Newsmakers ’09: Twits

The buffoons and boneheaded moves of 2009
Baby shakers
Apple approved a “Baby Shaker” iPhone app, where users could shake their phones to turn a drawing of a crying baby into a quiet one. It was pulled when users complained that shaking babies is dangerous. Corporations always cave to the big baby lobby.
Burger King
Burger King has a “no shoes, no shirt, no service” policy, but a branch in St. Louis, Mo., may have gone a little too far: they refused to serve a six-month-old baby for being barefoot. Workers claimed that a shoeless baby was a health hazard, but were overruled by upper management, which apologized and gave the baby’s mother a free meal. The big baby lobby strikes again.
Officer Oops
When you’re a police officer about to go on a manhunt, where’s the best place to park your car? The train tracks. That’s what a Toronto cop decided one night in January. Then a Via train crashed into the vehicle. No one was hurt, but taxpayers had the privilege of replacing the car.

Surfing pilots
Timothy Cheney and Richard Cole were the pilots on a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Minneapolis, but they forgot to land there. They were so busy working on their laptops that they lost track of time, and were 240 km past their location when the passengers asked “are we there yet?”
Somali pirates
Somali pirates should learn the first rule of piracy: know who you’re attacking. In October, pirates tried to board what they thought was a cargo boat, only to discover it was a French navy vessel, with many more guns than they had. The buccaneers tried to flee, without success.
Two Australian girls, trapped in a storm drain, found a new use for social networking. The 10- and 12-year-old girls updated their Facebook status to say they were trapped, and someone else called the authorities for them—help without the shame of actually using a telephone.
Ship of researchers
A research ship for the U.S.’s whale-protecting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association bumped into an endangered right whale off the coast of Massachusetts; the whale was not seriously hurt, but cut its tail on the ship’s propeller. An NOAA spokesman said they had three lookouts but did not see the whale in time. Who will guard whales against their guardians?.
Balloon man
Former Wife Swap contestant Richard Heene scared the world by letting everyone think his six-year-old son, Falcon, was inside a runaway experimental balloon. The boy explained afterward that they “did this for the show.” Though he wasn’t in the balloon, people still call Falcon “Balloon Boy,” but you don’t want to know what people call his dad.
Mother of all downloaders
Jammie Thomas-Rasset is the only American to be successfully sued by the big record companies for illegally downloading music. The Minnesota mom was ordered to pay US$220,000, but she refused and demanded a new trial. At the retrial, she blamed the whole thing on her four kids. This jury slapped her with a fine of almost US$2 million. She should have quit while she was behind.
Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren decided five-foot-ten, 120-lb. model Filippa Hamilton wasn’t thin enough for them. So the company released an ad in Japan with her body Photoshopped to look smaller than the head. After they fired Hamilton, the firm called her “beautiful and healthy.” As if we didn’t already know they see “healthy” as an insult.
Mrs. Pudsey Bear
The former Eileen De Bont, an English dental receptionist, officially changed her name to Pudsey Bear, after the mascot of the Children In Need charity. Though all her ID now reads “Mrs. Bear,” the government refused to issue her a passport with such a “frivolous name.” So who’s the twit: the officials who won’t recognize her new name, or the person whose kids now call her “Mummy Bear?”
Burger King (again)
Burger King started its “Whopper Sacrifice” program, offering a free burger when you delete 10 friends from your Facebook list. Does the company really think we care more about meat than what their press release calls “fair-weather Web friendships?” Well, it’s true.
Burmese ‘hero’
John Yettaw swam across a lake to visit Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese leader who has spent much of the past 20 years under house arrest. As punishment for letting him in, Kyi’s arrest was extended; her housekeepers got in trouble. The American is writing a “faith-based” book on heroism; presumably he’s not in it.
Uh oh, Obama
Obama’s first gift to British PM Gordon Brown was a stack of 25 DVDs, selected from the American Film Institute’s list of the best America has to offer. But the discs were in North American video format, meaning Brown couldn’t even play them on his player. Also, isn’t there some weird symbolism in Obama putting his stamp of approval on Gone With the Wind?