Sunday, January 22, 2006

Myth Busters

If you ever get an e-mail forwarded to you with a story of a missing kid, or a scandalous statement by a politician, or a call to boycott a store because of a particular policy, it's a good idea to try and find out if the information is true before continuing the e-mail chain. The easiest way to do this is to go to Google and type in the word "snopes" and a key phrase from the e-mail, like the name of the missing kid or the damning phrase uttered by the famous person. Most likely your search will bring you to, a site dedicated to the topic of urban legends. They are really good at investigating the veracity of stories that are circulating.

Here's one example:


Claim: Designer Tommy Hilfiger shocked the world when he appeared on a television talk show and said, "If I knew that blacks and Asians were going to wear my clothes, I would have never designed them."

Status: False
Rumors that Tommy Hilfiger made a racist remark exploded onto the Internet in the fall of 1996 after a news article purporting to be from a Philippines tabloid began making the online rounds. One version had him saying, "If I knew that blacks and Asians were going to wear my clothes, I would have never designed them." More colorful renditions had him making his shocking revelation on national TV and Oprah Winfrey then throwing him off her show. (Oddly enough, the same story has been told about Liz Claiborne since 1991, that Oprah threw her off the show after Liz claimed she didn't design for Black women as "their hips are too big." That didn't happen either.

A 1997 newspaper article debunking this tale noted:

In one cybermyth, Hilfiger supposedly told style reporter Elsa Klensch of CNN that he didn't think Asians looked good in his clothes. Then, as the story morphed, he told Winfrey the same thing about Blacks, at which point she threw him off the set.

Yet representatives of both shows deny Hilfiger ever appeared as a guest.

A 1999 article also carried denials from officials of the shows on which the incident is rumored to have taken place:

"Tommy Hilfiger has never appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show," said Audrey Pass, a spokeswoman for Winfrey. "Hilfiger's never appeared on CNN Style with Elsa Klensch," said Kathy Park of CNN.

Oprah herself did what she could to quell this slander. On Monday, 11 January 1999, she opened her show by adamantly denouncing the rumor, emphatically stating the following:

So I want to just set the record straight once and for all. The rumor claims that clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger came on this show and made racist remarks, and that I then kicked him out. I just want to say that is not true because it just never happened. Tommy Hilfiger has never appeared on this show. READ MY LIPS, TOMMY HILFIGER HAS NEVER APPEARED ON THIS SHOW. And all of [the] people who claim that they saw it, they heard it — it never happened. I've never even met Tommy Hilfiger.

Here's another one.

Claim: Diamond Pet Brands dog food has caused canine deaths.

Status: True.
Origins: A voluntary recall involving a number of Diamond Pet Foods products is in effect in 24 states (Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia). The recall has been issued because dogs in 22 states have died as a result of ingesting this brand's product that had been contaminated with Aflatoxin.

Okay, one more...

Claim: Cell phone users must register their numbers with the national "Do Not Call" directory to prevent their cell phone numbers from being released to telemarketers.

Status: False.

Greetings To All of My Friends and Family

In just 4 days from today all U. S. cell phone numbers will be released to telemarketing companies and you will begin to receive sales calls. You will be charged for these calls! Even if you do not answer, the telemarketer will end up in your voice mail and you will be charged for all of the minutes the incoming (usually recorded) message takes to complete. You will then also be charged when you call your voice mail to retrieve your messages.

To prevent this, call 888-382-1222 from your cell phone. This is the national DO NOT CALL list; it takes only a minute to register your cell phone number and it blocks most telemarketers calls for five years.

In case you have friends other than me, pass this on to them.

Origins: Despite dire warnings about the imminent release of cell phone numbers to telemarketers that continue to be circulated via e-mail year after year, no such thing is about to occur, nor do cell phone users have to register their cell phone numbers with the national Do Not Call registry before a soon-to-pass deadline to head off an onslaught of telemarketing calls. The panic-inducing e-mails (which circulate especially widely every January, since many versions of the warning list the end of that month as a cut-off date for registering cell phone numbers with the national Do Not Call registry) have grown out of a misunderstanding about the proposed creation of a wireless directory assistance service.

Here's the truth:

A national directory will be compiled, but numbers will be included on an opt-in basis. If a cell phone subscriber does nothing, the number will not be listed. When the directory is ready, it will be available only as part of the existing 411 directory service, accessed by calling in and asking for a specific number. It will not be published in a book or on the Internet. And it will not be sold to telemarketers.

Cell phone subscribers can list their numbers on the do-not-call registry if they choose, but there is no deadline to get on the list, as the e-mail messages now circulating suggest

Some versions of the exhortation to cell phone users to add their names to the Do Not Call Registry erroneously state there is a specific deadline for getting listed. Says Lois Greisman, the Federal Trade Commission official who oversees the anti-telemarketing registry: "There is no deadline; there never has been a deadline to register."

Adding one's cell phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry won't have any adverse effect, but customers should be aware of exactly what that action will and will not accomplish.

Updates: Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular Corp. have always declined to participate in the proposed cell phone directory, and initial partners Sprint Corp. and Alltel Corp. have since pulled away from the project due to concerns about bad publicity and possible new government regulations. So, as of January 2005, even if the cell phone directory database were compiled as planned, at least 45% of U.S. cell phone numbers wouldn't be included.

So, there you go. Lets end the misinformation together!

Check out these investigations of e-mails you may have gotten recently:

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