Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Baghdad set free," April 19, 2003

Packing heat

John Gladney didn't get far after robbing the National City Bank in Columbus, Ohio, last month. Police found him walking strangely and in severe pain about a block away. Hampering Mr. Gladney's getaway: The stolen money he had shoved down his pants contained an explosive dye pack, which injured him when it exploded.

Cuts like a knife

Jayde Hanson of London, England, cut his girlfriend with a knife last week, but he won't face any charges. Over one million ITV viewers were watching as the circus performer and record-breaking knife thrower tried to show how many knives he could throw at his assistant/girlfriend Yana Rodianova in 60 seconds without hitting her. But one of the knives did graze her head, prompting horror in the studio as producers rushed to help the bleeding assistant. An ITV spokeswoman later said the wound was only "a nick" and Ms. Rodianova was "absolutely fine and recovering well." Ms. Rodianova has decided to focus on her hula-hoop act, but Mr. Hanson is confident that he'll be able to find another assistant: "In 11 years of performing, I've only hit my assistant on five occasions," he told the Daily Mirror.

"Tax Me More"

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Tax revenue in Arkansas grew by 55 percent (adjusted for inflation and population growth) between 1990 and 2001, but apparently some Arkansans think that wasn't enough. For the past two years, the state has had a "Tax Me More" account funded by voluntary donations from taxpayers. The account has only taken in between $2,000 and $3,000, but lawmakers in Alaska, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Oregon are considering similar measures in their states. "We have to be innovative and think outside the box when it comes to generating new revenue," said Pennsylvania State Rep. Jeff Coleman, a Republican. But lawmakers continue to think squarely inside the box on the spending side of the ledger: The Cato Institute reports that general fund spending nearly doubled in the 50 states from $275 billion in 1990 to $506 billion in 2001, the last year for available data.

Wobbly principles

ACORN may want workers of the corporate world to unite, but it demands that its own employees stand on their own. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, a group that fights for "living wage" laws and other liberal causes, laid off employees who tried to join the International Workers of the World (the Wobblies of early 20th-century fame). The workers in question earned $18,000 annual salaries for 54-hour work weeks. They also complained about late paychecks, working on weekends, and safety. The workers filed suit and the National Labor Relations Board found that the layoffs were retaliatory. Kimberly Olsen, who heads ACORN's Dallas branch, accused the union of "trying to destroy" ACORN.

Experimental treatment?

In St. Louis, a bad-hair day is worth $6,000. A jury last week awarded that amount to a suburban St. Louis woman after she sued a hair studio, claiming a bad hair treatment caused depression and forced her into early retirement. Geremie Hoff of Creve Coeur, Mo., says she received much more than just a hair relaxer and a wash at a local Elizabeth Arden Salon. She said when she returned home, clumps of her hair came loose resulting in bald spots. In addition to slipping into depression, Ms. Hoff testified the bad hair treatment forced her to retire early from a teaching position at a local university.

Pearl jam

"The youngest ... are middle-aged, their numbers are dropping, and thousands are living solitary lives." This may describe Western European human societies, where youth populations have been in decline since the 1970s, but that quote from the website of Britain's Environment Agency is about pearl mussels in England and Wales. The Environment Agency's solution: a pearl mussel dating service, or "introduction agency." The government-funded group hopes to prompt breeding by relocating the pearl mussels. "In England and Wales adult freshwater pearl mussels don't get about much," says the website.

Ripping Paige

President Bush can call Islam "a religion of peace," and former President Clinton could express a preference for Quaker education by sending his daughter to Sidwell Friends. But Education Secretary Rod Paige last week apparently crossed a line. So grievous was this line-crossing, The New York Times said, that a "church-state furor" now "engulfs" the cabinet officer. His crime was praising "the strong value system" of Christian schools. Mr. Paige told Baptist Press that he prefers schools that have "a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community" where children learn that "there is a source of strength greater than themselves." Public schools, he said, had "different kinds of values." As proof of engulfing fury, the Times trotted out two of the usual suspects: Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York, who called on the secretary to repudiate his comments. Mr. Paige said he would not, adding: "I understand and respect the separation of church and state." He had told the Baptist Press that he would offer "my prayers" to his critics.

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