Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The April fools

Happy April Fools' Day!  In celebration of this day, famous for its silly pranks, we're gonna play a game.  Below are some "news stories."  Your task is to determine which one (or ones) are true, and which are inventions of my overactive imagination and mischievous sense of humor.  Have fun!

1)  The Doody Duty:  Faced with shrinking revenues and rising costs of maintenance for sewer lines and sewage treatment plants, Mayor John Suttle of Omaha came up with a novel idea; a ten-cents-per-roll federal tax on toilet paper.

Sewer project upgrades, such as the one that Omaha is currently planning, are federal unfunded mandates, and as such, they can really harm budgeting on the city level, Suttle explained.  "Cities across the country are going to be saddled with this horrific debt. I'm ready to go to battle for this."

That's one way to wipe out debt, I suppose.

2)  Mars, Better Dead and Red:  President of Venezuela and noted astrophysicist Hugo Chavez weighed in on the lifelessness of the Red Planet last week, speculating that life may have once existed on Mars.

Perhaps there were once great civilizations on Mars, he suggested, until "capitalism and imperialism came in and finished them off."  When his comments were greeted with thunderous silence, Chavez, as always undaunted by the odd looks people give him, went on to say, "I have always said and heard that it would not be strange if this were so."

3)  The Trump Card:  Billionaire and GOP hopeful Donald Trump has recently joined the "birthers," a group of mostly Republican malcontents who claim that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore should have been ineligible to run for the office of president.

Trump, and many birthers, have wondered why Obama doesn't just put an end to the debate by producing his birth certificate.  "If somebody asked me to see my birth certificate," he boasted to Greta van Susteren of Fox News, "I could have it in their hands in an hour."  The implication, of course, is that Obama doesn't have an actual US birth certificate, and therefore sidles away from the issue because he can't produce such a document.

To show how easy it is, Trump released his own birth certificate, duly issued by the Jamaica-Queens hospital where he was born.  The problem is... birth certificates are only issued by the New York City Department of Health, so what he released wasn't his actual birth certificate.

"Oops," spokesmen for the Trump campaign said, when the mistake was made public, or words to that effect.  "He'll release the actual one... um... just as soon as possible."  After that, I'm hoping that he'll release documents that explain why his hair looks like a possum crawled onto his scalp and died.

4)  Best of Both Worlds:  Rock singer and noted astrophysicist Sammy Hagar reported last week that his interest in UFOs has a personal side; he is an abductee.

Twenty years ago, Hagar said, he was in California, and some aliens from another planet whisked him away.

"It was real," Hagar said, in an interview.  "They were plugged into me. It was a download situation...  Or they uploaded something from my brain, like an experiment."

The former lead singer of Van Halen was unclear as to why the aliens picked him, but suggested such experiences were actually quite common.  He also claimed that the release of his story was in no way a publicity stunt connected with the upcoming release of his biography, Red:  My Uncensored Life in Rock.

5)  A Glowing Report:  Right-wing columnist, shrieking harpy, and noted nuclear physicist Ann Coulter claims that the Japanese should look at the bright side; the people who have been exposed to radiation from the leakage of contaminated water at the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant are now much less likely to get cancer.

Citing studies sponsored by the Department of Energy, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh, and scientists from an unspecified research group in Taiwan, Coulter describes the phenomenon of hormesis, in which people exposed to low levels of a toxin develop a resistance to its effects.  Because of this, we shouldn't worry about the nuclear leaks in Japan.

"Every day," Coulter writes, "Americans pop multivitamins containing trace amount of zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, boron -- all poisons."  She also states that being that caffeine is also a poison, America drinks copious amounts of poison every day, to no apparent ill effects.

Hormesis, Coulter admits, is "hardly a settled scientific fact," but nevertheless concluded her op-ed piece by speculating that Japanese citizens near Fukushima will probably outlive us all, here in "hermetically-sealed, radiation-free America."  Donations to a fund to send Coulter to Fukushima so that she can absorb some of its life-giving rays will be gratefully accepted.

Okay, ready for the answers?

They're all true!  Ha!  April Fools!  No way am I creative enough to make all of this stuff up.

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