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Bluff The Listener

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Roy Blount Jr., Alonzo Bodden and Paula Poundstone. And here again is your host at the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Bill. Thanks, everybody. Thank you. Right now it is time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAITWAIT to play our games on the air. Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

CHARLIE WIDMER: Hi, this is Charlie Widmer. And I'm calling in from Connecticut.

SAGAL: Oh, great, Connecticut. I know Connecticut quite well. What do you do there?

WIDMER: I am an opera singer and a bandleader.

SAGAL: An opera singer, really?


SAGAL: Are you a tenor or you are a bass - a baritone?

WIDMER: Tenor.

SAGAL: You're a tenor, oh, yes. So that's the lead roles.

WIDMER: Well, I hope so.

SAGAL: Yeah, don't - but don't you actually have to be about 55 and obese to play the young hero in opera?


WIDMER: It's the only way to get the roles.

SAGAL: It is. OK. Well, Charlie, welcome to the show. You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Charlie's topic?

KURTIS: Tell me your secret.

SAGAL: So the Freedom of Information Act allows us humble citizens to get information from the governments who have power over us, things like White House visitor logs, meeting records and the location of Mike Pence's balls.


SAGAL: Tennis balls, sir. We know you enjoy the game.


SAGAL: Well, this week we heard about someone using a FOIA request to get some unusual information. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the one who's telling the truth. You'll win our prize, Carl Kasell's voice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play, Charlie?

WIDMER: Yes, sir. Let's do it.

SAGAL: All - let's do it. Let's hear, first, from Paula Poundstone.

POUNDSTONE: The dangers of trans fats - partially hydrogenated oils - were brought to our attention by Tommy Thompson, the head of Health and Human Services back in 2007. They're not good for you. They raise your bad cholesterol levels and deplete your good cholesterol levels. They increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It hasn't been studied yet, but it wouldn't be surprising if trans fats make you kick your dog.


POUNDSTONE: Many commercial food products scrambled to change their recipes so as to print an eye-catching contains-no-trans-fat sticker on their package. Drake's, the makers of such people-pleasing snack treats as Yodels, Devil Dogs, Funny Bones, and Ring Dings was one of the first to do so. While we all tell ourselves we're healthier as a result of this intervention, the unspoken truth - the elephant in the room - is that nothing tastes as good without trans fats.


POUNDSTONE: Ring Ding lovers Reid and Evan Collins finally sought the original recipes for the beloved snack cakes through the Freedom of Information Act...


POUNDSTONE: ...And made their own. Neither my brother nor I want to have a stroke. But we decided the risk was worth it.


POUNDSTONE: Besides, what are the odds of both of us having a stroke? We went to a lab and partially hydrogenated the oil ourselves, explains Evan Collins.


POUNDSTONE: It's not easy. You have to really watch that you don't entirely hydrogenate the oil.


POUNDSTONE: Just when you start to hydrogenate, you have to stop.


POUNDSTONE: They've perfected the baking process and created a niche market among friends and family. And they only sell to people in pairs.


SAGAL: The FOIA request to get the original, dangerous recipe for Ring Dings. Your next story of someone seeking the truth no matter what comes from Alonzo Bodden.

ALONZO BODDEN: Every man's been in this position. She's upset. You know you did something wrong. But you're not sure what. She just gives you that look. You ask her what's wrong. And she said, if you loved me, you'd know.


BODDEN: One man's brilliant solution to this common problem, as reported in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Freedom of Information Act.


BODDEN: Brian (ph) Lewis's wife, Margarita (ph), is a legislative aide in Carson City, Nev. Her boss, Kelly Williams, is a state legislator. She's also Margarita's best friend and confidant. They chat about everything via office emails. And these chats often cover what Brian did well and, more often, what he failed to do. The unclassified emails of the state legislator are public information. So whenever Margarita gives Brian the cold shoulder, he knows a quick Freedom of Information request will tell him how many flowers he needs to buy.


BODDEN: Normally, these requests take a week to 10 days to fulfill. But over the past six months, Brian has gotten to know the business affairs clerk - also a married man - who feels it's his duty, as part of the man code, to get Brian the information as quickly as possible.


BODDEN: Once the scheme was exposed, the Nevada secretary of state forbade the clerk from responding to any more, quote, "frivolous requests." That lasted a week until the secretary of state herself heard from Margarita, who told her that she'd known about it all along and that all it had taken was a half dozen invented complaints in the emails to get herself two spa weekends, diamond earrings and enough flowers to open her own green house.


BODDEN: Brian is now encouraged to request away.


SAGAL: The man uses FOIA to find out what exactly he did wrong in his marriage. Your last story of a quest for information comes from Roy Blount Jr.

ROY BLOUNT JR: Earlier this year, a Canadian fishing guide, Mike Borger, posted video of himself and his young son on an undisclosed lake deep inside an Ontario park hauling in one giant, trophy-sized brook trout after another. Well, if you've ever tried to get a fisherman to reveal exactly where he caught fish like that, you know how it goes.

Where'd you catch that biggin, Billy? Yep.


BLOUNT JR: Almost had another one - bigger. Got him all the way up to the boat.

Yeah, but where? Where?



BLOUNT JR: Threw a purple and yellow worm out there.

But where?



BLOUNT JR: As Mike Borger says, I wouldn't tell my best friend where that lake is. But somebody - it was a little bit devious, but I'm going to give him credit. It was also a real smart way to get that information. What that somebody did was go legal - file a Freedom of Information request for a copy of Borger's camping permit, which will identify the secret lake. So far, the Ministry of Natural Resources has declined that request. But that information is public. The requestor can appeal. Borger's honey hole may be outed unless, just maybe, the fish engage outside counsel.


SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: Somewhere a Freedom of Information Act request was really filed with a government. What was it to discover? From Paula Poundstone, the original recipe for Ring Dings; from Alonzo Bodden, a husband trying to find out exactly what he did wrong or from Roy Blount Jr., the location of a great fishing hole. Which of these was the real piece of information that was sought?

WIDMER: So I just want it to be the second one - scorned woman.

SAGAL: Yeah.

WIDMER: So I'm going to go with that.

SAGAL: Are you - you're going to go with that.


SAGAL: Are you yourself married?

WIDMER: No, I'm way too young for that one.


SAGAL: All right. Well, you've chosen then Alonzo's story of someone using FOIA to find out what he had done to annoy his wife. Well, we actually spoke to the person involved in the true story.

MIKE BORGER: If one had an interior camping permit, in theory, one could figure out which lake I caught the fish in.

SAGAL: That was Mike Borger. He is the Canadian fishing guy who refuses to divulge the location of his fishing hole. So I'm so sorry. But it turns out that Roy was telling the real story.


SAGAL: You didn't win, but you did earn a point for him.

BODDEN: Well, thank you. But keep in mind, it doesn't mean my story's impossible.



WIDMER: (Laughing) We're hoping.

SAGAL: We're hoping. Well, thank you so much for playing.

WIDMER: Thank you.

SAGAL: Take care.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.