A big half-page ad running in many papers today features a photo of four piglets vigorously suckling a sow's teats. An ad for what?
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Thursday's Question (No. 234)--"I Can't Kuwait":
You give the lead, I give the headline from the Kuwait Times: "Tips To Reduce 'Burden' of Students."
"Hussein could hardly believe his ears. 'You'll give me half a dinar a month?' the 13-year-old Palestinian said. 'And all I have to do is your son's homework?' " --James Poniewozik
"Offering controversial advice to overwhelmed teachers, the NRA unveiled a new motto: 'It's not a setback, it's an opportunity.' "--Daniel Radosh
"Koran Cliff's Notes now available."--Al Petrosky
"In an effort to give young students more time to study, Kuwait City officials today began enrolling women in the 'Carry Your Sons to Class' program."--Bill Cavanaugh
"In a new twist on the controversial practice of 'redeeming' Sudanese slaves from bondage, Kuwait's education minister is proposing to buy up the whole inventory in order to provide every Kuwaiti high-school student with a personal bearer. 'You wouldn't believe how heavy those backpacks are,' he told a reporter. 'No wonder test scores are down.' "--Katha Pollitt
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Why Even Bother To Read the Paper II: If you've ever attended an event that was covered in the press--a ball game, a demonstration, a series of seemingly motiveless break-ins at Tom Cruise's house--you know how little the newspaper version resembles your experience. Oh, it often gets the least important things right, the facts, the small "t" truth. But the tone, the texture, the feel of the event is never correct, and that's where you find the capital "T" truth. Here's how Dr. Johnson put a similar problem, on April 18, 1775: "We must consider how very little history there is; I mean real authentick history. That certain Kings reigned, and certain battles were fought, we can depend upon as true; but all the colouring, all the philosophy, of history is conjecture."
To more vividly convey that coloring, many newspapers encourage their reporters to wield the tools of the novelist, opening a story with an evocative detail, such as these leads, both from the front of today's New York Times: "Ana Estela Lopeze dreamed of saving enough money to return to El Salvador to open a clothing store and build a three-bedroom house"; and "Rani, an illiterate woman from the washermen's caste, changed into her prettiest sari one recent morning."
When this technique works, you get a powerful story, albeit one whose subject is not revealed until around the third paragraph. When it doesn't, you get Rick Bragg and a queasy feeling in your stomach. And when both news and coloring are avoided, you get the Kuwait Times and a nice afternoon nap.
"KUWAIT--Experts have advised children to stick to their daily timetable and carry only those books needed for the day besides taking extra care to sit straight while studying. This advice is significant taking into consideration the fact that children of today are faced with a pressing problem--backaches. The culprit here is the school bag which every student carries to the school crammed with books and they end up with various back-related problems, such as backaches or backbone injuries. Addressing a issue of such importance concerning the younger ones of society, Kuwait Times met with a number of experts and sought their opinion."
My favorite expert opinion comes from Dr. Dina Al-Refai, family medicine expert: "All these aches may instill in the child a hatred towards the school and finally have a negative impact on his academic performance, she remarked."
Andrew Staples' Kuwaiti Fun Facts Extra
From the State Department's Annual Human Rights Report, Feb. 26, 1999:
- Amirs, or princes, from the Al-Sabah family have ruled Kuwait in consultation with prominent community figures for over 200 years.
- The Constitution, adopted in 1962 shortly after independence, provides for an elected National Assembly. It also permits the Amir to suspend its articles during periods of martial law.
- The Amir twice suspended constitutional provisions, from 1976 to 1981 and from 1986 to 1992, and ruled extraconstitutionally during these periods.
- Citizens cannot change their head of state.
- The government bans formal political parties, and women do not have the right to vote or seek election to the National Assembly.
- According to government statistics, 92 percent of the indigenous work force is employed by the government. Foreigners constitute 98 percent of the private sector work force.
- Domestic servants are not protected by the Labor Law, and unskilled foreign workers suffer from the lack of a minimum wage in the private sector and from failure to enforce the Labor Law.
- Males must obtain government approval to marry foreign-born women.
- The government restricts freedom of assembly and association.
- Public gatherings must receive prior government approval, as must private gatherings of more than five persons that result in the issuance of a public statement.
Really, a country worth going to war for ...
Kuwaitis are rich lay-abouts waited on by impoverished foreigners.