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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April 1 proves readers no fools

Staff writer

Barack Obama's half brother, Barracuda Obama, is doing well in Japan and wishes the Illinois senator luck in his quest for the U.S. presidency, the Tokyo Shimbun reported Tuesday.

In its annual April Fools' Day hoax feature, the Tokyo-based newspaper published a story about a 39-year-old Asian-African businessman who recently learned he was a child born to Obama's Kenyan father and an Asian woman.

Barack Obama Sr. divorced the senator's mother, Ann Dunham, in the mid-1960s. The spoof says Barracuda was born as the first of four children after Obama Sr. remarried his second wife in Nairobi.

The story says Barracuda speaks fluent Japanese and studied business administration in Japan after graduating top of his class in Kenya. He works for a Japanese trading company and specializes in dealing in rare metals.

"The tradition of publishing hoax stories on April Fools' Day began in 2001. We thought an article about Mr. Obama would entertain our readers," said editor Kenji Zaitoku.

Barracuda acknowledges in the fake interview that he was suspicious of his association with Barack Obama, especially because of the similarity in their names. But the full details were not disclosed to him until late last year.

"I'd like to meet (Barack) soon and have a conversation with him," Barracuda is quoted as saying to Tokyo Shimbun.

The paper accompanied the article with a highlight explaining it was a joke, as well as an image of a suntanned Japanese salaryman with the caption saying it was Barracuda Obama.

Although Tokyo Shimbun's annual April Fools' Day features were met with complaints when they first appeared in 2001, none of its readers called the editorial office fuming over Barracuda's lack of authenticity.

The Japan Times on Tuesday published a spoof about the return of an extinct bird at the Alien Wildlife Quarantine Shelter, but in keeping with its April 1 tradition, which predates the Tokyo Shimbun's by several years, did not print a disclaimer.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, the Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun said they chose not to join in the spirit of April Fools' Day and played it straight.

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The Japan Times

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