Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Suicide Bomber Takes a Taxi

The Guardian [UK]
29 April 2008

An irony lost on the Taliban

Nushin Arbabzadah

In the summer of 2007, a stranger appeared in the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. He flagged down a taxi and asked to be driven around the town. The taxi passed public squares, mosques and bazaars. All the time, the passenger sat silently in the backseat of the car, watching city scenes unfold in front of him. After an hour, the driver was asked to stop the car. But before getting out, the passenger had this message for the driver: "You are an unlucky man. Today you missed the chance of becoming a martyr." That was when the driver realised that he had been giving a lift to a suicide bomber looking for potential targets. He decided to quit working as a taxi driver and find a less risky occupation.

The story first appeared in Afghanistan in 2007 and soon reached England via the internet. It is quite likely a fabrication, simply because the story is too good to be true. The suicide bomber in the story is efficient, the innocent driver has a lucky escape and there is no bloodshed. This is the opposite of the reality of suicide bombing in Afghanistan - a reality of confused teenage bombers, poorly planned missions, premature detonations and heavy civilian losses. [...]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tibetan Drum Made from Skin of Virgin Girl

New York Times
29 April 2008

Chinese Students in U.S. Fight View of Their Home


[Hostile Chinese students at U.S.C. distributed handouts at a Tibetan monk's lecture on 22 April. One photograph "purported to show a Tibetan drum that, according to the caption, was covered with 'a virgin girl's skin.' "]

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bogus Wind Generators

New Scientist [UK]
26 April 2008

Feedback [column]

Bogus wind generators

HERE's a question that has split the New Scientist London office down the middle. Perry Bebbington writes: "I've noticed there seem to be pretend wind generators springing up at business and retail parks. At first glance they look like genuine wind generators, but what gives them away is they always turn at the same speed, even when there is no wind. Who are these companies who are pretending to be green when they are nothing of the sort?"

We consulted our colleagues about Bebbington's thesis. Several dismissed the idea out of hand, saying that to build and run pretend wind generators would be too expensive and too much trouble to be worth the bother. Others thought the idea was all too possible, comparing it to those shops and bars that falsely claim to have CCTV cameras installed. A similar split can be found on a blog on the topic at [...]

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fake Lie Detector

WAPT-TV [Jackson, Mississippi]
25 April 2008

Man Who Took Lampshade 'Lie Detector' Seeks Settlement
Huey Granger Suing Two Former Pearl Police Officers Over 2002 Incident

JACKSON, Miss. - A mentally disabled man who was given a fake lie detector test is still waiting for a settlement after six years. Pearl police admitted that officers put a lampshade on Huey Granger's head in June 2002. Granger had filed a police report claiming that his daughter was attacked by her boyfriend in their Pearl home. While at the police station, officers Keith Peterson and Jeff Thames gave him a "fake lie detector test." [...]
[On fake lie-detector tests, see Jan Brunvand, Baby Train, 139-45; Brunvand, Too Good To Be True, 303-5; Gillian Bennett & Paul Smith, Urban Legends, 7-8.]

Peter V. MacDonald, From the Cop Shop: Hilarious Tales from Our Men and Women of the Badge. Toronto: Stoddart, 1996, p. 179.

Police officers often have to be resourceful, and in the story that follows Constable Chisholm reveals just how resourceful he can be when he really puts his mind to it:

In 1988 in Inuvik, I was investigating a rash of minor house breaks and had a few suspects to check out. There were three fellows I heard were responsible. I drove around town and saw one of them walking down the street. I motioned for him to have a seat in the police car. He had a few drinks under his belt, and he wasn’t the brightest chap I’ve ever met.

I questioned him for ten minutes and he wouldn’t confess. I then asked him if he knew what a lie detector was, and he said no. On the seat beside me I had a screening device for motorists suspected of driving while impaired. It registers one of three different verdicts—“Pass”, “Warning,” or “Fail.”

I told my suspect I was going to have him blow into the machine and it would tell us whether he was guilty or not. I said if he blew “Pass” it meant he knew nothing about the break-ins; if he blew “Warning” it indicated he wasn’t guilty but knew who was; and if he blew “Fail” it meant he was one of the guys who broke into the houses.

To my delight, he blew “Fail.” I looked at him and said, “Well?” He said, “You got me!” and confessed to a bunch of break-ins.

I tried it again on others, but no one else would bite.

[“Constable Duncan Chisholm of the RCMP…[is] a quick-witted six-footer from Quebec, presently stationed at Deer Lake, Newfoundland. In seventeen memory-packed years as a Mountie he’s also served in the Newfoundland communities of Labrador City, St. John’s, Holyrood, and Bonavista, as well as in Fort McPherson and Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.” (p. 176)]

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fatal Phone Number

The Mercury [South Africa]
26 April 2008

Red number is not a cause of death

Phnom Penh - Cambodian officials have moved to quell growing hysteria sparked by a rumour that a ghostly red number was appearing on mobile phones and killing people, local media and police said Saturday. [...]

Posts and Telecommunications Minister So Khun said the rumour was probably due to growing tension prior to scheduled national elections in July, the English-language Cambodia Daily reported. [...]

Police warned Saturday that if the culprit for this latest text-message-fuelled scare was found they would be prosecuted, but admitted Chinese whisper investigations of this nature were virtually impossible to trace. - Sapa-dpa

[More fatal phone numbers]

Is It Against the Law to Drive Without Shoes?

Orange County Register [CA]
25 April 2008

Honk! South: The myth about driving barefoot

Is it against the law to drive without shoes? How about sandals or heels? What if they're designer?

The Orange County Register

[...] California Highway Patrol Officer Rolf Trondsen assures me the CHP is more interested in how you drive more than what you wear when you're doing it.

"It's up to the driver to be responsible and make sure you can control the vehicle," he said.

As long as you keep the car straight and you keep control of it, you can wear whatever you want on your feet.

There's nothing written on the California Vehicle code that restricts footwear, or the lack of, he said. And in Southern California, the land of the flip-flop, that's good news.

That answer comes to a surprise to me, since my driving instructor 11 years ago told me driving barefoot was an offense that would garner a ticket. [...]

Friday, April 25, 2008

Actor is Bon Scott's Son

Edmonton Sun [Alberta, Canada]
25 April 2008

Dirty deed just a rumour
Moonlight's vampire says he isn't Bon Scott's son


Alex O'Loughlin plays a vampire in Moonlight, so it wasn't a stretch to assume he also had been on the Highway to Hell.

But contrary to persistent rumours, O'Loughlin -- whose show returns with a new episode tonight on CTV and CBS -- has insisted he is not really the son of deceased AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott. [...]

BNP Claims Challenged

Western Mail [Wales]
25 April 2008

Call for BNP candidate to stand down

by Matt Withers, Western Mail

CAMPAIGNERS have challenged a British National Party candidate in next week's local elections to prove a series of extreme claims made in a campaign leaflet - or stand down.

Kevin Edwards, who is standing for the BNP in Carmarthenshire next Thursday has sent voters a glossy pamphlet which lists a number of allegations which appear to have no basis in fact, claims Searchlight Cymru.

Mr Edwards, standing in the Penygroes ward of the county, claims "homosexuality is being taught" to four-year-olds in Welsh schools and soldiers are being ordered to remove uniforms in hospital in order not to offend Muslims. He also claims all asylum seekers coming to the UK are handed cheques by the Government to buy a car. [...]

Searchlight Cymru [Wales]
22 April 2008

Searchlight calls for BNP candidate to back up ‘extraordinary’ claims, or resign

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Attempted Child Abductions at Lutheran Churches, MN

Pioneer Press [St. Paul. MN]
22 April 2008

Washington County / Dubious e-mail stirs abduction rumors

Two churches deny alleged attempts at child snatching

By Mary Divine

An e-mail about alleged abduction attempts at Lutheran churches in Stillwater and Afton has church officials working to squelch the rumors spread via "the electronic grapevine."

The e-mail, which was allegedly written by a pastor at a Stillwater area church, described recent attempted abductions of children at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater and Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Afton. It also said there had been abduction attempts in Mahtomedi and White Bear Lake.

"There is concern that this man could attempt to make contact at another church or school," according to the e-mail, which was signed "Pastor Karen."

Stillwater police say the abduction report at Trinity Lutheran was unfounded. Officials at Shepherd of the Valley in Afton said Tuesday that no abduction ever took place. [...]

Stillwater Gazette [MN]
23 April 2008

Assumed abduction attempt fires up rumor mill


Consider it a classic case of the rumor mill gone awry, aided by modern technology.

Local faith and school communities were buzzing this week over supposed abduction attempts at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater and Shepard of the Valley Lutheran Church in Afton - but police and church officials say nothing of the sort occurred. [...]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Panadol Painkiller Causes Kidney Damage

Gulf News [United Arab Emirates]
21 April 2008

Panadol hoax does the rounds again this year

Dubai: A three-year old hoax involving Panadol Extra has reemerged, warning people against a batch of the popular painkiller via text messages.

The text message circulating in the UAE and elsewhere warns consumers "not to purchase Panadol Extra Batch No. 050292 ... if a person takes one capsule it will affect his kidney and damage it".

The warning can be traced to emails and text messages that surfaced in 2005 in Saudi Arabia, citing the same batch number. The health scare it generated prompted health authorities to conduct tests on the medicine, which was cleared as safe. [...]

Penis Snatching, Congo

22 April 2008

Lynchings in Congo as penis theft panic hits capital

By Joe Bavier

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft. [...]

Rumours of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings. [...]

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nativity Play

Edward Leeson, ed., The Folio Book of Humorous Anecdotes (London: The Folio Society, 2005), pp. 165-6.

Nina was captivated with the story of the nativity, birth and eventual death of Jesus on the cross, and was overjoyed when she was chosen to be an angel in the [infants'] nativity play. She learnt her lines to perfection.

However, Nina is given to adding her own logic to every situation.

The nativity was well under way and when it was her turn to say her lines to Mary, she said, 'Don't worry, Mary, you will have a lovely baby and you will call him Jesus.'

She then added, 'But I wouldn't get too attached to him, 'cos he'll be dead by Easter.'

[Source: Sarah Kennedy, ed., The Terrible Twos: True Stories of Tots and Toddlers (BBC Books, 1994).]

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gang Initiation, Texan Vector

Star-Telegram [Fort Worth, TX]
20 April 2008

Watchdog: Internet turns Rowlett mom's e-mail into a national concern - and a hoax

Star-Telegram staff writer

For a week, she was one of the most famous mothers in the state, possibly the nation. People everywhere knew her name, the company where she works, what she writes about and cares about. [...]

It all started when she received an e-mail from another mother about a little dust-up in late March not far from her house in Rowlett. Some teenagers were in cars, and the cars had bumped on the road.

The mother took the e-mail, added a few comments of her own, put her name and company on the bottom, and forwarded it to an e-mail group she calls "the Mommy network."

Somehow, though, that e-mail left the Mommy network and shot across the Internet stratosphere. [...]

The e-mail states:

"New gang initiation ... They bump your car. You stop; they shoot you. This started last night (3/26/2008). Warn your family and friends. Letters are being passed out today in North Dallas schools." [...]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

German Schoolboy Corrects NASA

German schoolboy, 13, corrects NASA's asteroid figures: paper

Agence-France Presse
15 April 2008

BERLIN (AFP) - A 13-year-old German schoolboy corrected NASA's estimates on the chances of an asteroid colliding with Earth, a German newspaper reported Tuesday, after spotting the boffins had miscalculated.

Nico Marquardt used telescopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP) to calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported.

NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right. [...]

16 April 2008

NASA Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations

WASHINGTON -- The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036.

Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate.

This student's conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid's close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote.

Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000.

Cosmos4u [Blog]
16 April 2008

Apophis risk not increased: science fair judges, world media screw up big time

"What's a blow job?"

15 April 2008

The birds, the bees, the sperm donors...

Lynn Harris

So my friend's friend's kid somehow overhears the term "blow job" on TV. (Cable, I'm guessing.) Cut to: Dad holding his breath, praying the the moment will pass. But no.

"Daddy?" Here it comes. "What's a blow job?"

An explanation is offered, in clear, forthright detail, just like the experts say. The child ponders, then shakes his head.

"That's a job?" [...]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Piles of Cherries,22049,23550195-5001031,00.html

The Daily Telegraph [Sydney, Australia]
17 April 2008

Birth can lead to death

IT was always a worry when the principal told us we could sit down during school assembly.

The problem being if the concrete was cold we were in grave danger of contracting piles. The rumour doing the rounds at the time was that this meant cherries would grow out of your bum.

Thankfully, despite some long stints sitting bum-ward on the cold, hard netball court, Villa Maria Primary School never suffered a haemorrhoid outbreak.

And as I understand it, nobody in Year 3L ended up with cancer care of a blue Smartie either - that was about as likely as falling pregnant because you ate too much parsley. [...]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How Are You?

The Economist [UK]
10 April 2008

Family ties
Kith and kin get closer, with consequences for strangers

[...] The spread of “hands-free” Bluetooth devices, with hidden earplugs seemingly attached to nothing, [can lead to embarrassing situations]. Steve Love, a psychologist, was travelling on a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow once when a girl standing next to him started talking to him. She asked him how he was and how his day had been, and Mr Love, though a bit shy, politely told her how much he was looking forward to watching Scotland play football that evening. As he spoke, the girl looked at him in horror, then turned away. Only then did Mr Love hear her say “OK, I’ll call you later.” Not a word or gesture was exchanged for the remainder of the (suddenly uncomfortable) journey. [...]

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Giant Alligator in Kentucky Lake

The News-Enterprise [Elizabethtown, KY]
13 April 2008

What a crock!

Tales of gator in lake not true, officials say, but rare animals are found in Central Kentucky


ROUGH RIVER LAKE While Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists have collected an array of strange animals roaming throughout central Kentucky, rangers say word of a giant alligator living at Rough River Lake State Park is just a rumor.

Wendy Warren, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer park ranger at Rough River Lake, says an e-mail circulating "like wildfire" on the Web is to blame for the gator gossip.

"We're getting a lot of calls on this," Warren said, "but it's totally bogus." [...]

Shoes on Power Lines, Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa Sun [ON]
13 April 2008

The shoes don't fit

Gang and drug connections urban myth


That wet pair of dirty shoes dangling over Hawthorne Ave. near Colonel By Dr. has been wrapped around the power line for years.

But don't bother looking for street gangs or crackhouses. There are no obvious drug dealers around here.

"Just souvlaki dealers," Samantha Besharahi, 23, quipped from behind the counter of Greek On Wheels, the restaurant that shares street space with the shoes. [...]

Flyover Ban at Masters Golf Tournament

Augusta Chronicle [GA]
13 April 2008

It's a birdie, a plane: Flyover ban is myth

From Staff Reports

That urban legend about airplanes not being allowed to fly over Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters Tournament is a myth. The plane towing the aerial billboard for an Atlanta strip club last week should have proved that.

Cheetah Lounge, an all-nude club in midtown Atlanta, flew its billboard all week along Washington Road. It was visible from inside the course. [...]

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bosox T-shirt Buried in Yankee Stadium

New York Post
11 April 2008




The new Yankee Stadium may be cursed!

A devilish Boston fan working on a concrete crew at the $1.3 billion stadium covertly buried a Red Sox T-shirt under what will become the visiting team's locker room to jinx the Yanks, two construction workers told The Post yesterday.

"In August, a Red Sox T-shirt was poured in a slab in the visitor's clubhouse. It's the curse of the Yankees," one worker said. "Nobody knows about it. It's in the floors, it's buried." [...]

New York Post
13 April 2008



The curse has been broken - out of the ground, that is.

A pair of hardhats working at the new Yankee Stadium dropped a dime on the location of a buried Red Sox jersey. [...]

New York Post
14 April 2008



The Yankees officially reversed the jersey curse yesterday - extracting from the new stadium's concrete a David Ortiz shirt planted by a Red Sox-obsessed hardhat hoping to hex his team's arch rivals.

Then they warned the traitorous construction worker, Gino Castignoli, to watch his back, saying criminal and civil charges could be on deck. [...]

New York Post
15 April 2008



Were it not for the tale one loyal Yankee fan overheard while downing pints of Guinness at a Bay Ridge bar, that Red Sox jersey would still be embedded in the concrete under the new Stadium.

Billy DiCristina, 27, a carpenter from Bensonhurst, had just watched the Rangers playoff game at the Bean Post Pub early last Thursday morning, when a fellow patron with whom he was vaguely acquainted told the story of a Red Sox jersey that had been buried in an effort to curse the Stadium. [...]

Boston Herald
17 April 2008

Red Sox jersey up for auction after failed curse attempt

By Associated Press

BOSTON - Some might call it a curse, others might call it a cure for cancer.

The Boston Red Sox's official charity, the Jimmy Fund, said today it was auctioning off the David Ortiz No. 34 jersey that was buried under the New York Yankees' new stadium by a Boston fan trying to curse its American League rivals. [...]

The Times [London, UK]
19 April 2008

Uncovering the dark truths of stadiums

Giles Smith

After the complex but ultimately successful five-hour emergency excavation procedure at the site of the New York Yankees' future stadium, and the baseball team's consequent narrow escape from, potentially, untold years of cursed fortune, sports fans in Britain are inevitably asking, with a nervous shudder, could it happen here?

Could, in other words, a disaffected lone construction worker sink the replica shirt of a rival team into the concrete foundations of a club's new home and thereby hex them in perpetuity? Worse, has a lone construction worker already done so, but we just don't know it yet? [...]

Boston Globe
24 April 2008

Big Papi jersey fetches $175K

By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

It's not much of a shirt, it's true. It's torn. It's dirty. Being buried in the concrete under a stadium construction project and then being drilled out by jackhammers will do that to you.

But the David Ortiz jersey that a construction worker buried under the site of the new Yankee Stadium is a quirky piece of baseball history -- and it sold this afternoon for $175,100 on eBay.

The bid from Kevin Meehan, the owner of in Mendon, was the highest of 282 for the battered No. 34 David Ortiz jersey. [...]

Penny in Mouth Will Foil Breath Test

Bury Free Press [UK]
11 April 2008

Lorry driver banned, court

By Bury Free Press reporter

An ex-Army soldier placed a penny in his mouth in an attempt to affect a breath test, a court heard.

Daniel Holland, 22, of Bakers Lane, Bury St Edmunds, admitted driving with excess alcohol – 90 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath – at Bury Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.

The court heard Holland, now a lorry driver, was initially stopped for speeding in Out Risbygate, Bury, on March 28.

Ian Devine, prosecuting, said when police issued a breath test they discovered he had put a penny in his mouth to try to affect the reading. [...]

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Cab, init"

Lost in translation -- the unusual tale of a taxi and a Displaysense display cabinet

WEBWIRE - Thursday, April 10, 2008

For a 19 year old girl trying to order a taxi to Bristol International airport, it all proved too much, as she accidentally ordered a display cabinet from Displaysense instead.

The 19 year old girl from South London rang directory inquires looking for a taxi to take her to Bristol International airport the following morning. However, the young girl was using rhyming slang and what she actually said was that she wanted a ‘Joe Baxi’. The confused operator said that she was unable to find anyone by that name, at which point the young girl replied, “It ain’t a person, it’s a cab, init”. Upon hearing this, the operator located the nearest supplier of cabinets, Displaysense, and put the girl through to the company.

Displaysense deal with thousands of customers on a daily basis and offer a variety of products including their all new display cabinet and display case ranges. The sales staff are quite used to dealing with a range of customers and accents, but this young woman proved to be something quite different. Speaking to a member of the Displaysense sales team, the short tempered girl demanded the cheapest Joe Baxi to take her to the airport the following morning, at which point the sales advisor questioned her order.

The now frustrated girl replied by saying, “Look love, how hard is it? All I want is your cheapest cab init. I need it for 10am. How much is it?” At this point the sales advisor told the girl that it would be £180. The amount didn’t phase her and she abruptly leapt in with her address details and declared, “I wanna pay by card, ’cause I got no cash”. Before the Displaysense sales staff could say anymore, the young girl was gone, leaving the member of staff to process the order of a display cabinet for £180.

Steve Whittle the Marketing manager of Displaysense commented, “The very next morning we received an irate call from this same girl asking why she had a big glass display cabinet outside her house, when all she wanted was a taxi”.

Displaysense apologised and gladly offered the young lady a refund on the display unit she received and suggested that maybe she should speak a bit clearer on the phone. Steve remarked, “We still don’t know if she made it to the airport on time but she did ask our delivery driver if he could give her a lift.” [...]

[The press release from Displaysense was picked up by the usual suspects:]
The Daily Mail [UK]
11 April 2008
Teenager calls for a taxi but ends up with furniture after requesting a 'cab, innit!'
The Sun [UK]

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Material in Recycling Bins Thrown Out with Garbage

The Georgetown Voice [Georgetown University, Washington, DC]
10 April 2008

Shattering the myths of recycling on campus

by Robyn Liska

[...] I'd like to bust a few of the "Recycling Myths" that float around campus. Hopefully, an explanation of the true state of recycling on campus can change the prevailing attitude. [...]

Myth #2: "Everything just gets thrown away."

While I, too, have heard rumors about maintenance crews throwing recycling into the trash bins, this is not the norm. It happens onoccasion because non-University contract employees have little incentive to keep the streams separate, but a new policy being implemented will train crews to do so. [...]

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

George Melly Mishears Heckler & Fan

The Observer [UK]
10 June 2007

Pendennis [column]


Give that man an ear trumpet

A new book, Hot Jazz, Warm Feet, by trumpeter and biographer John Chilton sheds new light on the comic genius of the great George Melly, whose long-time support band was led by Chilton. In the 1980s, Melly's hearing grew steadily worse, lending a surreal quality to the repartee he enjoyed with the audience. 'Aren't you embarrassed?' called a heckler at one gig. 'I am plainly here and not in Paris,' replied Melly.

Perhaps the most bizarre exchange occurred at a show outside London, when the singer inquired of a middle-aged fan whether she lived locally. 'Yes,' she said, 'but I spent several years in Uxbridge.' 'You poor soul,' sympathised Melly. 'My heart goes out to you. To have undergone such terror and tragedy and still to be able to smile is remarkable.'

The woman was startled, but managed to say: 'It wasn't quite as bad as that.' 'Such bravery,' whispered Melly, his voice almost choked with emotion. It eventually turned out he thought the woman had said Auschwitz. [...]

[Spotted by Paul Screeton, editor of Folklore Frontiers.]

Nativity Play

The Sunday Telegraph [UK]
23 Dec 2007

Wogan's World

By Terry Wogan

Many's the tale of school Nativity plays, this happy and holy time, but a Dublin friend reminds me of an amateur production that he witnessed when the "Am-Dram" movement was at its height in the Ireland of the 1960s.

The problem for producers was that there were plenty of females willing to tread the boards, but the fellas weren't so keen. Which was the trouble with the casting of the Nativity.

One female, a parcel of tame animals, a doll, and the rest, unfortunately, men. It was really pushing it to get a Joseph and the Three Wise Men, and by the time it came to cast the inn-keeper, they were really scraping the barrel. The trouble was, this one liked a drink.

Came the dress-rehearsal, Joseph's knock on the inn door was greeted with a cheery "Welcome! Come in!" The producer wasn't pleased: "For God's sake, Mick, there's no room at the inn! You can't let them in!"

On the big night, Joseph knocks desperately at the door. It's opened, swiftly, by the inn-keeper. Before Joseph can make his plea, Mick shouts: "I told you before, there's no room at the inn!" A moment's pause, and then he says, "Ah, sure, come in and have a drink while you're waitin..." [...]

[Spotted by Paul Screeton, editor of Folklore Frontiers.]

Infected Needles Hidden in Gas Pump Handles

St. Thomas Times-Journal [St. Thomas, ON]
9 April 2008

Needles alert a hoax
No notice from police

By Kyle Rea
Times-Journal Staff

A long-standing hoax involving HIV needles, dating back to 1997, has re-appeared in our area.

Both the Times-Journal and Elgin OPP have been contacted recently regarding a notice, supposedly issued by OPP, warning of HIV-infected needles hidden under gas pump handles at service stations. [...]

AIDS Prickers, Trinidad, 1986

Trinidad Express [Port of Spain, Trinidad]
9 April 2008

Getting under their skin

Courtenay Bartholomew

[...] Now, in the early period of the epidemic when it was foolishly thought that AIDS only occurred in the homosexual community (in February 1986, a few days before the Carnival), there was a widespread and false rumour that certain homosexual men were pricking revellers with needles at public fetes. The rumour quickly reached the Trinis in "Brooklyn" and everyone feared that it would stop the Carnival (as if that could needle anybody into stopping the Carnival. Certainly not rain!). There was national panic. The press immediately rang me and a front page headline of the Trinidad Guardian of February 7, 1986 read: "Bartholomew scotches rumours that needle pricks can cause AIDS.'' It was eventually a fearless Carnival. [...]

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Swastika Spaghetti [accessed 8 April 2008]

Loaded [UK]

Heinz - An Apology

In the May 2008 edition of Loaded, we published an article on page 32 called 'Pointless But True' in which we alleged that between 1937 and 1945, Heinz produced a version of Alphabetti Spaghetti especially for the German market that consisted solely of tiny pasta shaped as swastikas.

In fact, we now accept that Heinz has never produced Swastika shaped spaghetti nor did it support the Nazi regime in any other way. Indeed, we accept that Heinz was a major contributor to the Allies' war efforts, producing rations for the troops. We apologise unreservedly to Heinz and to anyone who was offended by the article, which we admit was false and irresponsible.

Wigan Evening Post [UK]
8 April 2008

Swastika spaghetti apology

A lads' mag has had to apologise after wrongly claiming that Wigan-based Heinz used to make special swastika spaghetti for Germans during the war. [...]

Monday, April 7, 2008

Second Most Sexually Active Dorm in the Country

The Hatchet [George Washington University, DC]
7 April 2008

Thurston's sex life

by Leah Carliner
Life Editor

It doesn't take much to make a freshman giggle. The simple mention of sex and Thurston in the same sentence seems to do the trick.

Once rumored to be the second most sexually active dorm in the country, Thurston's notoriety as a sex colony is hard to shake, despite the falsity of the urban legend. [...]

Once whispered to have a high ranking of sexually active students, according to a study conducted by Cornell University, or possibly a list compiled by Playboy, The Hatchet reported in the 2006 sex issue that neither distinction exists.

Still, Thurston residents and freshmen alike were quick to categorize the building as a place to go for sex. Many like Fishbone said that it might just be the quantity of students who live there and not because of the building's legendary status. [...]

KKK Donated Money to Barack Obama

The Guardian [UK]
3 April 2008

At home with the Doggs ...

Rapper Snoop Dogg is reinventing himself - as a family-friendly father on his own reality TV show. Is he serious?

By Emma Forrest

[Forrest interviews Snoop Dogg in a hotel suite in West Hollywood.]

[...] He almost looks at me, but then seems to think better of it as he whispers: "The KKK gave [Barack] Obama money."


"YES." Snoop has an interesting verbal mannerism of capitalising words without putting any exclamation at the end. "They was one of his biggest supporters."

"I've never heard that."

"YES. Why wouldn't they be? The media won't tell you that. They don't want you to know that." [...]

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sen. Clinton's Health Care Horror Story

New York Times
5 April 2008

Ohio Hospital Contests a Story Clinton Tells


Over the last five weeks, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has featured in her campaign stump speeches the story of a health care horror: an uninsured pregnant woman who lost her baby and died herself after being denied care by an Ohio hospital because she could not come up with a $100 fee.

The woman, Trina Bachtel, did die last August, two weeks after her baby boy was stillborn at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio. But hospital administrators said Friday that Ms. Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured. [...]

The Associated Press
7 April 2008

Clinton's Tale Part Truth, Part Errors

By Charles Babington

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has stopped telling a story of a pregnant woman's medical tragedy after an Ohio hospital challenged its accuracy last weekend.

But recent accounts of the episode have omitted key details that suggest there was more truth in the essence of Clinton's tale than her critics, and even her presidential campaign, have acknowledged. [...]

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Homes Registered as Mosques Are Taxed Less

The Star [UK]
5 April 2008


Should we all live in a mosque?

Can someone answer my question? There is a rumour going round Sheffield that if you register your home as a mosque you get reduced Council Tax. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

Pat Waistnidge

Friday, April 4, 2008

Gang Initiation (Headlight Flashing), Florida

WPLG-TV [Miami, FL]
3 April 2008

Hoax E-Mail Says Gangs Killing People In Cars

Broward County Gang Unit Investigates Rumor

An e-mail circulating the country has recipients worried about driving at night. It warns about a deadly initiation game being played by "The Bloods" street gang.

The e-mail claims new recruits are being ordered to drive around with their lights off. When another driver flashes their headlights, as a courtesy, the gang wannabes are supposed to follow that car and kill everyone inside.

One version of the official looking e-mail bears the Miami-Dade County logo and appears to be sent by a Building Code Compliance Supervisor named Jose Lezcano. [...]

Herald-Tribune [Sarasota, FL]
22 April 2008

Reliable source on crime? Not exactly

Tom Lyons

[...] At a forum for Republican candidates for Sarasota County sheriff, held at the Sarasota Yacht Club [on April 18th], a woman in the audience told the speakers she had heard, through contacts in the school system, that there is now a lot of frightening gang activity in the Sarasota area. She told a particularly awful horror story of girls being gang raped and beaten to force them into joining gangs.

"You're right," responded Larry Dunklee. "That is happening."

Dunklee is the second in command in the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, and is hoping his experience and in-house knowledge will get him elected sheriff as boss Bill Balkwill steps down.

In his answer to the woman, Dunklee went on to warn the gathering that gangs could be a threat to them, too. He warned that if another driver ever flashes his headlights, they should never flash back because it is a gang thing. Gang members will turn and chase the car and beat the occupants, or worse.

The crowd buzzed with this shocking news. [...]

Post Office Rubber Bands Are Biodegradable

Hippyshopper [UK]
4 April 2008

Curse of the Post Office red rubber band

There are people all over the UK getting up in arms about a seemingly recent problem inflicted on us by our postmen: the dropping of red rubber bands on our pavements, garden paths and porches. In one unfortunate case, one of the bands was seen around the neck of a duck. So what's going on?

Rumours about postmen dropping the items in order to 'find their way home' have circulated, but more worryingly, some postmen have claimed off-the-record that they are advised to drop the rubber bands which they are told will 'biodegrade'; a theory we are going to conduct an experiment to test in coming weeks. We've got a genuine, Post Office issue rubber band immersed in water in our kitchen and will be monitoring its progress. [...]

Asylum Seekers Put in "Top Seafront Hotels"

Mid Sussex Today [UK]
3 April 2008

Hoaxers behind asylum request

By Annemarie Field

A hoaxer is behind a spoof operation to place Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers in top seafront hotels in Eastbourne.

Hotels in the town were contacted last Friday by two men purporting to be immigration officers from Dover asking them to take in male and female asylum seekers aged 12 to 60 from the war-torn region, and pledged to pay £50 per person per night.

The hoaxer requested two weeks bed, breakfast and dinner accommodation and said the asylum seekers were expected to arrive in the town last weekend. [...]

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Drink Eight Glasses of Water a Day

2 April 2008

Research debunks health value of guzzling water

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The notion that guzzling glasses of water to flood yourself with good health is all wet, researchers said on Wednesday.

Dr. Stanley Goldfarb and Dr. Dan Negoianu of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia reviewed the scientific literature on the health effects of drinking lots of water. [...]

Their scientific review, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, is the latest to undercut the recommendations advanced by some experts to drink eight glasses of 8 ounces (225 ml) of water a day. [...]

Dan Negoianu and Stanley Goldfarb, "Just Add Water."
J Am Soc Nephrol, published April 2, 2008 as doi:10.1681/ASN.2008030274

[For an earlier study by Heinz Valtin, see

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 283: R993-R1004, 2002.
"Drink at least eight glasses of water a day." Really? Is there scientific evidence for "8 W 8"?]

4 April 2008

Who Says You Need Eight Glasses a Day? The history of a debunked theory.

By Nina Shen Rastogi

A recent editorial in the Journal of the American Society for Nephrology is getting wide press coverage for debunking the so-called "8x8" theory - the popularly held belief that drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily helps remove toxins, improve skin tone, and increase satiety, among other health benefits. The authors chalk up the belief to folklore, and newspaper reports claim ignorance as to its provenance. Just how long has this idea been around? [...]

Mountain Dew and Marijuana Prevent Pregnancy

Miami Herald [FL]
1 April 2008

Students would get more than abstinence only under sex ed bill

Associated Press Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Some Florida teens believe drinking Mountain Dew or smoking marijuana will prevent pregnancy and that swallowing a capful of bleach will prevent HIV/AIDS. One reason those dangerous myths have spread is the state's reliance on abstinence-only sex education, say advocates of a bill to require a more comprehensive approach in Florida's schools. [...]

Fruit Price Codes

Sydney Morning Herald
2 April 2008

Column 8

[...] "I understand that the four-digit code on the sticky labels attached to fruit is informative if you know what each digit means," writes Perry Gretton, of Tumbi Umbi. "For example, you can find out where it's grown, how it was grown (e.g. organic), and so on. Would a Column 8 reader know where we could find the key to this code?" Someone will.

Sydney Morning Herald
4 April 2008

Column 8

[...] We have an answer to our question regarding number codes on fruit stickers (Column 8, Wednesday) from Lawson's Jenni Kremer, and it seems that nutritional advice plays no part: "I have worked on checkouts for six years, and can tell you that the code is known as a PLU or 'Price Look-Up' code. It's used to enter the fruit or vegetable into the computer, which then brings up the name and price of the item. As far as I'm aware, the selection of the numbers is random." [...]

Sydney Morning Herald
7 April 2008

Column 8

"Jenni Kremer was half right," writes Shane Ewen, of New York (Column 8, Friday). "Those numbers are PLU codes, and they are the 'Price Look Up' codes used by many supermarket checkouts to identify the fruit. But they aren't assigned randomly, they are allocated by the International Federation for Produce Standards. When there are four digits they offer no real information, but if there are five digits the first digit offers some of the information that was sought in the original query. A 9 in front of the four-digit code indicates organically grown produce, while an 8 indicates genetically engineered produce. For those who are really interested, you can read all about PLU codes at and if you want to fork out several hundred dollars, you can get a complete list of all the allocated codes."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Freaking Chicken

The Standard [Hong Kong]
2 April 2008

A mystery: why are modern Asians so metrosexual?

Today, this column is going to be much more intelligently written than usual, because the space is being handed over to readers' letters.

[...] From Sue R: "True story. A waiter put down a dish in front of a couple of tourists in Hong Kong and said: `This is a freaking chicken.' The couple were surprised at his colloquial language and asked him to repeat himself. `It's a freaking chicken,' he said.

"Finally, he points to the listing on the menu: African Chicken." [...]

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How Many Cats Are Being Killed in Switzerland?

New York Times
1 April 2008

A Push to Stop Swiss Cats From Being Turned Into Coats and Hats


[...] While it is legal in Switzerland to shoot feral cats as well as domestic ones that stray more than 200 yards from their homes, it is not clear how many cats are hunted every year here and across the border in France, where residents have also complained about disappearing felines. One government official put the number at a couple of dozen. Luc Barthassat, a legislator with the Christian Democratic People's Party, said about 2,000, but members of S O S Chats, an advocacy group, say tens of thousands are killed. [...]

Regardless of how common it is, news media reports over the past year across Europe portraying Switzerland as a cat-slaying haven have helped S O S Chats press its case. [...]