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Strange Business: Communists Protest Outside Barbie's Dreamhouse

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Plus, Apple CEO Tim Cook will make the case for lower corporate taxes next week.

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Storming the Pink Palace

A topless protester with the words "Life in plastic is not fantastic" written across her chest greeted families visiting the Barbie Dreamhouse attraction for its opening in Berlin yesterday. She also held a Barbie doll tied to burning crucifix. The woman was part of a faction of the communist group June Linke, which marched to the 50,000-square-foot life-size replica of Barbie's Malibu Mansion to protest, in their view, the toxic idea of beauty portrayed by the doll.

Would June Linke members approve of the Angela Merkel Barbie?
Source:PlanetDieCast
Barbie maker Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT) created the Barbie interactive dollhouse to market the iconic toy doll. Inside the pink-saturated house, girls are invited to visit Barbie's rooms and travel through the mansion by one of two routes: one that allows the girl to pretend she has become a fashion model, and another that makes her a pop star. The aspiring models strut on a mini-catwalk while the young divas sing on a small stage.

The 200 protesters of what's been dubbed "Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse" believe that Barbie encourages young girls to focus on looks rather than careers. "It would be a huge danger for capitalism if working men and women were united, so one of the best ways to divide and conquer the workers is by enabling men to over-sexualize women and by preoccupying women with sexualizing themselves," said group leader Michael Koschitzki, 27 years old, at the demonstration.

Others dismiss the perceived dangers to young girls' self-image. "Can you show me that [Barbie has] really held back society with all the positive changes for women?" asked a father, visiting the Dreamhouse with two daughters.


Tim Cook Will Propose a Lower Corporate Tax Rate

Next Tuesday, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook will testify before the US Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Congress wishes to encourage US multinational companies to repatriate foreign earnings and will question Cook on ways that this could be accomplished. One thousand US companies keep $1.7 trillion in earnings overseas to avoid the 35% US corporate tax rate. In Apple's case, it only holds $45 billion of its $145 billion cash pile in the US.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Cook provided no specifics about his first testimony before Congress, but he will pitch a lower corporate tax rate and a "dramatic simplification" of corporate tax laws.


The Preferred Fried Chicken of Gaza

Israel's Gaza import restrictions can't stop cravings for Kentucky Fried Chicken (NYSE:YUM) in the Palestinian territory. The proof is in the popularity of a new business started by local delivery company al-Yamama. It has begun smuggling meals from a KFC in Al-Arish, Egypt, through underground tunnels into Palestine.

The company managers launched the idea with a Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) advertisement after ordering KFC for lunch and realizing that it had a marketable service. Recently Israel relaxed some import restrictions, making only specialized items -- like specific types of fast food -- worth smuggling. The delivery service now receives tens of order per week despite charging 300% the normal price for transporting the meal 35 miles. Customers pay 100 shekels, or $30, for a meal.

Most of al-Yamama's wealthier customers ignore the high price, including Rafat Shorono, who was interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor.

"I just want it," said Shorono.


If Traveling to Venezuela, Plan Ahead

Venezuelans now dread using bathrooms.

The country's government enforces price controls on consumer staples as a matter of socialist policy. But setting state-controlled prices below market prices has predictably caused shortages. The latest dearth has upset many citizens. Over past weeks, long lines have formed outside any store rumored to still have toilet paper in stock.

"This is the last straw," said Manuel Fagundes, a shopper hunting for toilet tissue in downtown Caracas and stopped by reporters. "I'm 71 years old and this is the first time I've seen this."

The government said this week that it will import 760,000 tons of food and 50 million rolls of toilet paper to mitigate the situation.


Disney World Fraudsters

Ryan Clement and Jacie Cristiano have capitalized on an annoyance at Disney World (NYSE:DIS): long lines. The couple operates Dream Tours Florida, which brands itself as a company that makes "Dreams Come True," organizing and leading Disney tours for adults and children with special needs. Although the website lists positive testimonials from customers, a Manhattan mother revealed the business's less scrupulous side. She claims part of Cristiano's services includes charging $130 per hour to act as a disabled family member on behalf of paying clients who don't actually have a family member with special needs. Cristiano travels alongside the clients' family, riding in a motorized scooter displaying the words "handicapped." This allows the family to take advantage of Disney's policy that permits disabled customers to bring up to six guests and skip waiting queues.

"My daughter waited one minute to get on 'It's a Small World' -- the other kids had to wait two-and-a-half hours," boasted the Manhattan mother. "This is how the one percent does Disney."

Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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