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Ralph's Folly 

In his attempt to screw workers, Regula screws himself.

Workers who may find themselves stripped of overtime under new federal legislation will have a local politician to thank: Congressman Ralph Regula (R-Navarre).

The legislation would make a few low-income salaried workers eligible for overtime, but employers would be allowed to exempt anyone considered to be holding a "position of responsibility" who makes more than $22,000 -- a category that includes everyone except the dude making French fries.

Democrats tried to block the bill when it landed in Regula's appropriations subcommittee. Regula cut them down with a vicious chopblock. He threatened to strip funding for education and health programs in the district of any Democrat who opposed the abolition of overtime.

But while Regula may like to play hardball, his technique leaves something to be desired: He made the threat in writing. Now his opponent, Jeff Seemann, is trotting it out as campaign fodder.

Regula has since applied for an internship with the Genovese Family, in hopes of improving his game.

Speaks with forked tongue
When Mike Leavitt came to town, he had good news for Clevelanders. The director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says his agency is drafting rules to curb mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. It couldn't come at a better time.

Mercury damages the nervous system, kidneys, and heart -- though it does make you unfit for human consumption should you ever be confronted by cannibals. FirstEnergy reported that its Eastlake plant released 320 pounds of mercury into the air in 2002. Reliant Resources says its Avon Lake plant released 398 pounds. And the amount of toxic metals sent airborne by the nation's power plants has jumped from 50 tons in 1949 to more than 700 tons in 2001.

Unfortunately, there was one small problem with Leavitt's announcement: It was complete bullshit.

In 2000, after years of study, the EPA officially classified mercury as hazardous, which is kinda like spending years studying whether dynamite is explosive. The decision meant mercury automatically qualified for enforcement under the Clean Air Act, which would have required polluters to cut mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2008.

Then President Bush got involved. The administration's newly proposed rules give polluters an extra 10 years to cut emissions by only 70 percent. "That's the part of the proposed rules that the leadership at the EPA and the Bush administration favor," says EPA spokesman John Millet. Utilities also could trade "pollution credits," which would allow them to buy their way out of the new restrictions altogether.

The weakened rules have environmentalists spitting the juiciest insults we've heard in years from the staid world of eco-invective. Says Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council: "The Bush administration is being caught red-faced with their pants down, bending over and giving it to the energy polluters."

For sale: One vote
"I'm 53 years old, and I can't find a god-darn job," says Scott Manachino of Lakewood. He's collected unemployment for the past seven months, and he needs some cash flow when his state benefits run out. Obviously, voting in past elections hasn't done much to help his way of life, so he's putting his next vote up for sale.

"Democrats, Republicans and others, you can now buy my vote," Manachino writes in a letter to Scene, in which he discusses plans to sell his vote on eBay. He's not exactly sure if it's legal, but argues, "If women can have babies for other people, why can't I do this?"

Gwen Dillingham, deputy director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, can't remember anyone ever trying such a thing before. "We can't stop him from voting however he wants," she says. "Is it legal? I don't know."

Punch knows. Selling or buying a vote in a federal election can get you five years and a $10,000 fine. But since food and housing are covered, prison may be a jump in living standards from unemployment.

Interested parties should contact Scott Manachino at SVM628@NetZero.com.

Strip-joint etiquette
Since a federal judge struck down state laws regulating stripper conduct, gentlemen's clubs have been entertaining new and wondrous possibilities.

So Punch visited Christie's Cabaret to provide you, our loyal reader/pervert, with an update on the latest in strip-joint etiquette.

You can: Experience the rapture of full frontal at the same time as the rapture of alcohol.

Cannot: Display your own full frontal.

Can: Get a gynecologist's view.

Cannot: Hit the ATM machine for less than a $10 withdrawal fee.

Can: Have a woman's swollen, saline bosom give you a face massage.

Cannot: Stick out your tongue during said massage.

Can: Simulate blowjobs.

Cannot: Receive blowjobs.

Better living through lattes
Apparently Cleveland's jittery nerves have nothing to do with high unemployment rates or our championship belt for winning the America's Poorest City title fight. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the source of our jitters can be traced to one seemingly innocuous source: Starbucks. In a national survey, Cleveland ranked sixth in the number of coffee shops per capita. This, weirdly enough, is good news.

In ranking America's best cities, Fortune magazine and other trend watchers consider the number of Starbucks stores to be a main factor in attracting young hipsters to a city. Who knew $5 lattes could be such a positive thing?

Fashionable rubber
In other strange but true news, the hottest accessory for the late-summer style season appears to be a . . . yellow rubber wristband.

In May, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, with the help of Nike, began selling the wristbands, engraved with the champion cyclist and cancer survivor's mantra, "Live strong." But Clevelanders are being forced to live without the wristbands. Most stores sold out of their stock of 400-800 several weeks ago. "We get calls every five minutes about the bracelet," says a Foot Locker manager in University Heights.

A new shipment should be arriving any day, says Nike. Though the proceeds go to young people with cancer, Nike's sweatshop workers are being told to live strong in lieu of pay.

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