Thursday, November 30, 2006

Police have nothing to go on

Police in Connecticut are investigating the disappearance of a portable toilet from a canal towpath used by walkers and bicyclers.

Kevin Carney, owner of Ameri-Can in Suffield, who leased the porta-john to Friends of the Canal, discovered that it was missing when he went to pick it up at the Montgomery Mill site in Windsor Locks, the Hartford Courant reported.

Police have no clues where the toilet went. First Selectman Steve Wawruck said there are no drag marks.

To compound the mystery, the mill site was enclosed by a fence with a locked gate after a fire there in July. So whoever took the 220-pound toilet needed a key or somehow got through or over a barbed wire fence without a trace.

"It looks like it was a dirty deal to me," said Steve Sorrow, who is in charge of maintenance for the canal and towpath. "Imagine picking up one of those things, especially if it is full."

4 yr old Power Ranger saves family

A 4-year-old North Carolina boy wearing a Power Rangers costume and plastic sword upset two stick-up men so much they left his mom's Durham apartment.

At the time, one of the men was holding a gun to the head of Stevie Long's 5-year-old sister, Mary, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. Stevie, 4, swept into the room brandishing his plastic sword and yelling, "Yah, yah."

"Get away from my family," he ordered.

The gunmen took off with credit cards, money and jewelry belonging to Stevie's mother, Jennifer Long.

"It tripped him out, and that's when they moved on," said Bernie Evans, Stevie's uncle, who lives in the apartment upstairs.

The home invasion began when the two men approached Long's boyfriend and his son outside. They pulled out guns and forced the two to let them into Long's apartment.

Horse in a bubble

French rider Olivier Garcia rides his horse Emir et Djugut inside a giant plastic bubble as they train for the grand opening of the Stockholm International Horse Show at the Globe Arena in Stockholm Nov. 29.

Dad posts his son on internet

A father embroiled in a custody dispute posted a phony ad on the Internet offering to give away his five-year-old boy to make his wife look bad, investigators said Wednesday.

The ad, written as if it were placed by the mother, listed the boy as "free to a good home" on the popular website.

"I've had him now for five years. I've somewhat abused him, but I cannot control myself or him," the ad read. "I have mental problems. DCF (The Department of Children & Families) won't remove him. His father lives in California and has no contact with him. I don't make enough money to support him and myself."

Raymond Lawrence Lee, 50, of El Cajon, Calif., told detectives he was upset with the child's mother when he placed the ad the day after Thanksgiving, said Mike Ward, a spokesman for the Escambia County Sheriff's Office. The ad has been taken down.

The mother has custody of the boy. Investigators went to the mother's Pensacola home and found the child was safe. Ward said there had never been a DCF investigation of abuse of the child.

Ward said he didn't think there were any charges that could be filed against the father. He said they notified authorities in San Diego.

San Diego police spokeswoman Monica Munoz said the case had been referred to the Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

Bite me !

It was the first super predator of the ancient seas and its fearsome, jagged jaws still inspire awe 400 million years later.

The armour-plated fish Dunkleosteus was a 10 metre long, 3600kg monster that terrorised other marine life in the Devonian Period, which spanned 415 million to 360 million years ago.

While lacking true teeth, Dunkleosteus used two long, bony blades in its mouth to snap and crush nearly any creature unfortunate enough to encounter it.

Scientists at the Field Museum in Chicago and the University of Chicago decided to test Dunkleosteus' reputation for wielding some of the most powerful jaws ever on Earth, creating a biomechanical model to simulate its jaws.

They came away impressed.

In research published on Tuesday in Britain's Royal Society journal Biology Letters, they said the big fish's bite packed 5000kg of force.

The bony blades in its mouth, almost certainly enamelled like teeth, concentrated the bite force into a small area at the tip at an astonishing force of 36,000kg per square inch, they said.

That, the scientists proclaimed, crowns Dunkleosteus as the all-time chomping champion of fish - sorry, sharks.

"It kind of blows sharks out of the water as far as bite force goes," Mark Westneat, curator of fishes at the Field Museum and co-author of the paper, said in an interview. "A huge great white shark is probably only capable of biting at about half that bite force."

"It puts it with big crocodiles and alligators and big dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex in terms of the most powerful biters ever," Westneat added.

The researchers also determined that Dunkleosteus could open its mouth very rapidly - in a 50th of a second - which formed a suction force drawing prey into the gaping mouth. It is very rare for a fish to possess both a powerful and a fast bite, they said.

Blind bowling

CENTRALIA, Wash. - Esther Medley of Centralia is legally blind, but when she bowls she can glimpse a bit of the floor to line up with the lane.

Medley, 94, can't see straight ahead, so her 86-year-old husband Ralph tells her which pins are left after her first ball.

That's how Medley recently bowled a score of 244, which included eight strikes, at Fairway Lanes in Centralia. It was the second-highest score of the year for her league.

The Medleys have been bowling in the senior league since 1979.

The only cop for 3,300 miles

When Malcolm Gilbert spotted a job advert asking for a policeman with “remote island experience”, he thought that he might just fit the bill.

Having spent 30 years pounding the beat in one of Britain’s most far-flung island communities, the 55-year-old former sergeant applied for the post. Though more used to a dark uniform and waterproofs in his job on Orkney, he will put on Bermuda shorts and suncream to take up his new post on the tiny sub-tropical island of Pitcairn, on the far side of the world.

Mr Gilbert is to become the first full-time policeman on the two-and-a-half-mile-long (4km) volcanic speck of land that sits in the middle of the South Pacific, halfway between New Zealand and South America.

He is being employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the year-long posting, during which he will be the sole arbiter of law and order among the 47-strong population, one of the world’s most isolated communities. If anything does go awry, his nearest back-up will be about 3,300 miles away in New Zealand, a seven-day journey by boat.

Pitcairn is home to the descendants of the mutineers from HMS Bounty, who colonised the uninhabited island in 1790. Two years ago the island attracted worldwide attention when six local men, including the mayor, were convicted of child sex abuse involving girls as young as 7 and stretching back almost 40 years.

Mr Gilbert will draw on his experience of policework during the 1991 Satanic abuse scandal on Orkney to help to heal the wounds that have developed on Pitcairn since the court case.

Since he retired from the force, he has kept busy, working for a spell in Kosovo with the United Nations and as a prisoner escort for the Reliance security firm. Nevertheless, life on Pitcairn will present challenges for him and his wife, Gwen, 58, a teacher, who at first was reluctant to accompany him.

They will live in a three- bedroom wooden bungalow in Adamstown, overlooking Bounty Bay. One of the things that they will miss, particularly in their morning cup of tea, is fresh milk as there are no dairy animals on Pitcairn. The couple will also have to get used to just a few hours a day of electricity.

All outside supplies and mail will be delivered by boat six times a year from Mangareva, in French Polynesia. Mr Gilbert will travel around the island on a quad bike. There is limited TV reception, but there are satellite phones and the internet to keep in touch with the rest of the world.

“I’ll miss my family and friends. But I certainly won’t miss the Orkney winter,” Mr Gilbert said.

Boycott the IKEA heathens!

Two Italian politicians called on Thursday for a Christmas boycott of Swedish furniture giant IKEA for not selling Nativity scenes, which Catholics in Italy traditionally put up in their homes around Christmas.

IKEA said it had never sold Nativity scenes -- featuring figures of the baby Jesus in a crib, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, animals and Three Kings bearing gifts -- because it is "not part of the Scandinavian tradition" its shops promote.

But conservatives senators Alfredo Mantovano of the National Alliance party and Gaetano Quagliariello of Forza Italia called on both Christian and atheists to boycott IKEA's 12 Italian stores in protest at what they called "anti-Catholic prejudice".

"In IKEA shops there is no lack of ethnic sculptures going back to animist religious traditions, and little Zen gardens, so their anti-religious prejudice seems to be anti-Catholic prejudice," they said in a joint statement.

IKEA Italy spokesman Valerio Di Bussolo said the company had "no prejudice against religion".

"We sell furniture and typical products from Scandinavia like meatballs and herring, and Christmas tree decorations which come from Northern Europe, rather than Nativity scenes which are more of a southern European tradition,"

Nessie, the most famous Scot

The Loch Ness Monster has been named the most famous Scot, narrowly beating the national poet, Robert Burns, into second place in a survey published yesterday.

More than 2,000 adults across the United Kingdom were questioned to establish the best-known Scots, past and present.

The actor Sir Sean Connery came third, followed by "freedom fighters" Robert the Bruce and William Wallace.

The actor Robbie Coltrane was sixth, with comedian Billy Connolly seventh and the film star Ewan McGregor in ninth place.

Only two women made the top ten, with the GMTV presenter Lorraine Kelly at No8 and the singer Lulu taking the final spot.

Caroline Glenn, the manager of the Robert Burns National Heritage Park in Alloway, Ayrshire, said: "I understand that lots of people come to Scotland to try and catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster.

"But in reality, Robert Burns should be number one. He certainly is in our eyes."

Apple & pear bribery

A planning councillor has received a written warning after being given four apples and a pear on site visits. Middlesbrough Council's legal department warned Joan McTigue that accepting the fruit could have raised questions about her impartiality.

The independent councillor was given the "gifts" during three planning committee site visits, including one where she admired a pear tree. Ms McTigue has branded the decision disgraceful and pathetic.

The Beechwood ward councillor, elected in 2003, admits being offered a pear, four apples and two plant cuttings, during a number of site meetings with the council's planning committee.

She said: "It's so ludicrous that I have been given a warning. I take my job very seriously, planning in particular. I never miss a site visit. I admired the pear tree and the apples and I was offered the fruit, so it was polite for me to accept. Do they think I can be bought for one pear and four apples?"

She said that if she is offered fruit or cuttings in future, while on a site visit, she will ask the chairman of the committee to decide whether she might accept the gift.

Record breaking TV host

Japanese host Norio Minorikawa has entered the Guinness World Records for appearing on live television for the greatest amount of time each week.

The presenter - also known as Monta Mino - spends nearly 22 hours on TV and appears in 11 shows across seven days.

"I'm touched. I want to die talking," he said at a Tokyo ceremony.

Minorikawa also fronts another five pre-recorded programmes, which include the Japanese version of British TV hit Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

He also fronts his own daily afternoon show Omoikkiri TV ­ in which he issues his fans with advice on lifestyle, health and other matters.

World whistling champion

This is old news from May , but I heard this guy on BBC Radio2 yesterday and thought I'd share his story / website with you all :)

A man from Greater Manchester has blown away the competition to become the world whistling champion.

David Morris, from Dobcross in Saddleworth, is celebrating his success in the 30th World Whistling Championships in the United States.

Mr Morris entered after his wife Helen spotted the contest on the internet - and decided he would be the perfect contender.

He puckered up for pole position with a classical violin piece and the "Stars and Stripes Forever March" - an all-American audience pleaser.

"The odds were against me with so many America competitiors and American adjudicators," Mr Morris said. "I was a bit nervous, but I managed to control it and brought the house down."

The championships took place at the International Whistlers' Convention in Louisburg, North Carolina.

Mr Morris has already made a CD of his whistling, backed by a brass band, and says a recording contract would be a "dream come true".

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Off the rails

A Portuguese pensioner caused mild commuter chaos in the city of Oporto this week when he unwittingly drove his car into the underground train network, Portuguese newspapers reported Tuesday.
Trains were suspended after security cameras clocked the disoriented driver sailing past a station through the railway tunnels meant for underground trains.

"I didn't even know there was an underground in Oporto," daily 24 horas quoted the pensioner, who was in Portugal's second city to visit friends when he took the wrong turn.

The unnamed driver entered the underground by an access road marked with no entry signs and reached the rails along a tunnel used for emergencies, papers said.

"It must have been because he was distracted or due to negligence as the underground is clearly marked," 24 horas quoted an underground official as saying.

The driver stopped his car after he had gone about a kilometer along the tunnels. Emergency services later removed the car.

Ireland's dumbest crook

Irish police have told a man dubbed Ireland's dumbest crook to give up his disastrous criminal career before it gets the better of him.
The unnamed man in his 30s has been arrested three times and each heist has brought him closer to the hereafter.

Police took the man into custody and to the hospital at the weekend after he was hit by a lorry while making a getaway from a betting shop robbery, the Irish Sun reported.

He has also been plucked from a chimney where he became stuck while trying to burgle a house, and from the ceiling of a bank where he was pinned by a security device. When they arrived at the bank he was dangling by one leg and stuffing cash into his underpants.

"Go straight before you kill yourself," the Sun quoted Dublin police as having told him.

Dublin police declined to confirm the report.

Top Scotch

A bottle of whisky which experts believe could be the oldest in existence has sold at a Bonhams auction house in London for £14,850.

The Glenavon Special Liqueur Whisky is believed to have been bottled about 150 years ago at the Glenavon Distillery, which was located in Banffshire.

There was gobal interest in the sale, with bidders from the Far East and US.

The bottle, which has been owned by an Irish family for generations, eventually went to an anonymous bidder.

The distillery, in Ballindalloch, ceased operating in the 1850s.

The green bottle is unusually small in size and holds about 14fl oz (about 400ml) of pale gold liquid. It is believed to have been bottled by the Glenavon Distillery between 1851 and 1858.

However, uncertainty surrounds its exact age.

The label reads "Glenavon - Special Liqueur Whisky Bottled by the Distillers," but Glenavon stopped operating in the 1850s.

Experts have said that if the whisky was indeed "bottled by the distillers", it could be the oldest to come to auction.

The Glenavon Distillery was licensed to John Smith, son of George Smith, founder of the nearby Glenlivet Distillery.

John Smith joined his father in the business in 1846 and established a small distillery at Delnabo in 1849.

Obese dog owners

The owners of a chocolate-coloured labrador which weighed more than 11 and-a-half-stones (160lbs) appeared in court today accused of allowing the dog to become "morbidly obese."

Prosecutors said Derek Benton, 62, and his brother David, 53, caused the animal unnecessary suffering by allowing its weight to increase by more than three-and-a-half stones in two years.

The nine-year-old dog, called Rusty, has lost three-and-a-half stones since being taken from the brothers' home in Fordham, Cambridgeshire, by RSPCA inspectors in March, magistrates in Ely, Cambridgeshire, were told.

Stephen Climie, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said the Benton brothers had caused unnecessary suffering by failing to provide the dog with an appropriate diet.

He said an RSPCA inspector found the dog to be "hugely and grossly" overweight when he saw it in February.

"(Rusty) could not walk a few steps before having to sit," said Mr Climie. "He certainly collapsed if he was kept standing."

Mr Climie said the dog suffered pain in his joints and had difficulty breathing. Both brothers deny causing unnecessary suffering.

The hearing continues and is expected to end tomorrow.

Silver bells

London's police are putting a new jingle into Christmas.

The Metropolitan Police are distributing silver bells for shoppers in London's central retail district to attach to their bags, which will jingle if thieves strike.

"Operation Yuletide" aims to curb pickpocketing and theft of shopping bags and cell phones in the busy Oxford Street and Marylebone High Street areas of central London.

Superintendent Jon Morgan and officers are hitting the streets to advise shoppers on crime prevention during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

An estimated 60,000 to 70,000 people travel through the Oxford Circus Underground station every day and the numbers skyrocket just before Christmas, police said.

"With the bells warning people if their bags are moved, we want to ring in the festive season and give the criminals a wake up alarm call they will not easily forget," Morgan said.

Toddler thief

Security guards have caught a three-year-old boy who was helping his mother – by trying to steal clothes from a shop in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

The boy was trying to carry a plastic bag out of the store to his mother who was waiting outside in Monday's incident, a police spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

"It was the mother who had filled up the bag and placed it so that the child could go in and pick it up," said Oslo police spokeswoman Unni Groendal.

Happy 77th anniversary

BRISTOW, Okla. (AP) - Gene and Elinor Coleman celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary Tuesday - a marriage that may be the state's longest. Official records aren't kept so no one knows for certain. But the Colemans have been married long enough that their anniversary brought plenty of attention to their one-story, clapboard house with a cuckoo clock in this community southwest of Tulsa.

He is 96 and she is 94, and Coleman says most days "we sit here and look at each other." That, he says, is a blessing because "we're lucky that both of us are still here to look at."

And after all these years, they still sit together like newlyweds, with his arm around her.

"When we got married, people got married to be married," says Elinor. "They made a vow, 'Until death do us part,' and we didn't feel like we would break that vow."

Their marriage has never been perfect, she says, "because perfect doesn't exist."

Coleman says that since Sept. 29 he and Elinor have "answered more questions than George Bush."

That was the day the couple went to the Tulsa State Fair to attend a banquet for people married more than 50 years. Of all the people there - "it seemed like a thousand people to me," says Coleman - no one had been married longer than the Colemans.

They met on a blind double date, although they had actually seen each other previously.

"It was at a box supper," he said. "I was sitting on the second row from the front, and I heard somebody behind me drop a chair. I turned around to see what was happening, and there was the prettiest girl I ever saw."

They would be married seven months later on Thanksgiving Day - Nov. 28, 1929.

One of their sons died in 1992 of a heart attack at age 52. "You never get over losing a child, no matter how old the child is," says Elinor. "Emotionally, that's as bad as it gets."

They have two other sons, five grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

Coleman says he hopes they make it to their 80th anniversary.

But, says Elinor, "We can't control that. Only God knows."

Says Coleman, "But we can try. We can try."

Goat sprayer

MAHOPAC, N.Y. - A man broke into a barn on Thanksgiving morning, spray-painted three pet goats and scattered pages of pornographic magazines on the floor, apparently to harass the property owner, police said Tuesday.

Drew Gagnon, 37, of Mahopac, was arrested the next day and was charged with burglary, criminal trespass and animal cruelty, said Lt. Brian Karst, of the Carmel police force, which covers Mahopac. The man who drove Gagnon to the barn, Douglas Bisio, 34, of Mahopac, was charged with criminal facilitation, police said.

"Obviously it's not an occurrence you see every day," Karst said. "I think it was a situation where this harassment got out of hand."

He would not elaborate on past instances of harassment or what the feud involved but said the suspects were known to the property owner.

Gail Fiero, owner of the property on Croton Falls Road, about 50 miles north of midtown Manhattan, said of the goats, "They're our pets. We just want to put this behind us."

Karst said he did not know specifically how the goats were harmed, but The Journal News reported on its Web site that a veterinarian said the goats became sick after eating the magazine pages. The vet, Stacey Dallas, also said the orange paint was on their genitals and described the act as torture.

Gagnon and Bisio were released pending an appearance in Carmel Town Court. The court date had not been set as of Tuesday evening, and the court had no record of lawyers for the men. Gagnon's telephone number was unlisted, and there was no record of a phone for Bisio.

Most of the charges against the men carry punishments of up to a year in jail upon conviction.

Sticky situation

PENDLETON, Ind. - A semitrailer carrying large drums of glue spilled part of its load onto a state highway Tuesday, causing the road to be closed for about three hours as crews worked to resolve the sticky situation.

Police officers diverted traffic off Indiana 67 and 38 and U.S. 36 after the spill. Workers and customers were evacuated from businesses within 100 yards of the spill and about 10 people were treated at the scene or a nearby hospital for skin, eye or respiratory irritation, Madison County Emergency Management spokesman Todd Harmeson said.

The spill happened about 10:30 a.m., when two 55-gallon drums of Bondmaster glue the truck was carrying tipped over and leaked onto the highway. A passing motorist alerted the truck driver, who pulled off, and police, fire and emergency personnel responded to the area about 20 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

The cleanup had started by 1 p.m. and the roads were reopened by 1:30 p.m.

"Everything went really well," Fire Chief Danny Gardner said. "We had to evacuate some people, but that was just to act safely on the side of caution."

The truck driver was cited for failing to properly secure his load and having a leaking load.

Is that a guitar or are you just happy to see me ?

DE QUEEN, Ark. - The guitar-shaped bulge in Morgan Conatser's clothing tipped off a music store owner that there might be a crime in progress. Clifton Lovell, owner of Guitars and Cadillacs on U.S. Highway 71 in De Queen, was talking with a customer last week when he saw Conatser, 29, walking out of the store.

"I saw him walking out to his pickup truck and the bulges in his leather jacket. I said, 'Hey what have you got there,'" Clifton Lovell said.

He said Conatser, 29, replied, "Nothing."

Lovell pointed toward the unnatural shapes in Conatser's jacket and pants and said, "You've got something."

Conatser then removed a solid body electric guitar from his pants leg and from underneath his jacket.

"The neck of the guitar was almost down to his knee and the back of the guitar was almost up to his neck. It wasn't hard to spot. There was no way he could sit down or get into the pickup," Lovell said.

With the guitar back in the store, Lovell didn't intend to call the sheriff's office. But then he discovered a wireless sound system was missing. Lovell called the Sevier County Sheriff's Department and gave a description of Conatser and his pickup.

Deputy Jeff Wahls called Conatser's father, who told Wahls how to find the house.

The deputy found Conatser at home, where Conatser went to his bedroom closet and retrieved the sound system, Wahls said.

"He made a statement saying he needed the property because he needed to make ends meet," Wahls said.

Conatser was arrested on a charge of theft of property under $500 for the sound equipment because the guitar had already been returned to the shop owner. The sound system was worth about $200.

"This is a new one on me and I couldn't believe he tried," Lovell said. "The strings were pressed down and he didn't make any noise."

Conatser was issued a misdemeanor citation and released. Conatser can resolve the charge by paying a fine or he can contest the charge in Sevier County District Court.

Beekeeper predicts rain

An Alice Springs apiarist says he is predicting big rains for central Australia within the next two months because of some unusual behaviour by his bees.

Keith Brooke says theees have put breeding on hold and have started storing food.

He says the bees are also using wax to seal their hives as they did before previous floods in Alice Springs.

"They actually get the little wax flakes and mix it up with the propolis and use it as corking or sealing compound around the cracks in the hive and up in the ventilators," he said.

"They are supposed to have four ventilators in them but they block them up with propolis.

"It's very reminisce of late '99 to '88-'87, quite heavy, substantial rain.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Monkey monks

Nineteen men have been detained by police in southwest China for impersonating monks and selling fake or shoddy goods, a local official and state media said Sunday.

Police in Wuhou, a district in the city of Chengdu, were tipped off by locals last week who said that 50 men with shaved heads and wearing monks robes were selling trinkets, a Web site for the Chengdu Business Daily said.

They claimed to be from the "Shaolin Temple Martial Arts Performing Troupe," the newspaper said.

"But they aren't monks, they are con artists," said a Wuhou police official who would give only his surname, Jing. He would not give any more details and said the newspaper's account was accurate.

When police officers arrived at one site, they saw 10 of the men attacking journalists from a local television station trying to film them, the paper said. Some 180 officers gave chase after the monks escaped in two vehicles and fired warning shots into the air after they intercepted the vehicles, it said.

An investigation shows that the gang was led by Wang Shengli and Zhang Gaofeng, from Henan province, who hired boys from local martial arts training schools to cheat ordinary citizens by selling fake goods, the paper said. It did not give any details on what the goods were or whether Wang and Zhang were detained.

The other 31 members of the group were under investigation, it said.

Confused phone thief

The age of the sophisticated cell phone that doubles as a camera and who knows what else has certainly created some unusual scenarios for law enforcement.

Consider the Carrick woman whose cell phone was stolen Saturday from her car by an unknown man who reached into her front seat through an open window.

That evening the man called her other cell phone with the stolen phone and asked her if "the pictures on the phone were of her," according to a report.

Seems the stolen phone featured naked pictures of a woman. The Carrick victim said the pictures were of her girlfriend and, when the caller asked, told him she was a lesbian.

The next day, she accessed her phone account on the Internet and downloaded a recent photo the man had taken with the stolen cell phone. That picture? A penis.

Detectives were investigating.

Worst excuse to miss work ?

A South African man has been fined $140 for taking a week off work, telling his employers he was pregnant.

Charles Sibindana, 27, stole a certificate from a clinic during his pregnant girlfriend's checkup, a court near Johannesburg heard.

He then added his own details to the note and submitted it and took seven days off work, seemingly unaware that only women consult gynaecologists.

His employers became suspicious and investigated the matter.

On passing sentence Magistrate Bruno Van Eeden warned Mr Sibindana "not to walk around faking sick letters from gynaecologists" as if he was pregnant, the South African Press Association news agency reported.

Hairy arm record

Jon Sanford takes good care of his hair, washing it regularly and conditioning it occasionally. Now he might break a record for that hair—on his arms.
One particularly long strand measured 4.1 inches. If the measurement is ruled official by Guinness World Records, Sanford will have topped the previous record of 3.96 inches.

"It's my mutant hair," said Sanford, 37. Sanford is from Jackson, a town about 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee. He downloaded the necessary forms from Guinness, faxed them back and received further directions.

"I need two witnesses whom I do not know and they have to be respected in the community," he said of the instructions.

So he turned to Jackson patrol officer Shane Wrucke and fire chief John Skodinski.

"We're not always saving lives and protecting property. We also do other things," Skodinski said.

To comply with Guinness regulations, Wrucke and Skodinski accompanied Sanford to the bathroom before the measurement to watch him wash the arm hair.

"I condition it sometimes," Sanford said.

Sanford will receive a certificate if his application is affirmed.

His mother, Sue Sanford, said the hair was "gross," but his daughter Molly called it "cool."

Peace off !

A homeowners' association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs.

He said some residents believed the wreath was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.

"Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up," he said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Lisa Jensen said she wasn't thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, "Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing."

Jensen, a past association president, calculates the fines will cost her about $1,000, and doubts they will be able to make her pay. But she said she's not going to take it down until after Christmas.

"Now that it has come to this I feel I can't get bullied," she said. "What if they don't like my Santa Claus?"

The association in this 200-home subdivision 270 miles southwest of Denver has sent a letter to her saying that residents were offended by the sign and the board "will not allow signs, flags etc. that can be considered divisive."

The subdivision's rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.

Kearns ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn't say anything.

Kearns fired all five committee members.

Humpbacks have a human cell

For years, marine scientists have proclaimed the high intelligence of dolphins – and now it appears the humpback whale is also among the bright sparks of the deep.

Researchers in the US have discovered that humpback whales have a type of brain cell seen only in humans, the great apes, and other cetaceans such as dolphins.

Studying the brains of humpbacks, Patrick Hof and Estel Van der Gucht of the Department of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York discovered a type of cell known as a spindle neuron in the cortex, in areas comparable to where they are seen in humans and great apes.

Although the function of spindle neurons is not well understood, they may be involved in processes of cognition - learning, remembering and recognising the world around oneself. The cells are also thought by some to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other debilitating brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

The findings may help to explain some of the distinctive traits exhibited by whales, such as sophisticated communication skills, the ability to form alliances and co-operate, the researchers report in The Anatomical Record.

Happy Penis

The mayor of a small Brazilian town has begun handing out free Viagra, spicing up the sex lives of dozens of elderly men and their partners.

"Since we started the free distribution of sexual stimulants, our elderly population changed. They're much happier," said Joao de Souza Luz, the mayor of Novo Santo Antonio, a small town in the central state of Mato Grosso.

Souza Luz said 68 men over the age of 60 already had signed up for the program, which was approved by the town's legislature and has been dubbed "Happy Penis," or "Pinto Alegre" in Portuguese.

But the program also has had the unforeseen consequence of encouraging some extramarital affairs, Souza Luz said.

"Some of the old men aren't seeking out their wives. They've got romances on the side," he said.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Saucy camcorder

A Missouri couple said that when they opened the box for their new camcorder, they found something they hadn't pictured -- a jar of pasta sauce where their camera should have been.

Jim Rittenberg, of Perryville, Mo., bought a $1,600 camcorder at a Best Buy store in the St. Louis suburb of Ellisville last week.

Inside the Sony box, he said he found a jar of Classico pasta sauce, a telephone cord and an outlet cover where the electronics were supposed to be. So far, the Rittenbergs are stuck without a camcorder.

Ellisville police are investigating. Best Buy manager Wade Trapp said that the store is working to resolve the matter.

Shortage of Santas in Berlin

Berlin is facing an acute shortage of Santas just a month before Christmas, the head of a Father Christmas placement agency says.

The director of Berlin's Heinzelmaennchen agency, which provides Santas to thousands of Berlin families every Christmas Eve, says he is having trouble getting enough qualified help.

"We prefer chubby men, of course, ideally with a real beard but we're not picky and take what we get," director Rene Heydeck said, whose official title is Ober-Weinachtsmann (chief Santa Claus).

The Santas, many of whom are students, earn 28 euros a visit for bringing a sack of presents provided by the parents into each home and handing them out.

But Santas must also pay 45 euros for a costume and give the agency 15 per cent of earnings.

"In a lot of families in Berlin it's a tradition that carries on even after the children grow older and stop believing," Mr Heydeck said.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Amazing feet !

HOTSHOT Andrew Edwards may well have kicked his way into the world record books with one of the most amazing feats ever seen on a football pitch, writes Ray Parker.

The 25-year-old Caldicot player, who lives in Newport, scored a hat-trick - the three goals all direct from corners - in a MacWhirter Welsh League, Reserve Division (East) win over Risca.

And not even the Association of Football Statisticians have heard of anyone managing such an achievement before.

Edwards' staggering efforts earned him a first-team call and he came off the substitutes' bench to score a third goal for Caldicot in their 3-0 away win over Briton Ferry in the Second Division.

Edwards said: "I have never scored direct from a corner before. But on this occasion they were all from inswingers - two with my right foot and the third from the left. The opening goal was in the first half with the wind against me and the two remaining goals were in the second-half with the wind going for me."

A modest Edwards added: "I was very pleased - but more pleased that we won. I didn't play too badly which I was more pleased about."

A spokesman for the Association of Football Statisticians, said: "I have never heard of that happening and I doubt if it has happened. I think it is unique."

Now that the AFS have been informed they will be circulating their members of the achievement to see if there is a recording of such a feat.

And fiance Jacqui wasn't going to miss out on the action. "He couldn't have achieved it without me washing his kit every week!"

Bookmakers William Hill said they would have offered odds of 10,000-1 on Andrew's incredible treble.

Pennies from heaven

LONGMONT , Colorado - A business owner in Longmont says ten eagle-eyed people are in for a deal from his store.

Mark Chamberlain marked ten years in business with C-and-C Coins and Collectibles last month. He said that to celebrate, he spent ten rare 1914-D Lincoln pennies in downtown stores.

People who end up with the pennies can sell them back to Chamberlain.

Chamberlain says the coins are valued at up to 150 dollars.

So far three of the pennies have been sold back to Chamberlain. He has paid between one-hundred and 130 dollars for each.

DUI driver eats results

A man who was stopped and subjected to a breath test Friday thought he had hit on a way of getting off scot-free; and was duly surprised when police arrested him for eating the piece of paper with his test results.

Hiroki Ito, 28, a plumber from Yokkaichi, is accused of destroying an official document and drunk driving, police announced on Saturday.

He admitted to the allegations during questioning. "I thought I could destroy the evidence by swallowing the paper," he was quoted as telling investigators.

At about 11 p.m. on Friday, he was caught driving his car while intoxicated on a street in Yokkaichi, local police said. While being questioned by police, Ito suddenly tore off a printout of the results from his breathalyzer test and swallowed it. Unfortunately for him, the breathalyzer also recorded the data.

Prisoners pregnant pause

A prisoner who went on the run to see his girlfriend, who he had not met for six months, turned up to discover she was four months pregnant.

Gary Stephen realised partner Tracy Miller was pregnant with another man's child before he phoned police and asked to taken back to the jail.

The 35-year-old, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, admitted absconding from Castle Huntly prison, near Dundee, on 19 November.

At Perth Sheriff Court, Stephen had 20 days added to his sentence.

Stolen Xmas decor

Milwauke - A Sheboygan family woke up to a yard full of Christmas decorations. The problem is they were stolen from other homes.

It wasn't the usual crime-scene evidence at the Sheboygan Police Department - A wise man tied up with police tape, nine reindeer and two penguins. The Richardson family picked up their missing decorations Friday afternoon.

"We knew there was a gap in our nativity scene this morning," said Dave Richardson. "We have a full set - 12 items and for some reason, three were taken."

The Bogenschuetz family was surprised to find their yard decorated Friday morning. "I looked outside and go 'What is this? Did we win the lottery, did someone decorate our house?'" said Dan Bogenschuetz.

The thief or thieves put time into the display. The stolen decorations were all arranged and plugged in.

"And then that switch for that outlet was not turned on so they must have been quite disappointed when there were all done and plugged it in and found out it didn't work," said Bogenschuetz.

Sheboygan police sent a truck to pick up the stolen goods.

"If someone would call us with a tip, we'd follow up on it. But for the most part, we're trying to just get people their things back," said Detective Matt Walsh of the Sheboygan Police Department

Council bans Christmas

A council has told staff not to put up Christmas decorations in the office - in case they get hurt.

Festive lights have also been banned because they are too costly to run.

Staff at Tower Hamlets council in East London said they were stunned when they were issued with the order.

One worker said: "We only wanted to get into the spirit and brighten the place up. It feels more like the Eastern Bloc than the East End round here now - except slightly less cheery."

A council spokeswoman defended the move, she said: "There's a concern people might hurt themselves trying to attach hanging decorations from the ceiling.

"Christmas lights use a relatively small amount of electricity but every effort counts in reducing energy waste."

Prisoner picks wrong victim

A Serbian prisoner who burgled a house during his weekend release picked the wrong victim - the prison governor.

He was caught out when he returned to prison - and the governor spotted his own watch on the convict's wrist.

Alija Cerimi stole jewellery, a watch and a mobile phone from the unnamed governor's house in the northern Serbian town of Sremska Mitrovica.

According to witnesses, the governor spotted Cerimi walking back into the prison waving a shiny silver watch and shouted: "That's mine, you thieving bastard."

Cerimi reportedly laughed and then held up the governor's mobile phone which he had also stolen, before being restrained by guards.

Britain's unluckiest man

Some people might describe John Lyne as unlucky. But as far as he is concerned, is the luckiest man alive. Or perhaps that should just be lucky to be alive.

In his 54 years he has had a terrifying array of 16 accidents or near misses.

He has been struck by lightning, been run over by a delivery van, hit by a bus and nearly drowned. Then there was the time a stone, propelled by a catapult, hit him in the mouth smashing eight teeth.

And that's just a taster of calamity John's mishaps. The grandfather-of-three is currently is currently nursing a badly damaged back and leg and knees after plummeting down a manhole cover.

While some might take a vow to never the leave the house again after clocking up enough accidents to cost even a cat it's nine lives, Mr Lyne remains determinedly upbeat.
Uncertain whether he will be able to work again, he is firmly of the opinion that he is a very lucky man.

'With all the bumps and scrapes over the years I have been very luck. I should be winning the lottery next,' he said. 'You've got to be positive, and I have always had a positive attitude. Everyone thinks it is just hilarious. My mates, family and wife Susan just laugh about it. I don't think there is any reason or explanation for it though, it has just happened really. I have to be particularly careful on Friday the 13ths. Things could have been much worse, I could have died, but it still doesn't worry me too much.'

Mr Lyne's mishaps cover a lifetime. When he was born, one of five children to a farming family, it was uncertain whether he would survive.

He had underdeveloped lungs and needed steroids and special care. But setting a pattern for later in life, he beat the odds.
Curiosity was his first foe, when he toddled aged 18 months into his grandmother's bathroom and took a fancy to a drink from a plastic bottle. Unfortunately it contained disinfectant and he had to be rushed to hospital to have his stomach pumped and system flushed through with water.

A year later he was rising with his grandfather on a horse and cart from the far, when he fell from the seat into the path of a furniture delivery van. Amazingly the wheels of the van passed on either side of his tiny body, as his panic-stricken grandfather looked on.

Aged 12 he got the fright of his life when was hit by lightning as he cycled home. 'A storm was building up and then a bolt of lightning hit the handle bars. I jumped off the bike an ran like the clappers,' said Mr Lyne.

Turning 14 brought a particularly bad year. First he nearly drowned, then, on Friday 13th, he fell from a tree and broke his arm. But when he went to hospital he couldn't go under anaesthetic because he had eaten too recently. When returning to hospital the following day with his mother, the bus they were travelling on crashed into a lorry. Mr Lyne broke a second bone - in the same arm.

Becoming a miner carries more than its share of hazards. Even more so for My Lyne. In his early 20s, father-of-two Mr Lyne, who lives near Doncaster, nearly lost his life twice at Hatfield Colliery.

He was inches away from being killed by falling rocks and escaped with just a few ripped nails when a colleague let go of a tub full of stone they were pulling.

On the way home from work one day he was hit by a bus - only to escape with a bruised arm.

In recent years life has been relatively peaceful until he hitting a live electricity cable while decorating - without injury.

That's not forgetting two holiday-related near misses.

He has now been off work for 32 weeks after falling through an open inspection hatch at work in one of the most serious of his mishaps, But he is determined to live life to the full.

He said: 'I have had a lot of lucky escapes and people have compared me to a cat with nine lives. It doesn't get me down. It is how it is.'

Ziggy's trip

Ziggy the cat used up at least one of his nine lives after surviving for 17 days without food on a 3700km voyage that took him from northern Israel to England.

The skinny white cat named after Ziggy Stardust – the character created by David Bowie in the 1970s, because like the rock star he has one green and one blue eye – made his epic trip as a stowaway in a container.

His journey began when he wandered into a consignment of plastic goods which were then sealed in Afula in Israel and shipped from Haifa on October 31.

It ended when he emerged, exhausted, starving and dehydrated, at a warehouse in Whitworth in Lancashire on Friday.

"When the container was finally opened, staff unloading it got a real surprise when this fluffy white cat shot out," said Colin Barton, the local authority's animal health officer who helped capture Ziggy.

"I think he had probably used up some of his nine lives."

The cat had not only survived but was able to resist capture for five hours.

"I think he was scared to death," said James Ratcliff, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). "He'd travelled all that way and got to a strange country and ran for his life."

Ziggy's background or owners remain a mystery as he had no collar or microchip, but the RSCPA believe he is someone's pet because he is so friendly. He will now stay in quarantine in Britain for six months as a precaution against rabies.

Stoopid PETA idiots , get a life !

The pastor at Anchorage First Free Methodist Church was mystified. Why was the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals chastising him? No animals are harmed in the church's holiday nativity display. In fact, animals aren't used at all.

People, however, do dress the parts - Mary, Joseph, the wise men, etc. The volunteers stand shivering at a manger on the church lawn in a silent tribute to Christmas.

The Rev. Jason Armstrong was confused by an e-mail this week from PETA, which admonished him for subjecting animals "to cruel treatment and danger," by forcing them into roles in the church's annual manger scene.

"We've never had live animals, so I just figured this was some spam thing," Armstrong said. "It's rough enough on us people standing out there in the cold. So we're definitely not using animals."

Jackie Vergerio, PETA's captive animals in entertainment specialist, said her organization tracks churches nationwide that use real animals in "living nativity scenes."

Seems the confusion started with the church's choice of phrase. PETA flagged Free Methodist's display as a "living nativity," and indeed, that's how the church describes it on its Web site. To PETA, that means animals.

"Those animals are subject to all sorts of terrible fates in some cases," Vergerio said. "Animals have been stolen and slaughtered, they've been raped, they've escaped from the nativity scenes and have been struck by cars and killed. Just really unfathomable things have happened to them."

In the letter to Armstrong, Vergerio shared some sad fates of previous nativity animals - like Brighty the donkey, snatched from a nativity scene in Virginia and beaten by three young men. Ernie the camel fled a creche in Maryland but was struck and killed by a car. Two sheep and a donkey had to be euthanized after a dog mauling at a manger scene in Virginia.

Free Methodist's display is peaceful, Armstrong said. The congregation erects the stable. Members spread straw and don costumes. Some even dress as manger animals.

"We have some puppet camel things we put out," Armstrong said. "We have a cow hood thing that a person will wear that actually just looks spooky."

The volunteers stand beneath a brightly lit electric star as Christmas music fills the frosty air. They don't even speak.

"No one's come by protesting or thrown bloodstained fur at us or anything," Armstrong said. "We even use a plastic baby."

Woman's trapped body found

A woman's body was found wedged upside-down behind a bookcase in the home she shared with relatives who had spent nearly two weeks looking for her.

A spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said Mariesa Weber's death was not suspicious. Family members said they believe she fell over as she tried to adjust the plug of a television behind the bookshelf.

Weber, 38, came home October 28 and greeted her mother, then wasn't seen again. Her family thought she had been kidnapped and contacted authorities. Family members scoured her room for clues but found nothing, although they did notice a strange smell.

On Nov. 9, Weber's sister went into her bedroom and looked behind a bookcase, where she saw the woman's foot. Using a flashlight, the family saw Weber was wedged upside-down behind the unit.

"I'm sleeping in the same house as her for 11 days, looking for her," her mother, Connie Weber, told the St. Petersburg Times. "And she's right in the bedroom."

Both Weber and her sister previously had adjusted the television plug by standing on a bureau next to the shelf and leaning over the top. Her family believes Weber, who was 5-foot-3 and barely 100 pounds, may have fallen headfirst into the space.

"She's a little thing," her mother said. "And the bookcase is 6 feet tall and solid. And she couldn't get out."

The sheriff's office said Weber appeared to have died because she was unable to breathe in the position she was in.

Coke Santas

Colombian police have arrested two men for moulding figurines of Santa Claus out of cocaine for smuggling to the United States and Europe in time for the holiday season.

The market-savvy artisans also cast festive cups, place mats and other Christmas decorations from the same gelatinous mix, which when dried, looks like plastic, Colombia's intelligence police, DAS, said in a statement.

The men's laboratory was found in Tolima province, 130 kilometres from Bogota.

The two men have been jailed.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Marriage plans on ice

New Zealand - It sounds like a case of cold feet.
A Dunedin couple have had to put their wedding plans on ice.

Lawyer Bridget Byers and builder Donald Wyatt planned to marry on one of the many icebergs floating off the Otago coastline on ice, the Otago daily Times reported.

The pair would take a wedding celebrant – and their crampons – by helicopter to say their I dos on one of the giant visitors from the Antarctic which have so enamoured New Zealanders for the past few weeks.

However, Southern Lakes Helicopter pilot Richard Hannibal Hayes, of Te Anau, known for his search and rescue work in the region, said plans were on hold as the job was too risky.

The slow thaw of the flotilla as the icebergs moved north meant they were constantly shedding ice, and it was difficult to find a safe haven for the lovebirds to land on.

Internal Affairs also threw cold water on the couple's plans, saying people had to be within 12 nautical miles of the coast to be married legally.

The icebergs are at least double that distance from terra firma.

Ms Byers did not wish to comment as she was in discussions with a woman's magazine over rights to cover the ceremony.

WTF !?! Bad parenting ? pt III

A Canadian man who could not figure out how to deal with his girlfriend’s feverish 10-month-old daughter put the baby into a freezer to cool her down, a local newspaper reported on Friday.

Derrick Hardy faces charges of criminal negligence and assaulting the infant, who was rescued when her mother came home, the Charlottetown Guardian said.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said the mother found the girl crammed into the freezer alongside ice cubes and hamburger meat.

Hardy said he had left the door ajar but the mother said it had been closed when she returned.

He told a court in the eastern province of Prince Edward Island on Thursday the child had only been in the freezer for about 40 seconds.

Hardy, 21, who admitted to police that he had no real parenting skills to deal with a sick child, said he had noticed the girl was very hot and put a cool cloth on her face, but this had no effect.

He then carried the girl outside into the night air but, frustrated that this also did not work and worried she might drown if placed in a cold bath, he put the baby into the kitchen freezer. She was wearing only an undershirt.

A local doctor said the mother had described her baby as “crying, sobbing and terrified.”

The child spent several days in hospital to recover from first- and second-degree freezer burns on her head and torso.

Hardy has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The baby’s grandmother now has custody of the girl.

6 year old a threat

A six-year-old boy was ordered to remove his hood for "security reasons" as he walked through a shopping centre with his mother, Britain's Mirror newspaper reports.

An over-zealous security guard ordered little Jack Johnson to take off the hood he was wearing because the mall in the southern coastal city of Southampton has a "no-hoodie" policy.

The paper says the 3ft11inch tall boy fell foul of a ban, in force at many malls throughout Britain, aimed at protecting shoppers from being intimidated by unruly youths.

"It was chilly and Jack was coming down with a cold so I wrapped him up warm," his mother, Tracy Johnson, said.

When she protested, management at the mall apologised and gave the boy and his mother shopping vouchers.

Veg vouchers

Pregnant women and toddlers from low income families are to get free fruit and vegetables under a new scheme. The government's Healthy Start scheme will provide parents with vouchers to buy fruit and vegetables, as well as milk and formula for babies.

The vouchers will be worth £2.80 per week and made available for pregnant women and families with children aged between one and four. People with children under a year old will get two vouchers each week.

Vitamin supplements will also be available under the scheme, run by the Department of Health. Families can spend the vouchers at around 20,000 retailers including markets, greengrocers, milk deliverers, supermarkets and chemists.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said: "Poor diet can have a real impact on people's health. We want people to have the best possible opportunity to eat healthily. This new scheme will not only provide greater choice of healthy food, but will also mean that children can get milk and fresh fruit and vegetables from the cradle up, helping to give them the best possible start in life."

The programme will replace the Welfare Food Scheme, originally set up in World War II to protect children's health during rationing, and more than 500,000 families will transfer to the new scheme.

Road safety Danish style

A new Danish road safety video on the Internet features topless blond women with speed limit signs urging drivers to stop speeding.

Danish road safety council official Julia Pauli claimed that the satirical news report was made to better communicate with young male drivers and has so far met with mostly positive feedback.

"If you want to reach the young people, you have to communicate on their conditions ... So, topless women are working," Pauli said of the Speedbandits video.

With speeding drivers accounting for a quarter of all Denmark's road deaths, the video is part of an increasing effort by area officials to crack down.

Asked if the council would respond to feminist criticism of the video by creating a female-oriented counterpart featuring a man exposing his bottom, Pauli told the BBC that viewers would have to wait to find out.

Queens tops the pops

Their over-the-top rock may not win the critical acclaim given The Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but Queen can claim Britain's best-selling album of all time. The Official UK Charts Company said Thursday that Queen's "Greatest Hits" had sold more than 5.4 million copies in Britain since its release in 1981, more than any other record.

The band, fronted by the late Freddie Mercury, is famous for overblown hits including "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Will Rock You." Queen's follow-up "Greatest Hits II" is the seventh best-selling album in Britain, according to the list.

The Beatles' 1967 album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was second, selling 4.8 million copies, followed by Oasis' 1995 disc "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?" with 4.3 million.
Albums by Dire Straits, ABBA, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson and Madonna are also in the top 10 of the list, compiled by checking more than a half-century of sales figures. (Top 100 albums)

The list proves critical kudos do not always translate into sales. Some of the most revered acts of the last half-century -- including Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and the Sex Pistols -- do not have an album in the top 100.

Boy band member turned solo showman Robbie Williams has six, while Oasis, Michael Jackson and Celine Dion have three each.

The Top 10:
  • 1. "Greatest Hits," Queen, 5,407,587
  • 2. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," The Beatles, 4,811,996
  • 3. "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?" Oasis, 4,314,715
  • 4. "Brothers In Arms," Dire Straits, 3,956,704
  • 5. "Gold," Abba, 3,943,950
  • 6. "The Dark Side Of The Moon," Pink Floyd, 3,781,993
  • 7. "Greatest Hits II," Queen, 3,644,619
  • 8. "Thriller," Michael Jackson, 3,578,107
  • 9. "Bad," Michael Jackson, 3,554,301
  • 10. "The Immaculate Collection," Madonna, 3,402,160

Calling all egotists

Surely one of the greatest marks of success, the thing that really sets you apart from the rest, is getting a call from Madame Tussauds requesting your presence, so that they can immortalise you in wax. With locations all over the world, Madame Tussauds is renowned for creating the most spectacular likenesses of the world's most famous and revered people.

Walk into any Madame Tussauds and you'll find yourself inadvertently chatting with Brad Pitt, having a laugh with JFK, or possibly sticking your tongue out at Thatcher. The works are so remarkably lifelike that it's unnerving they don't breathe.

There is no clearer indication that you've "made it" than being 'done' by Madame Tussauds, but we can't all be famous. Fortunately that's no longer necessary, now you can commission their brilliant wax artists to immortalise you.

You don't have to be famous, or even revered, but you do need to be minted. Setting you back a cool £150,000 you will have an entourage (oops, we mean team) of twenty people lavishing you and your sculpture with attention for four whole months. You heard us correctly, four months. This is how long it takes to get the perfect detail, to reflect your exact measurements, to capture your expression and to match your hair and eye colour to achieve the 'Version II' of you.

If you don't have time to go to all the sittings in London, the sculptors are skilled enough to progress with research photos. All the sittings are however included in the price, as is a DVD and photo album of the process. A team will also transport and install your wax figure in your chosen private location.

Although your figure will not actually be displayed in Madame Tussauds itself, the quality and detail of your figure is identical to those displayed in the attraction. You won't be restricted by opening hours and you can make like a VIP, and only invite your chosen visitors to admire your double.

Friday, November 24, 2006

One law for them and another for the rest of us

A policeman who was cleared of speeding on his way to pick up a Chinese takeaway still faces disciplinary action, his chief constable has said. Pc Stephen Akrill was caught by a speed camera in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, driving a police Land Rover at 48mph in a 40mph zone.

Magistrates let him off after he said he had been on his way to an accident. South Yorkshire's chief constable said it was "very regrettable" he had apparently disregarded a speed camera.

Pc Akrill told Rotherham Magistrates' Court on Wednesday how he decided to help after receiving reports of a serious road accident on the evening of 13 February this year.
But when he heard other units had responded he aborted his journey and went to the takeaway instead.

However, the court heard he had not been called to respond to the crash, did not have sirens or blue lights on and was not taking the quickest route to the scene.

He was spotted by a motorist triggering a speed camera and then entering the Wickersley Cantonese takeaway, emerging minutes later with several bags of food.

Magistrates were told the takeaway had been ordered in advance.

Pc Akrill, 41, admitted he had been "foolish" in not reporting to his bosses, as he should have done, that he had triggered the speed camera in Wickersley.

But the South Yorkshire officer denied speeding in his marked police Land Rover and was cleared after a day-long trial.

Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes said on Friday: "This incident has obviously raised public concern and it is very regrettable that an officer should apparently have disregarded a speed camera under these circumstances.

"The decision of the court in the face of the evidence presented to them is entirely a matter for them, but South Yorkshire Police will always seek to prosecute police drivers where evidence suggests they have failed to comply with the law which covers their use of police vehicles. In this case, the evidence was independently reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service and disciplinary enquiries will continue."

Paul Smith, founder of the anti-camera group Safe Speed, said: "The hypocrisy is absolutely breathtaking.

"It's clearly one law for them and another for the rest of us. Cases like this do immeasurable damage to the police-public relationship."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

First sex toy advert for Britain

The first sex toy commercial to be shown on UK terrestrial TV will hit screens this week. A vibrating penis ring will appear in the 30-second advert on Channel 4 and Five and satellite channels.

Durex, which makes the disposable toy, said the post-11pm broadcast restriction for the commercial was too severe.

It wants permission to show the "tastefully shot" advert after the 9pm watershed.

The commercial shows a couple sitting a dinner table. The man gives the woman what looks like an engagement ring box.

She opens the box, smiles, and says "I do."

Durex managing director Martyn Ward said the company would lobby to get the commercial shown after the 9pm watershed.

"There is nothing rude or crude about the advert, which is tastefully shot, and we feel this restriction is hypocritical, given the images of a sexual nature you quite regularly see on TV at this time of night," he said.

Durex has sold more than 400,000 of the £5.99 disposable vibrating rings since they launched last year.

The commercial will be broadcast after 11pm from this Friday.

Eat humble pie ?

Like cheese rolling and greased-pig chasing, it was once a popular attraction at village fetes the length and breadth of Britain. But now an old fashioned pie-eating contest has become the latest casualty in the campaign for healthy eating.

Organisers of an annual pie-eating competition have been forced to change the rules of their splendidly messy contest.

Traditionally first prize has always gone to the contestant who could munch their way through the most meat and potato pies in three minutes.

But now the title of World Pie Eating Champion will be awarded to the person who can eat a single pie in the shortest time.

The move to cut the calorific intake of competitors has been made in response to the Government drive to cut obesity and promote healthy eating. And in another break with tradition, the field will also be open to vegetarians who will eat their own non-meat pie. (shouldn't be allowed !)

But the changes have provoked anger among previous winners of the pie-eating title in Wigan who have accused organisers of bowing to food fascists. Dave Smyth, 48, a painter, who won the first contest in 1992 when he ate four pies in three minutes, said: "This contest has always been about savouring as many pies as possible over a three-minute period, not sprinting through a few mouthfuls of a single pie.

"They've taken things too far this year. Pies are supposed to be meat and potato and anything else just isn't normal. I intend to lobby the organising committee and I'm not going to rest until I've got answers."

The pies traditionally used in the annual contest in Wigan contain around 400 calories each and weigh in at around 12oz. Organisers insist the cooked dimensions need to ensure a diameter of at least 12cm and a depth of 3.5cms with a pie wall angle from base to top of between zero and 15 degrees.

To claim the title, competitors must have consumed the whole pie and have an empty mouth for the last pie to count. Last year's winner Anthony "The Anaconda" Danson, a weight-trainer from Pemberton, Lancashire, managed to eat seven pies in three minutes setting a new record.

Organiser Tony Callaghan confirmed he had been forced to change the rules because of the healthy eating campaign.

He said: "I realise it may be controversial, but this is the way forward for pie-eating at this level. It will make for an exciting sporting spectacle, whilst also doffing its cap to Government guidelines on obesity. We have also bowed to relentless pressure from the Vegetarian Society and agreed to introduce a vegetarian option, although vegetarian pie-eaters in the competition will be allowed to eat a slightly smaller version because of its rather more glutinous content. We will not stop competitors from entering both championships - so there is every possibility we will have a double world champion for the first time."

Wigan residents are playfully called pie-eaters, but the nickname is not thought to be because of their appetite for the delicacy. The name is said to date from the 1926 General Strike when miners from the town were starved back to work before their counterparts in surrounding towns and were therefore forced to eat "humble pie".

Mr Callaghan, who owns the venue, Harry's Bar, said that entries from across the world are invited for the contest on December 13.

Early indications, however, suggest that the competitor travelling the furthest to this year's contest comes from Ashton in Makerfield - about five miles away.

Silly bitch leaves tax-payers with £50,000 bill

A dispute between two rich neighbours over a game of football in their communal gardens ended in farce at the High Court, leaving the taxpayer with a £50,000 bill.

City banker Christopher Fleming-Brown was taken to court after he was spotted kicking a ball around with his five-year-old son in the residents-only square in Notting Hill, West London.

His accuser was Paula Lawton, his 63-year-old neighbour, who insisted Mr Fleming-Brown had breached local bye-laws.

In a private prosecution, Miss Lawton took the case to the West London Magistrates' Court, where the Compact Oxford English Dictionary was used to determine whether the 46-year-old father had broken the law.

Magistrates eventually dismissed the case, ruling that as he and his son were not 'teams' they had done nothing wrong.

Miss Lawton, who is single and lives in a one-bedroomed £450,000 garden flat in upmarket Elgin Crescent, was not satisfied and proceeded to take the case to the High Court, where she successfully challenged the magistrates' ruling yesterday.

But Lord Justice Waller, sitting with Mr Justice Treacy, said Mr Fleming-Brown's acquittal would stand, as a retrial would not be in the public interest.

As Miss Lawton technically won her case by proving the pair were playing football, she was not ordered to pay any costs, leaving that burden to the taxpayer.

Monster truck

It's a monster truck to put paid to all others. Meet the new BelAZ-75600 - the shape of 21st century coal mining.

The 26ft-tall machine is more than twice the height and twice as powerful as the monster trucks seen in touring shows up and down the country.

Indeed, it could lug 40 of the machines without a problem, or a comparable number of African elephants if one was so inclined.

The 75600 was unveiled in September by Belarussian firm BelAz, which stands for Belarussian Automobile Plant - one of the largest manufacturers of such vehicles in the world.

The machine boasts a 320-ton capacity with 3,600 horsepower at its disposal, the equivalent to 18 Volkswagen Golf GTIs.

It has been designed for use in large-scale civil engineering projects and open-cast mining, where the many blind spots at the rear are less of a hindrance than they would be on the M4, for instance.

To get around the problem, the truck is fitted with video cameras on the side and rear, which feed images to the driver perched high in the cab.

Car to test for drunkeness ?

Convicted drink-drivers in America may soon have to fit a device that requires them to pass an in-car breath test before the engine will start and disables the ignition if it detects alcohol.

The scheme has been in force in New Mexico for first-time and repeat offenders over the past year, during which time there has been an 11.3 per cent decrease in alcohol-linked road deaths.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) called this week for similar changes in traffic laws in America’s other 49 states, some of which already use the so-called ignition interlocks, but only for drivers with multiple convictions. But these devices can be easily circumvented by the driver getting a sober friend to blow into the tube instead.

So car manufacturers and the federal government are reported to be backing research into a new generation of technology for detecting alcohol in a driver’s body. Saab is already testing a device that attaches to a key chain, while other transdermal sensors may be able to read alcohol content when a driver’s palm touches the steering wheel or the gear stick.

Even more advanced versions can detect when a car is weaving down the road while being driven by an impaired driver.

Plumbers art fence

Some people use scarecrows to chase away birds, or garlic to block vampires. Rick Froebe uses toilets to repel golfers. Froebe has erected a backyard "fence" made of seven old toilets, a few used bathtubs and some broken-down water heaters, all designed to prevent golfers from the adjacent Lakeview Golf & Country Club from approaching his yard.

While critics say Froebe is acting out in a dispute with the golf course and other neighbors, the plumber insists his fence is not meant to be offensive.

"It's plumber art," Froebe, 52, said.

Besides, he added, "It's not like this is Pebble Beach. This is Lakeview."

On Monday, three scarecrow-like dummies sat on toilets and looked on as golfers finished their putts on the 354-yard, par-4 first hole. The old commodes, bathtubs and water heaters first appeared on Halloween.

Froebe, co-owner of Coulee Dam/Ephrata Plumbing, used to belong to the golf club, but resigned in May in a dispute with other members.

He said the golfers near his property make his four dogs start barking, which has prompted upset neighbors to call the Grant County sheriff's office. Froebe has lived in the house for 15 years.

Gerald Coulter, representing the country club's nine-member board of directors, called the situation "completely ridiculous."

"I've had several people call that were upset with (the 'fence'). It's an eyesore," Coulter said. "I'm surprised the health department hasn't been out there because of the used toilets and water tanks. It's not a sanitary condition."

Meanwhile, the sheriff's office has warned Froebe three times that his dogs are a nuisance, said Larry Ledeboer, the sheriff's animal control officer.

"The sheriff's office doesn't write a lot of barking infractions," Ledeboer said. "We give warnings and try to work with people."

To date, Froebe has received three barking infractions. A first-offense barking infraction is $47 per dog, Ledeboer said. The second offense is $95. A third offense is $190.

Froebe said he recently bought special dog collars that discourage barking.

A stray dog has become a national celebrity in Japan, as millions watched his rescue, six days after he was stranded up a cliff.

Pictures of the stranded dog were beamed live across the nation as firefighters in Tokushima prefecture conducted the rescue.

The brown mongrel had been stuck for six days on a ledge, 50 metres high on a concrete retaining wall.

Seventeen people were involved in the rescue, while scores of others looked on.

The crowd gasped as the dog evaded two small hand-held nets, before it lost its footing and fell into a third net.

The dog, which was suffering dehydration, was bundled into a waiting pet cage and taken to a local animal shelter.

Local rescue officials have been overwhelmed by telephone calls from around the nation, offering the lucky dog a new home.

Happy 60th Biro

Fifty-seven Bic Biros are sold every second (and then "borrowed" by passing colleagues) - not bad for a 60-year-old product. But did the pens really make that much of a difference?

It was a familiar frustration that led to the invention of the modern ball-point pen - leaky ink.

In 1938, Hungarian newspaper journalist Laszlo Biro noticed the ink used on the printing presses dried quickly and so tried using it in a fountain pen to avoid the problem of leaks, blots and smudges.

But the ink was too thick to flow into the nib. So Biro, with the help of his brother, a chemist, devised a pen tipped with a metal ball bearing that used capillary action to draw ink through the rotating ball.

They brought their invention with them when they fled to the West during a crackdown on Jews later that year. A British firm took over the patent to produce pens for the RAF, and the first Biros went on sale in the UK 60 years ago this week.

Barring tweaks and improvements, the pen is still recognisable as the ball-point Biro devised to make writing easier, and it regularly features in top 100 design lists, says Libby Sellers, the curator of the Design Museum.

"It has worked so well for so long that you stop noticing it. It does what it says it should be doing, like the paper clip and the Post-It note."

But was it revolutionary? "That's a big word, but it made writing easier. No longer did you need to worry about ink spills or refills. To be mobile and reliable are two amazing things to be able to accommodate into such a small and humble object.

"What is remarkable is Biro's lateral thinking in bringing existing technologies together to create an everyday object that everyone could write with. Ball bearings already existed. Quick-drying ink already existed. And so did roller-balls, in deodorants."

Among the first Britons to use the pens were the RAF's fighter pilots, for whom the pens proved something of a revelation.

"Fountain pens can explode or at least leak at high altitudes, so to have a reliable pen with you in the cockpit to note down important markers helped win the war," says Miss Sellers.

What about pencils? "You have to sharpen pencils, they're not as user-friendly."

There is an old and oft-repeated rumour that because standard pens don't work in zero-gravity, Nasa spent millions devising a space pen, while the Russians used pencils.

Bush lets Rumsfeld Turkey go free

WHITE HOUSE -- President George W. Bush performed a White House tradition Wednesday.

Before he could enjoy his Thanksgiving dinner, the president had some important business to attend to.In an annual ritual dating back to Abraham Lincoln's time, some lucky turkeys, Flyer and Fryer, were spared turning up as dinner.

Bush gave a presidential pardon to two turkeys Wednesday, sending them to live out the remainder of their lives in a park.

Though the presentation of a live turkey dates back to the Lincoln administration, the current ceremony dates to 1947, when the first National Thanksgiving Turkey was presented to President Harry Truman.

The 2006 National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate were from Monett, Mo., and were raised under the direction of National Turkey Federation Chairman Mike Briggs, according to the White House. Briggs delegated the day-to-day responsibilities to Lynn Nutt of Monett.

The birds are commercial turkeys used in normal industry production, and they were raised using the same techniques as other commercial birds. They were fed a regular diet of corn and soybean meal and were provided a continuous supply of fresh water.

A few minor modifications were made to prepare these birds for the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation. About 30 turkeys were removed from the normal commercial production flock and are being raised separately on Nutt's farm. The birds are periodically hand-fed and given additional interaction with people in an effort to acclimate them.

After the presentation, the National Turkey and its alternate will be taken to Disneyland Resort and Theme Park in Anaheim, Calif., to be a part of the holiday display and where they will stay the remainder of their natural lives. Both the turkeys will serve as honorary Grand Marshals for Disneyland's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

People who visited the White House's Web site got to help name the 2006 National Thanksgiving Turkey and alternate. Bush announced the winning names at the ceremony.

The public has spoken. 20,478 votes have been cast and "Flyer and Fryer" are the winning names of the Thanksgiving Turkey and the alternate that the President pardoned on November 22, 2006.

Ben and Franklin 18%

Plymouth and Rock 22%

Washington and Lincoln 12%

Corn and Copia 21%

Flyer and Fryer 27%

Wrong time wrong place

A Stockton, Calif., man was arrested late Monday night as he tried to rob the Valero gas station in the 8800 block of Jewella Avenue about 11:20 p.m.

Derek Pierson Jr., 21, entered the store with a mask covering his face and demanded money, police spokeswoman Kacee Hargrave said.

But Agent L.J. Scott, a member of the Shreveport Police Department Armed Robbery Task Force, was also in the store, dressed in his police uniform.

Scott ordered Pierson to show his hands and he obeyed. Scott then took the man's handgun from him and arrested him.

Pierson has been charged with armed robbery with a firearm and booked into the Shreveport City Jail.

Rubber band ball record

Building a huge ball out of more than 175,000 rubber bands is dangerous business. Really.

“The rubber bands ... sometimes they’ll break. That hurts,” said Steve Milton, whose 4,594-pound rubber band ball was certified Tuesday as the world’s largest by Guinness World Records officials. “As long as you wear your safety goggles, you’re good.”

Milton, 26, of Eugene, Ore., watched as four bodybuilders rolled the multicolored, rubbery mass — 51/2 feet high and 19 feet around — onto a giant scale in downtown Chicago for the official weigh-in.

He raised his arms over his head in Rockyesque style when Guinness judge Sarah Wagner announced his ball had bounced the previous 3,120-pound record-holder from the books. That record was set by John Bain of Wilmington, Del., in 2003.

“It’s just amazing; it’s out of this world,” said Milton, who began building the ball in November 2005.

Bain didn’t begrudge Milton the honor.

“Steve can have the record ... he worked hard for it,” Bain said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “I had my glory days with the rubber band ball.”

Milton worked on the ball with his 6-year-old son, Bryce, and soon-to-be stepson, Austin Johnson, 7. “We did a little bit of research on how big rubber band balls are, and realized there was one out there that was 3,120 pounds and we knew we could do it.”

His fiancee thought it was a bit nuts, but it was fun for the family.

Milton credited their success to a simple credo: add to the ball every day, even if it was for just a few minutes, and remember to move it to the garage while it still fits through the door.

“My advice is to basically not overwhelm yourself with it,” Milton said. “A lot of people who try to break this record, they overwhelm themselves by trying to do too much.”

Wagner, the Guinness judge, is based in London, but she flies around the globe certifying unusual records. Her previous assignment: the world’s longest line of pizza in Italy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Copper thieves bugger up Aussie trains

Audacious thieves hoping to get rich in a "red gold" rush have caused serious transport disruptions by stealing copper wire from a major Australian train network, officials said.

There had been at least 20 incidents of overhead wires being stolen on Melbourne's rail network since September, a rail spokeswoman said, causing disruptions to about 500 train services and stranding thousands of passengers.

Copper raiders have also hit cables on rail lines in Italy, where bridges and even tombs have also been targeted by thieves as worldwide demand for the metal soars.

The problem in Melbourne has become so bad that police set up a taskforce 10 days ago. Five people were arrested this week, Australian Associated Press reported.

Police said the thieves were acting foolishly because the copper they were stealing would fetch only a few hundred dollars from scrap metal dealers.

"What they are doing is life threatening and it's only a matter of time before someone is killed or injured, police sergeant Brian Clarke said.

Copper prices hit an all-time peak of $US8800 a tonne hit in May but are now down more than 23 per cent on that level.

Urban myth leads to car stereo thefts

A haul of stolen car stereos has been recovered by police investigating 205 car break-ins in Cardiff over the weekend. Officers found 37 car stereos, 21 stereo security panels and a laptop in a car in the city on Tuesday.

It follows a spate of car stereos thefts thought to be instigated after an urban myth that a chip inside could be used to decode digital TV boxes. Police said the number of break-ins was four times the usual number. Reports showed 95% of them were Ford models. The car firm believe this is in light of an urban myth that they can be used to decode digital TV boxes.

Police confirmed the rumour but officers have spoken to Ford and the digibox manufacturers who said there was no link. Ford told BBC News that components cannot be used in this way. A spokesman said it was "pure myth" sparked by an off-the-cuff comment from someone within the motor industry.

Meanwhile, car window replacement firm Autoglass said staff from other areas had to be brought to Cardiff branches after the thefts. Katherine Brant, a spokeswoman for the firm said: "We saw 120 motorists who had broken body glass over the weekend. We had to draft extra staff in from the south west area in order to cope with demand. This only normally happens when we have bad weather or if there was a vandalism attack in one street for example. But it's never been to this extent, it's pretty unique."

# A man has been arrested and released on police bail.

La-Z-Boy saves man

Norman Kamp has a good reason to stay in his La-Z-Boy. It may have saved his life. Authorities in Northern California report Kamp's wife tried to shoot him in the head, by firing through the back of his easy chair.

But the sturdy recliner absorbed most of the bullet's impact and left Kamp virtually unscathed. Deputies in Contra Costa County report Kamp followed his wife into the kitchen, where she tried to shoot him again, but the gun didn't fire.

Kamp was treated and released from a local hospital. His wife, Jan, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder

Zoo poisons lions :(

A major zoo in Ethiopia is poisoning rare lion cubs and selling the corpses to be stuffed because it can't afford to care for the animals, which are the national symbol, the zoo's administrator said Wednesday.

"These animals are the pride of our country,'' Muhedin Abdulaziz of the Lion Zoo said. "But our only alternative right now is to send them to the taxidermist.''

Ethiopia's lions,also called Abyssinian lions are famous for their black manes, adorn statues and the local currency. The country's emperors were long fascinated by lions, part of their connection with Solomon, the lion of Judah.

Wildlife experts estimate that only 1,000 Ethiopian lions, which are smaller than other lions, remain in the wild.

The Lion Zoo has poisoned six cubs so far this year, Abdulaziz said.

Mesganu Arga, head of the Information and Culture Bureau in Addis Ababa, said the city was looking into the matter.

"These are rare animals and a treasure to the country,'' Mesganu said.

Animal conservation groups expressed outrage at the killings.

Fancy a date with America's most wanted ?

A fugitive wanted for a double homicide in Arkansas was arrested on the weekend in Wisconsin after he posted his name, picture and address on an online dating Web site, police said on Monday.

Calvin A. Bennett, 26, has been charged with two counts of murder in the killings of Pierce Odell, 79, and his wife, Mary, 78, who were found shot to death on October 30 outside their home in Nashville, Arkansas, about 125 miles southwest of the state capital Little Rock.

"He was taken into custody shortly before noon on Sunday, less than 12 hours after his picture was broadcast on (the television show) 'America's Most Wanted,'" said Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas State Police.

Sadler said that people who had first seen his picture on the dating site had subsequently seen it on the popular television program.

On Monday Bennett was ordered held without bond in Wisconsin pending an extradition hearing on December 19. An affidavit submitted by the authorities said Bennett had confessed to killing the Odells during a botched burglary.

One of the messages on Bennett's Web posting said he "liked to cuddle."

Poles in the mud

Two thieves on the run in Germany made light work for their pursuers when they tried to flee across a drained pond and got stuck so fast in mud they had to be helped out by police.

"They probably thought the pond looked dry and that it would be a handy shortcut," a spokesman for police in the eastern city of Chemnitz said on Wednesday. "But they got totally stuck."

Having released the men from the sludge, police arrested the pair, both Poles in their twenties. The two had earlier given officers the slip after being caught breaking into a car.