 for hazmat spills; four were fined $2,750 each. Nearly half of all hazardous material spills were not reported to the government, as carriers are required to do by law.
Source: USA Today

In early September, drug giant Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billion to settle civil and criminal allegations that it had falsely marketed Bextra, a painkiller that has been withdrawn from the market, for non FDA-approved uses, and encouraged its sales force to do so. It was Pfizer’s fourth settlement over illegal marketing since 2002. The $2.3 billion fine amounts to less than three weeks of sales for Pfizer. In January, Eli Lilly agreed to pay $1.4 billion over its marketing of Zyprexa, an antipsychotic.
Source: New York Times

Consumer debt dropped $21.6 billion in July, a the largest drop since the Federal Reserve started tracking the data in 1943. The sixth straight month of declining consumer debt, the longest streak since 1991, doesn’t bode well for the economy, according to analysts. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the nation’s economic activity.
Source: Los Angeles Times

In late September, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which oversees the fund that protects bank depositors’ funds, announced that it would need additional money to shore up the fund in the wake of recent bank failures. And though the FDIC has a $100 billion dollar line of credit with the Treasury, officials suggested that the fund might borrow directly from healthy banks to insure the deposits of collapsed ones. As of September 18, 94 banks had failed in 2009. More are expected to fail before years end, making 2009 the first triple-digit year of bank failures since 1992. The current rash of bank collapses is not nealy as bad as at the height of the Savings and Loan Crisis (531 banks failed in 1989), or the Great Depression (4,000 banks failed in 1933, the year before the formation of the FDIC).
Source: New York Times

There are 2,834 general aviation airports in the US, small airports that offer no scheduled passenger flights. Since 1999, federal funding for private airports has increased from $470 million to $1.2 billion, even as private flying has declined 19 percent. Most of these airports see very minimal flight traffic, perhaps one or two flights a day. The funding comes from a tax on commercial airline ticket sales, which can add up to 15 percent to the cost of a flight. Supporters claim that nonpassenger airports aid growth in small communities and provide space for medical transport helicopters. Critics contend that given the infrastructure overhauls needed at many of the nations 139 commercial airports, spending so much money on private airports is a waste. Critics also note that members of Congress frequently fly on corporate jets from private airports. A 2006 study by Political Money Line noted 2,154 trips on corporate jets by Congressional members between 2001 and 2006.

There are 231,000 private planes in the US, more than twice as many as every other country in the world combined.
Source: USA Today

Even though 80 percent of Americans are white, FBI figures show that nearly as many black people were homicide victims in 2008 as white people. Of the 17,000 homicide victims last year, 6.782 were black and 6838 were white. The most “typical” homicide in the US continues to be a black man shot to death by an acquaintance. Twenty-three percent of murder victims were slain by family members, 55 percent by acquaintances, and 22 by strangers. More than half of all homicides involved firearms, almost half of those weapons are handguns.
Source: New York Times

During President Obama’s healthcare address on September 9 to a joint session of Congress, Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted “You lie!” following the president’s remark that illegal immigrants would not be offered health care in his administration’s plan. Representative Wilson has apologized, and stated that the outburst, a breach of Congressional decorum, was spontaneous. In an unrelated note, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that over the course of his eight-year congressional career, Wilson has collected $414,000 from the health sector.
Sources: Associated Press, Center for Responsive Politics

Former Bush administration Interior Secretary Gale Norton has been named as the focus of a Justice Department corruption probe. The investigation centers on the Interior Department awarding three lucrative oil shale leases on federal land in Colorado to a Shell Oil subsidiary. At issue is whether Norton, who resigned in early 2006, two months after the leases were awarded, and who joined Shell as in-house counsel in its oil shale division, violated federal law by discussing employment with Shell during her tenure as interior secretary. Thanks to the leases, Shell is expected to net hundreds of billions from the leases over time.
Source: Los Angeles Times

According to a new book, In the President’s Secret Service, by Ronald Kessler, the rate of death threats against President Obama has increased 400 percent over the Bush presidency. While president, Bush received approximately 3,000 death threats a year. Obama is on track to receive almost 10,000 death threats during his first year in office.
Source: Telegraph (UK)

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