Monday, July 28, 2008

Cuckoo Chicks Change Calls to Mimic Host

The chicks of a species of Australian cuckoo can adjust their call in order to fool other species into rearing them, despite never having heard the cry, researchers have found.

Like their European counterparts, Australian cuckoos are well known for laying their eggs in the nests of other birds.

Once the chicks hatch, they kick out the host's other eggs and set about convincing their foster parents to feed them by imitating the calls of the host's offspring.

But researchers from the Australian National University and the University of Cambridge, report in the latest issue of the journal Evolution, that one species of cuckoo can modify its call depending on which species it has hooked up with.

Females of the Horsfield's bronze-cuckoo (Chalcites basalis), usually lay their eggs in the nests of fairy-wrens, but will sometimes lay them in the nests of other species including thornbills and robins.

Chicks that hatch in a fairy-wren nest are known to copy that species' short "cheep cheep" begging call, while chicks that hatch in the nests of thornbills imitate the thornbill's long, rasping whine.

Naomi Langmore and colleagues wanted to know how the chicks "decide" which cry to make.

"The most logical assumption was that there would be two races of cuckoo, each specializing on a different host and making a begging call that matches its host," Langmore said. "This would be similar to the European cuckoo, which has several different races each of which lays an egg that matches that of its favored host."

To test whether this was the case, the researchers took cuckoo eggs laid in fairy-wren nests, and switched them into thornbill nests. They then used tiny microphones clipped on nearby foliage to follow what happened.

"We were amazed to find that the chicks could modify their calls," Langmore said.

The chicks first begged like a fairy-wren chick, but within several days had switched to match the length of the thornbill's call.

"Remarkably, they make the same begging call as the chicks of whichever host rears them, even though they never actually hear the host chicks," said Langmore.

The surprising result suggests that the cuckoos could have a range of call options genetically pre-programmed, she said.

Chicks reared by a host other than a fairy-wren might find that they aren't getting fed properly because they aren't making the right call. That could prompt them to apply a simple rule that says "switch to an alternative begging call if I'm going hungry."

"Cuckoos survive by fooling other birds into rearing their chicks, so they are grand masters of deception," said Langmore.

Original here

Justice, 64 years later

Kevin P. Casey / For The Times
HONORABLE DISCHARGE: Ray Snow, left, accepts the official honorable discharge for his father, Samuel, from Ronald J. James, an assistant Army secretary presiding over the ceremony at Seattle's Ft. Lawton. Samuel Snow was among 28 black World War II soldiers wrongly convicted in the 1944 lynching of an Italian prisoner. Now 83 and one of only two of the 28 still alive, he fell ill earlier in the day and was unable to attend.

'Long-overdue vindication' comes for 28 black soldiers cleared in a 1944 lynching.

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- It was a crime so improbable that many had trouble believing it could have happened at all: Three black soldiers stood accused of lynching an Italian prisoner of war, found dangling from a wire on an obstacle training course at Ft. Lawton in the middle of World War II.

The subsequent trial of the three men, along with 40 other black enlistees charged with rioting, became the largest and longest Army court-martial of the war, and the only recorded instance in U.S. history in which black men stood trial for a mob lynching.

By the time it was over, 28 men had been convicted on rioting charges and two of them were also found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the 1944 hanging.

Despite their protests of innocence -- and the government's own secret investigation showing the prosecution's case was poisonously flawed -- the men were sentenced to hard labor and forfeiture of military pay and benefits, and were given dishonorable discharges.

Twenty-six of the men went to their graves with the stain of wartime dishonor still on their records. It wasn't until Saturday, in a low-key ceremony on a wide lawn at the Army base in Seattle, that history switched gears. A senior Army official handed out certificates setting aside the convictions and converting the discharges to honorable status, in recognition -- 64 years after the fact -- that prosecutors' "egregious error" had resulted in a trial that was "fundamentally unfair."
"I grieve for an Army that failed to honor its own values at Ft. Lawton," said Ronald J. James, an assistant Army secretary, as he handed out the certificates to surviving family members.

"The Army is genuinely sorry. I am sorry. Sorry for your husbands, loved ones, fathers and grandfathers, for the lost years of their lives," James said, calling the ceremony a "long-overdue vindication."

Not one of the soldiers were on hand to accept the apology. One of the two still living did try to attend -- 83-year-old Samuel Snow from Leesburg, Fla. -- but he was hospitalized with heart palpitations in downtown Seattle just hours before the observance.

"My father never held any animosity," said Snow's son, Ray.

"He said, 'Son, God has been good to me. If I hold this in my heart, then I can't walk in forgiveness.' Really, it energized him. It was the fuel that drove him: 'Bring on all the things that are supposed to stop me from achieving.' This was all liquid oxygen for him."

The case of the Ft. Lawton 28 had been little known in recent years, though the court-martial in 1944 was widely covered in the news at the time.

It wasn't until former television journalist Jack Hamann came upon the Italian soldier's grave in 1986 and began years of research that archival material was uncovered, demonstrating fatal flaws in the government's case -- and pointing to the likelihood that the Italian prisoner was killed by a white man.

Immediately after the lynching, the Army inspector general had conducted an exhaustive investigation that raised major questions about the evidence against the accused.

But the Army had appointed only two defense lawyers to handle all 43 men, giving them 10 days to prepare their case, and they were not permitted to see the report.

The prosecutor was Col. Leon Jaworski, who in 1973 became the special prosecutor in the Watergate case involving the administration of President Nixon.

"Jaworski disingenuously -- and, it's clear now, illegally and unethically -- said, 'Sorry, that's not what you think it is, and you can't have it.' He fought, and got the court to agree not to let it in," Hamann said in an interview. Jaworski died in 1982.

Hamann wrote a 2005 book about the case, "On American Soil."

Based in large part on the evidence disclosed in the book, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records reviewed the case last year and ruled unanimously to overturn the convictions and grant retroactive honorable discharges.

"I don't think very often they come out and say our largest and longest court-martial of this giant war, World War II, was fatally flawed," Hamann said.

"But the Army has been a driver of this, by getting out ahead of it and saying, 'We want to let our constituents know we're not hiding behind this. We've read the evidence, we agree, we checked it out ourselves.' "

The junior defense counsel in the case, Howard Noyd, now 93, said he and his partner had known from the beginning that "justice was sacrificed" and his clients were wrongly charged.

"It's just a remarkable story. I didn't expect we would ever come to final justice," Noyd said.
Walt Prevost, 65, the owner of a pharmacy in Watts, traveled to Seattle on behalf of his late father, Willie Prevost, who he said never talked about the case before his death in 1998.

"I talked to a lot of the other families, and they all say the same thing: They never talked about it. We knew absolutely nothing about [my father's] Army career. It was something he was really impacted by in an adverse way, so he would never talk about it," Prevost said.

"But I would say my family suffered severely as a result of the Ft. Lawton tragedy," he said. His mother was forced to raise her four children with no income or Army benefits while his father was in prison, he said.
Hamann said that though most of the prison terms were relatively short, the convicted soldiers would have been affected their entire lives.

"You're talking about 50 years of no GI Bill, no VA, no ability to get a civil service job with that dishonorable discharge," Hamann said.

Some reparations are being offered: back pay for the prison time. Snow was sent a $725 check, which he didn't bother to cash.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) is pushing legislation that would grant the soldiers full reparations.

"The main thing is he never got to do the things he wanted to do," said Beverly Evans, a South Los Angeles resident whose father, Luther Larkin, was convicted in the lynching. He died a month before she was born, in 1948.

James, the assistant Army secretary, ended his calm but emotional address with a declaration that he would not end it as most such speeches conclude.

"The usual closing is something like 'God bless the Army, and God bless the United States of America,' but frankly that doesn't seem right or appropriate for this time -- I have unpaid debts and unpaid dues," James said.

"Therefore, I would like to close by saying: God bless Samuel Snow, God bless the Ft. Lawton 28, and God bless your family and friends."

Original here

New York subway romance hits end of the line

A modern-day love story of a man spotting the girl of his dreams across a New York subway train and tracking her down over the Internet has failed to have a fairytale ending with the relationship over.

For Web designer Patrick Moberg, then 21, from Brooklyn, it was love at first sight when he spotted a woman on a Manhattan train last November. But he lost her in the crowd so he set up a website with a sketch to find her --

Unbelievably in a city of 8 million people, it only took Moberg 48 hours to track down the woman, with his phone ringing non-stop and email box overflowing as usually cynical New Yorkers took sympathy on the subway Romeo and joined his hunt.

The mysterious brunette was named as Camille Hayton, from Melbourne, Australia, who was working as an intern at the magazine BlackBook and also lived in Brooklyn. One of her friends spotted the sketched picture on the Web site and recognized her.

'We're just friends'
But after finding each other, appearing on TV and getting international press, the couple took their romance out of the public eye, with Moberg closing down the Web site and with both refusing to making any more comments -- until now.

Hayton told Australian newspaper The Sunday Telegraph that she dated Moberg for about two months but it just didn't work out.

"I say we dated for a while but now we're just friends," Hayton, now 23, told the newspaper. "It's really nice that people embraced the story. It is part of my life now."

Hayton said she is still recognized about three times a week on the streets of Manhattan as "that girl"' and the question is always the same: "So what happened?"

"I think the situation was so intense that it bonded us," she said, adding it "bonded us in a way that you could mistake, I guess, for being more romantic than it was. I don't know. But I wanted to give it a go so I didn't wonder what if, what if?"

Hayton told The Sunday Telegraph that she is enjoying single life in New York, keeping busy with acting classes, working in two vintage clothing stores and as a waitress.

Last week she had a small role as a waitress in the long-running daytime soap "As The World Turns" and last year she was an extra in a "blink and you'd miss it" scene in the hit movie "Sex And The City."

"I just can't believe it happened. It feels like a long time ago," said Hayton.

Moberg, however, was still refusing to comment on the relationship.

"We've decided not to do any more press," he wrote in an e-mail to Reuters.

Original here

The Case For Pot

What do a Seattle cop, an Edmonds travel writer and the ACLU have incommon? They all want to legalizemarijuana, and not just for medical purposes. As Seattle’s annual Hempfest returns to Myrtle Edward Park this month, these odd bedfellows are putting Seattle at the center of a national conversation about marijuana reform

By Yemaya Maurer
Hempfest: August 2006. On the shores of Puget Sound in Seattle’s Myrtle Edwards Park, a hard rock band wraps up its set. Amid vendors hawking colorful bongs, hemp knapsacks and Love Your Mother bumper stickers, the crowd of 20- and 30-somethings applauds. As the last strains of guitar music drift upward into the air, mixing with plumes of marijuana smoke, a broad-shouldered man with short, white hair pushes through the crowd. In bold print, the back of his T-shirt reads: cops say legalize drugs. ask me why. When he takes the stage and turns around, it’s clear why he’s prompting the question: This is Seattle’s former police chief Norm Stamper.

While Stamper isn’t scheduled to appear at this year’s Hempfest, at the event two years ago he addressed the crowd on an issue that he continues to speak out on: the legalization of marijuana. So how does a cop go from busting people for pot to advocating its decriminalization?

Stamper recently recounted a story from his rookie year as a cop when he arrested a 19-year-old for marijuana possession, handcuffed him, put him in the back of his squad car and started driving toward the station. As he looked at his charge in the rear-view mirror, he realized he’d just arrested a young man who hadn’t been hurting anybody. “I could have been doing real police work,” Stamper says. “I could have been intervening in domestic violence. I could have been stopping people from hurting other people—that’s noble, honorable work.” It was a turning point for Stamper, who made a vow to treat adult marijuana possession enforcement as his lowest priority. He did so throughout his tenure as police chief, and in 2003, three years after he retired, Seattle residents passed Initiative 75, making adult marijuana possession the lowest priority for city police—an initiative that led to similar reforms in other cities, including Denver. Leadership on initiatives such as this, as well as advocacy by high-profile activists such as Stamper, has put Seattle at the center of a national conversation about marijuana decriminalization.

Stamper is one of the more unlikely advocates for marijuana policy reform—and he holds a position that’s radical, even to many of those who attend Hempfest (arguably the largest cannabis reform rally in the world). While many reform advocates would like to see marijuana decriminalized, Stamper takes it several steps further: He wants marijuana—and all drugs—to be legalized, regulated and controlled. Only then, he argues, can we take power away from drug lords, get users the help they need and allow law enforcement to focus on violent crimes.

Stamper sits on the advisory board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a national nonprofit organization with 6,500-plus members who advocate for the end to the war on drugs. As a member of LEAP, he often gives speeches, such as the one he gave earlier this year to students at Western Washington University’s Performing Arts Center. As he paced the stage in his polished leather shoes and pressed black suit, he called the war on drugs the most damaging social policy since slavery, and a failure. “Today, drugs are more readily available at lower prices and higher potency than at any time in the drug war.” Among the stats he cited: $1 trillion has been spent on the war on drugs; more than a half-million Americans are currently in jail as a result of it; and in 2006, a record 829,627 individuals were arrested for marijuana offenses in America.

Several audience members brought up an issue frequently raised on this topic—whether it’s moral for a government to legalize drugs that can hurt people and lead to addiction. It was clearly a question Stamper had heard before. In a passionate yet well-rehearsed response, he said that legalization, regulation and control won’t solve the drug problem, but at least users will get drugs at the proper strength and have access to resources that will help them limit or stop their drug use. One student, sitting in the back row, asked the question everyone secretly hoped someone would pose: Does Stamper smoke pot? Sidestepping the question, he told the group that he cherishes his privacy, and that it’s nobody’s business whether or not he uses pot. The only things that get him off Orcas Island where he lives are what he calls the three D’s—domestic violence, the death penalty and drug policy reform, issues that he speaks about across the country.

No one is happier to have Stamper on the side of legalizing pot than Vivian McPeak, executive director of Hempfest and self-described traditional hippie (his gray dreadlocks and long beard fit the part). McPeak devotes himself full time, year-round to organizing Hempfest. “If someone would have told us in 1991 [the year Hempfest started] that 15 years later the chief of police would be on our stage, speaking our same message of freedom and responsibility, I’d have said, ‘You’re crazy,’” McPeak says, adding that Stamper adds a lot of credibility to Hempfest and has helped generate positive media coverage. Too often, he says, media coverage has focused more on the festival component of the event, rather than the forum it provides for discussion about marijuana policy reform.

“People who dismiss us as a bunch of people smoking pot in the park are completely missing the point,” says McPeak. “This movement is about people losing their homes, their jobs and their kids, kids getting kicked out of school, people being incarcerated for an equal or greater amount of time than those committing violent crimes. It’s not funny.” McPeak, who has been with Hempfest from the beginning, originally got involved to celebrate personal freedom. But over the years, he has focused more on what he calls the unjustified and inequitable incarceration of otherwise innocent people who are caught with marijuana in their possession. In 2006 alone, according to the FBI, 44 percent of drug arrests made were for marijuana—more than any other drug. And 89 percent of those arrests were for possession only, not trafficking.

The ACLU of Washington is another organization involved with marijuana reform. This winter, it launched “Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation”, a multimedia campaign that casts marijuana policy reform as a matter of civil liberty and racial justice, an argument that is slowly experiencing increased traction. According to Alison Holcomb, Washington ACLU’s Marijuana Education Project director, marijuana prohibition is rooted in racism. Until the 1960s or ’70s, marijuana was viewed by the public as primarily the intoxicant of marginalized people, such as immigrants and black jazz musicians. Because these outsiders’ use of “wacky tobaccy” scared mainstream Americans, prohibitionists relied on fear to push anti-marijuana laws through federal legislation. Marijuana laws are still enforced disproportionately against people of color: While 74 percent of marijuana users are white and 14 percent are African American, African Americans account for 30 percent of marijuana arrests.

The ACLU’s educational campaign has another unlikely marijuana advocate as host: renowned Edmonds-based travel writer and TV celebrity Rick Steves. The campaign’s Web site and television program (available 24/7 to Comcast On Demand subscribers) features likable, uncontroversial characters such as Steves who encourage people to talk publicly about marijuana and its prohibition. The ACLU supports a public health approach to drugs, including marijuana. Holcomb says that marijuana is a safe way to start addressing the war on drugs, and that Steves is the ideal person to start the conversation: He’s the father of two teens; he and his wife, Anne, are active philanthropists in their community; he’s a committed member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and he often writes and speaks publicly about his deep concern for this country.

When asked why he’s chosen to focus on marijuana rather than other pressing social issues, Steves’ answer is simple: “Anybody can talk about homelessness and everyone claps, but people are afraid to talk about marijuana…. I can speak out and survive. I don’t need to be elected or promoted.” Steves’ successful company—which publishes guidebooks and hosts overseas trips—employs 80 people. The nature of his business means that he spends a good chunk of each year traveling the world, where he sees firsthand how many other countries have addressed their drug problems more successfully than the United States. He’s occasionally smoked marijuana while abroad and doesn’t want to lie about it to his kids or to anybody else. He believes this country can adopt a pragmatic policy toward marijuana with a focus on harm reduction and public health, rather than tough but counterproductive criminalization. When he accepted the Luther Institute’s Wittenberg Award, recognizing outstanding service to church and society earlier this year, he didn’t pull any punches as he talked about drug policy reform to the mostly conservative crowd.

For most, Steves’ message is a little more palatable than Stamper’s, as Steves advocates for decriminalization, not legalization. He points to the Netherlands, where marijuana is decriminalized—sales are not legal and regulated, but the criminal penalties are absent—as an example of a country that approaches marijuana from a public health perspective rather than a criminal one. The Dutch government invests more in marijuana education, prevention and treatment than in prosecuting and jailing users. “They don’t have all the answers, but they’re comfortable with the gray zone,” says Steves.

When he can get mainstream people talking about marijuana policy reform, Steves feels like he’s putting his fame to good use. He writes op-ed pieces in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he speaks about the issue on public radio and he appears on television shows such as Evening Magazine. But when he talks each year at Hempfest, he worries that he’s preaching to the choir. “It would be great if everyone there would buy a few less T-shirts and take that money to support advocacy groups such as NORML.” The group, on whose advisory board Steves sits, lobbies Congress and state legislatures for more rational and cost-effective marijuana policies. He finds it disappointing when people smoke marijuana recreationally and responsibly, but do not get involved in advocacy. Mostly he sees Hempfest as a celebration of a subculture, a good thing in and of itself. “But if you want to win the war on criminalization, you’ve got to cut your hair, put on a shirt and go talk outside the choir.”

Some experts involved in drug policy reform have concluded that the facts are in and there’s nothing to discuss. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (DCP), a component of the Executive Office of the President, for one, stands firmly behind the federal law, which states that marijuana is illegal and that getting high on marijuana can impede human development and impair judgment. Under federal law, possession of any amount is punishable by up to one year in jail for a first offense and a minimum fine of $1,000—the punishment increases with each offense; the sale or cultivation of any amount less than 50 kilograms is a felony punishable by five years in jail and a $250,000 fine. In Washington state, possession of 40 grams or more can result in five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Other experts, such as Dr. Roger Roffman, a professor of social work at the University of Washington, say that marijuana is harmful and that criminalizing people for its use is even more harmful. Roffman has studied marijuana use for 40 years, initially among service personnel in the Vietnam War. He currently researches marijuana dependence and, with federal funds, studies counseling approaches to treating adults dependent on marijuana. He argues that even with the ACLU’s recent efforts and with Hempfest gaining more credibility as a reform rally, major strides in marijuana policy reform will not happen until reform advocates acknowledge that marijuana can be harmful, should not be used by children and should not be used continually by teens or people with certain health issues. Only when advocates acknowledge this, will the public become comfortable talking rationally and openly about marijuana decriminalization, he says.

No matter where they fall on the spectrum of proposed policy reform, decriminalization advocates and many legal experts and politicians agree that our current marijuana laws are not working. Today, 98 million Americans—a third of our population—admit to having tried marijuana. They acquired the drug from dealers who had all the control during the transaction. “The way things are now, we can’t control how strong the pot is, what pesticides are used, whether it’s been laced with cocaine, nothing!” says the ACLU’s Holcomb. To those who argue that marijuana is a gateway drug, Steves counters that it only has that role in that it puts young people out in the streets with people who have a financial incentive to sell harder stuff.

Hempfest is one way marijuana policy reform proponents are trying to get their message out, using the hook of entertainment. But once there, organizers work to impart advocacy. Sometimes the two have mixed, as in a performance on the Hempfest main stage in 2005 by Alison Holcomb. To prove that what the messenger looks like does matter if you want to be heard, she started her speech wearing an over-the-top hippie chic outfit, complete with tie-dyed muumuu and peace-sign glasses; by the end, she’d stripped down to her customary lawyer attire—black pant suit, Barbara Bush pearls.

Other decriminalization activists focus on reaching out to parents. Sandee Burbank, the founder and executive director of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (MAMA), an Oregon-based group with 2,000 members who want to help people make informed decisions about drugs, travels around the country talking about drug consumer safety. One stop on her annual tour is Hempfest, which gives her the opportunity to talk with parents about the potential dangers of all drugs—including prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications—compared to medical marijuana, which she believes is far more useful and less harmful. She would like to see marijuana legalized so people have the option to choose it over other, more dangerous drugs.

Medical marijuana is the most successful realm of drug policy reform, at least at the state level. Voters in Washington state passed the Medical Use of Marijuana Act in 1998, which allows patients with certain chronic, fatal and debilitating diseases to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana with a doctor’s authorization. (The state Legislature has mandated that the Washington State Department of Health spell out exactly how much a 60-day supply constitutes; a decision on the matter was expected around July 1, after this issue went to press.) Other states have similar measures, but none of them change federal marijuana laws, which do not recognize state medical marijuana laws: Anyone who grows, distributes, dispenses or possesses marijuana for any purpose may still face federal prosecution—felony charges, jail time, fines and loss of financial aid.

If Seattle’s marijuana advocates have their way, people across the nation will stop with the Cheech and Chong jokes and start talking about marijuana decriminalization around their dining-room tables, in front of their legislatures and, for two days each August, at a waterfront celebration in honor of a plant called pot.

Original here

Guards Go Stiff at Local Army Base

I have heard stories about local police departments using empty parked cruisers to scare drivers into obeying the speed limit, but this is the first I have heard of an Army base pulling the same trick.

Locals in TaoYuan Province, Taiwan, noticed that the guards around a local Army base always seemed to stand in the same position without moving.

taiwan-fake-guard01 Guards Go Stiff at Local Army Base picture

Curious, some locals went in closer to inspect the soldiers and were shocked at what they found.

The soldiers were actually dummies dressed up as soldiers and armed with fake rifles.

As the news spread, many locals began visiting the Army base to see the fake soldiers.

An official from the base explained that the reason they assigned fake soldiers to posts was due to a manpower shortage. They figured the fake soldiers would be sufficient in scaring away any attackers.

The Army base has now removed the dummy soldiers after being harshly criticized for the “ridiculous act”.

Original here

The 5 Most Ridiculously Unfair Kids Game Shows

By Danny Gallagher

Who doesn't like to watch children fail at things? It builds character in them and it makes adults laugh, which is why it inspired a whole era of kid-based game shows in the late '80s and early '90s.

But some of these shows seemed less about fun and more about introducing children to the dark, cruel world they were about to grow up in.

Fun House (1988-1991)

Every good kids' game show challenge involves some type of skill, whether it's knowing the difference between Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, using hand-eye coordination to shoot an arrow plunger at an apple dangling over your mother's head or having the leg strength to push a giant plastic bacteroid on wheels across a finish line.

In the late '80s, the show Fun House said fuck all that and introduced the Slop Machine, a big machine with four booths for the kids to sit in. The host, J.D. Roth, pulled a lever and the giant slot machine spun wheels over each booth until they landed on candy or slop. The three losers got a bunch of sticky shit dumped in their hair while the one lucky winner had packages of hard sugar rain down on their head.

That's right--in order to win this game, you had to do NOTHING. It was like the Wheel of Fortune, if you took away the contestants' ability to solve a puzzle. Or even spin the fucking wheel. It was all luck and you didn't even get to press a buzzer. Your fate was entirely in the hands of pretty boy host J.D. Roth, who was a little too enthusiastic about luring children with the promise of candy and then covering them in goo.

In order to affect whether or not you win this game, you either had to have control over time and space, a special chip you could cash in with God, or a MILF willing to bone the producer to throw the game in your favor.

The Lesson:

You have utterly no control over your own success or failure.

The Only Way It Could Be Worse:

You would have to risk your college savings and all of your parents' future mortgage payments every time J.D. pulls the lever.

Nick Arcade (1992-1993)

While other Nickelodeon game shows like Double Dare encouraged kids to have fun by staying active, Nick Arcade told kids they could achieve the same thing by sitting on their ever-expanding asses and playing video games.

The show combined a mix of trivia, luck and skill challenges along with a healthy dose of gaming. The whole thing was capped off by an ultra fake looking bonus round where the kids would get to do the one thing all gamers hoped technology would let them do (other than bang Lara Croft): star in their own game.

As you can see, the bonus round turned the winning contestants into the stars of a fictional video game consisting of three levels in which they have to retrieve (wave their hands awkwardly in the general direction of) three objects without running out of power or dignity by the time the clock runs out.

The flaw here was that the "video game" up there was just a giant green screen with monitors on either side, so the contestant ended up looking less like Mario, and more like a really inexperienced weatherman trying to point to a tiny, fast moving storm.

Thus, the kid was forced to flail around as if suffering from several crippling disabilities. Hell, they didn't even get any virtual weapons to defend themselves. Even Pac-Man had weapons to fight off the ghosts and he's just a damn head.

The Lesson:

You will be awkward and incompetent in any universe, real or imaginary.

The Only Way It Could Be Worse:

The contestants could have been asked to complete in the bonus round in "Hot Coffee" mode.

GUTS (1992-1995)

Let's face it, watching kids play sports is so boring that even the kids who play them wouldn't watch it. GUTS decided to remedy this problem by incorporating bungee cords into just about every competition known to modern man.

The "elastic" challenges let kids dunk a basketball, spike a volleyball and complete a Marion Jones-esque long jump without having to inject a human growth hormone in their legs. However they quickly ran out of good challenges and invented things like this retarded bungee archery contest.

Online Videos by

Now attaching kids to cords and letting them jump from high distances seemed like a perfect recipe for a lawsuit against MTV Networks, so it appears they shortened up the cords so the contestants' feet barely touched the ground during their approach. Unfortunately, this gave the contestant little control over where they actually would ended up and robbed them of the torque they needed to make it back up the padded stairs, often leaving them to dangle sadly just out of reach.

It must have been frustrating for the contestants as it was hilarious for the audience. If the producers could have kept moving the stairs back every time they reached for it (like a painful game of "Almost Got It" bullies used to play on kids with their lunch money), it would have been a ratings bonanza.

The Lesson:

Skill and practice mean nothing when adults just want to laugh at your failure.

The Only Way It Could Be Worse:

Put the kids' drunk, failed high school athlete fathers on the sidelines screaming "Pussy!" at them every time they fail to fire a foam arrow at a target.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (1991-1996)

Picture this: You're a grade-A student who one day hopes to become a geography grand master. You spend every waking minute studying bizarre continental trivia like obscure countries' capitals, the highest regional mountain ranges and countries that produce the most whiskey per capita. You compete in geography bees from the local to the state to the national level winning everything from t-shirts to scholarships for colleges that your future DeVry friends can't even spell.

Finally,it's about to pay off with a trip to anywhere in the continental United States, thanks to the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? game show on PBS. All you have to do is ace the final map round, by identifying the countries of South America. And then it all goes to shit.

Yes, the entire challenge depends on the child being able to carry around idiotic light poles that are approximately as big as their entire body. The majority of the time limit ticks off while the girl in the above video tries to line up the wobbly things on the exact spot on the floor, knowing that if she knocks one over and breaks it, PBS can use their government sway to get the IRS to take it out of your parents next tax refund.

Thus Angelique up there loses the bonus round, even though she clearly knows her geography and misses out on a trip, possibly to Oregon to see her grandmother one more time before the cancer takes her away.

The Lesson:

Not even superior knowledge can overcome life's completely arbitrary obstacles.

The Only Way It Could Be Worse:

If the light poles were designed with heating elements to quickly heat up to 300 degrees while the child was carrying them.

I’m Telling! (1987-1988)

If you thought that lie detector show The Moment of Truth crossed the boundaries of good taste by forcing people to air their dirty laundry for large amounts of cash, NBC once stooped even lower by offering the same opportunity to kids in exchange for lesser spoils such as a collection of Hardy Boys novels and a remote controlled robot.

The Saturday morning game show, I'm Telling!, took the concept of The Newlywed Game and made the astonishingly creepy decision to apply it to young siblings by asking them probing questions. Just like The Newlywed Game, the two would have to match their answers for points.

If you're not clear about what's so wrong with it, take a look at this clip of host Laurie Faso asking these girls, who can't be more than 10-years-old, how their parents dish out punishments when their brothers misbehave:

That's right, in order to win this game, you not only have to humiliate your brother or sister on national Saturday morning television, you also had to incriminate your parents and provide Child Protective Services the evidence they need to rip you from your family and stick you in a foster home. Even Laurie Faso seems uncomfortable when the adorable little freckle faced girl specifies that her parents spank her brother "with a belt."

Original here