Monday, April 30, 2007

Exploding tanker melts highway

OAKLAND, California -- The threat of a nightmarish morning commute led many Bay Area residents to use public transportation Monday, one day after a fiery tanker crash caused a heavily trafficked section of freeway to collapse.

Westbound traffic into the city largely flowed as usual Monday morning, except for drivers slowing on interchange lanes headed to the Bay Bridge to look at the damage.

But officials warned the afternoon drive would bring bigger headaches as traffic leaving the city is diverted away from the collapsed eastbound segment. Watch the Video here
The elevated section of highway that carries motorists from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to a number of freeways was destroyed early Sunday when the heat of a burning gasoline tanker truck weakened part of one overpass, crumpling it onto another.

Slow news day in Chattanooga

A stray cat that had been stuck 70 feet up a tree for six days was saved in a dramatic rescue on Saturday morning in East Brainerd. Because of the tree's location next to the house of Roger and Lynn Meyer on Colonial Parkway, there was no way to get a bucket truck up to the stranded feline.

And several tree companies declined to send any of their men up the thin oak tree.
But fearless climber Tom "Doc" Freuler of Pro-Tree Service then entered the picture.
Doc said, "I got a call from Mark (owner of Pro-Tree Service) last night telling me there was a cat up a tree. I thought he was pulling my leg. But then he saw news stories about the cat on TV." Doc stated, "I'm an absolute animal nut. I was up half the night trying to figure out how to get over there. I was going to go up the tree in the dark."

There were reports that the cat was starving to death and that buzzards were circling overhead. On Saturday morning, he was taken to the tree and he fastened on his safety equipment.

The 48-year-old tree climber said, "When I was younger I would have gone up that tree without any equipment. But I made sure I was safely strapped in."

He said he went up the slender, sloping tree slowly and told those on the ground to be patient. Down below a number of animal rescuers had sheets spread out ready to catch the cat should it plunge down.

When he finally got near the cat, it got spooked and went further out a limb. Doc said, "I talked to it and got it calmed down. Finally I was able to pet it."

Then he was able to get the cat in a fish net. That spooked the cat again, and he tried to bite his rescuer. "Then I put it on a leash," he said.

What did the Romans do for us ? except build Stonehenge

Britons have a bewildering lack of knowledge about their country, a survey suggests.

Stonehenge was built by the Romans, and Hadrian’s Wall is in China – these are two of the misconceptions in the poll of 3,000 people commissioned by UKTV History. Nearly four in ten say that the bulldog is the animal that symbolises this country. That, of course, is the lion, part of the Royal Arms since the Plantagenets.

A quarter say that the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, are among the Seven Wonders of the World, confusing them with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. According to one in five, the Pennines are between France and Spain; and for 18 per cent, Stonehenge was built when the Romans were here – rather than dating back to three millennia previously.

Adrian Wills, of UKTV History, said that the survey showed how little people knew about Britain, “from traditions to landmarks”. Viewers are being asked to vote for a favourite historical site.

Not quite . . .

1 Official UK animal is bulldog 39%

2 Leeds Castle is in Leeds 34%

3 White Cliffs of Dover made of sandstone 28%

4 Lost Gardens of Heligan, in Cornwall, are one of Seven Wonders of the World 23%

5 Pennines are between France and Spain 21%

6 Do not know who is on back of £10 note 20%

7 Stonehenge was built during Roman Empire 18%

8 Hadrian’s Wall is not in UK 15%

9 Nelson’s Column is not in Trafalgar Square 12%

10 Lake District has an entrance fee 7%

Your name's too Gay!

A WOMAN'S email to the help desk of Telecom New Zealand was rejected by a computer system because her name was Gay and "inappropriate for business-like communication".

Gay Hamilton, from the northern South Island town of Nelson, said while she was actually gay, she was concerned that the country's biggest public company was spending its time and resources on trifling issues, the Herald on Sunday reported.

"If they do have to put content filters on, then maybe they should ensure that it only gets genuinely abusive words," she said.

Telecom's automated reply to her email said the message "was identified by our content filtering processes as containing language that may be considered inappropriate for business-like communication". It confirmed that the offending word was "gay".

Telecom spokesman Lenska Papich said the response was triggered by the company's internal email monitoring system, which prevented "misuse of email technologies in the workplace and act as a deterrent to harassment".

"Our systems internally detect a number of words, including both the words gay and heterosexual, that could be deemed as inappropriate for use at work," she said.

107 yr-old car for sale

A piece of Scotland's motoring history is to go on sale at an auction of collectors' automobiles in London.

The 107-year-old Argyll car is one of the earliest models built at the firm's first factory in Bridgeton, Glasgow. The car, which has a five horse-power engine and a top speed of 25mph, is expected to fetch as much as £80,000.

It has not been driven for the past 68 years. The Argyll sat for 45 years in the living room of an eccentric artist from Dublin.

The Bonham's auction house sale is taking place at the RAF Museum at Hendon, Greater London. Scotsman Alexander Govan set up his motor car company in 1899 in Hozier Street, Bridgeton. He later moved to larger premises in Alexandria, Dunbartonshire.

Bonhams said the first owner was T Pictom Bradshaw of Dublin who accompanied the first leg of the Irish Motor Tour in the car in 1901.

Mexico nude shoot

US artist Spencer Tunick will fill Mexico City's Zocalo square - the centre of the ancient Aztec empire and the heart of modern Mexico - with thousands of naked Mexicans next week for his latest mass nude photo shoot.

Tunick, who was refused permission to stage his nude photo at Mexico's famed Teotihuacan pyramids outside the capital, has been granted permission to use the Zocalo for his shoot next Sunday (local time), local media reported.

The Mexico City Government was not available for comment.

One of the world's biggest and most imposing squares, the Zocalo is framed by the city cathedral, City Hall and the Diego Rivera mural-adorned National Palace and dominated by a huge flagpole flying the red, white and green national flag.

A ruined temple underneath it was once used for Aztec worship and human sacrifice, and Spanish conquistadors used bricks from the temple to help build their own capital.

Tunick has raised eyebrows by staging mass nude photo shoots in cities from Dusseldorf, Germany, to Caracas. Participants often lie down to create an image resembling a sea of multi-hued flesh.

Organisers hope the Mexico City event might top his record of 7,000 naked people photographed in Barcelona in 2003.


Celebrations are under way in Thirsk to mark the last day a cheese maker can call a product "Yorkshire Feta".

Judy Bell, who runs Shepherds Purse Cheeses, had been caught up in a five-year tussle with EU officials over the feta name of a cheese she produces.

EU judges then ruled that feta had "Protected Designation of Origin" status meaning only Greek cheese makers could use the name. Now Mrs Bell's cheese is to be called "Fine fettle Yorkshire".

Mrs Bell had wanted to continue calling her product Yorkshire feta but the European judges ruled that only cheese made in certain areas of Greece should be allowed to use the name.

In 2002 the Commission gave Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status to feta cheese made to certain specifications in certain parts of Greece. The court battle over feta hinged on whether the term was so familiar it should be deemed a generic name available to all cheese producers making feta-style cheese, or whether it needed tougher legal protection to discourage imitators.

Under the same PDO heading, the commission also protected Parma ham, French Champagne, and, in Britain, at least 25 products, including Shetland lamb, Whitstable oysters and Newcastle brown ale.

But Yorkshire pudding is deemed to be a generic term and does not have to be made in Yorkshire to qualify to use the name.

Slo-mo marathon

'Slow motion' marathon runner Greg Billingham has finished the London Marathon one week after the event started.

Thirty-nine-year-old Billingham decided to "run" the 26.2 mile event at an ultra-slow pace of 3 miles every 10 hours, to raise money for the charity Children with Leukaemia.

He said he ran in slow motion because people who become ill often find their lives slowed down.

Billingham, who had never run a marathon before, hopes to have raised between £30,000 and £40,000 for the charity.

"At first people look at you strangely... People weren't too sure whether it was a joke," he said.

He said when people waved at him "I would look at them in slow motion".

Billingham developed his technique of lifting each leg in the air for several seconds at a time during his training, which involved moving very slowly on a treadmill and running slowly in a farmer's field "where nobody could see me".

"When I turned up in London, I had a tenner (a 10 pound note) and a sleeping bag," the building developer said. "The more I did, the better I was getting at it. The word got around London."

Billingham says he is "still adapting" to his success.

Star wars stamps

Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor is to feature in a new set of stamps from the US Postal Service.

The star appears on one of 15 special edition stamps designed to commemorate the film series' 30th anniversary next month.

The 41-cent stamp shows the 37-year-old in his role of Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting with Anakin Skywalker. The new stamps take in characters from all six movies in the Star Wars saga. The stamps will go on sale on 25 May.

More than five billion copies of the stamps have been printed by the USPS to cope with the expected demand from collectors worldwide.

David Failor, executive director of stamp services at the US Postal Service, said: "Star Wars fans everywhere will delight in the issuance of these exciting new postage stamps. Because of the movies's popularity, we believe these stamps have the potential of reaching the blockbuster status of the Elvis stamp, a milestone only the Force could attempt to surpass. The Star Wars films have timeless qualities that cross generations."

Other characters featuring in the collection include bounty hunter Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV to VI and Harrison Ford as Han Solo.

You can view all the stamps here (but beware ... some of them are HUGE!)

NO smoking in N Ireland

Smokers can no longer light up in bars across Northern Ireland as the new smoking ban has come into force.

It is now illegal to smoke in workplaces, most enclosed public spaces and on public transport. The ban will be enforced by local councils.

Smoking is said to cause 3,000 deaths in NI each year, with one death every fortnight due to second-hand smoke.

The Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales already have smoking bans in place; England's starts on 1 July.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cool Capitals

Cool Capitals is an interactive website that highlights some of Europe's hippest capitals.

Right now, the site only spotlights Amsterdam, Antwerp, Vienna, and Zurich, but there's a fairly good amount of information about each of those cities.

The site has a slick user-interface that lets you zoom around a mini-version of the city and click on the highlights, which then provides relevant tips.

As you move through the site, you'll find information about upcoming events. If you like the event, you can add it to your "travel bucket" -- I think they could've come up with a clever-er name -- to save for later.

For example, I learned that the next time I visit Amsterdam, I should swing by the xtracold, a bar in which everything is made out of ice.

Although it only focuses on a few cities right now, it'll hopefully expand soon and include more cool capitals. In the meantime, if you're heading to any of these destinations, it's worth checking out.

Underwater Mailboxes

On your next trip , if you decide that you not only want to send a postcard, but you also want to do something unique, why not send a card from an underwater mailbox?

Though not common, there are five underwater mailboxes for you to visit:
  1. Vanuatu Post created the world's first underwater post office. Situated within a marine sanctuary off Hideaway Island, this post office, staffed by a postal employee, can receive mail if you are a visiting diver or snorkeler. The best part? The lines are always short.
  2. On Japan's southeastern coast, there's a mailbox 33 feet beneath the surface of the water -- the deepest mailbox on record. Each day, the contents are collected from the box, which reportedly contains as many as 200 pieces of mail. Conveniently, the group who developed this post office also invented Surumail: edible, squid-flavored postcards.
  3. Malaysia's Reef Dive Resort has set up what it believes to be that country's first underwater mailbox. Any mail sent through this mailbox is sealed inside a plastic bag and postmarked with a special stamp.
  4. St. Thomas, USVI, has an underwater post office inside its Underwater Observatory, which means you can get the "underwater stamp" without getting "underwater wet."
  5. Paradise Island, in the Bahamas, boasts an underwater mailbox adjacent to a spiraling 100-foot tower.

Human Skateboard

Robber whacked by lettuce

An 82-year-old man wielding a bag of shopping has driven an armed robber from a village post office. George Smith hit the man twice with a bag containing an iceberg lettuce and bottles of bleach and washing liquid.

The masked raider, who had a shotgun, fled from the shop in Speldhurst, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, leaving the takings untouched. Police praised Mr Smith for his bravery, but did not recommend other people followed his actions.

Officers are linking the attempted robbery to three other raids in the area since 7 April. They include raids on a nature reserve and fish farm in Hawkhurst, Kent, and a One-Stop shop in Sidley, East Sussex.

Mr Smith was in the Speldhurst post office just before 1300 BST on Friday.

Det Insp John Claydon said a man aged in his 20s walked in, armed with a shotgun and with his face covered by a hood and a dust mask.

"Before he had a chance to say anything at all, this elderly gentleman whacked him with a carrier bag which had a lettuce amongst other things in it," Det Insp Claydon said. "Bearing in mind his age, I can do nothing but congratulate him for what he did. But obviously from a police perspective we wouldn't be looking to encourage people to act as George did."

Mr Smith himself said his actions were "entirely automatic".

"The best method of defence is attack - so I did. I whacked him in the face and then I clobbered him again. He ran off down to the corner still with the gun pointing my way. I took a couple of paces towards him and told him to clear off. And he did."

Police said the armed man fled along Barden Road.

Piggin' stupid !

A baker has been forced to rename her novelty pig tarts - because they don't contain any pork.

Val Temple, who runs Sgt Bun Bakery, Weymouth, says officers from Dorset's trading standards department also told her she must swap the name of robin tarts as they are not made from robins.

And she claims she was instructed to rename her paradise slice because ... it's not from paradise. Mrs Temple has made the novelty cakes in the shape of pigs and robins as a treat for her customers for years.

She said: "It's a joke. The officers came in and said they had had a complaint and I must change the names because they didn't contain pork, robin or paradise. It's an insult to the public. Of course they don't contain pig, robin or paradise. The trading standards officers have been coming into this shop for 26 years and now the name has been picked up. It's absolutely ridiculous. Are they going to start banning Christmas cake because it doesn't have Jesus in it? You could apply it to everything. It's so silly. And as for the paradise slice, that recipe is 120 years old and it's always been known as Paradise Slice. They said they were going to come back in and check, so I've changed the names now. But people are still coming in and calling them by their proper names."

Ad for Fat controller a no-no

When zoo bosses decided to invest in a Thomas the Tank Engine train for their young visitors, naturally they wanted a Fat Controller too.

So they decided to advertise for a portly gentleman who might fit the bill. That's where the problems started.

The zoo's legal advisers warned that advertising specifically for a fat man could be considered illegal.

They told officials at Drusillas Park Zoo in East Sussex that they should not discriminate - and might have to interview a thin man if one applied for the job. The zoo launched the ride last month, after importing Thomas from Germany, complete with versions of the carriages Annie and Clarabel.

Managing director Laurence Smith said a member of staff had been filling in as the driver on occasions.

"But at a slim 15st he doesn't quite fit the specification."

Christine Smith, his wife, is also a managing director at the zoo, at Alfriston, near Eastbourne.

She said: "Since we did the deal to bring Thomas to Drusillas we have worked very hard to ensure the train and all the theming is an exact replica of the books and the TV programme.

"So getting a fat Fat Controller is just part of that commitment. We are hoping that common sense will prevail and that we will find the right person before too long. We are currently advertising the part-time job on our website but have had to be very discreet about what we say."

John Midgley, co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: "Why on earth should this park, that is trying to do its best to keep faithful to books, that have been enjoyed by generations, be penalised by the politically-correct lobby?
"It is so ridiculous. I really can't think the vast majority of common-sense people would take the slightest offence over this. It is no wonder, that in a national opinion poll carried out by ICM for the campaign, 80 per cent of Britons are fed up with political correctness."

The Fat Controller's official name is Sir Topham Hatt.

Love struck thief

Whenever Antonio Moreno wanted to see his girlfriend, police say, he'd jump in a car and drive right over. But there was a problem. The 26 cars Moreno jumped into all belonged to someone else, according to authorities who arrested the 31-year-old near his Inglewood home on Wednesday. They said he was behind the wheel of a 1987 Toyota Camry when they found him.

Since January, police said, Moreno had been stealing Toyota Camrys and Nissan Sentras by using a simple device that starts Japanese cars of a certain age. Acting on a tip, members of a regional auto-theft task force took him into custody.

Some cars were stolen in Inglewood and abandoned in Santa Barbara, police said, while others were taken from Santa Barbara.

He was "stealing vehicles as transportation to pursue their relationship," according to a statement from Lt. Paul McCaffrey, a Santa Barbara Police Department spokesman.

He didn't have a driver's license or car of his own, police said.

Moreno was jailed in Los Angeles for investigation of auto theft and was to be transferred to Santa Barbara to face charges, police said. It wasn't immediately clear whether Moreno had an attorney.

His girlfriend, who was not arrested, told authorities she had been trying to dump him.

One-legged transvestite

A one-legged harp-playing transvestite has been evicted by council bosses after making neighbours’ lives a misery.Helen von Hessler, 64, who wears men’s clothes, also made a racket with her organ, guitar and drums until late at night.

She breached a court order banning her music 32 times.

Steven Lewis, who lived directly below her seventh-floor flat in Salford, Greater Manchester, said: “It was like walking into a concert every day. Sometimes it was one note being hit time and time again. She called us idiots and said we didn’t appreciate good music.

“I do appreciate good music — but not that racket.”

Ian Birt, who lives on the 12th floor, added: “It was horrendous.”

Ms Von Hessler failed to meet council officials and they applied for a possession order. She is believed to have moved to Reading, Berks.

Her defence was that she didn’t feel her music was loud and that people did not appreciate it.

Eco-bag farce

AN “environmentally friendly” bag that is the latest fashion must-have has been slammed by green campaigners.

The cotton beige carry-all, emblazoned with the words “I am not a plastic bag” was shipped from CHINA to Britain to be sold at Sainsbury’s.

Twenty thousand were snapped up within an hour of going on sale earlier this week — with some women queuing from 3am to get one. But the bags are made using cheap labour in China — and thousands of litres of fuel have been used to get them here.

Campaigners said Sainsbury’s “green” credentials had been damaged. But the company hit back, saying the bags had not been flown from China, to reduce the environmental impact.

And it said it had bought “carbon credits” — a worldwide industrial scheme to reduce greenhouse gases. A spokesman added: “Our intention was to create a reusable bag that eliminated plastic bags.”

The £5 accessory was created by designer Anya Hindmarch with the We Are What We Do movement to help cut the number of plastic carriers used in Britain.

Barking mad !

A teen was taken to court at a cost of £8,000 — for BARKING at two dogs. JPs found Kyle Little guilty of a public order offence and fined him £50, before a judge saw sense and quashed the conviction.

Last night Kyle, 19, said: “I just couldn’t believe it. This has been a joke all the way through.” The youngster, who earlier had been warned by police in Newcastle for being cheeky, yapped at two barking labradors as he walked past a house.

Sgt Douglas Johnston and PC Daniel Peacock arrested him.

Magistrates convicted him of causing harassment, alarm or distress to the dogs’ owner Sunita Vedhara — even though she did not complain. The cost of the case rose as Kyle appealed to Newcastle Crown Court.

But the farce finally came to an end when Judge Beatrice Bolton overturned the ruling, fuming: “The law is not an ass.”

She added: “I think growling or barking at a dog does not amount to an offence, even if a defendant has been told by the police to curb his language.“He obviously DID curb his language and spoke to the dogs rather than continuing to swear at the police.”

Afterwards Kyle, a jobless labourer, told how chocolate labradors Princess and Ruby had bounded up to the gate at Sunita’s home.

He said: “They were both barking their heads off and so I did a daft little growl and went ‘woof, woof’ at them. The next thing I knew I was grabbed by the two police officers who bent my arms up behind my back and handcuffed me. I was in a cell for about five hours.”

Sunita, who has a son Karen, 13, said: “He was messing about being a daft young lad. The dogs weren’t really upset. “We didn’t want him prosecuted, but the police said he was being taken to court, which we found surprising.

A spokesman for Northumberland Police vowed: “We will be looking at what happened and if a mistake has been made we will learn from this.”

But Kyle’s barrister Chris Mitford joked: “I think they were barking up the wrong tree.”

Baby crying contest

Babies, held by amateur sumo wrestlers, cry loudly during a baby-crying contest at Sensoji temple in Tokyo. Eighty-four babies born in 2006 took part in the event, which is held to pray for the babies' health and growth. The winner of the contest is the baby who cries the loudest.

Suicide injury

A man was injured after a suicidal woman who jumped off the roof of a Tokyo building landed on his head on Friday afternoon, police said.

Investigators said they suspect that the woman, an 18-year-old university student, committed suicide, noting that her coat was left on the rooftop.

At about 1 p.m. on Friday, the woman leaped from the rooftop of the nine-story (about 30m, 100ft high) Marui City Ueno commercial complex in the Ueno district of Taito-ku, hitting a 60-year-old man as he was walking along the road, local police said. The woman was rushed to a hospital where she died shortly afterwards, while the man suffered bruises to his head.

Investigators discovered the woman had been diagnosed as mentally unstable and had received treatment at a mental hospital.

Can you move our town back please

The Government of Chile wants Google to fix its earth geographical search program because it places a Chilean village in Argentina. The satellite image shows Villa O'Higgins, a tiny hamlet 1,600 kilometres south of the Chilean capital, Santiago, on the Argentine side of the border.

"Chile has asked for this to be rectified, and it can only be hoped they do it soon," a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Santiago said. He declined to say when the complaint was filed.

Chile and Argentina share the southern cone of South America, where the border between the two nations runs through a complex landscape of islands, fjords and mountains.

The two countries nearly went to war in the late 1970s over ownership of remote islands in the south. The dispute was resolved with the intervention of the Pope.

"We have received the request and are working with our partners to get more precise data for the region," Google spokeswoman Megan Quinn said. "We're constantly working to improve the quality and accuracy of our maps. This is an ongoing process as we receive new information from third party data providers and as names and borders around the world continue to evolve."

The village was named after Chilean independence hero Bernardo O'Higgins.

Newest Ark

SCHAGEN, Netherlands — The massive central door in the side of Noah's Ark was thrown open Saturday — you could say it was the first time in 4,000 years — drawing a crowd of curious pilgrims and townsfolk to behold the wonder.

Of course, it's only a replica of the biblical Ark, built by Dutch creationist Johan Huibers as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible.

Reckoning by the old biblical measurements, Johan's fully functional ark is 150 cubits long, 30 cubits high and 20 cubits wide. That's two-thirds the length of a football field and as high as a three-story house.

Life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras, bison and other animals greet visitors as they arrive in the main hold.

"The design is by my wife, Bianca," Huibers said. "She didn't really want me to do this at all, but she said if you're going to anyway, it should look like this."

A contractor by trade, Huibers built the ark of cedar and pine — biblical scholars debate exactly what the wood used by Noah would have been.

Huibers did the work mostly with his own hands, using modern tools and occasional help from his son Roy. Construction began in May 2005.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Russian Gurner

Time capsule add-ons

When members of the University of Washington class of 1957 opened a time capsule sealed 50 years ago, on top of the audio tapes, college yearbook, and student newspaper, they found some surprises from a later era.

Sometime in the 1980s, someone slipped a pornographic centerfold, some dirty underwear and a condom into the capsule that had been sealed into the wall of the then-new Communications Building in 1957.

Alumni opened the capsule this week in preparation for a public unveiling during a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the university's communications program. The capsule is being replaced by another created by a student-faculty team.

"The good news is that all the things that were in there are still there," said Jerry Baldasty, current chairman of the Department of Communication. "The interesting news is that some other things were added."

The new capsule will be filled with digital media, carrying images of graffiti and video and focusing on "communication from a global perspective," said Coma Te, a 20-year-old senior who was one of six students who created the new capsule.

The contents of both capsules were to be shown to the public on Saturday.

Toxic algae

LOS ANGELES- A bloom of ocean algae that produces a toxic acid has sickened and killed hundreds of birds, sea lions and dolphins in California, environmentalists said. Birds and animals have been washing up on shores from San Diego to San Francisco Bay.

In the past week, 40 birds have been taken to the International Bird Rescue Center in San Pedro with symptoms of domoic acid poisoning, which attacks the brain and can cause seizures.

In previous seasons, the center might see seven birds a week, director Jay Holcomb said."I have been doing this work for 35 years and I have never seen anything like this as far as the number of species affected, other than an oil spill," Holcomb said Thursday.

Domoic acid is produced by microscopic algae. Birds and sea mammals ingest the acid by eating fish and shellfish who dine on the algae.

The algae population increases or "blooms" every year as the ocean waters warm but this year's bloom seems early, extensive and "very, very thick," said David Caron, who teaches in the biological sciences department at University of Southern California.

"In five years of study I have not seen a bloom this large at this particular time of year," Caron said. "It's having an extraordinary impact on pelicans and many other species. There are conceivably thousands of animals being affected," Caron said.

The Wetland and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach had received 73 sick or dead birds since Sunday, assistant director Lisa Birkle said.

The toxin has been swifter and deadlier than usual, she said.

Earthquake in the UK

An earthquake has shaken parts of Kent, damaging buildings and disrupting electricity supplies.

Homes in five streets in Folkestone had to be evacuated because of structural damage including cracked walls and fallen chimneys.

The magnitude 4.3 tremor struck at 0819 BST and experts said its epicentre was a few miles off the coast in the English Channel.

One woman was taken to hospital with a neck injury.

Chief Superintendent Ally Hope said: "Given the time this happened and the number of people that were about we should be genuinely thankful that so few people were hurt."

Grafitti sold for £288,000

A painting by cult "guerrilla artist" Banksy has sold for £288,000 at auction - a new record for the artist.

Space Girl and Bird, which sold for 20 times its estimate, was commissioned by Blur for their Think Tank album cover. It was sold to a telephone bidder from the US. Earlier, a Banksy self-portrait showing an ape's face fetched £198,000 - five times its estimated value.

The previous record for one of Banksy's works was £102,000, paid for a picture of pensioners bowling with bombs. Banksy, from Bristol, made his name with stencilled graffiti and subversive stunts in public spaces but fiercely guards his true identity.

Another two of his pieces fetched £75,000 and £32,000 during Wednesday's sale at Bonhams auction house in London.

Bonhams specialist Gareth Williams, said: "We are delighted with today's result. The art market for contemporary cutting edge art is booming and Banksy's work has become part of this culture."

Charles Dupplin, an art expert from insurance company Hiscox, said buyers were "fascinated" by the artist. Today's auction demonstrates just how much art by Banksy has skyrocketed in value. Clearly he is an artist in huge demand.

Pub asks to become Peruvian

A pub in Cornwall is asking its namesake Embassy to help it obtain "consulate status" in an attempt to avoid the smoking ban. The Peruvian Arms in Penzance was built by an 18th Century Cornish engineer who made money from silver mines in Peru.

Its landlords have now written to the Peruvian Ambassador to the United Kingdom asking for the status, hoping it would allow them to escape the ban.

The Peruvian Embassy in London declined to comment on the request.

As well as displaying the Peruvian flag, the pub plays out the country's national anthem at closing time. The pub's owners say 99% of customers like to smoke.

They wrote to Ambassador Ricardo Luna Mendozathe but have not heard back.

Michael Hoskein, from the pub, said: "We would benefit from the perks involved if we were given diplomatic Ambassadorial status, ie free parking, diplomatic immunity, and still be allowed to smoke in the premises without having to go outside in smoking areas."

Landlord Debbie Trevithick added: "We would learn a bit of Spanish and I wouldn't mind dressing up in Peruvian costumes. And we might have to get a pet llama."

The smoking ban comes into force in England on 1 July.

Billie the turtle

A leatherback turtle called Billie won the first Great Turtle Race from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands, swimming at a leisurely 5 to 6 kilometres per hour, organisers say.

Satellite tracking of 11 tagged turtles showed Billie sprinting away from the main group to make it first to the finish zone.

Two turtles failed to get past the starting line, and another, Purple Lightning, veered miles off course.

Some 600,000 people logged on to the web site of the two-week Pacific Ocean marathon , aimed at drawing attention to the endangered species whose numbers have plummeted 95 per cent over the past 20 years.

The coffee table-sized turtles, which were around at the same time as dinosaurs, are dying in accidental captures by long-line fishing boats and losing nesting areas because of coastal development, said Lisa Bailey, spokeswoman for Conservation International, one of the race organisers.

At Playa Grande, a key nesting ground in northern Costa Rica where the race started, only 50 turtles showed up to lay eggs this year, down from 1,500 in 1989, Bailey said.

The 805-kilometre race was a virtual replay of the tracks of turtles that were tagged and released at different times last February for their annual migration.

Sponsors paid $US25,000 to back a turtle, $US10,000 of which went for the satellite tracking tag. Some of the money will be used to buy nesting land and save it from developers.

Ms Bailey said the information gathered in the race would have a scientific purpose. "This is no publicity stunt," she said.

Goalie for sale

ROME - An angry AC Milan fan put Brazil goalkeeper Dida up for sale online ahead of next week's Champions League semi-final return with Manchester United.

The 33-year-old, who joined Milan in 2000, was a hero after the shootout win over Juventus in the 2003 Champions League final but his popularity has slumped after a series of errors.

He was criticized following last week's 3-2 first-leg defeat to United at Old Trafford, when he flapped a Cristiano Ronaldo header into his own net and then left his near post exposed for Wayne Rooney to blast home a stoppage-time winner.

Dida failed to attract great interest on eBay. The price, before the Brazilian international was removed from the auction site on Friday, had reached 71 euros ($97, £50) after 25 bids.

Free beer prat

BERLIN - A German phone thief led police right to his front door when they called the stolen mobile to say he had won some free beer and he willingly gave his address.

"An officer called and said, 'You've won a crate of beer'," said a spokesman for police in the eastern town of Neustrelitz Friday.

"Then he asked where he lived so he could drop the beer off, and the guy told him. I think the man was drunk."

Bitch !

JACKSON, Mich. -- A woman pretended to have liver cancer and took in about $20,000 from fundraisers to pay for her fictitious treatments, authorities said.

Jean Anne Allen, 36, was arraigned Thursday after state police said they found no evidence she was being treated for the disease.

"She duped a lot of people," said state police Sgt. Lisa Gee-Cram.

Friends and co-workers held a spaghetti-supper fundraiser for Allen last year after she said she needed help paying for chemotherapy to treat a recurrence of liver cancer.

Her lawyer, Kenneth Hotchkiss, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday. Allen, of Norvell Township, faces up to five years in prison if convicted of fraud. She was freed on $10,000 bond and a May 8 hearing was set.

An ex-husband scorned....

EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- A 57-year-old man is accused of passing out sexually explicit fliers that included images of two of his ex-wives.

Gordon Wayne Wright was arrested Thursday and faces preliminary charges of distributing obscene matter and invasion of privacy, both misdemeanors, Evansville police said.

Police believe Wright distributed at least 1,000 copies of the fliers, which show two nude women in sexually explicit poses. Both women were identified as ex-wives of Wright. Wright, contacted before his release through a jail representative, declined to comment.

He told police he was having a nervous breakdown and wanted to get back at one of the ex-wives pictured, according to a police affidavit. He also stated that he only placed a box of the fliers in a roadside ditch.

Vanderburgh County 911 dispatchers received about 30 complaints from people who found the fliers, while dispatchers in Posey County received at least a dozen calls. According to the affidavit, complaints were so numerous that police began advising people to destroy the fliers rather than sending an officer to retrieve them.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bible bail

CINCINNATI — A man arrested on Wednesday for allegedly trying to use a stolen credit card at a drugstore got a break from a judge after passing a sort of Bible quiz.

When Eric Hine appeared in court this morning, his attorney described him as a church-goer, hoping the judge would set a low bond.

Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge John Burlew was skeptical and asked Hine to recite the 23rd Psalm.

He did: all six verses. Some in the courtroom applauded.

Burlew was satisfied and released Hine on a $10,0000 appearance bond, meaning he'll have to pay that amount if he doesn't show up for his next court date.

Under the influence of stupidity

MOBILE, Alabama — There's no use crying over spilled milk, but spilled soda has been a nightmare for one man. Eric Burns Overstreet was put in jail in September after entering the Mystik Stop & Shop, paying for a fountain drink and spilling three cups of it onto the floor.

The first time he spilled the soda, Overstreet went to fetch a mop and began cleaning up the mess. In the process, he spilled a second and a third soft drink.

"He clearly appeared to be under the influence of something other than good sense," Chief Assistant District Attorney Nicki Patterson said.

Overstreet, who at one point put a yellow "Wet Floor" warning sign out as he mopped, was chased down by a clerk when he grabbed another soft drink and left without paying for it.

Overstreet pleading guilty last week to a reduced charge of third-degree theft. He was given a one-year suspended sentence and ordered to stay out of the Mystik Stop & Shop.

Circuit Judge Rick Stout, noting that Overstreet had spent many months in jail over a carbonated beverage, said he hoped the soda was good.

Overstreet responded: "I should've had a V-8."

Miss camel beauty contest

GUWEI'IYYA: The legs are long, the eyes are big, the bodies curvaceous.

Contestants in this Saudi-style beauty pageant have all the features you might expect anywhere else in the world, but with one crucial difference – the competitors are camels.

This week, the Qahtani tribe of western Saudi Arabia has been welcoming entrants to its Mazayen al-Ibl competition, a parade of the "most beautiful camels" in the desolate desert region of Guwei'iyya, 75 miles west of Riyadh.

"In Lebanon they have Miss Lebanon," jokes Walid, moderator of the competition's website. "Here we have Miss Camel."

While tremendous oil wealth has brought rapid modernisation to the desert state of Saudi Arabia, the camel remains celebrated as a symbol of the traditional nomadic lifestyle of Bedouin Arabs.

Throughout history camels have served multiple purposes as food, friend, transport and war machine. They were key to the Arab conquests of the Middle East and North Africa nearly 1,400 years ago that brought Islam to the world.

Camels are also big business in a country where strict Islamic laws and tribal customs would make it impossible for women to take part in their own beauty contest.

Mystery ot the naked high heeled man

McMINNVILLE, Oregon - A man wearing nothing but women's high heels was the cause of a building lockdown by police in downtown McMinnville. The unidentified man was spotted sitting on a bench on the basement floor of a nearly vacant medical building Wednesday afternoon.

After a call to 911 dispatchers, two McMinnville police units responded and were assisted by deputies from the Yamhill County Sheriffs Office and the Oregon State Police. The building was locked down and surrounded, but alas, no naked man.

The man was described as 40 to 50 years old, bald or with short white hair, of thin to medium build.

He was last seen running down one of the building's hallways in the heels, police said.

Stinky pranksters

TUCSON, Arizona - A putrid prank went awry when authorities found a rental truck filled with rotting fish, cow parts and pig organs and evacuated residents of a Tucson neighborhood, police said.

Four University of Arizona students had rented the truck and collected the smelly cargo intending to dump it on someone's front lawn as a prank, said Sgt. Mark Robinson, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.

Neighbors disgusted by the foul odor emanating from the vehicle called police Thursday and officers found the truck packed with 10 city trash cans, Robinson said. They also found ammonia and bleach, which prompted authorities to evacuate a square block and call in a hazardous materials team.

After testing the air and finding oxygen levels were fine, police officers moved in and discovered the decomposing contents in the trash cans.

The four students returned to the scene during the police search and confessed to renting the truck and filling it up, Robinson said. The students were released after questioning, but may later face charges, including theft of the trash cans, criminal damage and disturbing the peace.

mining at a snail's pace

New Zealand's biggest coal exporter says endangered snails have disrupted mining operations, costing the company about $20 million in lost production.

Solid Energy's new mine near Stockton, on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island, ran into trouble with environmentalists because it is also the native habitat of the giant land snail - Powelliphanta augustus.

Campaigners picketed the remote site until the company agreed to relocate about 1,000 of the rare snails.

Chief executive Don Elder now says it turns out there are five times as many snails as originally thought, so production will stop in May and June while the collection is completed.

As a result, up to five export shipments will be lost, costing the company more than $20 million.

Pub boycott works

A boycott of a pub in Sussex by local residents has brought a major brewery to it's knees. Drinkers at the Lewes Arms in Lewes, were furious when brewery Greene King, which owns the pub, decided to remove the locally brewed Harveys Best from the pub with their own brand,just before Christmas.

They vowed to fight the decision and a fortnight ago Greene King said they were reviewing their decision.
A 5-month boycott left the 220 year old pub all but deserted and profits plummeted.

Last week Greene King Local Pubs managing director Jonathan Lawson and regional manager Andrea Greenwood visited the pub to tell the regulars an order for Harveys had been placed and the beer will be served from the end of next week.

John May, spokesman for the Friends of the Lewes Arms, said: "Miracles do happen in Lewes. We are of course delighted that Greene King has decided to restore Harveys Best to the Lewes Arms permanently.

"We can now get on with the serious business of drinking our favourite bitter in our favourite pub."

Norman Baker, Lewes MP, said: "I am absolutely delighted that Greene King is reinstating Harveys in the Lewes Arms. I have been in regular contact with Greene King since Harveys was removed last year and this is without a shadow of a doubt the right decision to take.

"The campaign to bring back Harveys has been a wonderful example of how much can be achieved when a small group of people campaign on an issue they feel strongly about."

Spiderman suit

An Italian researcher is working on a project that could lead to the development of a real-life 'spider-man' suit.

Nicola Pugno, a 35-year-old researcher at the Polytechnic University of Turin, says he has spent the past 10 years working on a form of adhesion based on the feet of gecko lizards.

"It's a field that can have very interesting applications in science, like in space, for example," Mr Pugno said. "An astronaut could use a suit with a suction-cup adhesion system."

He estimates the suit could be constructed in another 10 years. The gecko's feet are covered with tiny hairs called setae that allow for strong adhesion to different types of surfaces. Mr Pugno is seeking to mimic the effect of the setae, though several problems remain to be worked through.

His suit, he said, is to include extremely fine, sticky filament.

"One of the problems that has arisen is the control of the adhesion, because remaining attached to a wall is not difficult," he said. "All you have to do is attach it with superglue. But then how do you detach it and re-attach it again?"

A self-cleaning mechanism also has to be developed for the system, he said. "A gecko that walks in the sand has to clean his feet after a few steps," he said.

Despite his work's obvious spider-man similarities, Mr Pugno said he has no particular interest in the hit movies and that science is what fascinates him. Science fiction, he said, "leads to nothing".

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bus drivers face sack for being early

Bristol Bus drivers are to vote on strike action after scores of them were sacked or disciplined for finishing their routes early.

The Evening Post has learned that 14 Bristol-based First drivers have lost their jobs in the last two weeks, with many others on final warnings for running a few minutes ahead of schedule.
Union members met last night in the city centre and agreed to hold a ballot to decide if strike action should be taken. If drivers vote in favour, Bristol's public transport network could grind to a halt.

Drivers have told the Post they feel that disciplinary procedures have been unfairly applied by First in reaction to a report on reliability from the Government's Vehicle and Operator Services Agency.

Outside last night's meeting some drivers claimed VOSA was setting impossible targets in a climate of increasingly difficult circumstances, including congestion and abuse from customers.

One driver sacked for being early had 35 years' service and was just eight months off retirement, the Post has been told. Many others had worked for the company for years.
First has refused to reveal exactly how many of its drivers have been affected but the Post has been told that up to 140 - almost a fifth of the firm's Bristol-based drivers - are facing disciplinary action.

Drivers have said that colleagues who arrived at bus stops more than five minutes early have been given the chop. Others arriving ahead of schedule but by less than five minutes have been given final warnings - all regardless of their previous employment record.

Stripper arrested

A male stripogram has been charged with impersonating a policeman after real officers mistook him for one of their own. Stuart Kennedy, 24, was waiting outside a bar in Aberdeen, dressed in his fake police uniform, when he was spotted by two female plain-clothes officers who asked if he needed any help.

When the genetics student told them he was a stripper he said the officers watched him perform his act at the city's Paramount venue before taking him in for questioning.

His outfit and props were confiscated and he was later charged with impersonating an officer and carrying an offensive weapon. He has yet to find out whether the procurator fiscal will go ahead with a prosecution.

Mr Kennedy said: "I immediately told the officers I was a stripper but they didn't seem to believe me." He added: "They watched the show then they asked me back to the station. Now I have to wait to find out if this is going any further. I just don't think this is in the public interest at all. The legislation isn't designed with this in mind. It's not supposed to stop entertainers - it's a good thing they don't film The Bill up in Aberdeen or there would be trouble."

Mr Kennedy works for Alpha Male Strippers and Kissogram Services where he is known as Eros.

The professional dancer took the job to help pay for his studies at Aberdeen University. He can perform up to four shows in one weekend, but now faces problems with his bookings without his police outfit. He said: "The police have got my number one police uniform and I'm struggling to replace it. "It's been a bit of a nightmare."

Grampian Police confirmed that a 24-year-old man was charged in connection with wearing a police uniform and equipment in a public place on March 17.

A report has been sent to the procurator fiscal. A spokesman said: "As this is now a live inquiry we cannot make any further comment on this incident."

Sky high litter bins

‘RIDICULOUS’ six-feet litter bins in school areas have been rubbished by incredulous parents and care workers.

Council bins attached to lamp posts in Springvale are twice the height of many children who pass them. “It’s ridiculous. We want children to put rubbish in the bin but they can’t. Who on earth put it up, and why?” said mother and Springvale Primary School teaching assistant Gillian Haigh, of Tennyson Close, Penistone, South Yorkshire.

The bin, next to Little Freddies’ Nursery School on Sheffield Road, towers over her children Daniel, four, and Jessica, eight.

“We walk this way every day on the way to school. There are old ladies who walk along here and even they couldn't reach — it’s beyond a joke,” added Mrs Haigh.

Nursery manager Nicola Dutton agreed that the bin is too high. “As child care professionals we encourage children to put litter in the bin. It could be tidier around Penistone, and if the bin was lowered, it'd help,” she said.

Former Penistone East councillor John Wade drew attention to at least two six-feet bins on Sheffield Road — the other is situated opposite the new estate between Springvale and Oxspring.

Neighbourhood Pride manager Alan Wilson said: “The litter bins have to be fixed to the concrete lamp columns as there are no other posts in the vicinity we can use.

“The bins cannot be fixed any lower as the straps would interfere with the lamp inspection plate.” The alternatives are to install new posts or exchange the bins for floor-mounted ones, and the situation will be monitored, he said.

Update Cheddarvision

A large English cheddar cheese has become a star of the Internet, attracting more than 1 million viewers to sit and stare as it slowly ripens.

First placed in front of a webcam in late December, the Westcombe cheddar from West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers gained the public's attention in early February and has since attracted viewers from 119 countries.

"The hits went over 1 million this morning. It has been a real challenge keeping the cheese up and running with all the interest it has generated," said a spokesman for the company running the website.

Viewers have tuned in from as far afield as Albania and New Zealand, although most are from the United States.

A US school has even sent in pictures of two crocodiles to guard the cheese.

"The whole idea was to show people how real food is made - and it seems to be working," cheesemaker Tom Calver said.

"It takes a year for the cheese to mature. This is not fast food. It is slow food."

Alien bet

British bookmakers have wasted no time slashing the odds on aliens being discovered after astronomers announced that they had discovered an Earth-like planet.

Bookies William Hill cut the odds on proving the existence of extraterrestrial life from 1,000-1 to 100-1.

"We felt we had to react to the news that an Earth-like planet which could support intelligent life had been discovered - after all, we don't know for sure that intelligent extra-terrestrial life has not already been discovered, but is being hushed up," said spokesman Graham Sharpe.

Astronomers reported they they had found a "super-Earth" more than 20 light years away, the most intriguing world found so far in the search for extra-terrestrial life.

For William Hill to pay out on an aliens bet, the Prime Minister has to confirm officially the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life within a year of the bet being placed.

"We have come a cropper before when, in the early 1960s, we offered 1000/1 about man walking on the moon before 1970," said Mr Sharpe.

About five times the mass of Earth, the planet orbits a cool, dim "red dwarf" star in the constellation of Libra, the team from the European Southern Observatory said in a press release.

"Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life," said Xavier Delfosse, a team member from France's Grenoble University.

Captain Burrito

A Central Florida doctor has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a costume party while he was dressed as the super hero Captain America.
Dr. Raymond Adamcik had a burrito stuffed in his tights, was arrested Saturday night for allegedly groping women at a Melbourne bar.

Adamcik was part of a pub crawl in which participants wore costumes. While at the On Tap bar, Adamcik, 54, allegedly touched the genital areas of two women, according to a Melbourne Police Department report.

"Because there were so many cartoon characters in the bar at this time, all Captain Americas were asked to go outside for a possible identification," notes the report.

One woman positively identified Adamcik as the superhero who groped her. While being booked, Adamcik asked to use the bathroom. It was then, police charge, that he attempted to flush marijuana, which apparently had been hidden in his blue tights. Adamcik was charged with battery, disorderly conduct, and pot possession.

Loo-seat rescue

It's the sort of thing that could happen to anybody – a boy in Essex managed to get his head stuck in a toilet seat.

Fortunately for the young lad, heroic firefighters managed to disengage his head from the toilet seat, and he 'toddled away as happy as can be,' according to fireman Chris Cox, from Braintree, Essex.

The toilet bowl incident kicked off on Tuesday, when according to the mother, the two-and-a-half-year-old boy decided to put his head through a small toilet trainer seat, and couldn't get it off again.

'His mum had tried to get it over his head but couldn't budge it so she walked him down here and asked us to have a look at it and we went to work and we managed to get it off in no time,' said Cox.

He added: 'We simply put some dish washing liquid on his head and ears and it slid off nice as pie.'

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

The death of sotted statesman Boris Yeltsin sent a shockwave through the hearts of so many that he touched, not the least of which was power pop combo and recent Polyvinyl signees Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. They were just another indie rock band with a quirky name until their Russian namesake went to the big dacha in the sky today.

"I feel really awkward," frontman Philip Dickey tells Radar. "This is the busiest my phone and e-mail have ever been in my life." The singer/songwriter says he and his bandmates struck upon the moniker when they were in high school and never got around to changing it. "We'd always be on the way to shows brainstorming new band names, saying, 'This is so lame. We've got to come up with something.' Somehow we didn't come up with anything we all liked," Dickey says.

So how do people feel about the suddenly tasteless handle? "We had this national release in October. I don't blame people if they suspect that this is just us wanting attention," muses Dickey. Still, he says, responses have been largely positive.

But will this finally be the impetus for changing the name? "We have a lot of younger people at our shows these days who don't even know who Yeltsin is," Dickey sighs, "but we're kind of locked in at this point. If we tried to change it we might come up with something worse."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Earth discovered

Astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, a world which could have water running on its surface.

The planet orbits the faint star Gliese 581, which is 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra.

Scientists made the discovery using the Eso 3.6m Telescope in Chile.

They say the benign temperatures on the planet mean any water there could exist in liquid form, and this raises the chances it could also harbour life.

"We have estimated that the mean temperature of this 'super-Earth' lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid," explained Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory, lead author of the scientific paper reporting the result.

Sleeping it off in the bank

A drunk German horse rider rode into a bank foyer to sleep for the night, after having one too many for the road during a stopover at his local beergarden. Wolfgang Heinrich, 40, from the German town Wiesenburg, had been riding with his Haflinger horse Sammy when he stopped to have a drink with friends.

But when he left the pub he realised he was too drunk to ride all the way home - and because it was cold, he decided to use his bank card to open up a nearby bank foyer and take himself and Sammy inside to sleep it off.

Heinrich and his horse were found in the early hours of the morning by local man Stephan Hanelt, 36, who came to the bank to take out some money.

He said: 'It was a bit of a shock to find a man and a horse asleep in the foyer of the bank. I rang the police straight away.'

Heinrich was let off with a warning and rode home. But bank staff were less than impressed when they arrived and had to clean up after the horse, who had left a deposit of his own on the foyer floor.

Hoody clean-up

Two "hoodies" are at the centre of a vandalism mystery after cleaning spray-painted abuse from a bus at a school for children with special needs.

The mini-bus at the Anna Ritchie School in Peterhead, in Scotland, had been vandalised in recent weeks. However, two youths with their faces covered by hooded tops were captured on CCTV spending more than an hour scrubbing the abuse during the night.

One theory is a guilty conscience, or parents sending them to clean it up.Staff at the school said the mini-bus was important for the children and that the clean-up had restored their faith in young people.

Head teacher Ishbel Cruickshank told BBC Scotland: "Our mini-bus had been vandalised during the Easter holidays. However, then I found it had gone.

"I spoke to the janitor thinking he had removed it, but the CCTV footage showed two youths removing it. They were aware they were being filmed, they never turned to look at the camera and we never saw their faces as they wore hooded tops." She added: "I was just delighted. We may never know who it was, was it the people who did it in the first place? However, we are very grateful. I am really very glad that someone has acted. Too often the youths are condemned. For a change this is a good news story."

Grampian Police confirmed there had been vandalism between 29 March and 9 April. Staff then discovered it had been cleaned off when they arrived on 11 April.

Ear we go !

A Leicester man is hoping to walk into the record books after pulling a passenger jet with his ears.

Manjit Singh, 57, from Highfields, pulled the aircraft 12 ft (3.4m) along the apron at East Midlands Airport, at Castle Donington in Leicestershire.

He said he will now send off video footage of the record attempt to be verified by officials at the Guinness World Book of Records. The Jetstream passenger plane weighed approximately 7.4 tonnes (7,500 kg).

Manjit already holds 30 world records, which include pulling a double decker bus with his hair and lifting 85 kg with his ears.

Speaking after the record attempt, he said: "I don't feel too bad, I have a little bit of pain around the ears but I'm ok.

"I feel really, really pleased that I've managed to achieve this and am very grateful to the people who made it possible."

The attempt raised money for his charity Manjit Fitness, which aims to get children living in his native Mahilpur, India involved in sport.

Fugitive turned in by fiancee

One of America's "most wanted" fugitives faces deportation from Canada this week after his new fiancee turned him in to police.

Mikhail Drachev, 24, was arrested in Toronto on Friday after his fiancee tipped off police about his identity. He had been living as a fugitive on a murder warrant for more than five years.

"It looks like she's been living with him for at least five years. They first met in Ottawa. They lived in Ottawa for a short time before moving to Toronto," Toronto police Staff Sgt. Paul MacIntyre told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.

Phoenix Detective Stacie Derge said Drachev had been living in Toronto under an alias, and decided a couple of weeks ago to reveal his identity before proposing.

"They were living in a common-law relationship since probably 2001, 2002. And just last week, he came clean, if you will, with his true identity to her," MacIntyre said.

Drachev's fiancee looked up his name online and found his profile on the "America's Most Wanted" website.

But Derge says she didn't tell police about Drachev until Friday, after the couple had some sort of domestic dispute.

"She walked into one of our Toronto police stations out in the city's west end, and she told the officers there that she believed that was living with somebody who was profiled on "America's Most Wanted" TV show," MacIntyre said.

I only wanted a belt !

TAMPA, Fla. -- A man who was arrested for butchering an alligator on his front lawn said he only wanted a new belt.

Benjamin Hodges, 35, says he found the dead alligator floating in the Hillsborough River on Sunday and took it home in a shopping cart. He figured it was 4 feet or 5 feet long.

Just as Hodges flopped the carcass on the ground and started to cut it open, the police showed up and arrested him, the report said. An anonymous caller had reported him to the state wildlife agency, which contacted Tampa officers for assistance.

He is charged with killing or possessing an alligator, both of which are illegal in Florida. It's a felony punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Hodges said he knew of a man at a flea market who might be able to craft a belt for him.

"I didn't think there was anything illegal about skinning a dead gator," he told The Tampa Tribune. He is free on a $2,000 bond.

The American alligator is protected in Florida as a species of special concern, and hunting is tightly controlled. Only state-licensed trappers can kill alligators out of season. As for dead alligators, officials recommend letting turtles or crabs dispose of them naturally.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Largest coconut orchestra

The world's largest coconut orchestra led by Monty Python stars Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam has made it into the Guinness Book of Records. The coconut orchestra was part of the St George's Day festivities held across the capital

A total of 5,567 people, including the cast of the Monty Python musical Spamalot, gathered in London's Trafalgar Square to break the previous record of 1,789 people.

Jones told the crowd how the coconut orchestra originally came about while they were filming Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

"About halfway through filming we realised we couldn't afford horses and had to stick to coconuts," he said.

The members of the giant orchestra demonstrated their skills with a rendition of the Python classic, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, "clip-clopping" their coconut shells in time.

The previous record was set in March last year outside the Shubert Theatre in New York, to celebrate the first year anniversary of the Broadway production of Spamalot.

The coconut orchestra was part of the St George's Day festivities held across the capital over the past three days, with the aim of celebrating English culture.

This year's focus was English comedy and included a free programme of film and television comedy, ending with a special screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Spamalot, currently showing in the West End, is the brainchild of Python star Eric Idle.

Send in the clones

Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog, will be mated later this year with the world's second canine clone known as Bona, researchers said Monday.

"The mating may take place late this year when the female dog called Bona grows up," Kim Min-Kyu at Seoul National University (SNU) said. Snuppy will celebrate his second birthday on Tuesday while Bona was born on June 18 last year. They are Afghan hounds.

"Both Snuppy and Bona are healthy. The mating is aimed at learning about their reproductive capacity," said Kim, who was part of the team which created both dogs.
Snuppy was created under the stewardship of now-disgraced cloning expert Hwang Woo-Suk. So far, the team has cloned one male and three female Afghan hounds.

Hwang was hailed as a national hero in South Korea until a university inquiry ruled that some of his work on cloning embryonic human stem cells was fake. He is now on trial for fraud, embezzlement, ethical breaches and other charges but has insisted he can still prove he created the first cloned human stem cells.

The work of his team in creating Snuppy has been verified by SNU and other authorities. Snuppy (Seoul National University puppy) is leading a healthy life, Kim told the Korea Times.

Pope given 30,002 shoes

Pope Benedict has been given 15,001 pairs of shoes during a visit to Vigevano, the northern city known as Italy's shoe capital.

A local consortium gave one pair for himself and 15,000 more pairs for the needy around the world.

The Pope was given burgundy-coloured loafers designed and manufactured by the Moreschi firm and made from kangaroo hide.

Those destined for the poor include boots and other types of footwear.

Local industrialists are due to send them directly to charities chosen by the Vatican.

Pope Benedict last year made a splash in the fashion world by appearing in a pair of stylish, bright red loafers and there has been speculation that Italian designers such as Prada may have contributed to the papal wardrobe.

The sartorial twist contrasted with Pope John Paul, a confirmed ascetic who was known for his brown, sensible shoes.

"No flagpole"

England's new £757million national stadium couldn’t fly the flag on St George’s Day yesterday — because it doesn’t even have a flagpole.

When asked why there was no patriotic display, Wembley bosses admitted: “There was no deliberate decision not to fly the flag — it’s just that we don’t have a flagpole.”

A spokeswoman said the stadium would mark the occasion by lighting up its stunning arch last night.

The Football Association HQ was also lacking the English flag on our patron saint’s day, as were the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

But the cross of St George flew proudly outside the Home Office, Department of Trade & Industry, Bristol Cathedral and civic buildings in Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle.

Kryptonite discovered

Kryptonite is no longer just the stuff of fiction feared by caped superheroes.

A new mineral matching its unique chemistry - as described in the film Superman Returns - has been identified in a mine in Serbia.
According to movie and comic-book storylines, kryptonite is supposed to sap Superman's powers whenever he is exposed to its large green crystals.

The real mineral is white and harmless, says Dr Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum.

"I'm afraid it's not green and it doesn't glow either - although it will react to ultraviolet light by fluorescing a pinkish-orange," he told BBC News.

Researchers from mining group Rio Tinto discovered the unusual mineral and enlisted the help of Dr Stanley when they could not match it with anything known previously to science. Once the London expert had unravelled the mineral's chemical make-up, he was shocked to discover this formula was already referenced in literature - albeit fictional literature.

"Towards the end of my research I searched the web using the mineral's chemical formula - sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide - and was amazed to discover that same scientific name, written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther from a museum in the film Superman Returns. The new mineral does not contain fluorine (which it does in the film) and is white rather than green but, in all other respects, the chemistry matches that for the rock containing kryptonite."

The mineral is relatively hard but is very small grained. Each individual crystal is less than five microns (millionths of a metre) across.

Light fingered boat thief

A boat engineer tried to build a luxury yacht using parts he stole bit by bit from work, it was revealed yesterday.

James Light, 35, smuggled hundreds of items in a seven-year period, including junction boxes, stern lights, lifting straps and a radar mast. Most were meant for 53ft yachts worth up to £1million that Light worked on at makers Sunseeker in Poole, Dorset, a court heard.

He packed them into more than 100 boxes and kept them in a lock-up.

But before he had the chance to start constructing his dream machine, bosses found a Sunseeker DVD player in his toolbox. Police were called and discovered his garage hoard. Sunseeker suspended Light as cops began a probe.

Light, of Walkford, Dorset, claimed he got the parts legitimately from a third party — but admitted charges of handling stolen goods and theft. He got a 12-month jail sentence suspended for two years at Bournemouth Crown Court.

Prosecutor Paul Hester said Light was an electrical engineer when caught in 2005.
He has since been sacked. Mr Hester said: “Light said the items had been accrued for use on a boat he was going to build for himself and had been obtained legitimately.”

Investigating officer Det Insp Jez Noyce said: “I’ve no idea how someone managed to sneak these items past Sunseeker security — especially a 4ft radar pole.”

A Sunseeker spokesman said: “It appears he was going to use the parts to build his own boat. Their serial numbers established that they were stolen.”

Centurian wins bet

A man who bet £100 a decade ago that he would live to be 100 is preparing to pick up his £25,000 winnings this morning.

In 1997 bookmaker William Hill offered Alec Holden odds of 250-1. But the retired engineer, born on April 24 1907, celebrates his century today, to the bookies' dismay. Mr Holden, from Epsom in Surrey, said: "I've been very careful about what I've been doing in recent months. If I saw any hooded groups from William Hill standing in the street, I avoided them."

Mr Holden, who has two sons aged 70 and 60, puts his longevity down to porridge for breakfast.

He used to work as a teacher and a carpenter, and now plays chess every day, running a local club.

Meanwhile the bookmakers have raised the target age for bets from 100 to 110. Rupert Adams, spokesman for William Hill, said: "When we started taking these bets, 100 years old seemed to be an almost mythical landmark and we were prepared to offer massive odds. But these age wagers are starting to cost us a fortune. I am sure that Alec will get more pleasure from our letter than he will from the Queen's."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Booked for a kiss

A Brazilian defender was booked for kissing the referee during a match at the weekend.

Television pictures on Monday showed Cabofriense defender Cleberson giving referee Ubiraci Damasio a peck on the cheek after having a foul awarded against him during a 3-1 defeat by Botafogo at the Maracana.

The two were initially involved in a friendly exchange but the referee's mood quickly changed as he pulled out a yellow card and could be seen to say: "You can't kiss me."

"I didn't know it was against the rules," said Cleberson afterwards.


SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. - Ryan Fitzgerald is unemployed, lives with his father and has a little bit of time on his hands.

So, he decided to offer his ear, to anyone who wants to call. After posting a video with his cell phone number on YouTube on Friday, the 20-year-old told The Boston Globe he has received more than 5,000 calls and text messages.

Fitzgerald said he wanted to "be there," for anyone who needed to talk. "I never met you, but I do care," a spiky-haired Fitzgerald said into the camera on his YouTube posting.

He planned to take and return as many calls he could, but on Monday at 5 a.m., his T-Mobile cell phone payment will begin charging him for his generosity when he is no longer eligible for free weekend minutes.

"I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do about it," he said. "Come Monday, no way I'm going to just hang up on people and say, 'I don't have the minutes.'"

Fitzgerald, who said people consider him "easy to talk to," was inspired by Juan Mann. YouTube video clips of Mann offering "Free Hugs" to strangers became wildly popular on the user-controlled Internet site.

"Some people's own mothers won't take the time to sit down and talk with them and have a conversation," Fitzgerald said. "But some stranger on YouTube will. After six seconds, you're not a stranger anymore, you're a new kid I just met."

May the Geek be with you

Nip & Tuck

A debt-ridden salesman is facing prison for trying to sell his kidney for £24,000 on the internet.

Desperate Dan Tuck, 25, is the first person in the country to be charged under the Human Tissue Act 2004 with "inviting the supply of human material for transplant."

The greedy salesman from Oldbury, West Midlands targeted Kidney transplant patients with the illegal deal in a bid to clear mounting debts, including money he owed his ex-girlfriend.

But the eventual "buyer" was an undercover local newspaper reporter and Tuck was arrested when police were told about his sick proposal.

Now he faces up to three years in jail after pleading after pleading guilty in court to the offence - the first of it kind in Britain.

Tuck had posted an Advert on an internet chatroom used by kidney disease sufferers.

He wrote: "I am a healthy 25-year-old male from Birmingham in England. I am blood group O+ and am desperate for funds to rebuild my life.

"I want to sell my kidney - this is 100 per cent genuine.

A house for £60

For first-time buyers struggling to get a foot on the property ladder, it represents a godsend. The mansion is 300 years old, has 17 rooms, sits in nearly three acres and is valued at £650,000. In September, the front door key will be handed over to a new owner for just £60.

That person will be the winner of an extraordinary competition. The present owners of the house on the banks of the River Ouse near Goole, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, have decided to offer it as a prize to help finance their retirement and raise money for charity.

Alf Overy, 66, and his wife Kath, 62, have lived in the Old Parsonage for a quarter of a century. They put it on the market last year but it failed to sell, as would-be buyers told them they could not afford the asking price. So the couple decided to give all comers a chance with a £60-per-entry online competition which, in the style of spot-the-ball, challenges participants to look at a doctored photo of the property and guess where a missing shadow should fall.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy St. George's Day !

St. George's Day is Today !, April 23rd, so, in a sense, this is England's national day.

St. George is the patron saint of England. His emblem, a red cross on a white background, is the flag of England, and part of the British flag. St George's emblem was adopted by Richard The Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century. The king's soldiers wore it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.

St George was a brave Roman soldier who protested against the Romans' torture of Christians and died for his beliefs. The popularity of St George in England stems from the time of the early Crusades when it is said that the Normans saw him in a vision and were victorious.

By tradition, April 23rd is the day for a red rose in the button hole, the national flower. However, unlike other countries, England does not celebrate it like Americans celebrate 4 July with fireworks. In fact, you are more likely to see big St Patrick parades in England celebrating Ireland's National Day, more than you would see any sign of St Georges Day being celebrated. This was certainly true in Manchester in 2003, when St George's Day was virtually ignored soon after the biggest St Patrick's Day Celebrations in the city's history.
For most people in England St George's Day is just another ordinary day.

Interesting Facts
Despite the fact that St. George has been the patron saint of
England since the 14th century, only one in five people know that St. George’s Day falls on April 23rd.

More than a quarter of people living in England do not even know who their patron saint is!

Shakespeare was born on April 23rd, 1564 and he died on the same day in 1616.

Fake fax faux pas

HICKMAN, Kentucky - Officials mistakenly released a prisoner from a Kentucky facility after receiving a phony fax that ordered him freed, and it took them nearly two weeks to realize it.

The fax contained grammatical errors, was not typed on letterhead and was sent from a local grocery store. The fax falsely claimed that the Kentucky Supreme Court "demanded" Timothy Rouse be released.

Rouse, 19, is charged with beating an elderly man and was at the Kentucky Correctional & Psychiatric Center in La Grange for a mental evaluation. He was released April 6 after officials received the fake court order.

Lexington police arrested Rouse at his mother's home Thursday evening.

"It's outrageous that it happened," Fulton County Attorney Rick Major said. "I'm just glad nobody got hurt because he's dangerous."

Police are still investigating who faxed the letter.

Attorney Carlos Moran, who is representing Rouse, declined to comment.

Prison officials did not notice that the fax came from the grocery store because policies did not require checking the source of a faxed order, said the LaGrange facility's director, Greg Taylor.

"It's not part of a routine check, but certainly, in hindsight, that would perhaps have caused somebody to ask a question," he said. Misspellings on orders are common, he said.