Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Plank your lucky stars

Rachael Ray swears she is one lucky lady. A heavy scaffolding plank plunging through a skylight missed her by centimetres as she sat at her desk in Wellington.

"It could have killed me," she said yesterday.

The three-metre (10ft) plank fell through the plastic skylight in the Havana Coffee Works building in Wigan St.

Miss Ray, cafe manager for Fidel's, was working on staff wages when the plank thudded beside her.

Havana Bar company director Chris Wagstaff was at another desk in the office and a third person was in the doorway.

"We didn't realise what was happening till it came through," Miss Ray said. "I swore. We all swore. What else do you do?"

The plank was dropped by a worker at the neighbouring construction site for the Hotel Wellington extension. The Labour Department is investigating.

Wellington Cuba Construction – jointly owned by Rex Nicholls, husband of Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast, and Phil McGaveston – is behind the hotel development.

Tim Holmes, managing director of contractor Holmes Construction, said a worker had been erecting scaffolding at the site's boundary when a gust of wind caught the plank. He lost his balance and it slipped from his hands.

The man, from a scaffolding company working for Holmes as subcontractors, was between 7m and 8m above the ground at the time.

Both companies were reviewing safety procedures, he said.

Labour Department spokesman Alan Cooper said the department had investigated a complaint from Havana earlier this month. It had been satisfied the construction company was meeting health and safety obligations "but we will be reviewing the company's systems in light of this incident".

Butt busters

May the Butt Force be with you. Australia's largest city, Sydney, has had enough of careless smokers who dispose of their butts in the street.

Coinciding with World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday, a team of 30 plain-clothed rangers were prowling Sydney streets as part of an anti-smoking and litter crackdown.

Nicknamed by local media as "Butt Busters" and the "Butt Force", the rangers have been issuing fines of $A60 (£25) for smokers who dump their butts in the streets instead of in designated bins.

The fine jumps to $A200 for smokers who dump lit cigarettes.

Monica Barone, acting chief executive of the harbourside city, said 45 smokers had been fined in the past week for indiscriminate cigarette littering.

She said more than 15,000 butts were discarded daily in the city in 2005, many of which find their way through stormwater drains into world-famous Sydney Harbour.

"The new hardline approach, which we do not apologise for, is designed to reduce millions of cigarette butts that are littered across the city every day to the detriment of our wonderful waterways," Barone said in a statement.

Officials estimate that about 32 billion butts were discarded inappropriately around Australia in 2005.

Some of those caught in the act were taking the fines on the chin, local media said.

"It's a dirty, rotten habit and I should've put it in the bin," the Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted one unidentified puffer as saying.

Chew on this

Pandemonium broke out in Taiwan's parliament yesterday, when deputies attacked a woman colleague for snatching and trying to eat a proposal on opening direct transport links with China in an attempt to stop a vote on the issue.

Lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) charged toward the podium and protested noisily to prevent the review of an opposition proposal seeking an end to decades-old curbs on direct air and shipping links with China.

Amid the chaos, DPP deputy Wang Shu-hui snatched the written proposal from an opposition legislator and shoved it into her mouth, television news footage showed.

Cop gives up doughnuts , yeah right!

What kind of officer swears off doughnuts for a year?

In this case, one who ate 13 of them in three minutes, good enough to earn the title of world champion doughnut-eating officer.

Walworth County Jail Training Sgt. Howard Sawyers, who accomplished the feat last month at a law enforcement convention, said since then he has not been in a hurry to have another one.

Sawyers finished third in the competition last year but said he discovered a championship technique this year -- dunking the doughnuts in water to make them soggy.

"You rip 'em, you dunk them, and you shove," he said.

But doesn't a soaked doughnut lose its taste?

"When you have 13 doughnuts in three minutes, you're not worried too much about taste," Sawyers said.

Besides helping to reinforce a good-natured stereotype of officers' snacking habits, he said the win netted him a free street-survival training seminar and a Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistol.

Straight A student good ,smoker BAD

Getting into a university in North Korea will come with a new requirement for students - giving up smoking.

For years, the communist country has been staging an anti-smoking campaign, with leader Kim Jong Il even calling smokers one of the "three main fools of the 21st century," along with people ignorant of music and computers.

The crackdown on smoking is now spreading to academia, according to a Wednesday report by the country's official media.

North Korea "is briskly proceeding anti-smoking activities, including a measure to strip smokers of their rights to go to university," the North's Korean Central News Agency said.

The current smoking rate in the North is down by about 15 per cent from 2000, and the country seeks to lower it below 30 per cent by 2010, according to KCNA, citing North Korean Vice Public Health Minister Choe Chang Sik.

The communist country has passed a cigarette control law, laying a legal basis necessary for anti-smoking campaigns, KCNA said. No further details were given.

Experts in South Korea estimate more than 40 per cent of North Korea's 22 million people light up regularly, compared to about 33 per cent in the South.

Last year, Korea Pugang Pharmaceutic Co., a Pyongyang-based drug firm, claimed to have developed a candy, made with rare medicinal herbs, that suppresses the desire to smoke cigarettes and heals smoking-related diseases.

North Korea is widely believed to be involved in producing counterfeit cigarettes, as well as counterfeit U.S. bank notes.

Oops ,someone's gonna be in deep shit

A couple sat by their daughter's hospital bedside for weeks after an auto accident until she came out of a coma and they realized she was not their daughter after all, but another blond-haired young woman injured in the wreck.

Their own daughter, it turned out, was dead and buried.

In a tragic mix-up, one family had been incorrectly told their daughter had died in the April 26 crash in Indiana, and another was erroneously informed their daughter was in a coma.

The two young women - both students at Indiana's Taylor University - looked remarkably alike, and the one in a coma suffered facial swelling, broken bones and cuts and bruises, and was in a neck brace.

The family of Laura VanRyn, 22, disclosed the mix-up Wednesday on a Web log that they had used to record detailed updates on the young woman's recovery.

"Our hearts are aching as we have learned that the young woman we have been taking care of over the past five weeks has not been our dear Laura, but instead a fellow Taylor student of hers, Whitney Cerak," the VanRyns said on the blog.

The family said that as the young woman began regaining consciousness at a rehabilitation centre in Grand Rapids, Mich., she said things that made them question her identity.

As recently as Monday, the VanRyns reported: "While certain things seem to be coming back to her, she still has times where she'll say things that don't make much sense."

In a statement, the two families said they took their concerns to hospital officials, and dental records confirmed that the injured woman was Whitney Cerak.

Officials at Taylor University, an evangelical Christian college in Upland, Ind., about 100 kilometres from Indianapolis, confirmed the case of mistaken identity.

"We rejoice with the Ceraks. We grieve with the VanRyns," said Taylor spokesman Jim Garringer. He said the Grant County coroner notified the school of the error.

Four Taylor students and an employee were killed when their van was struck by a tractor-trailer that had drifted across a highway median. Those in the van worked for Taylor's dining services and were preparing for a banquet for the inauguration of a new president of the 1,850-student school.

It was not clear who mistakenly identified the victims or how the error happened. The coroner's office did not immediately return a call. But the VanRyns, who are from Caledonia, Mich., said their daughter and Cerak, 18, of Gaylord, Mich., bore an "uncanny resemblance."

Most of the crash victims had funerals with closed caskets. A month ago, an overflow crowd of more than 1,400 people turned out for what they thought was Cerak's funeral in Gaylord, Mich.

The VanRyn family used the blog to provide progress reports on the young woman, reporting, example, that her hair was in pigtails or braids, that she managed to feed herself some applesauce, that she played a game of "connect four" with one of the therapists and did quite well, and that she performed an exercise in which her therapist gave her a word and she had to supply the word's opposite.

A call to the VanRyns was not immediately returned. A lawyer for the Cerak family did not return a call either.

Prosecutors are weighing criminal charges against the truck driver, saying he may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

For flags sake !

Patriotic English fans who attach flags to their cars could be in trouble with the police.

Motorists in rural Hampshire have been warned their World Cup flags are frightening the horses.

"It is commendable that the nation is getting behind their football team, but I do have concerns that motorists may cause an animal to bolt and possibly cause injury to itself, its rider or innocent passers-by," said Police Constable Derek Grist.

Thousands of cars and vans across the country are sporting the English flag, often attached to the radio antenna, in the run-up to the World Cup which starts in Germany on June 9.

Grist, the local force's Equine Liaison Officer, said drivers could face assault charges if their flag flew off and struck a pedestrian or a cyclist and hurt them.

"We are not trying to be killjoys. All we ask for is a little bit of consideration," he said in a statement.

Duke of Hazard

For half a century, the blunt spoken Duke of Edinburgh has turned political incorrectness into an art form, peppering royal tours with ethnic slurs about slitty eyes, pot bellies and booze.

Now, to celebrate the prince's 85th birthday, two reporters have compiled "Duke of Hazard: The Wit and Wisdom of Prince Philip". Phil Dampier and Ashley Walton had no shortage of material.

"He really is my favourite royal," Dampier told Reuters in an interview to mark the book's publication on Wednesday by Book Guild Publishing.

"He is one of a kind and certainly speaks his mind. I like the fact he doesn't care what people think of him. That is refreshing in this day and age. We had fun compiling it."

Buckingham Palace was not amused.

Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, the prince's private secretary, said: "If he had been as acerbic as presented in the book, he wouldn't have kept the staff that he has ... These extracts are not indicative of the man as a whole."

But Dampier said it was an affectionate portrayal, arguing: "He has a down-to-earth view of life and a magnificent sense of humour."

Asked to pick his favourite faux pas, Dampier chose Kenya's independence ceremony in 1963 when Philip represented Britain.

As the Union Jack was about to be hauled down, he turned to Kenyan independence leader Jomo Kenyatta and asked: "Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

Dampier singled out another favourite.

"In 1967 he was asked if he would like to go to Moscow to help thaw out the Cold War. He replied 'I would very much like to go to Russia -- although the bastards murdered half my family.'"

The last surviving members of the Russian royal family were allegedly executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918. Philip is a direct descendant of Tsarina Alexandra who died alongside her husband Tsar Nicholas II and their children.

But no corner of the world is safe from Prince Philip.

On a trip to China in the 1980s, he warned British students: "You'll get slitty eyes if you stay too long." And while touring Australia in 2002, he asked an Aborigine whether they still threw spears at each other.

In Oban, Scotland, in 1995 he asked a driving instructor: "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the (driving) test?"

In 1993, Philip told a Briton he met in Hungary: "You can't have been here that long -- you haven't got a pot belly."

And age certainly has not softened his tongue.

In a weekend interview with the Daily Telegraph, he complained that the opening and closing ceremonies at the Olympics were "absolute bloody nuisances."

35,000 fan flag

Ben Lindley is in the breezy East Stand of Old Trafford. In one hand he holds a bunch of red and white plastic rectangles.

He's draping them over the back of seats while his partner on the job, Anne-Marie Mockridge, has an armful of elastic bands at the ready.

They're here nine hours before kick-off for Raise the Flag, an initiative by England fans, before their team face Hungary in a World Cup warm-up friendly.

They're spending the day with up to 50 other fans, putting 17,500 of the plastic pieces at each end of the ground.

When the two teams stand on the pitch at 8pm to sing their national anthems, 35,000 England fans will hold the pieces aloft to form a giant St George's flag.

"When you see the flag held up it gives you pride," says Ben thumping his chest. "I'm England through and through and I'm proud of it."

Anne-Marie agrees and admits she'd rather be here than at the pre-match build up in the pub.

"It's gobsmacking when you stand and watch it being lifted up. You get such a lump in your throat."

The irony about this exercise is not lost on organisers. It is being held on the day that those serving banning orders against travelling to the World Cup are handing in their passports.

Englandfans spokesman Mark Perryman had the idea under sourer circumstances, as coins rained down on him from Italian fans at an England away game in Rome in 1997.

Italian Ultra supporters - not the usual role models - were holding their flag formation aloft. Mark thought a similar display could be a way to demonstrate the positive side of England supporters.

Now every England home game features Raise the Flag and he hopes it could be a feature in the World Cup.

"It's something you can become part of," he says. "A symbol of pride in your team. A symbol of the fans and the flag coming together."

One hour in, and the top tier of the East Stand is covered in flag pieces.

Helper Malcolm Dunn, an avid Manchester United and England follower, is hopeful Raising the Flag will be a force for good.

Recalling the violence which has marred past overseas tournaments, he says: "It's important to give a positive reflection of England football fans."

"Our press has given us a bad press which has sometimes been unjustified. We have a problem but we are working hard to eradicate it."

Lunchtime. Old Trafford is filling up nicely - not with fans but with flag pieces.

Ancient Roman discovery

Italian archaeologists digging in the Roman Forum have found a well-preserved skeleton of a woman who lived 3,000 years ago.

The astonishing fact about this discovery is that it dates back to at least 300 years before the traditional date of the founding of Rome, 753 BC.

It has long been known that Bronze Age people were living on the site where the ancient Romans founded their city.

But few traces of their society have ever been brought to light.

Anna De Santis, who took part in the dig, said the woman whose bones have been found was aged about 30 when she died.

She was evidently of high birth, for she was wearing an amber necklace with a gold pendant, a bronze hair-fastener and a bronze ring on one of her fingers.

The archaeologists also found four bronze clasps, two of which may have been used to hold her shroud in place.

It was the custom for most prehistoric ancestors of the ancient Romans to cremate their dead and place their ashes in funerary urns.

Experts in Roman pre-history are interested that the new burial site, not far from the forum where Caesar's body was burned after his assassination 1,000 years later, marks a transition in social habits, from cremation - the customary form of burial at that period of pre-history - to burial in the ground.

Fuel for the future (Once they iron out the bugs)

Chocoholic germs can provide hydrogen, the clean-burning energy of the future, New Scientist reports.

British scientists fed Escherichia coli bacteria a diluted mix of waste caramel and nougat.

The germs tucked into the sugar and in the process produced hydrogen, using their own enzyme, called hydrogenase.

The hydrogen was used to power a fuel cell, generating enough electricity to drive a small fan.

The experiment has applications far beyond the lab.

Waste chocolate, instead of being thrown away by confectionary companies, could be turned into hydrogen and used to help power their factories or sold to energy companies.

The British team, led by Lynne Mackaskie at the University of Birmingham, central England, got the same bacteria to tuck into catalytic converters from old cars.

The bacteria cleverly recovered the precious metal palladium after they were immersed in a vat with hydrogen and liquid waste from spent converters.

The work is reported in full in the specialist journal, Biochemical Society Transactions.

Hotel bans the F word

A British hotel is offering football-free breaks for "soccer widows" desperate to escape wall-to-wall coverage of the World Cup.

Any guest who overhears a member of staff mentioning the f-word ("football") will be given a free glass of champagne.

"The bookings are starting to stream in," said Mike Bevans, manager of the Linthwaite House Hotel in the picturesque Lakes District, one of Britain's prime tourist destinations.

The sport supplements are being taken out of daily newspapers and, instead of blanket TV coverage of the big games, guests will be offered a string of romantic movies on DVD such as Dirty Dancing and Pretty Woman.

The World Cup finals in Germany start on June 9, with the final in Berlin on July 9.

Ukraine's Prime Minister has urged bosses to adjust the working day or set up television sets so staff can watch the national side open their World Cup campaign against Spain on June 14.

"On June 14 at 4:00pm we can expect an epidemic of unknown diseases. People will call in sick en masse," Yuri Yekhanurov told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

"We recommend all administrators adjust the working day by starting earlier or installing television sets where possible. Do what you can to make it possible for people to watch soccer."

Ukraine are making their first appearance in the World Cup finals.

They are drawn in Group H with Spain, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

Coach Oleh Blokhin has set his team's minimum target as reaching the tournament's second round.

Some wave !

A group of surfers in Sydney claims to have broken a world record for the largest number of riders on a single wave.

Organiser Matt Grainger says 46 people caught the wave at Manly Beach this afternoon.

"It can be hard because you've got to tell everyone not worry about getting the best wave," he said.

"It's about just getting the wave and standing up, and once we got that through their heads we worked it out."

A video of the event will now be sent to Ireland for consideration in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Listen to the Mona Lisa

Even though she won't reveal the secret behind her enigmatic smile, people now have a chance to actually hear Mona Lisa's voice which, thanks to the wonders of modern science, has been brought to life.

Dr Matsumi Suzuki, the world's foremost acoustics expert who is credited with not only solving murders but also identifying Osama Bin Laden's voice with the help of voiceprinting technology, has utilized the state-of-the-art technology to recreate Mona Lisa's voice, some 500 years after her death, by using her physical features to deduce what she would have sounded like.

Using the length of her finger to estimate her height to be about 5ft 6in, Dr Suzuki and his team first figured out various physical features such as the structure of her skull, the size of her bones and the volume of her nose and throat.

After this, by using a computer programme with a database of more than 150,000 voices, the team matched her physical features to a voiceprint.

Using this pattern of frequencies, described as the measurable elements of a human voice, based on the shape of the speaker's mouth and throat, the computer programme was then able to create a synthesised voice for the Mona Lisa.

Dr Suzuki said that the technology had given him the know-how of how to create a voice that was extremely close to the real thing.

"Knowing her bone frame I can make her voice. We believe we were able to create voices that are very close to the real voices," the Daily Mail quoted him, as saying.

People can now here the Mona Lisa announce in Italian: "I'm Elizabeth, also known as Mona Lisa. I am a lady with a smile, filled with a profound riddle."

Dr Suzuki has also used this technology to recreate the voice of the Mona Lisa's creator Leonardo Da Vinci, who can be heard saying: "The Mona Lisa is my greatest masterpiece".

I don't read Japanese but here's Dr Suzuki's site.......

Mystery of the ring

A woman says she's recovered a stolen class ring that was purportedly spit up from a Kentucky catfish. Lisa Peterson, an Ammon resident who moved from Ohio to Idaho several years ago, says her "Class of '84" ring from Franklin Heights High School in Columbus was stolen in 1991.

She'd given up on ever finding it _ until several weeks ago, when she received a phone call from a Columbus television station that said the ring had been found by a fisherman angling for catfish in a murky pond in Augusta, Ky.

At first, she was skeptical, Peterson said.

"I thought, this is just an incredible fish story," she told the Post Register, about the initial phone call. "But they knew so much that I couldn't disbelieve it."

Wayne Nickerson, the fisherman, was collecting bait during a fishing excursion in northcentral Kentucky when he discovered the ring in the bottom of his live bait trap. The fishing area, called Long Stretch, is known for illicit dumping _ in recent years, Nickerson says he's caught a sleeping bag in the fishing hole.

Nickerson, who now believes a catfish scavenging on the pond bottom spit the ring into his bait trap, says at first he was worried about finding the ring engraved "Lisa Marie Certain, Class of '84." He figured he might be dealing with a murder.

"I thought there may be a body," he said.

He called the local Augusta police chief, Col. Greg Cummins, to investigate. Cummins found Lisa Certain's picture at a Franklin Heights alumni Web site _ along with the ominous description "missing in action." Classmates who were contacted said they hadn't heard from Lisa Certain in years.

Like Nickerson, Cummins feared the worst.

"I thought, the worst-case scenario is that there is a body with that ring," he said.

After the initial search turned up few leads, Cummins contacted television station WKRC in Cincinnati to broadcast Certain's photo. Finally, Columbus station WBNS-TV tracked down Certain to Ammon, where she's living under her married name, Peterson.

"The first person I heard from was the Channel 10 reporter from Columbus," Peterson said.

After the initial contact, she spoke with Cummins at the Augusta Police Department on May 2, and the ring was mailed to her the following day.

Cummins is relieved Peterson is safe _ he was dreading the prospect of dragging the pond for a body. The only mystery left: How did the ring end up miles from Columbus, in a pond, 15 years after it was stolen?

"It could have been there for days, maybe years," Cummins said.

Wire thief electrocuted

LANGLEY, Vancouver - A 35-year-old Surrey man trying to steal copper wire was electrocuted when he cut through a high-voltage line near a BC Hydro substation in Langley, police said Monday.

"Last year we had a fellow who lost two fingers trying to steal Telus wires and now we've got a death," Langley RCMP Cpl. Diane Blain said of the growing problem of metal theft across the Lower Mainland.

"They'll steal anything that is metal," Blain said. "It has been a problem we have been battling for a long time."

Electrical and telephone wires are often stolen and sold to scrap metal dealers for the value of the copper.

"It is on the increase," BC Hydro official Tarina Palmer said of copper wire thefts. "Copper prices are the highest they've been for some time."

The price of copper doubled this year, hitting a record $4.04 US apound, up from $1.98 US on Jan. 1.

At about 3 a.m. Monday, a BC Hydro worker investigating a power failure in Langley found the dead man near a hydro substation at 273 Street and Gloucester Way. The man's body was discovered in an underground junction box, which had been locked.

A preliminary investigation by police revealed the man was attempting to cut a live wire and was electrocuted by about 14,000 volts.

The man was known to police and had a criminal record. His name will be released after his family has been notified, police said.

Langley RCMP suggested one way to solve the metal theft problem is for businesses to refuse to buy from suspected thieves.

Scrap-metal dealers often say they don't know something is stolen but they should be suspicious about a person bringing in metal using a stolen Wal-Mart shopping cart, Blain said.

"We're asking the businesses not to buy from people pushing a shopping cart," she said.

Langley RCMP has asked metal recycling business owners to prevent the re-sale of stolen metal by following these simple guidelines: Ask the seller for identification; record names, addresses and other contact information; pay by cheque, if possible; buy only from reputable dealers; keep a record of all transactions and refuse any suspicious transactions, which should be reported to police.

Richmond RCMP also reported a metal theft early Sunday -- a $3,000 industrial-style stainless steel barbecue was taken from the lacrosse box at Steveston Park. It had been borrowed by the local Rotary club from Save-on-Foods and was being used by the concession staff at the Const. Jimmy Ng Memorial Street Hockey Tournament.

It had been secured the previous night by a chain and locked padlock.

The suspects likely used boltcutters to cut the lock or chain. The BBQ weighed more than 136 kilograms and required a truck and at least four people to move it, said Richmond Cpl. Peter Thiessen.

"It is quite likely that this theft is related to the large number of metal thefts occurring in the Lower Mainland and will be sold to a metal salvage yard," he said.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Little Debbie leads to thieves

A trio of hungry burglars helped their own undoing by leaving a trail of snack wrappers after stealing six packages of instant lottery tickets from a convenience store.

"This was a combination of good police work and a stupid criminal," said Sgt. Tom Connellan, a police spokesman.

The burglars smashed a window early Wednesday at a convenience store and fled with the lottery tickets and some Little Debbie Coffee Cake snacks. Officer James Johnson followed a trail of discarded wrappers to a nearby apartment building, where he arrested the trio.

Charged with burglary, grand larceny and criminal mischief were Curtis Hudgins, 17, Adrian Huddleston, 20, and a 15-year-old boy whose name was withheld because of his age.

Pot pics pickle

An east Georgia man landed in jail after photographing his healthy plants and going to local drug store to have the pictures developed.

His bumper crop was marijuana, according to police, who arrested him as he went to pick the photos up.

Statesboro Police Capt. L. C. Williams said Byron Charles Mattheeussen, 21, was charged Tuesday with manufacturing marijuana, manufacturing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a housing project, and possession of drug related objects.

Williams said a photo lab technician called police after seeing the subject of the photos. Officers confirmed the plants in the pictures were marijuana, he said.

After getting a search warrant, he said, police found 42 suspected marijuana plants growing in and around the residence, along with tools, literature on growing marijuana and pot-smoking paraphernalia.

Mattheeussen was taken to the Bulloch County Jail and issued an $8,000 property bond.

Free TVs for Indians poor

The government of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is floating a global tender for colour television sets that will be given free to tens of thousands of poor people.

New state Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said the 35cm TV sets, which he had promised to people living below the poverty line in the run-up to local assembly elections this month, would be distributed from mid-September.

The 83-year-old leader, who wrested power from his opponent J. Jayalalithaa in the elections, also promised rice at 2 rupees per kg for the poor.

About 30 per cent of India's more than one billion people live below the poverty line.

Run away ! it's a tree stump !

Berlin police briefly shut down a downtown street Tuesday and evacuated a building after construction workers found ... a tree stump.

The workers initially thought the hard object they dug into could have been a Second-World-War-era bomb - a relatively common find in the German capital, much of which was turned to rubble during the war.

The workers reported their find at 10:15 a.m. local and Berlin's Reinhardtstrasse was closed to traffic for about 45 minutes as police investigated.

In one of the more spectacular past bomb finds, a 250-kilogram British bomb was plucked from under the lower ring of seats at Berlin's Olympic Stadium in 2002 as it was undergoing renovations - the same stadium where the July World Cup final will be played.

Brave dog owner

The phrase "you lucky dog" took on new meaning in Coral Springs, Fla.

Jasmine, a 6-month-old golden retriever, was on a morning run with her owner, Michael Rubin. The dog ran ahead to the edge of a pond, where it met up with a hungry alligator.

Rubin heard the dog cry. When he went to check on her, he saw the puppy's head inside an alligator's mouth.

The intrepid Rubin jumped right into the water and started beating the gator with his fist. The reptile refused to let go and started rolling in the water with the dog still in its mouth.

Rubin estimated the gator was about 7-feet long.

He eventually pried the dog loose.

"I thought she was dead," Rubin told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "But at that point I wasn't going to let him have my dog."

At a local animal hospital, Jasmine was treated for cuts and puncture wounds.

He said the puppy is back home and doing fine.

3 armed baby to have surgery ?

Doctors in Shanghai on Tuesday were considering surgery options for a 2-month-old boy born with an unusually well-formed third arm.
Neither of the boy's two left arms is fully functional and tests have so far been unable to determine which was more developed, said Dr. Chen Bochang, head of the orthopedics department at Shanghai Children's Medical Center.

"His case is quite peculiar. We have no record of any child with such a complete third arm," Chen said in a telephone interview.

The boy, identified only as "Jie-jie," also was born with just one kidney and may have problems that could lead to curvature of the spine, local media reports said. Jie-jie cried when either of his left arms was touched, but smiled and responded normally to other stimuli, the reports said.

Chen said doctors hoped to work out a plan for surgery, but the boy's small size made it impossible to perform certain tests that would help them prepare.

Media reports said other children have been reported born with additional arms and legs, but in those cases it was clear what limb was more developed. Chen's hospital is one of China's most experienced in dealing with unusual birth defects, including separating conjoined twins.

Top security at 3 mile island

A security guard at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was so absorbed in playing a hand-held video game that he failed to see an inspector approach during a surprise inspection, the agency said.
The employee did not violate any rules as guards are allowed to engage in mind-stimulating activities, the state Department of Environmental Protection said.

But the alleged lapse — which follows five other reports of employee inattention in the past two years — is prompting officials to review current policies.

"The issue is not the guard's use of the video game," Kathleen McGinty, secretary of the environmental agency, said in a statement.

"The real issue is that his complete absorption in the game distracted him from noticing the repeated approach of our inspector. And that shows why this procedure needs to be changed and these video games disallowed," she said.

Nice one Marlins

The Marlins thought they were honoring their Jewish first baseman when they decided to give away Mike Jacobs T-shirts as part of Jewish Heritage Day at Dolphin Stadium this afternoon.

One small problem — Jacobs isn't Jewish, a fact the Marlins would have learned if they'd asked Jacobs himself.

Better yet, they could have contacted Martin Abramowitz.

As records custodian for the non-profit Jewish Major Leaguers Inc., Abramowitz is on a mission to catalogue every Jewish player who ever played in the majors — from Lipman Pike of the 1871 Troy Haymakers to Kevin Youkilis of the 2006 Boston Red Sox.

He's at 154 now, and his mission also includes distinguishing the likes of Shawn Green and Brad Ausmus from imposters like Mike Jacobs and Walt Weiss, players with common Jewish names who are not.

"Of course, the classic misapplication in the last couple of years has been David Eckstein (of the St. Louis Cardinals). David happens to be a very pious Christian,'' said Abramowitz, who also works as vice president of the Jewish Federation in Boston.

Abramowitz's odyssey began in Brooklyn, where he said he grew up a Dodgers fan, but was forced to root for the Yankees.

"The only television in our lower-income neighborhood was in the landlord's apartment. The landlord's kid was four years older than me and he was a Yankees fan. So if I wanted to watch a baseball game in 1949, I had to watch the Yankees,'' he said.

Abramowitz began collecting baseball cards of all his favorite Jewish players. Soon it turned into a passion — to collect a baseball card of every Jewish player, a mission he nearly aborted six years ago in a fit of frustration.

"I was sitting around with my 11-year-old son, Jacob, bemoaning the fact that I would never have a complete collection because 42 of the then-142 players never had a baseball card, either because they were not stars or were playing in days when there were no cards,'' he says.

"So 11-year-old Jacob, in his infinite wisdom, says, 'Go make your own cards.' "

Abramowitz did. His original set was produced by Fleer in 2003. An update set was released this year by Upper Deck and is available for $41 online at

"All I wanted to do was give these forgotten players that piece of immortality, which we call a baseball card,'' he said.

As part of what he calls a Jewish tradition of scholarship identifying Jewish players, Abramowitz also is chronicling the oral histories of Jews in baseball.

Great invention ????

If you think keeping fit is merely mind over matter, Lester Clancy has an invention for you: a cordless jump-rope.

The idea is that you hold both handles and jump over the pretend rope. Or if you're truly lazy, you can pretend to jump over the pretend rope.

The U.S. Patent Office apparently thinks it's the real thing. It's awarded Clancy a patent.

Clancy said what makes this invention work are the moving weights inside the handles. They simulate the feel of a rope moving. At least they would, if there were two of them.

Clancy has only one handle so far because he's waiting for financial backers.

California State University professor Mike Ernst says the cordless jump-rope can be a good idea if it promotes physical activity.

Would he buy it? Ernst says, "I'm not an idiot."

Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Memorial Day 63 years late

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A World War Two veteran will remember his mother this Memorial Day after recently receiving a letter she wrote to him 63 years ago.

Raphael Shackleford said he was shocked to receive a letter from his mother last Wednesday, which was dated May 17, 1943. The letter was written to him as he set off to join the Navy in World War II.

The two-page letter conveys his mother's regrets of signing her 17-year-old son over to the U-S Navy, her pride in the young man he had become and some updates from home. Shackleford got the letter on Wednesday after his nephew found it in a box belonging to Shackleford's sister.


Chicago - Meter maid Jackie Fegan, 40, was arrested for refusing to void a ticket issued to Chicago, Illinois police officer Robert Reid on May 18. Reid had illegally parked his personal white minivan at 700 N. Michigan, claiming he was on "police business."

After seeing the ticket, Reid flagged down Fegan and insisted she tear up the ticket. Fegan refused. When she walked away across the street, she was arrested for jaywalking. She was handcuffed and taken into custody at the Near North District police station.

"They were hurting me. They wouldn't stop," Fegan told the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's unreal. One minute I'm working, and the next minute I'm being hauled off and hurt and thrown into a paddy wagon. He was very, very violent."

Fegan was not charged with any crime and was released after thirty minutes. She plans to sue the city for false arrest.

Beer ,nuts and a historic baseball please

A fan waiting in line for beer and peanuts got something extra at the concession stand: home run ball No. 715 by Barry Bonds.

Andrew Morbitzer was waiting his turn to stock up on a couple of beers Sunday when the souvenir of a lifetime plopped into his hand.

"I got to be a small part of a big day," Morbitzer said after the game with his wife, Megan, at his side.

For several moments, Bonds' milestone ball appeared to be beyond anyone's reach. It sat lodged on an elevated platform in center field, then trickled off the roof.

Morbitzer, a 38-year-old San Francisco resident, caught the ball and was quickly ushered away by security for a postgame news conference after the Giants' 6-3 loss to Colorado.

Morbitzer said he went to get a few more beers because he couldn't see who would be up next in the bleachers.

"We both finished our beers and decided it was a good time to get a beer refill," he said.

He then heard the crowd roar and saw people reaching in the air before catching the ball with one hand.

"I snagged it," he said.

Giants fans had been waiting for weeks for Bonds to hit his 715th homer and pass Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Overjoyed fans jumped from their seats and streamers were shot from the stadium as Bonds made his way around the bases and into the history books.

Where have you bin?

The prospect of free compost bins caused hours of traffic congestion on the Isle of Lewis. Hundreds of residents brought a main road near Stornoway to a standstill for almost three hours as they queued to get a council compost bin.

The bin handout took place at the same time as the Stornoway half-marathon, with more than 130 runners.

Western Isles Council's officials closed down the giveaway early because of "public safety fears".

The Scottish Executive-initiative involved the local authority giving away up to three free plastic compost bins per family at the Creed Park Environmental Centre, outside Stornoway.
The bins, made from recycled material, were part of a green scheme to increase recycling in the island.

But even before the centre opened at 1000 BST there were already queues stretching miles in both directions.
Police admitted they were "staggered" at the response to the free bins, an offer which was open to any resident on Lewis.

Acting Sgt John Murray of Stornoway police office, said: "There were hundreds of vehicles with tailbacks miles in each direction. It was unbelievable, all for some plastic bins."

"Maybe it was because they were free. I don't know? It was incredible the extent that some people went to, just to get these bins. But we had to take a decision to stop the giveaway because of public safety concerns. There were massive tailbacks and no emergency vehicle could have got through."

Cheese rolling

It might seem crackers but competitors from across the world will line up for one of the most odd sporting events of the year - cheese rolling. Dozens of athletes in Gloucestershire will race each other down a steep slope in pursuit of a giant cheese.

About 5,000 spectators are expected to line the course to watch the antics of the daredevil cheese-rolling fanatics. The winner of the chase will be rewarded with the 3.6 kg (8lb) circle of Double Gloucester cheese.

There are traditionally four downhill races, one for women, and uphill runs for children and anyone who fancies a challenge. But this year organisers have introduced a fifth race to the event because so many people want to take part.

In each of the races about 20 competitors run, roll and somersault headlong down the hill.

Members of the St John Ambulance volunteers will be on hand to help anyone who gets injured in the mad race.

Jim Jones, from the St John Ambulance, said: "The hill is incredibly steep and people often injure themselves falling down the hill or get hit by a flying cheese as they watch the races."

People from as far afield as America, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden travel to the hill every year to take part in the Cheese Roll.

The origins of the cheese-rolling is not clear, but evidence suggests it was an old tradition by the 1850s
One theory is that the event has its roots in a pagan midsummer festival when large fires were lit at the top of hills to scare away bad spirits
The event has been cancelled three times. In 1998 because of fears over public safety, in 2001 due to the foot and mouth outbreak and in 2003 when the specialist rescue team that removes injured participants from the hill was called to an earthquake in Algeria
Because of rationing during and after the Second World War, a wooden substitute was used containing a token piece of cheese inside

World's Ugliest dog contest hacked

With lolling tongues, threadbare coats and crooked noses aplenty, the World's Ugliest Dog competition was always going to be a warts-and-all affair. But then things got even uglier.

After weeks of online polling, the championship was hit by a vote-tampering scandal that left its zealous fans in an uproar.

The trouble began when tens of thousands of votes cast over the internet for Victoria, a half-blind greyhound with "a face and body only a mother could love", vanished overnight from the competition's website.

Two days later, the same thing happened to Pee Wee Martini, a Chinese crested mix whose drunken features and Mohawk hairdo had singled him out as one of the front-runners.

When officials logged on the following week to find the vote tallies for two more canine misfits, Munchkin and Rascal, had also been turned back to zero by computer hackers, they were forced to scrap the results and declare a new election.

"The top four leaders were each missing around 35,000 votes," Vicki DeArmon, the California-based event organiser said yesterday. "Clearly, there was something very suspicious going on.

"We were getting angry e-mails from owners and fans demanding to know what had happened. People were quite steamed up. There was a lot of finger-pointing - and paw-pointing."

The online theft temporarily propelled Lucille Bald, a rat-like contestant with one jutting tooth, an unruly mane and an Elvis-style quiff, into the lead.

Annoying alarm clock

An alarm clock that will not switch off until the slumberer has shown they are fully awake has been invented by a student at Strathclyde University.

The puzzle clock, created by Liam Hastie for his engineering degree, is designed to overcome "sleep inertia" - the groggy feeling which, scientists say, can impair mental faculties for ten minutes, but sometimes for up to two hours after waking.

The wall-mounted alarm clock can be switched off only when its user climbs out of bed, stands directly in front and repeats, by pressing coloured buttons, a sequence generated randomly each morning. If the user fails to repeat the sequence swiftly, the alarm will continue to blare until the task is completed correctly.

Mr Hastie, 23 - who designed a prototype as part of his degree course in design, manufacture and engineering management - was inspired by his own experience of repeatedly pressing the snooze button on his alarm as many as 20 times rather than getting up.

He said: "Alarm clocks are good at waking you - what they are not good at is actually getting you out of bed. Then I read about the concept of 'sleep inertia' and decided to invent an alarm clock that not only got you out of bed, but would only go off when you demonstrated that your pre-frontal cortex was actually online."

Blunt banned

A radio station has banned James Blunt from its playlist – because their listeners are sick of hearing his music.

Essex FM have been flooded with requests to take James’ hits You’re Beautiful and Goodbye My Lover off the airwaves.

Programme controller Chris Cotton said: "We don’t have anything against James Blunt and we’re pleased he has been so successful, but we really need a break. While his songs have been very popular, there is a tremendous amount of industry pressure to play certain artists frequently. Often this can be out of step with the audience’s tastes, which results in songs being overplayed."

"We’re happy to stand up to this pressure and follow the strong message listeners have given us. We encourage other radio stations to take the same step."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pyow hack ... monkey talk

Monkeys are able to string together a simple “sentence”, according to research that offers the first evidence that animals might be capable of a key feature of language.

British scientists have discovered that the putty-nosed monkey in Nigeria pictured above sometimes communicates by combining sounds into a sequence that has a different meaning from any of its component calls, an ability that was thought to be uniquely human.

Although many animals communicate with one another using calls that have a particular meaning — usually a warning signifying the presence of a certain predator — none has been known to combine these alarm calls into sequences similar to those of human language.

The findings suggest that the rudiments of syntax, a basic component of human language, may be more widespread among primates than is generally thought, and could ultimately shed light on the evolution of this most distinctly human of traits.

The putty-nosed monkeys, Cercopithecus nictitans, of the Gashaka Gumti National Park, have two main alarm call sounds. A sound known onomatopoeically as the “pyow” warns other animals against a lurking leopard, and a cough-like sound that scientists call a “hack” is used when an eagle is hovering near by.

Kate Arnold and Klaus Zuberb├╝hler, of the University of St Andrews, have now observed the monkeys using these sounds in a new way. A particular sequence of pyows and hacks appears to mean something entirely different.

The monkeys live in groups consisting of a single adult male accompanied by several adult females and their young. When the male utters this “sentence”, consisting of up to three pyows followed by up to four hacks, it seems to be a command telling others to move,generally to find safer, less exposed terrain.

They use the signal not only when predators are around, but also during ordinary activities such as foraging. It seems to mean “let’s get out of here”.

The research is published today in the journal Nature. Dr Arnold said: “These calls were not produced randomly and a number of distinct patterns emerged. One of these patterns was what we have termed a pyow-hack sequence. This was either produced alone or inserted at certain positions in the call series.

"One doesn't bloody like Olympic ceremonies"

The Duke of Edinburgh has described Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies as "bloody nuisances" and called for them to be banned.

"I am truly fed up with opening and closing ceremonies," the Duke said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

"They ought to be banned. They are a pain in the neck," he added.

The Duke also said that he hoped to do "as little as possible" during the 2012 Olympics in London by which time he will be 91 years old.

The Duke described a ceremony at the 1972 Games in Munich as "absolutely, appallingly awful".

"At the Olympics in the old days, when they were more or less amateur, the last event of the whole Games was the showjumping in the main stadium because the horses used to cut up the ground.

"Well, blow me down I was suddenly told, at Munich I think it was, that we couldn't have the main arena for show jumping because it had to be prepared for the closing ceremony.

"So I said 'What is the Olympics about? The competition or the closing ceremony?'"

Sense of humour failure

Circus clowns have reportedly fallen foul of a drought order granted to a British utility because of diminishing stocks of water.

Entertainers from Zippo's Circus were told they risked heavy fines if they continued to throw up to 20 buckets of the increasingly precious resource over each other in their slapstick "slosh" shows.

With a hose and pipe ban also in place, the funnymen and women will not be able to squirt each other with water from plastic flowers in their buttonholes either.

The circus is currently pitched in Wallington, south-east England, where the drought order granted to Sutton and East Surrey Water to restrict the "non-essential use" of water comes into force today.

It was granted because a series of dry winters has left reservoirs and underground aquifers in the densely populated, water hungry south-east severely depleted.

"The water board has had a complete sense of humour failure," said Zippo the Clown, Martin Burton.

"I called them up to check the act was okay and they said it broke the rules and threatened me with hefty fines and cutting off our water supply.

"It is ridiculous and they need to chill out. The great British public don't like getting wet themselves, but absolutely love seeing others getting drenched. And this treat is confined to the circus.

"I could collect rainwater or use mineral water, but the water board are so zealous. I can't be sure they won't just cut off our water without investigating if someone reports it."

Stuart Hislop, from the water company, was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying: "No one else is allowed to fill buckets from a hose in their back garden and throw them over each other, so why should the clowns?

"It's a total waste of water."

Sick bitch

Authorities said a woman who claimed she was a paraplegic and repeatedly filed claims and lawsuits for noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act was a con artist without any physical limitations.

After her arrest this month by Las Vegas police, Laura Lee Medley, 35, leaped from her wheelchair and ran for freedom, officials said.

Complaining earlier that she was having medical problems, police took the woman to a Las Vegas hospital for treatment, said David Wert, spokesman for San Bernardino County.

"That's where the great miracle occurred," he said. Medley "made a break for it," leading police on a brief foot pursuit before she was captured, Wert said.

Medley's claims against public entities - including San Bernardino County, South Pasadena and Long Beach - claimed a bus dropped her off near what she called a non-ADA compliant roadway or curb, causing her wheelchair to topple. She claimed three broken arms in eight weeks - two lefts and a right.

South Pasadena settled Medley's claim for $6,700 on Oct. 18, 2005.

Her questionable claims led to last week's arrest in Las Vegas.

Medley was charged with filing false documents, attempted grand theft and two counts of insurance fraud. She is in a Las Vegas jail awaiting extradition to San Bernardino.

Medley's alleged deception was discovered by San Bernardino County officials after she filed a complaint saying she fell and broke her left arm on Oct. 17, 2005.

Eternal student

There was a story on the front page of the Times Wednesday about a kid in Wisconsin who has been going to college for 12 years. He has twice as many credits as he needs to graduate and is on his fourth or fifth major.

When I was in college, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, there was a stigma to staying around for a fifth year. It usually meant you were too wasted to graduate on time.

In recent years it's become quite common to take more than four years to graduate. But, Johnny Lechner has taken the pursuit his liberal arts degree to new a new level. He actually has sponsors and a book deal and a documentary crew following him around to chronicle what its like to live the college life when you're 29-years-old.

It's not clear if Mr. Lechner just doesn't want to stop going to keggers or if he really is in noble pursuit learning. Twelve years in college though? I hope he's not still bringing his laundry home.

They make 'em clever in Canada

An Edmonton man has been banned from handling power tools after he used a power drill fitted with a Barbie brush to style his girlfriend's hair.

The woman woke up screaming and bleeding when the tool tore out a clump of her hair, court heard Wednesday.

''I'm very sorry,'' Shee Chung Theng, 30, told provincial court Judge Shelagh Creagh. He added it was a ''ridiculous'' idea.

Theng and his girlfriend, Janine Rose, had been out at a bar before returning to his parents' southside home on Dec. 29, 2004.

Theng testified at his trial that Rose asked him to give her a massage and comb her hair.

He said he left Rose in his bedroom to get some food. When he stopped to watch TV, he saw an infomercial for a hair styling device that gave him the idea to use the drill.

But Crown prosecutor Christian Lim, who argued Theng should go to jail, said Theng then attacked the girl in bed.

Creagh, who found Theng guilty of assault, noted he is a first-time offender and handed him a nine-month conditional sentence to be served in the community.

Dear sweet grannies NOT

Two women in their 70s were arrested Thursday after they allegedly befriended two homeless men, took out 19 life insurance policies on them and filed claims worth more than $2.2 million after the transients mysteriously died in hit-and-run pedestrian accidents in Los Angeles.

One of the men was hit by a car and killed in an alley off La Brea and Melrose avenues in 1999, and the second victim was run down in a Westwood alley last June.

Detectives said they connected the two cases several months ago during a chance meeting between two investigators in the LAPD's West Traffic Bureau squad room.

A detective handling the death of Kenneth McDavid, 50, was talking about the peculiarity of the case when another detective interrupted him to say he had worked on a similar-sounding, unsolved hit-and-run six years ago.

Comparing notes, they realized that in both cases the bodies had been claimed by Olga Rutterschmidt, 73, of Hollywood, and Helen Golay, 75, of Santa Monica.

"It was somewhat unusual that two elderly ladies unrelated to the victim were coming in making requests for police reports … attempting to gain custody of the body and claiming there was no one else in the world who cared about this poor soul," said Det. Dennis Kilcoyne.

Investigators said they looked into the matter further and found that the women held 19 policies on McDavid and Paul Vados, 73 — even though neither appeared to be related to the victims.

The women were arrested on suspicion of mail fraud. But detectives believe the pair "are involved in the deaths of these men," Lt. Paul Vernon said.

"Our first thought was … they would leave the actual dirty work to someone else," Kilcoyne said. "We're not so sure about this anymore…. This is pretty evil."

Investigators say the women befriended McDavid and Vados and provided them with apartments in exchange for signing a life insurance policy, with Rutterschmidt and Golay listed as the beneficiaries. They then allegedly duplicated both men's signatures on rubber stamps and used them to secure additional policies.

"After two years of payments, the policies" became good, Kilcoyne said. "Then bad things would happen."

Police placed the women under surveillance a few weeks ago but decided to arrest them Thursday after noticing behavior they say alarmed them.

Detectives said they saw the pair meet with several older men and had them sign documents. Later, authorities said they found signature stamps bearing the names of other men.

Golay arrived in court first Thursday and sat quietly with her hands in her lap, sometimes flipping through the thick criminal complaint against her. Rutterschmidt arrived shortly before the judge took the bench. When she was asked by the judge whether she understood her rights, she answered, "Yes, I'm shocked."

At the pink-stucco triplex that Golay owns on Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica, her daughter, Kecia Golay, strongly denied that her mother was involved in any insurance scheme.

"That's just not what's going on," she said. "I'm too sad to talk right now…. We have a regular life."

A neighbor described Golay as a friendly person who drove around in a Mercedes SUV with dealer plates and put her home on the market 18 months ago for $1.5 million.

"I can't believe she did anything," said Cristyne Lawson. "She seems perfectly harmless."

By contrast, Rutterschmidt lived in a modest unit of a sprawling apartment complex in the heart of Hollywood.

Authorities said she drove a greenish blue Honda Civic, and neighbors described her as temperamental.

M*A*S*H units in UK towns

Several NHS trusts are planning to set up M*A*S*H - style field hospitals in town centres this summer to cope with the expected surge in drink related offences.

Emergency services predict a rise in alcohol-related injuries as a result of longer licensing hours, warm weather ( HA! ) and the World cup.

Off their Tea trolley !

A decision by East Herts District Council to fire its tea lady and spend taxpayers' money on consultants to teach staff how to make a cup of tea has been blasted as health and safety gone mad.

Jill Melvin, 46, was sacked from her job as tea lady at the council offices in Bishop's Stortford in March but since then at least two employees have been injured in tea-related incidents.

Council bosses brought in £200-a-day consultant Chiltern Health and Safety Concepts for risk assessment and offered its 150 staff advice on the dangers of making tea.

A 17-page safety document concluded that staff should stop carrying trays of hot drinks up and down stairs and stop leaving files on the floor for people to trip over.

But staff say hiring the consultants was a complete waste of taxpayers' money.

Indepedent councillor Keith Barnes said: "It does seem silly to pay money for consultants on a thing such as this."

Liberal Democrat councillor Les Pinnell said: "Under this health and safety legislation everybody is going berserk."

However a council spokesman said the money was spent on reducing the chances of hazards for members of staff.

He said: "We could have decided to save the £200 a day and risked a payout of thousands if someone had been hurt but we felt that would have been a much more irresponsible use of council taxpayers' money.

"As a council we think very carefully about where we spend our budget and our sensible approach has been praised by our auditors as the best in Hertfordshire."

No more Holy bread for priest

A priest who has suffered years of ill health is allergic to his Communion wafers, it emerged.

Father Clive Barrett, of St Cross Church in Middleton, Leeds, has been diagnosed with Coeliac disease, a digestive disorder which means he is allergic to gluten, a key ingredient found in the Communion wafers.

The priest first became ill around 10 years ago and doctors suspected he suffered from colon cancer after he lost weight but tests repeatedly showed no sign of the illness. But his GP ordered his blood to be screened for allergies and his intolerance to gluten was discovered.

Thief nicks Nissan with no brakes

A bumbling car thief was arrested Thursday after the brakes of a Nissan Primera he stole from a repair shop failed, causing him to rear-end an SUV, and investigators believe he may have heisted the car to help pay a court-ordered fine from his car-theft conviction one month ago.

The suspect, a 24-year-old native of Kabardino-Balkaria, was arrested after fleeing the accident near a car repair shop on Proyektiruyemy Proyezd, near the Yuzhnaya metro station, in southern Moscow, city police spokesman Valery Buzovkin said Tuesday.

According to Buzovkin, the shop was overloaded with cars brought in for paint jobs after several fender-benders in the area Thursday afternoon, and the suspect was hanging out there with his flatmate, who worked at the shop.

After looking over several cars in the lot, the suspect found the Nissan Primera with the keys in the ignition and decided to steal it, Buzovkin said.

"What he didn't know is that it wasn't there just for a paint job," Buzovkin said. "It needed to have its brakes repaired."

The first intersection after he pulled out of the lot proved to be the downfall of the suspect, who immediately realized he could not stop and slammed into the back of an SUV, Buzovkin said.

"He fled the scene of the accident, but detectives showed up quickly and were able to establish the identity of the thief," Buzovkin said.

The suspect was arrested later that day and has since confessed to the crime, he said.

Bats may halt Robbie's super gig

A rare breed of bat could stand in the way of a massive Robbie Williams concert near Cologne in Germany this summer.The singer could be forced to cancel the major show.

Specialists say the species - the Daubenton and Pipistrelle Bat - could be irrevocably damaged by the huge 160,000 capacity show, which is due to be staged in close proximity to the animal's woodland nesting ground, goes ahead and are to undertake a study to see if the bats can be protected from the sound levels.

Show organisers, Concert Team, will foot the bill for the research, but as spokesperson Annette Roettgen explains, the outcome is probably best for both camps. "It is still cheaper then paying damages later, she says. "We will do everything we are asked for, so that the animals will survive the Robbie concerts."

In other concert news, Williams is reportedly set to earn £1m to entertain a crowd of 50,000 in Dubai for a one-off concert. The gig reportedly came about after the pop singer was approached for a number of private, big-money engagements, which he declined in favour of the public concert.

"He will still make a large amount of money off the night, but nothing like the offers he was getting from some individuals," an insider told a British tabloid newspaper.

"Rob's view is that he's already loaded and why not make 50,000 people happy as opposed to just a few hundred."

Man escapes on horse & cart

Animal welfare and a northern city's network of narrow alleys foiled the hi-tech power of modern policing when a wanted man escaped from a fleet of pursuit vehicles on a horse and cart. Four motorbikes, a patrol car, a video van, two cycling constables and finally the force helicopter failed to catch the suspect after a slow-motion chase through east Leeds.

A 34-year-old man, who has not been named but is wanted for serious assault, was spotted by a police cycle patrol. The suspect jumped on to a rag-and-bone cart with a friend. Local people in the Chapel Allerton area described "a bizarre procession" along a dual carriageway leading out of Leeds, with the horse and cart weaving around to frustrate its pursuers. West Yorkshire police said that officers had got as close as they could but were anxious not to frighten the horse.

The Steptoe-like scene ended in a side street, where the wanted man jumped off the cart and ran down a back alley. The other man was surrounded by officers after he reined in the horse. Officers are still trying to trace the suspect.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Best news I've heard in weeks ... sorry women

Drinking alcohol every day protects against heart disease in men but not in women, Danish research shows.

A study of 50,000 people found that men who drank daily had a 41% reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared with a 7% drop in men who drank once a week.

In women, the risk of heart disease fell by a third with a weekly drink but did not fall further in daily drinkers. Experts warned the results, published in the British Medical Journal, should not be used to justify heavy drinking.

Previous research has shown that moderate alcohol intake is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, but up until now most studies have been in men.
Men and women aged 50-65 who took part in this study were questioned on their drinking behaviour and then followed for an average of six years.
Women drank an average of five and a half drinks a week, and men consumed 11.

In men, the risk of heart disease fell significantly with increased frequency of drinking - with men who drank a little every day having the lowest risk.

But for women, although drinking on at least one day a week was associated with a 36% reduced risk of heart disease compared to those who drank more rarely, the risk was the same whether women had one drink a week or drank moderately each day.

The researchers said how much women drank may be more important for protection against heart disease than how often they drank.
The researchers said there could be several explanations for the differences found between men and women.

It may be hormonal, or related to the type of alcohol consumed or there may be differences in the way men and women's bodies process alcohol.

Lead researcher Professor Morten Gronbaek from the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark said: "It has been shown that frequency of drinking has a larger role than amount but this points towards the fact there is a gender difference."

He added that the benefits of alcohol had to be weighed against the increased risk of cancer and liver damage.

"One or two drinks in men, or one drink a day in women, would be sufficient for heart disease - you wouldn't get any more beneficial effects from drinking more."

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Annie Britton, senior lecturer at University College London warned that the study participants had a high risk of heart disease because of their age.

And added that the study had a low response rate and so may not have been fully representative.

She said: "We do not yet know whether cardioprotective effects accrue over a lifetime or whether, purely from a health perspective, we should defer drinking alcohol until older age, when heart disease is manifest."

Judy O'Sullivan, medical spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said: "This study does not change the fact that alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation only, both by men and women.

"If you are teetotal you should not start consuming alcohol in order to reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease. However, if you enjoy alcohol you should be aware that the risks of drinking large quantities significantly outweigh any potential benefits.

Police baffled : how do you cuff him ?

An armless man stopped for speeding was driving with one foot on the steering wheel and another on the pedals, a policeman testified in court.

Colin Smith, who was born without arms and has never held a driver's license, appeared in court Thursday charged with driving in a manner likely to be dangerous to the public.

The police officer who stopped Smith said the driver's seat was reclined and the armless man appeared to be using one foot to steer the car and the other to work the accelerator and brake. Smith, 31, entered no plea but said he would defend himself against the charges.

He told the court he had been driving for years, using his feet to steer, and had never had an accident.

Bad Fatherhood pt I

When a 6-year-old student reached in his Scooby Doo backpack and pulled out 25 baggies of marijuana, his father's new enterprise was exposed, according to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court.

Corey E. Randle, 29 of St. Paul, told police that he had been selling the drugs for about two weeks to pay for cigarettes, the complaint said. He would buy it an ounce at a time, then divide it into smaller amounts to deliver to customers twice a day, Randle said.

He stashed the pot in the boy's backpack, but ran to the school when he noticed the bag was gone, he said.

Early in the school day Wednesday, the boy reached into his bag to get a folder and came out with a sandwich bag containing 25 smaller bags of marijuana. The boy gave the drugs, totaling just over 35 grams, to a teacher, the complaint said.

Randle, who in 1997 was sentenced to assault and cocaine possession, is now charged with fifth-degree sale of a controlled substance.

Rhode Islanders are shit at driving :Official

The tiny state of Rhode Island still ranks rock bottom in terms of driving knowledge, according to a national test conducted by GMAC Insurance. Oregon drivers answered the most questions correctly.

The test revealed that about one in 11 licensed drivers in the United States would fail a state drivers test, according to GMAC Insurance.

Rhode Island ranked last year, also, with an average score of 77. Last year, Oregon's average score was 89, which still placed at the top of the rankings that year.

Based on average scores, northwestern states generally ranked highest while the bottom-ranking states were mostly in the northeast. One exception was Vermont, which ranked third. Washington state drivers ranked second. Drivers in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia ranked at the bottom, with D.C. finishing just ahead of Rhode Island.

The 20-question test was based on questions asked in state driver's license examinations. A score of 70 or higher is required to pass a standard state test.

The failure rate for drivers in northeastern states was about 16 percent, according to GMAC Insurance. The failure rate for drivers in northwestern states was from one to seven percent.

The test and an accompanying survey were completed by 5,288 licensed drivers including at least 100 from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey asked about responses to specific driving situations.

(Cheat alert: The following paragraph includes some answers to the test.)

Approximately one in three drivers said they usually do not stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. At least one out of five drivers did not know that pedestrians in a crosswalk have the right of way. At least one in five also did not know that roads are most slippery when it first starts to rain after a dry spell.

State-by-state rankings

How sweet

A soldier said he was only showing his gratitude when gave his Purple Heart to a 13-year-old student being honored for winning a contest for writing letters to American troops.

"It's important what these children do for us in sending these letters," said Staff Sgt. Phillip Trackey, after giving away the medal he received for injuries in Iraq. "The letters mean so much to us. So I thought this was a big way of giving something back to them."

Trackey and a group of fellow Fort Drum soldiers were attending a ceremony Thursday at West Genesee Middle School for seventh-grader Fatima Faisal, of Camillus, who was being honored as a regional winner in the Veteran's of Foreign Wars' Letters to the Front contest.

After Faisal received her prizes, Trackey stood and held up his Purple Heart for everyone to see. Then, he pinned it on the girl's blouse.

Fatima said she didn't know what to say or do.

"I'm touched. I'm speechless," Fatima said. "This is the sweetest thing ever."

Faisal's letter was chosen the best out of more than 300 letters written in the age 12-18 category in the Central New York region. The national contest was to write letters to servicemen and servicewomen starting with the line, "Dear Service Member, I just wanted to say thanks for ..."

Teacher Donna Mahar said she has her seventh-grade classes participate in the yearly contest. About 60 of her pupils wrote letters, she said.

In her letter, Faisal said, "...I give you great respect because you had a choice to join the military and because of your bravery and courage you decided to join."

For winning the contest, Faisal received a T-shirt, a certificate and a $50 savings bond.

But the Purple Heart was the top prize, Faisal said, adding she hoped to mount it in a frame to hang in her room.

Egghead theories

A geneticist, a philosopher and a chicken farmer say they have found the answer to a great evolutionary puzzle.

The experts looked at the evidence in the long-standing debate over which came first - the chicken or the egg - and opted for the egg.

Professor John Brookfield, a genetics expert from Nottingham University, said the first chicken must have started out as an embryo in an egg.

This means the organism in the eggshell would have the same DNA as the chicken.

He explained that the reason was due to the fact that genetic material does not change during an animal's life.

Professor Brookfield said: "The first living thing which we could say unequivocally was a member of the species would be this first egg, so I would conclude that the egg came first."

Professor David Papineau, an expert in the philosophy of science at King's College, London agreed that the first chicken came from an egg and this proves there were chicken eggs before chickens.

"I would argue it is a chicken egg if it has a chicken in it," said Prof Papineau.

"If a kangaroo laid an egg from which an ostrich hatched, that would surely be an ostrich egg, not a kangaroo egg," he added.

Charles Bournes, chairman of trade body Great British Chicken, said "Eggs were around long before the first chicken arrived.

"Of course they may not have been chicken eggs as we see them today but they were eggs," he said.

Professor Brooke added the debate could finally be laid to rest.

Flag ban lifted

A school has lifted a ban on pupils carrying England flags during this summer's World Cup after the policy "upset" the children.

The uniform policy at Birches Head High School in Stoke-on-Trent does not allow flags or badges.

But after protests from parents, some staff and children, the ban was relaxed by head teacher Karen Healey for the World Cup, which starts next month.

"It upsets the kids. That's why we have changed it," she said.

In a letter to parents, Ms Healey said: "It has been important to Birches Head High School that all students and staff have a pride in their school, community, city and country.

"Although our policy has been to not allow non-school badges and discourage flags unless in relation to learning, we are changing this policy due to it being seen as not supporting the World Cup rather than being in relation to behaviour and uniform."

She added: "The World Cup is perceived in this school as a learning opportunity to support the development of citizenship education."

Reports suggested fears of the rise in support for the British National Party in the area had prompted the ban on the St George's flag.

Mrs Healey said this had been "a side issue", adding: "Our job is to make sure they (pupils) can make informed decisions."

Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers' union NASUWT, said: "The BNP's attempts to exploit the English flag for their pernicious purposes are wholly unacceptable and must be challenged at every level.

"I have every sympathy with schools striving to distance themselves from the BNP.

"It is, however, essential that we do not surrender to those with a racist and fascist agenda or stifle national pride in the achievements of a multicultural England football team which is representing a multicultural nation."

Swan falls in love with boat

A swan has fallen in love with a plastic swan-shaped paddle boat on a pond in the German town of Muenster, a sailing instructor says.

Peter Overschmidt, who operates a sailing school and rents the two-seat paddle boat on the Aasee pond, says the swan has spent the past three weeks flirting with the vessel five times its size.

He says the black swan with a bright red beak has not left the white swan boat's side since it flew in one day in early May.

"It seems like he's fallen in love," Mr Overschmidt said.

"He protects it, sits next to it all the time and chases away any sail boats that get anywhere nearby.

"He thinks the boat is a strong and attractive swan."

Mr Overschmidt says the swan will figure it out sooner or later, and he hopes he will not be too heartbroken.

"I'll wish him all the best and hope that he doesn't make the same mistake again," Mr Overschmidt said.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

England World cup songs

The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins is to release his own World Cup anthem - and it's bound to prove controversial.

Going up against Embrace's official Germany 2006 England song 'World At Your Feet', Hawkins has previewed his own song, 'England', under his solo name British Whale.

The star told The Sun newspaper that he thinks England's bid for glory is being undermined by political correctness, with people being too scared to mention the Second World War triumph of 1945.

In response, 'England' mentions the event in the lyrics.

Hawkins said: "The whole point of an England World Cup song is to assert our national identity and talk about the achievements of a great nation.

"Why can't we commemorate all those men who gave their lives in the name of freedom in the war? And, of course, in this case - to bash The Hun? It's a national sport."

The lyrics include lines like: "Football will be our only weapon / skill and power will be our only shield / we've fought them on the beaches / now we'll play them on the field."

You can hear the song at British Whale's Myspace page here.

Hawkins used the name of British Whale last year for his debut solo single

Venezuala tyrant?

Venezuelan politicians have complained about a forthcoming "shoot-em-up" computer game that simulates an invasion of the South American nation.

In production by Los Angeles-based Pandemic Studios, Mercenaries 2: World In Flames is based around the overthrow of an imaginary Venezuelan "tyrant".

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has long accused the US of planning to invade, something Washington denies.

His supporters say the game aims to drum up support for a real invasion.

Pandemic has insisted that the title - due to be released next year - is solely about entertainment.

Sick auctioneers apologise

Two Labour MPs were forced into a grovelling apology last night for auctioning a signed copy of the report into the death of scientist David Kelly.

Rising star James Purnell and colleague Chris Bryant said they regretted any offence caused.

The signed copy of the Hutton Report, autographed by Cherie Blair, fetched £400 for Labour Party funds when it was auctioned last week.

In a statement, Mr Bryant and Mr Purnell said: "This was a private event. No one intended to give offence and if there is any offence, we sincerely apologise.

"We have not received any money for this item and want to make it clear we will not accept any."

The auctioning of the report has caused widespread outrage.

Tory MP Stewart Jackson said it was in "appalling bad taste".

Dr Kelly killed himself shortly before he was due to face a probe after being named as a possible source of a BBC story on the Governments Iraq dossier.

Nice crucifixtion Madonna

MADONNA yesterday defended her mock crucifixion on stage saying Jesus would not mind.

Christian groups were outraged after she wore a crown of thorns and posed on a giant cross.

But Madonna, 47, said it was an appeal on the opening night of her world tour in California for cash to fight Aids.

She said: "I don't think Jesus would be mad at me and the message I'm trying to send. Jesus taught that we should love thy neighbour."

Images of Third World poverty flashed up on screens along with numbers representing the 12million children orphaned by Aids in Africa as she sang to Live to Tell.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said the stunt was "a banal perversion of the magnificent event".

The Catholic League of America said: "Poor Madonna keeps trying to shock. But all she succeeds in doing is coming across as a boring bigot."

Grumpy Uncle

A six-minute film showing a grumpy man scolding a fellow Hong Kong bus rider for interrupting his phone call has become one of the most popular videos online.

Bus Uncle, as the film is commonly known, has been viewed nearly 1.7 million times on the video website - the second-most-viewed video on the site in May as of Thursday - spawning spoofs and new slang drawn from the ranting subject's emotionally charged soliloquy.

The grainy film was apparently recorded using a mobile phone.

The film starts out when the protagonist, a middle-aged man, reacts strongly when a young man sitting behind him taps his shoulder to ask him to keep his voice down while talking on the phone.

"I don't know you. You don't know me. Why do you do this?" the infuriated bus rider says, punctuating the sentence by jabbing his right hand downward in the air.

When the young man, who rarely talks back during the harangue, expresses an unwillingness to continue the conversation, the middle-aged man explodes, "This is not resolved! This is not resolved! This is not resolved!" - which has now become a catch phrase in Hong Kong.

He goes on to say, "I face pressure. You face pressure. Why did you provoke me?"

In another twist, just when the dispute seems to have ended after the young man apologizes and the two shake hands, the young man takes issue with profanity used by the middle-aged man, who then launches into another round of profanities.

The video has inspired numerous spoofs, including a karaoke version and a rap song using the middle-aged man's refrain, "I face pressure. You face pressure." Internet users have also added Chinese and English subtitles to the dialogue, which is in Chinese.

It still isn't clear who shot the film and it isn't certain if the film was staged or not. The middle-aged man hasn't been identified, but a man claiming to be the victim of the verbal abuse has been interviewed on Hong Kong's Commercial Radio.

"Why did I just sit there? I paid to be on the bus. You don't think I would get off the bus and waste my money, do you?" said the man, identified only as Alvin. is a website that allows users to post videos for sharing. The site ranks the videos by the number of times they have been watched.

I watched it and it's all fuckin Chinese to me !!

Invisibility cloak ?

Imagine an invisibility cloak that works just like the one Harry Potter inherited from his father.

Researchers in England and the United States think they know how to do that. They are laying out the blueprint and calling for help in developing the exotic materials needed to build such a device.

The keys are special man-made materials, unlike any in nature or the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These materials are intended to steer light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation around an object, rendering it as invisible as something tucked into a hole in space.

"Is it science fiction?" said John Pendry, a physicist at the Imperial College London. "Well, it's theory and that already is not science fiction. It's theoretically possible to do all these Harry Potter things, but what's standing in the way is our engineering capabilities."

Details of the study, which Pendry co-wrote, appear in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science.

Scientists not involved in the work said it presents a solid case for making invisibility an attainable goal.

"This is very interesting science and a very interesting idea and it is supported on a great mathematical and physical basis," said Nader Engheta, a professor of electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Engheta has done his own work on invisibility using novel substances called metamaterials.

Pendry and his co-authors also propose using metamaterials because they can be tuned to bend electromagnetic radiation - radio waves and visible light, for example - in any direction.

A cloak made of those materials, with a structure designed down to the submicroscopic scale, would neither reflect light nor cast a shadow.

Instead, like a river streaming around a smooth boulder, light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation would strike the cloak and simply flow around it, continuing on as if it never bumped up against an obstacle. That would give an onlooker the apparent ability to peer right through the cloak, with everything tucked inside concealed from view.

"Yes, you could actually make someone invisible as long as someone wears a cloak made of this material," said Patanjali Parimi, a Northeastern University physicist and design engineer at Chelton Microwave Corp. in Bolton, Mass. Parimi was not involved in the research.

Such a cloak does not exist, but early versions that could mask microwaves and other forms of electromagnetic radiation could be as close as 18 months away, Pendry said.

He said the study was "an invitation to come and play with these new ideas."

"We will have a cloak after not too long," he added.

The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency supported the research, given the obvious military applications of such stealth technology.

While Harry Potter could wear his cloak to skulk around Hogwarts, a real-world version probably would not be something just to be thrown on, Pendry said.

"To be realistic, it's going to be fairly thick. Cloak is a misnomer. Shield might be more appropriate," he said.

Posh Tramp eats for free

NARA - Japan - A man was arrested on Thursday for not paying his restaurant bill after he ordered 15 items over a 13-hour period, police said.

Shinichi Kochi, 28, visited a restaurant in Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture, at about 11:20 a.m. on Wednesday.

He stayed at the restaurant for about 13 hours until midnight. In that time he ordered a rice-bowl, steamed egg custard, azuki-bean soup and several other items worth 7,495 yen in total.

An employee talked with Kochi when the restaurant was about to close and learned that he had no money.

"I have no money and have eaten nothing for three days," police quoted Kochi as saying.

Workers at the restaurant said they didn't suspect Kochi had no money because he was neatly dressed.