Starch is optional

Don't talk to recently reelected German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder about the expression, "I'd give you the last shirt off my back." He's finding out just how seriously the voters regard it. With a new term to provide him political cover, the chancellor has proposed to raise taxes to help close the wide gap in the federal budget. That, in turn, inspired a marketing specialist to launch a campaign that asks angry Germans to send Schröder their spare shirts along with a note reading: "This should make all future tax increases superfluous, as I have nothing else left." The organizer says 33,200 people so far report participating. For its part, Schröder's office admits to receiving 9,000 shirts, which are being donated to charity.

Relax, it'll melt

Meanwhile, in Hildesheim, Germany, police responded to a call last week from a local renter complaining that vandals had painted his car white during the night. Since the caller is a Gambian national and had never before seen snow, the cops chose not to recommend that he be prosecuted for sounding a false alarm.

Today's quote

'I thought they'd keep talking. It makes no sense to shut down the city at this time of year.'

- Kevin Godfrey, a New York transit worker, whose union shelved strike plans to continue negotiations for a new contract.

2002: a busy year for those who help in times of disaster

With barely two weeks left in the year, only six of the 50 states have not needed what the American Red Cross calls a large-scale disaster response, a new report says. The agency says, however, that 93 percent of its responses are to house fires. The top five Red Cross responses for 2002, based on severity of damage and size of area affected, with the cost (in millions) of providing shelter, meals, crisis counseling, medical attention, financial help, and other services to needy families:

Hurricane Lili/tropical storm Isidore (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama) $15.8 million
Texas floods/tornadoes 13.5
Western wildfires (Arizona, Colorado, California, Oregon) 8.1
Veterans Day tornadoes (Ala-bama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania) 3.7
Typhoon Chataan (Guam) 5.4
- US Newswire

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