Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

"In Brief" Continued...

Issue: "NEA: School bully," June 22, 2002

High-tech bootleggers

MP3 files aren't the music industry's only high-tech headache. Old-fashioned piracy, in which bootleggers sell illegally copied music CDs, is booming as well. Worldwide sales of pirated CDs nearly doubled last year to a record 950 million units, according to an industry trade group. America's major record labels are fighting back with lower prices. The Los Angeles Times reported that Universal Music Group plans to sell albums for $9.99 and singles for 99 cents. The hope is that selling music at such a low price will convince fans not to steal. Digital downloads have overshadowed bootleg CDs, but their numbers are still huge. Sales of pirated materials around the world amounted to $4.3 billion. Americans aren't the worst culprits. China, Russia, and Brazil lead the world in piracy, fully pirated CDs accounting for 90 percent of all music sold in China, according to the group. A recent embarrassment came when music fans found they could beat one anti-copying scheme with a simple felt marker. A line drawn on a specific place on a Sony CD beats the company's copy-protection scheme for discs released in Europe.

Medicare Madness

Is Medicare a sinkhole of government waste? The welfare program that subsidizes health care for even the wealthiest American seniors also blows hundreds of millions of dollars on overpriced medical supplies.

The Department of Health and Human Services found that the Medicare system pays more than other insurers for walkers, blood glucose strips, and other items. The study looked at 16 medical supplies and compared the prices paid by Medicare with those paid by others: veterans' and state Medicaid agencies, federal employer health plans, and retail suppliers.

Were Medicare paying the same amounts as the Department of Veterans Affairs pays, the report concludes that the program would save $958 million. The report follows another embarrassing account of Medicare waste. The White House Office of Management and Budget calculated that Medicare overspent by $12.1 billion overall last year, or 6.3 percent of its total budget. It called for Congress to cut fat from the budget to help ease the financial strain of the war on terrorism.

"We must maximize the use of every taxpayer dollar," said Mark Everson, controller and chairman of the President's Management Council. "This is especially critical to a nation at war."

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