AUGUST 13, 2016 -- BY JIM NEFF







There is big news and there is small news. The small stuff might be just as interesting as the big stuff, but an item on page seven of the newspaper usually gets less reader attention than an item on the front page.


I have a tendency to accumulate a stockpile of small news items, to the point at which they overrun my desk. So, it's time to clear the decks. Make way for a whole bunch of items from my small news files.


With the election cycle underway, you'll hear the old chestnut, “We ought to run government like a business.” You might be interested to know that a scientific study found “ experience did not correlate with how well someone would perform as president, and in the few areas in which there was a small correlation, they were all negative.”


In 2012, two political scientists examined the background of every U.S. president since 1900. “When they analyzed predictors of success, two types of experience stood out — active military duty in a leadership role and having served as governor of a larger-than-average state...There is nothing in a corporate hierarchy remotely similar to the separation of powers in the federal government, with the president having to deal with 535 senators and representatives in order to get anything done, nor is a modern corporation similar to the much more rigid and bureaucratic executive branch.” (


There is also a common assumption that someone with a business background will somehow be able to more effectively manage a budget. If that's the case, then why are there are 42 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500, that have paid dividends the past 12 months that exceed their reported net income? They pay out more than they take in. Energy pipeline company Kinder Morgan “paid out dividends the past 12 months that were 2,000% greater than net income.” Hopefully the CEOs of these companies don't run for a political office. (


Here in Michigan taxpayers are seeing first hand how “running government like a business” can backfire. In Flint, the “business” will be paying $3 million Michigan taxpayer dollars per month for bottled water after a federal emergency declaration expires Aug. 14 (which now picks up 75 percent of the tab). (


A recent report shows that from “1979 to 2013, Michigan increased spending on schools by 18%. During that same time period, the state increased spending on corrections by 219%...Michigan has the distinction of having increased spending on education the least over the three decades (of any state). ( and


The “business” model even adversely affects applies to our Michigan babies and toddlers. “While researchers regularly tout the importance of early childhood education, many of Michigan's preschool teachers and child care workers earn low, often unlivable wages...Preschool teachers down nine percent from five years earlier...Child care workers down ten percent.” (


All of this is interesting, although a bit serious in nature. But there are all sorts of small news items of a non-political nature.

For example, just in time for the new school year – Super Lice! “There’s now a treatment resistant 'super lice' that’s spreading across the United States. A whopping 42 out of 48 states tested are overrun. In these 42 states, 100 percent of the lice tested were resistant to over-the-counter treatments.” In Michigan, “...some, but not all, the lice tested were resistant to over-the-counter treatments.” (


A lot of people in northern Michigan own pickup trucks, but if you drive your kids to school don't leave the motor running while you escort your child to the school's front door. That's because three of the top six vehicles on the “most stolen” list are pickups. On the list, Ford is third, Chevrolet is fourth, and Ram is sixth. Honda Accord and Honda Civic are the top two targets. (


While the kidlings are in school, they may have some pasta for lunch, but do not worry. They will not gain weight. A new study shows no correlation between eating pasta and weight gain. “The team from IRCCS Neuromed Institute in Italy crunched the numbers and discovered that pasta intake was associated both with lower obesity rates and healthier waist-to-hip ratios.” This was reaffirmed by a nutrition professor at the University of Reading who added: "These results clearly show that it is wrong to demonize carbohydrates as the data clearly show that consumption of a carbohydrate-rich food such as pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight." (


In fact, it turns out pasta can be downright educational. “A pair of scientists in the UK have turned a physics problem into an Italian-style dish. They invented anelloni, whose name is based on the Italian word for ring, as a way of studying ring-shaped polymers. Ring-shaped polymers are 'one of the last big mysteries in polymer physics,' the experts note.” Anelloni, or ring-shaped pasta, could some day lead to a scientific breakthrough. (


Not much goes better with a big plate of anelloni than a nice glass of wine. Care to guess where the consumption of wine per capita is the highest? “Vatican City, with a population of just 842 people, has the highest per capita wine consumption in the world, according to the California Wine Institute. Each Vatican City resident consumes an average of 74 liters of wine annually, which is twice the per capita consumption in the rest of Italy and seven times the per capita consumption in the United States. One might automatically assume that the reason for the high quantity of consumption is surely the wine used at holy mass, but the so-called sacramental wine isn’t even part of the equation.” (

In this regard I came upon a great quote from Pope John XXIII. “Men are like wine,” he said. “Some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and

John Auchter
Aug 12, 2016