Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hey now now - The cloud room

This isn't news, I just like the song :)

See through frogs

A research team led by professor Masayuki Sumida at Hiroshima University’s Institute for Amphibian Biology has created a type of transparent frog whose internal organs are visible through its skin. The researchers say the see-through frogs can help in the study of diseases and in the development of medical treatments by allowing laboratory scientists to check the status of internal organs and blood vessels while the frogs are alive and without having to dissect them.

According to Sumida, the transparent frog is the result of breeding two specimens of Japanese brown frog (Rana japonica) that had a genetic mutation giving them pale skin. By selectively breeding their offspring, the researchers were able to create a frog that remains transparent for its entire life cycle. Most of the world’s known transparent creatures live underwater, and transparent four-legged animals are extremely rare.

The researchers also say that by fusing the genes of fluorescent proteins to the frog’s genes, they can create frogs that glow. Glowing frogs can help scientists study specific “problem” genes by providing a real-time visual indication (i.e. the frogs glow) when those genes become active.

What every Prat Jedi wants

You know that hissing sound when Darth Vader breathes? It's not the breathing machine you've been led to believe. Really, what you are hearing is Anakin sighing because his boots hurt his feet. And Yoda doesn't talk funny because he's old and wise - his feet are sore! If only they had some nice cozy slippers to nestle their tootsies into. Good thing, at least, you can.

Slide your aching feet into some slippers of pure Jedi comfort. If your toes have white hair and are green and gnarled, perhaps the Yoda Slippers should be your choice. Or, if your toes are robotic and evil, maybe the Darth Vader Slippers are best for you. Of course, you could decide to have one foot on the path of evil and one foot on the path of good (that is, buy one of each and mix and match) - that's purely up to you. Regardless, your feet will be cozy and everyone who sees you will be jealous. Because that's what it really means to be a Jedi.

Jedi Slipper Sizing from ThinkGeek

* Small - Fits shoe sizes 7-8 (US Mens)
* Medium - Fits shoe sizes 9-10 (US Mens)
* Large - Fits shoe sizes 11-12 (US Mens)

Coughing Assault

MORRISVILLE, N.C. -- Police in North Carolina have charged a man with assault on a government official after an officer said the man coughed into his face during a traffic stop.

Officer Chris Gill said in his report that Kent Kauffman looked into his eyes before "hacking" in his face three times, according to Morrisville spokeswoman Stacie Galloway. Kauffman said he did cough from the window of his minivan but did so toward Gill's waist.

"He says I coughed in his face," Kauffman said. "But that would only work if he had a 4-foot-long face."

Kauffman said he developed a cough after his dog died last week. He said Gill put him in handcuffs and threw him into the side of the patrol car.

Gill pulled Kauffman over Tuesday for not wearing a seat belt. He now faces a misdemeanor charge and, if convicted, could spend up to 60 days in jail.

How not to deal with children ptII

EAGLE, Colorado -- An Eagle woman accused of chasing a group of Hispanic children with a sword faces a number of charges, including ethnic intimidation, after allegedly calling them "illegal spics," according to police.

Amanda Jane Darling Harris, 21, allegedly chased the children, aged 9 to 15, with an 18-inch samurai sword because they were playing in a parking lot of the Villa apartments, according to a police report.

Police investigated the incident on Sept. 20, and Harris was jailed until she posted a $3,500 bond this week.According to the police report, the teens said Harris yelled at the children, "If you're scared, then you're guilty." That is when they said she chased them with the sword.

One boy said Harris grabbed him and held the sword to his throat, telling him he "needed to stop causing her problems."

A girl told police that Harris chased and grabbed her and threatened to cut off her ponytail.

Harris chased the other five children through the parking lot, brandishing the sword, according to her arrest affidavit. The children told police that Harris called them "little f****ing wetbacks" and told them to go back to their own country.

Arresting officers said Harris stated that she should have hurt one of the "illegals" if she knew she was going to go to jail over it. Harris was arrested in her third-floor apartment on suspicion of menacing -- use of a deadly weapon, misdemeanor third-degree assault with a weapon, ethnic intimidation and harassment.

Harris is employed by Pooh Corner Preschool in Minturn, Colo., according to the arrest report. A spokeswoman for the preschool said she couldn't comment on Harris' current employment status.

Pumpkin tosser KO'd

GREENFIELD, New Hampshire - The first weekend of pumpkin flinging season ended abruptly Sunday in Greenfield when one of the operators of a catapault-like device was knocked out in a freak accident.

Chuck Willard of Hancock was hit in the chin by the boom on the Yankee Seige, a remake of a medieval weapon called a trebuchet. It can toss pumpkins 300 yards and it knocked Willard for a loop.

An employee at the attraction said Willard was out for about two minutes.

He was treated and released and said to be anxious to start tossing pumpkins again.

The Yankee Siege, on Route 31, will be launching pumpkins, weather permitting, every weekend through the end of next month.

Rare collection sold

A rare set of Harry Potter books which were kept under lock and key in a police station have sold for almost £20,000 in an internet auction. The books were signed by the author JK Rowling and are so valuable that they are being kept in an Aberdeenshire police HQ.

They have been auctioned off on eBay in aid of local charity Books Abroad which supplies books to children worldwide. Bidding ended at midnight on Saturday and the books were sold for £18,200.

The Harry Potter auction has been one of the most watched items on eBay in all categories. The seven books, signed by JK Rowling, are believed to be one of only a few such sets in the world.

JK Rowling's mother-in-law, Barbara Murray, works for the charity, which supplies books to schools across the world. The author agreed to donate the set as part of the organisation's 25th anniversary celebrations.

Rhynie-based Books Abroad has sent an estimated two million free books around the world in 25 years.

Unicycle record (Update)

A student is claiming a world record for the longest distance ridden on a unicycle in 24 hours.

Sam Wakeling covered exactly 282 miles (453.8km) at Aberystwyth University's athletics track when he finished his marathon session at 1000 BST on Sunday.

The 22-year-old computer science undergraduate from Bath was aiming to beat the existing record of 235.3 miles (378.7km) on his 36in (91cm) wheel.

His efforts still have to be confirmed by Guinness World Records.


A southern Spanish town has tossed what it claims is the world's largest salad, using 6,700kg (14,740lb) of vegetables. Twenty cooks in the town of Pulpi, in Almeria province, spent more than three hours mixing the ingredients - lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers and olives.

The salad was prepared in a container 18m (59ft) long and 4.8m (15.7ft) wide.

A Guinness World Records judge travelled from London to check whether the cooks had set a new record, Spain's EFE news agency reported. Lorenzo Navarro, the head of the Association of Businessmen and Storekeepers of Pulpi, which organised the record attempt, praised everyone involved.

"Excellent coordination since the beginning made it possible to meet this challenge," he said.

The salad was to be distributed to restaurants in Pulpi to provide free to their clients, Mr Navarro told reporters.

Loo roll thief pt II

FOND DU LAC, Wis. - Someone is either too cheap to buy his own toilet paper or planning a big prank.

Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel said someone has been repeatedly stealing toilet paper from the men's public bathrooms at the Fond du Lac City County Government Center since June.

Buechel suspects the person comes in once or twice a week around midday and gets about six rolls a week from dispensers. Some rolls weren't even full, he said.

The thefts haven't been a big loss.

"We don't buy the best toilet paper," Buechel said.

He expects the thief to get caught. "Someone is going to walk in on him when he's doing it and we'll catch him," he said.

Courthouse officials are on the lookout for suspicious activity.

STOP with a twist

Oak Lawn's mayor hopes drivers who won't obey a stop sign will at least hit the brakes for a stop sign gag.

Workers in Mayor Dave Heilmann's southwest suburb on Friday began installing new red signs beneath existing stop signs to enhance the original message. Won't stop for a traditional sign? What if Diana Ross, in a way, pleads with you?

"STOP," reads one. "IN THE NAAME OF LOVE."

Or how about John Wayne?


There are 16 messages on 40 sign posts. Each is the brainchild of first-term mayor Heilmann, a lawyer and former improv actor who created the signs in response to residents' complaints of blown stop signs.

"I was trying to get people's attention," said Heilmann, 44. "And I'm a little sarcastic by nature, so I thought, let's give this a shot. . . . I think people in government are so serious. I think we need to laugh once in a while."

The signs are going up near Oak Lawn schools. The program could be expanded in the future, the mayor said.

Residents so far have given Heilmann positive feedback -- although, he conceded, "I wonder how many eye rolls there are from people thinking, 'You think this is funny?' "

The village makes the signs in-house. "Our Public Works guys want to shoot me for having them do this when they're trying to do their regular duties, but God bless 'em," the mayor said. "They've been good sports."

Heilmann assumes some signs will get stolen by vandals who appreciate his humor, but promised "we'll put them right back up."

He also assumes he'll be getting some recommendations for future signs. "I'm waiting for the first person to suggest one that says: '[STOP] VOTING FOR THE MAYOR.' "

Six month hangover

It may be the longest hangover in the history of binge beer drinking. When a 37-year old man walked into a hospital emergency room in Glasgow, Scotland last October complaining of "wavy" vision and a non-stop headache that had lasted four weeks, doctors were at first stumped, the British journal The Lancet reported Friday.

The unnamed patient "had no history of head injury or loss of consciousness; his past medical record was unremarkable, and he was taking no medications," Zia Carrim and two other physicians from Southern General Hospital said in a case report.

Body temperature and blood pressure were both normal, and a neurological exam scanned negative. But when an eye specialist was called in, the fog began to clear, at least for the doctors. The patient, said the ophthalmologist, had swollen optical discs, greatly enlarged blind spots and what eye doctors call "flame haemorrhages," or bleeding nerve fibres.

"We sought a more detailed history" from the patient, noted Zia drly. That is when the man revealed he had consumed some 60 pints -- roughly 35 litres -- of beer over a four day period, following a domestic crisis.

Severe dehydration caused the alcohol, the doctors guessed, had led to a rare condition called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). A scan of the brain's blood vessels confirmed the diagnosis.

CVST -- which can cause seizures, impaired consciousness, loss of vision and neurological damage -- strikes three or four people per million, mainly children, every year in Britain. The cause is generally unknown.

It took more than six months of long-term blood-thinning treatment to restore the man's normal vision -- and to get rid of the headache, the doctors reported.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Aussie dunny derby

The world's eyes, and noses, are on the outback central western Queensland town of Winton today for the Australian Dunny Derby.

Organiser Robin Stevens says she is amused that media outlets around the world are interested in the race of modified outdoor toilets.

She says there is more the $5,000 on offer to the team that wins the gruelling challenge.

"This race is run over a 250 metre track and the jockey has to dismount and pick up quite a number of objects along the way ... the winners go straight into the finals and the losers go into the constipation stakes ... and there's also a prize for the best presented team and outhouse and that's called the ass wipers' trophy - yes, ass wipers," she said.

Ms Stevens says there are 20 racing loos nominated for the event.

"They're not only locals, they've come from all over the state ... actually the RAAF boys from Townsville have put a loo in, there's two from the Gold Coast, there's one from the town of Miles ... they're set up on wheels, we get two pushers, two pullers and, of course, the jockey is seated on the thunderbox," she said.

Nuclear towers blown up

The four cooling towers at Calder Hall in Cumbria, the world's first full-scale nuclear power station, have been demolished. Hundreds of people gathered to watch as the 88m-high towers on the Sellafield site were detonated in pairs at 0900 BST and five minutes later.

A massive cloud of dust blew over the Irish Sea as they came down. The towers, which had stood for 50 years, were regarded as a major part of Britain's industrial heritage.

Their dismantling, part of Calder Hall's decommissioning, comes more than four years after electricity generation ceased at the site. It is the first part of a plan to decommission the complex, comprising 62 buildings, which was opened by the Queen on 17 October, 1956.

Love is blind

A 24-year-old Argentine man has married a woman 58 years his senior.

The groom, Reinaldo Waveqche, told reporters after the ceremony in Santa Fe, northern Argentina: "I've always liked mature ladies."

Mr Waveqche added: "I don't care what other people say." He and bride Adelfa Volpes, 82, are planning to travel to Rio de Janeiro for their honeymoon.

Asked if the marriage was purely spiritual, Ms Volpes laughed and replied: "There is going to be more."

The couple were married in a civil service after several years of engagement, and later walked through a local church surrounded by reporters.

Their love blossomed when Mr Waveqche went to live with her after his mother's death when he was 15.

He said he admired his new wife's zest for life, and emphasised how special she was to him.

Unicycle record

A student is trying to break a world record by covering the longest distance on a unicycle in 24 hours. Aberystwyth University computer science undergraduate Sam Wakeling must circle a 400m track more than 1,000 times on one 36-inch wheel.

The 22-year-old from Bath said he had been practising hard to overtake New Zealander Ken Looi's record of 235.3 miles. He hopes his efforts will raise the record to some 300 miles. His attempt started on Saturday morning on the university's athletics track.

Speaking beforehand, he said: "It will probably be the most exhausting thing I have ever done, but I wouldn't plan an attempt at this record if there wasn't a chance of breaking it.

"This unicycle has become my main form of transport, and my longest distance is 150 miles (241.3km) in a day when I rode to Manchester recently, so I have a fairly good idea of what it may feel like."

In 2005, he unicycled from Land's End to John O'Groats with three other Aberystwyth students to raise money for Christian international development charity Tearfund.

Screw you

A German factory worker stole over a million screws from his employer and skewed the market with his cheap stolen goods, police said on Friday.

"In the end, it became obvious that screws were being sold for much less than they usually cost," said a spokesman for police in the southern city of Wuerzburg.

Over two years, the 33-year-old assembly plant worker smuggled between 2,000 and 7,000 screws out of work each night, and auctioned them on an Internet site, police said. The scheme cost his firm around 110,000 euros (77,000 pounds).

The man confessed after officers raided his home.

Most expensive Scotch

A 157-year-old whisky was sold for more than £29,000 on Friday, setting what is thought to be a world record auction price for a bottle of Scotch. The Bowmore single malt, which was bottled in 1850, was sold at McTear's auctioneers in Glasgow for 29,400 pounds to an anonymous telephone bidder, beating the distillery itself.

The price, which included buyer's premium, comfortably beat the pre-sale estimate of between £15,000 - 20,000. The whisky, which was was sold on behalf of a private owner, is the oldest known bottle of Bowmore in existence.

An auction spokesman said the sale came despite the bottle's cork dropping into the whisky itself.

Bowmore's brand director Glen Moore said they had planned to bring the bottle back to the distillery to take pride of place in its new visitor centre on the island of Islay, off Scotland's west coast.

"We bid beyond the value limit we had set ourselves, but unfortunately, the winning bidder went beyond that," he said. "There are some serious whisky collectors around the world, and we know Bowmore is incredibly popular amongst them."

Twin brothers William and James Mutter operated the distillery from the 1850s until the early 1890s when Bowmore Distillery Company Limited was formed. The bottle was presented to William Mutter in 1851 at the time of him giving up his share of the distillery and has remained in the family for generations.

In 2005, a businessman paid £32,000 for a 1942 bottle of Dalmore 62 Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky. A bottle of Glenavon Special Liqueur Whisky from the 1850s sold at auction in London for £14,850 last year.

Friday, September 28, 2007


A German man who had been drinking heavily at Munich's Oktoberfest beer festival got stuck in a chimney for 12 hours while trying to climb into a friend's apartment, police said on Friday.

After finding his friend was not at home, the 27-year-old climbed on to the roof of a neighbouring building at about 2 a.m. (1:00 a.m. British time) on Thursday and headed for what he thought was a gap in the wall between the two houses.

He found himself sliding almost 30 metres (98 feet) head first into a chimney, a spokesman for Munich police said.

An 82-year-old janitor from the hotel next door eventually heard the man's calls for help and he was rescued at around 2 p.m. by fire brigade officers who knocked a hole into the side of the chimney to liberate him, the spokesman said.

He had managed to turn around and had removed his clothes to try to help him squeeze back up.

"Miraculously, he was only slightly injured in the fall, sustaining just grazes and bruising," police said. The man was taken by helicopter to the hospital, where he is being treated for hypothermia, they added.

Pink guns

When it comes to marketing any product, expanding the consumer base is always a good strategy. Which is why some US firearm shops are attracting more female customers by stocking pink guns.

One of the pink innovators is the Gander Mountain hunting store in Waukesha, Wisconsin which stocks several pink guns. They include a Remington 20-gauge shotgun with a pink and black stock emblazoned with the slogan: "Shoot like a girl if you can!"

Another is a Crickett rifle with a bright pink stock.

Store manager Chris Hanson said the guns were "aimed" at female hunters and were both selling well.

In another part of hunting and fishing mad Winsconsin, Jim Astle of Jim's Gun Supply in Baraboo has been coating guns in pink and other colours for four years.

His 12-year-old daughter owns a lovely little pink camouflage shotgun.

"Females want to shoot guns, but they want them to look pretty, too," said Jim. "Guys could give a rat's butt what their gun looks like."

Connie Cody, a 48-year-old administrative assistant in Kenosha, said she wishes she had seen pink guns for sale after she completed her hunter safety course 18 months ago. Since then, she has bought a 9-mm pistol, a .357 revolver, a .38 Derringer and a .380 pistol, all in traditional colours. Told about the pink guns, she said: "If they stock them, I'm going to buy one."

Boxing Mayor to be sued

A former boxer turned mayor in Romania is facing legal action after beating up five councillors who disagreed with his spending plans.

Mayor Iulian Florea, from Teslui in south-west Romania, attacked local councillor Mircea Chirita after an argument over the town budget at a council meeting.

Florea, a former professional boxer, then attacked four other councillors who tried to stop him, knocking out one with a left hook.

He sent another councillor to the floor with an upper-cut and left the remaining pair concussed with a combination of blows.

The fight was only stopped when another councillor threatened to call police. All five injured councillors are suing the mayor.

Demise of the hyphen :-(

It's small. It's flat. It's black. And according to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, its numbers are shrinking. Welcome to the world of the hyphen. Having been around since at least the birth of printing, the hyphen is apparently enjoying a difficult time at the moment.

The sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has knocked the hyphens out of 16,000 words, many of them two-word compound nouns. Fig-leaf is now fig leaf, pot-belly is now pot belly, pigeon-hole has finally achieved one word status as pigeonhole and leap-frog is feeling whole again as leapfrog.

The blame, as is so often the case, has been put at least in part on electronic communication. In our time-poor lifestyles, dominated by the dashed-off [or should that be dashed off or dashedoff] e-mail, we no longer have time to reach over to the hyphen key.

And English, being a language lacking any kind of governing body and instead relying on studies of usage, is changing to keep up.

Shorter OED editor Angus Stevenson doesn't want anybody to get angry over the hyphen's decline.

"We only reflect what people in general are reading. We have been tracking this for some time and we've been finding the hyphen is used less and less," he says. "When you are sending e-mails, and you have to type pretty fast, on the whole it's easier to type without hyphens. Ordinary people are not very conscious of the fact of whether they are putting hyphens or not."

Formerly hyphenated words split in two:

fig leaf

hobby horse

ice cream

pin money

pot belly

test tube

water bed

Formerly hyphenated words unified in one:










New piano donation

A countryside music festival has been gifted with the world's "most elite piano" after their original £45,000 piano was dropped by delivery men.

Organisers of the Two Moors Festival in South Molton, Devon had spent two years fund-raising for the Bosendorfer piano, only to see it crash to the ground. Now Bosendorfer has donated an £85,000 Imperial Concert grand piano for the festival, which starts on 12 October.

Festival organiser Penny Adie said: "It is almost too good to be true." She said: "Never in the company's history has it given a piano of this value to any individual or organisation."

The piano was driven from Austria by Bosendorfer staff and delivered on Friday.

Mrs Adie said: "They did a dummy delivery run, and very calmly and efficiently moved the piano without a hitch.

"This is the most elite piano in the world. It is such an immaculate instrument I cannot believe it is there."

She watched in tears as the piano was sampled by concert pianist Tom Poster.

About 100 supporters of the Two Moors Festival had raised money for the original piano.

The issue of any insurance claim for the damaged piano has not yet been resolved.

Bosendorfer makes about 400 pianos a year.

The Two Moors Festival was set up in 2001 to bring tourists back to Dartmoor and Exmoor after the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The festival runs a series of classical music events for 10 days in October.

Navy Barracks to get a facelift

CORONADO, Calif. -- The U.S. Navy will spend as much as $600,000 to modify the appearance of a barracks complex in Coronado that resembles a swastika from the air.

Navy officials said the spending for changes to the four L-shaped buildings were approved after satellite images from Google Earth revealed the swastika-like shape.

"We don't want to be associated with something as symbolic and hateful as a swastika," Navy spokesman Scott Sutherland told the L.A. Times.

The newspaper reported that the money will go toward changes in walkways, "camouflage" landscaping and rooftop photovoltaic cells.

Navy officials say the buildings' shape was not noted until after the groundbreaking in 1967.

Since it was not visible from the ground, officials decided not to make any changes.

But aerial photos made available on Google Earth revealed the buildings' shape to a wide audience of computer users.

Copy of Magna Carta to be auctioned

A milestone of English freedom is headed for the auction block.

Sotheby's auction house said a 13th-century copy of the Magna Carta will be offered for sale in New York in December. Sotheby's estimates the manuscript will sell for $20 million to $30 million.

The document was on display at the National Archives in Washington for more than 20 years until last Thursday. The manuscript belongs to H. Ross Perot.

King John was forced by barons to agree to the charter in 1215. It guaranteed that freemen would not be imprisoned or deprived of property without due process, including a right to a speedy trial before a jury.

Versions of the Magna Carta were issued in 1216, 1217, 1225 and 1264 by John's son, King Henry III.

The copy offered by Sotheby's is dated 1297.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Two headed turtle

Fantasy books are filled with stories about two-headed dragons and two- headed monsters, but who has ever heard of a two-headed tortoise?

This is exactly what Noël Daniels, a welder of Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa, discovered when he went into his backyard and found this strange newcomer hatched from an egg amongst his pet tortoises.

Daniels is the owner of seven tortoises, as terrestrial turtles are commonly known. They live with his parrots and pigeons in a dovecote. The strange tortoise's shell is flat underneath and not rounded at the belly as usual, he says.

The two heads are joined separately to a shared body.

"But it seems quite normal and both heads feed on grass, leaves, and softened rabbit pellets," Daniels said. "When it gets scared, however, [the] heads move in different directions as if confused. Sometimes its legs also want to move in different directions. Luckily, it moves quite slowly. There seems to be enough time to figure out which way to go."

The month-old tortoise's shell is about five centimeters (two inches) wide.

Ernst Baard, manager of scientific services of Cape Nature Conservation, an expert on South African tortoises, said that the phenomenon of two heads is extremely rare. To his knowledge, it is only the second reported case of its kind in South Africa in over 20 years. The other one was discovered in the early 1980s.

No nude mountaineering

Attention climbers: Please keep your clothes on while climbing Mount Everest.

Nepal's spoilsport mountaineering authorities are calling for a ban on nudity and attempts to set 'obscene records' on the world's highest mountain, officials said on Wednesday.

Last year, a Nepali climber claimed the world's highest display of nudity when he disrobed for several minutes while standing on the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit in temperatures about minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).

'There should be strict regulations to discourage such attempts by climbers,' said Ang Tshering, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association.

Other record-setting attempts that sparked controversy included a Dutch man who attempted to scale the peak wearing only shorts.

The people who live on the foot hill of Everest worship the mountain as a god and mountaineering authorities have asked the government to ban disrespectful stunts on Everest, Tshering said.

Mount Everest has always attracted record-setters, including the oldest climber (71 years old), the youngest climber (15 years old), the first climber with one foot and the first blind climber. In 2005, a Nepali couple exchanged vows on the summit as the first couple to get married on Everest.

Since Mount Everest was first scaled in 1953 by fully-clothed New Zealander Edmund Hillary and non-naked Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, thousands of people have scaled the mountain. Most of them have not been nude.

Fake beach is a hit

A website which promotes a fictitious tourist beach in Cornwall is receiving thousands of hits after becoming a cult internet joke.

The hoax suggests Porthemmet offers warm seas, dolphins and a coral reef. But anyone following directions to the fake paradise is in for a shock - they would end up leaving the county.

Set up by Jonty Haywood, a teacher from Truro, a few months ago the website is being upgraded after getting more than 10,000 hits in a few hours on Thursday. (there is another site which shows the beach HERE)

"I'm currently trying to sort out the site overload," said Mr Haywood. "I definitely didn't anticipate such a response. My main aim...was to create a county-wide prank, something that Cornish people could amuse themselves with. The national publicity has kind of given away the joke to lots of people outside of Cornwall."

The website appears to be encouraging tourists to the non-existent destination of Porthemmet - "the largest beach in the county...designated a Site of Amazing Natural Beauty".

In this "unspoilt paradise", police officers never patrol the beach as "the local council decided that they distress elderly locals" and beach parties are often visited by some of Cornwall's most famous musicians. A sight-seeing ship takes people to a nearby puffin colony and shows off a coral reef.

The beach's name is derived from "emmet", a Cornish term for tourist and which actually means "ant".

Malcolm Bell, of South West Tourism, said: "I would have worried a few years ago when Cornish tourism was not as strong as it is. It is not overly insulting to Cornish people or visitors. It brings a smile to people's faces. It is stimulating people's interest in Cornwall. PR is good and this is PR."

A spokesperson for VisitCornwall said it was "good to have the spotlight turned on Cornwall and to remind people that this really is a stunning place to visit".

But she added: "We really don't want people thinking that Cornwall is hostile to tourists because that is not the case - Cornwall is known for its warmth and friendliness."

Sleepwalking artist

A man who starts drawing pictures after he draws the curtains at night is putting on an exhibition of his work. Lee Hadwin, 33, from Henllan near Denbigh, says he has been doing what he calls "sleepwalking art" for years.

Mr Hadwin cannot explain why he becomes an artist once he goes to bed but puts it down to another part of his brain "kicking in" while he is asleep. He said the only drawbacks were that he gets a migraine afterwards and that he sometimes paints under the stairs.

Mr Hadwin first started sleepwalking when he was about four or five years old "obviously just doing what normal kids do, running around the house and everything, nothing too serious. And then going back 12 to 14 years ago I stayed at a friend's house and when his mum got up she noticed we'd been drawing on the kitchen wall and she put that down to his drinking so I never thought anything of that," he said.

"It's only been the last 10 to 12 years where I started drawing on newspapers which I've got back to 1997, just doing sketches when I've been asleep.

Mr Hadwin said he just wakes up and his nocturnal art is there. His strange night-time hobby has led to some problems, he admitted.

He sometimes paints under the stairs, he said, adding: "My mum's sick of painting under there" Four months ago, Mr Hadwin said he cut a pair of his best jeans up and put a piece of fabric in the frame without even knowing - until the next morning.

"So that's how strange its getting. The only recollection I get or I know I've been sleepwalking is I normally get a migraine but apart from that I don't remember anything of the night - nothing."

His nocturrnal work covers everything from portraits to nudes, but Mr Hadwin still said he would not describe himself as artistic.

"Have a look at my school report, I'm no good at art at all."

His work will be exhibited at at Denbigh library on 5 October and some of the work will be sold, with proceeds going to charity.

Shack sells for £91,000

A dilapidated beach chalet in Devon has fetched £91,000 at auction, more than twice its estimated value.

The hut, near the harbour at Teignmouth, is one of a number which rarely come to the market as they tend to remain in families for generations.

Rendells, which estimated the hut would sell for £40,000, sold the 25ft x 9ft building to a buyer from London.

"We knew it would do well, but this is a very good price," said Clive Morgan, a partner in the auction house.

The chalet, which looks up the estuary to Shaldon bridge, is made principally of timber under a tin roof.

Planning permission has been granted to create a two-storey chalet on the site, which is being sold by a local GP.

NZ police let public make the law

New Zealanders have been given the chance to write their own laws, with a new online tool launched by police. The "wiki" will allow the public to suggest the wording of a new police act, as part of a government review of the current law, written in 1958.

Police say they hope to gain a range of views from the public on the new law before presenting it to parliament. The wiki, one of the first of its kind in the world, is open to any internet user, police say.

The wiki is the latest round of public consultation in the 18-month review of the 50-year-old law.

The officer in charge of the review, Supt Hamish McCardle, described the site as "similar to a whiteboard" and said it was open to anyone who wanted to have their say on the new law.

It even includes a "wiki sandbox" that lets nervous newcomers practise their posting.

The final document will be given to a parliamentary committee in 2008 to be considered with other information gathered during the review period.

* Barry Bonds ball *

The baseball which broke one of the game's biggest records - the total number of home runs hit - is set to be branded with an asterisk by its owner. The move is a sign of the scepticism among fans about the validity of the record set by slugger Barry Bonds.

He has been accused of using banned steroids to boost his home run total, but has always denied the accusations. The historic ball was bought by fashion designer Marc Ecko for $752,467 after being caught by a New York Mets fan. Mr Ecko decided to ask the fans how the ball should be treated.

In an online poll, 47% of fans voted to have the ball stamped with an asterisk, while 34% said it should not be changed and 10% voted to blast it into space. There were 10 million votes cast.

An asterisk against a record in baseball indicates that the record is suspect, or subject to qualification.

And some fans had taken to following Mr Bonds around, holding up an asterisk sign. Mr Ecko will now donate the ball to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, which holds baseball memorabilia, where it will go on display.

Bonds broke the home run record - hitting his 756th home run - at Giants stadium in San Francisco on 7 August, overtaking Hank Aaron.

Matt Murphy, a 21-year-old student from New York, came up with the record-breaking ball after Bonds hit it into the right-centerfield stands. Mr Ecko acquired the ball after an online auction on 15 September.

After 22 seasons in baseball, 15 of them with the San Francisco Giants, Mr Bonds has been released and is now looking to play for a new team next year.

What a whopper !

A Russian woman has given birth to a baby weighing 7.75kg (17.5lbs), more than twice the average newborn weight. The "little" girl, Nadia, was delivered by Caesarean section at a hospital in the Altai region of Siberia, joining eight sisters and three brothers.

"We were all simply in shock," reports quoted Nadia's mother, Tatyana Barabanova, 43, as saying. "What did the father say? He couldn't say a thing - he just stood there blinking," she said.

All her previous babies had weighed more than 5kg (11lb), a local reporter was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying. "I ate everything, we don't have the money for special foods so I just ate potatoes, noodles and tomatoes," added Mrs Barabanova, who had the child on 17 September.

In January 2005, a woman in Brazil gave birth to a baby weighing 17lb (7.73kg), the heaviest boy yet born in Brazil, according to the Brazilian Gynaecological Association. Among the heaviest babies recorded are a 10.2kg (22.5lb) boy born in Italy in 1955, and a 10.8kg (23.8lb) boy born in the US in 1879 but who died 11 hours later.

Loincloth burglar

BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio - Robbers have been known to wear ski masks, but deputies think one suspect's get-up is a first. Deputies arrested a Belmont County man on suspicion of burglary wearing only a loincloth and a feather.

"I've been at this for a long time, and I don't believe I've ever seen anyone in a loin cloth," Chief Hummel said.

Officials said the man acted out and threatened to kill the deputies, so he's also charged with failure to comply and aggravated menacing. "He threatened that he's going to come down and kill us all with a machine gun and AK-47," Hummel said.

Deputies said they're glad he's off the streets.

"His behavior and his appearance were certainly irrational," Hummel said.

Police think he may be responsible for several burglaries in the area.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Family watch birth in SUV

Nine kids
Mother Sherry Harrah, center, delivered her ninth child in the family car while on the way to the hospital Tuesday. The family named the baby Carlee. Other family members are, left to right in the front row, 11-year-old Chelsea, 5-year-old Brooklin, 3-year-old Alexi, 15-year-old Judy and father David, who is holding 18-month-old Chase. In the back row are Colton, 8; Mikaya, 9; and Kaleb, 16.

A baby was unexpectedly delivered on the floorboard of a brand new sports utility vehicle rumbling down U.S. 119 on its way to the hospital. The Harrah family, which already had eight children, had loaded into the SUV but didn't quite make it to Charleston Area Medical Center in time.

The birth, witnessed by the entire family, was a classic.

Sherry Harrah was up late the prior night with steadily increasing contractions, but those paled in comparison to those she was experiencing when she woke up early Tuesday morning.

Sherry and her husband, David, were rustled from their sleep by one of their six daughters about 5 a.m. Shortly after that, Sherry felt an urgent need for the whole family to pile into the car for the 25-minute trip to the hospital.

David, now an expert at witnessing childbirth, wanted to grab a cup of coffee and send the kids to school before he made another almost routine trip to the emergency room for a newborn.

"I told him I wasn't going to make it," Sherry said.

David took the hint that the situation had become urgent and put all the kids in their brand new Ford Expedition. Together, they left their home on Brounland Road in Alum Creek for the roughly 15-mile trip to Charleston Area Medical Center's Women and Children's Hospital.

They had only gotten partway to the hospital when the situation called for David to stop the vehicle.

"We were heading down the road, and he pulled over like a dummy," Sherry said from her hospital bed at CAMC Women's and Children's Hospital. "He didn't know what to do, because my water broke."

"My son's crying because he didn't know what to think. My 5-year-old, Brooklin, wanted to see. My 8-year-old jumps out of the car -- I guess he thought we were getting out there," she said. "That's what my husband gets for dragging his feet."

And then the family got its new addition, right in front of Toys 'R' Us in the Southridge Centre.

As Sherry described the birth, "I had pants on and she started coming out. I had to take my pants off. Then she slipped off the seat and into the floor, and we couldn't find her because it was dark."

They finally collected her and got her to the hospital. When the Harrahs finally arrived at the emergency room, hospital employees found it difficult to believe the young girl, their daughter, who went to the desk and informed them her mother had just given birth in an automobile, the family said.

"They didn't believe her. She had to convince them," said Terry Westfall, Sherry's twin sister.

When the emergency crews came out to the car, Sherry felt a little vulnerable about the situation. "It was quite embarrassing because I was butt naked," she said. "It was an experience."

The baby was a couple of weeks early. Her gender was a surprise to the family, which has a tradition of not learning the sex of their babies until they're born.

The Harrahs also make a habit of not picking out any names until they actually see their babies. So, on Tuesday, they decided to use their unusual experience as inspiration in the naming of their latest baby. They chose "Carlee." "After the 'car,'<#148> Sherry said.

The new baby, who is 5-pounds, 10-ounces, is doing well. So is mom.

Bad Parenting Pt. V

BEAVER COUNTY, Pennsylvania -- A couple in Center Township is facing charges after the man and woman fled a mobile home fire, grabbing their pet dogs but leaving a young boy behind, police said.

Crystal Adams, 31, and James Chandler, 33, are accused of reckless endangerment after Chandler's 4-year-old son was left Friday night, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh reported.

The boy was treated for smoke inhalation after a firefighter ran inside and pulled him out, township Fire Chief Bill Brucker said.

Police said the firefighters learned that the boy was still inside the burning mobile home when Chandler and Adams told firefighters that they had forgotten the child. Police said that was about 20 minutes after the couple had gotten out.

"They were asked numerous times by law enforcement -- I overheard at least once or twice -- 'Is there anyone else in these trailers?'" Brucker said.

The boy was conscious when a firefighter found him in a bedroom, Brucker said.

"You tuck your kid in bed, you should remember that he's still in there," Brucker said.

Two mobile homes were badly damaged in the fire in Beaver County. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Croatian street collapses

A small street in a residential district of the Croatian capital collapsed into an underground building site, turning dozens of shocked citizens into homeless refugees, Zagreb police said on Monday.

The cave-in happened after construction workers digging a 27-metre deep hole beneath the street to lay foundations for an office block disturbed a strong underground stream, the Jutarnji List daily reported.

Some houses collapsed into the crater, others were left teetering on the edge. Residents of some 20 houses and flats were evacuated to a hotel on Sunday, and police emptied part of a nearby office block and a bank on Monday, Hina said.

"Part of Kupska Street collapsed because of construction works on Sunday. . . During our on-site investigation, a concrete wall supporting the underground site structure crumbled and the pavement fell through," said a police statement quoted by the state news agency Hina. No one was injured.

"Ten days ago I noticed cracks in the walls," evacuated pensioner Jovan Drezgan told Jutarnji List. "Since then I've been going to bed every night thinking the house will cave in."

"This is becoming something of an attraction, with people coming to take a peek at the crater," said one of two policewomen guarding a makeshift checkpoint at the site.

"If this keeps up, we might start charging a fee."

Crossword proposal

BOSTON — It was the crossword puzzle fan's version of getting his marriage proposal plastered on a stadium Jumbotron.

Aric Egmont and Jennie Bass were working on a puzzle titled "Popping the question" in the latest issue of The Boston Globe Sunday magazine. Bass spotted her sister's name and her best friend's name, but initially thought it was just a coincidence.

Then they got to 111 across: "Generic proposal" (Jen + Aric generic). The answer: "Will you marry me?"

"We get to the `Will you marry me?' clue, and I said, `Will you marry me, Jenny?' I got up, got the ring, and got down on one knee and she screamed, and hugged me. It took her a minute to say yes," Egmont told the Globe.

Egmont, 29, of Cambridge, contacted the magazine this summer to ask if the people who create the crossword puzzles would write a special puzzle for him.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, a married puzzle-writing team who have been writing Globe magazine crossword puzzles for years, agreed. Their puzzle included several variations on proposals; for example, "Macrame artist's proposal" was "Let's tie the knot."

The tricky part was writing an entire puzzle that would be clear to the happy couple, but not obscure to all the other readers who do the puzzles.

Bass, 29, said there was no reason for her to suspect anything when they started doing the puzzle.

"Then he got up and came back with a box and it was pure elation," she said.


Travelers check out a sculpture of a giant woman with her head stuck in a photo booth at Victoria Station in London

Can I have my leg back?

MAIDEN, N.C. - A man who bought a smoker Tuesday at an auction of abandoned items might have thought twice had he looked inside first. Maiden police said the man opened up the smoker and saw what he thought was a piece of driftwood wrapped in paper. When he unwrapped it, he found a human leg, cut off 2 to 3 inches above the knee.

The smoker had been sold at an auction of items left behind at a storage facility, so investigators contacted the mother and son who had rented the space where the smoker was found.

The mother explained her son had his leg amputated after a plane crash and kept the leg following the surgery. The mother said her son plans to drive to Maiden, about 35 miles northwest of Charlotte, to reclaim his amputated leg, police said.

We're having nun of that!

Plans to erect a sign with the image of a bare-breasted nun outside a seaside resort hotel, converted from a convent, have angered councillors. Tenby Town Council is urging planners to refuse permission for the sign which depicts a nun lifting her bodice.

They claim it is "disrespectful and inappropriate" for use outside the former St Teresa's Convent building.

However they are supporting plans to turn the convent into a luxury hotel, restaurant and bar. The convent was home to nuns until 1996 when the sisters who ran it became too old to continue. It had been a boarding convent school prior to that.

Businessman Sean Roche has submitted two separate applications for the hotel which he plans to call The Convent. The first is for a change of use of the building and the second is for the external wall-mounted sign.

Tenby town council clerk Andrew Davies: "We are supportive of the creation of a small hotel. We have lost quite a number of hotels which have become residential flats." But he said all but two councillors voted to oppose the sign. "Our council feels that as a publicity sign it is totally inappropriate. We think the sign is disrespectful to the nuns who used to run the convent."

The final decision on the applications rests with the Pembrokeshire National Park Authority and its members are set to discuss the applications next month.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

104 person bike

Charity fundraisers are hoping to ride into the record books after 104 people powered a unique pedal vehicle along an airfield runway in Cambridgeshire. The Great Dunmow and District Roundtable aimed to beat the record for the number of people on a pedal-powered vehicle, which was set at 82 in Sweden.

The 12-ton machine, housing 104 bicycle frames and wheels, was pedalled 700m along the Duxford site, on Saturday. The challenge raised £30,000 for local causes, the Essex-based charity said.

The pedal-powered machine is 118ft (36m) and sits on 12 Land Rover tyres.

Shaun Pledger, Round Table chairman and managing director of Alloy Fabweld who created the vehicle, told BBC News: "Unbelievably it has got three braking systems and although the bike with all the riders on it weighs some 12 tons you could stop it on a six pence.

"It was quite an engineering challenge. It took several months to design and several months to put together. It has a top speed of about 8mph. We've paid for half of it with commercial sponsorship and hopefully we can use it to create a lot of money for charity."

The previous record was set in 2005, when 82 people rode 82 cycles welded together in Sweden.

Man saws house in half

Ninja women rob store

RICHLAND TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania -- Police said two women dressed as ninjas were responsible for the hold-up of a Richland Township gas station Saturday morning using a samurai sword.

Police said the two women -- one with a dagger, and the other carrying the sword -- entered a Sunoco station in the 5600 block of Route 8 at about 3 a.m.

According to police, the women tied up the clerk and robbed the store of cash, cigarettes and lottery tickets."They were all covered in black and carrying swords, so it did appear that they were dressed like ninjas," said Chief Robert Amman of the Northern Regional Police Department. "Swords, daggers could be used to seriously harm victims, so this is a very serious crime."

Police said the clerk was not harmed and is OK. No arrests have been made and no suspects have been identified. Rick Lekki said it was hard for him to believe that a robbery occurred across the street from his business, R and J's bar.

"It's shocking. Things like that just don't happen out here. I just can't believe it happened," Lekki said.

Key that could have saved the Titanic sells

A tiny key that might have helped prevent the Belfast-built Titanic sinking has fetched £90,000 at auction. The key, with the tag "Crows Nest Telephone Titanic" opened the binoculars store, but was not on the ship when it sailed from Southampton.

It was in the pocket of an officer transferred off the vessel days before its maiden voyage. He forgot to hand it to his replacement as he left. As a result lookouts had to rely on the naked eye. Titanic sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 15 April 1912 with the loss of 1,522 lives.

Auctioneer Henry Aldridge said the key was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder who received applause as the hammer went down. He said bidding for the key at the sale in Devizes, Wiltshire, was fierce.

"We had several telephone bidders as well as people in the auction room and the gentleman who was successful was very happy. But I can tell you the man he outbid was not, he was very disappointed."

Other items in the sale included a rare launch ticket from Belfast which fetched £32,000 and a postcard sent home by a passenger on-board which sold for £17,000.

Second officer David Blair held the key during the short journey from Belfast, where Titanic was built, to the south coast. One of the lookouts on the Titanic told an inquiry into the sinking that with the binoculars the Titanic might have been able to dodge the iceberg.

On the difference the binoculars might have made, lookout Fred Fleet said: "Well, enough to get out of the way."

Mr Blair was disappointed to be moved off the ship at Southampton, but the transfer saved his life. He kept the key as a memento.

Tractor tearaway

A farmer's son who was being chased by police tried to outrun the officers' car – in a tractor.

Drunken Thomas Kirkham refused to stop the tractor, which was pulling a plough, despite police pursuing him with flashing blue lights and twice pulling alongside him ordering him to stop, a court heard.

The pursuit, along roads in Tyldesley, ended with Kirkham driving the tractor off-road by smashing through a fence and into a field.

Police eventually had to spray CS gas in his face to get him out of the tractor and, during the struggle, one of the police officers suffered a broken hand.

Kirkham, 36, of Morleys Farm, Morleys Lane, Astley, pleaded guilty to charges of driving with excess alcohol, failing to stop a vehicle for a police officer and driving without insurance when he appeared before Wigan magistrates.

He was given a four month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work. He was banned from driving for two-and-a-half years and was ordered to pay £1,250 compensation.

NSFW Language

Nutty Judge carries on

MANILA, Philippines -- As a trial-court judge, Florentino V. Floro Jr. acknowledged that he regularly sought the counsel of three elves only he could see. The Supreme Court deemed him unfit to serve and fired him last year.

Case closed? Not in the Philippines, where vampires are said to prey on unwary travelers and wealthy politicians consult fortune tellers and card readers. Mr. Floro, 54 years old, has become a media celebrity. He is now wielding his new clout to campaign for the return of his job -- and exact vengeance on the Supreme Court.

Helping him, he says, are his three invisible companions. "Angel" is the neutral force, he says. "Armand" is a benign influence. "Luis," whom Mr. Floro describes as the "king of kings," is an avenger.

Mr. Floro has become a regular on Philippine television. Often he is asked to make predictions with the help of his invisible friends. "They say your show will be taken off the air if you don't feature me more often," was Mr. Floro's reply to one interviewer.

The day after Mr. Floro's first appearance on television last year, hundreds of people turned up at his house in a dusty Manila suburb hoping he could use his supernatural powers to heal their illnesses. Now Mr. Floro, who travels by bus, is regularly recognized on the street.

The Supreme Court says its medical clinic determined that Mr. Floro was suffering from psychosis. Even so, a series of disturbing incidents appear to have the nation's top jurists rattled. According to local newspaper reports, a mysterious fire in January destroyed the Supreme Court's crest in its session hall, and a number of members of the court and their close family members have developed serious illnesses or have fallen victim to car accidents.

Enough bizarre things have happened that in July, the Supreme Court issued an en banc resolution asking Mr. Floro to desist in his threats of "ungodly reprisal." The Supreme Court's spokesman declined to elaborate.

Monday, September 24, 2007

France is broke

France is bankrupt and can no longer afford to pay its workers generous salaries and subsidies, its prime minister has declared. Francois Fillon made the undiplomatic outburst during a trip to the French island of Corsica, where farmers were demanding more government money.

"I am at the head of a state that is in a position of bankruptcy," he said. "I am at the head of a state that for 15 years has been in chronic deficit. I am at the head of a state that has not once passed a balanced budget in 25 years. This can't go on."

Mr Fillon's government is due to announce the 2008 budget this week with a deficit of €41.5billion (£29billion). But his remarks drew immediate fire, both from within his own ranks and from the opposition.

Francois Bayrou, the head of the centrist Modem party, said Mr Fillon seemed to forget that both he and Nicolas Sarkozy, who was finance minister before becoming president, had been in government since 2002 without improving the situation.

Poor sod !

Two Chicago Cubs fans in Indiana whose last name is Fields have named their son Wrigley Fields.

Wrigley Alexander Fields was born Sept. 12 to Paul and Teri Fields of Michigan City.

"He can go by his middle name if he wants to," Paul Fields said. "We'll go with Wrigley for now."

The couple decided 15 years ago what they would name their son if their ever had one, the Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune reported Sunday. The couple said both of their families are supportive of the name.

Cubs officials have no record of other children named Wrigley, though they have come across babies named Zambrano and Ryne after Cubs stars Carlos Zambrano and Ryne Sandberg, the Post-Tribune reported.

Good job they weren't San Fransisco Giants fans, he might have been called Candlestick!

The Dangers of Gardening

Gardening tool injuries landed 87,000 British green-thumbers in the hospital last year, including 6,500 lawn mower injuries, a report indicates. The second most dangerous gardening staple is the flower pot, causing 5,300 injuries, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said.

The society said hedge-trimmer accidents increased by more than 50 percent in the past five years, to 3,100 a year, the Daily Telegraph reported Monday. RoSPA said actually about 300,000 people are injured seriously enough to require hospital treatment. Of that number 110,000 were children.

Men were more likely to have garden accidents than women, and -- aside from children -- people between the ages of 30-60 are likely to be injured, the society said. The most common accident in a garden is a fall, but the biggest threat is a cut and being hit by something.

Top gardening injuries

1. Lawn mowers (6,500 accidents in the UK each year)

2. Flower pots (5,300)

3. Secateurs and pruners (4,400)

4. Spades (3,600)

5. Electric hedge trimmers (3,100)

6. Plant tubs and troughs (2,800)

7. Shears (2,100)

8. Garden forks (2,000)

9. Hoses and sprinklers (1,900)

10. Garden canes and sticks (1,800).

"JewTube" name dropped

NetParty, a New York-based group that organizes singles events for Jewish people, has dropped a bid to trademark the name "JewTube."

The company withdrew its application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after Web giant Google complained that the name was too close to the title of its popular video sharing site, YouTube, the New York Post reported Monday.

The JewTube name was first used by NetParty to post videos of its Matzo Ball bash last December on the group's Web site, LetMyPeopleGo

Jeff Strank of NetParty said in an interview with blog that the JewTube name would have been used for a "very limited purpose" and organizers had no intention "of creating a broader Jewish-oriented video-sharing site."

They still have plans to pursue the names Jewgle, Yahjew, and Ask Jewves

Gengis Khan trek ends

An Australian man has completed a three-year journey from Mongolia to Hungary, following in the footsteps of the Mongolian leader Genghis Khan. When Tim Cope began his 10,000 km (6,200 mile) journey in June 2004 he expected it to take 18 months.

However, a stint at home when his father died and other delays meant it took more than double that. Throughout the trek he travelled on horseback and relied on the hospitality of local people, including nomads.

He travelled with three horses at any time, one to carry him and two to carry feed and supplies and briefly, whilst in Kazakhstan, also used a camel.

He needed 13 horses in total to complete the marathon journey, though two of them - Taskonir and Ogonyok - have been with him since October 2004 when he was in Kazakhstan.

A rather nifty video can be seen here ( he says bloody a lot - but then he is an Aussie)

The intrepid explorer has also, cycled Siberia, rowed the Yenissy and worked as as a guide on the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia.

Re-branding fish

Invite the average shopper to tuck into pilchards and the response is likely to be a swift: "No thank you". Yet describe the same dish as Cornish sardines and they will be eagerly snapped up by health- conscious customers keen to enjoy the benefits of eating oily fish.

Marks & Spencer has seen a sales boom in fresh pilchards by the simple expedient of giving them the new name - dispelling memories of the mushy tinned product in tomato sauce.

And around the country fishmongers and restaurants are having similar success by replacing traditional names such as rat-tails and witch with the less off-putting grenadier and Torbay sole. Faced with dangerously low stocks of traditional favourites such as cod because of over-fishing, the industry is desperate to tempt consumers to try lesser-known species.

So the slimehead is now orange roughy, and Patagonian toothfish sells better as Chilean sea bass.

An M & S spokesman said of the rebranding: "It's a good way to encourage people to try different types of fish as part of our sustainable fish policy."

Fishermen have long argued that traditional names such as slimehead have - understandably - deterred shoppers from trying something new.

They have been behind other changes such as rockfish being sold as Pacific red snapper, and dogfish as rock salmon, and there are moves to have the megrim renamed as Cornish sole. Conservationists back moves to encourage shoppers away from over-fished species including monkfish and sole, and say the consumer can play a vital role in reversing the decline of fish stocks by choosing not to buy those at risk.

Conscientious shoppers have been advised to try coley, gurnard and cape hake as alternatives.

Speedster jailed (Update)

The motorist who became the fastest speeder ever caught in a British speed trap after driving at 172mph was today jailed for 10 weeks. Tim Brady, 33, who was also banned from driving for three years, was caught in a random speed check on rural road in his £98,000 3.6-litre Porsche 911 Turbo in January this year.

The previous record for the highest speed to result in a conviction (in a car- A motorbike conviction of 176mph still holds the record) was 156mph.

Brady pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving at Oxford Crown Court last month and was sentenced today at the same court. His plea of not guilty to one count of aggravated vehicle-taking was accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Brady, of Harrow, north-west London, resigned from his job at car lease firm Helphire at its Abingdon branch days after police stopped him in the powerful vehicle.

He was on a 70mph section of the A420 in Oxfordshire, parts of which are notorious for accidents, in the 3.6-litre vehicle belonging to the courtesy car firm where he worked as a delivery driver.

How to queue lessons

Foreign students visiting the UK are to be educated in one of Britain's most important etiquettes - how to queue properly.

Youngsters used to scrumming at bus stops in their home countries have upset locals on the Isle of Wight by barging past them in queues.

Now the Hampshire island's bus company, South Vectis, is contacting local language schools asking them to pass on tips to their students on the correct way to queue. Operations manager March Morgan Huws said the island had visiting students, especially in the summer, from across Europe including Scandinavia, Italy and Germany.

He said: "On the Isle of Wight we get lots of foreign language students staying with families. In their cultures, they do not queue for buses where they live and there is a scrum every time a bus turns up, while in British culture there is a nice orderly queue. We have had quite a few complaints from residents who queue up in an orderly fashion then all those foreign students push past them. What we have said is that we will work with the language schools to provide some instructions on the etiquette of queueing. We won't be marching the students up and down showing them how to queue, we will just leave it up to the group leaders to pass on the information."

G'day Mick

After treating thousands of patients at her koala hospital, Cheyne Flanagan thought she'd seen it all.... Then along came paleface.

The koala is incredibly rare because although he has white fur instead of the usual grey/brown, he has the normal black eyes and nose. Albinos, which occur quite frequently, have pink eyes and noses.

The creature, nicknamed Mick, was found blind and suffering from a variety of illnesses by a forest ranger and taken to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, north of Sydney. He was immediately given round-the-clock security protection in case anyone tried to steal him and sell him to a collector for his novelty value.

After an operation on his eyes, he was put on antibiotics and gradually returned to full health. Mick has just been released back into the Bush after months of treatment - although his precise location remains a secret.

"We kept him isolated from the other koalas not only for health reasons but because we didn't want too many people to know we even had him with us," said Miss Flanagan. "Only a handful of staff were told about him, just in case word got about."

It is expected that rangers involved in taking Mick back to the bush will keep an eye on his health. "At least we shouldn't have too much trouble in finding him," said one. "He's one little fellow who will stand out in the crowd. One good thing is that he hasn't been rejected by other koalas. He's just part of the big family, even if he is a little different."

G1G1 scheme

Computer enthusiasts in the developed world will soon be able to get their hands on the so-called "$100 laptop". The organisation behind the project has launched the "give one, get one" scheme that will allow US residents to purchase two laptops for $399 (£198).

One laptop will be sent to the buyer whilst a child in the developing world will receive the second machine. The G1G1 scheme, as it is known, will offer the laptops for just two weeks, starting on the 12 November.

"From day one there's been a lot of interest expressed in having some way of people in the developed world participate in the programme," Walter Bender, head of software development at One Laptop per Child (OLPC), told the BBC News website.

The XO laptop has been developed to be used by children and is as low cost, durable and simple to use as possible.

It packs several innovations including a sunlight readable display so that it can be used outside. It has no moving parts, can be powered by solar, foot-pump or pull-string powered chargers and is housed in a waterproof case. The machine's price has recently increased from $176 (£88) to $188 (£93) although the eventual aim is to sell the machines for $100 (£50).

Governments can buy the green and white machines in lots of 250,000.

In July, hardware suppliers were given the green light to ramp-up production of all of the components needed to build the low-cost machines. The decision suggested that the organisation had met or surpassed the three million orders it need to make production viable. The names of the governments that have purchased the first lots of machines have not been released.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Indoor ski-jump

A Finnish town near the Arctic circle, already covered by snow for most of the year, is planning to build the country's biggest ski jumping hill – indoors.

"Last year, half the flying hill contests in Europe had to be cancelled due to weather conditions," Erkki Keski-Nisula, the mayor of Ylitornio, said. "Our indoor hill could be used as a substitute venue for those events."

The mayor said the plans envisaged three different size hills and jumps on the largest, to be used for ski flying, could exceed 230 metres. Project costs were put at about 30 million euros.

"As an idea, it is fantastic, we could really move ski jumping forward with this hill," said Janne Marvaila, ski jumping official at the Finnish Ski Association.

Ylitornio's mayor said the town hoped also to set up an international ski jumping high school.

Swastika handbag withdrawn

Spanish fashion chain Zara has withdrawn a handbag from its stores after a customer in Britain complained swastikas were embroidered on it.

Zara, owned by the world's second largest fashion retailer Inditex, said it did not know the £39 handbag had green swastikas on its corners. The bags were made by a supplier in India and inspired by commonly used Hindu symbols, which include the swastika. The original design approved by Zara did not have swastikas on it, Inditex said.

"After the return of one bag we decided to withdraw the whole range," said a spokesman for Inditex, which has more than 3330 stores in 66 countries.

Zara pulled the bags after 19-year-old Rachel Hatton told Britain's Daily Mail she asked for a refund when she spotted swastikas on her bag.

"The shop assistants were quite shocked as well to find out this symbol was on there," she told BBC radio.

A British anti-fascism group said the bags were an attempt to legitimise fascism and the Daily Star tabloid newspaper ran a picture of Adolf Hitler next to its story headlined, "Fury over Nazi Fashion Bags".

The swastika is an ancient religious symbol for Hindus and Buddhists, and has represented the sun, strength and good luck to many groups around the world. Since its adoption by the Nazi Party in 1920, people in the West have associated the swastika with Nazi dictator Hitler.

Goat left behind

New Zealand - Burglars of a Reefton house stole cash, compact discs and alcohol – but left behind a goat.

A couple returned to their rented Shiel Street house at midnight on Thursday to find they had been burgled of 47 CDs, a bottle of Jagermeister herbal liqueur and $375 cash.

The woman – who is terrified of goats – then went to the spare room to find it locked and the animal curled up on the bed.

Constable Chris Todd, of Reefton, said police had spoken to two teenagers, aged 15 and 16, about the theft of the goat and the burglary of the Shiel Street house and several other Reefton buildings. Todd said both youths were known to police and were helping identify a third suspect, a 17-year-old known to have recently left the area.

Prosecutions against the younger teens were pending. The alcohol and some of the money had been recovered, and the goat returned to its owner.

The burglars entered the house by removing louvre panes from the toilet window. The goat caused no damage.

Police were unsure why the burglars brought the goat into the house, left it behind or locked it in the room – or whether it was a joke. "Maybe they were trying to pin the burglary on the goat." Todd added that police had "fingerprinted, footprinted and hoofprinted".

Yachtsmen make a boob

Two British yachting stars have had a bust-up over their boat’s name — Jackie Big Tits! World champions Steve Morrison and Ben Rhodes entered a regatta but were told by organisers the name had to go after a series of complaints.

Steve said: “We’re gutted. We can’t just change the boat’s name — that’s what it’s called. It’s the boat we won the world championship in and is very special to us. But the organisers won’t have it. They insisted we delete the name from our entry form.”

Steve and Ben, who named the boat after a Kooks song, were this week nominated for the Olympics in the 49er two-man skiff category. The pair and Jackie Big Tits are even featured on the front page of the Team GB Olympics website.

Steve said: “We’ve always named our boats after songs and Jackie Big T**s is one by The Kooks we liked. We’ve also had a boat called Britney and another named Sally Cinnamon. It’s not the same if your boat just has a number, is it?”

The Royal Yachting Association, which is organising the Skandia Sail For Gold Regatta in Plymouth, Devon, said youth sailors were due to take part.

A spokesman said: “It was felt the tone wasn’t quite right with so many youngsters around.”

Iguanas smuggled in false leg

LOS ANGELES - A man has been charged with stealing three endangered iguanas from a nature preserve in Fiji and smuggling them into the United States in his prosthetic leg.

Jereme James, 33, faces a single count of smuggling, according to a federal indictment returned Friday in Los Angeles. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Prosecutors say he stole the Fiji Island banded iguanas while visiting the South Pacific island in September 2002. He then brought the reptiles to the U.S. by hiding them in a special compartment he had constructed in his prosthetic leg, prosecutors said.

James came under scrutiny several years ago when someone informed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials that he had several of the neon green iguanas, which are protected under an international treaty regulating trade in endangered species.

During an undercover probe, James told investigators he sold three of the iguanas for US$32,000, prosecutors said.

When a search warrant was served at his house on April 26, Fish and Wildlife agents seized four iguanas. Authorities suspect James may have bred the creatures to sell them.

"That's what we believe has been going on," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph O. Johns said. "Mother nature has taken her course."

The seized iguanas will end up in a breeding program in the U.S., Johns said.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

TV channel called Dave

TV channel UKTV G2, which shows cult comedy and game shows aimed at young men, is to be rebranded Dave.

UKTV says the new name is based on the idea that "everyone knows a bloke called Dave".

The channel, which carries shows like Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Top Gear, will be available on Freeview for the first time when it launches in October.

The move will mean Dave can be watched in 20 million homes across the country, according to UKTV.

The head of Dave, Steven North, said: "Changing the channel name to Dave enables us to create a strong and noisy personality for the channel that immediately aligns us with our core 16-34 male audience."

UKTV is a joint venture between the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, and cable TV provider Virgin Media.

Dave, which starts up on 15 October, will replace UKTV Bright Ideas on Freeview.

Queen wins raffle

A raffle prize of two bars of soap and bath oil has been won by The Queen. Organisers couldn’t believe it when a winning ticket was pulled out with “The Queen, Buckingham Palace” written on it.

A prankster was suspected and the stub was about to be thrown away, with a redraw for the £10 prize. But a fellow punter in the summer raffle at Fox Primary School in Notting Hill, West London, revealed that the ticket WAS genuine.

A courtier at Buckingham Palace has children at the school — and the Queen offered to buy some tickets after overhearing him selling them to other workers. Her name then went into the hat with thousands of others.

A source said: “I understand Her Majesty has been formally notified about her lucky win, but has not yet come to claim her prize.”

Friday, September 21, 2007

Superman sighting

Police are investigating after villagers in Romania claimed to see a Superman-like figure flying through the sky. Almost 20 villagers, from Gemeni, Mehedinti county, claim the UFO was wearing a shiny blue suit, just like Superman’s.

Police officers took written statements from all of the witnesses and say they described the figure in the same way.

Local policeman Ion Anuta said: “We talked to people of different ages who are all reliable citizens in our village. They all said they saw this strange creature who flew over their houses in his shiny blue costume. We’ll just have to see what happens next.”
Villager Constantin Toader, 41, said: “He looked like Superman and was flying slowly at about 100 yards from the ground in a standing position. He didn’t make any smoke or sound. Just cruising around.”

Cyclist with a goal

A football fan cycled 170 miles (274km) to watch his team play only to find himself locked out of the ground. Peter Woor, 57, a lifelong Cambridge United fan, pedalled for 12 hours to cheer on his team as they played Altrincham FC last Tuesday.

However, he got lost in Leicester and by the time Mr Woor got to the ground the gates were closed. "It's a sorry tale. I was really upset because of the 3-0 win I missed," said Mr Woor, of Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire.

Mr Woor started out at 07:45 am and got to the gates at 8:20pm.

He said: "They usually open up the gates at half-time but they must have kept them banged up in there - it's a rum place. No-one heard my shouts so I went to a pub across the road. The locals were amazed by my tale and bought me a pint."

Mr Woor, a lab worker at Addenbrooke's Hospital, finally got in with 20 minutes left but missed United's three goals.

He said: "I have cycled a total of 8,000 miles to 56 different grounds. I have been late before but I've never been locked out."

A spokesman for Altrincham FC said: "We have a late gate which closes approximately 20 minutes into the game and we open the exit gates 20 minutes before the game ends. However, we do have a bell on the main gate and someone watching the game keeps an eye on it. Mr Woor should have got in."

Non á Sarkozy

Local councillors in a French village have refused to hang the official portrait of the country's president in their municipal hall. Councillors in Sannat, central France, voted five to four against putting up Nicolas Sarkozy's photograph.

The mayor, Henri Sauthon, told AFP news agency the practice was a tradition but was not mandatory. Presidential portraits are thought to feature in every one of France's 36,000 municipal halls.

"The question arose when we were offered a portrait of the president," said Mr Sauthon, an 81-year-old retired farmer and mayor of Sannat, a village of 380 inhabitants. "During our meeting on Tuesday, some said they were against hanging the picture, so we had a vote - which ruled against by five to four. Maybe we are rebels. Maybe we're a bit hard-headed. Not everyone is a yes-man," he said.

Mr Sauthon, who claims no political affiliation, says Mr Sarkozy's two predecessors, a conservative and a socialist, did not suffer the same fate.

"We had no problems in putting up Jacques Chirac, who remained on the wall alongside Francois Mitterrand," he said.

Black pudding throwing championships

Spectators and competitors gathered at a pub in Greater Manchester on Sunday for the annual World Black Pudding Throwing Championship. The competition was being held at the Royal Oak in the village of Ramsbottom, near Bury, for the third time.

The event was saved in 2003 after the previous venue - the Corner Pin pub in nearby Stubbins - closed down. Contestants aim to knock some Yorkshire puddings off a ledge 20ft (six metres) up the pub wall with a black pudding.

The winner is the person who manages to dislodge the most Yorkshire puddings with the Lancashire delicacy. Black pudding is a traditional dish made of cooked pig blood, fat and rusk, encased in a length of intestine.

The tradition dates back to the 1850s and is believed to be a revival of the Lancashire-Yorkshire rivalry. Historically Bury, now part of Greater Manchester, was in Lancashire.

One legend says the event is based on a battle during the War of the Roses. Both armies are said to have run out of ammunition and instead threw food at each other.

This years winner was Paul Rudge from Southport with 4 puds.