News Quiz

No. 17: “24-to-800”

No. 17: “24-to-800”

By Randy Cohen

Queen Elizabeth got by on two dozen, but President Clinton needs 800. What?

by 5 p.m. ET on Sunday to e-mail your answers (

Responses to Wednesday’s question (No. 16)–“Not Our Fault”

They told federal regulators that the problems were caused by Midwest blizzards, Louisiana rain, and backups at the Mexican border. Who? What problems?

“Two eighth-graders explaining to the truant officers why they weren’t in school today.”–Patty Marx

“Who? Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker. What problems? Problems with their marriage. What’s funny about that? It’s not funny. It’s just true.”–Chris Kelly

“Hillbillies blamed ‘three acts of Jehovah’ for causing their last big batch of moonshine to fester and set off all the ‘losin’ teef problems.’ “–Bill Franzen

“On a personal note, I think it’s easy for Tanya and Glen to blame El Niño and Mexican immigration bureaucrats for their problems. I think their real problem was that they loved each other too much.”–Chris Kelly

“The official studio response to why people didn’t flock to see The Postman.”–Meg Wolitzer

“This is the Union Pacific Railroad Co. defending its problems with congestion. The company went on to defend its problems with asthma, night sweats, and lactose intolerance.”–Beth Sherman

Click for more responses.

Randy’s Wrap-Up

Here’s a slogan that might help Union Pacific: “Trains–they’re like walking while you carry a lot of heavy stuff and get horribly injured.” Because, see, they’ve got an image problem. As does Mexico, associated in the minds of Slate readers with little more than the drug trade (despite presidential certification). As does the Midwest, associated in the minds of Slate readers with nothing at all. Laissez les bons temps rouller.


When Union Pacific bought Southern Pacific in 1996, traffic delays cost shippers billions, and a series of crashes left 11 people dead.

William Walpert of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers says that Union Pacific harasses and intimidates workers: “There’s an emphasis on not reporting possible accidents or injuries.”

Jolene Molitoris, chief of the Federal Railroad Administration, says, “When you become a mega-railroad, the techniques necessary to manage a company of that size safely demand new initiatives.” Instead Union Pacific made cuts that put workers at greater risk.

Railroad President Jerry Davis says: “It’s far better today than it ever was. But we have a way to go.”

Recently safety has improved a bit; average train speed has fallen to 12 mph.

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