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February, 2003

Amphibian Man Declares War
Saturday, February 8

[Pravda.RU] At the time when boys read the fantastic novel by Alexander Belyayev The Amphibian Man and dreamt of conquering the sea deeps, military men were getting ready for large-scale underwater wars. American Francis Faleychick was the first amphibian man; a special operation was performed on him. However, further fate of the experiment became a secret of the US Navy department. There were several other unique scientific developments that could have provided humanity with access to the underwater world long ago.

In 1962, famous oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau spoke at the second international congress on underwater researches and said that the nice fancy about an amphibian man could become reality. The scientist said, Homo aquaticus wouldn’t need complicated apparatuses for underwater swimming. A tiny device would be implanted into his body which would aerate the blood. It was planned that first experiments would be held on animals in the 1970s, then on humans in the 1980s and Cousteau said that Homo aquaticus will actively explore the underwater world.

Quite enough time has passed since that time, but no phenomena of that kind can be found in our present-day life. Was the oceanographer mistaken with his forecasts? It’s not quite so. Experiments for creation of amphibian men were actually held. But secret departments seized the results of the experiments. Indeed, as the director of the US Navy medical research laboratory George Bond said, a man with artificial gills would have acquire fantastic capabilities: he could dive to the depth of 3.5 kilometers. Such a man could have been a wonderful saboteur!

Did the scientist declared so on the basis of some exact experiments or told just some invented information? Unfortunately, there is no reliable information on this problem. If some surgical operations were actually performed to implant gills to humans, they were extremely secret. However, as Russian almanac It Cannot Be True! thinks that investigations in the sphere could have been done in a different way.

Doctor Johannes Kilstra from the Leiden University in the Netherlands supposed that human lungs could perform the role of gills: he said that processes in human lungs and in gills were similar. He added that humans could breath under water if necessary amount of oxygen would be dissolved in it. The first series of experiments was started in 1959. Mice in a physiological solution rich in oxygen under the pressure of three atmospheres remained alive just within several hours.

Francis Faleychick became the first American who agreed to become the first Amphibian man. The experiment was held at the medical center of Duke University in presence of just few people. The experiment was filmed, and several details of the experiment could be seen in the film. After the throat anesthesia, the man under the experiment was inserted an elastic pipe into his trachea, then the lungs were filled with a special solution through the pipe. The aquanaut was quiet and gave a sign saying he was OK. The man could breath with water for four hours. Results of further experiments held in this sphere are unknown.

American biochemists Celia and Joseph Benventura crated a tiny device that could extract oxygen from sea water, the device was patented in 1976. A book-size packet attached to a diver’s body could provide the man with oxygen within an unlimited period of time. In order to be used by a submarine with a crew of 150 men, this device could be of a cylinder size of one meter in diameter and three meters long.

The secret of the device consisted in usage of haemoglobin, which not only makes our blood red, but also transport oxygen in the human organism. The device contained a spongy polyurethane material saturated with haemoglobin. Water was let through it. And absorbed oxygen was picked out with the help of low electric current. It is known that American company Aquantic Corporation paid millions of dollars to get the right to handle the patent developed by Celia and Joseph Bonventura. However, apparatuses based on “a haemoglobin principle” never came to the market. It is highly likely that the Pentagon took the invention into its hands.

Were experiments of this kind ever held in Russia? Although there is no reliable information on the problem, this doesn’t mean that nothing of this kind was held here at all. It is not ruled out that Soviet and Russian military departments were getting ready for waging wars with the help of “ichthyanders” (such was the name of Alexander Belyayev’s Amphibian man). If not in creation of humans capable of breathing under water, but with development of armament Russia is ahead of the whole of the world. Recently, Russian television demonstrated new kinds of shooting armament; there was also a sub-machine-gun that could fire bursts under water. As the TV program reported, no analogous weapons existed abroad.

It seems that the dream of humanity to conquer the see deeps cannot be hidden in strong safes. Recently a group of journalists witnessed a fantastic submersion performed without any devices and technical apparatuses. Fisherman Pakino from the island of Luson in Philippines rubbed himself with oil in order not to become frozen at the depth of about 60 meters under water, then he took a heavy weight into his hands and jumped into the sea from the board of his boat. When the man stayed under water for ten minutes, all observers got extremely worried. But friends of the fisherman said that of Pakino didn’t come up to the surface, it meant that he didn’t want to. The minute hand made almost a complete circle when the man came up to the surface.

Sensational publications appeared all over the world. People could hardly believe that Pakino could stay under water for almost an hour. Some people said that he probably had some oxygen cylinders at the bottom of the sea which helped him not to come up to the surface for a very long period. But when Pakino invited journalists from all over the world to come and see him diving, the man unexpectedly broke his previous record.

What is the secret of the phenomena? Probably Pakino uses the system of the Indian yoga who often demonstrated that could do without water, meals and oxygen for a very long period. However, Pakino felt much more active after his diving as compared with yogas who submerged into a unusual state and their bodies stiffened after such experiments. Doctors and specialists haven’t yet discovered the secret of the amphibian man from the Island of Luson, but they are perfectly sure that the man’s physical state is the same that any other human has.

Ads before movies prompt lawsuit
Thursday, February 20

HOLLYWOOD, California (Variety) -- High school teacher Miriam Fisch wants those four minutes of her life back -- and she thinks Loews Cineplex ought to pay for their alleged theft. In a class-action lawsuit filed in Illinois state court on behalf of all Loews patrons, the Chicago-area English teacher claims the theater circuit's policy of playing pre-film product commercials amounts to a deceptive business practice because the ads begin at the time advertised as the start of a feature movie. The legal action reflects the reaction of many moviegoers jarred by the increasing prominence of onscreen advertising in theaters industrywide. In fact, the succession of such pre-movie ads now often lasts up to 10 minutes or longer in many venues. Even many proponents of the trend say cinema advertising is best limited to a few minutes prior to the advertised showtime, but that often isn't the case. Part of the problem involves the time required to clean theaters between showtimes, which can leave too little time to present commercials before the advertised movie time.

"It is completely ludicrous to have moviegoers pay good money to watch commercials," said attorney Douglas Litowitz, who is representing Fisch in her suit. "They can do that at home for free." The suit seeks "lost time" damages of up to $75 per plaintiff covered under a class action, as well as an injunction to force Loews to stipulate separately when its onscreen ads will run and when movies will play. Litowitz said he may target other big chains with similar suits in the future. "We feel the most people would be best served by going after the biggest chains," he said.

Litowitz and another Chicago attorney, Mark Weinberg, operate a Web site called He described Fisch as a "friend" who was troubled by the intrusion of ads prior to the showing of Miramax's "The Quiet American" at a Loews in suburban Chicago. "The proposed class of plaintiffs includes a nationwide class (of) all recent moviegoers who have been misled by Loews' movie advertising," the attorneys said. Loews spokesman John McCauley declined comment on the Fisch suit, saying the company had yet to be formally served.

Litowitz said he and Weinberg are mulling a similar action against No. 1 U.S. exhibitor Regal Entertainment, which recently debuted a digital "pre-show" of ads, movie trailers and interstitial entertainment on about 2,000 of its 6,000-plus screens nationwide. But in what could prove a key distinction, Regal execs claim their 20-minute pre-show runs prior to the advertised showtime for feature presentations. Regal's non-digital venues also will adjust "rolling stock" advertising to play prior to advertised movie times, though some of its theaters still run those commercials after the lights go down at the scheduled movie time.

Meanwhile, it appears unlikely that even a groundswell of negative public sentiment could reverse the industry's march into onscreen advertising. By 2001, such ads pumped an estimated $250 million in supplementary dollars into exhibitors' coffers, and the industry figures on double-digit annual growth in cinema advertising revenue for some time to come. "My guess is it was up 20 percent in 2002, and we're expecting at least 30 percent growth in 2003," said Matthew Kearney, president of the recently formed trade group Cinema Advertising Council.

Kearney, who is chief executive of on-screen advertising giant Screenvision, said the Fisch lawsuit was "ridiculous." U.S. moviegoers are already used to movie ads, he said, though cinema advertising has yet to gain a level of acceptance in the U.S. to match its well-established presence in European exhibition. "Everybody knows when they turn up at a cinema there's going to be some announcements, some trailers and these days some advertising before the main feature starts," Kearney said.

In a press release, Litowitz and Weinberg said the Fisch lawsuit "does not challenge the right of movie theaters to show movie previews prior to the start of the show." But current practices make moviegoers "unwitting subjects for annoying commercials," they said. As far back as 1998, Ralph Nader's consumer group Consumer Alert was arguing that newspaper listings of movie times should be based on actual movie times and not the pre-movie commercials. The group also called for laws to govern movie listings.

"It's bad enough there are so many product placements paid for by brand-name companies in the films themselves without frontloading the audience's movie experience with more ads," Nader said at the time. "Whatever happened to art?" In certain European territories, newspaper listings and box office signage stipulate both movie times and times for pre-show ads and trailers.

Trial Set in Southwest Racist Rhyme Suit
Monday, February 10

ABC News, KANSAS CITY. A judge has set a trial date in a discrimination lawsuit filed against Southwest Airlines by two black passengers who were upset when a flight attendant recited a version of a rhyme with a racist history. Grace Fuller, 48, and her sister Louise Sawyer, 46, were returning from Las Vegas two years ago when flight attendant Jennifer Cundiff, trying to get passengers to sit down, said over the intercom, "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go."

The sisters say the rhyme was directed at them and was a reference to its racist version that dates to before the civil rights era: "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; catch a nigger by his toe." "It was like I was too dumb to find a seat," Fuller said. Sawyer said fellow passengers snickered at the rhyme, which made her feel alienated. The sisters are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil last week dismissed the sisters' claims of physical and emotional distress but set trial for March 4. "The court agrees with plaintiffs that because of its history, the phrase `eenie, meenie, minie, moe' could reasonably be viewed as objectively racist and offensive," Vratil wrote. The second line of a modern version of the rhyme usually goes, "Catch a tiger by the toe."

Airline attorney John Cowden said there was no intent to discriminate against any passenger. Cundiff, who is white and was 22 at the time of the incident, said she had never heard the offensive version of the rhyme. She said she learned the Southwest version from co-workers and used it as a funny way of getting passengers who are not assigned seats on Southwest to sit down. Plaintiffs' attorney Scott Wissel said the sisters also want Southwest to stop using the rhyme and provide employee training to prevent such incidents.

Man Complains Bad Rope Spoiled His Suicide
Friday, February 28

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - A Romanian man plans to complain to consumer authorities about the poor quality of a rope he used in a failed attempt to hang himself, Romanian papers reported Thursday. "You can't even die in this country," 45-year-old Victor Dodoi was quoted as saying in the daily Adevarul. The newspaper said Dodoi's relatives found him hanging from a tree in his garden and managed to cut the rope with a knife. He was taken by horse-drawn cart and then by ambulance to a hospital in the northern town of Botosani. Dodoi said he would file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Authority about the quality of the rope, which was easily cut, as soon as he is released.

Woman chased by fake alien sues TV show
Wednesday, February 19

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kara Blanc thought she was being chased by a space alien on her way to a posh Hollywood party and was terrified. But the alien turned out to be an actor in a monster suit and the party was phony as well. So now the Los Angeles grade school teacher and aspiring actress is fighting back, suing the new reality TV series Scare Tactics, claiming she suffered severe emotional damage, court papers said on Tuesday. Blanc sued the Sci-Fi Channel, the producers of Scare Tactics and two actors for scaring her so badly that she had to be hospitalised several times for "physical injuries" and "severe emotional distress," her lawsuit said.

Blanc said she was a "nonconsenting and unwitting victim" of the hidden camera show with a science fiction twist. According to Blanc's lawsuit, she was sucked into a Scare Tactic episode last March 1 by actors Mathew Mertha and Travis Draft, who said they were taking her to "an exclusive Hollywood industry party at a desert resort" near Los Angeles. On the way to the resort, the car that the trio were riding in stalled in a remote desert road and Mertha and Draft "feigned that they were being seriously physically injured ... or killed "by a costumed "alien," the lawsuit said.

Mertha and Draft allegedly told a terrified Blanc to run into a "dark, desert canyon area" to escape, the suit said. Hidden cameras secretly recorded her reaction to the staged scenario. Neither Blanc nor her attorney could be reached for comment on Tuesday. Blanc teaches dance, music, drama and performance art and is certified as a crisis counsellor. She is also an aspiring actress who co-hosted a mock-documentary film with Draft.

Sci-Fi Channel spokeswoman Kat Stein declined comment on the case but said the premise of Scare Tactics was to film "friends setting their friends up with a prank." Pending episodes feature campers who believe mythical mountain creature Big Foot attacks them, and limousine passengers who are chased by "government agents" when they stray into Area 51, a super-secret U.S. military facility at the centre of UFO and conspiracy stories.

Catholics Flock to Fence-Post Virgin Mary
Thursday, February 6

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Catholics in the Australian city of Sydney are flocking to pray at a fence post at Coogee beach which they believe projects an image of the Virgin Mary. Devotees say the Virgin can be seen in the afternoons from a vantage point 300 meters (yards) away from the white post, in the east of the city, and some believe she appeared to comfort Australians worried about a possible war in Iraq. Some leave flowers, crucifixes and bottles of oil nearby. "Some people say they can't see her but yes, I see her. I see her crown, her white robe. I'm so happy that I get goosebumps," Sydney resident Anna, originally from Italy, told Reuters Television.

Catholics are not the only ones paying homage. "I believe it's Mother Teresa who has come," said clairvoyant Bronwyn Wilson. "She's very upset with war looming and everything. She comes in peace because she represented peace." Others are more skeptical. "If that's what they want to believe fair enough but I personally think it's a lot of rubbish -- it's just a fence," a British traveler told Reuters.

Fence like a Virgin again
February 10, 2003

AFTER a brief hiatus due to vandalism, the Blessed Virgin is back drawing crowds in Sydney. Randwick City Council today repaired a fence at the north end of Coogee Beach, which the faithful say at certain times of the day and in certain light looks like the Virgin Mary. Vandals targeted the fence, which runs along the walkway around Dolphin Point at Coogee, sometime between Friday night and early Saturday.

Thousands have visited the site each day to see the classical Christian portrayal of the Virgin Mary, which was put down to either an optical illusion created by light and shadow or a genuine apparition. But has the Mother of God reappeared since the fence was repaired? Despite cloud hanging over the beach, Irish traveller Sue Dromey said the fence looked the same. "I haven't walked all the way up there but it definitely looks the same from here," she said from the optimum 100-metre vantage point. But her companion, Paul Quaife from England, said the apparition looked more prominent before the repair work. "We stood here before about a week ago ... and I must say it looked more prominent then, more so than it does now," he said.

Con Panos of Canterbury, who often jogs through Coogee, said the fence had been replicated, but he doubted it was the site of any visitations. "It's a carbon copy of the last fence," he said. "If you look carefully with a bit of light, it's actually a reflection of the sunlight. If it was really Mary you would be able to see her all the time." Lisa, 22, who did not wish to give her last name, said she could again see the apparition. "It's exactly the same," she said.

Randwick Mayor Dominic Sullivan said he had a look at the new fence and it looked the same. "We just put it back in the same place," he said. "All we promised is that we would put the fence back, we did not promise she (Mary) would come back. We will not condone vandalism and it is a safety fence, so we put it back as soon as possible." But the council did not intend to step up security around the holy fence, Clr Sullivan said.

Need a Conference Venue? Rent Liechtenstein
Sunday, February 9

ZURICH (Reuters) - Country for hire, one careful owner. The tiny principality of Liechtenstein is putting itself up for rent in a bid to attract corporate conferences and bolster its tourism industry, a local official said on Friday. The new "Rent a State" scheme lets corporate clients symbolically take over the tiny country of just 33,000 residents tucked away among the Alps between Switzerland and Austria. "The basic idea is that an entire, small country plays host to a conference with all the various possibilities at its disposal," said Roland Buechel, director of the state tourism agency in Liechtenstein, which covers an area of only 60 square miles. Rent a State is based on the Rent a Village concept developed by event management firm Xnet AG in small towns in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

Xnet will drum up business among corporate customers seeking a venue for meetings, while the tourism agency will liaise with local authorities and help organize rooms and program ideas. Customers will get tailor-made programs that put their brand on display and involve local officials -- but not the monarch Prince Hans Adam -- in special events. "It is not envisioned to include the Prince or government officials," Buechel said.

Penguins Destroy Antarctic Hut with Their Poo
Friday, January 31

[Pravda] The first building that was ever built by the hands of man in Antarctica, a wooden hut that was built back in 1899, is exposed to penguins’ destructive influence. Piles of their excrement are growing bigger and bigger around the hut that was erected by little-known Norwegian explorer Borhrevink - first man that stepped on Antarctica in 1895. Nigel Watson, New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust chairman said that the hut is smothered in penguin faeces. “This smells horrid,” said he. Nigel Watson also said that the guano layer around the hut is already one meter thick. Guano is the collective notion for all organic wastes that birds and penguins expel from their bodies after digestion.

The interior of the first house in Antarctica leaves much to be desired too. There is a lot of garbage there, the oven and the bed go to pieces. Antarctica is the first continent on Earth, which has man’s first house preserved. Nigel Watson believes that the old wooden hut is a part of great discoveries history. The Antarctic climate with frequent snowstorms has also showed its negative influence on Antarctic explorers’ dwelling. As Watson said, about 2.7 million dollars would be needed for the restoration of the first house in Antarctica.

Last year the Antarctic Heritage Trust announced the donation in order to restore British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic hut (he explored Antarctica during 1898-1900). By the way, scientists are guilty of that too, not only tourists. A lot of them are not neat when they visit those Antarctic huts. Tourists are ready to pay $36 thousand to travel to the icy continent. However, the maximum that they can donate for the restoration of Antarctic huts is only $20.

Infertile Lioness Makes Ill-Fated Antelope Adoption
Monday, February 3

NAIROBI (Reuters) - An infertile lioness with a strong maternal instinct has tried to adopt a baby antelope, only to watch it die like several others she has snatched. The lioness grabbed the new-born impala calf from its mother in Kenya's Samburu national reserve Saturday, but instead of eating it, began licking its coat like one of her own. "We thought it was just a normal kill, but when it got hold of the impala we realized it wasn't going to eat it up, we realized it was an adoption again," said George Oluoch, manager of Larsens Camp, a tourist site in the reserve.

He said the baby impala was found dead Sunday -- apparently having died from a combination of stress [no kidding! JhM], exhaustion and lack of its mother's milk. The lioness, named Kamuniak or "blessed one" by wardens, is a loner who appears to snatch antelopes because she cannot have young of her own. Each attempt has been short-lived, despite her efforts to nurture the calves, in some cases even allowing their natural mothers to feed them. One of Kamuniak's antelopes was eaten by a male lion, another died, while others have managed to escape back to their natural mothers or were taken away by game wardens.

Istanbul Launches 'Escaped Bull' Hotline
Tuesday, February 4

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Vets in Turkey's biggest city Istanbul said Tuesday they were launching a hotline and a special bull-catching unit to round up rampaging animals during the Muslim Festival of the Sacrifice next week. Turkish cities fill with goats, sheep, bulls and sometimes even camels ahead of the annual festival where many devout Muslims perform animal sacrifices. But fearful and enraged animals often escape the knife and lead their owners and police on dangerous chases over highways and train lines.

Istanbul has tried over the years to provide hygienic and humane facilities for the sacrifices but many residents butcher their animals in makeshift abattoirs on roadsides before donating the meat to the poor. The city's veterinary service said specialist teams equipped with tranquilizer guns would be on 24-hour call during the festival.

Hungry 'Hitchcock' Ravens Kill 19 Sheep
Monday, February 10

BERLIN (Reuters) - A flock of hungry ravens killed 19 sheep grazing on snow-covered fields in southern Germany, raising the uneasy feeling that the killer birds of Alfred Hitchcock's famous thriller "The Birds" have come alive. "There's a lot of snow in the area. The birds are hungry so they attack my sheep," shepherd Juergen Fritz said. "I have seen the Hitchcock film. But I'm experiencing it 'live'," he said, referring to the 1963 classic, in which aggressive birds tyrannize a village in the United States.

Fritz said he was not able to protect his 500 sheep against attacks all the time. But even when he was with his flock, he was powerless when the ravens attacked. "The worst thing is that I can't do anything about it. You're not allowed to shoot the ravens because they are protected animals," the 43-year old said. Dietmar Ernst, a police spokesman in Loerrach, southwestern Germany, said he thought about 50 to 60 ravens living near a rubbish site had carried out the attacks on Fritz's sheep.

"It's a full-blown attack on the sheep. They use their beaks, their feet. They pick out the animals' eyes," he said. He said such attacks were common when a large number of birds gathered in one area where they could not easily find food. "As soon as one starts the attack, the others all follow," he said. "But they're especially aggressive this year," he said. Fritz said he had experienced attacks by ravens before in his 30 years as a traveling shepherd, but never had he lost so many animals in the course of a fortnight. "I'm going to leave this area," he said, adding he had already lost about $2,000 due to the killings.

Humans Taste Good to All Lions, Not Just the Sick
Thursday, February 13

LONDON (Reuters) - Humans make an attractive meal for all lions and not, as had traditionally been believed, just old and infirm animals unable to catch faster-moving meals. New Scientists magazine said that new research showed most man-eating lions were young and healthy. The two most famous man-eaters, who killed and ate nearly 30 people as they built a bridge over Kenya's Tsavo River in 1898, were found to have broken teeth. The Tsavo lions, brought back to life in the film The Ghost and the Darkness starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer, led scientists to claim dental problems were often behind attacks on humans, by making it hard for lions to bring down their normal prey.

World’s Fattest Cat Lives in Russia
Wednesday, February 19

[] The cat Katy, which lives in the city of Asbest in the Ural region of Russia, weighs 23 kilos. Despite is relatively young age – the cat is only five years old – the pet has lost her interest in everything, save food. Katy is not interested in male cats, because she spends all of her days sleeping - this is her major daily occupation. The owner of the Siamese cat works on an application for the Guinness Book currently. The thing is about the fact that the fattest cat in the world is considered to be some Australian cat named Himmy. The Australian cat weighs 21 kilos and 300 grams. However, the Russian cat is almost two kilograms heavier. The cat’s owner told reporters that the length of her pet’s body is 69 centimeters, the cat is 69 centimeters around her waist, her whiskers are 15 centimeters long and her appetite is 1.5 sausages a minute.

Naked Kidnap Fantasy Has Police Scrambling
Thursday, February 20

EDMONTON, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian police in a frantic search for an abducted woman dispatched a SWAT team to her home late on Tuesday before officers on a routine patrol across town found her naked and bound in the back of a car. But police in Edmonton, Alberta, soon realized they had a problem -- she did not want to be rescued. It emerged that the 17-year-old female and a man at the scene were engaged in a role-playing game, but not before the man was arrested and the woman sent to hospital for examination.

She was less than co-operative, police said. "She did answer questions, but she wasn't very forthcoming with the detectives. They pieced it together that it was some form of fantasy scenario on the part of the people involved," Edmonton police spokesman Wes Bellmore said on Wednesday. "It wasn't so funny for us because we burned up a lot of taxpayers' money dealing with this."

The saga began just before midnight on Tuesday when a man called 911. He reported he had been talking on the phone to the woman when she said someone had broken into her house. Then the line went dead. Police sent a tactical team to the house in west-central Edmonton, because the address had shown up on their records as the site of a previous weapons complaint. "We had to make sure the suite was cleared by a tactical team in case there were weapons involved. When all was said and done, there were about 10 police units involved in this," Bellmore said.

About the time the SWAT team determined the home was empty, officers in another part of town found the car in a secluded area by a golf course, with the woman inside bound with tape and her would-be abductor outside the vehicle, he said. "She was not fully clothed. She was in a state of ... she was naked," Bellmore said. Police arrested the man, who eventually told investigators that the scenario was consensual. The woman refused to file a complaint. "As far as our detectives can tell, there was nothing malicious about it," he said. "We really had nothing else to do except release everybody, probably with a stern warning to be more careful." Police said they did not believe the man who called 911 had been aware of the nature of the events.

Trapeze Artist Attacks Rival with Castration Tongs
Friday, February 14

BERLIN (Reuters) - A lovesick 58-year-old German man was sentenced to seven years in jail after attacking a factory worker with a pair of bull castration tongs in the western town of Duesseldorf, a state court said on Friday. The circus trapeze artist had tried to emasculate the man using the steel pincers after accusing him of having a relationship with his former girlfriend, a 46-year-old belly dancer who performed in the same circus.

The trapeze artist inflicted serious injury on the victim, who worked at a local factory, with the tongs and a knife in the February 2002 assault. But the factory worker was able to fight off the smaller attacker and prevent more serious injury. "Fortunately the factory worker didn't lose anything -- except for a lot of blood," said Ulrich Tholer, spokesman for the Duesseldorf state court. The assailant was convicted of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm. He was also fired from the circus.

Police baffled as thieves steal hair from horses' tails, manes
Monday, February 17

[CanWest News Service] EDMONTON -- Whether it's the work of pilfering fiddle makers or pugnacious pranksters, police are flummoxed by horse thieves of a different colour -- those who are chopping off their tails and manes but leaving the animals otherwise unharmed. RCMP are investigating a number of cases in the Edmonton area where the long, stringy hair from horses' tails and manes have been hacked off and stolen, prompting speculation they are being used in the illicit manufacture of violin bows or horse hair jewelry. "I wouldn't say we're baffled, but we don't know why someone would do it," said Const. Vince Olson of the Redwater RCMP, investigating the most recent in a string of horse hair thefts. "There is speculation that it is being used for jewelry, to make flies for fly fishing, for makeup brushes or for violin bows. But none of that seems to make much sense. It could also be just senseless vandalism."

Redwater-area horse owner Sonia Kozlow's animals have been hit three times -- and an attempt to render the hair on their manes worthless by spray painting it bright pink didn't deter thieves. "They just separated the hair that had been painted from the rest and cut off the part of the mane that didn't have paint on it," she said Friday, shortly after the brazen thieves struck in broad daylight while she was away from home for just a few hours. "I feel so violated. I just can't believe that somebody would come back. What kind of crazy person is doing this?" An Edmonton music store owner doesn't think there's enough money in the violin bow market to make horse hair theft profitable. "It sounds a little far-fetched," said Alfie Myhre, of Alfie Myhre's Music.

Fast barstool in hot water
Monday, February 17

[New Zealand Herald] It must have been quite a sight - a near-naked man careering down a road on a motorised barstool, with his backside on fire. The New Year stunt landed the contraption's owner, John Sullivan, in trouble with police and last week saw him sentenced to 200 hours' community work. Sullivan confessed to having "had a few" and said he shouldn't have been on the road on the motorised barstool, which he claimed could reach 80km/h. The flames come courtesy of one of Mr Sullivan's party tricks, which involves a piece of rolled-up newspaper, a cigarette lighter and ... needless to say, it all backfired. His Tauranga neighbours didn't see the funny side and called the police. Sullivan was upset taxpayers' money was spent prosecuting him, but conceded that driving a vehicle with no warrant and no registration was probably pushing the law a bit far. "One cop wasn't too happy but the other two were laughing their heads off," Sullivan said.

End of the World Is Nigh, Says Long-Dead Scientist
Monday, February 24

LONDON (Reuters) - Armageddon is just 57 years away, by the calculations of Britain's most famous scientist, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday. Sir Isaac Newton, the 17th century scientist and theologian, wrote thousands of pages of notes in his attempt to decode the Bible and pin down the date of the apocalypse, said the article. "But until now it was not known that he ever wrote down a final figure," Malcolm Neaum, who has produced a BBC documentary "Newton: The Dark Heretic," was quoted as saying. "What has been coming out over the past 10 years is what an apocalyptic thinker Newton was," he added. "He spent something like 50 years and wrote 4,500 pages trying to predict when the end of the world was coming." The handwritten manuscripts bearing Newton's calculations were discovered by researchers in a library in Jerusalem, following their sale in London to collector Abraham Yahuda in the 1930s. Newton, who died in 1727, is best known for discovering gravity -- supposedly when an apple fell on his head -- and is credited with being the forefather of modern physics.

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