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Take a break from Rob Ford news and read this. It’s really funny

These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, May 1, 2014.

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Confessions of a news junkie
Sharing an industry secret here, there's something I call the Manila Effect from my early days as a wire service reporter.

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It's when there's a news story that has gripped the world's attention to the point that there's little room for much else. Like how the markets are doing, or the latest results from Bombardier.

The first time I experienced it was during the 1980s downfall of the Marcos regime in the Philippines. On one day in particular, it was almost pointless to go to my bureau in Toronto. That's just one example.

Today, if you live in Canada, and even for many outside, there's only one story, the latest in the Rob Ford scandal.

Which got me playing around with the idea of the headline that brought you into this column. (I suspect my bosses might be likewise sidetracked and not really paying attention to me.)

So I trolled sites of funny news stories, and other material:

From Reuters: "An Australian passenger mistook the cockpit door for the toilet, triggering Friday's hijack scare on a Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane to the Indonesian holiday island of Bali, police said.

From the Huffington Post: "Donald Sterling is not only banned for life from the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA, a Nevada brothel owner also wants nothing to do with him. Dennis Hof has banned Sterling for life from ever entering the doors of the Bunny Ranch near Carson City, Nevada, and any of his six other brothels in the state."

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From NBC: "Maryland health officials are investigating possible cases of food poisoning at what may be the worst-ever venue — a gathering of government and industry leaders attending a national Food Safety Summit."

From the BBC: "A man has had thousands of pounds worth of music equipment seized after continuously blasting out Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On. The man, from Hone Street, Strood, breached a noise abatement notice six times, and made his neighbours' lives a misery, Medway Council said."

From UPI: "A French tourist gave a homeless man in New York City her leftover pizza after she saw him going through the trash near Grand Central Terminal. It turns out it was Richard Gere. Karine Gombeau didn't realize that Gere was on the set of 'Time Out of Mind' when she gave him leftovers from an 'enormous' pizza she had just gotten in Little Italy."

From Reuters: "A woman visiting her mother in Oregon is suing her neighbor, seeking $275,000 for pain, suffering and other damages she says were inflicted when a pet duck ambushed her for no apparent reason."

From UPI: "During an appearance on 'Great Day Houston,' a Capuchin monkey was none too pleased when host Deborah Duncan teased him with a grape. Wilson the monkey, who starred in Dr. Dolittle, took the piece of fruit away from Duncan and then slapped the KHOU-TV host in the face."

This, from a recent study: "An experimental study is reported where children ages 6-10 (n=12) were served chicken either on-the-bone or pre-cut in bite-size pieces. When children ate on-the-bone chicken, they exhibited more aggressive behaviour than pre-cut, boneless chicken."

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From ITV: "Young Hollywood-ite Natasha Blasick believes that she has had sex with a ghost, not just once, but twice."

From Britain's Metro: "A man had to call police last week after two goats damaged his car – and it seems the duo already have a reputation for trouble-making."

From Reuters: "A Southern California city council put off voting on Wednesday on whether to declare a popular hot sauce maker's factory a public nuisance, as the two sides sought a settlement over residents' complaints of tear-inducing fumes."

Ford taps Fields
Ford Motor Co., the only Detroit auto maker to escape bankruptcy protection during the crisis, has tapped its chief operating officer as the new head of the company.

Chief executive officer Alan Mulally will retire July 1, the company said, and will be replaced by Mark Fields.

Fields, 53, came to Ford from Boeing Co. in 2006. Mulally, 68, has been at the helm of the company for almost eight years.

"Alan and I feel strongly that Mark and the entire leadership team are absolutely ready to lead Ford forward, and now is the time to begin the transition," said Bill Ford, executive chairman of the auto maker.

Manulife jumps
Manulife Financial Corp.'s profit climbed in the first quarter, propelled by stronger performance in the company's insurance businesses in Asia, The Globe and Mail's Jacqueline Nelson reports.

Manulife profit reached $818-million, or 42 cents a share, in the quarter, up from $540-million or 28 cents a share in the same time last year.

"We have increased our momentum in life insurance sales in Asia and Canada," said chief executive officer Donald Guloien.

"While insurance sales in the U.S. were below expectations in the first quarter, we recently introduced product enhancements and more competitive pricing which we expect to improve sales."

Bombardier profit dips
Bombardier Inc. posted flat revenue and a dip in first-quarter profit, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte writes.

Profit slipped to $115-million (U.S.) or 6 cents a share, compared with $148-million or 8 cents a year earlier.

Revenue came in at $4.4-billion, compared with $4.3-billion in the same period last year.

Bombardier Aerospace delivered 56 aircraft in the quarter, up from 53 a year earlier.

"We're satisfied with our first-quarter results and we're on track to meet our full-year guidance for 2014," said chief executive officer Pierre Beaudoin.

(Editor's note: This item has been changed from an earlier version to correct the number of aircraft sold.)

The tether
It appears that the more you earn, the more likely you are to be tied to office e-mail.

That finding by Gallup may not be surprising, but it is telling in that it highlights just how tethered we've become. Particularly, presumably, managers who earn those higher salaries.

The Gallup study – it's a survey of Americans, but I've no doubt it holds true for Canadians – shows that the frequency of checking work-related e-mail beyond normal hours rises with annual income.

"The ubiquity of Web-enabled technology in U.S. workers' homes and lives could be a factor in their willingness to connect with employers outside of working hours," Gallup says of the survey conducted between late March and early April.

"Gallup estimates 80 per cent of full-time U.S. workers have a smartphone with Internet access," it adds.

"Eighty-seven per cent have a laptop or desktop computer, and 49 per cent have a tablet computer. In all, 96 per cent of full-time American employees say they use at least one of these types of devices."

Here's what Gallup found:

  1. In the $24,000-$36,000 earning bracket, 25 per cent of those polled said they frequently check work-related e-mail outside of normal office hours.
  2. $36,000 to $48,000, 30 per cent.
  3. $48,000 to $60,000, 31 per cent.
  4. $60,000 to $90,000, 38 per cent.
  5. $90,000 to $120,000, 43 per cent.
  6. $120,000 and up, 53 per cent.

(If you're not at work right now, and you're reading this on your mobile device, I hope you're in at least that 43-per-cent group.)

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