Real April Fools
Stories from around the world that can't possibly be true -- but are.
"FUCKING HELL" BEER GETS THE EU GO-AHEAD
“FUCKING HELL” BEER GETS THE EU GO-AHEAD
The story: There are plenty of oddly named brands of beer — Fiddler’s Elbow, Sick Duck, and Santa’s Butt, to name a few — but the European Union’s Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office may have just greenlighted the most offensive beer brand ever: “Fucking Hell.”
Although the name may be NSFW in English, it actually makes sense in German. “Fucking” is a village in northern Austria (though that’s not where the beer will be brewed) and “Hell” is a word used to describe a light ale in Bavaria and Austria. The EU office recently explained its decision to reverse a previous rejection:
“[T]he word combination claimed contains no semantic indication that could refer to a certain person or group of persons. Nor does it incite a particular act. It cannot even be understood as an instruction that the reader should go to hell. [Fucking Hell is] an interjection used to express a deprecation, but it does not indicate against whom the deprecation is directed. Nor can it be considered as reprehensible to use existing place names in a targeted manner (as a reference to the place), merely because this may have an ambiguous meaning in other languages.”
And the best part? The landmark decision creates an important precedent that will allow the use of other obscure, unfortunately named German towns in brand names. Citizens of Kissing, Pissen, and Titting: Watch out.
MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images
KIM JONG IL BANS 2012
Country: North Korea
The story: The Mayans famously predicted the world’s end by concluding their 5,126 year-long calendar on the equivalent of Dec. 21, 2012. The doomsday prophecy inspired Hollywood’s most recent blockbuster science-fiction disaster flick, 2012, as well as a host of lesser efforts. It’s all in good fun, but the prognostication sits poorly with movie buff and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. You see, the Dear Leader has got plans.
The year 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of founding father Kim Il Sung’s birth, Kim Jong Il’s 70th birthday, and the 30th birthday of his reported successor, Kim Jong Un. In celebration, Kim Jong Il has pegged 2012 as North Korea’s lucky year, in which the impoverished, famine-plagued state emerges as a global superpower. The government has promised a series of new housing projects, the completion of the stalled Ryugyong Hotel and a wealth of new economic opportunities. And nothing is going to get in his way — even a fictional sci-fi movie about a mythical environmental apocalypse paired with a romantic subplot. Western movies are routinely banned in North Korea, but 2012 seems to be getting extra scrutiny — those caught with illegal DVDs of the film are meeting with harsh punishment. We wouldn’t want to jinx Pyongyang’s rise to greatness, would we?
And the best part? Officials are enforcing the ban by declaring possession of the film as “a grave provocation against the development of the state” — a charge punishable with up to five years in prison.
BEIJING’S PERFUMED GARBAGE DUMP
The story: Throughout China, Western consumption patterns, an exploding urban population, and underdeveloped infrastructure have had negative environmental and sanitary consequences. In Beijing, concern is growing about the hundreds of enormous and overflowing landfills that have created a public health debacle. Toxins from overflowing dumps have seeped their way into local sources of groundwater, and trash incinerators pump dioxin and heavy metals into the air, increasing the risk of illness in nearby livestock and communities. The city estimates that 18,000 metric tons of waste are added to the sites every day, and the smell is attracting a lot of attention.
City officials first attempted to deal with the problem by installing dozens of incinerators in dumps, but many of those projects have been put on hold after intense pressure from residents worried about toxic fumes poisoning their air. In response, Beijing’s Asuwei dump has decided to take a novel approach to dealing with the problem: covering it up. Officials will be installing 100 high-pressure deodorant guns to spray perfume — up to several gallons per minute — onto the site, dampening the stench. The “guns,” much like powerful sprinklers, can spray up to 50 meters. Think of them as Febreze on steroids.
And the best part? Trash on the city’s outskirts, between the fifth and sixth city ring roads, has become such a nuisance that residents have coined a name for the massive wasteland between the city and the suburbs: the “seventh ring.”
STEPHEN SHAVER/AFP/Getty Images
SARKOZY’S BOOSTER STAND
The story: French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to the United States began with a March 29 speech at Columbia University. But before his keynote address, his staff made a curious request: the French president would not be using the podium provided to him by the university. Instead, he would use a custom-built lectern flown in from France. His aides explained that Sarko wanted to be as comfortable as possible during his delivery. But it’s fairly obvious that the French president just wanted something more befitting his 5-foot-5-inch stature.
And the best part? This isn’t the first instance of Sarkozy showing his sensitivity about his height. At the June 2009 anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Europe, he used a footstool while standing at the podium, and in September 2009 he surrounded himself with two dozen shorter people while giving a televised speech.
ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
MAHJONG DRUG RINGS
The story: Teenage boys aren’t the only ones pulling all-night gaming sessions these days. In Shanghai, middle-aged and retired residents have joined the fun, albeit turning to less high-tech games — namely mahjong.
But the famously addictive tile game has its dark side. Some Shanghai mahjong junkies are turning to banned substances — namely cocaine, methamphetamines, and ketamine — to get through marathon games with their friends. This new class of drug addicts, typically 40-to-60- year-olds, are picking up their habit in card rooms, where groups of friends meet to hang out. The last decade alone has seen the proportion of over-35 drug addicts increase nearly 20 percent nationwide. The Guardian quoted from the China Daily:
“‘More and more middle-aged and older people take drugs because they feel lonely and empty after retiring or losing their jobs,’ said Li Luyan, secretary-general of Shanghai Sports Association for the Aged. ‘Their children and society in general should show more care to these people to keep them away from drugs … they need more activities, such as sports, to fill their spare time.'”
And the best part? Officials have been trying to clean up the game’s image for years. In the past, mahjong was linked to activities such as opium smoking and gambling. In fact, the Chinese Communist Party outlawed it in 1949, only to re-legalize it in 1985.
MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images
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