Saturday, September 30, 2006

White elephant gadget pile

BRITISH consumers waste almost £2 billion per year on rarely-used labour-saving gadgets and now have almost 80 million "white elephants" in their homes.

The annual spend on revolutionary gizmos – such as electric grills, bread-makers and de-humidifiers – tops £1.75 ($3.29 billion) billion per year, according to eSure's unused gadgets poll.

It found that UK consumers have bought 80 million household gadgets that seemed incredibly useful at the time – but have ended up rarely-used and gathering dust.

The latest survey – which has been tracking household "white elephants" for four years – includes a range of new devices that consumers have snapped up with the best intentions, before they have disappeared to the back of a cupboard.

For the first time, internet technology has made an appearance on the list with voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) ranking number eight in the top 10 of unused gadgets.

One in ten households have bought VoIP or "free" internet phones in the past two years but more than half of those questioned have used the technology just a few times – if at all.

The top 10 continues to be dominated by kitchen gadgets, but with a new emphasis on health.

In previous years, sandwich toasters have led the poll, but this year they have slipped to third, with healthy grilling machines and coffee makers leading the list.

Juicers, electronic bathroom scales, electric slow cookers, bread makers, electric steamers and de-humidifiers also make up the top 10.

Other white elephants include hand-held milk frothers, electric manicure kits, plastic bag sealing devices, massage chairs, foot spas and fondue sets, as well as devices to make yoghurt, waffles, popcorn, candy floss, smoothies and ice cream.

Nikki Sellers, head of home insurance at eSure, said: "The 'unused gadgets' poll is a microscope on the dark and dusty corners of household spending – those items that people buy full of enthusiasm and zeal before rapidly losing interest in them.

"It seems to be more effort for people to unbox a gadget, find a home for it and then read the instructions than carry on the old-fashioned way."

Piano playing burglar

A BURGLAR who broke into a house in the Dutch town of Tiel could not resist playing the piano he found there after ransacking the living room, police said today.

Unfortunately for the 20-year-old thief, his music woke the owner of the house, who called the police.

"The owner didn't register whether the playing was any good or not. He was more worried about the state of his house," a police spokesman said.

Oops we did it again !

Congestion charge chiefs in London have apologised twice for wrongly sending a Powys man 65 bills.

Earlier this month, David Timothy, 47, from Brecon, received 31 penalty notices even though he had not been to London for 25 years.

But a day after receiving a written apology from Transport for London (TFL), which enforces the charge, he was sent another 34 bills.

TFL apologised again, blaming the second blunder on a "processing error".

Royal Mail worker Mr Timothy was originally sent bills adding up to £2,480, which would have risen to more than £4,000 had they remained unpaid.

He said he had only owned the car identified in the bills for a year, but the 31 congestion charge notices dated back to a five-month period in 2004.

Keep away : Children

Children wearing blue face paint have been told to stay away from a zoo display after it was found they were scaring the monkeys. Keepers at Twycross Zoo, Leics, were mystified by the reaction of some marmoset monkeys to certain visitors.

The small monkeys were upset and would sound warning calls without any apparent reason. An observant zoo manager spotted the blue-faced children were causing the monkeys to react aggressively.

Kim Riley, zoo spokeswoman, said the attraction's face painter now has to warn children who want blue designs that they cannot visit the display. She said experts could not explain why blue face paint in particular was scaring the small squirrel-like monkeys.

"Whatever it is all three marmosets did not like it. They were running up and down the branches. It was quite an extreme reaction. First of all they act all brave and try to warn people off, but then they run away. All the other children with their faces painted have not caused any problems whatsoever," she said.

The Geoffroy's marmosets form part of the zoo's walk-through South American tropical house exhibit.

The zoo has the world's largest collection of primate species and is a major world player in global breeding programmes to aid species survival.

Confucius say

For the first time in more than 2,500 years the family tree of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, is to include women descendants.

Kong Dehong, a descendant overseeing the updating of the family tree, said: "We have to move with the times. Men and women are equal now." Traditional Confucian thinking gave women little status and required them to obey men in its strict hierarchy. A million descendants may be added to the tree, about 200,000 of them women.

Confucius (551 to 479 BC) developed traditions of piety and respect to elders that are still heavily influential in Chinese life and politics.

But his views on women were distinct: "Women and people of low birth are very hard to deal with. If you are friendly with them, they get out of hand, and if you keep your distance, they resent it."

However Mr Kong, speaking at a festival marking Confucius' 2,557th birthday in the philosopher's home town of Qufu in eastern Shandong province, said equality now had to be observed.

Mr Kong is planning to reveal the fifth family tree update in 2009 and believes there could now be more than three million descendants - about 2.5m of whom live in China. He said: "Even if a woman has to leave the family when she gets married to live with her husband, that doesn't change the fact that she is descended from Confucius."


How to beat anyone at Rock,paper,scissors!

Cross dressing games

BEIJING - Touted as a celebration of sport, culture and national unity, the Ethnic Minority Games held in southwestern China descended into a farce of cross-dressing cheating and mob violence, state media reported.

Athletes representing China's 55 ethnic minorities assembled in southwestern Yunnan province last week to compete in blow-pipe darts, horse-riding events and other traditional sports.

But blind pursuit of victory lead to some unorthodox tactics, Xinhua news agency reported.

Results of the women's dragon-boat racing event were reviewed after athletes complained of "big women with Adam's apples", Xinhua said. Referees subsequently found that several of the competitors were actually men wearing wigs.

A dispute between a team from the games' host city, Zhaotong, and another from Wenshan city in Yunnan province over the result of a wrestling final turned into a brawl, Xinhua said. The Wenshan team was eventually chased away by a local gang with blades and sticks called in by the Zhaotong team, Xinhua said.

"I've never seen violence and ugliness like that," a reporter at the games told Xinhua.

The nationality games have been held eight times in Yunnan province, where 25 of the country's 56 ethnic minorities live.

"The tenet of the games is to develop the minorities' characteristic sports, build up their health and increase national unity," Ren Muzhen, the chief organiser, told Xinhua.

Britains oldest brand

Lyle's Golden Syrup has been named as Britain's oldest brand, with its green and gold packaging having remained almost unchanged since 1885. The Guinness Book of Records gave the breakfast and teatime sweetener, whose tins bear the image of a lion and a biblical quotation, the prized honour.

The syrup came into being as a by-product of sugar refined by Scottish businessman Abram Lyle in London. It was first stored in tins in 1885 - a million tins are now produced monthly.

The publisher of the Guinness Book of Records said the title - which will not be officially conferred until next year's publication - was awarded after extensive research.

Brand experts said the late 19th Century was a period of huge growth for packaged goods and that many products conceived at that time are still widely consumed today. The classic tins, whose design has changed little in 120 years, carry the biblical inscription "out of the strong came forth sweetness".

Lyle's syrup was first consumed by workers at the firm's factory in east London and by local residents. The product, owned by sugar firm Tate & Lyle, is now sold as far afield as Australia and China in a range of different formats and flavours.

Lyle's Golden Syrup is a familiar sight in family kitchens, with research showing that more than 85% of people immediately recognise it. Tate & Lyle said it believed that its original design and packaging had helped it to gain iconic status.

"Its image of the lion and the bees and the biblical quotation testify to a peculiarly Victorian mix of moralism, industrial drive and budding concern for social welfare," said Dr Kate Thomas, a Victorian expert at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Time travelling quack

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio chiropractor who claimed to treat patients using time travel has surrendered his license to practice. State regulators had been investigating Dr. James Burda of Athens, who said he could take care of anyone, anywhere by reaching back in time to when the injury occurred.

Burda said he discovered the skill six years ago when he hurt his own foot while driving. He said he gave the pain a command to stop and it went away.

He said he doesn't use force to realign bones, but he uses his mind to manipulate the body. But if that doesn't work, he said he travels back in time to fix the problem. He calls the practice Bala-Keem. State medical officials call it malpractice.

Burda's Web site offered long-distance healing service for $60 an hour.

Burda said that his practice is beyond chiropractic, and is beyond what "they understand." He said that anything that's beyond what people don't understand scares them.

The Ohio State Chiropractic Board accused him of being unable to practice due to mental illness. Now, in a written statement, Burda acknowledges his form of treatment was not acceptable.

Boxing clever

GREENSBURG, Pa. -- Justin Michael Kalich, 26, came dressed for court, but not in a suit and tie.

He showed up at a courthouse in Greensburg, Pa., Wednesday wearing a cardboard box on his head.

The blue and white box was his lawyer's idea. Attorney Jeff Leonard didn't want a potential witness to be able to recognize Kalich before a preliminary hearing on charges he stole a reel of wire.

Kalich wore the box while he waited outside the office of District Judge James Albert for a 10:45 a.m. appointment.

But after a meeting with the judge, Kalich agreed to pay for the wire, about $600. Charges are being dropped, and so is the box.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lights out in Iceland

The lights are going out in Iceland this week so people can gaze at the night sky.
Authorities in the capital Reykjavik will turn off street lights on Thursday evening and people are also being encouraged to sit in their houses in the dark, writer Andri Snaer Magnason said on Wednesday.

While the lights are out, an astronomer will describe the night sky over national radio.

"We have a very beautiful sky as soon as we turn off the lights," Magnason, who came up with the idea, told Reuters.

The event is part of a film festival taking place on the small north Atlantic island, which gets most of its electricity from abundant thermal energy.

The lights are due to go off at 10 p.m. (11 p.m. British time), about two hours after nightfall, for half an hour.

Magnason said the capital's population of around 250,000 might be able to see the Northern Lights, a flickering curtain of light often seen in northern climes which is caused by solar particles being caught in the Earth's magnetic field.

Two other Icelandic towns will also turn off their lights.

That'd be Lance-corporal goat to you Pvt

A DISGRACED British army goat has been reinstated to his rank of lance-corporal after shining on parade last week.

Billy Windsor, mascot of the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, was demoted to fusilier - equivalent of private soldier - last June after ruining a parade for the Queen's birthday at a military base in Cyprus, when he ran amok.

In his first public appearance since his demotion, Billy, seven, performed exceptionally and was reinstated by his commanding officer.

Get buried in any direction

Claims that all the graves in a new £2.5 million cemetery would be aligned with Mecca were dismissed last night as "ridiculous".

Jon Collins, the leader of Nottingham city council, said reports that the dead would be buried according to Islamic tradition, regardless of their religion, at the city's High Wood Cemetery were untrue.

"It is getting ridiculous," Mr Collins said. "Anybody can be buried any way they want and I question the motives of the people who try to stir up this kind of thing."
Reports circulated that the council planned to make all headstones in the 40-acre site face north-east, the way all followers of Islam are buried, despite the majority of the population being Christian.

Stephen Barker, the city's reputation manager, said the claims were "bordering on racism".

He said that although the majority of people did not specify the direction in which they want to be buried, any requests would be granted.

The cemetery, which opened in July, has capacity for around 13,500 adult graves and has sections to cater for all faiths, he added.

Scots MP's get porn

Holyrood (The Scottish Houses of Parliament) last night launched an investigation after explicit porn channels were found on the parliament's in-house broadcasting system.

Members of the Scottish Parliament(MSPs) and staff were yesterday offered a choice of seven pay-per-view adult channels, including Red Hot Wives, Playboy TV, Television X, and Spice Extreme.

For those seeking more wholesome viewing, a Disney channel also appeared on the £660,000 system for the first time.

Adverts for the adult channels could be seen on around 320 TVs throughout the Holyrood complex, including sets for all 129 MSPs.

The parliament last night said the channels appeared to have been added to the TV feed by mistake, and the supplier had been asked to remove them.

Itsy-Bitsy lie

The man who co-wrote the song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" had the unsettling experience this week of reading his own obituary -- the result of an impostor who went through life claiming to be the author of the 1960s smash hit.

On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported on the death of a 68-year-old man named Paul Van Valkenburgh of Ormond Beach, Florida, who claimed to have written the song under the name Paul Vance. The story cited the man's wife as the source for that claim.

But the music industry's real Paul Vance, a 76-year-old man from Coral Springs, Florida, is alive and well, and says the other Paul Vance appears to have made the whole thing up.

The Paul Vance who wrote the songs -- and provided proof with royalty payments he is still receiving for the hit -- said he has been inundated with calls from people who think he died. An owner of racehorses, Vance said two of his horses were scratched from races Wednesday because people thought he had died.

"Do you know what it's like to have grandchildren calling you and say, 'Grandpa, you're still alive?' " he said in a telephone interview from Coral Springs, Florida. "This is not a game. I am who I am and I'm proud of who I am. But these phones don't stop with people calling thinking I'm dead."

Killer teddy bear

Milford Ma. – Richard Prunier is usually knee-deep in fish eggs on Monday mornings, but since the story broke about a teddy bear attack at the Milford Fish Hatchery, he's been awash in media calls.

Last week, employees at the hatchery, which provides local streams and ponds with live trout, discovered that one of the pools of 1-year-old rainbow trout was not receiving fresh water. About 2,500 fish died from lack of oxygen. The culprit was a child's teddy bear, dressed in a yellow rain slicker and a matching hat, which had somehow become lodged in a pipe that feeds fresh water to the pool.

The deaths prompted the hatchery to release a written warning: "RELEASE OF ANY TEDDY BEARS into the fish hatchery water IS NOT PERMITTED."

Prunier, his sense of humor intact, has mustered up a bit of sympathy for the bear that caused all this mess.

"He got beat up pretty good," he said yesterday, holding the toy carefully, a telltale weed poking out from the bear's hat. "Somebody's going to see him on TV and say, 'Hey, that's Susie's bear.'"In the meantime, Prunier is suggesting a simple piece of advice to parents who allow their children to bring toys with them to the hatchery.

"Tie a string on them," he said.

Prunier said that the stock at the hatchery, which produces nearly 175,000 brook, rainbow and brown trout each year and hatches around two million trout eggs, was not severely impacted by the death of the 2,500 fish.

"We always put extra fish out," Prunier said.

It's not uncommon for the pipes that drain and feed the dozens of breeding ponds to become clogged, and in the past, employees have found weeds, birds, even an occasional otter or muskrat backing up the works, he said.

Seal artist

Some artists suffer for their work. Maggie, an 11-year-old sea lion at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, gets to eat dead fish for hers.

A zoo trainer, Kesha Phares, has been teaching the animal to paint since last year. "It's, in a way, enriching," Phares told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for Wednesday's editions.

"Sea lions are very smart animals, and painting keeps their minds active."

It took three months to get the animal to hold a paint brush and touch the bristles to paper, Phares told the paper.

Phares picks the paint colours - sea lions are colourblind - and puts paint on the brush. The paintings are done one stroke at a time, with Maggie getting a fish after each stroke.

If the animal can be said to have a style, Maggie's is that she tends to put more paint on the right side of the canvas than the left.

Weighing waitresses

Two ex-waitresses at an East Side bar are suing their former employer, having filed a multimillion-dollar sex-harassment lawsuit, accusing their former bosses of ordering female employees to be weighed as part of a scheme to keep track of their weight.

Alexandria Lipton, 25, and Kristen McRedmond, 27, filed suit in New York Supreme Court against the Sutton Place Bar and Restaurant on Second Avenue near 54th Street.

The two women claim they were humiliated and sexually harassed by their boss, whom they knew only by his first name, Neil. Lipton claims the manager kept tabs on waitresses' poundage by ordering some of them onto a scale in the restaurant's office.

"When they got in the office, they were told and/or coerced into getting onto the scale," Lipton said. Lipton said she didn't work that day, but when she came back and refused to tell the manager her weight, he guessed it.

"He looked me up and down, looked at the bouncer standing next to him and goes, '135,' and he looks at the bouncer and they nod to each other, and he writes my weight down on a pad of paper," Lipton said.

The two ex-employees are represented by attorney Rosemarie Arnold, who said Redmond physically resisted when a beefy manager tried to pick her up to get her on the scale while another manager looked on.

Arnold said no men were subjected to being weighed; only female workers were singled out for the weigh-ins.

It's a hard life being a cop

Tampa, Florida — County records show Hillsborough County officers spent more than $6,000 for 92 lap dances, drinks and tips in an investigation into nudity and liquor law violations at an adult bikini bar.

The investigation spanned more than two years.

Sheriff David Gee says sometimes that's what it takes to get rid of problems.

Gee says vice detectives first targeted Lil Tootsie's nightclub after deputies responded to numerous calls ranging from violence to DUI arrests.

The agency recently asked county commissioners to revoke the club's special permit to serve alcohol.

Records show sheriff's detectives sought 41 misdemeanor nudity charges against 15 dancers at the club, but were unable to identify another 34 dancers.


FRISCO, Texas -- An award-winning Texas art teacher who was reprimanded after one of her fifth-grade students saw a nude sculpture during a trip to a museum has lost her job.

The school board in Frisco has voted not to renew Sydney McGee's contract after 28 years. She has been on administrative leave. The teacher took her students on an approved field trip to a Dallas museum, and now some parents are upset.

The Fisher Elementary School art teacher came under fire last April when she took 89 fifth-graders on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art. Parents raised concerns over the field trip after their children reported seeing a nude sculpture at the art museum.

The parents had signed permission slips allowing their children to take part in the field trip.

McGee's lawyer said the principal at Fisher Elementary School admonished her after a parent complained that a student had seen nude art.

McGee said the principal had urged her to take the students to the museum.

Now, McGee, who was honored with a Star Teacher Award two years ago, is on paid administrative leave until her contract with the school district expires in March.

Other parents are worried about the future of the art program at the school, which they cite as a reason for moving into the neighborhood.

"Our main concern right now is what's going to happen to the children and what's going to happen to the art program at Fisher Elementary. It is the best art program. That's the reason we moved to this neighborhood. It's because of the teachers," said Shannon Allen, a parent. "It was a principal-approved trip. What's the big deal?"

Officials with the Frisco school district declined to comment on the matter.

Accident, yeah right !

Getting hit by a ball is a risk any fan takes going to a game. But Laura Gibbons was struck by a foul ball, which was hit by her husband, Jay Gibbons of the Baltimore Orioles. The unlikely coincidence occurred during Saturday's game against Minnesota.

Gibbons says his wife was bruised, but is otherwise OK. Laura isn't taking it personally, though. She was back at the park for Sunday's game, too.

Even before the foul ball family affair, Baltimore's designated hitter had been pressuring the team to make it safer for fans behind the plate. Gibson says the 20-foot screen just doesn't offer enough protection from hard-hit foul balls. He wants a higher screen or some kind protection that would extend to the lower deck.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Oxford street makeover

London's Mayor , Ken Livingstone ,has revealed plans to give London's main shopping street a makeover. Oxford street is claustrophobic and dirty, choked by buses and with pavements so crowdedthat campaigners have often called for a "fastlane" in which dawdling would be prohibited (I wish they'd do that in my supermarket !)

But 'Red' Ken today revealed the proposal of a monorail as a radical solution to Oxford Street's transport gridlock.

It would run on a track 50ft above the heads of shoppers - making it possible to pedestrianise the street. The idea has been drawn up by engineers KBR with the backing of Lord Rogers, the Mayor's leading architectural adviser.

He outlined the need to create a more "civilised" environment, allowing Oxford Street to compete with outof-town shopping centres such as Bluewater in Kent.

Ian Wilder, the Westminster councillor behind the monorail scheme, said his dream was a system that would run the mile-length of the street and link it with Piccadilly Circus.

It would also serve a new convention centre - either at the Royal Mail depot in Rathbone Place, at the eastern end of Oxford Street, or beneath Marble Arch.
He said it would be far easier to introduce than a tram - mooted by Ken Livingstone - because underground utilities and water mains would not have to be moved at vast expense.

Mr Wilder said: "The thing that will change Oxford Street is the monorail. The point is that monorails work. They form other interesting opportunities - we can morph the stations into the side of buildings. Someone going to Oxford Street could go into Selfridges, avoiding the wet, and go down the escalator to the street. The monorail is also a lot cheaper than a tram. It doesn't rule out doing other things and having vehicles underneath such as taxis."

The Un-date-inator

A German businessman has set up a "separation agency" - a service to inform unsuspecting spouses and lovers their partners no longer want them. Bernd Dressler will deliver the bad news - for those too scared to do it themselves - for 20 euros (£13) by phone, or for 50 euros (£33) in person.

The efficiency and directness of Mr Dressler's manner has earned him the nickname The Terminator. The 52-year-old compares his company to a dating agency but "in reverse".

"We have had dating agencies for 30 years. If you want to have a new partnership then you have to quit your previous one. I think it's the same market - just in reverse," Mr Dressler said.
The message can be delivered in a "sympathetic or direct manner". Mr Dressler said that most of his clients do not want any further contact with their ex-partner.

The client is asked to provide three reasons why they want to terminate the relationship - these are then passed on by the agency to the former lover.

"The time is right for this service. Many clients are unhappy in their partnerships and they want to end it in a neutral way," Mr Dressler said.

The former insurance manager said he has been fortunate never to have witnessed any extreme emotional reactions.

"I am only the messenger," he said.

White deer sanctuary to open

SENECA, N.Y. -- The public will soon get a chance to peek at an unusual herd of white deer in central New York.

In October, limited public tours will be offered at the closed-down Seneca Army Depot, where officials have been protecting the unusual herd of white deer for more than half a century.

The Army erected 24 miles of fence to keep the deer in when the 10,000-acre depot was first built. Initially, there were just a few white deer, but their numbers grew with inbreeding over the years.

About a third of the 500 deer in the herd are now white. They are not albinos but simply carry a recessive gene for white hair.

Seneca White Deer, the nonprofit group organizing the tours, is hoping acquire the land from the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency and offer safaris permanently.

3yr old Boy buys car on eBay

A three-year-old boy has used his mother's computer to buy a £9,000 car on an internet auction site.
Jack Neal's parents only discovered their son's successful bid when they received a message from eBay about the Barbie pink Nissan Figaro.

Rachael Neal, 36, said her son was quite good at using the computer.

Mrs Neal, of Sleaford, Lincolnshire, said she had left her eBay password in her computer and her son had used the "buy it now" button.

She said: "Jack's a whizz on the PC and just pressed all the right buttons.

"I was just horrified. We now have the parental locks on - and we make sure we sign out of eBay!"

She said her husband John, 37, had called the seller of the car and explained the mistake.

"Luckily he saw the funny side and said he would re-advertise," Mrs Neal added.

The seller of the soft-top second-hand car, Paul Jones, co-director of Worcester Road Motors in Stourport-on-Severn, near Kidderminster, Worcestershire, said he had been "amused" by the bid.

It is the first time the car dealership has sold a car on the site, Mr Jones said.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gorilla funrun

Competitors dressed in gorilla outfits stand at the starting line of the Great Gorilla Run on Sunday in London, England. Hundreds of runners donned creatively adorned fur suits for the 4.3-mile (7 kilometers) race benefiting the Gorilla Organization, formerly named The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

4 legged chicken

SOMERSET, Pennsylvania -- Henrietta the chicken was living inconspicuously among 36,000 other birds at Brendle Farms for 18 months -- until a foreman noticed she had four legs.

"It's as healthy as the rest," the farm's owner, Mark Brendle, told The Daily American.

Brendle's 13-year-old daughter, Ashley, named the chicken Henrietta after the discovery Thursday. The bird has two normal front legs and, behind those, two more feet. They are of a similar size to her front legs but don't function. The chicken drags her extra feet behind her at the farm in in Somerset, Pennsylvania.

In 30 years of farming, Brendle said, he's never before seen a chicken with four legs.

There's no definitive reason why such deformities happen, said Cliff Thompson, a retired professor of genetics at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He said it could be an accident of development, akin to a sixth toe on a cat.

Brendle said he jokingly suggested to his family that it sell Henrietta in an Internet auction, but Ashley objected.

Jihad car sales

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A car dealership's tongue-in-cheek radio advertisement declaring "a jihad on the automotive market," will not be changed, the company said, despite drawing sharp criticism that the ad's content is offensive.

Several stations rejected the spot from Dennis Mitsubishi, which boasts that sales representatives wearing "burqas" -- head-to-toe traditional dress for Islamic women -- will sell vehicles that can "comfortably seat 12 jihadists in the back."

The Columbus chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations decried the ad as disrespectful.

"Using that as a promotional pitch when so many are dying from the criminal activity of suicide bombers, that's not funny," chapter president Asma Mobin-Uddin said. "I don't think it's appropriate when it causes real pain. It exploits or promotes misunderstanding in terms already misunderstood or misused."

In the ad, Keith Dennis of Dennis Mitsubishi talks about a "launching a jihad on the automotive market."

The ads will begin airing next week, dealership general manager Aaron Masterson said, although it was unclear whether any radio stations had accepted the spot.

A message was left seeking additional comment at Dennis Mitsubishi on Saturday.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Away message

I'm on holiday ,for a bit.
Off to sunny NC.
So posting will be sporadic :)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Damn clever

Introducing the revolutionary new rechargeable battery - the USBCELL.

This NiMH AA cell can be used in normal battery applications and can be recharged simply by plugging into a USB port.

No need for a separate charger or cables when travelling.

Built in intelligent USB charger.

Charging for just a few minutes provides extra hours of instant use for most input devices.

Not bad value either £12.99 for a pair

Sign thief

Drivers who need road signs to navigate could find themselves disoriented on Interstate 20 east of Birmingham for several weeks. A Pell City man was charged Thursday in connection with the theft of 17 signs from along I-20, valued at $85,000.

Alabama Department of Transportation officials said some of the traffic signs were as large as 10 feet by 15 feet and included markers for the Chula Vista and Brompton exits.

Kenneth Scott Ferguson, 36, remained in the St. Clair County Jail with no bond set late Thursday. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation charged him with a first-degree count of receiving stolen property, said state trooper spokesman Sgt. Tim Sartain.

The signs were sold for scrap at a Moody salvage yard, officials said. Gary Smith, DOT district engineer for St. Clair and Blount counties, estimates the aluminum scrap from the signs was worth about $2,500.

The signs, in all shapes and sizes, were taken during the past two months, Smith said, and it will be December before replacement signs are installed.

DOT officials say road signs sometimes are stolen for souvenirs. Signs have not been the only target for thieves along area interstates. Guard rail, made of steel, is also a prime candidate, said DOT District Engineer Charles Malone.

The thefts usually happen when contractors are replacing the guard rail and they leave the old rail overnight, expecting to pick it up the following day. Malone said Birmingham police recently saw someone loading up rail and arrested the man for theft.

Scrap metals such as aluminum, brass and copper are hot items for thieves. A rise in the price and demand for metals is fueling a surge in thefts, law enforcement officials said.

A chip of the old block

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Masked thieves armed with a chisel stole the penis of a wooden Maori figurine, or tiki, at the entrance of a public library in northern New Zealand, police said.

Security cameras captured pictures of three masked men using the chisel to remove the tiki's penis early on Sunday morning. The figurine is one of two indigenous Maori designs that stand on "pou" or posts astride the entrance to the library in Whangarei.

Carver Kerry Strongman said the theft had damaged the "mana" or pride of the city.

Strongman said he would begin work immediately on a carving that would restore the tiki to its original state.

Police said they were at a loss to explain the theft, particularly as a nearby statue of Tangaroa, the Maori god of the sea, was better endowed.

Formula1 buffalo race

VIHEAR SUOR VILLAGE, Cambodia - Residents of a village near Cambodia's capital staged a "Formula 1" race Friday to mark the end of the annual honoring of deceased relatives. The contest wasn't between cars, but water buffaloes.

Each year, millions of Cambodians visit Buddhist temples across the country to honor deceased loved ones during a 15-day period commonly known as the Festival of the Dead.

But in Vihear Suor village, about 22 miles northeast of the capital, Phnom Penh, citizens each year wrap up the festival with a water buffalo race to entertain visitors and honor a pledge made hundreds of years ago.

Pok Thiva, an organizer, said there was a time when many village cattle — which provide rural Cambodians with muscle to plow their fields and transport agricultural products — died from an unknown disease.

He said the villagers prayed to a spirit to help save their animals from the disease and promised to show their gratitude by holding a buffalo race each year on the last day of P'chum Ben — the festival's name in Cambodian.

"I've seen the real Formula 1, but this buffalo race is the Formula 1 we have in our village every year," Pok Thiva said. "Car or motorcycle racing was never written into the village's history," he added jokingly.

The race drew some 1,000 spectators who saw 28 riders and their animals charge down the racing field, the racers bouncing up and down on the backs of their buffaloes, whose horns were draped with colorful cloths.

Potty cow

WARSAW - A Polish woman who grew marijuana to calm the nerves of her cow has been charged with cultivating a narcotic by police in the western town of Lobez.

The cow had been "skittish and unruly" -- once breaking a person's arm -- until someone suggested mixing cannabis in with its feed, the woman told police.

"The cow became as calm as a lamb," the 55-year-old woman said, according to the PAP news agency.

The woman's plants, grown from seeds she bought at a market, reached nearly three metres (yards) tall and were extremely potent, police said.

Marijuana possession is a crime throughout Poland. The woman faces up to three years in jail if convicted.

Shuttle panic in Mexican village

he Space Shuttle Atlantis's return flight prompted panic in a Mayan village in Mexico, with local residents inundating police with phone calls about a "ball of fire" in the sky and the "sound of an explosion," authorities said.

The emergency calls came in Thursday at about 5:15 am local time (1015 GMT), six minutes before NASA's Atlantis shuttle landed at Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida, some 800 kilometers (497 miles) from Chunes, a small village on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

"They asked us to search the area. A military unit confirmed that no small plane had crashed," said Abraham Oliva, director of public security for the municipality.

It was not until the evening, when authorities saw the television news, that they realized the suspicious sights and sounds had been produced by the shuttle as it streaked overhead, Oliva said.

Hi-Tech marble voting

Gambians are voting for their president with a unique marble system.

Voters enter a booth and pop a clear glass marble into one of three drums representing the candidates, instead of a putting a ballot paper into a box.

As the marble falls into the drum, it hits a bell so officials can tell if anyone votes more than once.

"It's a unique system introduced in 1965 because of Gambia's high illiteracy," Gambia's chief electoral officer Kawsu Ceesay told the BBC.

The bell resembles a bicycle bell so bicycles are banned from around polling stations to avoid any confusion.

"Three drums representing the three presidential candidates will be in the compartment attached to one another so they can't be lifted to see which is heavier," he says.
"The drums are painted in the colour of the candidate's party and have their photograph and party symbol."

Incumbent President Yahya Jammeh's drum is green and his rivals Ousainou Darboe and Halifa Sallah are yellow and grey respectively.

Sand or sawdust is also put into the bottom of the drum before it is inspected by party agents and shut with numbered seals so that a second sound is not heard.

Afterwards voters have their finger dipped in indelible ink.

Marbles have to be posted through a pipe at the top of the drum and those left on top are regarded as spoilt ballots.

Expensive marmalade

Manchester: A jam maker has marked its 125th anniversary by producing the world's most expensive marmalade.

F Duerr & Son's Fine Cut Seville Orange Marmalade with Whisky, Champagne and Gold costs £5,000 a jar.

That means it would cost an estimated £76 to spread on just one slice of toast, reports the Telegraph.

It contains finest Seville fruit with vintage Dalmore 62 whisky from Whyte & Mackay, valued at £32,000 per bottle, Pol Roger Cuv'e Sir Winston Churchill 1996 vintage champagne and flakes of 24-carat gold leaf.

MoreTV's than people in the USA

NEW YORK -- Televisions have taken over the average American home. How many people live in your home? Now another pop quiz: how many TVs do you have?

If you're like the average American, you have more TV sets in your home than you do people. Nielsen Media Research said the average home in the United States now has more television sets than people to sit down and watch them. The researchers said there are now 2.73 TV sets in the typical home, compared to just 2.55 people.

Nielsen said half of American homes now have three or more TVs, while only 19 percent have just one. In 1975, 57 percent of homes had only a single set.

And the increase in popularity in flat-screen TVs has made it easier to put sets where they haven't been before.

Nielsen also said more people are watching more television, as sets are turned on for more than eight hours a day in the average home. The average person watches for four hours and 35 minutes of television each day.

Stop posting teabags !

A U.S. Postal Service official in Illinois has warned that a protest involving mailed tea bags could cause problems for post office machinery.

Brian Wagner, customer relations coordinator for the Peoria, Ill., post office, said the tea bag protest called for by Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn against AmerenCILCO's 55 percent residential utility rate hikes could clog sorting machines or damage mail, the Peoria Journal Star reported Thursday. ComEd plans to increase rates 22 percent.

"If someone sends in a tea bag and it breaks open, it could actually damage our automated equipment or damage the mail," Wagner said. He suggested sending an empty tea bag or a picture of a tea bag as an alternative form of mail protest.

Quinn said the suggested alternatives would work just as well for the protest.

"If they want to use a wrapper or the virtual approach, the more the merrier," Quinn said. "The bottom line is to send a message and whatever is an effective way to send a message is fine with me.

"We'll leave it up to everyday people to decide how they want to do it."

500 galaxies found

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have found hundreds of young galaxies that existed less than a billion years after the Big Bang.

The discovery is unprecedented, since astronomers had not even seen one galaxy that existed when the universe was that young.

The 500 galaxies found, of which 28 are seen here, represent the most comprehensive compilation of galaxies in the early universe, astronomers say.
(NASA, ESA, R. Bouwens and G. Illingworth, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA)
The discovery came from an analysis of two of the deepest observations Hubble ever made of the universe, in 2003 and 2004.

The head of the Hubble study, Rychard Bouwens of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the number and brightness of the galaxies "is evidence for galaxies building up from small pieces, merging together as predicted by the hierarchical theory of galaxy formation."

The analysis was presented in August at a meeting of the International Astronomical Union and will be published in the Astrophysical Journal in November.

Cocaine drink, clever name NOT

A new energy drink is raising eyebrows because of its controversial name. It's called "Cocaine" and it's being billed as the legal alternative to the drug.

The drink's manufacturer promises the red-colored beverage gives a bigger, better and longer energy boost than other drinks on the market.

Though the drink doesn't actually use cocaine as an ingredient, health officials are concerned the drink sends the wrong message.

Right now, the energy drink can only be found in bars in New York and Los Angeles. It will be unveiled in San Diego later this week.

Redux beverages in Las Vegas manufactures the drink.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Eat a roach and skip the queue

GURNEE, Illinois -- Why wait in line when you can just eat a cockroach?

That's the question Six Flags Great America is asking thrill seekers during a Halloween-themed FrightFest. The amusement park is daring customers to eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach in exchange for unlimited line-jumping privileges.

The promotion, which has Lake County Health Department officials shaking their heads, starts October 7.

Anyone who chows down the entire 2- to 3-inch horned cockroach gets a pass for four people to cut to the front of ride lines through October 29.

Park officials insist it's safe to eat the crunchy critters, but health officials are cautioning participants.

Consuming live roaches might increase risks of gastrointestinal illness and allergies, according to Bill Mays, Lake County Health Department's community health director.

Cockroach eaters will have to sign waivers and still pay admission fees, said Six Flags spokesman James Taylor.

Forbes top 400

A nine-figure fortune won’t get you much mention these days, at least not here.

This year, for the first time, everyone in The Forbes 400 has at least $1 billion. The collective net worth of the nation’s wealthiest climbed $120 billion, to $1.25 trillion.

Surging real estate, oil and other asset prices paved the way for 28 new members and 14 returnees. More...

There was a 27 way tie for last, all of them billionaires, in fact 5 billionaires were omitted !

The Top Ten

  1. William H. Gates III
  2. Warren E. Buffett
  3. Sheldon Adelson
  4. Lawrence J. Ellison
  5. Paul G. Allen
  6. Jim C Walton
  7. Christy Walton
  8. S. Robson Walton
  9. Michael Dell
  10. Alice L. Walton

Can we have our lions back please?

They were bolted down and each weighed more than 500 pounds. Now, incredibly, they're gone.

In a criminal feat of strength, someone lifted two solid bronze lions from the front steps of the Law Offices of Pat Maloney last weekend and whisked them away, authorities said.

Police are "completely baffled as to how they could have gotten that heavy of an object," said attorney Janice Maloney, owner of the lions and the building in the Monte Vista Historic District from which they were taken.

Investigators believe the theft of the statues — priced at $15,000 apiece and installed with a crane 10 years ago — took the brawn of at least two people. Last seen at 1 p.m. on Saturday, the lions were gone by Monday morning. Police had no leads on Wednesday.

Janice Maloney is baffled as well, but she's also bereft. To her, the chocolate-coloured, intricately carved cats — featured not in ferocious stances, but rather in repose — were more than mere décor.

"They were courageous, noble, but gentle," she said Wednesday, sitting inside her cozy law offices in the 300 block of West Woodlawn. "They were you and your mom," piped Della Kalenkosky, a paralegal.

Maloney, daughter of late attorney Pat Maloney Sr., purchased the cats from a furniture store in 1996 along with her mother, Olive Maloney, who died in 2004. The docile creatures had since become sentimental possessions whose fabled traits reminded Janice Maloney not only of the virtues of her profession, but also of those of her family.

Lawyers stroked them. Toddlers rode them. Maintenance men polished them. "We all got very attached to those lions," Janice Maloney said. "It's crazy to say, but we loved those lions."

Now tenants and employees are left with two glaring spaces and a host of baffling questions.

Who stole the cats? Overzealous lovers of animal art or crude thieves with designs to melt the metal and pocket the change?

Did they steal through the night with a winch and a crane?

And where are the lions now? Tucked away in a courtyard or in a basement somewhere?

Janice Maloney has no theories.

"They were the great guardians of the property," she said, "and the guardians got stolen."

Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider

BANGOR, Maine --A book of rhymes handed out to kindergarten classes across Maine is being criticized by some parents as inappropriate. "Schoolyard Rhymes" is a compilation of 50 verses included in bags given to 18,000 pupils through the Read With ME literacy project supported by Gov. John Baldacci and his wife Karen.

Karen Baldacci, who is a former kindergarten teacher, spearheads Maine Reads, the nonprofit umbrella organization for Read With ME that is funded by Verizon, the Bangor Daily News reported. The group receives no state money.

A few of the rhymes have raised some eyebrows. For example, one says, "Ladies and gentlemen, Take my advice, Pull down your pants And slide on the ice." Another one says, "Girls go to Mars to get candy bars. Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider."

Erica Smith of Hampden, mother of a 5-year-old son who goes to the McGraw School, said the book is "completely inappropriate." "It's rude. There are words in there that I don't allow in my house," said Smith, who complained to her son's teacher as well as the school principal. She also called the governor's office to voice her displeasure.

The book, edited by award-winning author Judy Sierra of Castro Valley, Ca., and illustrated by Melissa Sweet of Rockport, was chosen by a five-member committee of literacy specialists, librarians and educators including Karen Baldacci.

Since the book was distributed, the governor's office has received about a dozen e-mails and phone calls from people who said they were "uncomfortable" with the book, said Crystal Canney, spokeswoman for the governor.

"The committee obviously feels that parents should use their own judgment on what they feel is appropriate for their children," she said.

Officials noted that the rhymes, which have been around for generations, are meant to be taken lightly and that the intent was never to offend. Sarah Cecil, coordinator of the Portland-based Maine Reads, said this year marks the first time anyone has complained about the program.

Most of the evaluation forms that accompanied the book were positive, she said. "At the same time, we're sorry if we offended people and we can respect each parent's or educator's decisions about whether to read the book or not," she said.

Thumbing through the book at her desk at the Bangor Public Library, Anne Mundy, director of the children's department, said she could see both sides of the controversy.

"Everyone's sensibilities are a little different, so it's hard to find something that's going to be welcomed by all families of kindergartners," she said.

RIP Steve

There was never any doubt that it was going to be a quintessentially Australian experience, and Steve Irwin's memorial service did not disappoint.

Five thousand people watched it in person and an estimated 300 million around the world tuned into live television coverage of the emotional farewell to the crocodile hunter.

Irwin's beloved Crocoseum, where he would entertain the crowds with his mix of showmanship and larrikin charm, was no place for the strong and silent yesterday morning.

Tough outback characters, mothers and children alike wept as the staff of Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland, joined film stars and politicians to pay tribute to one of the most famous Aussies on the planet.

Ve climbed it 1st

Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, was conquered half a century earlier than thought, the German mountaineering association Deutscher Alpenverein admitted yesterday.

A Bavarian surveyor, Josef Naus, had been credited with being the first to scale the 2,962-metre (9,718ft) peak in the Bavarian Alps between Germany and Austria in 1820.

But the association said a 1770 map discovered in its archives strongly suggested it had already been climbed by locals. "The likelihood is they would have been hunters or shepherds," said Martina Sepp, who found the map.

Tank-top perv

Police have detained an armed half-naked man carrying a gun near a school in the Eastern part of Moscow, authority source told Interfaks.

According to the agency’s source the incident took place on Tuesday night close to the school located on 11th Parkovaya street.

“The detained Moscow resident, who was born in 1967, was attempting to enter the school wearing nothing but the women’s panties (hot!!!) and a tank top. He was taken to the police station in Northern Izmaylovo region, where he is currently being questioned by the authorities. After the search in his apartment one more gun was discovered in addition to seven checks adding to a significant amount of 700,000 rubles ($3,500),” the agency source explained.

He also added that the weapons ceased from the transgressor were home-made. According to the preliminary reports they are recognized as firearms.


MILWAUKEE -- Artist and retired art professor Jim Schinneller's love of laughter didn't end with his death. When an obituary for the lifelong jokester appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it was accompanied with a photo -- of the back of his head.

"It's a family that goes for a little bit of one-upmanship," Jim Schinneller Jr. explained to the Journal Sentinel's Jim Stingl in a column published Wednesday. He said the family couldn't resist giving his dad a chance for one more joke.

The senior Schinneller's companion, Gloria Bosben, said that she took the photo as a joke.

"He had just gotten a haircut and it was a sunny day out," she said. "He said, 'I want you to take a picture of the back of my head. I want to give it to the kids for Christmas."'

So he turned around and she snapped the picture outside his suburban Fox Point home. He gave 5-by-7-inch framed copies to each of his four grown children and Bosben's brother two years ago.

Family members said it was just the kind of thing they could always expect from Schinneller, a retired professor of art at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who died at home Sept. 9 at the age of 81.

"He liked to buck the system," his daughter Diane Colla said. "He enjoyed showing people how absurd life was."

Channel 4 to broadcast crucifixion

Channel 4 is to broadcast a documentary showing a human corpse being hung on a cross to depict Christ's suffering.

Anatomist Gunther von Hagens will use a real body to show how people died when crucified in the 90-minute film. The programme, Crucifixion, is already causing controversy, with Christians condemning it as blasphemous and one group threatening prosecution.

Although Channel 4 insists the body will not represent Christ specifically, a memo leaked to the Evening Standard states that it would indeed portray Jesus.

Von Hagens, who created the Body Worlds exhibits using his preservation technique of plastination, has been widely criticised for his work, which included an autopsy on TV in 2002. This is the first time he has touched on religion.


Steve Jenkins, spokesman for the Church of England, said: "This will upset and offend a lot of Christians as it seems he is using the Crucifixion simply to grab attention."

Christian Voice, which led the protest against broadcasting Jerry Springer The Opera, has announced it may prosecute on grounds of disrespect to Christ.

Director Stephen Green said: "This sounds gratuitously offensive and blasphemous. It could well be we would want to take some action against it."

Crucifixion will be broadcast on More4. Filming has not yet started. A spokeswoman for Channel 4 said: "This is a science documentary, a history documentary on the anatomy after crucifixion. It will not be a specific representation of Christ.

But the production company making the film, Firefly, describes the portrayal as just that. In a document, Crucifixion was described as "a 90-minute film for More4 in which Gunther plastinates 'Jesus'".

Firefly has produced programmes such as the BBC's The Thieving Headmistress.

Producer Nick Curwin warned employees to keep Crucifixion under wraps. They were told that the programme and otherswere "highly confidential."

Despite Channel 4's insistence that von Hagens's work is educational, Mr Curwin also described the shock value of another programme, Gunther's ER. He said: "Gunther-choppingupbodies-in-front-of-an-audience series was also commissioned.

Crazy !

ATLANTA - A U.S. woman held in jail for seven months longer than her original sentence because she was too poor to pay a $705 fine was freed on Wednesday, her attorney said.

Ora Lee Hurley was ordered to pay the fine and sentenced in August 2005 to 120 days in jail after she was convicted in Georgia of possession of cocaine for personal use and breaking the terms of probation for a similar offense 15 years before.

She served the sentence at Atlanta's Gateway Diversion Center, a halfway house that allows its inmates out on day-release to work as long as they pay room and board. Hurley, 45, worked at a restaurant earning $700 a month and was supposed to pay the fine with that money, according to a petition filed this week.

But monthly bills including a $600 payment to the center and $52 for transportation left her with only $23.22, out of which she also had to buy soap, toothpaste and other items. Once the sentence was completed in February she was detained further because the fine, which dated back to the original probation terms from 1990, had not been paid.

"The justice system is designed with the intention that the amount of money you have should not factor into the length of time that you are in prison. But that's not the reality here," said attorney Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

A petition filed on Hurley's behalf by the rights center argued that her imprisonment violated constitutional principles "which prohibit imprisoning a person whose poverty makes it impossible to pay a fine."

Hurley said she paid $7,643 in all but nobody explained why so little of that money went toward paying off the debt.

"I went through my little anger stage but I feel a lot better now that something has been done," she said from her home in Americus, Georgia. "It feels good (to be home). I have been away from home for 14 months."

Hundreds of people in Georgia alone may have suffered extended periods of incarceration due to the failure to pay fines, Geraghty said.

We screwed up website

BUDAPEST: Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's blunt admission he lied to win an election has sparked outrage, riots and a race to claim a website over his comments.

The Hungarian web portal Index reported that three licence requests for the ("we screwed up" in Hungarian) website had been submitted to the domain registration body ISZT.

Gyurcsany admitted in a taped speech that was leaked to the media that his Socialist-led government had lied to win general elections in April and that "we screwed up" a lot.

It was unclear whether the domain name would be approved as Hungarian domain licensing regulations stipulate that requests for manipulative or potentially outrageous domain names can be rejected.

The comments by Gyurcsany, who has refused to step down over the controversy, have triggered mass anti-government riots, the first such violence since communism ended in Hungary at the end of the 1980s.

Over 150 people were injured in Budapest, the Hungarian capital of two million.

More than 10,000 protesters took to the streets again on Tuesday, but police reported no violence.


LOVELAND, Ohio - A man using a motorized parachute got caught in overhead power lines, stranding him for about eight hours until cranes rescued him early Thursday. Michael Farrell, 52, appeared to be unhurt. He was taken to a hospital after his rescue, then was released.

Farrell was left hanging about 45 metres (150ft) above ground outside Loveland, 25 kilometres east of Cincinnati on Wednesday after his aircraft wrapped around two lines that do not transmit electricity.

The craft consists of a parachute attached to a metal frame with a seat inside and what looks like a large fan in the back. Farrell's wife and son saw the accident and called for help.

Crews worked through the night with three cranes to free Farrell, who used walkie-talkies to speak with his family and officials.

"He said, 'It's cold and I'm frightened,' " said Steve Bailey, the Miami Township police chief.

One crane brought Farrell a blanket and heat packs, one stabilized the aircraft and one secured the parachute.

Duke Energy cut off electricity to live power lines below Farrell, which the pilot did not touch. No customers lost service, the company said.

Hit me Granny !

A pensioner arrested after a row with a teenage gang which left her with a suspected broken arm will not face assault charges. Diane Bond, 64, of Llandrindod Wells, Powys, said she was walking her dog when a teenager blocked her path and challenged her to hit him.

Mrs Bond said she did - and was then "flattened" by the teenager.

Dyfed-Powys Police said it had been decided that proceeding with the case was "not in the public interest."

Mrs Bond called the police inquiry "a waste of time from the very start".

She said "I suppose I'm quite relieved that I'm not going to court and I'm not going to be locked up," she said.

"It was bizarre, stupid and I'm appalled by the way police have treated me." She is considering taking the matter further.

Roger Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire said: "I'm pleased that the pressure has been taken off this lady but my main concern was, and still is, how she was dealt with following the incident."

A spokeswoman for Dyfed-Powys Police said: "A file of evidence was sent to the CPS who have decided it is not in the public interest to proceed with the case."

The retired lab technician was walking her dog Hettie in a park on 27 July when the incident happened.

Ms Bond said at the time: "There were three main teenagers who were blocking our way on the path. The kids are sometimes like that around here, taunting you and stuff and it is usually water off a duck's back. This time one of them was showing off, flexing his muscles in front me and he said 'hit me' - so I did.

"I didn't do any damage at all but the next thing I know he's flattened me. I don't remember how I got up off the floor or how I got home. I was left shaken and crying."

Police officers later called round to the 5ft 1in grandmother's home and arrested her on suspicion of assault.

She said she was held between 2130 BST that day and 0130 BST the following morning, before police released her.

Kennel webcams

Did you have a miserable time on holiday this year because you were worried about how Fido or Spot was getting on back in the kennels? Leaving the cherished pet behind can be a real problem for devoted owners, but now your worries are over.

In a move likely to become standard in no time at all, one up-to-date kennel in County Antrim has found a way to keep pets and their owners in touch across the miles. The kennel has some special features, including heated flooring and ambiance music.

However, it provides an even more unusual service for its clients - a webcam.

The Maguire family is just back from holiday and while they did not like leaving their pet behind, they were able to see him every day. Thanks to a series of web-cameras, the dogs can be monitored night or day.

All their owners need to do is find an internet café and log on to the website.

Proprietor David McQuillan said the webcam link was used by many people using kennels for the first time.

"To be able to have the reassurance of seeing their pet, even though they can't actually pet it or feed it, to be able to even see it and see that it's happy, content and relaxed puts their mind at ease."

Maura Maguire said the webcam system had "become an essential ingredient" of the family's holidays when their dog, Paddy, was put in the boarding kennel.

"Every day, when we are away on holidays - Paddy's usually up here about four times a year - we access the website, my husband certainly more than me. He tells me how well Paddy is. I don't want to look at him in case it makes me homesick."

While the "pet-cam system" is only available for dogs at the moment, the owners hope to extend it to include all pets, including cats and birds in the near future.

Hurricanes are swell !

Britain's top surfers have made the most of huge waves off the Cornish coast thanks to the tail-end of Hurricane Gordon. The Gold Rush Big Wave Contest was arranged at short notice to take advantage of the 8ft (2.5m) swell at Newquay's Fistral beach.

Three Cornish surfers made the final heat, and the winner was Scott Eastwood from Jersey. The British Surfing Association (BSA) got special permission from the RNLI.

Tony Good the surf contest director said surfers were delighted with the conditions.

He told BBC News: "We were forecasting 6ft-plus and we've actually had double overhead waves.

"The guys are really stoked to be out there and we've probably had the best waves for a contest ever held in the UK."

What came first , the minnow or the egg ?

Biologists at the University of Manchester want help in cracking their "miracle" discovery of three fish inside a sealed egg. The group found the duck egg in a small pond on a field trip to the French Alps and noticed something moving inside it.

When they cracked open the shell, three live minnows were inside.

They have enlisted the help of other experts, but despite their extensive combined knowledge, the biologists admit they are "baffled".

Dr Matthew Cobb, a lecturer in animal behaviour at the university, said: "As 21st century scientists rather than 17th century antiquarians we think it's unlikely this represents a hitherto unknown mode of fish reproduction.

"Perhaps the egg fell into the pond following some kind of predatory attack but we're baffled as to how the minnows got to be inside. Certainly, we didn't see any crack in the egg."

Dr Cobb and his colleague, Henry McGhie, head of natural sciences at the Manchester Museum, have written to the New Scientist magazine in the hope readers will help solve the mystery.

Minnows are small freshwater fish, often used as bait by anglers.

Vinyards not happy at new motorway

Baron Geoffroy de Luze usually loves this time of year, when the soft rains fall on the grapes in Margaux just before the harvest. He can look out over his vineyards in the hope of another vintage year - but not this year.

The baron is filled with foreboding because the French authorities are threatening to build a motorway right next to his vines.

He is one of many winemakers in the region fighting back over plans for a motorway which they say will ruin the country's most profitable vineyards in the Medoc. It is an area of Bordeaux world-famous for the quality of its wines.

The Bordeaux authorities will decide this week which routes to put forward to the French transport ministry, and whether the Bordeaux bypass should be constructed next to the Margaux vineyards or elsewhere, further from the valuable vines.

Officials say the bypass is needed to minimise congestion on the motorway from Paris down to Spain and Portugal.

"The motorway would come within 70m (231ft) of my vineyards, and who knows what impact it will have on the wine and the soil? This is why we are very worried here in Margaux," he says, examining the grapes ahead of this week's harvest.

"From the projections, we will get 25,000 big lorries a day on a motorway that will be six lanes in total, so it's bound to affect our environment. And Margaux is a jewel. Would you run a motorway through the park of Versailles?" he asks rhetorically.

Baron de Luze insists that his battle is not a case of "not in my back vineyard" but a genuine fear that the motorway could prove a disaster in this finely balanced eco-system.

The wines produced here are among the world's best-known Bordeaux. Indeed, some of Margaux's top chateaux, such as Chateau Margaux, are commanding prices of up to £276 ($519) a bottle for their 2005 vintage.

Branson pledges billions

Sir Richard Branson is to invest $3bn (£1.6bn) to fight global warming.

The Virgin boss said he would commit all profits from his travel firms, such as airline Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains, over the next 10 years.

"We must rapidly wean ourselves off our dependence on coal and fossil fuels," Sir Richard said.

The funds will be invested in schemes to develop new renewable energy technologies, through an investment unit called Virgin Fuels.

One of the UK's best known entrepreneurs, Sir Richard made the announcement in New York on the second day of the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual conference hosted by former US President Bill Clinton.

Sir Richard, 56, said that transport and energy companies "must be at the forefront of developing environmentally friendly business strategies".

Statue to Ronnie

WARSAW -- Polish admirers of Ronald Reagan say they will erect a statue of the late US president in Warsaw to thank him for helping to end communist rule.

They say the 3.5-metre (10.5ft) stone and bronze statue will stand opposite the US embassy in the Polish capital.

"The statue is a way for his legacy to live on," said Janusz Dorosiewicz, a businessman behind the private project.

In 1989, Poland became the first nation in Eastern Europe to defeat communism. Reagan died in 2004 at the age of 93.

"This is an entirely private initiative undertaken by Poles in Poland, the United States and Canada," Mr Dorosiewicz said.

"Reagan was the person who defeated the communists and opened the way for freedom in Poland," he said.

The organisers estimate that the statue will cost about 140,000 euros (£94,000).

It will be unveiled on 4 July 2007 - US Independence Day.

Can we have our bullets back please?

An armed policeman has lost more than a dozen bullets while on duty in the Nottingham city area.

Police said a metal holder containing 15 bullets were lost by the officer sometime between Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday.

They said that, while the bullets do not in themselves represent a danger to members of the public, they could be dangerous if mistreated.

An investigation into the loss is being carried out.

The holder is black in colour and approximately six inches long.

Nottinghamshire Police have urged anyone who finds the bullets to contact them.

This is the third time the force has appealed for help from the public in finding lost bullets.

Multilingual school

A London school has pupils that speak in a mind-boggling 71 different languages.

Southfields Community College in Wandsworth, South London, takes kids who have fled war zones around the world and speak no English. Some have never been to school before.

But incredibly the college — believed to be the most cosmopolitan in Europe — has only THREE translators. It has 1,300 UK and foreign pupils aged 11-18 — and 550 of these arrived in Britain speaking no English.

So their first lesson was a crash course in our mother tongue. The pupils are then slowly introduced into mainstream classes, supported by the school’s ethnic minority achievement unit.
Among the languages spoken are Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi Kazak , Croatian, Zulu (South Africa), Swahili (Kenya) and Krio (Sierra Leone).

Headteacher Jacqueline Valin said many of the children arrive deeply traumatised. She recalled: “One young Somalian girl had a scar on her hand from being shot. We’ve had an increase in the number of pupils from abroad but there has never been a problem with the racial mix. These children have a burning desire to learn.”

Despite the language barrier the school’s exam results are improving.

The proportion of pupils getting five Cs or better at GCSE rose from 27 per cent in 2002 to 38 per cent last year.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Yeah dude , like , you're sued !

California sued six of the world's largest automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.

It comes less than a month after California lawmakers adopted the nation's first global warming law mandating a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

California also has targeted the motor industry with first-in-the-nation rules adopted in 2004 requiring carmakers to force cuts in tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks.

Automakers, however, have so far blocked those rules with their own legal action -- prompting one analyst to say California's lawsuit represents a way for California to pressure car manufacturers to accept the rules.

"That's the objective," said David Cole, chairman of the Centre for Automotive Research, a nonprofit organisation that provides public research and forecasts about the industry. "They want to get the automakers basically to bow down and pay homage to the (emissions) law."

The complaint, which an motor industry trade group called a "nuisance" suit, names General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., the U.S. arm of Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG and the North American units of Japan's Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd..

Environmental groups hailed the lawsuit, saying it represented another weapon for the state as it seeks to curb greenhouse gas emissions and spur the motor industry to build vehicles that pollute less.

Nice one

A struggling actor has been paid nearly $260,000 by a casino after he was initially denied the money when managers said his apparent win was a mistake.

Freddy Howard, 53, of Sunny Isles Beach, took part in a free promotional game, the Swipe and Win Progressive jackpot, while at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino near Hollywood on Aug. 29. Howard swiped his Players Club card, and a hostess and supervisor broke the news: He had won $259,945.75.

Howard was showered with attention and presented with a giant cardboard cheque. Then casino managers broke the bad news — a computer glitch had caused an error and he was not a big winner.

On Tuesday, the Hard Rock paid him anyway.

“We are making this payment as a gesture of goodwill, and I am pleased to tell you that Mr. Howard has accepted,” said Allen Huff, chairman of the Seminole Gaming Commission.

However, Huff said Howard used a Players Club card that belonged to his father and was not eligible to win, even if there had not been a mistake. Howard had hired a lawyer and also threatened to picket the casino.

“Honestly, I just want to be gathered together with relatives and with friends and thank God once again for this whole thing,” Howard said. He said he agreed not to discuss the details of his deal with the casino.

Officials said an independent testing facility, Gaming Laboratories International, determined a communications glitch between computers had created the problem that indicated Howard had won.

Then casino staff added to the problem.

“We became overexcited at the operations level,” said Seminole gaming chief executive officer James Allen. “Our marketing team’s job is to create excitement, and, candidly, they went a little too far.”

56 yr old tattoo ban lifted

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A 56-year-old ban on tattoo parlours has been lifted in this navy town.

City council approved an ordinance Tuesday allowing tattoo parlours in certain parts of the city, home to the world's largest naval base. The ordinance restricts parlours to a few industrial zones and downtown.

The move came after courts ruled that cities may no longer prohibit tattoo parlours.

Sixty years ago, Norfolk's East Main Street was world-famous for its tattoo parlours, taverns and burlesque palaces. In 1945, there were about a dozen parlours.

That ended in 1950 when city council banned all tattoo parlours. Tattoos were branded unsanitary, vulgar, even "cannibalistic."

Tattoos have become heavily regulated by the navy. It forbids tattoos in places not covered by the uniform and regulates the types of tattoos sailors may have.


Chico likes his fashion doggy-style. Chico, a cheeky chihuahua cross, likes to mix it up – a little J-Lo jacket mixed with Snoop Dogg gangsta eyewear. Chico will not wear anything that is, like, so last season. And he is not alone.

Pet owners New Zealand-wide are embracing the growing range of doggy clothes and accessories.

Monique Somner, owner of Chico and manager of pet store Animates, said the rise in the popularity of small dogs as pets had pet lovers filling up wardrobes with the latest in summer essentials.

"And clothing is just the start. There's jewellery, bedding, whole bedrooms. Some have their own trainers, specific doctors, groomers and doggy daycare," she said.

Small dogs, popularised by celebrity dog owners such as Paris Hilton, can be dressed in fashionista flamboyance or rugged in classic Kiwiana – wet-weather gear or bush shirts.

Who says fashion has gone to the dogs?

"In my opinion, people dress their dogs because they are a child substitute. There are a lot of people out there with disposable income, and if they want to spend it on their pets, why not?" Somner said. She said Chico was "quite the man-about-town", but her other dog, a french bulldog called Betty Sparkle, occasionally wore a jacket, glasses and even fairy wings.

"People look at them with amusement, but there's more to it than being cool. They actually started making these things for a reason," she said. Protective goggles, or "doggles", can stop cataracts and eye ulcers, while dog shoes prevent paw pads wearing out.

Japanese student Towa Jose graduated from Massey University last year with a Diploma in Fashion and Technology. Since returning to Osaka, she has produced a range of designer dog T-shirts.

Jose said she believed dogs were at their happiest when being given attention.

Pet hotel beds

THE hotel chain Travelodge is to test market a special 2ft 6in long 2ft wide pet bed for guests who cannot bear to be parted from their cats and dogs.

The beds will be tried out at hotels in Newcastle upon Tyne, Liverpool, Birmingham and Nottingham.

PJ fury

PEOPLE wearing pyjamas in public, still common in Shanghai, is one of the most irritating aspects of life in China's biggest city, along with aggressive pets and unhelpful neighbours according to a poll of residents.

More than 16 per cent of respondents said they or family members often wore pyjamas in public, and 25 per cent sometimes did.

Lunatic fringe

UK - The Home Secretary has been barracked by a protester after he urged British Muslims to help fight terrorism. John Reid was shouted down as he called on Muslim parents to look out for "tell-tale signs" of terrorists brainwashing their children.

He was talking in London's East End - the focus of a number of recent investigations into alleged terrorist plots. A few minutes into his speech, a man called Abu Izzadeen stood up and berated the Home Secretary over police arresting more than a thousand" Muslims.

Izzadeen said: "You (Mr Reid) are a tyrant" and "You are an enemy of Islam and Muslims". He ranted: "State terrorism by British police", before officers and stewards led him from the building.

The protester, also known as Trevor Brook, is an extremist from the al Ghurabaa group, which was banned by Mr Reid under new anti-terror laws. Police have investigated Mr Izzadeen in the past after he praised the July 7 London Tube bombers.

A second protester was ejected when he also interrupted the minister's speech.

Mr Reid said: "There will always be people who will not be prepared to take part in a dialogue, but who will try to intimidate and shout down."

Returning to his speech, he insisted terrorists were waging a "violent and indiscriminate war" and warned that communities needed to be more aware of signs of terrorist activity.

The tooth , the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

Cordoba: An Argentinian robber was caught after he lost his false teeth during a raid on a house.

Householder Juan Navarro, from Cordoba, noticed one of the masked robbers lose his dentures. In his hurry to escape, the robber left the false teeth behind and Mr Navarro handed them over to the police.

Two days after the robbery, Mr Navarro noticed his own nephew suddenly seemed to have lost his teeth.

A police spokesman said: "Mr Navarro came straight to us and we had the denture analysed. It turns out it belongs to his nephew. What a funny thing to happen. Caught by a denture! Unbelievable!"

Elephant legged woman pissed off

London: A woman suffering from a rare condition that dramatically increases the size of her legs and feet has told of how she is teased by strangers.

Mandy Sellars, who weighs 16-stone, is one of only around 120 people in the world with Proteus Syndrome, which has left her with a size 12 top half, but her legs are 35 inches in circumference. Mandy told ITV's This Morning show: "Adults can be very hurtful. In a restaurant one blurted out "look at the size of those feet""I don't mind children staring, but adults should know better."

Proteus Syndrome leaves its victims with atypical growth of the bones, skin and head.

It can also lead to and a variety of other symptoms like increasing the size of an organ, or parts of the body.

Online history of UK phone books

London: It wasn't that long ago you could pick up the phone and speak to anyone you wanted be it Sir Winston Churchill, Laurence Olivier or even the man who started it all, Alexander Graham Bell.

Nowadays, footballers, politicians and pop stars go ex-directory to stop members of the public ringing up and haranguing them.
But phone books dating back to 1880 have now been made available online and show that, until fairly recently, almost everyone was listed.

Other 'celebs' you could have contacted include actor Sir John Gielgud, film director Alfred Hitchcock and Dracula author Bram Stoker. A close reading of the 1941 edition also reveals that you could have phoned a Capt John Terry, of London, a number of George Bushes and James Kirks, as well as the odd Lily Allen.

Back then, people could still ask to go ex-directory but there was little point because numbers were created for names in strict alphabetical order.

The online collection contains more than 250million names ,430 books were printed for London and the Home Counties alone.

Genealogy website has joined up with BT to launch the complete online history of phone books from 1880 to 1984. spokesman Josh Hanna believes it will provide a unique snapshot of 20th-century life ,as well as being invaluable to researchers tracing their family trees. "People today will find it remarkable that, in the those days, you could contact a celebrity just by picking up a phone book,And if they were a politician you could just ring them and lobby them" he said.

However, it was not until the 1940s that phone ownership became common, according t o Sian Wynn-Jones of BT Heritage. "Anyone listed before that was likely to be rich and famous, Being included in the phone book showed you were up with the crowd and people were proud to be included."

Bell is widely considered to have invented the phone in 1876. He and his backers formed the Bell Telephone Company in the US and a year later demonstrated it to Queen Victoria on the Isle of Wight. The first list of phone numbers appeared in 1880.

Sit-com University course

Have you ever watched episodes of Only Fools and Horses or cult modern comedy The Office thinking, 'I could do that'? If you fancy yourself as the next Ricky Gervais, a new comedy writing course at Cardiff University could be the route to success.

The 10-week course promises to teach the skills which separate a rejected script from a commissioned series. Tutor James Daniel says the death of the sitcom has been prematurely announced on many occasions.

A scriptwriter who has co-written shows for the BBC, he believes it is possible to teach somebody the secrets of comedy writing but only if they have "a spark and a desperate willingness to do it" to begin with. He told BBC News: "It's a lot of work. There are techniques you can use to develop what you are writing by planting humour into the premise of your situation - there are certain tricks.

"A lot of new writers make the mistake of trying to tell a dramatic situation through non-stop funny dialogue."

Mr Daniel said as well as using his own experience from 20 years of writing, he would be able to pass on tips he had learned from industry figures during writing workshops over the years. He stresses he is not trying to create clone writers who all work to the same formula.

"The reason The Office was so successful was it was pushing back the boundaries of the genre," he said. "It's almost impossible to write anything set in a workplace situation now!"

Having said that, Mr Daniel believes the setting is not the most important aspect of a successful show.

"A sitcom is not about the situation, it's about the characters. The setting for the show is really not that relevant. It's an airtight box where you place desperate characters."

He said the first class would focus on creating a character, adding: "Somebody who embodies all of our struggles. Every great sitcom character in this country has had a monstrous element to them."

And the essence of a successful sitcom? "It's the right script with the right actors at the right time."

Welsh actor Rachel Isaac, who played Trudy in The Office, said she could see straight away from the script that the series would be a success. "There was emotional resonance within each scene, not just gags. Sometimes when you read comedy scripts driven by gags, you can see right through it," she said. "Within the confines of comedy, it depends on how see-through the gag is [whether it will work]. As they say, it's best if they don't see it coming."

She believes the best writing has "layers within the scene, layers that reveal human emotions".

She went on: "You see, oh that's a funny line, but if it's something you may have heard in real life - and people are funny - you're able to connect with the reality of it. Comedy's funniest when there's an element of reality in it. If it's all set-ups, you're aware of the falseness of it."

The Writing a Sitcom course runs for 10 weeks at Cardiff University's Centre for Lifelong Learning from 4 October.