Friday, May 11, 2007

Dude, There's a Lorry In My House!

What a shock! Imagine a 21-tonne truck carrying sand in your living room!
M. Balakrishnan, a 70-year-old pensioner, and his wife, P. Saraswathy, escaped death when the truck rammed into the living room of their house along Jalan Maarof in Bangsar here yesterday.

Saraswathy said she had just entered the kitchen to prepare lunch when she heard a loud explosion that shook her two-storey corner lot house about 10am.

"I came into the living room to check and was shocked to see a huge truck there. I screamed and cried," said the former school teacher.

"I am lucky to be alive. If I had been watching television, I would have lost my life," said Saraswathy, who was still shaken over the incident.

Balakrishnan was also thankful that he had gone for a Rakan IJN Association meeting at the the National Heart Institute.

"If not for the meeting, I will be doing my daily routine of reading the newspaper in the living room," said Balakrishnan, who is the secretary of the association.

Balakrishan, City Hall’s former senior public health assistant, said he was unsure what to do now.

"My 35-year-old son stays with us. We have so many important things here and cannot leave the house," he said.

Alam Flora garbage truck driver R. Arumugam, 49, who witnessed the incident, said the truck may have developed brake failure.

"I had stopped at the traffic lights when I heard a loud screeching sound from behind and saw the truck coming fast from the Bangsar Shopping Centre direction.

"It avoided us by just a few metres and swerved into the road on our left before it rammed the house’s brick wall."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stuck in Drain at Wangsa Maju

It was more embarrassing than painful. This teenager missed her footing and her right leg went through the steel grating of a drain in Section Two, Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, last night.
The 18-year-old student was kept company by several passers-by, who for more than 30 minutes tried in vain to free her. In the end, firemen used a hydraulic pump to force the steel bars apart. She escaped serious injuries.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

That Car is Not Very SMART-lor

How did the car end up there?
That was the first question people asked when they saw the car in Taman Silibin, Ipoh.

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Shrek on a diet in McDonald's Happy Meal gig

McDonald's Corp. is putting the pot-bellied green star of "Shrek" movies on a diet in a new campaign that features the restaurant chain's apple slices and salads rather than its burgers and fries.

On Tuesday, McDonald's and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., the studio behind the upcoming "Shrek the Third" movie, unveiled a promotion in which Shrek, Donkey and other characters from the animated film will be used to sell Happy Meals and other McDonald's food.

But unlike previous movie tie-ins, McDonald's will use Shrek to feature its salads, milk, apple slices and other products introduced in the last 3 years as the No. 1 restaurant company faced mounting criticism its food was not only unhealthy, but also contributing to the increase in overweight kids in the United States.

A Happy Meal with Apple Dippers, all-white-meat chicken McNuggets, and low-fat milk will be featured in television commercials and on posters in McDonald's restaurants. Shrek will also appear on packaging for the milk and apples.

While the apples, milk, salads and other featured products have been on McDonald's menu for more than a year, Chief Marketing Officer Mary Dillon said the company still had "opportunities to drive awareness both with parents and kids about these offerings."

McDonald's will also use Shrek to promote physical activity through games on its Web sites that require both online and offline play, Dillon said.

The company would not disclose how many Happy Meals it sells with apple slices versus those with French fries.

The decision to limit the Shrek characters to healthier products was taken by both corporations, DreamWorks spokesman Bob Feldman said.

Shrek also appears in a series of public service announcements by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services that encourage kids to be physically active.

The department has come under fire from The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which opposes marketing to children, for using Shrek at the same time he is to appear on products such as Happy Meals, M&M's chocolates and Kellogg Co. cereals such as Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes.

DreamWorks' Feldman said candy is a treat and how much a child eats is a matter of parental responsibility.

McDonald's Shrek promotion begins May 11 in the United States and will last about four weeks. "Shrek the Third" opens in the United States on May 18.

He spent all his money when Doctors say he will die, BUT now he won't die

A British man who went on a wild spending spree after doctors said he only had a short time to live wants compensation because the diagnosis was wrong and he is now healthy -- but broke.

John Brandrick, 62, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago and told that he would probably die within a year.

He quit his job, sold or gave away nearly all his possessions, stopped paying his mortgage and spent his savings dining out and going on holiday.

Brandrick was left with little more than the black suit, white shirt and red tie that he had planned to be buried in when it emerged a year later that his suspected "tumor" was no more than a non-life threatening inflammation of the pancreas.

"When they tell you you've got a limited time and everything, you do enjoy life," Brandrick, from Cornwall in the west of England, told Sky television.

"I'm really pleased that I've got a second chance in life... but if you haven't got no money after all this, which is my fault -- I spent it all -- they should pay something back."

If he can't get compensation, he is considering selling his house or suing the hospital that diagnosed him. The hospital has said that while it sympathizes with Brandrick, a review of his case showed no different diagnosis would have been made.

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Motorists Drove Around Dead Body on Road

More than two dozen Israeli motorists maneuvered around the dead body of a road accident victim lying in the middle of a busy intersection, failing to stop to help in an incident captured by a traffic camera.

In footage broadcast by Israeli television stations on Monday and in a series of photographs on newspaper front pages, motorcyclist Moshe Yisraeli was seen trying to squeeze between two trucks at a junction on a highway near Tel Aviv Sunday.

He never made it. The camera captured his body lying near the centre of the four-way intersection, his motorcycle meters away on its side.

Some 30 cars and trucks slowed down and then carefully drove around the prone motorcylist in a stream of traffic that continued for nearly two minutes before a driver stopped his vehicle and approached the body.

An ambulance crew later pronounced Yisraeli, 63, dead at the scene.

Israelis have a reputation for rushing to the scene of accidents or Palestinian bombings to help victims, and the apparent apathy shown in Yisraeli's case touched off a public debate over whether Israeli society has become uncaring.

"It's hard for me to think that no one helped him. I prefer to believe that people were in shock and didn't understand what had happened," Yisraeli's daughter, Tali, told reporters.

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Man takes driving test drunk, fails

A German man failed his driving test after attempting the examination while three times over the legal alcohol limit, police said Tuesday.

When the man arrived for the test Tuesday morning, both his driving instructor and the examiner detected the smell of alcohol on him, though the 27-year-old assured them he had not been drinking, police in the western town of Bendorf said.

"But his driving was rather bad, so the examiner directed him to toward the police station without him noticing," the spokesman said. "Once there, he had to get out and take an alcohol test, which revealed he was well over the limit."

The man will now have to wait "a long time" before he can take another driving test, the spokesman said.

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No More UPSR & PMR Exams

Wished they implemented this years ago, then I won't have to be stressed out over examinations in my early life!! :)

The Malaysian Examinations Syndicate (MES) has proposed the abolishment of two major public examinations – the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) in Year Six and the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) in Form Three.

Its director Datuk Dr Adi Badiozaman Tuah said there would be no public examination at the primary and lower secondary levels following the proposed introduction of school-based assessment.

“If this is approved, the UPSR will be conducted for the last time in 2012 and the PMR in 2015,” he said.

The MES has proposed five forms of assessment for students in the national education system. These will be piloted in the 30 pioneer cluster schools next year. They are:

- SCHOOL assessment – planned, developed, conducted, examined and reported by teachers in schools.

- CENTRAL assessment – involving standards, instruments, data analyses and guidelines provided by the MES.

- l CENTRAL examination – fully conducted by the MES.

l PSYCHOMETRIC tests – used to measure students’ innate abilities.

- l PHYSICAL activity assessment – used to evaluate and measure students’ performance and involvement in extra-curricular activities.

The MES has recommended that only the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia for Form Five students be retained as a public, central examination at the upper secondary level.

Under the proposed move, Dr Adi said, various methods would be used to gather data about students’ growth and development, performance and achievement.

“We will empower teachers to conduct school-based assessment and give them the tools and training to carry it out effectively.

“School assessment will be given due recognition and acknowledgement,” he said after delivering the keynote address at a forum on educational assessment here yesterday.

According to Dr Adi, the ultimate aim is to reduce over-reliance and over-dependence on data obtained through centralised public examinations for information about students.

MES is devising psychometric tests which will be introduced in schools to help teachers gather data on their students – including their innate abilities, strengths, weaknesses, talents, aptitudes, attitudes, personalities and interests – to understand them better,

“There has been too much attention given to public examinations. School is now looked upon as a process of preparing students for public examinations. School assessment has lost significance and the outcome is not taken into account in students’ final grade,” said Dr Adi.

He added that the current assessment used was not holistic enough.

“The focus should not only be on academic aspects. We should also assess students’ personal and character development and involvement in extra-curricular activities.”

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Johor Robbers get away with ... Old Newspaper

Two robbers were left disappointed after they only escaped with a plastic bag filled with a newspaper and a water bottle.

The victim, a money changer, was about to open his shop in Taman Sentosa here at about 9am when he was approached by two men armed with guns.

The robbers snatched the plastic bag the victim was carrying before escaping in a blue Proton Wira.

The 50-year-old victim was relieved that the bag only contained his bank account book, a newspaper and a water bottle.

He was not harmed and has lodged a police report at Central police station.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Spider-Man 3 pulls in Record $148 million in 3 Days

Spider-Man caught just about everyone in his web. The superhero's latest adventure, "Spider-Man 3," smashed box-office records with $148 million in its first three days, according to studio estimates Sunday.

That put it ahead of the previous record debut of $135.6 million set last summer by "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

With $59.3 million on opening day Friday, Sony's "Spider-Man 3" broke the single-day box-office record, also held by "Dead Man's Chest" with $55.8 million in its first day.

Since it began rolling out overseas on Tuesday, "Spider-Man 3" has taken in $227 million in foreign markets, bringing the film's worldwide total to $375 million. In just days, the movie has grossed $117 million more than its whopping $258 million production budget.

In just two days, it also nearly matched the $114.8 million opening weekend of 2002's "Spider-Man," which had held the debut record until "Dead Man's Chest" opened.

"Spider-Man 3" reunites director Sam Raimi, who also made the previous two installments, and stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.

"Sam Raimi is a genius," said Amy Pascal, Sony Pictures co-chairman. "I could have never envisioned this. What I was hoping was we would just break the `Spider-Man 1' record. This is beyond my wildest dream."

The overall box office soared from "Spider-Man 3," with the top-12 movies taking in $176.6 million, up 77 percent from the same weekend a year ago, when "Mission: Impossible III" opened with $47.7 million.

"Spider-Man 3" outdid that movie by $100 million and grossed more in each of its first two days than "Mission: Impossible III" did over the full weekend.

Also among the records smashed by "Spider-Man 3" was a $4.8 million domestic gross at huge-screen IMAX theaters, topping the previous best of $3.6 million set by "300" in March.

Playing in a record 4,252 locations domestically, "Spider-Man 3" averaged a whopping $34,807 a theater.

Domestically, "Spider-Man 3" could enter its second weekend Friday with $200 million already in the bank. The film has the market largely to itself for the next week and a half, with no major competition arriving until DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek the Third" arrives May 18.

With "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and an onslaught of other potential blockbusters following, studio executives predict this could be a record summer for modern Hollywood.

"Spider-Man 3" packed in enormous crowds that were captive audiences viewing trailers for those upcoming flicks.

"If you could imagine the best kickoff to what could be the biggest summer of all time, this is the scenario," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "This will have a ripple effect on audiences exposed to the marketing for all the other summer films."

The gap between "Spider-Man 3" and the No. 2 movie — DreamWorks and Paramount's "Disturbia" at $5.7 million — was larger than any other movie's debut. "Disturbia," which had been No. 1 for three-straight weekends, raised its total to $59.9 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Spider-Man 3," $148 million.

2. "Disturbia," $5.7 million.

3. "Fracture," $3.4 million.

4. "The Invisible," $3.1 million.

5. "Next," $2.8 million.

6. "Lucky You," $2.5 million.

7. "Meet the Robinsons," $2.46 million.

8. "Blades of Glory," $2.3 million.

9. "Hot Fuzz," $2.1 million.

10. "Are We Done Yet?", $1.7 million.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Museum offering to buy Cockroaches

A Houston museum is offering 25 cents per cockroach to fill an exhibit about the wonders of insects that eat decomposing things.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science wants 1,000 American cockroaches, which grow to 2 inches long, can fly and thrive in the city's sub-tropical climate, said museum entomologist Laurie Pierrel on Wednesday.

They will be part of an exhibit polishing the image of bugs that feed off decaying organic matter and in so doing add to the general cleanliness.

"They're decomposers, a bit like a trash disposal," Pierrel said. "If we didn't have cockroaches, there'd be so much more trash around."

Roaches are widely believed to be dirty, disease-carrying creatures, but that is unfair, she said.

"They are very clean like a cat," Pierrel said. "They clean themselves all day."

There is the matter that they often enter houses through the sewer system, and that troublesome organic matter from there can stick on their feet, but only until they clean it off, she said.

The Houston Chronicle on Wednesday had a frontpage illustration of a homemade roach trap to capture the bugs without touching them.

Pierrel said she will be outside the museum the next three Saturdays with a bucket for the bugs and money for the sellers.

What will the museum roaches eat? Pretty much what they would get scavenging in the average home.

"We usually throw in a box of cake mix, some pieces of apple, some pieces of orange, cat food, dog food -- our insects eat well," Pierrel said.

Couple burned alive for "black magic"

An elderly Indian husband and wife were burnt to death after villagers accused them of practicing black magic, tied them together on a pyre and set them on fire, police said Thursday.

"The aged couple died screaming for help," said police superintendent P.V. Sunil Kumar.

Sayanna, 70, and his 61-year-old wife, Pochamma, were set ablaze after being doused with kerosene.

Both were farm laborers near the southern city of Hyderabad who also practiced traditional medicine. Police have arrested six villagers for the incident.

Belief in black magic is common in some parts of rural India, despite the country's robust economic growth and cutting-edge high-technology industries.

Dozens of women are murdered each year after being accused of witchcraft.

Last year, a barber in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh killed his four-year-old son by slitting his throat with a razor after the man started seeing visions of the Hindu goddess Kali demanding a sacrifice.

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Cashiers made to wear Diapers whilst at Work

Cashiers at Chile's Santa Isabel supermarket chain say their employer is so stingy with their work breaks that they have had to resort to wearing diapers to make it through shifts without getting fired.

The union at Santa Isabel, owned by Cencosud, one of Chile's largest chain retailers, said cashiers are not allowed to leave their work stations during their shifts, which last eight hours or longer.

"They are not given permission to go to the bathroom and they can't last for so many hours; that's why some have started using diapers or sanitary pads," Marianela Fernandez, president of the Santa Isabel Supermarket workers union, told Reuters.

Cencosud said any such incidents would have been isolated.

"It is possible that there may have been isolated cases that were not in compliance with the norms and procedures of Santa Isabel," Cencosud said in a statement. "In these instances company policy has been to immediately adopt the appropriate corrective measures."

The complaint has been taken up by Chile's largest labor organization, the Central Workers Union, or CUT, which has requested government action in the case.

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Naked Man Superglued to Exercise Bike

A gang stripped a South African man before supergluing him to an exercise bicycle while they ransacked his house, according to a report Thursday.

SAPA news agency said the attackers, dressed in suits, hijacked a man in his 50s and forced him at gunpoint to take them to his home in Johannesburg.

"The victim was then forced to strip, after which he was superglued to the seat of an exercise bicycle, his hands were superglued, as were his feet and then his mouth was superglued shut," SAPA quoted Mark Stokoe, a spokesman for emergency services Netcare 911, as saying.

The man was rescued about three hours later when his partner arrived home, SAPA said.

South Africa is battling one of the world's highest crime rates which has prompted concerns that violence might mar the 2010 soccer World Cup, which the country is due to host.

A police spokesman could not immediately comment on the report. No one at Netcare 911 could be reached.

Woman waits 2 hours, then gives birth outside home in Wangsa Maju

A WOMAN had to give birth in front of her house with the help of her husband and two police personnel after having waited two hours for an ambulance , Harian Metro reported.

Rossdiana Faddly, 28, gave birth to a 2.31kg baby girl in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, at about 6.30am last week.

Shahril Daud, 30, said he called a private hospital when his wife suffered labour pains at about 4.30am but was told to contact another hospital as his house was too far from the hospital.

“The second private hospital also rejected my request saying that their ambulances were not in service at that moment,” he said, adding that he then called Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

The hospital agreed to send an ambulance as soon as possible.

At 6.30am, a desperate Shahril called the Wangsa Maju police station and two police personnel Constables Mohd Zahri Ramzan and Dzulaiha Mohd Nahapiah were sent to the scene before a call was made to the Defence Department for an ambulance.

The report said the HKL ambulance showed up two hours after Shahril had called the hospital.

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Paris Hilton to be Jailed!!

Paris Hilton will have a very unglamorous new address if prosecutors get their way: the Los Angeles County jail. The city attorney's office filed documents in Superior Court recommending the hotel heiress and TV star be jailed for 45 days for violating terms of her probation for an alcohol-related reckless driving conviction.

Prosecutors also want Hilton to stay away from alcohol for 90 days and wear a monitoring device that will chart whether she complies. And they are seeking to have her license suspended for an additional four months.

The recommendation will be reviewed by a judge when Hilton appears for a probation violation hearing on Friday. The judge can accept it or impose a different penalty. The maximum penalty is 90 days in jail.

City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said Hilton is being treated the same as anyone else.

"Anyone who would have conducted themselves in a way that resulted in this set of facts, we would have made the same recommendation of 45 days in county jail, regardless of whether they were a celebrity or not," he said Thursday.

Delgadillo said he is requesting Hilton serve her time in the county jail, but where she is incarcerated is up to the judge. He said Hilton could request to be housed in a jail of her choice but if the judge grants that she would be required to pay the costs of her incarceration.

Hilton, 26, pleaded no contest in January to reckless driving stemming from a Sept. 7 arrest in Hollywood. Police said she appeared intoxicated and failed a field sobriety test. She had a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent, the level at which an adult driver is in violation of the law.

Hilton said she had only a single margarita at a charity event that evening but may have been "speeding a little bit" while on her way to get a hamburger.

A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is equivalent to a guilty plea for determining sentencing. She was sentenced to 36 months probation, alcohol education and $1,500 in fines.

Two other traffic stops are what landed Hilton back in court.

On Jan. 15 she was pulled over by California Highway Patrol. Officers informed Hilton she was driving on a suspended license and she signed a document acknowledging she was not to drive, according to court papers.

She then was stopped by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies on Feb. 27 and charged with violating her probation. Police said she was pulled over at about 11 p.m. after authorities saw the car speeding with its headlights off.

Hilton's spokesman, Elliot Mintz, said at the time she wasn't aware her license was suspended. A call Thursday to Mintz was not immediately returned.

Prosecutors say by signing the document after the first incident Hilton knew she was not to drive. They also note that as of April 17 she had yet to enroll in the required alcohol education program.

Hilton, heiress to the Hilton Hotel fortune, first gained notoriety for her hard partying as a teen. She attracted worldwide attention when a sex tape she made with a boyfriend was released on the Internet.

She stars in the E! reality-TV series, "The Simple Life," now in its fifth season, with

Nicole Richie. She appeared in the 2005 film, "House of Wax" and recently finished filming "The Hottie and the Nottie." She also is a handbag designer and has a namesake perfume.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Muslim Astronauts given Space to Pray

Malaysia's first Islamic space travellers will be given guidelines allowing flexibility in praying in zero gravity and eating meals in space.

The government-prepared advice is for a Malaysian joining a Russian scientific mission on the International Space Station in October.

Malaysia's two finalists for the voyage are now training in Moscow. They were selected from more than 10,000 candidates.

Malaysia believes Muslim space travellers could face problems, such as pinpointing the holy city of Mecca for prayers.

Those in space during the holy fasting month of Ramadan — when Muslims are required to go without food or water from sunrise to sunset — can choose to fast at that time or to make up for it when they return, the booklet says.

The first space journey by a Malaysian is likely to overlap with Ramadan, which starts in mid-September this year.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Britney Comes Back in Concert at SoCal Club

Britney Spears strutted her way back to center stage with a short, sexy set at the House of Blues believed to be her first public concert appearance in nearly three years.

The erstwhile pop star, more recently derided as a pop tart for her highly public forays into midnight carousing, appeared to be back in top form.

The 25-year-old mother of two went onstage late Tuesday wearing nothing more than knee-high go-go boots with a short white skirt and a sparkly pink bra top that showed off her belly button ring — and no evidence of the weight gain that landed her on celebrity tabloid covers last year. A long brown wig completed the outfit, covering the head she shaved in February.

She launched a short set with her classic "Baby One More Time," using a cafe chair as a burlesque prop while she pranced around the small club stage backed up by four dancers.

"She's so good!" yelled San Diego hairstylist Ally Murray, 29, as Spears showed off her aerobic choreography.

Spears sped through the songs — all standards from her earlier albums — wrapping up after less than 15 minutes. She gave a shy goodbye before an old Madonna song came on over the sound system. "Thanks everyone for coming," she told the packed club.

The comeback didn't hit a high note for everyone, some of whom paid upward of $125 a ticket.

"It looked like she lip-synched her way through the whole thing," said a disappointed Morgan Segall, 20, who flew in from San Francisco for the night.

The performance, under heavy club security, was shrouded in mystery. The club marquee advertised a show by "The M&Ms," and it wasn't until an hour after the doors opened that a disc jockey mentioned Spears' name, prompting shrieks from girls jammed in front of the stage.

Rumors of a Spears show had spread on the Internet and via local radio stations late last week, prompting a run on tickets by die-hard fans.

Spears' last concert tour ended in summer 2004. Earlier this year, she told fans she hoped for career comeback.

"I look forward to coming back this year bigger and better than ever," Spears wrote on her Web site in January, also noting she'd "been far from perfect."

"Whatever, we love her," said Raul Flores, 22, who waved a foam placard of his favorite pop star at the club exit. "She's amazing."

In March, Spears completed a stint at a luxury Malibu rehabilitation treatment facility after a series of run-ins with the paparazzi that included a stop at a San Fernando Valley hair salon, where she was caught on video shearing her own locks. Other photographs splashed across the Internet appeared to reveal Spears went out partying wearing nothing underneath her short skirts.

She was seen going out with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan after filing for divorce from aspiring rapper Kevin Federline last November, just two months after giving birth to their second child, Jayden James. The pair also have an older son, Sean Preston, now 20 months.

The two reached a divorce settlement in March.

At one point in the show, Spears and her posse played at taunting a male dancer who, dressed in a natty gray suit, looked vaguely like Federline.

"The M&Ms" had two other concerts scheduled at House of Blues venues in Southern California — one in Anaheim on Wednesday and the other Thursday in West Hollywood — according to the club's Web site.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Musicians unlock Da Vinci Mystery Melody in Rosslyn Chapel

A Scottish church which featured in the best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code" has revealed another mystery hidden in secret code for almost 600 years.

A father and son who became fascinated by symbols carved into the chapel's arches say they have deciphered a musical score encrypted in them.

Thomas Mitchell, a 75-year-old musician and ex-Royal Air Force code breaker, and his composer and pianist son Stuart, described the piece as "frozen music."

"The music has been frozen in time by symbolism," Mitchell said on his Web site (, which details the 27-year project to crack the chapel's code.

"It was only a matter of time before the symbolism began to thaw out and begin to make sense to scientific and musical perception."

The 15th Century Rosslyn Chapel, about seven miles south of the Scottish capital Edinburgh, featured in the last part of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" -- one of the most successful novels of all time which has been turned into a Hollywood film.

Stuart Mitchell said he and his father were intrigued by 13 intricately carved angel musicians on the arches of the chapel and by 213 carved cubes depicting geometric-type patterns.

"They are of such exquisite detail and so beautiful that we thought there must be a message here," he told Reuters.

Years of research led the Mitchells to an ancient musical system called cymatics, or Chladni patterns, which are formed by sound waves at specific pitches.

The two men matched each of the patterns on the carved cubes to a Chladni pitch, and were able finally to unlock the melody.

The Mitchells have called the piece The Rosslyn Motet and added words from a contemporary hymn to complete it.

They have also scheduled a world premiere at a concert in the chapel on May 18, when four singers will be accompanied by eight musicians playing the piece on medieval instruments.

Simon Beattie of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust said he was delighted to have the mystery finally solved, and was intrigued by the music itself.

"It's not something you would want to put on in the car and listen to, but it's certainly an interesting piece of music," he said. "It's got a good medieval sound to it."

Duck penises show "arms race" between sexes

Several species of ducks have evolved complicated genitals in what appears to be an "arms race" between the sexes, researchers reported on Tuesday.

And females may be coming out ahead, said the team of biologists at Yale University in Connecticut and the University of Sheffield in Britain.

Their findings not only open a window into a little-studied area of biology, but could help shed light on how evolution works to help both males and females control their own breeding, the researchers said.

Patricia Brennan of both Yale and Sheffield was trying to figure out why some species of birds have penises and some do not.

"Birds are the only group where it mostly has been lost -- 97 percent of birds do not have phalluses at all," Brennan said in a telephone interview.

"So if it is such a handy tool, why don't they have them any more?" Brennan asked.

Instead, they mate using what biologists call a "cloacal kiss" -- a brief touch of the single opening that birds of both sexes have for disposing of waste and that both eggs and sperm come out of.

Brennan noted that in many species, females choose a mate after he puts on an elaborate courtship display, and breeding pairs are often monogamous.

An exception is ducks -- especially mallards. Although mallards pair off to mate, females are often raped by stray males.

Yet studies show that these rapes do not pay off for the males. "Even in a species where 40 percent of the copulations are forced copulations, the ducklings still are mostly sired by the mates," Brennan said.

"That implies the females may have some kind of mechanism that allows them to keep control of the paternity."

So Brennan's team looked at a lot of duck bottoms.

What they found surprised them -- corkscrew-shaped oviducts, with plenty of potential dead-ends.

"Interestingly, the male phallus is also a spiral, but it twists in the opposite, counterclockwise, direction," said Yale ornithologist Richard Prum in a statement.

"So, the twists in the oviduct appear designed to exclude the opposing twists of the male phallus. It's an exquisite anti-lock-and-key system."

Brennan believes females evolved convoluted oviducts to foil the male rapists.

"You can envision an evolutionary scenario that, as the male phallus increases in size, the female creates more barriers. You get this evolutionary arms race," Brennan said.

Only if the female is relaxed and cooperative can the male's sperm get anywhere near the unfertilized eggs, the researchers suggest.

"What I think is really cool is this does speak a lot about the ability of the female to have these cryptic mechanisms of choice," Brennan said.

And it may mean something for people. "We can expect that these types of antagonistic traits are probably widespread and are likely part of the reproductive interactions of all sorts of animals, including humans," Brennan said.

Employer beheads worker for not milking cows

An employer in eastern India beheaded one of his workers for failing to milk his cows, police said on Saturday.

Neighbors watched in horror as Upendra Yadav was dragged out of his house in Jharkhand state on Friday by his angry employer.

The employer's father and brother held Yadav down before he was beheaded with a sword, police said.

The employer has been charged with murder.

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Rubik's "speed cubers" earning celebrity status

There's an old game in town that is creating a new class of celebrities: "speed cubers" who can solve the Rubik's Cube puzzle blindfolded, one-handed or even with their feet.

Tyson Mao, perhaps the biggest name in speed cubing, taught actor Will Smith how to solve the brightly colored cube for the film "The Pursuit of Happyness." Shotaro Makisumi is a math prodigy so dexterous he can juggle seven balls at once. And Leyan Lo, a senior at California Institute of Technology, was featured on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

"Those three guys are among the biggest names in the business," said Chris Hardwick, 23, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. He holds the record for speed solving the Rubik's Revenge Cube and the Professor's Cube, two advanced models, while blindfolded.

The original Rubik's Cube -- which won "toy of the year" in Britain in 1980 -- is plastic, with nine colored squares on each face. The object is to move the pieces around until each side of the cube is a solid color.

Mao, Makisumi and Lo insist speed cubing is not as hard as it looks. In fact, they say they are surprised people admire them so much for something they say simply takes a lot of practice.

Since Rubik's Cube's comeback in the late 1990s, people have competed in the United States, Europe and Asia to break records -- or at least beat the 20-second benchmark.

Some cubers lubricate their cubes with silicone spray. Others loosen the screws to make them faster.

The first Rubik's world championship was held in 1982 in Budapest, Hungary, where the winner solved the cube in 22.95 seconds. The current record is 10.36 seconds, and the record for solving the puzzle using only the feet is 51.13 seconds.


Pat Riso, a spokeswoman for Hasbro Inc , which distributes the toys, attributes the increased interest to the Internet. "There are so many tutorials online," Riso said. "It opens up the door for more cubers to find out how to solve it and have fun with it."

It also opens the door to bigger sales. Nearly 300 million cubes have been sold since they were introduced in 1980.

Mao solves the cube blindfolded by memorizing the locations of certain squares and assigning numbers to them. Then, the San Francisco resident says, he follows the numbers in sequence in his head. Blindfolded, his record is 1 minute 42 seconds.

In 2004, Mao, 22, co-founded the World Cube Association which organizes competitions. Last year, there were 33 competitions on three continents.

Mao says his talent has earned him a fan club.

"I get calls from girls telling me they love me," he said. "But they're all about the Rubik's Cube guy. I don't think they're interested in me. I'm just a curiosity for them."

If dexterity is what makes a cuber a star, Makisumi can credit his lightning-quick hands.

Only 17 years old, he is an accomplished cuber and juggler who also enjoys math competitions and playing piano. He once held seven cubing records, including fastest one-handed solving.

Makisumi, of Arcadia, California, says he wants to finish high school and go to a good college, and he says he has turned down invitations to appear on television, including one from Oprah Winfrey.

Not all cubers are camera shy. Lo, 21, not only appeared on U.S. late-night television, but performed a speed solve on a special features documentary on "The Pursuit of Happyness"DVD.

At one time he held records for speed cubing and blindfold speed cubing. He plans to pursue a doctorate in physics at Stanford University in the fall.

Such fame has had its perks for Lo as well.

In his 2006 appearance on "The Tonight Show," after Lo was asked to speed solve a cube, host Jay Leno gave him another challenge -- unhooking the bras on five women.

The purpose was "to apply dexterity to real world situations," Lo said. "I got them all."

Postmen find poison snakes in express mail

Postal workers in a Brazilian border town knew there was something suspicious about the shipments from Argentina and were stunned to find scorpions and poisonous snakes in the express mail.

The contraband animals, which also included iguanas, tortoises and lizards, were discovered when the workers had the boxes X-rayed.

A spokesman for the federal police in Foz do Iguacu, the town on the border with Argentina and Paraguay where the incident occurred, said animals shipped into the country often end up in Europe "where they charge three, four, five times as much."

Television stations broadcast images of brightly colored tropical snakes coiled and stuffed into plastic containers, the kind typically used for take-away orders at the deli counter.

The contraband animals had crossed the border from Argentina and were being express-mailed to Brazilian cities, police officer Emerson Rodrigues told TV Globo.

Animals are trafficked in from several countries and often cross into Brazil from Argentina or Paraguay in the tri-border region near Foz do Iguacu, authorities said.

"Traffic also goes the other way, which is to say the animals come from Brazil and go to other countries, including to Europe," Rodrigues told Globo.

Police suspected the express mail case was linked to an international trafficking ring and were using the addresses on the boxes as leads.

Animal trafficking is common in South America, where the Amazon rain forest alone is estimated to hold some 15 percent of all plant and animal species on earth.

Foz do Iguacu is south of the Amazon at the edge of the Pantanal wetlands, which are famous for giant otters, alligators and various birds including storks and South America's endangered blue Hyacinth Macaw.

In Brazil, macaws and other parrots are among the most commonly trafficked animals. They are often found dead or dying in boxes and crates when trafficking rings are broken up.

Brother, can you spare a bride?

Villagers at a wedding in eastern India decided the groom had arrived too drunk to get married, and so the bride married the groom's more sober brother instead, police said Monday.

"The groom was drunk and had reportedly misbehaved with guests when the bride's family and local villagers chased him away," Madho Singh, a senior police officer told Reuters after Sunday's marriage in a village in Bihar state's Arwal district.

The younger brother readily agreed to take the groom's place beside the teenage bride at her family's invitation, witnesses said.

"The groom apologized for his behavior, but has been crying that word will spread and he will never get a bride again," Singh said by phone.

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Twister hits Malacca

It could have been a scene from the movie Twister.

Tiles and tables flew, roofs were ripped off and trees and street lamps uprooted when a massive thunderstorm hit parts of Malacca just before midnight on Sunday.

Hotel manager James Pang, 45, was among those who witnessed the storm's wrath. He said he was awakened by a very loud noise outside his Taman Aman house.

Massive damage: Overee pointing to his house which is now without a ceiling after the storm in Malacca.
“I looked out and saw the tiles from my porch being carried away by the wind. Then I saw a plastic table from one of the Portuguese restaurants 600m away fly into my compound,” he said.

Pang's four-wheel-drive vehicle, which was parked in his porch, was severely damaged by falling tiles. He estimated the total damage to his property at RM15,000.

Witnesses said it only took five minutes of the thunderstorm to tear off the roofs of more than 100 houses in Taman Aman, the Portuguese Settlement, Padang Temu, Bandar Hilir Garden and Seaview Garden.

This is the first time such an incident had happened in these areas.

At the Portuguese Settlement, huge trees were uprooted and the decorative street lamps atthe famous dining at the Portuguese Square were torn off and scattered everywhere.

Scattered mess: The decorative street lamps that usually lend a romantic ambience to the famous al fresco dining at the Portuguese Square lying on the street.
Resident Anthony Overee, 49, said he was watching television with his wife when suddenly their entire ceiling gave way.

“Thank God we were not injured. My two daughters were sleeping in their rooms so I immediately woke them up and we went to the back of the house for shelter,” he said.

SMK Canossa Convent in the settlement, which is already in need of repair, was also badly hit.

Principal Chin Siok Hoon said three out of the four school blocks were badly hit and the damage could easily come up to RM50,000.

Kota Melaka MP Wong Nai Chee, who visited the area yesterday, said that of the 100 houses, about 10 were severely damaged, especially those located near the sea.

He said residents have been urged to file police reports and state their losses so they could get aid from the state government.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, who visited the area, said the state government, through the Welfare Department, would immediately hand out RM200 to each family as an emergency aid.

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