Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Tough love," Aug. 18, 2007

Leader lashing

Americans aren't big on bosses, regardless of whether they're business bosses or union bosses. According to a Harris Interactive poll, Americans hold "business executive" and "union leader" among the lowest in prestige in a list of 23 common occupations. The five most prestigious occupations and the five lowest:

Occupation Prestige rating*

  • Firefighter 63
  • Doctor 58
  • Nurse 55
  • Scientist 54
  • Teacher 52
  • Union Leader 12
  • Actor 12
  • Business Executive 11
  • Stock Broker 11
  • Real Estate Agent/Broker 6

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* Percentage of respondents who said the profession had "great prestige"

Watch out

In the corruption scandal surrounding a former Tennessee state senator, nothing appears to be safe. In a curious move, federal government lawyers filed a lawsuit not against former politician John Ford, but against his Rolex watch. Prosecutors helped convict Ford of accepting an expensive watch as a bribe during a trial months ago. But in a civil suit filed July 31, government lawyers named the actual watch, valued at nearly $70,000, as the defendant. The watch has not hired an attorney.

Bird control

Having ruled out poison and BB guns, Hollywood residents seem ready to turn to forced infertility as a method to control the overwhelming pigeon population and the white bird bombs thereof. Residents of the entertainment mecca are considering grinding up birth-control pills and mixing them with bird feed on the roofs of some buildings to prevent the pigeons from successfully breeding. The hope is that this will eventually thin out the air raids of animal waste that often make it unsafe to park or walk underneath power lines or trees. "Our streets are getting bombarded by the poop way too much," resident Laura Dodson told the Los Angeles Times.

Prank insurance

Through a series of back-and-forth lawsuits, a dental surgeon who temporarily implanted boar tusks on a patient during an operation-and then took pictures-could soon be $750,000 richer. Robert Woo of Auburn, Wash., installed the boar tusks in the mouth of Tina Alberts, an employee of Woo's who was under anesthesia for an operation unrelated to boar tusks. Woo removed the tusks and finished the operation, but not before taking photos of Alberts, which he later distributed around the office. Alberts quit and sued Woo successfully for $250,000. Woo's insurance company stuck the prankster dentist with the bill, claiming the heinous joke wasn't part of his medical malpractice policy. But the state's supreme court disagreed, upholding a lower court's ruling against the insurance company to award Woo with $750,000 in damages plus a quarter-million dollars to pay Alberts.

Best awkward intro

A Wisconsin man's disjointed prose not only won him first prize in an annual bad writing contest but also served as a fine example of how not to embed a clause in a sentence. The San Jose State's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, named for the author whose "dark and stormy night" opening prompted a lifetime of ridicule, invites would-be hacks to compose smarmy openings to nonexistent novels. This year's $250 grand prize winner Jim Gleeson submitted the following: "Gerald began-but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten per cent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them 'permanently' meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash-to pee."

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