Fill in the blank from Chief Justice William Rehnquist's decision in Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale: "The general mission of the Boy Scouts is clear: 'To instill values in young people.' The Boy Scouts seeks to instill these values by having its adult leaders spend time with the youth members, instructing and engaging them in activities like _______________ ."
Send your answer by 9 p.m. ET Sunday to email@example.com.
Wednesday's Question (No. 448)—"Damascus No Questions …":
Current projections suggest that in the July 10 referendum to select a new Syrian president, 34-year-old ophthalmologist Bashar Assad, son of the late Hafez Assad, will receive 99.9 percent of the votes. What is it that most accounts for his anticipated landslide?
"He's not running against Alberto Fujimori."—Daniel Radosh
"The price of gas: 7 cents a gallon."—Greg Diamond
"His opponent, Bob Hope, is dead—right?"—Adam Bonin
"His promise to open a Lenscrafters in the Golan Heights."—Jason Ross
"Assad sealed his victory during the debate. Shaking his head with Reaganesque exasperation at his opponent, he quipped, 'Shut up or you die.' "—Will Vehrs
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The use of lenses to improve vision dates from around A. D. 1000 with the reading stone, what we call the magnifying glass, employed by nearsighted monks, which might account for their odd haircuts. The Venetians got the idea of putting lenses in a frame in front of the eyes instead of directly on the reading material. ("Quatro optica assinine!"—you four-eyed geek!—was not a popular bit of Venetian mockery, but should have been.) The Chinese are sometimes given credit for developing spectacles about 2,000 years ago but apparently used them only to protect their eyes from an evil force. Today, of course, we simply change the channel when Larry King appears. The earliest painting of eyeglasses was by Tommaso da Modena in 1352, a series of frescoes of brothers copying manuscripts and being rejected by the more attractive girls. Pope Leo X, who was very shortsighted, wore concave spectacles when hunting, and claimed they enabled him to see better than his companions. He also claimed to be taller, smarter, and a better dancer than his companions, who were not inclined to argue; he was the pope and, once Pius IX came along, would turn out to be retroactively infallible. (Quatro optica assinine!) One of the nagging problems of eyeglass design is simply keeping them on. Spanish spectacle-makers of the 17th century experimented with ribbons of silk that could be attached to the frames and then looped over the ears. The earliest condoms, introduced soon after, were attached in a similar manner although not to a similar place except, perhaps, by the very nearsighted. In 1730, a London optician named Edward Scarlett perfected the use of rigid sidepieces that rested atop the ears, and that is why those sidepieces are today called, well, sidepieces, but that's life for you. Don't expect a lot of credit. In the 1780s Benjamin Franklin developed the bifocal, enabling those who formerly misplaced their reading glasses to now misplace their bifocals. Trifocals were introduced a few years later by Gillette. A mastery of eyeglasses seems unlikely preparation for a career as a Mid-Eastern tyrant. This becomes more understandable if you read the (admittedly nonexistent) early draft of the screenplay of Marathon Man where Dustin Hoffman is ruthlessly interrogated not by sadistic dentist Laurence Olivier but by unpleasant ophthalmologist Laurence Olivier: Is ziss better … or … ZISSS!!!! (See, he had a German accent.)
One Vote, One Man Answer
Bashar Assad is the only candidate in Syria's presidential referendum. He will not so much be elected as take over the family business.
Since his dad died on June 10, Bashar was promoted from army colonel to lieutenant general and commander in chief and elected leader of the ruling Baath Party by acclamation at its first congress in 15 years. In the 15 minutes immediately following his father's death, a constitutional change was enacted lowering the minimum age for the presidency to 34, Bashar's age.
The tactic of being the only candidate in a presidential race is said (by me) to be under consideration by the Gore campaign, although experts believe even if they were able to employ this approach, they'd still be capable of pulling off a loss.
Jon Delfin's Too Prolific for My Answering Machine Extra
Movie review I can't believe no one filed for Me, Myself & Irene: Loved him, hated him.
One set-up, two lame punch lines:
They finished the map of the human genome.
1. Who's gonna fold it?
2. Yeah, like any guy is gonna look at the map.
Looking ahead: It's not too soon to start the Bob Hope edition of the Alternative (Tabloids) Headlines game. Obvious choice, "Thanks for the Memories." Let's see … "End of the Road" and "This is Bob 'I No Longer Need Pepsodent' Hope."
A terrorized population in stylish discount eyewear.