I refuse to answer that on the grounds I don't know

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The Independent Online
A QUIZ today, but one with a difference] Normally when you have finished a quiz you can turn straight to the answers right after you have failed to answer any of the questions. However, these questions, all based on the current world scene, are different: I can't think of the answers to any of them . . .

1. Why is it that when the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down and the big thaw came, every country in Europe seemed to get smaller as a result - except Germany, which got much bigger?

2. Can you name any Dickens or George Eliot novel which is not undergoing televisualisation?

3. Why are people who adhere to the basic principles of Islam dismissed as Islamic fundamentalists, while fanatical Zionists

are never referred to as Jewish fundamentalists?

4. How is it that when John Major said we must get 'back to basics', the British thought it was a bit of a joke, but when the Ayatollah Khomeini said the same thing, nobody in Iran laughed?

5. If organisers of book events and producers of BBC radio programmes find it comparatively easy to contact Salman Rushdie with a view to getting him to pop up and make an appearance for them, how come no lone Iranian- inspired assassin has ever got close to him?

6. Who was it who said, of Margaret Thatcher: 'Like her or love her, you can't help hating her'?

7. In a recent issue of the International Herald Tribune, in a regular feature called 'What They're Reading', they asked Christopher Irwin, chief executive of BBC World Service Television, what he was reading at the moment, and he said he was reading two books - Managing Brand Equity: Capitalising on the Value of a Brand Name by David Aaker, and The Night Manager by John le Carre.

'The first book gives me good jargon to pin on ideas I have in the back of my mind,' he said. 'The le Carre book is intense and complex but very compelling.'

The question is, I suppose: what does this tell us about the new BBC under John Birt?

8. It was commonly said after the end of the Cold War that spy thriller writers would now have no setting for their stories. How do you think the new BBC under John Birt would qualify as a setting for all the thrills of Byzantine plots, moles, leaks, traitors, back-stabbings and a monolithic state structure of obedience and silence?

9. If the United Nations had been around in 1914, what course of action do you think it would have proposed when the Archduke Ferdinand was shot dead in Sarajevo?

10. Can you think of any idea or proposal made by Michael Portillo that hasn't been made by countless similar ministers?

11. Can you think of any idea or proposal that has been made by Michael Portillo?

12. Can you think of Michael Portillo?

13. The English and the Irish were on the verge of an epoch- making agreement not so very long ago that was going to bring peace for all time to Northern Ireland. Whatever happened to it? And can you name anything that was actually agreed on in the Anglo-Irish agreement?

14. The Bank of England has secured judgment against three former employees who had been making off with thousands of pounds' worth of banknotes due for destruction and who have been ordered to pay it all back (even though they were never found guilty of theft).

Do you think this was a test case to see if Norman Lamont can be made to repay all those millions lost in the attempt to prop up the pound at the time of Black Wednesday?

15. Can you name anything that Michael Howard hasn't tried to crack down on yet? Alternatively, can you name anything that Michael Howard did announce a crackdown on and which actually decreased as a consequence of his action?

16. The snooker championship at the Crucible in Sheffield has been going on for how long? a) the last two weeks, b) about six months, c) non-stop since the Eighties, d) ever since the invention of television.

17. Considering that as soon as the football season is over it will be time to start gearing up for the World Cup in the United States, and as soon as that is over it will be time to start gearing up for the football season in Scotland, and after that for the season in England again, which means that we are not going to be free of football until some time late in 1995, if then, does this fill you with a) gloom, or b) what?

18. Why do the British use the ward 'gratuitous' to mean lots of nice things such as 'unstinted', 'no strings attached' and 'generous', with the sole exception of the times it is applied to violence, when it means 'brutal', 'sadistic' and 'bloodthirsty'?