Etc...

It's ours, and we want it

If you missed it, the Internal Revenue Service announced last week that it has $73 million in refundable cash that's owed to US taxpayers. Jerome Norris, however, isn't one of them. Norris and the IRS, The Washington Post reports, have been feuding over money that the agency wants from him. How much? Um, 48 cents. It seems the Potomac, Md., resident "rounded down" by that amount when he sent in late payments on a 2002 balance of more than $50,000, maintaining that he was using a method common among professional tax-preparers . Oh, no you don't, the IRS replied, presenting him with a new bill for that sum, plus penalties and interest. When negotiations failed to resolve the issue, the parties ended up in federal court. "Totally unnecessary," our guy sighed, even though he won. "[But] I guess they need the money."

Iceland: It's cold, remote, but almost corruption-free

Corruption is a major cause of poverty - in addition to being a barrier to overcoming it - according to Transparency International, a nongovernmental, Berlin-based organization that studies the relationship between the two. The nature of the problem is evident in the group's newly released annual Corruptions Perceptions Index, which finds that two-thirds of the 159 countries surveyed scored low (below 5 on a 10-point scale) in the perceptions of businesspeople and analysts. Countries where corruption is perceived to be worst - Chad, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Burma (Myanmar), and Haiti - are among the world's poorest. The US finished 17th. The 10 highest-ranked nations (with 10 being the "cleanest" possible score) from Transparency International's index:
1. Iceland 9.7
2. Finland, New Zealand (tie) 9.6
4. Denmark 9.5
5. Singapore 9.4
6. Sweden 9.2
7. Switzerland 9.1
8. Norway 8.9
9. Australia 8.8
10. Austria 8.7

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