Sunday, June 27, 2004

You must be batty!

You must be batty!

North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom has taken on a new role - tackling the UK's growing bat crimes.
He is spearheading a nationwide initiative to protect the nocturnal mammals.

Mr Brunstrom has virtually become a household name through his campaign against speeding drivers and his views on legalising drugs.

Now he says he is ready to assume comic hero Batman's mantle too to save the bat.

"If you can put a bit of humour into it, that's actually helpful because this is a serious issue," he said on Wednesday

"A bit of humour will help us deal with it even better".

Bats are a protected species but even so their numbers are falling. Figures from the Bat Conservation Trust show 144 bat-related offences have been committed in the UK over two years.

This is not major league police work but it is necessary that we do it right because it is in the interests of our country
Richard Brunstrom
Conservation groups now believe that that figure could be only the tip of the iceberg as the animals fall prey to building development and trees where they roost being felled.

So Operation Bat, which got under way on Wednesday, is aimed at prevention and raising awareness.

Mr Brunstrom, a spokesman on wildlife issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), has been jointly responsible for bats becoming a police priority.

"The emphasis of Operation Bat is on prevention rather than enforcement," he said.

"The overall aim of it is to raise awareness of the legislation that protects bats so as to provide a clear message that bat crime is police business and will not be ignored.

"If you're renovating an old house or chopping trees down, we want to make sure that people get proper advice in the first place on how to keep within the law."

But he admitted that patrolling bat crime was "a tiny issue in policing terms".

You don't bring me flowers

Visitors are being asked to check with staff before bringing flowers onto wards in some south Wales hospitals, to help prevent the MRSA infection.
The move by the Gwent NHS Trust has been applied across all of its hospitals to curb the spread of infections to patients.

Hospital managers said they are not prepared to compromise on infection control.

It follows similar policies in some hospitals in England.

Julian Hayman, from the Gwent NHS Trust, said: "We do not allow flowers in high risk infection areas such as intensive care, high dependency, haematology and some surgical wards as they pose an infection risk.

"Control of infection is a priority that we cannot compromise on.

Although we'd like to be able to allow flowers on every ward in most cases it really is not practical
Julian Hayman, Gwent NHS Trust
"In other areas the decision whether or not to allow flowers on a ward is made by the nurse in charge of that ward.

"Besides infection risks there are other reasons that wards may decide not to allow flowers such as insufficient space, health and safety issues such as water in close proximity to electrical equipment and the need to ensure water is changed regularly to prevent it from becoming stagnant."

He said it was well documented that flowers can increase the risk of passing on infections and the decision had been taken to aid patient recovery.

"Although we'd like to be able to allow flowers on every ward in most cases it really is not practical," he said.

"We would ask patients and relatives to help us by checking with the nurse in charge before bringing flowers onto any ward."

A ban on bringing flowers into intensive care and other high dependency wards is a common rule in many hospitals around the country.

As well as MRSA, there are fears that vulnerable patients could be affected by the pseudomonas bacterium which develops when vegetation rots.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Assembly Government said there was no guidance about bringing flowers onto hospital wards.

"The assembly government has not issued central guidance relating to flowers on wards, the recognised issues concerning flowers on wards and control of infection.

"It is the responsibility of trusts to investigate local guidance and practices taking into account the specific circumstances within the trust, hospital or ward," she said.

England captain David Beckham has been defaced

A PORTRAIT of England captain David Beckham has been defaced by vandals - who scrawled "You loosers" across it.

Pranksters used a thick red marker pen on the 5ft photograph which was worth Ā£7,500.

And they even spelt "loosers" with a double "o" in what appeared to be a dig at the 29-year-old's alleged affair with PA Rebecca Loos.

The huge snap is part of the FIFA 100 exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Arts - which features portraits of the game's greatest living stars.

Scandinavian snapper Mark Hom's image - which shows Becks wearing a t-shirt standing in a hotel corridor holding a football - is said to be the most popular on show.

The England captain has been criticised for his performances at Euro 2004 and for missing crucial penalties against France and Portugal.

The vandals also wrote "Beckham and Meier, you loosers" on a wall
opposite a portrait of soccer legend Pele - in a reference to bungling Swiss ref Urs Meier.

Exhibition curator David Grob said staff had made a complaint of
criminal damage to police.

He said: "The picture is a write off. We have reported it to the police and we will have to get another one printed.

"It is enormously irritating. We hoped the Academy would inspire everybody to good behaviour. You do not expect people to act like football hooligans - it is very frustrating."

Elvis couple's 16th baby name dilemma

A Belgian couple whose 15 children's names are linked to Elvis Presley say they cannot think of a name for their 16th child.

Jean-Pierre and Carine Antheunis, from Gent in Belgium, are lifelong Elvis fans and their children's names include Elvis, Priscilla, Dakota and Tennessee.

But the pair have said they don't know what to call their new baby boy.

"If it had been a girl we would have called her Linda. Elvis once had a lover with that name," said Jean-Pierre.

"But we have run out of ideas for a boy."

They are now thinking of calling him Ohio: "There's no connection with Elvis, but it's in America," he added.

Speaking to daily newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, Jean-Pierre said they would not need to worry about finding more names in the future, as Ohio would be their last.

"My wife is now 40 and we have decided to stop there. Sixteen children are enough for us," he said.

Wife's cooking drove man to blow up kitchen

Wife's cooking drove man to blow up kitchen

A Romanian man faces charges after he tried to blow up his kitchen because his wife was such a lousy cook.

Viorel Leahu, 41, from Todiresti, said he decided to punish his wife for her terrible food.

He told police he had been inspired by watching Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, reports Natuional newspaper.

He opened the gas tap and threw a lighter on the cooker. The explosion damaged the room and left him with an injured hand.

Mr Leahu now faces up to three years in jail for destruction of property and putting his wife's life in danger.

Beauty contest for goats

Croat farmers have staged a beauty contest for goats in a bid to publicise the fact that traditional goat farming is dying out.

Dozens of farmers from across the country entered their prize goats in the event at the village of St. Vincenat in western Croatia.

Ivan Perko, owner of Lucy who won the event and is from the western Croatian village of Most Rasa, said: "I always knew she was the most beautiful goat in the world and now it's been proven."

There was no prize for winning the competition but Perko said the honour was enough for him.

"This is a great honour for me and Lucy," he said.

Organisers said they came up with the idea of the contest to draw attention to falling numbers of goats in the region.

They said that at one time there were 800,000 goats in the Istria region, but that today there are only 1,000, local media reported.

This can't be right!!!

US internet porn law falls at free speech hurdle

A US law meant to punish pornographers who peddle indecent images to children using the internet will not be invoked because it impedes the right to freedom of speech.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Child Online Protect Act (COPA), signed off by former President Bill Clinton in 1998 and backed now by the Bush Administration, may go too far in restricting pornographic material on the web.

The majority said the law, which has never taken effect, is in direct violation with the First Amendment - the right to freedom of speech.

The majority, led by Justice Anthony M Kennedy, said that advances in technology since the law was developed may have meant that it was now possible for adults to see and buy material that is legal for their eyes, while keeping offending material out of the hands of children.

The case landed in the courts after the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the controverisal law went too far.

"We're very pleased with the decision," Ann Beeson, an ACLU lawyer, said.

"The status quo is still with us and the court made it safe for artists, sex educators and web publishers to communicate with adults without risking jail time."

The ACLU challenged the law on behalf of online bookstores, artists and others, including operators of websites that offer explicit how-to sex advice or health information.

The union argued that its clients could face jail time or fines for distributing information that, while racy or graphic, is perfectly legal for adult eyes and ears.

The law has been going betwen the courts and Congress in various forms since 1998.

It would have authorised fines up to $50,000 for the crime of placing material that is "harmful to minors" within the easy reach of children on the internet.

It also would have required adults to use access codes and or other ways of registering before they could see objectionable material online.

Justice Kennedy said COPA in its existing form would sweep with "too broad a brush".

"There is a potential for extraordinary harm and a serious chill upon protected speech; if the law took effect," he said.

The case has now been handed back to a lower court to assess new advancements in technology to block porn from reaching child internet users. The ruling may also give the US Government a chance to prove that the law in fact does not go far enough.

Congress had tried repeatedly to find a way to protect web-surfing children from smut without running foul of the First Amendment. Material that is indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment. Adults may see or purchase it, but children may not.

Goddess returns to stately home

The statue had been at Sledmere for over 100 years
A valuable 18th Century statue, which was stolen from a stately home in East Yorkshire and found 4,000 miles away, is to go back on its plinth.
The life size Goddess of Harvest vanished from Sledmere House near Driffield, Yorkshire, in December 2000.

A man on a ship saw details of the statue in a magazine and realised he had seen it at a port in Essex.

He alerted the authorities who subsequently traced the Goddess to an art dealer in Chicago.

Sir Tatton Sykes, whose family has lived at Sledmere for 250 years, said: "I was absolutely overjoyed when I heard the statue had been recovered.

"It is one of the family's favourite pieces of garden statuary and everyone was devastated when it was stolen.

" We are delighted and greatly relieved to have it back home."

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