Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Autumn books," Oct. 7, 2006

Green litterbugs

Dumping 2 million used tires into the ocean may not seem like a good idea today, but back in the early 1970s it was the ecology plan du jour. In 1972, a Florida ecology group surmised that used tires tethered to the ocean floor would create an artificial reef, a phenomenon often seen when fish and marine life flock to sunken vessels. With huge donations from Goodyear and local junkyards, the group coated about 34 acres of ocean floor off the coast of Fort Lauderdale with tires. But unlike sunken barges, the tires move with the tide and neither fish nor other marine life ever took up life in what was called the Osborne Reef. Worse, over 30 years, strong tides have dislodged some of the tires, causing them to crash into actual coral reefs and even wash ashore. Now Broward County and the U.S. Navy say they'll embark on a three-year plan to remove the tires-a project that could cost millions.

Felony Frank

This time Jackson, Miss., mayor Frank Melton could face real problems. In September, prosecutors indicted the erratic mayor on felony charges of malicious mischief and burglary when he led a group of sledge-hammer wielding teens to break into and bust up a drug house on Aug. 26. Critics have long called Melton a vigilante, noting his tendency to impersonate police officers by accompanying SWAT teams on raids and sweeps. Melton has been known to associate with the city's youth, even hosting a number of poor teens at his private house. If convicted, Melton could face up to 50 years behind bars.

Learning the wrong lessons

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Judging from a recent study of the ethics of business students, the accounting scandals of 2002 may have been a foreshadowing. According to a survey of 5,300 graduate students, 56 percent of graduate business students admitted to academic cheating in the past year. Even more disturbing: According to the survey, most admitted cheaters justified their behavior by saying that's how business works. "The typical comment is that what's important is getting the job done. How you get it done is less important," Rutgers business professor Donald McCabe told the Reuters news service. "You'll have business students saying, 'All I'm doing is emulating the behavior I'll need when I get out in the real world.'" Business students weren't alone: 54 percent of graduate engineering students, nearly half of medical and health-care grad students, and 45 percent of law students admitted copying work, plagiarizing, or using cheat sheets during tests.

Gu Gu doesn't hug

A Chinese man traded bites with a panda after a burst of inspiration clearly clouded by alcohol consumption led him to jump into the cage in an attempt to pet the animal. The startled animal named Gu Gu chomped on the leg of the migrant worker, who on a visit to Beijing downed four pitchers of beer before heading to the zoo. The man then bit the panda in the back. In an interview with state media, the man says he had thought pandas were cute and got on well with humans. Now he knows-a panda is still a bear.

Blunt instrument

Following zero-tolerance policies against weapons in schools, officials at a Kansas City, Mo., elementary school suspended a 6-year-old first-grader for 10 days for bringing an orange plastic squirt gun to school. According to the school district, the two-inch hollow bright-orange toy with no trigger was a simulated weapon.

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