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'Thatcher has died ...'

T. Rees Shapiro, who has been helping out on the obituaries desk, reports this amusing item, which very nearly caused an international incident in the British empire:

Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was at a black-tie gala in Toronto honoring members of the armed forces when he received an alarming text message on his phone: "Thatcher has died."
As the Guardian reported, word buzzed among the 1,700 guests attending the event that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who turned 84 a month ago, had died.
Harper's aides rushed to prepare remarks about the passing of the "Iron Lady." They called 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's address in London, and Buckingham Palace, the Queen's residence, to confirm the death but were informed by puzzled officials that Baroness Thatcher was indeed alive and well.
It was a classic case of miscommunication.
The BBC reported that the text sender, Canada's Transport Minister John Baird, had actually been reporting the death of his 16-year-old tabby cat, Thatcher, whom he had named after his political heroine.
One of Harper's embarrassed aides was later quoted as saying: "If the cat wasn't dead, I'd have killed it by now."

By Matt Schudel  |  November 14, 2009; 4:27 AM ET
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