No. 486: "Zanan-o-Gram"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
Oct. 5 2000 3:00 AM

No. 486: "Zanan-o-Gram"

In the current issue of the Iranian magazine Zanan, Shahla Sherkat lists five things she likes about sigheh

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1. Relations between the young become freer.
2. People can satisfy their sexual needs.
3. Sex becomes depoliticized.
4. The young use up energy they'd expend in street demonstrations.
5. Society's obsession with virginity will disappear.

What is sigheh?

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Send your answer by 6 p.m. ET Thursday to newsquiz@slate.com.

Monday's Question (No. 485)—"Anglo File":

British Home Secretary Jack Straw praises it as something that will "protect the weak." Conservative Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe denounces it as "a mechanism for all sorts of nonsense." Today the English got something that we Americans have enjoyed for more than 200 years. What?

"Zsa Zsa Gabor."—Larry Amoros

"Decent Mexican food."—Greg Diamond

"The electric chair."—Katha Pollitt and Mark Wade

"Petulant Italian-American Supreme Court justices."—Adam Bonin

"A giant iron robot designed and constructed by Benjamin Franklin (and mysteriously kept hidden deep in the bowels of the Smithsonian)."—Carl Cox

Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

Look at Anglo-American relations from a little more than 200 years ago, during the American Revolution, and you notice that while people here spoke of little else, people there weren't all that interested. (You also notice how oblivious everyone was to the oncoming horror of the musical 1776—like some big singing death-comet heading right toward them. And they just went about their business! In powdered wigs!) James Boswell's Life of Johnson, as good a guide as any to topics of conversation among educated Londoners of the day, includes remarkably few references to our little tiff and delightfully many to sexual hi-jinks and "plum duff," which is neither a sex act nor a hi-jink, if it is possible to have only one. Hi-jink.

(It looks Dutch, doesn't it?)

When Johnson did talk about us, he didn't have much good to say, once remarking, "I can love any man except an American who uses fuzzy math." (Or something.) In 1769, beating the rush, Johnson said of us, "Sir, they are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for any thing we allow them short of hanging." (But he may have been confusing us with the Australians or some guys over at Firestone.) Johnson wrote an anti-American pamphlet called "Taxation no Tyranny; an answer to the resolutions and Address of the American Congress." The answer was: No.

This sort of thing disturbed Boswell, who wrote, "I had now formed a clear and settled opinion, that the people of America were well warranted …" and they he went off and enjoyed another sexual hi-jink.

Put It in Writing Answer

England now has a Bill of Rights.

The power of Britain's rulers has been limited since the Magna Carta in 1215. However, its people have had only negative rights—they've been permitted to do anything the law does not forbid—they've never before had positive rights delineated. And without such protections, akin to our 1791 Bill of Rights, what the law forbids can change.

The new Human Rights Act allows people to seek redress in the courts there, rather than having to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Conservative critics of the legislation say the introduction of such a bill in Scotland swamped the courts with around 600 cases, 98 percent of which were ruled inadmissible.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, dismissed these predictions, telling the BBC, "I do not think anyone who thinks about it for a single second could dispute the proposition that if basic human rights are trampled on, then there should be a remedy."

Areas of life which may be most affected are privacy from press intrusion and the rights of all religions and lifestyles to practice free from discrimination.

Jon Delfin's Wacky Placement Extra

MARION'S PILL PROBLEM?: Jim Killam, adviser to the Northern Star at Northern Illinois University, has fired off this e-mail to colleagues:

For the benefit of those who do not see the Chicago Sun-Times, I will describe Friday's front page. The lead headline, in about 144-point type, is "AMERICANS GET ABORTION PILL." Directly below that headline is a 4-column photo of Olympian Marion Jones, an American flag draped around her shoulders. The headline reads, "MARION TAKES TWO."

from Jim Romenesko's Media News

Common Denominator

Strom Thurmond.

Randy Cohen used to write Slate's "News Quiz." His most recent book—oh, like you don't know.

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