Thursday, September 24, 2009

World Gurning Champion 2009

Gordon Blacklock has been crowned the winner of the annual World Gurning Championships.

Mr Blacklock, who lives in the village of Egremont - where the event took place - had been taking part for 13 years before winning.

Former champion and record-holder Tommy Mattinson was unable to take part this year. The event dates back in 1297 at the Egremont Crab Apple Fair.

The apples there were so bitter that people would pull faces and gurning was born.

Naked ramblings of a German

Germany is traditionally tolerant of nudity, but a plan to give naked ramblers their own wilderness path is still some way from the sunny uplands. A campsite manager, Heinz Ludwig, aims to establish Germany's first official naked ramblers' footpath - an 18km (11-mile) route in the Harz Mountains.

"But some people are against - it is not directly supported by the community," he told BBC News. "I want people to calm down, then we'll try again next year."

But he says fans of Freikoerperkultur - Free Body Culture, or FKK for short - have expressed support for the scheme. It would attract naturists to the Wippra and Dankerode areas, in the central German mountain range. Fully-clothed walkers would be free to use the path, too.

"It's a secluded area, away from traffic," Mr Ludwig said. "In the GDR [former communist East Germany] people used to bathe there, too."

He says some keen naturists have already tested the trail. The plan is to open it officially next May.

A sign has been put up warning those averse to naturism that they might prefer to go elsewhere.

"If you don't want to see people with nothing on then you should refrain from moving on," it reads.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

One-way mayhem

There has been traffic chaos in two Paris suburbs after their feuding mayors declared the same busy road one-way, but in opposite directions.

Patrick Balkany, the conservative mayor of Levallois-Perret, initially made the D909 one-way to reduce the amount of commuter traffic through his district.

But Gilles Catoire, the Socialist mayor of neighbouring Clichy-la-Garenne, said this increased congestion in his area.

He made his section of the road one-way in the opposite direction.

With the contradictory road-signs in place, the unsurprising result was gridlock, prompting the deployment of municipal and national police to direct traffic away from the area.

"What Clichy has done is not a long-term solution, but it is a response to a unilateral decision by the town of Levallois," Clichy's deputy mayor, Alain Fournier, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

But Mr Balkany insisted: "The mayor of Clichy has taken a position that is unreasonable and is hurting his own constituents."

Thousands of motorists pass between the two suburbs each day on their way into and out of the French capital.

Jail threat for donkey bloggers

Two bloggers from Azerbaijan are facing up to five years in jail after posting a video of a donkey giving a news conference on YouTube.

Shortly after the video was released, Andnan Hajizade and Emin Milli were held on hooliganism charges following a scuffle in a restaurant. Their lawyer says the arrests were politically motivated.

But authorities insist they are investigating a simple criminal case.

In the video, the donkey extols the benefits of living in Azerbaijan and praises the government for its positive attitude towards donkeys. The video was seen by many as a send-up of government news conferences, which critics say are often little more than propaganda events.

"This incident is definitely politically motivated," said the bloggers' lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov. My clients did not beat anybody, quite the opposite."

The Azerbaijani government denies that the bloggers' arrest was politically motivated.

"People are not arrested in Azerbaijan because of political activity," said Ali Hasnov, a senior adviser to President Ilham Aliyev, in a statement. There was a scuffle between some young people and some of them were injured. Law enforcement agencies are investigating the case and will give an impartial assessment," he added.