Another real headline

Another real headline:

    Terrorists ‘could use exploding breast implants to blow up jet’

The story, via the Daily Telegraph:

Photo by CORBISRadical Islamist plastic surgeons could be carrying out the implant operations in lawless areas of Pakistan, security sources are said to warned.

Explosives experts have reportedly said just five ounces of Pentaerythritol Tetrabitrate packed into a breast implant would be enough to blow a “considerable” hole in the side of a jumbo jet.

It would be virtually possible for airport security scanners to detect the explosive if hidden inside a breast, medics have said.

Joseph Farah, a terrorism expert, told The Sun: “Women suicide bombers recruited by al-Qaeda are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery.”

Plastic surgeons may also have inserted the chemical into the buttocks of would-be suicide bombers.

The discovery was reportedly made after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a London-educated Nigerian, attempted to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas day with explosives packed into his underpants.

Hours after his attack failed, British intelligence services reportedly picked up “chatter” from Pakistan and Yemen that alerted them to the bizarre new method.

I’m waiting for the B-class horror version: Tits of Terror, starring Nicole Eggert and Karen Black, directed by Uwe Boll.

And, yes, we’ll skip the predictable clichés.

Stating the obvious

The Catholic Church's chief exorcist says the Devil resides in the VaticanThe thing is

Father Gabriele Amorth said people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron.

He added that the assault on Pope Benedict XVI on Christmas Eve by a mentally unstable woman and the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries, were proof that the Anti-Christ was waging a war against the Holy See.

“The Devil resides in the Vatican and you can see the consequences,” said Father Amorth, 85, who has been the Holy See’s chief exorcist for 25 years.

—you don’t need to sell me on the shards of glass in order to convince me the Devil resides in the Vatican. Just like we really don’t need the endless scandals to convince me the Church is gay.

‘Nuff said.

Generation gap

Oh, come on. The lede is worth a double-take:

A Somali man who claims to be 112 years old has married a 17-year old girl.

“Today God helped me realise my dream,” Ahmed Mohamed Dhore said, after the wedding in the region of Galguduud.

Bride Safiya Abdulle’s family said she was “happy with her new husband”.

‘Nuff said?

Join in the dance: Guns! Guns! Guns! Guns! Fire! Fire! Fire!

In the long-running American debate about gun control, it occurred to me long ago to wonder about those folks whose “home protection” failed them in certain ways. After all, anyone can point to a news story about a grandmother shooting a fleeing intruder in the back and crow about home protection with firearms. And who, really, is going to make the obvious point in those cases? And, certainly, there are the criminals who probably shouldn’t be carrying guns in the first place. But you rarely encounter headlines like, “Homeowner misses intruder, shoots up own living room”. I mean, I’m sure it happens from time to time, but it just doesn’t make a juicy headline like an old woman shooting down a bad guy.

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Lessons of the leap

It’s time to write this. Not so much that I’ve been avoiding it, although it’s never fun to face up to such stupidity. In the days since, I’ve been wondering about the obvious cue I missed in taking a gamble and biting the hook about flying penguins. Indeed, as I mentioned to a (the) commenter on that entry, I have embarrassed myself much worse in the past. In the end, though, there are certain reasons I fell for it, and rather than pleading in a perverse defense of pride, perhaps we might extract from this unfortunate episode a certain lesson. There are three primary reasons I took the bait:

  • I really wanted it to be true.
  • And I must give credit to the BBC for enlisting two newspapers (the Daily Telegraph and The Mirror) to help them with their prank. That “validation” of the story made the bait rather quite juicy.
  • Compared to what Americans produce, some of the BBC’s real footage looks fake. Those familiar with the massive zoom shot of a migrating herd in the early minutes of the Planet Earth episode “Pole to Pole”, or an incredible time-lapse of changing seasons might understand that we Americans get nothing on par with what the Beeb can do. I simply invested too much faith in the BBC.

I do wonder if, had I actually seen the Mirror article, I would have decided as I did. Indeed, their description of “flying penguins” differs from the Telegraph‘s—despite referring to the same BBC footage—and sounds a bit more like a joke. At the time, I was only aware of the Mirror because BBC News mentioned the article in a roundup of daily headlines from the British press.

And perhaps I should have been more wary of Terry Jones. Then again, we’re expected to receive Michael Palin, for instance, as a legitimate program host. The combination of who, when, and what, however, should have been enough to simply keep my mouth shut and celebrate quietly. My disappointment, then, could have been quiet and, perhaps most importantly, private. I could have learned a couple of lessons without risking embarrassment. But I just had to go and post it. I wish I could say it was late, and I was tired, but by my standard it wasn’t that late.

I also wish I could say the original post was a performance art piece, and I gave some thought about trying to pass it off as such. But, while I’m hardly a poster child for credibility, the world is already overflowing with shysters and, besides, it’s not that embarrassing. Those who know me well enough to harp on the point also know I’m prone to fantastic leaps of faith.

And that, in the end, seems to be the great lesson. I really wanted it to be true. Enumerating the myriad sentiments influencing that hope is an exercise in futility, but I alluded to the primary influence in my response to Fly On The Wall: “I can only wonder what Opus is thinking tonight.”

So for various reasons, I wanted the story to be true. We all have, in our lives, certain ideas we want to be true. And for these ideas we tend to lower our standards, open ourselves to certain deception. In retrospect, I should not even have required the Mirror‘s description of the footage—

They launch themselves down steep icy slopes with an upward curve to get the momentum to take off.

Then they flap their tiny wings to reach a steady cruising speed before eventually crashing back into the water.

—to tell the difference. In the days since, I have considered the question of how I ever thought those wings could carry those bodies, and the only answer I can come up with is that I overlooked the obvious, the physics of flight, because I wanted to believe that penguins could fly. I was so enraptured with the proposition that, as my response to reader comment indicates, I was more concerned with justifying the improbability of the perspective of the BBC footage than the content:

I mean, that shot of the penguins over South American forest land is just bizarre, both for the scene in general and the perspective specifically. But after the Planet Earth series, I have much faith in their ability to get the truly insane shots. Flying next to penguins, for instance.

So even while I cannot in any good faith pass this episode off as a deliberate performance to make a specific point about the dangers of hope and faith, we might come away with that lesson nonetheless. Patriotism, true love and happily ever after, even God: it is much easier to be fooled if we deceive ourselves. It is much easier to deceive ourselves if we want to believe the lie. At some level, even when the prospect is bleak, we can take comfort in self-deception. In saying it is hopeless we might surrender, or lay down to die, without feeling guilty at having given up the fight.

    I slept with Faith, and found a corpse in my arms on awaking; I drank and danced all night with Doubt, and found her a virgin in the morning. (Perdurabo)

Don’t bother reading this

Rare kudos to FOX News.

A German retiree is taking a hospital to court after she went in for a leg operation and got a new anus instead ….

The rest of that sentence, in fact, is, “the Daily Telegraph is reporting”. The FOX version is nothing more than a slightly edited—for vernacular—version of the Australian newspaper’s short article. But the thing is that I picked this up from David Schmader at Slog, who noted that The Sun had the better headline. Indeed, the British tabloid’s staff reporter simply edited the four sentences of the Australian version.

So let’s do a headline comparison:

  • Daily Telegraph: “Pensioner gets bum’s rush on op”
  • The Sun: “Leg op woman gets bum deal”
  • “Woman Goes for Leg Operation, Gets New Anus Instead”

The headline says it allAnd, yeah. I have to go with the FOX headline. I mean, you don’t need to make any joke about it. The simple fact of the story is the joke. Well, sort of. As long as you’re not the pensioner who still needs the leg operation.

Well, that and even without the typographical omission, there’s something about the phrase, “Click hear Dr. Manny talk about medical errors” that strikes me just so. They ought to just give it up and go find themselves a doctor named Nick.