In Michigan, Women in 17 Jobs

Top Men in What They Get Paid

Sheet metal worker, crane operator and telephone repairman are jobs usually still associated with big burly guys.

But in Michigan, women are paid more on average than men in these professions, according to an analysis of 2000 Census data released by Pioneer Press last week.

The analysis found that as a whole, the wage gap between men and women is wide, with Michigan women making 69 cents to a man's $1; nationally women get 74 cents compared with $1 for men.

But 17 full-time jobs studied bucked the trend, with women topping men in pay on average. Along with "pink-collar" jobs such as library technician and dental hygienist, the list included some stereotypically male blue-collar jobs.

Analysts say the difference may be a statistical quirk because of the relatively low number of women in these professions, and the fact that they are more likely than their male counterparts to have college degrees. Of 135 female crane operators surveyed, 13 percent had college degrees. By contrast, only 2 percent of the 2,710 male operators had college diplomas.

Peggy Kennard, who teaches business and leadership classes for autoworkers at Baker College in Clinton Township outside Detroit, said she expects plenty of women would go into sheet metal work if they could make good money.

"A lot of women would feel comfortable in these jobs, especially with more women working out [as in exercising] these days," she said. "It's a niche that could be worth their while."

-- Kari Lydersen

Police Offer $50 Bounties for

Tips on Underage Drinking

Taking community policing to a higher level, the Portsmouth, N.H., police department is deputizing a new first line of defense against underage drinking: hotel clerks and food delivery people.

A recently enacted state law bans hosting a party in a home or hotel room where at least five minors are consuming alcohol or drugs -- and a host as young as 17 could be tried as an adult. Initially slated to take effect next January, the law was expedited into effect this summer, in time for barbecues, proms and graduations.

Police will pay a $50 "booze bounty" to delivery people or hotel employees whose tips lead to an arrest.

"The response from local businesses has been overwhelmingly positive," said police Sgt. Mike Schwartz, who came up with the plan after investigating a party where underage drinking and a sexual assault had occurred, and finding the crime scene strewn with pizza boxes.

Schwartz said many delivery businesses in Portsmouth, a city of 26,000 in the southeastern part of the state, had left the decision up to employees of whether to report crimes. Some local hotels, he added, were distributing fliers for the program to all arriving guests.

-- Jonathan Finer

10 Commandments Plaque

Appears to Have Nine Lives

The courthouse Ten Commandments plaque in little Winder, Ga., has lived a curious life: It was ignored. It got famous. It was ignored again.

Bill Brown, a factory parts room supervisor who also sits on the Barrow County Commission, put up the plaque in 2001. He just walked into the county courthouse one afternoon with a pocket full of nails. A probation officer peeked out of an office, Brown said, and asked him what he was doing. Soon, she was helping him line up the plaque, nice and straight.

More than a year passed before someone formally complained. The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff. Suddenly, the little plaque hit the big time. The hottest celebrity in the modern Ten Commandments world -- Roy Moore, the former chief justice of Alabama who refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from his court's rotunda -- even came by for a rally.

Donations started rolling in. But months later, the fuss died down and the donations dried up. By early June, things looked bad for the Winder commandments. Brown announced that they needed money, lots of money, to keep the legal fight going. He and several other commissioners vowed to take out personal loans if necessary. That was all they needed to say. Headlines blared. And the donation machine was back to rocking and rolling.

One man called and asked: "Y'all fixin' to quit?" Now Brown can tell him no. A private foundation has come up with $35,000 in donations and pledges. And Brown, well, he's talking about taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

A Fight for Litter-al Intention of Slogan

Don't mess with it!

That's the message the Texas Department of Transportation is sending to the makers of boxer shorts, T-shirts, mugs and other souvenirs bearing the slogan "Don't Mess With Texas."

The slogan is widely viewed as a mantra of Texan pride and power. In reality, it was created for the Department of Transportation as part of an anti-litter campaign and unveiled at the Cotton Bowl in 1987. Now the department is trying to reclaim the slogan. It has sent letters to 23 merchandisers telling them to quit using it, and the attorney general is reviewing the situations of those who have refused to comply. Lawsuits are a possibility.

"It's being misinterpreted by people outside the state as something about Texas and being macho," said Darah Waldrip, coordinator of the litter prevention program. "We need to maintain the integrity of the slogan and make sure people know it's about litter prevention."

-- Kari Lydersen

Many have forgotten that the slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" was issued in 1987 by the Department of Transportation as a rallying cry to fight the spread of litter in the Lone Star State.