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September 2005
If these pictures weren't posted on Yahoo! News, I would find it very hard to believe them to be real. But there they are, credited to Reuters photographer Rick Wilking, and accompanied by this caption:

U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005.

I suppose even Presidents need to go to the bathroom.
image image
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 15, 2005
Comments (45)
The German newspaper Bild yesterday reported that an inventor, Christian Koch, had developed a method to make bio-fuel out of dead cats. 20 cats would be enough to fill one gas tank. The story quickly spread to other media outlets, and animal-rights activists expressed concern: "The president of the German Society for the Protection of Animals, Wolfgang Apel, said using dead cats for fuel was illegal... 'We're going to keep an eye on this case,' Apel said." But it now turns out that Bild's story wasn't totally accurate. What they meant was that, in theory, one could use dead cats (or any other organic material) to produce the fuel. But the inventor insists he never mentioned the use of cats: "It’s an alternative fuel that is friendly for the environment. But it’s complete nonsense to suggest dead cats. I’ve never used cats and would never think of that. At most the odd toad may have jumped in." It seems that Bild got the idea for the use of cats from the name of Koch's company, Alphakat GmbH.
Categories: Animals, Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 15, 2005
Comments (8)
About a week ago I posted that my friend Dave had created a weblog to test some software that he'd developed. He's now running a contest with a $100 prize. This isn't a hoax. Basically all you have to do is register with his site and post an entry. If you post something, you get a chance to win the $100. Since no one has yet posted anything (and the contest has been running for a couple of days), your chances of winning are pretty good. The contest will end three days after the tenth post is created. (So, theoretically, your chances could be one in ten of winning.) I think Dave will accept almost anything as a valid post (a link, a random thought, a joke, etc.), but he's suggested a theme: "epiphany" (as in a sudden realization, not a religious awakening). I've known Dave for over ten years, so I can vouch for him that he will give someone the $100, and he won't do anything evil with your email address if you register on his site. (Though now that I think about it, I haven't actually seen Dave in person in almost two years, ever since he moved up to Riverside... so maybe in the meantime he's been replaced by an evil Dave-bot replicant who's hatched a diabolical plan to harvest email addresses, though I doubt it.)
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 14, 2005
Comments (10)
A week or two ago papers were reporting the final verdict in the class-action suit against Sony stemming from the David Manning phony critic case. Sony got slapped with a $1.5million fine that was supposed to compensate moviegoers who felt defrauded by the fake ads. But William Booth of the Washington Post did some research and found out that not all was as it seemed with the payout:

News of the settlement created a stir in cyberspace and the entertainment press, with visions of tens of thousands of chagrined rubes lining up around the studio with their palms outstretched. Like, right on! Multiplexers unite! We did some follow-up and learned that Sony paid out $5,085 — total — to 170 real, honest-to-goodness ticket buyers. The rest of the cash? Brace yourself, Virginia: According to court papers, the attorneys for the plaintiffs got $458,909. Sony paid an additional $250,000 for administrative fees and costs associated with alerting moviegoers to the settlement and processing the claims — all 170 of them. Not a bad payday. The settlement, in which Sony conceded no wrongdoing, stipulated that any money left over from the $500,000 the studio set aside for claims would go to charity. And indeed it did, with $494,915 donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Women’s Care Cottage in Los Angeles.
Categories: Entertainment, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 14, 2005
Comments (2)
Newsweek had a short blurb about the enormous money people are paying for high school yearbook photos nowadays. I know something about this because my cousin Kelsey just spent A LOT of money on shots for her yearbook. But one line in the Newsweek article (the part about the fake sweat) caught my attention:

Cindy Glover, 41, remembers her high-school yearbook photos: "All the girls wore wool blazers." But for her son, Austin, 17, a senior from Spencer, Iowa—and many of his peers nationwide—it's another story. Photographer Rick Krebsbach spent four hours shooting Austin indoors, outdoors, in his wrestling gear and shirtless while holding his football helmet. For the athletic shots, Krebsbach even "put water on him to make him look like he was dripping [sweat]," says Glover. She expects to spend about $700 on the photos and "image collection" book.

I also couldn't help but notice how odd it is that Austin's photo shoot looks more like a soft-porn spread for some beefcake magazine than what you would put in a high school yearbook. I think I preferred the days of grainy black-and-white head shots.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 13, 2005
Comments (15)
The Strange New Products blog has word of two new gross faux foods. First there's Harry Potter's Cockroach Clusters from Cap Candy. "The juicy gummy underbelly is covered with a crunchy candy shell, just like real cockroach wings." Yum. I definitely have to try some of those. Then there's ABC Gum. The ABC stands for "Already Been Chewed." "ABC Bubble Gum is a brand new novelty bubble gum that has been formed to look exactly like a piece of gum that's ALREADY BEEN CHEWED!!" I would love to offer that to unsuspecting guests.
Categories: Food, Gross
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 13, 2005
Comments (11)
A report in the Daily Mail claims that doctors stranded in New Orleans hospitals after Katrina hit decided to give some patients lethal doses of morphine, rather than watching them die in agony. A few bloggers are suggesting this report has all the markings of an urban legend, given that it's based on only one identified source. If so, it wouldn't be the first urban legend emerging from the disaster. However, the recent discovery of 44 dead bodies in a New Orleans hospital would seem to add credibility to this report.
Categories: Death, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 13, 2005
Comments (19)
If you live in the UK and you've ever had collagen injections for lip or wrinkle treatments, do you have any idea where that collagen has come from? According to this Guardian special report, it could come from skin harvested from the corpses of executed Chinese convicts. "The agents [for the collagen import firm] say some of the company's products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is 'traditional' and nothing to 'make such a big fuss about'." The special report goes on to state:

Peter Butler, a consultant plastic surgeon and government adviser, said there had been rumours that Chinese surgeons had performed hand transplants using hands from executed prisoners. One transplant centre was believed to be adjacent to an execution ground. "I can see the utility of it, as they have access and no ethical objection," he said. "The main concern would be infective risk."

I think there have been several horror movies made with premises similar to this.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Gross
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 13, 2005
Comments (12)
Here's another New Orleans image that's begun to circulate. (Travis of Ohio State sent this one in.) Evidently this alligator has just enjoyed a good meal. However, this photo isn't a fake. It appeared in Der Stern accompanying an article about the many dangers that now exist in New Orleans, and is credited to photographer Marvi Lacar. The photo's caption reads (in English): "An alligator in the church: the 'swamp critters' are an additional danger."
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 12, 2005
Comments (24)
image Quite a few hoax photos inspired by Hurricane Katrina are now popping up. Here's one that's now doing the rounds, as reported by David Emery on his site, showing the two Bushes (father and son) fishing in the streets of New Orleans. As hoax photos go, it's pretty obviously a joke. The image of the Bushes with the fish was lifted from a picture taken by AP photographer Steven Senne up in Maine on Father's Day, 2003.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 12, 2005
Comments (5)
Over the weekend my wife and I discovered that we have an uninvited guest living in our attic crawlspace: an opossum. (This isn't a hoax.) As we were sitting on our patio we heard it moving around and soon discovered that it had found a gap (that we had never been aware of) in the side of the overhang above the kitchen door whereby it could gain access to the crawlspace. I rigged up a camera and managed to get a picture of it sticking its face out. So my question is, does anyone know what to do about an opossum in the attic? Will it leave of its own accord after a while? (We suspect it's been there for at least a couple of weeks.) Or do we have to get professionals out to remove it? I don't want to hurt it, because from what I understand they're fairly useful animals that kill rats, snakes, cockroaches, and other rodents.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 12, 2005
Comments (38)
LaMa forwarded me some pictures of Hurricane Katrina that he says have been doing the rounds in Holland accompanied by the caption: "These were taken in Alabama of Katrina coming in. These photos are amazing. Sometimes there is beauty in a storm. Thought you might enjoy something different than what we all have been inundated with of late." He notes that "a few of them look familiar to me, I think I have seen them before." And indeed he has! I posted them here back in May when they were doing the rounds as a "storm near bunbury" (in Australia). They're cool photos, so I can see why they would be recycled with every new storm. I believe (as one of the commenters pointed out when I posted them before) that they're storm chasing pictures taken by Mike Hollingshead in Iowa in 2004.

image image image
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 09, 2005
Comments (9)
New Scientist has flagged a product whose promoters are guilty of making a few misleading claims. It's Neaclear facial cream, and it's advertised as containing a "powerful combination of liquid oxygen, vitamins C & E, sage, chamomile, seaweed and rosemary, coconut oil, sweet almond oil and hydroquinone." The company even boasts that they're the first company "to combine stabilised liquid oxygen into all of its products." New Scientist notes that "We have certainly never heard of a skin cream that contains liquid oxygen, the temperature of which is normally somewhere below -183 °C."
Categories: Advertising, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 09, 2005
Comments (15)
Weatherman Scott Stevens claims that "Japanese gangsters known as the Yakuza caused Hurricane Katrina." Here are more details (thanks to John for sending me the link):

Scott Stevens says after looking at NASA satellite photos of the hurricane, he is convinced it was caused by electromagnetic generators from ground-based microwave transmitters. The generators emit a soundwave between three and 30 megahertz and Stevens claims the Russians invented the storm-creating technology back in 1976 and sold it to others in the late 1980s. Stevens says the clouds formed by the generators are different than normal clouds and are able to appear out of nowhere and says Katrina had many rotation points that are unusual for hurricanes. At least ten nations and organizations possess the technology but Stevens suspects the Japanese Yakuza created Katrina in order to make a fortune in the futures market and to get even with the U.S. for the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.

Also check out Scott Stevens's website, Weather Wars, where he elaborates on his theory of scalar weather (as he calls it) and provides a lot of hurricane imagery to make his case. Stevens really seems to believe his theory, so I would classify it as a conspiracy theory rather than a hoax.

Update: Here's a page with more pictures of supposedly artificially created scalar weather phenomena.
Categories: Conspiracy Theories
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 09, 2005
Comments (37)
This 1994 patent for synthetic fecal fluid makes fascinating reading. I had never realized the diaper industry had such a pressing need for fake feces (to test their products), nor did I realize the lengths they had gone to in order to create substitutes:

It is not practical to use actual body fluids. As a result, synthetic materials and substitutes are used. Strange as it may seem, materials used in the past have included mashed potatoes, brownie mix, peanut butter and pumpkin pie filling.

I'll never look at mashed potatoes the same way again. But one issue the document doesn't address is this: to create synthetic fecal fluid I presume they had to compare their product against the real thing. That's a job I wouldn't want to have.
Categories: Gross
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 08, 2005
Comments (4)
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