Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dutch cafes use fake cigarette smells to create atmosphere after smoking ban

Nasty smells left by sweaty summer beer drinkers have left some Dutch bar owners pining for the aroma of cigarette and cigar smoke two weeks after a smoking ban came into force.

Rain Showtechniek, a Dutch company that specialises in lighting, special stage effects and sound systems, has developed a machine that reproduces the traditional smell of bars and cafes.

"There is a need for a scent to mask the sweat and other unpleasant smells like stale beer," said Erwin van den Bergh, a spokesman for the company.

"People find that smells such as Mocha coffee, Havana cigars or cigarettes can be about good moods and different ideas of living well."

Unlike the real thing, the artificial tobacco smells do not have any health risks and does not linger in the hair or clothing of bar customers.

"Geurmachines" come in different sizes and prices, ranging from giant smell-makers, costing £3500 for exhibition halls to smaller and cheaper scent devices for caf├ęs, priced at £440.

Over 50 different scents are offered for the new machines ranging from tobacco aromas to the smell of leather, freshly baked bread or new cars.

The Dutch smoking ban began on July 1.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Man torn apart by zoo bears

Man torn apart by zoo bears

By staff writers

July 14, 2008 08:32am
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THREE bears at a Ukrainian zoo tore a man "limb from limb" after he fell into their enclosure, local media reports.

The 22-year-old man was drunk and trying to take close-up shots of the Siberian Brown bears at Mykolaev city zoo when he lost his footing, witnesses said, acording to Channel 5 television.

The three bears charged the man immediately, tearing him "limb from limb" as he tried to escape, according to the station, quoted by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency.

The man was dead before keepers could separate the animals from their victim.

The brown bear is highly territorial and among the world's largest land carnivores.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bad dancing draws suspicion, pot charges

An 18-year-old Plymouth man whose bad dancing at a city festival attracted the attention of authorities was charged Monday with two drug-related misdemeanors, according to a criminal complaint.

Jeffery G. Holm Jr., for whom no current address is listed, could face up to seven months in jail if convicted of marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to the complaint:

A security officer at Hispanic Fest on Saturday night pointed out Holm to patrolling Sheboygan police officers after observing strange dancing that led him to believe the man was drunk or high.

Holm began to back away as officers approached him on the dance floor, and twice reached for his right pocket. Police — who noted Holm smelled strongly of marijuana — searched Holm and found 2.6 grams of marijuana as well as a glass pipe and a marijuana cigar.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Police: Man cut power pole because he 'enjoyed sparks'

Police: Man cut power pole because he 'enjoyed sparks'

A 27-year-old Avondale man has been arrested on suspicion of causing a massive power outage last summer in Goodyear's Estrella community.

The outage knocked out power to nearly 4,000 homes for 19 hours June 18, 2007, when Goodyear's high reached 115 degrees.

David Limas was arrested July 7 in Avondale at a house on Locus Lane, just east of Central Avenue. Police said they delayed announcing the arrest to allow for additional investigation. The said they think the suspect acted alone.

According to police, officers arrested the suspect on a tip from the public. He reportedly told investigators he cut down the pole because he enjoyed the sparks it made.

Police said Limas was on probation in connection with a May 2006 burglary and copper theft arrest at the time of the outage. He faces one felony count each of arson and aggravated criminal damage

Woman struck by lightning while shooting video

Woman struck by lightning while shooting video

Fortunately, the woman who shot this video was uninjured when she was struck by lightning. Her scream is more chilling than the Wilhelm Scream, if you ask me.

Lightning Strikes Woman As She Is Shooting Video (Laughing Squid)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Travel Much: A Guide to FISA

Guide to FISA


Brett Dobbs says: "I found this the most useful guide to explain what has gone on with FISA. With flowcharts!"

1. It Eliminates the requirement that there be probable cause that a foreign target is a suspect of any kind — terrorist, criminal, ore “foreign agent.” They merely need be your French grandmother, as long as they are outside the United States and not a U.S. person, and if the government says wiretapping them is for the purpose of collecting “foreign intelligence information” (e.g., her Pommes Frites recipe)

2. It requires the cooperation of telecoms in these efforts

3. It eliminates of the need to specify a particular email address or phone number to be wiretapped

4. 1-3 together imply that certifications of wiretapping on individuals is not the issue. The point is to use telecom cooperation to target large collections of data on communications between U.S. Persons and foreigners. This implies data mining — where, for instance, because a foreign target has communications passing through a given domestic switch, any communications (domestic or international) passing through that switch are subject to collection, analysis, and storage. There are “minimization requirements” meant to ameliorate this, but it is unclear if they really help.

Understanding Recent Changes to FISA — A Visual Guide (Flowchart) (Ketchup and Caviar)

Papal trivia: 10 things you didn't know

Papal trivia: 10 things you didn't know about Pope Benedict XVI

July 14, 2008 12:00am

TEN little-known facts about Pope Benedict XVI, who is in Australia for World Youth Day.

1. Pope 2.0 Benedict XVI is more connected than any of his predecessors. He is the first pontiff in history to use a mobile phone. He also has an iPod engraved with his coat of arms. There is an online fan club at and he also uses a range of email addresses.

2. Piano man
The Pope is known to tinkle the ivories and is a big fan of classical music - particularly Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.

3. Cat-o-lick leader
The Pope is a cat lover, and while he never owned one in his youth, he and brother Georg fed strays and collected cat plates.

4. Nice ones 'n' twos
His Holiness has resumed the sporting of red Papal shoes, which have not been used since the early days of Pope John Paul II. Contrary to media speculation the shoes had been crafted by Prada, the Vatican has confirmed they were made by the Pope's personal cobbler. The Vatican said, in response: "The Pope, in summary, does not wear Prada, but Christ."

5. He likes beer
Being Bavarian, it's no surprise his holiness loves beer - Franziskaner Weissbeer apparently being his favourite. He's said to be fond of lemonade, too.

6. He likes footy
The Pope is a passionate soccer fan who supports the German side Bayern Munich: "I'd like the game of football to be a vehicle for the education of the values of honesty, solidarity and fraternity, especially among younger generations," the Pope has said.

7. Lifelong dream
While most five-year-old boys think about being a footballer, fire fighter, police officer or soldier, the future pontiff declared he wanted to be a cardinal after he was among a group of children who welcomed the visiting Cardinal Archbishop of Munich to his hometown.

8. What's this I See? The Pope's father, Joseph Ratzinger, was a Bavarian police officer. Joseph Jr was the youngest of Joseph and Maria's three children. Big brother Georg is a priest and their sister Maria, who never married, died in 1991.

9. Dynasty
The Pope's great uncle was the German politician Georg Ratzinger.

10. Military man
The Pope was drafted into the German army in 1943, and it is well-known that he was in the Hitler Youth movement as a boy. However, because of an infected finger, he never learned to shoot in the army.

Timeless Quotes

Timeless Quotes

"If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed." (Mark Twain)
"Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress...but then I repeat myself." (Mark Twain)
"A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. (G. Gordon Liddy)
"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul." (George Bernard Shaw)
"I don't make jokes...I just watch government and report the facts." (Will Rogers )
"No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session." (Mark Twain)
"There is no distinctly Native American criminal Congress." (Mark Twain)
"What this country needs is more unemployed politicians." (Edward Langley, artist)
"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have." (Thomas Jefferson).

Beijing Orders Pollution to Vanish

Beijing Orders Pollution to Vanish

Rush-hour traffic in Beijing
Rush-hour traffic in Beijing
Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty

With less than a month to go until the start of the Beijing Olympics, the air in the Chinese capital remains gray and smoggy. While the International Olympic Committee has generally praised the city's preparation for the Games, it says that pollution remains an outstanding concern. And so as the countdown clock in Tiananmen Square winds down to zero, worries grow that the $17 billion spent on environmental cleanup won't keep the Games from being clouded by a choking haze.

But experts familiar with the city's plans for short-term pollution controls say Beijing's air should vastly improve in the final run-up to the Games. That will be good news for the country's reputation and a successful event. However, the solution is only a quick fix; once the controls are lifted, Beijing will most likely return to its smoggy norm.

At the core of the solution are government-decreed industrial and traffic crackdowns. Beijing has announced work stoppages on July 20 for construction sites, mines and chemical plants. A group of polluting factories in Beijing will be required to cut emissions by 30%. In the neighboring cities of Tianjin and Tangshan, more than 300 factories will be shuttered during the Olympics.

The biggest element of the short-term cleanup efforts will be a restriction on car traffic that begins July 20. On that day government-vehicle traffic will be ordered to cut back by 70%, and private vehicles will be permitted to drive only on alternating days. Although police cars, emergency vehicles and taxis will be exempt, the government estimates that up to 50% of Beijing's 3.3 million vehicles will be cleared from the streets. "By July 20, not only the traffic control will be at ... full scale, [but] all the other controlling measures should in place," says Zhu Tong, an environmental-science professor at Peking University. "With all these controlling measures working at the same time, I am confident that the air quality in Beijing should be significantly improved."

The optimistic projections of an air turnaround for the Olympics are based in part on the results of previous exercises in barring cars from the streets of the capital. During a Sino-African summit in 2006, vehicle restrictions were enacted that removed about 800,000 of Beijing's then 2.8 million cars. The restrictions, which were put in place for three days, were "remarkably successful" and led to a 40% drop in nitrogen oxides, according to a study conducted by researchers from Harvard University and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

Another study by Chinese and German researchers found that the 2006 test also helped cut airborne particles. "There was a significant decrease," says Jost Heintzenberg, director of the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research. Under this year's plan, with added restrictions to keep trucks and cars that don't meet inspection out of the city, Heintzenberg says, "I make an educated guess on a 50% visibility improvement that they can manage."

The benefits of the auto restrictions come from not just taking polluting cars off the streets. Beijing's notorious traffic jams mean that even newer, efficient cars pollute more than if they were traveling in free-flowing traffic, says Hao Jiming, a professor of environmental science at Tsinghua University. "Driver speeds will increase, especially in urban areas. The high speed makes emissions lower," Hao says. He estimates that simply removing cars will cut pollutants by 40%, and the higher speeds of the remaining vehicles will mean an additional 10% reduction in pollutants. Beijing has added subway lines and increased its number of subway cars to handle the crush on public transit during the car-restriction period. Offices and stores have also been ordered to stagger working hours, and buses to and from Olympic venues have been organized. But if the previous tests are any example, getting around town could still be tough.

One unknown will be to what extent weather helps. When the wind blows strong out of the north, Beijing's skies can clear quickly. But when there is no breeze, the city's northern and western hills can easily trap pollution. Last August a four-day car-restriction test resulted in only modest improvements, which the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau blamed on the lack of a breeze. But unlike the 2006 and 2007 tests, which ran for just three and four days, respectively, this year's limitations will have been in place for nearly three weeks when the Olympics kick off. Hao says he expects to see clearer skies within one week. "After a few days, the air quality will be improved," he says. "How many days? That depends on the weather."

But while cleaner skies will be a welcome sight for the Olympic hosts, Beijing's residents won't have long to enjoy it. The restrictions will be kept in place for the Sept. 6-17 Paralympics, then end on Sept. 20. "The measures are only a short-term fix," says Wen Bo, China director for the NGO Pacific Environment. "I think the current Beijing government couldn't have the time and energy to think of long-term solutions for fixing air pollution."

surreal bird formation

video: surreal bird formation
Posted by David Pescovitz, July 14, 2008 12:41 PM |
Birdsssssformmm This video of a lovely and strange bird formation is quite amazing.
Amazing bird formation

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ancient tree 'one of UK's best'

Ancient tree 'one of UK's best'

Fortingall Yew
The Fortingall Yew is thought to be the oldest living organism in Europe

An ancient Perthshire yew has made the top 10 in a list of the most important trees in the UK.

The Fortingall Yew, which grows at a churchyard near Aberfeldy, could be up to 5,000 years old and is thought to be the oldest living organism in Europe.

Local legend has it that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus, was born in its shade and played there as a child.

It is heading a list of 22,000 trees being compiled by the Woodland Trust.

The document is being drawn up to highlight the need to protect the UK's trees.

'Remarkably special'

Jill Butler, from the trust, told the BBC Scotland news website that the Fortingall Yew was a very significant living thing.

"That is remarkably special, many yews can grow to a very great age, but the majority of yews in the UK people would think would be up to about 3,000 years old," she said.

"So if it was up to 5,000 years old, it would be very very special indeed and in a European context very important too."

The charity's aim is to have 100,000 ancient trees on its list by the time the project ends.

Ms Butler said: "We should draw attention to how important our tree heritage is. Many of these trees are just as important as our built heritage and a lot older than some of our buildings, and yet, they don't have the same recognition status as some of our most important buildings.

"We've overlooked our tree heritage for so long and the trees deserve to be properly recognised for what they've done for us down the centuries.

"These trees have provided us with so much - they're so beautiful, they're so full of wildlife and they tell us stories about our lives in past times and that's really really significant."

Major Sasquatch Art

Major Sasquatch Art

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 13th, 2008


Kalama residents Jacob Posey, 9, bottom, and his sister Emily, 11, work on artist Brian Major’s paint-by-number mural of Sasquatch at the Longview Saturday Market. Miranda Schneider, 10, of Hillsboro, Oregon, at the top right, colors the sun. Credit: Greg Ebersole / The Daily News

Read more about artist Brian Major’s sidewalk Sasquatch art here.

Major has kindly shared more photos from this event with us:

Brian Major Sasquatch Art

Click on image for larger version

Brian Major Sasquatch Art

Click on image for larger version

Brian Major Sasquatch Art

Click on image for larger version

Brian Major Sasquatch Art

Click on image for larger version

Brian Major Sasquatch Art

Brian Major Sasquatch Art

Click on image for larger version

Brian Major Sasquatch Art

Click on image for larger version

Brian Major Sasquatch Art

Brian Major Sasquatch Art

Click on image for larger version


Solar cooling becomes a new air-conditioning system

Solar cooling becomes a new air-conditioning system

By: Universidad Carlos III of Madrid

July 14, 2008 - Scientists from the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M) and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC) have developed an environmentally friendly cooling technology that does not harm the ozone layer. This is achieved by using solar energy and therefore reducing the use of greenhouse gases.

A research team has designed and built an absorption chiller capable of using solar and residual heat as an energy source to drive the cooling system. The technology used in this machine, which looks like an ordinary air-conditioning system, minimises its environmental impact by combining the use of a lithium bromide solution, which does not damage the ozone layer or increase the greenhouse effect, with a reduction in the use of water by the machine.


The team, managed by Professor Marcelo Izquierdo from the Department of Thermal Engineering and Fluid Mechanics of the UC3M, who is also a researcher at the Instituto de Ciencias de la Construccion Eduardo Torroja (IETCC) of the CSIC, is building a solar cooling system that unlike the existing machines on the market, uses an improved absorption mechanism capable of producing cold water at a range of temperatures from 7 C to 18 C when the exterior temperature ranges from 33 C to 43 C.

Residential use:

Professor Marcelo Izquierdo states that the conclusions reached by a study with a commercial air condensed absorption machine prove that given an outside temperature ranging from 28 C and 34 C, the machine can produce cold water at a range of 12 to 16 C, with a source temperature at the generator between 80 C to 95 C. Under these conditions, the cold water produced can be used for climate control applications in houses by combining it with a water-to-air heat exchanger (fan coil).

Quoting Raquel Lizarte, a researcher at the Department of Thermal Engineering and Fluid Mechanics of the UC3M, "There are few absorption machines at a commercial level that are adapted for residential use", and since it is very hard to go without climate control, it is important to find a cooling technology that has minimal environmental impact. "The machine that we're studying produces enough cold water to cool down a room of 40 m2 of floor area and with a volume of 120 m3", she states.

In 2007, 191 countries were involved in the Montreal protocol; a signed agreement to avoid the use of ozone depleting substances such as the HCFC refrigerants used in the air-conditioning industry as well as to set a limit such that by the year 2010 the energy consumption should be just 25% of the level that was allowed in 1996. Also, by the year 2020 all the HCFC refrigerants used in developed countries will have to be replaced with substitutes. This protocol makes research into this kind of technology extremely important for the near future.

The study has been published in the current edition of the magazine Applied Thermal Engineering under the title: 'Air conditioning using an air-cooled single effect lithium bromide absorption chiller: Results of a trial conducted in Madrid in August 2005'. In this investigation scientists from the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid and Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia have collaborated under the coordination of the Instituto de Ciencias de la Construccion Eduardo Torroja-CSIC.

Handless Man Uses Feet to Repair Tires

Handless Man Uses Feet to Repair Tires

In China, you have to make the best of any situation. There is little help available and no matter what happens, you have to put food on the table.

Not having proper use of his hands, this very talented man uses his feet to repair flat bicycle tires and seems to be very skilled at doing so.

foot-tire01 Handless Man Uses Feet to Repair Tires picture

foot-tire02 Handless Man Uses Feet to Repair Tires picture

foot-tire03 Handless Man Uses Feet to Repair Tires picture

foot-tire04 Handless Man Uses Feet to Repair Tires picture

foot-tire05 Handless Man Uses Feet to Repair Tires picture

foot-tire06 Handless Man Uses Feet to Repair Tires picture

Date set for Mars sample mission
NOTE:Video has no sound

Space officials have set a date of 2018 for launching an unmanned international mission designed to return samples of Martian rock and soil to Earth.

Mars Sample Return is billed as the most complex and costliest exploration of Mars ever conceived.

Once samples are on Earth, laboratories will be able to extract more data than by remote control using, for example, a robotic rover on the Martian surface.

A working group has come up with a mission profile and flight design.

The panel has released its preliminary report, in which it also warns that the mission faces many hurdles ahead.

"2018 will start the era of Mars Sample Return," Doug McCuistion, director of Nasa's Mars Exploration Programme, told a press conference in Paris.

The report's authors said that, regardless of the start date, it would take five years for the precious 500g (1.1lb) sample to be returned to Earth, and the world's major space powers had to pool resources to achieve the extraordinary goal.

Flight design

Stephane Janichewski, deputy director of France's National Centre for Space Studies (Cnes), said "at least a transatlantic cooperation" was needed between Europe and the US to fulfil this "very challenging" project.

"It's a sort of (Holy) Grail we are looking for," said Mr Janichewski, referring to the project's scope.

In the most optimistic scenario, a US Atlas A 551 rocket would lift off in 2018 carrying a mobile rover - or stationary lander - that would be dropped down to the Martian surface to collect samples selected to give the broadest picture possible of the planet's geological past.

The payload would include a Mars Ascent Vehicle which would later blast off with the sample onboard.

In 2019, an Ariane 5 ECA heavy rocket would take off, sending an orbiter to Mars. The Mars Ascent Vehicle would leave the Red Planet with the sample container and drop it off in Martian orbit, where it would be captured by the orbiter.

The spacecraft would then start the long haul back to Earth, eventually dropping off the sample in an "Earth Entry Vehicle" designed to survive the fiery descent through the atmosphere.

It would then be retrieved and analysed.

"Of the various places of interest for evaluating whether or not life exists or has existed elsewhere in the Universe, Mars is by far the most accessible," the preliminary planning report noted.

The document said the cost would roughly range from $4.5bn to $8bn (3bn to 5.3bn euros) "depending on the final requirements and international cooperative structure".

Infographic, BBC
1) In 2018, an US Atlas A 551 rocket lifts off from Earth carrying a mobile rover or stationary lander
2) The rover or lander is dropped down to Mars to pick up samples of rock and soil. Included with this payload is a small rocket - a Mars Ascent Vehicle
3) In 2019, a European 5 ECA heavy rocket takes off from Earth, sending an orbiter to Mars
4) The Mars Ascent Vehicle blasts off from the Red Planet with the sample container and drops it off in Martian orbit, where it is captured by the spacecraft
5) The orbiter journeys back to Earth, eventually dropping off the sample in a vehicle designed to survive the fiery plunge through our atmosphere

Pictured: Escaped bull gatecrashes neighbour's pool party

Pictured: Escaped bull gatecrashes neighbour's pool party

By Catriona Stewart
Last updated at 6:03 PM on 13th July 2008

To celebrate the completion of his new swimming pool, businessman Jamie Stewart invited a few friends and family over for a dip.

But the last thing the bemused host expected was to be disturbed by a gatecrasher - in the shape of a half-ton bull.

The massive animal had escaped from a nearby field and was being chased by farm-hands when he crashed into Mr Stewart's garden - and dived headlong into the water.

The escaped bull swimming in Jamie Stewart's pool

The escaped bull swimming in Jamie Stewart brand new swimming pool

And since such a large beast could hardly use the step-ladder to climb out, he was forced to tread water for the next three hours until firemen could drain away the water and hoist him back onto dry land.

Last night Mr Stewart described his astonishment at the unexpected visitor who had taken the first swim in his new pool.

The 41-year-old said: "I absolutely couldn't believe my eyes. There was a bull swimming in our new pool.
"I think he had perfected his front crawl by the time he was rescued."

The dramatic pool-party took place on Friday. Work had just been completed on the luxury outdoor heated swimming pool Mr Stewart had ordered for his home.

Workmen had spent the day pumping in ten thousand gallons of water and Mr Stewart's guests started to arrive in the late afternoon for the inaugural swim.

However celebrations took a surprise turn when a two-year-old bull from a neighbouring farm jumped a fence and escaped from his pasture.

The young animal, whose full show-name is Broombrae Tramp, was apparently intent on making closer acquaintance with a herd of cows in another field.

But when his owner, farmer Alexander Jack, gave chase, the bull changed course and instead crashed into Mr Stewart's garden.

The bull in Jamie Stewart's swimming pool

The bull changed course and ended up in the pool after after its owner Alexander Jack gave chase

The pool was covered at the time so the animal was unable to see the potential hazard, but immediately burst through the canvas and began to splash about in the four-foot deep water.

While neighbours, friends and family crowded round to watch the drama unfold, six firemen from the Fife brigade joined a local vet to help rescue the hapless party animal.

Mr Stewart, a company director, added: "My family and I stood back and let the emergency services do all the work.

"I don't think they were terribly pleased with us - we stood in the garden with glasses of wine and shouted unhelpful suggestions."

Mr Stewart's children Samantha, 12, Lucy, 10, and Finbar, 7, were delighted with their unusual party guest.

He added: "The kids thought it was great. They were a bit disappointed that they didn't get to have the swim they were planning but they ended up with a much better story to tell their friends."

Mr Stewart's partner Gillian runs Acorn nursery from the Kinaldy farmhouse, near St Andrews, but evacuated the children as a precaution.

A three hour rescue attempt saw a vet fire two tranquilliser bullets into the bull - nicknamed Pedro by firemen - before the pool was drained and the rescue crew used a digger to lift him out.

Broombrae Tramp is now recovering from his ordeal in a secure field.

The outdoor heated pool, designed by Alba Pools, will need minor repairs and to be refilled.

The escaped bull being lifted out of the swimming pool

Firefighters attached a sling to hoist the animal out of the swimming pool as the bemused family looked on

A spokeswoman for Fife Fire and Rescue said: "It was a very unusual call out but we sometimes deal with rescuing different animals.

"Our crews are comprehensively trained so they're used to dealing with surprise situations but in this case they did take all their directions from the vet who was called to the scene."

Farmer Mr Jack, from Lahill Craig Farm in Upper Largo, added: "The bull is only two years old and is full of the joys of life. You know what young men are when they get beside a crowd of attractive women.

"Broombrae Tramp was bored being in our field and decided he'd join our neighbour's cows.

"Before we knew what had happened, he had jumped the fence and was headed for Jamie's swimming pool.

"We tried to catch him but our attempts to trap him in the next field went a bit askew.

"He's normally a very placid animal but he just wasn't willing to go home on Friday without a fight.

"Seeing the maiden cows got him a bit heated."

The farmer can only hope Broombrae Tramp's unexpected dip has cooled his passion.

Sodium - Periodic Table of Videos

Famously reactive, but for one scientist sodium is "motherly" element? Videos about all the elements at

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why dying is forbidden in the Arctic

Why dying is forbidden in the Arctic

By Duncan Bartlett
BBC, Norway

Residents of Norway's Svalbard Islands are used to dealing with the dangers of polar bears but, for one remote settlement, wild animals are not the only worry.

Map of Norway and Svalbard Islands

It is forbidden to die in the Arctic town of Longyearbyen.

Should you have the misfortune to fall gravely ill, you can expect to be despatched by aeroplane or ship to another part of Norway to end your days.

And if you are terminally unlucky and succumb to misfortune or disease, no-one will bury you here.

The town's small graveyard stopped accepting newcomers 70 years ago, after it was discovered that the bodies were failing to decompose.

Corpses preserved by permafrost have since become objects of morbid curiosity. Scientists recently removed tissue from a man who did die here. They found traces of the influenza virus which carried him and many others away in an epidemic in 1917.

Longyearbyen town
Longyearbyen is in the land of the polar bear, an animal which causes real dread among its residents
Longyearbyen's "no death" policy stems as much from its remote location as from its harsh climate.

At 78 degrees north, it lies on the archipelago of Svalbard, a group of islands between Norway's northern coast and the North Pole.

About 1,500 people inhabit small wooden houses which are partly sheltered from the Arctic winds by the settlement's location in a mountain valley.

Global warming

Kristin Grotting is a physiotherapist, who moved here 12 years ago.

Girl in Longyearbyen
The children's heavy clothes can leave them with mobility problems

Her naturally light complexion has been reddened by the constant summer sunlight.

The Arctic day lasts from March until October but it never gets very warm and, on the day we met, Kristin kept her thick coat zipped tight.

Looking out towards Longyearbyen bay, she explained that the Icefjord - as it is known - has stopped being icy.

Even in midwinter, the water no longer freezes and the glaciers around it are receding.

"We used to be able to take our snowmobiles right across that fjord," she told me. "Now we can't do that any more and we have to go the long way around."

Global warming is not her only concern. She also worries about what she will do when she retires, as this community has no facilities to care for the old or frail, hence perhaps its entrenched fear of death.

But although there is no old people's home, there is a kindergarten.

In winter - when the darkness lasts for months on end - the children make images of the sun with yellow paint and tissue paper and stick them to the windows.

Kristin has met some of the children at her physiotherapy clinic.

She says they have developed mobility problems because of their heavy winter clothes and must be trained to stretch their limbs in the warmth.

Polar bears

Polar bear
Hunting for polar bears is strictly forbidden and, if you do shoot one in self defence, you must inform Svalbard's governor

Trips outside the kindergarten's walls carry a more immediate danger for the children and, for this reason, the teacher carries a gun.

Longyearbyen is in the land of the polar bear, an animal which causes real dread among its residents.

Every student at the university spends their first day learning how to shoot bears.

Aim toward the chest, runs the advice, rather than the head which is easy to miss.

If you are unarmed when you encounter a bear, toss your mittens on the snow in the hope of distracting it.

But if you see it snap its teeth with a smacking sound, it is readying for a kill.

At which point, I suppose, you could try reminding the bear that it is forbidden to die in Longyearbyen and hope it shows respect for local law.

Hunting for polar bears is strictly forbidden and, if you do shoot one in self-defence, you must inform Svalbard's governor, Per Sefland.

He has a large stuffed one in his office, which he assured me he did not shoot himself.


In fact, it is the governor's enthusiasm for wildlife that led him to take this remote posting, after working for the state prosecutor's office as a lawyer in Oslo.

He also has an interest in graphic design and showed me a special road sign designed to emphasise the polar bear threat.

Like other hazard signs, its red triangle signals potential danger. But the inside has been shaded black so that the image of a large white predator can be easily seen by passing motorists.

The governor drove me past the sign in his 4x4 to see the town's huskies.

When not working with a sled team, the dogs live in large cages overlooking the fjord. They eat seal meat provided by local fishermen.

A colony of Eider ducks has made its home between the husky kennels, about 100 pairs in all. Mr Sefland told me the birds chose that spot because Arctic foxes, which prey on young ducks and eggs, are scared of huskies and will not intrude.

Seeing the duck feathers on the frosty ground made me think of eiderdown and I imagined how cosy it must feel to snuggle beneath a quilt to escape the polar cold when the season turns to winter.

Perhaps even with a cuddly toy - although not, I think, a white teddy bear, which could provoke bad dreams throughout an Arctic night which never seems to end.

Cyclists test their legs — and stomachs — at annual Tour de Donut

Cyclists test their legs — and stomachs — at annual Tour de Donut

The Telegraph/JIM BOWLING
Steve Stryker of Edwardsville chomps down on a stack of doughnuts at the Worden stop during the 20th Annual Tour de Donut Saturday morning.

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Staunton event in 20th year

For The Telegraph

STAUNTON - Bicycling can be a great way to spend a warm, sunny summer day, but throw in dozens upon dozens of doughnuts and you have the Tour de Donut.

The Tour de Donut, a spoof of the Tour de France bicycle race, celebrated its 20th annual race from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Staunton City Park.

Prizes were awarded to those who finished with the fastest time, the fastest adjusted time (depending on number of doghnuts eaten) and for most doughnuts eaten.

For every donut eaten, five minutes is taken off a cyclist's time. Pit stop volunteers were scrambling to mark those who had eaten doughnuts so cyclists could hop back on their bikes and pedal away.

Almost 1,000 cyclists participated in the tour, many from the St. Louis area.

Many participants were trying to eat as many doughnuts as possible, while others were skittish about eating too many and biking along the hilly trail.

Eduardo Nieuwenhuyzen of St. Louis said he wasn't concerned about the race or the doughnuts.

"I just like wearing tight clothes," Nieuwenhuyzen said, joking about his spandex outfit.

Mike Tillman of Godfrey said his goal was "to finish and not barf."

"This event is very well-organized and all the volunteers have been great," Tillman said.

Staunton residents lined the streets to show support for the cyclists - handing out water and giving encouragement and loud cheers. One little boy had a lemonade stand set out for the racers.

The tour started in Staunton and progressed to Prairietown for the first stop. The first few droves of cyclists rode past the doughnut stop because they were concerned about making good time. But many stayed and chowed down on the doughy baked goods.

The second stop was at American Legion Post No. 564 in Worden. Hundreds of cyclists stopped there to refresh and refuel before finishing the last 14-mile leg of the race back to Staunton. The race was a total of 32 miles, mimicking the Tour de France.

American Legion Post member David Vers said the post has set up the stop for cyclists since 1988, when the tour first began.

"It is a great thing, and the people really seem to have a good time," Vers said. "It's a healthy activity, even with the doughnuts, because the biking burns off those calories anyway."

Steve Striker of Edwardsville planned to eat at least 24 doughnuts. He was working on 20 doughnuts when he reached the Worden pit stop.

"I don't think I'll make my goal. It's tough to hold it back now," Striker said as he was shoving five doughnuts into his mouth.

First-time participant Blake Stevens of Edwardsville said the ride was fun.

"I got to see some guy puke after eating 25 doughnuts, so that was interesting," Stevens said.

Bill Schmaltz of St. Louis joked about the cyclists from Illinois lagging behind the rest. He said his goal is to eat seven doughnuts and finish the race under one hour and 35 minutes.

"This is fun, in a gluttonous kind of way," Schmaltz said.

At noon, the cyclists were invited to join Staunton residents at their third annual Rib Cook-Off and Block Party in the park.

Jerry and Stephanie Kapp of Edwardsville decided to make it a family event and brought their daughter Laura along for the race.

"There is a really good mixture of people here, with all races of bikes," Jerry Kapp said. "The support from the locals was really great, we had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs out there, too."

Kapp said he almost skipped the race because of the smell of barbecue floating through the air, but he went ahead and completed the tour first.

Tour prizes were first-, second- and third-place medals in each category, two new Trek Bikes and a golden helmet was awarded to the participant who traveled farthest to compete in the race. Cash prizes were given to the men and women who ate the most doughnuts, and attendance prizes were given to all who participated.

Tour de Donut is presented by Boeing Employees Bicycle Club and is held each year in Staunton. For information, visit