Thoughts Gallery January 2006
January 1
Image of the Day
Another year rolls around. Time to pick up the pace and get some more projects rolling along after taking a breather for 2005. And another child gets pulled into the politics of war...
January 2
Image of the Day
One-Eyed Cat Had Medical Condition
PORTLAND, Ore. - A photo of a one-eyed kitten named Cy drew more than a little skepticism when it turned up on various Web sites, but medical authorities have a name for the bizarre condition. Holoprosencephaly" causes facial deformities, according to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health. In the worst cases, a single eye is located where the nose should be, according to the institute's Web site. Traci Allen says the kitten she named Cy, short for Cyclops, was born the night of Dec. 28 with the single eye and no nose. "You don't expect to see something like that," the 35-year-old Allen said by telephone from her home in Redmond in central Oregon.
Allen said she stayed up all night with the deformed kitten on her recliner, feeding Cy a liquid formula through a syringe. She says she cared for the kitten the next day as well, until it died that evening. Allen had taken digital pictures that she provided to The Associated Press. Some bloggers have questioned the authenticity of the photo distributed on Jan. 6. AP regional photo editor Tom Stathis said he took extensive steps to confirm the one-eyed cat was not a hoax. Stathis had Allen ship him the memory card that was in her camera. On the card were a number of pictures — including holiday snapshots, and four pictures of a one-eyed kitten. The kitten pictures showed the animal from different perspectives.
Fabricating those images in sequence and in the camera's original picture format, from the varying perspectives, would have been virtually impossible, Stathis said. Meanwhile, Cy the one-eyed cat may be dead, but it has not left the building. Allen said she's keeping the cat's corpse in her freezer for now, in case scientists would like it for research. She said one thing's for certain: "I'm not going to put it on eBay."
January 3
Image of the Day
Kermit the toad : Toad "Kermit" sits on a toy scale before being weighed during an annual check-up at Hanover's zoo, where 2072 animals of 217 different species live.
January 4
Image of the Day
Ruler of Dubai, Sheik Maktoum, died today
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The emir of Dubai, Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, died Wednesday. He was 62. Sheik Maktoum, who was also vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, died during a visit to Australia, the government said. Police in Australia said he died a resort on the Gold Coast in Queensland state. The body was expected to be flown home later. Dubai declared 40 days of mourning. Prime Minister Paul Martin released a statement expressing "great sadness" at the news of Sheik Maktoum's death.
"During the 15-year reign of Sheik Maktoum, the UAE experienced a remarkable period of increased prosperity and development. We have seen Dubai transformed into a world-class trade, transportation and tourism centre," Martin said. "Canada views the UAE as an important regional partner." Born in the family home in the Shindagha area of Dubai, Sheik Maktoum was educated at a British university and succeeded his father as ruler of the emirate in October 1990. His foremost interest was horseracing, and he and his younger brother, the crown prince Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, worked to put Dubai on the racing map. The annual Dubai World Cup is billed as the world's richest horse race.
Sheik Maktoum often represented the country abroad during the years when the former president, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was ailing. But he tended to leave day-to-day government of Dubai to his younger brother, who will succeed him.  "The United Arab Emirates today lost a historical leader who devoted his life to establishing the United Arab Emirates and enhancing its structure and the welfare of its people," the government said.
January 5 
Image of the Day
Placed the Dos Cabezas house into the title company today.  Maybe the fourth time is the charm. We will see what happends come February 5th.
January 6
Image of the Day
Sharon cuts crime from hospital bed
JERUSALEM - Burglaries, car thefts and other crimes have more than halved since Israelis began gluing themselves to television sets for news of their ailing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "We have seen a fall of more than 50 percent in offences since Mr Sharon was admitted to the Hadassah" hospital in Jerusalem last Wednesday, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. In the first three days after Sharon's massive stroke, only 865 burglaries were reported compared to 1,739 in the corresponding period last year. Police attributed the fall to the fact that householders and would-be burglars have been preoccupied with their prime minister's fight for life. "It's obviously more difficult to break into a house while the owner is stuck in front of the television," one police source told the Maariv daily. "But it's also possible that some of the burglars have themselves decided to stay in to follow Mr Sharon's health."

January 7
Image of the Day
A homeless man protects himself with a plastic sheet during a tropical storm in South Beach, Miami.
January 8
Image of the Day
Scientists at the National Taiwan University have successfully bred three pigs which glow fluorescent green in the dark, marking a breakthrough in stem cell research.
January 9
Image of the Day
Spider nests in Swedish woman's ear for 27 days
STOCKHOLM - A spider that nested in the ear of a Swedish woman was discovered and removed alive after 27 days. The black spider, "the size of a thumbnail", crept into the woman's ear while she was sleeping and went undiscovered for almost a month, Swedish tabloid Expressen reported. The woman, whose name was not disclosed, told the paper that she at first experienced "a slight loss of hearing" and assumed that she had a build-up of wax. But when she heard "a scratching sound" in her ear she decided to go to the pharmacy to buy a cleanser to wash out her ear cavity. When she did so, the spider was flushed out alive and crawled away. The woman recalled having seen a spider on her bed in November, 27 days earlier.
January 10
Image of the Day
Cash pours in for student with $1 million Web idea
LONDON - If you have an envious streak, you probably shouldn't read this. Because chances are, Alex Tew, a 21-year-old student from a small town in England, is cleverer than you. And he is proving it by earning a cool million dollars in four months on the Internet. Selling porn? Dealing prescription drugs? Nope. All he sells are pixels, the tiny dots on the screen that appear when you call up his home page. He had the brainstorm for his million dollar home page, called, logically enough, www.milliondollarhomepage.com, while lying in bed thinking out how he would pay for university.
The idea: turn his home page into a billboard made up of a million dots, and sell them for a dollar a dot to anyone who wants to put up their logo. A 10 by 10 dot square, roughly the size of a letter of type, costs $100. He sold a few to his brothers and some friends, and when he had made $1,000, he issued a press release. That was picked up by the news media, spread around the Internet, and soon advertisers for everything from dating sites to casinos to real estate agents to The Times of London were putting up real cash for pixels, with links to their own sites. So far they have bought up 911,800 pixels. Tew's home page now looks like an online Times Square, festooned with a multi-colored confetti of ads. "All the money's kind of sitting in a bank account," Tew told Reuters from his home in Wiltshire, southwest England. "I've treated myself to a car. I've only just passed my driving test so I've bought myself a little black mini." The site features testimonials from advertisers, some of whom bought spots as a lark, only to discover that they were receiving actual valuable Web hits for a fraction of the cost of traditional Internet advertising.
Meanwhile Tew has had to juggle running the site with his first term at university, where he is studying business. "It's been quite a difficulty trying to balance going to lectures and doing the site," he said. But he may not have to study for long. Job offers have been coming in from Internet companies impressed by a young man who managed to figure out an original way to make money online. "I didn't expect it to happen like that," Tew said. "To have the job offers and approaches from investors -- the whole thing is kind of surreal. I'm still in a state of disbelief."
January 11
Image of the Day
Russia marvels at high-tech British "spy stone"
MOSCOW - A fake stone alleged to have been used by British spies to communicate with Moscow agents was a "wonder" of technology that cost tens of millions of pounds (dollars), Russia's FSB security service said. FSB spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko praised the high-tech spy stone, which would look at home in a James Bond film, and listed its extraordinary qualities. The stone was revealed by the FSB on Sunday in a television program that apparently showed four British spies using it as a dead letter drop. "This is like space technology in its qualities. You could throw this stone from the 9th floor, it can survive a long period in water, it has several different kinds of defense," Ignatchenko said in televised comments.
"According to our experts' assessments, this device costs several tens of millions of pounds. You could only create this technological wonder in laboratory conditions." Britain has not admitted the Russian charges, and President Vladimir Putin has said he is undecided on whether to expel the group - as is traditional for diplomats caught in espionage. Ignatchenko said the stone was one of two used to secretly store data that was detected by the Russians, and that the other one had been removed by the British before the FSB had decided what to do with it. Although some observers giggled about the spat, especially scenes that apparently showed a British spy kicking the stone to try to make it work, human rights groups say it is serious.
The FSB accused the British not only of spying but also of funding non-governmental organizations (NGOs), although it was unclear how the two charges were connected. The suggestions were damaging for NGOs just days after the final approval of tough new curbs on them, which will give security services and tax authorities broad oversight over activists' activities. Putin had backed the law despite the curbs being criticized in the West, and on Wednesday he said the spy spat showed the law was necessary and would stop spies infiltrating Russian society in future.

 

January 12
Americans warming to Japan's heated toilets
TOKYO - Japan's famous heated toilet seats are proving a hot seller in the United States, with leading toilet maker Toto announcing a new factory in Mexico to keep up with demand. Toto Mexico will build the 3.7 million-dollar factory to produce heated toilet seats, which spray water to clean body parts in use, and provide what the firm calls "an invigorating and revitalizing bathroom experience." "We have not been able to meet the growing market demand and we export most of our products for the US market from other Toto group factories," the firm said in a statement.
"The new factory in Mexico will double production capacity for our sanitary earthenware in North America, strengthening our production plan which will allow us to meet the market demand flexibly," Toto said. With the new production site in place, Toto aims to boost US sales of Washlet toilet seats to 3,000 units per month in the coming year, up from 2,000 units per month sold currently. The new Mexico factory, which will begin operation in January 2008, will have capacity to produce 400,000 units of bathroom fixtures a year. It will employ about 260 workers.
The Washlet, which transforms into a bidet at the touch of a button, was originally created by a small US firm for people with disabilities and the elderly. But the invention took off after Toto bought the patent in 1968. Toto popularized the Washlet in the 1980s at a time that the Western toilet had just dethroned Japan's traditional squat toilets. It has now sold more than 20 Washlet toilets in Japan and abroad. Top-of-the-line new Japanese toilets offer a variety of added functions, with some even testing urine for disease.
January 13
'Paranormal' palmist on deception charges
LONDON - A palm reader who claimed he could reunite a woman with her ex-boyfriend using paranormal phenomena denied charges of deception at an English court. Indian palmist Naseem Mohammed, 42, allegedly obtained 8,000 pounds (11,700 euros, 14,100 dollars) from Jasuir Mahill and is charged with falsely claiming he could rekindle her relationship with her former flame by using voodoo dolls. Chester Magistrates Court in western England heard Mohammed allegedly deceived Mahill by claiming he could break a black magic spell which caused her ex-lover to leave her.
Mohammed pleaded not guilty to seven charges of deception and one charge under the Trades Descriptions Act of recklessly making a false statement claiming he was "able to perform paranormal phenomena guaranteeing to restore the physical relationship between her and her ex-boyfriend". His solicitor said Mohammed "vehemently denied" the charges.
January 14
Closing the barn door after the cow has gone...
ZURICH - Around 100 police officers staked out a suspected armed robber at a Zurich bank for nearly seven hours Monday, only to find the man had already fled minutes after the alarm was raised, police said.  Police stormed the branch of Credit Suisse, opposite a police station, having tried for hours to establish contact with the assailant who was suspected of holding two employees hostage. The drama was broadcast live on Swiss television, but it seemed the gunman had already given the slip.
"On the basis of current police information, it must be assumed that the suspect fled before the first police officers arrived on the scene," police said in a statement. Local residents were told to remain indoors and a section of the suburb was cordoned off as police sought to bargain with the man after a third employee raised the alarm. In fact, the employees, a male trainee and woman, had locked themselves in rooms the gunman could not enter and did not know he had already fled. They were found uninjured but traumatized by the stake-out.
January 15
Frustrated doctor turns to oldest profession
WELLINGTON - A frustrated doctor has closed his medical practice in a small northern New Zealand seaside settlement and plans to reopen his surgery as a brothel next month. Neil Benson closed his Cooper's Beach practice last year, complaining of a lack of support from health authorities, other doctors and the community. He has since been granted a brothel licence and plans to offer an upmarket service for tourists and locals in the town about 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Auckland.
"It's about providing a private service and maintaining confidentiality, which is what my medical practice was about -- so it's not a big leap, really," Benson was quoted as saying by the Northern Advocate newspaper. Locals were sceptical that clients would be able to maintain their confidentiality in such a small town or that there would be enough tourists to make the brothel viable. "We are a small, family destination. We are not a place where a lot of single blokes come," said one local resident, who did not want to be named. Another said Benson might be trying to get back at the community for not supporting his medical clinic.
January 16

Official Says Hamas Won't Be 'Blackmailed'
RAMALLAH, West Bank - A top Hamas official said Tuesday the Islamic militant group will not be "blackmailed" by international threats to cut off aid to the Palestinians and is searching for new sources of funding. Osama Hamdan, a member of the group's exiled leadership, spoke a day after international donors that support the Palestinian government said millions of dollars of aid could be in jeopardy if Hamas does not change its violent ways. Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide attacks, is poised to lead the next Palestinian government after winning legislative elections.
"We are looking for alternative sources and we will not allow ourselves to be blackmailed," Hamdan said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Beirut, Lebanon. "We will not accept any conditions from anybody. At the same time, we are ready for dialogue."Monday's meeting of the so-called "Quartet" of Mideast peace makers — the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — stopped short of issuing an outright threat to Hamas. But they said it is "inevitable" that future aid to a Hamas-led government "would be reviewed" if Hamas fails to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept existing agreements between the Palestinians and Israel. Hamas leaders have rejected the Western demands.
Western donors, led by the United States and EU, funnel some $900 million to the Palestinians each year, most of it designated for reconstruction projects in the impoverished Gaza Strip and West Bank. The United States and European Union list Hamas as a terrorist group, making it difficult, if not illegal, for them to give money to a government led by Hamas. In an interview with The Associated Press, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said, "The moment the new government is in place, if Hamas has not adapted its platform as required, it will be very difficult for the EU to continue funding the Palestinian Authority."
Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Hamas to engage in peaceful dialogue and warned the West against refusing support for the Palestinians. He also said Hamas' electoral success "dealt a very serious blow" to U.S. policy in the Middle East while emphasizing that Russia's position toward the group differed from that of the United States and Europe. "Russia has never declared Hamas a terrorist organization, but it doesn't mean we support and accept everything Hamas has done and all the statements it has made," he said. "Only people who don't carry arms and don't engage in armed struggle can work in parliament," Putin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Israel also said it would stop the monthly transfer of $55 million in taxes and customs it collects from Palestinian workers and merchants to the Palestinian Authority if a Hamas government is installed. The next payment is due Wednesday, and Israel has not said whether it will transfer the money.
Such cuts would devastate an already battered economy, cost tens of thousands of government jobs and deepen the Palestinian Authority's fiscal crisis. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas implored European donors not to cut their aid. "The European countries must understand that the Palestinian people are in bad need of this aid," Abbas said. "I hope to God that they will change their positions, both Israel and the European countries." Hamas leaders, who have tried to portray a more moderate image since the election, sought to assure the donors that aid would go only to ordinary Palestinians and not be used for attacks. But Hamas officials said Tuesday the group already is in touch with potential donors in Arab and Muslim nations. The officials declined to be identified because the contacts are in an early stage.
Analysts say that although most wealthy Gulf nations will not stand by and watch the Palestinians starve, the Arab and Muslim world is unlikely to provide the kind of cash Western nations have given. Government officials in the oil-rich countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, the most likely donors, are staying clear of the subject for now, refusing to discuss the issue despite repeated contacts from the AP.  The Gulf governments have pledged tens of millions of dollars to the Palestinians in the past but sent only a tiny fraction of that money. Abbas is scheduled to meet with Hamas leaders in the coming weeks to discuss formation of a government. Abbas, who wants to restart peace talks with Israel, was elected separately last year and now must work out a power-sharing arrangement with the Islamic group. A key issue would be who controls the various Palestinian security forces. Control currently is divided between Abbas and the prime minister — a job likely to go to Hamas.

January 17
In the midst of ancient ruins and modern political drama, Syrian bloggers beat out the rhythms of their own lives.

DAMASCUS -- He has glasses and the kind of baby face that relatives probably like to pinch. But beneath the mild exterior of this Syrian mobile phone operator there is some righteous, youthful anger. He expresses that anger in a blog. "I write about everything I'm pissed off about, the things that make me angry: extremism, poverty, religion," he says with an incongruous smile. That's a broad beat for a 20 year old, but Majd (we decide the conversation will be more open with first names only) has a lot to say.
"I've got lots of energy inside," he says at a pizza restaurant, where he and two other bloggers decided to meet with me. "I'm very affected by everything around me. When I was young, everything was discussed at our home." His parents were intellectuals and communist party members, he says, and they encouraged him and his sister to question things. Majd hasn't needed much more encouragement than that. His blog, called Hawa (http://hawa3.blogspot.com), Arabic for "air," is written in Arabic as well as some English. And even though he and the other two bloggers, Ghalia and Sara, have made great efforts to emphasize to me they are not political, Majd's blog has already garnered the blogger's badge of honor: enough notoriety to prompt authorities to block access to it. For Majd, this happened at work. "My blog got banned at the office," he says, after he posted "Calm Tsunami," a fable of sorts.
Calm Tsunami, Majd explains, is a story about a man and a woman in a relationship. But there's trouble. The woman wants the man to put up a picture of her in his house, but the man says it's unnecessary because her picture is in his heart. The man, Majd says, is the Syrian people, the woman, a government that feels loyalty must be displayed by obvious outward acts, like flying the flag. While it seems a rather tame tale, Majd takes pains to make sure I don't misconstrue his intentions. "I like to make social critiques," he says, "but I have to play with the words."
Just as Majd does not wish his blog to be seen as political, nor does he want politics to be the focus of my article about him and other Syrian bloggers. He and Ghalia both say that they are less concerned about government retribution than seeing yet another article in the Western media demonizing all of Syria because of the current political climate over Lebanon and other issues. In fact, misconceptions about Syria are why 23-year-old Ghalia, with a newly-minted diploma in English literature, says she started her blog, Cocktail (http://cocktail4.tk) in the first place. "My cousins are Iraqis who live in America," she says, "but they always looked down on my country." She says she began explaining Syria to them by introducing them to historical Syrian figures, which she eventually turned into her blog. "I want to introduce people to Syria," she says. "I love my country and want to share the things I love." Sometimes it's a hard sell.

January 18
Let me just say it was hard to actually find pictures of the cartoons that caused all the controversy.
Denmark Is Unlikely Front in Islam-West Culture War

COPENHAGEN - When the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including one in which he is shown wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse, it expected a strong reaction in this country of 5.4 million people. Muslims gathered at city hall in Copenhagen in October to protest cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in a newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. Tension has grown in Norrebro, an ethnically mixed area of Copenhagen. But the paper was unprepared for the global furor that ensued, including demonstrations in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, death threats against the artists, condemnation from 11 Muslim countries and a rebuke from the United Nations.
"The cartoons did nothing that transcends the cultural norms of secular Denmark, and this was not a provocation to insult Muslims," said Flemming Rose, cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten, Denmark's largest newspaper, which has declined to apologize for the drawings. "But if we talk of freedom of speech, even if it was a provocation, that does not make our right to do it any less legitimate before the law," he added in an interview from Miami. He spent months living under police protection in Denmark.
As countries across Europe grapple with how to assimilate their growing Muslim populations in the post-9/11 world, Denmark has become an unlikely flashpoint in the escalating culture wars between Islam and the West. The publication of the cartoons in late September has provoked a fierce national debate over whether Denmark's famously liberal laws on free speech have gone too far. It also has tested the patience of Denmark's 200,000 Muslims. Many of them say the cartoons reflect an intensifying anti-immigrant climate that is stigmatizing minorities and radicalizing young Muslims.
In Norrebro, an ethnically mixed neighborhood of Copenhagen where the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is buried and where kebab stands dot the tree-lined streets, Imam Ahmed Abu-Laban, a leader among Denmark's Muslims, bristles at what he calls the "Islam phobia" gripping the country. He asserted that the cartoons had been calculated to incite Muslims because it was well known that in Islam depictions of the prophet were considered blasphemy. "We are being mentally tortured," Imam Ahmed said at his mosque, an anonymous building that looks more like an apartment complex than a house of worship. "The cartoons are an insult against Islam, an attempt by right-wing forces in this country to get a rise out of the Muslim community and so portray us as against Danish values." Mr. Rose, once a journalist in Iran, said he decided to commission the cartoons for Jyllands-Posten when he heard that Danish cartoonists were too scared of Muslim fundamentalists to illustrate a new children's biography of Muhammad.
Annoyed at the self-censorship he said had overtaken Europe since the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered last year by a Muslim radical for criticizing Islam's treatment of women, Mr. Rose said he decided to test Denmark's free speech norms. The cartoons were published amid the growth of an anti-immigrant sentiment in Denmark, reflected in the rise of the far-right Danish People's Party. The party, which holds 13 percent of the seats in the Danish Parliament, has helped to push through the toughest anti-immigration rules on the Continent, including a rule preventing Danish citizens age 24 or younger from bringing in spouses from outside Denmark. Soren Krarup, a retired priest and leading voice in the party, said the Muslim response to the cartoons showed that Islam was not compatible with Danish customs. He said Jesus had been satirized in Danish literature and popular culture for centuries - including a recent much-publicized Danish painting of Jesus with an erection - so why not Muhammad? He also argues that Muslims must learn to integrate. "Muslims who come here reject our culture," he said. "Muslim immigration is a way for Muslims to conquer us, just as they have done for the past 1,400 years." Muslim leaders say that such talk helped create the atmosphere that allowed the cartoons to be published. And they contend that it is alienating the people the Danish People's Party says it wants to assimilate.
In a sign that some Muslims are becoming radicalized, Danish counterterrorism officials say more young Danish Muslims are being drawn to Hizb ut-Tahrir, or the Party of Liberation, which seeks the unification of all Muslim countries under one leader and Shariah, the Islamic legal code. The group, which distributes literature at mosques and on the Internet, is banned in most of the Muslim world, as well as in Russia and Germany. But because its main weapon is ideology rather than explosives, Danish officials say, it is allowed to operate in Denmark under the same permissive rules that allowed the publication of the cartoons. Under Danish law, inciting someone to commit an act of terror is illegal, but spouting vitriol against the West or satirizing Muhammad is not. The State Prosecutor's Office investigated the group in spring 2004 and decided not to ban it because it had not broken the law.
The free speech debate and the concerns over Hizb ut-Tahrir swept through Denmark's public schools last month when the imam's 17-year-old son, Taim, was expelled from Vester Borgerdyd School, after teachers overheard him giving sermons calling for the destruction of Israel and assailing Danish democracy during Friday Prayer at the school. The imam said his son became radicalized after being recruited by Hizb ut-Tahrir. He said he opposed his son's sermons and had told his son to leave the house for defying him. But he also criticized the ruling that followed: a committee of mostly Christian rectors banned Friday Prayer at public schools across Denmark. "They are trying to turn Denmark into a banana republic," said Imam Ahmed. "How is it O.K. to publish the cartoons, yet my son is portrayed as an ayatollah?"
At Vester Borgerdyd School, where the walls are lined with photographs of smiling students in Muslim dress, the headmistress, Anne Birgitte Rasmussen, said that Taim Abu-Laban had attracted a following and that she had feared his sermons would raise tensions among the school's more moderate Muslims. "The tone of the political debate in this country, the talk about Muslims and immigrants, is making it very difficult for us," she said. Mr. Rose, the editor, said free speech, no matter how radical, should be allowed to flourish, from all varieties of perspectives. "Muslims should be allowed to burn the Danish flag in a public square if that's within the boundaries of the law," he said. "Though I think this would be a strange signal to the Danish people who have hosted them."

January 19
Image of the Day
French animal lovers howl at Chinese dog slaughter
PARIS - France's Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) appealed to Chinese President Hu Jintao to put an end to the cruel slaughter of dogs, which it blasted as an affront. "The SPA does not set itself up as a judge of a country and its culture, but is asking for animals to be killed in a dignified way," the SPA said. "Millions of dogs (in China) are hanged, beaten with sticks and butchered while they are still alive," it said in a press release. The organisation added that it had tried to get French media to accept an advertisement as part of its campaign against dog butchering, but the picture -- of an animal being cut to pieces in a pool of blood -- was so graphic that it had been rejected by every newspaper. The upcoming Chinese New Year on Sunday ushers in the Year of the Dog. Up to 10 million dogs are slaughtered every year in China, many killed slowly and cruelly to supposedly enhance the meat's flavour, according to animal rights groups.
January 20
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January 21
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January 22
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Brazilians Race to Adopt Abandoned Baby
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Doctors released a 2-month-old girl from a hospital Monday, two days after she was found in a black plastic bag floating in a lake in southeastern Brazil. Scores of Brazilians mobbed the Odilion Behrens Municipal Hospital hoping to adopt or at least catch a glimpse of the child whose dramatic rescue was filmed by an amateur cameraman and broadcast worldwide. Authorities said it was the same Belo Horizonte hospital where the infant was born prematurely two months ago, which helped authorities locate the mother, who allegedly set her adrift on nearby Pampulha Lake. The baby was released into the care of local child-protection authorities. "She's doing great, in perfect health," said Rosana Alves, a hospital spokeswoman. "Now the Juvenile Court will decide whether she goes to a family or to a shelter." Alves said the commotion over the infant and the flood of adoption offers had interfered with hospital routine. "There were too many to count," she said. "Thank God it's over now."
Police arrested the baby's mother, 27-year-old Simone Cassiano da Silva, on Sunday and charged her with attempted homicide for putting the baby into the plastic bag, setting it on a board and pushing it into the lake. Da Silva denied she set the child adrift. She claimed she gave the baby to a group of homeless people because she did not have enough money to raise the child. "I couldn't stay with her," da Silva said. "I did not have a minimum psychological condition to stay with her. ... I asked them to leave the baby in some place for me, because I did not want to see it." But Minas Gerais state police Inspector Helcio Sa Bernardes said the mother had lied to police.
"All the addresses she gave us are false," he said. "So we are following the investigations but this is already an indication she premeditated this situation." Da Silva was arrested after nurses at the hospital told police the child had been born there and stayed in the maternity ward for two months. On Saturday morning, the mother picked the baby up from the hospital and allegedly took a taxi to the lake, where the baby was later found, authorities said. Police arrested Da Silva in front of her boyfriend's house carrying a bag and hailing a taxi. Police said they believe she was getting ready to flee.
The video footage broadcast first on Brazilian television and then worldwide showed rescuers using a tree branch to reach the black plastic bag attached to a plank, floating in the lake. Two men were shown placing the bag on the ground and untying it, where they found the baby inside, wearing a pink dress. One man scooped her up and ran up a hill, where other people removed the girl's soaked clothing and wrapped her in a blanket. "I heard what sounded like a cat," Jose da Cruz told Globo TV. "Then the noise was increasing and it caught my attention." The wooden board attached to the bag apparently kept it from sinking in the lake, 210 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Later, television showed the baby girl being fed with a bottle by a nurse. The child was not registered or named, but the mother told the media she had wanted to name her Iara — the deity of waters, in Brazilian Indian belief.
January 23
Image of the Day
Stumbling Tourist Smashes Rare China Vases
CAMBRIDGE, England - A visitor to a British museum tripped on his shoelace, stumbled down a stairway and fell into a display of centuries-old Chinese vases, shattering them into "very small pieces," officials said Monday. The three Qing dynasty vases, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, had been donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum in the university city of Cambridge in 1948 and were among its best-known artifacts. They sat on the window sill beside the staircase for 40 years. "It was a most unfortunate and regrettable accident, but we are glad that the visitor involved was able to leave the museum unharmed," museum director Duncan Robinson said. The museum declined to identify the man who tripped on a loose shoelace. Asked about the porcelain vases, Margaret Greeves, the museum's assistant director, said: "They are in very, very small pieces, but we are determined to put them back together." The museum declined to say what the vases were worth.
January 24
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A Sri Lankan model displays her painted nails during a fashion show in Colombo...
January 25
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January 26
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I have to say I've never seen of thought of using a jumprope with a dog jumping to stay in shape...
A Chinese soldier trains a dog by skipping rope at a military base in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu province.
January 27
Image of the Day
Scientists Discover World's Smallest Fish
BANGKOK, Thailand - Scientists say they have discovered the world's smallest known fish in threatened swampland in Indonesia. The fish, a member of the carp family, has a translucent body and a head unprotected by a skeleton. Mature females grow to less than a third of an inch long. The males have enlarged pelvic fins and muscles that may be used in reproduction, researchers wrote in a report published Wednesday by the Royal Society in London.
"This is one of the strangest fish that I've seen in my whole career,' said Ralf Britz, a zoologist at the Natural History Museum in London. "It's tiny, it lives in acid and it has these bizarre grasping fins. I hope we'll have time to find out more about them before their habitat disappears completely." The fish are found in an acidic peat swamp on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Indonesian peat swamps are under threat from fires lit by plantation owners and farmers as well as unchecked development and farming. Researchers say several populations of the tiny fish, Paedocypris progenetica, have already been lost, according to the Natural History Museum.
The previous record for world's smallest fish, according to the Natural History Museum, was held by a species of Indo-Pacific goby one-tenth of a millimeter longer. "You don't wake up in the morning and think, 'Today we will find the smallest fish in the world,'" Swiss fish expert Maurice Kottelat, who helped discover the fish, said in a telephone interview from his home in Switzerland. According to researchers, the little fish live in dark, tea-colored water at least 100 times more acidic than rainwater. Such acidic swamps was once thought to harbor few animals, but recent research has revealed that they are highly diverse and home to many unique species.
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Coretta Scott King Dies at 78
ATLANTA - Coretta Scott King, who turned a life shattered by her husband's assassination into one devoted to enshrining his legacy of human rights and equality, has died at the age of 78. Flags at the King Center were lowered to half-staff Tuesday morning. "We appreciate the prayers and condolences from people across the country," the King family said in a statement. The family said she died during the night. The widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. suffered a serious stroke and heart attack last August. Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered flags at all state buildings to be flown at half-staff and offered to allow King to lie in state at the Capitol. There was no immediate response to the offer, the governor's office said. King died at Santa Monica Health Institute, a holistic health center in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, south of San Diego, said her sister, Edythe Scott Bagley of Cheyney, Pa.
At a news conference, Young said Coretta King's fortitude rivaled that of her husband. "She was strong if not stronger than he was," Young said. "She lived a graceful and beautiful life, and in spite of all of the difficulties, she managed a graceful and beautiful passing." She was a supportive lieutenant to her husband during the most tumultuous days of the American civil rights movement, and after his assassination in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, she kept his dream alive while also raising their four children. "I'm more determined than ever that my husband's dream will become a reality," King said soon after his slaying. She goaded and pulled for more than a decade to have her husband's birthday observed as a national holiday, first celebrated in 1986.
King became a symbol, in her own right, of her husband's struggle for peace and brotherhood, presiding with a quiet, steady, stoic presence over seminars and conferences on global issues. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was with her husband when he was assassinated, said Tuesday that she understood that every time he left home, there was the chance he might not come back. "Like all great champions, she learned to function with pain and keep serving," he said. "So her legacy is secure as a freedom fighter, but her work remains unfinished."
King wrote a book, "My Life With Martin Luther King Jr.," and, in 1969 founded the multimillion-dollar Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. She saw to it that the center became deeply involved with the issues she said breed violence — hunger, unemployment, voting rights and racism. "The center enables us to go out and struggle against the evils in our society," she often said. She became increasingly outspoken against businesses such as film and television companies, video arcades, gun manufacturers and toy makers she accused of promoting violence. She called for regulation of their advertising. After her stroke, King missed the annual King holiday celebration in Atlanta two weeks ago, but she did appear with her children at an awards dinner a couple of days earlier, smiling from her wheelchair but not speaking. The crowd gave her a standing ovation. At the same time, the King Center's board of directors was considering selling the site to the National Park Service to let the family focus less on grounds maintenance and more on King's message. Two of the four children were strongly against such a move.
Also in the news recently was a new book, "At Canaan's Edge" by Taylor Branch, that put allegations of her husband's infidelity back in the spotlight. It said her husband confessed a long-standing affair to her not long before he was assassinated. Coretta Scott was studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music and planning on a singing career when a friend introduced her to Martin Luther King, a young Baptist minister studying at Boston University. "She said she wanted me to meet a very promising young minister from Atlanta," King once said, adding with a laugh: "I wasn't interested in meeting a young minister at that time." She recalled that on their first date he told her: "You know, you have everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married someday." Eighteen months later — June 18, 1953 — they did, at her parents' home in Marion, Ala. The couple moved to Montgomery, Ala., where he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and organized the famed Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. With that campaign, King began enacting his philosophy of direct social action.
Over the years, King was with her husband in his finest hours. She was at his side as he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. She marched beside him from Selma, Ala., into Montgomery in 1965 for the triumphal climax to his drive for a voting rights law. Only days after his death, she flew to Memphis with three of her children to lead thousands marching in honor of her slain husband and to plead for his cause. "I think you rise to the occasion in a crisis," she once said. "I think the Lord gives you strength when you need it. God was using us — and now he's using me, too."
The King family, especially King and her father-in-law, Martin Luther King Sr., were highly visible in 1976 when former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter ran for president. When an integration dispute at Carter's Plains church created a furor, King campaigned at Carter's side the next day. She later was named by Carter to serve as part of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, where Young was the ambassador. In 1997, she spoke out in favor of a push to grant a trial for James Earl Ray, who pleaded guilty to killing her husband and then recanted. "Even if no new light is shed on the facts concerning my husband's assassination, at least we and the nation can have the satisfaction of knowing that justice has run its course in this tragedy," she told a judge. The trial never took place; Ray died in 1998.
King was born April 27, 1927, in Perry County, Ala. Her father ran a country store. To help her family during the Depression, young Coretta picked cotton; later, she worked as a waitress to earn her way through Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. In 1994, King stepped down as head of the King Center, passing the job to son Dexter, who in turn passed the job on to her other son, Martin III, in 2004. Dexter continued to serve as the center's chief operating officer. Martin III also has served on the Fulton County (Ga.) commission and as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, co-founded by his father in 1957. Daughter Yolanda became an actress and the youngest child, Bernice, became a Baptist minister.
On the 25th anniversary of her husband's death, April 5, 1993, King said the war in Vietnam which her husband opposed "has been replaced by an undeclared war on our central cities, a war being fought by gangs with guns for drugs." "The value of life in our cities has become as cheap as the price of a gun," she said. King received numerous honors for herself and traveled around the world in the process. In London, she stood in 1969 in the same carved pulpit in St. Paul's Cathedral where her husband preached five years earlier. "Many despair at all the evil and unrest and disorder in the world today," she preached, "but I see a new social order and I see the dawn of a new day."