Sunday, April 30, 2006

Shipshape and nearly as big as Bristol

Largest cruise liner stops in British port
(Filed: 29/04/2006)

The world's largest cruise liner has docked for the first time in a British port, ahead of its maiden trans-Atlantic crossing.
The 160,000-tonne Freedom of the Seas, owned by Royal Caribbean International, sailed into Southampton this morning, where it will remain for four days.
At 1,112ft, the ship is longer than 37 double-decker buses and is 237ft high - more than half the height of the London Eye.
The 15-deck vessel will leave on Wednesday for New York where a naming ceremony will take place. Prior to its departure, British guests will tour the ship and go for mini trips.
The giant vessel, which will cruise in the Caribbean, has the world's largest at-sea fitness centre as well as a rock-climbing wall and an ice rink.
It also boasts a surf park where some of its 4,000 passengers can ride the waves. Other facilities include a family water park, a full size boxing ring and a gym.
Previously the record for the largest passenger liner was the 150,000-tonne Southampton-based Cunard vessel the Queen Mary 2.
Daily Telegraph

Friday, April 28, 2006

Everyone is equal ...

Socialists: Give apes human rights
Spain Herald Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Spanish Socialist Party will introduce a bill in the Congress of Deputies calling for "the immediate inclusion of (simians) in the category of persons, and that they be given the moral and legal protection that currently are only enjoyed by human beings." The PSOE's justification is that humans share 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, 97.7% with gorillas, and 96.4% with orangutans.
The party will announce its Great Ape Project at a press conference tomorrow. An organization with the same name is seeking a UN declaration on simian rights which would defend ape interests "the same as those of minors and the mentally handicapped of our species."
According to the Project, "Today only members of the species Homo sapiens are considered part of the community of equals. The chimpanzee, the gorilla, and the orangutan are our species's closest relatives. They possess sufficient mental faculties and emotional life to justify their inclusion in the community of equals."
Spain Herald and

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mount Unpleasant

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa Apr 26, 2006 (AP)
Sheriff's deputies in Henry County are stuck in the middle of a less-than-appetizing investigation.
Investigators are trying to find the person who has dumped bags of what appears to be human vomit in ditches in a 1 1/2-mile area northeast of the city.
Deputy Dan Wesley said as many as 50 garbage and trash bags containing regurgitated food has been dumped over the past three years. The gross deposits have authorities baffled.
And there no suspects in the case. "We were just hoping," Wesley said, "whoever is doing it will stop."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Baaaad Idea?

Dutch mayor bans adverts on sheep
April 26 2006 at 03:47AM
The Hague - The mayor of a Dutch village has put a stop to a "lease a sheep" programme that would place advertising on the backs of the animals grazing in the fields.
"The local law bans advertising at the side of the motorways, no matter whether the advertisement is on a billboard, or on a sheep, or on a dinosaur," said Yde Wierda, a spokesperson for Bert Kuiper, the mayor of the north-western village of Skarsterlan.
The mayor has also decided to impose a €1 000 fine on any farmer who rents out his beasts.
And 12 sheep in the region since late on Monday have been wearing a new sign: "Thank you, Mayor".
Independent Online

Payaway Days

Council pays £2,800 to chase 10p parking fee on 'free site'
By Paul Stokes
(Filed: 26/04/2006)

A judge was left "speechless" after being told that a council that has pursued a motorist for an unpaid 10p parking charge is now allowing everyone to park free in the same place.
Nick Newby, a former Royal Marine, has so far attended six hearings in a case that has cost the public more than £2,800.
He says that he saw no pay- and-display sign at the entrance to the car park which he used while going to the library in Mirfield, West Yorks, in February last year.
Mr Newby, 45, was angry to find a £30 excess notice on his windscreen when he returned. He refused to pay and was later fined £50 and ordered to pay £250 towards the costs incurred by Kirklees council in bringing the case.
Mr Newby, from Gomersal, near Bradford, appealed against the conviction and the matter has reached the High Court in Leeds.
After being told by the council's barrister that the car park was now a free site, Judge Rodney Grant said: "I am speechless."
Daily Telegraph

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

End of the road for Military Tattoos

Chinese army marches into modern era with ban on tattoos and snoring
By Richard Spencer in Beijing
(Filed: 25/04/2006)

Snoring, tattoos and drugs are to be banned from China's military colleges as the People's Liberation Army attempts to meet the country's demand to build a "harmonious society".
"Tattoos will tarnish the military's image," said Li Chunming, a military health official, reported by the state news agency, Xinhua.
More unusual is the ban on those identified as "chronic snorers".
Daily Telegraph

Monday, April 24, 2006

Lean Times for Door to Door Salesmen!

A village without doors!
Monday, April 24, 2006 01:08:32 pm
SHINGNAPUR (MAHARASHTRA): At a time when locks, shutters and lockers very often fail to ensure safety to the belongings, here is a village where houses are without doors and theft is a misnomer.
Shingnapur, the village under Newasa Taluka of Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra, has a temple of Lord Saturn (Shani) and is a pilgrimage centre. The villagers believe that the Lord would never tolerate theft and the robbers would end up being caught. They think the robbers get blind and insane after committing theft from the village.
The village has about 350 families - Hindu, Muslims and Christians. But during a festive occasion at the Shani temple, people from all religions participate amid enthusiasm and traditional fervour, the secretary says.
Times of India

Friday, April 21, 2006

Conversations with Plants ...

Biodegradable phone will sprout sunflowers
(Filed: 29/03/2006)

A mobile phone implanted with a sunflower seed and made from biodegradable material is among the cutting edge cellular technology which has been unveiled at the Science Museum.
The theory is that the biodegradable phone cover will release nutrients as it deteriorates, helping the sunflower grow.
It is hoped that the prototype, developed by researchers from Warwick University, will mean phone covers can simply be buried in the ground after use.
The innovation was one of a series of biodegradable phones on display at the Dead Ringers? exhibition at the Science Museum.
Among the more unusual exhibits was a lasagne-based circuit board and a phone which will be able to take itself apart to aid recycling.
Daily Telegraph

Thursday, April 20, 2006

April 29th - a Date for your Diary

E.T., there's no place like dome
In the middle of the California desert, the mysterious Integratron is a mecca for UFO enthusiasts.
By Susannah Rosenblatt, Times Staff Writer
April 20, 2006
The life's work of a onetime aircraft engineer, the bizarre 38-foot wooden structure was meant to add decades to a person's life (not to mention warp time and suspend gravity) through frequencies generated by electrostatic energy. Now the dome, surrounded by fruit trees, grapevines, vintage trailers and miles of nothing in every direction, will be put to a more modest use — host to the first Retro UFO convention April 29.
It's a fitting place to gather, considering the closest thing to a Retro UFO celebrity may be the Integratron's patron saint, engineer George Van Tassel. He built the dome for $150,000 over 18 years starting in 1957, claiming that he was inspired by a predawn meeting with a visitor from Venus named Solgonda.
Van Tassel and his family lived in a hollowed-out chamber under Giant Rock, a seven-story free-standing boulder plopped on the edge of Landers three miles north of the dome.
He didn't complete the electrostatic device at the heart of the dome before he died in 1978, and his plans and equipment to finish the 50-megavolt Integratron disappeared soon after his death.
The outlandish dome and its unlikely location are "a monument to one man's field of dreams," said Joanne Karl, 51, one of three sisters who own the dome and have worked to restore it.
As for Van Tassel's alleged encounters with visitors from Venus and his offbeat writings claiming that the sun is square, "I smile and wink," said co-owner Nancy Karl, 48.

More SatNav fun ...

Sat-nav drivers land in deep water again
By Richard Savill
(Filed: 20/04/2006)

Motorists were furious at being stranded in up to 4ft of water yesterday after satellite navigation systems sent many away from a road closure and into a river.
Cars, vans and motorbikes have come to grief because the systems send them across a ford on the Avon, in Wiltshire.
The problem - near the village of Luckington - has occurred because a main road a mile away is closed, following the collapse of a wall, and drivers are warned to "seek alternative routes".
Most satellite systems send traffic into the village and across the ford, known locally as The Splash, in the hamlet of Brook End.
Locals are reported to have been charging as much as £25 to pull motorists out.
A depth sign warns drivers of the danger but villagers have complained that it was put in the wrong place. Mrs Bennett said: "The sign has been put where the water is shallowest. It's ludicrous because it means you have to drive through deeper water to get through."
Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Why the other chickens crossed the road...

Freaky the hen rules the roost after her sex change
By Richard Savill
(Filed: 19/04/2006)

Freaky the hen spent the first eight months of her life laying eggs and attracting the attentions of a rooster
But last September the silver-laced Wyandotte started crowing at sunrise and being aggressive.
She has since developed the full comb and wattle of a cockerel. She has put on weight and engages in simulated mating. Only the equipment to produce offspring is missing.
Her owner, Jo Richards, 42, of Saltford, near Bath, said: "One morning, out of the blue, she just started crowing. I have kept chickens for years but never heard of such a thing."
An old proverb says that "a whistling woman and a crowing hen are neither fit for God nor man."
Daily Telegraph

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Did the Earth Wobble for You ??

San Francisco hit by earthquake dilemma
By Catherine Elsworth
(Filed: 15/04/2006)

San Francisco is grappling with the dilemma of how to mark the 100th anniversary of the worst tragedy in its history: the earthquake and fire that all but wiped it from the map.
On the face of it, there is not much to celebrate. More than 3,000 people perished and 29,000 buildings were razed in the disaster, a combination of the quake and then a three-day inferno.
But San Francisco recovered, becoming famous for its Golden Gate Bridge, as the backdrop for Hitchcock's Vertigo and the birthplace of the hippy movement.
Liz Hickok, an artist, built a huge model of the city out of blocks of primary-coloured jelly. The backlit sculpture was shaken to "simulate how the buildings of downtown San Francisco might 'jiggle' when the Big One strikes".
It was on show for just one day and had to be thrown out when it turned mouldy.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Progress at a snail's pace

Giant snails make way for mine
By Paul Chapman in Wellington
(Filed: 13/04/2006)

Some of the world's oldest and rarest snails are to be plucked from their only known habitat in New Zealand to make way for an open-cast coalmine.
Conservationists believe the species - Powelliphanta augustus - could become extinct when the 250-strong population is removed from Mount Augustus, in South Island.
The snails, which are as big as a fist, are a biological oddity. They are carnivorous and can pounce on slugs and suck up worms in the way people eat spaghetti.
However, Chris Carter, the conservation minister, yesterday approved their removal so state-owned mining company Solid Energy can begin excavations. The creatures - labelled "the sumo wrestlers of the snail world" - will now be relocated to a suitable area nearby.
Kevin Hackwell, of the Royal Forest and Bird Conservation Society, accused Mr Carter of "approving the first state-sponsored species extinction in New Zealand".
He predicted that the snails could be extinct within 12 months.

Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

One for the Record Book...

Sex shop sponsorship is just not cricket
By Nigel Bunyan
(Filed: 12/04/2006)

It might have brought a whole new meaning to the phenomenon of fantasy cricket.
But when a newly promoted club negotiated a sponsorship deal with a chain of sex shops, officials at the England and Wales Cricket Board decided they had to crack the whip. Southport Trinity Cricket Club officials thought they had pulled off a coup when they secured their £600 deal with Nice'n'Naughty.
In return they would bear the company's logo on the front of their shirts and its web address on the back.
They would display a banner at The Rookery ground where the club has played for more than a century. The deal got as far as the official handbook of the Liverpool and District Cricket Competition before the ECB stepped in. The Merseyside league was asked to persuade Southport Trinity to pull out of the deal.
It did so by threatening to dock the club any points it accrued while its players were wearing the offending shirts. Colin Maxwell, the club's chairman, said yesterday that he was disappointed.
"Obviously we knew that Nice'n'Naughty is not to everybody's taste, but we didn't realise it would cause this much of a problem," he said.
"We are living in 2006. It's not like the old days when these shops were seedy, back- street affairs."
Daily Telegraph

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Archie ready for comeback after 40 years in a suitcase
By Stephanie Condron
(Filed: 11/04/2006)

Ventriloquist's dummy Archie Andrews could get a new lease of life after being packed in a suitcase for more than 40 years.
With his elegant blazer, haughty voice and cheeky schoolboy temperament, the 4ft doll was a popular radio and television star in the 1950s but he slowly sank into obscurity after ventriloquist Peter Brough retired in the 1960s.
And when Mr Brough died aged 83 that might have truly been the end of Archie's days in the limelight.
But now a fan who paid £34,000 for the dummy at auction has said he is considering offers from ventriloquists keen to work Archie.
On stage, Mr Brough's lips could clearly be seen articulating Archie's tones.
But such flaws were irrelevant on radio and the twice weekly BBC show, Educating Archie, attracted a combined audience of 16 million listeners a week.
Daily Telegraph

Watchdog facing big fine as angler sues over pollution
By Richard Savill
(Filed: 11/04/2006)

Britain's environment watchdog faces a large fine after a fly fisherman successfully prosecuted it for polluting a river.
The Environment Agency admitted responsibility for the pollution in the first such case against the watchdog in its 10-year history.
The prosecution followed the death last September of hundreds of young salmon and trout on a tributary of the river Exe in Devon.
The agency contracted May Gurney, from Norwich, to carry out work on a flow- monitoring station on the Barle, a tributary of the Exe, Cullompton magistrates heard.
Cement waste containing hazardous chemicals should have been pumped away from the river but was instead allowed to flow into it.
Sarah Fry, the bench chairman, said: "This incident was rated by the Environment Agency as a level-one incident, the worst type. Given that the Environment Agency is the watchdog, it is extremely serious when they themselves fail to comply."
Daily Telegraph

Thursday, April 06, 2006

On the dentist's boulder ...

Man Was Enduring the Dentist's Drill 9,000 Years Ago
International Herald Tribune
Published: April 5, 2006
PARIS, April 5 — Man's first known trip to the dentist occurred as early as 9,000 years ago, when at least 9 people living in a Neolithic village in Pakistan had holes drilled into their molars and survived the procedure.
The findings, to be reported Thursday in the scientific review Nature, push back the dawn of dentistry by 4,000 years to around 7000 B.C. The drilled molars come from a sample of 300 individuals buried in graves at the Mehrgarh site in western Pakistan, believed to be the oldest Stone Age complex in the Indus River valley.
"This is certainly the first case of drilling a person's teeth," said David Frayer, professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas and the lead author of the report. "But even more significant, this practice lasted some 1,500 years and was a tradition at this site. It wasn't just a sporadic event."
The earliest previously known evidence of dental work done in vivo was a drilled molar found in a Neolithic graveyard in Denmark dating from about 3000 B.C.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Crackpot route for confused sat-nav drivers
By Paul Stokes
(Filed: 05/04/2006)

Modern technology is providing a route to madness for motorists and driving people to distraction in a tiny Yorkshire Dales hamlet called Crackpot.
Satellite navigation is directing strangers on to a steep unclassified road, impassable to normal road vehicles and with a 100ft drop on one side.
Salesmen, delivery men and minibus drivers have been caught out while taking what their electronic equipment shows them to be the quickest route.
Many ignore a no through road sign and open a five-bar gate before trying to continue along a gravel track linking Swaledale and Wensleydale.
It has led to farmers having to rescue them with tractors as the vehicles become stuck on an S-bend then try to reverse out of trouble.
• Crackpot was known as Crakepot back in 1298, a name deriving from the Old English "kraka" for crow and the Viking word "pot" which is a cavity or deep hole often in a river bed. In Crackpot's case "pot" refers to a rift in the limestone.
Daily Telegraph

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Greenhouse Gassing

Transplant patients receive own cell organs
By Roger Highfield
(Filed: 04/04/2006)

A milestone has been passed in the field of tissue engineering: the first group of patients has received organs that were grown from their own cells in a laboratory.
Scientists hope that laboratory-grown organs may one day help bring to an end the shortage of organs for transplantation, while avoiding the risk of rejection and infection that accompanies a donor organ.
Daily Telegraph

Worth Waiting For ???

After 30 years of suffering in silence, Trudy finds her voice on The Archers
By Stewart Payne
(Filed: 04/04/2006)

For 30 frustratingly silent years, Trudy Porter has sat behind the reception desk at Grey Gables, unable to defend herself against bossy Caroline Pemberton or raise her voice in protest when overlooked for promotion.
As one of The Archers' "voiceless" characters she is ever present, but never heard. Maligned by Caroline, the manageress of Jack Woolley's country park hotel, she has, like Peter Pan, never aged. Since 1976 she has been referred to as a flighty, incompetent and unreliable girl, whose elevation from waitress to receptionist was too good for her. If things go wrong, it is usually Trudy who gets the blame. And now, just as she prepares to leave without really having ever arrived, she gets to speak.
In the series, Trudy Porter has announced that she is leaving and finally gets to give voice before snooty Caroline during a visit to Grey Gables by Terry Wogan.
When Wogan arrives Caroline is in a flap and looks to blame Trudy. But she is upstaged by her downtrodden employee who, it emerges, is remembered by Wogan for having entered a quiz that he hosted.
Daily Telegraph

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Long and the Short of it ...

British pair under attack for doubts over Mao's march
By Richard Spencer in Beijing
(Filed: 03/04/2006)

Two British adventurers who retraced the steps of Chairman Mao's Long March have come under attack from Chinese media for claiming in a book that the Red Army's trek was not nearly as long as previously thought.
Ed Jocelyn and Andy Mc-Ewen hiked across China's most remote places in a tribute to the men and women whose escape from their nationalist enemies in China's civil war is the founding legend of the Communist Party.
Their year-long trip, which ended in 2003, was met at first with enthusiasm by local media. But when The Daily Telegraph first reported their finding that the March was little more than half the official distance Chairman Mao had originally announced, Chinese media ignored that detail.
"I knew from the start that the Long March wasn't 25,000 li," Mr McEwen wrote. "By Mao's own maths every single one of the 267 days the Reds were on the march they walked an average of 46.5 kilometres, or 29 miles.
"I knew that was impossible. I didn't believe even the vanguard units could maintain such a pace, let alone the convalescent units, baggage carriers, cooks and all."
Daily Telegragh

Sunday, April 02, 2006

How to parse exams...

More than 200 exam papers spoilt by obscenities and lewd doodles
(Filed: 02/04/2006)
The good news is that pupils are spelling words correctly on examination papers. The bad news is that they are of the four-letter variety.

Statistics released by the exam boards have revealed that more than 200 candidates who sat GCSE and A-level papers last summer scrawled offensive or obscene words on their scripts.
Those of a more artistic bent defaced diagrams or drew lewd doodles on their papers.
One student ended his half-hearted attempt at answering the set questions with a line that was guaranteed to attract the examiner's attention: "Give me my f****** grade". Another simply defaced the front and back of their paper with the same expletive in giant lettering.
Sunday Telegraph

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Biased? Moi?

Nigerian refs can take the money, run
Published April 1, 2006

Soccer referees in Nigeria can take bribes from clubs but should not allow them to influence their decisions on the field. So says Nigerian Football Association's Fanny Amun, who said bribery is common. "We know match officials are offered money or anything to influence matches, and they can accept it," Amun told Reuters. "[But] referees should only pretend to fall for the bait." OK.
Chicago Tribune