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Quick Hits: Copper Theft To Cost Pretty Penny

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

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Members of the entrepreneurial class, please note: The Jamaican government is clamping down.

Karl Samuda, minister of Industry and Commerce, says that anyone caught in possession of stolen scrap metal or attempting to export recyclable copper and other metals should be fined about US$28,000.

The current fine for such theft is around $50, apparently making it just the cost of doing business - if you're caught. Parliament is expected to review the proposal in a few days.

Metal thefts, particularly copper, have skyrocketed in Jamaica and around the world -- including the U.S. -- because of rising prices. Thieves have been stealing wires from construction sites, houses and, in some cases, power lines.

In Cleveland, a man was arrested after he was seen leaving a building under construction. Police found bolt cutters, a sledge hammer and about 14 feet of copper wire in his car. No word yet on whether this guy's a member of MENSA.

But it's clear he's a piker.

Georgia Power says copper thefts have jumped about 350% in the last two years.

Thieves are ripping copper from poles, transformers and construction sites.

The thefts also raise safety concerns and workers are required to undergo special training and wear protective clothing when working around electrical distribution systems.

A thief who fails to notice that the wires are live is in for, well, a shock.

Copper recently fetched about $3.68 a pound on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

But cheer up: The Onion, a satirical weekly, once had a story about Detroit being sold for scrap - which, given the current shareprice of General Motors (GM) and Ford (F), seems less and less like a joke.

Hey, pass that copper over here.

No position in stocks mentioned.
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