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Friday, March 26, 2010

Dracula creator's relative seeks Dublin memorial

Romanian actor Petrica Moraru performs as the bloodthirsty Dracula  at the Club Count Dracula restaurant in Bucharest March 2003.  REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The Victorian Gothic novel Dracula is associated with the dense forests of Transylvania rather than the Georgian squares of Dublin, but the great great nephew of its Irish born author thinks that is an oversight.

Oddly Enough

In time for the centenary of Bram Stoker's death, which will be in 2012, Dacre Stoker has begun work to raise money to erect a memorial to his ancestor to join the statues and plaques commemorating Dublin's many other writers, such as James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.

"It's an oversight. There is no permanent memorial in his home city to this guy," Dacre Stoker, who lives in South Carolina, United States, told Reuters by phone.

Bram Stoker was born in 1847 in Dublin, where he lived until he moved to London when he was 31.

He attended Trinity College before working as a civil servant in Dublin Castle and as an unpaid theater critic for Dublin newspapers.

Of his several works of fiction, by far the best known is Dracula, published in 1897, in print ever since and made into numerous films.

Dacre Stoker, whose great grandfather was Bram Stoker's youngest brother, believes his ancestor must have drawn inspiration for his story of the undead, blood-sucking vampire from his early years in Dublin when his mother told him tales from Irish folklore.

There is also speculation he had his blood let as a child when suffering from a mystery illness.

Potent as the Dracula legend is, Dacre Stoker plans for the memorial to be a statue to the man Bram Stoker rather than his fictional character.

Dublin City Council has given initial agreement for a memorial and the next step is selection of an artist once enough seed capital has been raised.

A life-size statue would cost around 100,000 euros ($134,400) or more, a spokesman for the council said.

Airport worker warned in scanner ogling claim

Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:37pm EDT

A security officer examines a computer screen showing a scan from a  RapiScan full-body scanner, being trialled by Manchester Airport,  during a photocall at the airport, in Manchester, northern England  January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - A security worker at London's Heathrow Airport has received a police warning and faces disciplinary action over claims he ogled a female colleague using a full-body scanner, officials said on Wednesday.

Oddly Enough

The 25-year-old worker made lewd comments after his colleague Jo Margetson, 29, mistakenly strayed into the scanner, which can see through clothes to produce an image of the body, the Sun newspaper reported.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind since the full-body scanners were rushed into service at a number of British airports in the wake of an attempt by a suspected Muslim extremist to blow up a plane bound for Detroit on December 25.

They are now being rolled out at airports across the world.

Details of the incident at Heathrow's Terminal 5 on March 10 emerged on the day lawmakers said concerns that the scanners were intrusive had been overblown.

Margetson told the Sun she had been "traumatized" by what had happened and had informed police and her bosses at the airport's operator BAA.

"We treat any allegations of inappropriate behavior or misuse of security equipment very seriously and these claims are being investigated thoroughly," said a spokeswoman for BAA.

"If found to be substantiated, we will take appropriate action."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said officers had been informed of the allegation and "a first instance harassment warning has been issued to a 25-year-old man."

Opponents of scanners have argued since their introduction that they risked breaching individuals' rights to privacy. Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission has already said they might be breaking discrimination and privacy laws.

"For every official caught ogling like this, there are plenty more eyeing up law-abiding travelers," Alex Deane, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, told the Sun.

"These expensive machines are totally disproportionate."

The government says staff using the machines are properly supervised and would not be able to see the person being scanned. All images are deleted.

Britain's parliamentary Home Affairs Committee said fears about the scanners were misplaced and they should be introduced at a faster pace to deal with the threat of terrorism.

"The Committee is satisfied that the privacy concerns that have been expressed in relation to these devices are overstated and ... should not prevent the deployment of scanners," it said in a report.

Man gets 15 years for prison break-in

Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:31pm EDT

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to break back into the jail where he had been held following his conviction in a manslaughter case, local media reported on Wednesday.

Oddly Enough

A judge sentenced Sylvester Jiles, 25, to the maximum 15-year penalty on Monday after his conviction earlier this year for the attempted break-in at the Brevard County Detention Center, the Florida Today newspaper said.

He apparently feared violent reprisals from family members of the manslaughter victim and suffered severe cuts when he tried scaling a 12-foot-high (3.65-meter) barbed wire fence to break into the jail.

The newspaper said Jiles had been released on probation from the jail a week before he tried to force his way back inside.

Film breaks new ground on sex in India

Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:35pm EDT

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A new Bollywood film has put the spotlight on changing sexual mores in small-town India, unsettling conservative filmgoers with spy cam footage and pushing the limits of the country's censorship board.

Oddly Enough

"Love Sex aur Dhokha" (Love Sex and Betrayal) is the latest in a series of avant-garde offerings stripping the Indian film industry of decades of inhibition and dramatically changing the traditional formula of song-and-dance romances and violent revenge sagas.

The film, which opened in Indian cinemas last week with an adults-only rating, has courted controversy with blurred visuals of a naked woman and voyeuristic sequences in its trailers.

Director Dibakar Banerjee says "Love Sex aur Dhokha" is more about a change in attitudes than it is about sex.

He says the film explores the lack of privacy in the modern world -- one where even mobile phones can capture, and broadcast, intimate moments.

"What my camera is doing is that it's recording a story that is changing in front of the camera," says Banerjee. "Earlier, sex used to be behind closed doors but now that is changing."

A decade ago, when a coy couple were about to kiss on screen, the camera would glide to two flowers brushing against each other or birds pecking at each other's beaks. Indian audiences just assumed the couple had done the deed.

In that sense, Banerjee's film, with a bunch of unknown actors, broke new ground with an extended sex scene which didn't quite escape the censor board's scissors.

But it's the director's use of unconventional cameras -- spy cams, handycams, supermarket security cameras and even underwater ones -- that seems to have won over the critics and drawn comparisons with Hollywood blockbusters "Paranormal Activity" and "The Blair Witch Project."

The story is told from the point of view of the camera, making it almost a character in a plot that interweaves three storylines -- a student who falls in love with his film's lead actress, a shop manager who traps an employee in an infamous MMS scandal and a sting operation on a rock star.

"The film effectively exposes the fat, sexual underbelly that sags out of the middles of this disturbingly prejudiced middle India," critic Mayank Shekhar wrote in the Hindustan Times.

Although critics agree "Love Sex aur Dhokha" marks a big leap for conservative India, it might take more than a few films to change mindsets.

When director Banerjee spoke to his mother about the project, she didn't repeat the name of the film because she didn't want to use the word 'sex'.

Church issues prayers for confused UK voters

The arms of a statue are seen near Britain's Houses of Parliament  in central London February 2, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The arms of a statue are seen near Britain's Houses of Parliament in central London February 2, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - The Church of England has published prayers to help confused and cynical voters ahead of Britain's upcoming election.

Oddly Enough

Britons are due to go to the polls this spring with many voters disenchanted after a parliamentary expenses scandal that saw lawmakers from all the main parties make excessive claims ranging from bath plugs to moat cleaning.

Voters also have to decide which party would be best to tackle the country's record deficit.

The CoE, the Anglican mother church, has published a series of prayers which remind voters they can make a difference.

"(The prayers) ask that the concerns of all may be heard and seek protection from despair and cynicism," the church said.

One says: "Thank you for caring about how our country is run, and that we have the right to vote for our politicians and government." But it goes on to say: "Sometimes I wonder whether there's any point in voting, whether anyone cares what I think."

"Help me not to be cynical about politics and politicians, help me to remember that my vote can make a difference."

Some ask for guidance to choose the party which can protect the poor and vulnerable and which will make "our nation a place of fairness and peace."

Another urges that "truth may prevail over distortion, wisdom triumph over recklessness."

Labour, which has been in power for the past 13 years is neck-and-neck with the main opposition Conservatives in opinion polls ahead of an election expected on May 6.

The church traditionally steers clear of politics, but it has found itself in conflict with various governments of different hue.

Most recently, it has opposed Labour's plans to introduce an Equality Bill, while in late 2008, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams likened the government's fiscal stimulus package to an "addict returning to a drug."

A predecessor of Williams, Robert Runcie, had criticized the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, blaming her policies in the 1980s for high unemployment, which he said had created "despair about the future."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cow chases bear away

cowResidents of a rural Colorado town say a cow named Apple chased off a bear that had climbed into her favorite apple tree. Jack McDonald of Hygiene, about 30 miles northwest of Denver, said the bear had climbed out of the tree when the cow approached it Sunday afternoon.

McDonald says the animals touched noses and hung out together for a bit before Apple chased the bear off.

“It was hilarious,” McDonald says.

There’s no sign that either animal was hurt.

Apple belongs to McDonald’s landlady, Nancy Dayton, who has a house and three rental units on 14 acres.

Dayton says Apple weighs about 1,200 pounds and is more pet than livestock. She got her name because she loves to eat apples from the tree the bear had invaded.

Pole Fail

Total failure while trying to jump

pole fail

Cows point to the North

cowsNew weird news related to cows:

Researchers discovered that cattle have a good sense of direction and tend to point in a northerly direction.

It has long been observed that cows appear to have a talent for weather forecasting and are able to predict when rain is on the way, but until now their navigational abilities have been largely ignored.

Their innate ability to find north is believed to be a relic from the days when their wild ancestors needed an accurate sense of direction to migrate across the plains of Africa, Asia and Europe.

Dr Sabine Begall and colleagues from the University of Duisburg-Essen looked at thousands of images of cattle on Google Earth in Britain, Ireland, India and the USA. They also studied 3,000 deer in the Czech Republic. The deer tended to face north when resting or grazing.

Although, in many cases, the images were not clear enough to determine which way the cattle were facing they were aligned on a north/south axis.

The scientists concluded that they were behaving in the same way as the deer.

Huge variations in the wind direction and sunlight in the areas where the beasts were found meant that the scientists were able to rule out those factors as being responsible for the direction they were facing.

“We conclude that the magnetic field is the only common and most likely factor responsible for the observed alignment,” the scientists wrote in an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

It is already known that many species use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate across the planet. Examples include migratory turtles, salmon, termites and birds.

Animals are thought to use their own internal magnets made of crystals of magnetite. Homing pigeons have a small amount of the substance on their beaks, which gives them their uncannily accurate powers of navigation.

Guinness World Records Book 2009

guiness world records 2009The 54th edition of the Guinness World Records book has been released. In the 2009 version we can find a few interesting world records such as:

The World’s Oldest Bridesmaid (105 years old)

The Most Expensive Ice-cream Sundae (£12,000)

The World’s Longest Dog, with a nose to tail length of 2m 32cm (7.61 feet)

Oldest living person (114 years and 115 days – Edna Parker, US)

Largest underwater press conference (61 journalists)

Most rotations hanging from a power drill (141)

Worlds fastest talker (655 words per minute)

Fastest suitcase escape (7.04 seconds)

Oldest DNA (800,000 years)

Many of the records in the book were set on last year’s Guinness World Records Day (November 9) when 200,000 people around the world joined in to make or break records as part of the international event.

To the rescue

to the rescue - funny pictures

Sarah Palin takes prank call from fake French president

sarah  palin prank callTORONTO – Sarah Palin unwittingly took a prank call Saturday from a Canadian comedian posing as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and telling her she would make a good president someday.

“Maybe in eight years,” replies a laughing Palin.

The Republican vice presidential nominee discusses politics, the perils of hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney, and Sarkozy’s “beautiful wife,” in a recording of the six-minute call released Saturday and set to air Monday on a Quebec radio station.

Palin campaign spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt confirmed she had received the prank call.

“Governor Palin was mildly amused to learn that she had joined the ranks of heads of state, including President Sarkozy and other celebrities, in being targeted by these pranksters. C’est la vie,” she said.

The call was made by a well-known Montreal comedy duo Marc-Antoine Audette and Sebastien Trudel. Known as the Masked Avengers, the two are notorious for prank calls to celebrities and heads of state.

Audette, posing as Sarkozy, speaks in an exaggerated French accent and drops ample hints that the conversation is a joke. But Palin seemingly does not pick up on them.

He tells Palin one of his favorite pastimes is hunting, also a passion of the 44-year-old Alaska governor.

“I just love killing those animals. Mmm, mmm, take away life, that is so fun,” the fake Sarkozy says.

Modern Day Chastity Belt – GPS Lingerie

gps lingerieFeminists around the world have reacted with horror to a new line of lingerie that comes equipped with a GPS tracking system.

The ‘find me if you can’ range of underwear has been described as a modern-day, high-tech chastity belt.

‘It is outrageous to think that men can buy this, programme it and give it to their partners and then monitor them,’ said Claudia Burghart, leader of a Berlin feminist group.

‘It is nothing more than a chastity belt for insecure men.’

Lingerie maker Lucia Lorio of Brazil says her design targets the ‘modern, techno-savvy woman’.

The lingerie combination set consists of lace bodice, bikini bottom and faux pearl collar, with the GPS device nestled in the see-through part of the bodice next to the waist.

‘This collection… is a wink to women and a challenge to men because, even if she gives him the password to her GPS, she can always turn it off,’ Lorio said.

‘It’s not a modern chastity belt. Some men think they can keep tabs on their girlfriends with it, but they’re wrong,’ she added.

Unconcerned with the controversy her collection has raised, Lorio is also dismissive of the global financial crisis and its adverse impact on luxury items sales.

The GPS lingerie sells from a cool £500, complete with a standard Global Positioning System, to £700 with a more advanced model.

‘Some women are now interested in buying it for protection,’ she said, programming it for partners themselves so they are safe on a night out alone.

‘In London, New York, Rio de Janiero – wherever there is danger, the underwear may prove to be a lifesaver,’ she added.

But feminists in her homeland have called her a modern-day slaver and urged women to boycott the GPS underwear.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Airline crew face jail over sexy texts

Two Emirates airlines cabin crew have been ordered jailed for three months in Dubai over sexually explicit text messages, the latest in a string of indecency cases against foreigners, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The pair, an Indian flight attendant and her cabin services supervisor, were convicted of "coercion to commit sin" over the messages and initially sentenced to six months in jail, The National newspaper said on its website, citing court documents.

The sentence was reduced on appeal last week to three months and deportation orders against the pair were lifted, it added. It did not reveal the content of the messages.

Dubai's foreign population has expanded rapidly in recent years as expatriates flocked to the Gulf Arab trade and tourism hub for its tax-free earnings and year-round sunshine.

The changes have challenged the Emirati population, which is now vastly outnumbered by foreigners, raising concern that their emirate's rapid pace of growth is a threat to their social and religious identity in what remains a deeply conservative region.

An Emirates spokeswoman declined to comment on the case as it was still ongoing.

The paper said the case emerged after the flight attendant's husband filed a lawsuit against his wife a year ago accusing her of being in an illicit relationship with her supervisor. It said the couple had been embroiled in a divorce battle since 2007.

The case is the latest decency case against foreigners accused of not respecting local mores.

In a separate case, a British pair caught kissing in public in Dubai is appealing a month-long jail sentence handed down after an Emirati mother complained her child had seen their indiscretion.

The pair, a British man living in Dubai and a female friend, were arrested in November on accusations of kissing and touching each other intimately in public and consuming alcohol, their lawyer said. They were ordered jailed for a month.

In a high-profile case in 2008, a British couple narrowly escaped jail after a court found them guilty of engaging in drunken sexual activity out of wedlock, and for doing so in public on a beach in the emirate.

They were sentenced to three months in prison followed by deportation, but had their jail terms overturned on appeal.

In a separate case this year, a British couple who shared a hotel room managed to escape trial in Dubai for having sex out of wedlock by producing a marriage certificate.

Refrigerated Beach in Dubai

palazzo versace dubai Versace, the renowned fashion house, is to create the world’s first refrigerated beach so that hotel guests can walk comfortably across the sand on scorching days.

The beach will be next to the the new Palazzo Versace hotel which is being built in Dubai where summer temperatures average 40C and can reach 50C.

The beach will have a network of pipes beneath the sand containing a coolant that will absorb heat from the surface.

The swimming pool will be refrigerated and there are also proposals to install giant blowers to waft a gentle breeze over the beach.

Soheil Abedian, founder and president of Palazzo Versace, said he believed it is possible to design a refrigerated beach and make it sustainable. “We will suck the heat out of the sand to keep it cool enough to lie on,” he said. “This is the kind of luxury that top people want.”

Hyder Consulting, a British construction consultancy, is overseeing the engineering on the project. The hotel will be marketed strongly in the UK where Dubai is a popular tourist destination, attracting about 800,000 Britons a year.

Abedian’s firm began its association with Versace a decade ago with the idea of creating the first chain of luxury fashion-branded lifestyle resorts.

The first Palazzo Versace is already operating on Australia’s Gold Coast – where Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, the actors, have stayed – and the Dubai hotel will be the second when it opens late next year or early 2010. The 10-storey hotel will have 213 rooms, several with their own internal swimming pools, plus 169 apartments. Fifteen more such hotels are planned.

Competition to serve the world’s rich is getting intense, especially in Dubai. The city already boasts the world’s first seven-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, while Armani, a competitor with Versace, is building a similarly branded Dubai hotel.

The refrigerated beach is designed to give Versace the edge in this battle of luxury lifestyles. The system will be controlled by thermostats linked to computers.

Versace’s plans have shocked environmentalists. Rachel Noble, the campaigns officer at Tourism Concern, which promotes sustainable tourism, said that the carbon generated by such projects would contribute to climate change, whose worst effects would be felt by the poor.

“Dubai is like a bubble world where the things that are worrying the rest of the world, like climate change, are simply ignored so that people can continue their destructive lifestyles,” she said.

Aided by cheap oil and gas, Middle Eastern nations have poured enormous resources into controlling temperature. About 60% of Dubai’s huge power bill is for air-conditioning; each person living there has a carbon footprint of more than 44 tons of CO2 a year.

Michael Jackson’s mistake

michael jackson

Economic crisis effects

A married Chinese businessman who could no longer afford five mistresses held a competition to decide which one to keep.

But the contest took a fatal turn when one of the women, eliminated for her looks, drove the man and the four other competitors off a cliff, Chinese media reported.

The spurned mistress died and the other passengers were injured, the reports said.

Police initially thought the car had plummeted off a mountain road in eastern China on December 6 by accident. Then they learned of the contest through a letter the dead woman had left behind, the Shanghai Daily newspaper said.

The 29-year-old woman, identified only as Yu, was a waitress when she met the businessman at a restaurant in the coastal city of Qingdao in 2000.

At the time, the businessman, identified only by his last name — Fan — was married and had four other mistresses, according to the Peninsula Metropolis Daily newspaper in Qingdao.

The women knew of one another, but none elected to break up with the man and give up their rent-free apartment and a 5,000 yuan ($730) monthly allowance, the reports said.

When the economy soured, the businessman apparently decided to let go of all but one mistress.

He staged a private talent show in May, without telling the women his intentions. An instructor from a local modeling agency judged the women on the way they looked, how they sang and how much alcohol they could hold, the Shanghai Daily said.

The judge knocked out Yu in the first round of the competition based on her looks. Angry, she decided to exact revenge by telling her lover and the four other women to accompany her on a sightseeing trip before she returned to her home province, the media reports said.

It was during the trip that Yu reportedly drove the car off the cliff.

Fan shut down his company after the crash and paid Yu’s parents 580,000 yuan ($84,744) as compensation for her death.

The four other women left him, as did his wife when she learned of the affairs.

Bunny born with two noses

bunny with two noses A Connecticut pet shop worker found the nosey bunny in a delivery of 6-week-old dwarf rabbits that arrived at the Milford store last week. Both noses have two nostrils.

The owner of the Purr-Fect Pets shop says he’s never seen anything like it in 25 years in the business. He says the bunny eats, drinks and hops around like the rest of the litter.

Beardsley Zoo director Gregg Dancho says the deformity could be the result of too much inbreeding or the parents’ exposure to pesticides or poisons.

Store workers have begun a naming contest with Cyrano de Bergerac and Deuce among the contenders so far.

13 years old boy could get 21 years in US jail

He is the youngest person to be accused of robbing a bank that many in this midwestern US town can remember, and now he could end up spending a good chunk of his life behind bars.

A judge in the juvenile court, noting the premeditation and the “extremely aggressive” manner in which Denote Moore, 13, pointed an unloaded handgun at several bank tellers last month, ordered his case be moved to adult court.

The mid-day heist on April 13 shocked many in this Rust Belt city.

Sheriff Michael McCoy said Moore was the youngest person to be arrested for bank robbery in his 37 years on the force. A prosecutor said he could not remember another such case in his 19 years of work.

The move means a potential prison sentence for Moore of 21 to 45 years.

Had the case remained in the juvenile courts, Moore’s imprisonment would have ended on his 21st birthday.

The robbery occurred at about 11:35 am.

Moore was arrested within 30 minutes after hiding in a garage only a few blocks away from the bank. His clothing was stained red from a dye pack that had exploded in the pillow case where tellers had put the money.

Moore told police he thought he had been shot, hearing the pop and seeing a big puff of red smoke.

The teen told police he had run away from home a month earlier and was stealing to get money for “clothing and stuff.”

Illinois law allows a juvenile to be tried as an adult if he or she is older than 13 and a judge finds “it is not in the best interest of the public” for the minor to remain in the juvenile justice system. Moore will turn 14 next month.

The judge, noting Moore was on probation and failed to comply with counseling and missed several appointments with his probation officer, found the boy to be a poor candidate to work with officials further.

An estimated 200,000 juveniles are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults every year in the United States, according to the Campaign for Youth Justice.

An average of 7,500 juveniles are incarcerated in adult jails at any given time and 40 states allow youths charged as adults to be held in adult jails while they wait for their case to be heard.

Which Mental Disorder Do U have?

mental disorder test

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cyprus holds two for theft of ex-leader's corpse

Cyprus' President Tassos Papadopoulos addresses a news conference  at the end of a European Union Heads of State and Government summit in  Brussels December 14, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Ezequiel Scagnetti
(Reuters) - A court in Cyprus remanded two men in custody Wednesday on suspicion of snatching the corpse of former Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, holding it for ransom for three months until its discovery Monday.

The men, a 31-year-old migrant from India and a 48-year-old Greek Cypriot, are suspected of being behind the bizarre crime, for which one of them received just 200 euros ($270) for his assistance to the other suspect.

Police said they raided Papadopoulos's tomb in December, armed with a pick and a shovel, and buried him elsewhere.

A third man, thought to have masterminded the theft, is already serving a prison sentence for other offences and did not appear in court. He is the brother of the Greek Cypriot suspect.

Police were led to the macabre discovery after the Indian suspect, who authorities say has confessed involvement, made contact with Papadopoulos's family this week.

"The suspect said he felt remorse, so decided to ask for money to reveal where the body was hidden and leave Cyprus," said Yiannakis Charalambous, a superintendent with Cyprus police.

The Indian was paid 200 euros with the promise of more which was not forthcoming, Charalambous told the court.

Papadopoulos was president of Cyprus from 2003 to early 2008. He died of lung cancer later that year. When his grave was robbed, police spoke of a carefully planned operation, sought help from Interpol and Western intelligence agencies.

Neither man has been charged. Under Cyprus law suspects can be held in custody on court orders to assist inquiries.

Canada Parliament eats seal to defy "ignorant" EU

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(Reuters) - Canadian parliamentarians tucked into a meal of seal meat on Wednesday to defy both animal right activists and the European Union, which has banned imports of seal products.

Some two dozen guests, surrounded on all sides by media, crammed into a small room off the main parliamentary restaurant to hear speeches backing the annual hunt off Canada's East Coast, which the EU says is inhumane.

"This support begins on the plates of Canadians," said federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea as she prepared to eat three small medallions of double-smoked bacon-wrapped seal loin in a port reduction.

The EU imposed its ban last year after a decades-long fight by what Shea called "misguided and mean-spirited" anti-seal-hunt activists. The seals are either shot or hit over the head with a spiked club called a hakapik, which critics say is cruel.

All of Canada's major political parties say they are in favor of the hunt, which takes place on ice floes in March and April.

"The Europeans simply don't know what they're talking about. Since time began human beings have lived with animals and they have culled animals," said Michael Ignatieff, leader of the main opposition Liberal Party.

He spoke at an earlier reception where waiters passed through the room carrying platters of seal terrine snacks. Ignatieff ate several for the benefit of photographers.

"It tastes delicious, actually. It's a meaty taste, a little gamy," he declared.

The meal was arranged by Liberal Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, who said the hunt provided income for fishing communities in the Atlantic.

"We're sending a message to the European parliamentarians ... we want to say something so that opponents do not take to the floor with lies," she told reporters.

The EU ban has slashed demand for seal furs, meat and oil. Poor weather conditions and a lack of ice mean this year's hunt could be scrapped.

"Dead" baby elephant calf born alive in Sydney zoo

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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - An elephant gave birth to a calf at Sydney's main zoo on Wednesday, surprising vets and keepers who two days earlier declared the baby had died in the womb.

The Asian elephant mother delivered the male baby in the early hours of Wednesday in what Taronga Park Zoo officials said was "unbelievable good fortune".

"Dedicated keepers reported the amazing news early this morning that the calf had been born and was showing signs of life," said zoo director Cameron Kerr.

On Monday, Kerr said despite an expert team of vets who had prepared for every eventuality, the calf had not survived after six days of labor, and ultrasounds found there was no chance of a successful birth.

Officials said they now believe the calf was in a coma throughout the labor. They said the calf had since taken its first steps, but it was too early to know if it would survive.

"When the keepers learned the calf had survived this morning, the looks of disbelief on our faces were quite a picture. We couldn't believe that this could be true," said Taronga Zoo's elephant manager Gary Miller.

Air Canada learns that hockey trumps flying

Canada's Sidney Crosby celebrates after scoring the game winning  goal against the U.S. during overtime in their men's ice hockey gold  medal game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 28, 2010.  REUTERS/Todd Korol

Canada's Sidney Crosby celebrates after scoring the game winning goal against the U.S. during overtime in their men's ice hockey gold medal game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 28, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Todd Korol

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's largest airline has learned it sometimes has to take a back seat to the country's biggest sporting passion, ice hockey, the head of Air Canada said on Tuesday.

The airline was forced to delay a flight from Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games because passengers watching the end of gold medal final on airport televisions ignored repeated calls to board.

"We incurred a flight delay for a reason Air Canada had not yet encountered in over 72 years of existence," chief executive Calin Rovinescu told a business gathering.

The Canadian fans were rewarded for their delay, as the nail-biting end to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics saw Canada beat arch-rival United States 3-2 in overtime.

New Zealander auctions "ghosts" in a bottle

WELLINGTON (Reuters Life!) - A New Zealand woman sold two vials that she said contained the ghosts of an old man and a young girl for almost NZ$2,000 ($1,410) after a fiercely contested online auction, local media reported.

Avie Woodbury from Christchurch told TVNZ that she captured the spirits after an exorcism session of her house and for which she paid roughly $100.

Woodbury then put the ghosts into holy water and stored them in separate vials before deciding to auction them.

The web page for the sale attracted more than 200,000 views before the auction ended on Monday after a week. Woodbury said all proceeds from the auction, minus the exorcist's fee, would be donated to an animal charity.

"I would get things like the jug boiling itself, touching on the back of my neck, voices from other rooms, and items going missing then turning up in weird places," she said.

"I just want to get rid of them as they scare me. But someone might like these to play with," she said.

Woodbury said she felt a better vibe in her house after the exorcism. "Whether it is psychological or not but I definitely felt a new vibe in the house," she told TVNZ.

The winning bidder was an electronic cigarette company, which local newspapers said was now asking for ideas on what to do with the vials.

(US$1 = 1.418 NZ$)

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