Saturday, June 30, 2007

Happy 70th birthday 999

The first 999 service went into operation in London on 30 June 1937, after a committee had investigated a disaster at a doctor's surgery in Wimpole Street, Belgravia, in which five women were burnt to death. A neighbour had dialled 0 to alert the local telephone exchange, but the call was held in the queue as the operator had no way of telling that it was urgent.

There were 1,336 calls on the new 999 number in the first week of July 1937, of which 1,073 were genuine, 171 were from callers who wanted to get straight through the operator, and 91 were practical jokes - proving, sadly, that the problem of pointless calls is as old as the service itself.

Their number leapt about six years ago, after it became possible to call 999 on a mobile phone, vastly increasing the risk of unintended calls. In one case, the operator could hear only voices in the background and the sound of rushing water. Fearing that someone was drowning, she connected the call to the police, who also thought it was something serious. Then she heard a man's puzzled voice on the line saying hello. He had heard voices coming out of the toilet. He discovered he had dropped his mobile into the pan.

Other calls, made deliberately, leave the mind boggling at the petty self-obsession of the callers. There was the 31-year-old who dialled 999 because she had sniffed deodorant by accident; a man who expected the police to take him home because he had run out of cash; a man from Suffolk who summoned an ambulance crew to remove a dead rat from his loft; a 22-year-old woman who had a blackhead which would not stop bleeding after she had squeezed it; a model who called out Gloucestershire Ambulance Service when she broke her fingernail; and a man who rang up to ask how much it would cost to hire an ambulance to take him to a private hospital.

One woman rang for an ambulance to help a man who had had a nasty fall, who turned out to be a character in that week's episode of Emmerdale.

3,000 year old mummy identified

Egyptologists say they have identified the 3,000-year-old mummy of Hatshepsut, Egypt's most powerful female ruler. Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass made the official announcement at a packed news conference in Cairo.

It is being billed as the biggest archaeological find in Egypt since the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb. Archaeologists hope the mummy, which has lain unrecognised for decades, will yield clues about the mystery of her death and subsequent disappearance.

Mr Hawass has set up a DNA lab near the museum with an international team of scientists to verify the identification. The study was funded by the US television channel Discovery which is to broadcast a documentary on the subject in July.

An important piece of the evidence is said to be that the mummy has a missing tooth, and the gap matches exactly an existing relic, a preserved tooth engraved with Hatshepsut's name.

Banned from taking photos

A man from Devon has been banned from filming or photographing women anywhere in the country without their consent.

Police were told Raymond Rowland, 41, from Torquay, asked women to start his car while he worked on the engine, then filmed the lower half of their bodies.

Recording equipment was found in his vehicle but he could not be prosecuted under voyeurism legislation because the offence happened in a public place.

Rowland was given a 10-year anti-social behaviour order.

During the police investigation a number of videos were seized showing images of more than 100 women.

Police said Rowland could face up to 6 months in prison or a £5,000 fine if he is found to be in breach of the Asbo.

Smuggled booze = fuel

Smugglers trying to sneak alcohol into Sweden are unwittingly helping fuel the country's public transport system and reducing its greenhouse emissions.

Almost all of the 700,000 litres of smuggled alcohol seized by the customs service last year was turned into alternative fuel and used to power buses, trucks and a biogas train, officials said Friday.

"We used to just pour it down the drain, but because of the increased volumes we had to look around for new solutions," customs spokeswoman Ingrid Jerlebrink said.

The beer, wine and liquor is taken to a plant in Linkoping, 200 kilometres southwest of Stockholm, where it is heated and converted into biogas.

Biogas is used in Sweden to power some 1,000 trucks and buses and one train, said Carl Lilliehook, head of Svensk Biogas AB, which handles most of the confiscated alcohol.

Lilliehook said one litre of pure alcohol is enough to make about half a litre of biogas. And it is good business, because the material to make it is free.

Jerlebrink said the customs service was happy to get rid of the smuggled alcohol, which was taking up a lot of space before the biogas program was started a few years ago.

"We pump it into a big tank that we jokingly call 'the giant cocktail' and then a truck just comes and picks it up," she said.

The project also helps the country's efforts to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels blamed for global warming.

Cheese carving

LITTLE CHUTE, Wis. - A cheese carver has accomplished a task that's a real "Muenster" - or make that a "monster" - in size. Troy Landwehr used his carving tools to turn a 700-pound block of Land O' Lakes cheddar into a replica of Mount Rushmore.

The cheese carver and winemaker was commissioned by Cheez-It snack crackers to make the monumental carving. He's heading to New York City in coming days to appear on TV and promote the work on Times Square.

Then the carving hits the road on a publicity tour, while Landwehr heads home to Little Chute. The carving eventually will end up in Oklahoma and be cut into cubes to become a snack itself.

Landwehr said that doesn't bother him.

"In the end, they'll love eating good Wisconsin cheddar down south," he said.

Sheriff fails driving test

ANDERSON, S.C. -- A local sheriff was driving for so long on an expired license he had to take a driver's test to get it back - and failed.

Anderson County Sheriff David Crenshaw said he drove around for 14 months on an expired license because he thought it was good for 10 years instead of five.

"Apparently, they quit sending out renewal notices. I just wasn't aware that it had expired," he said.

It had been so long since Crenshaw had a valid license that he had to take the driving test to get it back. He flunked on his first try.

"I did my three-point turn backwards," the sheriff said. "But I did OK when I took the test again."

Crenshaw passed the second test June 20. He said he did not notice his license had expired because he was never pulled over and had no reason to check it.

"I'm human, just like everyone else," he said. "It happens to lots of people."

Friday, June 29, 2007

Dummy Decoy

RIVERHEAD , NY — At first glance, it looked like the inmate was lying in bed in his cell. But a closer examination revealed that it was a dummy: sweat pants and a shirt stuffed with newspapers and a mop for a head.

When the "decoy" was discovered at the Suffolk County jail on Wednesday, the facility went into lockdown and a search ensued. The inmate, Wayne Leibold, 41, of Farmingdale, was found about three minutes later, working in another area of the jail.

Leibold faced disciplinary action, Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said. He was not charged with a crime or violation. His motive for planting the dummy was not immediately clear.

The sheriff said the dummy was found during a random search for contraband, such as weapons, drugs or homemade wine.

An officer who was conducting the shakedown walked into Leibold's cell, shook the pile of clothes, found Leibold wasn't there and immediately alerted authorities.

"They went to shake him and say, 'Hey, wake up,' and right away realized it wasn't human," DeMarco told the New York Post in Thursday editions.

Leibold, who was convicted of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and driving while intoxicated, was due to be released in about 30 days.

"That's what's bizarre about this," DeMarco told Newsday. "Everybody thinks someone facing life in jail or some heavy time would be more apt to try to escape."

Leibold's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

An investigation was continuing.

KIds shows : Hamas style

A Mickey Mouse lookalike who preached Islamic domination on a Hamas-affiliated children's television program was beaten to death in the show's final episode Friday.

In the final skit, "Farfour" was killed by an actor posing as an Israeli official trying to buy Farfour's land. At one point, the mouse called the Israeli a "terrorist."

"Farfour was martyred while defending his land," said Sara, the teen presenter. He was killed "by the killers of children," she added.

The weekly show, featuring a giant black-and-white rodent with a high-pitched voice, had attracted worldwide attention because the character urged Palestinian children to fight Israel. It was broadcast on Hamas-affiliated Al Aqsa TV.

Station officials said Friday that Farfour was taken off the air to make room for new programs. Station manager Mohammed Bilal said he did not know what would be shown instead.

Israeli officials have denounced the program, "Tomorrow's Pioneers," as incendiary and outrageous. The program was also opposed by the state-run Palestinian Broadcasting Corp., which is controlled by Fatah, Hamas' rival.

TV dies of passive smoking

A Couple were told their £1000 telly had gasped its last - after falling victim to passive smoking. David and Karen Benzies were stunned when an engineer blamed nicotine as the source of the problems which have plagued their two-year-old set.

A fan to keep components cool sucked in their cigarette smoke and it coated the circuit boards of the TV. The couple were then left fuming after they were told their three-year guarantee does not cover damage from cigarettes.

David said: "I couldn't believe it. The engineer checked it out and said nicotine was covering its circuit boards and sensors. I've never heard of nicotine damaging a television. If cigarette smoke knackered televisions how long would the ones stuck up in the smoky corners of pubs have lasted?"

The couple spent £180 on an extended warranty for their 42in Sony Vega projection televison.

They bought it from Comet at May bury in Edinburgh in August 2005.

David said: "It was the most I'd ever spent on any household appliance and at first it was great, the picture was amazing. But after a few months, it started to develop a series of recurring faults. He said: "It has broken down about 50 times in 18 months."

Finally Comet sent out their top engineer. He told the Benzies: "It's bad news. The problem is nicotine."

But David, a 20-a-day man, said: "I just don't see how about 10 cigarettes an evening in a well-ventilated room can gum up a television with so much nicotine that it packs up."

Last night, Comet aplogised and offered to repair the set free of charge.

Wear a dress to work

MALE US air traffic controllers in Ohio, upset about a new dress code, have shown their displeasure by wearing women's clothing.

The Federal Aviation Administration's code, instituted in September, bars shorts ,jeans , jogging outfits and halter tops . Approved clothing items include dress slacks, casual shirts with collars and sweaters. but says nothing about men wearing dresses. Midnight-shift workers are exempt.

"From our point of view, not a big deal," FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

But a few times in the last year, male controllers have worn dresses or kilts to work, the controllers' union, the 15,000-member National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said. The point was to illustrate the silliness of the dress code because nothing bars male controllers from wearing dresses, union spokesman Doug Church said.

The dress code is typical of professional environments, said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

At the FAA's Cleveland Air Route Control Center in Oberlin, Ohio, one controller was disciplined because he wore an orange shirt a supervisor said "looked like a highway traffic cone" and another was told his aquamarine pants were "not gender appropriate" for a man, Church said.

Cory said she was unfamiliar with that situation but there have been rare instances of outrageous outfits meant to create a stir while technically complying with the dress code.

Under the FAA-union contract, first-time dress-code violators may be sent home to change on their own time. Subsequent violations would be handled as employee misconduct through the agency's disciplinary process.

There have been 15 to 20 disciplinary actions across the country, ranging from letters of reprimand to a three-day unpaid suspension for a worker in Chicago who wore a yellow suit, said Bryan Zilonis, vice-president of the union's Great Lakes region. All are being contested.

In their larger negotiations, the controllers are upset about changes in schedules, no mandatory breaks every two hours and pay issues, including a pay cut for new hires, Church said.

And though the dress code is a smaller issue, Zilonis said for the FAA, "it's just an opportunity to be oppressive."

I'm back !

..No thanks to AOL

Apparently the exchange was flooded in this weeks deluge.
Funny how BT & Virgin Media customers only had a couple of hours outage?

Thank you to those that wished me well/ rang me etc.

Sheffield is now drying out and praying that Saturdays rain doesn't bring the same.


$4.88 plasma tv

While Wal-Mart is known for dropping its prices, one West Monroe man took the ad campaign seriously when he dropped the price of a plasma television from $984 to $4.88. Police arrested Chandon L. Simms, 23, on Tuesday at the retail store on a charge of felony theft.

According to police reports, Simms carried a 42-inch Sanyo Plasma TV to a self-checkout aisle after switching the original price tag of $984 with one for only $4.88. Wal-Mart Loss Prevention officers witnessed the alleged transaction and called police.

When the store officers stopped Simms on his way out the door, he produced a receipt for a television purchased at the West Monroe Wal-Mart, authorities said.

Simms told officers that he purchased a TV from the West Monroe store and planned to returrn that one and keep the one he purchased for only $4.88 from the Monroe store. He was then arrested and booked into the Ouachita Correctional Center.

Man ban beach

Italy has opened its first women-only beach, away from the prying eyes and wandering hands of the country’s notoriously lascivious men.

The beach at the resort of Riccione, on the Adriatic coast, is also closed to children, with mothers encouraged to leave their offspring with their father or grandparents.

Signs at the entrance to Beach 134 say “No Men”. One sign depicts a macho-looking man in a bathing costume apparently ready with his next chat-up line. But he has a diagonal line across his torso, in a manner similar to signs saying “No Dogs”. Ironically, dogs are allowed on the “Pink Beach”.

“This is not a lesbian beach,” Fausto Ravaglia, the businessman behind the idea to ban men, said. “It is simply for women to be themselves.”

Cinzia Donati, 43, a housewife from Milan, agreed. “I’ve left my husband and son behind — and I feel I’ve arrived in paradise,” she said. The beach was “a really classy place, beautifully clean and well organised. It’s perfect for us women. We are so much better off on our own.”

Holy Cow !

Monks hoping to save a "sacred" bullock called Shambo which has tested positive for bovine Tuberculosis (TB) have made a last-ditch plea to halt a slaughter order.

Lawyers for a Carmarthenshire-based Hindu group have set out the monks' legal case under human rights laws.

Rural minister Jane Davidson said on Tuesday she was "minded" to go ahead, giving them until Friday to respond to the Welsh Assembly Government.

They have also given details on how Shambo would be isolated and treated.

It is two months since the six-year-old black Friesian tested positive for bovine TB during a routine screening.

Under control measures, slaughter is carried out to protect human and animal health.

Shambo belongs to Hindus at the multi-faith Skanda Vale community at Llanpumsaint, which embraces all faiths and includes three Hindu shrines.

Skateboarding holiday

A Devon man is preparing for his first journey abroad with a skateboard as his chosen means of transport.

Sam Benson, 20, from Westward Ho! in north Devon, is planning to skate 4,000km (2,485 miles) across five European countries in 10 weeks. He is aiming to set off on Sunday and travel through France and Switzerland, cross the Alps into Italy, then skate via Marseille to Spain.

He was inspired by Dave Cornthwaite who skateboarded across Australia.

Mr Benson, who aims to finish in Madrid in mid-September, said: "I have been skating for almost 11 years and although I enjoy it, it has never really taken me anywhere.

"I have never left the UK - this will be my first time." He added: "I have had asthma for all my life and couldn't to do much sport at school, so doing this will be a really big thing for me. I'm absolutely positive I can do it."

Mr Benson will be joined in Paris by professional longboarder Adam Colton, from Los Angeles in the USA, who will skate more than 3,000km (1,864 miles) with him.

There will also be a support team with him on the journey.

Mr Benson aims to raise money for Link Community Development, which works to improve education for African children, and the Lowe Syndrome Trust, which helps children suffering from incurable diseases.

He is also supporting Sailability Australia, which teaches disabled children to sail.

A Criminal's best friend

An Israeli criminal slipped away from house arrest by putting his electronic ankle monitor on his dog, local police said.

It was not until police came to take Nabil Farumi, convicted of attempted murder, to a sentencing hearing, that they found he was gone without a trace.

"After we searched the house we saw that he somehow managed to take the monitor off his leg and place it around the neck of his dog, who continued to walk around the house," said Yoram Danieli, a police commander in northern Israel.

I've got a headache !

A US woman is facing firearms charges after doctors probing her husband's "headache" found a bullet in his head.

Michael Moylan was admitted to hospital in Florida on Wednesday complaining of severe head pain. His wife April fled when a bullet was discovered. She was subsequently arrested for illegal possession of a firearm.

Moylan, a convicted felon, later told police she had accidentally shot her husband as he slept when she drew a gun kept under her pillow. She fired the weapon by mistake after being woken up by a burglar alarm in the early hours of Wednesday morning, reports quoted Moylan as saying.

Her previous conviction for cocaine dealing disqualifies her from owning a firearm in the United States. Mr Moylan, meanwhile, remains in hospital in a stable condition.

A spokesman for the local sheriff told the BBC a decision had yet to be made on whether to charge Mr Moylan, who is also a convicted felon. The sheriff's spokesman said it was "logistically not a useful thing" to arrest Mr Moylan at this stage.

If arrested, he said, Mr Moylan would have to appear in court within 21 days and the sheriff's office would have to pay any of his outstanding medical bills.

"There is no reason for the public to have to pay for this crime," he said.

Fed up with Hilton

US newsreader Mika Brzezinski has attempted to burn her script live on television in protest at being made to lead her bulletin on Paris Hilton. The co-presenter of MSNBC's Morning Joe programme refused to read out the story about the celebrity socialite's release from jail ahead of items on Iraq.

"I hate it and I don't think it should be our lead," she said, before tearing up and trying to set fire to script.

Hilton has described her time in jail as "traumatic".

Throughout the show Brzezinski refused to read the script and eventually screwed up and shredded it.

"I just don't believe in covering that story, at least not as the lead story on the newscast, when we have a day like today," she said.

Her co-presenters and producers continued to tease her by playing images of Hilton leaving jail, whilst she sat with her head in her hands.

The edited version of Brzezinski making her protest on the talk show has been viewed more than 250,000 times on the video website YouTube.

Speaking on CNN's Larry King Live show yesterday, Hilton, 26, said she wanted to help her fellow inmates, do more work for charities, and said that partying would no longer be the "mainstay" of her life.

World's longest bridge

A 22-mile bridge that its builders claim is the world's longest sea-crossing structure was formally linked-up Tuesday just south of the business hub of Shanghai. The bridge links Shanghai to the industrial city of Ningbo across Hangzhou Bay, cutting the distance between them from about 250 miles to just 50 miles.

Officials welded together a final section to complete the link at a ceremony attended by several hundred workers from the various companies building the bridge.

Costing 11.8 billion yuan (£0.77 billion- A fifth the cost of the new Wembley stadium), the structure will open to traffic next year following completion of the six-lane roadway that will permit vehicles to travel at speeds of up to 62 miles per hour.

The bridge, a mix of viaducts and cable-stayed spans to allow shipping to pass beneath, lies just south of the Yangtze River Delta, one of China's most economically vital regions which is undergoing a massive construction boom aimed at boosting transport links.

Just north of Shanghai, builders this month connected the final link in a 20.13-mile bridge across the Yangtze, said to be the longest cable-stayed structure of its kind.

Plastic Duck journey

A flotilla of plastic ducks is heading for Britain’s beaches, according to an American oceanographer.

For the past 15 years Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been tracking nearly 30,000 plastic bath toys that were released into the Pacific Ocean when a container was washed off a cargo ship.

Some of the ducks, known as Friendly Floatees, are expected to reach Britain after a journey of nearly 17,000 miles, having crossed the Arctic Ocean frozen into pack ice, bobbed the length of Greenland and been carried down the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Mr Ebbesmeyer, who is based in Seattle, said yesterday that those that had not been trapped in circulating currents in the North Pacific, crushed by icebergs or blown ashore in Japan are bobbing across the Atlantic on the Gulf Stream.

Any beachcomber who finds one of the ducks will be able to claim a $100 (£50) reward from the toys’ American distributor, First Years Inc.

The ducks began life in a Chinese factory and were being shipped to the US from Hong Kong when three 40ft containers fell into the Pacific during a storm on January 29, 1992. Two thirds of them floated south through the tropics, landing months later on the shores of Indonesia, Australia and South America. But 10,000 headed north and by the end of the year were off Alaska and heading back westwards. It took three years for the ducks to circle east to Japan, past the original drop site and then back to Alaska on a current known as the North Pacific Gyre before continuing north towards the Arctic.

Scarecrow impersonating an officer

A scarecrow dressed to look like a traffic cop didn't go down too well with real police officers.

In fact they took the matter so seriously when they heard about it a patrol car on the way to the scene of a fatal crash was diverted to pay the scarecrow's owner, Christopher Strong, a visit.

And after ordering him to take it down, officers warned him that he could be accused of impersonating a policeman. Mr Strong, 58, dressed the one-legged straw dummy in a fluorescent yellow jacket from Halfords and a police hat from a joke shop for a village scarecrow competition.

He added a striped tie, epaulettes and a home-made badge reading "Scarecrow Traffic Policy'. His creation was completed with a speed gun fashioned from a ladies' hairdryer and a broken solar light from his garden.

But just a day after he propped the scarecrow on top of his privet hedge in the village of Mickle Trafford, near Chester, pointing its fake speed gun along the busy A56 main road in the hope it would deter motorists from speeding, he felt the full force of the law.

"It caused a real stir in the village," said Mr Strong. "The officers were rather brusque and told me they had received several complaints from motorists who thought it was a real police officer and that it could cause an accident if a car braked suddenly. I couldn't believe it. Then, perfectly seriously, they told me to remove the policeman's hat and the hairdryer camera or I may be accused of impersonating a police officer. I explained that it was a scarecrow in a competition with a head full of straw and one leg, but they were not in the least amused."

Taken to the cleaners

A US man has lost a $54m (£27m) claim against a South Korean dry-cleaning firm which lost a pair of his trousers.

Roy Pearson, a judge of administrative law, claimed that Custom Cleaners had violated the Consumer Protection Act.

By refusing to pay him $1,000 (£500) after losing his trousers, they failed to honour a pledge to provide "Satisfaction Guaranteed", he argued.

But a Washington judge dismissed the case, which drew international attention, awarding the cleaners costs.

Legal groups have said the case, which has dragged on for two years and involved thousands of hours of legal investigative work, has damaged the image of the US judicial system.

Beer Can Boat

A nine-metre boat made entirely from empty beer cans has completed its maiden voyage from Ipswich to Brisbane.

Army reservists Brad Gillam, Rob Meharg and Chris Taylor used an estimated 8000 FourX Gold "tinnies", glued together with more than a dozen cartons of silicone, to build the boat after lamenting the lack of fishing spots near their hometown of Toowoomba 12 months ago.

But the project took on a special significance when Mr Gillam and wife Belinda lost their 12 week-old daughter Saraya to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in January.

The three day journey along the Brisbane River from Karalee was held in the little girl's memory and has helped raise nearly $60,000 for the SIDS and Kids foundation.

The crew made several stops before docking at Bulimba naval barracks for a mock naval ceremony this morning.

Despite suffering a few dented cans along the way, skipper Mr Gillam, 29, said the vessel had held up well against the rain and strong wash from passing City Cats.

"We did a lot of testing and trial and error with the boat to make sure it was sound," Mr Gillam said.

"Quite a bit of research went into it, and while it doesn't go a million miles an hour, it is relaxing when you're sailing along."

He said friends and neighbours had helped to provide - and empty - about 90 boxes of beer over several months.

"There was never a shortage of people wanting to come and have a beer with us, so getting the cans wasn't a problem," Mr Gillam said.

"Our neighbours have been very patient as well, especially when we were out testing the cannon at 10 o'clock at night."

Mr Meharg and Mr Taylor had been on a deployment mission in the Solomon Islands when they learnt of Saraya's death. It was immediately decided that they would try to raise money for the charity which had come to the aid of the Gillams.

Mrs Gillam, 29, said the project had helped her husband to keep busy and cope with the grief of losing their only child.

"You go through the shock and the numbness and then back to the shock again," Mrs Gillam told

"The stages of grief go back and forth and it is still really raw.

"We have a lot more counselling and support ahead of us to get through it but this has been a way for Brad to use his grief for something positive."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sorry for the No Post. My internet connection is washed out. Blame AOL.

Here are pictures of the devastation.

Be back soon,
Send a lifeboat,

(Posted by Debbie)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Paintjam Dan Dunn

Clever artist .... watch till the end...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pork parade

BALAYAN, Philippines - A pig in a tutu, a porker on a bike, a hog on a drip -- it was no ordinary parade that snaked its way through this Philippine town Sunday.
Participants in your average hometown parade aren't usually dead, let alone roasted, nor are they generally carved up and eaten afterwards.

But in Balayan, south of Manila, a centuries-old religious festival is all that's needed to kill, clothe, parade and consume the neighbourhood pigs. Hundreds of succulent, roasted pigs decked out in colourful costumes were paraded in the festival celebrating the sainthood of John the Baptist.

The pigs, known as "lechon" in the local language, were placed on motorized floats as residents soaked each other in water to recall the baptism of Jesus Christ. The eccentric event serves as a religious and purifying rite in the mostly Roman Catholic town of Balayan and draws thousands of tourists each year.

Nobody really knows when the tradition began, although it likely pre-dates the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries who introduced Christianity here in the 15th century.

The succulent, reddish-brown lechon is a centerpiece of Philippine culture, much like Thanksgiving turkey in the United States. No party or family reunion is complete without one. But at this festival, the cooked pigs are paraded around the town as thick crowds line the streets and snatch off bite-sized pieces.

Among the more colourful displays was a pig atop on a motorcycle with a ski mask on its glistening, oily head and sunglasses above its snout. Nelson del Rio said he spent hours making the pig, which also serves as an advertisement for his local shop selling Suzuki bikes.

"We have been joining this event for years," he said. "The parade has evolved also as a marketing tool for many businessmen."

Another pig was set up on a mock stage in rock-star pose, wearing jeans, a suitably grungy T-shirt and with a microphone. A float, sponsored by a local hospital, had a hog covered in bandages with an intravenous drip. Yet another had a pig dressed in a tutu, standing on the edge of one set of trotters in a parody of a ballerina. Elsewhere, a hog in nappies (diapers) cradling a milk bottle triggered some curious laughter.

Cleofas Torres, beside his own porcine display, said "this festival serves to remind us that, every year, we can always look forward to a bountiful life under the patronage of Saint John."

Around town, adults and children alike used plastic water pistols to spray each other and firecrackers were set off.

The pigs were later brought into various homes where they were shared with friends and strangers in a traditional show of hospitality.

Beat this !!

I found a fun little game ... on Shaun the sheep ... see if you can beat me .. Click HERE to play

Knockout name

A six-week-old baby is facing a fight to learn her full name - after being given 25 middle names honouring the world's greatest ever boxers.

The far-from-punchy name given to Autumn Brown, which features a staggering 185 letters, left register office staff reeling.

Autumn's mother, Maria, decided on the knockout title to keep up a family tradition started by her boxing-mad parents, who gave their three children a total of 103 names.

The baby's full name is Autumn Sullivan Corbett Fitzsimmons Jeffries Hart Burns Johnson Willard Dempsey Tunney Schmeling Sharkey Carnera Baer Braddock Louis Charles Walcott Marciano Patterson Johansson Liston Clay Frazier Foreman Brown.

Maria, from Perton, Wolverhampton, told the city's Express and Star: "The whole thing came about because both my mum and dad are obsessed with boxing and have a bit of a daft sense of humour.

"When I was young I couldn't ever remember my name. It took me until the age of 10 to memorise it all."

The 33-year-old mother added: "I'm hoping Autumn has a good sense of humour with her name. It's never done me any harm though."

An American in Rome

A 22-year-old American man was arrested on Sunday after an early morning naked bath in the historic Barcaccia fountain at the foot of Rome's Spanish Steps, an Italian news agency reported.

The man stripped and bathed in the 17th century Baroque fountain in front of a crowd of tourists, before being led away by police, AGI news agency said.

He faces charges of committing an obscene act, it said.

The incident comes less than two weeks after a drunken man was arrested for driving his car down the steps that spiral down to the fountain, one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions.

Bill Bailey on Britain

Paws for thought over voter

Duncan M. MacDonald can't vote, which could be a relief to politicians who otherwise might have to outline their positions on chew toys, postal carriers and squirrels.
That's because Duncan is a dog - an Australian shepherd-terrier to be exact.

His owner, Jane Balogh of Washington state, is in trouble for submitting voided ballots in his name in three elections. One tipoff for authorities: One of the envelopes was signed with a picture of a paw print.

Balogh said she was protesting a 2005 state law that she says makes it too easy for non-citizens to vote. She put her phone bill in Duncan's name, then used the phone bill as identification to register him as a voter. Prosecutors have offered a deal to Balogh, a grandmother and army veteran.

If she pleads guilty to a misdemeanour charge of making a false statement to a public official, they will not file a felony charge of providing false information on a voter-registration application.

Balogh says she doesn't plan to contest the charge because she knows she's guilty.

"I wasn't trying to do anything fraudulent. I was trying to prove that our system is flawed," she said. "So I got myself in trouble."

She said she submitted ballots in the dog's name in the September and November 2006 and May 2007 elections. She wrote "VOID" on the ballots and didn't cast any votes.

Prosecutors said they would recommend she be sentenced to 10 hours of community service, pay a $250 fine and commit no other crimes for a year. Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said his office "can't simply look the other way. They say you should let sleeping dogs lie, but you can't let voting dogs vote."

Bookies lose out on Queen's milinery

Bookmakers William Hill have been caught out for the second time in three years over the colour of the hat worn on Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot by the Queen.

The Queen is traditionally driven down the course before the start of racing in a carriage at the head of a colourful horse-draw procession and much interest centres on her outfit, including the hat.

On Thursday it was predominantly cream, which was 5-1 in the betting. That will cost William Hill well over 10,000 pounds, following a 20,000 pound pay-out two years ago when she wore brown.

Hill's spokeswoman Jennie Prest said: "The biggest bet we laid on cream was 150 pounds at 5-1 and we had dozens of requests at smaller stakes and a number of new customers opening new accounts, specifically to have this bet."

Betting has already opened for Ladies Day 2008 with blue the 3-1 favourite, followed by yellow at 5-1 with a repetition of cream rated a 7-1 chance.


Many more can be seen HERE

Alice Spring roll

An Alice Springs man's love of fried chicken saw him roll his car at a takeaway drive-through last night.

Police were called to a Kentucky Fried Chicken takeaway at around 3:00am to help rescue a man who had rolled his car in the service lane behind the building.

They say the man may have been driving too quickly and are unsure if alcohol was a factor in the crash.

The man was taken to hospital but is not believed to be badly injured.

Sand yachting record

Sand yachting enthusiasts have smashed a global endurance record at Hoylake's Wirral Sand Yacht Club (WSYC) by sailing kite buggies for 24 hours.

Twelve international teams beat the current record of 197 miles (317km) which was set in Ireland last weekend. Despite bad weather hampering the race for four hours, the new record now stands at 639km (397 miles).

The International Land and Sandyachting Federation is to be informed of the feat to make it official.

Organiser David Edwards said: "The teams were made up of three people each, who took it in turns to sail up and down Hoylake beach, recording their distance on GPS systems fitted to the buggies. We had near perfect weather conditions for most of the time but then we lost about four hours due to heavy rain and no wind. Some of the teams had been on target to post 600 miles (966km) before the bad weather hit. However, it was an amazing event and an awesome achievement. We are already considering staging a similar event next year."

Sporran license

Kilt wearers could face prosecution if they do not have a licence for their sporran under new legislation which has been introduced in Scotland.

The laws are designed to protect endangered species like badgers and otters, whose fur used to be favoured by sporran makers.

The legislation applies to animals killed after 1994.

Applicants must prove that the animal was killed lawfully before they will be able to get a licence.

The conservation regulations were designed to close a number of loopholes and bring Scotland into line with other EU members.

They also apply to other vulnerable animals like deer, wildcats, hedgehogs, bats, lynx, moles, seals, whales, dolphins and porpoises.

World's Ugliest dog

Elwood, a 2-year-old Chinese crested and Chihuahua mix, was crowned the world's ugliest dog Friday, a distinction that delighted the New Jersey mutt's owners.

Elwood is hairless -- save for a Mohawk-like puff of white fur on its head -- and often is referred to as Yoda or E.T. "I think he's the cutest thing that ever lived," said owner Karen Quigley of Sewell, N.J.

Elwood placed second last year at the ugly dog contest at the Marin-Sonoma County Fair.

Most of the competing canines also were Chinese crested, a breed that features a Mohawk, bug eyes and a long, wagging tongue.

Quigley said she rescued Elwood two years ago. "The breeder was going to euthanize him because she thought he was too ugly to sell," Quigley said.

Beyond the regal title of ugliest dog, Elwood also earned a $1,000 reward for his owner.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

An Audience with Harry Hill (Part III)

Hole in wrong one

Clive Seymour had a hole in one — on the wrong hole. Clive, 72, sliced his drive on the first hole at Hele Park in Newton Abbot, Devon, so badly it went straight into the cup on the fourth.

Three stunned golfers approaching the fourth green watched as his ball landed ahead of them. Clive, who has a handicap of 24, said yesterday: “I’m afraid slicing is one of my problems.

“I really got hold of the drive but it went to the left, flew over some saplings and to the left of a big oak tree. I didn’t see where it disappeared but three lads on the fourth said it went straight in the hole. You could have knocked me down with a feather.”

Retired carpenter Clive, of Paignton, added: “People are saying I’ve scored the world’s first hole-in-the-wrong-one.”

Club director Duncan Arnold said: “It was unconventional, but still impressive. A hole in one — at any hole — is still a dream for many golfers.”

Accident waiting to happen

Motorists are going round the bend after a barmy artist spent taxpayers cash on putting up ten random road signs at a busy junction.

The "art" installation - part of a series of outdoor shows which pocketed a £50,000 grant from the Arts Council - has been slammed as "ridiculous" and "dangerous" by drivers and transport chiefs.

The artwork, which includes signs such as one-way, mini-roundabout, no entry and 30mph, was erected on a busy ring-road in Ashford, Kent this week. Driving instructor David Somerville, who regularly takes his pupils out on the road, said the art was causing havoc.

He said: "It is horrendous. If that is meant to be art it's a load of rubbish. The signs are totally confusing and drivers - especially learners - don't need additional distractions. That junction is confusing enough anyway."

Resident Ann Steare agreed, adding: "I have seen drivers slam on the brakes to stop and stare at it. They don't know which of the signs to obey. It is amazing that it was allowed in the first place. It's going to cause an accident if its not taken down immediately. It seems like any old rubbish can be called art these days."

The council said it was looking into the work by artist Michael Pinsky and the possibility of scrapping it altogether.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Suicidal statues

STATUES scattered across central London rooftops as part of artist Antony Gormley's latest exhibition are proving a serious headache for police.

Since the 31 life-sized replicas of Gormley's naked body went up in early May, police have been bombarded with telephone calls from members of the public reporting that they had spotted a would-be suicide jumper.

"We had several calls a day in the early stages and are now receiving two or three a day," a police spokeswoman said.

"In most cases, callers are questioned specifically about what they have seen and we are able to reassure them that they have seen one of the statues."

But suggesting that police have better things to do, she asked: "How long will the statues be in place?"

Gormley's exhibition at London's Hayward Gallery runs to August 19.

Tasty food tempts prisoners to stay

Inmates don't want to leave their prison because the food served there is so good, according to reports. Convicted criminals are opting to stay a little longer at the jail while others are trying to move in order to benefit from the three healthy meals offered each day.

The Parappana Agrahara prison in Bangalore, southern India, is crowded with 4,700 inmates, which is more than twice its capacity, because small-time criminals are refusing to apply for bail, according to the Bangalore Mirror.

Juvenile offenders are also overstating their age to qualify as adults and enter the facility. The paper says the reason is healthy food being served by ISKCON, or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Hindu evangelist organisation.

ISKCON, commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement, started serving its pure-vegetarian fare in the jail in May under contract from the prisons department.

Lunch and dinner typically include piping hot rice, two vegetables and a spicy lentil dish called sambar and buttermilk. A dessert is added on festival days and national holidays like Independence Day, and also once a week.

Prisoner Raja Reddy, who has been arrested 20 times in 30 years for theft, robbery and burglary, said: "When we are getting tasty, nutritious food three times a day here, why should we go out and commit crimes."

Skateboarding Bulldog

Picasso car

If Pablo Picasso had gone in for car design, the result would have been something like this.... Or so Andy Saunders says. The 44-year-old mechanic spent six months turning an aged Citroen 2CV into a cubist work of art inspired by Picasso's Portrait of Dora Maar.

"I decided to blur the line between car design and art by using Picasso as inspiration-said Mr Saunders, from Poole, Dorset. I studied Picasso and noticed that he used mainly primary colours and I've stuck with that for the car. I named it Picasso's Citroen and I think it is much better than the Citroen Picasso, which is a boring people carrier. I think I know which one Pablo would have preferred."

Mr Saunders is to launch his creation publicly at this weekend's Goodwood Festival of Speed. He says it is legally roadworthy for daytime use only, meaning it does not need traditional headlights or indicators because signals can be made with the hands.

He added: "I made all the new parts and have distorted the whole car so the more you look at it the more peculiar it becomes. It hasn't lost any of its speed - it can still reach 65mph. Eventually I hope to sell it and maybe it will be bought by the Tate Gallery or the Pompidou Centre in Paris. "It's hard to put a value on it now, but as it's a work of art I reckon it might sell for about a million pounds. However, if museums or art collectors won't buy it, I think I might have to stick it in Auto Trader."

A Stroll in Times Square

NEW YORK -- Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes will attempt to break the world record by running more than 153.76 miles in 24 hours on a treadmill in Times Square.

He'll start running at midnight Thursday and be suspended between two billboards. One billboard will run live video for viewers, along with a clock and mileage counter.

Karnazes plans to raise $1 million for the Athletes for a Cure Foundation, with the money going to prostate cancer research.

"I'm doing this event to help raise awareness for prostate cancer, which affects one in six men," he said. "I represent two organizations, the Athletes for a Cure Foundation and Accelerade, which is a new protein-enhanced sports drink. They are helping me achieve this goal by raising awareness for the disease and to hopefully find a cure in my lifetime."

His next goal is to run 4,200 miles across North America in the spring.

Sorry for flag stunt

The Australian reality TV show Big Brother has apologised to the Mexican Government for allowing contestants on Friday Night Games to throw goo-filled balloons at the Mexican flag.

The incident, which aired last Friday, was labelled "offensive" by the Mexican Government.

The Mexican Embassy also wrote to the Australian Communications and Media Authority and TV company Endemol Southern Star demanding "they take adequate measures to avoid this type of incident in the future".

Endemol Southern Star says in a statement they intended no offence to any person, country or institution.

"Friday Night Live is themed each week and June 19's Mexican Night was designed as a tribute to Mexico and its vibrant cultural heritage," the statement said.

The producers have also assured the Mexican Government that "something like this would never happen again".

£200,000 for a toilet

The property market in Scotland has reached a new high with a public toilet being sold for almost £200,000. The toilet block in historic St Andrews has sold at auction for about four times the guide price.

The stone block, in the Fife town's City Road, has been sold to a mystery developer from the west of Scotland who plans to convert it into a house. Fife Council put the block on the market, along with other properties, after closing it to the public.

Golfing mecca St Andrews already boasts the most expensive street in Scotland - overlooking the Old Course.

An unexpected bidding war broke out when the toilet block went under the hammer at a property sale in the Quality Central Hotel in Glasgow.

Youngest MENSA girl

A two-year-old girl from Hampshire has become the youngest ever female member of British Mensa. Georgia Brown, from Aldershot, Hampshire, astounded experts by scoring 152 in an IQ test - putting her in the top 2% of the population for her age.

Psychologist Joan Freeman, who tested Georgia, said she thought the toddler could have scored even higher but needed a nap after 45 minutes of work. Georgia's mother, Lucy, said: "It's fantastic. We're so proud as a family."

She had spotted that her daughter was a strikingly quick learner. Georgia was crawling at five months, walking at nine months and, by 18 months, was having proper conversations.

The Brown family called in Prof Freeman, from Middlesex University, to test her IQ level in relation to others of her age. Prof Freeman said she used the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale test and was "elated" by what she found.

She told the BBC: "She is two years, nine months - not very much older than a toddler really - and she is able to answer questions five and six-year-olds can't. The test uses questions like 'If brother is to boy, then sister is to ...?'. If you take a normal two-year-old, they cannot hold a pencil, they don't know the colours and they would not be able to answer those simple questions. The thing I found most striking was the copying of a circle. Most two-year-olds cannot do that but she drew a perfect one. I was quite elated - I had come unexpectedly into the presence of something rather special. She scored 152 points but I think she could have got more - she just got very tired. Concentrating for three-quarters-of-an-hour at that young age is amazing."

Mensa confirmed Georgia was their youngest member at the moment and the youngest female member ever. The youngest ever member was a boy, who was several days younger than Georgia when he joined in the 1990s.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Floating fool jailed

A man accused of planning to rob a credit union and get away by floating down the Provo River was sent to prison for 27 months. "What in the world were you thinking?" U.S. District Judge Dee Benson asked Patrick Burr, 46.

Patrick and Heather Burr had acquired large tyre tubes as they planned to rob Utah Community Credit Union on Dec. 1, federal prosecutors said.

But the car with the tubes inside was impounded for an insurance violation days earlier. While discussing other ways to rob the credit union, their conversations were recorded by an informant.

The Burrs pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank robbery. Heather Burr will be sentenced next week. It turned out that one of the tubes had a hole. A getaway car would have been faster. The Provo River in late fall was flowing at 4 mph.

"You should write a book on this," the judge said.

Seal oosik anyone ?

An Alaska man has pleaded guilty to selling more than 100 fur seal "oosiks" – or penises – to a local gift shop that intended to sell the items as an aphrodisiac.

Michael Richard Zacharof, an Aleut and former tribal president from the Bering Sea village of St. Paul, pleaded guilty this week to one count of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Federal law forbids the sale of any raw marine mammal parts unless they have been crafted into pieces of Alaska Native artwork.

In Zacharof's case, the former tribal leader sold the raw seal penises to a gift shop catering to customers from Asia. The shop then sold the items for about $100 each, according to the Justice Department.

Assistant US Attorney Andrea Steward said seal penis bones, also known as seal sticks, are believed to have properties similar to erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra. Zacharof faces a possible one-year prison term and a $20,000 fine, the US Attorney's office said.

You cannot be 4Real !

New Zealand authorities have blocked a couple's bid to officially name their new son "4real," saying numerals are not allowed.

Pat and Sheena Wheaton said they decided to name their new baby "4real" shortly after having an ultrasound and being struck by the reality of his impending arrival.

"For most of us, when we try to figure out what our names mean, we have to look it up in a babies book and ... there's no direct link between the meaning and the name," Pat Wheaton told TV One on Wednesday. "With this name, everyone knows what it means."

But when the parents filed the name with New Zealand's Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, they were told names beginning with a number were against the rules.

The government office has opened negotiations with the parents about the name under a policy that says all unusual names must be given case-by-case consideration.

"The name has not at this stage been rejected," Registrar-General Brian Clarke said in a statement Thursday. "We are currently in discussions with the parents ... to clarify the situation."

Clarke said the rules are designed to prevent names that are "likely to cause offense to a reasonable person." Satan and Adolf Hitler were proposed names that have been declined, he said.

If no compromise has been reached by July 9, the baby will be registered as "real," officials say.

New Zealand law requires all children born in the South Pacific nation to be registered with the Births, Deaths and Marriages registry within two months of birth.

New trousers please !

City police are looking for a few good pairs of pants. The Baltimore Police Department has run out of two popular sizes of the custom-made navy blue uniform pants it provides to every officer, a department spokesman said Wednesday.

Officers who wear size 36 or 38 will have to wait for new pants until a special order comes through.

"We are officially out," said Officer Troy Harris, a police spokesman. "We're putting in an emergency order for those two sizes."

One officer said he was recently turned away from the office of the quartermaster, who is in charge of supplies, when he requested a new pair of size-36 uniform pants. The officer spoke to The (Baltimore) Sun on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the issue.

"When you go to get pants, they look at you as if you're asking for a newborn," he said. "Pants are a hot commodity. When I asked for pants they just laughed."

Out of desperation, the officer said he took an old pair of pants to his tailor. Harris said the supply unit will take care of adjustments, but the officer said he couldn't afford to wait weeks for his pants to be mended.

The department attributed the shortage to the recent hiring of 240 new officers. But city police union president Paul Blair blamed a new initiative that requires plainclothes detectives to walk periodic foot patrols in uniform.

Cadets receive four pairs of pants when they leave the police academy. When officers need a new pair, they get them free but are required to turn in their old ones.

"If (the pants) can be saved, they'll be cleaned and put back into rotation," Harris said

Armwrestling cheat caught

A Russian armwrestler was disqualified for cheating at a European competition after attempting to move to a lower weight class by sending a lookalike to the weigh-in, officials said Thursday.

Arsen Liliev tried to enter the 154-pound weight class at the European championships being held in Lycksele, northern Sweden, but weighed 4.4 pounds too much, said Andreas Johansson, chairman of the Swedish Armsport Association.

Liliev decided to try again, but this time he sent a "lookalike" to replace him at the weigh-in, Johansson said. The impostor, who was also Russian, passed the weight control, but officials discovered the fraud before the competition started, he said.

"They resemble each other but it didn't work," Johansson said. "Arsen Liliev is disqualified from the competition while the other competitor received a warning."

The European championships end Sunday.

Anyone seen our lake ?

A lake in southern Chile has mysteriously disappeared, prompting speculation the ground has simply opened up and swallowed it whole.

The lake was situated in the Magallanes region in Patagonia and was fed by water mostly from melting glaciers.

It had a surface area of between 4 and 5 hectares, about the size of 10 soccer pitches.

"In March we patrolled the area and everything was normal," Juan Jose Romero, regional director of Chile's National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) said. "We went again in May and to our surprise we found the lake had completely disappeared. The only things left were chunks of ice on the dry lake-bed and an enormous fissure."

CONAF is investigating the disappearance.

One theory is that the area was hit by an earth tremor that opened a crack in the ground which acted like a drain.

Southern Chile has been shaken by thousands of minor earth tremors this year.

Drunken rats

Authorities in India say rats are gnawing at beer cans and making holes in caps of whisky bottles stored in police storehouses in the east of the country and apparently getting drunk.

Kundan Krishnan, a senior officer says the rodents' love for liquor has the police department in Bihar state stumped as it tries to store hundreds of bottles seized from illegal sellers from across the state in Patna, the state capital.

"We are fed up with these drunk rats and cannot explain why they have suddenly turned to consumption of alcohol," he said.

The problem costs revenue as the seized liquor is usually sold through auctions, he said.

Rats were also attacking people near the police buildings, nibbling at their toes, although it was not clear if they were under the influence, officials and witnesses said.

T-shirt record

With 117 T-shirts covering his 111-pound frame, 12-year-old Austin Crow compared the experience to wearing a body cast. A little later Wednesday, as he closed in on his effort to wear 168 T-shirts and earn a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, he had more to say.

Donning 168 T-shirts and breaking the record took nearly three hours and gave the sixth-grade boy the look of a sumo wrestler. Once he had more than 100 T-shirts on, Austin could no longer walk by himself and his mother had to feed him sips of ginger ale.

At 150 T-shirts, he couldn't make it through a door frame he was so wide.

To make the Guinness Book, the entire event was documented on a video camera. A fan was brought in to keep the boy cool. The T-shirts bigger than 5X had to be special ordered from a company in California.

One of Austin's friends, C. Cameron Zawacki, also 12, was on hand to watch the effort.

"It's cool. I don't know anybody who has tried to break a world record before so I thought I'd come and see," Cameron said. "He's double huge," Cameron said. "I don't believe how many shirts he's got on. It's going to take a long time to get all those shirts off," McKeon T. Midland, 8, of Easthampton, as he watched and ate popcorn.

Getting out of the T-shirts was a somewhat less demanding task. Austin's parents and Robbins used scissors to cut through the mountain of shirts.

Scooter Cop

HERE’S an arresting sight!
PC Colin Chamberlain becomes the first bobby photographed on a three-wheeled scooter set to revolutionise police patrols.

The £4,500 electric T3 has a siren and flashing lights, can turn on the spot, go up to 25mph and has a range of more than 20miles.

Running costs are just 20p a day. It has been a hit in America and was unveiled ahead of British trials yesterday in Manchester.

PC Chamberlain said: “It would be excellent in city centres.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Caught in the act

At last... a graffiti artist appears to be caught in the act.

But the culprit is no typical teenage hoodie - more likely his grandmother, instead.

The elderly woman, smartly dressed in a black blazer and sensible shoes, her hair in a neat bun, was photographed apparently writing on the glass bus shelter by a passing driver.

Delivery man Mike Jones, who witnessed the unlikely scene in a Richmond Road, London, said: "I turned a corner and this tiny granny seemed to be going for it with a marker pen.

It looked like she was doodling these elaborate tags that teenage yobs draw - like there was no tomorrow."

Crappy golfer causes fire

Nevada - A Wildcreek golfer who hit a bad shot this evening started a brush fire that consumed 15-20 acres northeast of the golf course, fire officials said.

The golfer had knocked his ball into the grass beyond the course off the 3500 block of Sullivan Lane. When he tried to play back to the fairway, his club struck something that created a spark that started the fire.

“He was totally honest about it,” Reno Battalion Chief Curtis Johnson said, adding he didn’t know if the golfer turned in the alarm. Reno and Sparks fire engines with 45-50 people swarmed the area and were mopping up about 8:30 p.m. A 12-person crew from the Sierra Front Forest Service was to be at the fire site until at least midnight.

“We had a lot here,” Johnson said. “We use a task force response now, three brush engines and three structure enginess and a water tender. We’ve changed tactics this year because of the dangerous conditions.”

No structures were threatened but engines were available for protection, he said. The fire moved northeast with more than of it in cheatgrass. The golf course is owned by the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority. The fire did not damage any of the holes or practice areas on the course.

Shaken and definitely "stirred"

A drunk Russian woman had to be pulled out of a newly-laid road after she fell into a concrete mixer and then into a pool of drying asphalt.

Elena Pavlovna, 43, had been walking home after a lunchtime session with pals in the town of Kemerovo.

She saw her path was blocked by machinery left by workers who were taking a break from resurfacing a road and tried to step over the machinery.

But she slipped and fell into a concrete mixer which had been left on and after a few minutes of being twirled around inside with the concrete mix she was "poured" out onto a pool of asphalt.

As she struggled to get out of the asphalt mix she slipped further into it until only her head was sticking out. She was pulled out by rescue workers who were called by workmen when they came back from their break.

Seeing double

At an early age children are taught that two plus two makes four. But pupils at one primary school have quickly learned to expand that basic calculation. And now they know that five pairs of twins makes ten toddlers - and one very confused teacher.

The children also know that their twinned friends make up an entire half of the pupils in one class at Pembroke Dock Community School in Wales.

Fran Thomas is in charge of calling out the repetitive register every morning for her nursery class of 20. She is already getting used to doing a double take with the children who were all born within six months and live less than a mile from each other.

She said: "It was a shock when they all arrived for school. We couldn’t believe it - it was like we were seeing double. One set of twins is fairly unusual, but to have five sets in a class is something I've never heard of. It can get confusing to say the least." She added: "We’ve no idea why there are so many in the class. There must be something in the water."

The twins, aged two and three, make up half of the nursery class at the school’s newly-formed Flying Start nursery. And the ten - six of whom are identical twins - could even go right through their school careers together because they live in the same catchment area and are the same age.

Their appearance in one nursery together is so unlikely that mathematicians have calculated its probability as almost zero.

Playgroup leader Carol Mansell said: "They are adorable. They are like little angels - although they can be little devils sometimes too. The blonde little girls Rebekah and Teagan Wheatley are behaving so well today. They’ve been brilliant. And the Bugby twins Callum and Damian are full of mischief. They are lovely but I don’t know where they get their energy from."

Condom or toy ?

A vibrating condom has sparked a fierce debate in India, over whether it is a sex toy - which are banned - or a means of birth control.

The controversial condom has caused outrage in the state of Madhya Pradesh, because a government-owned company is involved in marketing it.

The pack of three condoms, branded as Crezendo, contains a battery-operated ring-like device.

Critics say it is in fact a vibrator, and should therefore be banned.

Sex toys and pornography are illegal in India.

£15,000 Harry Potter book

A student is planning to sell a rare first edition of a Harry Potter book in order to fund his university degree.

Toby Rundle, 19, from Somerset, was sent the hardback copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by his mother while he was at boarding school.

The book - one of only around 500 printed - will be auctioned in Cirencester. It is expected to fetch up to £15,000.

Mr Rundle said: "It will cancel half my loan straight away."

The teenager will be studying Classical English at Oxford University from September.

Chris Albury, from Dominic Winter auctioneers, added: "Most of these first editions went into libraries.

"The amount that went into book shops is probably less than 100."

The book was printed in 1997 and has a cover price of £10.99.

Police arrest horse

A HORSE was detained by police today over the theft of a vehicle in South Africa's sprawling Soweto township.

"We have apprehended a horse and two suspects for being in possession of a suspected stolen vehicle,'' police spokeswoman Captain Lindiwe Mbatha said.

"Cops patrolling the township pulled over a cart carrying a stripped body of a brand new car, a Corolla Conquest, suspected to have been stolen.

"The cart was drawn by a horse with two suspects on board. They were locked for being in possession of a suspected stolen vehicle and will appear in court within 48 hours,'' Capt Mbatha said.

She said that by law they were not allowed to leave the animal and its "stolen'' load in the street while the suspects were taken to holding cells.

"The animal had to be taken in with its carriage and the suspects. We couldn't leave the horse on the road because it was carrying a suspected stolen car,'' she said.

The horse was later released into the care of animal rights association in Johannesburg, but the two suspects were still behind bars and expected to appear in court shortly.

A la Kart

Lewis Hamilton's McLaren go-kart has sold for £42,100 on eBay - £40,000 more than its face value.

The McLaren go-kart was snapped up after a fierce bidding war sparked by Hamilton's second Formula One win at the Indianapolis grand prix last weekend.

The racing champion sold the £2,000 customised kart, which can reach speeds upwards of 80mph, to raise money for charity, and has said that he will also meet the winner before they drive off in the kart.

Bids for the 22bhp kart had been hovering around £5,000 before Sunday's race, but hours after Hamilton won his second race in a row, they zoomed up to £16,000.

And they rocketed to over £40,000 by the close of the auction this afternoon.

The winner, using the sign in name garym4598, beat off 88 competitors with his bid of £42,100.

Describing the kart, Hamilton wrote: "It’s brand new, with only one careful owner, and this kart was customised for me by Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. It’s pretty fast . . . just how I like it! For anyone who aspires to be a Formula 1 driver one day . . . this is for you! Not only will you win this go-kart, but you’ll have the chance of meeting me at the launch of Vodafone Mobile Internet on 21st June in London and I’ll give you a few tips on handling this beast!

Turning the tables

A would-be German thief went from predator to victim when he tried to mug a taxi driver but ended up having his own wallet snatched instead.

After the 20-year-old stole the driver's wallet, a scuffle broke out between the two, in which the cabbie not only recovered his property but also took his attacker's wallet, police in the western town of Aldenhoven said Tuesday.

The driver then locked himself in his taxi and called the police, who were amazed to find the mugger waiting patiently for them on the curb next to the vehicle when they arrived.

"He wanted his wallet back," a police spokesman said.

After taking the man in for questioning, police released him and returned his wallet. He faces charges for attempted robbery

Turning the place over

To help celebrate Liverpool's title of European Capital Of Culture 2008, sculptor Richard Wilson has constructed "Turning the Place Over", an art installation on the facade of the derelict former Yates's Wine Lodge building. Wilson removed an egg-shaped section of the front and reattached it on a pivot so that the panel will rotate, giving passersby the chance to peek inside. The £450,000 installation officially launches on June 20 and will continue to operate until the end of the year.

Co-commissioned by the Liverpool Culture Company and Liverpool Biennial, co-funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency and The Northern Way, and facilitated by Liverpool Vision, the project is a stunning trailblazer for Liverpool’s Year as European Capital of Culture 2008, and the jewel in the crown of the Culture Company’s public art programme.

Can we have our chairs back ?

One of its members has been forced to testify at a corruption trial and another rebuked for bullying journalists, and now Belgium's controversy-hit royal family is facing a new debacle over antique chairs.

Crown Prince Philippe, the heir to the throne, risks a court summons unless he returns a set of 19th-century furniture made for Napoleon, which he borrowed from a state collection to decorate his palace.

The regional government of Flanders has asked the federal government and the royal palace for three years to return several historic antique armchairs and tables, which were ordered by Napoleon for his palace in Antwerp in 1811.

"We can't wait forever," Geert Bourgeois, Flemish minister in charge of tourism and external relations, told Belgian television. "We are nice people and want to solve this amicably, but if needed we will take legal action."

Tom Bridts, director of Heritage Flanders, said the collection put together by Napoleon needed to be returned to the Antwerp palace to go on display. "It concerns tables, chairs, couches and even a bed used by Napoleon," he said. "The problem is that when you loan out something, you expect to get it back when you ask for it. We have asked for it back ... and so far we have not had an answer."

Egg add banned

Reruns of a TV commercial from the 1950s which urged viewers to "go to work on an egg" have been banned.

An advertising watchdog said the slogan went against the principal of eating a varied diet.

The Egg Information Service had wanted to screen the advert, which featured legendary comedian Tony Hancock, to mark its 50th birthday. Author Fay Weldon, who headed the team which came up with the slogan, has described the decision as absurd.

The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) defended its decision, insisting that the adverts did not suggest a varied diet.

BACC spokesman Kristoffer Hammer said: "Dietary considerations have been at the centre of the new rules for advertising and in consideration of this we felt that these adverts did not suggest a varied diet. The concept of eating eggs every day for breakfast goes against what is now the generally accepted advice of a varied diet and we therefore could not approve the ads for broadcast."

British Egg Information Service spokesperson Amanda Cryer said: "We have been shocked by this ruling as eggs are a healthy, natural food which are recommended by nutritionists. What's more, there are no restrictions on the number of eggs people can eat, which was recently confirmed by the Food Standards Agency, and between five and seven eggs a week would be totally acceptable for most people."

Ms Cryer added: "In addition, many other advertisers clearly promote their products to be eaten every day such as breakfast cereals so we are very surprised that eggs have been singled out in this way."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Video banned

British censors have banned a violent video game from the UK for the first time in a decade.

The video game Manhunt 2 was rejected for its "unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying", the British Board of Film Classification said.

It means the Manhunt sequel cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK.

The parents of a Leicester schoolboy who blamed the original game for the murder of their 14-year-old son said they were "absolutely elated".

Bra collapses road

A bra and a pair of knickers have been blamed for a flood and road collapse in County Durham.

Northumbrian Water said the underwear was flushed down a toilet and caused a blockage in a sewage pipe in Middleton-St-George, near Darlington.

Heavy rain, together with a build up of grease and fat, caused the pipe to burst and the road above to collapse.

The road will remain closed for days and Northumbrian Water estimates repairs will cost more than £15,000.

The company has now urged residents to think carefully about what they flush away.

Monet money

A view of the River Thames painted by Claude Monet has sold for almost £18m - more than twice its estimated price.

An anonymous telephone bidder paid £17,940,000 for Waterloo Bridge, Temps Couvert during a sale at Christie's auction house in London.

The sale - the second highest price fetched for a Monet - kicked off a week of huge sales on the London art market. Monet's Nympheas, an iconic image of water lilies, is expected to make £10-£15m at auction on Today.

It is one of only a few of the lily paintings still in private hands, and will go under the hammer at Sotheby's as part of the auction house's impressionist and modern art sale. The sale will also feature works by Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Pablo Picasso.

Waterloo Bridge, Temps Couvert is one of a series of views of the bridge and river that Monet painted from his room at the Savoy Hotel around the start of the 20th Century.

Jumbo for private use

An unnamed buyer at the Paris air show has placed an order for an Airbus A380 superjumbo to use as a private jet.

Airbus said the individual, "not from Europe or the US", would use the plane for "personal use for him and his entourage", AFP news agency reported.

The double-decker, which is thought to have cost $300m (£150m), has 900 sq m (10,000 sq ft) in cabin space and has room for up to 840 passengers. It is expected to take more than a year to convert the jet for private use.

Aage Duenhaupt, a spokesperson for Lufthansa Technik, which turns large commercial planes into private jets, said the majority of clients were originally Middle Eastern.

But using the model as a private jet could be problematic, because its weight and size mean it can only be landed at a limited number of airports, by certain pilots.

Environmental groups were annoyed by the news, saying that buying a superjumbo for private use was like "buying a filthy coal-fired power station just to use to charge up your mobile phone."

The model is set to come into use later in 2007.

Janitor shines on the piano

A janitor's hidden talent as a virtuoso pianist has been discovered at a leading Scots university.

Aleksander Kudajczyk, 28, from Katowice in Poland, cleans corridors at Glasgow University but was overheard playing concert-standard pieces. He had asked to use a piano in the University chapel and staff watched him play using a webcam.

Chaplaincy secretary Joan Keenan said his music was so amazing that colleagues also logged on to watch. Since the revelation, Mr Kudajczyk has been allowed to practice for up to six hours a day at the university.

On Tuesday, he will play a concert of Chopin pieces during Glasgow's West End Festival, his second public performance during the event.

Ms Keenan said: "Until Aleksander started playing, no-one had any idea of his ability. When I first logged on to hear him, I couldn't believe it - he was playing the most amazing music. We were just totally amazed. He was really nervous playing his first concert, but everybody loved him. I am just really happy that this might set him on the right road."

Mr Kudajczyk, who learned to play the piano when he was four, still works as a cleaner at Glasgow University.

Before arriving in Scotland about six months ago, he worked as a professional musician in Poland.

Monday, June 18, 2007

RIP Bernard Manning

Pulling it off !

If you think Britain's got talent, take a look at this (though, guys, it might make your eyes water).

Jaja Stone thrills a crowd in Jakarta, Indonesia, by pulling a bus along... with his penis.

It was part of a strong man contest to mark the city's 480th anniversary. Mr Stone proved he had balls of steel by pulling the 8.9- tonne bus 50m (55 yards) using his genitals.

Bamboo bikes

A Santa Cruz bike builder Craig Calfee, who is considered one of the country's elite, has hopes of providing Ghana's desperately poor with bicycles made of bamboo.... Unfortunately they currently run with a price-tag of around $2,700.

His dog Luna was adept at crushing wooden sticks with her powerful jaws. Give her a piece of wood, and she'd chew it to splinters in no time. But the best she could manage with the hard, round stalks of bamboo was a tooth mark or two. And that got Calfee to wondering: If bamboo was strong enough to withstand Luna, why couldn't it be a bicycle frame?

Since then, Calfee has gone from building clunker bamboo bikes to fashioning sleek, pricey racing machines that turn heads in even the snobbiest pace lines. He's built 91 bamboo bicycles, enough for their reputation to spread across the country. And, perhaps as important, enough for Calfee to have faith in his unusual contraptions.

Craig Calfee is no ordinary bicycle shop owner. He's considered one of the country's elite bike builders, someone who creates machines for the likes of Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France. He fashions the lightest of bike frames from carbon fiber.

His shop is outside Santa Cruz, a community known for its laid-back style. His only link to the Third World is a long-ago trip to Africa. Yet somehow, more by accident than design, Calfee and his bamboo bikes may provide a means for rudimentary transport in the emerging world.

In a sense, Calfee is part of a bamboo craze sweeping the United States. Bamboo is suddenly chic, now that it's being made into everything from baby-soft T-shirts to baseball bats. Gone are the days when it was the stuff of cheap, ugly curtains and tacky lawn furniture. Bamboo has arrived.

How NOT to change a bad report card

A 16-year-old Berlin student was so worried he would have to repeat a year at school because of poor marks he convinced two friends to storm his class and steal the report cards with his bad grades.

"The student probably honestly believed that he could avoid repeating the school year if he made the report cards disappear," said a spokesman for local police.

The youth sat quietly at the back of the classroom as the two masked robbers, aged 14 and 15, burst in and threatened his teacher with a steel bar if she did not hand over the reports.

After grabbing them, the two tried to flee but dropped the reports as other students leapt to defend the teacher. The two were arrested close to the school, and told police their friend had devised the raid because he was afraid of flunking a year.

Police would not reveal what incentives the youth had offered the pair to carry out the robbery, adding the youths faced legal consequences once investigations were over.

Plastic wrap ball record

A 7-year-old Michigan boy has apparently surpassed a Canadian on his way into the Guiness Book or World Records with a giant ball of plastic wrap.

Jake Lonsway of Bay County's Bangor Township had the ball weighed Thursday at a honey farm in St. Charles at nearly 281.5lbs - 31 more than the current world record set by Andy Martell of Toronto in 2005.

Martell's ball measured 10 inches less than Jake's.

Jake got the idea to get into Guinness after reading about Saginaw Valley State University students who were trying to break the world record for most people wearing Groucho Marx glasses. He begged his mother to let him participate, but the attempt eventually failed.

Rather than allow his dream to die, Jake and mother Julie Grames poured through the Guinness book to find a suitable feat. They found Martell's record. Family, friends and neighbours helped supply him with plastic wrap.

Jake must now submit to Guinness an eight-page application complete with newspaper stories chronicling the feat and letters from the St. Charles police chief and his wife, who witnessed the weigh-in.