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As If

It's Truly a Dangerous World Out There

Doubt that fact is stranger than fiction? See if you can tell fake from real news.

July 24, 2001|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hypersensitivity, political correctness and frivolous lawsuits are taking over the world. Increase your awareness with this handy quiz:

1. In their unending quest to purge the language of offensive words, the PC police have condemned several phrases. Which of these was not a news item?

a) A delegation to the World Medical Assn. has asked doctors to change the name of "German measles" and "Rocky Mountain spotted fever" because the terms could hurt the feelings of residents of those areas.

b) Meat-shop owners in France are protesting the use of "butcher" as a synonym for "murderer" because real butchers are "gentle, peace-loving" people.

c) A Dutch animal rights group wants to outlaw the phrase "computer mouse" because it "insults the dignity of mice and implies they are subservient to human technology."

d) A British college has banned the word "history" because it begins with the syllable "his."

2. Recess and playtime might never be the same. Which of these news items is untrue?

a) The British government has urged schoolteachers to ban the game of musical chairs because it encourages children to be aggressive.

b) A California elementary school has halted students from playing freeze-tag during recess because it "discriminates against cultures from Arctic and subarctic regions of the world."

c) The construction of sand castles is now frowned upon at an Oregon day camp because castles are deemed too violent. Instead, youngsters are asked to build "sand villages."

d) At a New Zealand kindergarten, children who want to play cops and robbers must carry pretend weapon permits.

e) The National Program for Playground Safety says grass is an "inappropriate playing surface."

3. Zero-tolerance policies toward school violence have resulted in all but one of the following incidents:

a) A Virginia school suspended a 12-year-old because he made an origami gun from notebook paper and brought it to school.

b) A Massachusetts elementary school asked the parents of 6-year-old Joshua Smith Wessen to legally change the boy's middle name because of its similarity to handgun-maker Smith & Wesson.

c) A 13-year-old Michigan boy asked a judge to issue a restraining order against a classmate who threw dirt in his hair and called him "peanut butter boy."

d) An Alberta high school student was suspended after telling his gym teacher he had a dream about punching him.

4. In response to the suspension of a 6-year-old Pennsylvania student who brought a toenail clipper to campus, a school board member said:

a) "Guns don't kill people. Toenail clippers kill people."

b) "If toenail clippers are outlawed, only outlaws will have short nails."

c) "Well, at least it wasn't an origami toenail clipper."

d) "This is not about a toenail clipper. This is about the attachments on the toenail clipper."

5. Keeping in mind that no lawsuit is too frivolous, which of these cases hasn't been filed--yet?

a) A Texas inmate sued Penthouse magazine for $500,000, saying that its pictorial of Paula Jones was insufficiently revealing and caused him to be "mentally hurt and angered."

b) A Michigan woman filed a $1-million lawsuit against the estate of her dead ex-husband, claiming she still fears him, despite his current condition.

c) A Nevada man sued the producers of "Jeopardy" for $7,200, claiming that he answered numerous questions correctly while watching the game at home--and did so before the other contestants--thereby entitling him to a share of the winnings.

d) A New York City Transit Authority employee sued the agency for sexual harassment not because she had been harassed but because she'd heard about other employees being harassed, and had become worried about harassment, which she says is also a form of sexual harassment.

6. If Cain and Abel were around today, Cain would probably expand his famous "I'm not my brother's keeper" defense to say: "I'm not even my own keeper. If I did something stupid, it's somebody else's fault." Which of these lawsuits is fictional?

a) An Australian man who drank beer all evening and then fell over a bridge railing while walking home from a bar has sued the city for building bridge railings that a drunk could fall over.

b) A Fresno teen arrested for spraying graffiti on a freeway sign has sued Caltrans for not surrounding the sign with razor wire to prevent vandalism.

c) A convicted burglar in Australia has sued his victims for $15,000 because of the emotional and physical pain he suffered from being arrested and convicted.

d) A Canadian woman who fell down the stairs of her parents' home sued them for not "adequately supervising the stairs."

e) A New York prison inmate sued the jail for failing to catch him smuggling in the gun with which he accidentally shot himself.

Answers: 1) c 2) b 3) b 4) d 5) c 6) b

Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, U.S. News & World Report, Associated Press, Wireless Flash News Service, the Oregonian, AM News Abuse

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