A tiny yellow duckling recently found wandering alone on the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden has since landed in paradise.
"I knew a fledgling would never survive with all the predators in the Garden," said the bird's rescuer, a state licensed wildlife rehabber who asked not to be identified because some neighbors don't know that she cares for squirrels, pigeons and other creatures in need from her Manhattan apartment.
The curious fluffy bird spent the night frolicking in the rescuer's bathtub before making the four-hour journey to the Berkshire Bird Paradise, where she was greeted by a gaggle of ducklings that reside at the upstate sanctuary.
Located in upstate Grafton, the safe haven is home to more than 1,200 disabled and unwanted birds, from emus, pigeons, and tropical birds to owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles.
New York City residents regularly make the drive to hand-deliver injured pigeons and squirrels to founder Peter Debacher, who turned his parents' 20-acre farm into a maze of wooden pens and exotic plants in 1972 as a "labor of love."
Wildlife officials across the country have sent injured birds for his care, from an eagle mauled by a grizzly bear in Alaska to cranes left over from a breeding program in Maryland.
"All life is sacred; once you spend some time with them, you realize every creature has its uniqueness," said Debacher, a former Army cook who served in the late 1960s in Panama, where he bought parrots being sold as pets in the vegetable stands and set them free.
In the last three decades, he has taken in more than 20 wounded eagles, including Victoria, a bald eagle who survived the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
Victoria's two baby eaglets - their father, Baldwin, came from a zoo - who were born in the sanctuary were recently released into the wild.
Meanwhile, Debacher's latest mission is to provide refuge to an eagle shot in the wing in Afghanistan.
Concerned Navy Seals recently e-mailed Debacher, asking him to take the wounded steep eagle, but U.S. wildlife regulations have kept the bird from entering the country.
Debacher has enlisted help from author Barbara Chepaitis to cut through the red tape and act as a liaison between lawmakers and the soldiers.
Chepaitis, a bird lover who discovered the sanctuary years ago, understands the depth of Debacher's compassion. In her new book, "Feathers of Hope" (SUNY Press), she provides an intimate view of life at the sanctuary and the enormous effort it takes for Debacher to maintain his dream.
After all, the sanctuary is a humble place run by a small army of volunteers. Debacher estimates it costs about $150,000 a year to run the nonprofit facility, which relies strictly on monetary donations and community outreach.
State troopers and DEC workers regularly drop off road kill and dead rats, which feeds the birds. Day-old bread donated by local stores, and apples, pumpkins and other fresh veggies from local farmers help feed squirrels and pigeons.
Kids from nearby Tryon Juvenile Detention Center even help paint signs and make bird feeders, while learning about compassion for animals.
Despite his enormous lifelong commitment to the animals, Debacher does not feel shackled down. He says sharing an occasional movie and a sandwich in town with his wife, Betty Ann, and their 16-year-old daughter helps keep him going.
He said, "This is my paradise and I love it."
The Berskshire Bird Paradise welcomes visitors. For information or to make a donation, go to www.birdparadise.org.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
British man buys huge amount of cocoa beans, holds them hostage to drive up global price of chocolate.
A British financier who dramatically cornered a huge chunk of the world’s cocoa supply has been dubbed ‘Choc Finger’ by City traders.
Anthony Ward, 50, who has amassed a £36 million fortune, is a real-life Willy Wonka and now owns enough beans to manufacture 5.3 billion quarter-pound chocolate bars.
The holding is so massive it threatens to force manufacturers to raise the price of some of Britain’s most popular chocolate.
Armajaro Holdings, a hedge fund founded by multi-millionaire Mr Ward, pulled off the £658 million purchase of 241,000 tons of cocoa beans.
It is likely that the mountain of beans will be held in warehouses in London, Liverpool, Humberside and Holland.
The move was the largest single cocoa purchase for 14 years and came as bean prices rose to the highest level since 1977 – £2,732 per ton.
The purchase has surprised commodity dealers because, in a highly unusual move, Mr Ward’s firm has actually taken delivery of the beans. According to industry sources, in 98 per cent of transactions, traders exchange contracts which give them the option to buy and sell cocoa at various prices and at different times without ever taking possession of the stock.
The move has prompted speculation that Mr Ward is stock-piling huge volumes of cocoa in order to exert a stranglehold over supply and force the price even higher.
Friday, July 16, 2010
I'm not going to sit here and try to convince you that video games are better than novels. That would be ridiculous. I will ask you one thing, though: Have you ever won a novel?
If not, you'll soon have the chance. The Great Gatsby, a new PC game, is the next entry in the "Classic Adventures" series, which takes players on point-and-click journeys through the world of literature. In Gatsby, players will follow Nick Carraway as he attempts to navigate the complex social world of the 1920s while having as much extravagant fun as possible. Dance the Charleston! Drink bootleg gin! Stare longingly at the greenish light across the water! The possibilities are endless.
Fans of the Dante's Inferno game may be disappointed to learn that Gatsby is a "hidden object" game and not a hack-and-slash action-fest. I was really hoping we'd get the chance to impale people on one of those canes that goes with top hats. Still, sophomore English students who are crunched for time ought to check out Gatsby for educational purposes. Go ahead, bored high school kids! See if you can collect all 151 Metaphor Points!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Pear-shaped women, who have a high hip-to-waist ratio, may be at greater risk of developing dementia in old age than women with rounder, apple-like figures, research suggests.
The large scale study was the first to show obesity directly impacts on cognitive and memory decline, but also unexpectedly revealed a woman’s shape, as well as size, was a risk factor.
“Obesity is bad, but its effects are worse depending on where the fat is located,” said the study leader, Dr Diana Kerwin, of Northwestern University, Chicago.
Pear-shaped celebrities include Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce, while apple-shaped women, whose waist and hip measurements are much closer, include Catherine Zeta-Jones and Drew Barrymore.
“Pears” tend to gain most weight on the hips and bottom, while “apples” accumulate a tire around the middle.
The Vatican placed the ordination of women as Roman Catholic priests on the same level as child abuse in the eyes of the Church.
The Canon Law’s revision to the laws on sexual abuse of children by priests included the “attempted ordination of a woman,” with future cases to lead to immediate excommunication at the hands of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Catholic Church teaches it cannot ordain women as priests because Christ chose only men as his apostles.
Many respected scholars argue that Mary Magdalen was an Apostle but her role in the early Church was downgraded by male writers with an agenda of promoting the all-male priesthood.
[...] The new “substantive norms” on “delicts against the faith” came days after the Church of England General Synod voted in favor of legislation to ordain women bishops.
Liquid armor has been shown to stop bullets more effectively than plain Kevlar, according to British firm BAE Systems. The material could be used to make thinner, lighter armor for military personnel and police officers, the BBC reports.
Materials scientists combined a shear-thickening liquid with traditional Kevlar to make a bulletproof material that absorbs the force of a bullet strike by becoming thicker and stickier.
Its molecules lock together more tightly when it is struck, the scientists explained -- they described it as "bulletproof custard," the BBC reports.
Shear-thickening liquids are composed of hard nanoparticles suspended in a liquid, which turns rigid after being struck with a bullet or shrapnel. BAE says their tests provide the first clear evidence that it can actually protect people.
In the tests, BAE scientists used a gas gun to fire ball-bearing bullets at nearly 1,000 feet per second at two test materials -- 31 layers of regular Kevlar and 10 layers of Kevlar combined with the shear-thickening liquid.
The shear-thickening liquid stopped the bullets more quickly and prevented them from penetrating as deeply, the BBC says. British media got a preview of the materials at a BAE facility in Bristol, England.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has studied using liquid armor to replace traditional Kevlar armor, which is heavy and bulky.
The remains of a ship dating back to the 18th century have been uncovered by workers close to the the old World Trade Centre site in lower Manhattan.
Archaeologists said the 32ft-long vessel was probably used along with other debris to fill in land to extend New York City into the Hudson River.
Those who examined the find described it as 'significant'.
An anchor weighing seven stone was also discovered at the site, although investigators said it was unclear whether it belonged to the newly-unearthed ship.
Archaeologists Molly McDonald and A. Michael Pappalardo examined the ship when it was found by staff about 30ft below street level in a planned underground vehicle security centre.
Ms McDonald said: 'We noticed curved timbers that a backhoe [mechanical digger] brought up.
'We quickly found the rib of a vessel and continued to clear it away and expose the hull over the last two days.'
The two archaeologists work for AKRF, a firm hired to document artefacts discovered at the site.
They called Tuesday's find significant but said more study was needed to determine the age of the ship.
'We're going to send timber samples to a laboratory to do dendochronology that will help us to get a sense of when the boat was constructed,' said McDonald.
A boat specialist was due at the site today to further investigate the find which is turning into a race against time after the delicate wood was exposed to air.
VATICAN CITY — A court-ordered study has found that electromagnetic waves beamed by Vatican Radio leave residents living near the station's antennas at a higher risk of cancer, Italian media said Wednesday.
"There has been an important, coherent and meaningful correlation between exposure to Vatican Radio's structures and the risk of leukaemia and lymphoma in children," the report said, according to the daily La Stampa.
The report also warned of "important risks" of dying of cancer for people who had resided at least 10 years within a nine-kilometre (5.5-mile) radius of the radio's giant antenna towers near Cesano, some 20 kilometres north of Rome.
The radio's director, Federico Lombardi, disputed the report, saying: "Vatican Radio is astonished to hear the news on the results of the study."
Lombardi, who is also the Vatican spokesman, added: "Vatican Radio has always observed international directives on electromagnetic emissions and since 2001 has observed more restrictive norms set by Italy to allay the concerns of the neighbouring populations."
Speaking on Vatican Radio, he said: "According to international scientific literature on the matter, the existence of a causal link like the one apparently hypothesised by the report had never been established."
A Rome judge ordered the report in 2005 as part of an investigation into a complaint filed in 2001 by Cesano residents who alleged health hazards posed by the electromagnetic waves.
Vatican Radio's then-president Roberto Tucci and director Pasquale Borgomeo were among defendants in a case that was thrown out last year after the statute of limitations expired.
At the time, Lombardi said he was not satisfied with the result since he had expected an acquittal.
The Vatican spokesman said the Holy See would soon publish its own experts' conclusion in the case.
A 2001 investigation by Italy's environment ministry showed that magnetic fields in the area were six times more powerful than allowed, while Rome's Lazio region estimated that the rate of deaths from leukaemia among children in the Cesano area was three times higher than in adjoining areas.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
A team of workers sporting breathing apparatus and carrying shovels has started clearing around 1,000 tonnes of fat from sewers around London's Leicester Square, a water company said Tuesday.
Cooking fat being poured down drains under one of the city's main tourist attractions is thought to be causing blockages.
Leicester Square borders London's Chinatown and its bustling restaurants and cafes, as well as the West End and Soho entertainment districts.
The clean-up, which could take up to two months, is described as the biggest ever of its kind by Thames Water, the firm organising it.
Danny Brackley, one of those involved in the clean-up, said they could not even access the sewers at first as they were blocked by a four foot (1.2 metre) thick wall of solid fat.
"Beavis and Butt-head" -- the show that celebrated the slacker way of life and helped make MTV into a network that did more than just play music videos -- is coming back.
The move to resurrect the hugely popular 1990s animated anti-heroes has been rumored for several days. But yesterday, sources at MTV confirmed that a new batch of "Beavis and Butt-head" episodes are in the works.
The new series would keep Beavis and Butt-head in their perpetual high-school state, but it would be updated so that the pals -- who obsessively watch music videos on a battered TV set -- could lob their snarky comments at more current targets like Lady Gaga.
The show's minimalist animated style is also expected to remain intact.
The return of "Beavis and Butt-head" will be a backdoor means for MTV to return to showing music videos -- something the network was founded upon but abandoned in the last decade to make room for popular reality shows like "Laguna Beach," "The Hills" and "Jersey Shore."
"Beavis and Butt-head," which premiered in 1993, began as an animated short called "Frog Baseball," which aired on MTV's "Liquid Television."
The basic plotline revolved around two shorts-wearing, spectacularly immature teenage pals whose banter was delivered against the backbeat of their constant idiotic laughter.
Series creator Mike Judge, who's also creating the new episodes, voiced both characters.
The guys worked at a fast-food joint and were always out to "score" with "chicks" when they weren't sitting on a ratty couch watching music videos.
Beavis, the blond half, usually wore a Metallica T-shirt and would morph into his crazed, gibberish-spewing alter-ego, "Cornholio," when he ingested too much sugar.
Butt-head was the "cooler" of the two. He usually wore an AC/DC T-shirt and often picked on Beavis in much the same way Moe would slap around Curly, Larry and Shemp on "The Three Stooges."
The duo was so successful they were spun off into a 1996 big-screen movie, "Beavis and Butt-head Do America" and a marketing juggernaut of T-shirts and character trinkets.
A recurring character on the show, high-school classmate Daria (whom they called "Diarrhea"), eventually got her own MTV series.
After MTV canceled "Beavis and Butt-head" in 1997, Judge went on to create "King of the Hill" for Fox.
He also wrote the cult-classic movie comedy "Office Space" and last year's big-screen movie "Extract."
MTV officials had no comment yesterday.
Judge is "not commenting at this time," his publicist said.
Monday, July 12, 2010
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - An Orange County woman was sentenced to a year in jail for sending hundreds of threatening text messages—to herself. Prosecutors said Jeanne Mundango Manunga told police her former boyfriend and his sister-in-law were behind the threats.
Manunga was sentenced Friday in Santa Ana Superior Court. She was convicted in May of three felony counts of false imprisonment by fraud or deceit and two misdemeanor counts of making a false police report.
Prosecutors said Manunga started sending the threatening messages after she and her former boyfriend stopped dating in 2008.
Manunga also was placed on three years probation and ordered to pay about $50,000 in restitution.
Salty soothsayer Paul, the "psychic" octopus, finished the World Cup with with a flawless record as Spain's 1-0 win over the Netherlands in Sunday's final leaves him with eight perfect predictions.
The eight-legged oracle has become a World Cup sensation by correctly forecasting all seven Germany games in South Africa and he finished the tournament in style by predicting a Spanish victory in Sunday's final.
As Paul foretold last week, Spain won their first World Cup title after Andres Iniesta's 116th-minute strike at Soccer City broke Holland's hearts.
The tentacled tipster also correctly predicted Germany would beat Uruguay in Saturday's third place play-off.
In the now familiar routine, two boxes were lowered into his tank last week, each containing a mussel and the flags of the two opposing teams.
Paul went straight to the correct box both times, wrenched open the lid and gobbled the tasty morsel.
But the art of football predicting has become a dangerous job for the English-born clairvoyant.
He fell offside with bitter German fans who threatened to turn him into sushi after he predicted a semi-final defeat for the Mannschaft against Spain.
Paul's home, an aquarium in western Germany, has received death-threat emails saying "we want Paul for the pan," said entertainment supervisor Daniel Fey.
No less an authority than Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero has called for octopus bodyguards.
Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian has called for the creature to be given an "immediate" free transfer to Spain to "ensure his protection."
Stung by Paul's "treachery" at picking Spain over Germany in last Wednesday's semi-final, some sections of the 350,000-strong crowd watching the game on giant screens in Berlin sang anti-octopus songs.
The honour of Paul's mother was called into question, according to witnesses.
His prediction of a Spanish victory is expected to be the last for Paul, who in octopus terms is a pensioner, at the grand old age of two-and-a-half. Octopuses generally live three years at the latest.
Two men who organised a controversial art exhibition in Moscow in 2007 have been found guilty by a Russian court of inciting hatred.
Andrei Yerofeyev and Yuri Samodurov had set up the Forbidden Art exhibition at the Sakharov Museum in Moscow.
The show provoked condemnation from the Russian Orthodox Church, among others, for artworks that included a depiction of Jesus Christ with the head of Mickey Mouse.
Both men were ordered to pay a fine.
The exhibition featured several images of Jesus Christ. In one painting of the crucifixion, the head of Jesus Christ was replaced by the Order of Lenin medal.
There was also a spoof ad for Coca Cola with the slogan "This is my blood" that visitors looked at through peep holes.
Mr Yerofeyev, an art expert, and Mr Samodurov, the former director of the Sakharov Museum, said they organised the exhibition to fight censorship of art in Russia.
But prosecutors opened an investigation after an ultra-nationalist Orthodox group filed a complaint against the show.
The court fined Mr Samodurov 200,000 rubel (£4,300) and Mr Yerofeyev 150,000 rubel (£3,200).
The trial began in April 2009 and was fiercely criticised by rights activists and artists.