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Astronomy Picture of the Day


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pictured: The moment jumbo elephant went on the rampage - and crushed a terrified couple's car roof

Road rage is bad enough. But what worried the driver of this car was that he was about to become a victim of rogue rage.

When a six-ton elephant suddenly lumbered over to the Volkswagen Golf in a South African safari park, Rico Beltrame and his sister Angela feared it was going to reduce the vehicle to scrap metal - with them inside.

However, the giant tusker turned out to be more curious than crazed. Coming to a halt alongside the car, it plonked its massive trunk firmly across the roof, slightly denting it.

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Trunk route: The African elephant dwarfs the tourists' car in Hluhluwe game park

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A park ranger shouted over to Mr Beltrame to switch off his engine - which he did with a trembling hand. Then the 12ft elephant just stood there, gazing down at the rented Golf as Mr Beltrame and his sister stared back, frozen with fear.

For six minutes the standoff continued, with the brother and sister expecting at any second that the roof would come crashing down on them.

But, finally, the elephant removed its trunk and calmly walked off into the undergrowth at the Hluhluwe game park in KwaZulu Natal.

"We saw a group of elephants and started taking photos," said 27-year-old Mr Beltrame, from Switzerland. "Then we saw the elephant head our way. We got very scared when he stood by us and put his trunk on the roof.

"We waited, sitting without moving, waiting, before the elephant continued walking. It was an unbelievable experience."

The reserve is also home to rhinos, lions, leopards, crocodiles and cheetah – any of which might have been more interested in a snack than a peek.

Shock: The occupants' expressions say it all as the huge trunk comes down on the roof

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World's most obese man vies for different record

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By Robin Emmott

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters Life!) - Mexico's Manuel Uribe, once the world's most obese man, is now vying for a different record: the human who has lost the most weight.

Uribe, who weighed as much as a small truck at more than half a tonne, is dieting while confined to a reinforced bed that he has not left for the past six years because he is so heavy.

He has lost 518 pounds since March 2006 on a diet of grapefruits, egg-white only omelets, fish, chicken, vegetables and peanuts.

Now weighing 717 pounds -- the size of three hefty men -- Uribe is still unable to move his swollen legs but hopes to get out of the house next month for only the third time in six years to celebrate his 43rd birthday.

He will still be in bed, hauled onto a tow truck for a trip to the mountainous countryside outside his home city of Monterrey in northern Mexico. It will be a rerun of a failed attempt in March that was thwarted when his bed hit an overpass.

"It's a miracle I've got this far. I was going to kill myself two years ago when my wife left me, but God sent me excellent doctors," said Uribe, his torso still huge with flaps of puffy white skin and sagging, fatty bulges.

Uribe spent the 1990s eating pizzas and burgers in the United States where he worked as a computer repairman. Addicted to junk food, he eventually tipped the scales at 1,235 pounds back in Mexico, bingeing on greasy tacos.

His bulk made him the world's heaviest man and won him a place in the 2008 edition of the Guinness World Records. Photos of his time in Florida and Texas show the transformation of a once chubby man to a bloated, whale-like figure.

"At the Big n' Tall store in Dallas, they no longer had my size. Then I got tailor-made pants and I grew out of those too," said Uribe from his bed by the open door at street level, where he likes to chat with his neighbors to stop the boredom.


In Mexico, Uribe underwent a tummy tuck operation but it caused massive, permanent swelling, and did not reduce his weight.

Abandoned by his wife, his health failing and with no income, Uribe pleaded for help on Mexican television, stirring up intense international interest.

Uribe, cared for by his mother Otilia, turned down offers of gastric bypass surgery in Italy. Instead he took free medical help from U.S. doctor Barry Sears. He lost weight following the Zone Diet, which is high in protein and low in carbohydrates.

"I was impotent before, but now everything's working again. Ask my girlfriend," he said happily, his Guinness World Records certificate hanging on the wall.

Uribe, who relies on his family's small wholesale clothes business and the generosity of friends to survive, said people at Guinness have spoken to him about his rapid weight loss and could eventually put him in the record books.

Rosalie Bradford, an American woman who died in 2006, recorded the greatest weight loss for a female after she shed 907 pounds. The record for a man is held by Jon Brower Minnoch who lost 924 pounds, according to Guinness World Records.

Uribe, who became an Evangelical Christian during his weight loss drive, said his goal is to weigh 285 pounds by 2010, meaning he would have lost 950 pounds.

Records aside, Uribe just wants to get out of bed and make a living from preaching the benefits of healthy eating.

"I get lots of e-mails from people saying they are inspired by my progress and I want to get the word out about healthy eating. I'm not against people who sell junk food, but you've got to be informed not to eat it," he said.

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Two-year-old girl survives falling into pool after learning to swim from just eight weeks

A toddler survived falling into her family's pool because she had taken swimming lessons since she was eight weeks old.

Elizabeth Jelley, who is now two, spent several minutes in the 4ft-deep pool while her mother Amanda frantically searched for her in the house.

The 38-year-old nurse said the Water Babies swimming classes she attended with Elizabeth taught her daughter not to panic and to swim to the side.

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Elizabeth Jelley with mother Amanda: The toddler was able to keep safe while holding onto the side of the pool

She had heard her daughter calling her name but was unaware she had left the door leading to the pool unlocked.

She found Elizabeth clinging to the side of the indoor pool.

Mrs Jelley, of Noctorum in the Wirral, said: "She was running around but suddenly she went quiet so I began looking for her.

"She was calling 'Mummy, Mummy' but she wasn't panicking. It just sounded like she wanted me to look for her.

"I was hunting under the beds and in wardrobes but I couldn't see her.

"When I saw the door was open I just went cold. I thought that was it. I thought she had gone under the water."

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Elizabeth as a baby learning to swim

She added: "When I found Elizabeth she was holding on to the side of the pool. She seemed quite content."

Mrs Jelley believes her daughter managed to right herself, swim to the edge of the pool and hold on to the side – techniques taught in her class.

She said: "It was pretty amazing."

Jess Thompson, who founded Water Babies, said: "Stories like Elizabeth's make me feel emotional.

"I don't think she would have survived if it hadn't been for the classes. Most children drown because they panic when they fall into water.

"Water Babies teaches children to become familiar with water, starting with splashing it gently on to their face."

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Man says JetBlue made him sit on toilet

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City man is suing JetBlue Airways for more than $2 million because he says a pilot made him give up his seat to a flight attendant and sit on the toilet for more than three hours on a flight from California.

Gokhan Mutlu, of Manhattan's Inwood section, says in court papers the pilot told him to "go 'hang out' in the bathroom" about 90 minutes into the San Diego to New York flight because the flight attendant complained that the "jump seat" she was assigned was uncomfortable, the lawsuit said.

Mutlu was traveling on a a "buddy pass," a standby travel voucher that JetBlue employees give to friends, from New York to San Diego on Feb. 16, and returned to New York on Feb. 23, the lawsuit said.

Initially, Mutlu was told a flight attendant had taken the last seat on the plane, but then he was advised she would sit in the employee "jump seat," meaning he could have the last seat, the lawsuit said.

The pilot told him 1½ hours into the five-hour flight that he would have to relinquish the seat to the flight attendant, court papers say. But the pilot said that Mutlu could not sit in the jump seat because only JetBlue employees were permitted to sit there, the lawsuit said.

When Mutlu expressed reluctance to go sit in the bathroom, the pilot, who was not named in the lawsuit, told him that "he was the pilot, that this was his plane, under his command that (Mutlu) should be grateful for being on board," the lawsuit said.

When the aircraft hit turbulence and passengers were directed to return to their seats, but "the plaintiff had no seat to return to, sitting on a toilet stool with no seat belts," court papers say.

Some time later, a male flight attendant knocked on the restroom door and told Mutlu he could return to his original seat, court papers say.

Mutlu's lawsuit, filed Friday in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, says JetBlue negligently endangered him by not providing him with a seat with a safety belt or harness, in violation of federal law.

A JetBlue spokesman declined comment on the lawsuit Monday.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Who's happier -- older or younger?

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Newsflash for rock stars and teenagers: It turns out everything doesn't go downhill as we age -- the golden years really are golden.


That's according to eye-opening research that found the happiest Americans are the oldest, and older adults are more socially active than the stereotype of the lonely senior suggests.

The two go hand-in-hand -- being social can help keep away the blues.

"The good news is that with age comes happiness," said study author Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist. "Life gets better in one's perception as one ages."

A certain amount of distress in old age is inevitable, including aches, pains and deaths of loved ones and friends. But older people generally have learned to be more content with what they have than younger adults, Yang said.

This is partly because older people have learned to lower their expectations and accept their achievements, said Duke University aging expert Linda George. An older person may realize "it's fine that I was a schoolteacher and not a Nobel prize winner."

George, who was not involved in the new study, believes the research is important because the general public continues to think that "late life is far from the best stage of life and they don't look forward to it."

Yang's findings are based on periodic face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans from 1972 to 2004. About 28,000 people aged 18 to 88 took part.

There were ups and downs in overall happiness levels during the study, generally corresponding with good and bad economic times. But at every stage, older Americans were the happiest.

While younger blacks and poor people tended to be less happy than whites and wealthier people, those differences faded as people aged.

In general, the odds of being happy increased 5 percent with every 10 years of age.

Overall, about 33 percent of Americans reported being very happy at age 88, versus about 24 percent of those age 18 to their early 20s. And throughout the study years, most Americans reported being very happy or pretty happy; less than 20 percent said they were not too happy.

A separate University of Chicago study found that about 75 percent of people aged 57 to 85 engage in one or more social activities at least every week. Those include socializing with neighbors, attending religious services, volunteering or going to group meetings.

Those in their 80s were twice as likely as those in their 50s to do at least one of these activities.

Both studies appear in April's American Sociological Review.

"People's social circles do tend to shrink a little as they age -- that is mainly where that stereotype comes from, but that image of the isolated elderly really falls apart when we broaden our definition of what social connection is," said study co-author Benjamin Cornwell, also a University of Chicago researcher.

The research rings true for 81-year-old George O'Hare, a retired Sears manager in Willowbrook, Illinois. He's active with church, AARP and does motivational speaking, too. His wife is still living, and he's close to his three sons and four grandchildren.

"I'm very happy because I've made friends that are still living," O'Hare said. "I like to go out and speak in schools about motivation."

"Happiness is getting out and being with people, and that's why I recommend it," he said.

Ilse Siegler, an 84-year-old retired nurse manager in Chicago, has a slightly different perspective. Her husband died 35 years ago; she still misses him everyday.

She has vision problems and has slowed down with age. Yet, she still swims, runs a social group in her condo building, volunteers in a retirement home and is active with her temple. These all help "make life more enjoyable," she said.

While Siegler said these aren't the happiest years of her life, she's content.

"Contentment as far as I'm concerned comes with old age ... because you accept things the way they are," she said. "You know that nothing is perfect."

Cornwell's nationally representative study was based on in-home interviews with 3,005 people in 2005-06. While it didn't include nursing home residents, only about 4 percent of Americans aged 75 to 84 are in nursing homes, Cornwell said.

It's all good news for the aging population. However, Yang's study also found that baby boomers were the least happy. They could end up living the unfortunate old-age stereotype if they can't let go of their achievement-driven mind-set, said George, the Duke aging expert.

So far, baby boomers aren't lowering their aspirations at the same rate earlier generations did. "They still seem to believe that they should have it all," George said. "They're still thinking about having a retirement that's going to let them do everything they haven't done yet."

Previous research also has shown that mid-life tends to be the most stressful time, said Cornell University sociologist Elaine Wethington. "Everyone's asking you to do things and you have a lot to do. You're less happy because you feel hassled."

The new studies show "if you can make it through that," there's light at the end of the tunnel, Wethington said.
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Sex And The American Mom: 1 In 3 Report Getting Action On The Side

You or someone you know is having an affair. We know, it sounds surprising, shocking even, but apparently that is the case. Cookie Magazine and "AOL Body" did a survey on the subject and 30,000 people responded. As far as surveys go, that is a big number, and it's even bigger when you consider that their questions were aimed solely at married women with children. Yep, lots of mommies are getting action on the side.

The survey, "Sex and the American Mom," revealed that 34% of these married moms is in the midst of, or has already had, an affair. Think of three married moms you know and ask yourself, "Which one is cheating?" We tried this and Colleen came up empty. Taylor could think of one or two, but not one out of three--that number seems staggering. Are we just naïve? In the dark? Out of touch? Which of our friends has managed to stray without anyone knowing (and when do they find the time and where they hell do they go?)?

Another somewhat mind-blowing result of this survey was that 77% of the respondents said they want more sex. That's more than three quarters of the 30,000 women asked who said they aren't getting enough. Again, we ask, who are these people? And are we to conclude that so many stray because they are not sexually satisfied?

Cheating seems to be a direct result of not getting what you need, be it sex, attention, openness, what have you. If there is a void, and it can be filled by someone else, chances are it will be. Affairs used to almost guarantee a trip to divorce court. Today, however, the "cheatee" might experience a sense of betrayal, but the "cheater" is not necessarily stigmatized socially, and often both agree to at least attempt reconciliation. It has even been viewed as a "wake-up call" -- one that can actually save a marriage, with each person expressing a sense of shared blame.

As a society, it seems as though we've become less judgmental about affairs in general. Maybe we've realized how hard marriage is and have simply gotten more realistic. But, maybe the scope of the issue is bigger, and what's happening is that we're in the midst of redefining marriage as we have known it.

The stereotype, of course, is if there's someone sneaking around in a marriage, it's the guy. In general, no one is surprised to hear that men cheat on their wives. However, when it comes to wives cheating on their husbands, while not entirely new, it is much more common than we thought. When we told men that one in three married moms cheat (or have cheated) on their husbands, and that a solid majority are actually looking for more sex than they're having at home, most mens' eyes light up with surprise and certainly curiosity. Some even joked about where they might find one of these gals. But, what we didn't hear was "Yes, I can understand that. I'm not in the mood very often and I'm probably not satisfying my wife's sexual desires."

Could the American male be suffering from a proverbial "headache?" Maybe the insatiable male sex drive is just a myth? After hearing what Michelle Weiner-Davis, an internationally recognized relationship therapist and the Director of The Divorce Busting Center, had to say in an interview with Psychology Today, this may not be far-fetched. She thinks we don't hear a lot about the man's lack of sexual interest because, "Men are so ashamed of speaking up about [it]." Estimating that it affects, "at least 20 to 25%" of adult males," Michelle adds, "...low desire in men is America's best-kept secret."

Please don't confuse our effort to understand what's going on here with male-bashing. When a couple's sex life changes, for better or worse, generally both parties are complicit. For the record, we love men and we're aware that sex is complicated. Let's face it, marriage is complicated, and it only becomes more so after having kids. If mom or dad feels rejected by the other, he or she may cheat. And if you're married and you've got kids, you know that sex, or lack there of, can be loaded with a lot of other emotions and agendas that don't have anything to do with lust, or even love.

As the Hook-Up Generation grows up and gets married, chances are affairs may even go mainstream. It's hard for us to believe that this won't lead to hurt feelings and collateral damage (remember the kids), but maybe that's because we're from a different generation.
We understand that the person who lies just outside of the daily grind--the one who's not figuring out how to pay the mortgage that month; the one who isn't angry about spending too little time with the kids--can seem like a vacation worth taking--at least once.

We're glad to hear that women want more sex, because frankly, it's good news that the female libido is alive and well. As for the affairs....If we could add one question to the poll it would be this: "Is/Was the Affair Worth It? "

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