Thursday, February 5, 2009

Baby koala beating the heat in bucket of water an email star

Baby koala / Image supplied
Cool koala ... but where are the spa bubbles?
  • Baby koala in a bucket an email star
  • Was abandoned by heat-stressed mum
  • Now in care of wildlife officers

WILDLIFE officers have come to the rescue of an abandoned baby koala who found internet stardom by being the baby in a bucket.

The baby was found shaking underneath a verandah and “looking very sick” after its mother was apparently overcome by the ferocious heatwave that struck Victoria last week.

"The mum had become distressed and disorientated by the heat so she left the baby on its own without realising," Tracey Young told Ninemsn.

"They’re normally up in the tree together, in a pair, and we see them all the time."

Ms Young’s nephew first spotted the distressed animal on the family property in Maude, between Melbourne and Geelong. Keep track of the impact of the heatwave on the area in the Geelong Advertiser.

"I had to scoop water up in my hand to get it to drink and at first it wasn’t very unresponsive," Mrs Young told ninemsn.

"Eventually it realised the water was in the bowl and it just climbed in itself."

A viral email showing the koala taking its refreshing dip generated media interest in the marsupial.

Though the mother koala has returned to the tree the baby is now in the care of wildlife officers.

"The kids, being very protective, circled the koala until the wildlife lady came and took it," Ms Young said.

Mrs Young's sister Rebecca, who lives next door, also found she had a furry refugee from the heat when an older koala trespassed onto her place.

"It was hiding underneath the decking in the shade," Rebecca Durran said.

"We thought the one we got was young but it was an older female that was just very thin.

"We just gave her a shallow dish of water and she just drank constantly."

That koala is now also in the care of wildlife officers, who say they will release both animals back into the wild.

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Gang of children - some as young as TEN - caught slowly roasting puppies over bonfire

By Jaya Narain

Shocked and huddled together for safety, these puppies are lucky to be alive after being saved from an act of almost unbelievable barbarity.

A gang of youths had seized the seven-week-old brother and sister and were slowly roasting them over a bonfire on a canal bank.

Yelping in panic and distress as their fur began to burn, the pair struggled desperately to escape the children's clutches.

 Lucky to be alive: The two puppies saved after a 'cruel' gang of children were caught roasting them on a fire

Lucky to be alive: The two puppies saved after a gang of children were caught roasting them on a fire

The commotion attracted a walker who ran over to the bonfire and ordered the gang to release them immediately.

Melanie Johnson, 32, said: 'I just could not believe the cruelty being shown by these kids. If I hadn't turned up, I think they would have burned the dogs alive.'

Miss Johnson, from Rochdale, added: 'Most of the kids were aged 12, 13 or older. But some were as young as ten. I was ripping mad and still am to think that anyone - least of all children - could do this.'

She took the two puppies from the bank and carried them to the safety of her home before wrapping them in a towel and taking them to an RSPCA shelter.

The cross-bred pups were examined by a vet after the incident in Newbold, Rochdale on Friday and were found to be in generally good health.

Jean Spencer, the RSPCA shelter manager, said: 'The puppies are only seven weeks old and still smelled of smoke from the bonfire when they arrived.

'The fur on one of them was singed and the other has a small hernia. Fortunately, they are going to be fine.'

She added: 'To think that children could be so cruel is really disgusting. The puppies are absolutely gorgeous. Everyone here has fallen in love with them.'

The male puppy has been named Guy and his sister Cinders.

They will now go to a shelter in Halifax to be re-homed.

No arrests have been made in connection with the incident.

Original here

Man caught with pigeons in his trousers

pigeon stuffed down the pants
Is that a pair of pigeons in your pants, or are you just pleased to see me?

An Australian traveller was caught with two live pigeons stuffed down his trousers following a trip to the Middle East, customs officers said today.

The 23-year-old man was searched after authorities discovered two eggs in a vitamin container in his luggage, said Richard Janeczko, national investigations manager for the Customs Service.

They found the pigeons wrapped in padded envelopes and held to each of the man's legs with a pair of tights, according to a statement released by the agency. Officials also seized seeds in his money belt and an undeclared eggplant.

The alleged bird smuggler, who arrived in Melbourne on Sunday on a flight from Dubai, was being questioned.

Australia has very strict quarantine regulations on the importation of wildlife, plants and food to protect health, agriculture and the environment of the isolated island nation.

Charges of wildlife smuggling - which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 110,000 Australian dollars (£48,600) - could be brought against the man.

Janeczko said the pigeons were not endangered and that the case - as well as the birds, eggs and seeds - had been turned over to the Quarantine Service to assess the health risk associated with bringing the birds into the country.

The Quarantine Service would not comment on the continuing investigation.

Original here

The Exonerated

By Jan Goodwin

A Different Kind of Death Sentence

You could hear the ticking of the clock hanging in the back of the courtroom and the cries of the seagulls that circled above Boston as the jurors—averting their eyes for the first time in the 50-day trial—filed past the six men in the dock. The day before, the six had been convicted in the slaying of a local hood named Edward "Teddy" Deegan. The jury was now being asked to choose between a sentence of life behind bars or death.

His voice flinty, 73-year-old Justice Felix Forte addressed the first four defendants in turn. "You are sentenced to die in the electric chair." Undulating his hands to illustrate the chair's 2,000-volt current, he added, "On the designated date, the electricity will run through your body until death."

Photographed by Jason Grow
Photographed by Jason Grow
"It was all a lie," says Salvati, standing outside the Boston club where he was arrested in 1967.
Joseph Salvati, a 35-year-old father of four young children, was next. Convicted of being an accessory to the murder, he rose uneasily to his feet. Forte asked if he had anything to say. Although Salvati had maintained his innocence from the beginning, he mumbled, "No." "You are sentenced to Walpole Prison for the rest of your natural life, without possibility of parole," the judge said on that day, July 31, 1968. It was a death sentence of a different kind.

And it was especially harsh because Salvati—and three of the other five defendants—were innocent. Worse still, the FBI knew it all along.

In the mid-1960s, New England was teeming with organized crime. J. Edgar Hoover, the controversial FBI director, had launched his campaign to eradicate the Mob, and field agents were under pressure to cultivate Mafia informants. Operatives in the bureau's Boston office soon infiltrated deeply into the organized-crime underworld, forming alliances with a network of gangsters including Joseph "The Animal" Barboza, a brutal loan shark and hit man with some 30 murders to his name.

Although there will always be questions surrounding the 1965 alleyway shooting of Deegan—several reports suggest that the FBI was forewarned and did nothing to stop the murder—it's clear today that Joseph Salvati didn't have anything to do with it. Barboza admitted to participating in the slaying to his FBI handler, Special Agent H. Paul Rico. But with Rico's collusion, the hit man concocted a scenario that protected his partner, Jimmy "The Bear" Flemmi, while implicating the defendants, only two of whom were actually involved.

Barboza, for whom the Witness Protection Program was created, was ultimately murdered by the Mafia in 1976. Meanwhile, Salvati spent decades filing appeals from behind bars. He went into prison a vibrant man who loved his wife and kids, pasta and a bottle of wine shared with friends; he came out 29 years and seven months later a silver-haired great-grandfather.

Salvati was exonerated in January 2001, a month after a special task force investigating the Boston FBI office's handling of Mob informants uncovered long-hidden documents establishing that innocent men had been framed for Deegan's murder. Last July, in a civil case filed by the families of the four wrongly convicted, federal Judge Nancy Gertner ordered the government to pay them $101.7 million. "The minute Barboza's mouth identified the plaintiffs, [the agents] had to have known he was lying," the judge wrote in her scathing 223-page decision. "FBI officials up the line allowed their employees to break laws, violate rules and ruin lives."

"I was robbed of three generations of family, who grew up without me, and a lifetime with my wife," Salvati says today, sitting in the modest North End apartment that his wife, Marie, moved to 20 years ago, when money was especially tight. "I was behind bars so long, when I came out, my father had died and my mother had Alzheimer's. She didn't recognize me."

He raises a beefy hand and wipes away tears as they course down his face. "Do you know what it's like to never be there for birthdays, Communions, graduations, weddings? The skinned knees, broken bones, taking your kid to play ball? The government stole more than 30 years of my life."

A high school graduate with no trade skills, Joseph Salvati put in ten-hour days, six days a week, working three jobs to support his family. "It was casual labor," he says. "You got what you could. I'd run down to the pier and help unload the fish. Lumpin', it was called. It was dog's work. But you could make $60 a week. I unloaded trucks in the meat market. I worked as a doorman. The hours were late, but $40 in tips was $40."

"We lived from week to week," says Marie. "It wasn't easy, but Joe provided for us the best he could. We'd take the kids out once a week for a pizza, sometimes a movie. It was good, but there was no money to spare."

Their budget could barely stretch for unexpected expenses, like medical care for their daughter Lisa Marie, who was born with Down syndrome in 1959 and died two months later from a heart condition.

"You had good times and bad," says Salvati, who, like his neighbors in the predominantly Italian American North End, occasionally borrowed from the local moneylender, a man who trusted them to pay him back when they could. One day, the lender told Salvati that his accounts had been taken over by a Mob-connected loan shark: Joseph Barboza. He needed Salvati's debt of $400 paid immediately, but Salvati didn't have the money.

When Barboza sent two enforcers to collect, one armed with a baseball bat, Salvati grabbed the bat midswing and sent the two goons running. This, evidently, was the source of Barboza's grudge against Salvati, whose next visitor was a Mob attorney. "I have a message from Joe Barboza," the lawyer told Salvati. "He says to tell you he will take good care of you. Very good care."

Mob wars had been raging in nearby Charlestown and Somerville's Winter Hill section for years; Deegan had fallen victim in one of the frequent bloodbaths. In October 1967, two years after Deegan's murder, Salvati was helping a friend move furniture into a bar in the working-class neighborhood where he lived, when Frank Walsh, a police sergeant he'd known since the man was a newly minted beat cop, approached him.

"Joe, I have a warrant here for your arrest," Walsh said, then began reading: "Murder one, Teddy Deegan."

"Who the hell is Teddy Deegan?" a stunned Salvati asked. Before anyone answered, he was taken into custody.

Marie was walking with her youngest, five-year-old Anthony, when the case made news. "People on the street stopped me and said, "Marie, there's been a big crime raid, and Joe got arrested,' " she remembers. "No one knew the details, just that it was an organized-crime case."

Terrified but sure her husband would call and tell her it was all a mistake, she collected the other children from school and hurried home. "Joe sent me word through a friend," she says. "He said not to worry, he'd soon clear this up and be out." But, remanded without bail for ten months before the trial, he didn't come home. "It was a nightmare that went on for 30 years," Marie says.

A friend organized a raffle and raised $1,100 for Salvati's defense. What that bought was a fresh-out-of-law-school attorney whose name Salvati can't remember. "He kept asking for my alibi, and I kept telling him I didn't have one," he says. "Innocent people don't need alibis." Salvati's story—that Barboza had made good his threat by falsely implicating him in Deegan's murder—fell on deaf ears in court.

"Barboza had his own gang," says Victor Garo, who took Salvati's case on appeal in 1977 and grew old with his client, fighting for his exoneration without charging a penny. "He was a loan shark, a receiver of stolen goods, a leg breaker. He'd shoot you in the head, puncture your eardrum with an ice pick, disembowel you with a knife. But the FBI wanted everyone to believe he would never, in a court of law, lie to save himself. And it worked."

The first visitor to Salvati's cell at Walpole was Albert DeSalvo, accused of being the Boston Strangler. "He brought me two sandwiches, which I didn't eat," Salvati says. "They could have been poisoned." He learned survival tactics from the men who carried out the Great Brinks Robbery, then the largest heist in U.S. history. "They said that if you mind your business, the other prisoners won't bother you. But they also said you can find trouble if you want it."

The Pact

Walpole, a maximum security prison 25 miles outside Boston, was notorious for brutality. Inmates were subjected to beatings, deprived of heat, fed food with bugs in it, even threatened with death. Riots routinely broke out, and lockdowns lasted for weeks on end. For lifers like Salvati, the place was hell on earth.

He routinely retreated to his tiny cell, just big enough for a bed, a sink and a toilet, to escape the cacophony and frequent violence. Alone, he often wept with worry over Marie and the kids. "I cried a lot," he says. "Who wouldn't?"
Photographed by Jason Grow
Photographed by Jason Grow
Attorney Victor Garo (right) worked pro bono on his client's appeal for three decades.
Joe never told Marie what life was like on the inside. She, in turn, sheltered him from her problems on the outside. "We had a pact," says Marie. "You do the time, and I'll take care of our family." She took a job at the local Head Start office. At first, she barely earned enough to put food on the table. "At Christmas, when donated clothes and toys came in, I asked if I could take some for my kids. Otherwise they wouldn't have had anything." Eventually, she rose to the position of director.

Every Saturday, no matter the weather, she made the trek to the prison, usually with the kids in tow. It was an all-day trip by bus. When they got there, the guards could be tough, sometimes strip-searching the children, humiliating and terrifying them.

Two years into her husband's sentence, Marie bought a worn-out Oldsmobile with a rusted-through hole under the backseat and bald tires that made it skid dangerously when it snowed. Not surprisingly, she soon grew phobic about driving. "I'd be holding the wheel like it was my life, breaking out in hives, praying we wouldn't have an accident," she says. "All I knew was we had to get to Joe."

During one visit, Salvati's youngest daughter, Gail, then eight, greeted him by asking, "Daddy, what's an electric chair? Are you going to get it? The kids in school say you are." Shaken, he explained that it wasn't true, that her classmates were just trying to scare her. "I went back to my cell," says Salvati, "and asked the guard to lock me in. They can tell when you get a bad visit. I sobbed off and on for a week. I felt like somebody had kicked me in the stomach. And to think, all this was happening because the FBI wanted it to."

Salvati was ten years into his sentence when Victor Garo heard about him. At first, he didn't want to get involved. He was a white-collar criminal defense attorney who handled insurance fraud and political corruption, not organized crime. "Don't tell me you're innocent," he said at their first meeting. "Just tell me the facts." The men talked for three hours. After hearing that Barboza was the only eyewitness at the trial, and concluding the evidence was full of holes, Garo agreed to take on Salvati's appeal.

He asked for a $1,500 retainer but, discovering Marie had to borrow the money to pay him, decided to take the case pro bono. "Friends called me nuts," the lawyer recalls. "They told me, "You're gonna have to take on the entire federal government -- the Boston FBI office, the Department of Justice, the attorney general, FBI headquarters.' I'm not the sharpest, best trial lawyer in the world, but I believed in what I was doing."

In the late 1980s, a few months before she died, Garo's mother, Kay, who worked as one of his secretaries, made her son promise he would represent Salvati until he won his freedom. A solo practitioner, Garo repeatedly filed for appeals, and Salvati, by now a grandparent, clung to the hope that justice would prevail.

Salvati's oldest grandchild, Jennifer, now 35, remembers waiting at the Boston courthouse in 1989 in the hope that a commutation request would be granted. "My grandfather came off the elevator," she remembers, "with shackles on his wrists, waist and feet. He just looked down, and they rushed him away. You don't want to see anyone, let alone a family member, in shackles, especially when he's innocent. Not only was my grandfather robbed of his life, we were robbed of him."

At one point, Salvati offered Marie a divorce. "If you want one, I won't contest it," he told her. "I'm not in here for a year or two. This is for the rest of my life."

"Are you crazy?" Marie responded. "I took a vow for better or worse. We love each other."

Just as she never missed a weekly visit, her husband never failed to send a weekly greeting card, purchased with his 15-cents-a-day prison wages. "Next year, maybe we will be together," he would write. Or, "My every thought is of how much I love you, so I'm never alone." Each card sat on top of the television until the next arrived.

Marie stored her precious collection in shoe boxes, tied with red ribbon. On their 25th wedding anniversary, feeling lonely, she went through them. "I realized my marriage," she says, "had been lived in a shoe box. I wasn't a widow. He was still part of my life. But he was not with me."

Garo figures he spent 30,000 hours digging into Deegan's murder. A breakthrough came when he obtained a long-suppressed police report written shortly after the crime indicating that an informer with Mob ties had named Barboza and Flemmi as the men who left a restaurant that night intent on killing Deegan. The report made no mention of Salvati. "It was more important to the FBI to protect their murderous informants," says Garo, "than to protect an innocent man who had a young family."

In 1997 Garo finally won his client a parole commutation and walked him out of prison, where three generations of Salvatis waited for him. Before heading home, Salvati and his attorney stopped at the Oak Grove Cemetery to place roses on Kay Garo's grave. "Mom, I kept my promise," Garo said.

It would be another four years before all charges against Salvati were dropped, and six more before a judge would determine what 30 years of his life was worth in dollars.

The $101.7 million awarded to Salvati and his codefendants is believed to be the highest ever for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. (Henry Tameleo, a codefendant in the murder trial, died in prison in 1985, as did Louis Greco, a decorated World War II veteran, in 1995; their awards go to their estates.) The Department of Justice is expected to appeal the case, despite an apology to the Salvati family by Congressman Dan Burton, who spearheaded a three-year investigation as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. No such apology was forthcoming from FBI Agent H. Paul Rico, who, when asked during the hearings if he felt remorse, answered, "What do you want, tears or something?" The agent, who died in 2004 awaiting trial on unrelated murder charges, was never disciplined for his role in the Deegan case.

Burton, an Indiana Republican, was so outraged by the government's conduct that he battled the Bush Administration over Department of Justice documents, which White House lawyers initially tried to keep from Congress on claims of executive privilege. And Rep. Bill Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat, has introduced a bill imposing criminal sanctions on federal authorities who hide evidence the way they did in the Deegan case.

Salvati, now 75, knows he may not live long enough to see a penny of the award. But a month after his release, he began making up for lost time, assisting with the birth of his ninth grandchild, Michael. "He'd missed out on so much," says Marie. "It was a miracle for him to be able to cut the cord."

Shortly thereafter, he had a little chat with his wife, who, after three decades of being solely in charge at home, kept trying to take charge of Joe as well. "Marie, you can't keep telling me what to do," he said.

"It had become second nature after all those years," she says.

Salvati still gets a kick out of choosing what time he gets up and goes to bed. "I enjoy just being able to walk anywhere whenever I want to," he says. He admits that he often reverts to pacing, as he did when he was locked up, for exercise. He irons his own clothes because in prison everything was wrinkled; these days, he prides himself on being a sharp dresser. Mostly, he and Marie relish being together and with their family—able to finally hold each other and hug their kids.

"We're simple people, not materialistic," says Marie, now 73. "It was never about the money. It was about proving Joe's innocence, about getting our good name back. If we ever get that money, it won't mean much to us personally. It will go for trust funds for the kids and grandkids so they can go to college and have a better life, get all the things that they didn't have while Joe wasn't here."

Original here

Girl dies after being trapped in washing machine

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. – Authorities say a 4-year-old girl died after she climbed into a washing machine and her little brother switched it on.

Orange County sheriff's officials say Kayley Ishii apparently climbed into the front-loading washer Monday and her 15-month-old brother managed to start the device.

Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino says the machine's controls were 20 inches from the floor and the start switch was a simple push button.

The girl was in the water-filled, tumbling machine for at least two minutes before her mother found her. Her death was ruled accidental.

Investigators say the mother could not explain why Kayley climbed inside the machine.

Says Amormino: "They don't know if they were playing or what."

Original here

Schoolgirl divorcee, 10, launches book about shocking child bride ordeal

By Peter Allen

Nojoud Ali

Divocee Nojoud Ali, 10, has written a book about being a child bride in Yemen

A schoolgirl who was married by the age of eight today launched a new book about her extraordinary ordeal.

Nojoud Ali, now aged 10, is in Paris promoting an autobiography which is set to be a worldwide bestseller.

British publishers are already queuing up for the rights to a story which has been taken up by women’s rights groups worldwide.

Last year a court in Yemen annulled Nojoud’s arranged marriage to a 29-year-old man.

The minimum age for marriage is currently 15 years-old in the country, but parents are allowed to overrule the law if they judge that their daughter is ‘ready’ for marriage.

Noujoud’s strict Muslim family had decided she was, forcing her to go and live with Faez Ali Thameur.

The pair did consummate the marriage, it is claimed.

Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, is notorious for its child brides.

Noujoud’s unemployed father, Mohammad Ali Al-Ahdal, told the court he felt obliged to marry off his daughter after receiving repeated threats from the would-be husband and his entourage.

He said was frightened because his oldest daughter had been kidnapped several years earlier and had been forced to marry her abductor.

Noujoud said she was also regularly beaten by her husband. Shatha Nasser, Noujoud’s lawyer, said: ‘Child brides are common in parts of Yemen, but this case received wider attention because it reached court.’

Now Nojoud and her eight year-old sister Hifa are able to go to school thanks to financial donations from human rights activists.

Her case was also taken up by politicians including Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and the actress Nicole Kidman.

Visiting Pantin, a suburb of Paris yesterday, Nojoud said: ‘Now I want to return to school so as to become a lawyer and help other girls like me.’

‘Me, Nojoud, 10, divorcee’ is published by Michel Lafon.

Original here

What is Grimace?

By Zach

  • E-mail this story to a friend!

grimaceThe question is pretty short and to the point. What exactly is Grimace, the McDonald’s character? I mean Ronald McDonald is a clown, that’s pretty clear. And the majority of the remaining McDonald’s characters seem to have at least a passing resemblance or relation to McDonald’s food. The Hamburglar is a thief that steals hamburgers. Birdie is a giant bird. Not sure if she produces the eggs for Egg McMuffins or has some relation to Chicken McNuggets, but she’s pretty clearly a bird. Mayor McCheese has an enormous cheeseburger for a head. The Fry Guys look like a wad of French fries. Well, really they look like pom-pons, but at least the have some relationship to french fries, its in their name. Grimace? I guess he likes shakes. Or are they called partially gelatinated non-dairy gum-based beverages?

But what is he? To me he always looked like an enormous gumdrop. According to Wikipedia, he’s a member of the “wumpus” species with short arms and legs. Which begs the question, what’s a wumpus? I mean there must have been some thought process behind the original design. So I looked it up, and it turns out Grimace was not always good, nor did he only have two arms. Here’s visual proof:

The original McDonaldland characters had a more psychedelic look and were based on HR Puf’n’stuf characters. So much so, that they were sued for copyright infringement and McDonald’s paid out a hefty settlement. Certain characters were cited, but Grimace seemed to have escaped the litigation. Why? Maybe because McDonald’s amputated two of his arms and made him into a good guy, thus creating a brand new character that would not be accused of being plagiarized. At least that’s the theory. But it doesn’t really answer the question. What is he? I mean even after his transformation, he must have been intended to resemble something, right? I’ve asked this off other people, but have yet to come to a satisfying conclusion. A couple of theories:


He’s an evil Sith Lord


He’s a Purple People Eater


He’s Charlie Weis


He’s Satan


He’s a professional golfer?


A ladies man?


He’s your Valentine?


He’s Godzilla’s Cousin


This don’t explain anything, but felt appropriate


This is more the answer, which is that there’s no answer

So I put the question forth to the people, What is Grimace?

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Stinky feet student allowed back in class

Note: Not Teunis Tenbrook's feet, but probably still smelly (UPI Photo/Keizo Mori)

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- A student who was banned from attending classes at a Netherlands university due to his foot odor has won the right to return after a decade-long legal fight.

A judge ruled to allow Teunis Tenbrook, who was banned from attending classes at Erasmus University in Rotterdam after administrators said his foot odor was distracting to professors and students, to resume his education at the school after a 10-year lapse, The Sun reported Tuesday.

The judge said professors and students would "just have to hold their noses and bear it" if the smell of Tenbrook's feet bothers them in the future.

The school said its new policy is to fine smelly students rather than ban them from classes.

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Marijuana use among teens down

DENVER, COLORADO., USA: Mike, P., 19, of Denver,  CO., smokes a  joint  (Marijuana cigarette) Friday afternoon at 4:20 PM in front of the Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver, CO, during the 1st annual 420 day. About 1000 marijuana supporters gathered peacefully from 2 to 6 PM, Friday, in Denver, CO., APRIL 20.         br/Bill Ross   UPI
DENVER, COLORADO., USA: Mike, P., 19, of Denver, CO., smokes a joint (Marijuana cigarette) Friday afternoon at 4:20 PM in front of the Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver, CO, during the 1st annual 420 day. About 1000 marijuana supporters gathered peacefully from 2 to 6 PM, Friday, in Denver, CO., APRIL 20. br/Bill Ross UPI

Marijuana use appears to have decreased among most European and North American adolescents from 2002 to 2006, researchers in Switzerland said.

Emmanuel Kuntsche of the Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems in Lausanne, Switzerland, and colleagues analyzed data from 93,297 15-year-old students who participated in the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study.

Study participants from 31 countries -- mostly in Europe and North America -- were surveyed in 2002 and again in 2006 about marijuana use and the number of evenings per week they usually spend out with their friends, among other topics.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, found marijuana use decreased in most countries, with the most significant declines in England, Portugal, Switzerland, Slovenia and Canada. Increases were observed in Estonia, Lithuania, and Malta and among girls in Russian.

In addition, the number of evenings out with friends also declined in most countries, although there was a wide range in averages, from about one evening per week for Portuguese girls to more than three evenings per week among boys and girls in the Ukraine, Russia, Scotland, Estonia and Spain.

"The more frequently adolescents reported going out with their friends in the evenings, the more likely they were to report using cannabis, or marijuana," the study authors said in a statement.

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Md. surgeons remove donated kidney through vagina

By ALEX DOMINGUEZ, Associated Press Writer

Kim Johnson, who donated a kidney to her niece four days earlier,  poses for a AP – Kim Johnson, who donated a kidney to her niece four days earlier, poses for a portrait at a relatives …

BALTIMORE – Surgeons removed a woman's kidney through her vagina so she could give it to her ailing niece, an unusual operation they hope will encourage others to donate because it reduces pain, scarring and recovery time. Doctors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said donor Kimberly Johnson, 48, and her niece, Jennifer Gilbert, 23, were both doing well following operations Thursday.

"It was easier than childbirth," said Johnson, who has three children.

Transvaginal kidney removals have been done before to remove cancerous or nonfunctioning kidneys, and other diseased organs have also been removed through mouths and other orifices. Many donated kidneys are removed laparoscopically, through small keyhole incisions.

But hospital officials think this may be the first time a donor kidney was removed through the vagina.

The operation left three pea-size scars on the Lexington Park woman's abdomen, one hidden in her navel. Surgeons hope the procedure will lead more women to become donors, said Dr. Robert Montgomery, chief of the transplant division at Johns Hopkins, who led the team that performed the surgery.

Johnson said the operation was less painful than gall bladder surgery and she is recovering more quickly than Gilbert's father, who gave his daughter a kidney 12 years ago.

Gilbert, of Baltimore, needed the first transplant because repeated infections had destroyed the kidneys she was born with. She needed the second after she began suffering chronic rejection.

Johnson, an assistant sales manager for a St. Mary's County newspaper, said she was able to get out of bed Thursday night, the same day the kidney was removed.

Quicker recovery and less pain are the key benefits of the new technique, said Montgomery and Dr. Anthony Kalloo, the director of the Division of Gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins and a pioneer of the method of using natural orifices for organ removal.

Kalloo said more than 300 such surgeries have been performed worldwide, mostly gall bladder and appendix removal through the mouth, anus and vagina. Kalloo said there has been some resistance in the medical community because of concerns, for example, that stomach acid could leak into the abdominal cavity in operations where organs were removed through the mouth.

Dr. Jihad Kaouk, a urologist and director of the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgery, is among those concerned about contamination. He was not involved in Johnson's surgery.

"There is the risk of infection having the kidney passing through a contaminated area and then going to another patient who is immunocompromised," Kaouk said. "That is the concern we have and we would like to monitor the outcome in that regard."

In Johnson's case, Montgomery said a plastic bag placed into her abdominal cavity through a tiny incision protected the donated kidney from contamination by bacteria and other organisms in her vagina. Johnson was chosen because she has had a hysterectomy, which made the operation easier, but the procedure could be used without affecting women's ability to give birth, he said.

More than 78,000 people are on the national waiting list to receive kidneys from deceased donors. The need is increasing as diabetes and obesity rise, threatening to further lengthen a wait that can last years. In 2007, more than a third of the 16,629 kidneys transplanted in the U.S. came from living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Montgomery said the number of living donor transplants has tripled since laparoscopic removal debuted in 1995, providing an alternative to so-called "shark bite" abdominal incisions. He hopes advances such as the vaginal removal will continue the increase.

"We think she'll be probably back to her normal activities within a week or two," the transplant surgeon said. Recovery from laproscopic surgery typically takes several weeks. "So, that greatly reduces the inconvenience of donating and we're hoping that will encourage more people to donate."

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Groundhog Day: Phil Sees Shadow, Predicts 6 More Weeks of Winter

The world's most famous groundhog saw his shadow Monday morning, predicting that this already long winter will last for six more weeks.

Punxsutawney Phil emerged just after dawn in front of an estimated 13,000 witnesses, many dressed in black and gold to celebrate the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl victory the night before.

"There's significant buzz from the Steelers win and quite a few Terrible Towels floating from the crowd," said Mickey Rowley, deputy secretary for tourism in Pennsylvania.

The annual ritual takes place on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in Punxsutawney, a borough of about 6,100 residents some 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Click here for photos.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club announced the forecast in a short proclamation, in which Phil acknowledged the Steelers' 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

According to German superstition, if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2 — the Christian holiday of Candlemas — winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says, spring will come early.

Since 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 97 times, hasn't seen it 15 times, and there are no records for nine years, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

Rowley said the Groundhog Day festivities are Pennsylvania's largest tourist gathering in the winter. And if Phil's forecast proves correct, it should bring even more tourists to the state.

"It's six more weeks of skiing," Rowley said.

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The 11 Most Unnecessary 'How To' Guides on the Web

By Lance Weagley

Who says there's nothing useful on the Internet? From Yahoo Answers to the countless How-To sites, the web is full of non-experts telling you how to do everything from change a muffler to castrate a llama.

But some of these "how-tos" seem so grossly unnecessary, we're wondering if these people aren't just getting paid by the word.

How to Use Kitchen Scissors

This guide is there to save those of us who didn't take those scissors operation classes in college.

Most Important Step:

Step 2: "Put the scissors in the kitchen in an easily accessible place."

Well, that makes sense. Because despite being the best place to store stuff, it turns out it would be a pain in the ass to run to the attic every time you needed your kitchen scissors.

The article goes on to recommend situations where your newfangled kitchen scissors can come in handy. Such as:

"Chopping up whole tomatoes from a can."

Okay, they're clearly fucking with us at this point. You've got some poor sap who needs an Internet guide to use scissors, and you're going to set them to cutting "whole tomatoes" with them? That's like making hood surfing part of the driver's test.

Also, "Cutting pizza wedges."

No, WikiHow. Just fucking no.

Most Important Tip:

Under the "Things You'll Need" heading, the first bullet point is "kitchen scissors." See, this is what the Internet should be for, people.

Most Important Warning:

"To avoid the temptation of using the kitchen scissors for cutting paper or any other household object beyond kitchen preparation, it is a helpful idea to place a second pair of scissors in an accessible location that will stop others from taking off with the kitchen pair."

That's right. Because the biggest concern regarding kitchen scissors would have to be the temptation involved. Forget the midget hooker with the bottle of Jose, because we're really not sure we can resist cutting out paper snowflakes with our exclusive-ass kitchen scissors.

Related Article You're Likely To View Next:

"How to cut glass."

We're guessing you have to avoid the temptation, and use something other than kitchen scissors.

How to Snap Your Fingers

Let's face it, snapping your fingers is one of those skills where if you can't do it by now, reading a guide probably won't help you.

Most Important Steps:

Step 1: Choose the hand you want to snap with.

Can't argue with that. Trying to learn both hands at the same time might be a bit much.

So far, so good.

Step 2: Have your index finger meet at your thumb about halfway to the top.

Wait, index finger? Ummm, like this?

Step 3: Quickly slide your index finger down the bony part of your thumb.

... What the fuck?

Seriously, how did they fuck this one up that badly?

Most Important Tip:

"Make sure your fingers are slightly moist."

Oh, shit. No. Freaking. Way. Courtesy of WikiHow, we are now going to teach every girl we meet how to snap their fingers. That's right, make 'em moist first, ladies, and then Cracked will show you how it's done.

Most Important Warning:

"Don't annoy people, because they can get very upset or mad."

But they won't get mad if we get two dozen of our friends together and snap our fingers in unison, West Side Story-style, right?

Related Article You're Likely To View Next:

"How to perform a Finger Trick."

We've got to assume that eases you in with Gun Fingaz and works you up to the detachable thumb thing.

How to Remove a Staple From Your Hand

Forget WebMD, whenever we staple our hand the first thing we do is jump on WikiHow to find out how to remove that bastard.

Most Important Step:

The steps in this article are really limited to extracurriculars, like washing the stapled area, using antibiotic cream, bandaging the wound, etc. It suggests reapplying soap as needed, in case you were stuck on that point.

Then, at step two, WikiHow blithely instructs you to "remove the staple."

You sons of bitches!

Most Important Tip:

"Even though running up to people and showing them the staple can be fun many will not enjoy it."

You know, our middle school principal told us the same thing, but our classmates thought it was awesome.

Most Important Warning:

"Do not try to remove the staple without soap or another lubricant... "

Two steps ahead of you, WikiHow, since it was when reaching for our bottle of KY we keep in the desk drawer when we accidentally stapled our hand in the first place. Still, the "... or another lubricant" seems to be leaving a lot of dangerous leeway for somebody who had to go to the Internet to figure out how to get a staple out of a body part. Lard? Axle grease? Motor oil?

No! Staples feed on Motor Oil!

Related Article You're Likely To View Next:

"How to Treat a Wound."

Because in the world of WikiHow injuries, it either falls under "Staple in the Hand," or it's just another wound. So if we wind up stapling our balls to our thigh, which article do we read?

How to Organize Your Vast Collection of Pens

Oh, hell yes. If you've had a huge line of male sexual partners, this one will help you organize all those...

Oh, wait. It says "Pens."

Most Important Step:

Step one starts with the words "If you don't have a collection..." Which are most likely intended for the readers who've yet to own a sloppy stack of pens, and merely wish to prepare themselves for the day that embarrassment rears its ugly head.

Step two instructs you to "look for pens in that messy room of yours." That's right, after sitting in your bushes, WikiHow is now in your closet, and knows about the pens "lying around under your bed" and "inside those filthy shoes."

The rest is pretty straightforward, with instructions to acquire some pen cases, and some organization info regarding the different types of pens (i.e. ballpoint pens, gel pens, 0.7, glitter pens, vibrating dick pens, "I Hate WikiHow" pens, etc.).

Finally, you can display your collection! Flaunt your pens! Watch your peers be utterly crushed by jealousy!

Most Important Tip:

It reminds us that "it's okay if the pen doesn't have ink," because "the first thing a person sees is the outside of the pen, not the ink." Sounds like that was written by a dude who was shooting blanks.

Most Important Warning:

WikiHow cautions readers on the risks involved with doing all of this on your bed, for the "ink caps" may come off and "stain the bed sheet."

Yeah... this is definitely not an article about pens.

Related Article You're Likely To View Next:

"How to Keep Gel Pens from Running out of Ink."

We like to think that one includes one line: "Don't fucking use them, asshole."

How to Change Television Channels

Have those confusing channel buttons had you watching the same TV station your whole life? Well, assuming you can read (which you almost certainly can't if you don't understand how buttons work... ) you're in luck!

Most Important Step:

After the part where they walk us through what those weird symbols over the buttons on the common remote mean, we get this:

Step 7: "Some TVs are very old in witch [sic] case you have to get up and turn the the dial(s) to the desired number."

So if you're seventy-years-old, know how to use the Internet and hunted down WikiHow because you've been watching the same channel since you bought your TV in 1950... well, we'd venture to say that you are part of a very select demographic.

Most Important Tip:

"Keep practicing!"

We will, WikiHow. For days and nights, weeks and months, just for you. Because your articles mean that much to the Internet.

Most Important Warning:

This how-to warns you not to "show off in front of your friends," because "nobody likes a gloater." Plus, that ranks right up there with "pen flaunting" in the list of "Most Successful Pick-Up Techniques."

"That's right, Mom, he changed all the channels. I think I'm gonna marry him."

Related Article You're Likely To View Next:

"How to create 3D television."

Holy shit, that seems like a rather large jump on the scale of technological know-how for Grandma up there...

How to Fly in Your Dreams

Don't even lie, you know this one piqued your interest.

Most Important Step:

Apparently flying in your dreams starts with getting your brain used to the experience of flying. So these steps consist of helpful suggestions like "ride a skateboard," "swing on a swing set," "watch birds" and, most dubiously, "watch Peter Pan."


Most Important Tip:

The article suggests you "be patient if this doesn't work the first few times" and that you "don't feel bad if it takes more than just a few weeks to accomplish these dreams." And really, what's so bad about watching Peter Pan and swinging on a swing set hour-after-hour for a few measly weeks?

The "Tips" section also offers that you "be creative" in your flight-producing techniques. Might we humbly suggest jumping off of something very tall?


How to Drive

The day anyone learns how to drive from reading about it on WikiHow, is the day we abandon the road entirely.

Most Important Step:

Step 1: "Get a driver's or learner's permit, if your state requires one."

FYI, there's only one state in the US that doesn't require a learner's permit: New Hampshire. So keep that in mind while walking around the streets of New Hampshire, a certain percentage of drivers just climb behind the wheel, utterly unfamiliar with the concept.

Then we get to step five: "Watch others while they drive and ask questions." The unspoken second half of that sentence is of course, "... and stop relying on WikiHow articles to learn how to avoid the deaths of many pedestrians, you madman."

Most Important Tip:

"Remember that the person in the car behind you cannot read your mind."

Well that's good, because when driving the only thing going through our mind is a mental image of us ramping our car over a row of school buses and a ring of fire.


Most Important Warning:

"Don't stop suddenly."

Really? Ever?

Related Article You're Likely To View Next:

"How to be a better driver."

Damn it, you skipped that "watch others while they drive and ask questions" step, didn't you? Step one of this one is, "check the vital signs of the man wedged in your bumper."

How to Blink Well

"Believe it or not, many people are incapable of advanced and controlled blinking." Of course those people likely have a serious disorder of the central nervous system, but if not here is a helpful guide.

Most Important Step:

First, you need to exercise your eyes, and then the blinking can commence. After that, the most important steps in the learning of "Advanced Blinking" involves timing your blinks. And note, "if your blinking is over 100 blinks a minute, a doctor may be needed." So to recap:

99 Blinks per minute = Normal ocular behavior.

100+ Blinks per minute = See a doctor. Maybe.

If you want to live your life like every room is equipped with a strobe light, that is your own decision and you should weigh all the positives and negatives.

Most Important Tip:

"Have a blinking buddy to help you time your blinking while you are doing everyday things, like chores or walking."

Yes, get your pal to follow you around the mall, counting off the seconds until you may blink again. Maybe have them follow you with a bullhorn shouting "BLINK... . BLINK... BLINK... "

Also, "Don't blink too hard or too lightly."

Basically if your blinking sounds like somebody clapping, you're doing it too hard.

Almost. Don't worry, you'll get there.

Most Important Warning:

"Make sure there are no sharp items in your eyes while you blink."

But only "while you blink." Any other time, fuck your eyes.

Related Article You're Likely To View Next:

"How to Maintain Good Eyesight."

We're guessing it involves having a friend follow you around day and night saying, "Can you see that? How about that? What about that thing?"

How to Count Sheep

We know what you're thinking. You've got sheep packed into your yard as far as the eye can see, but how is counting them any different from counting anything else? Well, this one is about counting imaginary sheep to get to sleep. You might think this kind of thing would require no instruction at all, but of course this article was written for some purpose, right?

Most Important Step:

Nope. The first steps involve imagining sheep.

There seems to be a lot of leeway, as they encourage you to visualize the sheep however you like. So, if you want to imagine each sheep as Scarlett Johansson's boobs, go right ahead. Also, the fence they're jumping is made of boobs.

Most Important Tip:

"If there are lots of sounds around, imagine some cows in the distance making that sound."

Right, cows that honk. And smash beer bottles, do burn outs with their rubber hooves and scream obscenities at their exes in the front yard.

Most Important Warning:

"Counting aloud may make you look foolish and may distract others."

No shit? Good thing we read that, before we settled back on the plane and started screaming out sheep numbers at the top of our lungs.

Related Article You're Likely To View Next:

"How to Treat Insomnia."

You'll go running off to this one after you realize the whole counting sheep technique is a big pile of bullshit.

How to Use a Computer Mouse

"Do you continually 'miss' your target link when browsing the web?"

That's the question this article asks, while managing not to open with the question: "Are you controlling the mouse with your dick?"

Most Important Step:

"First make sure the mouse is connected..."

Or don't, and just call your IT department, because they surely never get tired of this one. Just make certain to be as rude and ignorant (and obviously old) as possible, to brighten up their day.

"Place the mouse so that the buttons are at the 'top', away from you, with the cord (if there is one) going away from you."


Most Important Tip:

"If the mouse isn't working properly for you ... find out if your computer isn't frozen."

Your impulse to start bashing your keys every time the mouse cursor stops working was correct!

Most Important Warning:

"Computers can cause serious muscle injury if used improperly."

Look, we've avoided mentioning the obvious masturbation innuendo up until now, but come on. How can they make it any clearer?

Related Article You're Likely To View Next:

"How to Clean a Mousepad."

Okay, that's just gross.

How to Pet a Cat

"Petting a cat may sound simple," but remember, attempting anything without a written online guide can result in untold death and dismemberment.

Most Important Step:

"Get down to your cat's level."

Like, all the way down?

Also important is, "cats sometimes do not want to be petted," and "stop petting the cat right away if at any point his/she [sic] hisses, scratches at you, or attempts to bite you in a non-playful way."

See, this is why you don't want to get "to your cat's level." That fucker will go right for your eyes.

Most Important Tip:

"Many cats will walk or run away from a stranger who walks toward them. If you stop and crouch, they will often turn around and walk to you."

See, at this point they assume you're immobilized and will be easy prey.

Most Important Warning:

"If a cat bites or scratches you, let it cool off before trying to pet it again."

Perhaps try letting it cool off at the pound, after you've exchanged it for a nice dog.


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