"We have made a profound and dramatic shift in focus from supporting a police force in a friendly country to supporting an army engaged in a civil war," said Sen. Slade Gorton. "I wonder how long it will be until we read the first news story of some of this equipment showing up in the hands of the rebels." What equipment does he fear will be used by whom to do what?
Send your answer by 9 p.m. ET Sunday to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday's Question (No. 445)—"We're No. … Er … 37!":
The USA came in a disappointing 37th in Tuesday's report by the World Health Organization rating the health systems of 191 nations. To determine our dismal ranking, The WHO used five factors: Name one.
"Infant mortality. Ha, ha."—Evan Cornog
"Bob Hope. Couldn't he just die already?"—Adam Bonin
"Percentage of doctors who play the 'kill a patient, take a drink' game."—Francis Heaney
"I, for one, think the fourth-grade reading scores are being way overemphasized."—Peter Lerangis
"As far as I'm concerned there has not been one innocent person executed since I've been governor."—G.W. Bush (Not actually an answer to the question, not actually submitted to the quiz, but the man just killed No. 135 without an error: Attention must be paid.—Ed.)
Click for more answers.
It can't be that all countries chant "We're No. 1," or sales of those giant foam-rubber hands would be much higher than the figures presumably suggest (and by "presumably" I mean "I have no real idea"). Surely tiny nations can't believe themselves to be No. 1 unless they derive a sense of superiority to their neighbors based on something other than size. (I know I do.) National pride mostly consists of taking credit for things you didn't do. How many French people actually discovered radium? How many are actually Catherine Deneuve? How many developed a Catherine Deneuve that glows in the dark through some kind of radium action? Not many. And certainly far fewer than the number of giant foam-rubber hands sold each year reading "We're Radioactive Catherine Deneuve!" And yet every country seems to feel superior to its neighbor, no matter how similar the two countries happen to be. Consider those perennial antagonists, the English and the French. In England, the nickname for syphilis is "the French disease"; in France it's "the English disease"; but to some space aliens who just arrived on Earth, both the English and the French would seem to be a disease—you know, assuming the aliens were so huge that, by comparison, human beings looked as small as viruses. Although I'll bet they'd agree that Catherine Deneuve was a really attractive virus, what with her glowing and all. In fact, among viruses, I'll bet she's No. 1.
Get Undressed and Hop Up on the Table for the Answer
The five factors:
- overall health or life expectancy
- health fairness or life expectancy as measured across various populations
- responsiveness or how well people rate their health systems
- fairness in responsiveness across various populations
- fairness in financing among different groups
The WHO considers available financial resources and gauges not just how the wealthiest people in a country do but how equitably health care is provided. Although the United States spends more on health care than any other nation and ranks high in many health measures, it fails to deliver services to many of its people, i.e., those with less money. For instance, some Native Americans can expect only 50 years of good health while some suburban Asian-Americans can expect 90.
European nations did best with France coming in first and Italy second. Africa did worst—AIDS takes a heavy toll on life expectancy—with Sierra Leone coming in last. One grim surprise, China ranked only 144th; its once excellent system of public health has collapsed, and people now pay for health care out of pocket with predictably disastrous results. The system ranked 188th in terms of fairness.
In an unrelated study, a report issued Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Louisiana at the bottom of the nation for well-being among children in 1997, the most recent year for which miserably suffering children were available. "The good news is that we are doing better, but the bad news is that we're still 50th," said Judy Watts, head of Agenda for Children, a New Orleans-based child-advocacy group.
Greg Diamond's Death Extra
I've just thought of a great prank. Say you're the only witness who identified a killer, and the jury convicted him based on your testimony, despite other people denying that he was the guilty party, and the police having screwed around by showing you a lineup in which their suspect was the only black man, and his lawyer being incompetent, and various other reasons to think he may not have been the murderer. Even jurors from the original case say that they'd like to see a new hearing. But you hang in there and steadfastly maintain that this was absolutely definitely the guy you saw do it. And the governor, then the parole board, and finally the Supreme Court itself fail to step in to prevent the execution. Finally, the hour comes, and the guy is executed. And then—this is the great part—right afterward you hold a press conference and say, "You know, I am pretty sure this was the guy. I really think it was him." You could probably even write a best seller about the anguish you went through. Wouldn't that be great?
Daniel Radosh's Cartoonist Corner Extra
"Sterotypes" "Dependacy" both [sic]—Labels on logged pine trees in an editorial cartoon in a British Columbia First Nations (i.e., Indians) newspaper. Not sure what point the cartoon is supposed to make, but probably not the one it does.
Peter G. Eipers' Brewmaster's Extra
I suppose someone may have already pointed out that lager (a beer fermented at relatively cool temperatures with "bottom fermenting yeast") is one of the two broad classifications of beer. Pilsner, in the true sense, is a style of lager that is made in the Czech Republic, and is named for the town of Plzen, which originated the style. The other broad classification of beer, for which England is the best-known producer, is ale (fermented at relatively warmer temperatures, with "top fermenting yeast"). So, if "lager louts" really wanted to change their drink, they could be called "ale assholes." Less menacing, perhaps, but more accurate.
(My mistake, but I was really drunk on porter or stout or this really old Sprite that's been down in the cellar for about 11 years.—Ed.)
Ugly Couples Ongoing—Yes, Still Ongoing—Extra
Participants continue to be invited to submit a hideous word pair from a newspaper or magazine, along with the source and a withering comment. Due to a spate of last-minute Texas executions ("We're No. 135!" the crowd did not chant) and the attendant comments in the quiz, responses will not run today as scheduled, but on Monday, so keep those cards and letters coming in, and consider these inspiring examples:
" 'Two-Month High'—(Wall Street Journal, Page C1 headline, June 20, 2000) Either talking about some really, really fun party favors, or maybe just the Nasdaq. Either way, I have mixed feelings, to say the least. "—Jon Zerolnick
" 'Contagious Enthusiasm' (Darwin magazine, June/July 2000) Those unlucky enough to catch this debilitating disease before being inoculated end up selling Bibles on the street praising hosanna in the highest or conducting motivation seminars from the Grand Hyatt."—Greg Bilionis
" 'Polecat' and 'elephantiasis,' snuck into the News Quiz by Francis Heaney last Monday. Why? Because none of us should be forced to contemplate skunks with swollen extremities."—Rose White
"I hope I die before I get old"—curious health advice from Dr. Townsend and associates.