August 06, 2004

LinkNews Digest [8/6/2004]

Tigger Acquitted of Molestation Charges

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) -- A Walt Disney World worker who portrayed the character Tigger was acquitted Wednesday of charges he fondled a 13-year-old girl while posing for a photo with the teen and her mother.

Jurors found Michael Chartrand not guilty of lewd and lascivious molestation, a felony, after deliberating for less than one hour. He had faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Outside court, Chartrand, a native of England who lost his fiance and had been suspended without pay after his arrest, said he'd like his job back, but that the experience "has ruined my dream to be a character."

Disney spokesman Bill Warren said, "We can have a conversation with him, but at this point we really don't have a comment."

During closing arguments earlier Wednesday, a defense attorney donned a Tigger costume in the courtroom in an effort to show jurors how difficult it is to maneuver and see in the outfit.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Kaufman -- who also moonlights as Tigger and Goofy at Walt Disney World -- first strapped on Tigger's tail and then put on a neck cloth, the enormous orange-and-black striped head, and two large orange mitts to show jurors how the costume limits peripheral vision and arm movements.

Jurors said the tactic had no effect on their decision. "There was no evidence to convict," juror Zach Kauffman said. "They couldn't even prove who was behind the Tigger mask."

Acne Gene Squeezed from Human Genome

The newly completed genome sequence of the acne bacterium Propionibacterium acnes has revealed thousands of genes that give the organism the potential to cause skin disease.

Acne is a common and sometimes disfiguring complaint, affecting more than 80% of US adolescents. A number of factors are involved, including the bacterium and hormone levels.

But, until now, the importance of P. acne's role was unknown. Holger Brüggemann, who sequenced the microbe with colleagues at the Göttingen Genomics Laboratory, Germany, says it was simply thought that if a large number of bacteria were present, it would trigger the inflammation and immune response associated with acne.

The new genomic data shows that the bacterium can produce proteins that actively cause acne. “P. acnes was regarded as a normal, harmless skin inhabitant – it wasn’t known that this bacterium has got a disease-causing potential,” says Brüggemann.

The team sequenced the 2.5 million bases in the genome of a P. acnes strain and identified 2333 genes, including some which code for enzymes that break down human skin.

As well as highlighting risks, the P. acnes genome could also help develop new acne treatments. Severe acne is usually treated with common antibiotics, but many strains are becoming resistant to these. “With the genome sequence it’s now quite easy to generate specific drugs against this bacterium,” says Brüggemann. “That’s the next task.”
Link(New Scientist)

Internet Addicts Excused From Army

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A number of Finnish conscripts have been excused their full term of military service because they are addicted to the Internet, the Finnish Defense Forces said Tuesday.

Doctors have found the young men miss their computers too much to cope with their compulsory six months in the forces.

"For people who play (Internet) games all night and don't have any friends, don't have any hobbies, to come into the army is a very big shock," said Commander-Captain Jyrki Kivela at the military conscription unit.

"Some of (the conscripts) go to the doctor and say they can't stay. Sometimes, the doctors have said they have an Internet addiction," Kivela said.

There are no official figures for the Internet addict dropout rate.

"They get sent home for three years and after that they have to come back and we ask if they are OK ... they will have had time to grow up," Kivela said.

I can see the argument now: "I can't go fight in Iraq! I've got to maintain my standings for Unreal Tournament!"

Hail of Stones "Follow" Woman

The only one who might be able to really sympathize with this woman is Rob McKenna, the reluctant "rain god" from Douglas Adams' Hithhiker Trilogy.
Thohoyandou - A Limpopo woman says she is being plagued by a hail of stones that follows her wherever she stays.

Miyi Shongi, 58, was kicked out of Lombani village by her terrified family and neighbours three weeks ago and moved in with relatives in Nhombelani village, 30km away near Malamulele, but the rain of stones followed her there too.

She believes a Zimbabwean trader has cast an evil spell on her, because she'd failed to pay for clothing she'd bought from the trader on credit.

"Maybe if the family contacts someone who deals with evil spirits, like a pastor, the problem will stop," he said. But Shongi's family booted her out, so she went to her in-laws in Nhombelani, but, two days later, the stones began falling again.

Shongi explained to them about the Zimbabwean trader and has since disappeared.

Limpopo sangoma Dr Eric "Hlatikhulu" Ngobeni said such spells were possible and advised the family to consult a powerful sangoma to break it. He also advised that Shongi should find the trader, apologise and pay her for the clothes.

Head of Bethesda Christian Church in Malamulele, Dr Elijah Mtileni blames demonic spirits for the phenomenon, and says only someone blessed with the Holy Spirit of God could solve Shongi's problem.
Link (via Fark)

"Were You Detectives Looking for THIS?"

Relatives of a missing Denver woman claim they found her body five minutes after being allowed back into her burned-out house that police had been investigating for a month.

Police found the body of an unidentified man on July 1 after being called to the property following a suspected arson attack, says the Denver Post. But they had still not found the body of 82-year-old Rose Miller when they allowed her neighbours and relatives back into the house last week.

Mike Boots, who was at the house on Friday, said they found a woman's body in a trunk covered in ceiling debris just minutes after arriving. He said: "You might as well give us badges and send us in on things like this."

Denver Manager of Safety Al Lacabe said he had no idea how police managed to miss the body, but he said criticism of his department was unfair.

A police spokesman said it was too early to say if the body was Miller's, or how long it had been in the house. He said: "We're not sure if it's her. They don't know who it is either, until we've conducted an autopsy.".

1000 Year-Old Brewery Unearthed in Peru

MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. researchers have unearthed what they say may be the oldest known brewery in the Andes, a pre-Incan plant at least 1,000 years old that could produce drinks for hundreds of people at one sitting.

The University of Florida said on Thursday that its archeologists and researchers from the Field Museum in Chicago found the brewery at Cerro Baul, a mountaintop religious center of the Wari empire that ruled what is now Peru hundreds of years before the Incas.

At least 20 ceramic, 10- to 15-gallon vats were found at the site some 8,000 feet up in the mountains of southern Peru. "You get the idea that this is massive production, not just your basic household making beer to consume by itself," Susan deFrance, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Florida, said in a statement.

The brewery is thought to have produced "chicha," an alcoholic drink derived at the time mainly from a berry of the molle pepper plant. Modern chicha is made from corn. Last year University of Florida archeologists discovered what they think are halls for "ritual intoxication" at Cerro Baul, where Wari noblemen apparently feasted and drank.

Mike Moseley, associate chairman of anthropology at the university, said the halls "become a place where politics are negotiated and economic decisions are made." Williams said each nobleman would have consumed up to 2.6 gallons of chicha per ceremony.

The site appears to have been destroyed in a closing rite. The Wari burned the structures, threw their mugs into the embers and laid down a half-dozen necklaces of semiprecious stones as they left, said Moseley.
Sure, the Wari were fond of flaying foreigners alive, but MAN, can they ever throw a party!

Wobbly Road Caused by Map Creases

A county council claims wobbly lines that have appeared on a road it maintains are the result of creases in the map staff were trying to follow.

Hampshire County Council leader Ken Thorber now admits his council were wrong to claim initially that the lines at East Boldre in the New Forest were a safety measure, says the Express.

"I hold my hands up to it. It was a mistake and we will put it right," he said.

"What we really wanted was a simple straight parallel lines, one down each side of the road 480cm apart.

"Unfortunately there was a problem with the drawings which were badly folded and creases made some of the measurements look like 430cm and 420cm instead.

"The painter followed the instruction which resulted in a straight line down one side of the road and a wavy one down the other."
Link (Ananova)

Name That Stench, Win the Jackpot!

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Along with neon lights and casinos, the downtown area of Las Vegas has become known for the "Stench of Fremont Street" - and city officials are fed up.

"I'm not a connoisseur," said city engineer Charlie Kajkowski. "But it smells."

The stink emanating from the storm sewers has plagued the area around the Fremont Street pedestrian mall for a decade, and every time the city has thrown time, effort and deodorizer at the problem, the "sewer-type" aroma has just returned.

On Wednesday, City Council is to consider a $100,000 US consulting contract aimed at finding the source of the olfactory offence. A tiny closed-circuit television system would be used to examine the downtown storm drains, smoke would be pumped into the system to identify outlets and dye would be used to follow water flows.

"We've worked with this for like 10 years, and it has just cost money to have manpower out there to clean the pipes and use the industrial deodorizer," Kajkowski said. "If they find and clean it up, we won't have to mess with it anymore."

The storm drain smell has become more obvious since the city started scrubbing out alleys in April, said city manager Doug Selby.

"When you eliminate one odour, others that were masked by those odours become more apparent," he said.

LaFayette, GA: "Home of the Exploding Trousers"

LaFAYETTE, Ga. - A Walker County man was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine after his pants exploded while he was talking to social services workers outside his home.

Daniel Gabriel Doyle, 39, met the social workers at his front door Tuesday, walked to their car and sat down to fill out some forms, said Patrick Stanfield, commander of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force.

"Finally, while he was sitting in the back seat, the front of his pants exploded," Stanfield said Friday. He said Doyle apparently had mixed red phosphorous and iodine in a film canister and stuck it in his pocket.

The chemical reaction caused second- and third-degree burns to Doyle's testicles and leg, Sheriff's Maj. Hill Morrison said. He was treated at Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., before being jailed.

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