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News Briefs II

Lawyers Debate Simpson's Finances, Value of His Name

Los Angeles Times

Moving from alibis to assets, lawyers laid bare O.J. Simpson's finances to civil trial jurors Thursday and argued very different bottom lines: The plaintiffs contended he's worth $15.7 million, while the defense insisted he was $850,000 in debt even before this week's crushing verdict ordering him to pay $8.5 million in compensatory damages.

Though they quibble over accounting practices, the major dispute separating the two sides is the estimated value of Simpson's name and image and how much money he will be able to make selling himself.

Jurors must determine Simpson's net worth to help them decide how much - if anything - he should pay the families of murder victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman in punitive damages.

Marketing expert Mark Roesler testified Thursday that Simpson could cash in on his name.

Even with the pummeling he has taken for two years, Simpson can still command $60 for an autographed photo, Roesler testified. That's more than any other living athlete except baseball greats Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, basketball superstars Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, and boxer Mike Tyson, whose market value has only increased since he was convicted of rape, Roesler said. Simpson shot up to that elite range within days of his arrest and has remained there ever since, Roesler said.

Roth Outlines Plans for Probe Of Alleged IRS Abuses

Los Angeles Times

Sen. William V. Roth Jr., the Senate Finance Committee chairman, outlined for the first time in an interview Thursday his plans for a wide-ranging investigation of the Internal Revenue Service, saying the agency had engaged in a pattern of abusive conduct.

Roth, a Delaware Republican, lambasted the agency for "outrageous practices," including intrusions into taxpayer privacy, unnecessarily aggressive seizure of property and unjustified audits of middle-class taxpayers that continue indefinitely.

"The agency as a whole does not enjoy the confidence of the American public," Roth said. "It is looked upon too often as being abusive and having practices that are not fair and equitable."

An investigation by Roth would only compound serious problems for the IRS, which already is bracing for proposals from a restructuring commission that has been conducting hearings since last year. The congressionally mandated panel is expected to issue its recommendations this summer.

Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., co-chairman of the restructuring commission, said last week in an interview that he believes the IRS needs a board that oversees its activities.

IRS Commissioner Margaret Milern Richardson said in an interview last week that she already spends about 40 percent of her time responding to oversight by the Treasury Department and Congress, making a big dent in her ability to focus on collecting taxes.

Study Finds Marriage Curbs Drug And Alcohol Use, But Not Tobacco

The Washington Post

It doesn't take a scientist to determine that many young people who leave home for college begin drinking to excess, smoking and even using illegal drugs. But a new, long-term nationwide study shows that alcohol and illicit drug abuse drop sharply after marriage, while the tobacco habit proves far more tenacious.

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that becoming engaged, getting married and having children are all associated with a steep drop in use of alcohol and illicit drugs - a phenomenon the researchers called the "marriage effect."

Forty-one percent of single subjects in the study reported heavy alcohol use in the two weeks before the survey, while 28 percent of the married subjects reported such behavior. Cocaine and marijuana use registered similar steep declines after marriage. Couples who live together without becoming engaged or marrying do not appear to clean up their lifestyles, the researchers found.

Divorce, on the other hand, was associated with a return to bad habits, while remarriages drive down drug and alcohol use once again.

The study subjects who married did not experience the marriage effect when it came to smoking. The researchers found about 18 percent of the group smoked while they were single and about 16 percent after marriage. Women, in part because of pregnancy, were more prone to quit cigarettes.

U.S. Leads in Violent Deaths Of Children

The Washington Post

Nearly three-quarters of all the murders of children in the industrialized world occur in the United States, federal health officials said Thursday.

In releasing an extraordinary international scorecard of youth violence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the United States had the highest rates of childhood homicide, suicide and firearms-related deaths of any of the world's 26 richest nations.

The suicide rate alone for children age 14 and younger was double that of the rest of the industrialized world, the agency said.

The statistics show that the epidemic of violence that has hit younger and younger children in recent years is confined almost exclusively to the United States, where the rate of juvenile crime over the past decade has grown at a far faster clip than that for adults. Many nations, who were asked for statistics from the most recent year they had available, reported that they had no homicides involving children under the age of 15.