Friday, November 30, 2007

Santa not insured

Santa Claus has been banned from riding his sleigh through a market town because of health and safety fears. For three decades, Father Christmas has been pulled around Alnwick and surrounding Northumberland villages on a district council trailer.

But this year, Alnwick Council has been warned that its insurance does not cover the tradition. Voluntary group Alnwick Lions, which organises the event, called the decision "frustrating".

A council spokeswoman said: "Our insurance company has told us that our insurance would not be valid as the Alnwick Lions' use would not be classed as part of our core business. We always try to help with community projects, but regrettably, this is out of our hands."

Fortunately, local children will still be able to see Santa, as a local firm has lent the Lions a bus to replace the traditional sleigh.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Puppy rescued from watering can

A three-month-old puppy had to be rescued after he got his head stuck in a metal watering can. Ted, a chocolate Labrador, got himself trapped in the can while playing in a back garden on Wednesday afternoon.

Hampshire fire service's specialist animal rescue team was brought in to release Ted. They had to cut away the watering can using bolt cutters, after initial attempts to free Ted using a hacksaw blade failed.

Anton Phillips, watch manager, said: "... The watering can fitted like a glove around Ted's head and great care had to be taken to keep the pet calm.

"Thankfully we were able to swiftly release Ted's head and he bounded away safely from his ordeal with no ill effects."

Beer theft

Irish police (Garda) in Dublin are on the lookout for 36,000 pints of beer stolen from the Guinness brewery. 450 kegs were stolen in what is likely to be the largest carry-out of drink this Christmas.

A man drove a truck into the yard on Wednesday, and left with a trailer containing 180 Guinness kegs, 180 Budweiser kegs, and 90 Carslberg kegs. Police estimated the haul to be worth at least 64,000 euros (£46,000), at wholesale prices.

However, this figure would be considerably more if Dublin pub prices were charged.

The robbery occurred the same day as a special Garda operation known as Freeflow was launched to ease traffic congestion and combat drink-driving over Christmas.

Freeflow officers manning many checkpoints across the city are expected now also to be on the look out for any large quantity of stolen drink flowing through Dublin's traffic.

The stolen trailer has since been found at Slane Hill in County Meath. It was empty.

Japanese tea commercial

Cop Shop

A police force has set up an online gift shop offering baby clothes with slogans such as "Out at last" and "I've been inside for nine months".

Kent Police offers other gifts branded with the force's logo such as high visibility jackets in children's sizes, hip flasks, police-style ties, pens, T-shirts and packs of golf balls.

The £10,000 venture has not gone down well with some Kent residents, whose force ranked just below halfway in a recent performance table.

Steve Morley, who lives on a crime-troubled estate in Ramsgate, said: "We never seem to see a proper copper round our way."


We've already seen medical students operate on robots that bleed, yap and flat-line, but it's about time dental students underwent the same kind of scrutiny, don'tcha think?

If things go as planned, future dentists in Japan could soon be practicing on Simroid, a humanoid that resembles a young woman and can talk back when students hit a nerve. Reportedly, the bot can exclaim "it hurts" and move her eyes / hands whenever discomfort is felt.

But best of all, engineers included a "breast sensor" to determine if that area has been touched inappropriately during training. Nothing wrong with ensuring the ethical treatment of robots, we suppose.

The right to bear arms

A man has been arrested in the US after a traffic camera was shot three times with a high-powered rifle. Police in Knoxville, Tennessee were on a routine patrol in the early hours of the morning when they heard a number of sounds "consistent with gunfire".

Following a search of the area they saw a man in a people carrier behaving "very suspiciously". When the officers stopped and searched the van they found a high-calibre deer hunting rifle on the floor of the vehicle.

When the driver Clifford Clark III, 47, was questioned, the arresting officer said he stated that he "didn't want to say what he was doing there because he didn't want to get into trouble".

The police subsequently found a red-light camera that had been hit with three high-calibre rounds. Mr Clark was charged with felony vandalism and reckless endangerment.

"There's neighbourhoods all around that area," Captain Gordon Catlett told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

He expressed disbelief that someone would be prepared to open fire in a residential area. "I guarantee you he wouldn't want someone shooting a high-powered rifle around his house," he added.

Capt Catlett went on to say that he had no record of Mr Clark ever having received a fine because of the camera.

In Britain there are many examples of speed cameras being beaten, burned and hacked down by angry motorists. There are so far no known examples of the road-side devices being shot at.

Mr Splashy Pants Fan

There's an article HERE about a record breaking click-mad Mr Splashy Pants fan that just made me laugh!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Spooky book for auction

A macabre 17th century book about the execution of Gunpowder Plot conspirator Father Henry Garnet believed to be bound in the priest's own skin will go under the hammer this Sunday.

Perhaps most spooky of all, some claim to see an image of the priest's tortured face peering out of the anthropodermic binding of 'A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole Proceedings against the Late Most Barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and his Confederats'.

A macabre 17th century book about the execution of Gunpowder Plot conspirator Father Henry Garnet believed to be bound in the priest's own skin will go under the hammer this Sunday.

Perhaps most spooky of all, some claim to see an image of the priest's tortured face peering out of the anthropodermic binding of 'A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole Proceedings against the Late Most Barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and his Confederats'.

It is anyone's guess how much the book, which was made in London in 1606 by Robert Barker, the king's printer, just months after Garnet's execution, will fetch when it goes under the hammer at Wilkinson's Auctioneers in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

Sid Wilkinson, the auctioneer, said: "Because the subject matter is so strange, we thought putting an estimate on it might be a bit vulgar.

"It could make £1,000, it could make hundreds, we just don't know."

He said the book is so rare Wilkinson's had never auctioned one before, but added that making books out of convicts' skin was not an entirely unusual practice.

Garnet's involvement in the plot by Catholics to kill King James I and most of the Protestant aristocracy by blowing up the Houses of Parliament has long been debated.
The priest claimed that, although he was not involved in the plot, he heard details of the plot during confessions, which bound him to confidentiality.

Despite his admonitions, the plotters went ahead.

Pray for rain

The Orthodox Church of Cyprus has ordered priests to pray for rain to end one of the island's worst droughts.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the church head, urged priests to pray together on 2 December for rainfall to end a drought that had "blighted" the land.

The archbishop said Cypriots were "justifiably anxious" over the threat to water supplies and agriculture.

Lower-than-average rainfall over the last year has drained the reservoirs on which Cyprus relies heavily for water.

Cyprus' largest dam is expected to run dry if there is no heavy rainfall within the next month, Reuters news agency reports.

Warned for sweeping

A council has apologised to an 88-year-old widow after a street cleaner told her she could be fined for sweeping leaves from her porch.

Betty Davies said the council worker had seen her sweeping the leaves and later knocked on her door in Splott, Cardiff.

Mrs Davies said she was "lost for words" when told she could be fined, but was being let off with a warning.

Cardiff Council said sorry and it would not fine people for sweeping leaves.

Record-breaking egg

A Faberge egg made for the Rothschild banking family has sold at auction for a world record £8.9m ($18.5m). The Rothschild egg made in 1902 is just one of 12 in public hands known to have been produced to standards required by the Russian Imperial family.

The gold and pink egg has a clock for a face and a diamond-encrusted cockerel which nods its head and flaps its wings on the stroke of each hour. A private Russian art collector bought the clock at Christie's in London. He was in the auction room but not immediately identified.

The egg which has never been seen in public before was previously only documented in private family records. Made by Peter Carl Faberge, it was a gift to Germaine Halphen for her engagement to Baron de Rothschild in 1905.

Anthony Philips, international director of silver and Russian works of art at Christie's, said the Rothschild Faberge Egg "encapsulates every characteristic that defines a true masterpiece".

The sale price included the buyer's premium. The previous record was set when The Faberge Winter Egg sold in 2002 for more than £6.6m. The sale also broke two other records: for the most expensive timepiece sold and the priciest Russian object.

Voyeur Landlord arrested

German police have arrested a 60-year-old landlord after discovering he used cameras and microphones to spy on his tenants for a decade while they bathed and slept.

The man had installed surveillance in the bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas of two flats 10 years ago in the southern city of Ingolstadt, Bavarian police said on Tuesday.

He taped at least seven current and previous tenants – and an unknown number of their guests.

He was arrested on charges of invasion of privacy after one of his tenants discovered the bugging last week while she was cleaning the flat.

The landlord admitted to police he had been watching and recording tenants and guests. Police suspect he had sexual motives.

"Why do you think someone would put a camera in the bathroom – to see if it was being cleaned correctly?" asked Bavarian police spokesman Ulrich Poepsel.

Vote for Mr Splashy Pants

As of yesterday, more than 11,000 possible whale names have been submitted in a contest which has been whittled down to 30, ranging from Aiko, which means 'little love' in Japanese to our favorite, Mr. Splashy Pants.

The project is a collaboration between Greenpeace and scientists working on humpback whales in the South Pacific. The whales are being tracked via satellite as they migrate from breeding and calving areas in the tropical South Pacific to the feeding grounds of the Southern Ocean.

This project will produce important information on the movements and migratory destinations of humpback whales from small, unrecovered populations off Rarotonga (Cook Islands) and New Caledonia.

You can go to the Greenpeace website and vote for your favorite name from among the 30 and hit the submit button at the bottom of the page. You can only vote once but you can ask as many friends to vote as you like. The voting ends on the 30th of November 2007 at 17:00 Amsterdam time.

Posted by Irene onboard the Esperanza

We don't know who suggested the name in our whale naming competition, but the popularity of Mr Splashy Pants is skyrocketing! Independent Mr Splashy Pants fans have generated all this:

- Mr Splashy Pants t-shirts

- A Mr S.P Facebook group

- There is a Mr Splashy Pants bumper sticker

- The popular link site Reddit rebranded their logo.

Somewhere out there is a Mr Splashy Pants fan with muscle ache: this person found a way to vote more than one time, and decided to do so, peeking at about 150 clicks per minute (we have removed the clicks as we felt it was a bit unfair).

Due to the great interest in our whale naming competition we decided to hold it open for a bit longer, the last chance to have your say will be the 7th of December. I still cheer for Veikko, but it looks like Mr Splashy Pants will be hard to beat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Grolsch bottle tree

Bet they had fun building this.

Roadkill toys

Animal and cute toy lovers look away now. First came the toys which turned venereal diseases and parasites into the cutest of soft toys, now prepare for road kill toys. A toy designer has come up with a gory end for teddy bears and other cuddly animal toys.

The first to be launched is Twitch, the Roadkill Racoon, which comes complete with opaque plastic body bag to keep the maggots out and attached to its twitching toe is an identity bag giving details of its demise. According to its tag it was run over over by a milk float last Thursday, near the Hangar Lane Giratory system in London.

The toy's innards and blood can be stuffed in and out of his body. A zip on each side contains the blood and guts. Its eyes are goggling, tongue is lolling around and a tyre print runs across its back.

The toys' creators, Compost Communications, have styled themselves 'toy terrorists' and according to their website: 'We squash and burn and bludgeon and maim. But we're also toy fanatics like you. We love toys.'

Toy creator Adam Arber, 33, from London, said: 'I got the idea from looking at my mother-in-law's dog which is quite ugly and I thought it would make a great toy. A friend of mine had taken some pictures of road kill and the two things gelled into one idea.'

Mr Arber, who works in advertising and who has been creating the toys in his spare time, said: 'I asked my mother-in-law and wife what they thought. I thought they might be upset but they just laughed.'

He said he thought the toys, which cost £25, would appeal to people with a sense of humour and 'probably not anyone easily upset'.

He said coming soon were other characters including Grind the rabbit, Splodge the hedgehog and Pop the weasel and likely gruesome scenarios would include death by being run over by kebab vans and golf buggies.

The toys go on sale this weekend at Play Lounge in London and from mid-December on

Teddy bear toss

Portland Winter Hawks fans donated 20,372 teddy bears during the annual teddy bear toss over the weekend, in which fans chuck the stuffed animals onto the ice during the first Winter Hawks goal. The bears are given to charity.

The Winter Hawks scored early in the game, but the goal was waived off on a poor call by the ref. However, the animals still rained down, setting a new world record for thrown stuffed animals with over 20,000.

Combat camels for UN

India plans to send combat-trained camels to solve the transport headache facing a fledgling UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region, officers here say.

India's Border Security Force (BSF) said it received a request last week from the United Nations to send the specially schooled animals to the troubled African region.

Indian border security forces use camels for long-range reconnaissance, including night patrols to track arms and drugs smugglers heading into the western states of Rajasthan and Gujarat from nearby Pakistan.

India and South Africa are the only countries known to use camels for military purposes.

Bridge for $1

SOLDIERS GROVE, Wis. -- A Wisconsin village has a way to get around having to demolish a decrepit, old bridge: Sell it for $1.

The Kickapoo River bridge hasn't carried traffic in more than three decades.

Officials said they hope high scrap prices will attract a buyer with a buck burning a hole in his pocket. They had tried the same thing once before, but the buyer backed out.

The bridge was built in 1910 and served as a major connection for the community until a new route was built. The bridge then turned into a fishing spot. More than 30 years ago, the state Department of Transportation recommended closing the bridge, saying its age and condition posed a hazard.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tumbleweed "Millionairess"

Linda started her online business, the Prairie Tumbleweed Farm, as a joke. It was 1994 and she wanted to teach herself how to design a website. Since she lived on the prairie in southwest Kansas, where rolling tumbleweeds are sometimes the only dynamic feature of an endless flat horizon, she invented a farm that sold tumbleweeds, listing prices at $15 for a small one, $20 for a medium and $25 for large.

Lucky for her, some people didn’t get the joke. People emailed the site wanting to buy them. But even then Linda doubted she would be able to spin this straw into gold. “When I got an order I was just amazed,” she says, sitting on the porch of her home in Garden City, Kansas. “And each order I got, I thought it would probably be the last order. I remember thinking they would probably get them and send them back immediately as soon as they find out what they are.”

But that didn't happen. In fact, the orders just kept coming -- an average of 15 per week. Though she’s coy about her annual income from tumbleweed wrangling, she says it is over $40,000 a year. Not bad for a bunch of dead, dried-up weeds. Who buys them? Well, says Katz, rocket scientists, for one. NASA purchased tumbleweeds when they were designing their Mars Tumbleweed rover. “And if you go to their site on the NASA site to the tumbleweed rover, and you go to their links, they say that they only buy their tumbleweeds from Prairie Tumbleweed Farm,” Katz says proudly.

Patriotic chaos

A proposed new law to boost patriotism in Thailand would be "chaotic" because it would require motorists to stop when the national anthem is played twice a day, lawmakers said Friday.

A vote on the Flag Bill proposed by a group of retired and active duty generals in the army-appointed parliament was deferred Thursday to allow a committee to study it.

"It would be chaotic if the bill had passed as it is now. So the National Legislative Assembly decided to set up a panel to review it," NLA member Wallop Tangkananurak told Reuters. The bill's supporters say road traffic should stop nationwide when the anthem is played during the raising and lowering of the flag "to preserve tradition and instill patriotism in Thais."

"The national anthem lasts only one minute and eight seconds, so why can't motorists stop their cars for the sake of the country?," retired General and NLA member Pricha Rochanasena, 70, told Reuters. "They already spend more time in traffic jams anyway," he said, referring to Bangkok's notoriously congested streets.

Most Thais already stop what they are doing and stand still when the national anthem is played on loudspeakers in train stations, parks and office buildings at 8 a.m and 6 p.m.

Pricha said the bill, which did not propose penalties for violators, would allow motorists to be patriotic too.

Elf courses

In the northern city of Rovaniemi, the capital of the Province of Lapland, one can soon become a certified elf. Starting in April of next year, the Lapland Vocational College will offer a one-year course in "elfing" (or should that be "elving"? "gnoming"?) as a response to the growing need of the programme services enterprises in the tourism industry.

Even this Christmas it is estimated that around 500 elves (or gnomes, you decide) will serve in various tasks within the tourism industry in Lapland.

"Various safari and other programme services firms have already established a two-week crash course for those wishing to be employed as seasonal workers in tourism. The elf academy will suit those aiming for a permanent career in the field", explains project manager Kari Rekilä from the Lapland Vocational College.

The elf training will be based on the wilderness guide programme. The focus is on good customer service. For many of the Christmas tourists, the elf guide is often more or less their only human contact during the short visit to Lapland.

"Today a good knowledge of animals and plants is not necessarily required any more", Rekilä states. After the Christmas season a professional elf could act as a regular tour guide or in a number of other tasks in safari firms.

All of Lapland’s major safari companies have taken part in the planning of the new study programme.

Built on tea

Builders need about 9,500 cups of tea to build the average three- bedroom house, research claims today. Britain’s brickies get through more than three million cuppas every day, taking an average of four breaks.

Three quarters say regular tea breaks make them more productive at work. Seven out of ten say the drink has relaxing and stress-relieving properties, while 80 per cent say it helps them bond with fellow workers.

Just eight per cent of builders choose coffee over tea, a poll of 100 building firms says.

Ban DiHydrogen Monoxide

No gulls

Prankster fails to deter Beauty Queen

Puerto Rico -- Beauty pageant organizers were investigating Sunday who doused a contestant's evening gowns with pepper spray and spiked her makeup, causing her to break out in hives.

Beauty queen Ingrid Marie Rivera beat 29 rivals to become the island's 2008 Miss Universe contestant, despite applying makeup and wearing evening gowns that had been coated with pepper spray, pageant spokesman Harold Rosario said.

Rivera was composed while appearing before cameras and judges throughout the competition. But once backstage, she had to strip off her clothes and apply ice bags to her face and body, which swelled and broke out in hives twice.

"We thought at first it was an allergic reaction, or maybe nerves," Rosario said. "But the second time, we knew it couldn't have been a coincidence."

Rivera's clothing and makeup later tested positive for pepper spray.

Someone also stole Rivera's bag containing her gowns, makeup and credit cards. And a bomb threat forced pageant officials to postpone the last day of competition on Thursday, said Magali Febles, director of the Miss Puerto Rico Universe pageant.

Pageant organizers said the hoped to catch and expose whoever was responsible for the pranks. They said, however, they were handling the investigation themselves and police are not involved.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Parking chief sacked

ROME'S mayor sacked the city's traffic and parking chief overnight after a newspaper reported he parked his car in a no parking zone and displayed a handicapped permit that belonged to an 86-year-old woman.

Giovanni Catanzaro parked his red Alfa Romeo Brera in a tow-away zone near the Spanish Steps in central Rome before heading off to a restaurant on Saturday, Roman Il Messaggero newspaper reported overnight, complete with pictures from the scene.

His car displayed a permit for disabled drivers that was no longer valid and initially issued to a senior citizen, the paper said, noting that officials almost never tow away a disabled person's vehicle no matter where it is parked.

A spokesman for Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said Mr Catanzaro had been removed from his post as head of the city's municipal police force that oversees traffic and parking violations after the newspaper report.

Rome has a series of restrictions on driving and parking along many of its narrow, cobblestoned streets, though parking illegally - often on sidewalks and crosswalks - is a common sight across the city.

Texan town sold on eBay

SAN ANTONIO - Putting up a winning bid of $3.8 million, an unknown Italian buyer purchased today a five-hectare, unpopulated and one-house town in Texas through the online auction site eBay.

But before Bobby Cave, who currently owns the town of Albert, signs the deed over, he must first figure out if the winning bid is legitimate.

Cave said that unlike the usual items bought through eBay, there are no contractual obligations when it comes to real estate.

The 47-year-old real estate agent from Texas says it all turned out great.

If the deal goes through, the winning buyer will inherit an icehouse created from the frame of the old general store, a pavilion, an 85-year-old dance hall, a tractor shed and a three-bedroom house.

Bridgeville, in northern California, was the first town ever put on the eBay auction block. The 34 hectares were twice sold on the site, in 2002 (that deal fell through) and again last year.

The reserve price for the town was $2.5 million. Even if the deal does not go through, Cave said he has about five other prospective buyers genuinely interested in the town.

Albert is about 60 miles north of San Antonio.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Man Gulps Down Feast to Support Hungry

It was a Thanksgiving meal for 10, but Tim Janus devoured it alone in just 15 minutes as part of a public relations stunt to draw attention to New York City's hungry.

"What's so important about today is that it begins to fill my stomach up and I can now leave a little more for everybody else," Janus said after consuming a 10-pound turkey, four pounds of mashed potatoes, three pounds of cranberry sauce and 2 1/2 pounds of beans.

And he still had room for dessert: an entire pumpkin pie.

Janus - a Major League Eater champion who holds world titles in cannolis, marshmallow Peeps and tiramisu - said the league was donating $6,000 to the Food Bank for New York City - a sum that will provide 30,000 meals. Last week, the league gave $4,000 to Second Harvest food bank.

According to the Food Bank for New York City Web site, 1.3 million New Yorkers currently turn to food pantries and soup kitchens to keep from going hungry, a 24 percent rise from 2004.

PA's obscure flag

The Pennsylvania flag is so obscure that many people in the state cannot identify it, says Democratic State Rep. Tim Solobay. He wants to add the words "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" to the 100-year-old flag.

And he's not the only one. Solobay submitted a proposal for the change that House lawmakers passed in June by a vote of 164-31. The Senate committee is now considering the bill.

Others in the state have criticized the idea of altering the traditional flag. Former teacher Peter Malichock Jr., calls it "outrageous," according to Fox.

"They are dumbing down the flag because they are making it easier for people to identify it," he said. Others have said replacing all the flags would be too costly.

Solobay has defended his proposal by saying that not all flags would need to be replaced. As new flags are made, a statement by his office said, the updated design would be phased in. In the new version, the words "Commonwealth of" would appear above the coat of arms along with "Pennsylvania" below it, all in yellow silk block letters.

Of the 50 states, 28 include the name or initials of the state on their flags, making them easy to identify.

The mother of all Swiss army knives

It weighs nearly 3 pounds, has 87 tools with at least 115 uses, costs $1,200 and has been included in the 2008 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

The bristling behemoth of a Swiss Army knife has a dozen or so blades, saws and cutters; a dozen or so screwdrivers; and the toothpicks, key rings, magnifiers, fish scalers and nail files sometimes found on combination penknives.

But it also includes a laser pointer and a flashlight.

"Basically, they took every implement they ever put in a Swiss Army knife and combined them in this one piece," said Jennifer Voss, spokeswoman of Wenger North America, the American distributor.

The knife, manufactured by Wenger in Delemont, Switzerland, looks like a bunch of different pocketknives placed side-by-side and soldered together.

And it has a wrench just for the spikes on a golf shoe; a tool just for opening the case of a watch; and a screwdriver specifically for gunsights.

And if that isn't enough, it also includes a tool to push a cuticle, measure a tire tread, clean a golf club or adjust a bicycle spoke.

Twister attempt way off

I missed this a couple of weeks ago, from Canada ....

They came. They saw. They twisted. The Breakfast Television crew gathered bright and early at the Rogers Centre to try and break a Guinness Book of World Records mark for the most people playing Twister at one time.

More than 2,000 people showed up to try and "Bend It Like Frankish". Twister game pads dotted the field at the sports stadium, with everyone bending over backwards to shatter the record.

Age didn't seem to be a factor. There were the very young - who may barely know what Twister is; the middle aged - who grew up with the game in the 60s.; and the slightly older folks - who don't fold over as well as they used to but gave it the old college try. Throw in a few fitness buff and the odd contortionist and you had a recipe for record breaking.

Did they twist the old Twister mark? "Unfortunately, we have sad news," host Kevin Frankish intoned at the end of the morning. "We did not quite make the record here." They needed 4,161 to shatter the previous milestone. They had just over 2,000.

Kosher ham soda ?

Coming soon next to the Coke and Pepsi in a store near you: ham-and latke-flavored soda to make your holiday feast complete. It even will be kosher, the company making it says -- including the ham.

Jones Soda Co., the Seattle-based purveyor of offbeat fizzy water, is selling holiday-themed limited-edition packs of flavored sodas.

The Christmas pack will feature such flavors as Sugar Plum, Christmas Tree, Egg Nog and Christmas Ham. The Hanukkah pack will have Jelly Doughnut, Apple Sauce, Chocolate Coins and Latkes sodas.

"As always, both packs are kosher and contain zero caffeine," Jones said in a statement.

The packs will go on sale Sunday, with a portion of the proceeds to be given to charity, the company said.

Jones' products feature original label art and frequently odd flavors. Last year's seasonal pack was Thanksgiving-themed, with Green Pea, Sweet Potato, Dinner Roll, Turkey and Gravy, and Antacid sodas.

For its contract to supply soda to Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, Jones came up with Perspiration, Dirt, Sports Cream and Natural Field Turf. The company -- fortunately or unfortunately -- prides itself on the accuracy of the taste.

Jones also makes more traditional flavors, including root beer, cherry and strawberry sodas.

Granny banned from giving sweets

A grandmother has been banned from giving sweets to her grandchildren after a court heard they had suffered dental problems. The grandmother, known as EM, launched a legal battle against her own daughter over access to the four children.

Perth Sheriff Court was told EM would often bring two carrier bags of sweets with her on visits. Sheriff Daniel Kelly QC granted the grandmother one visit a month on the condition she did not give them sweets.

The grandmother took her daughter to court after contact with the four children was cut off in March 2006.

The court was told the two oldest children had suffered dental problems and had to have teeth removed.

Sheriff Kelly said: "She said the SSPCA visit was not the reason for stopping contact, but was 'the final straw'. Other reasons which she advanced related to her considering that the pursuer gave the children too many sweets and fizzy drinks, was domineering and interfering. She said that the pursuer would often bring two carrier bags of sweets. She said she had asked her not to bring them."

The sheriff said it was not possible to ascertain whether the dental problems were solely because of the sweets provided by the grandmother.

"I accept that the pursuer did give the children excessive sweets," he said.

"The dental health of the children is undoubtedly important, but I regard it as significant that the pursuer has given an undertaking not to give them sweets during contact. I am fully satisfied it would be in the children's best interests to continue to see their grandmother."

He ruled that initially the grandmother should be allowed to see her grandchildren for two hours once a month. He adopted EM's undertaking not to give the children sweets during contact - and said he would rely on the children confessing if the rule was broken.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Nincompoop voted UK's favourite sounding word.

"Nincompoop" has been voted the UK's favourite sounding word.

The term, probably derived in around 1676 from the Latin definition of someone not of a sound mind "non compos mentis", came top of a poll to find Britain's favourite words.

"Nincompoop", which is now used to describe a silly or foolish person, polled 13 per cent of the votes to scoop the title.

More than 2,000 Nincompoops members of the British public were asked to pick their favourite word from the 16,500 entries in the Cambridge Dictionary.

The nation's top 20 words are:
1. Nincompoop
2. Love
3. Mum
4. Discombobulated
5. Excellent
6. Happy
7. Squishy
8. Fabulous
9. Cool
10. Onomatopoeia
11. Weekend
12. Incandescent
13. Wicked
14. Lovely
15. Lush
16. Peace
17. Cosy
18. Bed
19. Freedom
20. Kiss

Anthem gaffe

Croatia rose to the occasion in their crucial Euro 2008 defeat of England - after an apparent X-rated gaffe by an English opera singer at Wembley.

Tony Henry belted out a version of the Croat anthem before the 80,000 crowd, but made a blunder at the end.

He should have sung 'Mila kuda si planina' (which roughly means 'You know my dear how we love your mountains').

But he instead sang 'Mila kura si planina' which can be interpreted as 'My dear, my penis is a mountain'.

Now Henry could be one of the few Englishmen at the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland as Croatian fans adopt him as a lucky omen. They believe his mistake relaxed their chuckling players, who scored an early goal in the 3-2 win that put Croatia top of the group and knocked out England.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Aussie PM's house up for sale

The spectacular harbourside Sydney residence of Australian Prime Minister John Howard was offered for sale on Thursday in a prank ahead of a national election tipped to sweep the veteran conservative from power.

"Impressive waterfront views! Poised on the top of a hill and the envy of many onlookers. This two-storey house is a residence of power," said a spoof advertisement on newspaper real estate Web site

"Breathtaking views of Sydney's beautiful harbour, perfect place to view Sydney's fireworks," it said under a photo of Howard on the steps of Kirribilli House, the prime minister's official residence which looks out on the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

On Thursday, Howard, 68 and in power for 11 years, delivered his final national televised speech ahead of the November 24 vote, which successive polls show Labor's Kevin Rudd is likely to win.

"Plans for A$500,000-plus (211,785 pound-plus) renovation of the dining room to re-enact the predicted Last Supper," the ad said. "Current occupant considering a move even if a new lease is signed."

Howard used the Kirribilli residence, built in 1854, to entertain foreign leaders including U.S. President George W. Bush during an Asia-Pacific summit in September.

The ad noted that the house used 28 times more water than the average household at a time when Australia was in a 10-year drought.

Michael McNamara, a spokesman for, owned by one of the nation's biggest newspapers groups, said the ad was posted in-house by an unidentified staff member.

"From our perspective it was a bit of light-hearted fun after the stress of a long election campaign. I don't think we'll be removing it any time soon," he told Reuters.

Happy Thanksgiving !

School drops red Santa in Coke protest

A school is forcing Santa Claus to wear a green suit this year – in case his traditional red costume reminds children of Coca-Cola adverts.

It claims Santa's image has become too commercial and want pupils to learn about his origins instead of sitting on his lap and asking for the latest toy.

The school's 200 pupils, aged from three to 16, will instead be greeted by a green-suited, slipper-wearing Father Christmas at its festive bazaar.

Sarah James, spokeswoman for the Steiner School in Brighton, said: 'The red-suited Santa was created as a marketing tool by Coca-Cola, it is a symbol of commercialism.

'We are not trying to be a spoilsport or anything like that. The children are bound to come across Santa Claus plenty of times in the run-up to Christmas and we're happy for them to. We just want the bazaar to give them a different experience.'
But some parents are happy for their children to meet the 'commercial' Santa. Mother-of-two Cheryl Williams, 24, said: 'What a load of nonsense. What are they going to ban next, snow? Once again the PC brigade has clamped down on everyone's fun.'

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shoal of jellyfish kill salmon farm

The only salmon farm in Northern Ireland has lost its entire population of more than 100,000 fish, worth $2 million, to a spectacular jellyfish attack, its owners said Wednesday.

The Northern Salmon Co. Ltd. said billions of jellyfish -- in a dense pack of about 10 square miles and 35 feet deep -- overwhelmed the fish last week in two net pens about a mile off the coast of the Glens of Antrim, north of Belfast.

Managing director John Russell said the company's dozen workers tried to rescue the salmon, but their three boats struggled for hours to push their way through the mass of jellyfish. All the fish were dead or dying from stings and stress by the time the boats reached the pens, he said.

Russell, who previously worked at Scottish salmon farms and took the Northern Ireland job just three days before the attack, said he had never seen anything like it in 30 years in the business.

"It was unprecedented, absolutely amazing. The sea was red with these jellyfish and there was nothing we could do about it, absolutely nothing," he said.

The species of jellyfish responsible, Pelagia nocticula -- popularly known as the mauve stinger -- is noted for its purplish night-time glow and its propensity for terrorizing bathers in the warmer Mediterranean Sea. Until the past decade, the mauve stinger has rarely been spotted so far north in British or Irish waters, and scientists cite this as evidence of global warming.

Russell said the company, which bills its salmon as organic and exports to France, Belgium, Germany and the United States, faces likely closure unless it receives emergency aid from the British government.

Human hairball

It may not be the most appetizing reading before a hearty holiday meal, but the New England Journal of Medicine is devoting part of its Thanksgiving issue to a giant hairball -- and not the feline kind.

The prestigious journal details the case of a previously healthy 18-year-old woman who consulted a team of gastrointestinal specialists.

She complained of a five-month history of pain and swelling in her abdomen, vomiting after eating and a 40-pound weight loss.

After a scan of the woman's abdomen showed a large mass, doctors lowered a scope through her esophagus.

It revealed "a large bezoar occluding nearly the entire stomach," wrote Drs. Ronald M. Levy and Srinadh Komanduri, gastroenterologists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

For the uninitiated, a bezoar is a hairball.

"On questioning, the patient stated that she had had a habit of eating her hair for many years -- a condition called trichophagia," they wrote. "It seemed like she'd been doing this for several years," Levy said.

The woman underwent surgery to remove the mass of black, curly hair, which weighed 10 pounds and measured 15 inches by 7 inches by 7 inches, the doctors said.

Five days later, she was eating normally and was sent home.

A year later, the pain and vomiting were gone, the patient had regained 20 pounds "and reports that she has stopped eating her hair."

$2m Santa

Japanese jewelers have prepared a very unusual Christmas and New Year gift for those who love expensive jewelry and luxury pieces. They have unveiled a statue of Santa Claus made of 20 kilograms of pure yellow gold and 1,7 ct of diamonds!

The 41-centimeter tall gold Santa Claus carries a shoulder bag and of course not a simple one: it is made of fine gold wire. As for the gifts Santa carries in his bag, they are also made of pure yellow gold. Santa's belt buckle is adorned with 23 diamonds.

The gold Santa Claus is already on display at Tanaka Kikinzoku jewelry shop, in Tokyo.
It took three months to create the statue of 20 kg gold Santa that measures approximately 41 cm x 24 cm x 25 cm.

The gorgeous gold Santa Claus will be displayed at the shop until Christmas but the company is ready to create more pieces on order. As for the price for such an unusual Santa Claus, it reaches about 200 million yen!


Britain's tax and customs service lost banking and personal data of 25 million people -- nearly half the country's population -- when two computer disks disappeared in an internal mail service, the Treasury chief said Tuesday.

Paul Gray, the Revenue and Customs chairman, has resigned over the error, which happened when officials sent the disks to a government audit office.

Treasury chief Alistair Darling said the delivery was not being tracked and was missing for three weeks before any alarm was raised.

The disks contained details on 7.25 million families in Britain claiming child benefit -- a tax-free monthly payment available to everyone with children. The figure represents almost half the families in Britain, and the majority of the country's children. Britain's population is about 60 million.

The information on the disks included the names of parents and children, their addresses, dates of birth, national insurance numbers and banking details.

"I regard this as an extremely serious failure," Darling told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

He insisted there was no evidence the data had fallen into the hand of criminals and said police were involved in the hunt for the missing disks. He said banks had been told to look for signs of suspicious activity.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Largest spit-roast

A French cook has prepared the world's largest barbecue - spit-roasting a 550kg (1100lb) camel for 15 hours at a seaside Moroccan town south of Rabat.

"It's a tradition that's fallen out of favour," said 63-year-old Christian Falco from the south-western French city of Perpignan, describing a time two centuries ago when a Moroccan king offered a roast camel to his people.

"I brought it back," said Mr Falco, a six-time Guinness world record holder whose other culinary claims to fame include spit-roasting the world's largest slab of beef, 985.5kg, in 1996.

Mr Falco began barbecuing his latest meal early yesterday, using 2.7 tonnes of wood and 15 litres of oil to cook the camel meat.

About 500 intrepid diners feasted on it last night at the seaside town of Safi, paying 150 dirhams ($20) for the experience.

Safi was also the settng for the world's largest tajine, a North African stew, made of sardines in 1999.

Falco is already planning his next challenge - to beat the world record for the biggest spit-roasted bison in Costa Rica.

Yorke paid nothing

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has admitted he was among the thousands of people who paid nothing to download the band's latest album.

Last month the group released In Rainbows online and invited fans to set their own price. Speaking to BBC 6 Music's Steve Lamacq, Yorke said: "There wasn't any point. I just move some money from one pocket to the other."

According to one survey, three in five people paid nothing at all for it.

The project, which in October one of the band's managers Bryce Edge admitted was a "risk", was shrouded in secrecy.

"We had to literally tell no-one. I didn't tell my wife we were going to release it like this," said guitarist Ed O'Brien.

Yorke added that no-one was allowed to have copies of the master recording in case it was leaked beforehand.

"Every record that we've done for ages has been leaked. And why not leak the bloody thing yourself?" he said.

Regal "shut Up" Becomes a Cult Ringtone

A diplomatic spat has become an unlikely cult hit and turned into a popular ringtone and social meme. Last week, at a conference of Spanish speaking countries, the Ibero-American Summit in Santiago de Chile, King Juan Carlos I of Spain pointed his finger at Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and asked him, "Por qué no te callas?" (Why don't you shut up?). Despite organizers turning off Chávez's microphone, he had continued interrupting the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, while the latter was defending his predecessor and political opponent, José María Aznar, after Chávez had referred to Aznar as a fascist.

The comment "por qué no te callas?" has gone on to become a cult slogan and can be heard ringing out from mobile phones from Miami to Caracas - as well as appearing on t-shirts, and as a greeting amongst teens. The repost was particularly insulting as it used the familiar "you" which should only be used amongst close friends as opposed to the formal "you" which would have been more polite between the two men.

A domain name - is selling for a sizeable sum on eBay, having reached US$4,600 at time of writing - doubtless the owner will use it to sell ringtones and accessories.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kittens think rabbit is mom

Six abandoned kittens have found an unexpected new mother figure - a pet rabbit.

Veterinary nurse Melanie Humble took the three-week-old kittens to her Aberdeen home. The kittens seemed to think Summer the rabbit was their mother and began to climb all over her and try to feed from her. Efforts will be made to find the four males and two females permanent homes in the coming weeks.

Melanie, 29, told the BBC Scotland news website: "The abandoned kittens were handed in when they were about three weeks old and I took them home. Summer the rabbit was taken inside on Bonfire Night because of the fireworks and the kittens seemed to really like her and thought she was their mother."

She added: "They were trying to get milk from her and climbing over her. And Summer was not bothered by them at all. Summer is five months old and she's gigantic. It is lovely to see them all together. They are all doing well and Cats Protection will re-home them."

Rat poison dumplings

A Chinese cook reached for a packet of rat poison thinking it was flour when making rice dumplings, inadvertently killing himself and five others, state media said. The six died after eating dumpling soup last week, prompting a police investigation to see if any crime had been committed, the Shanghai Daily said.

Chen Ruyan, who worked at a recycling station in the central province of Hubei, was preparing lunch last Sunday.

"In the process, Chen found the rice dough he was preparing for making "tangyuan" (rice dumplings) was quite watery and he decided to add more rice flour," the Shanghai Daily said. "Unfortunately, he mistook rat poison that had been placed together with other condiments as flour and mixed it into the dough."

Investigators found Chen, who sold rat poison as a business, had put the chemicals in the kitchen when he moved home. China is in the middle of a nationwide campaign to improve food and product safety after a string of international scares that have tainted its export reputation.

But the government is also worried about lax safety endangering the country's own citizens. Reports of usually non-fatal food poisoning at school canteens and restaurants, especially in the countryside, are common.

Eiffel stair auction

Every souvenir shop in Paris sells miniature Eiffel towers, but one lucky bidder will soon be able to buy a piece of the real thing.

A section of the winding iron staircase that Gustave Eiffel climbed to inaugurate the monument in 1889 will be sold at the Hotel Drouot auction house on Monday.

In 1983, the 1,911-step staircase was removed to make room for new elevators and was cut into 24 pieces that were auctioned off to museums and collectors around the world.

The four-metre piece for sale once helped link the monument's second and third levels, and is expected to sell for between $29,000 and $44,000, said auctioneer Remi Ader.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Egg in Nog ?

When your family owns and operates a place called Smiling Hill Farm, you tend to go through life with a grin. But last week, the best Warren Knight could manage was a grimace.

It started with a spot inspection from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- it happens every year or two at the Westbrook dairy farm and has never been a big deal.

But this time was different. Looking over a fresh batch of the Smiling Hill egg nog, the inspector did a double take: The bottle cap -- the only place on the otherwise all-glass container with any printing -- was out of federal compliance.

How so? "Eggs were not listed as an ingredient," Knight recalled.

Egg, you see, is an allergen. As such, the inspector told Knight, it must be explicitly listed as an ingredient somewhere on the one-and-three-eighths-inch-wide cap.

"But the cap says 'Egg Nog!' " protested Knight.... Didn't matter.

"But we're limited by cap space," Knight persisted. What's more, they can't start slapping warning labels onto their reusable bottles without gumming up the bottle washer.

Not the feds' problem.

Then things turned really sour. The FDA notified the Maine Department of Agriculture that all Smiling Hill egg nog on store shelves -- about 400 gallons at that point -- had to be recalled to protect people with egg allergies who don't know there's egg in egg nog.

Enter, not a moment too soon, Ashley Slattery, Maine's dairy inspector.

"We really didn't want to do a recall," Slattery said Friday. Still, she added, the FDA wanted something on that cap "so the people would know egg nog contains eggs."

Umm ... wouldn't people already know that by the name of the product?

"You'd think so," Slattery said.

So here's the deal. No recall, but Knight agreed to have his label redesigned to include the ingredients and, in the meantime, affix a warning label to every bottle of egg nog that leaves his farm.

Knight headed for Staples Thursday and bought a bunch of red, one-inch-round labels. Then he fired up his computer and printed "WARNING Contains EGGS" twice on each one.

Then he and the rest of the family spent the day cutting each label in half and affixing the semi-circular warnings to the cap on each bottle -- being careful not to encroach on the bar code.

"Someday we're going to look back at this and laugh," chortled one of the workers.

Replied Knight, "Yeah, but it won't be tomorrow."

60 Royal wedding facts

The Duke of Edinburgh had two stag parties before his wedding to the Queen and the couple were showered with rose petals as they headed off on honeymoon. The information is among 60 facts released by Buckingham Palace to celebrate their diamond anniversary on November 20th.

Another fact reveals how their wedding cake on 20 November 1947 was 9ft (2.74m) high.

Royal family members have attended a celebration dinner hosted by Prince Charles at Clarence House.

The Queen is the first British monarch to celebrate a diamond wedding anniversary.

The list of wedding facts also disclosed that on the day of the wedding, the grave of the Unknown Warrior was the only stone not covered by a special carpet inside Westminster Abbey. The day after the ceremony, the Queen followed a tradition started by her mother of having her wedding bouquet returned to the Abbey to be laid on the tombstone.

And among the 2,500 wedding presents were two pairs of bed socks and a home-made tea cosy sent by members of the public.

All the 60 facts are HERE and the Official Royal website HERE

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Eurostar ads annoy a couple of people

A series of tongue-in-cheek adverts for Eurostar depicting stereotypical images of British life have prompted complaints that they are offensive. The images, promoting services to Brussels, have gone up on hoardings and posters in four Belgian cities.

One which shows a half-naked skinhead relieving himself in a teacup, received five complaints from British people in Belgium, a Eurostar spokeswoman said. She said the firm had apologised to them, but the adverts would remain.

The spokeswoman for Eurostar said the campaign had become popular and was specifically for Belgium.

It would not be used in either France or the UK. In a statement Eurostar said: "They've [Belgian people] been trying to get hold of copies of the posters and have sent in emails and letters of congratulation on how successful the campaign is. For those few who have complained we are sending them a personal letter apologising if we caused offence and explaining the thinking behind the creative and the use of humour."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Masturbation Meadow Street

Villagers are campaigning to change the name of a new street because it translates into 'Masturbation Meadow'.

Julia Newsham has launched a petition to change the name of Cae Onan in her home village of Morda, near Oswestry, Shropshire, on the Welsh borders.

The 48-year-old believes council planners meant to call it Cae Onnen which translates as 'Ash Meadow' but was shocked when friends told her what this version means.

The housewife said: 'It's embarrassing. It has got to the stage when I tell someone its name and check their expression.'

Cae is Welsh for meadow or field – but Onan has no Welsh translation other than the Biblical figure killed by God for 'spilling his seed', instead of impregnating his late brother's wife. That led to the the word 'onanism', an old term for masturbation.

Paul Shevlin, from Oswestry Borough Council, said there were no plans to change the name as it was 'not something that would be generally picked up on'.

Robbed by a stapler

Kentucky - A man wearing a ski mask used a stapler to hold up an eastern Kentucky ice cream store - and briefly got away with $175, authorities said.

Gerald A Rocchi, 32, was arrested shortly after he flashed a chrome-plated stapler at an employee of The Ice Cream Shop in Ashland on Tuesday and demanded money, police said.

Ashland Police Captain Don Petrella said he didn't know if Rocchi planned to shoot staples at the shop's employees or use it as a blunt instrument if he didn't get the cash.

It didn't come to that because the employees handed over the cash, Petrella said.

Several witnesses saw Rocchi leave the shop and told police where he was headed, Petrella said. After arresting Rocchi, police searched his house and found money, a stapler and a ski mask, Petrella said.

Petrella said the stapler's chrome finish could have made it look like a gun "if someone didn't get a good look at it".

Rocchi was charged with first-degree robbery. He made his first appearance in Boyd District Court on Wednesday morning. He did not have an attorney at the hearing.

Suspended for wearing a tie

Austin Perkins, 17, thought he was going one step above what was required of him. The Golden Gate High School senior wore a jacket and tie to school Wednesday and the act sent him to in-school suspension.

His violation? He wasn’t following the dress code.

“I thought it was better than a polo shirt,” he said. “So, my friend and I thought why not take the extra step? It says business dress. A coat and tie are business dress. Instead we were thrown in a room where we couldn’t talk.”

Principal Bob Spano said Perkins and several other students had been warned before Wednesday that they were not following the dress code.

“This was a group of students who had been talked to before,” he said. “Because there was a group of them, it sort of brought more attention to it.”

When they didn’t comply again on Wednesday, Spano said the students were brought to the office, where they were given the option of calling home and having someone bring them the appropriate clothes or going to in-school suspension.

“They chose not to call home,” he said.

Golden Gate High approved a professional dress code for students last year, making it the first high school in Collier County to do so. Under the policy, students are required to wear collared or polo shirts that must be tucked in. The shirts must be in a solid color of white, gray, green, pink or khaki. The shirts must be 3 inches below the waist, which is school board policy.

Students are allowed to wear long pants, walking shorts, skirts or dresses in black, khaki or denim fabric. Belts are required. Athletes and cheerleaders are allowed to wear their uniforms on game days.

Spano said 95 to 98 percent of students have been in compliance with the dress code since school started Monday. “It went way beyond our expectations,” he said. “Those who weren’t in compliance were not aware because they were new or we had a few students who chose not to follow it ... We are proud of our students,” Spano said

No "Ho ho ho" for Aussie Santas

People around the world are bewildered that Australian Santas have been told not to say "ho ho ho".

News of an Aussie recruitment firm replacing "ho ho ho" with "ha ha ha" has travelled fast, with people in New Zealand, the UK and the US amazed at the "extreme" political correctness.

Santa Ernest, the president of charitable organisation Santa America, said he was puzzled and surprised that such a move would come from Australia. "It's amazing to me that it would come from the wonderful land of Australia," said Santa Ernest, who visits children in hospitals year-round. Whether you say 'ha ha ha' or 'ho ho ho' doesn't really matter, as long as you bring (children) love, hope and joy."

Trainees from Westaff, which supplies hundreds of men in red suits to Australian shopping centres, were told the traditional phrase could scare children and be taken as derogatory to women.

"We ask our Santas to try techniques such as lowering their tone of voice and using 'ha ha ha' to encourage the children to come forward and meet Santa," Westaff's national Santa co-ordinator Sari Hegarty told the Daily Telegraph.

The revelations sparked a storm of blog postings, with many international writers bewildered at the campaign against Santa's "ho".

"Who else wants to destroy traditions and re-write history? Santa has always said 'ho, ho, ho'," wrote one blogger at New Zealand-based "How can banning 'ho, ho, ho' possibly better our world — why would anyone even begin to think it would in the first place?"

Macquarie University linguistics professor Pam Peters said the idea of changing the phrase was ridiculous and inappropriate. "How can it be scary for children if it's been there as long as anyone can remember?" Professor Peters said. "It's the time-honoured thing that Santa says and if they change it, it's as if he's speaking another dialect."

Two Santa trainees have quit over the politically correct new greeting, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Santas at department stores David Jones, Myers and the Westfield shopping centre chain will still use the customary greeting as part of their customers Christmas experience.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Use the stairs" sign actually works

A British experiment suggests that sometimes the only thing needed to promote a healthful activity is a sign.

Researchers went to a suburban London shopping mall and counted the number of people using the stairs next to an escalator. Then they put up colorful signs telling shoppers to take the stairs to promote heart health. It worked.

Over six weeks, use of the stairway more than doubled, from about 4 percent of shoppers to nearly 10 percent.

Past studies have produced a similar result.

The findings were recently published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

With fewer daily opportunities for physical activity in modern society, public health officials are increasingly focusing on stairs at schools, workplaces and even the mall.

There's more HERE

Swimming Red Squirrel

Tourists on board a pleasure boat in the Lake District could not believe their eyes when they spotted a red squirrel in the middle of Ullswater. The mammals can swim, but they find it very strenuous, and have been known to drown in water troughs.

But this determined squirrel had swum 300 yards (274m) - or about the length of six swimming pools - from the shore.

Passengers lowered a rope to the mammal and it climbed on board and hitched a lift back to shore.

Robert Benson, chairman of the Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group, said: "I've been involved with the conservation of red squirrels for 15 years and I know they can swim, but I have never seen it.

"This squirrel was swimming strongly and had its tail coiled on its back so it didn't look bedraggled or as if it was struggling. I've never seen anything like it before."

Once ashore the squirrel ran along a fence and disappeared, apparently none the worse for its dip.

Hedgehog put on a diet

A hedgehog that weighs nearly four times as much as its fellow spiny mammals has been put on a diet. Staff from the Wildlife Aid Centre in Leatherhead, who discovered the 2.2kg (4.8lbs) animal in a volunteer's garden, initially thought he was ill.

But after closer inspection George was found to be simply overweight.

The hedgehog, who was being looked after following an eye injury, has now been put on a high protein diet, of cat food, similar to the Atkins plan.

Head nurse Sara Cowen said: "At first we thought he had a condition called ballooning - where air gets trapped under the skin - but when he was brought in we realised he was just a huge fat hedgehog.

"He was being kept in a greenhouse and had been chomping his way around their garden. He has been eating the bread left out for the birds and slowly going up in weight. She added: "We've got to reduce his weight and we've got to do it slowly. Cat food is high in protein and we're stopping him eating bread. So it's a bit like the Atkins diet."

George is also being kept in a heated greenhouse to stop him going into hibernation because toxins released from his excess fat during the winter could kill him, Ms Cowen added.

Staff at the Wildlife Aid centre said the average adult hedgehog should weigh between 600 and 700g (1.3 and 1.5lbs).

Hairspray drinker arrested

A man who allegedly drank two bottles of hairspray inside a department store - apparently not for the first time - has been arrested for shoplifting.
The Northwest Florida Daily News reported that a Wal-Mart employee in Okaloosa County told police he'd been trying to catch the man in the act for weeks.

The store's loss prevention officer, Christopher White, reportedly told police how employees would often find empty bottles of hairspray after the man left the building.

But last Friday, Mr White said, he watched the man take a bottle of hairspray off a shelf and walk into the store’s garden department, where he drank it.

Mr White said the man then walked back, allegedly swapped the empty bottle with a full one, then drank it in the toy department.

The newspaper reported the man was alleged to have paid for some prescription medicines, but left without paying for the hairspray.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The term "lighting up" a smoke could take on a whole new meaning with the development of an electronic cigarette. The latest craze in the UK, the battery-powered cigarette may be the answer to indoor smoking bans.

Smokers still get their nicotine kick through an atomiser, which creates puffs of vapour to resemble cigarette smoke. The e-cigarette can be bought over the internet and is widely available throughout Europe.

Chinese exporter Ruyan claims it is not only a nicotine replacement - it is a smoking alternative.

"The e-cigarette is a hi-tech product developed by Ruyan to provide smokers with a clean alternative to smoking," the company's website says.

"It has no tar, no carbon monoxide and no cancer-causing chemicals."

The cigarette can last up to 350 drags - the equivalent of 30 smokes - and lights up red at the tip.

It comes in varying strengths - from 16mg to 0mg - for smokers trying to kick the habit.

But the device isn't cheap - a starter pack costs $358.

Virtual arrest

Dutch police have made their first arrest of an online thief – a 17-year-old accused of stealing virtual furniture from rooms in the Habbo Hotel – a popular teenager networking Web site.

An Amsterdam police spokeswoman confirmed a report that the teenager was accused of stealing €4,000 worth of virtual furniture by hacking into the accounts of other users.

Four other 15-year-olds have also been questioned in the case, which was instigated by the Web site. They are suspected of moving the stolen furniture into their own online hotel rooms.

Habbo users can create their own characters, decorate their own rooms and play a number of games, paying with Habbo Credits, which they have to buy with real cash.

Habbo Hotel is owned by Finnish Internet company Sulake which said last month it had reached 80 million registered users of its sites in 31 countries.

BA's Empty flights

British Airways has been flying planes from Britain to North America this month without a single passenger aboard because of a cabin crew shortage, the airline said Wednesday.

One environmental group sharply criticized the "phantom" BA flights, saying they indicate once again how indifferent the aviation sector can be to the world's battle against global warming.

Since Nov. 1, about one BA flight a day from Britain to the United States or Canada has left Heathrow or Gatwick airport carrying only pilots and cargo because of a cabin crew shortage, BA spokesman Tony Cane said.

The empty flights allowed BA to pick up passengers in North America who have reservations to fly to Britain, he said.

BA denied a report in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper that said the airline also was operating the empty flights to avoid losing its valuable take-off and landing slots at Heathrow Airport, one of the world's busiest.

British Airways PLC controls 41 per cent of the sought-after slots at Heathrow airport - more than any other airline - and like other flyers it must use them 80 per cent of each year to retain them.

Man marries dog

A man in southern India married a female dog in a traditional Hindu ceremony as an attempt to atone for stoning two other dogs to death. The Hindustan Times reports P. Selvakumar married the sari-draped former stray named Selvi, who was chosen by family members and then bathed and clothed for the ceremony

Selvakumar told the paper he had been suffering since he stoned two dogs to death and hung their bodies from a tree 15 years ago. He said that after the stoning, he became paralyzed in his hands and legs and lost hearing in one ear.

The paper says an astrologer had told Selvakumar the wedding was the only way he could cure the maladies. It did not say whether his situation had improved. After the wedding, the paper reports that the groom and his family sat down to a feast while the dog got a bun.

Deeply superstitious people in rural India sometimes organize weddings to dogs and other animals, believing it can ward off certain curses. The paper showed a picture of Selvakumar sitting next to the dog, which was wearing an orange sari and a flower garland.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The law's an ass (ride away)

A Tyneside town's hope of setting up a weekly market has been dashed by an ancient law involving a donkey. Since the 1200s, South Shields has the right to block rival markets being run less than a day's donkey ride, or six and two-thirds of a mile, away.

North Shields, on the opposite side of the River Tyne, wants its own market, but is blocked by the ancient charter. The president of the North Shields Chamber of Trade and Commerce has now branded the law an ass.

Maggie Richardson said that North Shields needed a market to bring vibrancy to the town centre.
She said: "We have been trying for a number of years to get around this, but every time we have approached South Tyneside Council, they say they were given a market charter some time in the 1200 region by King John, so that no one can set up a market within a day's donkey ride. It's not funny, it's pathetic. The law definitely is an ass."

A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said that the ancient six and two-thirds mile exclusion zone referred to the distance a trader was deemed to be able to travel from home, sell for eight hours, then return in a single day.

She added: "South Shields market is both vibrant and popular, and attracts thousands of visitors to the borough every year. It is of great importance to South Tyneside and, as its owner, the council has a duty to protect it from rivals."

Cricket turns pink

The white ball used in one-day cricket could be replaced by a pink one if tests prove it is more durable. A fluorescent ball could be adopted for one-day county cricket by 2009, and then across the international game.

The red ball lasts much longer, so the pink ball will not be used for Tests and four-day county games.

"It's about the quality of the ball and the fact the white one doesn't last 50 overs," a spokesman for the game's lawmakers, the MCC, told BBC Sport. But there is also the visibility factor to consider - white balls can be notoriously difficult for fielders and batsmen to see in certain light conditions.

The tests will be carried out in the nets at Lord's this winter and also in women's cricket in Australia. In the summer of 2008, further trials will see the pink ball used in county second XI and university matches.

The MCC's head of cricket John Stephenson said: "Paint tends to flake off white balls. The challenge is to produce a ball which retains its colour. If the white ball is not working, let's look at another colour - and pink was a pretty good compromise. My aim would be to use the pink ball in Twenty20 cricket in 2009 and thereafter in one-day international cricket. But this will be dependent on trials and what the England and Wales Cricket Board [ECB] thinks."

Lack of posts

Sorry for the recent lack of postings, but I've been busy moving Continents. Future postings should be back to normal, but not as frequent as before. I will however try to keep the top quality "weirdness" in them :)

Lakshmi doing well (update)

BANGALORE, India - Two-year-old Lakshmi Tatma, an Indian toddler born with four arms and four legs, made her first public appearance Tuesday, a week after surgeons in India successfully removed her additional limbs.

Doctors said Lakshmi was recovering well as she appeared Tuesday at a news conference. Lakshmi, wearing a plaster cast on her legs to keep her feet up and her legs together to help her wounds heal, was carried into a news conference Tuesday as her doctors announced she was being released from intensive care.

"She is coping very well," lead surgeon Dr. Sharan Patil said. "She is being carried around by her mother and her father."

Several of her doctors, all of them smiling, described her recovery over the past week "very steady and good progress," one saying she is "out of the woods" as far as serious medical issues are concerned. The operation a week ago lasted 27 hours and involved a team of some 30 surgeons, all specialists in pediatrics, neurosurgery, orthopedics, and plastic surgery, working in eight-hour shifts.

Lakshmi's extra limbs were part of a conjoined twin which stopped developing in the womb. It had a torso and limbs but no head, and was joined to Lakshmi at the pelvis. Doctors said that without the surgery, Lakshmi would have been unlikely to survive beyond early adolescence. The surgery involved the removal of the extra limbs and the repositioning of Lakshmi's organs.

When Lakshmi was born into her poor, rural Indian family, villagers in the remote settlement of Rampur Kodar Katti in the northern state of Bihar believed she was sacred. As news of her birth spread, locals queued for a blessing from the baby.

Her parents, Shambhu and Poonam Tatma, named the girl after the Hindu goddess of wealth who has four arms. However, they were forced to keep her in hiding after they were approached by men offering money in exchange for putting their daughter in a circus.

The couple, who earn just $1 a day as casual laborers, wanted her to have the operation but were unable to pay for the rare procedure, which had never before been performed in India.

After Patil visited the girl in her village from Narayana Health City hospital in Bangalore, the hospital's foundation agreed to fund the $200,000 operation. Planning for the surgery took a month, Patil said, and Lakshmi spent that month in the hospital.

Many villagers, however, remained opposed to surgery and were planning to erect a temple to Lakshmi, whom they still revere as sacred.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Japanese musical road

Japanese inventors have a created a road that can 'play music' as you drive along it. The Melody Road will allow a car passing above it to play a simple tune, which is made audible by ridges on the road's surface. The pitch of the note created is increased by increasing the frequency of the ridges, and the opposite is also true. The optimum driving speed for hearing the music is 28mph.

The optimum speed for the best sound reproduction is a shockingly slow 28 mph. At that speed, a little noise will be needed to keep the driver/passengers alive awake. In that respect, this is a fantastic measure against excessively slow drivers—who wants this crazy whirring going on whilst they are driving? The Melody Road has been incorporated in three locations throughout Japan, including Hokkaido, Wakayama and Gunma.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bihar-therly love

Villagers at a wedding in Bihar decided the groom had arrived too drunk to get married, and so the bride married the groom's more sober brother instead, police said on Monday.

"The groom was drunk and had reportedly misbehaved with guests when the bride's family and local villagers chased him away," Madho Singh, a senior police officer told Reuters after Sunday's marriage in a village in Bihar's Arwal district.

The younger brother readily agreed to take the groom's place beside the teenage bride at her family's invitation, witnesses said.

"The groom apologised for his behaviour, but has been crying that word will spread and he will never get a bride again," Singh said by phone.

Britain is the dustbin of Europe

Britain is officially the "dustbin of Europe", new figures have suggested.
The UK dumps more household waste into landfill than any other country in the European Union, research by the Local Government Association (LGA) shows.

Households sent more than 22.6 million tonnes of rubbish to landfill in the most recent year in which comparable figures were available across the EU. Council leaders warn that an area the size of Warwick - 109 square miles - is already used as landfill.

The LGA, which represents councils in England, warns that if the current trend continues it is estimated the country will run out of landfill space in less than nine years' time.

The figures show Britain sent the same amount of rubbish to landfill as the 18 EU countries with the lowest landfill rates combined, despite their having almost twice the population.

The countries with the highest amount of household rubbish thrown into landfill each year are the UK, with around 22.6 million tonnes, Italy at 17.6 million tonnes and Spain, which throws away around 14.2 million tonnes. France sends around 12 million tonnes to landfill, while Poland dumps around 8.6 million tonnes.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Lakshmi's op a success :)

BANGALORE, India - A grueling, 24-hour-long operation to remove the extra limbs of a 2-year-old Indian girl born with four arms and four legs was a success, doctors announced Wednesday.

The girl, named Lakshmi, has been revered by some in her village as the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess. She was born joined to a "parasitic twin" that stopped developing in her mother's womb. The surviving fetus absorbed limbs, kidneys and other body parts of the undeveloped fetus.

A team of more than 30 physicians removed Lakshmi's extra limbs, salvaged her organs, and rebuilt her pelvis area, Dr. Sharan Patil said from a hospital in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.

"Beyond our expectations, the reconstruction worked wonderfully well," said Patil, the lead orthopedic surgeon during the operation.

The complications for Lakshmi's surgery were myriad: She was born with four kidneys, entangled nerves, two stomach cavities and two chest cavities. She has not been able stand up or walk.

The surgery also included separating the fused spines, Patil said. "Every step was successful. There was no setback whatsoever."

Physicians had anticipated an especially difficult challenge would be rebuilding Lakshmi's pelvis, but that went smoothly also.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Billed for Nothing

Dave Abrams, of Baguley, Wythenshawe, was astonished when he received a letter from Powergen warning that he could be taken to court for an unpaid debt - of nothing.

What was even more surprising was that his flat was fitted with a pre-pay meter.

The letter, dated October 19, warned Mr Abrams he owed the company £0.00 for gas and electricity and said if he did not pay up immediately he would be visited by a debt collection agency. It added that he could also be taken to court and, as a result, may find it difficult to obtain credit in future.

Powergen, confirmed the letter had been sent out in error - but said Mr Abrams actually owed the company £502 after paying too little for his energy when the price went up.

Mr Abrams was told the bill would be reduced to £300 - to reflect the company's mistake - to be paid within two years. It was only when he refused to pay it that Powergen cancelled the claim altogether. Mr Abrams said: "I couldn't believe it when they phoned to apologise for the original bill, and then tried to tell me I owed £500. I told them I'd see them in court. I am amazed at that company's incompetence."

The spokeswoman said: "We have now withdrawn the balance because we made the mistake."

Turbine blocks road

A major road in south west Scotland has been blocked after a lorry carrying a 106-tonne wind turbine got stuck. Dumfries and Galloway Police warned that the A75 was likely to remain shut for some time after the incident which took place shortly before 1100 GMT.

The vehicle went onto a grass verge near the Kinmount straight between Dumfries and Annan and because of its weight sank into the ground. Motorists were advised to expect delays and diversions have been put in place.

Sgt Campbell Moffat who was at the scene said it would take some time to clear the road. He said the lorry's rear trailer had left the road as it was travelling west towards Dumfries. As the vehicle continued to move forward it became stuck leaving a difficult recovery operation.
"The difficulty we have is the weight and length - it is 106-tonne, 52m in length and 4.3m wide," said Sgt Moffat. "It could take anything from four to six hours."

Diversions have been put in place via the B7020 to Lochmaben, and the A709 back towards Dumfries. Traffic has been reported as much heavier than normal on the A709 around Lochmaben.

A similar incident also blocked a road on the Isle of Skye earlier this year. Major disruption was caused on the A87 Kyle to Portree road in September when a lorry carrying a section of a wind turbine left the road.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Strange Law votes

A little-known law which prohibits people dying while in the Houses of Parliament has been voted the UK's most ludicrous piece of legislation.
Another law which states it is treason to use a postage stamp upside down was placed in second place by those polled by UKTV Gold.

The most absurd international law was judged to be in the US state of Ohio, where it is illegal to get fish drunk. The 3,931 people asked selected the laws from a shortlist of bizarre rules.

A total of 27% of those questioned thought the law against dying in the Houses of Parliament was the most absurd, while 7% voted for the legislation banning placing postage stamps upside down.

Other lesser-known laws making the top 10 included one banning eating mince pies on Christmas Day and another stating it is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour. Almost half of those asked confessed to breaking the mince pie law, which was brought in by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th Century.

The unusual international laws on the list included legislation against naming a pig Napoleon in France, driving while wearing a blindfold in Alabama and unmarried women parachuting on a Sunday.

The Law Society last year revealed other bizarre UK laws still in existence on the statute book. They included a ban on firing a cannon close to a dwelling house (Met Police Act 1839); a ban on the use of any slide upon ice or snow (Town Police Clauses Act 1847); and the prohibition of driving cattle through the streets of London (Metropolitan Streets Act 1867).

The UK's top 10 most ridiculous British laws were listed as:

1. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament (27%)

2. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British king or queen's image upside-down (7%)

3. It is illegal for a woman to be topless in Liverpool except as a clerk in a tropical fish store (6%)

4. Eating mince pies on Christmas Day is banned (5%)

5. If someone knocks on your door in Scotland and requires the use of your toilet, you are required to let them enter (4%)

6. In the UK a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants, including in a policeman's helmet (4%)

7. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen (3.5%)

8. It is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing (3%)

9. It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour (3%)

10. It is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls of York, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow (2%)
False teeth

Other bizarre foreign laws voted by those polled included:

In Ohio, it is illegal to get a fish drunk (9%)

In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation (8%)

A male doctor in Bahrain can only examine the genitals of a woman in the reflection of a mirror (7%)

In Switzerland, a man may not relieve himself standing up after 10pm (6%)

It is illegal to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle in Alabama (6%)

In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on a Sunday could be jailed (6%)

Women in Vermont must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth (6%)

In Milan, it is a legal requirement to smile at all times, except during funerals or hospital visits (5%)

In France, it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon (4%)