Here are "Bogus and Non-Bogus E-Mail" items that have appeared in the Flight 18 Newsletter over the past few years. A good refresher.
Fact: In 1972, Jane Fonda toured North Vietnam, propagandized on behalf of the communists, and participated in an orchestrated “press conference” with American POWs. But a number of ex-POWs insist an email about her visit which has long been circulating on the Internet is largely false. They believe her conduct was despicable, and probably treasonous, without the need of embellishment.
Web sites like pownetwork.org and snopes.com debunk much of this mythical, anonymous email:
Myth: Fonda betrayed POWs by turning over to their captors pieces of paper on which they had written their SSNs and discretely slipped into her hand. POWs were beaten and died as a result.
Fact: This story was attributed to ex-POW Larry Carrigan, a retired Air Force colonel, who denies it ever happened and adds, “I never met Jane Fonda.”
Myth: A POW spit at Fonda, for which he was brutally beaten.
Fact: The spitter in this story was identified as former Air Force pilot Jerry Driscoll, who unequivocally disavows the incident.
However, one claim contained in the email—that POWs were tortured for refusing to cooperate or meet with Fonda during her visit—is true, according five-year POW Michael Benge. And about Fonda, Nam-POWs president Mike McGrath says: “She did enough to place her name in the trash bin of history. None of us need to make up stories on her.”
Mohamad Atta (9/11 hijacker)
True or false? Mohamad Atta was convicted by Israel as a terrorist, then released at the insistence of a U.S. president, only to participate in the 9/11 attacks on the WTC.
False! The Jordanian native sentenced to life imprisonment in Israel following his extradition from the U.S. was Mahmoud (pronounced "Mok-mood") Atta, who was some 12 years older than Egyptian-born Mohamad Atta at the time of the 9/11 attack. Mahmoud Atta was not involved in 9/11.
True or false? In his testimony during the 1987 Iran Contra hearings, Oliver North warned of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden. Senator Al Gore dismissed his warnings.
False! Oliver North never mentioned Osama bin Laden while in public life, as bin Laden was then still an unknown "freedom fighter" opposing the Soviets in Afghanistan. The man North made reference to during the Iran Contra hearings was Abu Nidal, a terrorist working for Libya at the time. Abu Nidal's real name was Sabri l-Banna. He died in Baghdad under suspicious circumstances in August 2002. Nor did Al Gore dismiss North's "warning." Gore was not a member of the Iran Contra Hearing Committee.
Don't judge a man by his....
You may have heard this one from Paul Harvey as one of his “Rest of the Story” segments. It’s your basic don’t-judge-people-by-their-appearance fable.
True or false? A man in a homespun threadbare suit and his wife wearing a faded gingham dress called on the president of Harvard, though they had no appointment. The lady explained that after attending Harvard for one year, their son had been killed in an accident and they would like to donate a building to the university in his name. When the president condescendingly suggested such a gesture would be well beyond their means and told them how much it would cost, the lady turned to her husband and said, “If that’s all it costs, why don’t we just start our own university?” The couple, Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford, went to Palo Alto, California, and founded Stanford University.
False! Leland Stanford was a wealthy Sacramento merchant who built the Central Pacific Railroad, served as California governor (1862-63) and drove the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah. He and his wife had one son, who died in 1884 of typhoid fever at the age of 15. The couple did in fact visit the presidents of Harvard and other Eastern universities in search of a school after which to model the institution they intended to establish at Palo Alto in memory of their son. But that’s as close to the facts as this bogus e-mail, falsely attributed to Malcolm Forbes, comes. The Stanfords chose Cornell as their model. And now, Mr. Harvey, you know the real rest of the story.
Boycotting certain gas companies
True or false? Certain oil companies refine oil imported from the Middle East/Persian Gulf and others do not. Refusing to buy gas from companies that import from that part of the world will deny income to foreign terrorists.
False! Turns out the brand name on the pump has little to do with where the oil comes from. Also, if we boycott certain oil companies, they will be left with a surplus, which will be sold to their competitors. The result will be that we’ll be buying the very gas we were trying to avoid in the first place—at an inflated price. Better to just fill up wherever gas is cheapest.
True or false? Our senators and congressmen do not pay into Social Security and do not draw from it. Instead, when they retire, they continue to draw their same pay until they die.
False! Before 1984, congressmen did not pay into Social Security because they participated in the Civil Service Retirement System. Now, members pay 6.2 % of their salary into Social Security and 1.3% into the Federal Employees Retirement System. The size of their pension is determined by their length of service, age, salary and selected retirement option, but may not exceed 80 % of their salary at time of retirement.
Gas station fires
True or false? There have been more than 150 fires at gas stations caused by static electricity. Nearly all of these cases involved women wearing rubber-soled shoes who re-entered their cars during fueling and created a spark when they subsequently grasped the nozzle. Some of these fires occurred prior to fueling as the gas cap was being removed.
True! It happens mostly to women because men seldom re-enter their vehicles during fueling. The Petroleum Equipment Institute recommends always touching metal elsewhere on the car (i.e., the door) before touching the gas cap and/or fueling nozzle. Also, avoid use of cell phones while fueling. Notice the various warning stickers now appearing on gas pumps.
True or false? An Israeli satellite captured a series of photographs of the Space Shuttle Columbia blowing up.
False! The crisp color photos in this bogus email are actually scenes from the 1998 film Armageddon. Pure Hollywood.
True or false? Pepsi issued a can bearing the Pledge of Allegiance minus the words, “Under God.”
False. Pepsi did no such thing. Fact is, between Nov 2001 and Feb 2002, Dr. Pepper marketed this can, accurately reflecting the strong, if short-lived, public sentiment post 9/11.
With the 2004 presidential election less than a year away, no doubt we’ll soon be showered with “examples” of how history was changed by a single vote. But beware of legend masquerading as fact. Some of the popular myths certain to be dusted off and re-circulated are:
Myth: A proposal to make German the official language of the United States was defeated in Congress by one vote.
Fact: In 1795, a group of German-Americans from Augusta, VA, petitioned Congress to have federal statutes printed in German as well as English. The issue was debated in the House, but never voted on. Instead, Congress passed and President Washington signed a bill requiring federal statutes to be published exclusively in English.
Myth: In 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment.
Fact: Johnson had already been impeached. The Senate vote in favor of removing him from office was 35-19, one short of the required two-thirds (36-18) majority.
Myth: A one-vote change in each precinct in Illinois would have defeated John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Fact: Kennedy won in the Electoral College by a 303 to 219 margin, too big a spread for Illinois’ 27 electoral votes to make a difference.
Myth: George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 because of a 5-4 party-line decision by the U.S. Supreme Court effectively terminating ballot recounts in Florida.
Fact: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 on 12 Dec 2000 that a manual recount of “undervotes” in selected counties mandated by the Florida Supreme Court four days earlier was unconstitutional. Why? Because the mandate failed to provide a common standard for counting such ballots. The Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court had warned in his dissent from that court’s 4-3 decision mandating the recount that the ill-considered decree was contrary to Florida law and would not withstand constitutional scrutiny. He was right. Bush ultimately won the presidency because he won every legitimate count -- and recount -- of the Florida vote. The reality is that when four members of the Florida Supreme Court tried to hijack the election for Gore, seven members of the U.S. Supreme Court prevented the theft.
Environmentalists caused Columbia accident
True or False? Under pressure from environmentalists, NASA used a new kind of foam to insulate Space Shuttle Columbia’s external fuel tank. A piece of this “environmentally-friendly” foam broke off and tore a lethal hole in the Columbia’s left wing.
False. According to Air Force BG Duane Deal of the Columbia Accident Investigation team, the foam used on this mission was the same as that used previously. However, because Freon was no longer available for use as a spraying agent for applying the foam, a new type of agent was employed. The new agent actually produced better adhesion than Freon. Nevertheless, the Board concluded a one-foot2 piece of foam struck Columbia’s left wing during launch causing a rupture that lead to the shuttle’s demise upon re-entry.
Iraqi made statue as a memorial to US soldiers
True or False? (e-mail text) "The statue below was created by an Iraqi artist named Kalat, who for years was forced by Saddam Hussein to make the many hundreds of bronze busts of Saddam that dotted Baghdad."
"Kalat was so grateful for the Americans liberation of his country, he melted 3 of the heads of the fallen Saddam and made the statue as a memorial to the American soldiers and their fallen warriors, Kalat worked on this memorial night and day for several months."
"Do you know why we don't hear about this in the news? Because it is heart warming and praise worthy. The media avoids it because it does not have the shock effect that a flashed breast or controversy of politics does. But we can do something about it. We can pass this along to as many people as we can in honor of all our brave military who is making a difference."
"Beside the kneeling soldier is a small Iraqi girl giving the soldier comfort as he mourns the loss of his comrade in arms."
False. While the statue is real, the above text, which accompanies this photo on the Internet is mostly false. Fact is members of the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division, while stationed in Tikrit in 2003, took up a collection and hired a local artist named Kalid Alussy to create the sculpture from a photograph of one of their own kneeling to honor a lost comrade.
In order to hold down the contract price, soldiers gave the remains of demolished twin bronze statues of Saddam Hussein on horseback to Kalid to melt down for the project. Nevertheless, the artist demanded $8,000 for his work, which originally did not include the figure of the little girl. She was thought up and added later, for an additional cost of $10,000.
In Feb 2004, the $18,000 statue was relocated to the 4th Infantry Division Museum at the unit’s home base, Fort Hood, TX.
To answer the question posed in the last paragraph of this bogus e-mail (“Do you know why we don’t hear about this in the news?”), it’s because—at least in this case—truth is less newsworthy than fiction.
WWII Memorial made PC
True or False? An excerpt from FDR’s 8 Dec 1941 speech to Congress (his request for a declaration of war) displayed at the National WWII Memorial misquotes Roosevelt by omitting the words, “So help us God.”
False. The inscription displayed at the Memorial reads: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy…No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.”
Roosevelt employed the phrase “So help us God” not here, but several paragraphs later in his 1941 speech. The inscription on the WWII Memorial is accurate.
What did the president actually say?
True or false? In his speech on board USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush said the war in Iraq was over or that our mission was complete.
False. His exact words were: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.” – President George W. Bush, 1 May 2003
True or False? Credible lists of military bases to be closed during the next round of Base Realignments and Closures are now circulating on the Internet.
False. Lists are circulating, but all are mere speculation. SecDef will not publish a list of installations recommended for closure until mid-May 2005.
Iraq-al Qaida connection
True or False? Prior to the war in Iraq, there was no direct connection between Iraq and al Qaida.
False. A top secret 16-page memo from undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee dated 27 Oct 2003 details an operational relationship between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein that persisted from 1990 to 2003. That relationship involved training in explosives and WMD, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaida training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaida. While the USG has not declassified this memo, the Weekly Standard published what appears to be an authentic copy of it on 24 Nov 2003.
AF General speaks out
True or False. Newly retired Air Force Gen Richard Hawley delivered a caustic, politically incorrect speech about “thoughts of such surpassing stupidity that they must be addressed.”
False. The remarks attributed to Gen Hawley on the Internet were in fact penned by humor columnist Larry Miller and appeared in The Daily Standard on 14 Jan 2002. The late General Hawley strenuously denied any association with these remarks.
Nigerian con game
True or false? Someone in Nigeria or some other foreign country needs your help moving funds out of that country and promises you millions for your assistance.
False! Even though this is an obvious scam, a number of truly gullible folks have succumbed by providing their personal banking information and, in some cases, actually traveling overseas to collect their money and becoming trapped in some backwater village.
True or false? Cindy Williams from the Laverne and Shirley TV show wrote a piece for the Jan 12 Washington Times stating that a coming 13% pay raise for military members was more than they deserve.
False! In fact, a piece by an MIT research fellow named Cindy Williams appeared in the 12 Jan 2000 Washington Post. It argued that the then claimed 13% military-civilian pay gap was inaccurate. This bogus e-mail includes a “response,” actually written by an airman from Hill AFB, to the non-existent article by actress Cindy Williams.
Bill Gates rules
True or False? Bill Gates authored the following list, seen in many e-mails, of “Rules kids won’t learn in school.”
Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.
Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain that it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)
Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.
Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.
Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.
Rule No. 6: It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.
Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rules 1, 2 and 4.)
Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we're at it, very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rules 1 and 2.)
Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.
Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.
(Rules 12-14 omitted due to space limitations.)
False! This list did not come from Bill Gates but is the work of Charles J. Sykes, author of the book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, Or Add.
True or false? E-mails urging you to add your name to an “on-line petition” and forward it are legitimate.
False. There are dozens of so-called E-Petitions currently circulating on the Internet. Typically addressed to President Bush, among many other things they demand that he: restore the Pledge of Allegiance to public schools; return prayer to public schools; deny social services to illegal immigrants; stop drunk driving; stop WWIII; save the space program chimps; outlaw breast feeding; stop legal proceedings against U.S. military personnel, or lower gas prices by presidential decree. Others seek to organize some sort of boycott or other consumer action.
None of these e-mail “petitions” is legitimate and adding your name to a long list of names included in the message will accomplish nothing whatever but waste your time and that of everyone to whom you forward such misguided missives. Best to put ‘em out of their misery by deleting ‘em.
Iranian punishment hoax
You may receive an e-mail containing a series of photos, including this one, purporting to show an eight-year-old Iranian boy being punished for stealing a loaf of bread. “His arm will be crushed and he will lose its use permanently. A religion of peace and love, they say? How can anyone believe them when they commit such inhuman acts?” asks the text. But it’s all a hoax, a sham performed by sidewalk hustlers in Iran.
True or false? Boycotting certain brands of gasoline will force gas prices down.
False. The idea of boycotting selected oil companies in order try to drive prices down—proposed by a fourth-grade teacher, according to at least one e-mail now circulating on the Internet—is pure malarkey. Here's what would happen if we boycott when gas supplies are tight as they are now. The companies being boycotted would soon have too much supply while the competition would run short. If the boycott ends, the previously boycotted companies would now enjoy sudden great demand and their prices would go up sharply. If the boycott continues, the competition would simply buy the overage from the boycotted companies and sell it to us at prices considerably higher than we would have paid for the very same gas in the first place. A great way to shoot ourselves in the foot!
The only sane thing to do is to buy gas wherever it's cheapest and let the market work it out—and to remember that the name on the pump doesn't tell you anything about where the gas actually came from.
Castro tries out for major league team
True or False? Fidel Castro once tried out for an American major league baseball team, either the Washington Senators or the New York Yankees.
False. Castro never had a tryout with a major-league baseball team, never played the sport professionally, and didn't come close to possessing skills which would attract the interest of a big-league team, as Yale professor Roberto González Echevarría noted in his history of Cuban baseball. Nor is Castro’s virulent anti-Americanism based on his failure to be offered a major league contract.
Greenspan has enlarged prostitute
True or False? A crawler displayed at the bottom of the TV screen during an April 2003 broadcast of ABC’s “World News Tonight” with Peter Jennings informed viewers that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was “in the hospital with an enlarged prostitute.”
True. And when asked to comment on the typographically botched report, Greenspan’s wife, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, said, “He should be so lucky.”
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