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Pieces Together

PAY UP OR BURN DOWN                                         
"A small rural community in western Tennessee is outraged and the fire chief is nursing a black eye after firefighters stood by and watched a mobile home burn to the ground because the homeowner hadn't paid a $75 municipal fee. South Fulton city firefighters – equipped with trucks, hoses and other firefighting equipment – didn't intervene to save Gene Cranick's doublewide trailer home when it caught fire last week. But they did arrive on the scene to protect the house of a neighbor, who had paid his fire subscription fee. ‘I just forgot to pay my $75,’ said Cranick.  ‘I did it last year, the year before. ... It slipped my mind.’ Later that day, Cranick's son Timothy went to the fire station to complain, and punched the fire chief in the face." (AOL News, 6 October)

THE RICH GET RICHER                                           
"The shift of income to the top has occurred in the most prosperous English-speaking nations, such as Australia, Britain, and Canada. But it has been most pronounced in the United States. Thirty years ago, the richest 1 percent of Americans got 9 percent of total national income. By 2007, they had 23 percent. Last year, new census data show, the rich-poor income gap was the widest on record. Wealth is more unevenly distributed. The top 20 percent of wealth-holders own 84 percent of America's wealth." (Christian Science Monitor, 18 October)

CAPITAL GAINS
"The bosses of Britain's largest companies are enjoying lavish pay rises despite the wobbly economic recovery, with most of the surge in rewards coming from long-term incentive schemes and gains from share options. The chief executives of FTSE 100 companies have seen their pay surge by 55% in a year, according to a report released yesterday by research group Incomes Data Services (IDS), while across the top 350 listed companies, total board pay rose by an average of 45%." (Guardian, 29 October)

SITUATIONS VACANT                                           
"In Baltimore this weekend more than a hundred Roman Catholic bishops and priests gathered to discuss a skills shortage within their congregation; it seems there are simply not enough exorcists. Just as US industry has suffered a lack of engineers, the number of men capable of casting out demons has declined, even as demand for their services has increased. In parts of the country they are now harder to find than a good plumber." (Times, 15 November)