from the box

Thanks for all the fish

Friday, November 03, 2006

november 3

A prisoner wrapped himself in a large parcel and posted himself to freedom from a jail in Austria.

Bosnian Muradif Hasanbegovic, 36, was serving a seven-year sentence for robbery in the Karlau prison, near Graz.

He escaped from the workshop where he helped package and post parts for lampposts.

The man packed himself up in a parcel, and other convicts loaded him onto a lorry. Once clear of the prison he broke out of the parcel, jumped off the back of the lorry and fled.

The lorry driver told police: "I noticed the tarpaulin had a hole in it just as the prison called me and asked 'Have you noticed anything funny? We are kind of missing a prisoner'."

Prison warden Franz Hochstrasser said: "This sort of thing was not supposed to happen. Guards need to count prisoners at the end of working hours. We are investigating the case."

Hasanbegovic is still on the run.

Corrine Chapman was eating lunch with a friend when the manger of the Vineyard pub in Sittingbourne, Kent, asked her to take it off or leave.

She told the Mirror: "He told me hooded tops were not allowed in the restaurant and I must remove it.

"Me and my friend thought he was joking and fell about laughing. I'm 61... I didn't have my hood up and I'm not exactly a typical juvenile delinquent.


Customs officers doing a routine border check opened the back doors of a mini van to discover two fully-grown Siberian tigers.

The male and female tigers were being smuggled into Montenegro from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The driver and two passengers were arrested for the illegal trafficking of animals, which are one of the world's most endangered species.

The tigers are being temporarily looked after in a local zoo.

Siberian tigers tend to live in snow-covered areas and it is unclear how the animals ended up in the Mediterranean country, or what their final destination was.


A jilted Romanian man found a new bride by asking which of his neighbours could fit into the wedding dress.

Florin Mazilu, from Malu Mare in southeastern Romania, is now recommending buying the dress first and looking for the wife second.

He claims his stand-in bride has turned out to be the love of his life after original fiancée Adelina Epure dumped him four days before their wedding.

Mazilu spread word in his hometown that he would marry any girl who fitted into the wedding dress and the wedding ring he had already bought.

Within hours he had found 21-year-old local Ana Maria who fitted perfectly into the dress and ring.

He said: "I had everything prepared for the wedding but no bride. I was determined to go ahead with a wedding though and while the conditions I set for a bride were unusual I knew that if she fitted the dress and could wear the ring on her finger it would work.

"Ana Maria was the only one of dozens of girls who could fit into the dress perfectly and could wear the ring. It was love at first sight. I knew she was perfect from the moment I saw her."

Paula Radcliffe's wee stop during the London marathon has been voted running's most memorable event.

Her unscheduled roadside toilet break in 2005 beat Sir Roger Bannister's historic four-minute mile in 1954.

Radcliffe's embarrassing moment received 28% of the online vote - 1% more than Bannister's memorable run.

In third place, with 20%, was the clash of British great rivals Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Coe, now Lord Coe, finished second to his rival in the 800m, but took the gold in the 1,500m race.

In fourth place, was another duel, between South African Zola Budd and American Mary Decker in the 3,000m at the 1984 Olympics.

The race ended in tears for both after they collided. Decker fell over while Budd finished out of the medals.

Jesse Owens' feat of winning four golds in front of Hitler at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin was voted fifth.

The poll was conducted by

A dead woman won an election to a rural school board in Alaska - on the toss of a coin.

Katherine Dunton died on the day of the election which left her and challenger Dona Highstone tied.

Even with Dunton's death, state law required a tie vote to be settled by lot after an official recount.

Highstone called heads, but the coin landed on tails. The school board at Adak must now find a replacement.

A German witch had a bad Halloween after a Munich court ordered her to refund over £600 for a failed love potion.

Tina Schultz, 37, from southern Germany, paid witch Madam Mitternacht £670 to make her former lover return to her.

But, after he failed to be influenced, the lovesick woman turned to the courts.

They ruled the witch had breached trade description rules by selling a product that did not work and ordered the fee refunded.

The German justice system ruled that a love potion is an "impossible service" and therefore was a false claim.

Romanian witches are hiring English teachers so they can cash in on the country's EU entry by targeting new clients.

Local 'celebrity' white witch Ioana Sidonia is the latest witch to start having English lessons so she can cast spells for new English-speaking clients when Romania joins the EU in January.

She said: "My magic powers told me that not only would Romania prosper from joining the EU, but that it would bring me lots of English-speaking clients.

"There will be lots more foreigners around and by learning English I can help them.

"Until now the only words of English I could speak were the names of different whiskies. I thought I should expand my vocabulary."

The M6 has been named Britain's most haunted road in a new Halloween survey.

The M6's spooky reputation follows with reports of phantom Roman soldiers, a ghostly woman and a lorry driving against the flow of traffic.

Motorists have also reported eyes looking out from bushes in Platt Lane, Leigh, Manchester - the scene of a mining disaster years previously.

The A9 in the Highlands was the second most haunted after a family reported seeing an ornate coach and horses, along with bewigged footmen.

The road appears again at number eight in the list, produced by Tarmac, following a sighting of a Victorian-clad man on a horse at The Mound between Dornoch and Golspie.

There were reports of a phantom dog on Great Yarmouth High Street and ghostly children playing in Gloucester Road, Finsbury Park, north London.

A guardian angel voice allegedly alerted a woman driver of an out-of-control car on the B4293 in Devauden in Wales and a lady in Victorian dress was reportedly spotted on the B3314 near Tintagel in Cornwall.


The M6

2 The A9 in the Highlands

3 Platt Lane, Leigh, Manchester

4 High Street and Suffield Road in Great Yarmouth

5 Gloucester Drive, Finsbury Park, north London

6 The B4293 at Devauden, Wales

7 The B3314 near Tintagel, Cornwall

8 The Mound, on the A9 near Dornoch

9 The B1403 near Doncaster, South Yorkshire

10 Drews Lane, Ward End, Birmingham

Prince William reportedly lost his machine gun during firing practice at Sandhurst.

Wills, 24, was given a rollicking by senior officers after misplacing the L86 rifle, according to the Mirror.

The prince had been handed the weapon in a morning briefing and told to head to the firing range.

But he managed to mislay it somewhere on the Royal Military Academy campus near Camberley, Surrey.

It turned out that another cadet had picked up his gun and used it instead.

Wills was so concerned that he spent two hours pedalling around on a friend's bicycle in a desperate bid to find it.

Osama Bin Laden's secret caves hideout is being converted - into a £5.3million tourist resort.

Hotels and restaurants are being constructed on mountains overlooking the al-Qaeda chief's Tora Bora refuge in Afghanistan, reports the Sun.

Former warlord Gul Agha Sherazi, now a local governor, said: "Tora Bora is world famous - but we want it to be known for tourism, not terrorism.

"It was known as a picnic spot long before anyone had heard of Osama Bin Laden."

Bin Laden, who hid there in 2001 after the Taliban government was ousted, is believed to have fled after a US bombing blitz.

Two journalists were killed there this month but Mr Sherazi insisted: "Tora Bora is 100 per cent safe."

A mug has been created which means tea drinkers will never have to wash up another spoon.

Inventors have created a stainless steel cup with a tiny battery-powered propeller in the base which stirs the drink at the touch of a button, reports The Sun.

The £12 mugs can even clean themselves, users just have to put hot water and washing up liquid in the cup and press the stir button instead of scrubbing by hand.

A telephone helpline offering cheery sounds has been launched to help people suffering from the winter blues.

It features a reading of Wordsworth's Daffodils, the sound of water lapping at Windermere and sizzling Cumberland sausages.

A judge in Chile has sentenced a teenage thief to go to mass every day for a year.

Claudio Araneda, 18, from Ercilla, must also paint his local church white and keep it clean.

Judge Ricardo Traipe passed the unusual sentence after hearing Araneda had stolen four empty gas containers from the church and sold them.

Local priest Edgardo Solar had asked the judge not to send Araneda to prison.

The priest told Terra Noticias Populares: "It is a way to make sure he is not going to forget Jesus. The church is here to help people overcome their sins."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

october 20

The Games of the Nineteenth Olympiad were the

highest and most controversial ever held.

Staged at 7,349 feet above sea level where the

thin air was a major concern to many competing

countries, the Mexico City Olympics were another

chapter in a year buffeted by the Vietnam War, the

assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert

Kennedy, the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and

the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Ten days before the Olympics were scheduled to

open on Oct. 12, over 300 Mexico City university

students were killed by army troops when a campus

protest turned into a riot. Still, the Games began

on time and were free of discord until black

Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who

finished 1-3 in the 200-meter run, bowed their

heads and gave the Black Power salute during the

national anthem as a protest against racism in the


They were immediately thrown off the team by the


The thin air helped shatter records in every men's

and women's race up to 1,500 meters and may have

played a role in U.S. long jumper Bob Beamon's

incredible gold medal leap of 29 feet, 21/2 inches

–beating the existing world mark by nearly two


Other outstanding American performances included

Al Oerter's record fourth consecutive discus

title, Debbie Meyer's three individual swimming

gold medals, the innovative Dick Fosbury winning

the high jump with his backwards “flop” and Wyomia

Tyus becoming the first woman to win back-to-back

golds in the 100 meters.

NEW YORK, Oct 17 (Reuters Life!) - If being buried

alive, overrun by rats, or encountering a sinister

clown is your worst fear -- then welcome to your

living nightmare.

In the lead-up to Halloween, off-Broadway producer

Tim Haskell has set up "Nightmare: Face Your Fear"

-- interactive haunted houses in each of New York

City's five boroughs -- and is daring people to

endure a psychologically terrifying experience.

Haskell polled thousands of New Yorkers to find

the 13 obsessions, anxieties and phobias that

frightened them the most and then designed room-

by-room encounters around those fears -- and threw

in a few actors to stalk and terrorize visitors.

Haskell said his survey found that most people

were afraid of roughly the same 13 things, such as

drowning, clowns, rats or cockroaches, as well as

heights and closed-in spaces.

"People like to get scared," he told Reuters,

making it quite clear that the aim of his houses

is to terrify, not amuse, people.

"'Nightmare' makes visitors the stars of their own

horror story, in a house that knows their worst

fears and forces them to face it," the production

teases in its advertising.

This is the third year that Haskell has set up

haunted houses in New York -- and each year the

number of visitors wanting to be frightened out of

their wits increases.

Last year 22,000 people visited the one haunted

house he set up in Manhattan and the popularity of

the show prompted him to expand to five houses

this year with up to 70,000 visitors expected to

attend before the houses close on November 2

ickets, which are available through the Web site, range in price from $15

to $25 or $50 for a VIP pass.

Haskell said the theatrical element of the house

added a new dimension to traditional haunted

houses and turned it into a unique fright-fest,

too extreme for some visitors.

"We have had some fantastic reactions," he said.

"Someone peed in their pants in Queens."

The houses have exits for those who need to make a

speedy escape but most visitors seemed to know

what they are in for.

"We're big fright fans," said Amy Pulchlopek, 25,

who works in music publishing and visited the

house in Manhattan. "I like live fright ... I

think it's the fear of the unexpected."

Carlos Santiago, 29, said his favorite experience

in the house was a murder enactment involving

splattering liquids in a dark room.

"For me it's the gore, I just like to see the

gore," said Santiago, who is planning to become a

funeral director.

Half joking, Haskell said the act of being scared

may have remedial benefits.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Thieves around the world

Two 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old have been arrested on suspicion of a string of bank robberies in Canada.

Police in Vancouver arrested the three teenagers following the robberies

"Within the last month and a half we're looking at seven robberies all over the Lower Mainland,"

A former security firm manager said he stole almost £5m from the company he worked for because he had never been given a rise.

The 40-year-old man, named only as Ingo S, was found guilty of theft by a court in Munich, Germany, after being caught with the cash stuffed into 40 money bags in the boot of his car.

Speaking in court the man, who headed a branch of the unnamed security firm in Fuerstenfeldbruck near Munich, said he felt mistreated by the company.

"I successfully built up that branch and instead of being given a pay rise, all I got was a pat on the back," he said.

He has now been sentenced to four years and three months in prison by the County Court in Munich.

Police in Romania say they have caught a thief who stole money from a priest's car while he was in a strip club.

The 43-year-old priest was allegedly spotted by the thief in a club called No Problem in Suceava town, reports Evenimentul Zilei newspaper.

Witnesses say he was being free with his money, hiring all of the dancers to perform for him and his friends.

Police say the thief found out which was the priest's car and broke into it, stealing £4,000 he found in a suitcase.

But officers managed to track him down and recover the money, after studying CCTV footage from the club's carpark.

Church authorities said they will start their own investigation into the priest's moral qualifications for his job

German police are hunting a gang of Robin Hoods who steal food from exclusive restaurants and delis to give to the poor.

The anarchist thieves, who wear superhero costumes during their raids, have struck repeatedly in recent months in Hamburg, reports the Scotsman.

After they plundered Kobe beef fillets, champagne and smoked salmon from a gourmet store on exclusive Elbastrasse, they presented the cashier with a bouquet of flowers.

And they left a note saying: "Without the abilities of the superheroes to help them, it would be impossible for ordinary people to survive in the city of the millionaires."

In another recent swoop, the gang emptied a groaning buffet table in a top restaurant into sacks, while one of their number held up a sign saying: "The fat years are over".

In internet statements, the gang say their booty is distributed to the poorest of Germany's long-term unemployed.

They are also behind black market cinema tickets which they distribute free to the poor, and they have printed leaflets telling passengers how to dodge ticket inspectors on the city's underground and buses.

But police spokesman Bodo Franz said: "They get off feeling they are just like Robin Hood. There are about 30 in the group. But whatever their motives, they are thieves, plain and simple."

world bike rider

A cyclist travelled 335,500 miles on the same bike - only for it to be stolen as soon as he arrived in Britain.

German-born Heinz Stucke bought his bike in 1962 to embark on his endless voyage across the globe, says the BBC.

But it was stolen as he slept in his tent in Portsmouth just hours after getting off a ferry - happily it turned up the next day.

Mr Stucke, 66, said he was "quite happy" after being informed by officers his bicycle had been discovered abandoned in a local park.

Mr Stucke, who was en route to Greenland, has travelled to 165 countries and is registered as the Most Travelled Man in History in the Guinness Book of Records.

He survived being stung twice by a swarm of bees in Mozambique in 1995 and a nasty bout of dysentery while in Indonesia back in 1974.

Mr Stucke, who has ridden his bike in every continent, now says he wants to focus on exploring countries he has not been to, such as Greenland.

"Back in 1962, I was determined to travel and in those days I survived on as little as £1,000 a year for the first 10 years," he said.

"All that matters to me is travelling on my bike, that's all I ever wanted to do."

alligator attack

Florida grandmother was attacked by a 5ft alligator - and fought it off with a hosepipe.

Connie Gittles, 74, thought it was just a snake when something bit her leg as she watered plants in her backyard.

"When I looked down, I saw this fellow looking at me," said Mrs Gittles who lives in a mobile home at Punta Gorda.

"I just whacked him right in the snout with the nozzle," she told "After that, he took off."

State wildlife officials later removed an alligator, thought to be the same one, from a nearby pond.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman JoAnne Adams said: "Based on the bite marks and the teeth, we think it was the same one."

Mrs Gittles needed medical attention for three puncture wounds, one of which went down to her bone above the ankle.

Army recruiting in USA

Jared Guinther is 18. Tall and lanky, he will graduate from high school in June. Girls think he's cute, until they try to talk to him and he stammers or just stands there -- silent.

Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Jared is polite but won't talk to people unless they address him first. It's hard for him to make friends. He lives in his own private world.

Jared didn't know there was a war raging in Iraq until his parents told him last fall -- shortly after a military recruiter stopped him outside a Portland strip mall and complimented his black Converse All-Stars.

"When Jared first started talking about joining the Army, I thought, `Well, that isn't going to happen,"' said Paul Guinther, Jared's father. "I told my wife not to worry about it. They're not going to take anybody in the service who's autistic."

But they did. Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he had not only enlisted, but signed up for the Army's most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.

Officials are now investigating whether recruiters at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in southeast Portland improperly concealed Jared's disability, which should have made him ineligible for service.

What happened to Jared is a growing national problem as the military faces increasing pressure to hit recruiting targets during an unpopular war.

Tracking by the Pentagon shows that complaints about recruiting improprieties are on pace to again reach record highs set in 2003 and 2004. Both the active Army and Reserve missed recruiting targets last year, and reports of recruiting abuses continue from across the country.

A family in Ohio reported that its mentally ill son was signed up, despite rules banning such enlistments and the fact that records about his illness were readily available.

In Houston, a recruiter warned a potential enlistee that if he backed out of a meeting he'd be arrested.

And in Colorado, a high school student working undercover told recruiters he'd dropped out and had a drug problem. The recruiter told the boy to fake a diploma and buy a product to help him beat a drug test.

Violations such as these forced the Army to halt recruiting for a day last May so recruiters could be retrained and reminded of the job's ethical requirements.

The Portland Army Recruiting Battalion Headquarters opened its investigation into Jared's case last week after his parents called The Oregonian and the newspaper began asking questions about his enlistment.

Maj. Curt Steinagel, commander of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Portland, said the papers filled out by Jared's recruiters contained no indication of his disability. Steinagel acknowledged that the current climate is tough on recruiters.

"I can't speak for Army," he said, "but it's no secret that recruiters stretch and bend the rules because of all the pressure they're under. The problem exists, and we all know it exists."

* * *

Jared lives in a tiny brown house in southeast Portland that looks as worn out as his parents do when they get home from work.

Paul Guinther, 57, labors 50- to 60-hour weeks as a painter-sandblaster at a tug and barge works. His wife, Brenda, 50, has the graveyard housekeeping shift at a medical center.

The couple got together nearly 16 years ago when Jared was 3. Brenda, who had two young children of her own, immediately noticed that Jared was different and pushed Paul to have the boy tested.

"Jared would play with buttons for hours on end," she said. "He'd play with one toy for days. Loud noises bothered him. He was scared to death of the toilet flushing, the lawn mower."

Jared didn't speak until he was almost 4 and could not tolerate the feel of grass on his feet.

Doctors diagnosed him with moderate to severe autism, a developmental disorder that strikes when children are toddlers. It causes problems with social interaction, language and intelligence. No one knows its cause or cure.

School and medical records show that Jared, whose recent verbal IQ tested very low, spent years in special education classes. It was only as a high school senior that Brenda pushed for Jared to take regular classes because she wanted him to get a normal rather than a modified diploma.

Jared required extensive tutoring and accommodations to pass, but in June he will graduate alongside his younger stepbrother, Matthew Thorsen.

Last fall, Jared began talking about joining the military after a recruiter stopped him on his way home from school and offered a $4,000 signing bonus, $67,000 for college and more buddies than he could count.

Matthew told his mother that military recruiting at the school and surrounding neighborhoods was so intense that one recruiter had pulled him out of football practice.

Recruiters nationwide spend several hours a day cold-calling high school students, whose phone numbers are provided by schools under the No Child Left Behind Law. They also prospect at malls, high school cafeterias, colleges and wherever else young people gather.

Brenda phoned her two brothers, both veterans. She said they laughed and told her not to worry. The military would never take Jared.

The Guinthers, meanwhile, tried to refocus their son.

"I told him, `Jared, you get out of high school. I know you don't want to be a janitor all your life. You work this job, you go to community college, you find out what you want. You can live here as long as you want,"' Paul said.

They thought it had worked until five weeks ago. Brenda said she called Jared on his cell phone to check what time he'd be home.

"I said Jared, `What are you doing?' `I'm taking the test' -- he said the entrance test. I go, `Wait a minute.' I said, `Who's giving you the test?' He said, `Corporal.' I said, `Well let me talk to him."'

Brenda said she spoke to Cpl. Ronan Ansley and explained that Jared had a disability, autism, that could not be outgrown. She said Ansley told her he had been in special classes, too -- for dyslexia.

"I said, `Wait a minute, there's a big difference between autism and your problem,"' Brenda said.

Military rules prohibit enlisting anyone with a mental disorder that interferes with school or employment, unless a recruit can show he or she hasn't required special academic or job accommodations for 12 months.

Jared has been in special education classes since preschool. Through a special program for disabled workers, he has a part-time job scrubbing toilets and dumping trash.

Jared scored 43 out of 99 on the Army's basic entrance exam -- 31 is lowest grade the Army allows for enlistment, military officials said.

After learning Jared had cleared this first hurdle toward enlistment, Brenda said she called and asked for Ansley's supervisor and got Sgt. Alejandro Velasco.

She said she begged Velasco to review Jared's medical and school records. Brenda said Velasco declined, asserting that he didn't need any paperwork. Under military rules, recruiters are required to gather all available information about a recruit and fill out a medical screening form.

"He was real cocky and he says, `Well, Jared's an 18-year-old man. He doesn't need his mommy to make his decisions for him."'

* * *

The Guinthers are not political activists. They supported the Iraq war in the beginning but have started to question it as fighting drags on. Brenda Guinther said that if her son Matthew had enlisted, she "wouldn't like it, but I would learn to live with it because I know he would understand the consequences."

But Jared doesn't understand the dangers or the details of what he's done, the Guinthers said.

When they asked Jared how long he would be in the Army, he said he didn't know. His enlistment papers show it's just over four years. Jared also was disappointed to learn that he wouldn't be paid the $4,000 signing bonus until after basic training.

During a recent family gathering, a relative asked Jared what he would do if an enemy was shooting at him. Jared ran to his video game console, killed a digital Xbox soldier and announced, "See! I can do it!"

"My concern is that if he got into a combat situation he really couldn't take someone's back," said Mary Lou Perry, 51, longtime friend of the Guinthers. "He wouldn't really know a dangerous thing. This job they have him doing, it's like send him in and if he doesn't get blown up, it's safe for the rest of us."

Steinagel, the processing station commander, told The Oregonian that Jared showed up after passing his written exam. None of his paperwork indicated that he was autistic, but if it had, Jared almost certainly would have been disqualified, he said.

On Tuesday, a reporter visited the U.S. Army Recruiting Station at the Eastport Plaza Shopping Center, where Velasco said he had not been told about Jared's autism.

"Cpl. Ansley is Guinther's recruiter," he said. "I was unaware of any type of autism or anything like that."

Velasco initially denied knowing Jared, but later said he'd spent a lot of time mentoring him because Jared was going to become a cavalry scout. The job entails "engaging the enemy with anti-armor weapons and scout vehicles," according to an Army recruiting Web site.

After he'd spoken for a few moments, Velasco suddenly grabbed the reporter's tape recorder and tried to tear out the tape, stopping only after the reporter threatened to call the police.

With the Guinthers' permission, The Oregonian faxed Jared's medical records to the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion commander Lt. Col. David Carlton in Portland, who on Wednesday ordered the investigation.

The Guinthers said that on Tuesday evening, Cpl. Ansley showed up at their door. They said Ansley stated that he would probably lose his job and face dishonorable discharge unless they could stop the newspaper's story.

Ansley, reached at his recruiting office Thursday, declined to comment for this story.

S. Douglas Smith, spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, in Fort Knox, Ky., said he could not comment on specifics of the investigation in Portland. But he defended the 8,200 recruiters working for the active Army and Army Reserve.

Last year, the Army relieved 44 recruiters from duty and admonished 369.

"Everyone in recruiting is let down when one of our recruiters fails to uphold the Army's and Recruiting Command's standards," Smith said.

The Guinthers are eager to hear whether the Army will release Jared from his enlistment. Jared is disappointed he might not go because he thought the recruiters were his friends, they said. But they're willing to accept that.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Lotto win

Welsh couple had a run of three lucky lottery wins in one week, ending in a £2.5 million jackpot.

First, deputy headteacher Jenny Cooper won £10 and used it to buy lucky dip lottery lines and scratchcards.

One of the scratchcards won her another pound which she used to buy one more lucky dip Lotto ticket.

And that ticket landed them a lottery jackpot of £2,470,696, reports the Mirror.

Jenny, 49, husband Gareth, 54, and their daughter Hannah, 17, are now planning how to spend their new-found wealth.

Gareth, who had to retire from his factory job through ill health, has vowed to buy a farmhouse, a luxury car and jet off on a dream holiday.

He said: "We have struggled all our lives but now we can taste the pleasures of life. Things were tough when I had to retire but now it's time to enjoy the good life that money can bring."

Granny wins jackpot

A granny has won over thirteen million dollars on a five cent slot machine.

Josephine Crawford was down to her last few coins when she hit the jackpot at Harrah's casino in New Jersey.

According to the New Jersey Star Ledger she said: "I couldn't believe it, and I still can't believe it.

"I'm going to take care of my family. I have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. We are going to have a good time with it."

Harrah's spokesman Alyce Parker said Mrs Crawford, a widow, had received four proposals of marriage while celebrating her win with family and casino patrons.

He said: "She said she wasn't interested. She is very energetic, and she doesn't look a day over 65."

Strap on beer belly

The Beerbelly - a secret strap-on beer holder that disguises itself as a bulging beer belly - is being marketed in the US.

It was the brainchild of three middle-aged men who wanted a way of sneaking beer into movies and baseball games.

Within just five days of launching their website, they had an incredible two million hits and calls for it to be sold worldwide.

The £20 Beerbelly's harnesses slip over the shoulders and around the waist, under a shirt, leaving onlookers thinking the wearer just spends too much time in the pub.

But little do they know, the wearer doesn't actually need the pub - he, or she, has an 80-ounce plastic bladder full of beer constantly at hand.

Roundup 2 Body in Potting Mix

A Croatian man found the skeleton of a Nazi soldier while sifting through a bag of soil for his new garden.

Bruno Marincic had bought the soil from construction workers who had helped build a nearby highway.

Mr Marincic, from Rupe, was spreading it on his garden when he spotted the remains.

He said: "I was shocked and scared at first. When I took a closer look and saw some metal with the bones I realised they were identification plates showing the bones were those of a Wehrmacht soldier."

Local historians said the tags showed the soldier was a member of the Nazi army's 188th division which fought in the area under the command of General Ludwig Kibler.

News Roundup

Britain's international intelligence service is advertising for new real life James Bonds.

MI6 chiefs are placing ads in The Times newspaper and The Economist magazine this week.

The ads feature photos of places in the world where MI6 operate from their London HQ by the Thames to Arabian deserts and central American jungles.

One of them reads: "We operate around the world to make this country safer and more prosperous."

A Government source said: "We hope people who might have thought MI6 was not for them may consider us as an employer."

As well as agents, MI6 is looking for administrators, analysts, linguists, and technology experts.

It's a first for MI6 but Britain's domestic spy service MI5 placed similar adverts two years ago.

A parrot has spent five days under police 'interrogation' in prison in Argentina.

A judge ordered Pepo to be held in custody until he told police who was his real owner, reports UOL.

Two neighbours, Jorge Machado and R Vega, were disputing ownership of the bird.

Judge Osvaldo Carlos decided the parrot should be sent to prison until he said the name of his owner.

After five days, Pepo said Jorge's name and also sung the anthem of his favourite football team San Lorenzo.

Mr Machado said: "I knew he wasn't going to let me down, he is a real friend and we support the same football team."


A man on a horse and cart escaped four police motorbikes, a patrol car, a video van, two cycling constables and a helicopter.

The combined efforts of modern policing were outwitted in a low speed chase through Leeds, reports the Guardian.

The 34-year-old man, who has not been named but is wanted for serious assault, was first spotted by a police cycle patrol.

The suspect jumped on to a rag-and-bone cart with a friend and trotted off - followed eventually by a convoy of police vehicles.

Locals in Chapel Allerton described "a bizarre procession" along a dual carriageway, with the horse and cart weaving to frustrate its pursuers.

West Yorkshire police said that officers had got as close as they could but were anxious not to frighten the horse.

The Steptoe-like scene ended in a side street, where the wanted man jumped off the cart and ran down a back alley.

The second man was surrounded by officers after he reined in the horse but the wanted man is still at large.

Friday, April 21, 2006


It is long past time we stopped giving a free pass to organizations that refuse to be guided by reason and would force their unreason on the entire society. A first step would be to stop calling these "faith-based institutions" and start calling them by the synonymous and much more instructive term, "superstition-based institutions."

"I believe in the power of superstition in people's lives. Our government should not fear programs that exist because a church or a synagogue or a mosque has decided to start one. We should not discriminate against programs based upon superstition in Australia ... superstition-based programs can change people's lives, and Australia will be better off for it.". . .
shafarism - standing for secularism, humanism, atheism, free thought, agnosticism, and rationalism. Shafars are 850 million people around the globe and at least 20 million at home who are ignored, insulted, or commonly considered less worthy than those who adhere to faiths based on mythology and folklore rather than on logic, empiricism, verifiable history, and science.

This might be considered just another of the world's many injustices were it not for the fact that the globe is currently exceptionally endangered by a madness driven by false prophets of major traditional mythologies

But faith in religion is just one type of faith. Atheism can be called faith in evidence, agnosticism faith in doubt and science faith in logic. These are no less human faiths than those in an unseen God. Then there's deep ecology, a faith motivated, as one evangelist put it, by belief in creation rather than creator

Before unexamined religious faith causes more death and misery we should at least allow doubt, logic, and secular solutions to sit at the table and raise their voice.

90 years

Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, a force of Irishmen under arms estimated at between 1,000 and 1,500 men and women attempted to seize Dublin, with the ultimate intention of destroying British rule in Ireland and creating an entirely independent Irish Republic to include all 32 counties of Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connaught. Their leaders, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and the others, knew that their chances of success were so slight as to be almost non-existent. Yet they fought, and died. Why?

The circumstances that led to the Irish rebellion of 1916 are of an intense complexity, historical, social, political and, perhaps above all, psychological.

The Irish writer, Sean O'Faolain, has written of his country: 'Most of our physical embodiments of the past are ruins, as most of our songs are songs of lament and defiance. The Easter Rising was a complete failure, which left large parts of Dublin in ruins; yet without it Ireland might never have been free of English rule. The leaders, alive, had very few supporters even among the Irish patriots; dead, they became and have remained their country's heroes. It was a great historical paradox, and one that to this day the British have perhaps never understood. Had they understood it, it is conceivable that the British might still have an empire, since the overthrow of British rule in Ireland marked the beginning of the overthrow of British imperial might in Asia, in Africa, and elsewhere.

The historical complexity, from the British point of view, can be traced to a general misunderstanding of the Irish character and of Irish desires. The English were bewildered by the fact that most Irishmen, and all educated Irishmen, spoke English, and wrote it, as well as, and often better than, most Englishmen. They were further bewildered by the fact that a very large proportion of the Irish governing class was of English or Norman ancestry.

In 1916, the English had not grasped the fact that for two centuries - since the brutal smashing of the old Irish governing class and the theft of their lands-it was precisely these people, Grattan, Tone, Parnell and so on, who had led the Irish in their longing to be free of alien rule. And the reason for this gross misunderstanding was that the English in England did not realise that the Irish way of life was in many ways--at least in terms of human relationships -culturally superior to the English way. Always technologically backward, the Irish were overwhelmed in the course of 1,000 and more years by waves of conquerors. If those conquerors remained in Ireland, they became, as the English would and did say, seduced by the ease and pleasure of an Irish attitude that looks for charm, gaiety and wit as well as for profit: they became `more Irish than the Irish'.

And this the English, in England, dismissed as fecklessness. The fact that the Irish had different values from their own was regarded as funny-and the 'stage Irishman' was created in London. The fact that English might had always, eventually, crushed Irish rebellion was remembered; the fact that Irishmen had fought with immense distinction in all the major armies of Europe, and not least in that of Great Britain, was sometimes ignored From the point of view of Whitehall at the turn of the century, Paddy-and-his-pig was an essentially comical, childlike figure. He should know, in English terms, his proper station in life. Perhaps, at a pinch, the Angle-Irish (an odious and meaningless term) might administer this province of Great Britain, but Paddy, never.

On the other hand, these people were politically troublesome and, furthermore, the English of the late Victorian age were a decent lot on the whole. During the Great Famine of 1846 the English liberals had let Ireland starve in the interests of their laissez-faire ideology-to have fed them would have interfered with the workings of the free market so far as corn chandlers were concerned - but later second thoughts prevailed. The Irish were to be given partial sovereignty over their own affairs, and a Home Rule Bill was passed. But then the First World War began. Home Rule was postponed until victory over the Germans should have been achieved. The Irish would not mind, why should they? Paddy would join the British Army, as he had always done and as scores of thousands of Irishmen did. The Irish would not understand-and many, perhaps most, did not.

Secret Society

But some Irishmen did understand. The most important of these were the members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood or IRB (which must not be confused with the Irish Republican Army, or IRA, a later creation). The IRB had been formed in 1858. It was a secret society which probably never numbered more than 2,000 including those Irishmen who belonged to it and who lived in England, America or elsewhere. The majority of its members were what might be loosely called 'intellectuals' and in this, in their determination, and in their secrecy they bore a certain resemblance to their Russian contemporaries, Lenin's small Bolshevik Party.

However, their aims were political rather than economic. They were patriots, dedicated to the ideal of national independence, and were prepared to use all means-including force to achieve this end. They provided, as it were, the general staff of the mass movement for Irish freedom from British rule, It is significant that all the men who signed the proclamation of an Irish Republic on Easter Monday were members of the IRE.

August 1914, the decision was taken-in secret of course-that there must be an Irish insurrection before the end of Britain's war with Germany. Until Easter Week 1916 the active members of the IRB were fully occupied in mounting this revolution.

They had at their disposal brains, a fairly considerable amount of money-mostly from Irish Americans-and little else.

he other para-military force was James Connolly's Irish Citizen Army. Connolly was a socialist who in 1896 had founded the Socialist Republican Party. He was a trained soldier. In 1908 James Larkin had created the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union.

When that union organised a strike in 1913, and the strike was broken by strong-arm methods. Connolly decided that a workers' defensive force was needed and created his Citizen Army. It was led by himself and by an ex-British army officer named Jack White. It has been said that this was the most efficient military force at the disposal of the Republicans. It was, however, very small. When it came to the actual fighting, it was only some 250 men who went out, as opposed to about 1,000 from the Volunteers.