Thoughts Gallery August 2006
August 1
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Border cops nab retiree with drug load
PHOENIX, Arizona - U.S. Border police arrested an 81-year-old man as he tried to cross from Mexico with 175 pounds (80 kg) of cocaine stuffed into his car, officials said. Officers at Nogales, Arizona, found the cocaine and arrested the elderly driver on Tuesday, said Customs and Border Protection spokesman Brian Levin. "It is pretty much the limit of what I have seen," Levin told Reuters by telephone. "I don't remember encountering someone quite this old trying to smuggle drugs into this country ... and he was driving an unusually large amount of cocaine." The man arrested is a resident of Nogales, Arizona but officials did not immediately know if he was an American or Mexican citizen. Nogales, which lies some 165 miles south of Phoenix, is a key transit point used by Mexican drug cartels to smuggle marijuana, cocaine and heroin to U.S. markets. Levin said border police rarely see loads of more than 70 to 80 pounds (32 to 36 kg) of cocaine in passenger cars.

August 2
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People throng the Mahim beach to experience the "sweetened" sea water in Mumbai. Late 18 August, crowds gathered along Mahim beach in India's financial hub, as locals said the water had lost its salty taste and become sweet which they attributed as a blessing from Makhdoom Ali Mahimi, a 14th-century Sufi saint in whose honour a shrine was built at Mahim.
August 3
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Muppet characters 'Miss Piggy' (L) and 'Kermit the Frog' are seen. The creators of The Muppets and Sesame Street are staging a rude and lewd puppet show that is strictly for adults only.
August 4
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Dumb has a new definition...
 
MADRID - Spanish police have arrested four Frenchmen for jumping in front of cars on a busy road so that they could film them and post the footage on the Internet, the newspaper El Pais said. The four jokers took turns to leap in front of cars, forcing the drivers to swerve or brake sharply and putting themselves and other vehicles in danger, town hall officials in Alicante were quoted as saying on the El Pais Web site. Their intention was to film the reaction of drivers, on the road between Benidorm to La Nucia, and post them on the Web, the officials said.Relatively rare in Spain, a youth craze known as "happy slapping" took off in Britain last year, in which groups of teenagers slapped or mugged strangers while filming the victims' reaction on camera phones. The images were then sent to friends or posted on Web sites. Spanish police and local government officials were unavailable for comment.
August 5
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The truth is out there: British couple admit UFO prank
LONDON - A British couple owned up to being behind a stunt that convinced hundreds of people in northeast England that aliens were among them and ended with police and defence chiefs involved. Paul McKinney, 28, and Emma Henfrey, 30, released floating lanterns into the night sky to celebrate a move into their new home in the coastal town of Seaham, last month. Images of the orange and white glowing orbs later appeared in local newspaper the Sunderland Echo and led unidentified flying object spotters to contact police and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
After initially keeping quiet because of the fuss, McKinney told the newspaper Wednesday: "It was an awesome experience to watch these lanterns float up and away and we never thought for a second that people would think that they were aliens. "I wasn't going to say anything because I thought it was quite funny, but then my cousin saw something in the Echo about the MoD investigating so I thought I better tell." The lanterns -- made from a plastic bag, copper wire and a paraffin cube which glows as the fuel burns -- look like small hot air balloons and sell on the Internet for about 10 pounds (15 euros, 19 dollars) each. The packaging warns they can soar up to 1,000 feet and can be mistaken for UFOs. An MoD spokesman said they were "delighted" to have cleared up the mystery. The government department routinely investigates UFO sightings, but only to establish whether British airspace has been "compromised" by unauthorised or hostile aircraft. Declassified MoD files released in May this year revealed that none of the numerous "unidentified aerial phenomena" reported over Britain in the last 30 years was a flying saucer.
August  6
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Fishmerman surprised with swordfish catch
LONDON - A fisherman looking for salmon off the northeast coast of England has caught a large swordfish far away from its natural habitat in the Mediterranean, experts said. Peter Dent spotted the six-foot (1.8 meter) fish weighing 58 pounds (26.3 kilograms) caught in his salmon net as he fished less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) off the coast of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland.He brought it into Blyth, Northumberland, where it was stored on ice before being sold to a local restaurant. "It's the kind of thing you see in Spain, but not here," said Mark Watson, a trader with Blyth Fish. Fishing commentator Sam Harris, 73, said it was the first time he had heard of a swordfish being caught in chilly British waters.
"This fish is two or three thousand miles off course," Harris said. "It just proves how the water temperature is hotting up. It is absolutely amazing, it shouldn't be up here," he said. "They are found in the North Atlantic, the Pacific, the Mediterranean, but certainly not in the North Sea." Harris said divers have told him that the North Sea's temperature has risen greatly in recent years. He added that the swordfish was "in 100 percent good condition, probably from feeding on the huge shoals of mackerel here."
August 7
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When Elvis meets Cleopatra... at the maternity ward
SOFIA - Bulgarian parents are increasingly giving their children unconventional names taken from films, plays and books as the country prepares to join the European Union, according to civil registry data published. A Tarzan, a Zorro, a Hamlet and an Ophelia, as well as two Cleopatras (but only one Caesar), were born in 2006 in Bulgaria, a place that until now has been on the conservative side when it came to names. While 27 Juliets will have to make do with a single Romeo, there was also a Lancelot, after the famous knight of the round table.
Choosing a foreign name "is the fashion, a reaction of the young against the patriarchal tradition of naming babies after their grandparents," sociologist Mira Yanova said. "Foreign names also aim to facilitate the kids' integration in a foreign country" since Bulgarian names are sometimes difficult to pronounce, Yanova added, as the country prepares to enter the EU in 2007. Foreign names such as Angelina, Anthony, Beatrice, Catherine, Deborah, Emily, Jessica, Leonardo, Michael, Nathalie and Stephen have therefore gained in popularity. But new takes on traditional names are also fashionable. The late Diana, Princess of Wales, inspired 75 young couples to opt for the name's English pronunciation (deye-ana), instead of the traditional Bulgarian (dee-ana). And while hyphenation was practically unknown to Bulgarians before, several babies now have more than one given name, such as Ivan-Adalbert and Kaloian-Louis-Etienne-Marie.
The list of popular but unconventional baby names this year included Elvis, Madonna and Merilyn, while a football fan named his son Pele, after the legendary Brazilian player.
Biblical names were also common, with 38 boys named after Jesus and four after Christ, with 12 Mary Magdalenes and even one Virgin Mary. Mythology from neighbouring Greece was also the source of many baby names such as Aphrodite, the goddess of love, Apollo, the god of arts, wine god Dionysios, Gaea, the goddess of earth, and Galathea, the sea-nymph who fell in love with a mortal. In a country that once saw several baby Stalins and Lenins during the communist era, traditional names remain however preferred: Alexandar, Dimitar Georgy , Ivan and Martin for boys, and Alexandra, Maria and Victoria for girls.
 
August 8
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Man's battered banger hits top gear on Internet sale
LONDON - A dilapidated car listed as the "biggest pile of crap on Ebay" found fame on the Internet, attracting 34,000 hits and selling for 430 pounds on the online auction site, its owner has said. Jason McCluskey, 31, a chef from Portsmouth on the southern English coast, put his battered 1985 Volkswagen Polo up for sale at a starting price of 10 pence for "a bit of light-hearted humour".  However, his no-punches-pulled assessment of its atrocious condition drove the old banger to become became an instant hit, prompting him to turn the sale into a charity event. He plans to give the money to the nearby Southampton General Hospital's children's intensive care unit which cared for one of his sons.
The car was described as "tatty" with an exhaust "rustier than the Titanic". McCluskey said it was "not worth the 20 pounds that the scrap yard want to charge me for taking it away". But the bidding soon roared past that figure as the word spread about McCluskey's unusual take on the car salesman's pitch. "It's fantastic for something that started off the way it did," he said. "I had the idea to make people laugh. I never imagined it would take off. It is phenomenal." Now that the sale is over he does not know what its new owner has in store for it but he would be unhappy to see it destroyed. "When we first listed it I was more than happy to see it go but now I think it would be a shame for it to go to the scrap yard," he said. "But I don't know what will happen to it."
Apparently moved by the car's shocking condition and the seller's generosity, people also made spontaneous donations estimated at a total of 600 pounds to the hospital. In his online description of the car, McCluskey said that it was on its "last legs" and "has a genuine 57,000 miles on the clock but you would be forgiven for thinking it had more like 257,000 miles" (411,000 kilometres). "The interior of the car is tatty and the seats are torn and stained. "It has no glove box as it decided to fall off last month but I found that the floor provided a good alternative to storage space. "The stereo is not 'state of the art' and the only station you can get is 'Static FM'.
"The exterior of the car is not much better (in fact worse). The exhaust is rustier than the Titanic and has more holes than a sieve."
August 9
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Special M and M's candies are seen with the UPS corporate logo in this undated handout photo. M and Ms, the candy-coated chocolate nibbles, will be available for corporate logos and advertising next month under a plan called 'My Branding.
August 10
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Town wants $384,000 for pee by the sea
DUBLIN - A ramshackle public toilet could fetch 300,000 euros ($384,000) -- the price of a new house -- if politicians in western Ireland get their way. The town of Lahinch reckons property-hungry buyers will snap up the dilapidated, out-of-order toilet because of its great location -- a surfing beach on Ireland's rugged Atlantic coast. "You could leave the toilet block and be in the sea in less than 40 seconds," local politician Martin Conway told Reuters, but admitted: "It's quite remarkable that an old toilet block would fetch 300,000 euros." The average cost of a home in Ireland, where house prices have gone up 15 percent in the past year, is 299,929 euros. Local property auctioneer Nicola Leyden said the site, overlooking Ireland's best known surfing spot, was breathtaking: "It's probably the most sought after pee you'll ever take on the west coast of Ireland."
August 11
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September 11 -- what year? 30% of Americans don't know
WASHINGTON - Some 30 percent of Americans cannot say in what year the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington took place, according to a poll published in the Washington Post newspaper. While the country is preparing to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives and shocked the world, 95 percent of Americans questioned in the poll were able to remember the month and the day of the attacks, according to Wednesday's edition of the newspaper. But when asked what year, 30 percent could not give a correct answer. Of that group, six percent gave an earlier year, eight percent gave a later year, and 16 percent admitted they had no idea whatsoever. This memory black hole is essentially the problem of the older crowd: 48 percent of those who did not know were between the ages of 55 and 64, and 47 percent were older than 65, according to the poll. The Post telephone survey was carried out July 21-24 among 1,002 randomly selected adults. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.
August 12
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Doctors offer to maim beggars in TV sting
NEW DELHI - Three Indian doctors caught on camera apparently agreeing to amputate the healthy limbs of beggars are to be questioned by the Indian Medical Council, an official said. Secretly filmed footage taken by the CNN-IBN news channel and broadcast Saturday showed one of the doctors asking for 10,000 rupees (about $215) to amputate a lower leg, leaving a stump that may draw sympathy -- and a few rupees -- from passersby. He then suggests chopping off three fingers from the man's left hand. Police said one of the three doctors had been questioned and denied the allegations, but that no arrests had been made.
The doctor, from Ghaziabad in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and a satellite town of the capital, New Delhi, explains how he can stitch up blood vessels in a healthy limb, causing it to blacken with gangrene over a few days. A prospective beggar can be booked into the doctor's claiming to have had an accident, and then have the amputation carried out without raising eyebrows, he explains. "Believe me if there are two beggars in front of you and one of them is lame, you will give the money to the lame beggar," the station recorded him as saying in Hindi.
Dr Indrajit Ray, who chairs the Medical Council of India's ethics committee, said the three doctors would be summoned to appear before the committee later this month but was unable to say whether they were registered with the council. If found guilty, they would almost certainly be permanently banned from practicing in India, he said. "This is a very painful situation for me as a member of the medical profession," he said. "This is most uncivilized and butcher-like activity. It cannot be supported under any circumstances."  The TV station sent a "fake beggar" along to see the doctor at his Ghaziabad clinic after hearing he offered the amputations. Their meeting was secretly filmed. CNN-IBN said it was trying to expose the activities of a country-wide network of "beggar mafia dons" who exploit the destitute, forcing beggars working in their patch to hand over their alms, and maiming them to maximize revenue. A beggar in New Delhi told the channel he had been tricked into going for a medical check-up on the promise of a job. He came round after an injection to find one of his legs missing.
August 13
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The 'Buddy on Demand' blow-up man. He fits in a car's glove box, appears at a flick of a switch and when a woman has finished using him, she can just pull the plug and he deflates.
August 14
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Two killed in Britain as inflatable art takes off
LONDON - Two women died and 13 people were injured when they fell from a huge inflatable sculpture after it broke its moorings and flew into the air in a park in northeastern England, police said. Up to 30 people were inside the walk-in exhibit, which has been shown around the world, when a gust of wind blew it 9 metres above the park in Chester-le-Street. "All of a sudden it just started rising like a balloon," witness Mark Spooner told BBC television. "(It was) flinging people all over. Then it just seemed to flip over in the air." The victims, aged 68 and 38, had been walking through the artwork with children when it took off. A three-year-old girl was seriously injured in the freak accident. "(The) inflatable exhibition broke its moorings and tipped those using it on to the ground," police said in a statement. Designed by artist Maurice Agis, the exhibit, called Dreamspace, is 5 metres high and made out of plastic sheeting. Half the size of a soccer pitch, it has walls that change color as visitors wander through its maze of corridors. It was brought to earth after it drifted into a pole.
August 15
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Okay, Adam, you SO cannot plan the wedding...
ROME, Georgia - A young man's plan to propose to his girlfriend on a small chartered plane almost ended in disaster when the plane crashed and the engagement ring was lost in the wreckage. Adam Sutton, 19, told Erika Brussee, 18, they were going on a date to the movies but instead took her to the airport in Rome, a town in northwest Georgia, for a chartered flight, according to the WSB-TV Web site. The plan was for family members to hold up a large sign on the ground with the words "will you marry me" on it. But Brussee only saw the word "marry" because part of the sign was obscured before the plane, flying slowly at low altitude, stalled and crashed on the tarmac at Rome's airport. The couple were not seriously hurt, Mike Mathews, airport manager at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport, told Reuters on Monday. Brussee finally said "yes" to the proposal in the ambulance, Mathews said, but Sutton wasn't able to give her the ring. Only the ring's box could be found after the crash. The plane's pilot was knocked unconscious by the crash and Sutton had to pull him from the plane.
August 16
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Nepal boy claims to be shortest in world
KATMANDU, Nepal - Nepal's shortest boy is waiting for word from the Guinness World Records, where he has applied to be named the shortest in the world, his supporters said on Wednesday. ADVERTISEMENT Khagendra Thapa Magar, 14, is only 20 inches tall and weighs 10 pounds. According to Min Bahadur Thapa, president of the Khagendra Thapa Magar Foundation, they are expecting to receive a reply from London-based Guinness World Records in the next few days. The foundation was set up to collect funds for the boy. There was no listing on the Guinness World Records' web site on a shortest boy category, but Thapa claimed their closest competitor was 25 inches tall. The boy and family members are currently touring south Nepal, seeking support for the foundation.
August 17
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Is Peru's famed 'Ice Maiden' in danger?
LIMA, Peru - Peru's famed "Ice Maiden," the frozen mummy of an Inca girl sacrificed to the gods 500 years ago, might be at risk from humidity, Peru's leading newspaper reported. Dampness was detected inside the mummy's glass-enclosed refrigeration compartment by an expert from the U.S. Smithsonian Institution who was vacationing in the southern Andean city of Arequipa, where the mummy is kept, daily newspaper El Comercio reported. Teodoro Nunez Medina, Arequipa's regional director of Peru's National Institute of Culture, told the newspaper that the unnamed expert notified Peruvian authorities that the mummy could deteriorate beyond repair within five years if the problem is not corrected. Peru celebrated a national religious holiday Wednesday and neither Medina nor other Institute of Culture officials could be reached for comment. Medina was quoted by El Comercio saying that a group of specialists would inspect the mummy next week to see if there was already any damage. The "Ice Maiden" — a girl between 12 and 14 — was discovered in 1995 in a ceremonial burial pit near the top of 20,700-foot Mount Ampato, near Arequipa by Dr. Johan Reinhard, a U.S. archaeologist. The Ice Maiden was thought to be the best-preserved Inca mummy in the world until 1999, when three frozen other mummies were discovered by another Reinhard-led team atop a mountain in Argentina. Those were so well-preserved they still had blood in their hearts and lungs, unlike the Ice Maiden.
August 18
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Rare newborn albino Pygmy Marmoset monkeys perch on a zookeeper's fingers at Froso Zoo in Ostersund, Sweden. The Pygmy Marmoset, which lives in the upper Amazon basin in South America, is the world's smallest monkey and reaches 35 cm (13.7 inches) in length and weighs up to 100 grams (3.5 ounces) at maturity. Picture taken August 22, 2006.
August 19
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German flies giant shoes to world's tallest woman
AMSTERDAM - A German maker of outsize shoes said he will fly to China next week with three pairs of extra large ladies shoes as a special and much-needed gift for Yao Defen, believed to be the world's tallest woman. Georg Wessels said he had spent years trying to track down Yao, who is from a poor farming family in eastern China's Anhui province and 2.36 metres (7 ft 8 in) tall, according to Chinese doctors. "I wrote to China to ask her what kind of shoes she would like and in what colour. She answered she didn't care at all what colour they were she would just be so happy to have some proper footwear," Wessels said. Yao takes European size 57 shoes. The largest shoes Wessels has made so far were a size 69 for Matthew McGrory, who has the world's biggest feet, according to the Guinness World Records. Yao began treatment in June for a brain tumour which is largely responsible for her extraordinary height by stimulating her body to release excessive amounts of growth hormone.
August 20
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Mooove slowly and don't hug cows, hikers told
GENEVA - Keep your distance. Avoid eye contact. And even if it looks cute, never hug a Swiss cow. Responding to numerous "reports of unpleasant meetings between hikers and cattle" along Switzerland's picture-perfect Alpine trails this summer, the Swiss Hiking Federation has laid down a few ground rules. "Leave the animals in peace and do not touch them. Never caress a calf," the group's guidance, posted on the website www.swisshiking.ch, reads. "Do not scare the animals or look them directly in the eye. Do not wave sticks. Give a precise blow to the muzzle of the cow in the event of absolute need," it continues. Evelyne Zaugg of the Swiss Hiking Federation said that while there were no precise statistics on incidents involving cows, walkers are reporting more run-ins than a few years ago. She said new rearing practices, where the animals spend less time around farmers and wander in pastures with little human interaction, were partly to blame for the anti-social behavior. Many walkers also panic when confronted by cattle. "Hikers lose reality about the cows. They don't know how to react when a cow appears," Zaugg said. If approached by a cow, the hiking association recommends that walkers remain calm and slowly leave the area without turning their backs on the animal. Michel Darbellay of the Service for the Prevention of Agricultural Accidents, a private group that helped produce the Swiss Hiking Federation's lowdown, said walkers had little to fear if they stayed 20 to 50 meters (yards) from any cow. But dogs attract cow trouble, he warned. Mother cows consider dogs a threat to their calves and tend to respond aggressively to their presence. It is when the dogs retreat toward their owners that walkers are most likely to face a charging cow, Darbellay said. "The best practice is to maintain a fair distance and keep dogs on a leash," he said.
August 21
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African penguins move into igloo development
South African officials have built a housing development of fiberglass igloos for a colony of endangered penguins, hoping to replicate natural nesting grounds damaged by environmental degradation. ADVERTISEMENT The penguin housing colony on Dyer Island near Cape Town is seen as last ditch effort to save the colony, which has dwindled to just 5,000 animals from 25,000 in the 1970s, officials said on Tuesday. "We're trying to copy the natural system. Academics and scientists have given us input and we're monitoring success on an ongoing basis," said Lauren Waller, nature conservator for CapeNature, the provincial environmental preservation body. Dyer Island, a bleak islet popular with shark spotting tours, was once rich in nutrient-rich guano -- bird faeces -- but has seen the resource stripped by commercial enterprises who sell it as fertilizer. That proved bad news for the African penguins -- formerly known as Jackass penguins -- which rely on guano to nest their eggs, hide from predators and provide a rare spot of shade on an island almost devoid of trees and bushes. Conservationists now plan to construct up to 2,000 artificial burrows on the island, hoping the fiberglass igloos will persuade more penguins to procreate. Provincial conservation body Cape Nature has already built 180 igloos and is seeking funding to finance the rest of the construction work, which involves smashing through hard rock surface and installing drainage systems. Officials say the penguins are already poking around the development and some have already helped themselves to a home. Engineers of the housing program expect African penguins under similar duress in neighboring communities may choose to migrate to the Dyer Island igloos if conditions prove favorable. "The penguins are coming in to investigate and occupy the nests. Some yesterday did seem to fight over them but not all are occupied at the moment," said Waller. African penguins exist in parts of South Africa and Namibia and are considered a "vulnerable" species, Waller said.
August 22
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Oi, you! Yes, you... CCTV gets a voice in English town
Big Brother -- in the form of closed-circuit television cameras -- is not only watching people misbehaving in one English town, it is also telling them off. Municipal council officials in Middlesbrough, northeast England, have fitted microphones to seven CCTV cameras in the town centre that yell at people up to no good. "It is like a public humiliation in a way, but it means that the person won't do it again," said councillor Barry Coppinger, of Middlesbrough Council. "The voice addresses the person who is littering for example, directly by saying, 'Could the person in the green jacket please pick that up'. It can be embarrassing." Coppinger hopes the talking cameras, which cost 50,000 pounds (74,000 euros, 94,000 dollars) to set up, will act as a deterrent to troublemakers or those intent on being anti-social. The cameras are manned by operatives at Middlesbrough's CCTV command centre, which is linked to police headquarters. Since being installed at the start of August, Coppinger said feedback had been encouraging. The CCTV operator is responsible for handing out the verbal warnings. "A lot of people are quite surprised when they hear the voice for the first time, I think it gets to their guilty conscience," he said. Middlesbrough has one of the most extensive CCTV networks in Britain. In 2005, it helped catch 678 criminals and locate 15 missing people, the local authority said.
August 23
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Police ban dogs from Cambodia's Angkor temples
Cambodian police have banned dogs from the kingdom's Angkor Wat complex in a bid to give tourists visiting the famed temples an excrement-free experience, an official has said. Dogs are not good for the places of worship, police official Tan Chay said, adding that the animals' presence insulted the spirits of the dead. "Angkor Wat was built by our previous kings and ancestors for worship, so bringing dogs into the temples insults our ancestors' work," he said. Hotels near the temples in Siem Reap, some 225 kilometres (140 miles) northwest of the capital Phnom Penh, have been told to inform foreign visitors of the ban to prevent them from bringing their pets to the temples. In a similar bid to keep the temple complex clean, police last year ordered the capture of dozens of buffalo and cows which were allowed to roam freely among the temple ruins. The impoverished country relies heavily on tourist dollars to shore up its flagging economy, which has been left in tatters by decades of civil war that only ended in 1998. Tourist arrivals jumped 19.2 percent to 813,392 in the first half of 2006 compared to the same period last year, official figures showed last mnoth. The jump puts the country on track to reach its goal of three million annual arrivals by 2010, the tourism ministry said.
August 24
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Denmark's Little Mermaid gets 'modified' sister
Denmark's national symbol, the Little Mermaid sculpture perched on a rock overlooking the Copenhagen port, was given a "genetically modified" little sister, thanks to a Danish sculptor. "It's not a copy, but a very different-looking sister, but just as attractive and who will, I hope, attract many tourists," sculptor Bjoern Noerregaard told AFP. The new Little Mermaid does not resemble her angelic older sister. The new, futuristic version looks like a science-fiction figure touched up by Picasso or Dali. Just a short distance from her older sister, the new mermaid sits near the banks of the Langelinie Pier, welcoming cruise ships approaching the Danish capital. According to her creator "there is room for two mermaids: the romantic Little Mermaid from the beginning of the last century, and the Little Mermaid of modern times, where genetic technology leads us inexorably to apocalypse". Unlike her older sister, the new sculpture is out of reach of medling pedestrians. In the past 40 years, the original has been decapitated twice, has had a bra and knickers painted on her, been entirely covered in paint on more than one occasion, and has had her right arm cut off. The new work was inaugurated by Prince Henrik and was part of an exhibition of seven sculptures commissioned for the Danish contribution to the Hannover universal exhibition in 2000.
August 25
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New drink-driving law turns Czechs to non-alcoholic beer
Czech consumption of non-alcoholic beer has reportedly surged since stricter rules for drivers were introduced at the start of July. "Just in July and August we saw sales of non-alcoholic beer in grocery stores rise by 81 percent," manager of the Staropramen brewery, Martin Novak, told the Czech daily Lidove Noviny. The new law, penalising drivers with points for every drink-driving infringement and a driving ban if they exceed the limit, is the main factor behind the rise, Novak said. Sales of market leader, Radegast Birrell, have risen by a quarter this year, the paper added. In any case, "Czechs are trying to live healthier lives", the manager of the Czech breweries association, Jan Vesely, added. Average annual per capita beer of over 160 litres, puts Czech among the biggest beer drinkers in the world. But Vesely predicted that expected consumption on non-alcoholic beer this year of around 240,000 hectolitres could triple within three years. Staropramen is owned by Belgian-based multinational, INBev, Radegast is part of SABMiller's international beer empire.
August 26
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Jerusalem? Never heard of it
Something always gets lost in translation, but usually not an entire city. "Jerusalem. There is no such city!" the Jerusalem municipality said in the English-language version of a sightseeing brochure it had published originally in Hebrew. The correct translation: "Jerusalem. There is no city like it!" Carrying a photograph of the brochure, Israel's Maariv newspaper said Wednesday tens of thousands of flyers had been distributed before city hall realized its mistake.
August 27
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Shanghai: It's a big pajama party
People wearing pajamas in public, still a common sight in Shanghai, is one of the most irritating aspects of life in China's biggest city, according to an opinion poll of residents. The survey found that pajama-wearing on the streets and in public places such as shops, banks and parks is among the most uncivilized things in the city, along with aggressive pets, unhelpful neighbors and disregard for the natural environment, Over 16 percent of respondents said they or family members often donned pajamas in public, and 25 percent reported they sometimes did, Yang Xiong, a professor who helped conduct the poll, said. The survey was sponsored by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and the Shanghai Women's Federation. Theories differ over why the practice of wearing pajamas -- baggy cotton outfits which are often printed with flowers or small animals -- is so widespread in China's richest and most cosmopolitan city. Some believe residents are showing off their social status by underlining how close to the city center they live, while others say it is a holdover from life many decades ago in small, self-contained communities.
August 28
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South African Christians seeking a quick spiritual boost will be able to download the entire bible on to their mobile telephones phones as part of a drive to modernize the scriptures.
August 29
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A user looks at the MySpace website. A jilted girlfriend tried to hire a hit man to kill her boyfriend's new love in Arizona after spotting her rival's picture on his MySpace social networking Web page, police said.
August 30
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A poem written on the back of a khaki shirt is seen during a memorial service for 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin at Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Australia, . Irwin, known as the 'Crocodile Hunter' was killed by a stingray barb during a diving expedition on the Great Barrier Reef
August 31
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Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons
President Bush acknowledged previously secret CIA prisons around the world and said 14 high-value terrorism suspects — including the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks — have been transferred from the system to Guantanamo Bay for trials. He said a small number of detainees have been kept in CIA custody including people responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 in Yemen and the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in addition to the 2001 attacks. "It has been necessary to move these individuals to an environment where they can be held secretly, questioned by experts and, when appropriate, prosecuted for terrorist acts," Bush said in a White House speech.
Families of some people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made up part of the audience. Bush said of the suspects: "These are dangerous men, with unparalleled knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans of new attacks. The security of our nation and the lives of our citizens depend on our ability to learn what these terrorists know." The announcement from Bush was the first time the administration had acknowledged the existence of CIA prisons, which have been a source of friction between Washington and some allies in Europe. The administration has come under criticism for its treatment of terrorism detainees. European Union lawmakers said the CIA was conducting clandestine flights in Europe to take terror suspects to countries where they could face torture. "Today the administration finally recognized that the protections of the Geneva Convention should be applied to prisoners in order to restore our moral authority and best protect American troops," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "Today's shift in policy follows the sad legacy of five years during which this administration abused our Constitution, violated our laws and most importantly failed to make America safe." Bush has sought with a series of speeches to sharpen the focus on national security two months before high-stakes congressional elections. The president successfully emphasized the war on terror in his re-election campaign in 2004 and is trying to make it a winning issue for Republicans again this year. Bush said the CIA program has involved such suspected terrorists as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, believed to be the No. 3 al-Qaida leader before he was captured in Pakistan in 2003; Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be Sept. 11 hijacker; Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells before he was captured in Pakistan in 2002. The list also includes Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, who was suspected of being the mastermind of a string of deadly bomb attacks in Indonesia until his 2003 arrest in Thailand. Defending the prison program, the president said the questioning of these detainees has provided critical intelligence information about terrorist activities that has enabled officials to prevent attacks, including with airplanes, within the United States. Other attacks thwarted through intelligence gathered in the program include a planned strike with an explosives-laden water tanker on U.S. Marines at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, an attack with car and motorcycle bombs on the U.S. consulate in Karachi, and a plot to fly passenger planes into London's Heathrow Airport or Canary Wharf, Bush said. Bush would not detail interrogation techniques used through the program, saying only that they are tough but do not constitute torture. He did use language that suggested its nature, saying the CIA turned to an "alternative set of procedures" that were successful after Zubaydah and others had stopped providing information. "This program has helped us to take potential mass murderers off the streets before they have a chance to kill," the president said. A senior administration official said that fewer than 100 people have been detained under the CIA program, rejecting allegations that perhaps thousands have been held in secret prisons. With the transfer of the 14 detainees to Guantanamo, the CIA is no longer holding any suspects, the administration official said. He added, however, that the administration wants the program to continue. The president said the 14 key terrorist leaders, including Mohammed, Binalshibh, and Zubaydah, who have been transferred to the U.S. military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay would be afforded some legal protections consistent with the Geneva Conventions. "They will continue to be treated with the humanity that they denied others," Bush said. Bush also laid out his proposal for how trials of such key suspected terrorists — those transferred to Guantanamo and already there — should be conducted, which must be approved by Congress. Bush's original plan for the type of military trials used in the aftermath of World War II was struck down in June by the Supreme Court, which said the tribunals would violate U.S. and international law. "As soon as Congress acts to authorize the military commissions I have proposed, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, can face justice," the president said. Aides said the legislation being introduced on Bush's behalf later Wednesday on Capitol Hill insists on provisions covering military tribunals that would permit evidence to be withheld from a defendant if necessary to protect classified information. As part of the package, Bush asked Congress to shield from prosecution or lawsuits federal personnel who handle terrorist suspects. "Passing this legislation ought to be the top priority," Bush said. Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have drafted a rival proposal. It would guarantee certain legal rights to defendants, including access to all evidence used against them. "I think it's important that we stand by 200 years of legal precedents concerning classified information because the defendant should have a right to know what evidence is being used," said McCain, R-Ariz. Administration officials also have said that allowing coerced testimony in some cases may be necessary, while McCain said the committee bill would ban it entirely. "We have some differences that we are in discussion about," said McCain, who had not seen the White House bill in writing. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is expected to side with the administration. He planned to introduce Wednesday the White House legislative proposal on the floor and refer it to the Armed Services Committee for review. Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon put out a new Army field manual that spells out appropriate conduct on issues including prisoner interrogation. The manual applies to all the armed services, but not the CIA. It bans torture and degrading treatment of prisoners, for the first time specifically mentioning forced nakedness, hooding and other procedures that have become infamous during the war on terror. The United States began using the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in eastern Cuba in January 2002 to hold people suspected of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. About 445 detainees remain there, including 115 considered eligible for transfer or release. The president said he eventually wants to close Guantanamo as critics and allies around the world have urged. But he said that cannot happen until Congress creates the process for trying its most dangerous prisoners, and other countries negotiate acceptable terms for taking back their citizens who are being held there.