Wednesday 1 April 2015

April Fool's Day: 10 stories that look like pranks but aren't

Cats, Dash button, dancing, greyhounds, and restaurant payment (clockwise from top left)

April Fool's Day is a hard time for seekers of serious news stories, particularly when there are some stories that seem fanciful but are not.
But here is a round-up of some of this year's bizarre stories that are apparently true.
1. Swedish MPs have backed a ban on unlicensed dancing in public or "illegally moving your feet to music". Bar, restaurant and nightclub owners without permits can be fined if customers "dance spontaneously and without permission" as a result of a vote in the nation's parliament. Police say dancing can cause fighting and disorder.
2. Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes would like to create a version of the period drama set in the decade of punk rock, flares and disco. It would feature the show's aristocratic characters "struggling in the 1970s", Fellowes said. He added that he had several spin-off ideas "up his sleeve".
3. Cats are amenable to classical music. A study in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that cats hate heavy metal, are indifferent to pop but are fond of classical music. Twelve cats under anaesthetic and wearing headphones were exposed to the three genres of music for two minutes at a time. Those listening to classical appeared calmer — breathing more slowly and with smaller pupils. Miguel Carreira from the University of Lisbon said that cats are especially partial to the music of George Handel.
4. A Michelin-starred restaurant will ask diners to pay up-front to reduce the number of cancellations. The Clove Club in Shoreditch, east London, will be offered a choice of two tasting menus at £65 and £95 each, excluding drinks. Head chef Isaac McHale said missed reservations were "very expensive for us".
5. Two unrelated men who look near-identical and live a few miles apart have finally been introduced. Neil Richardson, 69, and John Jemison, 74, both studied at the same college, worked as religious knowledge teachers, have accounts at the same bank and reside around Braintree, Essex. The two eventually met when they both took the same coach for a Friends of Braintree Museum visit to the Magna Carta exhibition at the British Library.
6. A dog can play the drums to Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes. Maple, a border collie mixed breed, is the star of a video in which she taps a drum pedal in time as her owner plays Jack White's famous riff on the guitar. Maple's percussion skills have earned her 170,000 followers on her Vine channel and 46,900 Instagram followers.
7. Amazon has launched a button that goes on the wall of your home or a household appliance. When you press it, it will order something you're running out of, for example kitchen roll or washing powder. Called the Dash Button, it is a little hook marked with a brand name. The button is free but only available to Amazon Prime members in the US. So far more than a dozen products are available.
8. Conservative leader David Cameron might be Kim Kardashian's 13th cousin. Labour's Ed Miliband supports the idea of a female James Bond, with Rosamund Pike a compelling candidate. And the Liberal Democrats briefly changed their name on their website to the Liberal Democats - which reality star Joey Essex, who turned up at a Nick Clegg press conference, believed they were called.
9. There's been a wave of popularity for adult colouring-in books in France. Publishers have been marketing the books as "art therapy" aids for anxiety. A British publisher is now planning a series entitled Colour Your Way to Calm.
10. A US entrepreneur has pledged to rid China of "farcical" western names such as Lady Gaga, Elvis and Washing Liquid. Chinese people commonly take a "yingwen ming" or "English name" to help Anglophone employers address them. But often these result in them being "laughed at behind their backs" when they choose such monikers as Furry, Twinkle, Pussy or Volcano, says businesswoman Lindsay Jernigan, who has launched a website to help Mandarin speakers adopt more suitable titles.
Compiled by Jon Kelly, Justin Parkinson, Tom de Castella and Andrew Sully