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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Olympics clean-up Chinese style: Inside Beijing's shocking death camp for cats

Thousands of pet cats in Beijing are being abandoned by their owners and sent to die in secretive government pounds as China mounts an aggressive drive to clean up the capital in preparation for the Olympic Games.

Hundreds of cats a day are being rounded and crammed into cages so small they cannot even turn around.

Then they are trucked to what animal welfare groups describe as death camps on the edges of the city.

The cull comes in the wake of a government campaign warning of the diseases cats carry and ordering residents to help clear the streets of them.

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Doomed: Terrified cats crammed tightly into cages are hauled off to a meat market in Guangzhou

Cat owners, terrified by the disease warning, are dumping their pets in the streets to be picked up by special collection teams.

Paranoia is so intense that six stray cats -including two pregnant females - were beaten to death with sticks by teachers at a Beijing kindergarten, who feared they might pass illnesses to the children.

China's leaders are convinced that animals pose a serious urban health risk and may have contributed to the outbreak of SARS - a deadly respiratory virus - in 2003.

But the crackdown on cats is seen by animal campaigners as just one of a number of extreme measures being taken by communist leaders to ensure that its capital appears clean, green and welcoming during the Olympics.

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Secretive: The compound at Da Niu Fang which is patrolled by security guards

Polluting factories in and around the city are being ordered to shut down or relocate during the Games to ease Beijing's choking smog and drivers are allowed out on to the roads only three times a week.

Fares on the city's underground network have been cut to just two yuan (14p) for any journey - a six-fold reduction on some routes - to keep people off buses, and beggars and street sleepers are being moved to out-of-town camps or given train fares back to their home provinces.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers have been made to attend lessons in how to greet passengers politely in English and a city-wide courtesy campaign has been launched to teach Beijing's notoriously dour and grumpy citizens how to smile and be pleasant to foreigners.

The cull of Beijing's estimated 500,000 cat population is certain to provoke international outrage as it comes just over a year after the Chinese were criticised for rounding up and killing stray dogs across the country.

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Refuge: Campaigner Hu Yuan, 80, with some of the 250 cats she has taken in at her Beijing home

Animal welfare groups in China are already protesting, but their members fear punishment from the authorities.

Officials say people can adopt animals from the 12 cat pounds set up around the city, but welfare groups say they are almost impossible to get inside and believe few cats survive.

One cat lovers' group negotiated the release of 30 pets from one of the compounds in Shahe, north-west Beijing, but said they were in such a pitiful condition that half of them died within days of their release.

"These cats are being left to die. It is very inhumane," said the group's founder Yan Qi, who runs a sanctuary for cats.

cat prison

A rescued pet showing clear signs of disease

"People don't want to keep cats in Beijing any more so they abandon them or send them to the compounds.

"When we went inside, we saw about 70 cats being kept in cages stacked one on top of the other in two tiny rooms.

"Disease spreads quickly among them and they die slowly in agony and distress. The government won't even do the cats the kindness of giving them lethal injections when they become sick. They just wait for them to die.

"It is the abandoned pets that suffer the most and die the soonest. They relied so much on their owners that they can't cope with the new environment.

"Most refuse to eat or drink and get sick more quickly than the feral cats."

Ms Yan's group has now been denied access to the pounds. "We do not believe any of the cats that go in there survive," she said. "They are like death camps."

Ms Yan said there was another reason for people abandoning their cats - the 200 yuan (£14) fee they face if they want to have their pets neutered and tagged.

"We have tried to negotiate with the government to stop the round-ups and to introduce cut-price neutering services so that people can afford to keep their pets but they won't listen to us," she said.

"They are not thinking about the cats. They just want to get results in the quickest way possible, by clearing as many cats from the city as they can."

Retired doctor Hu Yuan, 80, runs one of the few remaining refuges for abandoned pets in her ramshackle home in the ancient Long Tou Jing area of Beijing.

She shares her tiny home with 250 abandoned cats and has taken in 70 over the past 12 months alone.

She pays for neutering and food from her pension and donations. She said: "If I don't take them in, the government will kill them.

"People believe what the government tells them and that is why they are abandoning more and more family pets."

She said the problem could be traced back to former president Jiang Zemin for the crackdown.

"He didn't like dogs so he decided to have dogs killed. But there was a bad reaction from the foreign media and they were pressured to stop.

"Now they have stopped killing dogs but the new victims are cats. It is all connected to the Olympics."

Cats are regularly dumped on her doorstep late at night by owners frightened by the government campaign.

"The situation is very bad now," said Ms Hu. "When women get pregnant, the doctor will ask them if they have a cat in the house.

"If they reply Yes, they tell them, 'You must get rid of it, it will be bad for the baby'.

"I keep all the cats in my house and 100 of them sleep in my bedroom at night. I am too frightened to let them out. If they go outside, they will be taken away and killed.

"The government is not telling people the truth. Look at me. I live with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week and I am very healthy."

The round-up has been particularly intense in areas around Olympic venues and in streets and alleys surrounding five-star hotels where guests will stay during the summer games.

Despite the health warnings, the round-up of cats has led to a surge in the number of restaurants in the capital serving cat meat, according to Ms Hu.

She said hundreds of cats were also being sent to Guangzhou in southern China, an area infamous for restaurants that serve meat from cats and dogs and exotic animals such as snakes and tigers.

It was in July last year that district officials were instructed to begin an intense round-up of cats as part of Beijing's pre-Olympics clean-up. Now notices have been put up urging residents to hand in cats.

Welfare groups estimate that tens of thousands have been collected in the past few months.

The Mail on Sunday went to the cat pound in Shahe on the north-western fringes of Beijing but we were repeatedly refused admission.

"No one can come in without official papers," staff shouted from behind padlocked steel gates.

At another, larger compound in Da Niu Fang village, the sound of cats wailing could be clearly heard coming from a cluster of tin-roofed sheds, but workers denied they were holding any cats.

"There are no cats here, go away. No one is allowed inside unless you have official permission," a security guard said.

The killing of the six stray cats at the kindergarten - where staff at a Beijing cigarette factory leave their children - is the most striking illustration of the city-wide fear of cats.

A teacher at the nursery said: "We did it out of love for the children. We were worried the cats might harm them. These six cats had been hanging around the kindergarten looking for food.

"So three male teachers put out plates of tuna in cages for bait, trapped the cats and then beat them to death with sticks.

"We were very worried the children might try to stroke them and that the cats might scratch them or pass on diseases. We had to get rid of the cats and this was the only way to do it."

Christie Yang of the charity Animals Asia, which liaises with the Beijing animal welfare groups, said: "We are seriously concerned.

"We understand that with the Olympic Games the Beijing government is eager to show the world the city in a good light.

"But capturing and dealing with cats in such an inhumane way will seriously tarnish the image of Beijing and the Games."

Names of the animal campaigners have been changed as the people we interviewed are concerned about officials' reaction to our story.

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Revealed at last: the Ripper case book

Police files giving step-by-step details of 1888 killings go on public display

'PC.97J. NEIL reports at 3.45.a[m] 31st inst, he found the dead body of a woman lying on her back with her clothes a little above her knees...' So begins a vivid account on lined notepaper, by a Superintendent J Keating, under the heading 'Metropolitan Police'. The ink seems as fresh as a morning newspaper. Yet it is dated 31 August, 1888.

This is one of the police reports filed just hours after Jack the Ripper claimed another victim in London's East End. It is one of numerous documents relating to the Victorian killer which, after more than a century in the archives, are to go on public display for the first time.

Handwritten accounts from the scenes of the crimes, detectives' case reports, coroners' inquiry records, witness statements, photographs and letters will form the centrepiece of a major exhibition, 'Jack the Ripper and the East End', at the Museum in Docklands, London. Visitors will not be spared graphic descriptions, such as 'her throat cut from ear to ear', in the retelling of the bloody and gruesome crimes.

'They are absolutely amazing,' said Julia Hoffbrand, curator of the exhibition. 'They were written on the day each woman was found, so as a step by step account you get a real sense of what happened. The documents bring home the fact that these are real people and real events. They are very moving.'

The files were first kept at Scotland Yard, then transferred to the National Archives in Kew, west London. But due to their fragile condition they could only be viewed on microfiche. 'It's a rare opportunity to see the actual documents in the original ink,' Hoffbrand said.

The police report of 31 August 1888 continues: Dr. Llewellyn, No.152 Whitechapel Ro[ad]... arrived quickly and pronounced life to be extinct, apparently but [a] few minutes, he directed her removed to the mortuary, stating he would make a further examination there, which was done on the ambulance. It has since been ascertained that the dress bears the marks of Lambeth Workhouse and deceased is supposed to have been an inmate of that house.'

Jack the Ripper is believed to have killed five prostitutes in or near Whitechapel in 10 weeks between August and November 1888. More than 170 names have been put forward as suspects including the Duke of Clarence, the artist Walter Sickert, who had a morbid obsession with the killings, Montague John Druitt, a barrister who took his own life just after the last murder, and Michael Ostrog, a Russian thief. Books, plays, films and musicals have mythologised the killer and every night tourists walk the same streets on a guided Jack the Ripper walk.

A letter purportedly from the Ripper to the police will also be on display. Dated 7 November 1888, the handwritten scrawl states: 'Dear Boss, I am writing you this while I am in bed with a sore throat but as soon as it is better I will set to work again on the 13th of this month and I think that my next Job will be to polish you off and as I am a member of the force I can soon settle accounts with you I will tear your liver out before you are dead and show it to you.' The letter, signed Jack the Ripper, has a crude drawing of a man, but remains one of many tantalising clues.

Among the documents are witness statements to coroners as well as contemporary press reports. At the inquest into the death of Catherine Eddowes, whose mutilated body was found in Mitre Square in Aldgate, her daughter Annie Phillips tells of her father's separation from her mother: 'He had no ill will to my knowledge against Deceased [Catherine Eddowes]. He left Deceased between 7 & 8 years ago entirely on account of her Drinking Habits.'

Like Eddowes, Mary Ann Nichols was found with her throat cut, in Buck's Row, Whitechapel. On her last evening alive, she is reported as having said: 'I'll soon get my "doss" money; see what a jolly bonnet I've got now.'

The exhibition, which opens on 15 May, will also feature maps and recordings from people who grew up in the slums of Whitechapel. Donald Rumbelow, a leading expert on the Ripper and co-author of Jack the Ripper: Scotland Yard Investigates, welcomed the exhibition. 'To see the documents out of the mounts will be quite something.'

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An elusive billionaire gives away his good fortune

Chuck Feeney, who nudges others to give while living, plans to donate $8 billion by 2016. Just don't put his name on anything.

Publicity shy
Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times
PUBLICITY SHY: Chuck Feeney, in his daughter’s New York apartment, says of the billions he made running Duty Free Shoppers, “I’m not going to die until I can spend it.”

NEW YORK -- One by one, speakers rose to toast the elderly gent with baggy pants and a shy, gaptoothed smile.

"Of course, he didn't wear a tie tonight," teased one. Another called attention to the honoree's cheap watch and the plastic bag that serves as his briefcase.

The joshing at a Manhattan gathering would have been nothing out of the ordinary except that the man pulling a worn blue blazer over his head in mock modesty was none other than the onetime billionaire, Chuck Feeney.

Never heard of him? No surprise there.

Over the years, the frugal 76-year-old has made a fetish out of anonymity. He declined to name his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, after himself, registering the $8-billion behemoth in Bermuda to avoid U.S. disclosure laws. He lavishes hundreds of millions of dollars on universities and hospitals but won't allow even a small plaque identifying him as a donor.

"We just didn't want to be blowing our horn," he explains in a rare interview at his daughter's Upper East Side apartment.

The party was to celebrate a biography of the elusive tycoon by Irish journalist Conor O'Clery, titled "The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune," published last fall.

Feeney said he cooperated with the book and submitted to an interview because he is driven by a new public mission: nudging hedge fund heavies and silicon scions into "giving while living."

It is the latest trend in philanthropy and one that he, more than anyone, jump-started several years before billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren E. Buffett followed suit.

Feeney, a founder of the conglomerate Duty Free Shoppers, said he wants to "set an example" to address "that layer up there of people," the ones, as he puts it, who have "a jillion dollars. . . . I mean, honestly, if you ask them, 'Tell me what you're doing with your money this week?' they couldn't spend a fraction of what they're accruing."

Most foundations, set up after the donor's death, dribble out barely more than 5% of their assets each year, the legal minimum.

But Feeney, raised in a blue-collar Irish Catholic family in New Jersey, quietly transferred the bulk of his fortune to his foundation when he was 53. Then, eight years ago, he instructed his board to pay out every last dollar by 2016.

So far: $4 billion down, $4 billion to go. Atlantic Philanthropies is spreading its wealth at the rate of more than $400 million a year, more than any U.S.-based family foundation apart from Bill & Melinda Gates and Ford.

As Feeney sees it, there is too much misery in the world to justify delay. "I'm not going to die until I can spend it," he vows with a merry chuckle.

Feeney's biggest beneficiary has been Cornell University, which he attended on the GI Bill, earning spending money by selling sandwiches to fraternities. Over four decades, he has donated an astonishing $588 million to the Ithaca, N.Y., campus, almost all of it anonymously.

Many of Feeney's grants are still directed to traditional bricks and mortar -- $60 million for a Stanford biomedical center and $125 million for a UC San Francisco cardiovascular complex.

But others are iconoclastic: Fighting homophobia among South African Muslims. Lobbying against the death penalty in New Jersey. Buying medical supplies for Cuban-trained doctors. Funding a Washington office for Sinn Fein during the Irish peace negotiations.

Feeney built his global enterprise through cutthroat competition and uncanny business intuition. He speaks fluent French and Japanese. And he still hop-scotches from Dublin to Da Nang seeding new projects.

But his demeanor is affable and unprepossessing and his conversational style is hesitant. He is allergic to introspection. Direct questions send him into vague digressions leavened with humorous asides.

In the tiny world of stratospheric wealth, Feeney is a man of yin and yang: extravagant charity coupled with personal penny-pinching. "It's the intelligent thing to be frugal," says the erstwhile billionaire, who jokingly refers to himself as "the shabby philanthropist."

He once owned six luxurious homes from the French Riviera to Mayfair to Park Avenue. These days, he owns none, instead hunkering down in a cramped one-bedroom rental in San Francisco with his second wife, Helga, his former secretary.

He raked in billions selling duty-free cognac, perfume and designer labels. But you won't catch Feeney in a Hermes tie or Gucci loafers. He once met the prime minister of Ireland with his drugstore glasses held together by a paper clip.

Feeney doesn't own a car and prefers buses to taxis. Until he turned 75, he flew coach. Now, making excuses for wobbly knees, he upgrades with frequent flier miles.

Fine dining? "There are restaurants you can go in and pay $100 a person for a meal," he muses. "I get as much satisfaction out of paying $25. I happen to enjoy grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches."

Niall O'Dowd, a friend of Feeney and editor of Irish-America magazine, reflects: "The way he copes with his wealth is to never remove himself from his working-class persona. He keeps grounded by acting like it hasn't happened to him -- like basically he is still the same guy."

At the book party, most of the guests were bused in from the Garden State: former classmates from St. Mary's of the Assumption High School and an extended clan of Feeney-Fitzpatricks, including two of his five children.

Feeney joked about his "rent-a-crowd" but, amid the toasts and roasts, seemed moved: "Who was it who said, 'My cup runneth over?' "

He planted a kiss on the head of his 21-year old great-nephew, Dennis Fitzpatrick, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He autographed copies of the book while seated at a small table with Dennis by his side.

"He'd send my parents $50,000 for our college educations," nephew Daniel Fitzpatrick, 50, recalled. "But if you went out to have a beer with him, he'd check the bar bill. . . . If I left the light on in a bedroom, he'd say, 'By the way, you left a light on.' And I knew I'd better go up and turn it off."

O'Clery, former international business editor of the Irish Times, spent two years traveling with Feeney and investigating a financial empire that had been sheathed for decades in obsessive secrecy. He unfolds a story of ferocious entrepreneurship that operated, he concluded, "on the edge of legality but was never corrupt."

Shortly after graduating from college, Feeney, who had served in the U.S. Air Force in Japan during the Korean War, moved to Europe. With a partner he knew from Cornell, Robert Miller, he began peddling duty-free liquor to sailors.

The two went on to sell cars to American soldiers based in Europe and Asia. Eventually, profiting from a postwar boom in tourism, they built Duty Free Shoppers into the biggest retailer of liquor and cigarettes in the world and a global purveyor of luxury goods.

Their ingenious schemes stretched the limits of the duty-free concept.

As O'Clery explains, Duty Free Shoppers allowed a tourist in Mexico, for instance, to peruse a catalog and choose a cashmere sweater to be shipped from Amsterdam to his home in the U.S. Leaving Mexico, he could declare the faraway sweater as "unaccompanied baggage" and avoid paying duty. Feeney and Miller operated with Swiss bank accounts and offshore headquarters in Lichtenstein, Monaco and the Netherlands Antilles. They registered assets in the names of Danielle, Feeney's French wife, and Miller's Ecuadorean wife, Chantal, as a precaution against the long arm of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Today, Feeney makes no apologies. "Most large companies structure their affairs so that they minimize their tax payments," he says, rocking back on an armchair in his daughter's apartment. "As long as you do it within the law, it's OK."

For Duty Free Shoppers, publicity was to be avoided at all cost, to ward off not just tax collectors but also competitors. "If you had a machine to make money, you wouldn't blow your horn and say copy me, copy me," says Feeney, whose annual share of dividends from the business reached $155 million in 1988, making him richer at the time than Rupert Murdoch, David Rockefeller or Donald Trump.

Why did he decide to give it away, leaving himself with a net worth then that dipped below $1 million? "I'm an easygoing guy," he shrugs. "I like to eat my grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches quietly. I don't like people to say, 'Look over there; he's eating a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.' "

In 1990, Feeney had separated from Danielle. And, in the divorce, she retained their mansions and luxury apartments, along with $100 million.

"The wealth got to him," recalls his nephew, Fitzpatrick. "He got disgusted by it, in my opinion. He said, 'This expensive heavy-duty lifestyle doesn't fit me.' "

Feeney gave his children, friends and colleagues copies of Andrew Carnegie's 1889 essay "The Gospel of Wealth," in which the robber baron-turned-philanthropist admonishes rich men to use their fortunes to help others and "to set an example of modest unostentatious living, shunning display."

In the realm of modesty, Feeney tended to extremes.

For years, Atlantic Philanthropies staff couldn't tell their families where they worked.

Beneficiaries, few of whom knew the origin of their grants, signed agreements acknowledging that the funding would halt if its source were revealed.

It was only in 1997 that the existence of Atlantic Philanthropies became public during the sale of Duty Free Shoppers to French luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault.

Court papers revealed that Feeney's share of the company had been transferred to a foundation. The news that a huge donor had surfaced -- bigger than renowned charitable institutions founded by the Pew, Lilly, MacArthur, Rockefeller and Mellon families -- rocked the philanthropic world, although many had long suspected something was afoot.

Today, though Atlantic Philanthropies lists its grants on its website, it still won't issue news releases touting accomplishments. Black tie thank-you dinners, along with plaques, remain verboten.

Feeney's practical reason for not plastering his moniker on buildings is to attract matching donors who would want naming rights -- as was the case at Stanford with high-tech tycoon Jim Clark and at a UC San Francisco cancer facility with venture capitalist Arthur Rock.

Does Feeney have no ego, then? "It doesn't matter who put the building up," he says. "The important thing is that it happens."

In Vietnam, he recounts with a chuckle, "the people at the Da Nang General Hospital felt so bad that we wouldn't put our name on the hospital that they painted it green" -- shamrock green. He pauses, adding, "Which used up a lot of paint."

Although his parents were American-born, Feeney's attachment to the land of his ancestors runs deep. The Republic of Ireland in the 1980s was plagued by high unemployment, a brain drain and the festering guerrilla war to the north. Anonymously, Feeney began pouring money into renovating Ireland's seven universities, along with two in Northern Ireland.

He offered $125 million for postgraduate research if the Irish government would match the amount, nearly 20 times what the Republic was spending a year. Soon, Ireland's best and brightest flocked to the new research institutes. In all, Atlantic Philanthropies has spent more than $1 billion in Ireland.

In 1993, O'Dowd, who had worked with Feeney to promote U.S. naturalization for Irish immigrants, asked him to join in what would become the Connolly House Group, named after the Belfast headquarters of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.

The small, secret group of Irish Americans offered the newly elected Clinton administration a back-channel to negotiate a cease fire between Britain and the Irish Republican Army.

"At the time, it was risky business to be seen 'talking to terrorists'--that was the label," said former Rep. Bruce Morrison, one of the group.

Feeney was intensely involved in the negotiations that led Clinton to grant a visa to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, and he funded a Washington office for Sinn Fein to the tune of $750,000.

"It was New Jersey working class meets Belfast working class," O'Dowd recalled of a secret meeting between Feeney and Adams in a Dublin safe house. "These two guys understood each other right away."

The peace processwas ultimately successful, and Feeney has since funneled millions into reconciliation programs in Northern Ireland.

"The only way you're going to solve things with your friends or enemies is to sit down and talk to them," he says today. "It didn't seem right to me that Irish people were killing Irish people."

On the coffee table in his daughter's living room, Feeney opens Bill Clinton's recent bestseller "Giving."

He turns to the chapter "How Much Should You Give and Why?" and reads from statistics derived from U.S. income tax data showing that if the top 14,400 taxpayers gave a third of their income, the total would be about $61 billion.

Feeney shakes his head. "People who wouldn't miss it," he muses. "Sixty-one billion in one year!"

And why isn't it happening? "People traditionally collect money. I guess there is an attraction to be known as a wealthy person," he says. "It's not my role in life to tell them what they should be doing. . . . I'm just convinced if people gave money to things they've identified as being in the public interest, they'd get great satisfaction out of it."

Feeney mentions one of his favorite charities, Operation Smile, which sponsors surgeons to operate on children with cleft palates in developing countries.

He tells of watching a little girl in a waiting room sitting with her hands covering her mouth.

"I kept an eye on her," he recalls. "After she had the operation and she was smiling [like], 'It's not the ugly me you knew before. It's the new me.' "

On another occasion, he says, a man in a restaurant called him over and said, "Do you realize you educated me in this business? I had one of your scholarships . . . and here I am now, the general manager of this chain. "

O'Clery, who hung out with Feeney for several years at P.J. Clarke's, the Manhattan pub, before broaching the topic of a book, attributes Feeney's generosity to growing up with charitable parents and in a neighborhood where people helped one another.

He calls his subject an "enigma. . . . He likes to make money, but he doesn't like to have it. He travels all over the world, but in a way, he's never left Elizabeth, N.J."

Feeney suggests with a cryptic smile, "There's a thin line between sanity and the other side. Some people might even say the idea of giving money away is crazy."

For those folks, Feeney has a Gaelic proverb: "There are no pockets in a shroud."

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World: Europe Women in jeans 'cannot be raped'

Italy's highest court has ruled that a woman wearing jeans cannot be raped.

The Supreme Court of Appeal in Rome on Wednesday overturned a rape conviction, saying that the supposed victim must have agreed to sex because her jeans could not have been removed without her consent.

A court in the southern town of Potenza had convicted a driving instructor of raping his 18-year-old pupil.

The instructor, aged 45 and identified only as Carmine, had been sentenced to 34 months' jail.

His defence had argued that the young woman - identified as Rosa - had consented to sex, a version of events which the woman strongly denied.

The Supreme Court ruled that it was impossible to remove a pair of jeans "without the collaboration of the person wearing them", and that the young woman must therefore have consented to sex.

In a judgement likely to anger women's rights organisations, the rape conviction was reversed.

Driving instructors in Italy have a reputation, deserved or undeserved, for molesting young female pupils, and the case appeared at first to be a familiar story of sexual assault on a lonely country road.

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Lake officials find 30 cats in home; man charged with animal cruelty

Kurt Brandli

Kurt Brandli, of Paisley, was arrested and charged with 28 counts of cruelty to animals. Thirty cats and a turtle were found living in a 5-room trailer on Brandli's property. (LAKE COUNTY JAIL / March 7, 2008)

TAVARES - Lake County Animal Services seized 30 cats and a turtle from a Paisley home Thursday after investigators said they found the cats living in the most squalid conditions they had ever encountered.

Kurt Brandli, of Paisley, was arrested and charged with 28 counts of cruelty to animals. He was released from Lake County Jail Thursday night after posting $56,600 bail.

When deputies and Animal Services responded to Brandli's property on Pine Valley Drive, they found 30 cats living in a five-room trailer. The floors were caked with a foot of solidified feces, urine, and cat litter, and the trailer was overrun with roaches and rodents, said Marjorie Boyd, Director of Lake County Animal Services

"It was the worst scene I'd ever seen," said Rene Segraves, Assistant Animal Services Director for Lake County Animal Services, who was part of the team that seized the cats.

Segraves said that she and other animal services employees had to don protective suits to shield their skin and eyes from cat-urine fumes, and that at least one investigator vomited while working in the trailer.

Boyd said that Brandli lived in a second trailer on the property, but investigators found a pallet in the cats' trailer where they believe Brandli sometimes slept.

The seized cats are currently at Lake County Animal services. Boyd said that some of the cats appear to be suffering from skin and eye ailments, but that they won't know details about their condition until a vet examines them on Tuesday.

Boyd said that the cats are feral, and that they will have to be euthanized because Animal Services does not consider them adoptable.

"They're very wild cats - they're not friendly, loveable cats," Boyd said. "Of course, I'd be wild too if I had to live like that."

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Lawmaker wants Budweiser to be Mo.'s brew

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A state lawmaker wants to give the "King of Beers" its own kingdom by making Budweiser the official beer of Missouri.

Budweiser is a Missouri-based international icon that — if officially recognized — might even persuade more people to visit the state, state Rep. Curt Dougherty said Friday.

"We've got a state dinosaur, a state frog, a state reptile, a state flower, a state nut, but no one has given a thought to a company that's been in Missouri for many, many years and is bringing prosperity to our state and manufacturing a product in our state that many people enjoy," Dougherty said.

Dougherty's bill was introduced last week but has not been referred to a House committee.

Budweiser has been made by St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Inc. since 1876. It's now produced in 12 regional breweries, though samples are flown daily to St. Louis for taste-testing.

The brand is already the "Official International Beer" sponsor of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and will be the "Official Beer" of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Plus, it's an official sponsor for 26 professional baseball teams and 28 football teams.

In a statement released Friday, an executive for Anheuser-Busch said the legislation was "flattering" but not requested.

Missouri has 24 official symbols, most of which have been approved over the past 20 years. Lawmakers added four last year — the game bird (bobwhite quail), invertebrate (crayfish), reptile (turtle) and grass (big bluestem).

But when it comes to state-sanctioned drinks, Missouri is behind the times. So far, 27 states have given official designation to their favorite beverages. Most have opted for one that is less intoxicating and builds strong bones — milk.

Besides milk, states have picked orange juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, water, Kool-Aid, coffee milk, South Carolina Grown Tea and the soft drink Moxie.

But Missourians would not be alone in excusing alcohol runs as evidence of civic pride. Alabama in 2004 made Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey that state's official spirit.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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topgear ford mustang vs horse


Montgomery's Finest Won't Pay Fines

Among the thousands of drivers who have been issued $40 fines after being nabbed by Montgomery County's new speed cameras are scores of county police officers. The difference is, many of the officers are refusing to pay.

The officers are following the advice of their union, which says the citations are issued not to the driver but to the vehicle's owner -- in this case, the county.

That view has rankled Police Chief J. Thomas Manger and County Council Member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

"You can't have one set of laws for police officers and another one for the rest of the world," Andrews said.

In recent weeks, officers have twice been photographed speeding past a camera and extending a middle finger, an act that police supervisors interpreted as a gesture of defiance. "There is no excuse for that kind of behavior," said Andrews, who was briefed on the incidents.

During the last eight months of 2007, the department's cameras recorded 224 instances in which county police vehicles were nabbed traveling more than 10 mph over the speed limit, the department disclosed this week in response to an inquiry from The Washington Post.

Of those citations, 76 were dismissed after supervisors determined that officers were responding to calls or had other valid reasons to exceed the speed limit. Nearly two-thirds of the remaining 148 fines have not been paid, including an unspecified number that remain under investigation, said Lt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. He said the number of citations issued to police employees this year is not yet available.

Officer Mark Zifcak, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, did not respond to an e-mail and two phone messages this week seeking comment. In a notice posted on its Web site, the union advises that "members should not pay or set court dates for speed camera citations that are issued to the employer."

Manger is demanding that officers pay the fines, a request that has met stiff opposition from union leaders and has been ignored by some sergeants who were asked to investigate whether officers nabbed by the cameras had a valid reason to speed.

"We are not above the law," Manger said in an interview. "It is imperative that the police department hold itself to the same standards that we're holding the public to."

Officials at the county's fire department, sheriff's office and four municipal police departments said employees who have been caught speeding in government vehicles have paid the fines.

"The only time we don't make them pay the fine is if they're on an emergency call," Sheriff Raymond M. Kight said. "We haven't had any resistance at all."

The dispute over the citations is the latest in a series of confrontations between county police commanders and the union, which has become increasingly powerful in recent years.

Leaders of the police union recently filed a grievance arguing that the citations constitute a change in labor conditions that the department must negotiate with the union before implementing.

Some sergeants, who are covered by the union, have refused to investigate whether infractions occurred when officers were responding to calls, forcing commanders to turn to lieutenants, who are not represented by the union, according to two law enforcement sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the cases are being investigated as personnel matters.

The sources said the cruiser in one of the incidents in which a vulgar gesture was made was assigned to Michael Simpson, an officer in Wheaton. One of the sources said Simpson appears to have been responding to a call in January when he was traveling at more than 80 mph on Randolph Road.

Simpson received speed camera citations in November and December, according to a database of citations obtained under a public records request.

Simpson did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment, and efforts to contact him through the department's media office were unsuccessful.

Supervisors at the three municipal police departments in the county that operate speed cameras -- Gaithersburg, Rockville and Chevy Chase Village -- said employees have not resisted paying fines.

"We hold them responsible," said Rockville Police Capt. Bob Rappoport, whose department has received about a half-dozen citations. "Our officers have paid out of their own pockets."

Gaithersburg and Rockville officers are not represented by the same union as county police officers, and the Chevy Chase Village police do not have a union.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who said he received and paid for a speed camera citation recently, said that he disagrees with the county police union's position but that he is confident that Manger will hold his officers accountable.

Under the law, owners of vehicles, not drivers, are punished for failure to pay fines. Manger said, however, that officers who continue to ignore citations might be disciplined.

Montgomery is the only county in Maryland that is authorized to use cameras to enforce speed limits, but legislation is moving through the General Assembly this year to allow speed cameras statewide.

A bill introduced by Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration would allow local jurisdictions to use speed cameras in residential neighborhoods, near schools and on highways with construction work. The Senate could vote on the measure as early as next week.

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Cop says woman, 80, hit him

An 80-year-old woman was arrested Wednesday after she attacked a Tavares police officer following a car accident, officials said.

Officer Daniel Snyder responded to a traffic accident Wednesday at U.S. Highway 441 and Huffstetler Drive in Tavares, said Tina Sagona, the department's records clerk.

When he arrived, he determined that Thalia Logas, 80, of Tangerine had improperly changed lanes, striking another car, Sagona said.

Snyder tried to issue Logas a citation for improper lane change. After she refused seven times to sign the citation, he placed her under arrest. Logas refused to allow Snyder to place her in handcuffs and punched him several times in the chest and stomach as he tried to gain control of her arms, according to an arrest affidavit.

Snyder finally handcuffed Logas and placed her in his patrol car. Logas wriggled out of the handcuffs and threw them out a window.

Logas was taken to the Lake County Jail on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and refusing to sign a traffic citation. She posted $7,250 bail Wednesday night.

Snyder was not hurt.

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Report: 6 Out Of 10 Americans Cannot Locate Payless Shoes On A Mall Map 

WASHINGTON—An alarming new study conducted by the Department of Education has found that 60 percent of all Americans are unable to locate the major retail outlet Payless Shoes when presented with an ordinary shopping-center map.

The study, which surveyed 200 consumers, has raised a number of troubling questions about the public's grasp of basic mall geography, its ability to identify key regional chains, and its awareness of the diverse brands and logos that make up today's world.

WASHINGTON—An alarming new study conducted by the Department of Education has found that 60 percent of all Americans are unable to locate the major retail outlet Payless Shoes when presented with an ordinary shopping-center map.

The study, which surveyed 200 consumers, has raised a number of troubling questions about the public's grasp of basic mall geography, its ability to identify key regional chains, and its awareness of the diverse brands and logos that make up today's world.

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