CHITILA, Romania (AP — Everyone curses the tax man, but Romanian witches angry about having to pay up for the first time hurled poisonous mandrake into the Danube River on Thursday to cast spells on the president and government.
Romania's newest taxpayers also included fortune tellers — but they probably should have seen it coming.
Superstitions are no laughing matter in Romania — the land of the medieval ruler who inspired the "Dracula" tale — and have been part of its culture for centuries. President Traian Basescu and his aides have been known to wear purple on certain days, supposedly to ward off evil.
A witch at the Danube named Alisia called the new tax law "foolish."
"What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything?" she said, identifying herself with only one name as many Romanian witches do.
Yet on the Chitila River in southern Romania, other witches gathered around a fire Thursday and threw corn into an icy river to celebrate Epiphany. They praised the new government measure, saying it gives them official recognition.
Witch Melissa Minca told The Associated Press she was "happy that we are legal," before chanting a spell to call for a good harvest, clutching a jar of charmed river water, a sprig of mistletoe and a candle.
The new tax law is part of the government's drive to collect more revenue and crack down on tax evasion in a country that is in recession.
In the past, the less mainstream professions of witch, astrologer and fortune teller were not listed in the Romanian labor code, as were those of embalmer, valet and driving instructor. People who worked those jobs used their lack of registration to evade paying income tax....
John Steinbeck observed that "a sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ."
That insight, now confirmed by epidemiological studies, is worth bearing in mind at a time of such polarizing inequality that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans possess a greater collective net worth than the bottom 90 percent.
There’s growing evidence that the toll of our stunning inequality is not just economic but also is a melancholy of the soul. The upshot appears to be high rates of violent crime, high narcotics use, high teenage birthrates and even high rates of heart disease.
That’s the argument of an important book by two distinguished British epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. They argue that gross inequality tears at the human psyche, creating anxiety, distrust and an array of mental and physical ailments — and they cite mountains of data to support their argument....
Are you tired of disagreeing with all those weird Top 5/10/20 of 2010 lists? No matter if it's about music, film, art, books, somehow I never agree with those lists. So now I want you to tell me all about your Top 5! You can choose any topic you want. Your Top 5 memories, Top 5 books, Top 5 music videos, Top 5 Christmas presents, Top 5 artists, Top 5 video games, Top 5 exhibitions, Top 5 celebrity couples, Top 5 singles...... I think you get what I mean now. So go ahead! Either hit the comment button, or contact me via Twitter @adiek84 I will add those to the blog then, so come and visit this post now and then as I will continue to update it.
On December 31st I will then post my Top 5 here!
I can't wait to read all your submissions! Yay, first submissions on Twitter! Please follow those people, they seem to have good taste!
Enthusiasm for the death penalty continued to ebb in the United States during 2010. As Christmas approaches — a season of quiet in America's execution chambers, as death takes a holiday — there have been 46 inmates executed, down from 52 in 2009.That's fewer than half the number put to death in the peak year of 1999, when 98 prisoners walked the last mile. Meanwhile, the number of new death sentences imposed in 2010 remained near the lowest level in 35 years. Statistics collected by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) show that use of the death penalty was down across the country — even in Texas, which has carried out more than a third of all U.S. executions since the modern death penalty was instituted in 1976. Seventeen Texas inmates were executed in 2010, matching the lowest number in a year since 1996, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. That's a reduction of nearly 60% compared to the busiest year for the Texas executioner, when 40 inmates were put to death in 2000.Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the decline in the use of the death penalty than the fact that no death sentences — zero — were imposed by Virginia's courts in 2010. The commonwealth is a bastion of capital punishment, second only to Texas in the frequency of executions. Missouri, which ranks fifth in the number of executions in the modern era, also sent no new inmates to death row.Experts offer a number of explanations for the diminished use of the death penalty in the United States. DPIC's annual report, published on Tuesday, (see www.deathpenaltyinfo.org), points to at least four factors: ...