On Hot Air, Fire, and Water

WITHOUT exaggerating events, we live in the strangest of times. Some examples: Prices on the New York stock market soar after Saddam Hussein has a dream about the prophet Muhammad disliking the direction Iraqi missiles are aimed; Cincinnati couldn't possibly beat Oakland in the World Series in four straight games, but does anyway; gentle Zsa Zsa Gabor goes to jail in Beverly Hills for walloping a policeman; and Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas sends 14,000 decks of cards to United States armed forces in Saudi Arabia. The following items, pulled from life in our times, are either true or false. Take a guess. (The answers are in the column to the far left.)

1. A well-known opera singer performs in Knoxville, Tenn. In his contract are stipulations that he must have humidifiers in his hotel room, a king-size bed, large chairs with footstools, and an electric golf cart to take him from his plane to his limousine and then to his dressing room.

2. In September when New York City announces new jobs for sanitation workers (garbage collectors who each lift an average of two tons of garbage a day), nearly 50,000 people apply.

3. A California company invents and markets a foot-powder pump dispenser known as ``Fresh Feet'' for $39.95. A user inserts his or her bare foot into the dispenser on the floor, pushes a pedal with his or her toes and withdraws a powdered his or her foot.

4. The nine-year-old Dog Museum in St. Louis announces the opening of a new wing in November with an art show titled ``Snoopy, the Universal Dog,'' in honor of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz's laconic beagle.

5. Last year Leonard Stellpflug of Rush, N.Y., placed second at the World Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Collins, N.Y., with a pumpkin weighing 743 pounds.

6. A barber in New York was pulled over by two policemen who suspected he was driving while drunk. First, the barber offered a bribe of $2,000 to each officer. When that failed, he offered free haircuts for life. The officers refused.

7. To help stimulate the economy of Strasburg, N.D. (population, 700), Congress last week approved a $300,000 appropriation to renovate the birthplace of band-leader Lawrence Welk and build tourist accommodations nearby. The appropriation was tagged on to the $52.2 billion spending bill to aid farming, nutrition, and rural development.

8. In California, the Rent-a-Judge program allows litigants in nonjury trials to hire retired judges to adjudicate cases, mostly divorce cases. The judges charge from $250 to $300 an hour. The decisions are binding or unbinding as the case may be.

9. Early this year a fire from 14 million used tires burned for 17 days in Hagersville, Ont., and produced 158,000 gallons of oil from the melted rubber.

10. The longest-burning used-tire fire ever in North America consumed 7 million to 9 million tires in 30-foot stacks at a dump near Winchester, Va., and lasted from Oct. 31, 1983 until July 14, 1984. Last year the US Environmental Protection Agency monitored 87 significant tire fires, twice as many as occurred in l987. Most tire dumps are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. 11. A consulting firm electronically monitored a New York City home in March 1988 and learned that the television set had been switched back and forth between channels 743 times in one day.

12. Massachusetts is $300 million over the $6.8 billion debt limit set by the legislature in January of this year.

13. Depending on the fiber content, most men's shirts made today can be washed from 35 to 50 times before they wear out.

14. According to the World Health Organization, 243 million people in urban areas of developing countries and 989 million in rural areas are without safe water.

15. According to a report issued by Bread for the World, 140,000 children under the age of five die every day around the world from malnutrition, disease, and lack of water.

16. The largest desalination plant in the world is in Saudi Arabia at Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea.

17. The world's demand for fresh water doubles every 20 years.

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