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Status: Apparently a hoax
Here's news of a hoax from China. (There seems to be more of them coming from there lately.) Massage Milk (great name!) is one of the most popular blogs in China. It was featured in a Newsweek article last month about Chinese bloggers. But a few days ago its site went blank, and the assumption was that it had been forced offline by the Chinese government. At least, this is what news organizations such as the BBC assumed. Turns out everyone was wrong. The disappearing-blog-act was just a hoax. Wang Xiaofeng, the author of Massage Milk, faxed a statement to the Interfax news agency explaining that:

I just wanted to make fun of Western journalists? [content] doesn't need to be serious on the Internet. I don't like it that Western media take a distorted view of China, though China does have problems. I thought that if I closed my blog, it would stir their imagination and then they would begin blah blah. It really is as expected. So let's they have an April Fool's day in advance."

The question is: Is Wang Xiaofeng now telling the truth? Was his site's closure really an early April Fool's Day prank, or did the Chinese government actually have a hand in what happened? Some people think the latter is the case. If it was a prank, it does seem kind of pointless (after all, why shouldn't people have believed the Chinese state would have done something like that? It's not like China is known for its open internet policy), which lends credence to the government-censorship theory.

Update: The Wall Street Journal has posted an article about the Massage Milk hoax. (And I should note that a second Chinese blog, Milk Pig, also participated in the self-shutdown hoax.) The WSJ notes that: "Beijing-based journalist Wang Xiaofeng of Massage Milk says he shut his blog down to make a point about freedom of speech -- just one directed at the West instead of at Beijing. He calls the Western press "irresponsible" and says that the hoax was designed "to give foreign media a lesson that Chinese affairs are not always the way you think." Quite frankly, I don't get it. Is shutting his own blog down supposed to prove to everyone in the West that China actually allows more freedom of speech than journalists over here supposed?
Categories: Politics, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 10, 2006
Comments (15)
Status: Fake Hillary
A lot of people don't like Hillary, but I do. But then, I'm nostalgic for the 90s. Anyway, here's something else to add to the list of strange hyperreal objects. it's Hillary Clinton in wax, recently unveiled at Madame Tussauds:

The Clinton statue, crafted at the original Tussauds museum in London, takes its place in a wing dedicated to presidents and other public figures known as "the gallery." There, the likeness of the Democratic senator joins statues of Presidents Bush, Reagan, Kennedy, and her husband, Bill Clinton.

I'll leave it to you to determine which is the real Hillary in the two photos below.

image
Categories: Celebrities, Politics
Posted by Alex on Sat Feb 18, 2006
Comments (15)
Status: Undetermined
A news service called AKI (Adnkronos International) is reporting that Iran has decided to rename Danish pastries "Mohammedan" pastries. It notes that "The name change recalls when some Americans started calling French fries, 'Freedom fries' to protest France's opposition to the United States-led invasion of Iraq."

I wouldn't put it past the Iranian government to do this, but what I'm not sure about is whether Danish pastries are actually referred to as Danish pastries in Farsi. Perhaps they use the English term. Also, it seems odd that AFI is the only news source reporting this. A search on lexis-nexis and Google news pulls up nothing else. However, the London Evening Standard is reporting that "Danish pastries and butter were being cleared off supermarket shelves in Saudi Arabia." So if people are willing to clear Danish pastries from supermarkets, why not rename them also? I'm leaning towards believing it's true.
Categories: Food, Politics, Religion
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 08, 2006
Comments (30)
Status: Satire
A photo of a bug-eyed Senator Clinton greeting someone before the State of the Union address on January 31, 2006 is currently one of the most emailed photos on Yahoo! News. The photo was taken by Jason Reed of Reuters. Now a site called Unconfirmed Sources claims to have "discovered the original electronic versions of the photograph in question, and the conclusion among renowned experts is that indeed the photograph being circulated throughout the press has been doctored, or 'photoshopped'." Compare what they say is the original version to the version circulating by email:
image

I've noticed that a few sites are already reporting Unconfirmed Source's story as fact. But although I've never read Unconfirmed Sources before, it seems kind of obvious to me that it's a humor site, and that the story about Hillary Clinton's photo is satire. (Clues that it's satire include the claim that the article is from the 'Rotters' news agency, and that it was written by 'Dood Abides'.) In other words, the bug-eyed version of Senator Clinton is the real thing. The version in which she looks normal is the fake.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 07, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: Hoax
image The picture of this Connecticut highway sign has been circulating for quite a while, and it's obviously photoshopped (Snopes has a picture of the non-photoshopped version, which lacks the phrases "Birthplace of George W. Bush" and "We apologize"... though their non-photoshopped version actually kind of looks like it's been photoshopped). But apparently there really are signs outside of New Haven, Connecticut welcoming people to New Haven "The birthplace of President George W. Bush '68." George W was born there in 1946, while his father was attending graduate school there. I'm surprised no one has edited these signs to add a "We Apologize." (Maybe they have and I haven't heard about it.) Incidentally, New Haven's other claim to fame is that it used to be the oyster capital of the United States.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 07, 2005
Comments (27)
Status: Hoax Website (political satire)
image We've already seen W Ketchup, so why not Baby Bush Toys? Their website states:

Sure, we all want what's best for our kids, but let's face the truth: not every child can grow up to be Einstein! At The Baby Bush Toy Company, we offer an exciting range of products for the resoundingly average child.

Products include a "Twisty Thing, That is Red" (shown in the thumbnail), and a "Terror Alert Xylophone." Unfortunately, none of these products seem to actually be for sale.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Politics, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 07, 2005
Comments (5)
Status: Real
image Happy Thanksgiving everyone. My wife and I hate to have to prepare a huge meal and then deal with all the cleanup, so every year we go out to eat. This year we're going to try the all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet at the Viejas casino. We've heard it's pretty good, and reasonably priced. And where better to celebrate Thanksgiving but at a Native American casino!

Anyway, in honor of Thanksgiving here's an image that's been circulating around for quite a while. As far as I know, it's real (though I'm not 100% sure). It's credited to a Reuters photographer, whose name I don't know. The scene was captured on Thanksgiving 2001 when President Bush did the annual pardoning of the turkey. The turkey that's pardoned gets to live out its life on a farm. There have been spoofs photos of this ceremony (below).
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Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 24, 2005
Comments (10)
Status: Viral email
Pasted below is the content of an email that's going around. It's not a hoax, but it deals with issues of camouflage and deception. (It also reminds me of some Before and After pictures that I posted over a year ago.) The subject line of the email is: Never underestimate the power of makeup.

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Categories: Email Hoaxes, Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 14, 2005
Comments (29)
Status: True, but misleading
A Newsmax article that many bloggers are linking to states that: "At a concert of the legendary rock group U2, Senator Rick Santorum will hold a fund-raising event for one night only. The thousand-dollar-a-seat fund-raiser has been put together by Sean and Ana Wolfington, and it will take place at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia in support of Santorum's reelection."

The article then goes on to state that Republican Senator Santorum and Bono share spiritual values, and implies that the two men have struck up some kind of political alliance. I don't know about the shared spiritual values part, but the two men definitely haven't struck up a political alliance. The Santorum campaign is holding a fundraiser at a U2 concert, but this is being done without U2's cooperation or blessing. The Santorum campaign is simply booking an executive suite at a U2 concert, to which they're inviting big contributors. U2 can't stop anyone from booking a room at the arena or buying a ticket.

In a New York Daily News article we find this explanation: Hillary [Clinton]'s camp isn't the first to book a Bono box. Her nemesis in the Senate, Pennsylvania's Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, had the same idea. But he's only getting $1,000 a head for U2's show in Philadelphia on Sunday. U2 was so irked by being linked to fund-raisers - particularly media reports that mistakenly said the band was working with Santorum - that their publicist sent out a release yesterday swearing off any connections. "Throughout the U2 tour, politicians from both sides have been organizing fund-raisers at the venues or around specific shows," the statement said. "The U2 concerts are categorically not fund-raisers for any politician - they are rock concerts for U2 fans."
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 12, 2005
Comments (6)
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)
image This image of a veteran wearing a "Bullshit Protector" over his ears as he listens to President Bush giving a speech was doing the rounds about two weeks ago. So I'm a bit late getting to it, but better late than never. The veteran is Bill Moyer, and the picture was taken by AP photographer Douglas Pizac. Wiseass.org was inspired by the picture to design an entire series of Bullshit Protectors that you can print out and make on your own.
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 06, 2005
Comments (12)
Has Christopher Walken announced his intention to run for President of the United States? If you believe the press release posted on the 'Walken for Pres' site, he has:

09 August, 2005. New York - Early today, actor Christopher Walken, 62, held a private conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York in which he announced his intentions to run for the Presidency of the United States in the 2008 Election. Said the Queens native, “I have always been a follower of politics. My father was friends with the mayor of Schodack (NY) back in the 1940’s. We would walk the streets of Schodack and the people, they would wave to him. The children adored him. That is what I love to be, a man of respect and love.”

However, WorldNet Daily (which, I realize, isn't the most credible of sources, but in this case I suspect they're correct), reports a rumor that the Walken For Pres site is a hoax that is being perpetrated by members of the General Mayhem message boards.
Categories: Celebrities, Politics, Websites
Posted by Alex on Sun Aug 14, 2005
Comments (27)
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