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Jewish World Review April 4, 2000/ 28 Adar II, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports



Sue-happy American society is out of control --
I'M RACKING MY BRAIN. Surely somewhere, sometime, someone dissed me on account of gender, sold me a swamp, said I could smoke and not die.

Oh, please, dear Memory, abandon me not in my hour of need that I may sue someone and grow rich.

Like those 1,100 women who last week were awarded $508 million from the U.S. government -- make that us -- for having been denied jobs 23 years ago. Why they not I?

The women reportedly were turned away by the now-defunct U.S. Information Agency because, as one interviewer allegedly told the first female applicant, "You're a woman."

Bad move, Tonto.

Hard as it is to fathom another 1,099 women being turned down for jobs from the same agency, the federal government decided to settle. Each woman will receive about $450,000 before taxes. The government also must pay the women $23 million in back pay and interest, as well as attorneys' fees of as much as $12 million.

Somewhere in my memory bank, I recall interviewing for a job as press secretary for a U.S. senator in the late '70s. I could swear that his male assistant told me: "I hate to say it, but he won't hire a female." To think, I just shrugged and found a job elsewhere. Who knew?

Meanwhile, in San Francisco recently, a dying smoker earned $20 million in punitive damages from Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds. A superior-court jury ordered the companies each to pay $10 million to Leslie Whiteley and her husband because Mrs. Whiteley smoked a zillion cigarettes even though everybody older than 2 knows that smoking might put you in the cancer ward.

Never mind that Mrs. Whiteley began smoking after the surgeon general's warnings began appearing on cigarette packs in the 1960s. Ignore, too, the fact that Mrs. Whiteley admits also to smoking marijuana, which '70s-era reefer prohibitionists told us is 10 times more corrosive to the lungs than cigarettes.

But, then, whom do you sue when you're breaking the law?

Give us a little time here; where there's a victim, there's a bank account.

Not that I'm proud of it, but I recall smoking cigarettes when I was a witless teen. I knew that they were bad for me, but I didn't care. I was a witless teen. When I grew up, I quit smoking because -- call me brilliant -- I didn't want to get lung cancer.

I suppose it's too soon to sue anyone for the cancer I might yet contract, given my earlier stupidity, but, then, maybe not. Should I suffer the terrible misfortune of contracting cancer someday, which is a virtual certainty if I live long enough (age is the greatest predictor for cancer), there's yet hope for a late-life fortune: Vitamin C.

New research suggests that Vitamin C, in fact, may be bad for you if you have cancer. Apparently, the cancer cell actually wants vitamin C because, no dummy, it wants antioxidant protection like everybody else, said Dr. David Golde, author of the research.

To think, just 30 years ago, the darling and brilliant Nobel Prize-winning Linus Pauling urged the world to take Vitamin C for protection against everything from the common cold to the Big C. Now whom do we sue?

We can't sue Pauling, who died in 1994 at age 93. Of cancer. See what I mean about age?

But perhaps his estate would be worth pursuing. After all, a female smoker with lung cancer once denied employment because of her sex, who subsequently took large doses of Vitamin C, could install her progeny in Trump Tower for several generations.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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