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What's Threatening U.S. Manufacturing?


Counterfeiters produce ersatz versions of everything from brake pads to cell phone batteries to golf clubs and even prescription drugs.


It's not just legitimate foreign competition that threatens American manufacturing. The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, an initiative undertaken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says that counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy between $200-$250 billion per year and the world economy approximately $650 billion per year.

Counterfeiters produce ersatz versions of everything from brake pads to cell phone batteries to golf clubs and even prescription drugs.

How much is that PlayStation in the win-hey, wait a second!

"I'll have a Haf-Caf Tawl Frap-uh-cheeno, please."

Fall into the Gep.

Needless to say, it's incredibly difficult to track down and catch the people behind the massive operations pumping out knockoff versions of everyone's favorite products. But, if and when they do get busted, the criminal and civil penalties can be severe - strengthened by the "Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act" (H.R. 32), which was signed into law on March 16th of last year.

So, Is Counterfeiting Getting Riskier?

In a word, yes. Though, let's say you're facing hard times but want to make things a little easier on yourself. If you're a Californian - and you have a few bucks in your bank account - you're in luck.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the well-heeled jailbird's "self-pay" option.

For $75 to $125 a day, non-violent offenders can do their time in quarters separate from (non-paying) violent offenders, bring an iPod or laptop, and get furloughed during business hours so they can go to work, then return to jail for the night.

Sort of a first-class EuroStar sleeping compartment, of sorts.

Ahhh, Europe. High Culture, Haute Cuisine, Good Drink...

Remember tasting absinthe the first time you were in grand old Europe? Well, it's been banned in this country since 1915, due to the presence of the psychoactive chemical thujone, which was supposedly responsible for Vincent Van Gogh's decision to render himself earless.

Have a hankering for the "green fairy" but would rather avoid jail?

Lucky you-Viridian Spirits is rolling out a thujone-free absinthe from France next month called Lucid.

Sure, "Lucid" seems an unusual name for a 124-proof liqueur, but, the Nintendo PolyStation seems an unusual name for a Sony PlayStation, too.

Then again, the French have always done things a little differently than the rest of the world.

France: Birthplace of the Bikini

In 1946, French engineer Louis Réard and fashion designer Jacques Heim introduced the first bikini at a fashion show at Piscine Molitor in Paris.

Named after Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the site of a nuclear weapon test four days earlier, Réard and Heim reasoned that the burst of excitement their swimsuit would cause would be not unlike a nuclear explosion.

On Saturday, The New York Times reported that that the duties on women's and men's apparel vary widely - and have for decades - for no apparent reason.

For example, the government assesses a 27.8% duty imposed on men's bathing suits, while bathing suits for women get taxed at 11.8%.

Puzzling, huh?

Maybe not.

Someone in Washington must have decided that they'd rather see this on our
nation's beaches...

...than this:

Interestingly enough, a little more than six months ago, Representative Barney Frank proposed a "grand bargain" with corporate America, in which Democrats would agree to reduce regulations and support free-trade deals in exchange for businesses agreeing to greater wage increases and job benefits for workers.

Barney Frank

Reduce regulations? Support free-trade deals? One could take that to mean Frank would like to see the apparel tariffs reduced or eliminated.

Barney Frank is the founder of the Stonewall Democrats, the national gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Democratic organization.

Barney Frank "stumping for votes"

What's in it for Frank to get rid of swimsuit tariffs?

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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