Friday, March 10, 2006

News of the Week

Call the Exterminator: Paleontologists are excited to report the survival of a rat-squirrel thought to have been extinct for 11 million years. Originally believed to be an entirely new species, the nocturnal rodent lives in Laotian forests and was traced through fossil records to its ancient ancestors. The natives apparently are less enthralled by what anyone other than a scientist would consider a disgusting pest. Researchers first spotted the creature for sale at a Laotian meat market. They may have outlasted the dinosaurs, but can they outwit the cheese and glue trap?

Can You Spare a Square: Armed with a plunger and a mop, two motel maids in South Carolina duked it out over rolls of toilet paper. One landed in the hospital, the other in jail. The fracas broke out after the pair accused each other of stealing rolls from each other’s cart. Mr. Whipple will preside over the trial and the Charmin Bears—Leonard, Molly, Bill, Dylan and Amy, I kid you not—will sit on the jury.

Seniors Are Slackers, Too: Older Americans are no longer interested in working themselves to death. A recent government report shows that only 19 percent of men 65 and older were part of the labor force in 2003, down from 46 percent in 1950. Researchers attribute the trend to the growth in private pensions and investments, as well as Social Security and Medicare benefits. For further insight, I turned to my father, who retired at age 58 after losing his job to a merger. “Dad, why would you rather play golf than work as a greeter at Wal-Mart?” His reply, “Duh.”

Enron’s Silver Lining: I continue to follow the Enron trial so you don’t have to. This week the prosecution’s star witness Andrew Fastow, the company’s former chief financial officer, took the stand. My apologies, but because I was an English major, it’s impossible for me to interpret or otherwise summarize his business-speak testimony, apart from quoting that he was told to “buy Enron assets that had lost significant value and wipe millions in debt from the books.” I have no idea what that means, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a particularly responsible or legal thing to do. But it didn’t take an accounting degree to understand the related item in this week’s Chicago Tribune. Our own Peoples Energy was in cahoots with Enron back in 2000-01 and overcharged its customers during an unusually arctic winter. Over the next year, Peoples will credit each of its customers a total of $100 as part of a $196 million settlement. I know what I’m doing with my cash—cranking the thermostat up to 68.

Nothing to Crow About: Lance Armstrong spent a day comforting the now-orphaned child of Dana and Christopher Reeve, following the death of the boy’s mother earlier this week. And we know this why? Seriously, who sent out the press release on this one. Apparently Lance wasn’t getting enough media attention for breaking up with fiancée Sheryl Crow right before her surgery for breast cancer. What a swell guy.

Not Quite Opening Day: I’m sort of following the World Baseball Classic (or whatever it’s called) so you don’t have to. Today’s headline, “U.S. Shows No Mercy to South Africa,” initially grabbed my attention because I couldn’t for the life of me think how our government managed to squeeze in a grudge against South Africa what with the Axis of Evil still at large. But I digress. The U.S. squad, led by the incomparable Roger Clemens, smoked its rivals 17-0 and advanced to the second round. Whose next on the schedule, that perennial powerhouse Lithuania?


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