By John W. Schoen Senior producer
msnbc.com
updated 12/30/2007 4:16:50 PM ET 2007-12-30T21:16:50

We get all kinds of questions here at the Answer Desk about business, the economy and personal finance. That’s what makes it fun to write. Sometimes, though, the questions are a little ... off.  Here are some that we didn’t get to in 2007.

Publicity can be very positive or very detrimental to a company. Discuss a company that recently gained positive or negative publicity through the media or other channels. What happened? How do you think this publicity will affect the company in the future?
— Cynthia D., Roswell, Ga.

Like many in this genre, this is very good essay question from what is probably a very interesting course taught by a very good teacher. Even if we took the bait and wrote your essay for you, however, your teacher could very easily find the original source on the Web. As hard as it is to actually do your homework, it’s a lot better than getting caught plagiarizing.

Nice try, though.

When does the small investor head for the mattress?
— Jack C., Auburn Hills, Mich.

When he gets sleepy. (Bada-boom)

What’s the deal with the gas thing? I heard that they think they found something to replace oil. I've looked everywhere I can't find anything that explains what the deal is.
— Jessica, Utah

Answer Desk readers have a rich imagination when it comes to financial myths, political conspiracies and other urban legends. We’re often chastised for not “connecting the dots” and writing about “obvious” plots within the Federal Reserve to undermine the dollar, the illegality of the U.S. income tax, and the ongoing conspiracy by the oil industry to manipulate global oil prices.

So, based on reader mail, the reason you can’t find this magic bullet to the world’s energy problem is that 1) oil companies have quietly bought up the technology to prevent it from ever being used 2) the Saudis have secretly pressured the U.S., with the help of President Bush’s father, to block production of this alternative energy source or 3) Dick Cheney owns the patent is holding out until he leaves office to get even more fabulously rich.

Take your pick.

What name should I give my new puppy?
— Don A., Lebanon, Pa.

How about Don?

My son needs to drive with a manual shift. Instead of driving on the road, couldn't I just let him practice with the car shut off, and push w/clutch and gas pedal? Then when he's relaxed with the maneuver, let him use gas at $3+ gal on the road?
— Barb B., Englewood, Fla.

You could try, but he’s not going to learn much with the engine off, and the sooner he gets the hang of it the better. Gas may be expensive, but a new clutch will cost you more.

Should I sell Electronics Arts, yes or no? I have 380 shares of it.
— Deborah J., Phoenix, Ariz.

We have a rule at the Answer Desk: we don’t comment on individual stocks. There's plenty of this advice available already on the Web and financial cable news channels. If you want to buy a stock based on the advice of a stranger, go right ahead. On average, you’ll lose money.

I was married three years ago in New Orleans aboard a Carnival Cruise ship. I have been trying to find out if I am even legally married. I filed for our marriage license which was given to the preacher to sign along with myself, a few witnesses and the groom, however I never received a copy of the marriage certificate. …. I left my "husband" a year after...Since then I have met a wonderful man… Am I free to marry the man of my dreams?
— Cathy, Beverly Hills, Ca.

That must have been some cruise.

Since we first wrote about the legal concept of common law marriage — which allows couples in some states, under certain conditions, to declare themselves married — we’ve been surprised at how many people out there are unsure of their marital status. It seems to us like getting married is something you’d remember.

But if you’re not sure, you should definitely check with a good lawyer who specializes in family law.

Can I borrow $20.00 for a cup of coffee?
— Todd, Danville, Va.

No.

It was brought to my attention during a jury discussion regarding tax evasion. Is it true the Internal Revenue Service is not a federal government agency but, in fact, is operating as a "collection agency" for the Federal Reserve Bank, with proceeds being used and it's headquarters located outside the United States? Also, where is the federal law that states that a United States citizen must pay an unapportioned income tax as per the current system the Internal Revenue Service enforces on the citizenry of the United States of America?
— Penelope, San Diego, Calif.

Sometimes there are so many factual errors in a question, you don’t know where to begin. But with the folks who believe the “taxes are illegal” myth, facts don’t seem to matter much.

For the record, the tax code is contained in Title 26 of the U.S. Code.

What is the market price for rubber per kilogram?
— Mary, Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.

That depends on what kind of rubber, where it is and when you’re promising it for delivery.

For more than you ever thought you needed to know about rubber prices, try the Malaysian Rubber Exchange.

Please stop being naive and gullible. We are headed for a Great Depression and you know it. Stop trying to be optimistic. It is best to be realistic and prepare others.
— Oskana, New York City

You got us, Oskana. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke called personally last week to break the bad news. But since everyone in the Main Stream Media is in on the conspiracy of silence, we’re not allowed to report this. We were instructed this, of course, on the super-secret conference call that takes place every day among members of the MSM to coordinate coverage.

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