Signs of the Times: More vasectomies, newspapers are cut too

Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:50am EDT
 
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(Reuters) - The global recession manifests itself in big and small ways, most gloomy, some quirky and often reflecting the inventive human spirit. Here is a look at some signs of the times.

* The New York Times reports an increase in vasectomies as people lose jobs and fall on hard times. The newspaper, citing anecdotal reports from urologists and clinics, said there was a historical parallel in the Great Depression some 70 years ago, when the birth rate fell sharply. Dr Charles Wilson of Seattle's Vasectomy Clinic said he had performed 123 of the procedures each month in the last six months, 13 percent above the year-earlier average.

* Falling business has prompted Marriott hotels to stop providing a free copy of USA Today to guests in the United States. Marriott International Inc estimates this would cut the newspaper's distribution by about 50,000 copies a day, or 18 million a year, another blow to a U.S. newspaper industry suffering from dwindling advertising and falling circulation.

* A new reality show from the Dutch-based creator of the hit TV series "Big Brother" will allow staff at struggling companies to choose which colleague should be fired. In each episode of "Someone's Gotta Go," developed by production company Endemol, workers will choose who should get a salary cut or raise and who should be fired based on information about pay and past performance. "It will be an interesting experiment to reverse the power roles," said a spokesman for Endemol.

* Junior lawyers at a New York firm are being paid a third of their salary to take a year off under a program that aims to cut costs while avoiding lay-offs in tough times. About 125 of the 1,500 eligible associates at law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom have taken up the offer, the firm said. Starting salaries for first-year associates are around $160,000. One sixth-year associate profiled by The New York Times will be taking $80,000 to travel and do volunteer work.

* Windsor, Ontario, a Canadian car-making city particularly hit by the recession, has seen a sharp rise in the number of children and adolescents with mental-health problems. The Windsor Regional Children's Center saw referrals jump 50 per cent in 2009, compared to a similar period in 2008. Another agency, the Maryvale Adolescent and Family Services, which treats young people who are suicidal, reported the number it had admitted went to 27 a month from an average of 10 before the downturn. "In almost all cases, one or both parents have lost jobs recently, and that has been a trigger for the child's mental-health problems," Connie Martin, executive director of the Maryvale center, told the Toronto Globe and Mail.

* Virgin Mobile USA, borrowing an idea adopted by some car companies to attract new business, is offering to waive three months of cellphone fees for customers who lose their jobs. The company said new customers of its monthly service plans would be automatically enrolled in its "Pink Slip Protection" program. Virgin will cover monthly bills for up to three months for users who lose their job if they have been customers for at least two months and are eligible for unemployment benefits.

(Compiled by David Storey; Reporting by Claudia Parsons, Sinead Carew, Robert MacMillan and Deepa Seetharaman in New York; Doina Chiacu and Anthony Boadle in Washington; Pav Jordan in Toronto, Mette Ouborg in Amsterdam)