Another Massive Photoshop Fail in China

Now viral in China: A failed attempt at photo doctoring. On the evening of Oct. 29, Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, lit up with mockery at an image (above) posted online Oct. 12 by the government of Ningguo, a small city in China's central Anhui province, purporting to show vice-mayor Wang Hun pay a friendly visit to an elderly woman. There's only one problem: The image, which appears to show Wang floating above a particularly tiny woman, has clearly been modified.

That might not seem like much, but it's manna for Chinese netizens, who feast on concrete examples of government dishonesty. In June 2011, officials from Huili county in Sichuan province were also spotted "floating" in a clearly doctored photograph that purported to show them inspecting a local highway. Web users reacted with derision and outrage, even though, as the Guardian wrote in June 2011, the visits were real; a photographer had decided one of the original images was "not suitably impressive." Photoshopping is such a favorite target that the term "PS" has even become a widely-recognized part of Chinese online slang. 

It's unclear who first discovered the image on the Ningguo government's website, which features a series of (otherwise seemingly real) images depicting the city's vice-mayor joining a bevy of other local officials to pay visits to women aged 100 years or older, in honor of the Double Ninth Festival, a holiday that honors ancestors. 

Now that netizens have found a new target, they seem unlikely to let go any time soon -- regardless of the motive behind the modification. Not only has the Weibo account of Communist Party-run newspaper People's Daily joined in the derision, but some web users have pointed out that Yu Anlin, a local bureaucrat pictured standing (not floating) to Wang's right, appears to be wearing, well, a watch. That too sounds innocent enough, but Chinese officials have become leery of being spotted with timepieces, lest online slueths discover them to be too expensive for an honest official to afford. That revelation felled the career of another provincial bureaucrat named Yang Dacai, an erstwhile safety official who was sentenced in September to 14 years in prison on corruption changes.

Now, Wang and Yu are famous too, and for all the wrong reasons. The impact of this snafu on their careers is uncertain, but they can be sure China's social web will be watching them closely.


Peru's Air Force Opens a UFO Office, and It's Twitter-Friendly

Mulder and Scully never made it to South America during their decade-long search for extraterrestial life, but if they had, they would have certainly found an ally in Peru. Indeed, the Peruvian Air Force is reviving their own version of the X-files: an office called the Department of Investigation of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (DIFAA), which will exclusively investigate UFO sightings and other "anomalous aerial phenomena."  

The DIFAA was originally created in 2001, first making the news when its chief investigator, Anthony Choy, began looking into the mysterious  "Chulucanas Incident," a series of events in 2001 that captured the imaginations of Peruvians for years afterwards. Choy describes the case at length in the video below, but here's the short version: On October 13, 2001, in Chulucanas, hundreds of people observed  eight spheres of red-orange light moving intelligently through the sky for over five hours. A couple of weeks later, someone caught video of a bright, tear-shapred object about 80 feet long hovering near the city. A few minutes later, several others saw mysterious lights landing in the woods. It was the DIFAA's first officially documented UFO case.


The office closed five years ago due to unspecified "administrative problems." Now, the Air Force is reinstating it, in response increased reports of UFO activity. The office will document and analyze sightings of unexplained flying objects with the help of Air Force personnel, sociologists, archaeologists and astronomers. Colonel Julio Vucetich, the head of the Air Force's aerospace division told the Guardian that new technology, like cellphones, Facebook and Twitter, have made it easier for the public to both share and accept UFO sightings.

Col. Vucetich doesn't explicitly say he believes in aliens, but he doesn't seem particularly interested in debunking them, either. In fact, Peru's Institute for Studies of Historic Aerospace, is publishing a book of UFO sightings in Peru, based on news clipping and reports from the 1950s and 1960s. And with all of the new reports, there's no shortage of material for a volume two.

In 2010, for example, a pilot caught video of a mysterious, helmet-like object emerging from a cloud bank. In 2012, a strange metallic object was captured on video in La Molina, while another steampunk-looking object was caught on tape as it twirled over some mountains. And this year, cellphone footage of a fiery UFO descending over Lake Titicaca made headlines, again.

Peru has been a hotbed of UFO activity for decades, not least because many suspect that the Nasca Lines -- an ancient collection of about 300  immense geometric figures carved into the deserts of Southern Peru -- were actually chiseled into the landscape by ancient astronauts. It sounds far-fetched, but perhaps the DIFAA is willing to take on the case...