Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Iraq: After the rout," April 26, 2003

Mama's boy

Tom Snyder of Murray, Utah, is a self-proclaimed atheist, but he wants to say a prayer to "Our Mother, who art in heaven," before a meeting of the Salt Lake City suburb's city council. The Utah Supreme Court this month decided to let him. If the city is going to have prayers before meetings, the court ruled in a 4-1 decision, then it must allow access to anyone who seeks it. Salt Lake City ended public prayer after a similar ruling in 1993.

Cheaper than eviction

Douglas Rau has tried just about everything to get his due. Now he's trying bribery. The Massachusetts landlord with about 100 renters has started awarding prizes to tenants who pay on time. "It's pretty bad that you've got to do this to get people to do what they're already supposed to do on their own accord," Mr. Rau said. "But it seems like everybody thinks somebody owes them something." In Mr. Rau's first-ever renters' lottery, tenant Pablo Gallero won a four-day trip to the Bahamas. The package cost the landlord nearly $1,000-or one-fifth the court and repair cost of evicting a non-paying tenant. Mr. Rau said the first prize wouldn't be the last, as four tenants chronically late in their payments have forked over their rent money promptly.

Reptile in peace

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If a dog can be a man's best friend, can a reptile be a woman's son? According to a 53-year-old Thai woman, the lizard she buried this month was the reincarnation of her son who died two years ago. When the monitor lizard followed Jamlong Taengnian home after her 12-year-old son's funeral, she believed her son had come back as the lost lizard. So when the reptile died, Ms. Jamlong held a formal burial. She even placed a photo of her dead son, Charoen, beside the reptile's lifeless body. Hundreds of well-wishers gathered for the service.

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.

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.

Beer nuts

Beer, baseball, and barbarian fans have long been a volatile mix, and the combination came to a head again last week in Chicago. Eric Dybas told police that he had been drinking all day before he rushed onto the field and attacked an umpire during an April 15 game between the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox. He was the fourth fan to run onto the field during the game. In a Royals-Sox game in Chicago last year, a drunken father and son also rushed the field and attacked Royals coach Tom Gamboa. Major league baseball executives last week promised to "spare no expenses" in beefing up ballpark security, but others in the sport admitted that extra security measures wouldn't guarantee safety. "You still couldn't prevent a person, one lunatic or whatever you want to call it, from trying to get his 10 seconds of fame," said Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.

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