Iranian news agency falls for Onion story, plagiarizes it

Readers of Iran's official FARS News Agency encountered a surprising headline today -- "Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad to Obama":

TEHRAN (FNA)- According to the results of a Gallup poll released Monday, the overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than US President Barack Obama.

"I like him better," said West Virginia resident Dale Swiderski, who, along with 77 percent of rural Caucasian voters, confirmed he would much rather go to a baseball game or have a drink with Ahmadinejad than spend time with Obama. 

"He takes national defense seriously, and he'd never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does."

According to the same Gallup poll, 60 percent of rural whites said they at least respected that Ahmadinejad doesn't try to hide the fact that he's Muslim.

The uncredited source for the item was, not shockingly, the Onion. To make things worse, FARS's item is copied word-for-word from the Onion's story, so it's both inaccurate and plagiarized. The Tehran dateline is a nice touch, though.

There's an entire (excellent) blog dedicated to internet users who take Onion stories seriously, but sometimes foreign news services get caught as well. In 2004, the Beijing Evening News credulously  reported on an Onion item about the U.S. congress threatening to move out of Washington.  At least they went through the trouble of rewriting it.


Ever wonder what North Korea's Potemkin hotel looks like from the inside?

North Korea tour specialists Koryo Tours provide what seems to be the first photos in years of the inside of the Ryugyong, a 330 meter hotel that boasts the 5th most floors of any building in the world.   

Construction started in 1987, when North Korea was relatively flush with cash from Soviet subsidies. Since then the building, by far the tallest in Pyongyang, has remained uncompleted, poking out of the skyline like a spaceship.(Esquire in 2008 called it "hideously ugly;" "the closest humans have come to building a Death Star;" and, rather uncharitably, "the worst building in the world.")

The Ryugyong has been on the cusp of completion for decades; it still looks, well, unfinished -- but the views of Pyongyang from the top (see last photo) are great, if you're into that kind of thing.

Koryo Tours