Friday, June 20, 2008

Harvey the trampolining dog found

By Paul Stokes

A dog named Harvey who used a trampoline to escape over a garden fence has been reunited with his owners.

Harvey disappeared from the back garden on Friday

The black and white Staffordshire Bull Terrier pulled off the stunt to bound to freedom at noon on Friday.

But after this week's publicity, his owner Laura Kidson, 27, received a call from the RSPCA on Tuesday night to say Harvey had been handed in to them at the weekend.

He has now been reunited with Miss Kidson, her four year old daughter Chloe and nine month old son Cole, who had been pining for him, at their home in York.

Miss Kidson, who works as a dispenser at Boots pharmacy, said: "We're delighted that he's back safe and well, but we're going to try and keep him off the trampoline from now on."

Three year old Harvey often joined the children and their other dog a Boxer puppy called Roxanne bouncing on the equipment in their garden.

Miss Kidson said: "The fence isn't all that high, but he couldn't get over it on his own and must have used the trampoline to bounce himself into my neighbour's garden and got out.

"He's something of an escape artist and he has got out before, but not for a long time and we were just starting to think he's stopped all that."

Original here

Death of Raven, a Hollywood Beauty


Raven was one of the youngest and toughest Hollywood street runaways, her MySpace page filled with horror, beauty and bitterness. Split from her disaster of a mother, the troubled teen from suburban Glendale tried to fashion a normal life with the lone kids she met. So beautiful and so extreme was Raven that it seemed almost inevitable when actress Dyan Cannon stumbled across the 12-year-old brunette four years ago and chose to make her a key figure in a yet-to-be-completed documentary. The last time Cannon taped Raven, the teen prophesied her own death — in a dark, gothic poem that was a trademark of her writings.

And then a year ago, the homeless teen vanished. She was found strangled and wrapped in a green tapestry comforter, a CSI-style clue that Los Angeles Police Department detectives followed to a comforter manufacturer, then to the gritty Olive Motel on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, which buys those very covers for its beds.

In a stroke of dark luck that seemed a fitting tribute to Raven’s desperately short life, Los Angeles detectives quickly discovered the existence of a motel surveillance video, and on that video, police say, are the shocking images of a suspect carrying a body wrapped in a green tapestry comforter.

The trial will soon begin of Raven’s suspected killer, a registered sex offender and convicted drug dealer who had been out on the streets for only four days when Raven’s body was found. Meanwhile, Raven’s MySpace site has become an epic poem and digital history by the street kids who knew her, maybe even idolized her — but who no longer want to be like her.

Raven’s real name was Alyssa Gomez,
but “Raven” was an affectionate nickname given to her by an ex-boyfriend, and it seemed to evoke her darkness — her lush, long, near-black hair, her morbid street fashions, her black humor. When she first hit the boulevard, she played things tough, calling herself CODE, or “Cause of Death: Ecstasy,” a name she clung to after watching a friend overdose on the drug.

Her MySpace page, “Ravenous Vagrant,” was a testament to the disturbing world in which she lived, the murkier, less acceptable side of the now dressed-up, redeveloped Hollywood filled with yuppies and monied young partiers.

Like some hellish version of the “parallel universes” theory in physics, Raven and her invisible friends slinked along the same streets as the glittering new BMW crowd that occupies Hollywood each night, slipping past lines of suburbanites, college kids and tourists waiting to gain entry to Les Deux Café and Goa. Many of them mere children, they live in the alleys and back lots, where beatings are commonplace, drugs are plentiful, and prostitution means a meal or a much-needed fix. The photo Raven chose for her cyber page looks like it could have been pinched from the gloomy, occult crime comics by David Quinn and Tim Vigil. The caption for a drawing of a raven-haired woman and man locked in a seductive kiss reads: “I’m the maggot in ever dead.”

Raven listed her age as 101. She looked and acted 30. She was 15. She listed her favorite movie as: “to watch you attempt suicide.” Her favorite TV show was “Childrens [sic] lonely and bitterness.” Her heroes: “my rapeing [sic] fingers.” Her hometown: the “underworld.”

Raven’s last log posting is dated July 11, 2007. As if putting one final flourish on the nihilistic existence she chose, her post appeared more than a month after her June 4 death.

In the months since her murder, Raven’s MySpace page has become a cyber memorial to the lost teen, and to hundreds of children for whom the streets of Hollywood and Los Angeles seem no different from Third World Sao Paulo or Calcutta, gritty urban places that lure children into a game of survival that they may not win.

Two days after her death, Raven’s counselor at a Hollywood drop-in center, named “Ebony,” wrote: “I only wish I had done more for you. I know that you are not suffering anymore. ... We will get it right. If not in this lifetime, then in the next one.”

The following day, a pal calling himself “Caneada” scribed: “rest in peace raven i loved you like my little sister and a young women i wish i was there with you when it happen but i wasn’t now i feel like i have to become a better man to let u know that u will always be in my heart.”

More recently, “Paxil” penned: “To My Beautiful Morbid Angel. Forever I will hold you in my heart. I’m sorry I wasn’t out of jail to keep you with me. I’ll never forgive myself.”

To those who look back, none of what happened to Raven really made much sense. For reasons her surviving sister cannot explain, Raven’s mother, an alleged longtime 18th Street gang member turned drug addict, and her alcoholic Mexican-immigrant father, were obsessed with fighting in children’s court to get custody of Raven. Family members say her parents never stayed clean long enough to get back control of Raven and her younger sister. Despite the couple’s constant interference, Raven and her sister and half-siblings grew up in a stable household with their grandfather — a mariachi singer — and grandmother in Boyle Heights and later suburban, racially mixed, low-crime Glendale, a place that still has decent schools and nice neighborhoods. But Raven longed to be with her mother.

To Raven’s oldest sister, Brittany (not her real name, which she asked L.A.Weekly not to use for fear of retribution), their mother was a troubled stranger who kept popping into their lives. “The law was called on her so many times,” Brittany, 31, tells L.A.Weekly. “She just didn’t care for us. The only reason we knew she was alive [was when] the police would pick up [us] girls and call my grandmother.”

Raven was a typical little girl who loved dolls, anything pink and dressing up like a princess. All seemed well, despite the wreckage of her parents’ lives. Her grandfather died, then things changed forever in 2000, when the rock in her life, her grandmother, died.

She was just 8 years old, and at that tender age was about to begin a downward spiral that would never stop. “She went from loving pink and Disney stuff to not caring at all,” says Brittany. “It totally changed her.” Raven became reclusive and angry, and didn’t care much about anything. “She felt that she lost another mother.”

Photo by Ted Soqui

Westside meets Eastside: Dyan Cannon, in search of documentary subjects, visits with young homeless men on Hollywood Boulevard.

Her aunt and uncle took her in, but Raven proved to be a handful and things grew worse. She ended up a ward of the county, spending time in the Hollygrove Home for Children. The system failed her miserably: By 12, she was a chronic runaway, seeking out the streets at a time when most kids are in the seventh-grade. She tossed away her pink princess dresses for black gothic attire.

“We were always looking for her,” says Brittany. “We would find her and turn her in [to child services]. Then she would leave again.... I realized it didn’t matter what I do ... I didn’t want her to not talk to me at all. I saw that I was pushing her more and more away.”

The concrete sidewalks became Raven’s bed. Her daily routine included showering at a homeless teens’ drop-in center on Gower Street, the Teen Canteen, where she kept her stuff in a locker; hanging out at other facilities for the homeless and runaways on Hollywood Boulevard, like My Friend’s Place or the Salvation Army’s The Way In; and panhandling on one of her two favorite corners, Hollywood and Cahuenga or Hollywood and Vine.

She pulled in $20 to $30 a night on weekdays, from shocked pedestrians who got a good look at her youthful face. On Friday nights, she could make up to $50.

It probably helped that she was beautiful.

Regularly, Raven and a friend would get stoned together and go to the Metro subway station at Hollywood and Vine and “talk crap to the tourists and ask them for change, and if they didn’t give us money we would say, ‘fuck you,’” chuckles Kat Ybarra, Raven’s best friend for three of her four years on the streets.

In no time at all, young Raven was a prostitute. When Kat first met her, Raven had just escaped from a pimp who was forcing her to work the intersection of Sunset and La Brea. “She didn’t want to go to Sunset,” says Kat. “Every time I saw her, she would be afraid he would be looking for her.”

Raven, girl prostitute, was only a few miles from where she was raised, in her grandmother’s safe suburban apartment, but worlds away. She could not recall the story of her own birth, and was no longer sure of her real age. “I don’t think she really knew when her real birthday was,” says Kat. “Before she died, she said she was 16.”

And, again in no time at all, Raven picked up a debilitating meth habit.

“It was fun at first, when you’re high, because we had kick-ass times,” recalls Kat. “That’s what we thought was fun.”

Raven fell in love with a street kid named Jimmy, who, it turned out, was being captured on videotape for a documentary about Los Angeles teens being made by actress Dyan Cannon. Cannon, after 9/11, had been spurred by a conviction that it was possible for people of different ethnicities and religious faiths to get along. She wanted to chronicle kids from many walks of life over a period of years. In 2002, she canvassed high schools and the streets, auditioning kids, and found just the right mix.

Looking relaxed during a recent interview at the casually chic Fairfax District restaurant BLD, co-owned by a friend of hers, Cannon tells the Weekly that after scouring L.A., she ended up with eight “stars” — troubled and normal kids alike.

A couple of them were homeless, like Jimmy. Cannon, a longtime resident of Malibu, now perhaps best known as a high-profile Lakers fan often caught on camera sitting near the players during games, was always accompanied by a cameraman as she tracked the kids’ Dickensian lives for more than five years. The two would find kids huddled in cars to keep out of the rain, or, in the winter, snuggled close to chimneys atop Hollywood buildings to keep warm.

Raven showed up one day when Cannon was following Jimmy. “She tried to come off as a smart-ass — a know-it-all,” Cannon smiles, but “she wouldn’t talk a lot.” One day, Raven said something that “stopped me in my tracks.... I would have my Chihuahuas with me. I would have them on the street with me. And she looked at my dog one night and said, ‘I wish I was one of your dogs.’ Because she saw the way I was petting Trudy. That was one of the first things she ever said to me.”

Cannon began to document Raven’s life. Raven told Cannon about her mother, and her spiral into drugs and prostitution. Jimmy was carrying a torch for her. They had broken up, but Raven found she just couldn’t drag herself away from the life. Yet she also had the dreams of a more typical suburban kid. She wanted to save up enough money to enroll at Santa Monica College to study creative writing.

“She wanted to hook up with her mama,” says Cannon, shaking her head sadly. “She had chances to get off the street many times, but she wanted to be ‘with’ her mom” on the unforgiving streets.

Shortly before she died, Raven’s tough street friends hardly recognized her. She had streaked her long brown hair purple, and had shaved half of it off into a bizarre, asymmetrical Mohawk. She was “cutting” on her arms — using razorblades to abuse herself. She was living on and off with her latest boyfriend, Curly, a 25-year-old man 10 years her senior, in an apartment in Hollywood.

But things were going sour between them. Friends said she wanted to leave him but didn’t know how. The friends all knew that she had started hooking again to feed her meth habit.

“The drugs really got to her in the end,” says Kat, flatly and without emotion. Kat had embraced religion, and had gotten off the streets.

A year after Kat left the streets, she ran into her friend Raven again: “It was pretty gnarly,” she says. “I saw her a week before she died. She gave me a bracelet and a rave-music CD at the Hollywood & Highland Center. I gave myself to God and saw things in a different way.... I was trying to talk to her about being sober.”

Then, three days before her death, Raven agreed to meet Cannon again for an interview. The actress had taped her earlier, and had been trying to get in touch with the teen for six months but wasn’t all that worried about her elusiveness — until she saw her. The interview lasted four hours.

“I begged her to let me take her to a rehab,” Cannon says. “She was afraid she would have to be there for a year, or they would put her in jail. She was afraid. I said, ‘So that’s a year. You’re 16. It doesn’t matter. That year will go quickly.’”

Raven didn’t listen to the tall, slim, blonde 71-year-old actress from Malibu.

The day of Raven’s demise began with a visit to her boyfriend, Curly, followed by a rendezvous with her homeless teenage pal Joel Avelar Eliseo (who, crying at the preliminary hearing for Raven’s alleged murderer, Gilton Pitre, later tearfully refused to talk to the Weekly). The two hung out at My Friend’s Place and The Way In.

After both of those drop-in centers for teens had closed for the evening, the kids sauntered over to their usual hangout — a parking lot and bus shelter at the 7-Days Market in a run-down mini-mall on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Gower Street. Behind the market is an alleyway where they, and many other kids, buy their drugs.

Joel Eliseo, looking horribly uncomfortable at the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building last April during the preliminary hearing, sported a pierced nose and a large wooden spool of red thread wedged into a hole in his severely stretched ear lobe. He explained to the judge that he and Raven were approached near the 7-Days Market by a short, heavyset black guy who asked Raven if she wanted to “hang out.”

Joel told the judge that Raven replied, “Wait here, I will be back,” and that the teens left the man behind, heading to a party at the apartment of a friend of Joel’s, on Selma Avenue.

Joel and Raven walked several blocks, stopping at a liquor store to buy cigarettes. But when they got to the Unocal 76 gas station on Hollywood Boulevard near Tommy’s Burgers, the same man appeared again, now leaning nonchalantly against a Unocal gas pump.

According to Joel, the man pressed Raven, again asking if she wanted to hang out. “The second time, she said it in a more frustrated tone, like, ‘Yeah, I will be back,’” Joel told the judge. The duo arrived at the party after 10 p.m., but Raven stayed for only about 15 minutes, then left because, Joel said, she found it too crowded and “she didn’t like the environment.”

Joel never saw Raven again.

Around dawn on June 4, 2007, Julio Cesar Carbajal Cunca, leaving his job as a night-shift cleaner at El Cid restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, spotted what he assumed was a homeless person passed out in the alley. He was horrified to discover a dead woman instead, the upper half of her black-clothed body wrapped in a green comforter.

It took tragically little time for police to identify Raven as a well-known runaway and failed ward of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. Raven was wearing her trademark goth clothing: black T-shirt and jeans, yellow socks inside out, black shoes. Her fingernails were painted with metallic-black polish. Her arms were marked with multiple new and old self-mutilation scars.

And on her left arm, scrawled in reddish-orange felt marker, was her boyfriend Curly’s real full name, along with a curt message that put Northeast Division detectives on full alert: “Mathew Edward Kent Hates Me.”

Despite that glaring clue apparently pointing to Curly, detectives were worried that the case could be a toughie. Body dumps are typically the most difficult to unravel: The original scene of the killing is unknown to police, meaning that key evidence, including the weapon, hairs or fibers, is often never found, and witnesses are sometimes long gone.

At first, detectives thought that Cunca, the restaurant’s cleaning man, had grabbed the green comforter from inside El Cid and placed it over Raven’s body. But that didn’t sound right: Why would a restaurant have a comforter?

The cheesy green tapestry bed covering just “screamed motel,” one of the investigating detectives, Lou Rivera, told the Weekly. Rivera called Cunca and learned that the cleaning man had found Raven already shrouded in the blanket — crucial information that was enough to send no fewer than eight detectives bolting out of Northeast Division to scour the seedy motels in Silver Lake, Highland Park and Echo Park.

But there were no reports of a missing comforter — or of foul play. The detectives turned to the comforter itself for clues. Following the ID number and other information on the blanket’s manufacturer tag, they tracked down its Pacoima maker, and on June 5, 2007, asked one of the factory’s employees to determine whether the company had sold any of the bedspreads to hotels in the Echo Park, Silver Lake, Hollywood or Highland Park areas.

A few days later, company officials contacted the LAPD to tell them that they had indeed sold three green tapestry-patterned comforters to the Olive Motel on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake in December 2006.

It was great police work, and an unbelievable stroke of luck for cops who were determined to find the killer. The Olive Motel on Sunset is about a mile east of where Raven’s body was found. The detectives immediately contacted the motel’s owners and asked them to hang on to any security-video footage from the previous two days.

The footage was extremely difficult to download, and for three weeks, police waited for the owner to figure out how to review tape from the crucial days of June 3 and 4 last year.

Meanwhile, detectives homed in on Raven’s 25-year-old live-in boyfriend, Curly, whose real name she had scrawled on her arm in orange marker before her death. They learned that Raven had complained to friends about the couple’s volatile relationship, and had planned to leave him. In addition, Curly had recently been arrested — for having sex with Raven, who was a minor.

The owner of the Olive Motel handed over the surveillance footage on June 28. What the detectives discovered astonished them. On June 3, at approximately 11:22 p.m., one camera captured a short, stocky black guy walking through the motel parking lot with a woman “close in stature and dressed in clothes similar to those found on Gomez,” and carrying a gym bag. At 4:33 the following morning, another camera captured the same man leaving his room at the motel with a gym bag. Eight minutes later, he again left his room — carrying a large object wrapped in a comforter.

A third camera caught him standing behind a tan-colored Cadillac Seville SLS, opening the trunk lid, closing it, jumping into the car and driving off.

Armed with the eerie footage, the detectives collected every motel registration card from that night. They discovered that a registered sex offender named Gilton Pitre had checked into room 5 at 11:15 p.m., giving his full name and driver’s license number.

They also learned that the 220-pound Pitre, who went by the street name “Little Nut,” had done time in 1994 for burglary, and had been convicted in 1996 of raping his roommate, a crime for which he was sentenced to three years in state prison. Then, in 2005, Pitre was arrested and convicted for selling marijuana to an undercover officer in front of the McDonald’s next to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Pitre was released from state prison on May 31, 2007, just four days before Raven’s body was found dumped behind El Cid restaurant.

On July 11, the Los Angeles County Coroner revealed that Raven, her body filled with meth, died from strangulation. Because of the evidence in the videotape, Curly, her boyfriend, was quickly dropped from suspicion. A week later, detectives arrested Pitre at his mom’s apartment, near Pico Boulevard and Bronson Avenue. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office filed charges on July 20. Three months later, detectives were notified by the Department of Justice that the DNA found on Raven’s body came from “two individuals.” Using CODIS, the federal DNA database, police confirmed that the samples belonged to Pitre and Curly.

On April 29 this year, the judge at the preliminary hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that the District Attorney’s Office had enough evidence to try Pitre for murder.

Not much has changed on the streets since Raven’s death. The number of teen runaways in Hollywood is still high — the latest data, for early 2007, says that about 330 kids are surviving on Hollywood’s streets at any given time. They flock to its half-glitzy, half-creepy streets and boulevards to escape their parents or the Department of Children and Family Services, to make it big in the film industry — or to get a quick fix.

Raven’s death did inspire positive changes in some: Her buddy Joel Avelar Eliseo has since moved off the streets and is working at Denny’s, according to one of his friends. Jimmy, still grieving over Raven, was taken in by a close friend of Dyan Cannon’s and has “made a complete 360,” says the actress. Kat Ybarra lives two hours north of Hollywood in Buellton — a quiet town famous for its split-pea-soup restaurant — and has a full-time job. She has been drug-free for two years, and is now speaking regularly to her parents.

Cannon is continuing to film her 9/11-inspired documentary. It’s no longer about how everyone gets along.

Cannon, seeming deeply sincere and moved by what she has seen, tears up when she talks about Raven’s life and death, now a central focus of her film. Cannon paid for Raven’s tombstone, next to her grandparents’. “One of the reasons that I started to make this movie was to inspire and show people you don’t have to go to Africa or dark parts of any country to find horror stories, or kids that need help,” she says.

“The kids in our own backyard need help. Now the film has taken on a different perspective because, who knew? But I hope when kids see the movie, or when everybody sees the movie, it helps them to make choices about their life and how the wrong choice can have a ripple effect on so many.”

Raven’s friends escaped the seedy streets of Hollywood. Jimmy, Kat and Joel are a remarkable testament to the fact that society’s most troubled souls can take back their lives. Raven’s life lesson came too late. Her untimely death shines a light on the street urchins still there, scrabbling out desperate lives, invisible to those who drive down the boulevard.

Original here

Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High


As summer vacation begins, 17 girls at Gloucester High School are expecting babies—more than four times the number of pregnancies the 1,200-student school had last year. Some adults dismissed the statistic as a blip. Others blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing young unwed mothers. But principal Joseph Sullivan knows at least part of the reason there's been such a spike in teen pregnancies in this Massachusetts fishing town. School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school clinic to find out if they were pregnant. By May, several students had returned multiple times to get pregnancy tests, and on hearing the results, "some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," Sullivan says. All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," the principal says, shaking his head.

The question of what to do next has divided this fiercely Catholic enclave. Even with national data showing a 3% rise in teen pregnancies in 2006—the first increase in 15 years—Gloucester isn't sure it wants to provide easier access to birth control. In any case, many residents worry that the problem goes much deeper. The past decade has been difficult for this mostly white, mostly blue-collar city (pop. 30,000). In Gloucester, perched on scenic Cape Ann, the economy has always depended on a strong fishing industry. But in recent years, such jobs have all but disappeared overseas, and with them much of the community's wherewithal. "Families are broken," says school superintendent Christopher Farmer. "Many of our young people are growing up directionless."

The girls who made the pregnancy pact—some of whom, according to Sullivan, reacted to the news that they were expecting with high fives and plans for baby showers—declined to be interviewed. So did their parents. But Amanda Ireland, who graduated from Gloucester High on June 8, thinks she knows why these girls wanted to get pregnant. Ireland, 18, gave birth her freshman year and says some of her now pregnant schoolmates regularly approached her in the hall, remarking how lucky she was to have a baby. "They're so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally," Ireland says. "I try to explain it's hard to feel loved when an infant is screaming to be fed at 3 a.m."

The high school has done perhaps too good a job of embracing young mothers. Sex-ed classes end freshman year at Gloucester, where teen parents are encouraged to take their children to a free on-site day-care center. Strollers mingle seamlessly in school hallways among cheerleaders and junior ROTC. "We're proud to help the mothers stay in school," says Sue Todd, CEO of Pathways for Children, which runs the day-care center.

But by May, after nurse practitioner Kim Daly had administered some 150 pregnancy tests at Gloucester High's student clinic, she and the clinic's medical director, Dr. Brian Orr, a local pediatrician, began to advocate prescribing contraceptives regardless of parental consent, a practice at about 15 public high schools in Massachusetts. Currently Gloucester teens must travel about 20 miles (30 km) to reach the nearest women's health clinic; younger girls have to get a ride or take the train and walk. But the notion of a school handing out birth control pills has met with hostility. Says Mayor Carolyn Kirk: "Dr. Orr and Ms. Daly have no right to decide this for our children." The pair resigned in protest on May 30.

Gloucester's elected school committee plans to vote later this summer on whether to provide contraceptives. But that won't do much to solve the issue of teens wanting to get pregnant. Says rising junior Kacia Lowe, who is a classmate of the pactmakers': "No one's offered them a better option." And better options may be a tall order in a city so uncertain of its future. —with reporting by Kimberley McLeod/New York

Original here

Woman Who Died While Watching TV Sat Unfound for 42 Years

Hedviga Golik made herself a cup of tea and sat down to watch some television in her hometown of Zagreb, Croatia. Sadly, she died in her chair. This was in 1966. She was just found, 42 years later, in her time capsule mausoleum where she's been sitting ever since. She never finished her tea.

What's absurd is that she was in fact reported missing, but somehow no one ever checked her apartment, which leads me to believe no one checked anywhere. I mean, where else do you look for someone when they're missing? I don't understand it. Her neighbors apparently just assumed she moved out of her apartment, and she was finally found when the police broke in to figure out who owned the place.

A police spokesman said: "When officers went there, they said it was like stepping into a place frozen in time. The cup she had been drinking tea from was still on a table next to the chair she had been sitting in and the house was full of things no one had seen for decades. Nothing had been disturbed for decades, even though there were more than a few cobwebs in there."

Original here

'Forrest Gump' grandmother completes her incredible FIVE-YEAR run around the world

By Luke Salkeld

In the past five years she has run 20,000 miles across some of the world's most hostile terrain.

In that time she has suffered frostbite and double pneumonia. She has been hit by a bus, was almost swept to her death in a raging river and had to cope with fearsome bears and hungry wolves.

She has also been accosted by a drunken axeman in the woods. And received 29 marriage proposals.

Rosie Swale-Pope has returned to the UK and is looking forward to arriving back home in Tenby

But yesterday Rosie Swale-Pope was back in Britain.

The 61-year-old grandmother stepped off a boat at Scrabster in northern Scotland to begin the final leg of her journey home to Tenby in south-west Wales.

Greeted by family and friends, she said: 'It is wonderful to be back after all this time. I'm filled with huge excitement and joy because, at last, home is now on the horizon.'

On the home run: Rosie on her arrival in Scotland for the last part of her trek

Enlarge Rosie Swale-Pope

The intrepid pensioner on her travels in Times Square, New York

She set off in October 2003, her purpose to raise money for cancer charities - she lost her husband Clive to prostate cancer in 2002 - and an orphanage in Russia.

Her round-the-world run has taken her through England, Holland, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, the U.S., Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and now to Scotland.

She has covered every mile of land on foot, pulling her possessions in a cart.

Although she has been treated to occasional nights in hotels and homes, her usual place of rest has been a small tent, while her diet has consisted mainly of bread, vegetables and dried fish.

She describes herself as a 'slow marathon runner' and on a good day will try to clock up 15 miles.

The winters in Siberia and Alaska were the toughest challenge, she said. ' The temperatures get so low that everything freezes solid. If you lose your concentration for just a little while you can be lost for good.'

Mrs Swale-Pope, who has two children, James, 37, Eve, 39, and two grandchildren, is a seasoned adventurer who sailed solo across the Atlantic in 1983.

But her epic run brought a number of alarming surprises.

'In Greenland I was walking in a snowstorm when I suddenly saw two black eyes, then a nose and some teeth and I realised it was a polar bear.

It was terrifying and beautiful at the same time.'

Rosie, pictured near the village of Khilok, Buryatia, Eastern Siberia, Russia

She also encountered grizzly bears and coyotes and was followed by wolves in Siberia.

'With the bears, I had to show that I was strong because you can't show fear,' she said.

Enlarge Rosie Swale-Pope

The 61-year-old is drawing close to the finale of her five-year trek

She was hit by a bus on a road in Siberia after becoming disorientated by a bout of pneumonia.

'It wasn't the driver's fault and the doctors told me it was just as well he had hit me, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to treat the pneumonia.

'Another time in Siberia I was trying to cross a river when I got hit by a log and washed downstream - everything blacked out but somehow I managed to catch a branch.

'It took me two days to walk back upstream to where I'd left my provisions. Looking back, I shudder at some of the danger I was in.'

Another nasty moment in Siberia came when a drunken man ran towards her with a blood-stained axe.

It turned out he had been drinking vodka with friends nearby and cut his own hand on the axe.

'They simply hadn't seen a woman camping alone in the forest before and wanted me to join them. They even left a gift of bread for me the next day.'

Of the marriage proposals, nine came in Poland. More followed in Siberia. All were gently declined.

'They were very flattering and a lovely compliment - especially when I was wearing icicles for earrings and had a face blackened from the soot of my stove,' she said.

The only break in her odyssey was brief trip to Ireland from America to attend her daughter's wedding last year.

Now Mrs Swale-Pope hopes to be home by the end of August.

She says she is looking forward to a glass of red wine - and a bath.

Original here

Smoking Salmonella

As the tomato-borne salmonella now appears to have spread to twenty-three states (including New York), we expect greenmarkets across the city to see increased demand for their wares. Of course, localism has already become popular, both as a means to reduce one’s carbon footprint and as a measure of returning to the rhythms of the natural season after years of imported fruits and vegetables have made seasonality nearly meaningless. And transporting food across the country means that contamination—as with these tomatoes—can infect many communities at once. A similar, if more unusual, situation occurred in 1981, when a mysterious outbreak of salmonella appeared in Ohio, Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia. As Berton Roueché reported in the magazine in 1984, investigators began searching for the most common form of infection: food. But nothing edible tied the cases together. The breakthrough came when a victim admitted to smoking pot with her friends, all of whom had also contracted the illness. One of the lead investigators, Dr. David N. Taylor, who then worked for the Centers for Disease Control, told Roueché:

The salmonella was in the marijuana. When a marijuana smoker rolled a cigarette, his hands became contaminated, and when he put the cigarette in his mouth his lips became contaminated. Then a touch or a kiss or any sort of contact could spread the infection.…And not only that. Pot decreases the gastric acid, and gastric acid is an important defense against infections of all kinds. Regular pot smokers are especially susceptible to infection.

The investigators concluded that, because of the extremely heavy contamination and the presence of other bacteria like E. coli and K. pneumoniae, the marijuana had likely been deliberately laced with dried manure—a quick way to boost weight, and profits.—Andrea Thompson

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Is the Internet Making Us Stupid?

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Scott Barbour
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Right now, you're probably happy that you have the vast resources of the entire Internet at your fingertips. It's a feeling of power, isn't it? All that information, all that content, right there for you whenever you want it?

You probably shouldn't be feeling so good about it, says writer Nicholas Carr, who has just written an article for The Atlantic Monthly with the provocative title, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Carr says that while the Internet allows us to get lots of information very quickly, it also encourages us not to look at it very thoughtfully.

In fact, Carr argues, when we give in to the natural impulses to click and skim, rather than to read and think, the Internet may actually doing us a disservice: It shortens our attention spans and even inhibits our ability to read longer books and articles.

In fact, if Carr is correct, you may never even make it to the end of this article.

Carr says it's not just about people scanning and jumping around very quickly. He says that the Internet is actually beginning to change the way we think. "It makes it harder even when we're offline to read books, as skimming takes over and displaces our modes of reading," he says.

It's not just Google Carr is talking about, but rather the structure and nature of the whole Internet. But he says that Google is very much the dominant player, and it both governs and symbolizes the way information is structured. "The way we gather information is by jumping around," he says, "and that's governed not only by Google but by the whole economic structure of the Internet."

Just as the arrival of Gutenberg's printing press helped to make reading universal, in the process ushering in enormous social revolutions, Carr says the Internet is producing a revolution of its own that is once again changing how we structure everything. While much of the revolution is positive, Carr says, he thinks that we should be aware that there might be some casualties, including prolonged reading and time for contemplation.

Carr tries to find time for more of what he calls deep reading, but he says that many of his friends are also facing difficulties in fighting Internet-influenced attention deficit disorder. In the article, he quotes one friend of his who told him: "I can't read War and Peace anymore. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it."

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9 Things You Should Have in Your Home, But Never Use

Impression it gives:
You're worldly, well traveled, and care about things that happen in places farther than the mall.
Reaction it will get: After spinning it, then pointing aimlessly, your guest will inevitably say, "Huh, that's where Fiji is," as if they'd been wondering for a long time, but never had a globe to resolve such a conundrum.
Why you shouldn't use it: Here's an example of the directions you can get from a map: "Well, it looks like the restaurant is over here, sort of next to Kansas." You should probably just stick to Google Maps.

Criterion Collection DVDs

Impression they give: The Criterion Collection is a highfalutin company that packages DVD versions of movies they consider "important classics." Most of them are old or foreign, so just having them on your shelf makes you look like a film aficionado. A beret doesn't hurt, either.
Reaction they will get: "Ooh, I've heard about these! Do you have any Kurosawa? I've never seen his movies, but he's the only important film guy I can think of."
Why you shouldn't use them: With few exceptions, most of these movies lose their appeal after you pass Film 101. Just fill the cases with your Star Wars DVDs and trust that no one will ever find out for fear of being bored to death.

Spice Rack

Impression it gives: You have a dignified palate tuned to the finer flavors in life, and you probably didn't horribly burn the top of your mouth trying to eat pizza and ride a bike at the same time.
Typical reaction: Lots of people like to pick up the bottles and smell the herbs inside; so make sure you've opened them all at some point, and pour some of them out to give the illusion that you've used them.
Why you shouldn't use them: Show us one thing rack spice can do that Mrs. Dash and garlic powder won't take care of, and we'll eat our perfectly seasoned hat.

A Fancy Bathrobe

Impression it gives: A bathrobe that's not stolen from a Holiday Inn suggests that you care about both your appearance and comfort, even when no one is around. Plus, a man with a bathrobe could never pee in the shower, could he?
Reaction it will get: If you have a woman over, she'll casually notice it rather than touch it for fear that it might be deceivingly filthy. She will notice, though.
Why you shouldn't use it: You want it to look as clean as possible while hanging, and wearing it will only get your filth all over it. Just use a towel like a real man.

Dumbells That Weigh More Than 80 Pounds Apiece

Impression they give: Even if your arms look like you stole them from Jared Leto, others will assume you can pump that kind of iron, because who buys dumbbells they can't lift?
Reaction they will get: Put a dumbbell in front of someone and they'll try to curl it, no matter how heavy it is or how many years they've let their biceps decay into chewed gum. When they fail, they'll think you're strong. If they ask you to lift them, tell them you did a few sets this morning and are resting up for your American Gladiators tryout.
Why you shouldn't use them: You can keep a normal set of dumbbells around, but hide them when people come over. Leave the big guys out as showpieces—just make sure to dust them off every once in a while.


Impression it gives: You're so sophisticated that you use your free time to practice astronomy.
Reaction it will get: Put a person in front of a telescope and they're going to look through it, so make sure it's not pointed at your neighbor's bathroom window. Typically they'll say things like, "Hey, I think I can see Mars!" when in reality all they can see is nothing.
Why you shouldn't use it: The only thing close enough to be interesting through a telescope is the moon, and even that should only hold your attention for about a minute before degenerating into voyeurism.

A Record Player

Impression it gives: You care about music enough that you're willing to sacrifice the convenience and practicality of MP3s for the "feel" of vinyl.
Reaction it will get: "Oh, hey! You like Hall & Oates, too? We should listen to this! Do you have the MP3s?"
Why you shouldn't use it: Yes, vinyl actually does have better audio quality than most of the digital stuff you listen to, but not when your turntable cost $3 at an old lady's garage sale.

A Safe

Impression it gives: You have important documents and valuable belongings like cash, jewelry, and limited edition plates with Jeff Gordon's picture on them.
Reaction it will get: Put someone in front of a safe and they will almost certainly try to open it by turning the dial and putting their ear up to it, as if the guys that make safes still hadn't figured out how to fix that glitch.
Why you shouldn't use it: Get a safety deposit box for the truly important stuff. The rest of your belongings can probably be replaced with a few trips to Goodwill and stops at RaceTrac.

Fondue Set

Impression it gives: No American cheese melted over saltines for you. If you're going to eat cheese, it's going to be melted in a pot and scooped up with bread on a stick.
Reaction it will get: Most people will say, "Oh, cool! I've always wanted one of those." Then they'll totally forget about it.
Why you shouldn't use it: While we're all for eating as much cheese and bread as possible, we suggest finding a way to do it with less chance of reenacting the Cornballer scenes from Arrested Development.

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I Couldn't Help But Notice Your Product Hasn't Been Endorsed By Anyone Yet

My specially designed Tiger Woods TAG Heuer watch read 11:45 a.m. yesterday when I got back from the practice range. After washing up and shaving with my favorite Tiger Woods Gillette Champions razor and getting in a few rounds of EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08, I picked up the copy of Golf Digest on my coffee table—the one with my ad for TLC Laser Eye Centers. What caught my attention, however, was an advertisement on the adjoining page for your product, Pine-Sol.

Call me crazy, but it looks like you're lacking a big-time celebrity endorser. Yes, you have that sassy fat black woman who appears in commercials and print ads, but she's hardly a celebrity. I'm talking about someone with name recognition. Maybe even someone who's won, say, 64 professional golf tournaments, 13 major championships, and has been named PGA Tour Player of the Year nine times? Your lady may be funny, but is she the most marketable athlete in the world with a supermodel wife, a new baby girl, millions in the bank, multiracial appeal, and a great goddamn smile?


Even now, I just can't stop thinking about how foolish you've been for never approaching me about endorsing Pine-Sol. Is it the money that concerns you? Because let me tell you something: When you are dealing with a Tiger Woods endorsement, money should be the last thing on your mind. What you should be thinking is how, with my face on every container, we are going to move more Pine-Sol than you ever thought possible.

Look, when you get Tiger Woods, you're getting Tiger Woods—the guy who made it cool for kids to want to play golf, for Christ's sake.

Bottom line, you need me, and I'm ready to break into the domestic-products arena. Despite my work with Accenture, many people still think of me as cold and calculated. A couple of Pine-Sol ads where my mom shows me how easy it is to clean my bathroom ("Oh Mom, you're embarrassing me!"—you know, that kind of crap) and we're all set.

But if you don't move on this fast, tomorrow I'm all over the TV with my new Tiger Woods–strength Lysol Wipes. Think about it.

Plain and simple, I would do an excellent job endorsing Pine-Sol. You know it, I know it, the makers of the all-new Gatorade Tiger most certainly know it. A high quality, all-purpose cleaner such as Pine-Sol deserves an endorser who is an ultra competitor—someone who will go to the mat for you no matter what. No way I'm going to half-ass it like Roger Federer or David Beckham would.

See, Tiger Woods likes to get his hands dirty. As your front man, I would work day and night with your scientists to create an all-purpose cleaning formula worthy of the Tiger Woods name. We'll call it "Tiger-Sol" and it will come in a variety of pleasing scents, including Tiger-Berry, Tiger-Apple, Tiger-Peach, Lemon-Tiger—you get the picture. And when Tiger-Sol hits stores, those other bush-league cleaners will have no business even being on the same shelves, let alone trying to make the same bathroom sink sparkle.

I can do it all. Humorous commercials where I'm putting for the U.S. Open championship in my bathtub and I notice there's grime between my ball and the drain that will force the putt off-line. How do I get rid of the grime? Pine-Sol. I sink the putt, the gallery in my bathroom goes crazy, I do one of my signature fist pumps, and you just sold 3 million bottles of Pine-Sol.

Then we move into more artsy commercials where I'm hitting golf balls in slow motion in the rain and my voice-over comes in and says, "Pine-Sol." And for prime-time TV, we'll do one of those mass-appeal commercials where I clean a kitchen with Asian, white, and black kids. We all laugh and start splashing each other, and I get hit on the cheek with a big wad of soap suds. I make my upset face and there's a pause, because all the kids think I'm going to get angry, but I don't. I laugh it off because I'm Tiger Woods and America loves me.

Within a week you'll have kids demanding their parents buy Pine-Sol because Tiger Woods just made cleaning the house awesome. They'll associate your product with 400-yard drives, and being handsome, fit, and effortlessly charming. Then they're hooked on Pine-Sol from the age of 5 until the day they die.

In the end, this is all very simple. Basically, what you have to ask yourself, Pine-Sol, is do you want to make half a billion dollars today or not? That's it. And if there's still any doubt in your mind, think about this: If I've convinced an entire populace that I drive a fucking Buick, I can sure as shit sell a bottle of Pine-Sol.

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I'm Training To Ruin A Marathon

By Paul Consella

When I set my mind to something, there's no turning back, no slowing down, and no excuses. So when I heard about the upcoming 17th Annual Richland County Marathon, I started training immediately. For the last four months, I have been pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion to prepare my mind and body for the ultimate physical challenge: ruining a marathon.

I'm going to ruin the whole thing.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Sure, everyone would like to ruin a marathon, but who among us has the discipline and energy to get up at the crack of dawn morning after morning, through rain, sleet, and snow, and practice handing out cups of vinegar to the frontrunners? Me, that's who. Yes, there are some mornings when it's darn near impossible to keep going—when you feel like you just can't chip one more pothole in the course with a pickax. But endurance ruining is all about pushing through the pain. And when the big day comes, and you make it over that final hurdle, dodge the cops, and shove an old guy into the bushes, you'll know all that training was worth it.

Granted, I've never taken on anything of this magnitude before. Oh, I used to ruin cross-country meets back in high school. And there was that father-son fun ruin I did back in '06, of course, but that was just for charity. If I'm going to needlessly sabotage a full 26.2 miles of road, I have to make sure I'm at the top of my game. No ifs, ands, or buts.

That's why I like to start off my training day bright and early with a full breakfast of espresso, some diet pills, and a small bag of rock candy. It keeps me edgy and volatile when I'm in the thick of disrupting a tight race. Also—and I can't stress this enough—it's very important to stretch properly before and after yelling derogatory remarks at Kenyans. You don't want your legs cramping up on the way to the escape route.

Training rituals like this may seem tiresome and pointless now, but trust me: When you're two hours into terrorizing a highly anticipated marathon, they make all the difference in the world.

After you've been ruining a marathon for a couple hours, your body will just take over and you won't even realize that you're spoiling the day for everyone. I call that getting in the "ruiner's zone." It's like my arms and legs could just keep dumping buckets of cooking oil off a highway overpass forever. When you get there, more than ever, it's important to keep focused and not let your mind wander. You've got a lot of race to wreck, and you've got to keep your mind sharp for what's coming up ahead.

It's good to make a checklist in my mind, so I don't get distracted on race day. Are there any cables or streamers around that I can use as trip wires? Is this a good time to call the fire department to report a massive four-alarm blaze at the 12-mile mark? Do I hip-check the guy in front of me or stop abruptly and trip up the three people behind?

If I make all the right decisions, and really push myself, I could ruin this marathon in record time.

The biggest thing I've learned about training to thwart a marathon is that you have to set small, manageable goals for yourself, and then gradually work up to bigger, more challenging goals. Try starting off with something simple, like printing out "Marathon Continues to the Right" signs and pasting them up by the on-ramp to the interstate. Once you're comfortable with that, you can work your way up to a larger goal, like breaking beer bottles into a sack and dumping them out in front of the wheelchair racers, or loading up on carbs and dairy so you can vomit all over the finish line.

As the day of the marathon approaches, it's easy to psych yourself out by thinking of all the tiny things that could go wrong. The hornets could all die en route to the starting line, or I might forget to slash the tires of the first-aid trucks that follow the runners. But when you're ruining a marathon, you have to push all those little what-ifs out of your head and just go out there and try your hardest.

Sure, you might not end up ruining every inch of the marathon, but just imagine the looks on their faces when 300-plus people fail to cross that finish line.

Race day's tomorrow. No more excuses. No more letting my own fears, or my wife's sobbing pleas, or the combined efforts of city and state law enforcement agencies get in the way of me accomplishing my goal. No, sir. Not this time.

I've trained too hard for that.

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