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|•||Chilis Narrowly Avoids Funding Anti-Vaxxers 04/08/2014|
|•||Dutch April fools jokes 04/02/2014|
|•||Japanese stem cell breakthrough exposed as a fabrication 04/02/2014|
|•||April First - April Fools Day 04/01/2014|
|•||Cloned dinosaurs? 03/31/2014|
|•||US ‘psychic’ Cynthia Miller jailed for $1.2 million fraud 03/29/2014|
|•||Test of intelligence. Person calls police to report their cannabis plant stolen 03/25/2014|
|•||Malaysia air disaster 03/22/2014|
|•||Fred Phelps is gone 03/21/2014|
|•||Iran building fake aircraft carrier 03/20/2014|
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Status: HoaxEarlier this spring, while digging up an oak tree, residents of Feckenham (a small British village) discovered an 800-year-old scroll written by King Henry III. The scroll stated that the village should remain independent forever. This prompted the villagers to declare their independence from Britain, set up border-patrol checkpoints around the town, and lower the taxes on beer. The Ottawa Citizen reports: Not everyone realized it was a joke. One businessman reportedly contacted the village to inquire about the possibility of opening an import/export operation to take advantage of the town's tax status.
Status: Weird NewsThe Los Angeles Times reports about a Russian travel agency, Persey Tours, that sells fake vacations: So now who believes that I really did travel to Edinburgh in May for a Museum of Hoaxes get-together?
The broader focus of the LA Times article is how awash in fakery Russian society is. You can get fake versions of almost anything in Russia: clothes, food, electronics, university degrees, art, legal documents, etc. One line in the article I thought was particularly ironic:
Status: RealThe bicycle-eating tree is probably familiar to most residents of Washington, since it's located on Vashon Island, Washington (and won a 1994 contest to select the most unusual places or events in the Washington-Oregon area), but it's new to me. Apparently someone, decades ago, left their bicycle leaning against the tree, and as the tree kept growing it enveloped the bike and now lifts it seven feet off the ground. I think it's amazing that a) the tree actually grew around the bike instead of pushing it over, and that b) in all that time no one ever moved the bike. The bicycle-eating tree has been featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and also inspired a children's book by Berkeley Breathed, Red Ranger Came Calling. Breathed used to live on Vashon Island. (via CaliforniaTeacherGuy)
Status: Strange NewsInside the Amarnath Cave, located in Indian-administered Kashmir, can be found the ice Shiva Linga, one of the holiest objects in the Hindu faith. Basically it's a large, naturally occurring, phallus-shaped ice stalagmite. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus make the pilgrimage to visit it each year, despite a high amount of terrorist activity in that area. (Wikipedia has an entry about it.) But this year the pilgrimage has been marred by allegations that the Shiva Linga has been faked. The BBC reports: Now that the Shiva Linga has gone fake, I figure it's only a matter of time before it starts appearing on grilled cheese sandwiches.
Status: Strange NewsNigerian travellers have been warned by their government to watch out for conmen while in Britain: The advisory seems sensible enough, though given Nigeria's reputation for crime it seems a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. The Reuters article points out that, "Nigeria itself has seen a sharp rise in violent crime since President Olusegun Obasanjo was elected in 1999, ending 15 years of military rule. Africa's top oil producer, ranked by Berlin-based sleaze watchdog Transparency International as the world's seventh most corrupt country, is also famous for junk mail scams."
Big Gary (who forwarded me the article) wonders who are the other six most corrupt countries, if Nigeria is number seven. As best I can find out, the other six would be (starting with the most corrupt): Chad, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Haiti, and Equatorial Guinea. This is from the 2005 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (on which Nigeria was actually ranked #6, not #7).
Status: Strange phenomenonThe residents of Aqueduct Street have an unusual problem. Their lines are going wobbly. Specifically, the double yellow lines on their road. When the city laid down the lines earlier this month, they were straight. But now they've begun to take off in random directions. At first some suspected the work of a prankster, but apparently the truth is much more sinister: The lines are doing this of their own accord!
This idea really appeals to me. Double yellow lines get fed up with being straight and decide to rebel. What we are seeing in Aqueduct Street might merely be the beginning. What if it became a worldwide epidemic of wandering lines? But the government, as usual, has decided to cover up the truth and is blaming the wobbly lines on the use of yellow marker tape. Says a Preston Council spokesman: A likely story.
Status: Strange, but trueCalifornia realtors have devised a new way to sell homes. They're hiring actors to play "happy families" during open houses: My wife and I often go to open houses in our neighborhood, partially because we like seeing what other people have done with their homes and partially because we're thinking of moving. Just last week we went to one in which the homeowners were there with their kid. They seemed like nice people, but now I'm wondering if it was all fake. Maybe they were just actors.
My favorite part of the article is this line: "A second show day at the development, which features three to five-bedroom homes from $500,000 (£280,000) to $610,000, is planned for Saturday. The cast will be the same except for Miss Chen, who has a previous engagement and will be "changed out" for a new mum." This immediately brought to mind Lucy Clifford's short story "The New Mother", in which misbehaving kids learn that their poor suffering mother is going to be changed out for a new mother (a mechanical one with a rat's tail). So I'm thinking that parents who visit the Centex open houses can now warn their kids that if they misbehave they'll be sent to live with one of these fake happy families. That would scare me if I were a kid. (via J-Walk)
Status: Strange, but realSpeaking of fake Irish bars, now it's possible to have an instant fake British pub, anywhere you like. It's advertised as "the Worlds first fully functioning Mobile Inflatable Pub." This comes from the same people who brought us the world's first inflatable church. Ideally it should come with a bartender who fakes a British accent.
Status: Believed to be a hoaxHere's an interesting news report from Ireland:
The Irish Sunday Tribune (no link) has a few more details:
Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any pictures of this plaque.
[Update:] Here's a picture of the plaque, though it doesn't let you see it very well.
Status: UndeterminedFollowing a post about how California got its name, Boing Boing added an interesting reader comment alleging that Idaho got its name because of a hoax:
"When a name was being selected for new territory, eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing suggested 'Idaho,' which he claimed was a Native American term meaning 'gem of the mountains'. It was later revealed Willing had made up the name himself, and the original Idaho territory was re-named Colorado because of it. Eventually the controversy was forgotten, and modern-day Idaho was given the made-up name when the Idaho Territory was formally created in 1863."
I had never heard this before, so I did a little research. It turns out that Willing did indeed claim to have invented the name Idaho. But whether he did or not is uncertain, since his claim was first published fifteen years after the first appearance of the word. Plus, he was a bit of a self-promoter and not entirely trustworthy. I found the following discussion of the Idaho question in an article by Erl H. Ellis published in Western Folklore, Oct. 1951:
Even if Idaho did get its name from a hoax, Des Moines can lay claim to a funnier name origin. The Peoria indians told the first white settlers that the tribe living in that area (their rivals) was named the Moingoana, which became the root of Des Moines. But it turns out that Moingoana was really the Peoria word for "shitfaces".
Status: RealFound on Flickr: a cool picture of a giant laser beaming out of the MMT Telescope, on top of Mt. Hopkins in Arizona. The guy who took it, Filip Pizlo, says it's not photoshopped, and I'm willing to believe him, if only because when I was a grad student at UC San Diego there was a green laser beam similar to this visible in the sky over La Jolla almost every night. I never figured out where it was coming from or what the purpose of it was. It couldn't have been coming from the MMT Telescope in Arizona because that would have been too far away.
Status: NewsThanks to Big Gary for sending me this story about Tijuana's fake zebras, which are facing extinction. The Tijuana zebras are donkeys painted to look like zebras. Tourists like to get their picture taken with them. It's a decades-old tradition. The Reuters article explains:
"It all started in the 1930s when someone decided to paint the donkeys up with stripes so that they'd look better in black-and-white photographs," recalled Jorge Bonillas, a sprightly 75-year-old who has worked with the animals since 1941.
But now tourism to Tijuana has been drying up because of fears about the violence of its drug wars. (I'm guilty of avoiding the place... the last time I went was over ten years ago, even though it would take me less than half an hour to get to the border from my house.) And as the tourist trade shrinks, the zebra workers are finding it harder to make a living. Sad.
Big Gary also forwarded me an article about the financial problems facing Erich von Daeniken's (of Chariots of the Gods fame) Mystery Park in Switzerland. It too, like Tijuana, is failing to attract visitors. My guess is that it's in the wrong location. It should really be somewhere like Las Vegas, not Switzerland. Big Gary notes that "If the park has to close, maybe they can send the unemployed Tijuana zebras there to retire."