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Labor unions’ sweet, recession-proof contract with the New York City area’s severely cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority last year provided 8,074 blue-collar workers — conductors, engineers, repairmen, and others — with six-figure compensation, including about 50 who earned $200,000 or more.

Researchers cited by The New York Times found that one Long Island Rail Road conductor made $239,148, about $4,000 more than the MTA’s chief financial officer and about $48,000 short of being the highest-paid person in the entire system.
Included in some of the fat payouts for LIRR locomotive engineers was special “penalty” pay — about $94,600 in one case — for engineers who are required to move a train to a different location from its normal assignment.

   It’s a squirrelly idea   

Arizona — viewed by some as hard-hearted for its attempted law stepping up its vigilance for illegal immigrants — showed a soft side recently, implementing a $1.25 million federal grant that it believes will save the lives of at least five squirrels a year.

The state’s 250 endangered Mount Graham red squirrels risk becoming road-kill on Route 366 near Pima, and the state is building a rope bridge for them to add to several existing tunnels.

Dog-gone music lovers

At a concert in Australia’s Sydney Opera House, American musicians Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed performed Anderson’s 20-minute, very-high-pitched composition, “Music for Dogs,” an arrangement likely to have been largely unmelodious to humans, who generally cannot hear such high pitches, but of more interest to dogs, who can.
Dogs were permitted in the audience, but news reports were inconclusive about their level of enjoyment.