Saturday, December 30, 2006

Got a light ?

This was the astonishing scene after a faulty gas cooker exploded in a timber-framed shack - and devastated a tiny Caribbean island.

The blast caused an inferno that leapt from hut to hut, taking less than ten minutes to sweep across half the shanty town-style community.

As gas cylinders in more wooden homes exploded, many of Soledad Miria's 1,014 inhabitants dived into the sea or took to fishing boats to escape.

More than a third - 348 - were injured but, amazingly, no one died.

By the time firefighting helicopters had put out the blaze on the 800-yard-wide island off Panama's northern coast, around 50 huts, a school and a community centre had been flattened.

Officials said a faulty connection between the cooker and a gas canister led to a build-up of fumes which exploded when a resident switched the appliance on to cook a meal.

Ou est ma fille ?

A 19-year-old woman who disappeared was found stuck in an elevator in a suburban Paris housing project for three days, the French press reported Friday.

The daily Le Figaro described the woman, identified only as Safiatou, as vulnerable because she had "problems of confusion." It said she was found dehydrated but alive on Dec. 22.

According to newspaper and television accounts, Safiatou's father had contacted the building concierge Dec. 19 to say his daughter could be stuck in a broken elevator. No alarm went off and the concierge and a repairman found no one when they checked, Le Figaro reported, citing a source close to the investigation.

The technician began repair work the following day. On Dec. 22, the repairman returned to complete the job and heard a soft cry, Le Figaro reported.

On Wednesday, the girl's father, who had advised police of his daughter's disappearance, filed a complaint for non-assistance to a person in danger - a crime in France - according to Le Figaro.

Several elevators in the housing project had recently been renovated but not the one in question, according to the news reports. They said that it was unclear why Safiatou did not cry out for help.

Dumbkopft !

A 21-year-old German tourist who wanted to visit his girlfriend in the Australian metropolis Sydney landed 13,000 kilometers (8,077 miles) away near Sidney, Montana, after mistyping his destination on a flight booking Web site.

Dressed for the Australian summer in T-shirt and shorts, Tobi Gutt left Germany on Saturday for a four-week holiday.

Instead of arriving "down under", Gutt found himself on a different continent and bound for the chilly state of Montana.

"I did wonder but I didn't want to say anything," Gutt told the Bild newspaper. "I thought to myself, you can fly to Australia via the United States."

Gutt's airline ticket routed him via the U.S. city of Portland, Oregon, to Billings, Montana. Only as he was about to board a commuter flight to Sidney -- an oil town of about 5,000 people -- did he realize his mistake.

The hapless tourist, who had only a thin jacket to keep out the winter cold, spent three days in Billings airport before he was able to buy a new ticket to Australia with 600 euros in cash that his parents and friends sent over from Germany.

"I didn't notice the mistake as my son is usually good with computers," his mother, Sabine, told Reuters.

Saturday night fucktards

Emergency call handlers were left "in disbelief" when a man dialled 999 because he could not find his trousers.
The man was one of four people who inappropriately rang for an ambulance in the early hours of Saturday, during a busy night for the emergency service.

Another caller rang from Birmingham's Broad Street to say a 32-year-old "couldn't walk from too much dancing".

West Midlands Ambulance bosses said people should consider whether it was appropriate to call 999.

A third caller, this time from the Low Hill area of Wolverhampton, stated another 32-year-old had a finger injury.

The man was "extremely drunk" and it transpired the injury had been sustained two days earlier, said the ambulance service.

And the final call was from an 18-year-old man who had a toothache.

An ambulance service spokesman said: "At one of the busiest times of year it would have been helpful if these people had first thought about whether dialling 999 was appropriate.

"In the last of these cases medical help was required but not from the ambulance service."

Good riddance !

The former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, has been hanged in northern Baghdad for crimes against humanity.
Iraqi state TV showed images of Saddam Hussein going to the gallows before dawn in a building his intelligence services once used for executions.

However the moment of his execution was not shown. Pictures of his body wrapped in a shroud were later broadcast on TV.

Hotel thief

You've likely heard of grand theft auto, but how about grand theft hotel? A Brooklyn man was arrested Friday after trying to steal New York City's SoHo Grand Hotel by filing a fraudulent deed to transfer ownership of the $76 million establishment to himself.

Kouadio Kouassi, 46, was charged with attempted grand larceny and two counts of offering a false instrument for filing.

Kouassi allegedly filed a phony business certificate with the New York County Clerk’s Office in an effort to establish a bogus business interest in the hotel. Authorities say he went to the Department of Finance to record a phony deed which transferred ownership of the property to himself.

His paperwork, however, was not accepted because he did not have all of the necessary signatures and documents.

Still, the hopeful hotel thief was persistent in his efforts to have the deed recorded, and returned to the department at least four other times to try and have the deed recorded again. During one of those visits, a department employee became suspicious of Kouassi and notified authorities.

“This defendant foolishly thought he had engineered a clever and brash ruse to gain ownership of a significant commercial property. He may now find himself sleeping in less glamorous accommodations. I would like to commend the DOF employee who reported this matter to DOI," Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement.

The SoHo Grand Hotel’s true owners, the Hartz Group, told investigators they did not know Kouassi, nor did they ever sell or agree to sell the hotel to him.

If convicted, Kouassi faces up to 15 years in prison.

Whatta prat !

A thirsty German sold his 6-year-old step-daughter's pet beagle to the owner of a bar to pay for beer, the Bild newspaper reported on Friday.

The unemployed man offered to take the dog for a walk and then stopped at a bar where he convinced the owner to buy the 3-year-old dog for 40 euros ($53).

The man spent the proceeds quenching his thirst for beer. The bar owner has now returned the dog to its owner.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Liechtenstein grows

The tiny principality of Liechtenstein grew by about half a square kilometre, or about 50 football pitches, after officials more accurately defined its borders, the government said on Thursday.

Some of the more remote edges of the Alpine nation, wedged between Switzerland and Austria, were never properly measured until now, it said.

Liechtenstein, with a population of about 35,000, said a survey had shown its border was 1.9 kilometres (1 mile) -- or 2 percent -- longer than previously assumed.

The total length of the border is 77.9 kilometres, the government said. The country now measures 160.475 sq kms. Two-thirds of that are mountains.

Liechtenstein, ruled by Prince Hans-Adam II, gained its independence in 1806.

Fastest to the pole

An adventurer from Berkshire has claimed to have made the fastest solo, unsupported trek to the South Pole.
Hannah McKeand, 33, from Newbury, set off on the 690-mile (1,110km) trip from the edge of Antarctica to the Geographic South Pole on 19 November.

She completed the challenge on Thursday after 39 days and nine and a half hours - beating the record by two days.

Ms McKeand said she hopes the expedition will raise more than £10,000 for charity.

With the end in sight Ms McKeand said: "For the first time in the journey I think, there is a tiny part of me that doesn't want it to end.

"The little crazy part that got my into this in the first place, the part that could just go on and on, skiing into the white and into the blue."

Ms McKeand, who runs a sailing company with partner David Pryce, faced temperatures of -35C (-31F) while dragging a sledge weighing 100 kilos (220lbs) across the snow and ice.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Virtual No.10

Number 10 Downing Street has opened its famous front door to the public after more than 270 years, with a virtual tour for web users.
Visitors can look at rooms, find out historical information and click on objects such as paintings and furniture for extra details.

Tony Blair told the BBC the tour was "an excellent way of showing the tremendous history of this building".

Number 10 has been used as a home by prime ministers since the 1730s.

Hands free !

Tonga's royal family is preparing to end 100 days of mourning for the late king by releasing 40 royal undertakers from a pampered three-month captivity.

The undertakers, known as nima tapu, meaning sacred hands, are forbidden from using their hands after preparing King Tupou IV's body for burial. The nima tapu have spent the last three months confined in a special house where they are fed by other people.

After an end-of-mourning ceremony, the undertakers are allowed to return home.

Having touched the late king's body during the funeral preparations, the royal undertakers are strictly forbidden from using their hands for any other purpose until the period of mourning is over.

The current generation of nima tapu are more fortunate than their predecessors. Until 300 years ago they would have been strangled or had their hands cut off following the king's funeral.

Tonga's royal end-of-mourning ceremony, or Pongipongi Tuku, is characterised by gift-giving.

However, the new King Tupou V has decreed that, in a change of protocol, the traditional gifts of food, pigs and the fermented root drink kava should be presented to his mother Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho rather than to himself.

Correspondents say the break with tradition may indicate King Tupou V's willingness to reshape Tonga's semi-feudal monarchy. King Tupou V has already promised more democratic reforms following pro-democracy rioting in November.

Kidnpd over debt

A 21-year-old German woman who did not feel like going to work at a fast food restaurant sent her parents a text message saying she had been kidnapped.

Police in the Bavarian town of Straubing said on Wednesday they had launched a massive search throughout the region for the woman who disappeared on Dec. 23 but turned up unscathed the following morning, saying the kidnapper had set her free.

A spokesman said the woman was questioned over the Christmas holiday and admitted she made up the story because she owed a colleague 25 Euro ($32.9) and did not have the money to pay her debt. She now faces a fine of up to 1,000 Euro.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Womb for 3 ?

A British mother could get into the record books after she gave birth to twins and a single baby at the same time -- from two wombs -- in what is believed to be a world first.

Hannah Kersey, 23, gave birth to the rare triplets -- identical twins Ruby and Tilly, and singleton Gracie -- by Caesarean section seven weeks prematurely in September.

She was born with a condition called uterus didelphys, which means she developed two wombs, but doctors had warned her that she was unlikely to become pregnant in both.

After their early birth the triplets had to stay in hospital for nine weeks, but are now doing fine at home with Hanna and her partner Mick Faulkner, 23, in Devon in southwest England.

"We are just over the moon at how healthy and happy the girls are," she said. "They are three lovely and incredible children, all with very different personalities.

"Gracie seems to be the ringleader -- maybe because she grew up in her own womb. She is very determined and independent, always wanting her food before the others and to do things first," she said.

Doctors say there are only 70 women in the world known to have become pregnant in two wombs, and this is the first reported case of triplets.

"This is so rare you cannot put odds on it," said Ellis Downes, consultant obstetrician at Chase Farm Hospital in London. "I have never heard of this happening anywhere ever before - it is quite amazing.

"Women with two wombs have conceived a baby in each womb before but never twins in one and a singleton in the other. It is extremely unusual."

Pure genius - NOT !

LINCOLNTON, N.C. -- Lincolnton authorities say they've arrested the man who used a hammer to rob a gas station earlier this week, and then went on to try to hold up two banks.

Police said Michael Shane Lineburg is the man seen in surveillance video robbing the Petro Express on Tuesday.

Officers say Lineburg then attempted to rob the First Charter Bank in downtown Lincolnton early Wednesday by handing the teller a note that stated, “Give me money I need help.”

“But he didn’t have it worded as this was a robbery of any type. They couldn’t figure out what he wanted and kept asking him. Finally he got frustrated with the questions that the clerk was asking him and he left the bank without anything,” said Det. Kameron Keener.

Police say he went two blocks to the Bank of America on Aspen Street and this time spoke for himself.

“Said, ‘I’m not a bad person. I really hat to do this, but I need $1,000 dollars,’ and she asked him for his account number and he said he didn’t have any and this is a robbery,” Keener said.

Police say the strange series of crimes came to an end when Lineburg left his pants with his wallet near the scene of the crime.

“Sometimes people just do some unorthodox things, and this is one of them,” Keener said.

Witnesses told police they saw a man stripping off his top layer of clothes near the bank, which investigators say was part of a plan to disguise his appearance. He dropped his pants in an alley and police recognized the face on his identification.

“We had a pretty good idea who the suspect was, but that pretty much confirmed it,” an officer said.

Lineburg’s wife was also arrested and charged as an accessory to bank robbery.

Police said they believe the man committed the crimes for drug money.

Russian roulette idiot style

PRAIRIEVILLE -- Six people were booked on drug and weapons charges after a 16-year-old apparently shot and killed himself during a game of Russian roulette, authorities said.

Jacob White, of Prairieville, and the older friends were playing the game and smoking marijuana when White apparently shot himself Wednesday at White's home, said Ascension Parish sheriff's Lt. Paul Robert.

While White and his friends smoked the drug, they passed two handguns around. Robert said White took one of the two guns, and loaded it with at least one live round and put the weapon to his head. It discharged after he pulled the trigger several times, Robert said.

The other six left; one youth's parents reported the shooting, Robert said. Investigators took two guns and drug paraphernalia from the house, he said.

Last Harry Potter name revealed

The title for Harry Potter VII has been revealed. But if you want to find out for yourself, visit
J.K. Rowling's Web site and play a little game of hangman.

Rowling's U.S. publisher, Scholastic Inc., released a brief statement Thursday announcing the name of the world's most anticipated children's book, the finale to her phenomenally popular fantasy series.

No publication date or other details were offered. Rowling is still working on the book, she explained on her Web site in an entry posted early Thursday.

"I'm now writing scenes that have been planned, in some cases, for a dozen years or even more," she wrote. "I don't think anyone who has not been in a similar situation can possibly know how this feels: I am alternately elated and overwrought. I both want, and don't want, to finish this book (don't worry, I will.)"

Meanwhile, she set up a test for her Potter fans.

If you go to, click on the eraser and you will be taken to a room — you'll see a window, a door and a mirror.

In the mirror, you'll see a hallway. Click on the farthest doorknob and look for the Christmas tree. Then click on the centre of the door next to the mirror and a wreath appears. Then click on the top of the mirror and you'll see a garland.

Look for a cobweb next to the door. Click on it, and it will disappear. Now, look at the chimes in the window. Click on the second chime to the right, and hold it down. The chime will turn into the key, which opens the door. Click on the wrapped gift behind the door, then click on it again and figure out the title yourself by playing a game of hangman.


Or you can just take my word for it: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

Handbag arrest

A woman who helped to detain a fleeing criminal in Worcester while armed only with her handbag has spoken about her actions.

Avril James was one of three women who went for Joshua Bough as he fled from several police officers last week. The shop worker said the adrenaline meant she did not fear for her safety.

Police have praised her for helping to stop Bough, 23, who was later convicted of assaulting a police officer and possessing an offensive weapon.

Bough, from Worcester, had managed to evade 21 police officers in a six-minute chase through the city on 14 December.

Mrs James was one of three women who managed to slow him down as he ran across Worcester Bridge.

A van driver then grabbed hold of the man and officers were able to arrest him.

Mrs James, who works at Ogle's chemist in the St John's area of the city, said: "I thought, you're not going to get away with that, I'm going to do whatever I can to stop you."

Asked about the threat to her safety, she said: "I never thought about it. I think the adrenaline was going.I thought he must have done something wrong to have so many police officers running after him.The girls here are taking the Mickey about me. They're calling me all the police names that you can think of but, at the end of the day, I thought if someone's a villain, they should be caught."

There was an outstanding warrant for Bough's arrest in connection with a charge of assaulting a police officer and possessing an offensive weapon.

Bough was convicted of both offences on 15 December and was fined £50 on each count.

A spokesman for West Mercia Police said: "The three women did not know each other and were walking over the bridge some distance apart when they each realised, in the space of a few seconds, that a man was being pursued and was heading straight for them along the pavement.

"Although we have concerns for the consequences of their actions, we fully endorse them and applaud their courage."

Police are appealing for the other two women to come forward so they can thank them for their actions.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hamley Christmas !

HAMLEYS bosses have pulled the plug on an online promotion after thousands of bargain-hunters crashed its website.

Shoppers used codes leaked on the net to get discounts of up to 60 per cent.

At the height of the frenzy the website was trying to process 1,000 purchases a minute.

But yesterday the toy store said it would not honour the "fraudulent orders".

The bargain bonanza began when Hamleys issued "e-vouchers" intended for staff and their families only - but they ended up being posted on a money saving website.

The codes slashed the cost of a Robosapien Media from £299.99 to £179.99. Other toys also had massive savings and free delivery.

One delighted parent wrote: "Got two £19.99 remote control cars for £23.99 and free delivery. Bargain." Another said: "I've just got my son's birthday and Christmas presents for the next century!"

But the store said it would honour only single transactions. Boss Nick Mather said: "Multiple use of codes contravenes the offer. As a gesture of goodwill, customers can reorder with a 25 per cent discount code."

Earlier this month promotional codes for Threshers and Sainsbury's were also leaked onto the web, giving 60 per cent off booze just in time for Christmas.

Hats the way to do it !

A shopping mall Santa Claus has been forced to wear a hard hat after being pelted with mince pies.

Yobs launched the hail of pastry missiles from an upper level of the Paisley Centre in Renfrewshire as he was handing out treats to customers.

Concerned centre bosses have now issued the Santa with a builder’s-style hard hat in case there are any further attacks.

Centre manager Andrew MacKinnon said shoppers were shocked after the incident on Saturday.

He said: “We are a multi-level centre, and have taken this somewhat drastic action to protect Santa from possible injury.

“Such an incident does give rise to health and safety concerns, and we take the safety of our staff very seriously.”

Mr MacKinnon said the hard hat has been decorated with red reindeer antlers to “Christmas it up a bit”.

There was no police involvement after the attack, he added.

Tree pumpkin

A Cambridgeshire pensioner was shocked to find a huge pumpkin growing at the top of her 7ft conifer tree.

June Hammersley, 77, of Milton, found the 36lb pumpkin growing up a tree in her garden, reports the Mirror.

The pumpkin had trained itself up the nearby tree trunk.

June, 77, said: "We planted it a good 6ft from the conifers. We saw it was creeping along the garden because some lovely flowers were growing.

"The plant climbed up the conifer and one day we saw the pumpkin at the top. It's like Jack and the Beanstalk - no one can believe their eyes."

June and husband David plan to give the pumpkin to their greatgrandson for Hallowe'en.

She said: "I've had pumpkin pie and didn't like it so I won't be cooking it. It is certainly the most unusual thing to come out of our garden this year."

£3m for being oversexed

A man who lost his sexual inhibitions after suffering a severe head injury at work has won more than £3m. Stephen Tame, 29, fell from a gantry while working in a cycle warehouse in Wickford, Essex, in January 2002.

London's High Court awarded him £3.1m, saying his sexual and behavioural problems had ended his marriage and led to him needing professional care. His former employers, Professional Cycling Marketing, contested the amount of the award but admitted liability.
Judge Michael Harris said because of Mr Tame's behaviour and two acts of infidelity, his marriage to 30-year-old Sarah had become strained.

This meant he would be without her care and would have to pay for professional support.

"This young man has been transformed, and in a sense the fact that he has some awareness makes it worse because every moment he is reminded of what he might have been but for the accident," said Judge Harris. "He has lost his marriage and probably lost the prospect of a family."

Mr Tame, whose case was brought on his behalf by the Official Solicitor, did not give evidence but his wife, who is receiving treatment for clinical depression, broke down repeatedly as she spoke of her "turmoil".

"We love each other but the love is slowly going. We love each other but it's not `in love'. I love Steve but it's turning into friendship."

Mr Tame's former employers, Professional Cycling Marketing, of Wickford Business Park had admitted liability but contested the amount of the award, arguing he would be capable of working up to 16 hours a week in the future, and his marriage might survive.

The judge said Mr Tame was disinhibited in that he said embarrassing things in the company of others, misbehaved in the presence of females and wound people up by butting in on conversations.

He watched pornographic videos and websites and rang sex-lines. He was impatient and aggressive and needed a high level of support to organise his days and live in the community.
His awareness of his inappropriate behaviour had improved and he had asked for help from his carers when feeling vulnerable to sexual behaviour.

Mr Tame's QC, Bill Braithwaite, told the court his client had recently visited a prostitute and had also had a "fling" with a 57-year-old woman.

Virgin birth Komodo

British zoologists have a Christmas tale of their own to tell: a rare giant lizard, the komodo dragon, is about to give "virgin birth".

In a study published in the science journal Nature on Thursday (local time), they say they have unravelled a mystery surrounding a komodo dragon named Flora, one of two dragons at Chester Zoo, in northern England.

Flora laid 11 eggs in May this year, three of which collapsed.

These three eggs were opened and were found to contain embryos, showing they had been fertilised.

But who was the daddy? Flora had never mated with a male dragon or even mixed with one.

DNA tests have now proven that Flora was both the "mother" and "father" of the fertile eggs.

"Although other lizard species are known to be able to self-fertilise, this is the first time this has ever been reported in komodo dragons," said Kevin Buley, a co-author of the paper, who is the zoo's curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates.

"Essentially, what we have here is an immaculate conception, and because the eggs were laid back in May, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the incubating eggs could hatch around Christmas time.

"We will be on the lookout for shepherds, wise men and an unusually bright star in the sky over Chester Zoo," he added in a wry reference to the biblical account of Christ's birth.

Self-fertilisation in this way is called parthenogenesis.

Under it, the species makes a copy of its own genetic code.

Zoologists at Thoiry Zoo, west of Paris, announced in April they suspected parthenogenesis was behind the birth of four baby dragons to a female called Sungai.

Sungai normally lives at Thoiry, but was sent to London to mate with a male dragon there under a European breeding program.

The komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is the world's biggest lizard, with adult males reaching up to three metres long and weighing up to 90 kilograms.

The dragon is found on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang and Flores, but its numbers have dwindled to around 6,000 as a result of poaching and invasive species

Bad Parenting Pt. IV

A 1-month-old baby was checked and cleared by a Los Angeles hospital over the weekend after being put through an airport X-ray machine.

Authorities at Los Angeles International Airport said an inexperienced traveler mistakenly put her grandson through a carry-on luggage screener.

A spokesman for LAX said the incident Saturday was an innocent mistake.

In 1988, an infant in a car seat went through an X-ray machine at the airport.

A whiter shade of ....

Matthew Fisher, a founding member of 1960s rock group Procol Harum, has won a High Court battle over who wrote their hit song A Whiter Shade of Pale. He played organ on the 1967 hit and argued he wrote the distinctive organ melody. Mr Justice Blackburne ruled he was entitled to 40% of the copyright.

Fisher, from London, had wanted half but the court decided lead singer Gary Brooker's input was more substantial. Fisher's claim for back royalties - of up to £1m - was also rejected.

For almost 40 years, the song has been credited to lead singer Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid.
"I find that the organ solo is a distinctive and significant contribution to the overall composition and, quite obviously, the product of skill and labour on the part of the person who created it," the judge said.

Now a computer programmer, Fisher said the organ solo was inspired by composer Bach but he also had "his own ideas in his head."

The 60-year-old said he made chord changes to the original Brooker sequence and added to the work with a counterpoint to the song melody.

Mr Justice Blackburne, who studied both music and law at Cambridge - followed a transcribed music score during the several occasions the song was played in court. Brooker defended his claim to be the sole writer of the tune, which still provides him with royalties - boosted by its recent popularity in the mobile ringtone market.

The singer, who still fronts Procol Harum, faces paying a large part of the legal costs estimated at around £500,000.

In a statement, Brooker said his former bandmate had no right to be credited as a writer of the song: "If Matthew Fisher's name ends up on my song, then mine can come off!" He added: "It's hard to believe that I've worked with somebody on and off since 1967 whilst they hid such unspoken resentment.I'm relieved the trial is over, but my faith in British justice is shattered."

Outside the court, Fisher insisted his case was not about the money, and he said he doubted whether he would ever play the song in public again.

He added: "I think I can assume that from now on I'm not going to be on Gary and Keith's Christmas card lists but I think that's a small price to pay for finally securing my rightful place in rock and roll history.

"I'd just like to say that it's a great pity that this matter could not have been resolved amicably."

The judge granted Brooker permission to appeal.

Hibernating Jap

A Japanese man has survived for 24 days in cold weather and without food and water by falling into a state of "hibernation", his doctor has said.

Mitsutaka Uchikoshi, 35, went missing on 7 October after going with friends to climb Mount Rokko, western Japan.

He had almost no pulse, his organs had been shut down and his body temperature dropped to 22C (71F) when he was found.

Medics say they are still puzzled how he survived because his metabolism was apparently almost at standstill.

Mr Uchikoshi is believed to have tripped and lost consciousness after leaving his party to descend from the mountain on his own.

"I lay down... in a grassy area, which felt good in the sunshine, and eventually I fell asleep," Mr Uchikoshi told reporters at a news conference at a hospital in Kobe, where he was treated.

"That's the last thing I remember," he said.

Mr Uchikoshi's temperature is believed to have dropped as he laid in cold weather of about 10C (50F), greatly slowing down his metabolism.

He was found by rescuers on 31 October.

"He fell into a hypothermic state at a very early stage, which is similar to hibernation," said Dr Shinichi Sato, who treated Mr Uchikoshi.

"Therefore, his brain functions were protected without being damaged and have now recovered 100%. This is what I believe happened," he said.

Mr Uchikoshi - who had been treated for severe hypothermia, multiple organ failure and blood loss - was released from hospital and returned home on Tuesday.

Professor Hirohito Shiomi, a hibernation expert at a university in Hiroshima, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying the case was "revolutionary, if the patient truly survived at such a low body temperature over such a long period of time".

Scientists have for years suggested that human hibernation is possible, and could be used to slow cell death when treating fatal diseases.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's a wrap !

THEY have been stolen and vandalised since landing at the top of Leith Walk ten years ago.

But now someone has taken pity on Edinburgh's celebrated flock of over-sized bronze pigeons.
A mysterious "good Samaritan" has spread some Christmas cheer by dressing the popular sculptures in little winter coats to keep the December chill off.

The pigeon-fancier struck under the cover of darkness to give the statues - and passers-by - an early Christmas treat.

People working in shops in Elm Row were surprised and amused to see the pigeons snugly wrapped in white winter coats.

The joker behind the stunt took enough time and care to attach the bird's jackets - which were made out of thick, white blankets - with plastic ties.

The blankets were carefully knotted at the back to ensure they did not blow away.

The blankets were spotted on Friday morning, but have since disappeared. Disappointed shop workers hope the pigeons' mysterious benefactor or whoever stole the coats will warm the pigeons up again.

Denise Davidson, 42, who works at Dofos Pet Centre, said: "It's such a shame because the pigeons are part of the area now and people really like them.

"I think the coats should be brought back. We don't have any Christmas decorations down here so this was good to have.

"It's really nice when someone makes an effort to do something for other people's benefit."

Horse headbutt restores sight

A SECOND World War veteran who was blinded in his right eye when he was hit by shrapnel can see again after being head-butted by a pedigree racehorse.

Doctors tried in vain for 64 years to restore Don Karkos's sight, until My Buddy Chimo stepped in.
Hours after the horse smacked the 82-year-old paddock security guard in exactly the same spot as the shrapnel gashed his forehead in combat in 1942, he realised his vision was returning.

"I was putting a collar around his chest, and he whacked me real hard with his head," Mr Karkos told the New York Daily News.

"Being kicked is part of the job, but I've never been hit that hard.

"I was pretty shaken up, kind of dazed. Then, later that night, I started to get the vision back in my right eye.

"It was unbelievable. I've been seeing doctors all my life, and they've always told me there is nothing can be done."

Although his vision is still not perfect, Mr Karkos has been able to see about 15ft with his damaged eye since the incident at the Monticello Raceway racecourse in New York state two months ago.

"What happened is still a mystery to me," he said.

"But I do know I had got used to not seeing things and bumping into walls, and I don't do that anymore."

Dr Douglas Lozzaro, the head of ophthalmology at Long Island College Hospital, said the blow could have knocked a dislocated lens into place.

Mr Karkos said he was eager to show his gratitude to My Buddy Chimo.

"I'm on very good terms with that horse now, and he gets special care from me," he said.

Crack-ers !

HAWTHORNE, Fla. - A North Carolina woman was arrested after complaining to a police officer that the crack cocaine she had just purchased wasn't very good, authorities said.

Eloise D. Reaves, 50, approached the Putnam County sheriff's deputy at a convenience store Friday, telling him that another man had sold her "bad crack" that contained wax and cocaine.

She pulled an alleged crack rock out of her mouth and placed it on the deputy's car for inspection, the Palatka Daily News reported for Tuesday editions.

The deputy told Reaves that she would be arrested if the crack tested positive for cocaine.

She was charged with possession of cocaine and bonded out for $1,504

Kilt sharing

Great Scot! A shortage of ceremonial kilts could leave thousands of soldiers without a stitch of plaid to wear as they parade to the skirl of the bagpipes.

Military officials said Monday that more than 5,000 Scottish soldiers are having to share their kilts because defense chiefs have not finalized a contract to buy enough of the garments to go around.

The men, who face regular tours of duty in south Iraq and Afghanistan, have just 320 kilts, or one for every 15 soldiers.

Combat troops wore the traditional Highland garb in battle as late as World War I, but now the plaid kilts are used in ceremonial uniform.

New kilts are needed for all Scottish soldiers following the August 2006 merger of centuries-old regiments into a single Royal Regiment of Scotland.

"A planned deployment of kilts will be agreed with the Royal Regiment of Scotland on a roll-out basis with ... the full program being completed by January 2008," a Ministry of Defense spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

The Ministry of Defense has refused to say who has won the contract to supply the kilts; in the meantime, soldiers will have to share.

The 320 kilts provided so far have been supplied by Argyll Bagpipes and Kilts on a trial basis. The full contract is worth up to $1.95 million, taking two years to complete and will involve 15,000 yards of fabric.

"The kilt is psychologically important for the identity of Scottish soldiers," said Lt. Col. Willy Macnair, who served in the defunct Queen's Own Highlander regiment. "It may mean that some soldiers in this (new) regiment, by the time they leave, may never have worn it."

Scottish lawmakers and veterans had opposed the merger of the traditional regiments, which saw action in both world wars and the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa.

Nighttime jello wrestlers

BY day Sandra Martinez works at a New York law firm, but by night she throws off her conservative image and becomes "Sandra Claws" - an amateur female jello wrestler.
At a grungy live music bar on New York's Lower East Side, she joins 11 other women to do battle - several for the first time - in a blue, blow-up kiddie pool decorated with orange fish and filled with warm, clear clumps of an unflavored version of the gelatin dessert.

"It (lets us do) things we probably want to do to women that we sometimes dislike, but we have a forum where we can express it in a fun and safe way," Ms Martinez, a 27-year-old business development specialist, said.

Her competitors, with day jobs including nanny and marketing manager, introduce each other by stage names - Tinsel the Bohemian Christmas Fairy, Parcel of Power, Chocolate Thunder and Backhand Betty.

"The show is done for the girls, put together by girls, as something that's a fun, friendly competition," Dana Sterling, 31, who has organised the "Amateur Female Jello Wrestling" competition once a month for the last three years, said.

Mirror village

A VILLAGE in the Italian Alps is finally basking in winter sunlight thanks to a giant mirror installed on a mountain top to reflect the sun's rays into the main square.
Viganella, with a population of less than 200, lies in a valley so steep that each year from November 11 to February 2 it hardly receives any sunshine.

That was until Mayor Pierfranco Midali decided to do something about it.

Now a five-metre high, eight-metre wide mirror tracks the sun's movement and reflects its rays into Viganella's historic piazza.

The mirror, which cost around 100,000 euros ($167,400), was unveiled yesterday to the delight of the village's residents.

"Here it's very cold in the winter and residents, many of whom are elderly, used to stay inside all the time. Now people are enjoying sitting on the bench in the square and having a chat," said Maria Velona, who works at the local town hall.

Mr Midali has been contacted by local authorities with similar problems in Canada, the United States and France.

Expensive burger

A hotel in Indonesia has created a hamburger priced at twice the country's monthly minimum wage.

The Four Seasons Hotel is dishing out the hamburgers, which costs one million Indonesian rupiahs (£57), and it's made up of Kobe beef with foie gras, Portobello mushrooms, Korean pears, and comes with a side order of chips.

According to the hotel, 20 of the burgers have been sold since they were launched earlier this month.

'One burger has 225g (half a pound) of Kobe beef,' says Erwan Ruswandi, the chief of the restaurant offering the burger. 'We import all the materials, and they are high quality [which is why] it is so expensive.'

The minimum wage in most parts of Indonesia is as low as £20 a month.

Girl gives birth at school

A 15-year-old girl has given birth at a school in Bradford.

The baby was born in a medical room at St Joseph's Catholic College in Cunliffe Road on Friday, a school spokesman said.

An ambulance was called but the girl had given birth by the time it arrived. The Year 11 pupil is not thought to have known she was pregnant.

Spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Leeds, John Grady, said the girl and her baby were "fine".

"It is something that will be talked about for some time but we are just happy that the girl is OK, the baby is OK, and hopefully they will be home this weekend and spend Christmas at home," he said.

"It is not going to help to go moralising on the whole situation. That is not important, what is important is that the child and the baby are fine and everything is being done for them and their parents."

Mr Grady said the head teacher had met the girl's mother and preparations had been made for her to return to school and continue with her education.

Vatican F.C. was a joke

A senior Roman Catholic cardinal has quashed media speculation that the Vatican might form a team to play in Italy's top football league.

On Monday the Pope's deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said Church seminaries and Catholic youth clubs in Italy had many talented footballers.

He envisaged a team clad in yellow and white, the Vatican's colours, that could challenge famous league clubs.

But he now says that he was only joking when he made the suggestion.

The Vatican's Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, got football fans here excited when he speculated that the Vatican might create its own professional football team of the same calibre as Roma, Milan or Genoa.

The Holy See has just announced it will take part in a new amateur tournament called the Clericas Cup, limited to young men studying for the priesthood in Rome.

But now, in an interview with Vatican Radio, the cardinal, a keen football fan who used to give the odd TV commentary on local games when he was Archbishop of Genoa, has dampened down speculation that the Vatican may join top league competitions.

"I was only joking," he said.

He added that the future was only in amateur matches like the competition played this week between the Pope's Swiss Guards, maintenance workers from Saint Peter's Basilica and Vatican museum security staff.

The Vatican has in fact twice fielded a side to play in yellow and white shirts - against national teams from other mini-states such as Monaco and San Marino.

Both matches ended in a goalless draw.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Håppî Christmüs from Ikea UK

IKEA has given out folding bikes to thousands of employees to encourage them to cycle to work.

The furniture giant presented them as gifts to around 9,000 members of staff Saturday at their annual Christmas breakfast event.

It is also offering employees a 15 per cent travel subsidy to help them take public transport. IKEA's UK manager, Peter Hogsted, said: "We want to create a better everyday life for the many, and do what we can to make greener living possible."

The chain's recent decision to stop handing out free plastic bags cut the volume used from its UK stores by 97 per cent.

Why I love Christmas

I heard this story on BBC Radio 2 , but couldn't find it posted anywhere .. so here's my abridged version.

A distraught mother in Lancaster, England was handed £100 by an unknown couple after her purse was stolen.

The couple ,believed to be parents themselves , having either seen the incident , or at least the aftermath, went to the ATM and withdrew £100 , even though it took them into their overdraft limit.

The mother offered to repay them , but was told to keep the money with a Merry Christmas :)

May the Good Lord bless these Samaritans.

Electic cars aren't boring

The Tesla Roadster won't hit the streets until next year. If you see one on the street, then, you should ask for a ride. Even from the passenger seat, the car feels impossibly stronger, faster, and safer than it should be. The trick is Tesla's torque curve—the arc of the motor's strength as it revs from a standstill to top speed. Compared to gasoline-engined cars, the Roadster's torque curve feels—and is—impossible. That's because the Tesla's motor is electric.

Santa is a Disney character !!!!

When James Worley paid a visit to Disney World in Florida his portly frame and white beard soon had kids asking: "Are you Santa Claus?"

Not wanting to disappoint, Mr Worley, 60, played along with some "ho-ho-hos".

But Disney officials descended, telling him to stop the impersonation or get out of the park. They said they wanted to preserve the magic of Santa.

Mr Worley took off his red hat and red shirt but said: "I look this way 24/7, 365 days a year. This is me."

Even after bowing to the request to alter his appearance, Mr Worley, from Tampa, said children continued to ask if he was Santa.

"How do you tell a little kid, 'No, go away, little kid'," Mr Worley told local television. He said Disney had told him "Santa was considered a Disney character".

Officials at Disney World's Epcot park said they had had complaints from "several guests who were very upset". Disney said it had its own Santa at Epcot and Mr Worley was "confusing" the children.

Mr Worley said he had played a jolly elf at charity events for a number of years, while his wife sometimes dressed up as Mrs Claus.

Mr Worley said he still loved Disney and Christmas.

Vatican F.C.

A senior Roman Catholic cardinal says he hopes the Vatican may one day field a football team good enough to compete with Italy's top sides.

Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone envisaged a team that might challenge famous Serie A clubs like Roma, Inter Milan and Sampdoria.

He said the Church's seminaries and Catholic youth clubs around Italy were full of talented footballers. He said they would gladly pull on the Vatican's yellow-and-white colours.

There are some very serious football fans in the Vatican, and Cardinal Bertone is one of them. He is a diehard Juventus supporter and, while Archbishop of Genoa, often commentated on Sampdoria games for local TV.

"I do not preclude the possibility that the Vatican, in the future, could put together a football team of great value, that could play on the same level as Roma, Inter Milan and Sampdoria," he said.

In a football league that has been mired in corruption and controversy, this is perhaps a timely intervention.

Any doubts about the skills at the Vatican's disposal could be answered by some very talented Brazilians studying to become priests at the Church's universities, seminaries and youth clubs.

And if football's success is dependent on money and supporters, then the Vatican is unlikely to struggle.

There are really only two questions that need to be answered about this future Vatican team.

The first is whether it should really be competing in the domestic league - it is, after all, the world's smallest state.

And then, of course, there is the football calendar. There might be some difficulty in fielding a team on a Sunday.

Off-shore wind power

The green light has been given for two offshore wind farms in the Thames Estuary, one of which will be the world's biggest when it is completed.

The government said the schemes would produce enough renewable electricity to power about one million households. The larger London Array project covers 90 sq miles (232 sq km) between Margate in Kent and Clacton, Essex.

The second wind farm, called the Thanet scheme, will cover 13.5 sq miles (35 sq km) off the north Kent coast.

The £1.5bn London Array scheme will have 341 turbines rising from the sea about 12 miles (20km) off the Kent and Essex coasts, as well as five offshore substations and four meteorological masts.

The consortium behind it is made up of Shell WindEnergy Ltd, E.ON UK Renewables and Core Ltd. The smaller £450m Thanet project will be located seven miles (11km) out from North Foreland, Kent, and will have 100 turbines.

Developed by Warwick Energy, it could be supplying electricity to about 240,000 homes by 2008.

The government said both schemes would make "a significant contribution to the aim of a five-fold increase in the UK's renewable energy resource by 2020".

Friends of the Earth said about 1% of electricity used in the UK would come from the London Array turbines.

Pet slimmers of the year

Hill’s Pet Nutrition has announced the winners of its annual Pet Slimmer of the Year competition.

The competition – which is in it’s 13th year - is run in conjunction with veterinary surgeries across Europe, to ensure weight loss is achieved gradually and healthily.

This year’s winners are Scrappy the dog – who lost an amazing 29 kg - and Benji the cat, who lost 3.5kg. These animals have not only lost weight but, more importantly, have shown a new zest for life as well. Their prizes include a year's supply of free Hill's food and pet accessories and holiday vouchers for the owner.

Regional winners of the competition included a cat and dog treated for weight loss at the Blue Cross hospital is Merton. Paris, a 14-year-old cat, was 2kg overweight at 7kg. She was put on a special diet and her owner encouraged Paris to exercise. She now weighs 4.95kg and is much healthier.

Blossom (pictured) is a ten-year-old Golden Retreiver, and weighed 40kg – 10kg over her target weight. Thanks to The Blue Cross, she is now a respectable 32.8kg.

It has long been recognised that obesity in both humans and animals can lead to arthritis, diabetes, breathlessness, reluctance to exercise and heart problems. These conditions can become very serious if the obesity is not managed appropriately.

After an initial weight check, the pet owner and healthcare professional spend time discussing the dangers of obesity and what can be done. The dog or cat is then placed onto a weight loss programme, including feeding the appropriate Hill's food, free regular weight checks, reference to support literature and entry into the Pet Slimmer of the Year competition.

Oldest paraglider in town

A 91-year-old man from East Sussex has become the oldest person in Britain to go paragliding, according to his son.

Reg Rose-Innes, from Beddingham, flew above Devil's Dyke in Sussex for a 20-minute flight at 800ft (243m).

He said after the tandem flight: "It was marvellous being up in the air. It was a gorgeous view and lovely day."

Mr Rose-Innes' son, Crispin, 57, said: "We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for my father to have a go before he bites the bullet."

The 91-year-old added that his son, Crispin, "pushed me into it."

She has some balls !

NEW DELHI, India -- An Indian runner who won a silver medal in the women's 800 meters at this month's Asian Games has failed a gender test and been stripped of the medal.

The Times of India said test results for the runner that were sent to the Indian Olympic Association showed that she "does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman."

There are no compulsory gender tests during events sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federation, but athletes can be asked to take a gender test. The medical evaluation panel usually includes a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist and internal medicine specialist.
Click here to find out more!

For years, gender verification tests were conducted at the Olympics -- but they were dropped before the 2000 games because not all women have standard female chromosomes. There have also been cases of people who have ambiguous genitalia or other congenital conditions.

Accusations of men impersonating women and competing in the Olympics have been made in the past.

Merry Christmas , now go to Jail !

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- More than 20 people who took plea bargains to avoid prison terms will celebrate a "Holbrook holiday" by spending Christmas in jail.

The terms were handed down by Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook in Franklin County, Ohio.

Under the plan, 23 people have been ordered to report for jail on Dec. 22 and stay locked up until Dec. 26. They will serve the same sentence for each year they're on probation.

Holbrook said he got the idea from a federal prison program that makes convicts on probation serve national holidays behind bars.

The judge said it's a reminder of where the people could be headed if they don't follow the rules.

Sorry it's late

Russian Post has started delivering 4.5 tonnes of letters and parcels that were sent from the United States in 1999, Reuters news agency reports.

The state-owned postal service said the delay was not its fault — a shipping container with the mail inside had languished at a port in Finland for years.

The container finally reached Russia on December 8.

“The loss of mail usually happens because of force majeure circumstances, such as natural disasters, traffic and other accidents,” Russian Post told Reuters via e-mail.

“All of the mail has been very well preserved because the container was hermetically sealed.”

Fake fur is real

An animal rights group on Friday accused Ney York store Macy's of selling a coat with a real animal fur collar even though it was advertised as fake fur.

The Humane Society of the United States said a $237.99 Sean John Hooded Snorkel Jacket for sale on Macy's Web site was described as having an "imitation rabbit fur collar."

But the group said when it purchased the coat, the label read "Made in China" and "genuine raccoon fur." The group said it is testing the fur to see if it is from a raccoon dog, a type of dog raised in China whose fur resembles that of a raccoon.

In an e-mail statement sent to Reuters, Macy's parent Federated Department Stores Inc. said the retailer has a policy against selling dog or cat fur, and any "inappropriate or inaccurately" labeled products would be removed from its stores and Web site.

"The information brought to our attention today by the Humane Society of the United States will be promptly investigated and appropriate action will be taken," Federated said in the statement.

The accusations against Macy's come after the Humane Society earlier this week said Burlington Coat Factory was using real fur on jackets that it advertised as having fake fur.

The society said Burlington Coat Factory has since agreed to pull the ads from its stores and offered refunds to any consumers who may have inadvertently purchased the real fur garments.

The Humane Society has asked Macy's to stop selling garments trimmed with fur.

Having looked at Macy's site , it appears they've changed the wording to "real rabbit fur (removeable)"

Osama killed

GAUHATI, India -- A killer elephant named after Osama bin Laden by fearful villagers was killed by sharpshooters, officials said Sunday. The animal was blamed for 14 deaths in the northeastern state of Assam.

"A licensed shooter shot and killed the 10-foot tall bull near the Behali forest reserve in northern Assam," said wildlife warden Chandan Bora.

Wildlife authorities had ordered that the elephant be shot and killed by December 31.

The order came after the bull -- dubbed "Laden" -- was blamed for the death of a woman Wednesday near the thickly wooded evergreen jungle where it lived. The elephant evaded two previous attempts by officials to kill it.

Confrontations between humans and elephants have escalated in northeastern India in recent years as the elephants' natural habitat has been destroyed, forcing the animals to forage for food in areas where humans live.

In the past five years, more than 250 people have been killed in Assam by elephants, while angry villagers killed 268 elephants during the same period, officials said.

Assam is estimated to have 5,300 Asiatic elephants.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Man thanks a traffic warden

A 78-year-old German man needed the help of a traffic warden who had given him a ticket to find his car after a day of fruitless searching.

German police in Kaiserslautern, south of Frankfurt, say the man parked his car in the town centre before an appointment with his tax adviser and then forgot where he had left it.

After wandering aimlessly for hours, he turned to the police for help.

Authorities searched in vain until late at night.

"We then sent him to a hotel and resumed the search in the morning. We asked our traffic wardens whether they had any clue about the car," a spokeswomen for Kaiserslautern police said.

"Fortunately, one woman remembered putting a ticket on his car."

21st Century Taxis

NEW YORK -- It's the cab of the future. New York's next generation of taxi cabs is coming.
There's still no guarantee the driver will speak fluent English or know where he's going.

But New York City taxi passengers should soon be able to enjoy other things about the trip.
In the coming weeks, new taxis will take to the street. They're not your father's Checker cab.

These have a digital television monitors with touch-screen device that lets riders catch up on the news, check the weather, read a restaurant review or see where they are on an electronic map.

There's also a credit card reader for those who want to charge it. And it'll calculate the tip for you.

Then again, if all you want to do is read the paper, look out the window or catch a nap, you can shut the TV system off.

The city Taxi and Limousine Commission showed off the new cabs Thursday and said they could start showing up next week. The taxi commission ordered the new features after a fare increase in 2004, but the upgrades are just beginning to appear.

WTG Magistrate Jeff Bailey !

UNION, S.C. -- Ragheem Smith has to tell the world he's not disabled.

He has to apologize, too.

Smith was ticketed for parking illegally in a handicapped space in front of a grocery store in Union, S.C.

He told a magistrate he couldn't afford the $325 fine, and couldn't miss work to spend 30 days in jail.

So, Magistrate Jeff Bailey imposed an alternative sentence.

Thursday, Smith had to stand outside the Bi-Lo grocery with a sign that read: "I am not handicapped. I just parked there, sorry."

Smith said he's learned his lesson and won't be parking in anymore handicapped spots.

Okay to dump dead gran

A TEMPORARY council worker has been sacked after he sent out a waste permit authorising a Workington man to dump his grandmother’s dismembered body parts.

Single dad-of-two Dave Straughton, 42, was horrified to receive the permit from Cumbria County Council. He applied for the permit over the phone and was asked to state what he wanted to get rid of.

Mr Straughton said he became so incensed by incessant questions from the council worker about the exact nature of his waste, that he asked if they would accept his grandmother’s dismembered body parts in black bin bags.

“I told them it was general domestic waste and was told I needed to be more specific,” he said.

“The man on the phone said they couldn’t accept that and I wouldn’t get a permit unless I could be precise. They kept pushing me to be more specific. It’s crazy - it was just a bit of household rubbish.”

Already stating he had a guitar and organ to dispose of, Mr Straughton became so annoyed that he asked if they would accept dismembered body parts in bin bags.

He said: “Amazingly, the council officer asked if that was what I was taking, replied okay and put the phone down.”

The permit, which arrived several days later, said: “The following waste can be disposed: Guitar, Organ, Grandma’s dismembered body parts in bin bags.”

Mr Straughton added: “This [permit scheme] just encourages people to fly-tip even more. They are just asking for too much information all the time. All I want to do is take rubbish to the tip. When I got the permit I thought at least the lad had a sense of humour for putting it on. It’s his bosses that don’t have a sense of humour. I feel for him if he’s lost his job.”

Cumbria County Council has confirmed that the person who dealt with the permit has had their temporary contract terminated. Mr Straughton’s grandmothers are both dead.

A statement from Cumbria County Council said Mr Straughton first applied for a van permit to take rubbish to the Clay Flatts household waste recycling centre on November 9.

It continued: “Mr Straughton made it clear that he was not a supporter of the scheme and, when asked for a description of the waste he intended to bring to site, he replied: some old musical instruments and dismembered body parts of his grandma in bin bags.

“Our call centre operative challenged this description, but Mr Straughton insisted this was the wording he wanted to appear on his permit. Regrettably, the permit was issued with this wording included. The following day this was discovered by management, investigated and the operative’s temporary contract was terminated. We then wrote to Mr Straughton to apologise and issued him with a revised permit.”

The county council has issued more than 5,000 permits since the scheme began.

Waste being dumped at centres across the county has gone down by over 20 per cent, which the authority says is saving council taxpayers several hundred thousand pounds each year.

The council also says that the scheme has led to many of its waste recycling sites from being congested with vans, many of which were fetching trade waste.

A spokesman added: “Recycling has significantly increased, our site staff have more time to help members of the public and feedback from those using the sites is overwhelmingly positive.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Nice to see the diet's working BLECH !

THE world’s fattest man has lost 25st (350lbs) after trying a celebrity diet that includes doses of fish oil.

Manuel Uribe, 41, set a record when he hit 94st (1316lbs ) and had been on “every diet under the sun” in vain.

Now he has shed almost a quarter of his weight after embarking on The Zone, an eating plan devised by US guru Dr Barry Sears.
The diet, said to have been favoured by stars including Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Aniston, relies heavily on chicken, vegetables and salad.

The fish oil supplement reportedly speeds up weight loss by activating fat-burning enzymes.

Manuel, of Monterey, Mexico, said: “I had tried everything, even spraying myself in lambs’ blood as recommended by a quack. “But this is the first diet that has worked. It is a miracle.”

Bad Parenting Pt. IV

A former Allentown woman who admitted that she ordered her 12-year old son and 13-year-old daughter to take pictures of her in seductive nude poses showed up in court today wearing jeans with "Booty" emblazoned on the left rear pocket and "Licious" on the right in what appeared to be rhinestones.

Northampton County Judge Stephen G. Baratta sent Julie Figueroa, 43, to state prison for nine months to four years for endangering the welfare of children. Figueroa's adult daughter jumped to her feet as deputy sheriffs clamped handcuffs on Figueroa's wrists. "Excuse me!" she shouted. "Can I say goodbye to my mother?"

The daughter, who did not give her name but earlier gave her age as 20, continued to sob and yell.

"Ma'am," Baratta said sharply, "Be quiet."

"This isn't fair," the daughter screamed.

A female deputy looked at Figueroa's daughter and pointed to the courtroom door. "Out," the deputy said. Figueroa's daughter continued to cry but allowed the deputy to escort her from the courtroom without incident. Baratta told another deputy he would not object to having the daughter speak with Figueroa once the woman was in a holding cell.

Figueroa pleaded guilty on Oct. 17. At that hearing the elder daughter did not provide her name, but told Baratta her mother had "mental disabilities."

Off the rails ?

A drunk man who passed out across railway tracks has been fined £560 and given 180 hours' community service.

Kevin Craswell used the track as a pillow and had his feet inches from the live rail at Epsom, Surrey.

Trains were disrupted and police filmed the former company director, 48, from a helicopter as he slept in March.

Neither the sound of the helicopter nor passing trains could wake Craswell, of Ashtead, Surrey, who admitted obstructing the railway by neglect.

Redhill magistrates heard a train went past Craswell's head, but he did not wake up.

Mice on a plane

More than 100 passengers on a Saudi plane were left panic-stricken by the unexpected appearance of furry fellow flyers - dozens of mice.

The small rodents - about 80 in total, according to a local newspaper - escaped from the bag of a man travelling on the domestic flight.

An airline official said the aircraft was at 28,000 feet (8,500m) when mice began scurrying around the cabin.

Some of the mice fell on passengers' heads, Al-Hayat newspaper reports.

The incident occurred on a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight from the capital, Riyadh, to north-eastern town of Tabuk.

The flight landed safely and the bag's owner was detained by police investigating how he managed to get the mice onto the plane.

No explanation was given for the man's live cargo.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Remotest pub for sale

It does not feature on many pub crawls, given that the nearest city is almost 900 miles away. But the Birdsville Hotel is probably Australia’s best-known watering hole and its name has become synonymous with the Outback.

Now its owners have decided to call it a day and have put the property on the market, with a successful bidder expected to offer up to £4 million.

“Sometimes you’ve got to know when enough’s enough,” said Jo Fort, who has owned the Birdsville with her husband, Kym, for 27 years. “You just have to know when you’ve done your bit.”

Located on the edge of the Simpson Desert in far western Queensland, long considered the gateway to the Outback, the Birdsville is a popular rest stop for travellers tackling the Birdsville Track. About 45,000 travellers visit the hotel every year.

Birdsville, which dates from 1884, was named by a cattle station owner who was amazed by the diversity of birdlife which inhabited the area including seagulls on inland lakes. Brisbane, the nearest city, is 870 miles (1,400km) away.

Mrs Fort said that there had been considerable interest in the sale, given the hotel’s legendary status. “People who don’t even drink beer have a beer in the front bar here,” she said.

The first European explorer to venture into this lonely area was Charles Sturt, after whom Sturt Stony Desert to the southeast of the Birdsville is named. Sturt was unambiguous in his response to the terrain, describing it as a “desperate region having no parallel on Earth”.

There has been anxiety among Birdsville’s 100 residents about the future of their only watering hole. The next- closest hotel is 124 miles away.

Can we change our name please ?

Having stoically accepted years of relentless badgering, the people of Fjuckby have finally had enough. The villagers are crossing their fingers that the National Heritage Board will see it their way and grant them a new name.

One of the main sticking points of course is that globalisation has led to rude English-language associations that the villagers could do without.

But there is a double misfortune, in that the Swedish word 'juck' embedded in the place name essentially means the same thing as Fjuckby's English component.

A delegation from the village explains its predicament in a heartfelt letter to the authorities.

"There should not be any doubt at all that, as a result of relatively new associations, the pronunciation and spelling of the place name 'Fjuckby', today arouses ridicule, teasing and hilarity in the general public," wrote inhabitant Katriina Flensburg on behalf of her fellow villagers.

"This regrettable fact engenders feelings of weariness, embarrassment and conditioned shame among villagers, who are often forced against their will to take a tiresome 'defensive stance' with regard to the name of their home town," the letter continued.

Adding that the name Fjuckby makes it difficult to sell property or run a successful business, the villagers have called for an immediate name change.

The delegation requests that the name Fjukeby be reinstated. Until as late as the 1930s this was the accepted spelling .

No pulse

A CANADIAN is believed to be the only man alive without a pulse after his heart failed and a new silent pump was embedded in his chest to keep blood flowing through his veins.

The Quebec man underwent surgery on November 23 after suffering severe heart failure due to a heart attack months earlier, Ian Popple, a spokesman for McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, said.

Due to other medical conditions, the 65-year-old patient was deemed an unsuitable candidate for a transplant, doctors said.

So, a mechanical heart was implanted as a last resort, as part of ongoing North American clinical trials of the product.

However, an "interesting feature'' of the novel device was that it provided a continuous flow of blood, so the patient had no pulse, said Mr Popple.

Surgeon Renzo Cecere said his patient was "the only individual living in Canada without a pulse and without a measurable blood pressure".

A spokesman for the mechanical heart maker Thoratec said he had not heard of a similar occurrence with some 400 patients who received the implants, about the size of a standard D flashlight battery, in Europe or the United States.

"Everyone who has received one of these has some level of heart muscle contractions,'' he said.

Mr Popple said: "It's kind of a weird concept because if anything happened to him, a car accident or something, and he was lying there on the ground, breathing, but with no pulse, it could upset people.''

"I think he was a bit unnerved himself about having no pulse, but he is very much alive,'' he said.

The patient was expected to be discharged from hospital later today.

The wife's happy I tried quitting !

Smokers trying to quit the habit were mistakenly prescribed anti-impotence drug Viagra by doctors.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the error was due to a computer glitch at two city GP practices.

When GPs selected anti-smoking pill Zyban, computers selected sildenafil, the generic name for Viagra.

A health board spokeswoman said: "At no time was patient care affected by this as all prescriptions are subject to stringent double checking."

The e-Formulary computer system used by GPs automatically selects a list of the most popular drugs when doctors fill out prescriptions.

Some patients went to the pharmacy with a prescription for the anti-impotence drug instead of tablets to help them stop smoking.

The health board was made aware of the problem on Tuesday and alerted all its GPs to the problem.

It is not thought anyone left a chemist with the wrong medication.

A health board spokeswoman said: "A computer glitch was discovered by two Glasgow GP practices that use the Glasgow e-Formulary, following a recent update of the online GPass system used throughout Scotland.

"As a precaution an advisory e-mail and memo was issued to all practices which use GPass and have installed the e-Formulary to alert staff."

Feud !

Two old ladies who are the only inhabitants of a remote Serbian village have hit the headlines after refusing to talk to each other for years after one of them insulted the other's cow.

Ruzica Markovic and Ljubica Paunovic from Serbia's smallest village of Grade, which has no electricity, running water, TV or access to radio, had lived in harmony together for decades.

But three years ago Paunovic stopped talking to her fellow villager after she overheard Markovic making a rude comment about one of her cows.

Paunovic has since contacted local newspapers about the spat and the pair now have become cult figures in the press, trading daily insults.

Markovic said: 'I am having the newspapers specially delivered to me every day just so I can find out what she's been saying about me.'

Reports of Belgium splitting are .... well, a hoax !

A TV hoax suggesting Belgium was about to be split in half has caused uproar.

The spoof item by state TV in the country's French-speaking region announced the Dutch-speaking part of the country had declared independence.

The 'Flemish parliament has unilaterally declared the independence of Flanders' and King Albert and Queen Paola have fled the country, it reported.

Fuzzy pictures showed people walking in the dark to a plane on a military airfield near Brussels and pro-monarchy demonstrators outside the royal palace.

Viewers flooded the call centre of broadcaster RTBF during Wednesday night's programme and embassies called authorities to find out what was going on.

RTBF defended the item, saying it showed the 'importance of a topical political debate about Belgium's future'.

But prime minister Guy Verhofstadt's spokesman said: 'It's a bad joke that shows bad taste. It is the task of public broadcasters to inform the public correctly, not to create confusion.'

Tensions created by the language divide in Belgium have calmed since autonomy was granted in the 1980s to the Flemish Dutch-speakers and the francophones from Wallonia and Brussels.

Broadband Nativity

Children on a small Orkney island have shared their annual festive concert with a school 544 miles across the North Sea in Norway.

The 26-pupil Shapinsay Community School has been working on the joint Christmas show with a school in Grinder.

They performed alternate scenes which were beamed by broadband across the North Sea to screens at both schools.

The aim was to allow traditional music and theatre from Scotland and Norway to be shared in a community setting.

The viewing of the 90-minute show was in doubt because the Orkney school had a standard broadband line which resulted in a loss of quality in the pictures at the Norwegian end.

BT Scotland stepped in with an early Christmas gift for the Orcadians - funding an upgrade to super-fast broadband for a year, bringing the Shapinsay schoolchildren's show into sharp focus in Scandinavia.

The show's finale featured the Norwegians singing Away In A Manger in English while the Orcadians respond with En Stjerne Skinner I Natt in Norwegian.

Lend us an arm

The long arms of the world's tallest man reached in and saved two dolphins by pulling out plastic from their stomachs, state media and an aquarium official said Thursday.

The dolphins got sick after nibbling on plastic from the edge of their pool at an aquarium in Liaoning province. Attempts to use surgical instruments to remove the plastic failed because the dolphins' stomachs contracted in response to the instruments, the China Daily newspaper reported.

Veterinarians then decided to ask for help from Bao Xishun, a 7-foot-9 herdsman from Inner Mongolia with 41.7-inch arms, state media said.

Bao, 54, was confirmed last year by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's tallest living man.

Chen Lujun, the manager of the Royal Jidi Ocean World aquarium, told The Associated Press that the shape of the dolphins' stomachs made it difficult to push an instrument very far in without hurting the animals. People with shorter arms could not reach the plastic, he said.

"When we failed to get the objects out we sought the help of Bao Xishun from Inner Mongolia and he did it successfully yesterday," Chen said. "The two dolphins are in very good condition now."

Photographs showed the jaws of one of the dolphins being held back by towels so Bao could reach inside the animal without being bitten.

"Some very small plastic pieces are still left in the dolphins' stomachs," Zhu Xiaoling, a local doctor, told Xinhua. "However the dolphins will be able to digest these and are expected to recover soon."

2006 JibJab Review


Palm Beach County police and sheriff's deputies spent the morning catching drivers allegedly running red lights at busy intersections in West Palm Beach -- all while dressed in drag.

Police told TV station WPBF that 6-foot-tall, 250-pound "Officer Delicious," who in real life is Officer Terry Golden, attracted a lot of attention while dressed as a woman during the Red Light Runner campaign.

Officer Delicious stood at the intersection and radioed fellow officers down the street, who would pull over violators.

Authorities reported they pulled over and ticketed 77 drivers who ran red lights in just under 90 minutes. Each driver received a ticket for $185.50, meaning Palm Beach County pulled in $14,283.50 in all.

Police said Officer Dave Oxley also played along in the sting, dressing up as homeless-eccentric "Officer Looney."

Organizers told WPBF they hope the operation will send a strong message to motorists to think twice about running red lights.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Percy the snowman found

Kidnappers abducted an eight-foot tall snowman called Percy from outside Cardiff's Millenium Stadium and dumped him in a river – where he was found after desperate appeals for Percy's safe return.

Police had released CCTV footage of Percy's last known movements, as a gang dragged him away from his station at the gates of the Blizzard Funderworld theme park – and then pushed him towards the nearby River Taff.

Percy was found floating amidst flotsam and jetsam in Cardiff Bay, and recovered by the Cardiff Harbour authority. Blizzard Funderworld spokesman Edward Mellors said he had been 'beaten to an almost helpless slush.'

He had suffered extensive stomach trauma, although his head and bright pink top hat were relatively undamaged.

Driven to distraction

It was just too good a book to put down ... and the drive to the Christchurch airport was such a long one. So the doctor propped open her book and headed out of town.

Timaru doctor Rosalind Antoinette Charmaine Allen-Narker, 62, was fined $400 for careless driving this week. Judge Murray Abbott suggested she was lucky not to have been facing a far more serious charge.

Allen-Narker, a rehabilitation doctor, did not appear in the Timaru District Court, but the summary of facts read to the court told the story. Go back to August 28. The doctor, driving a Fiat Uno with the plate DOC1, is driving north between Timaru and Christchurch.

A motorist reports the vehicle drifting from side to side in the northbound lane, the wheels on the driver's side sometimes travelling along the centre line. At times the Fiat was travelling at 100kmh, then its speed would fluctuate to between 85kmh and 95kmh.

Another driver told police of seeing Allen-Narker reading a book which she had sitting in the middle of the steering wheel. Police pulled the doctor over near Chertsey shortly after 10am.

Allen-Narker was still reading her book. It was lying open on her lap.

Yes, she admitted she had been reading while driving. Her explanation? She had only bought the book that morning and it was just too good to put down.

As she was driving to Christchurch Airport and had a lot of spare time, she thought she might take the journey slowly, reading on the way.

"She's lucky she's not rehabilitating herself," the judge commented.

There was one thing missing from the police file – the title of the book which was such an engrossing read.

Dinner with the governor = $1

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Call it a sign of the times for Louisiana's embattled governor: A chance to dine with Gov. Kathleen Blanco fetched a winning bid of $1 at a recent fundraising auction hosted by a group of business leaders.

The president of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, in northeastern Louisiana, said she called Blanco's office Tuesday to apologize for a "poor joke gone awry."

"It's something we deeply regret," chamber president Sue Edmunds said Wednesday. "Our organization has worked very well with the governor. We have been pleased with her efforts on behalf of this community."

Dinner with Blanco was the last item up for bid at the fundraising auction last week. Edmunds said the bidding opened at $1,000 and dropped to $500 before the auctioneer accepted a $1 bid from bank executive Malcolm Maddox, a regional chairman for Capital One.

Others were trying to bid on the dinner when the bidding abruptly closed, according to Edmunds.

"We were all stunned," she added. "It was at the end of the auction, so there was no way to go back and amend that."

Edmunds said an apologetic Maddox came forward Monday to donate $1,000 to the chamber. He won't be dining at the governor's mansion, however. Edmunds said a chamber official will be going in Maddox's place.

World's smallest dog

LARGO, Fla. - Brandy the Chihuahua is 6 inches long and weighs less that two pounds. She's not allowed on the furniture because if she jumped off, she'd break. She's also, according the Guinness, officially the Smallest Dog in the World.

Brandy's owner, Paulette Keller, carries her around in a sheepskin-lined purse. For fun, she dresses her in a pink Hawaiian dress. You don't pet Brandy so much as rub her with a thumb and forefinger.

Brandy made the transformation from Keller's lap ornament to the Smallest Dog in the World over a year ago. The breeder told Keller she thought Brandy was smaller than the smallest dog in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Keller took Brandy to the vet, who signed papers listing her vital statistics.

So in the 2006 Guinness book, there is bug-eyed Brandy, on the same page with the dog who can fit five tennis balls in its mouth.

The perks so far have been few. Last year, the Pedigree dog food company paid to fly Ron and Paulette Keller to Reno, where Brandy was paired with one of the largest dogs in the world for a three-day exhibit at a casino.

Keller says she doesn't care about the attention.

"I just love her," she told the St. Petersburg Times. "It wouldn't matter if she's the smallest. She's just a really sweet dog."


A grocery store manager was struck in the head with a 10-pound sack of potatoes by a customer angry about having to wait in line, police say. Police in Liberty, near Youngstown in northeast Ohio, say a 59-year-old woman from Youngstown is suspected in the attack.

Scott Renzenbrink, 45, told police a clerk having problems with a customer called him to the register. The customer told him she was upset about the wait and struck the manager in the back of head with the potatoes when he was walking away after the conversation, according to police.

A witness followed the woman out to the parking lot and took down her license plate number.

Renzenbrink, who was not seriously hurt in the attack last Thursday, identified the woman by a Bureau of Motor Vehicles photo. He may file assault charges.

Camel sacrifice

Some people celebrate success at work with a drink or a meal at their favourite restaurant.

But for a group of workers in Turkey their decision to sacrifice a camel to mark a job well done could end up costing them their jobs.

Turkish Airlines was furious to discover that some of its maintenance staff had slaughtered the beast at Istanbul airport and distributed about 700 kilos (1,540 pounds) of camel meat among themselves.

The workers pitched in to buy the camel to celebrate the long-awaited dispatch to Britain of the last of eleven RJ100 aircraft which the airline has decided to leave out of its own fleet following a series of accidents.

Their actions came to light when several newspapers ran the story along with photographs of the camel being led into the airport grounds and of workers holding up bloody pieces of meat after the sacrifice.

Turkish Airlines, which was accepted last week into the Lufthansa-led Star Alliance, said in a brief statement that it had temporarily suspended the head of the maintenance department while an investigation takes place.

Vedat Muftuoglu, the Ataturk Airport manager, said that although the staff involved had apologised, disciplinary action would be taken.

"No one should do such a thing just because an airliner has rid itself of some aircraft," he told the Anatolia news agency.

Sell out

Tickets for a pop concert to mark the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death sold out in minutes on Wednesday, organizers said.
The concert, organized by Diana's sons Princes Harry and William, will take place at the new Wembley stadium in London next July and feature acts including
Elton John, Duran Duran and Pharrell Williams (NFI who he is).

"The initial allocation of tickets has now been sold and we hope more tickets will be available at a later date," said a spokeswoman for the princes.

She added that around 22,500 tickets were sold in 20 minutes on Wednesday, and that the capacity for the event was likely to be about 60,000. More tickets may go on sale at a later date via the concert's Web site

The face value of tickets is 45 pounds ($89) each, although they attracted bids of up to 500 pounds each on the online auction site early on Wednesday.

EBay, which has been criticized in the past when tickets to charity concerts have appeared on its site, later promised to remove them as soon as possible "as a mark of respect for the memory of the late Diana."

Spend a penny ?

With fresh flowers, lounge music and scented candles, it is the public lavatory that women dream about.

But although this ladies' powder room promises to change the way you spend a penny, it has also changed the price - to £5.

Sited on Oxford Street, the luxury loos have cubicles twice the normal size, giving women enough room to change their clothes or dump their shopping bags.

Beauty products, hair dryers and hair straighteners are available and there is a staff member to every two customers. Hand and foot massages and makeovers are also on offer.

Former property developer Elaine Gennard, 44, came up with the idea. She said: 'A couple of years ago I was shopping in Central London with my husband and could not find one for love nor money.

'It took me 20 minutes to negotiate my way around a department store and even then the facilities were pretty bleak.

'I decided there had to be a better alternative for women who want to have a nice experience.

'We ladies tend to take longer than men in the toilets and would rather wait until we get home than go to a revolting, smelly loo.

Our market research tells us women will pay £5 to use a toilet because they get all the ancillary services as well.

'It is about making women feel special and being able to sit back, relax and freshen up in a luxurious setting.'

The site, opposite Selfridges, cost more than £1million to revamp. It aims to revive the concept of a Victorian powder room. A female bouncer mans the door and a hand and face wipe is given to women when they pay the entry fee.

Shoppers are escorted into a white powder and reception room with flowers, music and candles.

One of four attendants then leads the way to a cubicle 4ft by 8ft. It is scrubbed by one of six cleaners after every visitor.

Russian heatwave

Russia is experiencing its warmest December on record.

Perhaps only in Moscow could a top temperature of seven degrees (44F) be described as a heatwave.

But in the middle of December, it is unheard of in the Russian capital.

It hit that high last week and is expected to again this weekend.

Bears in the Moscow Zoo have not yet been able to hibernate and mushrooms are again flourishing in the forests.

Scientists are reluctant to link the extraordinary weather to global warming, but it has not stopped most of the locals, who say a few extra degrees of warmth might not be a bad thing for Russia.

LA gets $500,000 siblings $1

A 79-year-old man has reportedly given more than $500,000 to the people of Los Angeles in his will, but snubbed his five siblings by leaving them only $US1 each.

The Los Angeles Times reported Theodore DiFiore died in 1990 leaving most of his assets, which included an old gas filling station and an auto repair shop, to the people of Los Angeles.

"I think he was just a ornery guy ... and why he chose the city of Los Angeles, I don't have any idea," said lawyer Robert Pasquinelli, who handled the case.

"It was an interesting probate in that for years the city didn't know what to do with this."

The Times reports Mr DiFiore's properties in San Jose were run-down and needed renovation before being sold, and that is the reason Los Angeles is only getting the money now.