Wednesday, December 29, 2004

US woman, 55, gives birth to three grandchildren for daughter

WASHINGTON - A 55-year-old American woman gave birth in Richmond, Virginia, to three genetic baby grandchildren, for her adult daughter who was unable, hospital officials said.
Tina Cade had volunteered to have the children for her daughter Camille Hammond, 29, who is unable to have children due to medical reasons. Father Jason Hammond was reported to be delighted with the new additions to the family.

Doctors in May implanted three embryos, formed from Camille's eggs and Jason's sperm, into Tina. The babies, two boys and a girl, were born by Caesarian section.

"This is our Christmas blessing, our New Year's blessing," Camille said.

"Really, the most wonderful gift we've ever received in our entire lives and probably that we'll ever receive, and we are just so grateful to mother, as well as to God, for this, this huge, huge blessing," she added.

The babies, who had been due in mid-February, have been placed in a neo-natal wing of the hospital.

A prickly hangover solution

Researchers at the University of New Orleans say you can forget drinking gallons of water or wolfing down bacon and eggs to cure that hangover.

Apparently the latest answer is to use the skin of the prickly pear cactus.

It significantly reduces the body's inflammatory reaction to alcohol, thereby reducing the severity of hangover symptoms such as headache and nausea, they say.

Hungry superheroes fall out

Police were called to a burger van in the early hours of Christmas Day after a disturbance broke out between Spiderman, Superman and Batman.

It is believed the argument between the three men in fancy dress was over a shortage of food at the fast-food van on the A28 Wincheap, Canterbury.

A 23-year-old man was reported to have suffered facial injuries in the incident.

A Kent Police spokesman said: "Spiderman, Superman and Batman were involved in a minor altercation at 12.32am on Wincheap on Christmas Day. The injured party declined to take it any further."

Dog drives truck into store

Michael Henson left the car parts store with more problems than when he arrived. For that, he can thank his dog.

Henson, whose truck had been experiencing a sticking throttle, left his dog in the pick-up truck when he went into the O'Reilly Auto Parts store in Springdale, Arkansas.

"He'd left the truck running -- I guess to show the people at O'Reilly's -- and the dog jumped over and knocked the truck into gear," police Sgt. Billy Turnbough said.

The truck raced into the building, stunning Hennson and clerk Josh Hopper. No one - or the dog - was hurt in the incident.

Christmas snub leads to arson

A man angry that he got no presents for Christmas burned down his parents' house early the next morning.

Steven Murray, 21, was charged with arson and risking a catastrophe in the blaze that broke out early on Sunday in Feasterville, Pennsylvania. No one was injured.

Police said Murray had himself committed to a hospital on Christmas Day, but then signed himself out and walked eight miles home.

Later he told police he saw the flames in the distance. But officers said his jacket smelled of smoke and they found a lighter in his pocket and a petrol can near the front door.

`Elvis water` auctioned for £230

Don't get all shook up, or be a hard-headed woman, or even return to sender... Just three tablespoons of water from a cup once used by Elvis Presley have fetched £237 on eBay.

After seeing a cheese sandwich with a supposed image of the Virgin Mary go for £14,600, Wade Jones, 40, of Belmont, North Carolina, said he decided to sell the Elvis "memorabilia".

Jones, who got the cup after a 1977 Elvis show in Charlotte and stored it in his freezer, said the winning bidder only got the water, because he was "kind of attached to the cup".

Stolen car found - after 23 years

Terry and Robin Smith from Greenville, South Carolina, received a fantastic Christmas present - a car they last saw 23 years ago.

The vintage 1963 Ford Fairlane finally turned up 2,600 miles away in Sacramento. California Highway Patrol officers called the couple to tell them authorities had recovered the vehicle.

"What a wonderful gift at Christmas time - after 23 years to receive news that they`d found our car," said Mrs Smith, who got it as a wedding present from her parents.

Caught Pine handed

Pine cones lead police to burglar

It didn't take Winnipeg police long to solve the great Christmas tree heist - a trail of pine cones from the scene of the crime led directly to a suspect's living room.

"It's got to be the dumbest crime of the century," apartment caretaker Cindy Peterson said Wednesday. "You could see where they dragged it into the house."

The Yuletide theft happened early on December 23 when someone cut down an 5.5-metre (18-foot) blue spruce from in front of Peterson's apartment building.

The tree wasn't sawed at the base of the trunk, but about 2 metres up.

Peterson said she only noticed the tree had been lopped off when a neighbour pointed it out.

She went to investigate and found a small cedar tree apparently discarded in favour of the larger spruce. A trail of pine cones, needles and broken limbs led directly to a residence across the street.

Police questioned the 22-year-old occupant, who told them he had bought the tree from an unknown door-to-door tree salesman for $5 (£2.60).

The man was charged with possession of stolen goods and released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.

Granny, 105, has first doctor visit

A 105-year-old Bosnian grandmother has been treated by a doctor for the first time in her life, a Bosnian news agency reported.

Milja Markovic slipped and fell in her house in a remote mountain village near Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia earlier this week and broke her leg, her son Momir told Srna news agency. He said his mother had never been ill in her life.

Markovic was not even registered in the files of the local hospital in Srebrenica, located some 43 miles north-east of Sarajevo.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Dad wins right to see daughter - on web cam

A Chilean man living in France has won the right to see his daughter - on a webcam.

Pablo Rodriguez Gonzales's nine-year-old daughter lives in Santiago with her mother, Las Ultimas Noticias online reports.

She had not seen her father since he went to France to study and stopped paying her child support.

But lawyer Rafael Tarud asked a court to allow his client to see his daughter on specific days and times over the internet.

The 5th Court of Appeals in Santiago ruled in favour of Mr Gonzales on the condition that he buy his daughter a computer and a webcam.

Mr Tarud said: "We have broken a barrier. It shows that the justice is becoming more human and applying modern concepts in the making of the law."

Mouse thief caught on CCTV

An Austrian firm that set up a CCTV system to catch a thief that had been stealing money found the culprit was a mouse.

The animal had been using the money to make its nest and developed a liking for 50-euro notes which it stole and chewed into tiny pieces once safely back in its lair.

Police had already interviewed staff at the Villach-based firm to try and catch the thief - that had struck dozens of times before management installed the video system.

A spokesman for the firm said: "Money was often left in the open although the room was locked, cash was still stolen. The video surveilance system recomended by the police was a last resort."

Blind car thief strikes again

Police have arrested Romania's blind car thief for stealing a car and crashing into a tree for the second time in one month.

But this time, Alin Prica, 24, managed to drive the stolen car 25 miles before crashing into a tree, reports Adevarul newspaper.

Prica allegedly stole the car with another blind pal and a sighted friend in the passenger seat telling him which direction to drive.

A police spokesman said: "He drove the car following instructions from his friend who could see.

"But again the journey ended with a crash. We were astonished for the second time in a month by this same man."

Earlier this month, Prica, from Izvoare, in southwest Romania, stole a car and managed to drive it for almost a mile by himself before smashing into a tree and knocking himself out.

He said at the time: "I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything I wanted - despite my handicap. I only crashed because I was not sure of the way home."

Police said they would not press charges against the two teenagers who helped but have taken Prica in for questioning.

Schoolboy's sketch nabs burglar

A sketch of a burglar drawn by an 11-year-old schoolboy was so good it allowed Austrian police to catch the thief less than an hour later.

Youngster Fabian Aigner spotted the thief sneaking around the school building in Oberturm, Salzburg, when he returned to his classroom after school to pick up a bicycle light he had left behind.

He said: "The man's pockets were so full, it looked like he had a lot in them. I looked him in the eye for a couple of seconds and then he was gone. He just walked off but then he suddenly sped up and ran off.

"I thought that was strange and decided he must have taken something and called police, then drew the sketch while I was waiting."

Officers arrested an unnamed 42-year-old man in nearby Braunau.

Local police Chief Hannes Moser said: "Fabian drew all the man's important characteristics. It's an excellent effort considering he only saw the face for a short moment."

Fabian's mother Bertha Aigner said she was very proud of her little boy.

"I wouldn't exactly call him artistic but he likes to draw and he is very precise. Fabian has an inquiring mind and learns quickly. He is interested in everything that goes on around him," she said.

Young Fabian has been the focus of attention at the school over the past few days but said: "I don't feel like a hero. I just did what I thought I should."

Jumping off cliffs is bad for you sign

Call for warning signs at cliff after death

An Aniseed Valley resident is calling for a fence and warning signs to be placed at the cliff where a Nelson man jumped more than 20m to his death at a popular swimming hole on Sunday.

Christopher Arthur Elliott, 20, died after he jumped off the cliff during a swimming trip with friends and landed awkwardly in the water. The accident happened about 3.30pm at Busch Reserve, 24km southwest of Nelson.

Constable Marty Tutton of Richmond police said Mr Elliott surfaced after his jump but then slipped under. He was quickly pulled from the water.

However, efforts by friends and ambulance officers to resuscitate him failed and he died at the scene, Mr Tutton said.

Before he jumped, Mr Elliott had watched a friend jump safely from the cliff into the river.

Nelson Bays St John Ambulance district manager Hank Bader said he understood Mr Elliott had dog paddled for a few moments after surfacing, before sinking under the water.

He said it was not yet known exactly what had caused Mr Elliott's death.

Aniseed Valley resident Andrew Strange said he had written to the Tasman District Council last week with concerns about the reserve not complying with the Resource Management Act.

He was one of a group of residents who had help construct a walkway along the clifftop and had requested a fence be built around the area to stop people from jumping off it into the river below.

"They have been doing it for decades but it is only since the reserve was opened up that there has really been an issue," he said.

"Every summer young people come along and they have to jump out three metres to clear the rocks at the bottom."

Mr Strange said he had gone to the area yesterday after hearing emergency services arrive at the scene. He saw Mr Elliott's friends who were "very cut up" and shocked.

He did not know of any other accidents at the swimming hole, but said the council had already discussed putting up a fence along the cliff.

He said signs should also be put up warning of the dangers of jumping from the clifftop.

"They could still choose to ignore it, but at least we would have done our part," he said.

Tasman Mayor John Hurley said he could not comment on the accident as he was unfamiliar with the area.

However, he said in the past warning signs had been placed at other known jumping areas, such as the Motueka Bridge. Those signs had been smashed, demolished and ignored many times, he said.

"We need to look at what the issues are but there is a limit to how much you can protect people from themselves.

"The rivers in this area go up and down and change daily, hourly virtually, and people get unnecessarily caught out. This is certainly a tragedy."

Mr Elliott's death will be investigated by the coroner and a post-mortem was to be conducted on Monday.

Water Safety New Zealand executive director Alan Muir said the death was a timely reminder about the need for vigilance around the country's waterways this summer.

Mr Muir said swimmers should always consider a river's depth and ensure it had no snags before they entered.

People should exercise judgment before jumping from heights into rivers or waterways and remember that landing on water could still cause injury.

"Lots of young guys and girls use rivers from a recreation point of view and there is an inherent risk. Rivers are always changing.

"You're taking your life into your own hands - it's a matter of chance.

"All we can do is reflect and advise and hope that the message is picked up," he said.

61-year-old freshman goes back to school—

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Roger "Rusty" Martin is the oldest
freshman at Saint John's College in Annapolis -- by four decades.
The 61-year-old president of Randolph-Macon College, in Ashland,
Virginia, says he wants to study the freshman experience in a way
that would be impossible from the president's office.
At Randolph-Macon, Martin's one-on-one contact with students
took place mostly across a desk. But he wants to know what
first-year students are really like.
So he's taking a semester-long sabbatical from the top of the
academic food chain to dwell at the bottom.
After his semester at Saint John's ends, Martin plans to publish
some of his thoughts in one or more magazine articles.
He says his fellow freshmen are strikingly focused, keen to
study, averse to drugs and loyal to their parents.

Screensaver tackles spam websites

Net users are getting the chance to fight back against spam websites

Internet portal Lycos has made a screensaver that endlessly requests data from sites that sell the goods and services mentioned in spam e-mail.

Lycos hopes it will make the monthly bandwidth bills of spammers soar by keeping their servers running flat out.

The net firm estimates that if enough people sign up and download the tool, spammers could end up paying to send out terabytes of data.

Cost curve

"We've never really solved the big problem of spam which is that its so damn cheap and easy to do," said Malte Pollmann, spokesman for Lycos Europe.

"In the past we have built up the spam filtering systems for our users," he said, "but now we are going to go one step further."

Before now users have never had the chance to be a bit more offensive
Malte Pollmann, Lycos
"We've found a way to make it much higher cost for spammers by putting a load on their servers."

By getting thousands of people to download and use the screensaver, Lycos hopes to get spamming websites constantly running at almost full capacity.

Mr Pollmann said there was no intention to stop the spam websites working by subjecting them with too much data to cope with.

He said the screensaver had been carefully written to ensure that the amount of traffic it generated from each user did not overload the web.

"Every single user will contribute three to four megabytes per day," he said, "about one MP3 file."

But, he said, if enough people sign up spamming websites could be force to pay for gigabytes of traffic every single day.

Lycos did not want to use e-mail to fight back, said Mr Pollmann.

"That would be fighting one bad thing with another bad thing," he said.

Slow down

The sites being targeted are those mentioned in spam e-mail messages and which sell the goods and services on offer.

Typically these sites are different to those that used to send out spam e-mail and they typically only get a few thousand visitors per day.

The list of sites that the screensaver will target is taken from real-time blacklists generated by organisations such as Spamcop. To limit the chance of mistakes being made, Lycos is using people to ensure that the sites are selling spam goods.

As these sites rarely use advertising to offset hosting costs, the burden of high-bandwidth bills could make spam too expensive, said Mr Pollmann.

Sites will also slow down under the weight of data requests. Early results show that response times of some sites have deteriorated by up to 85%.

Users do not have to be registered users of Lycos to download and use the screensaver.

While working, the screensaver shows the websites that are being bothered with requests for data.

The screensaver is due to be launched across Europe on 1 December and before now has only been trialled in Sweden.

Despite the soft launch, Mr Pollmann said that the screensaver had been downloaded more than 20,000 times in the last four days.

"There's a huge user demand to not only filter spam day-by-day but to do something more," he said "Before now users have never had the chance to be a bit more offensive."

Americans don't know where Nauru is or anywhere else !

NEW YORK (Reuters) - America may dominate the world in sports and culture but in one arena where size doesn't matter, the "Geography Olympics," the United States was 88th behind minnows such as Madagascar and the Marshall Islands.

More than 46,000 Americans have taken part in this online geography competition started by a man with a mission: Roger Andresen, who quit his job as a fiber optic engineer two years ago when he realized most Americans have never heard of Nauru and don't know Cameroon is in Africa.

Working from his home in Georgia -- the U.S. state, not the country -- he created a jigsaw puzzle with pieces shaped like the countries of the world and launched what he calls the "world's biggest ongoing geography puzzle" on the Web.

Players have 200 seconds to locate 10 randomly selected countries on a map of the world with the names blanked out.

The site has attracted more than 300,000 players from 179 countries so far. National rankings fluctuate throughout the day depending on the latest scores.

Topping the leader board at one point on Friday were players from Trinidad and Tobago, the Philippines and Madagascar -- three countries that won a single bronze medal among them at this year's Olympics. The United States won the most medals --103.

Among U.S. states, New Mexico led the board followed by South Carolina and Idaho. South Dakota, Maine and Arkansas were last.

"Geography is just a building block for understanding what's going on in the world," said Andresen, whose family includes Christian missionaries and who has traveled to 44 countries.

"Being the world's superpower we should be informed voters," he said. "Sitting back and not worrying about these things is terrible, and it might be why the rest of the world doesn't care for us."

The best players tend to find seven of 10 locations, he said. Americans' average score is around 5.7 out of 10.

Norway and Sweden are big players, with more than 50,000 participants each, though not very successful in 84th and 173nd place respectively.

"That's what happens when thousands of people join in (the game) from new countries," Andresen said. "Initially they're terrible, they bring down the country."

Belgium and Italy are consistently high scorers. The north Pacific atolls of the Marshall Islands were doing well in 5th place. Last place was occupied by Cambodia with an average of four out of 10 but only 253 participants.

For those who don't know, Nauru is a small island in the South Pacific.

Trademark shoes end Thai criminal's crime spree: police

BANGKOK (AFP) - A suspected murderer and serial burglar who never changed his shoes has been caught by vigilant Thai police after his footwear made their most-wanted list, police said.
Ruengchai Plongthongland, 33, was arrested Friday carrying two pistols after a policeman spotted his shoes as the man allegedly scouted for houses to rob in the small northeastern town of Poklang, said a local police spokesman.

"Police have been tracking him for a long time by using the only lead they had, which was his footprints," Police Captain Nattawut Boonsing told AFP.

"There have been 40 burglaries in the Poklang area alone and we could see the brand of his 'Walkers' open-toe shoes stamped everywhere he went," he said. Nattawut said the man was also charged with the murder of teenager killed during a burglary in a nearby province two months ago and had confessed to robbing houses in at least two other provinces.

Ruengchai allegedly netted seven billion baht (177,600 dollars) from robberies over the past year, which he spent on gambling and his wife, according to media Sunday.

His wife -- reportedly unaware of her husband's criminal activities -- had bought a house next to one belonging to Thai tennis superstar Paradorn Srichaphan with the the money, said the Bangkok Post.

The suspect re-enacted his alleged crime Friday under heavy security to prevent enraged locals from attacking him, said police.

Manoel de Oliveira, 96 next month, starts work on new film

LISBON (AFP) - The world's oldest film director, Manoel de Oliveira, who celebrates his 96th birthday next month, has reportedly started work on a new movie.
Recalling that he produced at least one film a year, Oliveira, who made his first film, a silent documentary, in 1931, told Monday's edition of the daily Publico he still felt a great desire to keep the cameras rolling.

Oliveira said his current work was an adaptation of a novel "Magic Mirror", by Augustina Bessa-Luis, one of his favourite sources of inspiration. He has made half-a-dozen movies based on her writings.

He said he was proud of his reputation, adding, "If I had not attained the age that I am, I would not have received all those prizes" that he has won, especially in recent years.

Daughter shops father

A father's attempt to teach his daughter a lesson about drinking backfired when she led the police he had summoned to a stash of drugs and weapons inside their home.

Kevin Winston, 46, called police after his 16-year-old daughter came home drunk and unruly.

When police arrived, however, the girl told them she feared for her safety because her father stored drugs and weapons in the home in Newark, New Jersey, USA. The girl led officers to a hidden space above the ceiling where they found four semi-automatic guns and more than 600 vials of cocaine.

Road lines removal

A businessman has been forced to scrap a £100,000 machine he developed to remove yellow road lines because of a row over red tape.

Bill Scurlock, of Taunton Sweepers, Taunton in Somerset, is urging environment minister Elliot Morley and Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, to help him in his battle with pollution watchdog, the Environment Agency.

He is frustrated that despite having the support of Devon County Council, which is keen to use his Line-Away System, as well as the Highways Agency and the Waste and Resource Action Programme, he is barred by the Environment Agency from operating it, because he is not licensed to handle the waste it produces.

German Snow White sacked for posing nude

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German singer who plays Snow White has lost her job at Dresden's Christmas market after posing for nude photos in a bathtub, Bild newspaper says.

Market organisers sacked Samira, 22, after photos appeared in Bild and other publications showing her lying naked in a bathtub filled with soap suds and rose petals, Bild said on Monday.

Samira, whose surname was not given, has played Snow White for five years. Dresden's mayor and others who miss her performance are asking that she be reinstated.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Short-arse Would-be cop hid wood in hair

An Indian man was arrested for hiding a piece of wood in his hair to meet the minimum height requirement to join the police.

Suspicious officers made Gajendra Kharatmal take the height test again and the wood popped out of his hair, reports Mid-Day newspaper.

Officials of the Maharashtra Public Service Commission in Mumbai say Kharatmal reached the 5ft 3ins mark exactly when he first stood at the scale.

An examiner said: "So we asked him to stand there once again. The second time, we felt something hard hidden in his hair and discovered a piece of wood."

Kharatmal was arrested on charges of cheating and is currently out on bail.

Police spokesman A K A Kaiser said: "He had taken the exams last year and even cleared the written test. The MPSC officials however rejected the application, as he was two inches short of their requirement.

"On his second attempt Kharatmal was aware he would be rejected for the same reason. To get selected, he adopted this approach."

In-flight lizard meal lands Indian airline in court

NEW DELHI, India (AFP) - The lizard biryani served on a Jet Airways flight in India proved just too spicy for a startled passenger who is taking the private carrier to court.

The airline admitted in a statement published Friday that it had launched an inquiry into how the two-inch lizard came to be cooked and served up to businessman Ashok Sharma.

"We are conducting an investigation of the unfortunate incident," Jet Airways chief operating officer Peter Luethi said.

"I am planning to file a case in the consumer court on returning to Bangalore," Sharma told The Statesman newspaper.

"This is a gross act of negligence and someone has to be made accountable," he said.

The biryani has been sent for testing amid claims from airline officials of "sabotage" at LSG Sky Chefs, a catering firm who supplied the food for the Bangalore to New Delhi connection on Wednesday night.

"We have taken all possible action in our operation in Bangalore to identify the potential root cause of this incident," LSG's operations director Michael Machartzek told the daily.

Jet Airways afforded Sharma VIP treatment on arrival in Delhi and a car to take him to his hotel, but he refused to hand over the lizard until he was ready.

"I insisted that I will bring it back to Delhi to highlight their negligence in the media," he said.

Witching power

Students who turn up at US schools dressed in Halloween costumes could be sent home ... out of consideration for witches.

Some schools in the Puyallup School District in Washington state have banned Halloween because of worries about offending real witches.

School officials took the step after followers of the Wiccan religion had complained about the way Halloween was celebrated. One official said: "Witches with pointy noses are not respective symbols of the Wiccan religion."

Shocking marriage

A Wisconsin man who said he threw a live electrical wire into his wife's bath hoping a near-death experience would save their marriage has been convicted of attempted murder.

William Dahlby said in court he was only trying to scare his wife Mary. He told jurors the wire was hooked to a "ground fault interrupter" designed to cut the electricity when the cord encountered water. His wife was not hurt.

Prosecutors said Dahlby was trying to kill his wife to start a new life with another woman. He will be sentenced in December.

Dog calls ambulance to save owner

It was like a scene from Lassie. A dog telephoned for an ambulance and then unlocked the door for the police after her owner fell from her wheelchair.

After calling 911, four-year-old Rottweiler, Faith, barked urgently into the receiver to get help for 45-year-old Leana Beasley.

Ms Beasley suffered a seizure at her home in Washington state, in the north west United States.

"I sensed there was a problem on the other end of the 911 call," said emergency operator Jenny Buchanan. "The dog was too persistent in barking directly into the phone receiver. I knew she was trying to tell me something."

Faith has been trained to knock the receiver off the hook and press a speed dial button to call the emergency services.

But that's not all. The dog is also trained in first aid.

"She's trained to get under my body, roll me to my stomach so that fluid can run out," Ms Beasley told the local television channel KVEW-TV.

"She takes her nose pushes my chin up to open the airway, and then she's trained to lick my face and keep any fluid away so I don't drown."

Faith also uses her sensitive nose to detect changes in Ms Beasley's body chemistry which could indicate she is about to have a seizure.

Ms Beasley believes Faith had been trying to warn her all day that she was in danger. The day of the fall, Faith "had been acting very clingy, wanting to be touching me all day long" Ms Beasley said.

Late payment

After putting up with pangs of conscience for 24 years, a Norwegian finally settled a hotel bill he skipped out on in 1980.

The Clarion Hotel Ernst in the southern town of Kristiansand received a hand-written anonymous letter of apology with a 500 kroner note (£38) attached, said hotel director Kay Johnsen.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Johnsen, who has been in the hotel business for more than 20 years. The note said the sender had stayed at the hotel in the autumn of 1980, had some sandwiches and drinks on his room bill, and then left without paying for anything "because of my lifestyle at that time."

Drug dealer gets tax break on stolen money

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian drug dealer who dug up hundreds of thousands of dollars from his backyard to buy heroin but had the money stolen in the deal can claim a tax deduction for his losses.

Under Australian law, income earned from illegal activity can be subjected to income tax. The High Court of Australia ruled this week that if illegal income is subjected to tax, then losses should be deductible.

The ruling ended a 10-year battle between convicted drug dealer Francesco Dominico La Rosa and the Australian Tax Office, which argued the tax deduction was against good public policy.
Drug dealer Francesco Dominico La Rosa buried more than A$220,000 (90,000 pounds) in his back garden in 1995 and dug it up again to buy heroin, but had the cash stolen. La Rosa spent six years in jail for heroin import and possession.

The Australian government said on Friday it would close the tax loophole to stop other drug dealers claiming tax breaks.

It (the court) said that this drug dealer could claim as a deduction some money that was stolen from him. If that's the state of the law as interpreted by the high court, I don't think it's very good," Treasurer Peter Costello told local radio.

"I will seek to introduce legislation to change that law," he said.

Train conductor stamps dead man's ticket

LONDON (Reuters) - A train conductor carefully stamped the ticket of a slumbering passenger without realising the man was dead.

The thoughtful train worker thought the passenger was dozing when he came across him in the carriage clutching his ticket.

He carefully prised the ticket from the man's hands, punched it and returned it to him.

Shortly afterwards the train pulled into the station at York and rail staff alerted paramedics when they realised the man was not breathing.

"The conductor needn't have been so careful, as it turned out that the passenger had expired, long before his ticket ever did," said a report in the Transport Police's staff magazine.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Lion's ingrowing toenail keeps town awake

Lion's ingrowing toenail keeps town awake

A lion with an ingrowing 'toenail' is keeping residents of a Brazilian town awake at night.

Eight-year-old Maruk's poorly claw has him roaring loudly late into the night, reports Terra Noticias Populares.

The lion lives in a zoo, Parque da Cidade, in the northeastern town of Industrial, where residents say he roars so loudly that it sounds like he's outside their homes.

Zoo keepers say the problem is that the lion is 30kgs overweight which puts extra pressure on his feet.

They have put him on a special diet and say the pain from his foot should be bearable once he loses weight.

A police spokesman said: "We have received lots of complaints but what can we do? Arrest the lion?

"I don't think so. People will have to be understanding and wait until the vets deal with the problem."

Identical Number plates cause a row

TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian who saw a woman driving what he swore was his own car accused her of stealing it, only to find two identical vehicles had accidentally been issued with the same registration plate.

"You are driving my car!" state television quoted him as saying on Wednesday, after he saw the car while walking down a street in the northeastern city Mashhad.
when she protested, he rang his family to find his car of the same color, model and registration still safely at home.

The carmaker said there had been a mix-up because of Iran's new system of issuing plates.
State television tracked down the two small brown cars and filmed them driving side by side down a street in Mashhad.

Mix-up sees wrong home shuttered

The council mixed up Patricia Driscoll's home for a nearby flat
A mother has described how she returned from a weekend break to find the council had boarded up her home.
Patricia Driscoll was told the shutters had gone up on her three-bedroom Cardiff council house because officials thought she had abandoned the property.

She had to spend the night with a friend after the authority mistook her home for a flat on the same estate.

The council has apologised and replaced the backdoor which was damaged in the work - and sent Miss Driscoll flowers.

Care assistant Miss Driscoll, 39, lives on the Brynfedw estate in Llanedeyrn with her 13-year-old daughter, Amber.

She said "They are not really sure how the number got twisted up, but the fact that it was a flat and I live in a house is a dead giveaway, isn't it! "

Her 19-year-old son, James, was house sitting for her while she was away for the weekend in Blackpool and Amber was at her grandmother's.

She said James had been at the property until 1230 BST on the weekday that she returned home, from the railway station some four hours later.

"As we drove up, I could see that there were shutters on my window frames.

"The first thing I did then was that I panicked and looked for black smoke marks on the house, but there weren't any. Then I thought the house had been smashed in."

Keith Moon's Drum Kit Gets Record 120,000 Pounds at London Sale

Sep. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Keith Moon's five-piece drum kit, custom-made for The Who drummer in 1968, sold for 120,000 pounds ($215,772) in London to an American collector, setting a world auction record for a set of drums, Christie's International said.
The price of the Premier brand drums, which Christie's had valued at no more than 15,000 pounds, was driven up by two bidders competing via telephone. They were part of a sale of pop memorabilia including Madonna and Beatles items that took in a total of 602,538 pounds including Christie's commission.
The sale showed that fans are willing to pay well over asking price for items associated with musicians who remain popular -- even after their death. A 1964 poster for a Rolling Stones concert in England sold for 6,000 pounds before Christie's commission, more than seven times the high estimate.

Man uses 32,000 coins to pay for goods

A Brazilian man has paid for goods in an electrical shop with more than 32,000 coins.

Ernesto Torres do Couto, 50, told Terra Noticias Populares said he was protesting against The Electronics Shop in Nova Iguacu, Rio de Janeiro.

He said two years ago he had waited almost six hours for his credit to be checked and at the end it was rejected.

Mr Couto said he then decided to plan his revenge.

He decided to pay for his next purchases at the shop with coins - all 32,052 of them.

He returned to the shop this week to buy a number of items and used the coins to pay.

Do Couto said: "I spent two years putting all the coins together, it was a lot of work, but I feel that I've got my revenge now."

It took 11 shop assistants almost three hours to count the coins.

Man fills in historic treasure after row with officials

A Dutch artist who discovered historic treasure in his garden has decided to cover his find up.

It's believed Gerd Jan Roos from Oudeschild on the Dutch isle of Texel found items dating back 400 years last week.

It resulted in him gaining national media coverage.

However, officials who came to see the items showed more interest in a garden shed he'd built without permission, so he's decided to ban any further inspections.

Roos, an artist, said: "I originally thought I'd dug up an old cesspit, which was full of old pipes, pottery, perfume bottles, vases and boots."

But now he's filled in the hole and built a pond.

He told the Noordhollands Dagblad: "No-one will be allowed to enter my garden anymore. No civil servants and no archeologists. As long as I live their will be no more digging."

Quirky holiday postcard business going well

A new service that sends postcards from exotic locations on behalf of holidaymakers is doing well in Germany.

The MayDayCard service enables people to have cards sent to friends or colleagues from exotic places even though they are holidaying somewhere else.

The service collects people's personally written cards and posts them from a variety of expensive holiday destinations, just so they can impress others.

For Ā£8.50 people can have a genuine, stamped postcard from Los Angeles or Mauritius, and for another Ā£5 people can have a card sent from Hawaii.

The scheme was set up by 37-year-old Edith Gailus, who said she never liked writing postcards herself.

A team of 20 people, consisting of pilots, flight attendants and Gailus and her husband, collects the postcards and posts them from the select destinations.

According to Gailus, cards from Hong Kong are especially popular among businessmen.

The MayDayCard service has been selling over 1,500 holiday cards a month since it was launched at the beginning of 2004.

Flamingo in flap over identity

A flamingo with an identity crisis is ruffling a few feathers at a nature reserve.

Andy, a 40-year-old male Andean flamingo, has spent the last fortnight incubating a pebble he has mistaken for an egg.

Wardens at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, are baffled by his bird-brained behaviour, as it is female flamingos which traditionally sit on the nest waiting for eggs to hatch.

Back-seat driver system to be tested

LONDON (Reuters) - Drivers may soon have no excuse for ignoring road signs.
Australian scientists have invented an electronic driver's assistant system, similar to the back-seat driver who forever points out road signs and warns against speeding.

"The Australian invention is part of a global effort to make drivers more aware of road signs, especially those concerned with safety," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.
The new driver's assistance system (DAS) developed by National Information and Communications Technology Australia (NICTA) in Canberra detects road signs and warns drivers to slow down.
"DAS uses three cameras: one to scan the road ahead and a pair to monitor where the driver is looking," the magazine said.
A computer system fitted behind the dashboard collates the information with data on the speed the car is going.

If it appears the driver has not seen a sign or has not slowed down, a warning is issued.
In preliminary tests, DAS performed "pretty well" even at high speeds, according to its developers. They plan to test it in full-scale road trials with many types of road signs soon.

Toddler shocks doctors by surviving 30ft plunge

(The Scotsman)TWO-year-old Daniel Meehan astonished doctors by surviving a 30ft fall on to concrete after landing on his bottom.

The toddler escaped with only a broken ankle after somersaulting from the third-storey window of his home in Perth on Friday.

Stepfather Andrew Irvine said: "It wasn't as if Dan landed on grass or fell through a tree to break his fall because he landed flat on a concrete path. The doctors couldn't believe there was nothing wrong. They were as stunned as we were," he said.

A passer-by saw Daniel tumble as he fell and doctors believe it was the way he landed on his bottom that cushioned his fall.

Daniel's aunt, Sharon Meehan said that the toddler was happily playing and appeared fine apart from a small cast on his ankle. "He's back to his normal self. He can't walk but apart from that he's fine."

The accident happened after his mother opened her bedroom window to let a wasp out and then turned her back for a few seconds.

Daniel was taken to Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, and released on Monday.

Mr Irvine said: "Dan must have jumped up on a laundry basket and toppled out. The last thing I saw were the soles of his feet as he fell."

Dr Alistair Sutcliffe said Daniel's age gave him an advantage. "Children have chubbier bodies and a higher amount of body water so they are more robust to injury."

Monday, August 30, 2004

Jedi Academy opens in Romania

Jedi Academy opens in Romania

A Star Wars acedemy that teaches about the religion of the Jedi, use of the light sabre and speaking in Wookiee has opened its doors in Romania.

Adrian Pavel, who runs the country's Star Wars Club, decided to found the Jedi Academy after getting so many questions from fellow fans on how they can be more like their heroes in the Star Wars films.

He told local daily Libertatea: "We have meetings and lectures, and we dress like Jedis, but this is no longer enough. We'll soon learn how to handle the light sabres in academy classes.

"The academy is open to everybody. There is a quiz with 100 questions that will cover even the darkest aspects of the Star Wars phenomenon that needs to be done in 24 hours. Anyone who passes quiz will have a place in the Jedi Academy."

The academy is also offering special modules for true devotees, like cooking some of the dishes seen in the Star Wars films including Wookiee Cookies, Princess Leia Danish donughts, Sand Trooper sandwiches and Twin Sun toasts.

Skint student does record-breaking 30-mile wheelie

A penniless student who took the front wheel off his cycle after he got a puncture has broken the world wheelie record.

Martin Lasak, 21, who started riding on one wheel because he couldn't afford to fix the tyre, completed a 30-mile wheelie.

It took him two and a half hours to wheelie between Vradiste and Kopcany in western Slovakia.

He said the bike repair shop wanted too much money to fix the inner tube, and he did not have the time to do it himself, local daily Novy Cas reported.

He said: "I was going to a friend's house when I got a puncture. I got to his house, took the wheel off and when I found out the price of the repair I decided to leave it off until I could fix it myself.

"But it was so easy riding on one wheel, I never really got round to finding the time to sort it out. I've just been going around with the one wheel on the bike ever since."

Sexually frustrated chimp takes up smoking

BEIJING (Reuters) - Sexual frustration has turned a Chinese chimpanzee from a mild-mannered simian into a problem primate who smokes cigarettes and spits at visitors, the Xinhua news agency says.

Feili, a female chimp in the city of Zhengzhou in the central province of Henan, picked up her nasty habits by imitating visitors who behaved "improperly" around her, Xinhua quoted zoo director Liu Bing as saying on Sunday.

But, Liu said, the root cause of Feili's transformation from a "gentle girl" into a "shrew" lay with the inability to find her a satisfactory mate.

A male chimpanzee at the zoo has failed to live up to Feili's sexual demands, and she has snubbed other potential suitors.

Zoo officials said Feili was not addicted to nicotine, but the chimp has also demonstrated clever -- if not desperate -- behaviour to score a smoke.

"The chimp is spitting at tourists and smoking," Xinhua quoted a boy visiting the zoo. "Just now a tourist threw a cigarette butt to just outside the cage, she tried to get the butt with a stick."

Wanted: Family for lonely Italian pensioner

MILAN (Reuters) - "Elderly retired school teacher seeks family willing to adopt grandfather. Will pay."

Lonely Giorgio Angelozzi, 79, published his appeal in the classified pages of daily Corriere della Sera over the weekend, tugging on heart strings across family-loving Italy.

The classics teacher has lived alone outside Rome with seven cats since his wife died in 1992 but on Monday he had received dozens of replies from across the country.

"So many families want to adopt me as their grandfather," said Angelozzi who promised 500 euros a month to the family who took him in. "So many families answered my appeal and want me to teach their children and their grandchildren about Horace and Catullus."

Among those who responded -- from southern Catanzaro to northern Milan -- was much-loved Roman popular music singer Antonello Venditti, one of Angelozzi's former students.

"I was not expecting so much warmth, so much interest in my story," Angelozzi told Corriere on Monday. "But remember that my problem is one that affects so many elderly people in Italy."

Italy has long been famed for the central role of the family in society. But in recent years, as the divorce rate rises and families move more easily from city to city, elderly relatives are frequently left on their own.

In the record heat of summer 2003, 4,175 elderly people died. Many of them had been left to sweat out July and August in Italy's sweltering cities where many pharmacies and food stores close down and basic services are cut back.