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.