Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Piranhas and Melanie Phillips: is there a difference?

Courtesy of Marina Hyde's Diary...

"And so to a snapshot of the mood at the Daily Mail, kindly provided by a mischief maker who, having digested her latest riff on the government's immigration policy, decided to contact commentator Melanie Phillips. He had, he said, met a Bulgarian called Ivan Balhakov who'd obtained a visa to work as an NHS surgeon. "He is in fact," the email continued, "completely blind ... claiming disability benefits, and spends much of his days begging ... But he also has a lucrative sideline importing water snakes from Bulgaria to sell to aquariums throughout London ..." A wildly credible tale of a world gone mad then and no wonder Melanie replied swiftly to say she had passed the story to the newsdesk and that they were immediately in touch. "We are very interested in talking to Mr Balhakov about his visa and his blindness," began this email. At this point, our hoaxer came clean. "Who would have thought," he mused in his final communique to the paper, "that a top journalist would believe a story about a blind surgeon called Ball-Hack-Off (or possibly Bollock-Off)? Especially if she received the email on April 1?" It's too disrespectful."

And, seeing as I got all preoccupied with piranhas a few weeks back, the following...

"Berlin aquarium staff were startled to find that a carnivorous piranha fish was recently released in the facility's petting pool for children, Germany's most widely read newspaper, Bild, reported.

The piranha, whose teeth can grow up to two centimetres (three quarters of an inch) long, had already begun taking bites out of other fish when it was found and transferred to another aquarium, curator Rainer Kaiser told Bild.

He said the fish was so rapid that staff had to empty the pool, where children can stroke the fish swimming there, to catch it.

Kaiser was puzzled about how the fish came to be there, but said tortoises and other exotic marine life had been found in the past left "by people wanting to get rid of them but who didn't dare flush them down the toilet."

The razor-toothed piranha can grow to up to 60 centimetres (two feet) long and normally lives in the rivers and lakes of South America. It can be freely bought in specialist pet shops in Germany."

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