Business and Career

HOT OFF THE PRESS nov.24.1999
In this issue: U.S. minorities to be declared legally disabled; The Onion may not be a reliable news source; Ohio lines up at the Microsoft intant cash machine

U.S. Minorities to be Declared Legally Disabled
divisiontwo staff writer

If the U.S. Minority Accessibility Act passes through the House of Representatives on Friday, minorities in the United States will be one step closer to being declared legally disabled.

The U.S. MAA is the brainchild of Reps. Randolph C. Morris, D., California, and Harrison Polters, D. Indiana., two African-American representatives seeking to extend the protection and benefits offered by the Americans with Disabilities act of 1992 to all U.S. citizens of color. The bill, if approved by the Senate and then the President, would grant all U.S. minorities the right to park in handicapped parking spaces, the right to receive free medical health insurance, the right to carry a concealed firearm in public and immunity from capital punishment - the same rights and protections currently offered only to cripples and retards.

In addition, the bill would require all public buildings to meet "minority accessible" standards by the year 2006 or face stiff penalties. This means wider doorways, lower shelves, ramps in place of stairs, rap music, peyote lounges, and salsa bars would need to be added to many of the nation's municipal buildings at the expense of the American taxpayer.

The bill for the construction would fall squarely on white Americans due to a provision in the U.S. MAA exempting minorities from both federal and state income taxes. The same provision also declares that checks for back wages owed to slaves who worked between 1776 and 1865 would be given to all Americans of "darker than olive" complexions. The amounts would be adjusted for inflation and the memo field would read "Sorry."

"Minorities have already paid their dues through physical labor and oppression," explained Rev. Jessie Jackson, one of the bill's strongest supporters, as his nurse wiped drool from his chin. "Asking people of color to pay one cent more for the privilege of being oppressed is ridiculous. It's time white people stop getting a free ride at our expense and pay us back for the cotton shirts they're wearing."

Jackson became distracted by a shiny object for a moment, but then assured reporters in attendance that "this bill isn't about race."

Syl Jones, editorial opinion columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and official spokesman for black Americans, supported the Reverend's statements and the U.S. MAA in a column published in the paper's Sunday edition. "My great-great-great-great grandfather broke his back working as a slave," writes Jones, "and damnit, I deserve to be paid for it."

If the bill survives past Friday, US MAA faces fierce opposition in the Senate, where many Senators have already voiced concerns that may eventually threaten the legislation. One aspect known to be a problem is the bill's murky definition of "minority" as "one of darker than olive complexion." This would grant minority status to many Caucasians during the summer, and to some beach hoochies year-round. It also doesn't offer blanket minority status to women, the elderly, children, redheads, and fat people -- groups who have a long history of living under the heel of oppression in the U.S. and are about due for some compensation.

In an apparent compromise last week, the authors of the bill dropped a provision that would have required all street signs that appear in English to appear in both Spanish and Kwanza as well. Also dropped was a provision to require whites to address all minorities as "sir" or "ma'am" in public, and ride at the back of city busses.

Representative Polters insists that the provisions were dropped for "logistical reasons," and had nothing to do with a compromise forced by a secret racist conspiracy on the part of the Catholic Church. "Legislating human respect is notoriously difficult," explained Polters, "so we dropped the 'sir' and 'ma'am' section, and we got rid of Street Sign Accessibility provision after our panel of linguists reported difficulty in translating English into Kwanza."

"As for the busses," Polters shrugged, "our studies showed that white people don't ride the bus anyway."

If the U.S. MAA is rejected in Friday's vote, Polters and Morris vow to rework the bill and try again next Spring. "I don't think the MAA as we have it worded now goes quite far enough in vilifying people of pallid complexions," worries Morris. "If we could start over from scratch, the bill would probably include provisions setting up punishments for whites."

Syl Jones agrees. "The time is coming when the scales of justice and equality will be perfectly balanced for both whites and non-whites," he told divisiontwo, "but we still have a long way to go. Only once I can step out on my veranda and see a whole lot of white people with sunburned shoulders picking cotton from my fields will I believe we have achieved true equality."

The Onion May Not Be A Reliable News Source

Since its inception in 1989, the Wisconsin-based weekly newspaper The Onion has been regarded as one of the industry's most trusted and highly respected print news organizations. In just ten short years, the paper has achieved a loyal national readership, has garnered the respect of journalists and media critics throughout the country, and has collected more Peabody Awards in a single decade than the New York Times received in the last 100 years--mostly by picking through the trash bins of other news agencies.

And that is why it came as such a shock on Monday afternoon when Anthony Gordon, president and founder of the media watchdog group Excellence in Print Media and Pornography, told the Washington Post that some of the satirical articles featured in The Onion appear, upon close inspection, to be completely fabricated.

Cited in Gordon's report as an instance of possible fraudulent journalism is an absurdist piece published in March of 1998 detailing plans by leading diaper maker Pampers, Inc., to release "Pampers X-treme", a line of disposable diapers supposedly to be marketed toward active teens. According to the report, the EPMP was unable to find a single employee within Pampers who was able to confirm the existence of "Pampers X-treme" or any executive who would acknowledge that there existed plans for their development. Another cited example is an ironic September 1999 article alleging that daytime talk show host Oprah Winfrey had an audience member booted out of her studio mid-show for admitting his homosexuality on-camera. According to the show's producers and hundreds of eyewitnesses from the studio audience that day, no such event ever occurred.

Winfrey held a press conference late Monday to express relief that the allegations of her homophobia were being put to rest. "I'm just glad this nightmare is finally over," she told reporters. "I am not homophobic. I have nothing but sympathy and pity for our gender-confused brothers and sisters."

Gordon told divisiontwo he was just as surprised as anyone when he learned of possible unethical and duplicitous reporting on the part of The Onion. "I sat down beginning with the January 4, 1998 issue of The Onion and attempted to contact and verify sources and facts cited in each of the articles," Gordon recalls. "Article after article went by, day after day, and no hits, no hits, no hits."

"It was like a bad day at the baseball park," was a missed quip Gordon should have made.

In fact, according to a copy of the EPMP's report obtained by divisiontwo via robbery, a person would be hard-pressed to find even one article published in The Onion since its inception in 1989 that isn't entirely fictitious. The report asserts that most names, quotes, events and even some photographs are of suspect authenticity, such as the quote attributed to Maya Angelou saying, "I don't know if Caucasians should be really be considered people," or the controversial photograph of Hillary Clinton eating her daughter's brain.

Yesterday's announcement sent shockwaves rippling through the print media industry, as many national and local satirical papers are now questioning whether they, too, may have inadvertently allowed bogus stories to hit the presses. Several publications such as Mad Magazine and National Lampoon have begun conducting their own investigations regarding the soundness of their reporters' stories, on the chance that what is alleged to have happened at The Onion could be happening elsewhere.

Meanwhile, The Onion has steadfastly denied the claims made by Gordon and the EPMP, while heavily touting the newspaper's honored and respected history. A spokesman for The Onion issued a statement saying, "We are conducting our own internal investigation regarding the EPMP's report, and if we find that any mistakes were made on the part of our reporters or questionable decisions were made by our editorial board, we will take the appropriate actions. The Onion does not support in whole or in part the exaggeration or fabrication of facts for the purposes of satire."

Brian Langly, editor-in-chief of The Onion since 1994, echoed similar statements in a telephone interview with divisiontwo. "When a group of hackers plotted to inject elementary school students with the Melissa virus, The Onion was there," recalled Langly, alluding to a high-profile story broken by the newspaper last July. "When a Detroit police officer killed his own partner and vowed to track himself down, The Onion was there. And when the U.S. government voluntarily relinquished control of the country to the Native American Tribal Alliance, The Onion was there first."

But even if The Onion's internal investigation turns up nothing and the EPMP's report is shown to be in error, it may be difficult for The Onion to clear its name and regain the respect it has lost in the wake of the controversy. A massive outpouring of negative media attention has been lavished on the publication since the report was released on Monday.

News pundit Geraldo Rivera referred to The Onion during Monday's Rivera Live as an example of "pop-culture mass-consumerist post-satirical media-driven pseudo-bourgeoisie journalism at its worst." MTV comedy/variety show host Tom Green urinated onto a copy of The Onion live on-air, to the wild cheers of his studio audience. And in what was perhaps the most striking display of enmity toward The Onion offered on the part of America's younger generation, Felicity publicly castigated The Onion's ethics as, "really sucky and stuff? It makes me ashamed to be an American?"

Only time will tell if The Onion will sink under the weight of these allegations or if it will rise above them and continue to be a leader in the news industry. In the mean time, a lengthy investigation will undoubtedly continue, allowing both readers and authors time to ponder how far down the wrong path we, as a nation, have wandered when we can no longer trust parody and satire to tell us the truth.

Ohio Lines Up at the Microsoft Instant Cash Machine

Add Ohio to the list of states lining up on the playground to grab Microsoft by the ankles, turn it upside-down and shake lunch money out of its trousers.

Cincinnati attorney Stanley Chesley filed federal and state lawsuits Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Columbus and in Cincinnati. Chesley, a class-action specialist and Mac user, wants to get the suits certified as class actions. The suits allege that Microsoft unlawfully and unethically wielded its monopoly in operating systems to hurt consumers, and is seeking $10,000 rebate checks for users who purchased a computer with Windows 98 pre-loaded, plus an additional $5,000 for pain and suffering consumers faced due to lack of choice.

Chesley, a self-described "computer geek", showed off his vast technical knowledge when he explained to reporters why he decided to file the lawsuits on Tuesday. "I was using a USB copy of Windows for Microsoft 9.8," he explained, "and I realized how much easier it would be if I were allowed to run MacOS 9 on my PC. I called Microsoft and asked if I could, and the representative told me 'no way.' If that's not monopoly power, I don't know what is."

Jenny Hilps, a Windows 98 user who hopes to get her name added to the class action suit, said she thinks it's time Microsoft allowed competition in the OS market. "I'm a new computer user, and Windows is really confusing," she told divisiontwo reporter Cal Sindel. "I've been struggling to start Word to type an internet-mail for two months, with no success. But just a few days ago I heard about a different operating system called Linux that's supposed to be way easier and faster and free, and I wish Microsoft had allowed me to use that instead of wasting my time and productivity with a bundled Interweb browser."

Several similar lawsuits have been filed on behalf of idiot computer users since a federal judge ruled on November 5 that Microsoft is evil. Tuesday's filings are similar to others that claim that Microsoft overcharged customers for its Windows software program which should, like Linux, be free.

A settlement is unlikely to be reached in any of the cases for several months, perhaps even years. In the mean time, Chesley suggests people who want freedom of choice in operating systems should "buy a Macintosh instead of a Windows."

Old News:

November 4, 1999: Clinton says youth feeling more unsafe at schools; Scientist knows word you don't; Congress gets a hard-on for "Iron Giant"

October 19, 1999: Unauthorized autobiography of Mother Theresa released; Hurricane Irene pounds North Carolina coast, smokes cigarette when finished; The fight to place warning labels on genetically engineered foods heats up.

October 6, 1999: Free Mumia! movement gains strength; More whining from the Native American Community; Gap announces creepier ad campaign.

September 28, 1999: Ground-breaking television to air on Fox; Scandal rocks the herbal supplement industry; Michigan man sentenced to death for swearing in front of women.

September 19, 1999: JFK Junior named Man of the Century; Students share their views on returning to Columbine; Scented candles can be dangerous.

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