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    The Bert-Bin Laden Connection?

    Is Bert truly evil? Has he really forsaken good buddy Ernie for Osama bin Laden?

    While the folks behind Sesame Street emphatically say no way, Ernie's longtime partner did indeed pop up on posters with Osama bin Laden.

    And unlike the picture of the Twin Towers tourist unaware of the jet plane heading toward him, this is not a hoax.

    Both the Associated Press and Reuters news services have confirmed that, yes, that's the Muppet appearing in the background of a poster of bin Laden being held up by a Bangladeshee at a recent protest against American military action in Afghanistan.

    Fans can spot the orange-nosed, yellow-skinned, punk-haired Muppet staring menacingly just over the left shoulder of the large bin Laden image in the middle of the poster.

    "The poster's essentially a collage of images of Osama bin Laden and in the poster...the superstar's in there: Bert," says Jack Stokes, spokesperson for AP, who adds that the news service never doctors photos.

    "This is a legitimate photograph. Our photographer was taking pictures of an anti-American protest in Bangladesh," says Reuters spokeswoman Felicia Cosby. "It is our policy not to alter visual images that are either still or moving."

    The picture of Bert and bin Laden comes from a rally in the Bangladesh city of Dacha and was put together by a demonstrator supporting the suspected terrorist mastermind. Cosby says the photographer who snapped the photo does not hail from the United States and "wanted to know who the furry creature [in the poster] was."

    Faster than you can say "Where's Waldo," the photo has spread around the Web, showing up at Dutch news site Tubantia and Sweden's biggest online news source, aftonbladet.se, before being taken down.

    The demonstrator apparently found the image of Bert and bin Laden on one of the many "Bert Is Evil" Websites.

    Thanks to the imagination (and PhotoShop abilities) of some twisted Netizens, "Evil Bert" is pictured with some of the most nefarious figures in history including, Hitler, the KKK, the Unabomber and Jeffrey Dahmer. The original "Bert Is Evil" site developed a cult following, and several Webmasters created knockoffs, adding new images, among them, the bin Laden picture.

    Dino Ignacio, the first to digitally pair Bert with evildoers as a lark, denies any affiliation with the Bert-bin Laden image.

    "I am as shocked to see it as we all are," Ignacio says. "I haven't updated the site 'Bert Is Evil' since 1998 after it won the Webby awards...I am assuming someone in Bangladesh found the image on the Internet and found it amusing and decided to put it on a poster collage of bin Laden. I don't think it's a hoax. I think its a freaky example of reality imitating art."

    Ignacio isn't the only one shocked. Sesame Street producers aren't finding the Bert-bin Laden pictures very funny.

    "Sesame Street has always stood for mutual respect and understanding," read a statement from the Children's Television Workshop. "We're outraged that our characters would be used in this unfortunate and distasteful manner. The people responsible for this should be ashamed of themselves."

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