Wednesday, January 28, 2009


MIAMI — A Boca Raton couple got a new dog, and it's just like their old dog. Not just the same breed and gender, but the same DNA.

Nina and Edgar Otto picked up their cloned yellow lab puppy at the Miami International Airport Monday night. Lancelot Encore was cloned from the DNA of the Ottos' late dog Lancelot, which died of cancer in January 2008. Guessing that pet cloning would one day be possible, the Ottos had DNA samples of their dog frozen five years ago.

The Ottos paid $155,000 in a San Francisco biotech firm's dog-cloning auction last July.

BioArts International created Lancelot Encore in South Korea, where he was born 10 weeks ago. The Ottos say he's the first single-birth, commercially cloned puppy in the United States.

Time to quit?

A lit cigarette burned a home to the ground while its occupants were attending a meeting to help them quit smoking. Officials have ruled that a blaze that destroyed a mobile home in San Luis Obispo, California was caused by a cigarette.

The mobile home was owned by 68-year-old Bill Lewis who lived there with his mother Chessie, who's in her 80s.

The fire was started by a cigarette left behind by Chessie on a table of a porch before the pair left for a meeting at the County Public Health Department to help her quit smoking.

No one was injured in the fire, which caused $200,000 worth of damage.

Octuplets !

A California woman has shocked doctors by giving birth to octuplets, believed to be only the second set of eight babies born in the United States.

The six boys and two girls were doing well and were in stable condition in the neonatal intensive care unit, said Dr Karen Maples at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Centre in the Los Angeles suburb of Bellflower.

But two needed some help to breath with ventilators, she told a press conference.

The eight babies were born nine weeks prematurely by Caesarean section over a five-minute period, stunning a 46-member medical team that was expecting only seven babies.

They weighed between 1 pound 8 ounces (680 grams) and 3 pounds 4 ounces (1.47 kg) and doctors initially identified them by the letters A through H as they were born.

"We decided to proceed with the delivery in anticipation of seven babies. We had done some drills, some preliminary dry runs," Maples said.

"Lo and behold, after we got to Baby G, which is what we expected, we were surprised by Baby H."

Maples said she had been following the mother, who was not identified, since the first trimester of her pregnancy.

Citing patient confidentiality rules, the hospital declined to say whether the mother had become pregnant through fertility treatments, which can raise the likelihood of multiple births.

"It was a shock, especially with the eighth baby," Maples said.

The mother plans to breast feed all eight babies, her doctors said.

The last octuplets known to have survived in the United States were born in Houston in 1998, in that case six girls and two boys. One of the babies, a girl, died one week after birth.

Girl marries dog

A young girl has been married to a stray dog to ward off an evil spirit in India's eastern Jharkhand.

The locals at Munda Dhanda village performed the ceremony as they believe it will overcome any curse that might fall on the family.

Interestingly, the girl is free to get married later in life to a man without even seeking a divorce.

Superstitions are widespread in India, especially in rural areas where literacy is scarce.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Human weights

A British gym is trying to add human interest to otherwise dreary workouts by replacing traditional dumbbell weights with human ones.

The Gymbox chain gym in central London says fitness enthusiasts can now swap their usual lumps of metal for human beings in a range of shapes and sizes.

According to the gym's owner Richard Hilton, it's all about visualising strength.

"Creating a mental image or intention of what you want to happen or feel is proven to improve physical and psychological performance," he said in a statement. "The human weight lifting apparatus. . . is the ultimate embodiment of visualisation theory."

The human weights range from the "Dainty Dwarf" 32-year-old Arti Shah, who weighs just 30kg, up to the "Super Human" weight of 37-year-old – and 155kg – Matt Barnard.

Impersonating a stripper

A police force has been criticised after spending £170,000 to arrest a stripper 22 times for impersonating an officer.Stuart Kennedy, a 25-year-old genetics student from Aberdeen University, has spent 123 hours in police custody since his first arrest in March 2007.

Since then he has faced charges including possession of an offensive weapon - his truncheon and a fake CS spray - and for allegedly fitting a flashing light to his car.

But so far none of the cases brought against him have yielded a successful prosecution and the latest collapsed in court last week after the Crown Office unexpectedly dropped the charges.

That followed his arrest while driving home from Aberdeen's Tiger Tiger club dressed in full uniform. He said he had been forced to flee the bar fully clothed after being threatened by an angry boyfriend.

Car trouble

PORT HURON TOWNSHIP, Mich.—A man driven to find his lost dog also lost his car after he drove onto the frozen Black River in St. Clair County, locked himself out of the idling vehicle, then watched as heat from the 1994 Buick's exhaust pipe melted the ice beneath it.

WPHM-AM, the Detroit Free Press and the Times Herald in Port Huron reported that a police dive team were expected Wednesday to help pull the car from the frigid river off Port Huron Township, about 55 miles northeast of Detroit.

The newspapers said the Buick was a loaner while the man's vehicle is being repaired at a collision shop.

Underwater ironing record

128 scuba divers braved the freezing winter temperatures on the 10 January 2009, to attempt to break the world record, currently held by the Australians, for the most number of divers ironing at the same time underwater.

They each had to iron one item of linen within a 10-minute time limit - and 86 of them completed the task under the watchful eye of adjudicators.

The group beat the previous world record of 72 set in Melbourne, Australia, last year. Their incredible feat at the National Diving and Activity Centre in Chepstow, Wales, was captured on camera by 11 photographers armed with special underwater cameras.

Organiser Gareth Lock said the charity challenge is set to raise £10,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) - while raising awareness about the "joys" of underwater ironing.

Mr Lock, 37, said: "This was an unusual attempt, I admit, but it seemed like the perfect way for a load of divers to raise money for the RNLI. We advertised the event by word of mouth and via diving websites, and expected there to be quite a good turnout. But we were shocked when so many people arrived, ready and willing to take part - and even more stunned when we snatched the record."

Around 140 people from across the UK volunteered their time, with 128 of them qualified divers. Depending on experience, each sunk to the quarry bed at different depths with an ironing board, iron and an item of linen.

A record 86 divers managed the task simultaneously, while the remainder were either disqualified for starting too early, or penalised for overshooting the 10-minute time limit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stone me!

The largest kidney stones most doctors ever get to see is the size of a golf ball. So surgeons in Hungary were taken aback when they removed a stone the size of a coconut from a man earlier today.

Sandor Sarkadi underwent an abdominal operation in Debrecen, 150 miles east of Budapest, after doctors discovered he had a kidney stone inside him that was 6.7 inches in diameter.

Mr Sardaki was rushed into an operation theatre in the Kenez Gyula Hospital when an X-ray revealed he was carrying around the gigantic lump.

The delicate procedure to remove the stone, which weighed a staggering 2.48lbs, passed without incident.

Kidney stones vary in size. They can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball, which makes Mr Sarkadi's stone all the more remarkable.

Shoplifter Run Over by Her Own Getaway Car — Twice

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Authorities are looking for a shoplifter who was run over twice by her getaway car after stealing $1,200 worth of designer purses from a Cape Coral store.

A T.J. Maxx security guard told police she saw a woman stuff six designer Dooney & Bourke purses into her pants Tuesday morning and walk out of the store. The guard says she was confronting the woman when a car pulled up.

A report says the shoplifter tried to get into the vehicle but fell out and was run over by the car. She then got up and jumped onto the hood of the car. As the car was driving away, the report says the woman fell off and was run over again. On her third attempt, she finally made it into the vehicle.

Police are using the car's license plate and a check the woman dropped to track her down.

Man gives judge the finger

A Portuguese businessman said he cut off one of his fingers in court with a butcher's knife in an "act of despair" after a judge refused his offer to settle a 170,000 euro debt and said part of his farm must be sold.

"My intention was to tear up all the case papers and splatter them with blood so I could prevent the expropriation order for my land," Orico Silva was quoted as saying in local media after his drastic action in the court house.

Silva, who owns a 20 hectare (50 acre) farm in the central town of Figueira da Foz, was being sued by a company for holding onto a cash deposit on a land deal which had fallen through, the local newspaper said.

"I freaked out when the judge refused my offer to pay the debt and ordered the sale of part of my land. I told her I had a 1.2 million euro bank guarantee which would have allowed me to pay the debt," Silva said.

When he went to take the bank papers from his briefcase, he noticed the butcher's knife he had recently bought at a market and decided to cut off his index finger, using a court desk as a chopping board. He then cut the finger into three.

"I didn't feel anything, I could even have cut off all my fingers. It was an act of despair," he said.

Longer than an Obama speech?

Frenchman Lluis Colet broke the world record for the longest speech after rambling nonstop for 124 hours about Spanish painter Salvador Dali, Catalan culture and other topics.

The 62-year-old Catalan and local government worker spoke for five straight days and four nights to set the record in the southern French town of Perpignan.

Three notaries were on hand to recognise the feat which allows Colet to enter it in the Guinness Book of Records. The previous record was held by an Indian man who delivered a 120-hour speech.

Colet began speaking at Perpignan's railway station on Monday by reciting the works of famous authors or using some of his own writing. He also spoke profusely about Dali, a painter he admires, and Catalan culture.

Large crowds turned out in support of Colet, who received a rapturous applause at the end of his speech.

"This is a big day for me and I dedicate this record to all those who defend Catalan language and culture," he said, his voice fainter after five days of nonstop talking.

Colet had set the record once before in 2004 when he spoke for 48 straight hours.

Spray painted

Four teenagers say police in a northern Mexican town spray-painted their hair, shoes and buttocks to teach them not to paint graffiti on public property.

Emilio Alfaro of Nuevo Leon state's Human Rights Commission said Thursday the youths have filed a complaint alleging that police in Guadelupe slapped, kicked and painted them with spray cans after detaining them for vandalism.

The youths are aged between 14 and 16. They presented paint-stained shoes and photos of their painted heads as evidence. Guadelupe's police department says several officers have been suspended while the matter is being investigated.

The youths were fined more than $200 before being released on Tuesday. Guadelupe is outside the city of Monterrey.

Wrong song

Katy Perry won one of the big prizes at France's main music award ceremony - but it wasn't meant for her.

The star claimed the gong for Best International Song at the NRJ Awards in Cannes, for her 2008 worldwide smash 'I Kissed A Girl'. However, the real winner was Rihanna for 'Disturbia'.

Host Nikos Aliagas told the BBC there had been a mistake in the vote-counting.

Couple jailed after bank error

Police said a central Pennsylvania couple did not call the bank when a $1,772.50 deposit showed up in their account as $177,250.

Authorities believe 50-year-old Randy Pratt and 36-year-old Melissa Marie Pratt took out the money, quit their jobs and moved to Florida.

The two were arraigned Tuesday and jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail. District Judge Donna Coombe said a public defender and a conflicts lawyer are being assigned.

Police reported that Melissa Pratt deposited the check at FNB Bank last summer.

When the big balance showed up, investigators say, the two wrote checks to another account, bought a new vehicle and were buying a house in the Orlando area when the mistake was traced.

Police said Melissa Pratt told them her husband often got large checks and she wasn't aware of any banking error.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Court backs drunk workers

Peru's top court has ruled that workers cannot be fired for being drunk on the job, a decision the government has criticised for setting a dangerous precedent.

The Constitutional Tribunal ordered that Pablo Cayo Mendoza be given his job back as a janitor for the municipality of Chorrillos, which fired him for being intoxicated at work.

The firing was excessive because even though Cayo was drunk, he could still speak and write, and he did not hurt anybody, justice Fernando Calle said.

Calle said the court would not revise its decision, despite complaints from the labour ministry.

Celso Becerra, the administrative chief of Chorrillos, a suburb of Lima, denounced the ruling.

"We've fired four workers for showing up drunk, and two of them were drivers," he said. "How can we allow a drunk to work who might run somebody over?"

Can we have our tractor back?

A reward has been offered for the return of a stolen £53,000 gold-plated, diamond-encrusted model of a tractor.

The model, which is one of only 500 made, is of a 1931 Caterpillar Sixty diesel tractor.

It was taken from the offices of tractor dealer Finning UK Ltd in Cannock, Staffordshire, on 20 December.

Now the company is offering an undisclosed reward for information that leads to a conviction of the thief and the safe return of the model.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Flying SkyCar

A team of British adventurers and their flying Parajet SkyCar are now set to take off in northern France at the start of their great expedition to Timbuktu.

Transgender lavatories

Transgender students have been given their own lavatory at a university union. The block is being trialled at Staffordshire University union's nightclub, and could be rolled out across the campus.

They are believed to be among the first dedicated transgender lavatories in Britain.
Members of the student union council voted in December to try them out and they were introduced for the first time a week ago.

Union President Fee Wood said: "We are trying to make things as easy as possible for all our students.

"We do have transgender students here, but the new facilities are not just for them – they are for the androgynous students as well. The decision whether to keep them or roll them out to all our venues will be taken in March time. We are also considering lobbying the University for them as well."

The "gender-neutral" lavatories are in the union on Leek Road, in Stoke, and are set apart.

Last year Manchester University renamed their men and women's lavatories to avoid offending its transgender students. The men's were labelled "toilets with urinals", while the ladies were simply called "toilets".

British man runs 2557 miles across Australia... with a wheelbarrow

A 112-day journey by a man pushing a wheelbarrow across Australia to raise money for Breast and Prostate Cancer Research has finally ended in Sydney. David Baird left his Cottesloe Beach home in Perth on September 21. He arrived in Manly, on Sydney's northern beaches Saturday.

When he crossed the finish line he will have run the equivalent of one hundred full marathons in just 112 days. During the charity run well-wishers threw more than £9,145 ($20,000) into the barrow.

And Mr Baird said that while he has not suffered a single puncture, his feet have not fared so well.

He said: "All my adult life my feet have been a size ten but within three weeks my feet had spread out and I had to change to an eleven. Two weeks later I needed a twelve. My feet feel huge. I'm convinced my arms have got longer too".

Mr Baird has been running most of the way into a head wind and in temperatures of up to 46 degrees.

Eating mostly fruit and vegetables he has lost more than a stone (7kg) in weight. Now he is looking forward to dipping his feet into The Pacific Ocean. But he will not be taking much time off.

He said: "I'll probably get up on Sunday and go for a run without the barrow which will feel fantastic I'm sure"

Mr Baird, who emigrated to Australia and spent 21 years working in a coal-mine, got his idea for the wheelbarrow run from a race held near his home in Queensland.

Deputies Seek Pot-Bellied Man Wearing Ninja Outfit

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A ninja, or at least someone dressed like one, is lurking in the shadows of Palm Beach County.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said a heavyset man with a visible potbelly and a ninja costume unsuccessfully tried to steal two different ATMs over the past two weeks.

Security video from the automated teller machines showed the unidentified man dressed in a black ninja outfit with a hood that showed only his eyes.

Authorities said the first attempt was made at a bank on Dec. 29 and the second at a Walgreens on Tuesday. Authorities did not say how the man tried to steal the machines.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Will you taco this woman to be your wife?

A quirky couple who met online have tied the knot at a US fast food restaurant. Customers in Taco Bell continued to order food as Paul and Caragh Brooks sat in an orange booth last Friday and exchanged their vows, reported the Associated Press.

"It's appropriate," said the groom. "It's an offbeat relationship."

Several dozen guests looked on as the couple's friend, Ryan Green, read the pair their vows while wearing a T-shirt. He was ordained via the internet.

"This is the way to go - there's no stress," said the groom's mother, Kathy Brooks.

Employees from the Illinois restaurant displayed hot sauce packets inscribed with the words, "Will you marry me?" The eatery was decorated with streamers and balloons.
The bride wore a bright pink dress, and the entire wedding reportedly cost US$200.

Caragh Brooks, 21 and Brooks, 30, met on an Internet dating Web site. They already shared the same last name.

"We have the same brain, just in two bodies," Mr Brooks said.

"We think alike in virtually every manner. We have the same interests, viewpoints."

He proposed on New Year's Eve and, as they both enjoyed spending time at the local Taco Bell, decided to get married there.

Police surround empty shed

US police held a three hour armed standoff outside a shed in Salt Lake City only to discover there was nobody inside.

The call-out began after a woman living in a house next to the shed told police she had seen her roommate's estranged boyfriend enter the shed with a gun, reported the Associated Press.

Officers secured the area, and after searching the house and calling in police dogs, discovered the shed was locked and there was no-one inside.

Neighbours were evacuated and police shut down portions of nearby streets before the empty shed was revealed.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Vegetable Helmets

Motorcyclists in Nigeria have been wearing dried pumpkin shells on their heads to dodge new laws forcing them to wear helmets, authorities have said.

Officials in the northern city of Kano said they had stopped several people with "improvised helmets", following this month's introduction of the law.

Road safety officials said calabash-wearers would be prosecuted.

Thousands of motorbikes have been impounded around the country and drivers have staged protests.

Calabashes are dried pumpkin shells more commonly used to carry liquid.

Farewell Woolworths

British shoppers bade a final farewell to Woolworths today as the company's remaining 200 stores closed for the last time. Most outlets had already shut down with many of the 807 shops ending trading before the New Year.

Another 200 stores opened for the final time on Saturday after a one-day reprieve by the High Street chain's administrator Deloitte.

Woolworths, a family favourite on the high street for 100 years, went into administration in November with debts of £385million.

The chain - whose first British store was opened by American FW Woolworth in Liverpool in 1909 - is the most high-profile UK High Street casualty of the economic downturn, leaving 27,000 workers facing redundancy.

It ran into trouble this year after struggling with huge debts, and its problems were compounded when it was forced to pay cash for goods after credit insurers were no longer prepared to cover its suppliers.

Pill Cake

The Connecticut Department of Development Services has placed an employee on administrative leave after prescription pills were found in a cake served at a home for disabled people.

Department spokeswoman Joan Barnish said the worker will be on leave while the agency investigates Sunday's incident. The employee's name has not been released.

Five residents of the home who ate the cake on Sunday were taken to area hospitals, but Barnish said none of them suffered any ill effects.

Barnish said the pills were an antihistamine.

State police said the employee told them that a bottle of her prescription medication spilled while she was making the cake, but she didn't realize that some of the pills fell into the batter.

No criminal charges have been filed.

5c IRS bill

James Howarth is a little confused by two letters he has received from the Internal Revenue Service. The Detroit defense lawyer received one letter in November that said he owed the IRS money - five cents.

He was warned that he should pay "to avoid additional penalty and/or interest," the Detroit Free Press reported Saturday. Howarth says he then received a second letter telling him the government owes him money - four cents.

He was told he would have to request the refund since it's less than $1.

"When I owe them a nickel, I must pay them. It's not optional," he said. "But when they owe me, I have to ask for it."

Howarth says he's not sure if there is a connection between the two notices, or if the refund represents a recalculation of the original bill. The perplexed lawyer says he called an IRS 800 telephone number but gave up after spending a long time on hold.

IRS spokesman Luis D. Garcia says the agency doesn't comment on individual accounts.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Man ordered to wear underpants

A New Zealand homeless man accused of obscene exposure has been released on bail with one important condition -- he must wear underwear.

Ben Hana, known in Wellington as the Blanket Man due to his choice of a blanket and a loincloth as clothing, was released on bail Wednesday in Wellington District Court after his Dec. 23 arrest for obscene exposure and cannabis possession, The Dominion Post reported Thursday.

Maxine Dixon, Hana's lawyer, said in her client's bail application that he plans to fight allegations that he exposed himself to children.

"He wears high-risk clothing. It's a way of life rather than a deliberate attempt at lewdness," Dixon said.

Dixon suggested the underwear bail condition to Judge Tom Broadmore, who also ordered Hana to abstain from alcohol use and to stay out of licensed businesses except for supermarkets.

Hana is due back in court Jan. 21.

Thor scares burglar

A man who dressed as the Norse god Thor for a costume party in Scotland said he returned home and scared off a burglar who had entered his house.

Torvald Alexander, 38, a construction firm manager who stands at 6 feet tall, said he ran after the burglar with his red cape and silver-winged helmet still in place, making for an intimidating sight, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

"As soon as he saw me his eyes went wide with terror," Alexander said of the burglar. "He looked like he had had a few drinks and decided to do a late night break in, but he hadn't counted on the God of Thunder living here."

"I had just got back from a fancy dress New Year's party and because I have a Norwegian name I decided to go as Thor," he said.

Alexander said the burglar did not have time to steal anything from the house and fled from a ground floor window without his shoes. He said the shoes will be turned over to police to help them attempt to identify a suspect.

Honesty Box

A British shopkeeper who left an honesty box at his DIY store for customers to serve themselves on Boxing Day returned to find nearly $272 and nothing stolen.

Tom Algie sold 187.66 pounds ($271.28) worth of goods when he left his shop, called Practically Everything, open and unattended in Settle, North Yorkshire, on Boxing Day.

"I wanted to spend the holidays with my family but thought it would be quite nice to open the shop," Algie told Friday's edition of the Daily Mirror.

"I didn't think twice. Settle is a lovely, quiet, rural town and there's never any trouble here."

Algie left a note on the honesty box saying: "Yes, I have given everyone the day off, including me, so please choose the items you want and place the right money inside."