File this under: nice try

Two Massachusetts taxpayers are facing decades in prison and massive fines for submitting fraudulent energy grant applications to the Treasury Department.1 The applications claimed that the taxpayers had built and placed in service three bio-fuel gasification systems at a cost of $88 million, plus an $84 million wind farm project consisting of 58 wind turbines including two on a floating barge.

Based on the applications, the taxpayers requested reimbursements of $50 million of these costs and also received an $8 million grant. The taxpayers filed the grant applications with the help of an attorney who was a family member.2

The energy grants were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided tax-free grants to individuals and businesses who installed and put into service alternative energy systems such as wind or gasification systems that would convert trash into electricity.

Upon hearing of the scam, the director of planning and development in the 10-square-mile village where the wind farm purportedly existed noted that she wasn't sure where 58 wind turbines would fit.


If you can't afford a multimillion dollar house, buy the street instead

An unpaid tax bill in San Francisco had some interesting consequences. Presidio Terrace, a gated circular street within the exclusive neighborhood of Presidio Heights, is now under the ownership of Michael Cheng, a real estate investor, and his wife. Cheng bought the street, the sidewalks, and other common areas that were previously managed by the homeowners association since 1905 in a city auction stemming from the unpaid property tax bill.

The bill was only for $14 per year, but unbeknownst to the homeowners, no payment had been made for over 30 years. State law dictates that if property taxes go unpaid for more than five years, the property must be put up for auction. The property was put up for sale by the city tax office in an online auction with a starting bid of $994. Cheng and his partner won the street with a bid of just over $90,000 in April 2015. The homeowners only found out about these events because Cheng reached out to the homeowners to see if anyone was interested in buying back the property previously owned by the homeowners' association.

The residents are in an uproar, but the tax collector stated that the bill has been mailed to the address of record, which turned out to be an accountant who had not represented the homeowners since the 1980s. Famous residents who have lived there in the past and must have missed this small detail include Senator Diane Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.

Cheng is currently considering his options, including selling the property back to the residents or renting out 120 parking spaces lining the street. The homeowners have petitioned the Board of Supervisors requesting the tax sale be overturned. A hearing is scheduled for October.

Suffering from baguette envy? You're not alone

France is vying to have the baguette recognized as a UNESCO cultural treasure, with President Macron's full support: "The baguette is the envy of the whole world."1

The Naples pizza received this distinction last year, and France is determined not to be outdone.


Like with the rules concerning champagne and bourbon, a loaf must meet strict standards to be branded a baguette: The bread must only contain wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt, and it cannot contain added preservatives. A baguette must never be frozen, and must be of appropriate size and shape.

Deviations from these rules anger baguette purists like Dominique Anract, president of the National Confederation of French Patisseries and Bakeries (CNPBF), who has been quoted as saying "When I see the quality of bread in supermarkets, it is impossible not to get angry."2 (Well, technically, he said: "Quand je vois la qualité du pain en grande surface, il n'est pas possible de ne pas s'indigner.")

UNESCO treasure list

The list was established in 2008 to protect important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and promote the awareness of their significance. In 2017, there were 429 elements on the list, including:

  • Konjic woodcarving (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Chinese shadow puppetry (China, obviously)
  • Gingerbread craft (Croatia)
  • Brass and copper utensil making (India)
  • Zajal recited or sung poetry (Lebanon)

The Unites States and Australia are two of a handful of countries without an entry on the list.


A few fun facts about this week's writers:

Kathryn Zdan, EAKathryn Zdan, EA, meets with an all-female photography group once a month and also spends her free time watching classic and foreign movies. Her dream is to recreate the pie fight scene from The Great Race.

Diane FullerDiane Fuller is a woman of many talents which include writing children's poetry, taking unwitting challengers to town in poker, and whipping up Michelin-worthy dishes from scratch. Find her laughing with her two grandkids.

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