In the News and On the Air: Legal Limits

Cash from Philip Morris! That would be the modern version of the classic advertising jingle.

The Supreme Court is hearing a case today involving the tobacco company. It was ordered to pay $79.5 million in punitive damages for the death of a single smoker.

NPR's Nina Totenberg is tracking the company's appeal.

The company may be guilty of disregarding the "health and safety of others," and "causing physical harm" while generating "large profits," but Philip Morris says the Constitution sets a much lower limit on how much it must pay.

My Esteemed Defendant. This is also the day that two Congressmen face each other in court.

Lawmakers have handled disputes by shouting, electioneering, even beatings, but NPR's Ari Shapiro reports that this may be the first time one Congressman has personally sued another.

Democrat Jim McDermott is blamed for publicizing a tape of Republican John Boehner, among others, on a conference call deciding how to handle ethics charges. Federal law is supposed to protect the privacy of phone calls.

Texas Terror. John Boehner, incidentally, is now the House majority leader, a title he will lose if his party loses the House majority in this fall's election.

President Bush offered some help, visiting the district of ex-majority leader Tom DeLay, who resigned while under indictment. Republicans are working to keep his seat.

The President spoke not about ethics but about Iraq, warning people not to vote for Democrats because the Democratic approach is "the terrorists win and America loses."

Democrats accuse the White House of trying to scare voters.

Family Values. The cartoonist Charles Addams would probably be delighted if someone accused him of being scary.

On this Hallow'een, his biographer Linda Davis says Addams' macabre humor convinced many fans that Addams himself was demented. Not true. Not quite, anyway.

The creator of the Addams Family "was the most genteel, civilized... charming, witty, normal person,... with one exception."

That exception was his taste for "unusual things."

His coffee table "was made from a Civil War era embalming table... and it it still had the rusted metal headrest attached at one end, and as Addams loved to point out, a rather sinister stain in the region of the kidneys."

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