Thursday, January 31, 2008

Morris men ban

Morris dancers have been banned from practising because of health and safety fears. For decades members of Sompting Village Morris have indulged in the ancient art of traditional English folk dancing, which dates back to the 1400's, without incurring anything more than a mild hangover.

But now postal bosses have thrown them out of the social club they have used to practice for more than 30 years after claiming they could be a danger. The move has enraged the morris dancers who have branded Royal Mail "first class twits".

It means the dancers are being forced to find a new home just weeks before a string of important performances.

Martin Frost, the spokesman for Sompting Village Morris, said: "It is pretty ludicrous. We've used the building for years and years without a problem and now they turn around and say there are health and safety issues. I don't really know how morris dancers could pose a health and safety danger."

Roger Vincent, a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents added: "I don't see how morris men could injure themselves.

"My mate did it once and other than tripping over their sticks I can't see it happening."

The Morris Ring, the national association of morris dancers, also criticised the Royal Mail's decision. A spokeswoman said: "Morris dancing is popular and welcomed across the country, this just seems a bit silly."

The row erupted after Royal Mail said the morris dancers, and others who use the social club at its sorting office in Chapel Road, Worthing, would have to make alternative arrangements.

The firm gave notice that the venue would have to be closed after normal office hours because it said nobody was on hand to ensure health and safety rules were being enforced.

It comes despite the Sompting morris dancers having used the venue unhurt since 1977.
Royal Mail said the social club is run by two postal workers who in turn were forced to give notice to the morris men. But it conceded that it was ultimately its own decision to turf the morris men out.

The chocolate room

An all-chocolate room was unveiled in Manhattan on Tuesday – a pre-Valentine's Day creation complete with furniture and artwork made of the sweet stuff.

"It's the perfect bit of sin," said Ali Larter, star of TV's "Heroes," of the Godiva chocolate "pearls" that are her private daily indulgence.

Here, they were dripping off the chandeliers above the dining table, which was a sea of stars, truffles and crescents – all chocolate, of course, under glass.

Larter is the celebrity face hired by the Belgian chocolatier for its annual Valentine's Day promotion contest. This year, anyone who buys the winning box of chocolates – for $23 and up – may win the chocolate room. It is to be re-created in a suite of Manhattan's Bryant Park Hotel for a pampered getaway weekend for two in May.

The winning box – sold only in North America – will contain a note informing the buyer of his or her good luck.

Charity shop sells bike

SALEM, Ore. - Cody Young parked his bike in the wrong place at the Goodwill store, where the rule is anything on the floor goes.

He didn't have a lock but friends said they had parked inside the store before. On Sunday, though, the black BMX bike was sold. But the 13-year-old is going to get his bike back, Goodwill officials said, after the buyer saw a newspaper story about the mix-up and called to make things right.

The buyer got the bike for just $6.99 but will get a $100 gift certificate from Goodwill for coming forth.

It's not the first such mix-up in Goodwill's busy stores, Goodwill spokesman Dale Emanuel said. A janitor once left a bucket and mop on a store's sales floor and they were sold the next day.

Rare Giraffe

A baby giraffe was one of the smallest ever seen by zookeepers after she was born two weeks premature. Margaret, a rare Rothschild breed giraffe, is being bottle-fed by keepers at Chester Zoo after mother Fay went into labour early.

Although Margaret is only 10-days-old, she is now 5ft tall and already weighs 70lbs (35kg).

There are 600 Rothschild giraffes left in the wild and are more usually seen in the lowlands of Kenya and Uganda.

Tim Rowlands, team leader of the giraffes section, said: "Margaret is one of the smallest giraffe calves we have ever seen.

"Fay isn't the largest of giraffes and Margaret was also early which might go some way to explaining her size. Margaret was having difficulty suckling so our keeping team are now hand-rearing her and she is going from strength to strength. We have a good track record when it comes to breeding giraffes and we are delighted to welcome another to the fold."

Sorry it's late!

Postal workers in the northern half of Ivory Coast are struggling to deliver a five-year backlog after post offices reopened as part of the peace deal. The build-up started after a failed army rebellion in 2002, when the country divided in two with rebels in charge of the north.

Post offices were looted and staff fled to the government-controlled south. Employees now have to sort through mountains of post, which has not been delivered to people in the north.

For the past five years letters and parcels addressed to people in the northern half of Ivory Coast have been sorted, date-stamped and put into storage at the national post centre in the southern city of Abidjan.

With post offices now re-opened in the north, sacks of letters are lying in the central rebel town of Bouake, and many post boxes are overflowing. Regional post director Jean Michel Deigna told our correspondent of one customer who was inconsolable after getting an out-of-date letter telling him he'd passed the entrance exam to study at the Sorbonne university in Paris.

But not all the stories are so sad.....

"There've been clients for example who'd been waiting for love letters," Mr Deigna said. One man had fallen in love with a woman he met in Abidjan but did not hear from her because of the war - until postal services were restored. "When this man received the letter, he saw exactly what beautiful words she'd written and he was really happy," the post director said.

Faced with such a backlog and time lapse, the postal service has launched a campaign to re-train staff and re-educate people on how to send a letter. While many customers have lost the habit of checking their post boxes. "That's why you see these post boxes completely full," Mr Deigna said.

Ivory Coast split after people in the mainly Muslim north took up arms in protest at measures they said disenfranchised them. A peace deal last March reunited the country and made former rebel leader Guillaume Soro prime minister in a power-sharing government with President Laurent Gbagbo.

Hen lays green eggs

A chicken in the Mexican town of Cuautitian has achieved celebrity status, thanks to her special green-shelled eggs. Rabanita, an ordinary-looking brown hen, has had locals scrambling to see her since she began laying at the start of December.

Her owner, Elvira Romero, was given the bird as part of a government aid package to help villagers. "Well, my children say 'Oh Mummy, God looks favourably on you so that you were given as a prize a chicken that lays green eggs'," said Mrs Romero.

She said Rabanita has a diet of corn, tortillas and chicken feed - no different from the rest of the henhouse.

Scientists believe that shell colour - which does not affect the colour or flavour of the egg - is determined by the genes, and say blue or green shells are frequently found in the Araucana chicken strain.

Green egg layers attract a premium in some parts of South America, where poultry breeders aim to produce chickens which lay nothing else.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tube Thriller

London Tube passengers perform Michael Jackson's Thriller dance in front of unsuspecting members of the public. I love the 'don't embarrass me, I'm English' reaction of the commuters on the District line.

Historical eBay thief

A New York state employee who had access to government-owned archives has been arrested on suspicion of stealing hundreds of historic documents, many of which he sold on eBay, authorities said on Monday.

Among the missing documents were an 1823 letter by U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun and copies of the Davy Crockett Almanacs, pamphlets written by the frontiersman who died at the Alamo in Texas.

Daniel Lorello, 54, of Rensselaer, New York, was charged with grand larceny, possession of stolen property and fraud. He pleaded innocent in Albany City Court on Monday.

He was found out by an alert history buff who saw the items posted on the online auction site and alerted authorities, the state attorney general's office said in a statement.

Lorello, a department of education archivist, pleaded not guilty to the charges although he previously admitted in a written statement to stealing documents and artifacts since 2002. The attorney general's office released a copy of his statement.

In 2007 alone, Lorello stated he took 300 to 400 items, including the four-page Calhoun letter, which drew bids of more than $1,700 while investigators were monitoring the sale.

Officials recovered some 400 items from his upstate New York home, which Lorello estimated was 90 percent of everything he had taken, but they have yet to determine how many items were sold online.

Antarctic rugby

The world's southernmost rugby tournament has seen the Kiwi team in Antarctica triumph, keeping up one of the proudest records in the game's history.

In the 51 years since Scott Base was founded, its rugby team in Antarctica has never lost to the team at the far bigger neighbouring American base, McMurdo Station.

Unlike the heartbreaking All Blacks performance at the Rugby World Cup, the Scott Base team has maintained high standards and kept a record of stopping the US team scoring. The Americans, who began training months before, recruited Kiwi firefighter Liz Smith to aid their skills but conceded 12 points.

The game this month was particularly poignant because it was soon after the death of Sir Edmund Hillary, who established Scott Base in 1957. The game was dedicated to him and several players wore black arm bands.

Base co-ordinator Yvonne Boesterling said the US team played "extremely well and came very, very close to scoring".

"The US captain is again making a huge effort to get this game entered into the Guinness Book of World Records, and is looking after all the paperwork that is required," she said.

"We invited all the players and their guests to Scott Base, where both teams are celebrating the camaraderie and teamwork that it took to get this game together.

76 foot pencil

The 250-pound eraser is real rubber. The lead is 4,000 pounds of Pennsylvania graphite. The exterior matches the yellow hue of a classic No. 2. Guinness World Record maker and breaker Ashrita Furman considered every detail when he built the world's largest pencil — except, perhaps, how to sharpen it.

"We thought about making the world's largest pencil sharpener, but we ran out of money," Furman said.

Furman escorted his 22,000-pound, 76-foot-long pencil to its new home at the City Museum in St. Louis on Monday. Furman cut the pencil in two for the trip from Queens, New York; City Museum artisans will reattach the sections soon.

City Museum founder Bob Cassilly isn't sure when or where the pencil will go on display. Maybe he will suspend it among the airplanes and fire trucks that are part of the museum's outdoor jungle gym, Monstrocity. Or perhaps it will join another museum superlative: the world's largest pair of underpants.

"It's hard to leave it, but it will bring a lot of joy to the people here," Furman said. "This place seems like the perfect fit."

Furman, a 53-year-old health food store manager, and some 50 friends built the $20,000 pencil in August as a birthday gift to their now deceased meditation instructor Sri Chinmoy. Take that pencil manufacturer Faber-Castell; it boasts a 65-foot pencil outside of its Malaysia headquarters.

"They said it took them 7,000 man hours to build their pencil, but we were able to get ours done in about three weeks," Furman said.

This was not the first time Chinmoy's followers celebrated his birthday with a world record. Once they served him a cake studded with 27,000 candles (Chinmoy was only 74). Another year, they sculpted a 20-foot birthday cake from popcorn and corn syrup. (No one took a slice.)

"Meditation has given me the inner strength to do these improbable things," Furman said. "True, a lot of what I do is crazy, but it gives me a chance to spread the message of meditation."

Furman claims he has set 177 Guinness Records in his lifetime and currently holds 72 records, one of which is setting the world record for world records.

Phonebox closures

More than a dozen Lothian (Scotland) phone boxes have not been used in a year which has prompted a phone company to call for a regulator's rules to be changed. British Telecom (BT) wants to be able to remove redundant phone boxes, which each cost £1,000 a year in upkeep. There are 14 disused public phones in the Lothians.

The company has asked the regulator Ofcom to review its obligation to keep the phones up and running. Campaigners said it was another blow for rural areas. They said that while the phones may not be used regularly, they provided a vital service in areas with poor mobile reception.

BT - which has an obligation to provide enough phone boxes - said it did intend to protect the pay phone network. The company said it would consult with local communities about which boxes would be removed.

There are just under 6,000 phone boxes in Scotland, of which 223 did not host any calls last year.

The 14 phone boxes in Lothian which were not used during that period are in Bathgate, Bo'ness, Dalkeith, Haddington, Kirknewton, Linlithgow, Penicuik, Ratho, South Queensferry, West Calder and West Linton.

A BT spokesman said: "Payphone usage has been declining over the last decade and usage has halved over the last three years. BT has been looking for new revenue streams, and has to continue to look at ways of taking cost out of the business, including, where feasible, removing unprofitable payphones from areas of low usage. We will continue to talk to Ofcom about the ways in which payphones are deployed."

Blind photographer to hold exhibition

A wildlife photographer is to hold an exhibition of her pictures - despite being blind. Alison Bartlett's hearing is so acute that she can pick up birds' wings flapping or a squirrel nibbling a nut, reports The Sun.

Alison, 51, of New Milton, Hampshire, began to lose her sight in 1979 due to diabetes, and it went completely in 1992.

She said: "I was determined to carry on with things I'd always done. I started in my back garden because I knew where everything was, and all the distances and angles, and I learned to listen for the animals. It hurts that I can't see the pictures but if it encourages other blind people to continue hobbies, it's worth it."

Friend Jenny Gilleland helps her out by showing her where to point the camera.

Alison, 51, said: "Jenny tells me where animals are and says things like, 'Birds at two o'clock'. She'll give me rough distances and I aim, focus the lens and take photos. Of course others have to tell me whether they are any good."

Alison uses a digital Nikon D-40 camera and her exhibition will be held at the local library next month.

Pensioners playground

From the outside it looks like any other playground in any other park. The smiles on the faces and loud laughter coming from it are the same you will see and hear anywhere.

There are no swings, roundabouts or slides - but that doesn't spoil the fun in the country's first outdoor playground . . . for the over 60s! which has opened in a park in north Manchester.

The Older People's Play Area on the Dam Head Estate in Blackley, is kitted out with equipment to strengthen hips, tone legs and train the upper body.

It was set up by the local residents' association, who were inspired by a similar playground in Germany.

The park, which cost £15,000 to build, was tested by locals aged over 70 before it opened to the public. It was paid for by Northwards Housing, who said they were "delighted" to support the scheme.

It can be found next to the under-fives play area, and has six pieces of equipment designed to give older people a gentle workout. Parts of the exercise stations are also accessible to wheelchair users.

Joan Fitzgerald, chair of the Dam Head Residents' Association (DAMRA), said it was "great fun." "I'd recommend anyone to come and have a go, after all you're never too old to play," she said.

It has also been welcomed by Age Concern.

Apology to Aborigines

The Australian government has announced it will issue its first formal apology to Aboriginal people when parliament resumes next month. Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said the apology would be the first item of business when the new legislature convened on 13 February.

It is aimed at the "Stolen Generations" - Aboriginal children taken from their parents to be raised by white families. It was the "first, necessary step to move forward from the past", she said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced plans to apologise after his victory in last year's general elections. The move is a highly symbolic one marking a definitive break from policies of previous administrations, correspondents say.

Ms Macklin said that the content of the apology had been determined after wide consultation with Aboriginal leaders. It would be made "on behalf of the Australian government and does not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australian people", she said in a statement.

"Once we establish this respect, the government can work with indigenous communities to improve services aimed at closing the 17-year life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians," she said.

Thousands of Aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their parents and given to white families or institutions to raise between 1915 and 1969. The policy was aimed at forcing assimilation between Aboriginal and white communities.

Not Open

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Magazine ID

You know how annoying it can be when you forget some crucial form of ID – your passport or your driver's license. It can cause hassle, delay, embarrassment, or occasionally imprisonment.

Well, next time, try carrying around a magazine with a photo of you in it. Apparently, that works as a useful substitute. That's what the mayor of Charleston, West Virginia found when going through security checks at a California airport. Danny Jones found that he'd mislaid his driver's license, and so couldn't identify himself to board his flight.

His bags were searched by security guards at the airport – but he was only allowed to board when he remembered that there was a picture of him standing in Charleston in the copy of Charleston Magazine he had bought in Charleston, next to an article by him in his capacity as mayor of Charleston, welcoming people to Charleston.

The security screeners at the airport accepted the magazine photo as a legitimate form of identification.

Printer ink panic

The grim economic picture darkened further today with news that the price of ink for printer cartridges has reached an all time high of $1000 a barrel on the New York futures exchange. The world’s most traded commodity has seen a steady rise in price over recent months due to supply problems, increased demand from China and a failure of consumers to send their empty cartridges to the charity recycling centre and just leaving them in their desk drawer instead.

The computer industry urged the public not to panic and to only print out essential documents while they set about finding alternative ways for children to get colouring-in pictures that they print out from the Disney website. In some parts of the world, people are having to print out documents in blue or even green ink, continually having to pause to over-ride the irritating instruction from their bleeping printer to change the black ink cartridge.

A statement from Hewlett Packard conceded that much of the increased cost may have to be passed on to the consumer claiming, ‘It’s only right and fair that computer printing ink and peripherals suppliers sustain their profits in this area to fund further research…’ The rest of the statement was illegible as the print became too faint.

Thief hangs around

An unlucky thief had his world turned literally upside down on Friday night when he became impaled on palisade fencing.

It is alleged that the man was trying to steal goods from informal traders in Cathedral Street, central Durban, when he his plan went awry.

ER24 paramedic Katya Evans said emergency services personnel arrived at the scene on Saturday morning to find the unfortunate man hanging upside down with one foot still impaled on the large metal rods, and an unlit cigarette hanging from his pursed lips.

"He had been trying to climb over the fence and both his feet had been impaled. During the course of the evening he had managed to free one foot. According to bystanders, he had been hanging on the fence for nearly 12 hours."

She added that firefighters had helped paramedics to get the stricken man down. "Sometime during the night someone had obviously felt sorry for him and given him a cigarette. It appears that no one was kind enough to offer him a light."

She said that the man was treated once removed from the sharp fencing and taken to Addington hospital.

The police are eager to speak to him when he leaves hospital.

Deaf boy cured

A boy who has been partially deaf for nine years was suddenly cured - when a cotton wool bud popped out of his ear. Jerome Bartens was diagnosed as deaf in his right ear when he was just two and has struggled at school ever since.

But Jerome, now 11, was suddenly able to hear clearly again as he played with friends in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. He said he heard a popping sound, then found the tip of a cotton wool bud in his ear.

His family believe Jerome must have put the bud in his ear as a toddler and the centimetre-long cotton tip came off the plastic stem.

Jerome's father Carsten, 45, said: "It was just incredible - his hearing returned to normal in an instant. He was cured as suddenly as he became deaf. I had always suspected Jerome had stuck something in his ear when he was little and that was causing the problem. But the doctors and hearing specialists said it was wax and he would probably grow out of it. I am amazed they didn't spot something as obvious as a cotton wool bud."

Jerome has kept the waxy bud as a souvenir.

His family believe that as he grew the bud has been forced out - and finally came out nine years later.

Jerome said: "I can hear much better now and I think I'll be much happier at school now my ear does not ache all the time. I was just playing pool in the church hall when my ear made a popping noise. It was very strange at first to be able to hear everything. But now I'm getting used to it - it's great that people don't have to shout to me or that I don't have to turn my head all the time."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sangria ban in Va

If you’re served a pitcher of authentic sangria in a Virginia restaurant, someone’s breaking the law.

Since 1934, the state has prohibited mixing wine or beer with spirits. Frances McDonald, vice president of La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurants, found that out the hard way when his Alexandria location was cited for violating the sangria ban in 2006 and fined $2,000.

McDonald and managing partner Shana McKillop appealed their case to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Thursday before going to the Capitol to urge legislators to pass a bill legalizing the red wine, liqueur and fruit concoction.

McDonald said his business received no warning about the ban. He said he was unaware of the prohibition and had he known about it would not have located any of his five restaurants in Virginia. “It’s like not being able to serve tequila in a Mexican restaurant,” he said.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Department agent who cited La Tasca even ordered restaurant employees to pour its sangria — about 40 liters — down the drain, said Shana McKillop, managing partner at the Alexandria restaurant.

A ruling on the La Tasca’s appeal should take two to four weeks, said Kristy Marshall, a spokeswoman for the ABC Department. In the meantime, the restaurant has taken to modifying its sangria recipe. The brandy has been eliminated and the triple sec replaced with a nonalcoholic orange liqueur.

“It’s still sangria but not as authentic as we’d like to offer our guests,” McKillop said.

Un-happily ever after

After 36 years of arguing, Hugh and Vera Smith finally ran out of things to row about. So for the last four years the OAP couple haven't had a cross word ...or any words. Because they haven't spoken to each other at all.

Hugh and Vera still share a home, but live completely separate lives. Hugh, 76, has the downstairs lounge with the dining room as his bedroom. Vera, 72, has two upstairs bedrooms - one as her lounge.

And to make sure they never meet they have drawn up rotas for the kitchen and bathroom.

Hugh, of Portsmouth, Hants, said: "It's a very awkward situation but our marriage has ended. "There's no point in a divorce as we haven't got any money. I've had my last ever argument with her after 40 years of marriage."

Vera, 72, said: "I haven't spoken to him since January 2004, Hopefully, I never will again. He is impossible to get on with."

Six Billion to 1

A teenager has become the first transplant patient to switch blood groups - at estimated odds of six billion to one. Demi-Lee Brennan had O-negative blood before receiving a replacement liver six years ago. However, she is now O-positive after her body adopted the immune system of the organ's donor.

The switch means the 15-year-old no longer needs immuno-suppressant drugs which are used to stop the body rejecting a new organ.

The drugs are usually taken for life and only a small number of transplant patients have been able to come off them. None is thought to have done so by jumping blood groups.

Experts say that studying what happened to the Australian teenager may open the way to beating organ rejection - the holy grail of transplant medicine.

Richard Thompson, a paediatric hepatology expert at King's College London, said Demi-Lee's case appeared to be unique.

He said: "It's a dramatic, remarkable case and she's been incredibly lucky.

"A small number of people can stop taking anti-rejection drugs altogether after a transplant because they develop a tolerance to the donor organ but this has not been achieved before by a change in blood group. "It can be extremely dangerous to take patients off immunosupressants to see what happens. It can result in rejection and the patient then needs a new organ."

Doctors try to give patients organs from donors of the same blood group.

Callous Bitch!

A woman got a much longer jail sentence after a judge heard a recorded jail conversation during which she made light of the cyclist she had killed.

Melissa Arrington, 27, was convicted two months ago of negligent homicide and two counts of aggravated DUI in connection with the December 2006 death of Paul L'Ecuyer. She could have gotten as few as four years behind bars, but Pima County Superior Court Judge Michael Cruikshank sentenced her on Tuesday to 10 ½ years, one year shy of the maximum.

Cruikshank said he found a telephone conversation between Arrington and an unknown male friend a week after L'Ecuyer was killed "breathtaking in its inhumanity." During the conversation, the man told Arrington that an acquaintance of theirs believed she should get a medal and a parade because she had "taken out" what he said was a "tree hugger, a bicyclist, a Frenchman and a gay guy all in one shot." Arrington laughed, and when the man said he knew it was a terrible thing to say, she responded, "No, it's not."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Marijuana vending machine

video

Ice record

A man who calls himself a tantric master has broken his own world record by standing in ice for 72 minutes.

The 48-year-old Wim Hof outside Rubin Museum of Art in a clear container filled with ice for an hour and 12 minutes on Saturday.

He set the world record for full body ice contact endurance in 2004, when he immersed himself in ice for one hour and eight minutes.

Hof says he survives by controlling his body temperature with the tantric practice of tumo.

His feat kicks off BRAINWAVE, a five-month series of events in New York exploring how art, music, and meditation affect the brain.

The Sting

A service station in Essex has fitted traffic lights and a stinger device to deter people driving away without paying after filling up with fuel.

The Total services on the B1007 between Galleywood and Stock near Chelmsford is one of the first filling stations in the county to use the device.

The Drivestop device can be activated by staff at the exit and entrance to puncture the tyres of any suspect car.

Warning signs and traffic lights alert motorists to the device.

Ray Holloway, from the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), said the special stinger is a necessity if businesses are to survive because "drive-aways" can hit garages hard.

"It's a sad fact that petrol retailers are going out of business at an increasing rate and they cannot afford these losses.

"This is a small Essex business and the effect of the stinger on someone who leaves the forecourt without paying for fuel is immediate and dramatic."

The Total garage said most drivers welcome the arrangement but a few have pointed out that it would be embarrassing if they were to "sting" an innocent motorist so they are taking great care.

Boys tongues stick to pole

CHESTERTON, Ind. — Two fourth-grade boys mimicking a scene from the movie "A Christmas Story" wound up with their tongues stuck to a frozen flagpole.

Gavin Dempsey and James Alexander were serving on flag duty at Jackson Elementary School Friday morning, with the job of raising and lowering the school's flags. They decided to see if their tongues really would stick to the cold metal.

"I decided to try it because I thought all of the TV shows were lies, but turns out I was wrong," Gavin said.

Karen Alexander, James' mother , said her son told her he got the idea from the movie, which is based on stories about a boy growing up in the northwest Indiana community of Hammond in the 1940s.

"I can't believe he did it, but they learned their lesson," she said. James said he plans to eat a lot of ice cream to help nurse his wound.

"When you're young, you're just messing around," he said.

Billie Dempsey, Gavin's mom, said a nurse called them to tell them the boys' tongues were bleeding.

"The nurse asked them, 'OK, who double-dog dared who?"' Billie Dempsey said, a reference to a phrase that a character in the movie used to dare another child to stick his tongue to the pole.

Revenge is a mistake!

A Jacksonville woman is facing charges after police say she sabotaged the business from which she thought she was being fired by erasing some important computer files.

With the stroke of a computer key and by pulling some important cables police said 41-year-old Marie Cooley nearly destroyed $2.5 million worth of computer files at a Southside architect company.

Investigators said Cooley thought she was being fired, so she deleted expensive drawings in an attempt to incapacitate her boss' computer system to get revenge. "What we consider to be a disgruntled employee saw an ad in the paper, thought the ad was targeting her job, terminating her job. She decided to mess up everything for everybody," said Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman Ken Jefferson. "She went into the server. She deleted all the files -- about seven years worth of files. She just sabotaged the entire business, thinking she was going to get axed."

However, the police report states Cooley was not going to be fired and that the ad she read was for another position.

Police said Cooley told investigators she went to work over the weekend when the business was closed to pick up her W-2 form. The police report said she became angry and started disconnecting internal power cables so the business would have to spend time troubleshooting.

They said she went over to the server and started deleting all the files on it.

"While she was there, she decided to be spiteful and go in and sabotage the records and she did a good job of that," Jefferson said.

Cooley was arrested and charged with damaging computer equipment. She was later released on bail.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Snail mail

It's official. Postal delivery is as slow as snails, at least in Poland.

After receiving a letter on January 3 that was sent on December 20 as priority mail, Michal Szybalski calculated that a snail would have made it even faster to his home than the letter.

The IT worker calculated that it took 294 hours for the letter to arrive at his home. He also said the distance between his home and the sender was 11.1km (6.89722 Mph).

Given the distance and the time, the speed of the letter was 0.03775 kilometers per hour (0.02346 Mph). Szybalski calculated that a garden snail travels at around 0.048 kilometers per hour (0.02983 Mph).

Offensive 3 Little cowboys builders

A story based on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale has been turned down by a government agency's awards panel as the subject matter could offend Muslims.

The digital book, re-telling the classic story, was rejected by judges who warned that "the use of pigs raises cultural issues".

Becta, the government's educational technology agency, is a leading partner in the annual Bett Award for schools.

The judges also attacked Three Little Cowboy Builders for offending builders.

The book's creative director, Anne Curtis, said the idea that including pigs in a story could be interpreted as racism was "like a slap in the face".

Bats cause traffic problems

A colony of 20,000 bats living below two interstate bridges in Port St. Lucie, Fla. is expected to cause four extra months of traffic backups.

The mix of Mexican free-tailed and evening bats are predicted to cause lane closings during their April 15 through Aug. 15 mating season because laws require crews to halt ongoing construction on the bridges, the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post reported Friday.

Experts claim the preservation of the bats is crucial to keeping bugs under control in Florida.

"Bats make up 50 percent of the total mammal population of Florida, and each one eats 2,000 to 3,000 flying insects every night. Imagine what the mosquito population would be like without them," Friends of Bats' John Greenwood said.

Officials said crews are working overtime and on the weekends to keep up with their construction schedule.

Police taser man ripping skin from head

Ottowa - Provincial police say officers had no choice but to use a Taser on a passenger on a Greyhound bus who was found ripping the skin off his head. Constable Pierre Dubois said the 30-year-old Montreal man's increasingly violent behaviour could have posed a danger to officers.

Dubois said the Ottawa-bound bus left Montreal at about 2:50 p.m. Tuesday, and about 90 minutes later, passengers realized someone had locked themselves in the bathroom.

When the driver stopped the bus at the service centre in St-Isidore, Que., and forced open the bathroom door, he was met with a gruesome scene. Police say blood was pouring down the man's face from a self-inflicted wound to his scalp.

Dubois said although the man didn't have a weapon, police used a Taser on him because he was violent and "a threat to himself."

Officers said they weren't sure at the time whether the man was on drugs or if he was suffering from mental problems.

Flushed with success

It's an offer the University of Colorado couldn't flush away: A Boulder venture capitalist paid $25,000 for the naming rights to a bathroom in the Boulder campus' ATLAS building.

And so it is that the second-floor men's bathroom in the high-tech hub now has Brad Feld's name on it and a plaque with some words of wisdom from the donor: "The best ideas often come at inconvenient times. Don't ever close your mind to them."

Feld -- managing director at Foundry Group and Mobius Venture Capital, both based in Boulder -- said he tried to make a similar offer a few years ago to his alma matter, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But the school, after considering whether a donor could have naming rights to a bathroom, rejected his offer.

Callous!

A Spanish driver who fatally collided with a cyclist is suing the dead youth's family 20,000 Euros (£14,830) for the damage the impact of his body did to his luxury car, a Spanish newspaper reported.

Businessman Tomas Delgado says 17-year-old Enaitz Iriondo caused 14,000 Euros (£10,384) of damage to his Audi A8 in the fatal 2004 crash in La Rioja region, the El Pais newspaper reported.

Delgado, who has faced no criminal charges for the incident, wants a further 6,000 Euros (£4,450) to cover the cost of hiring another vehicle while his car was being repaired, El Pais said.

The youth had been cycling alone at night without reflective clothing or a helmet, according to a police report cited by El Pais.

His family won 33,000 Euros (£24,479)compensation from Delgado's insurance company after the firm acknowledged he had been driving at excessive speed and this could have contributed to the incident, El Pais reported.

"I'm also a victim in all of this, you can't fix the lad's problems, but you can fix mine," Delgado told the newspaper, ahead of a January 30 legal decision on his suit.

Plan to kill Hannah Montana

A teenage passenger was detained after a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles landed in Nashville, an airline spokeswoman said Thursday. Nashville television stations, citing unnamed sources, said the teen unsuccessfully tried to hijack the plane to Lafayette, La., and crash it into a building where a "Hannah Montana" concert was to be performed.

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King said the passenger was removed from Flight 284 Tuesday night by authorities at Nashville International Airport. She declined to provide additional details.

Airport spokeswoman Emily Richard confirmed there was an incident, but could not provide more information because the passenger was a minor. The teen was not identified.

WSMV and WTVF in Nashville reported the teenager boarded the plane in possession of handcuffs, rope and duct tape with intentions to hijack the plane.

Where's my house?

Returning home after an absence can mean unpleasant surprises - a leaky roof, a pet's mess, even a break-in. But a Russian woman got a nastier surprise when she returned from her country house: her home was gone, torn down mistakenly by construction workers clearing a site, according to a report Thursday on NTV television.

"There was nothing left, not even a log," Lyudmila Martemyanova said, bundled against the cold and standing on a snow-covered lot in the center of the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod.

A local prosecutor, Nikolai Govorkov, said a construction company tore down the wrong building - Martemyanova's, instead of one nearby that was marked for demolition.

Many Russians have faced what they say are unfair and inadequately compensated evictions from older housing being torn down amid the country's oil-revenue-fueled construction boom.

Martemyanova's case is extreme, however, and she has taken it to court. She refused the builder's offer of money, saying it wasn't enough even to get a room on the outskirts of the city, and has sued.

Court hearings started Thursday. Meanwhile, she's shuttling back and forth between her daughter's and her sister's, she told NTV.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dream Job

While "chief beer officer" might sound like a jokey nickname for your football-watching buddy who's responsible for buying the suds every Sunday, there is at least one person in the country who has this actual job title and gets paid for it: Scott Kerkmans.

Four Points by Sheraton hired Kerkmans last winter as part of a publicity stunt -- the job opening was announced in a large ad splashed across the front page of the Wall Street Journal's Marketplace section. (In order to demonstrate its high-minded intent, the ad cautioned that "no lager louts need apply.")

Almost 8,000 people from more than 30 countries applied, with 7,000 passing the company's initial screening by correctly answering 20 beer-related questions such as "What makes a beer bitter -- the barley or the hops?" (Answer: hops.) The next round consisted of an essay and written application, with the remaining candidates being asked to produce a five-minute video of themselves discussing why they should be selected. Four Points posted the videos from four finalists on its website and asked the public to vote for a winner, and Kerkmans' video, in which he toured the brewery at Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co., secured roughly half of the public’s 12,500 votes.

Kerkmans, a longtime beer aficionado, now finds himself in the enviable position of being required to make annual trips to Germany’s Oktoberfest, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, and other notable beer conferences; receiving roughly a case of free beer each month to sample; and going on frequent V.I.P. tours of local breweries.

The 28-year-old Kerkmans admits that his duties are far from onerous. "I get a paycheck, but it certainly pales in comparison with the perks," he says.

After graduating, Kerkmans volunteered to do grunt work at several breweries in Salt Lake City so he could learn more about brewing, and he finally landed a job as a brewer for the Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau. While there, he passed a three-hour exam to become a certified beer judge, which allows him to officiate at contests, including those at the Great American Beer Festival. After returning to his hometown of Phoenix in 2005, Kerkmans worked as a sales rep for one of the country’s largest beer distributors and co-founded (with several friends) and wrote for Draft magazine, a publication about beer culture.

"It's my dream job," Kerkmans says of being C.B.O. "But then, I think it’s everyone’s dream job."

Basketball marvel

3,200 ft. High Tightrope Walk

Theft proof car stolen

It was supposed to be a theft-proof car, the pride of Berlin police force, until a thief simply drove it off.

The high-tech BMW worth $147,000 police car which is equipped with high-tech surveillance equipment and sophisticated electronic locks and immobilizers to make it theft proof, was stolen in the city's Wedding district after officers left it unlocked with the key in the ignition.

However, the Berlin police are trying to justify the fiasco saying it was stolen after the two officers had to jump out of the car to give chase to a joy-rider on foot who had abandoned a car he had stolen earlier.

Ironically, while the officers failed to apprehend the felon, they also lost the expensive BMW.

With the police at a loss on who might have stolen the expensive car, the two police officers are now facing disciplinary action.

Holy Schmidt!

Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt's famous fondness for tobacco has got him into trouble. The former leader lit up at a theater in Hamburg -- after the city introduced a smoking ban. Now an anti-smoking group has reported them to the police.

Helmut Schmidt, former German chancellor, former minister of defense and co-publisher of the influential weekly newspaper Die Zeit, is being accused of breaking the law -- for violating Germany's new ban on smoking in public places.

Committed smokers Helmut Schmidt and his wife Loki -- aged a lung-cancer-defying 89 and 88, respectively -- are being investigated by Hamburg public prosecutors under suspicion of breaking the smoking ban and endangering public health, the mass-circulation daily Bild reported Friday. The complaint was brought by the Wiesbaden Non-Smokers Initiative, an anti-smoking organization based in the town of Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt.

It all started at a New Year reception at the famous Hamburg theater Komödie Winterhuder Fährhaus on Jan. 6, where the Schmidts were the guests of honor. A member of staff, knowing the couple's fondness for tobacco, placed an ashtray at their table, and the Schmidt's lit up.

There was only one problem: Smoking in public buildings had been banned in Hamburg since Jan. 1.

The Wiesbaden Non-Smokers Initiative saw a photo of the couple smoking in Bild and reported the offense to the police. "We're now looking into the case," Rüdiger Bagger, spokesman for the Hamburg public prosecutor, told Bild on Friday. The anti-smoking activists also reported the manager of the theater, Michael Lang, for permitting the heathen act to transpire.

Smoking in enclosed paces is now verboten in Germany. So the German smokers are on the move, journeying not to France (where a smoking ban persists) but to Poland, historically an intrepid German’s first port of call on any freewheeling European adventure.

Mass carries on

Not even the death of a worshipper was enough to stop Mass in a small church in the northern Italian town of Trento. Pio Lieta, 86, suffered a fatal heart attack during an early-morning service at the Church of the White Madonna last Sunday.

An ambulance was called, and Mr Lieta, whose name means "pious" in Italian, was pronounced dead at the scene. However, instead of halting the Mass, Father Mario Peron asked for the body to be covered with a white cloth and left Mr Lieta in the nave of the church while he finished the service. It is against Italian law to move a body without the authorisation of a local magistrate.

"What could I have done?" said Fr Peron afterwards. "The Holy Mass has to be celebrated. It is not right to make an exception for one individual. Only people who do not understand the point of Mass would not understand the logic of my decision. We could not stop. We were united together in church and we prayed for him."

Only a handful of parishioners were present for the early-morning service, and some expressed their surprise at the priest’s decision to L’Adige, the local newspaper. "We should have stopped as a sign of respect," said one unnamed worshipper.

Mr Lieta’s funeral took place at the same church today, and his family said they were not upset by what had happened. Father Angelo Lieta, his son and a missionary in Chile, said: "My father would have agreed with the continuation of the Mass. I am only sorry I could not have been there myself."

Pac it in


They're just harmless mints - but police in the U.S. are concerned that Hershey's new Ice Breakers Pacs look too much like packets of cocaine.

Police are especially fearful that a child familiar with Ice Breakers Pacs may for whatever reason come into contact with a packet of cocaine - and mistake the cocaine for the Hershey's treat.

Needless to say, the consequences could be tragic. So the Hershey Company is stopping production of Ice Breakers Pacs, the company's president and chief executive officer said yesterday.

Hay presto!

Hiding a needle in a haystack is easy enough. But Robert Fidler kept something much bigger concealed among the piles of straw down on his farm... a castle.

Over the course of two years, he managed to secretly – and unlawfully – build the imposing mock Tudor structure in one of his fields, shielded behind a 40ft stack of hay bales covered by a huge tarpaulins. Once it was finished, he and his family moved in and lived there for four years before finally revealing the development – complete with battlements and cannons – in August 2006.

Mr Fidler claims that because the building has been there for four years with no objections, it is no longer illegal. But he is under siege from council planners, who say the castle at Honeycrock Farm, Salfords, Redhill, Surrey, will have to be knocked down.

"I can't believe they want to demolish this beautiful house," said 59-year-old Mr Fidler. "To me they are no different than vandals who just want to smash it down."

Mr Fidler, a farmer, erected the disguise in 2000 out of hundreds of 8ftx4ft bales of straw and covered the top with blue tarpaulin.

But neighbours were unimpressed. One said: "Nobody thought anything of it when the hay went up. It was presumed he was building a barn or something similar. It was a complete shock when the hay came down and this castle was in its place. Everyone else has to abide by planning laws, so why shouldn't they?"

Problems began last April when Mr Fidler, thinking he had beaten the planning system, applied for a certificate of lawfulness which is given if a property is erected but nobody objects to it after four years.

But Reigate and Banstead Council says the four-year period after which the building would be allowed to stay is void – because nobody had been given a chance to see it.
The matter will now be decided in February by the council's planning inspector, who could give the Fidlers as little as six months to tear the castle down.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cat with 5 legs

Cats are known for having nine lives, but one feline in Pennsylvania has a little something extra somewhere else.

A black and white cat named "Baby Girl" was born with five legs as the result of inbreeding.

She's living at the Washington Area Humane Society in the Pittsburgh area until she can find a permanent home.

"Baby Girl" needs surgery to move the extra leg and another one that's crippled.

The shelter is asking for donations to cover the surgery.

Rape victim arrested

Louisiana - An Alexandria woman who reported to police that she had been raped was arrested Sunday on an outstanding warrant and booked into the Rapides Parish Jail immediately after being treated for her injuries at a local hospital.

Her charge -- a worthless check charge -- dated back to a May 24, 2004, arrest, records show. The court date regarding the $329.58 check was in December 2004.

Alexandria Police Chief Daren Coutee said that as long as there is an outstanding warrant on someone, officers have to make an arrest -- no matter the situation.
"There are no exceptions to the rule," he said.

The 27-year-old woman told police she was raped by her boyfriend Sunday morning at her home after the two had gotten into an argument late Saturday. She was booked about two hours after the reported rape, according to jail and police records released Tuesday.

Alexandria Police arrested Andrew Dawayne Howard, 19, of 2920 Levin St. in Alexandria and charged him with forcible rape and criminal damage to property in connection with the incident, authorities reported.

Howard admitted to raping the woman while being transported to the jail, telling officers he wanted to go to jail so he could be locked up with his relatives, the police report states.

He remains jailed in lieu of $75,250 bond. The rape victim was released on $10,750 bond after spending a little more than two hours in jail, according to jail personnel.

Kidnapped cow car crash

A cow kidnapped and bundled into the back of a family saloon car died after a chase in Malaysia. Thieves squeezed the cow into the back seat of a car and drove off with it, but abandoned the animal when the getaway vehicle crashed into a tree, police said.

The cow, injured in the crash, was slaughtered by villagers.

The thieves managed to push the cow into the back of a mid-sized sedan Tuesday night, but were spotted by villagers who gave chase, said a local police official in the northern state of Kedah.

He declined to be named, citing protocol. The driver lost control during the chase and drove into a tree, injuring the cow, he said. By the time villagers got to the crash site, one person was seen running from the car, but police believe more people were involved in the theft, the official said.

It was not clear how they managed to push the cow into the car or whether the animal had been sedated.

Eye eye!

A hotel guest got an eyeful in the middle of the night when he was delivered a human eyeball. The eyeball had been meant to go to a hospital for a transplant operation, but was wrongly delivered to the hotel.

The guest, at a hotel in Hobart, Tasmania in Australia, was shocked when he received the foam box containing a single human eyeball. Hotel worker Gabriel Winner told the Courier Mail newspaper the agitated guest took the eye to the reception desk.

He told the newspaper: "He got the box and signed for it and opened it in the middle of the night. I thought this is just too weird. I went and put it in the fridge because I didn't know what else to do with it. It was more than a little disconcerting."

The box was marked 'Live human organs for transplant' was delivered by mistake by an unwitting taxi driver. An Australian Air Express spokeswoman confirmed a "failure in an internal handover process" which meant the taxi driver was given the wrong package to deliver.

A health spokeswoman said despute the incident the tissue from the eye was recovered and successfully used in an operation.

Less salt solution

A generous sprinkling of salt is as much a part of the traditional fish-and-chips experience as a splash of vinegar. But in these health-conscious times, it was never going to be long before the nation's chippies came under pressure to change. To cut the amount added, a council has come up with a novel, and extremely simple, solution - cut the number of holes in the lids of salt shakers.

Takeaways are being issued with catering-sized salt pots with just five holes in the lid, rather than the usual 17 or 18, cutting the amount of salt on the average portion of chips by more than half.

However critics questioned whether councils ought to be intervening in this way, saying it ought to be down to customers to decide whether to opt for less.

Health campaigners say excess salt intake causes raised blood pressure and that encouraging people to consume no more than the recommended 6g a day would save thousands of lives a year.

They are targeting manufacturers of ready meals and fast food chains such as Pizza Hut and McDonald's, but huge amounts of salt are also routinely added to portions of chips.

Analysis of takeaway meals sprinkled with salt using the traditional 17-hole shakers found they contained up to 3.9g of salt, more than half an adult's daily limit.

The five-hole lids were devised after talks with catering equipment manufacturers, and they are now being distributed to fish-and-chip shops.

To tie in with Salt Awareness Week, which begins next Monday, Rochdale council in Greater Manchester is conducting a trial.

It has the third highest rate of early deaths from heart disease and stroke in England, both of which are linked to high blood pressure, and 13 local chip shops are being sent the new shakers, which cost about £2.30 each.

Virgin reveals new spaceship

Pictures of the commercial spacecraft that will call the New Mexico Spaceport home were released today from a hangar in California.

Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two mothership is scheduled to begin test flights by this summer in California.

The company also unveiled scale models of the craft.

Virgin Galactic intends to start launching people into space for $200,000 a roundtrip. One-way flights are not an option the company is currently considering.

The spaceport south of Truth or Consequences remains under construction, but the state’s space authority says everything is on track to open in early 2010.

Virgin Galactic is planned to be the anchor enterprise at the spaceport.

Smuggler on a bike

Border guards in Belarus said they had foiled an attempt to smuggle 277 parrots into the ex-Soviet state – aboard a bicycle.

Spokesman Alexander Tishchenko said the smuggler abandoned his bicycle and cargo – contained in six cages – and fled back over the border into Ukraine when confronted late on Tuesday at the crossing point of Dubki.

"The cages were fixed to an ordinary bicycle. The parrots were stuffed inside like sardines, 40 to 50 to a cage," he said. "You can imagine what it was like. This was sheer barbarism. Those poor birds."

Two birds had died while the others were kept overnight at the border post.

They were then handed over to veterinary inspectors with the eventual aim of offering them to pet shops in the country of 10 million wedged between Russia and three European Union members.

Belarussian border guards last year detained a 19-year-old Russian who was trying to dig his way under the border into Poland using nothing more than a mug.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I just thought this comment was funny

Wow! I thought I was famous appearing on Sky Sports News, BBC Wales and in The Sun newspaper, but I know I've really hit the big time being part of Dom's Weird News! Keep up the good work Dom!
Andrew Edwards, Caldicot Town AFC.

from a post "Amazing feet !" Nov 26, 2006

Heart stolen

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The heart of a revered 19th century Argentine friar and patriot was stolen from an urn in the Franciscan monastery where it was kept for years as a religious relic, a church official said.

Whoever scooped up friar Mamerto Esquiu's heart on Tuesday left the urn it was stored in behind, said Jorge Martinez, head of the San Francisco monastery in the northwestern province of Catamarca.

"The theft was carried out because of the heart -- nothing else was stolen," he told local reporters. "It's very sad."

Witnesses reported seeing a bearded man run from the monastery around the time the heart went missing, but no one had been arrested, the Catamarca daily El Ancasti said.

Tuesday's theft marks the second time since 1990 that the friar's heart was mysteriously spirited away, the newspaper said.

Born in Catamarca in 1826, Esquiu entered the monastery at a young age and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1848. He gave stirring speeches and homilies supporting Argentine unity and its 1853 constitution, becoming a famed religious leader and patriot.

Esquiu died in 1883. When his body was exhumed for an autopsy shortly thereafter, church authorities said his heart showed no signs of decomposition. It was removed and given to the monastery where he had begun his religious studies.

Police escort for car thief

YORK, Maine — York police might initially have thought they were doing a good deed in helping escort a pregnant woman to the hospital Monday, but that turned out to be far from true.

Officers initially pulled over the car containing the woman on York Street a little after 9 p.m. because of a taillight that was out, but were told by the driver that his wife was in labor. While escorting the car – which also contained three small children, according to Sergeant Brian Curtin – to the hospital, they ran the plates and discovered that the vehicle, a 1996 Volkswagen Jetta, was stolen.

Curtin said officers allowed the driver to get the female occupant to the hospital and checked in, but there discovered the woman wasn’t even pregnant.

Eventually, police charged the driver, Richard N. Saunders, 23, of Winter Street in Somersworth with receiving stolen property.

While still at York Hospital, the not-so pregnant woman asked a woman waiting on her sick husband for a ride to the Irving station in Wells. The second woman agreed, feeling sympathy for a woman she believed to be pregnant, according to Curtin. Her good deed was ultimately punished, though, when she returned to the hospital after dropping the woman off and discovered $160 and a pack of cigarettes had been stolen from her purse. The matter was handled by the Wells police, according to Curtin.

Cow belching subsidy

A Swedish university has received $590,000 in research funds to measure the greenhouse gases released when cows belch.

About 20 cows will participate in the project run by the Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, about 40 miles north of Stockholm, officials said Monday.

Cattle release methane, a greenhouse gas believed to contribute to global warming, when they digest their food. Researchers believe the level of methane released depends on the type of food the eat.

Project leader Jan Bertilsson said that the cows involved in the study will have different diets and wear a collar device measuring the methane level in the air around them.

He said 95 percent of the methane released by cows comes out through the mouth.

"This type of research is already being conducted in Canada so we will be in contact with Canadian agricultural researchers in the near future," he said.

The research will be funded by a grant from the government's Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning.

Short thieves

A gang of thieves is employing Trojan Horse tactics by smuggling a 'short person' -- a dwarf or child -- on Swedish buses inside a large bag in order to ransack other bags in the luggage compartment.

Thieves are believed to have been robbing Swedish coaches by smuggling a "short person" into luggage compartments inside a large bag, the coach operator said on Tuesday.

Swebus, which operates coach services across Sweden, said cash and a number of items went missing from bags on two separate occasions this month.

"We think it is a short, young person," Ingvar Ryggasjo, sales manager for Swebus, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "We are taking extra security measures and are thinking of installing video surveillance cameras."

He said the person is believed to have been smuggled onto the coach in a hockey equipment bag.

One woman travelling from the town of Vasteras to Stockholm reported seeing two men squeezing a large, heavy bag into the luggage space under the bus. After arriving she found a camera, purse and other items missing.

"We have got reports about several thefts on the stretch between Vasteras and Stockholm," Swebus customer services manager Pia Kravall said in a police statement. "It is very possible that a very small adult or a child is being placed in a bag in order to search through the other bags."

Rock-a-bye-Billy

Former US President Bill Clinton was filmed struggling to stay awake during a church sermon to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.

Oops sorry mate!

A man has been accidentally shot by a rescuer who was trying to free him from the jaws of a crocodile in northern Australia. The victim, in his late 20s, was attacked by the reptile near a popular tourist spot on the Mary River south-east of Darwin.

He was flown to hospital by helicopter for emergency surgery for bite and bullet wounds. He is currently in a stable condition in hospital.

Crocodile attacks and shootings are rare in Australia. To suffer both at once is - to say the least - unfortunate.

Jason Grant was collecting crocodile eggs at a remote reptile farm when he found himself locked inside a giant set of jaws. For a few terrifying moments the animal wildly shook its victim before the intervention of a fellow worker.

He fired two shots at the saltwater crocodile. One hit the target, while the other struck the arm of his stricken colleague. It was enough though to bring the drama to an end.

The injured man was flown to hospital in Darwin, where he is recovering.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I wasn't driving, I'm dead!

Many motorists caught speeding try to claim that they weren't behind the wheel when the camera flashed. But Shafkat Munir took the dodge to a new level - by telling police he was dead.

Rather than risk losing his licence after being caught three times within weeks, he posed as a friend to inform police he had in fact been dead at the time, even sending a bogus death certificate to back up his story.

He was undone by a series of blunders, however, not least that when officers became suspicious and rang the "friend", he admitted his name was Shafkat Munir.

Yesterday the 26-year-old waiter was reflecting on the error of his ways as he began a 12-month prison sentence - and learned that had he owned up in the first place, all he would have received was fines totalling £180 and nine points on his licence.

Even his own lawyer described his attempt to evade justice as "pathetic". He said he feared losing his job as a waiter if he lost his licence and being unable to take his wife for IVF treatment at hospital in Leeds - which has subsequently led to her becoming pregnant.

However the court was told that as he had no points on his licence, the three speeding offences would not have been enough to see him banned.

Michael Gleeson, in mitigation, said his client had made a "pathetic attempt" to escape justice which was never going to be successful.

Munir was jailed for 12 months after admitting three counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice. He was also banned from driving for 18 months.

"No dogs allowed"

A goth, who likes to take his fiancee out for a stroll on a leash, claims that a bus driver told them "no dogs allowed" and banned them from boarding. Dani Graves, 25, and his girlfriend dress all in black and like to take unusual walks, but the pair have been branded "freaks" and pushed off buses.

He and Tasha Maltby, 19, were told they could not travel on the bus service and believe they have been targeted by the same driver three times.

Gothic Dani claims the driver said: "We don't let freaks and dogs like you on."

He said the incident, which was alleged to have happened in early December, took place when he and Tasha went to Dewsbury bus station.

An off-duty bus driver, who was also on the service, was still in uniform and allegedly pushed Dani off the bus and refused service to the couple.

He said: "He shoved me off the bus. He called us freaks and he called Tasha a dog. He said, 'we don't let freaks and dogs like you on'.

"He basically grabbed my T-shirt and slammed me backwards. I got a bit angry and called him a fascist pig."

Dani, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, reported him to the manager at the bus depot, who said his complaint would be dealt with but added that despite his complaints, the same driver shook his head at couple as they approached his bus a few weeks later.

He said that after showing their bus passes and sitting down the driver refused to let any other passengers on until they got off. They refused to get off the bus but were eventually forced off after being threatened with police action.

A third incident occurred last week, when he was waiting for a bus, this time alone. He said he held out his arm to flag it down, but the same driver smiled and drove past.

May the farce be with you

Two Star Wars-loving brothers planning a Jedi church hope it will be much nearer than a galaxy far, far away. Barney and Daniel Jones want fellow devotees to be able to join them close to their home on Anglesey.

Barney, 26 - or Master Jonba Hehol - and Daniel, 21 - Master Morda Hehol - head the UK Church of the Jedi, in honour of the film's good knights. They say their services will include sermons on "the Force," light sabre training, and meditation techniques.

Hairdresser Barney became interested in the Jedi faith after 390,000 other Star Wars fans across England and Wales declared it as their religion on the 2001 census. An internet campaign was fought to see Jedi officially included in the list and although this did not happen, collators included a special code to register the Jedis.

He said: "As children we always watched the Star Wars films anyway. We noticed that there were a couple of sites on the internet, Jedi church sites. We printed off a couple of sermons and did a sermon in our house for a couple of friends one night."

Barney and his musician brother Daniel, from Holyhead, help run four websites devoted to the development of the "faith".

They plan to go to the official opening of a Surrey-based branch or "chapter" of the UK Church of the Jedi in April, and hope to hire an Anglesey venue for their own services.

Already six followers regularly meet in north Wales to discuss setting up the "church".

Cookery lessons compulsory

Cookery lessons are to be compulsory in England's secondary schools for children aged 11 to 14. Pupils will learn to cook for an hour a week for one term. Poorer pupils' ingredients will be subsidised.

Cookery is a ministerial "expectation" but, as an optional part of the design and technology curriculum, is not currently taught in all schools. The move is part of the strategy to tackle obesity, as experts believe 1m children will be obese in a decade.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families says that about 85% of secondary schools do offer cookery in some form.

It wants those schools to make the change immediately, and the rest by 2011. The aim is to train higher level teaching assistants to do some of the teaching and to recruit more food technology teachers.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls wants to see 800 cookery teachers trained.

Speaking on BBC One's Breakfast programme, Mr Balls said the plan was tied in with the government's strategy to tackle obesity and improve people's health.

"I think it is important to act now and maybe we should have acted earlier," he said.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Keystone robbers

An Australian judge on Monday described a pair of bumbling thieves, who stole a bag of bread rolls from a restaurant before one of them accidentally shot his accomplice, as "Keystone robbers."

Benjamin Jorgensen and Donna Hayes attempted to rob the Cuckoo Restaurant in Melbourne on April Fool's Day last year, but escaped with the wrong kind of dough when they mistook a bag of bread for the day's takings, the Victorian County Court heard.

But the mistakes did not end there -- Jorgensen, 38, then made for the wrong getaway car before accidentally shooting Hayes, 36, in the hip.

"I've heard of the Keystone Cops -- this is Keystone Robbers," Judge Roland Williams told the court.

Jorgensen and Hayes have pleaded guilty to armed robbery, the Australian Associated Press reported.

Jorgensen has also pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury over the sloppy shooting, which saw Hayes hospitalised for a month, it said.

Hero

A BOY has been hailed a hero after he gave his father mouth-to-mouth and ran 3km for help when their car rolled over. Lachlan "Lochie" Nally, 11, saw that dad Matthew's chest wasn't moving after their car rolled in the South Australian north yesterday.

The brave boy, who suffered minor injuries, performed CPR on his father then ran barefoot 3km to the Koolunga hotel. He bashed on the door and woke the owner, who called an ambulance.

"I went back to the pub because they were the only people I knew in Koolunga . . . I was scared and it was pitch black and I couldn't see anything," Lochie said yesterday.

Mum Kim March described her son as fearless and as someone who would help anyone.

"He jumped out the car window and he ran for help and that just blew me away," she said. "For 3km, and it's pitch dark by yourself -- for a little boy it's amazing. I told him he's saved his dad's life . . . I am just ecstatic he did a fantastic job. I'm very proud of him."

Chief Insp Graham Goodwin said it was "one of the most heroic acts I've seen".

"As you can imagine he's been in a very serious collision so that's distressing in itself," he said. He said Lochie's bravery should be recognised.

Police are investigating the circumstances of the accident.

Mr Nally, 36, is in a serious condition in an Adelaide hospital.

Girl scout earns EVERY badge

In a time when many kids flutter from activity to activity, Katherine Tuggle stands out as a model of commitment. For the past three years, the Girl Scout has worked toward a singular goal — collecting every badge available.

Katherine Tuggle, a home-schooled sixth-grader in Roswell, has earned every possible badge for a Girl Scout, that's 104 in all.

To that end, among other things, Katherine, 11, has cooked supper over a backyard fire pit, hiked a trail using a compass, sampled exotic fruits and vegetables, taught her dog to shake hands and tackled ice skating.

And, of course, she sells the famous Girl Scout cookies every year.

Most of the badges required reading and researching topics, as well as physical activities. When the small circular badges grew to cover her green sash, she started affixing them to a bookbag. Katherine, who lives in Roswell, is home schooled.

Read more & a Q&A HERE

Goodbyetothenormals

Drunk in any language

An Ontario judge has dismissed impaired driving charges against a man stopped by police just north of Toronto, because he was not immediately provided with a Spanish-speaking interpreter to help decide whether to call a lawyer.

Rafael Peralta-Brito was unable to fully understand his right to counsel when he was stopped by York Regional Police after making an erratic turn at about 2:30 a.m. on March 19, 2006.

"It is not sufficient for a police officer upon the arrest or detention of a person to merely recite the rights guaranteed by Section 10 of the Charter," said Justice Peter Tetley. "The accused or detainee must understand what is being said to him by the police officer," said the provincial court judge in a ruling issued Jan. 7.

The officer who stopped Peralta-Brito testified he could smell alcohol on the suspect's breath. When asked if he had been drinking, "no, no, I not drink nothing," responded Peralta-Brito.

He told police he did not need a lawyer and agreed to take a roadside breathalyzer, which he failed.

While the suspect had a "thick Spanish accent," the officers said he answered them in English and appeared to understand what was said.

It was after he was taken to a holding cell that Peralta-Brito said police should have put him in contact with a lawyer earlier.

Peralta-Brito, who is 35 and came to Canada from the Dominican Republic in 1993, testified that he has a "working knowledge" of English, but has limited comprehension of complex terms.

In his ruling, Tetley said he had "significant reservations" about the defendant's "professed limited ability" with the English language.

Snakes on a plane II

Vietnam has seized more than a ton of ratsnakes found aboard a Vietnam Airlines flight from Bangkok, the second time in about a month such snakes were found in air cargo to Vietnam.

The snakes - scientific name Ptyas Mucosus and a protected species - were found in more than 60 boxes that arrived in Hanoi's Noi Bai airport on Thursday, the Vietnam News Agency quoted officials as saying.

"There is a great possibility that Vietnam is only a transit point of the cargo," it said, adding that the snakes were transferred to an animal caring station nearby.

Last month, the airport authorities also seized 1,550 pounds of snakes aboard a Thai Airways flight to Hanoi, it said.

The Street With No Name

It might not appear in any A to Z or guide book, but that hasn’t stopped tourists arriving in droves at the Street With No Name.

Staff at Levenshulme station say a growing number of visitors to the city have been stopping off at the unnamed Levenshulme street to have their picture taken with its infamous sign.

Despite being created more than 160 years ago the street has never had an official title. Neighbours began to refer to it as The Street With No Name and over the decades it stuck.

As recognition of its unique status, nearby residents put up a sign bearing the curious moniker last May. Sadly, it disappeared later in the summer but at the end of last year was replaced with a new larger sign installed 12 feet off the ground to discourage thieves.

Steve Lambert, supervisor at Levenshulme station, said that dozens of people had turned up at the site to see the sign for themselves.

He said: "It was really funny seeing people crowding round and smiling when they get their pictures taken. It is nice too to think that Levenshulme is on a tourist trail. Now that we’ve got a new sign, people are starting to come back again so hopefully we can get more who want to come. It’s a one-off really and I’ve not heard of anywhere else like it, so who knows, maybe we could even have a tourist shop or cafe one day. It’s great to have the new sign because the last one being stolen was a real loss to us. It’s going to put us back on the tourist map again because we used to get lots of people coming to have their picture with it - even Japanese and Chinese tourists.

Tuk-tuk demise

A fleet of 12 motorised rickshaws that were launched in the Sussex city of Brighton and Hove two years ago are to be taken off the roads for good. TucTuc Ltd director Dominic Ponniah said they had become impossible to run due to "archaic legislation".

He said the system where the tuk-tuks had to run to a timetable had proved to be too rigid for the company.

"We have decided to resign our licence as the current situation is just not workable," he said.

"We have really pushed for new legislation to be put in place to accommodate alternative types of vehicles." He added: "There is obviously a market for them, but they can't be licensed in the appropriate way."

Wood you believe it!?

Thousands of pieces of timber have been washed up on the beaches across southern England after a cargo ship sank off the Dorset coast. Coastguards said the timber, several feet deep on the tide line, now stretched along the Sussex coast and was moving east towards Kent's coast.

The Greek-registered Ice Prince sunk about 26 miles (42km) off the coast after a storm. More than 2,000 tonnes of timber have drifted 100 miles through the Channel. Solent coastguard said timber had washed up all the way from Littlehampton in West Sussex to Beachy Head in East Sussex.

He said: "What's there on the beach will stay until it is removed by contractors authorised by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Any other wood in the Channel will move to and fro with the tides."

He said coastguards were unable to predict where timber in the water would drift, because it could depend on whether it was affected by the wind.

Dover coastguard used an aircraft on Monday to assess how far the timber had travelled. West Sussex County Council said there were unconfirmed reports of minor damage to sea defences.

It said people taking the wood had become a "serious problem".

A spokesman said: "Lots of people have been turning up, including men in vans taking a load - a significant number of people."

Sussex Police have issued a warning to say removing the timber is unlawful, and if people continue to take the wood, they could be liable to prosecution and arrest under the Merchant Shipping Act.

Worthing beach was closed at the weekend to allow heavy machinery to remove the washed-up cargo.