Monday, December 31, 2012

Hoaxes of 2012: Birds, Alaska and death rumors

Posted By on Mon, Dec 31, 2012 at 2:06 PM

If there were the hoax of 2012, it would have the be the prophesied end of the world. But most people were skeptical enough to buy Christmas presents, and real Mayans think we were all being weird, so here are a bunch of other hoaxes of 2012.

Viral bird videos

First, in March, it turned out the Dutch "Bird Man" can't actually fly with Nintendo Wii-controlled kite wings. Then, in December, it turned out an eagle didn't actually snatch a toddler from a Canadian park.

Sent to Alaska

Apparently there aren't too many dining options in remote Bethel, Alaska, so residents were pretty excited when fliers went up announcing a new Taco Bell. It turned out to be part of a prank between two residents, and not real, but at least Taco Bell decided to airlift a food truck to make 10,000 free consolation tacos for the town of 6,000.

Also sent to Alaska was rapper Pitbull, who paired with Walmart to make an appearance at whichever store got the most Facebook "Likes" during a monthlong promotion. The internet rallied Likes with the hashtag #exilePitbull and sent him to the small town of Kodiak.

The Onion strikes again

In September, Iran's state news agency reported that a poll reported that rural Americans prefer Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President Obama. (They later admitted the poll was fake, but added that a real poll would probably have the same result.) In November, the Chinese state newspaper quoted the Onion story naming North Korea's Kim Jong-Un the "Sexiest Man Alive."

Decade-long cancer hoax

For sheer strangeness and longevity, no hoax from 2012 can beat the story of J.S. Dirr. A 22-year-old woman from Ohio had been keeping up the fake identity for half her life, going so far as to send out "Warrior Eli" bracelets for Dirr's alleged son, who had cancer. It was the bracelets that eventually revealed the hoax.

Facebook privacy notice

It seems like there's a new variation every month: Copy this long, legal-jargony paragraph and post it on your own Facebook to protect your copyright and privacy right. It sure would be nice if we could opt out of Facebook terms of service, but yeah... that doesn't do anything. (If you see friends/family falling for this hoax, this was the gentlest letdown comment I've ever seen: "Another urban legend, I'm afraid.")

Messing with the press

A 25-year-old guy admitted he lied to CBS about an embarrassing office story. He also lied to MSNBC about getting sneezed on, and lied to The New York Times about collecting vinyl records. (That last one led to one of 2012's more elaborate corrections.) He did it by responding to reporters looking for sources on a site called Help A Reporter Out — mostly to prove it could be done, he said.

In a far more elaborate NYT hoax, a fake op-ed supposedly by former editor Bill Keller was published in July. The fake article was strongly in favor of WikiLeaks, and WikiLeaks eventually took responsibility, proving that Julian Assange is pretty much just a hacker egomaniac after all.

The New York Stock Exchange is flooded, and other hurricane rumors

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, the water was rising, the power was failing and people were frantically turning to Twitter for information. Some of the most frightening updates — and most famously the rumor that the New York Stock Exchange floor was flooded — all turned out to be from the imagination of one 29-year-old Republican campaign consultant.

Fox News viewers are dumb

In December, a supposed study found that Fox News viewers have an average IQ of 80, compared to the U.S. average of 100. It was totally made up. (A different, real poll in May did find that Fox News viewers are worst-informed about international news, but MSNBC viewers were second-worst, and the methodology was criticized.)

Boo the Dog and other celebrity deaths

Celebrity death rumors are an annual tradition, but the strangest this year concerned the alleged death of Boo, an adorable Pomeranian famous for being adored by Khloe Kardashian. The dog has millions of fans on Facebook, many of whom tweeted mournfully with the hashtag #RIPBoo until a publicist for the dog's book ("Boo: The Life of the World's Cutest Dog") quashed the rumors with a photo of the pup alive and adorable.

Other celebrities whose reports of death were greatly exaggerated: Cher, Morgan Freeman, Reese WitherspoonPaul McCartney, Celine DionReba McEntire, Chris BrownBruno Mars and so many more

Prank calls

More seriously, some hoaxes have consequences: Two Australian radio DJs posing as the royal family tricked a nurse into putting Kate Middleton personal nurse on the line. Three days later, the nurse committed suicide and the hoax may have been a factor.

And, finally, a few things we wish were hoaxes

Honey Boo Boo: It could just be the latest faux-life hoax-art project from Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix, right?

Clint Eastwood and the chair: Now we all have to confront our own mortality. Incidentally, Eastwood told his local paper that Barack Obama is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

Demise of Hostess: It would have been such a good marketing ploy — get customers good and scared so they run out and clear the shelves of Twinkies and Ding Dongs. But no, it's really over.

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Gonzaga Cracks Top 10, Big Game Today

Posted By on Mon, Dec 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM


The updated college basketball rankings just rolled out and Gonzaga moved up three spots in both the AP and the USA Today/ESPN polls, placing them at the 10 spot.

The move comes after dropping 94 points on Baylor Friday night, thanks to an explosion of offense from Kevin "The Calm Canadian" Pangos and solid efforts from Kelly "The Hippie Canadian" Olynyk and Elias "German, Not Canadian" Harris.

Today, the Zags are out in Stillwater, Okla., to battle #22 Oklahoma State for the Zags' now-familiar New Year's Eve game. OSU is looking tough, coming into the game with only one loss during a non-conference schedule that saw them knock off then-#6 NC State back in November.

The game tips off at 3 pm on ESPN2. A perfect excuse to get the NYE pre-party going early.

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MORNING BRIEF: Fiscal cliff, bus crash, ax robbery, celebrity spawn

Posted By on Mon, Dec 31, 2012 at 9:02 AM


A man was shot inside a home near North Central High School, and a man with an ax robbed a woman (Spokesman)

Nine people died when a charter bus slid off an icy highway in Oregon (AP)


The fiscal cliff deadline looms. (WaPo) If legislators don't reach a deal, here's what would happen and when. (NYT)

Women in India protested after a 23-year-old rape victim died from her injuries (NYT)

Kanye West announced that he and Kim Kardashian are expecting. All the funny jokes about big butts and big egos have already been made, so let's all leave little Kimye alone, OK? (Gawker)
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Friday, December 28, 2012

CAT FRIDAY: Top cat stories of 2012

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 4:15 PM

2012 was an exceptionally great year for cats. The masses were introduced to many great felines that cat-apulted their way to fame and recognition by millions, while others that have already been in the spotlight managed to keep reining in more adoring fans, or minions, as Colonel Meow would consider them.

To celebrate such a great year for cats, this installment of Cat Friday rounds up what we feel are the top cats and cat stories of the year. The cats are listed alphabetically because we honestly think they’re all equally special in their own ways. 

Colonel Meow

We were pretty honored when aspiring world leader — and fellow Washington state resident — Colonel Meow agreed to answer our questions as part of an interview for Cat Friday back in October. As he was featured in the blog, his fan base — excuse us, we mean Minion Army — was exponentially increasing by the minute. To date, the fierce-looking Colonel has garnered an online following of more than 125,000. You can read Cat Friday’s interview with the Col. over here



The story of this little cat, who’s been fighting an uphill battle since being rescued after she became trapped inside her family’s burning home in September, has captured the hearts of many. Dutchess' story of recovery and strength is inspiring, especially for an animal that can’t comprehend the meaning of life and the ways of the world. During the months she’s been in the care of the staff at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, the improvements in Dutchess’ condition have been phenomenal. It’s hoped that soon she’ll be able to return home to her family. 



Another kitty that overcame great odds for survival in 2012 is Dot. Dot was taken in by a New Jersey cat rescue and shelter, Tabby’s Place, in January after being found as a young kitten without the use of her hind legs. Dot was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that results in the vertebral arch not correctly fusing and thus leaving her hind legs useless. Dot spent the first year of her life having all sorts of fun adventures at Tabby’s, including getting her own mobility cart and a new best friend, D’Art, a little grey cat with a similar physical disability; his back legs are paralyzed and non-functioning, too. 


The grandma and her cat who are BFF’s

A collection of beautiful photos rose to the surface of the Internet’s abyss this year, depicting the incredible bond and interspecies friendship between an 88-year-old Japanese woman, Misa, and her odd-eyed white kitty, Fukumaru. Photographer Miyoko Ihara captured the stunning images of her grandmother and the cat over a period of 13 years, and documented the pair’s unbreakable bond in a photo book.



Not many cats can lay their claim to fame on the fact they placed third in a U.S. Senate seat race as a third party candidate. But Hank, a Maine Coon mix from Virginia, did just that when he ran against two human opponents during the 2012 election, on a platform of animal welfare and disgust for the U.S.’s political process. Hank also raised more than $60,000 for animal rescue organizations during his campaign. 


Henri, le Chat Noir

2012 certainly saw its fair share of viral cat videos. One of the most viral cat video series of the year profiles an existentialist and pessimistic tuxedo cat, Henri, le Chat Noir. Henri stars in several black-and-white videos during which he ponders the meaning of life and the absurdness of the imbeciles he’s surrounded by. Henri’s musings didn’t go unnoticed, however, as he was one of the four finalists in the AmazeCats’ Whisker Wars competition, which sought to determine the public’s favorite Internet cat ever. Henri also took home the viral cat video version of an Oscar, when his series won the People’s Choice Award at the first ever Internet Cat Film Festival in Minneapolis.



Like her friend Grumpy Cat, LIL BUB is often confused for being male, and has her own set of physical differences that make her one of the most adorable and amazing creatures on the planet — the last phrase are BUB’s own words, folks. BUB, who always spells her name in all caps and considers herself clairvoyant, has racked up an impressive Facebook following of almost 86,000. BUB isn’t just about being cute and adorable, though — she’s using her status as a famous cat to help other animals in need, by promoting adoption and donating a portion of the proceeds from her merch sales to benefit animal rescue groups around her hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. 


Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat

There’s no doubt that one of the most viral cats of 2012 is Grumpy Cat, the little frown-y faced kitty that’s charmed all of us with her perpetual disapproving expression. According to our records, Tard’s photo first popped up on Reddit back in September… and from then on, it seems the entire world has welcomed this little odd kitty with open arms. Though there may be more than a few fake Facebook pages for little Grumpy, her official page has a count of more than 286,000 likes. For the record, we also think her half-brother, Pokey, is pretty darn cute too. Check out Grumpy’s website for “The Daily Grump” photos which often feature her with Pokey.


Sable, the Crossing Guard Cat

In another part of Washington state, a cat who made headlines late this year is doing his duty to make sure students at Enterprise Middle School, in Richland, Wash., get across the street safely. Earlier this month the story broke about Sable, a 15-year-old black cat, who’s been coming outside of his home across the street from the school to greet kids going to and coming from school at the nearby crosswalk. His owner, Tamara Morrison, says the male cat has been faithful to this routine for about a year now and knows to stay out of the street, instead Sable prefers to take advantage of the passing children who stop to give him a scratch as they wait to cross.



Not long before Grumpy Cat and her mad face took the Internet by storm, another odd-faced feline was making headlines of her own. Venus the cat is rumored to possibly be a chimera, which could mean that she has the genetic material from two embryos that fused together while in the womb. It hasn’t been definitively proved through genetic testing, but this kitty’s half-orange and half-black face is stunning regardless of her genetic quirks.


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The Comedy: Tim Heidecker is somehow both annoying and brilliant

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 3:32 PM


There are times during The Comedy when you’ll look away and perhaps check your watch to see how much more time is remaining in the film. During a viewing of virtually every other film ever made, this would be a sign that you’re watching something awful.

Somehow, that’s not the case. Perhaps this movie was made so you will hate it. At least that’s the best I can surmise from director Rick Alveson’s beyond-mumblecore study of a past-his-prime Brooklyn hipster who has all the money in the world but not a single care for it.

Tim Heidecker plays Swanson, a 35-year-old whose uber-rich father is about to kick the bucket, but all Swanson can do is sit by his bedside, whiskey in hand, and convince the attending male nurse that he has shit in his mouth. When Swanson’s not living out on his sailboat or transporting one-night stands out to said boat, he’s mostly just doing, well, nothing of consequence.

Swanson hangs with his friends — whose names, professions or history we never learn — drinking heavily and making hilarious quips that the gang is too hip to laugh at. That gang consists of Heidecker’s Tim and Eric cohort, Eric Wareheim, LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy and comic Neil Hamburger. Several scenes feature the guys swilling various ironic alcoholic beverages — Colt 45, even — and giving monologues to each other that are intensely funny. But they just sit there and critique why this is funny. It’s weird.

There’s not much of a storyline here, other than a strung-together series of scenes featuring Swanson growing increasingly bored with his life to the point that he goes out and finds a dishwashing job, trying to carve out a semblance of purpose in his life.

Offensive and appalling at times and probably an endurance test for the viewer, The Comedy pulls through as an excellent character study. We watch as Heidecker portrays a man whose hipster irony has stripped him of emotion or any path in life. It’s as brilliant as it is completely annoying.

You’ll likely begin the film thinking that this is an ode to all things hipster and that the filmmakers want you to realize that a life lived outside of Williamsburg is not a life lived at all. That’s not the case, though. Rather, it seems The Comedy is hell-bent on showing how utterly exhausting and soul-crushing it is to be ironic and sarcastic all the time.

Go see it. You might hate it, but that might be the point.

Not Rated

Playing at Magic Lantern in Spokane

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GOOD READS: starting over, remembering and inventing the bar code

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 1:42 PM

Welcome back to the GOOD READS blog. Each week, Inlander staffers share five-ish of our favorite stories in hopes you'll love them too. Use them to speed up your Friday afternoon, or bookmark them for your morning coffee over the weekend. Then let us know what you think. Love 'em? Hate 'em? Read anything great lately?

1. "Free at last…" (Nina Maclaughlin//The Phoenix)

A story of starting over. One of the wrongly-convicted West Memphis Three is building his new life in a place familiar with witch hunts. 

2. "N. Joseph Woodland…" (Margalit Fox//New York Times)

The story of the man who invented the bar code.  

3. "Noah Pozner's Family Remembers and Mourns" (Naomi Zeveloff//Jewish Daily Forward)

Coping with the loss of a child in Newtown.

4. "The Next Seven States To Legalize Pot" (Tim Dickinson//Rolling Stone)

Why Oregon, California and a handful of East Coast states could be next.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT The year in photos. Parts one, two, three.

Want more good reads? Click on over here.

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A white Christmas after all

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Last week's issue included these charts of how much snow has been on the ground in Spokane in recent winters. We've had white Christmases almost every year recently, though it's rarely the snowiest part of the season. This map from the National Climatic Data Center shows how our region falls just on side of more-likely-than-not when it comes to white Christmases.


And, indeed, this year's Christmas was again snowy. It looked a little doubtful last weekend, but a storm came through just in time to snarl holiday travel plans. Here's what the chart looks like for the winter of 2012-13 so far, through the end of Christmas Day.


The snow depths charted here come from National Weather Service measurements at the Spokane International Airport location. The actual amount of snow on the ground varies a lot even within Spokane, and of course places closer to the mountains usually have more. Here's a map of snow depth in our region on Christmas Day. You can search for data from other NWS observation locations here.

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MORNING BRIEF: Eastern State Hospital, McEuen and predictions for 2013

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 8:22 AM

Around here

Eastern State Hospital's accreditation has been suspended while authorities investigate a murder there last month. (SR) 

The designers of the ever-controversial McEuen Park in downtown Coeur d'Alene want to add back some amenities that got cut from their original plan. That means the price would go up. (CdA Press)

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe's cultural leader has died. (SR) 

Out there

While being processed at a police station in New Jersey, a man grabbed a gun and shot three officers before he was killed by police fire. (Reuters) 

Wind farm developers are rushing to finish projects before the new year, when the federal wind production tax credit will expire. (NYT) 

Tired of stories looking back on 2012? The BBC predicts the big stories for 2013. (BBC) 

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

MORNING BRIEF: tasing, stacking and the fiscal cliff

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 8:17 AM

Around here

A Spokane inmate died Wednesday after he was tased by a corrections officer at the Benton County jail. (KXLY) 

The people who had to clean up after the Spokane stackers on Christmas are not impressed. (SR) 

The new year means electricity and natural gas rates are going up for Avista customers. (SR)

Out there

Despite high hopes to take action on climate change, the EPA director is resigning without much progress in that area. (NYT) 

Veterans are waiting longer to get their disability benefits. (NPR) 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the fiscal cliff: "It looks like that is where we're headed." (Chicago Tribune)

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A few Inlander-inspired New Year's Resolutions

Posted By on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 at 4:28 PM

It can be tough to come up with a New Year’s resolution: You’re thin, healthy, intelligent, speak plenty of languages, have not a single substance abuse issue, and find satisfaction in your relationships, hobbies, and occupation. You and your life are nearly perfect.

But to ensure you have at least a few personal goals for the upcoming year, we looked through this year’s Inlander issues to think up one or two ideas.

• Stop being insecure about Spokane by ridding yourself of the habit of saying things like, “We need to stop being insecure about Spokane.”

• Spot a domestic drone hovering above, and give it a sly little “I know what you’re up to, pal” wink.

• Before forming your opinion, try getting married to at least one (1) gay person, to see if you like it or not.

• Rescue an orphan caribou, raise it as your own, teach it to understand your ways and your culture, pay for its college education, and send it into the big, wide world with a teary goodbye. Go on, caribou. Get outta here. I don’t love you, and I – sniff – never want to see you again. Scram!

• Instill the value in your children that, while you know they may experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex as they get older, under no circumstances is it OK for them to use their youthful antics to shut down a crêperie.

• Finally build the “Straub Light,” a moustached symbol to be projected into the night sky to summon Spokane’s new crimefighting police chief.

• Release your “Geographically, Demographically and Metaphysically Accurate to the Reality of Spokane” fan-edit of the Red Dawn remake.

• Remember to, before firing anybody, first run through the “Can Spokane Attorney Bob Dunn sue my ass off?” checklist.

• Tell a few nuns about how Sister Act II: Back in the Habit really opened your eyes to spirituality.

• Finish paying back your debt to that shady Venetian merchant.

• Finally decide if you prefer to vote for that Mitt Romney fellow or that Barack Obama dude.

• Gather together all the arcane ingredients for the incantation to reverse the curse haunting Old Man Ridpath’s place.

• Fix racism, once and for all.

• Gradually begin to shift your entire media diet, understanding of the world, and method of communicating with loved ones toward Internet cat pictures.

• Start complaining about how pot was so much cooler before it got all mainstream and commercialized, man.

• Doubt the existence of atheism.

• Begin force-feeding ducks veal, to really get a conversation about food ethics going.

• Watch more TV — nobody on their deathbed has ever said "I wish I had spent more time reading books."

• Approach at least one stranger in the bathroom, and deliver your own soaring, tough-but-inspiring halftime locker room pep talk. It could be the start of his big comeback.

• Learn to impersonate Elvis well enough to trick his bank into handing over Social Security and credit card info.

• Carry out one last heist to steal the Casper Fry fried chicken recipe.

• Win a “Miss But-She-Has-a-Great-Personality” pageant.

• Propose to solve global warming through judicious application of sunscreen.

• Identify the “Rudy” of the coal mining industry.

• Read these heart-wrenching Inlander cover stories on suicide, domestic violence, mining deaths, soldier suicide, prostitution, and HIV, and still manage to maintain the occasional burst of optimism about this screwed-up world.

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