According to Twitter, Coca Cola’s suggestion that you to share their tasty beverage with your friends - or, as they say in France, “vos amis” - has gone a bit wrong, due to a rogue typography choice that makes it look like they’re inviting you to share it with your anus:
Satellite data from 2003 is coloured red, 1998 is coloured green and 1992 is blue. The three data sets are composited to form the image. Nighttime lights on the map that are white are lights that were present throughout the entire period. Areas that are marked by red have only appeared in 2003. Areas coloured green and blue were only present in 1998 and 1992 respectively but are no longer visible. This image was created by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, USA.
It should be noted that not only does this have the benefit of being true, it also makes the image much more awesome than something that just says “India does pretty colours sometimes”.
It’s also worth pointing out that the tweet above has over 14,000 retweets and 4,500+ favourites, and hasn’t had a follow-up correction. As a general rule, if you see a Twitter account that’s called something like “Mindblowing Facts”, it’s probably fairly safe to mentally substitute the words “Deluge of Bollocks” in place of the name.
It’s actually a picture from 2011, of a thunderstorm over Manhattan during a tornado alert (which turned out to be uneventful in the end, although the US and other countries were struck with an unusually high number of tornados that year). The original source appears to be this Wall Street Journal article, and the picture was taken through a tinted window by a finance professional called Charles Menjivar (from his workplace, most likely - his current employers are situated pretty much where this picture looks to be taken from).
It is traditional, when the US is menaced by a weather event, for people to tweet pictures of things that aren’t it. Generally they’re pictures of supercell thunderstorms, because they look way cool and a lot more threatening than actual hurricanes, which mostly just look sort of grey and wet and blurry unless you’re looking at them from above. Here are some of the more usual supercell picture suspects, which have previously been claimed to be hurricanes Isaac, Irene and (from the pre-Twitter days) Isabel, but weren’t. Keep a weather eye out for them.
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: Another one getting retweeted all over the place (and even written up by The Washington Post, although they’ve since killed the link) is this one of soldiers standing guard over the Tomb of the Unkowns even as Sandy rages around them:
At this point, regular readers may already be saying “hey, that looks an awful lot like a supercell thunderstorm!” Yep. Once again, Snopes is already there.
UPDATE ^ 6:Ace work from Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic, who’s doing the same thing but with the excellent idea of putting big FAKE/REAL graphics on the images so people can spread them on social media without worrying they’ll get taken out of context. Canny.
UPDATE ^ 7: SHARKS! There’s a bunch of pictures doing the rounds of sharks supposedly swimming around flooded streets. This one, we’re still unsure about (Alexis Madrigal is trying to track down the supposed photographer). It’s reportedly from Brigantine, New Jersey - if anybody recognises the street, holla:
But he also has the second shark picture - the one we know is definitely a fake. And he keeps insisting it’s real, while his friends in the comments congratulate him on his Photoshop skills. And, in what my finely honed internet detective skills suggest could possibly be the giveaway comment beneath the first shark picture, one of his friends says “That’s the leopard shark from la jolla cove nice try kevO”. So, yeah. Fakety fakety fake.
That picture of the construction works at Ground Zero flooding is definitely real, and is likely to become one of the iconic images from Sandy - it was taken by John Minchillo, a photographer with the Associated Press. So, shamelessly jacking The Atlantic’s verification style:
We can’t confirm it 100%, but… this Twitter account seems to be the original source for the image, supposedly of a trampoline entangled in power lines in Milford, Connecticut. However, they then give credit to a different Twitter user, who has a protected account. But a Spokeo search gives an address for someone of that name in Milford, CT, and both Bing and StreetView show images of houses on that street which seem to match the building in that picture (as does the layout of the power lines.) So on balance, we’re happy to call this one real.
AS BEFORE: If you’ve spotted any non-Sandy pictures that are being tweeted (or facebooked, or instagrammed) as Sandy, do give us a shout on @IsTwitWrong (or my regular account @flashboy) and I’ll look at them.
The letter from 14-year-old, homeschooled Jasmin - warning that “if homosexuality spreads… it could threaten the human position on the evolutionary ladder, and say, ducks, could take over the world” - is definitely real, in the sense that it was published in New Zealand’s Northern Outlook newspaper on October 3, 2012 - you can read it online here, although you’ll you need to register (hat-tip to Padraig Reidy).
Not only that, but there’s been quite a bit of follow up in the subsequent letters pages of Northern Outlook. On October 6, several readers wrote in to question Jasmin’s grasp of evolutionary theory and duck sexual behaviour, and suggesting that the fact she was home-schooled may be to blame for this:
On October 10 (the Northern Outlook publishes twice a week) another letter was published, also disagreeing with Jasmin’s position, and making a broader liberal point about tolerance of homsexuality. It was published along with a nice picture of a duck:
On October 13, there was some pushback against those correcting Jasmin - including one letter which states that “there is no scientific proof for evolution” and that “homosexuality is a sin and one of the reasons for Canterbury’s earthquakes”. The other letter, while significantly less entertaining, is more interesting from a verification point of view - it comes from someone who appears to be a relative of Jasmin, and who discusses her homeschooling and how she came to her opinions:
This leads us to the other question about whether the letter is real - it was certainly published, but was the paper taken in by a hoax letter? It’s impossible to say for sure without actually tracking down and speaking to the family - but the non-standard spelling of Jasmin’s name, along with knowing roughly the area she is said to live in and the name of a supposed relative, gives us some indications that she is a real person. For example, the name is mentioned in this PDF from a New Zealand Christian group (as spotted by Anya Palmer). Both Jasmin and her relative appear to have signed this petition against gay marriage in New Zealand. Both give their location on the petition as being in the same area as the letters in the paper. Someone with her relative’s name also appears to run workshops on homeschooling from a Christian perspective, and so on. So, on balance, it seems likely that the letter is entirely genuine.
(Note: we haven’t included Jasmin’s surname or particular details of where in New Zealand she lives in the text of this post, because she’s 14 years old and we don’t really want to contribute to a set of Google results that might follow her around for many years to come. We also haven’t gone any further in attempting to dig up details of the family, because writing a silly letter to a newspaper isn’t a crime, and they should be left in peace, even if they are wrong about ducks and gays.)
This is an odd one, because the picture above is very obviously a joke - from the byline onwards - but nonetheless does appear to have been passed around Twitter for most of the day as though it was real. Or, at the very least, with a degree of uncertainty.
Partly this is because the most commonly shared version of the picture, above, strips it of its context. Here’s what the full page looks like:
So, it’s clearly not from 1991, as it claims, because it’s very noticeable that the design has been done on a relatively modern computer. (Also, on a pedantic point, while there was a web server running by late 1990, Tim Berners-Lee didn’t publicly announce the World Wide Web project until August 1991, so for the Sun to have front-paged it in May would have been a hell of a scoop…)
Compare it with this real Sun front page from later in 1991, and the difference is pretty obvious, from the overall look and feel to small details (like how the date and price are written, byline style, etc.):
So where does it come from? The answer is that it was actually made by The Sun themselves - it’s from Hold Ye Front Page, their (really rather good) educational site that features mocked-up front pages for historical events (there was also a book). In fact, the Hold Ye Front Page team are on Twitter, and have been cheerfully spending the day retweeting people saying that this picture proves how stupid The Sun are.
That claim is from a tweet by Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of disability charity Scope. Mr Hawkes provides no source for his figures, and (so far) hasn’t responded to questions about where he got the numbers from. His tweet has, at the time of writing, been retweeted over 5,000 times.
We can’t find any figures close to the ones he suggests - which, on the face of it, sound deeply implausible. Matthew Somerville dug out some alternative figures that sound much more likely:
We’ve found other figures roughly in this ballpark - such as this story about Athens Paralympic ticket pre-sales “slumping” that puts the figure at 200,000; this official story from the Beijing organisers boasting of 480,000 sales almost two weeks before the Paralympics began. There’s little doubt that London 2012 is by far the most popular and highly anticipated Paralympics ever, with the 2.5million tickets available (almost a million more than the total available in 2008) almost entirely sold out in advance. That’s brilliant, and fitting for the country where the first ever Paralympics were held. But there’s no need to make up nonsense figures for previous Games to make ourselves look better.
For one thing: as much as the IP wars in the tech industry may have sometimes given this impression, multinational companies generally don’t act quite so much like petulant children as this. For another: the idea that Samsung would pay up just a couple of days after the initial judgement is hilarious. This thing’s getting appealed and appealed and appealed again.
There’s really no way to answer this definitively at the moment. What’s known: the Ecuadorean foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, claimed that such a threat had been made. This is apparently based on a diplomatic letter from the British embassy in Quito, which is (reportedly) this one here. Here is an (unverified) English translation of the letter. The Foreign Office says it was merely intended to keep the Ecuadoreans informed. Is that a threat? It’s certainly not an overt threat of planned or imminent action - the tone of the letter is stern but broadly aimed at making conciliatory gestures; it merely notes that the UK government believes it would have the legal right to enter the embassy premises to conduct an arrest should all other diplomatic efforts fail. But then, when in diplomatic language is an overt threat ever made? Ultimately, it’s a matter of interpretation, in which most people’s interpretations seem to be aligning with their previously held opinions of the Assange case, with sound and fury heavily outweighing actual facts.
What seems clear is that the main aim of the letter is to dissuade Ecuador from unilaterally announcing a decision on the Assange asylum case before the UK-Ecuadorean diplomatic negotiations have been allowed to run their course - as a Guardian report had suggested they were going to. Speculative interpretations of the facts have included: this being sabre-rattling on the part of the UK; this being sabre-rattling on the part of Ecuador; and this being mutual sabre-rattling to disguise the fact that a deal has already been reached, and that the letter is merely a way of providing Ecuador with cover.
The Ecuadorean foreign minister says that the decision has now been made, and will be announced at 1pm UK time on Thursday.
Police have been seen entering the embassy building tonight (although possibly not the embassy itself, which is only one flat within the building), but for what purpose is unclear. And reports suggest the entry was not forced, as phrases like “storm” and “raid” would suggest. No arrests appear to have been made.
Police source says officers outside “embassies in the news” is routine. But also warns raids are not announced, perhaps as hedge. #Assange
Legal blogger Carl Gardnerlays out the actual law here - and while the UK does retain such a right under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, he is unsure that the apparent UK interpretation of the international law regarding how such a decision can be made is sound. However, as comparable events are rare and the case law is even more limited, such assessments of the legal situation are necessarily speculative. Gardner does additionally suggest that such a step would be a counterproductive move on the part of the UK government, not least because it would likely allow Assange to seek a judicial review, tying the case up in the courts for even longer.
One super-pedantic point: whatever the interpretation of the “threat”, strictly speaking no storming of an embassy would take place, as the legal mechanism for allowing the entry would be to strip the premises of their embassy status. There is no evidence that this process - which in any case would require a week’s notice to be given - has been set in motion.
This time, the “news” was tweeted by an account named @OfficialSkyNews, which is not an official Sky News account (and has now been deleted). Her Wikipedia page was also briefly updated to reflect the news, which was not true.
We will attempt to update this post every time Margaret Thatcher is not dead. However, in the absence of updates, it is generally safe to assume that the answer to the question “Is Margaret Thatcher dead?” is always “no.”
The claim originated from comments made on Newsnight by gold medal-winning Team GB rower Anna Watkins, specifically about the situation within the rowing team. That statement then got amplified over numerous tweets to the point where BMW were apparently giving all the men free cars and none of the women.
The gift of free cars had nothing to do with whether athletes got a medal - it was to support athletes in their training during the build up to the Games. Indeed, some of the supported athletes didn’t even make it to the Olympics.
Out of 150 athletes supported by the scheme, almost 70 (so slightly less than half) were women. This included gold medal winners Laura Trott and Nicola Adams.
The decision over who to sponsor wasn’t made centrally, but by local BMW dealers supporting local athletes.
Anna Watkins herself clarified her comments, backing up BMW’s claims.
To be fair to BMW plenty of female athletes got cars, it was just within the rowing team that it ended up wonky
So while there did end up being a gender disparity in terms of the support different athletes in the rowing team got, it wasn’t as a result of a policy on BMW’s part - merely a cluster of independent local decisions all going a certain way in a single specific discipline. Frankly, it would be unlikely that any such decentralised system could operate without producing occasional clusters like this. (Of course, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that individual local dealerships could have been acting in a biased way.)
While there is certainly a strong argument to be made that sponsorship funds disproportionately flow towards male sportspeople, it’s not clear that this is good evidence for that case.
That picture certainly is an HD panorama of Mars. But it’s nowhere near being the first, and it wasn’t taken by the Curiosity rover which landed on the planet a few days ago. It was taken by the still-functioning Opportunity rover between December 2011 and May 2012 (you can find the original TIFF, with added data, on NASA’s site). If you look at the home page of the site it’s on, they have HD panoramas from the MER mission (which comprised the twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit) dating back to January 2004. And the first panorama from Mars was actually taken by Viking 1 back in 1976.
Curiosity has sent back a panorama of its location, but it looks like this: