Archive for March, 2011

Reclaim Our History: April Fools Edition

By • on March 31, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Apr. 1, 1952: Swedish national television does a special showing how to convert a black-and-white television to color by putting a nylon stocking over the screen, including a long description of the physics behind the phenomena.

1965: BBC pretends it is conducting a trial of “Smell-o-Vision,” a new technology allowing the transmission of odors over the airwaves. Numerous callers report the experiment a success.

1969: Dutch TV news announces a new device to detect an unlicensed television (Dutch viewers are taxed on their televisions) from outside the house, that can only be overcome by wrapping the set in aluminum foil. The following day, aluminum foil will sell out around the nation.

1976: Sir Patrick Moore, a British astronomer, announces on BBC 2 that a unique alignment of Jupiter and Pluto will result in an upward gravitational effect, making people lighter at 9:47 A.M. Dozens of people call in to report that they had followed his recommendation to jump up and experienced “a strange floating sensation” he claimed they would feel.

1980: The BBC reports that Big Ben will be replaced by a digital clock.

1983: Australian millionaire Dick Smith claims to have towed an iceberg from Antarctica to Sydney Harbour. He uses a barge covered with whige plastic and fire extinguisher foam as a prop.

1993: Disc jockey Dave Rickards of KGB-FM in San Diego tells listeners that the space shuttle Discovery has been diverted from Edwards AFB and will be landing instead at Montgomery Field, whose runway is only 4500 feet long. Despite no shuttle being in orbit at the time, thousands show up to see the landing.

1996: Burger King announces the new “left-handed Whopper,” which drips condiments out of the right side, for left-handed people. Many requested this item, and many others requested the “right-handed” burger.

2003: Many Chinese and Korean websites claim that Bill Gates has been assassinated, resulting a serious drop in the South Korean stock market.

2004: A British TV show announces that the Yorkshire Water company has discovered a new “diet tap water” that helped one person to lose 21 pounds in four months. The story mentions that a third tap would be available to allow customers easy access to the water. The next day, Yorkshire Water receives nearly 10,000 calls about the water.

2008: National Public Radio reports that the IRS, in order to ensure that tax refunds will be spent, will be shipping consumer merchandise instead of checks.

2008: Monty Python alum Terry Jones reports on BBC about a newly discovered colony of flying penguins, and the program follows their flight to the Amazon rainforest.

2009: Radio station WIXE in Monroe, North Carolina, claims it is changing its format from Country and Gospel music to Heavy metal. The station receives numerous phone calls, but at least half are from listeners requesting heavy metal songs.

2010: A British newspaper, The Sun, announces that its product is now “Scratch and Sniff,” resulting in a “rash” of readers seen scratching and sniffing the newspaper.

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More Articles

It’s not just a cell phone

By • on March 30, 2011 at 8:43 am

It’s also a corporate and government tracking device! Possible mutagens, no extra charge!

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Gitmo: New & Improved

By • on March 26, 2011 at 2:05 am

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Libya: Oh, What a Stupid War

By • on March 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm

The war on Libya now being waged by the U.S., Britain and France must surely rank as one of the stupidest martial enterprises, smaller in scale to be sure, since Napoleon took it into his head to invade Russia in 1812. Let’s start with the fierce hand-to-hand combat between members of the coalition, arguing about [...]

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Push their agenda

By • on March 24, 2011 at 3:50 am

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Why Won’t Obama Explain His Third War?

By • on March 23, 2011 at 5:43 pm

U.S. forces fired 110 cruise missiles at Libya on the first day of the war. Each one cost $755,000 to build; $2.8 million to transport, maintain and shoot. Austerity and budget cuts abound; there’s no money for NPR or teachers or firefighters. Note to union negotiators: the government has lots of money. They’re spending it [...]

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Seattle’s Roads to Nowhere

By • on March 22, 2011 at 8:25 am

“What an absolute fiasco.” That’s what many future Seattleites will likely say about the deep-bore tunnel project that’s currently being railroaded into a “done deal” by the Seattle City Council, Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire, and many of the construction-contract interests who stand most to gain financially from the project. That is, if the project [...]

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That’s what happens

By • on March 21, 2011 at 3:47 am

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Tax-funded trolls

By • on March 17, 2011 at 11:08 am

It’s a staple of the mudslinging in comment threads at various political blogs, in response to right-wing trolls, to wonder who’s paying them. Now, thanks to an article in today’s Guardian UK, we know at least one of the answers: We are.

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world….

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as “sock puppets” – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries”.

Three thoughts. First, this report is that the US military is seeking to develop software that would at least partially automate what can easily be done at most any Web site or Facebook or Twitter account by hand. It’s therefore reasonable to assume that the US military (along with how many other government agencies?) is already doing this, just not as efficiently as the new software would allow.

Secondly, the US government is prohibited by law from propagandizing US citizens (insert laugh track here), and since online communities have no international borders, that’s exactly what these efforts would do. This is not just a breach of online etiquette. It’s a crime.

Third: why, oh why, does it always seem to be a British or other foreign media outlet that first reports these stories? I’m just sayin’…

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Nature & Politics: Earthquakes, Waves and Nuke-Speak: Never Believe Anything Until It’s Officially Denied

By • on March 16, 2011 at 12:30 am

The explosion at a Japanese nuclear plant in the early hours of Saturday looks, on the footage, huge and calamitous. An “expert,” interviewed on the BBC, tactfully described it as “energetic”. Here are excerpts from the Associated Press story from Japan, on the wires at about 2 AM Saturday, PST. Rarely has my father Claud’s [...]

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