Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ex-Con buys his old cell

An Ex-prisoner liked his old cell at Melbourne's Pentridge prison so much that he is buying it back.

Graeme Alford, who spent several years in the former Pentridge prison at Coburg, in Melbourne's north, after being convicted of embezzlement and later armed robbery in the 1970s, will buy cell number 43 in the jail's old D Division.

The former prison is being redeveloped into a residential and commercial complex.

Mr Alford's cell, which is in the same section where Ronald Ryan became the last man hanged in Australia, is in a part of the former prison which will be redeveloped into a wine block that will eventually house $50 million worth of rare wines.

Mr Alford, who was educated at Trinity Grammar and Melbourne University, became a barrister.

But his love of gambling and drinking eventually led to his downfall. He got into debt with bookmakers, so he stole money from his clients' trust funds and was jailed for 16 months in the early 1970s. A short time after his release from Pentridge prison, Mr Alford took a sawn-off shotgun and attempted to rob the National Bank in Chapel Street, Prahran.

He was sentenced to another stint in jail, this time for seven years.

After leaving prison in 1980, Mr Alford turned his life around, swearing off the booze, writing books and starting a career as a motivational speaker with the help of businessman Bob Ansett.

Mr Alford will sign the sale contract tonight in Melbourne.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Longest string of firecrackers

A city in China's central Hunan Province set off a 20 km (12.4 mile) string of firecrackers this week -- despite failing to persuade Guinness World Records to verify the event, the Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

The string of firecrackers stretching from Dayao Town to Liuyang City, China's biggest firecracker producer, exploded for 68 minutes, littering the ground with debris and touching off an explosion of criticism from newspapers across the country.

"We hope the success of making the longest firecracker will increase the confidence of producers and make our city well known across the country," Xu Qiangguo, head of the Liuyang Firecrackers Bureau, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

The event, co-sponsored by local fireworks plants and the local government, cost more than 800,000 yuan ($107,000).

But no official Guinness World Record representative accepted the invitation to attend the event, and outside media said the town's efforts had been wasted.

"Unless the firecrackers are supposed to be part of a cinema scene of raging war, what benefits can come from setting off 20 kilometers of fireworks?" asked the Beijing Times.

Xu disagreed. "I don't think it's a waste of money because we got what we wanted: extensive media coverage and more orders."

Student finds painting in couch

A German student who bought a pullout couch for $215 at a Berlin flea market found a painting worth 100 times that amount hidden inside when she unfolded the sofa at home.

The tiny 10- by 15-inch oil painting sold for $27,630 at a Hamburg art auction last weekend, Auction House Kunst Kettler said.

The work, "Preparation to Escape to Egypt," was painted by an unknown artist close to Venetian painter Carlo Saraceni between 1605 and 1620, the auction house said Monday night.

The student's identity was not revealed.

Aussies turn pub into church

Melbourne - Jesus Christ may have turned water into wine, but for a group of Australian churchgoers the ideal place to worship on a Sunday is a pub.

Devoid of a church in the docklands entertainment area of Melbourne, a group of Christians have created the "Docklands Church" inside the James Squire Brewhouse.

"Jesus did turn water into wine, he was kind of radical, he was connected with his culture, and yet he had a great message for our world," Docklands Church minister Guy Mason said after his first service on Sunday.

Mason told local media that worshippers were offered not only a message from the bible but also a meal and tea and coffee, but anyone could have a pint before or after the church service. The choice of location was a way of modernising the church, he said.

"All we want to be is relevant, we want to be applicable and contemporary and...we're going to keep the bible open as well," said one parishioner, with a beer in his hand.

Another parishioner said: "I think a lot of people who do want to go out and have a drink or go out and have a party often feel that they're excluded from God".

Woman breaks in & re-decorates

Douglasville, Georgia - A woman came home from a vacation in Greece to find a stranger playing house, changing utilities into her name and even repainting a room she didn't like.

Douglas County authorities say they can't explain why Beverly Valentine, 54, broke into an empty home in suburban Atlanta and started acting like it was her own.

During the two-and-a-half weeks the owner was on vacation, Valentine allegedly redecorated the ranch home, ripping up carpet and taking down the owner's pictures and replacing them with her own.

Valentine didn't know the owner, said Chief Sheriff's Deputy Stan Copeland. He said he had no idea how Valentine knew the owner was gone and how she thought she'd get away with moving into a stranger's home and acting as if it were her own. "In 28 years, I've never seen something this strange," Copeland said.

The odd case came to light when Beverly Mitchell, who lived alone, returned home October 4 to find the lights on and a strange car parked in the driveway. Mitchell called police, who went in and found Valentine, who at first pretended she was renting the home. Later, Copeland said, she admitted she broke into the house with a shovel and was squatting there. She is charged with burglary.

Valentine appeared to think she could stay in the ranch permanently. She had the electricity switched over to her name and also moved in a washer and dryer and her small dog.

Copeland said she was even wearing some of Mitchell's clothes. "There's a lot of people saying, 'What?'" Copeland said.

Authorities found a gun and $23 000 (about R140 000) worth of Mitchell's jewellery in Valentine's car. Valentine is still being held in Douglas County Jail on a $25 000 bond, Copeland said. If convicted, she could face between one to 20 years in prison.

Halloween mask causes panic

Passengers on a German train mistook a Halloween reveller dressed up as a gore-covered zombie for a murder victim and called the police. The 24-year-old man fell into a drunken slumber on his way home from a Halloween party in Hamburg, police in the northern town of Bad Segeberg said.

Believing his hands and face were smeared with blood, passengers alerted police after getting no response from him.

A first aid team called to the scene soon cleared up the confusion. Police told the man to remove his make-up after which he was allowed to continue his journey.

“Bad Segeberg is in a rural area and Halloween isn't very well known there,” police spokeswoman Silke Tobies said. “So people weren't expecting anyone to be dressed up in the train.”

German soldiers bog-rolled down

NAPOLEON observed that an army marches on its stomach, but even he would have been astonished by financial accounts presented by the German defence force that showed its soldiers were each using 10 rolls of toilet paper a day.
Such superhuman consumption sparked a vigorous political debate in Germany and outraged the Green Party, which has been leading a campaign for a more environmentally conscious, paper-free Germany.

What exactly were the country's soldiers eating? Were peacekeepers in Afghanistan being force-fed dried prunes? Or perhaps soldiers were hiding in lavatories rather than doing their duty?

A comparison with other government ministries seemed to show that soldiers were indeed spending a great deal more time in lavatories than other civil servants. The Defence Ministry was using 800 million rolls a year, but the Interior Ministry, which has a similar number of staff, was working its way through only 620,000.

There were big users elsewhere - the Health Ministry with 2.74 million rolls and Finance, 5.37 million - but nothing compared with the demands of the armed forces.

A team of military accountants was set to work. Computers whirred. Worried phone calls were made to battalion commanders, and an answer was found: the figure was wrong.

Eight hundred million sheets - not rolls - of lavatory paper were used last year. There had, apparently, been a slip of the pen.

That equates to about 5.3million rolls for the ministry's 360,000 uniformed and civilian employees, although precision still eluded the officials. "It is difficult to say exactly how many sheets are in a roll since some are three-ply," an official said. Ministry accountants are working on the basis of a 150-sheet roll. That was not the end of the matter, however.

Former soldiers began to spill some of Germany's more embarrassing military secrets. The true consumption of lavatory paper may not be 800 million rolls, but it was almost certainly higher than the government figures, they claimed.

One blogger recalled that elite mountain troops are given a roll a day as part of the basic equipment, as are troops stationed in Afghanistan.

There is an historic precedent for such consumption. German corporals used to drum into their recruits: "Wohin und wieweit ich marschier, ich geh niemals ohne mein Klopapier" ("Wherever and however I march, I never go without my loo paper").

Personal hygiene, a problem in the World War I trenches, was given a high priority when the Germans mounted the Blitzkrieg of World War II.

But the true reason for the fudging of statistics was revealed by one soldier in an internet chat room. "The grey recycled paper is the best way of cleaning small-calibre weapons - every soldier knows that," he said.

Haunted swings

An out-of-control playground swing has spooked families and police in Argentina.

The swing rocks back and forwards without being touched - and anxious parents have decided the playground must be haunted.

In an attempt to explain the swing's mysterious movement, police called in physics professors. But even they have been unable to explain the why the swing keeps moving.

Residents claim the middle swing in a playground in the north-eastern town of Firmat can keep moving continuously for ten days before suddenly coming to a halt.

Teacher Maria de Silva Agustina said one child had nicknamed the area the "Blair Witch Playground".

Up a tree

A semi clothed Czech man who climbed up a tree and howled like a dog had to be coaxed down by police yesterday.

Wearing only tracksuit bottoms, the man refused to leave the tree in Cardiff for two hours.

Local resident Martin Townley, 43, said: “He woke me up. I thought it was a dog howling. I had a chat with him but he just said, ‘Leave me alone, it’s my tree’.”

South Wales Police said the man was not arrested but was taken to a mental health hospital for “his own safety”.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cows & Goats stolen in a Fiat Uno

Cattle rustlers in South Africa's eastern KwaZulu-Natal province have been trying to outwit police by transporting the animals in small cars. Police in Zululand say they seized two cows and two goats found squashed into the back of a tiny Fiat Uno.

The National Anti-Stock Theft Forum said more than 62,000 cows were stolen in the area last year. The authorities say the use of ever-smaller vehicles came after police stepped up surveillance of larger vans.

Police chased one overloaded Fiat Uno into the night, after receiving a tip-off at around 0300. The driver abandoned the car after he realised he was being followed and ran off into the bushes. All the seats except the driver's had been taken out and the cows and goats loaded in their place.

The vehicle and its unusual passengers were taken to Emanguzi police station and then to the centre where they keep stolen animals in Hluhluwe.

"Police have been keeping watch on vans and trucks travelling at night," local police spokesman, Capt Jabulani Mdletshe explained. "Now they are using small cars to avoid detection."

The authorities say in another instance the rustlers managed to cram two cows and seven goats into a Toyota Tazz before being pulled over. Some cattle are stolen by local villagers to restock their kraals after the loss of their own cattle to raiders. But most are stolen by syndicates who sell them for their meat to butcheries in Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, Swaziland, Mozambique and Lesotho.

"Syndicates will use every mode of transport available to them," said the head of KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union's security desk, Koos Maree.

The KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union's security desk said at least 15,000 cows, 7,000 sheep and 900 goats had been stolen in KwaZulu-Natal so far this year.

Police said they hoped these animals would be given a trauma debriefing - but did not elaborate on what that would entail.

Vagrant Lenny inspires song

A song about a homeless man who lives in a bus shelter has been released to raise money to get him off the streets before Christmas. "Lenny" who has been homeless for 29 years, occupies a bus stop in Lancaster Road, Enfield, north London, by day and sleeps in the back of a car at night.

The 45-year-old inspired Lenny's Song and he also features on the track. Music producer CP BAZzZMAN, who wrote the song after meeting Lenny, hopes to raise £4,000 for rehousing costs.

Lenny endured a turbulent childhood, ending up in the prison system at the age of 14, and ended up on the streets when he became an alcoholic and was rejected by his family.

CP BAZzZMAN said he stopped to talk to Lenny about six weeks ago as he was driving home. "Every night I used to see this hunched figure at the bus stop, alone in the dark and one night I stopped to talk to him. I couldn't believe society had allowed this man to slip through the net."

He then decided to put a track together, using Lenny's life as the inspiration, to raise money to get him into a house.



Tempe, Arizona is trying to block a Halloween-themed bar after learning its owner suggested on a forum he wasn’t telling the city the real name of the business — Drunkenstein’s. Kurt Havelock was trying to get a liquor license for a bar/restaurant called The Haunted House, a procedure that the City Council usually passes quickly.

But before a Thursday vote on the license, a resident passed out copies of the forum to City Council members that obviously irritated the elected officials. Under the name “Head Noisician,” Havelock wrote in the blog “I’m pretty sure the city council wouldn’t approve of Drunkenstein’s ... the actual name above the bar.”

On, the “Head Noisician” described the place as a restaurant, Halloween bar, Irish coffee house and music/arts venue that would include “ear-piercing death metal solos.”

Havelock tried to assure the city he would only post a Drunkenstein’s sign someplace inside. Councilwoman Barb Carter moved to approve the license. The council chambers fell silent. An alternate motion against it passed 6-1, with Carter dissenting.

But the bar could still open. The council’s vote is merely advisory. The final decision rests with the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. It’s not uncommon for that group to approve a license despite municipal objections.

Havelock is trying to open the bar at 6463 S. Rural Road. His posting said he’d welcome all kinds of music and entertainment. He wants a night of “rockin’ & wrastlin’” with Kamala the Ugandan Giant, a singer and member of World Wrestling Entertainment, also known as the WWE.

Welcome to Amer-ada

A Disney-produced promotional video released last week by the departments of State and Homeland Security highlights majestic American landscapes, from New England's colourful fall foliage and the Grand Canyon to the Rocky Mountains and Hawaii's pounding surf.

Backed by a soaring orchestral soundtrack, shots of those attractions are interspersed with the smiling images of people of all creeds and colours.

The video, "Welcome: Portraits of America," is to be played at select airports in the United States - starting at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston - and at U.S. embassies abroad.

About four minutes into the seven-minute production, viewers are treated to the impressive sight and sound of water roaring over Niagara Falls before the screen shifts to the Lincoln Memorial.

In showing the natural wonder, Disney's filmmakers, however, chose the Horseshoe Falls, the only one of Niagara's three waterfalls to lie on the Canadian side of the border separating western New York state from southern Ontario province.

Making matters worse, a visitor to the U.S. would not even be able to get the same view of the falls in the video because the scene was shot from a vantage point in Canada, according to Paul Gromosiak, a Niagara Falls, N.Y., historian and author.

Also, he said the video leaves out the two cascades that actually are on U.S. territory, the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

"This is not the United States, this is 100 per cent Canada, shot from the Canadian side. This is an insult," Gromosiak said after reviewing the video at the request of The Associated Press.

Although brief, the appearance of the Horseshoe Falls in a U.S. tourism promotion effort is likely to also vex Canadians, who long have fought to distinguish themselves from their larger and more powerful neighbour to the South.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Belated Happy Birthday Sheffield FC

Football dignitaries gathered in Sheffield, northern England, on Wednesday to kick off the 150th birthday celebrations of Sheffield FC -- the sport's oldest club.

Guests of honor at a service at Sheffield Cathedral included Sepp Blatter, president of football world governing body FIFA, and Massimo Moratti, president of Italian giants Inter Milan who are scheduled to play a friendly against Sheffield FC next month.

Other guests attending a dinner in the club's honor included Real Madrid President Ramon Calderon and England and Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton.

Pele -- widely recognized as the greatest footballer ever to play the game -- is also due in town next month to attend Sheffield FC's clash with Inter.

Blatter was unveiling a bust of the club's co-founder William Prest -- one of two cricket fans who founded Sheffield FC, then known simply as Sheffield Club, on October 24, 1857 after deciding they needed a new sport to keep them active during the winter.

Many more football clubs soon sprung up and by 1862 there were said to be 15 in and around the Sheffield area.

The Football Association -- which codified the basic rules of the modern game -- was established in London the following year.

Sheffield FC was instrumental in developing set rules for the game. The club studied existing rules and laid down a code of laws, which formed the foundation of the first commonly-accepted set of rules for the sport, according to the Sheffield FC Web site.

The team was also responsible for several innovations in the game -- including heading, which was unheard of until 1875, when Sheffield traveled to London for a game.

According to the team's Web site, the sight of the Sheffield players using their foreheads in addition to their feet reduced the London crowd to hysterics.

Burglars in a box

Canadian police have caught two men and a woman who used an ordinary cardboard box to break into more than 200 fast-food outlets in the Toronto area.

The trio arrived at each target with an oversized cardboard box, which they propped up against the restaurant's front door.

One person hid in the box and used specialised tools to break into the restaurant, while the others stood guard with a police scanner and two-way radios.

"They were able to, by experience, literally remove the glass from the pane of the door and then set the glass aside," said Detective Sergeant Reuben Strober of Toronto Police.

He said the burglars managed to disable most of the alarm systems at the same time.

Even if the alarms were triggered, the suspects got away before police arrived.

Over the course of their crime spree, they made off with about $280,000.

Det Sgt Strobel said the three were finally caught after police responded to an unrelated call in the neighbourhood.

They face 355 charges.

Meteorite for sale

A chunk of one of the most famous meteorites in the world - the size of small truck - goes under the hammer today in the US. The sale, at the auction house Bonhams in New York, is expected to fetch more than $1.4 million.

But a group of native Americans consider the meteorite a sacred icon.

Scientists believe the 15.5 tonne chunk of iron and nickle was the core of a planet that shattered in a stellar collision billions of years ago. It was found in the Williamette valley in Oregon in the United States over 100 years ago.

The local confederated tribes of the Grand Ronde considers the entire meteorite a sacred icon. The tribe group says it is saddened and dismayed by the sale, but a spokesman said it could not stop the auction and would not consider becoming a bidder.

Webcam performes wanted

A Jobcentre has provoked outrage after it was found to be advertising for women to strip for web cams on Internet sex sites for £8 an hour.

The controversial advertisement was posted in a Jobcentre Plus branch in Cardiff, south Wales and nationwide on the agency's website.

According to the advertisement, the role involves "explicit dialogue" and "performing for clients' or customers' fantasies".

The Department for Work and Pensions insisted that it is legally obliged to carry the advertisements. It is not the first time that Jobcentres have come under fire for offering sex work.

Earlier this year, Jobcentre branches were discovered offering work as £100 an hour "escorts" working for a company offering "no-strings adult fun".

The Department for Work and Pensions, which runs the Jobcentre network, insists that it is legally obliged to carry the advertisements after a test case brought by the Ann Summer sex shop chain in 2003.

Then a High Court judge ruled that Jobcentres must carry advertisements for legal work in the "sex and personal-services industries."

A spokeswoman for the DWP said: "Our advisers always check on the full details of any vacancies notified to us."

On the edge

A 32-tonne lorry was left hanging over the edge of an historic stone bridge after the driver apparently went for a cup of tea.

The underbridge inspection vehicle had somehow rolled away with its engine running at about 3am yesterday. It smashed through a wall and came to a halt above a grassy incline at a beauty spot known as Crook O’Lune.

Roadworks were being carried out on on the bridge, which spans the River Lune near Caton, Lancashire. The bridge was reopened to traffic at 8.30am, hours before a 31-tonne crane arrived to remove the lorry. Police are investigating the incident.

Do I look cool?

A dog models a rain coat and a rescue jacket, designed to be used in emergency situations, at a Security and Safety Trade Expo in Tokyo, Japan.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Aliens blew up our fridge

A GOVERNMENT investigation into a series of unexplained fires in fridges, televisions and mobile phones in an Italian village has concluded that the responsibility lies with "aliens testing secret weapons".

In scenes similar to the drama series The X-Files, Canneto di Caronia on Sicily was the centre of world attention three years ago after residents reported everyday household objects - electrical appliances, a pile of wedding presents and furniture - bursting into flames.

Dozens of experts including scientists, electrical engineers and military experts, arrived in the village, in the north of the island, to investigate. One amazed scientist reported seeing an unplugged electrical cable burst into flames.

Arson was ruled out while locals blamed supernatural forces and the Vatican's chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth suggested it was Satan's work.

The report, by the Civil Protection Department, was ordered by the Italian government and brought together dozens of experts including a NASA scientist who asked to help with the £1 million investigation.

According to leaked copies, the fires were "caused by high -power electromagnetic emissions which were not man-made and reached a power of between 12 and 15 gigawatts".

The report also details an incident of a possible UFO landing close to Caronia - 60 miles east of Palermo - after "burnt im-prints which have not been explained were found in a field".

Yesterday Francesco Mantegna Venerando, Sicily's Civil Protection chief who co-ordinated the report, said:

"We are not saying little green men from Mars started the fires, but that unnatural forces capable of creating a large amount of electromagnetic energy were responsible. This is just one possibility. We are also looking at another one which involves the testing of top-secret weapons by an unknown power which are also capable of producing an enormous amount of energy."

Barefaced cheek

Newcastle, England - This is the amazing moment a naked man showed bare faced cheek and gave startled police the runaround. The streaker was spotted being chased by police around Newcastle’s Town Moor.

And when the officer failed to catch him, the nude man turned the tables on them and started chasing the officers. Walkers passing through the moor could barely believe their eyes as watched the 10 minute chase.

The bizarre scene was captured by photographers Carlos Pequenino and Brian Clark, who were busy taking landscape shots of the area. Artist Carlos, 51, of Newcastle, said: “It was a nice day so we decided to go and get some photos of trees and plants and flowers. Then this naked man just turned up. It wasn’t very warm and he was being strangely enthusiastic. It was so unusual we decided to take the photos. It lasted for about ten to 15 minutes. At one point the man chased the policeman.”

Police were called after the bold runner was seen darting between traffic on the Great North Road. After wearing him down the officers were able to pin the man to the ground and arrest him.

Brian, 40, also of Newcastle has been taking photos for 12 years but said he has never seen anything like this. “We were all amused by it,” he said.

“But it was pretty dramatic. I thought he was a naturist at first. I thought he’d just parked up his car and had a little run about. When I saw the policeman I whistled to him. I was worried it might get out of control but it was fine. We could see people stopping and watching as well. We only took the photos to show our friends because it was so unusual. No-one would’ve believed us. All my family have seen them and they’ve been amused to.”

A police spokesperson, said: “We received a report of a man running naked in front of traffic on the Great North Road at 4.50pm on Thursday October 18. He was arrested and was taken to hospital for treatment.”

Illegal cheese makers

A Southern California couple is facing criminal charges after allegedly being caught with 375 pounds of “bathtub” cheese at an open-air market in San Bernardino County, the California Department of Food and Agriculture says.

The illegal soft cheese products are known to cause serious illness such as listeria, salmonella or E. coli.

Floribel Hernandez Cuenca, 29, and Manuel Martin Sanchez Garrido, 44, of Montclair, were arrested for selling a variety of unlicensed cheeses to the public. Ms. Cuenca was also arrested on felony cheese making charges.

The 375 pounds of seized illegal cheese included panela, queso fresco and queso oxaca varieties, the CDFA says. It was a significant find, the department says.

“Illegally produced is cheese is serious threat to public health,” says CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura.

Unlicensed products may carry a bigger price tag than consumers expect: the risk of severe illness, the state says.

Infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible. Expectant mothers should be especially guarded, as the listeria organism can cause miscarriages.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pink Panty vagrant

Employees of Kohl’s department store in Joplin were surprised to find a man dressed in women’s undergarments walking about the store Thursday morning when they arrived for work.

“Actually, he was wearing a pink camisole and some pink women’s underwear,” Cpl. Chuck Niess of the Joplin Police Department said of a 52-year-old homeless man arrested on suspicion of burglary and spending some portion of the night inside the store at 301 S. Geneva Ave.

The man did not attempt to leave the business, and Kohl’s employees did not try to apprehend him, Niess said. Instead, they called police at 6:01 a.m., he said. A responding officer discovered the man asleep under a blanket at the back of the store, he said.

The man was still wearing the pink negligee and panties.

There was reason to believe the suspect had tried on a number of the store’s undergarments for women. Nine pair of panties and four bras were found in a pile near where he was sleeping, Niess said.

He said the undergarments — worth a total of $375 — were deemed no longer salable by Kohl’s. The suspect’s own clothes had not been found inside the store by the time he was arrested and taken to Joplin City Jail, he said.

Police were seeking a charge of second-degree burglary against the man. But the charge had yet to be filed by the county prosecutor’s office by late Thursday afternoon.

Niess said there was no evidence that the man had tried to break into any cash registers or store safe. He said the suspect also did not appear to be intoxicated.

Niess said police have had prior contacts with the man, although not for any burglaries or other felony offenses. He said the prior incidents were of the nature of complaints from businesses regarding alleged loitering or panhandling on their premises.

An officer had responded to an alarm at Kohl’s at 1:30 a.m. Thursday. The building was checked and found to be secure, Niess said. An employee with a key to the store had met the officer at the business and had a look inside, he said. They had not found anyone or anything amiss, he said.

As they were leaving, the alarm sounded again and they had rechecked the building, all to no avail, he said.

Oregon jails are better

An Oregon man was been arrested after fleeing police across a Snake River bridge into neighboring Idaho — only to reverse course near the stateline because he reckoned Oregon jails would be better than those in Idaho.

Michael Maddox, 42, was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of driving without insurance, failure to follow traffic laws, eluding police and drug possession.

According to Oregon State Police, Maddox had eluded officers on Sunday by heading eastward in his car into Idaho.

At that point, he stopped and drove back across the border before surrendering in a Wal-Mart store parking lot.

An Oregon State Police trooper says Maddox told him he didn't want to go to jail in Idaho.

Maddox is being held in Malheur County jail in Vale, Ore.

Go-Karter teen outstrips police

BERLIN - A teenager speeding through a German town in a go-kart with seven squad cars in hot pursuit managed to give the frustrated officers the slip, police said on Friday.

After leading the convoy on a 5-km (3-mile) chase through the winding streets of Moenchengladbach, the 18-year-old driver spotted a private garage with an open door, where he decided to lie low, police said.

"We were chasing him across town, but the squad cars couldn't keep up because the go-kart was able to take the corners faster and he was able to get away," police spokesman Willy Thevissen said.

However, police later discovered his hiding place. He was questioned and charged with driving without a licence and driving a go-kart on a public street, which is not permitted in Germany.

"He told us he knew driving a go-cart on the street is illegal," the spokesman said. "But he had purchased the vehicle from a friend and said he had no other way of getting it home."

Prostitutes tight-lipped protest

Prostitutes in the Bolivian city of El Alto sewed their lips together today as part of a hunger strike to demand that the mayor reopen brothels and bars ordered closed after violent protests by residents last week.

"We are fighting for the right to work and for our families' survival," Lily Cortez, leader of the El Alto Association of Nighttime Workers, told local television.

"Tomorrow we will bury ourselves alive if we are not immediately heard. The mayor will have his conscience to answer to if there are any grave consequences, such as the death of my comrades," she said, surrounded by about 10 prostitutes who had sewn their lips together with thread.

Some 30 other women were shown fasting inside a medical clinic nearby.

Mayor Fanor Nava told local radio he would not reopen the brothels and bars closed after city residents fed up with underage drinking and crime stormed the red-light district in El Alto, an impoverished city just north of La Paz.

Bitter Ex

A 34-year-old woman has been charged with using the Internet to try to get revenge on an old boyfriend by breaking up his marriage. Pilar Stofega has been charged with second-degree harassment and breach of peace and released on $2,500 bond.

Waterford police say she created phony profiles of the former boyfriend's current wife on some adult Web sites that included the wife's home and work phone numbers and high school yearbook picture.

Stofega said she did to it "to be vindictive, knowing that the profiles would create marital problems between" the victim and her husband, according to court documents.

The plot came to life when strange men started calling a Waterford woman's house over the summer, saying they had seen her profile on an adult Web site.

The man Stofega had dated eight years ago used his own computer to investigate and discovered someone had created a profile for his wife on several Internet sites, according to court records.

Police say the husband did more online investigating and was able to find out that the person behind the phony profiles of his wife was the woman he dated in 1999. He passed the information on to Waterford police, leading to Stofega's arrest last week.

Waterford police got a court order to seize Stofega's Internet records. They reviewed the account records before searching her house in late September.

Stofega was at the house when police served the warrant. Officers said she provided them with a sworn written statement in which she admitted to intentionally creating the profiles in the victim's likeness on the adult Web sites.

Stofega is scheduled to appear in New London Superior Court on Monday. Court records did not list an attorney and her phone number was not listed.

Post panties to Burma Embassy

A campaign is underway to chastise Burma's military regime, not through dialogue or sanctions, but by flooding the country's foreign embassies with women's underwear, an activist said.

A pro-democracy group based in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai is urging people all over the world to "post, deliver or fling" their undergarments to Burma's international embassies.

"The Burma military regime is not only brutal but very superstitious. They believe that contact with a woman's panties or sarong can rob them of their power," the Lanna Action for Burma group said on its website.

The generals who rule Burma provoked international outcry in September when they violently cracked down on peaceful protesters, killing at least 13 people.

Indian guitarists record bid

Hundreds of guitarists played Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door" in India's remote north-eastern hills, attempting to break the world record for the largest guitar ensemble.

About 1,730 guitarists played at a stadium in Shillong town aiming to break the existing Guinness record held by musicians from Kansas City in the United States where 1,721 guitarists had performed Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" last year.

There were no adjudicators from the Guinness Book of World Records at the Indian event, but its organisers claimed their feat would be recognised as they had two witnesses in keeping with the parameters set by the Guinness authorities.

"Though we set a new world record, we are sad as we were expecting more than 2,000 guitarists," Aiban Mawkhroh, one of the chief organisers of the event said from Shillong, capital of the picturesque hill state of Meghalaya or "the abode of the clouds".

The performance has been videotaped and a copy would be sent to the Guinness authorities. A similar event has been planned by guitarists in London on November 2, Mr Mawkhroh said.

Shillong also holds the world record for the largest drum ensemble after 7,951 drummers performed for more than five minutes in perfect rhythm last year.

BA bans surfboards

A ban on certain items of bulky sports equipment will be implemented by British Airways on 6 November.

The airline will stop carrying surfboards, canoes, windsurfing boards and sails, hang gliders, pole vaults and javelins due to their 'large size and handling complexities,' according to a statement on its website.

The decision was made as an attempt to minimise months of luggage backlogs at British Airways, but has provoked outrage by surf trip organisers. There is no refusal to transport other similarly sized items, such as golf clubs and bikes.

Che Guevara's hair sold

Strands of hair taken from the body of Ernesto Che Guevara by a former CIA officer involved in his death have sold for $119,000 (£58,000) at auction. It sold to the only bidder, who runs a bookshop near Houston, for the reserve price, plus a buyer's premium.

The Dallas sale prompted protests from Che's widow and his supporters.

The sale is not a first for Heritage Auction Galleries, which has sold locks from the heads of Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Bill Butler, 61, placed his bid by telephone for the 3-inch (8cm) strand of Che Guevara's hair.

In the same lot were photographs of the dead revolutionary's body and fingerprints taken after he was shot in Bolivia in 1967. Mr Butler says he plans to display the hair at his bookshop.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rod's new model

It's no secret that Rod Stewart has a thing for models. But it may come as a surprise that his passion extends beyond the blonde, statuesque variety. The raspy-voiced rocker has created an impressive model railway featured in an American magazine.

Laid out at his Beverly Hills mansion, the 1:87-scale version of New York's Grand Central Station in the Forties boasts 100ft of track, period locomotives, skyscrapers, advertisement hoardings and lots of tiny passengers in period hats and coats.

Its appearance on the cover of this month's Model Railroader realises a lifelong ambition for 183-year-old Rod, who has said that such an honour would "mean more to me than the cover of Rolling Stone".

Stewart is clearly proud of his achievement. A copy of the magazine, the world's most popular model railway monthly, was spotted on the back seat of his limousine as he dined with wife Penny Lancaster in London.

On the cover, under the headline "Exclusive: Learn how rock 'n' roller Rod Stewart built this city" is the photo of his extraordinary train set.

"I'm a great model railway enthusiast and I'm building a huge layout over there in California so that takes up a little bit of time and football takes up a little bit of time," he said.

"And then there's the children and I like to go out with the lads two or three times a week and go completely mad and sometimes I get my barnet done. It's still all my own hair, you know.

A moving story

Engineers are transporting a 660-ton German church 12 kilometres by truck to save it from destruction: Its home village is set to be swallowed up by an expanding coal pit. Now an entire church in eastern Germany is being taken up and moved - thanks to a little faith and a lot of modern technology.

Earlier this week, people in Heuersdorf, a village in Saxony near Leipzig, saw the 750-year-old Emmaus Church lifted onto a truck ahead of its journey to the town of Borna, 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) down the road, which begins today. The church will reach its destination on Oct. 31 if all goes according to plan.

To achieve this feat, the 14.5-metre-high, 8.9-metre-wide and 19.6-metre-high chapel underwent an extensive preparation phase, which began started shortly after Easter 2007 - the last time a service was held in the church.

First , a steel and concrete platform was constructed underneath the structure and thousands of cracks in the walls were plugged with concrete. Then, the church was wrapped in four steel corsets. Once ready, the structure, which weighs 660 tons, was raised 1.6 meters by hydraulic lifts so that an enormous, multi-wheeled red transport bed could be slid in beneath it.

The move is necessary because the village of Heuersdorf is set to disappear, swallowed up by a massive coal mine. The town sits upon an estimated 52 million tons of lignite, or brown coal, which will be taken for use at the nearby power plant in Lippendorf. The town had originally won a court battle to keep its land, but a 2005 decision by a higher court overturned that ruling.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bonfires banned in Guy Fawkes' home town

A bonfire celebration in York, the home town of Guy Fawkes, has been banned on health and safety grounds, the local council has said. Thousands were due to attend the spectacle on the 402nd anniversary of Fawkes' failed plot to blow up parliament.

But York City Football Club was told their ground was too small to ensure spectator safety, a decision which left the head of the cathedral city's tourist board "lost for words."

York Council's head of licensing, Dick Haswell, declined to be interviewed on Tuesday. But in an emailed statement he defended the decision, saying it was made on health and safety grounds.

"Because the football club was proposing to hold a firework display in a certified sports ground, legally, they had to apply to York's Safety at Sports Advisory Group for a Special Safety Certificate," he said. "Unfortunately the ground was not large enough to provide the necessary distance between the area where fireworks could fall and spectators."

The chief executive of York Tourism Board, Gillian Crudass, said she was "lost for words" at the council's decision. We are very much disappointed because it is a British tradition," she said. "It attracts a lot of interest not just from local people, but also from visitors from all around the country who come for a short break – as well as international interest."

A spokesman for the football club declined to comment.

Guy Fawkes was born in April 1570 in Stonegate, York and was in charge of executing the Roman Catholic plot to blow up parliament and the protestant King James 1 during the state opening of parliament on November 5, 1605.

The plot was uncovered at the last minute and Fawkes was caught and executed early in 1606.

Mongolian flag ship?

Somebody should have looked at a map.... The US State Department with great fanfare on Tuesday signed an agreement with landlocked Mongolia that will allow Mongolian ships to be boarded and searched if they are suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction.

This despite the fact that Mongolia, a vast land that's home to the Gobi Desert, windswept steppes and largely populated by nomadic yak herders, has no navy at all and lies thousands of kilometres from open waters.

Still, its tiny merchant marine is recognized as one of 32 "flag of convenience" countries by international maritime authorities.

The U.S.-Mongolia shipboarding pact, the eighth signed between the United States and usually coastal or island countries, is designed to cover those Mongolian-flagged ships in international waters that might be used by other countries, notably North Korea, to disguise cargos of illegal weaponry, U.S. officials said.

Lottery windfall for lotto seller

WINNIPEG - Many store owners dream of making a lot of money with their business. Blair Knutson did it the unconventional way - he bought a Lotto 6-49 ticket from the grocery store he owns in Gimli, Man.

The purchase made the owner of G & C Grocery $16 million richer.

In case that raised any eyebrows, officials with the Western Canada Lottery Corp. quickly announced they have conducted a mandatory investigation and have determined Knutson is the rightful winner.

"I'm pretty honest, so I wasn't worried," Knutson told reporters at a news conference in downtown Winnipeg on Tuesday.

Knutson's case wasn't unique. All wins are subject to review, but retailers who win undergo extra scrutiny, said Andrea Marantz of the Western Canada Lottery Corp.
The process was sparked by reports of fraud in 2006 that tarnished lottery systems in Ontario and the Maritimes.

When the winner is a lottery ticket vendor, Marantz said they look into the person's history, such as whether they've won prizes with the lottery before.

Another part of the process is a sort of cross-examination to confirm where tickets were purchased and at what time, and can include interviews with shoppers who were in the store when the ticket was bought or validated, Marantz said.

"We check out the story," she said. "The times of the sale and place of the sale all recorded on the computer, so we can doublecheck all that information."

Marantz said they have only a handful of retail winners each year.

Knutson, 42, said he doesn't plan to stop working. In fact, he was right back behind the lottery counter Monday, the day after he discovered he'd hit the jackpot.

As for what he hopes to buy with the money, so far, the married grandfather seems short on ideas.

"I need a new mattress. My back is killing me," he said with a laugh.

Pensioner conners

A British couple in their 80s have pleaded guilty to tricking a museum into buying a purported Egyptian artefact which they had actually made in their workshop.

The couple persuaded museum officials in north-west England to pay them more than $800,000.

The Amarna Princess was said to have been made more than 3,000 years ago in tribute to the daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh and Tutankhamun's mother.

George Greenhalgh, 83, his wife Olive, 82, and their son Shaun convinced Bolton Museum it was real.

The statuette was later exposed to be a fake which they had made in their workshop.

The three pleaded guilty to cheating galleries and art dealers over many years.

Trashed painting worth a million

The treasure that a New York City woman saved from the trash - a stolen masterpiece by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo - is expected to go for as much as $US1 million ($1.1 million) at auction next month.

Elizabeth Gibson will get a $US15,000 reward for returning Tres Personajes (Three People) to its rightful owners, as well as an undisclosed percentage of the auction price.

Nearly four years ago, Ms Gibson was on her way to coffee when she spotted the painting among garbage bags set out for morning collection in her upper west side neighbourhood.

She walked by it at first but said she "immediately knew I had to go back. I knew I had to take it! It was a huge, powerful and beautiful painting and I said to myself, 'It is wrong to be in the garbage'," Ms Gibson told reporters.

Ms Gibson, who had hung up the painting after her discovery, said she learned of its worth when research led her to the website of Antiques Roadshow FYI, a companion program to the PBS show Antiques Roadshow.

Sotheby's expert August Uribe had featured the painting on Antiques Roadshow FYI after it was stolen more than 20 years ago. Tres Personajes was returned to its owners, who wish to remain anonymous, and is expected to fetch between $US750,000 and $US1 million when Sotheby's auctions it on November 20.

If Ms Gibson had not acted so quickly after spying the painting, it might have been lost forever. A doorman nearby later told her that garbage collectors had come along just 20 minutes after she had left with her new finding.

Car loo

A Japanese manufacturer has developed a new portable toilet for cars, equipped with a curtain for privacy and a plastic bag to collect waste.

The Kaneko Sangyo Co (read the intro, it's funny), a manufactuer of plastic car accessories, unveiled its new design to help people stuck in traffic when nature calls.

"The commode will come in handy during major disasters such as earthquakes or when you are caught in a traffic jam," a company official told reporters, according to Kyodo News.

Japan is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and accounts for about 20 per cent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

Drivers stranded by tectonic movements or stuck in traffic jams simply assemble the cardboard toilet bowl, fit a water-absorbent sheet inside and draw round the curtain.

The product is small enough to fit inside a suitcase, the company said.

But prospective customers will have to hang on until November 15 when the firm begins selling the new product online.


He was carrying a gun with intent to rob. She was behind the till at a Tesco petrol station. With the odds so heavily in his favour the gunman must have thought the next few seconds would be a breeze. He had not, however, allowed for the formidable Linda Faulkner.

Instead of surrendering the £15 cash from her till, the 51-year-old turned to the raider and told him she was too busy to deal with him. "I just got on with it," she said. "British people don't stop work just because someone is trying to bully us with guns."

Yesterday David Collinson, 42, was beginning a seven-year jail sentence after he was convicted of robbery at Gloucester Crown Court. Judge Martin Picton paid tribute to Miss Faulkner with a £200 court award and told her she had shown ' remarkable courage' in standing up to the armed raider.

Jurors heard that Collinson walked into the petrol station in Cheltenham at around 8pm on February 12 and put a chocolate bar on the counter in front of cashier Hayley Holder. But instead of pulling out his wallet to pay he produced a red drawstring bag, told her he had a gun and ordered her to fill the bag with money.

Brendon Moorhouse, prosecuting, said: "He then placed down what appeared to be a gun. Miss Holder started to do what he told her and put the notes from the till into the bag. Then when he pointed the gun at her, she started to put £1 and £2 coins into the bag. He added, 'The other till as well', pointing to Linda Faulkner's till."

But when Miss Holder went over to her colleague, Miss Faulkner flatly refused to put her till money in the red bag. Miss Faulkner, a mother of one, said: "Hayley came over to me with this red bag and said, 'You've got to put money into it'.

"I said, 'Whatever for?' She said, 'Because there's a man with a gun'. I said, 'I'm sorry, he'll have to wait, because I'm busy'. At the same time I thought I'd better press the panic button. I just carried on serving and ignored the man. I was just absolutely numb.

"The man was wearing a blue baseball cap and he had big Rosemary West-style glasses on. He was just stood there waiting. Then I felt someone behind me, touching me. He grabbed the red bag that was still there. I said, 'You can't take it. You can't have it'. He said, 'Oh yes, I can'. I let him have the bag, because I wasn't sure if the gun he had was real or not."

Miss Faulkner, who worked at the store for four years, said: "It was very stressful looking back and I've since left the job. "I was going to thump him, but I thought twice because it may well have been a real gun. Anyone that knows me, knows that I would."

Man sits on burglar

A man who stumbled upon a burglar near his house did the only thing he could do until police arrived - he sat on the thief.

Jeffrey Stephens and his wife Patricia recently awoke after their dog started barking. Patricia said when she went to investigate, she found a 20-year-old man going through the back seat of a neighbor's van.

Jeffrey Stephens confronted the younger man, who claimed the van was his friend's, and the two scuffled. The younger man eventually lost his jacket, shirt, shoe and sock in the tumble.

And then, Jeffrey Stephens, who weighs 200 pounds, sat on the would-be burglar.

Patricia Stephens called authorities and said she looked out her window and described exactly what she saw, that her husband was sitting on someone.

The 20-year-old was arrested and is expected to be in court this week.

Jeffrey Stephens sustained minor injuries in the scuffle.

Drunk elephants electrocuted

Six Asiatic wild elephants were electrocuted as they went berserk after drinking rice beer in India's remote north-east.

The 40-strong herd uprooted an electric pole while looking desperately for food on Friday in Chandan Nukat, a village nearly 150 miles west of Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya state, said Sunil Kumar, a state wildlife official.

"There would have been more casualties had the villagers not chased them away," said Dipu Mark, a local conservationist.

The elephants are known to have a taste for rice beer brewed by tribal communities in northeastern India.

Four wild elephants died in a similar incident in the region three years ago.

Also last week, five rare Asiatic lions were found electrocuted on the edge of Gir National Park, in western India. Authorities said the lions were killed on an electrified fence a villager had put up illegally to protect crops near the sanctuary.

The north-east of India accounts for the world's largest concentration of wild Asiatic elephants, with the states of Assam and Meghalaya alone estimated to have 7,000 of them.

Bad Barmaiding

Canberra - An Australian barmaid has been fined for crushing beer cans between her bare breasts while an off-duty colleague has been fined for hanging spoons from her friend's nipples, police said Wednesday.

Police in Western Australia said the 31-year old barmaid pleaded guilty in the local magistrate's court to twice exposing her breasts to patrons at the Premier Hotel in Pinjarra, south of the state capital, Perth.

The woman "is alleged to have also crushed beer cans between her breasts during one of the offences," in breach of hotel licensing laws, police from the Peel district of Western Australia said in a statement.

The barmaid and the hotel manager were both fined A$1,000 ($900), while an off-duty barmaid was fined A$500 for helping to hang spoons from the woman's nipples, police said.

"It sends a clear message to all licensees in Peel that we will not tolerate this type of behavior in our licensed premises," local police superintendent David Parkinson said.

Sweeping changes in China

A Chinese city has introduced a new street-cleaning machine, composed of a tractor and more than a dozen bamboo brooms.

The street cleaner was spotted by tourists in Qinghuangdao city, Hebei province.

More than a dozen brooms are attached to a machine able to turn clockwise or counter-clockwise.

But the cleaner is only able to move litter and dust to the side of the street, where another has to clear it later.


MANSFIELD, Ohio -- Karen and Mark Cline finally have their wedding photos -- just in time for their 27th anniversary.

They were just teenagers when they got married, and they didn't have enough money to pay the photographer the $150 they owed him. So they never got the photos.

Last week, the photographer tracked Karen Cline down at the diner where she works in Ohio, and surprised her with a photo album.

Photographer Jim Wagner, who's now 80, said he was cleaning out some old things and found it. He said he knew the Clines "didn't have any money back then," and that he "just thought she might like to have it."

Cline said when he showed up with the photos, she "just stood there and cried and cried and hugged him."

She also wrote him a check for $150.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Fatboy" Rooney

Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney will be getting a guitar painted Manchester City blue for his birthday after a blunder by his girlfriend Coleen. Fiancee Coleen, 21, asked Oasis star Noel Gallagher to sign an instrument for Rooney – a big fan of the band.

But Noel, is a die-hard fan of United’s arch-rivals Manchester City. He immediately hatched a plan to have the guitar sprayed light blue. Noel also scrawled his own message on it to Wayne: “Happy Birthday Fatboy.”

Liverpudlian Coleen had it sent to Noel’s record label in London to be signed in time for England striker Wayne’s 22nd birthday tomorrow. The guitarist and singer was dumbstruck by the request, but was only too happy to have a bit of fun.

A source said: “Noel couldn’t believe it. Mancs and Scousers haven’t been the closest of friends – and asking a City fanatic to sign a guitar for a United player is a red rag to a bull. It was a gift for Noel – he loves a wind-up.”

Charlie "conehead" Potter

Charlie Thomas plonked a traffic cone on his head to be like Harry Potter – and had to be cut free by firemen when it stuck fast. Charlie, three, thought it was a wizard idea to wear a hat like his boy magician hero.

But when he dashed over to show parents Louisa and Martin they realised the cone was jammed tight.

Louisa, 34, and car sprayer Martin, 36, of Cullompton, Devon couldn’t tug it off or ease him free with soap. So tearful Charlie had to wait 45 minutes until 6 firemen came to the rescue. They then took another half an hour to remove the cone with cutting tools and pliers.

Bank worker Louisa said: “Charlie loves Harry and when he put the cone on he was so pleased with himself. But when we couldn’t get it off, it was a bit scary. We shouldn’t have laughed but he looked so comical, even though he was upset. The firemen got him out by pouring water down the cone and cutting the rim. He looks sorry for himself in the photo and won’t thank me when he sees it in future.”

Charlie, who turned three on Saturday, had been flying a kite in a field with his parents and sisters Emily, eight, and four-year-old Isabella when he found the cone – but ended up wailing: “It’s stuck!”

Still, he was left with one bonus from his spell of bad luck – a red mark just like Harry’s lightning-bolt scar!

Police supercar

The new 'star' of the Roads Policing Unit in Hastings, Sussex wouldn't look out of place on the set of the latest Batman movie.

The unit has been loaned a Lotus Exige sports car - fully decorated with the Sussex Police insignia and complete with flashing blue lights. Powered by a supercharged engine and capable of accelerating to sixty miles per hour in 4.1 seconds the car will, however, purely be used for demonstration purposes as it tours Sussex over a six month period.

The aim of the iniative is to use the vehicle as an educational tool to engage with 'boy racers' and hammer home the message that dangerous driving wrecks lives.

Sergeant Paul Masterton explained "Many places in Sussex have a problem with youths speeding around, with their stereos blaring, making a general nuisance of themselves.

"We get calls about it every weekend, but when we turn up they usually speed off in the opposite direction as soon as they see us. It means we can never engage directly with these young people, and tell them about the dangers they're causing. When we pull up in this Lotus, however, it's a completely different story. In fact, it's usually them that are approaching us to have a look at the car!"

The interest young people show in the car provides officers with an ideal opportunity to explain the horrifying statistics of deaths on the road caused by inconsiderate driving.

Got change ?

A gang of bungling Chinese forgers tried to swindle the Bank of England out of £28Billion by attempting to cash £500,000 and £1,000 notes, a court heard yesterday.

The crooks asked if they could exchange them for cash through Aussie “lawyer” Ross Cowie.

But the Bank of England has never issued the larger denomination notes, and only 63 of the smaller notes – officially withdrawn in 1943 and making up the lion’s share of the claim – are unaccounted for, it was said.

The signature of a former Bank of England cashier on the larger notes had also been incorrectly forged.

The gang, said to be led by Chin Lim, of Bromley, Kent, claimed the notes came from six senior members of the pre-Communist government in China aged between 109 and 116, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Martin Evans called the plan “audacious”.

Lim, 50, along with Ping Mak, 56, Kim Teo, 41, Kwok Chan, 55, Chi Chung, 53, and Ross Cowie, 62, all from London, all deny conspiracy to defraud.

The trial continues.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Postcard delivered after 64 years

A postcard mailed by a Japanese soldier from a World War II battlefield in Burma has reached his friend 64 years after it was sent, thanks to a Japanese exchange student and the family of a former US soldier who kept the card.

The card travelled from Burma, Nagasaki, Arizona and Hawaii before finding Shizuo Nagano, 80, in southern Kochi prefecture, according to Mukogawa Women's University. The postcard was written by Nobuchika Yamashita. He used to work with Mr Nagano at their neighborhood store before Mr Yamashita was drafted.

The postcard was handed to Mr Nagano by a 20-year-old student of the university last week, it said in a statement recently. The student, Yuko Kojima, gave it to Mr Nagano after staying as an exchange student in Hawaii.

There she met a local woman whose dead father-in-law had brought the card to the US after his tour of Nagasaki as a member of the Allied Occupation forces after Japan's defeat in World War II.

The former US soldier lived in Arizona and died 25 years ago, but his son kept the card even after moving to Hawaii from the US mainland, the university said.

"I had never dreamed of meeting him again like this," Mr Nagano was quoted as saying after receiving the card. "It is like a dream."

The postcard, dated February 16, 1943, featured a colour photo of farmland, with labourers using horses to cultivate the field. Snow-capped mountains stand in the background.

"Mr Nagano, it's been a long time," Mr Yamashita wrote in the card, which went through Japanese military inspection. "It must be still cold (in Japan). Over here, the climate is like July or August in Japan," he wrote.

The university said the soldier died of an illness in November 1944, aged 23, in Burma.

Firefighters banned from using ladders

Firefighters have been banned from using their ladders to take down festive bunting because it is deemed a health and safety risk.

In previous years, firefighters have helped remove decorations in the centre of Ampthill, Bedfordshire, after the town's Gala Day in July. Three months on, the green and white bunting is still there. The festival committee is now trying to find another way of removing the bunting before the winter.

Bedfordshire deputy chief fire officer Graeme Smith said: "It sounds like the world has gone mad. Firefighters will climb ladders to rescue people from burning buildings but not to remove bunting after a festival. One is a 999 job where in order to save lives we will take calculated risks. The other is a property maintenance job which is covered by standard health and safety rules which we would have to abide by. That could mean closing the road and using a platform to reach the bunting. Unfortunately if we went down that route people might ask why we are paying firefighters to use our top level rescue equipment to remove a few flags, when a local contractor could do the job just as well."

Councillor Mark Smith said: "The festival committee has always appreciated fire crews' assistance in the past and is working towards getting it down another way."

Free meals for Scots kids

Primary pupils are starting to receive free school meals as part of a pilot project in five parts of Scotland. The scheme for all children in the first three years of school is under way in Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire.

They will be followed in the coming days and weeks by schools in East Ayrshire, Fife and the Borders. The Scottish Government has invested £5m in the pilot scheme, with about 8,500 additional pupils expected to take up the offer in Glasgow alone.

The city already has free fruit, milk and mains-fed water coolers in its schools.

The six-month pilot has been set up to see if providing a nutritious lunch for all children could help improve their diets.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Anti-red dye law called for (update)

Italy's Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli wants a new anti-vandalism law after a man threw a bucket of red dye into the Trevi fountain in Rome. The man, who fled the scene, left the baroque fountain spouting red water before technicians could shut off the water supply.

Leaflets left nearby denounced the cost of the RomeFilmFest, which has just opened in the Italian capital.

Officials said the fountain had not suffered permanent damage. Engineers shut down the fountain to allow the red dye to drain away, before restoring a supply of clear water.

The Trevi, a baroque landmark dating from the18th Century, was popularised by films such as Federico Fellini's 1960 classic La Dolce Vita, in which Anita Ekberg frolics in its waters.

The protest leaflet was signed by an unknown group, ATM Azionefuturista 2007...
"You wanted just a red carpet - we want a city entirely in vermilion," it read, in an attack on the film festival's 15m-euro budget. We who are vulnerable, old, ill, students, workers, we come with vermilion to colour your greyness."

But Francesco Rutelli was unimpressed, calling the stunt "an unacceptable and irresponsible act of vandalism".

Turn left at the idiot

There was confusion at Coventry's Lady Godiva half-marathon when three of the race leaders took a wrong turning.

Raymond Tonui, of Kenya, won the race in one hour, three minutes.

Despite he and two others being guided the wrong way, giving them a slight advantage, officials said it was not enough to affect the end result.

They were already too far ahead to be caught, but their times will not be official. The event raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity.

The city's lord mayor, councillor Dave Batten, said: "It's been a marvellous event, all the people that's turned up today, all the opportunities for raising money for the various charities.

"It's been absolutely tremendous - really good news for Coventry."

The city's fun run, which had previously been put off due to poor weather in the summer, also finally took place.

Ladybird clear-up

More than 700,000 ladybirds/ladybugs have been released in two New York City housing complexes in an effort to kill insects without using artificial pesticides. The ladybirds, from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the western United States, will eat pests on the newly-landscaped Manhattan property.

The bugs can eat 50 aphids a day, and will lay more larvae in due course. "They'll do their thing out there!" said Eric Vinje, whose company Planet Natural supplied the ladybirds.

The ladybirds, Hippodamia convergens, were scattered across the grounds of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village on Manhattan's Lower East Side as an alternative to using chemical pesticides.

"In most cases, we reach for a can of pesticide - and we kill not only the 'bad guys,' but the 'good guys'," Mr Vinje said. "All we're doing here is putting more of the 'good guys' to tip the scale, to get some kind of pest population control."

After being collected in Oregon, California and Montana, the ladybirds are chilled to a semi-dormant state, until they are shipped to purchasers. When they arrived in Manhattan, "they were lively and ready to eat anything that was not too quick for them," Mr Vinje said.

Local residents need not worry about the ladybirds swarming or infesting homes, Mr Vinje says, as this is not the aggressive Asian ladybird Harmonia axyridis.

How to disguise yourself as a ..

Pill box, vending machine .... etc

Mad mad japs!


One-eyed Deaf Speedster

A one-eyed deaf 82-year-old was caught pulling a trailer at 88mph on one of Scotland's deadliest roads. Maurice Hollyfield told a court he wasn't paying attention because he had his stereo turned up loud so he could hear the music.

He also claimed he thought his car's rev counter was the speedometer.

Hollyfield, whose left eye is made of glass, was clocked by a speed camera on the A9 at Waterloo between Perth and Dunkeld. He should only have been doing 50mph.

A doctor told the court Hollyfield was fit to drive, but Sheriff Fiona Tait said: "His health raises concerns about public safety."

She told Hollyfield he faces a ban when he is sentenced next month.


A Royal Marine from Devon is being heralded a hero after saving his comrade from underneath a two-tonne truck in Afghanistan.

Colour Sgt Carl Tatton, 38, came to the rescue of Royal Marine Mark Farr, 29, who was trapped in a water-filled ditch underneath a Pinzgauer truck.

Colour Sgt Tatton raised the vehicle enough to allow Marine Farr to escape while under heavy mortar fire.

Marine Farr said: "Without Tatts I'd have drowned, I owe him my life."

Both men were serving with Plymouth based 42 Commando and were fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan when the incident happened in the Sangin Valley last November.

Colour Sgt Tatton said: "When you see one of your mates in danger you just react. He was pinned down about 3ft underwater and was seconds from drowning. I jumped in and tried to lift his head up but realised I'd have to lift up the truck. I grabbed the roll bar and lifted the suspension enough to release him."

Marine Farr has praised Colour Sgt Tatton for his superhuman strength in lifting the vehicle enough to free him.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The unknown "RockGod" from Rotherham

A British engineer judged a beauty contest, appeared on national television and shook hands with the Russian President after being mistaken for an international rock star. Neil Smith, 52, was working as the electrical projects manager at a new steelworks in Siberia when he suddenly became the subject of everyone's attention.

He was halfway through a month long stay at a hotel in the industrial town of Sayangorsk when he assumed his unexpected celebrity status. Confusion arose when something was lost in translation during a conversation he had with a wealthy hotel owner through an interpreter.

"One minute I was just getting on with my job and the next I was getting the red carpet treatment and people seemed to think I was famous back home," Mr Smith, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, said.

Although he explained he once played bass guitar in a club band, he was to be publicly presented as a rock star contemporary of The Rolling Stones.

"I just got swept along with it and in the end I daren't admit the truth," he said. "It was totally surreal being interviewed on TV and then meeting Vladimir Putin."

The identity crisis happened when he had been transferred to stay in a remote hunting lodge because his hotel had to be cleared to make for Russian VIPs on an official visit. Mr Smith said: "There was absolutely nothing to do in the evenings apart from drink in the bar so I got talking to the owner, who was some wealthy Russian with numerous business interests.

"As we talked with the receptionist acting as interpreter I mentioned I came from South Yorkshire and I used to be a bass player in clubs around the country when I was younger - I meant working men's clubs and places like that. He was interested and he asked if I would be a judge in a little competition so I said I would and assumed it probably meant casting his eye over a few acts at a local bar."

When the big night arrived, however, he was taken by limousine to a venue the size of the Albert Hall in Siberia's main city of Abakan. He was met by TV crews and well-dressed visitors and walked down a red carpet before being ushered inside.

Mr Smith said: "I was seated at a long table with six others and suddenly realised I was a judge at the Miss Siberia beauty contest. I overheard the manager mentioning my name and then words like Rolling Stones. Then when I was introduced to the packed arena they said I was a major international guitarist who has been specially flown in for the event. He added: "After thinking about it I reckon I was set up by the wealthy Russian guy.

"I suspect that for some reason they needed a judge to replace someone else and it suited him for me to be that person. And who in Siberia would know I wasn't an international rock god?"

During a night out in Abakan a week later he was surrounded by autograph hunting girls who told him they had seen him on television. Back at work he was placed at the end of a long line of people to meet an official delegation when he shook hands with President Putin.

"We exchanged greetings and then he was gone. Now I know why my original hotel was emptied," he said.

Trevi fountain dyed red

A man threw a bucket of red paint or dye into Rome's Trevi Fountain today, colouring the waters of the 18th-century monument bright red in front of a crowd of astonished tourists and residents.

The man escaped, leaving the fountain, which normally runs on a closed cycle, spouting red water. Police arrived and technicians briefly shut off the water before restoring a clear flow.

Experts said the baroque fountain was not permanently damaged and the marble statues depicting the sea deity Neptune on his chariot had not absorbed the colour.

"There shouldn't be any relevant damage," said Eugenio La Rocca, superintendent for Rome's monuments.

The monument, designed by architect Nicola Salvi, has been a tourist hotspot since Federico Fellini's 1960 movie La Dolce Vita, which featured actress Anita Ekberg seductively splashing in its waters. Many visitors flip a coin into the fountain; tradition says that doing so promises a prompt return to the Eternal City.

Cardboard art

The work of Chris Gilmour provokes surprise and amazement beyond what could appear to be a mere process of reproduction. In returning to the value of making and strongly emphasising it, these works reveal a process of understanding that lets us see everyday reality with new awareness and appreciation. This practice avoids a withdrawal into the limbo of craft, and implies an intimate and profound quest towards the reason of things.

Gilmour has imposed a strict logic on his works he makes objects using only cardboard and glue. There is no supporting structure, no wooden or metal frame. His interpretations of everyday objects are created in adherence to the use of a pure and single material, but instead of the marble or bronze of classical statues, he has chosen one of the most humble and commonly found of our industrial times.

Packaging cardboard is, by its very nature, intended to contain but it is then discarded. Gilmour, however, uses it to contain the work’s own identity and to highlight the displacement between the original object and the one made in cardboard. This displacement is marked by difference: his sculptures (and apart from the use of such a poor material, they conform to all the accepted precepts of sculpture) are not mere copies, but rather translations from life. This translation brings with it a process of knowledge- the knowledge of the small things within which the sense of daily existence is hidden.

The artist compares his sculptures to drawing, a way of seeing objects by observing and measuring them. There is a process of deconstruction, followed by the actual construction process. It is in this process of making, in an almost instantaneous and immediate construction, as if Gilmour was using a pencil on a piece of paper, that the subtlety of diversity is embodied.

Designer Guinea pig

A bizarre breed of guinea pig that was created for laboratory testing more than 30 years ago has become the latest designer pet.

The skinny-pig has no hair on its body except for tufts on its face and feet - so needs strong sun cream in the summer and a jumper in winter.

They eat three times the amount of a normal hairy pig and their dry skin requires moisturizing. But animal lovers are willing to pay up to £150 ($300) for one.

Skinny Pigs were created using mutated genes during the Seventies and their bare skin was used for dermatological experiments.

Research labs eventually handed the creatures over to breeders who have mated them with traditional guinea pigs to strengthen their immune system.

Friday, October 19, 2007

All new Kitchen Gun

Drunk tourist slept after Croc attack

A TOURIST who had drunk 12 cans of beers before being attacked by a crocodile while swimming in a Queensland river fell asleep at his campsite before going to hospital for treatment.

Matt Martin was camping in an area of the northeastern state of Queensland known to be inhabited by crocodiles when he drank what he later described as half a slab - or 12 cans of beer.

When he dived into the river at Cow Bay in the topical far north of the state, he landed on a crocodile.

After a brief wrestling match with the reptile, Martin emerged with gashes on his face requiring 40 stitches, The Australian newspaper reported.

Admitting his face was "pretty messed up'' when he went back to his campsite, Mr Martin, 35, from Newcastle north of Sydney, then slept for seven hours before seeking medical help.

His injuries were so bad that when he finally did make it to hospital, he was holding a blanket to his face to stop the bleeding, the newspaper said.

Crocodiles inhabit most of the waterways in northern Australia and although attacks on humans are rare, they are potentially very dangerous and numbers have increased in recent years due to official protection after fears they might be wiped out by hunters.

Peeping Tom's from a 'copter

EASTBOURNE The crew of a Ministry of Defence (MoD) helicopter broke low-flying rules, causing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to a Sussex mansion, so that they could spy on an au-pair who was sunbathing, the High Court was told yesterday.

Barry and Anna George, owners of the Old Stables, in Eastbourne, East Sussex, claimed that the 14-tonne Merlin hovered at lower than 500ft (152m) so that the crew could “communicate” with their au-pair. The couple’s barrister, Daniel Crowley, said that the downdraft damaged their glass conservatory. The Georges are claiming £250,000 in damages for what Judge Jonathan Foster, QC, described as an “alleged frolic”. The eight-day case is likely to generate hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs. If the MoD loses, the taxpayer will foot the bill.

James Maxwell-Scott, for the MoD, said that the ministry denied all liability. He said a chart the pilot was using did not indicate that he needed permission to fly low. The case is to return to court in February.

City bans smoking - even at home !

Belmont, California, is set to make history by becoming the first city in the nation to ban smoking on its streets and almost everywhere else.

The Belmont City Council voted unanimously last night to pursue a strict law that will prohibit smoking anywhere in the city except for single-family detached residences. Smoking on the street, in a park and even in one’s car will become illegal and police would have the option of handing out tickets if they catch someone.

The actual language of the law still needs to be drafted and will likely come back to the council either in December or early next year.

“We have a tremendous opportunity here. We need to pass as stringent a law as we can, I would like to make it illegal,” said Councilman Dave Warden. “What if every city did this, image how many lives would be saved? If we can do one little thing here at this level it will matter.”

Armed with growing evidence that second-hand smoke causes negative health effects, the council chose to pursue the strictest law possible and deal with any legal challenges later. Last month, the council said it wanted to pursue a law similar to ones passed in Dublin and the Southern California city of Calabasas. It took up the cause after a citizen at a senior living facility requested smoke be declared a public nuisance, allowing him to sue neighbors who smoke.

Come up to my bedroom and see my cockpit

Plane fanatic John Davis lives the dream in his spare bedroom – where he has built a jumbo jet cockpit so that he can “fly” around the world.

The flight deck boasts a £15,000 ($30,000) simulator which recreates every switch and sound on a Boeing 747.

Divorced John, 47, can listen to the rumble of the mighty engines as he thunders down the runway, and his eyes flick across nine monitors and 90 switches as the “aircraft” climbs into the skies.

Sitting in his leather flight chair – an old car seat – he lifts the undercarriage, switches to automatic pilot and settles back to enjoy the ride. He can even make announcements to his imaginary passengers.

John, who holds a pilot’s licence to fly gliders, has now quit his job as a graphic designer to run a flight simulation business from his two-bedroomed terraced house in Tile Hill, Coventry.

He said: “I have always wanted to be a pilot but I was never any good at maths – so this is the next best thing.

Waxing Lyrical

A statue of England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson stands proud in London's Trafalgar Square.

The Madame Tussauds waxwork - in his magic boot kicking pose - has been put on the empty fourth plinth on the eve of England's crunch World Cup final match against South Africa in Paris, tomorrow at 8pm GMT

London mayor Ken Livingstone gave the go-ahead for Jonny's arrival, and hopes fans will join in and will England's players to victory.

Thousands of passers-by have stopped to take pictures of the waxwork, which was made in 2004 - three months after Wilkinson kicked England to victory in the last World Cup.

Congratulations to Argentina who beat France 34-10 a few minutes ago in the Rugby World Cup third-place-final

Stolen giant toilet recovered (update)

It was just a routine patrol - until a sheriff's deputy in Washington state lifted a tarp and found a soapbox derby racer built to look like a giant toilet.

A giant, stolen toilet, to be precise - measuring about 7 feet high and 7 feet long.

The massive bog - white, with a blue velour seat and tank cover and a red flush handle - was found on Wednesday in a rural area of southeast King County.

Sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart said the toilet facsimile was built by five friends in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and was brought to Seattle late last month for a race. It was stolen out of the back of a truck, which was also stolen.

Urquhart says the truck has not been found.

Burglar made to clean up mess

A couple in the United States knew exactly what to do with the burglar they caught ransacking their home. They made him clean up - at gunpoint. Adrian and Tiffany McKinnon returned to their home near Montgomery, Alabama, after a week off to find that their home had been plundered.

Mrs McKinnon told the Montgomery Advertiser: "Tears just rolled down my face as I walked in and saw everything gone and piles of trash all over my home."

Her husband suggested she go to see her sister while he checked what was missing. But as he walked into another room he came face to face with the burglar - who was wearing one of his hats.

Mrs McKinnon said: "My husband Adrian caught the thief red-handed in our home. And what is even crazier, the man even had my husband's hat sitting right on his head."

Her husband then held the suspect, Tajuan Bullock, at gunpoint and made him sit down until he decided what to do. His wife said: "We made this man clean up all the mess he made, piles of stuff, he had thrown out of my drawers and cabinets onto the floor."

When the police arrived, 33-year-old Bullock had another surprise in store - he complained to the officers about being made to clean up at gunpoint. "This man had the nerve to raise sand about us making him clean up the mess he made in my house," said Mrs McKinnon.

"The police officer laughed at him when he complained and said anybody else would have shot him dead."

Captain Huey Thornton, a police spokesman, said Bullock was arrested on burglary and theft charges. He was being held in the Montgomery County Detention Facility.

He said: "The victims were lucky in this case to be able to catch the suspect in the act and hold him until police arrived."

He said the case was unusual because generally burglars act while the homeowner is away and are in and out fast so they can quickly sell the stolen items.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chocolate Jesus Exhibit

It angered Catholics before an April exhibit was canceled, but a chocolate Jesus is being resurrected at a New York Art Gallery.

The six-foot milk chocolate sculpture titled "My Sweet Lord" depicts a nude, anatomically correct Jesus Christ hanging from an invisible cross. It will be flanked by a set of chocolate Catholic icons, including the Virgin Mary and half a dozen saints when the exhibit opens later this month.

The original exhibit had been scheduled to open four days before Good Friday, when Christians mark Christ's crucifixion. That prompted an outcry and even death threats directed at the artist who created it.

But Cosimo Cavallaro said he also got a lot of positive mail from Catholics and theologians, and even people in monasteries. Saying "there is nothing offensive about this," Cavallaro predicted a better reception this time around.