01 April 2021
By Neil Tidmarsh
Here’s a list of incredible stories in the news this week. Incredible – but true? Well, that’s for you to decide. Today is 1st April, after all. Read on and see if you can spot which of the following is (are) the April fool(s), the joker(s) in the Shaw Sheet pack:
1) With the world in the grip of a killer virus, a British university develops a life-saving vaccine in record time and a Swedish pharmaceutical firm agrees to produce and distribute it at cost in a not-for-profit deal. The vaccine proves to be effective, cheap and easy to distribute. So, is it universally welcomed, with massive celebration and rejoicing? Are its creators congratulated and thanked by every member of a grateful human race? No. European leaders rubbish it and their citizens shun it and the share price of the pharmaceutical firm tumbles.
2) State television in Turkmenistan broadcast a song celebrating the birth of a foal to Ak Khan, the president’s favourite horse. The song was written by President Berdymukhamedov himself, set to music written by his grandson Kerimguly, performed by master musicians and accompanied by backing dancers.
3) Indonesia’s badminton fans reacted to the rejection of their team from the All England Open tournament (because of a case of Covid-19 on their plane) by sending angry on-line messages to Stephen Fry. Apparently they believed that he was a tournament judge. His Instagram account was swamped. They apologised when they realised their mistake.
4) The EU Commission overcame its anti-USA prejudices to finally come off the fence and side with the free West in its protest against human rights abuses by Beijing. Urged by US secretary of state Antony Blinken to stand with democracy against autocracy, Brussels eventually agreed to sanction four Chinese officials involved with the persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang (the first time the EU has taken action against China since the arms embargo imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square outrage). Beijing retaliated massively, imposing sanctions on many MEPs, academics, institutions, MPs in member states, and all 27 ambassadors from member states to Brussels (and their families). It was as comprehensive a spanking – punishment for trying to ride two horses at the same time – as the one given to the EU Commission’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrel by the Kremlin when he visited Moscow a month ago. It looks like the Chinese trade deal – which the Commission has just completed after seven years of negotiations – is dead in the water. Many MEPs have always been hostile to the deal, anyway, and may well administer the coup de grace in the coming weeks.
5) Australia is battling against deadly plagues of infection-carrying insects, poisonous spiders, venomous snakes and hordes of mice. Heavy rains and floods have unleashed a massive wave of the dangerous pests.
6) Australia is also battling an even more extraordinary plague – an ever-growing scandal of sexual misbehaviour at the heart of government. Allegations of sexual abuse, including rape in a ministerial office. Liaisons in the prayer room in parliament house. Government staff members swapping sexual images and videos on-line. Gay orgies in political offices. A government adviser performing a “solo sex act” on a female MP’s desk…
7) The USA now ranks behind countries like Mongolia and Argentina when it comes to civil liberties and political rights, according to Freedom House, a democracy watchdog. It blamed “the erosion of US democracy” on campaign finance, partisan electoral boundaries, inequality and other barriers to voting.
8) A mafia suspect wanted in Italy on charges of drug-smuggling has been caught in the Dominican Republic (where he was living as a fugitive) – thanks to the cookery videos he made and broadcast on YouTube. Although he never showed his face, his tattoos were a dead give-away.
9) Soldiers in Burma / Myanmar shot a seven-year-old girl dead as she sat on her father’s lap in her own home. A one-year-old baby was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet while playing outside. Scores of children have been killed in the last week, at least six of them on a single day, last Saturday, when over one hundred other civilians were also killed. Police shot a man and then threw him onto a pile of burning tyres to burn to death. More than five hundred civilians have been killed by the security services in two months of protest.
10) Footprints spotted on a Spanish beach last June are in fact 100,000 years old, the tracks of a group of Neanderthals (including a child who appears to have been frolicking or dancing around) out hunting or gathering sea-food or simply enjoying a day at the sea-side, preserved by later layers of sediment and uncovered by stormy weather and high tides.
11) Too many people in Taiwan are changing their name to ‘salmon’. “Salmon chaos” ensued when a sushi chain offered free food to anyone whose name included that fishy word. The deputy interior minister complained that it was causing “unnecessary paperwork”.
So, did you spot which of the above are not true? No? Not one? Well, congratulations – though all are incredible, none of them is in fact false. We didn’t make any of them up. They are all true. Of course they are. No fake news here in Shaw Sheet. And no April Fools among our readers, either.