Saturday, November 20, 2010

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Baby elephant scares itself sneezing

Danny MacAskill travels from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye

Rat attacks cats

Argentinian QVC presenter demonstrates unbreakable glass lid

Scientologists targeting alcoholic Aborigines with 'killer' therapy

The Church of Scientology is targeting alcohol-dependent Aborigines with a "drug bomb" therapy which the church has been warned could kill people with kidney problems. The Scientologists this week responded to a warning by the Northern Territory Health Department and stopped distributing literature which promotes a dangerous drug detoxification therapy. The group has been moving through remote Australia on an indigenous recruitment drive.

Volunteer Scientology minister Kevin Chapman has with others been operating from a tent in a public park in the middle of Tennant Creek, handing out a pamphlet called Answers To Drugs. The church has taken out full-page local newspaper advertisements which use the Aboriginal flag and have photos of Aboriginal people - who appear to be sitting in the Todd River near Alice Springs - holding up Scientology brochures. The church claims its detoxification program developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard uses "exact technology" and is the only successful drug and alcohol dependency treatment in the world.

But the clinical nurse manager at the Tennant Creek Hospital this week advised the NT Government that the detoxification regime was dangerous and "potentially fatal" to renal patients. Renal disease is common among Aborigines in the NT. The pamphlet gives a formula for a high dose "drug bomb" vitamin supplement to supposedly break drug dependency, which it warns can corrode the stomach and cause ulcers. It advises to take aluminium hydroxide tablets which gives adverse nervous system side-effects to ease any upset.

The pamphlet also gives a recipe for a calcium-magnesium drink to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. The Health Department believes the whole regimen could be deadly to dialysis patients by causing hypophosphataemia - low phosphate levels in already weakened people. The hospital approached Mr Chapman and requested he not distribute the pamphlets or conduct detoxification therapy. NT Health Minister Kon Vatskalis said the Scientology brochures were "utterly irresponsible".

French farmer fined for deworming ducks with cannabis

A French farmer has been given a one-month suspended jail sentence and fined 500 euros (£428) for feeding his ducks marijuana to rid them of worms.

Police arrested Michel Rouyer after they discovered 12 cannabis plants and about 5kg (11lb) of the drug during a visit to his home after a theft.

Mr Rouyer said there was "no better worming substance" for ducks and that his flock was in excellent health. A police spokesman said it was the first time they had heard such a claim.

Mr Rouyer, who lives in the village of Gripperie-Saint-Symphorien on France's Atlantic coast, did also admit to smoking some of the marijuana.

Virgin Mary appears in barbershop

The discovery of what some believe is an image of the Virgin Mary is bringing sheer joy to a barber shop in Bakersfield, California. The buzz of the clippers at Cool Cuts barbershop is not nearly as loud as the buzz about this image on the wall.

"It's kind of a like a miracle actually," said manager Walter Rivera, who claims to have found the face of the Virgin Mary inside his shop. "In the morning as I came in, I wanted to do a little changes around the place and I started moving that video game around and there it is," said Rivera.

"I haven't been over there to look at it, but after this I'm going to go look at it and see what it looks like," said customer Jose Estrada. Not everyone thinks it looks like Mary. "This one customer said oh yeah she could see it but she said it looks also like the Statue of Liberty herself," said Rivera.

Some think it's a spirit that lives within the shop. "Hopefully it will bring good fortune to those who are distraught in a world of chaos," said customer Mike McQueen.

Faithful dog waits for owner near Shanghai fire without eating

A Golden Retriever puppy has deeply moved citizens in the aftermath of the huge fire that broke out on Jiaozhou Road in Shanghai killing 53 people on Nov. 15. The puppy laid and wept on the ground beside the fire site without eating and drinking waiting for its owner to return.

The puppy kept walking back and forth near the fire site in the wake of the fire disaster and looked very worried. Several hours later, it was so tired that it laid still at a crossing and was trembling. Nearby residents estimated that the dog's owner was likely trapped in the huge fire, and firefighters covered the dog with a blanket and provided it with some rice, vegetables, bread and water.

However, the dog neither ate nor drank, and had tears running down its face. A resident wanted to temporarily adopt the dog and touched it, but the dog immediately growled and glared at the resident. After resting, the dog stood up and walked around the burning building again. After the dog became a little more relaxed, a firefighter at the site temporarily adopted the dog.

The firefighter from then Shanghai Jing'an Fire Fighting Squadron said the dog's name is Jingjing and had waited for its owner near the fire site before becoming so tired that it nearly passed out on the ground while watching the burning building. Jingjing was very dismayed and ate nothing after it was temporally adopted by the firefighter. At noon on Nov. 17, Jingjing's owner went to the fire fighting squadron base, and Jingjing immediately ran toward its owner. The firefighter who adopted the dog said, "This man must be the dog's owner." Jingjing did not eat anything for 40 hours until it was reunited with its owner.

Spanish 'orgasm' video criticised by politicians

Spanish politicians have criticised a video by the Young Socialists in Catalonia in which a woman simulates an orgasm while casting her vote. Both Socialist and opposition politicians have attacked the campaign video. The equality minister called it "misleading" advertising.

In the video the young woman gets increasingly excited as she votes for the Socialist Party in this month's regional elections in Catalonia. It concludes with the phrase, "Voting is a pleasure", after she puts her voting slip in the ballot box.

The leader of the conservative opposition Popular Party of Catalonia, Alicia Sanchez-Camacho, said the video was an "attack on the dignity of women". The health minister, Leire Pajin, who is a Socialist, called on all parties to show respect for women and to act responsibly.

The Socialist equality minister, Bibiana Aido, said of the video: "If it was true, electoral participation would go up greatly, but I think we are dealing with a misleading advert." But the Socialist Party of Catalonia 's leader, Jose Montilla, who is standing for re-election, said, "If it encourages people to vote, it's a good thing".

Swiss political party issues image of naked models

A Right-wing political party in Switzerland has produced a provocative anti-immigration campaign in which a photograph of naked young models wading into Lake Zurich is contrasted with an image of headscarf-wearing Muslim women bathing in filthy water. The campaign is meant to warn the Swiss of what could happen to the country if it allows greater immigration. It comes as the Alpine nation prepares to vote on whether immigrants who commit serious crimes should be automatically expelled.

The online campaign was produced by a regional branch of the Swiss People's Party (SVP), the largest in parliament and the country's biggest political force. The first image shows a rear view of four young women holding hands and standing in the shallows of Lake Zurich. The second shows a group of elderly women, possibly Albanians or Bosnians, wearing headscarves and smoking as they immerse themselves in muddy water. It is supposed to represent a vision of Switzerland 20 years from now.

A spokeswoman for the SVP said that the controversial images had been created by party activists in Wohlen, west of Zurich, and would not be adopted nationally. Switzerland will hold a referendum next week in which voters can decide whether foreigners who have been found guilty of murder, rape, drugs trafficking and other serious offences should be deported.

The expulsion initiative was put forward by the SVP, which has won support by capitalising on fears about foreigners, who currently make up more than a fifth of Switzerland's population of 7.7 million. Recent polls show that 54 per cent of Swiss voters would vote in favour of the measure while 43 per cent are against it. The federal Justice Ministry has warned that a "yes" vote on Nov 28 could bring Switzerland into conflict with international obligations such as the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion or nationality.

Television anchors in paper-throwing tantrum as they miss bridge explosion

Two Chicago morning hosts had a comic meltdown when they missed a bridge implosion they had been covering on live television. Anchors Robin Baumgarten and Larry Potash from WGN news spoke for three minutes about the impending explosion of the Seneca bridge over the IIllinois River. Throughout their wait and small talk, they showed uneventful video of the river and the still-standing bridge to viewers.

'I think we're gonna stay with this,' Baumgarten told the camera. 'It's supposed to happen right at 7 o'clock. Minutes later, nothing had happened and the bridge was still there.

The show then briefly cut away to the weatherman. Within seconds, the explosion happened, and the news show missed the big event. The program went back to the live river shot, showing the steel bridge blown up and collapsed down into the river. 'Are you kidding me?' Baumgarten cries in mock exasperation, balling up paper and throwing it towards the camera.

'This is a metaphor for our show — another crash and burn. We stay live for three minutes and cut away for five seconds...' With that her cohost stuffed paper into his mouth, chewed it up and spit it out and Baumgarten started wildly gesticulating and pounding the table with her fists.

Giant dog likes to take a seat

He's the size of a person and now Druid the irish wolfhound has begun acting like one, too. The 75kg fella performs an amusing trick whenever he visits the Allambie Veterinary Clinic. While other dogs sit patiently on the floor of the waiting room, Druid literally takes a seat next to his owner Pamela Mullan.

The Belrose resident said Druid started displaying the remarkable behaviour about one year ago. “One day I brought him up to see Michael (Dr Morrice), Druid took my seat and the next thing I know he had sat down next to me with his bottom on the s
seat, just like a human,” she said.

“I thought it was hilarious.” Mrs Mullan said Druid had become something of a minor celebrity. “He’s become renowned for doing it,” she said. “People see him and ask, ‘what’s he up to now?’ .”

But Druid hasn’t stopped there. “He’s started doing it in the car as well,” Mrs Mullan said. “People who see him as we drive past think he is standing and looking out the window but he’s actually sitting like you or I would.”

Duck has three legs and four feet

A farmer in China has spoken of his surprise after one of his ducks turned out to have three legs and four feet.

Yang Fuyong, of Linchuan County, Guilin, southern China's Guangxi Province, said the duck was one of a batch of 600 he had bought as ducklings. While vaccinating them, he noticed one of them had one too many legs - and two too many feet.

He has since sold the ducks but kept the unusual one for a pet. "I have been raising ducks for more than 10 years but I have never seen anything like this before," he said.

"It has an extra leg behind the other two and that leg has two feet. I'm going to carry on raising it to see how it does." An official at the local livestock husbandry station said the duck was almost certainly the result of a genetic mutation.

Peach the Chihuahua is Japan's newest police dog

In what is a first for Japan and perhaps the world, a long-haired Chihuahua named "Momo" - "Peach" - passed exams to become a police dog in the western Japanese prefecture of Nara.

The brown-and-white, perky Momo was one of 32 successful candidates out of 70 dogs, passing a search and rescue test by finding a person in five minutes after merely sniffing their cap. "Any breed of dog can be entered to become a police dog in the search and rescue division," said a Nara police spokesman.

But he admitted that news a Chihuahua had been entered may still come as a surprise to many. "It's quite unusual," he said.

Momo will be used for rescue operations in case of disasters such as earthquakes, in the hope that she may be able to squeeze her tiny frame into places too narrow for more usual rescue dogs, which tend to be German Shepherds. The public response to the news of Momo's selection took police by surprise, the spokesman said, adding: "The phone's been ringing all afternoon."

Advert 'glamorises dog neglect'

John Lewis, the retailer, is to continue showing its TV Christmas advert despite complaints it "glamorises" dog neglect. The advert shows a boy hanging up a stocking on an outdoor kennel but then leaving his dog in the wind and snow.

John Lewis said it had cut the scene from a shorter edit of the advert but not the longer version. It said a 60-second version with the dog scene still in would continue to run until the end of this weekend and then on "a few other occasions" up until 18 December.

A spokesman added: "There are two new 30-second versions of the commercial which air from tonight and these do not contain the dog scene." The firm said the breed of dog used - a deerhound - was used to being outdoors and had not been harmed during the making of the advert. It apologised for any distress it had caused, however.

Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today, said she was "horrified" by the advert, while 1,400 people have joined a Facebook campaign against it. Ms Cuddy said: "We are horrified by this. It glamorises neglect. We have already had people tell us they can't visit their father for Christmas because he thinks it is alright to leave the dog outside in the shed, because it's alright for John Lewis."

Transformers toy called 'Spastic' won't be sold in UK

Here is one toy that will not be appearing in Christmas stockings this year. US manufacturer Hasbro says it has no plans to sell its latest Transformers character in Britain – after naming it ‘Spastic’.

When told the word could offend people on this side of the Atlantic (in America, it's generally considered quite a mild and inoffensive term) the company said: ‘The Transformers brand intended no offence by the use of the name.’

Hasbro noted that the product ‘has not and will not be available via traditional retail channels in Europe. Our goal is to have all families who enjoy our brands feel good about their purchases and experiences,’ they added.

Since it was announced last week, the naming of Spastic has prompted some fascinating cross-cultural discussions between fans debating the subtleties of linguistic differences between the US and the UK.

Car salesman hanged himself after being told to pick his underpants off the floor

A divorced car salesman killed himself following a row with his fiancé about cleaning. The body of Jason Jeffreys was discovered at his home in Beaconsfield Street, Cadoxton, by his father Michael at the end of June. He was hanged over his stairs by a flex around his neck.

No suicide note was discovered, and an examination made by police of mobile phones and a laptop computer found in the property revealed nothing suspicious. PC Timothy Cranny told an inquest at Neath Crown Court that the 37-year-old had called his father at 3am that morning, "ranting" about an argument with fiancé Susan Morris earlier in the day.

His fiancé, Ms Morris, told the inquest: "We had a disagreement about cleaning. I was moaning he was not picking up his pants after him and that was it basically. I went up my mother's and said see how much I do for you. That was normal. We had that disagreement many times, he was quite lazy. But I did not regard it as serious. I never saw it coming. I would not have gone up my mother's if I thought there had been anything wrong."

A post mortem examination revealed Mr Jeffreys was approximately twice the drink-drive limited around the time of his death, and also discovered evidence of diazepam and cocaine use. It concluded the cause of death was hanging. Asked if she knew Mr Jeffreys had been using cocaine, Ms Edwards added: "Everyone does these days." Coroner Philip Rogers recorded a verdict of suicide.

Blind man appears in court charged with drink-driving

A man has appeared in court charged with drink driving despite being blind. Derek Allen, 51, navigated his way into the dock wearing black glasses and using a white cane to face a string of driving offences.

Allen, of Paignton, Devon was charged with driving a grey Daimler saloon having 116 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 mililitres of breath. The legal limit is 35 microgrammes. He was also charged with not having a licence or insurance.

Allen denied all charges and was released on bail to appear at Torbay Magistrate’s Court on January 4 for a trial.

His solicitor Ben Darby said: ”He is pleading not guilty. His assertion will be that he cannot see.”