Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cougar Shot in Chicago; Was 1,000 Miles From Home?

A wayward cougar killed Monday on the streets of Chicago was probably hunting for a mate on the wrong side of town, experts said. The two-year-old male may have quested more than 1,000 miles (1,610 kilometers) from the Black Hills of western South Dakota only to die in a hail of police gunfire after it was cornered in an alleyway.

Other experts think it's more likely the cougar—also known as a mountain lion or a puma—was a pet that had escaped its owner or been released to fend for itself.

"A mountain lion walking right into the city of Chicago makes about as much sense as you and me walking into a den of rattlesnakes," said Alan Rabinowitz, president of the Panthera Foundation, a conservation group.

"Behaviorally, it makes no sense for a big wild cat."

Increasing Encounters

No matter where the cat came from, Chicago police said they had no choice but to gun down the cougar after it appeared in the city's Roscoe Village neighborhood, and many wildlife officials agreed.

"It's a public safety issue," said John Kanta, a wildlife officer at the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. "The cougar was real close to a grade school."

Critics note that residents near where the cougar was shot had been reporting sightings of a big cat in their midst for weeks before the incident.

Local authorities could have been better prepared with tranquilizer guns and trained animal-control personnel, they say.

"In our state this would never have happened," said Sara Carlson of the Wyoming-based Cougar Fund. "That cougar was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The Chicago incident occurred at a time when development in Western states has increased the chances of humans and cougars crossing paths.

"There are more people living and recreating in cougar habitats than at any time in human history," said Ken Logan, a veteran cougar researcher at the Colorado Division of Wildlife. (Read "Cougars Moving Into U.S. Midwest, Western Suburbs" [January 21, 2005].)

At the same time, the cougar population is booming across the American West.

The cats are thriving largely due to a reduction in hunting, coupled with conservation programs that have increased their prey base of deer and other animals.

"In the 1960s you only had a few hundred per [Western] state," Logan said. "Now each state has thousands."

Officials stress that while the situation means that cougar attacks are increasing, the overall number of incidents is still quite low.

There have been fewer than 140 cougar attacks on humans in the U.S. and Canada in the last hundred years, with about 25 fatalities, South Dakota's Kanta said.

"You have a better chance of being killed by a dog or struck by lightning," he said.

Dispersal Urge

Chances of seeing cougars outside of their traditional ranges may be on the rise, though, as more males roam far from their birthplaces in the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills in search of territory, food, and mates.

Male cougars have an innate urge to set off, often when they are less than a year old.

This dispersal instinct guarantees that they leave their home territories before larger males have a chance to kill them as potential competitors. It also ensures they don't mate with their mothers, aunts, or sisters.

"If you're a young cougar, you can stay and fight and hope you win, or you can leave," said John Erb, a Minnesota wildlife official.

What's more, males require a private range of about 200 square miles (518 square kilometers).

But in South Dakota's Black Hills "we're saturated with mountain lions,'' Kanta said. "There are no holes for them to fill.''

Female cougars don't have the same ranging instinct that males do. So once a male cougar sets off from the hills, he is likely to keep moving in a fruitless search for a mate.

In the longest confirmed cougar walkabout, a Black Hills cat wearing a radio collar was struck and killed in 2004 by a freight train in Oklahoma, more than 660 miles (1,062 kilometers) from its birthplace.

Wildlife officials are now performing DNA tests on tissue from the slain Chicago cougar to see if the animal can be definitively linked to the Black Hills.

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Hamster kills man

A hamster

A woman is suing a pet shop chain after her husband died of a hamster virus.

Nancy Magee, from the US, claims PetSmart Inc should have warned customers the rodents carry lymphocytic choriomeningitis, a viral infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Two other people died of the virus in 2005 after receiving infected organs from the same woman as her husband, Thomas, 54.

The woman was infected by a PetSmart hamster she bought in Rhode Island.

Bruce Richardson, a spokesman for PetSmart, would not comment on the lawsuit, but said the virus is rare.

"It's not a common disease in pets. It's not something that's tested routinely by us or others," Richardson said.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court last week, said a pathology report on Magee's autopsy lists the cause of death as lymphocytic choriomeningitis.

The virus, which is found in house mice, hamsters and other rodents, usually causes only flu-like symptoms in humans, but can be serious and even fatal in people with compromised immune systems.

In May 2005, the Rhode Island Health Department confirmed that three people died after receiving organs that were infected with the rodent virus: Magee, who had a liver transplant in April 2005, a double-lung recipient from Massachusetts and a kidney transplant recipient from Rhode Island. Magee died a month later.

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Drunk Russian sleeps off knifing

Russian men drinking vodka (archive image from 2007)
One report said the two men had been drinking vodka

A Russian man trying to sleep off a night of after-work drinking failed to notice a six-inch (15-cm) knife in his back - until his wife woke him up.

Yuri Lyalin, 53, took a bus home, ate breakfast and apparently slept like a baby before his spouse noticed a handle sticking out of his back.

He was rushed to casualty but doctors found no vital organs damaged.

Mr Lyalin shrugged the episode off but the drinking partner who stabbed him faces trial, Russian media report.

"Unique and intriguing the case may be, but the accused faces a severe punishment," said Pavel Vorobyov, a deputy prosecutor in the northern city of Vologda.

'We were drinking'

Mr Lyalin, an electrician, had spent the evening drinking with a watchman at his workplace when they got into an argument, Interfax news agency reports.

The morning found him waking up in the watchman's office but instead of going back to work, he decided to take the bus home.

At home, Mr Lyalin had some sausage from the fridge and lay down to sleep, the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper says.

After a couple of hours, his wife noticed the handle sticking out of his back and called an ambulance.

Viktor Belov, a surgeon who treated him, found a kitchen knife in Mr Lyalin's back but "by good fortune, it had gone through soft tissue without touching vital organs".

His alleged attacker reported the crime to the police himself, Interfax adds. Mr Lyalin apparently feels fine and bears no ill-will.

"We were drinking and what doesn't happen when you're drunk?" he was quoted by Komsomolskaya Pravda as saying.

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Ultimate Chick Repeller?


I love posting pictures of bad tattoos and I have found some real doozies in the past but this one might take the cake. It is wrong on so many levels. This person either really enjoys fisting or they really enjoy punching ladies in the va-jay-jay. I am guessing it is the first option due to what appears to be blood(?) around the fist. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. Why are there two femurs in the tattoo? What the fuck do those signify? Did they cunt punch someone to death? The story is a little incomplete without seeing the person that is rocking this but I am going to go ahead and guess it is the butchest fucking chick you have ever seen.

Mom and Dad must just beam with pride when they see this thing.

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So, Mr Putin, what do you see in this nubile 24-year-old rhythmic gymnast?

This is the kind of question Mrs Merton might ask:

'So, Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, what do you see in a 24-year-old, sensationally beautiful gymnast with a penchant for posing semi-naked that you don't see in your lovely, middle-aged, matronly wife Ludmilla.

It is also the kind of question that hardly needs answering for the millions who have tuned in to the YouTube film of Alina Kabaeva performing a decidedly provocative gymnastic routine.

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Just good friends? Russian president and Alina Kabaeva were alleged on one website to have been spotted kissing in a Moscow restaurant

This sudden, frenzied interest in a woman who, until yesterday, was frankly a rather obscure Russian athlete, comes after a Moscow newspaper reported that Mr Putin recently split with Ludmilla and is preparing to marry the young and very pretty Miss Kabaeva.

Model: One of Alina Kabaeva's - Putin's rumoured love interest - sexy pictures for a magazine spread

Enlarge the image
The speculation may go some way to explaining why Mr Putin suddenly posed topless for the cameras on a Siberian fishing holiday last summer.

While his muscled and hairless torso were a particular hit among female and gay voters, perhaps he was simply trying to impress his new mistress.

There is added piquancy in the fact that, despite her youth, Miss Kabaeva has recently been made an MP.

The gymnast is one of a number of young and beautiful Russian dancers and athletes who, under Mr Putin's patronage, have lately become deputies in the Duma - Russia's lower parliament.

Known as Putinskie Krasotki - 'Putin's Babes' - they were brought in with the cynical but successful aim of 'sexing up' his United Russia party.

The bloc took more than 60 per cent of the vote in the December elections.

One Russian spin-doctor boasted at the time of their arrival in the Duma: 'We are now definitely ahead of all parties in terms of ladies with sex appeal among our MPs.

'These young women are full of energy and eagerness to become serious law-makers.'

That remains to be seen. After all, it would be like Gordon Brown packing the backbenches at Westminster with a confection of the pop group Girls Aloud, the triumphant British women's cycling team and topless dancers from London nightclub Stringfellows.

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Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 1983, Alina moved into modelling after gymnastics. She also appeared in an action movie

Alina's raciest shoot saw her pose naked with only fox furs to protect her modesty

Alina competed in the new sport of rhythmic gymnastics for Russia at the Sydney and Athens Olympics

To be fair to Miss Kabaeva - already promoted to deputy head of the Duma's committee on youth affairs - she is more demure than her fellow Babes, one of whom has posed naked for Playboy.

All over? Putin and his 50-year-old wife Ludmilla are rarely pictured together

Yes, Miss Kabaeva has taken off her clothes for a magazine, but poses tastefully wrapped in a fur rug. Her modesty is protected by lingerie in other shots. All the same, Ruth Kelly she ain't.

But how did Mr Putin actually get to know Miss Kabaeva?

One of Russia's most popular beauties, she is the reigning Olympic rhythmic gymnastic champion and global darling of the sport.

She is said to be blessed with 'extreme flexibility' and practically unbeatable when performing 'on the carpet' - to use a gymnastic term.

'I could not believe my eyes, when I first saw her,' recalls her coach Irina Vine.

'The girl has the rare combination of two qualities crucial in rhythmic gymnastics - flexibility and agility.'

The sport is a combination of ballet, dance and gymnastics in which competitors manipulate ropes, balls, clubs, hoops and ribbons.

And Alina was very good. Aged only 15, she won the gold medal in the 1998 European Championships. The following year she secured the world title and was favourite to repeat the success at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Disaster struck, however, when she dropped her hoop and it rolled off the carpet. She went home with only a bronze and all of Russia wept with her. It is said that this was when she first came to Putin's attention and made his acquaintance.

There was more embarrassment at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane the following year when, having won five medals, she tested positive for a banned diuretic.

Tough guy: President Putin happily poses for pictures during a fishing trip to Siberia last year. He is more reluctant to be pictured with wife Ludmilla

She was stripped of her titles, though her coach said that it had been an honest mistake, caused by using an Australian food supplement.

Joy was unconfined when Alina won the All-Around rhythmic gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The sport had a new superstar and pin-up girl.

But a knee injury was dogging her career and, after one retirement and a comeback, she announced in February that her time on the carpet was at an end...time to concentrate on politics and support for her President.

What then of the first First Lady? 50-year-old Ludmilla Putin's talents lie in linguistics. She has a degree in Spanish, can speak French and has taught German at Leningrad State University in Putin's home city of St Petersburg.

She married him there in July 1983. At the time of the wedding, Miss Kabaeva, was only two months old.

Ludmilla followed her husband on his KGB postings and lived in East Germany for four years, where one of their two daughters, Maria and Katja now aged 23 and 21, were born.

Alina Kabaeva worked as a model and a waitress before becoming a MP

But rumours about the state of the Putin marriage have been rife for some time in Moscow media circles.

The story that she and the President have already, in fact, divorced appeared in the Moscow tabloid Moscovski Korrespondent.

The newspaper claimed that the secret divorce came through in February and that Mr Putin will marry the gymnast-turned-MP in St Petersburg on June 15.

The article cited a source close to an event planning company saying the firm was competing for the right to host the wedding at an imperial palace on this date.

By that time, Mr Putin will have stepped down from the Presidency and have been replaced by his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev.

Mr Putin will become Prime Minister and chairman of the ruling party, United Russia.

No one in Russia or elsewhere believes that by leaving the office of President he will have relinquished any of his real power.

As the story of his divorce circulated around Moscow, it was claimed that Putin had been seen having an intimate dinner with Kabaeva in a city centre restaurant earlier this year.

Last night, her father muddied the waters when he said he hadn't heard if his daughter was marrying or not.

But he added: 'If she marries such a man it will be great. He's quite similar to me.'

Neither the Kremlin nor a spokesman for Miss Kabaeva were prepared to comment. Some even suggest the story has been deliberately leaked by the Kremlin to allow them to impose further restrictions on Russia's mass media.

Ironically, Mr Putin was last night staying at the Sardinian villa of newly re-elected Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi - another diminutive leader with an eye for the ladies.

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Spanish Mothers in Debt After Trying a Nude Fund-raising Calendar For School

Spanish Mothers in Debt After Trying a Nude Fund-raising Calendar For School

Seven middle-aged Spanish mothers who posed for a tongue-in-cheek nude calendar - a fundraiser for their children's tiny, rural school - are now saddled with debt and 5,000 unwanted copies.

One of the photos shows the mothers with Christmas tinsel as their only garb - no private parts on view. Other goofy poses include a shotgun-toting mother wearing only a fox pelt and kneeling on a table, and another shows a woman covering her body with a red umbrella on a picnic table.

A group of British women made more than a million pounds and worldwide headlines when they came up with the idea of a discreet nude calendar for 2000 to raise money for leukemia research. Their story was made into a hit movie, "Calendar Girls."

In Spain, the photos came out as calendars in November and at first proved to be a big hit. But the plan fizzled.

The women acknowledge being rank amateurs in publishing and advertising, and because of a miscue with a distributor they missed out on the Christmas shopping rush. Now, sales of the $8 calendar have dried up and they owe a printer nearly $16,000.

"The sad part for us is figuring out what to do with them because it is not something you can recycle," said Rosa Garin, 36, one of the models in Serradilla del Arroyo, a village of 400 people in northern Salamanca province.

The hamlet is a snapshot of rural Spain: quaint but graying, with retirees accounting for 75 percent of the population. The arrival of a new family with small children is greeted like manna from heaven. Funding for services is scant.

Its elementary school has one classroom and one teacher who handles its seven pupils, spanning four grades, and ranging in age from 7 to 11. But it is so cramped, the village matrons came up with the idea of building a recreation center for their kids.

"Nobody remembers the villages. Everybody comes and says, 'Wow, this is so pretty, what lovely countryside, you live so well here,' but then they don't help you at all. They give you absolutely nothing," Itziar Zamarreno, a 40-year-old town councilor who posed for the calendar, said in an interview Tuesday.

Among other pictures, she appears as Miss October, covered only with fox fur and holding a borrowed shotgun. This reflects a desire to depict typical scenes in an area where hunting is popular.

"I do not like to hunt. I do not like to kill things. But we had to do something representative," she said.

The plight of the mothers of Serradilla del Arroyo resurfaced recently because the distributor filed a complaint alleging they were behind on payments and local media picked up the story.

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

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DNA test frees Texas man who spent almost 23 years in prison for rape conviction

A man who spent nearly 23 years in prison in Texas for a rape and burglary he did not commit has been set free in Dallas.

A judge on Wednesday overturned the convictions of 49-year-old Thomas Clifford McGowan. He was convicted for a crime that took place in 1985 and got life sentences on both the rape and burglary counts.

Lawyers say he was convicted largely on eyewitness misidentification by the victim. Now a DNA test has shown that McGowan could not have been the man who committed the rape.

McGowan is the 17th man since 2001 whose Dallas County conviction has been overturned on DNA evidence. That is more than any other county in the United States.

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

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Definition of rape widened

The state's highest court ruled yesterday that a man can be charged with rape if he ignores a woman's calls to stop - even if she had previously consented to sex.

With this expansion of the legal definition of rape, Maryland joins seven other states whose courts have determined that a woman can revoke her consent after intercourse begins.

"This goes to the heart of women's autonomy," said Lisae C. Jordan, legal director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which filed a brief in the matter. "It says that, yes, women do have the right to make decisions about something as intimate as sexual intercourse."

The Maryland Court of Appeals' opinion in a rape case from Montgomery County overturns what defense attorneys and a lower appeals court said was existing common law and the high court's own 1980 opinion.

All seven judges agreed that a woman has the right to revoke consent, but reached that conclusion in different ways. Yesterday's ruling returns the 2004 rape case of Maouloud Baby to Montgomery County for a new trial.

Baby's case drew the attention of the state's highest court - and of national and state women's groups - when the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned his convictions for first-degree rape and other sex offenses in October 2006.

The case stems from a December 2003 incident in which he and a friend, both high school students, had sex with a community college student in an isolated school parking lot.

Baby, then 16, and Michael Wilson, 15, groped the woman and made sexual advances to her, according to police. First, Wilson had sex with the woman while Baby was outside the car. Then, police said, Baby told her it was his turn.

"[So] are you going to let me hit it?" he said, according to police. "I don't want to rape you."

The victim testified in Montgomery County court that she agreed to sex "as long as he stops when I tell him to." As he began, she told him to stop because he was hurting her, but he kept going for five or 10 seconds, she said.

Wilson pleaded guilty to second-degree rape and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Baby denied any wrongdoing but was convicted of first-degree rape and other crimes and sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but five suspended.

Mel Feit, director of the National Center for Men, based in Long Island, N.Y., said the facts of Baby's case have been lost in the larger argument about a woman's right to say no.

"The courts got it wrong then, and they are getting it wrong now," said Feit, who has followed the Maryland case. "There is no way that anyone is ever going to convince me that a five-second delay is first-degree rape."

He said that he, too, believes that a woman should be able to withdraw consent during sex. But he said the evidence showed that Baby did comply with the victim's demand to stop and that the jury in the case "threw common sense out the window" when they convicted him.

"This is a dangerous ruling," he said. "What the court is saying is that every act of sexual intercourse in Maryland is potentially a rape, and if a man doesn't stop on a dime, he's going to jail."

But women's advocates and lawyers said the high court's ruling was important because it makes clear that Maryland no longer relies on outdated common law in rape cases.

"Common law is an antiquated system where women had less rights," said Marie Lilly, an educator at Turnaround Inc., a Baltimore-based nonprofit for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. "This brings us into the 21st century."

In overturning Baby's convictions, the Court of Special Appeals wrote that the high court's 1980 opinion remained the last word on the subject of withdrawal of consent because neither the top court nor the legislature had since addressed it.

That appeals court, the state's second-highest, sided with defense attorneys who argued that the 1980 opinion held that rape does not occur if consent is withdrawn after penetration.

In arguments in October before the Court of Appeals, the assistant public defender, Michael R. Malloy, said the 1980 opinion was of critical importance and that the Montgomery County judge's failure to mention it during jury instructions in Baby's case was misleading and illegal.

Instead, when jurors asked Judge Louise G. Scrivener whether sex that begins consensually but continues after the woman tells the man to stop constitutes rape, she replied that it was "a question that you as a jury must decide."

At the October hearing, Assistant Attorney General Sarah Page Pritzlaff argued that the judges should overrule the 1980 opinion because it "was wrong in spouting some of that old common law."

The "archaic stereotypes of women and rape upon which common-law rape is apparently premised are obsolete," the state wrote in its appeal.

The high court was itself conflicted about the 1980 ruling.

Four of the seven judges determined that the case had not been a binding precedent, meaning that Maryland law all along has been that rape includes instances where permission is given but later taken away.

"We conclude that post-penetration withdrawal of consent negates initial consent for the purposes of sexual offense crimes and, when coupled with the other elements, may constitute the crime of rape," Judge Lynne A. Battaglia wrote in the majority opinion.

Judge Irma S. Raker and two others found that the 1980 ruling had been binding - but that it should be overturned.

That divergence, plus a lengthy recitation of the history of common law and a discussion of other appellate issues, added up to 76 pages.

Meg Garvin, director of programs for the Oregon-based National Crime Victim Institute, which filed a brief in the matter, said that while she was pleased with the court's opinion, she worried that its message might get lost in the tide of words.

"It would have been stronger and more easily digestible for the public if it had been shorter," she said. "A better answer would have been that a woman should be able to say no at any point in time and that we reject any common-law history to the contrary."

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Lawyer jailed for masturbation act


A flick of the wrist has landed a lawyer in jail for contempt of court.

A judge sentenced defence attorney Adam Reposa to 90 days in jail for making a lewd gesture and simulating masturbation while standing before a County Court-at-Law judge in March.

At a contempt hearing Monday, Judge Jan Breland said Reposa, 33, rolled his eyes and looked at her while motioning with his right hand.

Reposa said the gesture came from near his hip and was aimed at a prosecutor while discussing plea negotiations in a drunken driving case.

Reposa's attorney asked for a sentence of one day in jail.

Visiting State Judge Paul Davis, however, said it was his "honor to uphold the integrity of the judicial process" and sentenced Reposa to 90 days. The attorney was led from the courtroom in handcuffs.

Davis said he teaches a course on courtroom decorum to new judges and said such cases are very rare.

He also noted that Reposa had fluctuated between apologising for offending Breland and justifying his behavior as a zealous attorney defending a client.

In a closing argument, First Assistant County Attorney Randy Leavitt said Reposa's gesture was just the latest in a string of offensive behaviour, which included calling prosecutors vulgar names in court.

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Gang dressed as cops steals court papers

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Thieves dressed as policemen talked their way past guards at Johannesburg's High Court, then locked them in a bathroom and stole highly sensitive documents, a police spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

About six armed men in police uniforms convinced security guards they were at the court on Sunday night to look into a rape case, spokeswoman Julia Claassen said.

Once inside the building, the robbers disconnected surveillance and alarm systems, tied up the guards in the toilets, broke into a safe and left with the court documents.

"Police in the area outside the court noticed the men leaving and there was an exchange of gunfire," said Claassen, adding the gang had still managed to escape.

Claassen did not give details about the stolen papers, but local media reports said one of the documents was linked to the case of a senior state prosecutor who is under police protection.

South Africa suffers from one of the highest levels of crime in the world, sparking public anger at the inability of authorities to ensure safety.

(Editing by Caroline Drees)

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The 5 Historical Figures Who Died The Weirdest Deaths

A small handful of great individuals are not content to get their names in the footnotes of history and then quietly expire. No, these brave few achieve greatness and then top it off by kicking the bucket in a way so ridiculously implausible that people would have talked about them for years even if they hadn't done anything else.

These are five historical figures who died deaths that would make sure their names were written just a little bit bigger in the history books.

President Félix Faure: Sexed to Death

Think of him as the William Howard Taft of French presidents, both in his relative innocuousness and in terms of facial hair. He was nominated to run for president because his party wanted someone as plain vanilla as possible in order to avoid controversy. Faure seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Until the day he died, that is.

Cause of death:

On February 16, 1899, French president Félix Faure decided to make a booty call in his own office. Now who would have the privilege of receiving such a dubious invitation? None other than Marguerite Steinheil, a total babe who was not unlike the neighborhood bicycle, if you get our drift. Right about when they were reaching the petit mort (French for orgasm) Faure had himself a grand mort (French for having a fatal stroke right in the middle of orgasm).

We've been making arrangements to see that we meet our makers in more or less the exact same way.

Marguerite then went on to sleep with a number of other famous dudes including King Sisowath of Cambodia. Now we aint' sayin' she's a gold digger, but she really decided not mess around with the lower income bracket.

Still, congrats to Faure. Not only did he die happy, but he also died the way he lived: serving as a symbol to the world for the people of France, where infidelity in the workplace is what hockey is to Canada. And who wouldn't want to help him shuffle off his pants/mortal coil? Guy had the bitchingest mustache in all of Western Europe.

Chrysippus: Death By Performing Donkey

Chrysippus is one of the greats when it comes to philosophy. He helped create propositional logic and helped lead a group of philosophical badasses called the Stoics. But, like the greatest philosopher of the modern age (Andrew WK), when it was time to party, he would always party hard.

Cause of death:
Legend has it, the man was partying with his donkey, who will go unnamed, and the donkey had a little too much to drink. No, we're not making this up.

The rumor further has it that the inebriated donkey then tried to eat some figs. Now, a donkey eating figs is apparently the most ridiculous thing possible, since Chrysippus started laughing so hard he keeled over and died. We're trying to picture it, but we're almost afraid to. Even if his donkey got up on its hind legs, batted the fig across the room with its dong, and then caught the rebounding fruit in its mouth, it wouldn't make him laugh that hard, would it?

Unless of course he was stoned out of his mind.

The whole incident was a huge blow to the field of Greek philosophy--not only because the Stoics lost one of their greatest advocates, but because most philosopher parties after the death of Chrysippus were totally lame.

Aeschylus: Killed By Wildlife Conspiracy

Aeschylus is widely regarded to be the founder of Greek tragedy, so he's probably the guy you should blame for depressing the hell out of you during freshman English. Modern scholars have determined that Aeschylus is also the only man in history to have a name that is literally impossible to pronounce.

Cause of death:
Bludgeoning. With a turtle.

You see, eagles in the area surrounding Sicily loved turtles just as much as Kel from Kenan and Kel loved orange soda. There's just one problem with eating them--getting past that hard shell to the gooey center. So what do they do? They lift turtles up to great heights, and then drop them on rocks to crack them open.

Who loves turtles? Sicilian eagles love turtles.

The popular theory is that Aeschylus was just milling about out in the sun one day when an eagle mistook the top of his bald head for a rock and unleashed a world of tortoise-related hurt on the poet out of a perfectly innocent desire for a mid-afternoon snack.

That's the popular theory. One undoubtedly promulgated by fear-mongering toupee and Rogaine merchants hoping to make a fast buck off of bald men's crippling terror of death from above. It's worth noting that the turtle supposedly survived. How convenient for the turtle.

And while far be it from us to accuse the eagle and the turtle of plotting the murder of one of history's greatest tragedians, it is also worth noting that neither of them were brought in for questioning.

Arius: Farted His Bowels

Arius was one of the most prominent heretics of early Christianity. Most modern historians will tell you that all of humanity was pretty much batshit insane right up to some point in the early 20th century, so you can imagine how bad it must have been back then. That's why Arius was labeled a "heretic" for humbly suggesting that there might have been a time when Christ hadn't existed.

Like, say, before he was born. HERESY!

Cause of death:
How can we put this delicately? He shat out his internal organs.

According to one of his political opponents: "A faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died."

Pic unrelated

If your sphincter clenched airtight at that description, you're not the only one. But fear not--some have speculated that Arius didn't die of natural causes, and was in fact poisoned. If that's true, then the assassin in question must be one of the biggest assholes in the history of murder. Political assassination is one thing, making your political enemy evacuate his own intestines is another.

But this is all pure speculation. Without any real evidence of foul play, we're going to have to chalk this up to natural causes. Excruciating, stomach-churning natural causes. Stay, regular, kids!

Herod the Great: Gangrene of the ...

Herod the Great was a king of Judaea, most well known for his hand in the construction of the Second Temple and for something called "Massacre of the Innocents," which as it turns out wasn't the name of his awesome garage band.

Cause of death:
Pissing off God.

According to modern scientists, Herod suffered from not only a severe kidney disease, but something called Fournier gangrene.

From the above-linked article:

"The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus recorded details of his death, telling of symptoms that included intense itching, intestinal pain, shortness of breath, convulsions, and gangrene of the genitalia."

Gangrene. Of. The. GENITALIA.

In layman's terms? Dickrot.

OK, can we just stop the article right now? We totally do not want to think about that. We're just thankful this is a work-friendly site, so they wouldn't be tempted to tack on a picture of this affliction.

What could possibly cause symptoms so unimaginably painful and (literally) emasculating? Modern science doesn't have the answer, but the Bible sure does! After all, Herod was responsible for the Massacre of the Innocents.

According to Christian tradition, when he found out that the son of God had just been born and that he was no longer King of the Jews, Herod decided that a reasonable, measured response was to kill as many babies as he possibly could and just hope that one of them was Jesus. There were only three problems with this brilliant plan: 1) There are a lot of babies in the world, and it would be very difficult to kill all of them, 2) The wholesale murdering of hundreds of babies is the kind of thing that God tends to frown upon, and 3) Jesus is Jesus and therefore very difficult to kill, even in baby form.

Needless to say, not only did the plan fail, but it irritated God enough that he responded by murdering Herod's kidneys and junk.

Obviously, the whole "God did it" theory hasn't been proven, so we'll let you draw your own conclusions. But which would you rather believe: That God was responsible, or that this shit could pretty much happen to anyone?

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Aliza Shvarts' Miscarriage Art Project Called "Creative Fiction" By Yale University

The New York Sun reports that Aliza Shvarts' artificial insemination and miscarriage art project is just "creative fiction." Yale University released a statement this afternoon:
"Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art," a Yale spokeswoman, Helaine Klasky, said. "She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman's body."

Ms. Klasky went on to suggest that Yale would not have permitted a project of the sort described in the student newspaper. "Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns."

Scroll down for the story published by The Yale Daily News on Aliza Shvarts' art project.

And scroll Down For Video of Aliza Shvarts.

Aliza Shvarts, a senior art major at Yale, artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages for her senior art project. The Yale Daily News has more details on Aliza Shvarts' miscarriage art project.

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process....

The display of Aliza Shvarts' project will feature a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Shvarts will wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around this cube; lined between layers of the sheeting will be the blood from Shvarts' self-induced miscarriages mixed with Vaseline in order to prevent the blood from drying and to extend the blood throughout the plastic sheeting.

Aliza Shvarts will then project recorded videos onto the four sides of the cube. These videos, captured on a VHS camcorder, will show her experiencing miscarriages in her bathrooom tub, she said. Similar videos will be projected onto the walls of the room.

Watch video of Aliza Shvarts at a Soapbox Event at Federal Hall In New York on April 5th. "Anybody passing by the Federal Hall on Saturday afternoon could come inside and deliver a speech."

Aliza Shvarts
, who graduated as valedictorian of the Los Angeles Buckley School, wrote about first getting her period in the seventh grade.

We were all sitting on the floor of the classroom to watch the movie and I remember attempting to discreetly lie on my belly in hopes that it might go away. Facedown in the scratchy carpet, I tried to figure out was happening to me. My two guesses were 1) appendicitis, and 2) my period. As the Mings were reforming the Chinese Civil Service Examinations, I weighed my options: if it was appendicitis, then either I would have to go to the hospital, or just die, and not have to come back to school in either instance. Of course, if I had gotten my period, then that was another matter--that meant a lot more.

A photo of Aliza Shvarts was found in a 2004 newsletter (PDF) sent out by her high school to announce that she would be getting an award for "good leadership and good citizenship" at her graduation ceremony.

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Christians Promote Holy, Hot Sex in Marriage

More evangelical couples -- once embarrassed and prudish about sex -- are now leaving their Christian inhibitions at the bedroom door.

Holy Sex!
Pastors and counselors are offering sex advice to Christians once riddled with guilt. A holy roll in the hay is now encouraged for stronger marital bonds.
More Photos

For this growing group of younger, more progressive Christians, guilt is out and pleasure is in.

"We discovered that God's word is holy and hot … filled with invaluable wisdom for our sexual relationship," says, one of the most popular Christian Web sites. It is based on a 1999 book by the same name.

The Christian wife has come a long way, baby, as a variety of sex advice books with titles like "Intimacy Ignited," "Gift-Wrapped by God" and "Satisfy My Thirsty Soul" are emphasizing the earthly as well as the heavenly side of love.

Pastors are sermonizing and sexologists are offering conferences to help couples overcome their guilt about a once-touchy subject. And, they offer new translations of scripture to give biblical clout to their message.

"People carry a lot of guilt from parents who said sex is bad," said the Rev. Kerry Shook of the Woodlands Church outside Houston. "We help them to have a healthy sex life. One of the things we cover in scripture is how to meet each other's needs in bed."

'Make Your Marriage Sizzle'

As pastor of the 15,600-member, nondenominational church -- one of the largest in the nation -- he recently delivered a popular sermon titled "How to Make Your Marriage Sizzle."

Shook and his wife paired culinary tips with a sex talk "just to grab their attention," he told "We were cooking beef burgundy with a reduction sauce with cameras from the top of the church. We had a real talk about intimacy and marriage and the problems that come between couples."

Home pastors Paul and Lori Byerly of Salem, Ore., dispense more sex advice than Playboy magazine on their Web site,

Created in 1997, the site covers topics like anal, oral and phone sex; masturbation and role-playing; fetishes; bonding; and spanking.

"We had a great marriage, but a terrible sex life," Paul Byerly told The couple talks openly about their inability to enjoy sex because of Lori's history of sex abuse and his involvement in pornography.

The couple, now happily married for 23 years, advises their readers to embrace anything that is consensual to achieve "intense physical pleasure … deep emotional interaction and connection … and a spiritual union."

Sex has come slowly out of the Christian closet. One of the first books to address the issue was Marabel Morgan's "The Total Woman," which sold more than 10 million copies to women of all religious persuasions, making it the best-selling nonfiction book of 1974.

"The Act of Marriage" -- a sex manual for evangelicals written by Tim and Beverly LaHaye in 1976 -- was the first to promote the idea that sex can complement, not undermine, a marriage.

Ed Wheat's 1977 "Intended for Pleasure" urged women to give to their husbands with a smile and included tips on achieving maximum pleasure.

Baker Books, the Christian publisher that still carries Wheat's classic, also lists some new titles, including "The Spark: Igniting the Passion, Mystery and Romance in Your Marriage," which has sold more than 6,500 copies since January.

"What I see and read in both my job and out is an increased maturity in looking at sex," said Adam Ferguson, a Christian and publicist for Baker Books. "It is discussed with more realism and candor."

'Sex Is a Gift'

This new genre puts less emphasis on grin-and-bear-it submission and more on mutual pleasure. Evangelical ministers say the church should play a role in spreading the good word.

"Sex is a gift, a good thing," said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 14,000-member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan.

"God allows you to have pleasure," Hamilton told "That's how he designed your body. Once you learn it's a gift from God, you embrace it and lay aside the shame."

After conducting an anonymous survey of 2,400 of his parishioners, Hamilton wrote "Making Love Last a Lifetime," concluding that marriage suffers when couples lack sexual intimacy.

'Sex Is a Gift'

This new genre puts less emphasis on grin-and-bear-it submission and more on mutual pleasure. Evangelical ministers say the church should play a role in spreading the good word.

"Sex is a gift, a good thing," said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 14,000-member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan.

"God allows you to have pleasure," Hamilton told "That's how he designed your body. Once you learn it's a gift from God, you embrace it and lay aside the shame."

After conducting an anonymous survey of 2,400 of his parishioners, Hamilton wrote "Making Love Last a Lifetime," concluding that marriage suffers when couples lack sexual intimacy.

"We are such an overly sexualized society with everything you watch on TV," said Hamilton. "Somebody's got to talk about it."

The pastor announces these talks in advance so parents who are squeamish can send their kids to Sunday school. Still, Hamilton says even the children can benefit from a good sex talk.

Love, Christian-Style

"Do you want all of their learning to come from the playground or shaped by what the scripture says in the context of the church where we talk about love and fidelity and mutuality and justice?" he asked.

The scripture is exactly where more Christians are turning to spark discussion about the subject. Old Testament stories involving Adam and Eve and Sarah and Abraham are bringing life to sexual discussions. Hamilton said a new translation of the Hebrew word "paradise" suggests more earthly than heavenly overtones.

Though many churches still consider sex "prurient and fleshly and not to be discussed," Hamilton said a more open discussion is actually strengthening marriages.

"Folks who are married and people of faith tend to have more sex, more often than people who are swingers."

That message seems to be catching on, largely with women. About 800 of the 2,000 Sunday-going regulars signed up for an October conference at Wisconsin's Appleton Alliance Church.

"Sex is something we should be talking about in the Christian community," said Judy Episcopo, director of the Appleton women's ministry. "Except for the negatives -- don't do this and don't do that -- the Bible has a lot of good things to say about sex and God wants us to have a passionate, successful sex life. This conference can help inspire it."

The program is based on the books of Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus -- "Intimate Issues" and "Intimacy Ignited" -- who celebrate the Bible's "Song of Solomon," which reinforces the message that sex is not just for procreation.

In some retranslations of the passage, the word "embrace" might mean "fondle," according to the authors. They even suggest the line, "let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits," is a veiled reference to oral sex.

"Sex is such an important part of what we believe," said Episcopo. "There's a lot of guilt and pain and complacency about sexual relationships and a lot of ignorance about exactly what the Bible says about sex."

Bible as Sex Guide

Episcopo first thought about such a conference after reading the book in 1999, but concluded "my women weren't ready for a weekend on sex." But this year -- with the average age of her church-going females at 40 -- she decided the time was right.

Using the Bible as their guide, women answer, among other things: "How can I be both sensual and godly?" "What does the Bible have to say about sex?" "Is it possible to get beyond the pain of sexual abuse?" "How do I get over my guilt?" "How do I make sex go from boring to sizzling?" and "Does the Bible have any suggestions?"

Interestingly, some of her participants are single. "We try to give them a vision for sex but to remain pure," she said. "Sexual relations are sacred and it's important to keep for marriage."

That and some other subjects -- adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, prostitution and incest -- are still taboo, even in ministries that talk about sexual relations.

But, according to Melanie Wells, a Dallas psychotherapist and Christian, that is because God says wielding power over another is wrong -- even in a marriage.

"I try to deal with marriage as citizenship, as a democracy with one man and one vote," she said. "You have to register, know the issues and vote your conscience. If you don't do that, you abdicate the power and responsibility and that's a cop out."

Too often, according to Wells, Christian attitudes toward sex have "squeezed the life out of people, and it happens sexually, too."

In her practice, Wells tries to change the conversation about sex from physical obligation to emotional intimacy. Some couples still struggle.

"It's a real hard shift for people mentally to go from an entirely prohibited activity to do it all the time," she said.

Wells is also critical of Christian attitudes toward premarital sex, which she argues encourages teens to marry young out of guilt. She also veers from the standard position on homosexuality.

"I don't generally get involved in correcting people's behavior or orientation," Wells said. "They have heard all of that before they get to me. They don't need another lecture and it's not any of my business."

Truth and openness in one's sexuality is important, she argues. "Christ can certainly handle that."

Original here

Eight-year-old wife wins divorce

Child bride ... Nojud Mohammed Ali .

A YEMENI court has granted a divorce to an eight-year-old girl whose unemployed father forced her into an arranged marriage.

"I am happy that I am divorced now. I will be able to go back to school,'' Nojud Mohammed Ali said, after a public hearing in Sanaa's court of first instance.

Her former husband, 28-year-old Faez Ali Thameur, said he married the child "with her consent and that of her parents'' but that he did not object to her divorce petition.

In response to a question from Judge Mohammed al-Qadhi, he acknowledged that the "marriage was consummated, but I did not beat her".

Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries, has no law governing the minimum age of marriage.

Nojud was a second grader in primary school when the marriage took place two and a half months ago.

"They asked me to sign the marriage contract and remain in my father's house until I was 18.

"But a week after signing, my father and my mother forced me to go live with him.''

Nojud's father, Mohammad Ali Al-Ahdal, said he had felt obliged to marry off his daughter, an act he said she consented to.

He said he was frightened after his oldest daughter had been kidnapped several years ago and later married to her abductor.

He said the same man then kidnapped another of his daughters who was already married and had four children, resulting in him being jailed.

Dressed in traditional black, Nojud said she would now go to live in the home of her maternal uncle and did not want to see her father.

The girl's lawyer, Shadha Nasser, said Nojud's case was not unique.

"I believe there are thousands of similar cases,'' she said. Civil society groups were pressing parliament to set the minimum age for marriage at 18, she said.

Original here

Five Lost Cities Of The Future

Continuing our theme of lost cities, news editor Ben Ray explores five American cities, which in the distant future could be reclaimed by nature.

Image from oshcan on Flickr

The concept of a lost city has always astounded me, not because I don’t see how you can simply let a civilization dry up, but because I realize that in several hundred years, there will be anthropologists of that age looking at the ruins of whatever modern encampment didn’t quite work out, and asking the same questions we now ask about the Maya, or the Inca, or any other ruins we stumble upon with little explanation.

With that thought in mind, and the coming climate change, what cities are most likely to be abandoned and raising questions?

5. Atlanta

Image from coka koehler

We may have gotten a preview of the untenable expansion the capital city of the south has undertaken with the drought that dominated 2007, and will be felt through 2008 despite above-average rainfall so far. Being located in an area that is far away from any large water source may eventually force Atlanta to scale back, and climate change, as it takes hold, will only complicate matters, transforming the greenest city in America into a semi-desert environment.

4. Miami

Image from Mr. Clean 1982 on Flickr

Atlanta won’t have enough water– Miami might be inundated. With much of the city at sea level, and already in a swampy condition with a high water table, the ground is poised to disappear from under the proud home of Crockett and Tubbs if the oceans begin to rise. Of course, this is the sort of phenomenon that normally takes place after endless amounts of time. Everybody will get out, but it’s possible that Miami will be a future Atlantis - a legend beneath the sea.

3. Detroit

Image from MiRea on Flickr
Detroit is the lone city on this list that’s already in the process of becoming ruins– over fifty percent of the city’s peak population has already moved away, and vast areas of the city have been demolished to hide the occupancy issues posed by this economic tragedy. Obviously there’s hope in radically paring down and repackaging the city, but the possibility of success is yet to be seen.

2. New Orleans

Image from *Toshio* on Flickr

New Orleans, of course, already had one brush with death, and we know Amsterdam has been fine for centuries while existing below sea level–so why is the Big Easy included on this list? New Orleans, unfortunately, has yet to fully recover from the Katrina-inflicted blows, and the concern here is that if a large-scale disaster were to strike again, that the city would simply be left for ruins, tradition and culture or no.

1. Las Vegas

Image from ::Topher:: on Flickr

Sin city, the shining beacon of fun (that your mother wouldn’t approve of) actually happens to be in the midst of a drought so bad that it makes Atlanta’s pale in comparison. The city government is actually paying residents to take grass out of their yards, and writing tickets to people that water their lawn. The Las Vegas aquifer has dried up, and Lake Meade can’t support the demand of this tourist-heavy metropolis, leaving it asking very hard questions about sustainability.

If you have any American cities, that you feel could become wastelands in the future, please let us know and we might do a follow-up post.

Environmental Graffiti is up for four bloggers’ choice awards. You can vote for us for best entertainment blog, best blog of all time, best geek blog and best animal blogger.

If you want to find out all the latest news on the environment, why not subscribe to our RSS feed? We’ll even throw in a free album.

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Meet the boy who didn’t duck

In the history of weaponry, the dull-edged butter knife hasn’t ranked high on the list of weapons of choice. But don’t tell that to Tyler Hemmert.

The 11-year-old Vancouver boy needed doctors to remove a butter knife from his head on Sunday. He says he and friend Nate Leach were sitting on a park bench when another boy became angry with them and hurled the knife.

Nate ducked. Tyler didn’t.

“I freaked out when I could actually see the handle,” Tyler told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Wednesday. “But I just tried to tell myself to stay calm and stuff.”

Four inches of the blade was lodged between Tyler’s scalp and skull, above his right ear. When Leach ran to tell Hemmert’s father, he reportedly bolted from his house without even putting on his shoes.

Understandably, Tyler's family had a sharp reaction.

“It’s kind of a freaky thing to see a knife handle sticking out of your son’s head,” Brian Hemmert said.

Difficult choice
Upon reaching his son, Brian Hemmert’s first reaction was somewhat automatic.

“The first thing I wanted to do was just pull it out of his head and give him a big hug,” he said. “But I was afraid to even touch him. I knew better. I’ve seen a couple of these [medical] shows, so ... leave it alone and let the pros deal with it.”

Tyler was rushed to Southwest Washington Medical Center, where doctors found that the knife miraculously had only grazed his skull.

This x-ray shows how the blade of the butter knife grazed Tyler Hemmert's skull.

“The CAT scan showed that indeed it was just under his scalp,” Dr. Andy Reed told NBC News reporter John Larson. “There were no fractures obvious to the skull.”

Tyler, who equated the pain to a bee sting, left the hospital with just five stitches.

“I’m feeling fine right now,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt right now at all.”

With the scar has also come some notoriety for Tyler. Some friends, he says, have even called him “Butterhead.”

“Pretty much everybody’s talking about it and stuff,” he told Vieira. “They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, it actually happened to you. I can’t believe it.’”

Proper punishment?
Police interviewed the boy who threw the knife, and local juvenile authorities will reportedly decide whether charges will be pursued.

In Sept. 2005, an Omaha, Neb., first-grader was suspended from school for merely carrying a butter knife in his book bag.

Brian Hemmert said he hopes there will be some major discipline for the boy who assaulted his son.

“I don’t really want to see the kid jailed or hung from the yardarms or anything,” he said. “But he definitely needs something, some consequences, some sort of anger management classes. Something. I don’t want to see him punished, per se. But I do want something taken care of on this.”

Tyler, a sixth-grader at Discovery Middle School, said he has not spoken with the boy who threw the knife since the altercation.

“I’ve heard that he’s wanted to come over my house to apologize and stuff,” he said. “But I haven’t seen him since.”

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Stalin's space monkeys

Work at the institute was instrumental in the creation of a Soviet polio vaccine, and its scientists worked on all the major diseases of the 20th century

It looks like a neglected zoo. But the Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy has its own macabre chapter in the history of the Soviet Union. Shaun Walker reports from Sukhumi, Abkhazia

From the old railway station, now a hollow shell covered in weeds, a long concrete stairway, sheltered by sub-tropical foliage, winds from the centre of Sukhumi up to a collection of buildings, many pocked with bullet holes or crushed by bombs.

The first thing that registers is the putrid smell of animal faeces, then from inside one building comes a primeval squawking that sounds like a child being tortured. Cage after cage of distraught-looking monkeys come into view, nearly 300 in all, gnawing at mandarins and scampering around their enclosures.

This is what remains of the Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy, the first primate testing centre in the world, and possibly the site of a macabre Stalinist experiment to breed a human-ape hybrid. Set amid palm trees and lush greenery on a hill just outside the centre of Sukhumi, it was once the envy of the West. Its behavioural and medical experiments set it at the forefront of groundbreaking medical discoveries, and trained monkeys for space travel.

But the years of Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika, then the Georgian-Abkhaz war, took a heavy toll on the centre. Most of its scientists left to set up a new centre in Russia, along with most of the monkeys that were not killed. What is left today is a disturbing shadow of the institute's former glory.

Legend has it that the institute, which opened in 1927, was born of a secret Soviet plan to create a man-ape hybrid that would become a Soviet superman and propel the Soviet Union ahead of the West. The Soviet elite, goes the apocryphal tale that has appeared widely in Russian media, wanted to create a prototype worker that would be inhumanly strong and mentally dulled, to carry out the gruelling work of industrialising the vast expanses of newly Sovietised territory.

Scientists at the institute today admit that these experiments did go on at the institute, though they deny it was part of any overarching plan for the creation of a new race. The tests were performed by Ilya Ivanov, an eminent Russian biologist who had also collaborated with the Pasteur Institute in Paris. About the turn of the century he had perfected the technique of artificially inseminating mares, and had also produced cross-breeds between various different species. Then, Europe was alive with ideas of eugenics, and the Soviets were out to prove once and for all that Darwinism had superseded religion.

"Professor Ivanov started these experiments in Africa and continued them here in Sukhumi," says Vladimir Barkaya, who started at the institute in 1961 and is now scientific director. "He took sperm from human males and injected it into female chimpanzees, although nothing came of it." Professor Barkaya denies monkey sperm was used on human females, although letters were apparently received by the institution by people of both sexes offering to participate in the experiments.

In time, the institute evolved from science fiction to evidence-based practice. Work at the institute was instrumental in the creation of a Soviet polio vaccine, and its scientists worked on all the major diseases of the 20th century.

One man's name is synonymous with the centre. Boris Lapin was born in 1921 and after a heroic turn in the Second World War, started work at the Sukhumi monkey colony in 1949. In 1959 he was appointed director of the institute, and ran it up until 1992, when during the Abkhaz-Georgian war he fled along with the majority of employees and monkeys across the border to Russia. Despite being in his late eighties, he still runs the institute set up at Adler in Russia.

"My biggest achievement over all this time is that we were able to build the institute up from scratch again," he says, from his Adler office, plastered with photographs of famous visitors to the Sukhumi institute over the years, from Nikita Khrushchev to Ho Chi Minh.

In the 1950s, as Professor Lapin was taking over, word got out to the rest of the world about the uses to which monkeys were being put at Sukhumi. "At the time of Sputnik, there was a huge amount of curiosity in the West about what else the Soviets might have up their sleeves in the fields of science and technology," says Douglas Bowden, an American primatologist who has co-operated with the Sukhumi, then Adler centres since 1962. An expert commission headed by President Dwight Eisenhower's personal doctor went to the Soviet Union in 1957 and visited Sukhumi. "They were so impressed with what they found there that when they came back to the US they recommended to Eisenhower that a similar institute should be set up in the US." In the end, seven centres were set up in the US.

As time went on, the centre also became closely involved with the Soviet space programme, training six monkeys to send into space. "We had to make sure they were intelligent monkeys to perform all their duties in space," Professor Lapin says. "Not every monkey was capable of that sort of thing." After the monkeys blasted off, the centre's employees would watch them on television at Sukhumi.

Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was a disaster for scientists across the vast empire. They went from the pride of the country to being neglected and unfunded. "They were terrible times," says Professor Barkaya. "Many monkeys died, and many people too. We had nothing to feed the monkeys with, and there was no electricity or heating. Many of them simply froze to death."

Violeta Agrba, who was the acting director of the institute during the war, while Professor Lapin was arranging the transfer to Adler, says: "I remember walking around the cages in the winter of 1992, during the war, and seeing a baboon shivering in his cage. It was so sad. But even though we couldn't do any medical work, and there was a war on, we all came to work every day." Professor Agrba once found an unexploded shell on the conference table in her office. There was a huge hole in the ceiling.

The centre also had 1,000 monkeys that lived freely in a special zone in the mountains in the south of Abkhazia, where they were monitored and their behaviour studied. When the war started, many died in the crossfire; some were stolen by troops and used as mascots. "Some are still alive," Professor Agrba says. "But after everything that happened in the war, they are so scared of people they don't approach anyone. We need to do a helicopter survey and find the remaining ones, but there's no money for that."

Today, the centre at Sukhumi, where a few staff who refused to leave during the war have bravely remained and tried to resurrect their scientific work, is struggling to get back on its feet. A German scientist who worked with the institute before the war and took pity on their situation ships them medicines and equipment each year. But most of the best employees went to Alder, and the monkeys seem to have nothing to eat except mandarins.

"The level we had before is very difficult to attain now," Professor Barkaya says. "But while we used to write to people asking to co-operate with them, now they're again coming to us. We had an interesting proposition from St Petersburg, from a company that has produced medicine to reduce blindness in old people. They've tested it on dogs and horses and now they want to test it on monkeys."

The Adler centre in much better shape, with all the most modern equipment and is still at the forefront of medicine, working on stem-cell research and birdflu vaccines, and testing the effects of radiation on monkeys in preparation for a manned flight to Mars. "We've discovered that their immune systems are severely weakened by the radiation given off by solar flares," says Professor Agrba. "Now we need to see how serious this is and how long it lasts."

But even at Adler, the financial situation isn't easy. "One girl used to work here as a lab assistant and got paid 3,000 roubles (£65) a month," Professor Agrba says. "She left to work selling blankets in the market and now she makes 15,000 roubles (£325)."

Obtaining new monkeys is almost impossible now, with most countries banning their export. The days when Professor Lapin and colleagues would simply fly to Nigeria and spend weeks negotiating with tribes for the purchase of monkeys, as happened in the 1960s, are long gone. The Adler institute has a breeding programme, which ensures that its population of 3,700 monkeys is refreshed each year. But for Sukhumi, with just 286 monkeys, inbreeding is a serious problem.

The staff at both centres is split between dignified octogenarians with decades of scientific experience, and budding young scientists. The middle ground is missing. "It's a problem across the former Soviet Union," Professor Barkaya says. "The generation of scientists who came of age during perestroika went into business. Now there is again an interest in science, and it's left to us to pass on our knowledge as best we can to the younger generation to ensure the good work continues."

Ethical concerns that would undoubtedly surround such ventures in Europe are absent both in Abkhazia and in Russia. Neither institute has any security; the thought of animal rights protesters attacking does not even occur to the scientists.

"Of course, we're aware of the ethical difficulties," says Professor Lapin. "But in some cases monkeys are the only animals we can use. Thalidomide was tested on mice and other animals but not on monkeys, and you remember what happened there."

Original here

Oprah Launches Own Reality

Flanked by three Gayles, Oprah harnesses the power of an unstable isotope on the set of her new universe.

(CHICAGO)—Calling it the next logical step in her celebrated career, and a groundbreaking achievement in applied quantum field theory, media giant Oprah Winfrey unveiled her latest project Monday: a completely separate realm of existence, known as >OpraH, which she will control on the subatomic level.

"Now, Oprah's always on!" Winfrey said through an interspatial image of herself broadcast between her world and ours. "I've created a place where anyone can come to share and laugh and feel totally free from the conventional laws of the physical universe."

"I invite you all to be guests in my new reality," she added.

This latest addition to Winfrey's empire—which already includes her flagship talk show, a reality TV program, an influential book club, O magazine, the thoughts and emotions of millions of viewers, and two television networks—is Oprah's first foray into large-scale nucleosynthesis. Developed over the past three years by the theoretical physics wing of her company, Harpo Productions, >OpraH was reportedly created by tearing a small hole in the fabric of known reality. The talk-show host then went about restructuring an infinite number of never-before-seen particles to produce a separate dimension, which is currently oscillating around Chicago.

According to her aides, Winfrey was personally involved in the most minute details of planning, from the type of coffee served in the green room of her new studio facility to the genetic makeup of every organism she deemed worthy of receiving life.

"Oprah has always been the queen of her time slot, and now she is the queen of Time," said publicist Jackie Guerwith, who noted that Tuesday will be the first day of "Year O" in Winfrey's reality. "All events, sequences, and measurements of motion will now take place between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern."

Guerwith would not disclose how much Winfrey spent to construct >OpraH, but said that the Emmy Award winner had patented several particles, known as Winfrinos and Oprons, and was looking forward to making a difference in people's lives on a deep, molecular level.

"Oprah's working with Dr. [Mehmet] Oz right now to make some fun and exciting changes to the double-helix structure of common DNA," Guerwith said. "And because Oprah is so giving, you can also expect a few surprises in cellular reproduction, a new and improved visible light spectrum, and maybe even a visit from Gayle!"

Added Guerwith, "Whether it's rising from poverty to become the richest woman in America, or punching a wormhole through the multidimensional fabric of space-time in order to rule over her own universe, Oprah has proved once again that no obstacle is too big.

While she claimed that many standard principles such as Hoyle's steady state theory and relativistic time dilation would function the same way in >OpraH as they do on Earth, Winfrey said the new reality will afford her the opportunity to accomplish some things that were "just not possible" in the three-dimensional world of mortal humans. Certain concepts reportedly do not exist in >OpraH, including prejudice, greed, unsuccessful adaptations of Toni Morrison novels, the second law of thermodynamics, and human suffering.

To begin populating her new Oprahverse, Winfrey reportedly instructed her staff biologists to obtain semen samples from some of her favorite celebrity guests—most notably actors John Travolta and Denzel Washington—and use them to fertilize eggs harvested from Julia Roberts. Winfrey also maintained that, in >OpraH, all women will be strong and confident while retaining their femininity, pollution will not exist, and no one will die of disease without first making an appearance on her show.

"This is all for you," Winfrey told a live studio audience while she used her hands to split a uranium 235 atom following an interview with actor Sidney Poitier, her new biological father. "I'm going to show you how to live your life better, easier, and more happily. I'm going to show you the best books and the best foods and the best fashions. I'm going to show you everything. Everything."

"They say the universe is always expanding and contracting," added a smiling Winfrey. "But I'm going to make Pilates mandatory in >OpraH, because there ain't going to be any more expanding, if you know what I mean."

The crowd then burst into uncontrollable laughter for three minutes until a concentrated beam of light emanated from Winfrey's mouth and all fell silent.

Despite the mostly positive feedback, a number of scientists have warned that because >OpraH is a solid-state representation of unstable probability fields, it could become dislodged from its self-generated foundation and move across dimensions into our own.

"If that were to happen, all known matter in the universe would implode instantaneously," said Mark Chan, a professor of quantum mechanics at Caltech. "But, God, I'm such a huge fan. Who doesn't love Oprah?"

Though Chan's theory remains contested, every physicist interviewed for this article agreed that, even in >OpraH, the odds of Stedman ever proposing remain too small to calculate.

Original here