Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Saved by TV ?

An Irish government minister has publicly thanked a sharp-eyed surgeon who spotted a growth on his face during a television appearance.

Irish Overseas Aid Minister Conor Lenihan said the surgeon, who has not been named, suggested that he seek medical advice after spotting the lump.

Doctors found a tumour which - although benign - required immediate surgery.

The 43-year-old has urged people to get even the smallest symptom checked by their doctor as soon as possible.

Mr Lenihan was taking part in a studio discussion show, Prime Time, on RTE television, the Irish state broadcaster, in December. A viewer, a surgeon in Galway in the west of Ireland, was watching at home when he spotted a lump on the left side of the minister's jaw.

The following day the surgeon rang Mr Lenihan's office in the capital Dublin, and left a message asking him to call back about "a private matter".

The surgeon advised him to see a head and neck specialist immediately.

So , paragliding is safe ?

A top British paraglider cheated death at 2,500ft — as she was savaged by eagles.

Terrified Nicky Moss, 38, fell prey to two of the giant birds as they repeatedly tried to claw her eyes out, then tore at her parachute-style canopy.

Screaming Nicky — hanging in a harness below the torn chute — plummeted out of control for 500ft before miraculously managing to land safely.

She said yesterday: “It was the stuff of nightmares. I thought I was dead meat. It was like being attacked by snarling flying black labradors.”

The wedge-tailed eagles, which boast an 8ft wingspan, swooped on Nicky, from Loughborough, Leics, as she took part in a contest in Australia.Nicky — the UK’s No 1 woman paraglider — said: “I was wearing a helmet and the only way I stopped my face being torn to shreds was by forcing my head down on to my chest. I was crying and screaming. The birds tore at my wing with their talons and I plummeted. One even got entangled in my paraglider lines and was shrieking and flapping like a possessed thing.”

The drama unfolded at the Killarney Paragliding Classic, an eight-day event 120 miles From Brisbane.

Nicky’s boyfriend Mark Graham, 43, a fellow paraglider, said: “It was horrendous.”

Ornithologist Dr John Bullard said the eagles would have mistaken the glider for a rival bird — with Nicky a tasty morsel in its talons. He said: “She was very lucky to escape unhurt.”

World mapper

Killed by drought

Of all drought-related disasters between 1975 and 2000, 98% of deaths occurred in just three territories: Ethiopia, Sudan and Mozambique. There were an estimated 560 thousand drought-related disaster deaths worldwide during this period, occurring in just 20 of the 200 territories that are mapped.

A sustained drought can result in crop failure, deaths of livestock and ultimately deaths of people. Unlike other disasters, droughts are slow to unfold and may continue for years.

See World maps of other phenomenons here

Nuns on the run

An entire order of nuns has fled a convent on the Greek-Bulgarian border after running up huge debts. The nuns' knitting business, serving 25 shops across Greece, has crashed.

From mother superior to the most junior novice, the 55 nuns sought sanctuary in the Xenia convent in the hills of central Greece. The Greek Holy Synod is trying to sort out their debts of some 760,000 euros (£500,000) and persuade them to come out of hiding.

As I walked past the small domed chapel towards the cloisters, bolts slammed across heavy wooden doors, keys clicked double locks into place and curtains twitched in the nuns' cells (bedrooms).

Their sentinel was a stooped, beetle-browed, elderly nun clutching a copy of the New Testament.

I asked her to confirm that this was indeed the hideout of the runaway order. "So what?" she snapped back in Greek, "who wants to know?" Then her tone softened. "If God wills it," she said, "someone will come and talk to you," and she despatched a novice to find out.

She quickly returned with the news that the mother superior was exercising her right to remain silent.

So I left as empty-handed as the nuns' creditors. According to the Kathimerini newspaper, they exacerbated their financial problems by going abroad to fashion shows to check out the latest designs in woollen garments.

Their assets may have to be liquidated and property belonging to their convent at Sidirokastro could be sold to pay off their debts.

Makes me proud to be English !

Darren Gray has been ordered to take down a flag of St George from his home — as it advertises England.

Council chiefs told the 27-year-old builder he needs an advertising licence to hang up his 10ft by 8ft emblem.

And if Darren, of Bedford, does not move it by February 17 he faces a £1,000 fine, rising by £100 a day if it stays up.

He said yesterday: “It’s Britain gone mad, yet again.

“I put the flag up last summer to support England in the World Cup and because I’m very proud of my country. What’s wrong with that?”

In a letter, Bedford council told Darren that flags hung on homes and not from poles need a licence. He said: “I phoned and asked what I’m supposed to be advertising and was told ‘England’. Well, since it went up no one has knocked at my door asking to buy England!”

Darren says he won’t remove the flag “on principle”.

A council spokesman said it wrote to Darren after receiving a complaint.

Pant tantrum

An angry husband who threw old clothes into the garden and set fire to them because he couldn't find any clean underpants accidentally burnt his home down.

Ivo Jerbic, 55, from Prikraj, near Zagreb, told police he had lost his temper after failing to find any clean underpants in a closet full of old clothes.

He had thrown them all in the garden and set fire to them.

He told police: "My wife never throws anything out, I just lost my temper."

But the fire spread to the house which burned to the ground.

Local news agency Hina reported that Jerbic could end up in jail for up to eight years for putting other family members in danger, even though no one was injured.

Herpes the Wrestler

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota State High School League is suspending wrestling in the state for eight days because of an outbreak of herpes gladiatorum.

Officials said 24 cases of the virus have been reported by 10 teams. The virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact.

During the suspension, officials will be especially diligent about checking wrestlers in the 285 pound, 215 pound and 189 pound weight classes. It seems those weight classes were particularly affected.
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Dr. B.J. Anderson is a former wrestler who acts as a health adviser to the high school league. He said officials don't foresee having to extend the ban.

There are 292 schools in Minnesota with varsity wrestling programs. The state tournament set to start on Feb. 28 does not appear to be in jeopardy.

Head& Titties shampoo

Researchers think scented oils that are found in some shampoos, soaps and lotions can cause temporary breast growth in young boys, but only in rare cases.

A preliminary study released Wednesday said the oils appeared to disrupt the boys' hormonal balance.

The federally funded study comes from the University of Colorado and the National Institutes of Health and is reported in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Three boys, ages 4, 7 and 10, developed the condition while using products containing lavender and tea tree oils. All three were normal again when they stopped using the product with the natural oils.

Hormone experts advised parents to consider the possible risk. But because the condition appears to be rare and temporary, they're not suggesting a ban on sales.

Stonehenge village unearthed

Evidence of a large settlement full of houses dating back to 2600BC has been discovered near the ancient stone monument of Stonehenge in south-west England, scientists said on Tuesday.

They suspect inhabitants of the houses, forming the largest Neolithic village ever found in Britain, built the stone circle at Stonehenge - generally thought to have been a temple, burial ground or an astronomy site - between 3000 and 1600BC.

"We found the remains of eight houses," Mike Parker Pearson, a professor of archaeology at Sheffield University, said in a teleconference to announce the discovery.

"We think they are part of a much larger settlement. I suspect we can identify 25 likely house sites. My guess is that there are many more than that," he added.

During excavation at Durrington Walls, less than two miles from Stonehenge, scientists working on the seven-year Stonehenge Riverside Project detected dozens of hearths. They also uncovered the outlines of box beds and wooden dressers or cupboards and 4600-year-old debris, including burnt stones and animal bones strewn on the clay floors.

"We think we are looking at the village of the builders of Stonehenge," Professor Parker Pearson said.

The houses measured about five-metres square and were located in a small valley north of Stonehenge that leads down to the River Avon. They are on either side of an avenue that leads from the river to a wooden version of Stonehenge.

"We think our discovery is very significant for understanding the purpose of Stonehenge. What we have revealed is that Stonehenge is one half of a larger complex," said Professor Parker Pearson, referring to the stone and wooden circles.

The scientists believe Stonehenge and Durrington Walls were complementary sites. Neolithic people gathered at Durrington Walls for massive feasts and parties while Stonehenge was a memorial or burial site for the dead.

"We are looking at least a century, probably several centuries of use, at both sites," said Professor Parker Pearson. "Stonehenge is our biggest cemetery from that period. There is a very interesting contrast in terms of life and death."

Stonehenge's avenue is aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise while the Durrington avenue corresponds with the midwinter solstice sunset, the researchers believe.

Tourists are drawn to Stonehenge throughout the year but the most popular day at the site is the summer solstice, or longest day of the year.

Druids, a pagan religious order dating back to Celtic Britain, gather at Stonehenge, about 100 miles west of London, during the summer solstice because they believe it was a centre of spiritualism.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

To love and eBay

David Jones ended up with a lot more than he bargained for when he went shopping on eBay.

David, 46, from Mold, Flintshire, was bidding for a pair of ornamental birds on the auction website, but fell in love with the woman selling them. Now he and Cheryl Pipes, of Withernsea, East Yorkshire, are preparing to marry, just three months after meeting.

David said: "We chatted for hours over the internet and then met a week later - we've been inseparable ever since."

David contacted Cheryl after spotting an ornamental owl and eagle she was selling for £350 on the site.

He said: "I sent her a few questions and we got chatting over the internet for about five hours on the first night.

"That carried on for a few days. Then, a week later, we met up near Cheryl's home town. When we met each other be both went 'Wow'."

Despite sweeping Cheryl off her feet, David, a traffic enforcement officer, said he still ended up paying for his ornaments.

He added: "I didn't get them for free. I left her some very good feedback on eBay, though."

The couple have already had a "dress rehearsal" for their big day, after they were chosen to model wedding wear by a local store near Cheryl's home.

Cheryl, 45, said: "I never thought I would find someone I've spent the past 45 years looking for on eBay. My family are all over the moon for me."

Cheryl, a newspaper manager, added: "It's gone very quickly. We met in November, and of course had Christmas and New Year in between, and now we're going to get married on 10 February. Dave is putting in for a transfer to move up here, so we can be together. "I just can't wait to be Mrs Jones."

Up Helly Aa

For 24 hours, on the last Tuesday of January, the town of Lerwick goes more than a little mad.

"There will be no postponement for weather". That's a defiant boast by Shetland's biggest fire festival, considering it's held in mid-winter on the same latitude as southern Greenland. But it's true: gales, sleet and snow have never yet stopped the Up Helly Aa guizers of Lerwick from burning their Viking galley - and then dancing the dawn away.

Up Helly Aa is a lot more than a sub-arctic bonfire and booze-up. It's a superb spectacle, a celebration of Shetland history, and a triumphant demonstration of the islanders' skills and spirit. This northern Mardi Gras lasts just one day (and night). But it takes several thousand people 364 days to organise. Much of the preparation is in strictest secrecy. The biggest secret of all is what the head of the festival, the 'Guizer Jarl', will wear and which character from the Norse Sagas he'll represent.

Read more HERE

Clocking off time

A landmark clock has stopped ticking months short of its 150th anniversary after rain affected its mechanisms. The town clock in Tredegar stopped after heavy rain in recent months seeped into its electric workings.

It is one of Blaenau Gwent's best known landmarks and people in the town are now trying to raise money to get the clock working again. Because the 72ft high clock is listed, restoration work could cost as much as £100,000.

Erected in 1858, the clock's four faces were designed to be seen from all areas of the town and it was placed for the convenience of workers of the iron works and coal mines in the area.

It was the idea of the wife of Mr RP Davies, the master of the ironworks.

"She thought it would be a good idea and her husband said if she could raise half the money, he would pay for the rest," explained Dr John Evans, town council clerk and local historian. Fundraising was going very well when she suddenly died and so Mr Davies used his own money to make up the shortfall to put the clock up in his wife's memory. It demonstrated the love he had for his wife who died at a fairly young age."

As the anniversary of the clock neared, a major restoration for the clock was planned. But before work could start, the clock suddenly stopped.

"Excessive rain penetrated the mechanisms and affected the electrics," said Dr Evans.

"So we are now trying to gather all the money we can and get grant aid to start work on it."

Dim & Dimmer

What’s a good way to get arrested? How about walking past cops carrying a cash register?

That’s what happened in the North End of Winnipeg last night, when police who were in the area conducting an investigation noticed a man and a woman walking down the street with a cash register.

“Talk about suspicious activity,” said a police spokeswoman.

Police stopped the couple and eventually linked them to a knifepoint robbery that had just occurred at a nearby variety store on Aberdeen Avenue.

Cops have also charged the pair with robbing that same store two more times last week.

Kevin Sainnawap, 30, and Annie Agnes Houle, 29, have both been charged with three counts of Stupidity robbery with a weapon and are being held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Stoning not allowed

Immigrants to the small Quebec town of Herouxville must not stone women in public, burn them alive or throw acid on them, according to an extraordinary set of rules made public by the local council.

The declaration, published on the town's website, has deepened a debate in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province over how tolerant Quebecers should be towards the customs and traditions of immigrants.

"We wish to inform these new arrivals that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here," said the declaration, which also says women are allowed to drive, vote, dance, write checks, dress how they want, work and own property.

"Therefore we consider it completely outside these norms to ... kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them etc."

No one on the town council was immediately available for comment on Tuesday. Herouxville, which has 1300 inhabitants, is about 160km northeast of Montreal.

Andre Drouin, the councillor who came up with the idea of the declaration, told the National Post newspaper that the town was not racist.

"We invite people from all nationalities, all languages, all sexual orientations, whatever, to come live with us, but we want them to know ahead of time how we live," he said.

The regulations say girls and boys can exercise together and people should only be allowed to cover their faces at Halloween. Children must not take weapons to school, although the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that Sikh boys have the right to carry ceremonial daggers.

The Herouxville declaration is part of a wider discussion over "reasonable accommodation", or how far Quebecers should be prepared to change their customs so as not to offend immigrants – figures from the 2001 census show that around 10 percent of Quebec's 7.5-million population were born outside Canada.

DJ buys jilted bride's dress

Jilted bride Emma Knight has received an unexpected wedding present - £5,000 from BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans.

The 41-year-old nurse hit the headlines for going ahead with her big day despite being stood up by her fiancé a fortnight earlier.

She put an ad in her local newspaper under the headline "Jilted Bride" to sell her £1,500 dress, plus bridesmaids' dresses and groomsmen's cufflinks.

Evans invited her onto his Drivetime show for a chat - and promptly bought the dress for £5,000.

The DJ told Miss Knight: "I have an idea for the dress. What about if we buy the dress off you? We will call it the Drivetime Dress. If any women who are a size 14 want to get married, they can borrow it from us. We'll be like a hire shop.

"We will give you £5,000 for it because you had a nightmare of a day."

A delighted Miss Knight, a mental health nurse from Portland, Dorset, said: "For that money I'll throw in the shoes for free!"

Afterwards Evans told listeners it was a genuine offer - and reassured them he would be paying for the dress out of his own pocket.

"We've just bought the dress and it's an official real deal, I promise you," he said. "It's not licence payers' money, don't worry about that."

Explaining the gesture, he said: "She spent £15,000 on her wedding - that's all her life savings - and of course it never happened. And she's a nurse. So that's the end of that."

Eye correction

A Chinese man had to have his contact lenses surgically removed after he did not take them out for a year.

Liu, 40, started to wear contact lenses a year ago and never took them out because he found it difficult.

"I only have some eye drops for when they feel uncomfortable," he told Chutian City News.

Liu recently felt his eyesight was getting worse, so he bought another pair of lenses and wore them on top of the old ones.

But when his eyesight still didn't improve, he took another startling decision.

"I put a pair of used disposal contact lenses over the other two pairs in my eyes. By then, I was wearing three pairs of lenses," he said.

By the next day, Liu's eyes had reacted badly to his DIY eyecare and he finally sought medical attention.

A doctor was shocked to find the first lenses had grown into his eyes and surgery was needed to take them out.

How not to collect ransom

Atlanta - A pair of inept kidnappers sent their victim into a bank alone to withdraw money while they went next door to buy chicken sandwiches, according to police.

The victim told police the two men held her against her will at the Highland Parc Apartments in Cobb County over the weekend.

She says the men then drove her to the Wachovia bank on Windy Hill Road and ordered her to withdraw money.

They allowed her to go into the bank alone while they went next door to Chick-fil-A to pick up snacks, according to the woman.

"The victim passed a note to a bank employee alerting her to the situation," said Officer Wayne Delk of the Cobb County Police Department.

Bank employees called 911 and police descended on the area.

Officers arrested one of the kidnapping suspects when he tried to run from the fast food restaurant. The second suspect escaped.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cow racing

There was "no udder" place to be on the weekend than Australia's only cow race, in the small South Australian town of Mt Compass.

For the past 34 years locals on the Fleurieu Peninsula race dairy heifers in the Compass Cup to raise money for charity.

So far more than $125,000 has been raised.

But while it is all for a good cause, some cow jockeys claim it is not the easiest way to raise money.

"The theory is we lead the cow gently keep the rider on top as long as possible and cross the line first," one jockey said.

"They're slippery, hard to hang on to, sort of grip with your knees and hope for the best, look at the ground and hope you don't hit it," another jockey said.

Footwear Intelligence

Britain is launching a database of thousands of shoes and shoe types next month to help track down criminals.

The database is thought to be the first of its kind in the world.

The Footwear Intelligence Tool will be similar to the database of genetic samples that Britain created in 1995, which now has millions of DNA profiles.

"Footwear marks at the scene are the second biggest evidence type behind blood and DNA," Dr Romelle Piercy, of the Forensic Science Service (FSS) in London, said.

Like fingerprints, hair, blood or fibres, footprints are left at many crime scenes - on carpets or bodies as well as in earth or mud and are often highly distinctive.

Footwear prints and marks from crime scenes and information from manufacturers will be loaded on to the database, which will be updated daily. Similar clues have already been used to track down suspected bombers and in other major criminal cases.

"The technology, like the DNA database, has no upper limits as far I am aware," Dr Piercy said.

The archive, to be launched on February 15, will include information on shoe type, colour, branding and marks as well as demographic information. It already contains over 1,000 distinguishing marks on Nike training shoes alone.

Cats paroled from prison

WINDSOR, Vt. -- The inmates have to stay, but the cats have to go.

The superintendent of Southeast State Correctional Facility -- a women's prison in Vermont -- is paroling Ziggy, Marmalade, Smokey and Shane. That's upset some inmates, who feed them and pay for their care.

The felines have been fixtures at the farm-turned-prison since the 1980s, helping keep the grounds mouse-free. However, the superintendent said they're not really pets.
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A director at the local humane society said caring for the cats taught inmates empathy, responsibility and compassion. She said taking them away is "insensitive."

But there have been problems, too. Inmates have been scratched, and some are allergic or just don't like them.

Lost in space ?

A US man who won a free trip to outer space in an online competition has had to cancel it, after realising he would have to pay tax on his prize.

Californian Brian Emmett, 31, who describes himself as a space buff, won the trip after correctly answering questions on Java computer code.

But he worked out would have to report the $138,000 ride as income and pay $25,000 tax, AP news agency reports. Not wanting to go into debt, Mr Emmett decided to give up his seat.

''There was definitely a period of mourning. I was totally crestfallen'' he said. ''Everything you had hoped for as a kid sort of evaporates in front of you," he told AP.

Mr Emmett has already attended space camp and watched launches of the space shuttle from Kennedy Space Centre.

When he won the competition in 2005 he became a celebrity, giving TV interviews and appearing at trade shows on behalf of the company that organised the contest.

Space tourism has attracted lots of attention over the past few years. Very wealthy would-be astronauts have been putting down considerable deposits to experience viewing earth from many miles above ground.

But because America's Internal Revenue Service requires winnings from lotteries, TV shows and other competitions to be reported as taxable income, some tax experts believe space prizes will never take off in a big way.

Some competition organisers, though, provide the winner with a sum of money to cover the tax bill, a sum of money that is also taxable itself.

Mr Emmett's place will now be taken by another American. Two other winners, from Asia and Europe, are still on board.

They will all travel with Space Adventures Ltd., the firm that organises trips on Russian rockets to the orbiting International Space Station for the ultra-rich for a reported $20million.

The company says it has given away some 20 reservations through competitions and that the majority of winners are satisfied.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Snake massages

An Israeli health and beauty spa has introduced snake massage as a new treatment to its menu.

For 300 shekels (£36), clients at Ada Barak's spa in northern Israel can add a wild twist to their treatment by having six non-venomous but very lively serpents slither and hiss a path across their aching muscles and stiff joints.

"I'm actually afraid of snakes but the therapeutic effects are really good," customer Liz Cohen told Reuters Television as Ms Barak let the snakes loose on her body.

Ms Barak uses California and Florida king snakes, corn snakes and milk snakes in her treatments, which she says are inspired by her belief that once people get over any initial misgivings, they find physical contact with the creatures to be soothing.


A furious mother hit out at a "stingy" primary school after her eight-year-old daughter was given just bread and water for her lunch after she forgot her dinner money.

Courtney Williams was served the meagre rations at Castle Hill Primary School, in Brockworth, near Gloucester, while her friends tucked into fish, rice, peas and a dessert.

The 210-pupil school, which actively promotes healthy eating, said all meals had to be paid for up front.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Legless Sasquatch

Thieves tried to dismember a large carving of Big Foot stolen from a Washington State chiropractor.

Police in Federal Way found the 400-pound statue a block from Tom Payne's office, the Tacoma News-Tribune reported. The ankles had been sawn through but the carving was otherwise unharmed.

A young man and a juvenile confessed to the theft, police said.

"I'm glad we got him before they cut him anymore," Payne said. "We're relieved to have him back at the office."

Payne finds the statue he calls Sasquatch Sam useful as well as ornamental. The 8-foot tall carving has become a local landmark and helps people find the driveway to his office.

Bush Bashing !

HILTON ISLAND, S.C.-- A man was charged with public disorderly conduct in Hilton Island, S.C. after being observed "in a physical confrontation with shrubs" by a deputy.

The Beaufort County Detention Center's online log said the 23-year-old man, whose name was not released, smelled of alcohol and was taken to the detention center to await prosecution, the Hilton Head Island Packet reported.

The deputy that took the man in said he was responding to a complaint the man had attempted to get into someone else's car. When the deputy arrived on the scene the man allegedly had moved on to beating the vegetation.

The police report said the man ran across the street to get in one last kick on a bush before talking to police.

Mr Joker

Is The Joker, one of Batman's fiercest enemies, a Dutch citizen?

A 35-year-old man from the western Dutch town of Hellevoetsluis convinced local authorities to issue him an identity card with a picture that shows him as The Joker, Dutch news agency ANP reported on Thursday.

The man also managed to apply for a driver's licence picturing him with the cartoon character's trademark white skin and dark hat.

ANP said the man was working in the security sector and had wanted to show that current rules for identity papers were insufficient.

The Joker, played by Jack Nicholson in the movie version of Batman, is probably the best known enemy of the fictional superhero.


Madison lawyer Rick Petri says he hopes there's a lesson for others in what happened to him early Thursday.

Petri found himself in the embarrassing position of going to the Madison Police Department to pick up a client who had been arrested for drunken driving, only to be arrested himself for the same offense.

"I did not think I was intoxicated, and I was wrong," Petri said.

Petri's client, former Dane County Board member Patrick DePula, 34, was stopped on suspicion of drunken driving at 11:46 p.m. Wednesday in the Downtown area, was given a field sobriety test and arrested at 12:07 a.m., Madison police spokesman Mike Hanson said.

Petri, 64, said he had been out that same evening, had a couple of drinks and went home about 8 p.m. to watch the Wisconsin Badgers basketball game. He said he made himself a couple more drinks, then went to bed.

He said his phone rang about 2 a.m. with a call from Madison police about DePula's arrest, asking if he could pick up DePula. Petri said the officer asked if he had been drinking, and said he could only come if he had no alcohol in his system, under Police Department policy. He said after a quick calculation, he was certain his blood-alcohol concentration was under 0.08 percent, the legal limit for drunken driving in Wisconsin.

"I thought I'd give it a shot," Petri said.

But when Petri arrived, he was given a preliminary breath test - which indicated a blood alcohol concentration of 0.09 percent - a field sobriety test and was placed under arrest for drunken driving.

"I can't tell you how humbled I am, how embarrassed I am," said Petri, who once prosecuted drunken drivers for the Madison city attorney's office and who represents in court people accused of drunken driving and serves as a member of other boards and civic bodies.

Python ate my dogs: 11 of them !

One by one, the guard dogs disappeared without trace. The locals first thought they must have wandered off, even though they were well cared for.

But after three months 11 dogs had vanished from the Malaysian village of Kampung Pogoh and villagers began to suspect something in the jungle was making a meal of them. Their suspicions were confirmed when a huge python was discovered half a mile from the village.

Ali Yusof, 35, who lost the 11 dogs - and suspects several more had also been eaten by the 25ft reptile - found it coiled up at the edge of a swamp near his mango orchard.

Terrified of getting too close in case he also ended up as its lunch, he also found drag marks that he said confirmed the snake had slithered along with a dog in its mouth.

"I did not need to be a clever policeman to read all the signs,' he said yesterday as he joined other villagers to show off the 11stone snake. I had dogs on patrol around the orchard to stop people stealing my fruit, but one by one they disappeared. What puzzled me was that there were no remains. There was no sign of a struggle, no blood, - nothing. So when I saw that big, big snake, I knew what had happened. It is so big it could swallow a dog in one piece."

The python was captured by throwing a blanket over its head, a recognised method of calming and confusing many snakes. It was later taken away by wildlife officials who said it would probably be released again into the wild - a long way from any village.

There are many types of python, ranging from 3ft to 30ft long. They kill their prey by constriction and have a powerful bite. The reticulated python found in South-East Asia is one of the longest and on rare occasions has been known to attack humans.

Moosehead Sue

An American student is suing her university for negligence after a mounted moose head fell on her from a wall during a biology exam. Amy Walters was peering through a microscope when the stuffed trophy fell, hitting the side of her head.

She says she has suffered from headaches ever since, and is suing for "loss of enjoyment of life" and "embarrassment and humiliation".

Pennsylvania State University has not yet commented on the case.

The accident happened at the university's biology laboratory at the Fayette campus during an exam in February 2005. Ms Walters' complaint said there were "several wild game heads displayed on the walls about the room".

The "moose head with antlers" fell from the wall, knocking Ms Walters into a chair, whereupon the hunting relic landed in her lap, it said. The impact "caused immediate pain in her head and caused Ms Walters to see spots", it said, although "after taking a moment, she was able to complete the exam".

Nevertheless, a few hours later she felt sick and reported to the university's medical facility. She said she has continued to suffer from severe headaches since the day of the accident, and wants a jury trial to award damages.

She is alleging that the "defendants were careless, reckless and negligent in failing to ensure the moose head was properly affixed to the wall".

Burping Baby Bounced

SOKOJOO the baby monkey has been abandoned by her mother - because of her chronic HICCUPS. The tiny Colobus started the noisy spasms within days of being born on December 30.

Staff at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall said she was gulping down milk from her mum Sierra too quickly and making the ’hic’ sound after every feed.

The problem got so bad that Sierra refused to feed her and started sitting on top of the 800g mite as a sign of rejection. Keepers have now removed Sokojoo from the Colobus enclosure and are hand-rearing her with a bottle.

But the burping baby - whose name means ’hiccup’ in the Mandinka language of her native Gambia - is still sounding off after her regular feed every two hours.

Zoo spokesman Michelle Turton said: ”She hiccups after feeding which is very cute and it makes her seem so human. But sadly her mum rejected her.

“We have kept an eye on her round-the-clock and have feeding her milk from a bottle every two hours. She loves her milk and it will soon be time to move her onto solids. We are hoping that will help with the hiccups.”

In a few weeks Sokojoo, who is growing a tufty coat of black and white hair, will start to eat leaves, flowers and fruit.

Keepers will try to reintroduce her to the zoo’s family of Colobus monkeys in three months time.

Zoo director Stewart Muir said: ”As soon as the baby is onto solid food we will place her within a small enclosure in the main Colobus enclosure. That way she she can get used to the sights, sounds, smells of the adults. We don’t want the baby to get too imprinted by us.”

Black and white Colobus monkeys are found between Gambia and The Ivory Coast in West Africa. They live in small groups of three to four females and one to three males, plus their young.

Shanghai - No spit

Taxi drivers in China's financial capital of Shanghai are to be issued with "spit sacks" to curb their habit of rolling down their windows and hawking into the road, state media reported on Tuesday.

Phlegmatic cabbies will soon have a sack fixed to the metal grill that surrounds the driver's seat, so that both they and their passengers can make use of it.

The special sacks will be distributed to 45,000 taxis by the Shanghai Patriotic Sanitation Committee to curb spitting in public places, a habit Chinese authorities have long been trying to discourage.

"The 'no spitting' regulation came after Shanghai decided to make people give up the ugly and unhygienic habit and present a healthy city for the 2010 World Expo," the China Daily said.

The spit sack follows an earlier innovation in Shanghai's public hygiene, after the city attached spittoons to garbage cans on sidewalks, the newspaper reported.

The spittoons, however, were not a success. Residents mistook them for ashtrays.

Organisers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, worried about the reaction of visitors, have repeatedly said the capital needs to teach its people to stand in line, stop spitting and littering and generally be better mannered.

Thieves 2 victims 0

A mother has hit out at police who refused to go after thieves who stole her sons' motorbikes - because the pair were not wearing helmets.

Pauline Nolan, from Droylsden, Greater Manchester, said officers told her they could not pursue the offenders in case they fell off and sued them.

Mrs Nolan, 44, said: "It's outrageous, I couldn't believe what I was hearing."

Greater Manchester Police said officers needed to consider the safety of all road users before deciding to pursue.

But Mrs Nolan said she was not satisfied with the response of the force. She said her sons, Bradley, 11, and Ashley, 18, were devastated by the loss of the bikes.

She said: "Everything in this country is weighted towards the criminals, what about the victims?" Mrs Nolan was driving home when she spotted two teenagers driving past her on her sons' motocross bikes.

She contacted police, who told her they had also spotted the bikes but were not allowed to go after them. "He said if there was an accident and they were injured then the thieves would sue the police," said Mrs Nolan.

"I didn't know what to say, I think even the policeman was embarrassed."

Insp Martin O'Connor, from Greater Manchester Police, said: "In situations like this, officers need to carefully consider the safety of all road users before deciding whether or not it would be appropriate to begin a pursuit. This means taking into account the time of day as well as the prevailing weather and traffic conditions and the nature of the original offence and make a risk assessment based on all these circumstances. In this case, the decision was made it would not have been safe to pursue the bikes."

Although the bikes were stolen two weeks ago they remain missing and anyone who has seen them are asked to contact police. They are an orange and black KTM 250 and a black and green Kawasaki 65, which are worth £7,000.

Cat & mouse

Police officers were called to rescue a cat which got her head stuck in a jam jar trying to catch a mouse.

A motorist found the tabby wandering beside a road in Peterborough, Cambs, with the jar on her head and the mouse millimetres from her nose.

The officer pulled and twisted but could not release the cat, and the animal eventually freed herself and the mouse by smashing the jar.

"It was like a scene from Tom and Jerry," a police spokeswoman said.

The motorist had taken the cat, mouse and jar into Thorpe Wood police station where three police officers were asked to help.

The spokeswoman said: "They tried to prise the jar off as this terrified mouse looked on - but it was firmly wedged. Eventually the cat smashed the jar on the floor and the mouse ran off - it's still running around Thorpe Wood police station somewhere."

The cat, called Mindy, was found to be microchipped and was quickly reunited with her owner in Peterborough.

She was examined by a vet and found to be unharmed.

Charging the Scots

A theatre in England has threatened to charge customers from north of the border higher admission prices.

The Maltings in Berwick-upon-Tweed claims 41% of people using the arts centre come from Scotland. As a result, management said a request had been made to Scottish Borders Council to provide £50,000 of support.

SBC has dismissed the call as "absurd". The theatre has confirmed it is now considering higher charges for people from outside Berwick using the centre.

Director Maurice Ward said the Maltings board would be meeting soon to determine pricing levels. He confirmed that it would be considering a discount scheme for Berwick residents.

"This means, in effect, that users outside the borough would be paying higher prices to compensate for the subsidy already being paid by the tax payers of Berwick," he said. We would urge residents in the Borders area to lobby their councillors suggesting that they reconsider their position not to provide any funding to the Maltings. It is not equitable that Berwick council tax payers should provide such a large subsidy for regular users outside the borough."

Follow up

A German lorry driver has thrown away tens of thousands of euros after winning a radio competition by promising to do precisely that.

Marko Hilgert pledged to give away three-quarters of the 100,000 euros (£65,800; $129,000) prize money.

He was as good as his word and threw notes onto the town square of Kaiserslautern, in western Germany, as he was suspended above it in a crane.

Some 3,000 people scrambled to collect the notes as they rained down.

Bystanders grab some of the notes from the lottery give-away
Grateful citizens seize their chance to pick up some free cash
Mr Hilgert kept the rest of the prize money to pay off part of his mortgage.

"If I threw three quarters of it out of the window, I would obviously still profit," he said.

"But the people also profit from this, and that's what people realised when they voted for me as the winner of the competition."

Ha ! that'll teach ya !

The US has banned exports of iPods, fine wines and fast cars to North Korea as part of the punishment for the country's nuclear bomb test last year.

The sanctions are said to be targeted at North Korea's elite, who reportedly enjoy luxuries despite the country's desperate poverty.

Cup of tea ?

British police have concluded that a former Russian spy was poisoned by a lethal dose of radioactive Polonium-210 added to his tea at a London hotel.

Investigators have identified the teapot believed to have contained the radioactive tea, which eventually killed Alexander Litvinenko in November, Sky News said, citing unnamed Scotland Yard officials.

ABC News had a similar report, citing an unidentified official.

Police officials and a spokesman at the hotel declined to comment on the reports.

The reports also said police have identified another former Russian spy, Andrei Lugovoi, as a suspect in the murder. Sky News said British prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to charge him.

The reports cap a week of media speculation on the direction of the British investigation into the death.

The Guardian newspaper also reported Friday that police were focusing on Lugovoi and preparing to submit evidence to prosecutors to decide whether to file charges against him, citing unnamed government officials.

Lugovoi, who has strenuously denied playing any role in the murder, was not immediately available for comment.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Haddock love

A new love song CD with a difference could make a splash by featuring sea creatures including an amorous haddock.

The British Library collection includes marine mating calls.

Whale and dolphin sounds may be familiar but deeper in the North Sea the recorded sounds include a male haddock searching for a mate.

The haddock courting noises start as slow knocks and turn into a quicker hum that sounds similar to a small motorcycle revving its engine.

The CD contains the noises of North Sea haddock recorded in laboratory conditions in Aberdeen. The experts believe that replicates the "at sea" sound.

Sounds of the Deep also features a walrus diving for food and the clicks, whistles and buzzes of the Atlantic Spotted Dolphin.

The British Library sound archive's wildlife curator, Cheryl Tipp, said of the haddock: "It really is quite a novel sound, it's fascinating.

"The knocks turn into a hum. "We are thrilled to present these captivating new collections of marine life and coastal wildlife sounds and hope that wildlife enthusiasts will find them fascinating."

Postbox boy

An autistic boy obsessed with postboxes has been inundated with letters from people for him to post in his own pillar box.

Gareth Scott, eight, of Stockport, Greater Manchester, loves postboxes, and sometimes hugs them in the street. The firm which supplies the Royal Mail, Romec, gave him a specially-adapted postbox earlier this month.

Gareth has since received hundreds of cards and letters to post in his box, which is smaller than official boxes.

Gareth's language is limited, but one of the words he can say is postbox.

His family requested a pillar box for him from Romec, which delivered one that is now found in his back garden, and has personalised collection times.

His mother, Denise, has said she is overwhelmed by the response to his story.
She said: "We've had hundreds of letters and they've all been posted. Gareth's so happy to have his own box. It's the first thing he does when he comes downstairs in the morning.

"A gentleman from Liverpool, Bill Lloyd, goes all over the world taking pictures of different sorts of pillar boxes and he sent about 50 pictures of different types for Gareth."

He has even had a letter from the 800-member Letter Box Study Group. Arthur Reader, from the group, lives on the Isle of Wight.

He said: "We have meetings twice a year, with displays of old postboxes. I have a large private collection of 178 post boxes at my museum. The young lad would be most welcome to come along. Sometimes a little spark is inside these children and it needs the right sort of stimulus."

Denise Scott said it would be nice if they could take him up on the offer.

Burp overturns ban

A motorist has had a 12-month drink-drive ban overturned after he successfully argued that his breath test reading was affected by burping. O Sang Ng was banned for 12 months after admitting the offence to Basingstoke magistrates last year.

But the 46-year-old from Winchester, Hants, appealed saying the intoximeter reading was affected by a burp.

A High Court judge ruled that a belch can be a "special reason" for not disqualifying a driver.

O Sang Ng, of Hambledon Close, was fined £130 last January after admitting driving with excess alcohol. He had been stopped while driving his Ford Escort in Andover Road, Winchester. The breath test revealed 53 mcg of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35mcg.

In April, he tried to argue that the reading was artificially inflated by an eructation - or burp - but District Judge Gillian Babington-Browne ruled the belch was "connected to the offender and not the offence" and was not a "special reason" to overturn his driving ban.

At a later court hearing, the disqualification was suspended pending a High Court Appeal. Allowing O Sang Ng's appeal, Mr Justice Owen said the district judge had erred in law.

"I am satisfied that in this case the evidence upon which the appellant sought to rely before the district judge was directly connected to the offence," he said.

The disqualification was set aside and the case was sent back to magistrates for reconsideration.

After the case, O Sang Ng's barrister Mary Aspinall-Miles explained that a burp "may" elevate a breath alcohol reading for a specimen sample as it was effectively a concentrated gas bubble from the stomach.

Nappy art

The Vietnamese authorities have banned from an art exhibition a giant baby's nappy made out of police uniforms.

The sculpture - about two metres high - was on show in Hanoi for two days before officials demanded its removal.

Artist Truong Tan deliberately makes the connection between the absorbent properties of babies' nappies and the pockets of policemen.

The banning is an unusually public example of the struggle between radical artists and the communist authorities.

The work is called Hidden Beauty, and there is no doubt about it - it is a giant nappy, or diaper.

Pay up or we'll send the Eunuchs round !

In India's largely informal cash economy the job of tax collection has always been a struggle. Just 4 per cent of the 1.1 billion population contribute to the public purse and many a government campaign to increase tax receipts has failed.

But the city of Patna, in the country’s poorest state of Bihar, has devised a formula that may just work: public humiliation.

Frustrated with not being able to meet its annual target of revenue collection, city authorities have employed the incomparably colourful services of eunuchs to embarrass habitual defaulters into coughing up.

The castrated men, herma-phrodites and transsexuals, caked in cheap make-up and wearing garish saris, are being paid to stand outside the homes and shops of repeat offenders and loudly sing ditties such as Izzat jatau, sohrat jatau, tax na debe ta gharwa nilaam hotau (Your reputation will be tarnished, fame would be malice, if you do not pay your tax your house would be auctioned).

Accompanied by drummers and policemen, the persuasive eunuchs — conditioned to demanding money through a lifetime of begging — are proving quite adept at their new job. In one day this week their takings topped 400,000 rupees (£4,710), for which they received a 4 per cent cut.

Ram Sagar Singh, 60, a shopkeeper surrounded by a mob chanting “Pay up the tax, pay the tax,” in front of his family and neighbours, immediately promised to cover his dues of 100,000 rupees within a week.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Text novel

HELSINKI, Finaland -- A novel whose narrative consists entirely of mobile phone text messages has been published in Finland.

"The Last Messages" tells the story of a fictitious information-technology executive in Finland who resigns from his job and travels throughout Europe and India, keeping in touch with his friends and relatives only through text messages.

His messages, and the replies -- roughly 1,000 altogether -- are listed in chronological order in the 332-page novel written by Finnish author Hannu Luntiala.

The texts are rife with grammatical errors and abbreviations commonly used in regular SMS traffic.

"I believe that, at the end of the day, a text message may reveal much more about a person than you would initially think," said Luntiala, who also is head of a company that keeps databases on people living in Finland.

Sari Havukainen, spokeswoman at Finnish publishing house Tammi, said the company is considering translating the book into other languages.

The taciturn Finns, keen on all mobile gadgets, have wholeheartedly accepted text messages as a tool to communicate even in most private matters. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen recently made tabloid front pages after reportedly having broken up with his girlfriend with a text.

Throwing it away

A big-hearted German truck driver has been thwarted in his bid to throw 75,000 euros (£50,000) out the window of his local town hall.

The man had won a radio station's contest with the best answer to the question: What would you do for 100,000 euros?"

He responded that he would keep a quarter of the sum and throw the rest to passers-by.

But when the town hall in Mainz, in south-west Germany, was approached about the stunt, administrators said that because the building was air-conditioned it was not possible to open the windows.

Now the radio station, RPR1, is looking for another town hall with old-fashioned ventilation.

See Burns' birth certificate online

The birth and marriage certificates of Scotland's national bard Robert Burns have been made available on the internet for the first time.

It is part of a project which sees all birth, death and marriage certificates going online in time for Burns Night.

The records date back to the 16th century and are now accessible via the ScotlandsPeople website.

The birth certificate of the national bard is on the website along with the record of his marriage to Jean Armour.

The record of Robert Burns's birth and his wedding to his Bonnie Jean are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of entries.

They are among the last to be transferred onto computer as part of a £3m project to make everything held by the General Register of Scotland in Edinburgh available online.

That means all of Scotland's Old Parochial Records dating back to 1553 can now be viewed on the site.

Users are charged to access the various records.

Fox office

Perhaps she was looking for some shoes to go with her red fur coat.

But the vixen which wandered into a store in the heart of London did not get much opportunity to browse.

Pandemonium broke out as shoppers realised what was tiptoeing between the high heels and boots.

"The shop was quite busy so it wasn't long before it was spotted and then there was a real commotion," said Sarah Adeyemi, manager of the Office store in Portobello Road, Notting Hill.

"We had lots of people in the middle of trying on shoes who started shrieking and running out into the street in their socks.

"Nobody even noticed the fox when it first walked in because it just followed a woman with a pram, minding its own business." She added: "We often deal with wasps and pigeons but we have never had a fox to visit. We decided to shut the shop in case it was diseased."

The shoe shop closed for an hour afternoon while staff waited for the RSPCA to arrive.

"At first, it was quite calm and curled up in the window by the trainer display," Mrs Adeyemi said. "But then it began to get a bit agitated."

RSPCA officers cornered the fox behind the till and took it away to be released in the country.

Robert Burns 1759-96

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they strech an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit!' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o 'fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Love at Second Sight

The Netherlands, the country that has pioneered reality shows like Big Brother, is planning a new first – a dating programme for the visibly disfigured.

The broadcaster SBS 6 is seeking candidates for its Love at Second Sight show due to be launched on February 20.

"Do you have a visible serious handicap and are you looking for a partner?" says an appeal on its website.

"The programme is a platform for people with such problems to share experiences and feelings in a positive way with the rest of the Netherlands and to show that they are absolutely not pitiful," the broadcaster said.

"The main aim of the programme is to remove prejudice about these people, to create more acceptance and respect and, of course, to find the love of their lives."

But the majority of Dutch viewers are turned off by the show that was initially set to be called Monster Love. A poll by the mass circulation De Telegraaf daily showed 85 per cent do not like the idea, with only 9 per cent in favour.

Slothful Sloth

JENA, Germany - Scientists in the eastern German city of Jena said Wednesday they have finally given up after three years of failed attempts to entice a sloth into budging as part of an experiment in animal movement.

The sloth, named Mats, was remanded to a zoo after consistently refusing to climb up and then back down a pole, as part of an experiment conducted by scientists at the University of Jena's Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology.

Not pounds of cucumbers or plates of homemade spaghetti were appetizing enough to make Mats move.

"Mats obviously wanted absolutely nothing to do with furthering science," said Axel Burchardt, a university spokesman.

Mats' new home is the zoo in the northwestern city of Duisburg where, according to all reports, he is very comfortable.

Ve no vant McDonalds

A German village has won a fight to stop McDonald's opening on its outskirts because it doesn't sell sausages and sauerkraut.

The mayor of the village of Geschendorf in Schleswig-Holstein,(next door to Hamburg - errr) Fritz Kock, 66, said: "There are 508 people here and we all agree we do not want foreign trends here.

"We are quite happy with the local restaurant where we can get sausages and schnitzel, and all nine local councillors supported the decision.

"We have had calls from all over the country praising us for making a stand against McDonald's."

Shopping for a name

A woman has named her baby John Lewis after going into labour in the store in London.

Anita Baidoe was shopping for a baby carrier in John Lewis in Brent Cross shopping centre when she went into labour eight weeks early.

Ms Baidoe, from Plumstead, said: "The staff saw I was looking hot and bothered and got me a chair and called a first aider, but I kept telling them I didn't think it was serious.

"We called my partner Sam to come and pick me up, but the contractions had already started and the first aider said I must get to hospital."

Ms Baidoe, a catering manager, was rushed to Northwick Park Hospital where she gave birth to a 4lb 4oz boy.

Dad Sam Quartey, 35, said: "They (the shop staff) were absolutely fantastic by all accounts, fussing over her and making her comfortable.

"We didn't know the sex of the baby until he was born, but then it just came to us. We should call him John Lewis Quartey."

According to ThisisLondon, Ms Baidoe added: "I think if I had been shopping in Dorothy Perkins I would have had to find him another name."

Meet Snowy

IT'S as rare as the snowfalls across the UK today - an albino squirrel.

The cute, all white, red-eyed squirrel was first spotted scavenging for nuts in gardens in Southsea, Hants, in the autumn and is now a regular visitor.

Neighbours in Campbell Road, Southsea, have nicknamed him Snowy and are delighted to see him visiting their back yards with his grey squirrel friends.

Another understanding traffic warden

A traffic warden pounced on mum Nicky Clegg’s car — minutes after she was almost killed by a tree crashing on to it.

Police dragged the wreck to the side of the road after Nicky, 42, her son Sam, 11, and her elderly mum cheated death in last week’s storms. The crushed S-reg Fiesta was left on a double yellow line as the tearful family were taken home suffering from shock.

The police told shaken Nicky not to worry about leaving it there.But when she went back the next day she was stunned to find a ticket slapped on it. The time on the £60 penalty showed it was issued only 17 MINUTES after she was forced to abandon the car with a crushed bonnet and smashed windscreen.

Furious Nicky — who also discovered thieves had nicked her £100 car stereo — said yesterday: “It’s unbelievable. We managed to escape death but we couldn’t escape the yellow peril.”

Nicky, whose airbag went off in the accident, added: “Don’t these people use common sense? The car was obviously too damaged to drive. The road was still like a bomb site with fallen branches everywhere. The warden must have been a jobsworth. People in nearby houses heard the crash and could not believe we had all survived. The police and an ambulance were called — but we were all just in shock. We knew we were lucky to be alive. I told the police I would organise a mechanic to come and move the car the following day. The officers said that was fine.”

Nicky, a mature student, is appealing against the fine in her home city of Worcester.

A city council spokesman said: “It’s not unusual for damaged cars to be ticketed. But we urge our attendants to take a common sense approach and I am sure we can sort this out amicably.”

Don't take strays to the Police

An enquiry has been launched after a stray Greyhound starved to death in police kennels after it was picked up by officers and then left for ten days.

The dog died of thirst at Dalkeith Police station. It is thought that the dog was placed in a holding kennel and nobody was notified of its presence from then on. The police only became aware of the presence of the dog, which was dead by this time, upon detecting a strong smell on January 12.

Lothian and Borders Police have began an enquiry to find out who was at fault, and have said that it "could" result in disciplinary action.

A force spokesman said: "This is a tragic situation and we express our sympathy. We want to stress we are treating this matter very seriously. We are appointing a senior officer to investigate all the circumstances. We also reported the matter to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and they've allocated a senior officer to carry out a separate independent inquiry. We would not want at this stage to pre-judge either inquiry but we are determined that they will be thorough. The inquiry will also determine whether conduct proceedings are necessary."

A spokeswoman for the SSPCA said: "We have offered our assistance to police in their investigation."

Will ewe be my valentine ?

A group of lonely heart farmers have put their photographs on milk bottles in an attempt to find love.

Five single dairy farmers are advertising on Calon Wen milk with the slogan Fancy a Farmer to mark St Dwynwen's Day, the Welsh St Valentine.

The idea came from Calon Wen director and single farmer Iwan Jones, from Groes, near Denbigh - one of five farmers whose picture is featured.

Mr Jones said the countryside could be "a hard place to find a date".

The 30-year-old said he came up with the idea for the rural matchmaking venture after realising a large number of Welsh farmers were single.

He said: "Calon Wen was founded to support family farmers but a quarter of our members are single, which was becoming a bit of a joke.

"We want to encourage farmers to consider online dating as a fun way of meeting people."

The project is jointly run with online dating agency Pishyn (Welsh slang for gorgeous) where people who log on can find out more details about the farmers involved.

On his own milk bottle sticker, Mr Jones lists his interests as "supporting Wrexham FC and listening to music". He said: "It's just a bit of a laugh really but if an attractive young lady contacts me I certainly won't turn her away."

The project, which features three male and two female farmers, is being launched on Thursday to coincide with St Dwynwen's Day - the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine's.

R U 21 ?

An 87-year-old man was asked to prove he was over 21 when he tried to buy a bottle of sherry in a York supermarket.

The former Lord Mayor of York, Jack Archer, said he was shocked - but flattered - when asked the question by staff at Morrisons in Acomb.

He said: "I don't look my age but I certainly don't look young enough to be in trouble for underage drinking."

Morrisons said staff were required to ask anyone buying alcohol to confirm they were over 21.

Mr Archer said he often had a small glass of sherry at bedtime to help him sleep.

Well plaid !

Edinburgh, Scotland - WHEN most schools ditch the standard uniform of grey shorts and skirts, they tend to go for something more modern.

But one city primary has opted for something a little more traditional, by adopting the kilt as part of its uniform.

Boys at James Gillespie's are expected to be the first in the Capital to attend a state school wearing national dress.

It was the pupils who decided to go for tartan after organising a survey about the popularity of their existing uniform. Their first idea was for girls to be offered tartan skirts, with scarves for all pupils - but unexpected demand from the boys led to a rethink.

The kilt design arrived yesterday and orders are now being taken from pupils, who have the option of the kilt, or regular trousers or skirt.

Ten-year-old John Jones, who was part of the pupil committee who helped choose the kilts, said he was delighted.

"I'm going to order one. I really like kilts and I've got one at home which I wear on special occasions. I think once a few people start wearing them, they'll catch on."

He added: "There's about 14 of us in the pupil council who have been discussing uniform since about October. Quite a few people wanted kilts so we sent a survey out around the classes asking who would want a tartan.

Dead man to have child

The mother of a slain Israeli soldier has won court approval to use sperm harvested from his dead body to father a grandchild.

Rachel Cohen said the creation of a child was her son's fondest wish and a Ramat Gan court has given her approval to make it come true after his death, The Times of London reported Thursday.

The unprecedented legal decision allows the family of Keivin Cohen, who was killed by a sniper in Gaza in 2002, to use sperm taken after his death to inseminate a woman chosen by his family and a charity group.

Cohen said her actions were driven by her son's wishes.Although Mr Cohen, 20, was single and had left no written expression of his desire to become a father, his family claimed that had long been his wish.

The Cohens appealed for volunteers who were willing to be impregnated with the sperm and raise the child. In an interview on Israel's Channel 10 news, Mr Cohen's mother, Rachel, said more than 200 women offered to help.

During the four-year legal case, Ms Rosenblum presented testimony from Mr Cohen's family and friends that he had said he wanted children.

"Every time I go to his grave and touch his cold tombstone I tell myself how wonderful it would be to hold a warm child in my arms instead," she said. "For Keivin it was his soul's desire to have children."

Irit Rosenblum, of the New Family charity which assisted the Cohens in their legal battle, said legal responsibility for the child would belong solely to his or her grandparents.

Payback !

A man involved in an employment dispute has had his £1,300 severance pay delivered to him in a crate full of small change weighing 11 stone.

Mr Raine, from Burnhope in County Durham, was expecting a cheque for the balance of his cash award, following an industrial tribunal win.

But the acrimonious split from his bus firm boss, Malcolm Lee, ended with a crate of coins dumped at his door.

Mr Raine, 61, said he intended to seek legal advice to resolve the matter. The delivery came after a protracted wrangle between Mr Raine and his former employer Malcolm Lee, who runs Lee's Coaches in nearby Langley Moor.

Mr Raine said he quit his job in 2005 on medical advice and spent his last days at work on sick leave. He claimed he had been under-paid and was awarded £2,300 at a subsequent industrial tribunal.

He received a cheque for £1,000 and the remaining amount in coins from 1p to 20p.

Mr Raine, who lives with his partner Linda Walker, said he had to call on neighbours to get the crate into his house after it was delivered and left on his doorstep.

Ms Walker said: "A gentleman just knocked on the door and said he had a delivery. Now we have a legal wrangle, because we are not accepting this and as far as we are concerned Mr Lee has not honoured his agreement."

Mr Raine said he had contacted his solicitor to try and resolve the matter.

According to the Royal Mint the following amounts of coins are legal tender in Britain for single transactions: 20p for any amount not exceeding £10; 10p for any amount not exceeding £5; 5p for any amount not exceeding £5; 2p for any amount not exceeding 20p; and 1p for any amount not exceeding 20p.

Mr Lee has made no comment on the matter.

Shark survival

An Australian diver who survived being partially swallowed by a Great White shark has spoken of how he battled to escape from the predator's jaws.

Eric Nerhus described feeling the shark's teeth dragging across his body. His head, shoulders and one arm were inside the shark's mouth during the attack, off south-east Australia.

Mr Nerhus, 41, says he survived by feeling for the shark's eye socket and stabbing with his fingers, prompting the shark to let go.

"I've never felt fear like it 'til I was inside those jaws, with those teeth getting dragged across my body," the abalone diver told Australia's Channel Nine network.

He spoke from his hospital bed a day after Tuesday's attack, which took place off Cape Howe, some 400km (249 miles) south of Sydney. Experts have said that there is a possibility the shark mistook the wetsuit-clad Mr Nerhus for a seal.

"Normally they feed on seal [...] so it's bitten in on this guy thinking he's a seal," shark specialist Grant Willis said. He said that when the shark realised Mr Nerhus was not a seal he may have spat him back out again.

But Mr Nerhus said he was glad his survival instincts had kicked in. "I couldn't think of a worse way to go than to end up as fish food. That's why I fought back. I was determined I didn't want to go like that. I like life too much."

Shark attacks are not uncommon in Australian waters, the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney says. There are around 15 a year - one of the highest rates in the world. An average of one a year is fatal.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Air Trantrum!

ORLANDO, Fla. - AirTran Airways on Tuesday defended its decision to remove a Massachusetts couple from a flight after their crying 3-year-old daughter refused to take her seat before takeoff.

AirTran officials said they followed Federal Aviation Administration rules that children age 2 and above must have their own seat and be wearing a seat belt upon takeoff.

"The flight was already delayed 15 minutes and in fairness to the other 112 passengers on the plane, the crew made an operational decision to remove the family," AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver said.

Julie and Gerry Kulesza, who were headed home to Boston on Jan. 14 from Fort Myers, said they just needed a little more time to calm their daughter, Elly.

"We weren't given an opportunity to hold her, console her or anything," Julie Kulesza said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The Kuleszas said they told a flight attendant they had paid for their daughter's seat, but asked whether she could sit in her mother's lap. The request was denied.

She was removed because "she was climbing under the seat and hitting the parents and wouldn't get in her seat" during boarding, Graham-Weaver said.

The Orlando-based carrier reimbursed the family $595.80, the cost of the three tickets, and the Kuleszas flew home the next day.

They also were offered three roundtrip tickets anywhere the airline flies, Graham-Weaver said.

The father said his family would never fly AirTran again.

Dog beer

A small brewery in the Netherlands has launched a beer for dogs.

The beverage made from beef extract and malt is the creation of pet shop owner who wanted to share her refreshment with her dogs after a day's hunting.

The beer is non-alcoholic and fit for human consumption but comes with a bite.

It costs four times as much as a normal beer.

GPS thieves tracked

Thieves who stole global positioning systems (GPS) from a warehouse in the state of New York have been apprehended after authorities activated the tracking devices to locate them.

Fourteen GPS were stolen last week from a warehouse in Babylon, New York, which the town had planned to use to track its municipal fleet of vehicles.

Police and municipal staff say they remotely activated the devices and were led to the home of one of the culprits who was found fiddling with one of them.

"The GPS device is quite beneficial when we are looking for something, within 48 hours we had the individuals under arrest for this [crime]," Inspector Robert Casagne of the Suffolk County detachment said.

He says the thieves believed they had snagged cell phones and planned to sell them.

Three people face charges.
I Don't Know What You're Trying To Hide - THE ORCHID HIGHWAY

Neat song, check out their other song/video !All the same!"

Monday, January 22, 2007

Anti-fart pants

A US underwear company have invented special pants to save the embarrassment of flatulence sufferers. The pants have a built in filter and airtight fit to ensure the elimination of nasty odours.

Makers Under-Tec say the "gas eaters", officially called Under-Ease, are no joke but a "serious product that serves a purpose". They say the pants "relieve the pain without the shame" and "improve social confidence".

The pants are designed to be airtight thanks to elastic around the waistline and legs. The "core technology" of the product is a pocket with a replaceable filter inside.

The multi-layered filter is made with the two outer layers of wool felt, two layers of non-woven polypropylene and spun glass materials. In the center of the filter is a single layer of activated carbon.

Inventors have found the filter cuts bad odours.

The pants are machine washable and last several months depending on use. They can be worn anytime and anywhere - although they are not recommended for use in a swimming pool or hot tub.

Happy customers on the Under-Tec website include sufferers of Crohns Disease and Inflamatory Bowel Syndrome.

In testimonials on the site, satisfied comments include: "Thank you. You saved my life. I can now go to school without worry" and "they really are working for me, an answer to my prayers because I like to wear them when I go out."

For more information or to purchase the pants, which are available in a range of sizes, visit

Thief repents afters texts

A Chinese thief has returned a mobile phone and thousands of yuan he stole from a woman after she sent him 21 touching text messages, Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

Pan Aiying, a teacher in the eastern province of Shandong, had her bag containing her mobile phone, bank cards and 4,900 yuan (319 pounds) snatched by a man riding a motorcycle as she cycled home on Friday, Xinhua said, citing the Qilu Evening News.

Pan first thought of calling the police but she decided to try to persuade the young man to return her bag.

She called her lost phone with her colleague's cell phone but was disconnected. Then she began sending text messages.

"I'm Pan Aiying, a teacher from Wutou Middle School. You must be going through a difficult time. If so, I will not blame you," wrote Pan in her first text message which did not get a response.

"Keep the 4,900 yuan if you really need it, but please return the other things to me. You are still young. To err is human. Correcting your mistakes is more important than anything," Pan wrote.

She gave up hope of seeing her possessions again after sending 21 text messages without a reply.

But on her way out on Sunday morning, she stumbled over a package that had been left in her courtyard only to discover it was her stolen bag. Nothing had been taken.

"Dear Pan: I'm sorry. I made a mistake. Please forgive me," a letter inside said.

"You are so tolerant even though I stole from you. I'll correct my ways and be an upright person."

Liverpool music tour

An audio tour of Liverpool's musical heritage has been made available to download free of charge.

The Sound City tour, narrated by Pete Wylie of 1980s band The Mighty Wah!, explores the city's music scene from the 1960s to the present day.

It takes in sights such as the Cavern Club, the Liverpool Wall of Fame, Jacaranda, Cream, the Philharmonic Hall and Sir Paul McCartney's LIPA school.

The tour can be downloaded as an MP3 file from

A downloadable map accompanies the tour.

Scroll down and rather than click on the link , "right click" and "save target as" the link will download as an mp3.


Beach-combers have been told to stay away, but scavengers are out on Branscombe beach in Devon, where booty is washing up from the stranded ship MSC Napoli. So can they keep what they find?

Brand new BMW motorbikes have been wheeled out of the shingle by keen treasure-hunters. Wine casks, perfume and car parts littering the shore have been rolled clear or tucked under the arm.

People are picking through the contents of spilt containers from the cargo ship MSC Napoli beached off the Devon coast and at night, the area is lit by flickering torches as they scour the area for goodies.

Warnings that chemicals such as battery acid, pesticide and oily liquids have also washed up, are proving little deterrent against the lure of "free stuff" littering the beach. But can people keep it?

Police have just closed off the beach to stop them coming.

And there is, says Stephen Askins, a partner with maritime lawyers Ince and Co, a right to salve property. Someone could argue they are recovering goods from the beach to protect them, as they would be in a poorer state come four or five tides' time.

But, before they clear the car boot and head to the coast, they should be aware of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. It states clearly that if they try to conceal or keep the booty they are breaking the law.

If they ignore the advice to leave it alone and report it to the coastguard, they must fill in relevant paperwork. But that still doesn't allow them to keep it.

The goods still belong to their owners, whether they are stuck in containers on the stricken vessel, or washed up on the shore. Contractors have already been brought in to clean up the beach and return anything to its rightful home.

But when Joe Public decides to "help", as seems to be the case all over Branscombe beach, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's Receiver of Wrecks steps in. The job title goes back to the previous 1854 Merchant Shipping Act, which also set out rules on picking up flotsam and jetsam.

Salvage, and indeed deliberate wrecking of ships, around our island nation has a long history. The principles governing ownership and recovery go back at least to the 1300s says Alison Kentuck, the MCA's deputy receiver.

If people take the cargo, they fill in a "report of wreck and salvage" form, with their contact details, what they found, where and when. "It's available from pretty much anybody in uniform down on the beach", she says.

Her role is then to reunite owner and property. A reward to the finder could be offered, depending on the value of the goods, the condition they are in after rescue, and the effort involved in recovering them from the beach. Wheeling something home, she stresses, is "not classed as a huge amount of effort".

Hiding the goods and not giving them back is a criminal offence, with a possible fine of up to £2,500 per offence.

Plus, the hot-fingered beach-comber, would waive their right to a salvage award, and have to pay the owner twice the good's value: "In the case of a BMW motorbike, it could be quite expensive".

As for paddling out to see what the remaining 2,000 containers may hold, it is of course highly dangerous. And, would-be pirates note, there are official salvors charged with recovering the cargo stuck at sea, and the damaged ship itself.

Sorry Darling

A Colombian woman called Darling has been told she cannot become a Spanish citizen because her name is unacceptable.

Years of waiting to obtain Spanish citizenship for Darling Velez, 33, appeared to end with success a few months ago when her application was accepted, but she was shocked when the public registry rejected her name, El Mundo newspaper said on Friday.

Spanish law prohibits names which could expose a person to ridicule or do not clearly indicate gender. Without registering her name, Velez cannot become a citizen.

The registry office suggested Velez, who lives near Madrid, should choose a saint's name. But she said she wanted to stay Darling.

"My name is part of my personality. If they force me to change it, I'll change it to a Basque name and see what they say then," she said.

Names in Spain's minority Basque language were prohibited for many years during the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco but now are common.

Crocs on a bike

Our Crocodiles on mini motorbikes are indiviually made and unique.

All the crocodile products on offer are from farmed crocodiles. The crocodile species is the Australian Saltwater crocodile crocodylus porosus which produces the finest crocodile leather in the world.

All crocodile products exported attract a wildlife levy of AUD$5.00 regardless of the value of the shipment.

You can order your croc on a bike here.

Foreign passport holders only

A hostel in Cardiff which bans British people from staying there is being investigated under race laws. Cardiff Backpackers, in the Riverside area of the city, advertises rooms on its website as available to "foreign passport holders only".

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) Wales has written to the hostel asking it to remove the advert.

Management said they did not discriminate and that they provided a sister hostel for British guests. The hostel, in Neville Street, is a short walk from the Millennium Stadium.

Hostel owner Sion Llewelyn did not want to comment but told the South Wales Echo that the rule was because he did not want unruly British guests spoiling the experience of foreign visitors. Mr Llewelyn added that he was not discriminating as British guests could use his sister hostel in a nearby street.

But Chris Myant, from CRE Wales, said the "foreign passport holders only" notice was illegal.

He said: "This is quite straightforwardly unlawful under the Race Relations Act, which says you must not advertise an intention to discriminate.

Cardiff Backpackers website screenshot
The hostel will only let foreign passport holders stay

"You can't put outside your house 'white purchasers only' or 'no black tenants' or anything like that. Direct racial discrimination on the grounds of nationality is unlawful and can't be justified."

The CRE has asked the hostel to declare that it will never advertise in that way again, and also for a justification of its stance. If the hostel refuses to change policy, Mr Myant said the CRE could take the case to court.

Bur Mr Myant acknowledged there could be reasons why such a restriction had been imposed which had nothing to do with racism. He added: "We would say to people, 'come to us and get proper advice.'

"We are not after punishing people because I think I can see some reasons why people running a hotel providing very cheap accommodation might want to restrict it to certain groups and that might have nothing to do with racial prejudice."

Hostel guest Bryce Stone, 30, said he had been staying at Cardiff Backpackers - despite being British.

Mr Stone, who has dual Australian-British nationality and speaks with an Australian accent, said: "They didn't ask me for my passport. It would not matter to me either way if there were British people staying there or whatever nationality."

But he admitted British backpackers had a reputation for being noisy. "They're notorious for being rowdy, but to be fair a lot of Australians who come here have that reputation as well - especially in London. It's just people getting away from their surroundings and letting their hair down," said Mr Stone, who has now settled in Cardiff from Adelaide. He added: "Backpackers is still the best hostel I've stayed in anywhere."

Man survives 17 storey fall

An American man has survived after falling 17 floors from the window of a hotel in the US city of Minneapolis.

Joshua Hanson, 29, landed on a roof awning and suffered multiple broken bones with some internal injuries, but is expected to recover.

Mr Hanson crashed through the floor-to-ceiling window at the end of a corridor after returning to the Hyatt Regency after a night of drinking. Hotel managers said they would investigate the unprecedented incident.

Police Lt Dale Barness told the Associated Press that Mr Hanson must have "an angel on his shoulder or something".

"He's a lucky guy."

Police said Mr Hanson finished drinking with friends and returned to the hotel at about 0130. Lt Barness said that as his lift arrived at the 17th floor he ran down towards the end of the corridor, where he somehow lost balance and crashed through the floor-to-ceiling window.

But his fall was broken by the awning one floor above the ground. He was found on the ground and needed to be freed from the awning before being taken to hospital for treatment.