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January 2012
Two stories have been in the news recently about Manhattan school employees who were somewhat derelict in their commitment to the truth.

The first was Joan Barnett, a parent coordinator, who, in order to get two-and-a-half weeks of vacation, claimed her daughter "Xinia Daley Herman" had died. Her mistake: she submitted a death certificate with weird, misaligned fonts. When busted, she initially claimed her daughter really had "died of a heart condition." But eventually she broke down and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. It's not clear from the article if she really had a daughter with that name. Link: National Post

The second is teacher Mona Lisa Tello, who submitted a fake jury duty letter to get out of class for two weeks. Her mistake: the letter was full of misspellings ('trail' instead of 'trial,' 'manger' instead of 'manager'). Link: NY Daily News

Both Barnett and Tello lost their jobs. So now they have all the vacation time they could possibly want.
Categories: Bad Excuses, Education, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 12, 2012
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(via Sally Richards)
Categories: Future/Time
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 12, 2012
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Questions have been raised about the authenticity of a valuable and historically important painting, Swearing Allegiance to the Southern Cross. And the debate about the painting is tangled up in a controversy about the so-called Eureka Flag, which is believed to be the precursor to Australia's current national flag.

Story in Brief: The Eureka Flag rose to prominence in the mid-20th Century, at which time it became a symbol of Australian nationalism. But questions lingered about its authenticity as a precursor to the current flag. Then, in 1996, the 'Swearing Allegiance' painting was discovered in someone's attic. It was said to have been painted by a Quebec artist-adventurer, Charles Doudiet, in the mid-nineteenth century, and it showed a scene from the Eureka Rebellion of 1854, in which Doudiet was said to have participated. More importantly, it showed the Eureka Flag. Thus, if the painting was real, the flag's history was also genuine.

But recently an anonymous source contacted The Sunday Age alleging the painting was a fake. A tip from an anonymous source doesn't seem like much to go on. But apparently there's almost no information about this Charles Doudiet, even though he supposedly was a pivotal figure in the Eureka rebellion. Also, the painting was never forensics tested. The Ballarat Gallery, which owns the painting, has promised it's going to look into the matter. Links: The Sunday Age, Vancouver Sun.
Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 12, 2012
Comments (1)
Former media hoaxer Stephen Glass, whose exploits were depicted in the movie Shattered Glass, is back in the news. It seems that his career since getting fired from the New Republic has been a bit rocky. He made $140,000 from his 2003 semi-autobiographical novel, The Fabulist, but that money didn't last too long. In recent years, he's been trying to become a lawyer. According to, he passed the bar exam and applied for an attorney's license in 2007, but the State Bar of California turned him down on the grounds that he was morally unfit to practice law. He appealed the decision, and the California Supreme Court has agreed to hear his case.

Morally unfit to practice law? That seems like a contradiction in terms. Given his past, Glass should fit right in to the legal profession.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 11, 2012
Comments (1)
A video of a race between miniature cars floating above a track by means of "quantum levitation" was recently debunked. The intro screen to the video credited it to the (fictitious) "Japan Institute of Science and Technology," but the true creator was Sony and SCE Studio Liverpool. The Business Insider says: "the video was a ploy by Sony and developer SCE Studio Liverpool to promote the Wipeout 2048 game that's coming out on the PS Vita."

I'm assuming the video was inspired by a demonstration of "quantum levitation" conducted by the superconductivity group at Tel-Aviv University and posted on youtube a few months ago.

Categories: Technology, Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 11, 2012
Comments (2)
The Alien Disclosure Group (ADG) UK has posted a video on youtube in which they suggest that the funeral of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il may have been attended by extraterrestrials. Or very tall earthlings. One or the other.

The ADG seems eager to see aliens in any mystery. But their video does highlight two legitimate items of strangeness from Kim Jong-Il's funeral.

The first is that there apparently really was an extremely tall person standing in the crowd watching Kim Jong-Il's funeral procession. His identity is unknown. So perhaps it was an extraterrestrial. Or maybe it was Ri Myung Hung, the 7' 9" North Korean basketball player.

The second item of strangeness is that North Korea released a photo of the funeral procession from which, it was later noticed, a group of people had been erased. Why did the North Korean authorities erase these people? The ADG suggests it was because they were aliens. The NY Times suggests it was the work of some unknown North Korean photo editor who simply thought the photo looked better without those people. The Times attributes this to "totalitarian aesthetics":

With the men straggling around the sidelines, a certain martial perfection is lost. Without the men, the tight black bands of the crowd on either side look railroad straight.

Now you see 'em

Now you don't
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 04, 2012
Comments (5)
Two new novels involve hoaxes as their central theme. So they might be of interest to hoaxologists.

prague cemetery
The first novel is The Prague Cemetery, by Umberto Eco. From the Irish Independent's review:

Eco illuminates an age like no other writer -- the era in this case being fin de siecle Paris, its filthy streets bristling with communists, conspirators and con men, Jesuits and Freemasons, and, most of all, Jews. The novel was heavily criticised in its native Italy for having an anti-semitic narrator whose repulsion for Jews permeates every page, but that misses the point. (Or perhaps makes it.) No one can escape their time and place...

The narrator is Captain Simonini, a forger and double agent who undertakes to relate his story in order to fill in the puzzling gaps which have started appearing in his memory.

It's a common theme of Eco's work... the difference here being that the conspiracy exists nowhere except in the minds of the narrator and others like him, men whose mistrust of Jews is so great that Eco ends up crediting Simonini with authorship of the notorious forgery The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, which purportedly lays out a Jewish plot to take over the world. The document infamously inspired Hitler.

This ultimate postmodern joke, of a forger who believes his own mental fantasies to such an extent that he ends up creating them, is a typical Eco conceit.

poor man's wealth
The second novel is Poor Man's Wealth by Rod Usher. It tells the story of the small town of Higot that dreams up a hoax (a mysterious outbreak of narcolepsy) as a way to attract tourism. From the review in the Melbourne's Sunday Age:

Somewhere in the backwaters of an unnamed Spanish-speaking country lies Higot, a dirt-poor tobacco town where the sky "pours down its yellow heat on to the bones of the dead and the living". Rumours from beyond the mountains that tobacco may not be that good for you are scorned by Higot's poor farmers as a perfidious slur, but they're nervous because even if smokers aren't dying, their town certainly is. Then Higot's leading citizens secretly plot an ingenious wheeze: they will create a "sleep myth" to attract the world's attention - and maybe some of its money. It is a flagrant hoax but soon half the village is playing its unwitting part in a remarkable outbreak of narcolepsy.

Usher's premise reminds me of Vilcabamba, the small town in Ecuador that attracted international attention back in the 1970s because many of its residents claimed to be over 100, until it turned out that most of them were lying about their age.
Categories: Books
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 02, 2012
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Near the end of December, reports emerged of a yeti caught in the Caucasus mountain, in the Russian republic of Ingushetia. Interfax reported Bagaudin Marshani, former head of Ingushetia's labor ministry, as saying:

"The creature looks like a gorilla, about two metres tall, probably a male, and it's very massive. But a gorilla stands four-footed, and this stands vertically, like a person... It growls and makes strange sounds ... and eats meat and vegetables. Some people say it's an Abominable Snowman, and others say that it's a great ape. But honestly, I've never seen anything like it."

Marshani also said that the creature was being displayed in a private zoo in the village of Surkhakhi, and that a team of scientists was on its way from Moscow to study it.

A video was posted on youtube showing the yeti running away from a hunter. The yeti looked a lot like a guy in an ape suit.

And, of course, it was a guy in an ape suit. Specifically, it was an Ingush hotel worker in an ape suit.

It turned out the yeti capture was a publicity stunt to raise money for charity. Marshani explained, "It was a promotional event, a New Year joke to put the spotlight on orphans and children from dysfunctional and low-income families."

People came to the zoo to see the yeti, and once there, they were asked to donate money to the orphan charity. Also on display at the zoo were ten talking animals, including a wolf and a squirrel. Links: pravda,
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 02, 2012
Comments (2)

In China, a photography studio recently posted an advertisement online displaying examples of baby photos it had taken. The problem was that the photos showed a family of eight kids, four boys and four girls, belonging to parents who had apparently paid $160,000 to have the kids delivered by surrogate mothers. However, it's illegal for Chinese hospitals to provide surrogacy procedures. Not to mention China's one-child policy. Which makes the public display of the photos a pretty brazen flouting of the law. But are the photos real, or just a publicity stunt? The AP reports:

Chinese media are calling the mother “babaotai muqin,” or “octomom,” a reference to the American woman who gave birth to octuplets using in vitro fertilization.
Much remains uncertain about the family from Guangzhou, the capital of south China’s Guangdong province. According to the Guangzhou Daily, a government newspaper, the biological mother carried two of the babies, while two surrogates gave birth to three each. After the babies were born in September and October last year, 11 nannies were hired to help take care of the children, the report said.
While some suspect a hoax, a media officer with the Guangdong Health Department said the case was real and under investigation. He declined to identify the couple, citing privacy concerns.
Links:, BBC News.
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 02, 2012
Comments (1)
As far as death hoaxes goes, this is a strange one, both because it involves a chimp and also because it's a fake death report of someone who died long ago.

The story began last week, around Christmas, when it was reported that Cheetah, the chimp who played Tarzan's sidekick in the 1930s Tarzan films, had died at the ripe old age of 80. He had apparently spent the last decades of his life at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Florida. The cause of death was kidney failure.

I remember seeing the headlines about the death and thinking it was odd a chimp could live that long. And sure enough, primate experts quickly disputed the story, saying there was no way a chimp could live to be 80. Chimps that live to 60 are considered very, very old. If Cheetah had lived to be 80, he would have been, by far, the oldest chimp in the world -- ever.

Nevertheless, Debbie Cobb, the director of the Sanctuary, is standing by her story. She insists that the chimp that died was acquired by the Sanctuary around 1960, at which time he was already close to 30. But unfortunately no documentation exists to prove the chimp's age.

So, given the lack of documentation and the dubious longevity of the chimp, it seems safe to assume that the chimp who died never starred in any Tarzan films. Links: abc news, ny times.
Categories: Animals, Death
Posted by Alex on Sun Jan 01, 2012
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