Wednesday, February 28, 2007


It will be the ultimate bungee jump — a terrifying 4,920ft free fall from a helicopter, the equivalent of plunging nearly 30 times the height of Nelson's Column.

A J Hackett, the New Zealand adventurer who pioneered bungee jumping and introduced the extreme sport to millions has announced plans for his most audacious stunt yet.

The 48-year-old plans to launch himself out of a helicopter attached to an elastic cord over Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, later this year.

If successful, the stunt will double the existing record for the world's highest bungee jump.

Mr Hackett admitted to feeling nervous about the world record attempt. "I do get a bit scared sometimes but I'm still able to split the emotion from the logic," he told ABC radio yesterday.

The venture has been enabled by breakthroughs in bungee cord technology.

"Last December we opened the world's highest bungee site in Macau," said Mr Hackett, who was in Australia to promote a new biography.

"There we developed this new technology which is a tapered bungee cord, fatter at the top than it is at the bottom. It means you can stretch them a long, long way."With standard cords that you have today you just can't do that because they break. They just get stretched too much at the top."

Modern-day bungee jumping has its roots in an ancient ritual on the island of Pentecost, in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, where men dive from wooden towers each year to bless the yam harvest.

The idea was seized on in the 1970s by the Dangerous Sports Club at Oxford University, whose members replaced vines with rubber bands.

Hackett, considered the founder of the modern-day sport, achieved fame when he bungee jumped off the Eiffel Tower in 1986.

He established his first commercial bungee jump operation two years later, since when his company has sent tens of thousands of people hurtling earthwards in New Zealand and other countries.

He said he had no idea the activity would become so popular. "I thought we would just do one-off stunts for movies or television commercials or something like that."

He said the extreme nature of the sport appealed to the "little bit of anarchy" in people, adding: "People need to get out of their comfort zones to actually expand themselves."

Dead granny cheques

UK -- More than £57m in benefits were paid to dead people last year, government figures have shown.

The junior work and pensions minister James Plaskitt said 98% of overpayments happened when death occurred too late to stop an automated payment.

The most overpayments - £34.4m - were made for pensions, with £13.3m paid in income support.
He said overpayments were also made "when a claimant dies and it becomes apparent from probate records that the information provided in the original claim was inaccurate."

The £57m included £8.1m paid out in pension credit, £0.1m in jobseeker's allowance and £1.6m in incapacity benefit.

The year's total represented 0.075% of total benefit expenditure.

Mr Hammond said the overpayments indicated more "mismanagement" at the Department of Work and Pensions.

Details about the overpayments to dead people come after the department revealed that £2.6bn was overpaid in benefits during the same year due to fraud and error.

Has yo seen ma boy ?

The search for a missing man from Washington is over. As it turns out, he's been behind bars in Montgomery County since late last Friday. And in the end, no matter how you look at, Imani Smith was a wanted man.

In the District, his family wanted to know where he was after he seeming vanished into thin air.

But on the Maryland side of the border, that thin air turned out to be a jail cell after Smith did all the wrong things after boarding a bus on Friday night.

For the better part of five days Imani Smith's family had no idea where the 26 year old District man was after he left his Southeast home last Friday morning.

By Friday night the family's concern had grown. At about the same time, Smith was being hauled off a Montgomery County Ride-On bus in handcuffs unknown to anyone in Washington.

Police say Imani Smith and another man, Ivan Thomas, were aboard a bus in Chevy Chase where the two were allegedly trying to sell a wide variety of pornographic DVD's to passengers. And when one perspective buyer aboard the bus turned down their offer to buy one of the 40 plus X-rated movies, one of the two suspect's pulled out a knife and began swinging it in the direction of the would-be customer.

And then comes Tuesday afternoon, a Montgomery County police press release arrives announcing the Friday arrests while at about the same exact time DC's police department issues a press release seeking the public's help in locating the man who disappeared four days earlier.

Hours later, case closed, both of them.

Pigeon shooting reward

BRIGANTINE, N.J. -- A city worker was awarded $660,000 over claims he was unfairly punished after reporting that fellow employees were shooting pigeons for fun on department grounds.

William M. Lakes, 46, who worked for the Department of Public Works, reported the pigeon shooting to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2003.

A local radio station later reported that police were investigating the shootings.

According to the Press of Atlantic City, Lakes's supervisors then held a meeting and offered amnesty to anyone who came forward with information about the bird shootings.

Lakes said after he told supervisors what he knew, he was harassed and shunned by co-workers and later demoted.

Lakes said he felt vindicated by the jury's award.

"I feel there are other people that work there that have been wronged and are afraid to stand up for themselves," Lakes said told the newspaper from his Galloway Township home on Tuesday.

Brigantine City Manager James Barber called the jury's decision a "mistake" and said the city will try to have it corrected.

Deja vu II

A jazz musician was injured Friday after jumping from a burning motor home driven by a one-time roller skating stripper from Lodi.

Francis Courtney, 60, a guitarist and singer for Stockton-based "Cradle of Sound," leaped from the motor home on the Highway 99 overpass at Peltier Road shortly before noon.
Francis Courtney is taken away by a San Joaquin County medic after he jumped from a moving 1979 Commander RV on Friday afternoon at the Highway 99 overpass at Peltier Road in Woodbridge. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

In the process, the 1979 motor home's brakes failed and the driver, Anthony "Tony" Luccketta, 49, had to stop the vehicle by crashing into a fence.

Courtney, whose band opened for BB King on New Year's Eve in Stockton, was taken by ambulance to Lodi Memorial Hospital with minor injuries, said California Highway Patrol Officer Roberto Iniguez.

Luccketta, who is still known for his roller skating stripper gig but now focuses on playing music, was not injured. There was no sign of alcohol involvement, Iniguez said, and the Coors Light beer can on the motorhome's dashboard appeared to be a decoration.

Hours earlier, Iniguez had tagged the motor home parked on the southbound side of the freeway, planning to return and tow it if it hadn't been moved.

The motor home had also been noticed by Angie Coberly, who lives in a cream-colored house just south of the overpass. Her attached garage was demolished last August when a man lost control of the big rig he was driving, veered off the freeway, hit a power pole and landed in her garage.

On Friday, Coberly happened to be outside in the sunshine when she saw the motor home heading east on the overpass. She saw the door "flapping" open and dialed 911 when she saw a figure leap out of the moving vehicle.

"And then I saw a huge bonfire in the middle of it," she said of the motor home.

The fire didn't spread and Luccketta escaped unharmed, making his way back to the overpass where his friend lay on the road.

Courtney's fiancee, Linda Wilcox of Modesto, had been following in her Dodge van and stopped on the overpass. Courtney was unconscious at one point, the shaken woman said, but he was later able to talk to paramedics as they placed him in an ambulance.

Coberly was still watching the commotion when a tow truck came to haul the 24-foot motor home from the scene. It was driven by the same man who had pulled the big rig from her garage six months earlier.

Fat tax

Budget airline RyanAir today unveiled their new ‘pay as you weigh’ pricing policy that will mean extra charges for customers exceeding the airline’s recommended flying weight. Under their revised terms and conditions those passengers deemed to be ‘fatties’ will be charged an increasing scale of penalty charges for the extra fuel costs they incur the airline.

RyanAir boss Michael O’Leary said he had done his utmost to deter fat people from flying on his airline, over-pricing the sandwiches or just having no food on sale whatsoever, but fat people simply resorted to boarding his planes with big bags of sandwiches, crisps and fizzy drinks.

Henceforth RyanAir customers will be required to give details of their height and weight at the point of booking. Those with a body mass index (BMI) over 26 will be charged GBP25 for every BMI point they are over the limit. These criteria have drawn heavy criticism from air travellers claiming that they are ‘big boned’ and pointing out that ‘muscle weighs more than fat’.

RyanAir’s check in staff have now been instructed to look out for people misrepresenting their weight on their booking forms. As well as having to measure the dimensions of their hand luggage, passengers will now be required to pass through a metal frame of fixed width. If they cannot squeeze through, an alarm will sound and a red light will flash the word ‘Fat Bastard’ above their heads. Security staff on the x-ray machines have also been asked to look out for concealed cakes, pies and giant toblerones.

However RyanAir was prepared to concede that it was highly discriminatory to include pregnant women in the ‘Fat Tax’ scheme. Instead mothers carrying unborn children will simply be charged the price of two passengers.

Animal & Human

There is now a website where you can find a partner compatible with your pet dog, cat, snake or spider.

A new Dutch website says it is a meeting place for all animal lovers, whether you are looking for a partner, someone who also likes snakes and spiders or someone who takes care of your chickens when you want to go away for the weekend.

"How can you find a nice partner who is just as crazy about animals as you are?" Betty Mercey said, who is launching the dating site this weekend called "Animal and Human".

Members of the site can describe themselves and their pets and when they think they have found someone who also likes their pets, they can contact each other through the website.

"I've heard from friends who have pets that it is difficult to find a partner. Specifically if you have more than one pet," Ms Mercey said, who owns 13 dogs and four cats with her partner.

Buffet thief

A jobless German has been handed a five-month suspended jail term for stealing a buffet for 60 people and eating it with friends, authorities say.

Using a false name, the 46-year-old from the western city of Dortmund ordered more than £2,500 feast to be sent to the clubhouse of a garden allotment colony.

Shortly after the caterers delivered the food, he called the company to say they had made a mistake and he would return the order.

As puzzled clubhouse guests looked on, he loaded the buffet into his car and sped off.

The food was never seen again but the man was recognised one day by one of the clubhouse guests who told the police, the presiding judge at the court in Dortmund says.

"The man said he wanted to treat his friends to something special," Judge Gerhard Breuer said. "I told him his story would make a good movie."

As well as receiving a suspended jail term, the court ruled the man must repay his debt to the caterer.

Pipe down !

A Highland pipe band has been given a health warning after it was found to be making more noise than a jet engine.

Members of the Wick Royal British Legion Scotland Pipe Band are being advised to wear ear protectors to prevent permanent hearing damage.

It comes after an audiologist visited a recent band practice as part of Healthy Highland Week.

The pipes were recorded at 108 decibels, but they were outdone by the snare drums which hit 122 decibels.

The level is noisier than the sound produced by a jet engine taking off.

Health and safety laws dictate action needs to be taken if noise levels exceed 90 decibels and the band has been warned they face a serious risk of lasting hearing damage without ear protection.

Band secretary John Bogle said they were concerned by the measurements.

He said the 40 band members and piping and drumming pupils had been advised to consider buying ear plugs designed for musicians.


With growing concern about carbon emissions, Dublin City Council has come up with a novel idea that involves both cycling and recycling. The council plans to have 500 bicycles located at 25 points around the city for public use 24 hours a day.

For a small charge, still to be determined, people can pick up one of the bikes and use it - but they must leave it back at a drop-off point so that someone else can, if you like, "recycle" it.

The council says each bike will have a mini-computer chip to allow it to be tracked.
That means it's unlikely to suffer the same fate as abandoned shopping trolleys, according to Dublin City Council officials.

The bikes, which will be available to the public in about six months' time, are described as "virtually vandal proof".

They cannot get punctures, they will have no visible cables, but they will have a bell, a front light, two back lights, brakes and integrated gears. The bikes are being introduced by the outdoor advertising company, JC Decaux. In exchange, the company will get planning permission to erect 120 permanent advertising billboards and remove about 1,800 current billboards.

As part of the deal, more than 60% of the new advertising space will be for civic information purposes, telling citizens and tourists what's going on in the Irish capital.

Green councillor, Bronwen Maher, has welcomed the proposal as a good first step in Dublin becoming more like Amsterdam, but she does have reservations about the involvement of an advertising company.

"We have to do something about the chronic traffic problems and congestion in the city centre, but I'm a bit concerned that the council isn't operating the scheme independently and is linking up with an advertiser," she says.

Some councillors have also expressed concerns that the new billboards should not be placed in sensitive, historic sites. But there seems almost unanimous support for the general idea.

As some wits have pointed out, the mock-insult "On yer bike" will take on a whole new meaning in Dublin. "On yer bike - but don't forget to leave it back."

Nice little earner

A Reliant Regal three-wheeler used in the hit TV comedy Only Fools and Horses has sold for more than £40,000. The battered van, emblazoned with the sign Trotters Independent Trading Co, went for £44,227 - more than double its original estimate.

The 1972 model, the second made for the show starring David Jason as Del Boy, was used from series six onwards. It was sold at the Coys of Kensington specialist car auction at the Royal Horticultural Hall in London.

Created by John Sullivan, seven Only Fools and Horses series were broadcast between 1981 and 1991, with sporadic Christmas specials until 2003.

Also under the hammer at the car auction was a 1960s Batmobile which sold for almost £120,000. The vehicle, which had been estimated at £75,000, attracted overseas telephone bids but eventually sold to a bidder at the auction.

It was built in 1966 to tour the USA, promoting the TV series starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as his sidekick, Robin.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jesus's Tomb ?

The Talpiot Tomb
On March 28, 1980, a construction crew developing an apartment complex in Talpiot, Jerusalem, uncovered a tomb, which archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority excavated shortly thereafter. Archaeologist Shimon Gibson surveyed the site and drew a layout plan. Scholar L.Y. Rahmani later published "A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries" that described 10 ossuaries, or limestone bone boxes, found in the tomb.

New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.
The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.

The DNA findings, alongside statistical conclusions made about the artifacts — originally excavated in 1980 — open a potentially significant chapter in Biblical archaeological history.

A documentary presenting the evidence, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," will premiere on the Discovery Channel on March 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The docPublishumentary comes from executive producer James Cameron and director Simcha Jacobovici.

Discovery has set up a special Web site,, to provide related in-depth information and to allow viewers to come to their own conclusions about the entire matter.

Garage door problems

QUANTICO, Virginia -- For many suburbanites, life without garage door openers is unimaginable.

But neighbors of the Marine base here have been reduced to just that after a strong radio signal coming from the facility began neutralizing remote-control openers.

Residents have had to spend hundreds of dollars on new systems.

"I feel there should be some kind of compensation," said Queen Carroll, who is in her early 70s and was forced to buy a new receiver and remote. "I am a struggling widow, if you will, and I praise the Lord I'm still here, but I am on a budget. When things like this come up totally unexpected, it is very upsetting."

Repair shops started getting a flurry of calls when the base began using the frequency in late December.

Last fall, residents around an Air Force facility in Colorado Springs saw their garage-door remotes stop working when the 21st Space Wing began testing a frequency for use during homeland security emergencies or threats. Two years ago, testing of a similar system in Fort Detrick in Maryland resulted in similar problems.

For decades, the military has held a portion of the radio spectrum, from 138 to 450 megahertz, in reserve. That part was borrowed by remote-control manufacturers, with the understanding that the signal be weak enough to be overridden by the military.

The reserve frequencies became active after the September 11, 2001, attacks, when officials discovered that first responders could not communicate with one another because they were operating radios on different frequencies.

The Defense Department is using the mothballed frequencies in a system that eventually will link military and civilian emergency responders.

"Consumer wireless devices, such as garage door openers, operate on an unlicensed basis, meaning they are required to accept any interference from licensed spectrum users, including the Department of Defense," said Lt. Brian P. Donnelly, a spokesman for the Quantico base.

That's one hangover !

Doctors in Belarus have treated a man who was more than 22 times over the drink driving limit.

Yuri Kherkov, 29, was found unconscious outside a pub in the town of Buda-Koshlevo after drinking the equivalent of five bottles of vodka.

He was taken to hospital where tests revealed he had 1170 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood) - more than twice the limit at which doctors say a person would normally die.

A doctor who treated him said: "He was unconscious for two days and when he woke up had a huge headache.

"But the level this man had in him was what we would expect after he had drunk five bottles of vodka, one straight after the other. I am amazed he is still alive and seems to have made a full recovery."

DUI of a gym bike

Rhonda Sue Solomon was going nowhere fast at the gym. According to Rogersville police, Solomon was arrested after a drunken ride - on a stationary bike.

On Feb. 15, officers responded to a call about a women who "appeared very intoxicated" at a Gold Star Fitness gym, according to the police report.

When arresting officer James Hammonds arrived, he saw Solomon, 43, riding the bicycle. She "was very uncooperative and had an odor of alcohol about her," Hammonds said.

According to Hammonds, Solomon also "appeared to be having trouble pedaling."

He asked Solomon to step out to the front to speak with him.

"Upon exiting the bicycle she was observed very unsteady on her feet," the report said.

Hammonds said he then spoke to gym employees, who told him that several people had offered Solomon a ride home, but she refused.

He arrested Solomon, who now faces public intoxication charges.

Mussel homebound

A shellfish has been returned to the sea off the coast of Anglesey after being posted "home" from Shropshire.

The mussel had been picked up by five-year-old Alastair Thornton from Church Stretton whilst on holiday.

His mother contacted an Anglesey website asking for advice to save it.

Mike Roberts who works at the University of Wales, Bangor's school of ocean sciences saw the message and offered to put it back if the mollusc was popped in the post.

"I happened to log-on as the message was being posted, and as I work in the school of ocean sciences in Menai Bridge I thought I could help as it was no hassle to throw it into the Straits on my way to work. Then I thought about the large mussel fishery in the Strait and decided to drop it off at Red Wharf Bay where it was found, as that's on my way home from work anyway," said Mr Roberts.

Lynda Thornton who had visited Anglesey for a half-term break, with son Alastair and husband Ben, said she felt awful when they got home and found the live mussel amongst the sea shells her son had collected.

"I just couldn't plonk it in the bin to die, so I went on the internet and came across a community forum on Anglesey. Mike was so very helpful, it was just a very funny episode really."

Mrs Thornton did not tell her son about the mussel drama at first in case her bid to get him home failed.

"It could have gone horribly wrong but happily it now has a happy ending. Alastair is now quite intrigued by it all. I'm glad too that Mike took it back to Red Wharf Bay. It would have been ironic if it was fished out from the Menai Strait after I tried to save it - hopefully now it will be safe."

Onion argy -bhaji

Delhi's popular Radio One breakfast show hosts a daily phone-in - and the hot topic for the past couple of weeks has been the price of onions, which have shot up 500% in price.

The lines have been buzzing as listeners call in on one of the most politically sensitive issues in India.

One South Indian restaurant owner calls in to complain that he can no longer afford to carry on with his business because all his dishes rely so heavily on onions that cooking them is just too expensive.

This humble root vegetable is a staple of the Indian diet.

Even on the station's normally sedate woman's hour housewives are calling in irate - demanding to be instructed in cooking dishes that don't require onions.

Priya Baweja, the programme presenter, says it's the topic everyone is talking about.

"We have to give out recipes and we get lots of calls on the high prices," she says.

In the morning market hessian sacks filled with red onions usually arrive by the lorry load - but supplies have begun to trickle. Stall holders are slowly shifting their merchandise but customers are reluctant to buy.

Prices have shot up fivefold - from five rupees a kilo to 25 in the space of a week.

"The recent rainfall has slowed everything down," one trader says. "There is so much demand and yet little supply. Customers don't want to pay - I can't blame them.

"It's just too expensive a price to pay for most households."

The customers I speak to say the same - one woman has to cook for eight family members and her budget simply won't stretch to paying 25 rupees a kilo.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Underwater Ice hockey

The lake of Weissensee in southern Austria hosted an unusual sporting event this weekend, with divers taking part in the first-ever ice-hockey world championship - underwater ice-hockey, that is.

Eight international teams from Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, competed under 30 centimetres of ice in two-degree Celsius (5 Farhenheit) water and without oxygen tanks.

The players, decked out in wetsuits, masks and flippers, chased a styrofoam puck around a "rink" six metres wide and eight metres long, having to resurface every 30 seconds for air.

Each game was made up of three periods, according to ice hockey rules, but playing time was reduced to 10 minutes from the usual 20 and a 10-minute break was afforded between periods.

"The event was a huge success, 611 television stations from around the world will be broadcasting pictures," co-organiser Hannes Thomasberger said, adding that it would be held again during at least the next three years.

In the final, Finland defeated Austria to finish first, while Slovakia placed third

Beer for toad deal

Australia - The country's biggest hotel owner says he would be willing to shout patrons two beers, in exchange for a bag of cane toads, to help rid the country of the pests.

Cairns-based millionaire Tom Hedley says anyone willing to front up to the RSPCA with a bag of toads will receive the free beer at his pub at Redlynch in Cairns.

A similar scheme exists in Darwin, where drinkers are issued with beer vouchers in exchange for toads.

Mr Hedley says a mate suggested the idea.

"A gentleman called me and said would I be prepared to sort of shout a beer," he said.

"I said I'd shout two if it meant we had a bag of toads handed over to the RSPCA because they're sort of everywhere and they're not much good for the environment."

The RSPCA's spokesman Michael Beatty says while he supports the move, the hotel would probably need more funding and a bigger freezer to cope with the extra demand.

Poor sod

A 107-year-old Hong Kong villager, who still enjoys an occasional smoke, has attributed his longevity in part to decades of sexual abstinence, a newspaper says.

"I don't know why I have lived this long," Chan Chi - one of Hong Kong's oldest people - was quoted as saying in the South China Morning Post during an annual feast for the city's elders.

"Maybe it has to do with the fact that I have lived a sex-less life for many years - since I was 30," Chan said, a widower whose youthful bride perished during the Japanese invasion in World War II.

Chan, from Hong Kong's less built-up New Territories hinterland, was pictured looking sprightly and eating heartily at the banquet.

A former chef, he says a low-fat diet and regular dawn exercises had helped him fight off the ravages of old age.

Obvoius !

A Norwegian painting featuring 12,400 euros ($16, 281, £6,000) worth of cash glued to a canvas proved too tempting to thieves, who made off with it at the weekend.

Some 100,000 bills of 1,000 kroner each were glued to Norwegian artist Jan Christensen's two-by-four-metre canvas, entitled Relative Value, the MGM Gallery in Oslo said.

The robbers broke into the gallery on Saturday night by smashing a window.

Then, proceeding methodically, they cut each bill off the canvas individually and left the cumbersome frame behind.

"Apparently they are nice because they took the canvas out of the frame," gallery owner Marina Gerner-Mathisen told AFP.

The thieves then left the building.

"When the security people arrived a couple of minutes later they were gone," she said.

She says a police investigation is under way.

Best wishes

A New Hampshire mother who has been diagnosed with leukemia is turning to a popular Web site to help find a cure.

Leigh Buckley is a wife and mother of two girls: Julia, 2½, and Clara, who is 7 months old.

On Jan. 9, Buckley found out that she has cancer. Since then, her family's world has changed. Buckley began treatments to fight off the cancer, and she lost her hair.

Buckley and her husband, Andrew, have chronicled it all and made a video that now airs on the Web site YouTube.

The video shows the family, the couple raising their children and Buckley undergoing treatment in a hospital.

The point of the video was to make people aware of the National Bone Marrow Registry and help Buckley find a match to save her life.

The response has been overwhelming.

"There's a lot of people praying for us. E-mails and cards continue to flood in -- (from) people we don't even know," said Buckley.

People from as far away as the West Coast are now organizing bone marrow drives like the ones that will be held in New England.

"I want people to know that they can put their name on the registry and help me, but they can help a lot of other people," said Buckley.

A drive is being held on Buckley's 32nd birthday. The test is a simple cheek swab. It is free to everyone, but participants are encouraged to bring their insurance cards.

A second drive is being planned for March 14.


CLEARFIELD, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania restaurant thinks it has a winner. A Guinness World Record winner, that is.

Chefs at the Clearfield eatery said they've created the world's largest hamburger, all ready to order right off the menu.

Weighing in at 123 pounds, this giant burger features an 80-pound beef patty, a 30-pound bun, 12 tomatoes and 160 slices of cheese. Denny's Beer Barrel Pub also throws on a pound each of lettuce, ketchup, mustard and mayo -- and up to five onions.

The menu price for the Beer Barrel Main Event Charity Burger comes to $379.

The pub plans to submit paperwork to Guinness World Records this week.

The owner, Denny Leigey, said he came up with the idea of the giant burger through an "evolution of burgers."

"Starting with a 1/4 pound in 1977 and a friendly race with another eatery in Clearfield," he said. "1991 began the larger burgers a 2 pound and a 3 pound in 1993."

And, he said, the rest is history.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

5 legged lamb

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. -- A five-legged lamb was born last week in Miami County, Kan.

The lamb, which is owned by the Evans family in Osawatomie, has a fifth leg sticking out of its abdomen; the leg has a bone in it.

"Isn't this the weirdest thing you've ever seen?" Michelle Evans said. "We didn't know if it would walk, but it got right up and it's doing great."
The lamb mostly drags its extra leg around the pen it shares with its mom and twin.

Evans said after the lamb was born, she called the people who sold her the ewes to ask them about it.

"'Has this ever happened to you before?' They're like, 'No, it hasn't,'" Evans said.

She said she had hoped her sons could show the sheep at the county fair, but the five-legged lamb probably won't be shown.

The lamb's mother appears to love it, regardless of its uniqueness.

"One in a million. The lottery would've been good, but we got a five-legged sheep -- that's something," Evans said.

The veterinarian told the family that if the lamb lives for a week, it will probably survive. Then, they'll have to decide what to do about the extra leg.

Evans' husband, Josh, teaches agriculture at Paola High School. The couple has six boys to help care for the lamb.

Stone-age protest

Three men dressed as cartoon caveman Fred Flintstone climbed on top of Stonehenge today to protest about Tory leader David Cameron's comments on absent fathers.

The trio, from Fathers 4 Justice, scaled the ancient stones on Salisbury Plain shortly after 9am with supplies to last up to three days.

Matt O'Connor, founder of the group, said the protest was in response to Mr Cameron's "failure to get to grips with the issue of absent fathers in Britain".

Mr Cameron said today that attitudes to gun carrying and absentee fathers had to be altered in the same way attitudes to drink-driving had changed.

"Let's look at what we're going to put in place of gang culture, and the first thing we need to put into place is a family culture and fathers standing by their responsibilities," he said.

Mr O'Connor said: "Mr Cameron says fathers are abandoning their children and this can lead to children getting involved with crime.

"We at Fathers 4 Justice feel very strongly that this is not always the case.

"We ask why is the Government, through the family courts system, preventing dads who want to be good dads from seeing their children?

"Sadly, David Cameron seems to hold the same view on this as the current Labour Government."

Mr O'Connor said the three Fred Flintstones, each wigged and holding caveman clubs, would be on the stones overnight and had supplies for three days.

"Tourists are loving taking pictures of the three Freds - the world's most famous Stone Age man on the world's most famous Stone Age monument," he added.

German up a pole

A German father of five sentenced to jail for online fraud is protesting against his conviction by occupying the top of a 22-metre pole.

Fred Gregor, a 45-year-old lathe operator, has been squatting in a tiny cubicle atop the converted television mast since last Saturday morning in a bid to overturn the 15-month prison sentence he is due to start serving on March 1.

"I've been unfairly judged", he told Reuters from his perch in the village of Werben by telephone. "I want a new hearing."

In May 2006, a court in the eastern city of Dessau convicted Gregor after a man accused him of selling goods online that never arrived. The man told the court he tried to buy a laptop from Gregor but instead got a box filled with sand.

The court also found that Gregor's online business ventures were in breach of Germany's telecommunications law. Gregor, who has a number of previous convictions, one of which involved setting up a website on which his wife stripped, said the judge at his trial was biased.

"He only based his decision on my past record," he said, adding the judge had overseen all of his previous cases.

Since last weekend, Gregor said he had not left the rudimentary 3.25 square metre wooden box atop the pole, surviving on US military surplus provisions and using a system of bags and pulleys as a toilet.

His wife, 25-year-old Susanne Gregor, says she is very proud of him."I'm backing him all the way," she said."The children will know that their father stood up for what's right."

The unusual protest has attracted considerable attention from German media and Gregor said he would not go quietly when authorities come to enforce his jail term.

"They'll have to come up here and get me," he said.

Penny-farthing champion

A South Australian bike rider has become the national Penny Farthing champion for the fifth time.

The competition was fierce as Penny Farthing enthusiasts from around the world converged on historic Evandale in northern Tasmania for a shot at the title.

The event is the largest of its kind in the world.

It came down to eight cyclists in the final, with 24-year-old Sean Hennessy blitzing the field.

"It's not something I was really looking out for, I just came down to get first over the line, all credit to the other guys who did a great race, they put it out there, but I had a good day," he said.

He is become the only person to ever win the event five times.

The veteran and junior championships also drew a crowd with the oldest competitor aged 79 and the youngest aged just eight.

Organiser Di Sullivan says the event is unique.

"It's something that you won't see any else in the world," she said.

"Elsewhere in the world people collect penny farthing bikes and they ride them quite a bit but there is no where else where people race them quite like here in Evandale, so it's something that we do that's really unique and something that we're really proud of."

She says with no prize money up for grabs competitors do it for the prestige.

"We've never raced for prize money, just the medal and the glory of winning the Penny Farthing championship," she said.

The event was held as part of the Evandale Village Fair which is in its 25th year.

Hot record

A woman from India's north-east hopes to set a new record by eating a massive quantity of a pepper which is 100 times hotter than a jalapeno.

The world record was set by South African Anita Crafford, who ate eight jalapenos in a minute in 2002.

But the scorching Bhut Jolokia, or ghost chilli pepper, is about 100 times as hot as a jalapeno.

Anandita Dutta Tamuly, a 26-year-old mother, is headed from Assam to London at the invitation of the Guinness Records institution to see how many Bhut Jolokia peppers she can eat at one sitting.

Ms Tamuly, who hails from a remote village where the pepper grows, believes she will have little trouble in beating the previous record.

She says she got hooked on the peppers as a small girl when her mother smeared chilli paste on her tongue to cure an infection.

"I have already created history on Indian television by munching 60 of the chillies in two minutes -- I am more than confident of creating a record once I reach London," she said.

The pepper, brought to Guinness's attention by a horticulture professor at New Mexico State University, clocks slightly more than one million Scoville units, almost twice as hot as the previous reigning champ, the Red Savina habanero at about 580,000 units.

The Scoville scale, developed by a pharmacist in 1912, is a measure of the ratio of water required to neutralise the pungency of a chilli pepper.

An average jalapeno, used widely in salsa, measures only about 10,000 heat units.

The university announced this February that Guinness had recognised the pepper's claim to being the world's hottest and as news of the record trickled down in Assam, where the hybrid variety occurs naturally, canny vegetable sellers raised their prices.

"We never thought Bhut Jolokia was so hot until news came in that this is the world's hottest chilli," Nalini Ram Thakuria, a vegetable vendor in Assam said.

"Now we have hiked the price by 50 rupees ($US1.1 dollars) a kilogram with people buying it like hot cakes."

A kilogram of the pepper now sells for about 250 rupees.

Parking at a price

An Aberdeen homeowner is offering frustrated drivers a compact parking place all of their own - for £15,000.

Jim Annand became the owner of the small piece of land when he bought a flat two years ago.

He is now hoping to tempt motorists who are unhappy at having to trawl the streets for a space with his one-vehicle spot on John Street.

The 35-year-old Royal Mail operations manager told BBC Scotland: "This space is for life."

He said a surveyor had valued it at £15,000 after he realised he could take advantage of demand.

He said: "To be honest it was in the region if what I thought it would be and have already had one or two interested parties.

"Current valuations of renting a parking space are about, £1,000 a year.

Not so clever CadBURY

Cadbury Schweppes has apologised to the authorities in the US city of Boston after a marketing stunt closed an historic cemetery.

The UK firm was promoting its Dr Pepper drink in the US by organising gold coin treasure hunts for big cash prizes.

Contestants flocked to the 347-year-old Granary Burying Ground to find the hidden coin, but the site was shut amid fears that graves may be desecrated.

The firm said burying the coin there had been "poor judgement".

Cadbury Schweppes communications director Andrea Dawson-Shepherd said: "It was not an appropriate place to bury a coin. It was poor judgment and we have apologised to the authorities. No damage was done to any of the graves."

The campaign had challenged the public to find the coins by issuing a series of clues. An agency hired by Cadbury chose the historic cemetery site.

John Hancock, Paul Revere and Samuel Adams are among historic figures buried in the Granary Burying Ground, which is visited by thousands of tourists every year.

French army knife

Saturday, February 24, 2007

How not to bomb threat

Police didn't have much difficulty arresting two teenagers Friday who are accused of phoning in a bomb threat at Southwest Middle School.

That's because the two teen boys - along with a third still being sought - used the telephone at the house they were burglarizing, but they didn't call the school, police said. They delivered the threat by dialing 911.

"This indicates they would have been better off in school rather than burglarizing someone's house," said Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Wilson. "Clearly that was not the brightest plan."

Two of the boys were in jail Friday night. Police were searching for the third.

Read the rest HERE


HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. -- The police officer was no dummy, but the passenger was.

Police in Suffolk County, N.Y., have ticketed a driver for propping a first-aid practice mannequin in his passenger seat to fake his way into a highway car-pool lane. The mustachioed dummy was fitted out with a baseball cap and buckled into a seatbelt.

The officer who pulled the car over on the Long Island Expressway Friday says he was "trying to hold back a chuckle."

The driver is shrugging off the $90 fine. After all, his plan had been working for months. He said the dummy nicknamed Gilligan has been helping him cut his hour-plus commute since October, by getting him into lanes designated for cars with two or more people.

But he said he'll stick to the regular lanes from now on.

Crap joke

A duck walks into a bar and asks the barman for a beer and some peanuts..... " wow " says the barman " a duck that talks, you don't see that often !". The duck says " I've just finished shift at that building site across the road and i'm thirsty , so hurry up !"
The next day a promotor from the circus comes into the bar asking if he can put up some flyers ; then the duck walks in .
The barman quickly says to the circus promotor "hey mate I bet that duck would be great in your circus!" ......... to which the duck replies "why the hell would he want a plasterer "?

Ah, go on, go on, go on!

Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, has 850 inhabitants and more than 100 priests and nuns - but only for the weekend.

The rugged isle is hosting the first ever Father Ted festival, and fans of the hit television comedy show have flocked to the island to pay homage to Ted and the rest of the cast.

Dermot Morgan, who played Father Ted, died nine years ago, but his comedy character lives on through repeat showings and huge DVD sales.

The Ted fans, most of them aged under 30, have invaded the port of Kilronan on Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands, transforming it into Craggy Island.

The Friends of Father Ted group are dressed up as Ted, his dozy sidekick Father Dougal, the drink-sodden Father Jack and their housekeeper with a penchant for tea and sandwiches, Mrs Doyle.

Walking along any of the narrow streets of the village, you will pass priests who aren't priests, nuns who aren't nuns and Mrs Doyles who aren't Mrs Doyles.

On Friday Night, I counted four cardinals, three bishops, a plethora of priests and a myriad of nuns at the Father Jack cocktail party.

Nothing new in that, you may say, except that the language frequently featured three of Father Jack's favourite words - drink, feck and girls - and the nun's hemlines would not have passed muster with the mother superior.

A website to promote the weekend's festivities crashed under the weight of hits from fans around the world.

Peter Philips, one of the organisers, says they have been bowled over by the response. "It's greater than anything we could have imagined. The interest in the Father Ted festival has been enormous," he says.

The planning however, was not without its problems. A storm blew up off the Galway coast when Inis Oirr, the smallest of the three Aran Islands, cried foul.

People there claimed the festival should have been held on their island because the Plassey shipwreck and other landmarks which featured in the opening credits of the show, were shot on Inis Oirr.

Given that most of the show was shot in a studio in London with exteriors filmed in County Clare, the row among the islands over the "rights" to stage the Father Ted festival, would have probably given Dermot Morgan something to chuckle about.

Mr Philips has found a way of resolving this unholy row.

"The two islands will take part in a Father Ted priests five-a-side football match on the beach at Kilronan," he says. "The winners will take the Craggy Cup, and the bragging rights."

Clerical combat aside, there are a number of other events keeping the Tedfest fans occupied.

These include Buckaroo speed dating, the Father Jack cleaning fluid drinks reception, ludo aerobics, and the Inis Mor lovely girls contest.

There is also the Craggy Island Song for Europe competition, another re-enactment of a popular Father Ted episode.

Belfast songwriter Peter Millar has been involved in penning "jack in the box", which is described as "a sort of tribute to the music and legs of Northern Ireland Eurovision singer Clodagh Rodgers".

Rarely does a television sitcom resonate so ruthlessly with an audience but Father Ted is alive and kicking on Inis Mor this weekend.

When the festivities draw to a close on Sunday, we can all settle down to a nice cup of tea and maybe even a sandwich.

Teen bandit

A casino in Macau has been ordered to pay out nearly $100,000 (£51,000) in prize money won by a 16-year-old girl who was too young to enter the casino.

The Sands Casino had said the win was invalid because the girl was underage.

But gambling authorities in the Chinese territory said the rules only specified a minimum age for entering the casino, not for gambling once inside.

The prize is to go to the girl's mother and the laws are to be rewritten to close the age loophole.

The 16-year-old girl from Hong Kong, whose name has not been released, was given the equivalent of about $12 by her grandmother as a Lunar New Year present to play on the slot machines in nearby Macau.

Colossal squid

In Antarctica's Ross Sea, a fishing boat has caught what is likely the world's biggest known colossal squid (yes, that's the species' name), New Zealand officials announced today.

Heavier than even giant squid, colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) have eyes as wide as dinner plates and sharp hooks on some of their suckers. The new specimen weighs in at an estimated 990 pounds (450 kilograms).

The sea monster had become entangled while feeding on Patagonian toothfish (toothfish photos) caught on long lines of hooks. The crew then maneuvered the squid into a net and painstakingly hauled it aboard—a two-hour process.

The animal was frozen and placed in a massive freezer below decks. Now in New Zealand, the carcass awaits scientific analysis.

"Even basic questions such as how large does this species grow to and how long does it live for are not yet known," said New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton in a statement.

The deep-sea species was first discovered in 1925, though the only evidence was two tentacles found in a sperm whale's stomach. Since then there have been only a scattering of sightings, including a colossal squid caught in 2003 in the same region as the recent find.

The new specimen is likely the first intact male ever recovered, Anderton said.

Squid expert Steve O'Shea told local press, "I can assure you that this is going to draw phenomenal interest."

For one thing, added the Auckland University of Technology professor, the squid would yield calamari rings the size of tractor tires.

Lucky book

MCDONOUGH, Ga. - Rhiannon Barnes may be the luckiest 15-month-old ever. Or maybe her baby sitter is the fortunate one. While playing with a thrift store book bought earlier in the day for 25 cents, Rhiannon uncovered $1,300 in cash stuck between the pages. Her baby sitter Sheila Laughridge said she only bought the book at Rhiannon's insistence and was surprised when the toddler found a brown paper bag full of $100s, $50s, $20s and $10s.

Laughridge took the money, which dated as far back as the 1960s, to a local bank, where she received only $300 in exchange because most of the bills were in pieces. The rest of the tattered money was sent to the U.S. treasury department.

Rhiannon's mother, Shirley Barnes, joked that she's considering using her daughter's new found talent more.

"What I want to do is put pieces of paper with number on them out on the table and have her pick them so that maybe we can win the lottery," she said.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sweet old granny NOT !

An 81-year-old woman has been warned she faces jail after being found guilty of harassment and breaching her Asbo. (Anti-Social Behaviour Order)

Dorothy Evans, from Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, was accused of making her neighbours' lives "absolute hell" in the trial at Cardiff Crown Court. Evans was convicted of one charge of harassment and six charges of breaching her Asbo.

Judge Roderick Denyer QC said: "Despite her age I'm seriously contemplating a prison sentence." The judge said it was the only way of bringing home to her that she could not go on "behaving like this".

Evans, who was not in court on Friday because of a hospital appointment, will be sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court on 23 March.

The jury took just over half an hour to unanimously convict her of the offences against her next-door neighbours in Park Crescent, Angela and Roberto Casa, between January and June 2006.

The judge had directed them to find Evans not guilty of a further charge of harassment against Mr Casa. On Wednesday, the jury heard how Evans had told the Casas' 13-year-old daughter she was a witch and would cast a spell on her family and kill her pet dog.

Angela Casa described several neighbourly disputes, including over parking and flooding problems. She claimed the pensioner called her a prostitute and also that she tried to run her off the road on several occasions and had hit her with a walking stick.

Speaking after the verdict, Mrs Casa said she felt relieved and was "shaking like a leaf" at the news.

She said: "I don't really care what the sentence is, I just hope she never speaks to me again. I just want to be able to get up in the morning and go out into my garden without having to worry about abuse. Only recently she dropped her trousers in front of my mother and mooned her."

Sentencing was adjourned for four weeks for the preparation of a medical report on Evans' current physical condition. The judge said that if she did not attend that hearing without a very good reason, he would issue a warrant for her arrest.

Museum sued over bones

The British Natural History Museum has been accused by Tasmanian Aboriginals of "mutilating" the remains of their ancestors. Native Australians say the institution has defiled the 17th-century bones by removing parts for scientific tests.

The dispute centres on 17 skeletons held by the museum in London since the 1940s. Although it has agreed to return the remains in its possession, the museum has been collecting samples from skulls and bones for DNA analysis.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), which brought legal action against the museum Tuesday, complained the tests were "racist" and desecrated the beliefs of the Aboriginal community.

The dead are believed to be "souls in torment" until buried according to Aboriginal custom, which involves being returned to their birthplace and read their last rites.

Michael Mansell, of the TAC said: "The Natural History Museum's tests were 'genetic prospecting' which would desecrate the spiritual beliefs of the community from whom the skulls and bones were taken by grave robbery and by boiling down human flesh.

"They would never dare to do these experiments to the human remains of Jews or Roma or Scots or Manx Islanders. That they intend to mutilate our ancestors without our consent shows that they have not lost the same primitive mindset of the first English settlers, who treated our people as sub-humans."

The museum said it was trying to strike a balance between the scientific value of the research for future generations and the cultural and religious beliefs of indigenous people.

Rail art booklet

Once a guerrilla artist, Banksy is now almost part of the art establishment, with his graffiti work fetching tens of thousands of pounds at auction.

But that didn't stop railway bureaucrats ordering the removal of one of his pieces near Waterloo station.

Network Rail has now issued all its maintenance crews with a handbook of photographs showing examples of the work of graffiti artist Banksy, after one of his pieces of work, showing a monkey about to blow up a bunch of bananas, was painted over near Waterloo Station during a clean-up campaign.

The piece could have been worth thousands of pounds but the job was so thorough the only part of the image still visible is a faint trace of orange wire from the monkey's detonator.

The doors, in the Leake Street underpass beneath the lines into the Waterloo terminal, are now a sickly shade of magnolia and have since been covered in unintelligible graffiti tags.

A Network Rail spokesman admitted the organisation's staff painted over the creation.

"We don't want graffiti on our property and we will remove it," he said. "It's ugly, illegal and the public don't like it."

Many locals beg to differ. Adam Powell, who co-owns the Crockatt & Powell bookshop in Lower Cut, said: "I think it's a great shame that these graffiti paintings are being removed. It's corporate vandalism. They are a nice surprise when you come across them around London. As it happens, they've painted over the monkey really badly. The new coat of paint doesn't even come down to the bottom of the door."

Hero Pilot

CANARY ISLANDS — A cunning pilot thwarted a hijacking by discreetly warning the passengers in French — a language the gunman didn't speak — that he would knock the attacker off-balance with a rough landing, and that they should be ready to pounce.

The ploy worked.

As Capt. Ahmedou Mohamed Lemine landed the Air Mauritania Boeing 737, he slammed on the brakes, then abruptly accelerated, throwing the hijacker to the floor, officials said Friday. The forewarned passengers and crew threw boiling water from a coffee maker on the man's face and chest, then beat him into submission.

"The man deserves a medal," airline spokesman Ahmedou Ahmedou said of Lemine, a 20-year veteran of Air Mauritania, after the ordeal ended Thursday evening.

Brandishing two 7mm pistols, the lone attacker had hijacked the Boeing 737, carrying 71 passengers and a crew of eight, shortly after it took off from the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott.

The flight was headed for Gran Canaria, one of Spain's Canary Islands, with a stopover planned in Nouadhibou in northern Mauritania.

He wanted to go to France so that he could request political asylum, said Mohamed Ould Mohamed Cheikh, Mauritania's top police official.

The hijacker was identified as Mohamed Abderraman, a 32-year-old Mauritanian, said an official with the Spanish Interior Ministry office on Tenerife, another of the islands in the Atlantic archipelago. The official spoke under rules barring publication of his name. Mauritania has said the hijacker was a Moroccan from the Western Sahara.

The crew told the hijacker, who spoke Arabic, that there was not enough fuel to fly to France. In addition, Morocco denied a request for the plane to land in the city of Djala in the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, so Lemine headed for Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, the flight's original destination.

While talking to the gunman, Lemine realized the hijacker did not understand French.

The 50-year-old captain used the plane's public address system to tip off passengers in French about his plan to throw the hijacker off-balance so that the flight crew and about 10 passengers in the front rows could subdue him, the Spanish official said.

Lemine also ordered women and children to move to the back rows of the plane in preparation for the subterfuge, the official said. Around 20 people were slightly injured when the plane braked suddenly, the official added.

Spanish officials — and some passengers — initially were concerned the hijacking was related to the trial that began earlier in the day in Spain for 29 people accused of the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

The hijacker was arrested by Spanish police who boarded the plane after it landed at Gando airport, outside Las Palmas.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dirty Dancing Wedding

A British couple have become a web hit after posting film of their wedding on video-sharing website YouTube.

Julia Boggio and James Derbyshire decided to make their big day that little bit different and swapped the traditional first wedding dance for the iconic Dirty Dancing routine.

The couple were so pleased with the result they posted the dance online so that relatives in the US could see it. But the footage of them dancing to the tune of (I've Had) The Time of My Life has attracted more than 120,000 hits.

32-year-old Julia persuaded her fiance James, 33, to spend six months taking secret lessons to perfect the routine, performed in the 1987 movie by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

Julia and her film-maker husband performed the number at their wedding reception at Fonmon Castle, in Barry, South Wales.

And while they did most of it on their own - they even got their guests involved in the infamous lift part of the routine.

Mr Derbyshire said he was "horrified" when first approached about the idea: "I really am such a bad dancer. It was the last thing I wanted to do on my wedding day. Just think about all the other things you've got to do."

For a time the clip was one of the most 40-viewed pieces of footage on the video-sharing website, YouTube.

You can Park (except in Sheffield!)

A teenager who has set up a website so people can rent out their driveways or garages to commuters is expanding his business to his native south Wales.

Tom Page, 18, set up, which matches the spaces with motorists struggling to find parking.

A trial in Bath and Bristol saw 60 residents sign up to let their unused space either five or seven days a week.

Mr Page, originally from Church Village near Pontypridd, said premium spaces in Cardiff could earn up to £250 a month.

Having just finished a business A-level, Mr Page was on a gap year and working in a call centre in central Bristol when he came up with the idea.

"I had to park three miles away and walk into work" he said. "I was walking back one day and saw lots of spare driveways. That was my eureka moment. They were wasted space and I would have loved to have parked on those driveways so close to work."

Residents advertise their space on the site for free, but pay a commission. Users then search for a parking place in their chosen area, apply and, once approved, can rent it.

Mr Page said: "We fully manage it like a letting company does. We collect payment and pay the person who owns the space."

The teenager, whose company is based in Bristol, said he has received 500 email inquiries, has clients in Manchester and London and now employs six members of staff.

"Our biggest challenge has been getting people to realise their unused parking space can earn them money" said Mr Page. "If you've got a flat, you always rent it out. Parking is a massive problem in cities, so a space is prime real estate."

Mr Page, whose Welsh business will initially focus on Cardiff and Newport, said: "Cardiff is getting more popular, the university is getting bigger and parking is a nightmare. We are using wasted space, there will be less cars circling, less congestion and less emissions."

One of his first customers in Cardiff is 29-year-old Francois Bourlier.

A salesman, who does not own a car, he said he hoped the car parking space at his flat in Landmark Place in the city centre would earn him up to £100 per month.

He said: "I just want to get some money for something that I don't use. I don't really want a car."

Mr Bourlier said he helped put down the deposit on his flat with money he made from buying a parking space in his native France for 8,000 euros and selling it two years later for 12,000 euros.

He said: "In France, the car space business is very big, especially for young people. If you don't have a lots of money and you can't buy a house, you buy a parking space in a central location. The increase in equity you can make on a car space is much higher."

Tape dispenser closes town

Police have yet to establish how a tape dispenser which caused a security alert in Ballymena , Nothern Ireland, came to be left on a bollard outside a PSNI station.

The tape dispenser, believed to have the abbreviation SOCO written on it, was found at the station on the Galgorm Road at about 1010 GMT. The letters SOCO are most commonly associated with the PSNI's former Scenes Of Crimes Officers who have been re-named Crime Scene Investigators.

The Army carried out a controlled explosion on the object which was declared safe.

Traffic in the town was severely disrupted for several hours while the operation took place. A police spokesperson said: "As with any object that cannot readily be accounted for, we have a duty to be wary in order to ensure the safety of all in the vicinity," they added.

"In this case, the object was outside the perimeter of the station, and away from the entrance - and totally out of place - so we therefore had concerns for the safety of members of the public as well as for police officers and staff. "We are also conscious that terrorists have used items made up to look like police equipment in booby traps."

Jammy Teen

An Edinburgh teenager has become one of the youngest people to supply a UK supermarket after securing a "jammy" deal. Fraser Doherty, 18, has created a range of "super jams" which will be available in 130 Waitrose stores across the UK from March.

His recipe uses grape juice to sweeten the fruit instead of refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. He began making jam when he was 14, using his grandmother's secret recipes.

Fraser then added his own ingredients and developed the range to include a "super food" in each jam - foods naturally rich in a range of nutrients that can have a beneficial effect on health.

In just over a year his jams had proved to be so popular that he was cooking up to 1,000 jars a week from his parents' kitchen. He was soon selling out at farmers' markets and supplying delicatessens across Scotland.

Fraser took his healthier fruit spreads to one of Waitrose's regular "Meet the Buyer" events where the supermarket felt that the jams had the potential for a larger market.

He said: "When I was 14, my gran showed me how to make jam with her top secret recipe. I decided to make the leap from making jam in my kitchen to making it in a commercial setting. I met with Waitrose and told them about the idea of making jam without sugar.It's a strange thing to get enthusiastic about but I really love jam."

Michael Simpson Jones, Waitrose's preserve buyer, said: "Waitrose has a long history of working with smaller scale suppliers, like Fraser, as it allows us to offer customers real diversity of choice. I was bowled over by Fraser's passion as a producer, and that a 17-year-old had such strong entrepreneurial skills. Fraser has managed to take a product that's regarded as old-fashioned and has completely reinvented it, giving it an up-to-date make-over."

Fraser said: "I'm hoping that Super Jam will help encourage a new generation of jam-fans, and that it might inspire other young people with a business passion to go for it."

Fraser won an Enterprising Young Brit Award at the age of 15 and was later invited to Downing Street and commended by Chancellor Gordon Brown.

One more to be a Kim

After having nine children in as many years, you might think Rayna and Malcolm Warriner's brood is complete.

But, with one seat spare in the family minibus, the couple feel they still have a gap to fill. Less than a month after giving birth to their newest addition, Mrs Warriner is already broody for a tenth baby.

"I’m hooked on the adrenaline rush I get from having a beautiful baby and it is a miracle that lasts a lifetime," said the former nursery manager, 32. "We have one more seat to fill in our 12-seater minibus. If my husband said that’s it, we would stop, but we both enjoy having children so much."

The couple support their six girls and three boys on the wages Mr Warriner earns as a police sergeant, without the aid of benefits.

Their oldest child, Eryn, is nine. A year after her birth, the couple had Jackson, now eight, followed two years later by Harrison, six. Another boy, Callan, arrived in 2003 and was followed by threeyear- old Taitum. In March 2005, Rayna had triplet girls Ilish, Romany and Meredith, who are now 23 months. Then on January 27 she gave birth to Avie, weighing 7lb 11oz, at Poole Hospital in Dorset.

She had a difficult labour this time round, and needed a blood transfusion after problems with the placenta. Mrs Warriner is now considered to be at high risk of complications if she becomes pregnant again. But despite the potential problems, and the considerable squeeze on their finances, she says she remains hooked on motherhood.

Ignore these signs at your peril

If lorry drivers can tear their eyes away from the satellite navigation system while approaching the village of Exton, they could well save themselves hours of trouble.

There at the side of the road are the first signs in the country specifically warning them to ignore the satnav.

Owing to a fault in the electronic information system, many drivers are sent through the Hampshire hamlet only to find the lane narrows to 6ft and they get stuck.

Villagers hope that the signs will spare them, and HGV drivers, any further grief, and stop the destruction of hedgerows and verges in Beacon Hill Lane.

Brian Thorpe-Tracey, whose property borders the lane, said he had regularly had to rebuild cobbled kerbs as well as help stuck vans to reverse.

The 49-year-old company director said: 'The problem mushroomed overnight with the advent of satnav.

'About two years ago we noticed a real increase in drivers using the lane. Vehicles are getting stuck and having to reverse back up, damaging the wall and fence. There's even a piece of metal embedded 12ft up in a tree which looks like it's come off a lorry.

Watermelon buster

A man has broken the world record for smashing watermelons with his head at the biennial Chinchilla Watermelon Festival in Queensland.

29-year-old John Allwood, a local melon picker, head-butted 40 watermelons in less than a minute to claim the title of world champion.

Chinchilla, three hours west of the Queensland capital, Brisbane, is Australia's watermelon capital, growing 25 per cent of the country's crop.
Every two years they celebrate their link to the fruit with the nine-day Watermelon Festival.

Apart from watermelon smashing, there is watermelon skiing, watermelon sliding and a largest watermelon contest.

Loo roll thief

A serial loo paper thief has been cautioned by police after stealing rolls from public toilets every day for three weeks.

The middle-aged woman, who has not been named, was caught red-handed by council staff in West Bridgford, Nottingham.

'Ten rolls of paper a day soon adds up and we can't allow people to steal public property,' said Bob Alderton, a street manager for Rushcliffe Borough Council.

Hitler rug

Millions would love a chance to wipe their feet on Adolf Hitler and now it looks like they could have the chance with this 'Hitler rug'

The work is by Israeli artist Boaz Arad who says he is hoping to show how the Holocaust has scarred Israel, but also been misused by it.

He says the rug is a representation of what a Nazi hunter would do if he caught the ultimate prize, the Nazi leader.

The exhibition is at the Tel Aviv Center for Contemporary Arts.

Pub lunch

Pint-sized pupils are heading to the pub for lunch every day – because their school has no kitchen.

The 77 children at North Newton Primary School, near Bridgwater, Somerset, are taken across the road by teachers to the Harvest Moon.

They enjoy a menu including roast dinners, curry and toad-in-the-hole followed by puddings and fruit. The children eat in an area separate from adult drinkers before returning to school for afternoon lessons.

The unusual dining arrangements were brought in at the start of this term after the Government said all schools must provide hot lunches by 2008.

The school used to ask pupils to bring in packed lunches.

Pub landlady Helen Edwards, a former pupil at the school, provides a two-course lunch for £1.70, helped by a Government subsidy of 21p a pupil.

She said: "I give them healthy meals like I had at school.The children are wonderful and well-mannered, and the numbers are going up so I hope that will continue"

One parent said: "The children love it because it is exciting and different. I know they are eating a supervised, properly balanced diet."

Finger regrows with pig bladder

When Lee Spievack cried out in pain after slicing off his fingertip he had no idea he was about to find himself at the centre of a medical mystery that appeared to have more in common with Harry Potter than the British Medical Journal.

Rather than follow his doctor's advice and have a skin graft to cover what was left of his finger, the 68-year-old shopkeeper sprinkled the wound with a powdered extract of pig bladder.

Within four weeks, his finger had regained its original length and by the end of four months it was almost back to normal.

Now scientists in America believe the pig bladder "potion" may lead to an extraordinary breakthrough in regenerative medicine that could re-grow fingers, toes and limbs and even one day help replace damaged parts of hearts and spinal cords and heal wounds and burns with new skin instead of scar tissue.

He had been helping a customer with an engine on a model airplane when he accidentally put his finger too near the propeller and sliced off his fingertip, leaving just a bit of the nail bed.

The missing piece, about one centimeter long, was never found.

Up until the age of two humans can regrow fingertips, but doctors said he'd have to grow used to being without it.

However, Spievack's brother, Alan, a former Harvard surgeon, runs a company called ACell Inc. that makes an extract of pig bladder that had been used in the past to help horses re-grow ligaments.

At his brother's suggestion, Mr Spievack started applying the powder every two days. After four months, "it looked like my normal finger except it's a little hard, as if calloused, and there's a slight scar on the end," he said.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Miracle baby

Her tiny transparent feet, covered in gelatinous skin, look like those of some aquatic creature. Her chest, festooned with wires and tubes, covers a heart that pumps up to 80 times a minute. She is the world's most premature baby known to have survived and, after four months in hospital, she is going home.

Born at 21 weeks and six days gestation, barely half the 37 to 40 weeks normal babies spend in the womb, Amillia Sonja Taylor weighed less than 10 ounces, less than half a bag of sugar. She measured just over nine inches long.

Her doctors at the Baptist Children Hospital in Florida did not hold out much hope. "We weren't too optimistic but she proved us all wrong. She is truly a miracle baby. We didn't even know what a normal blood pressure is for a baby this small," William Smalling, a neonatologist, said.

Premature births as extreme as this carry high risks. Amillia has experienced respiratory problems, a very mild brain haemorrhage and some digestive problems, but none of the health concerns are expected to pose long-term problems, her doctors said. During two months in an incubator, she had plastic surgery to repair an ear torn during delivery.

"We can deal with lungs and things like that but, of course, the brain is the most important," said Paul Fassbach, a neonatalogist. "But her prognosis is excellent."

Today, Amillia has grown to a healthy 4lbs, still barely half the weight of a newborn baby, and is 25 inches long. Conceived by IVF, she is the first child of Sonja and Eddie Taylor, from Homestead, Florida, and already the centre of their world. "I am still in amazement. I wanted her to have a chance and I knew in my heart that she was going to make it," Mrs Taylor, 37, said. "It was hard to imagine she was going to get this far but now she is beginning to look like a real baby. Even though she is only 4lbs now she looks plump to me."


Men in parts of Tanzania's main city, Dar es Salaam, are living in fear of a night-time sex attacker. A BBC correspondent says the attacks are being blamed by some on a demon called "Popo Bawa" meaning winged bat.

Some men are staying awake or sleeping in groups outside their homes. Others are smearing themselves with pig's oil, believing this repels attacks. Reports of the demon's existence have been common for many years in Zanzibar, where locals claim it originated.

The BBC's John Ngahyoma in Dar es Salaam says not many people actually believe that the demon exists and there have been no sightings.

But Mbaruku Ibrahim, who hails from Zanzibar, says the story of the demon is common there and people in his village on Pemba island sleep beside a huge fire outside their houses whenever it is said to appear.

The story goes that the bat is able to transform itself into a man at night and it has also been blamed for rapes of women. Sheikh Yahya Hussein, a prominent astrologer in Tanzania, claims that the demon is a spirit that is unleashed by witches to torment their opponents.

Belief in witchcraft and superstitions is widespread in Tanzania, especially in rural areas.

Not the sharpest tool in the box

A would-be Canadian thief proved himself lacking in key skills like reconnaissance and driving after he tried to pull a heist beside a police dog training site and then got stuck in the snow trying to flee.

Police in Alberta say officers were training with a dog at a business late on Tuesday when they heard an alarm sound from the building next door.

Edmonton police spokeswoman Karen Carlson says when they went to investigate, a car smashed through a garage door and zoomed past an officer and his dog, Wizzard.

"He didn't get very far because he got stuck in a snow bank," Ms Carlson said.

The car turned out to be stolen.

The suspect tried to make a break for it on foot, but was quickly forced to give himself up when Wizzard caught up with him.

"There was a marked police car parked outside and they were inside the building doing training, which is normal for us," Ms Carlson said.

"Then, sure enough, this goes on right next door to them."

Police recovered a cash box taken from the building.

A 23-year-old male faces charges.

Phone thief

Darwin, Australia --A 45-year-old man has been charged over the theft of 39 payphones in Darwin during the past eight months.

Police say the pay phones, removed from phone booths all over the city, were worth about $136,000.

Police say not all of the stolen telephones have been found, but it is alleged the man buried some of the phones in various locations around Darwin.

Police say the man took officers to two places where 14 pay phones were hidden.

The man is being held in custody and will appear in the Darwin Magistrates Court at a later date.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Milk Sucks ?

An activist sucks on "Freeda the Cow" as part of Animal Liberation Victoria's "Milk Sucks" campaign in Melbourne, Australia. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the effects dairy farming can have on animals and the environment.

ALV activists Jamie Yew, Erik Gorton and Dave Bell took turns lying beneath Freeda and pretended to suckle her milk to illustrate just how unnatural it is for humans to drink cow milk and consume dairy products.

Crowds were simultaneously entertained, horrified and curious about the spectacle, many eager to understand the serious issues raised by the protest. ALV volunteers in t-shirts emblazoned with the signature “Milk Sucks” logo distributed hundreds of leaflets to stunned passers by, informing them of the cruelty dealt to cows by the dairy industry, it’s devastating effect upon the environment, and health concerns for humans.

Cow Man

Sick sugar

ZAGREB- Croatia: Small packets of sugar bearing the likeness of Adolf Hitler and carrying Holocaust jokes have been found in some cafes in Croatia, prompting an investigation, the office of the state prosecutor said on Monday.

"The local district attorney in (the eastern town of) Pozega has opened an investigation and is currently looking at the matter," said Martina Mihordin.

The Novi List daily newspaper reported that officials at a small factory in Pozega have confirmed the sugar packs were produced on their premises.

The incident will embarrass the government which has been keen to play down the country's past links with Nazism.

Croatia's Ustasha regime sided with the Nazis in World War 2 and enforced ethnic laws under which thousands of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, as well as anti-fascist Croats, were killed in local concentration camps in 1941-45.

The Jerusalem-based anti-Nazi Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement it had protested the matter to Croatia's authorities.

Its director, Efraim Zuroff, expressed his "revulsion and disgust that such an item could be produced these days in a country in which the Holocaust not only took place, but was for the most part carried out by local Nazi collaborators".

"If nothing else, this is a disgusting expression of nostalgia for the Third Reich and a period during which Jews, Serbs and Gypsies were mass-murdered (in Croatia)," it said.

Hedgehog cull suspended

The board of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has decided to suspend its cull of hedgehogs in the Western Isles.

The organisation is to have the animals gathered and transported from the Uists to the mainland.

The cull was started to protect the eggs of rare wading birds. The agency had previously said hedgehogs would not survive relocation.

However, animal welfare campaigners began their own programme of trapping and transporting the hedgehogs.

SNH says it will continue to catch the hedgehogs and then hand them over to a welfare organisation.

Best British Beach

A Gower beach has been named the most beautiful in the UK by travel writers who visited more than 1,000 around the world in search of the perfect sands.

Oxwich Bay was praised by The Travel Magazine for "magnificent and unspoilt" scenery and as a "great place for adults and children to explore".

It is the latest recognition for beaches in west Wales.

Last year Barafundle in Pembrokeshire was named the UK's best picnic spot by another magazine, Country Life.

And a tourist expert who devised a mathematical formula to calculate the best beaches in the world ranked Whitesands in Pembrokeshire in his top 20.

Malcolm Ridge, chairman of the Gower Society, said he thought Oxwich deserved the title - especially as Gower was celebrating the 50th anniversary of becoming the UK's first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

"Oxwich really is a tremendous beach - very long and curving," he said. "At the one end who've got Oxwich Church and then along the bay who've got the dunes and the nature reserve. It's a place that's very accessible compared to some."

And the weather in Nowheresville ....

A BBC weather presenter has apologised after calling the Western Isles and the west Highlands "nowheresville" during a live weather broadcast.

The Met Office forecaster, Tomacz Schafernaker, made the comments during a BBC One bulletin on Saturday.

The SNP complained and their Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil offered weather presenters a visit to his constituency.

In a statement, Mr Schafernaker said he wished to "sincerely apologise" and "deeply regretted" his choice of words.

The weatherman explained that he was pointing to a moutainous area in the Highlands whilst describing isolated showers in the area.

He said: "My intention was only to convey that very few people were likely to catch a shower on that day. It was in no way a comment or opinion on the area or the people that live there."

Clingfilm running

Two men are to run marathons in extreme climates to highlight global warming.

Sean Cornwell and Ed Stumpf will endure temperatures ranging from -30C to 40C when they compete in races at the North Pole and in the Sahara desert.

The pair, both from London, plan to run wrapped in clingfilm to symbolise how carbon emissions suffocate the world.

They also hope to collect one million "action pledges" on their EarthFireIce website which encourages people to help the environment in their daily lives.

The Sahara Marathon is held in southern Algeria on 26 February with 200 runners expected to take part.

The North Pole Marathon takes place on 6 April with 50 competitors expected.

Mr Cornwell, 32, of Pimlico, and Mr Stumpf, 29, of Balham, set up their website to prompt people into taking action to reduce their impact on the environment.

Arrest this ship !

The crew of a ship who barricaded themselves in their cabins in a row over wages are seeking to have the vessel arrested.

The Russian sailors on board the Merchant Brilliant, which is anchored three miles off Heysham, Lancashire, claim they are owed $167,000 (£86,516).

They have been talking with the ship's Latvian owners, ADG Shipping, but have failed to reach a settlement. The crew now plans to petition the Admiralty Marshal to arrest the ship. If the petition is accepted, the ship would be sailed back to port, have papers served on it and the vessel would be impounded pending a court settlement.

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), which has two inspectors on board helping to broker a deal, are now finding legal representation for 11 members of the crew to petition the Admiralty Marshal for the arrest to take place.

ITF spokesman Sam Dawson said: "Talks with the owners of the Jamaican-flagged Merchant Brilliant are at a stalemate and 11 of the crew members have therefore decided to seek the arrest of the ship."

Ken Fleming, an ITF inspector on board the ship, said there had been a heated debate with the ship's owners on Monday night over pay and excessive hours.

As a result, the crew and the inspectors barricaded themselves inside the cabin overnight by putting furniture against the doors as the ship sailed from Belfast.

However, when it docked at Heysham in the morning, they came out.

They then anchored off the coast where they spent the day trying to reach a deal with the owners.