Friday, March 2, 2007

What's the porpoise?

Group Knits Sweaters For Dolphins
Dolphins Trained To Guard Submarines

POSTED: 2:29 pm EST March 1, 2007

BREMERTON, Wash. -- Sweaters for dolphins?

Some people in Washington state are knitting hats, mittens and sweaters for dolphins.

It's their way of needling the U.S. Navy.

The knitters are protesting the Navy's plans to use dolphins from warm San Diego to guard a Trident submarine base in cold Washington.

The Navy insists the dolphins won't get the chills.

Officials said the animals will patrol for only two hours apiece before returning to their heated enclosures.

Swiss Accidently Invades Lichtinstein

How do you accidently invade someplace?

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) -- What began as a routine training exercise almost ended in an embarrassing diplomatic incident after a company of Swiss soldiers got lost at night and marched into neighboring Liechtenstein.

According to Swiss daily Blick, the 170 infantry soldiers wandered just over a mile across an unmarked border into the tiny principality early Thursday before realizing their mistake and turning back.

A spokesman for the Swiss army confirmed the story but said that there were unlikely to be any serious repercussions for the mistaken invasion.

"We've spoken to the authorities in Liechtenstein and it's not a problem," Daniel Reist told The Associated Press.

Officials in Liechtenstein also played down the incident.

Interior ministry spokesman Markus Amman said nobody in Liechtenstein had even noticed the soldiers, who were carrying assault rifles but no ammunition. "It's not like they stormed over here with attack helicopters or something," he said.

Liechtenstein, which has about 34,000 inhabitants and is slightly smaller than Washington DC, doesn't have an army.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Florida's State Of Insanity Is At Category 5

Published Sunday, February 25, 2007
Nowak, Anna Nicole, hanging chads and hiccups conjure up visions of the Sunshine State.
The St. Petersburg Times

Why Florida?

Seriously, can you name any other state at the epicenter of so many things weird and wacky?


A diaper-wearing, knife-wielding astronaut. A stressed-out girl with nonstop hiccups. A city manager mister who wants to become a miss.

And a former pinup girl, famous for being famous, whose death at an Indian casino hotel creates nothing short of a 500-ring media circus.

Yep, all headline makers. All in the nation's fourth-most-populous state.

And that was just in the last month.

Let's not forget the glowing publicity from the chad-hanging-who-really-is-our-president 2000 election, or the 9/11 hijackers who learned to fly where?

The Sunshine State.

Or is it the Strange State?

"That is one of the great questions," said Gary Mormino, a USF St. Petersburg professor and author of the book, "Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams."

Don't forget the latest bizarre tidbit blasted on airwaves around the world Thursday: a Tampa middle school principal arrested for buying crack cocaine.

In his office.

At school.

"I ask you," a puzzled Mormino says, "could that happen in Fargo, N.D.?"

'Exuberant cesspool'

MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann regularly talks about the "weird stuff" from Florida on his show "Countdown."

Florida author and Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen has made a living mining the state for corruption stories and weirdo types.

"This is a place where people come, and they're either running away from something or running after something," Hiaasen once said. "It's not where a stable, honest person comes. … Anybody who lives here is just teetering on the brink of lunacy. And once you get used to the fact that you live in such an exuberant cesspool, then the art can begin."

Miami humorist Dave Barry attributes all the strangeness - O.J. Simpson, Elian Gonzalez, Versace's broad-daylight South Beach killing - to a South Florida Giant Underground Weirdness Magnet.

"It's buried here somewhere," he wrote in his weekly column that ran Friday. "It has to be. How else can you explain why so many major freak-show news stories either happen, or end up, in South Florida?"

It's not just South Florida, pal. Don't forget Terri Schiavo's dying days in Pinellas Park that were marked by a full-blown media frenzy, including a juggler, outside her hospice.

But, seriously, what is up with all the Florida lunacy?

St. Petersburg retired hospital administrator Cliff Meyers, 60, became so frustrated with the nonstop TV craziness surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe wannabe Anna Nicole Smith in Hollywood, Fla., and the oddball judge overseeing her delayed burial, he dashed off a letter to the editor of the St. Petersburg Times.

"Why does it always appear that only idiots live in Florida when we are in the national spotlight?"

Reached later, Meyers was still steaming, and armed with theories.

"Maybe the weather's so nice, maybe all the kooks come down here," he said. "I don't know. Maybe it's the 24-hour news channels. They don't have enough legitimate news so they find all this garbage."

Tampa's Chuck Shepherd, 61, who has written the nationally syndicated News of the Weird newspaper column for 19 years, has thought a lot about the question of why.

In November, he started the F State blog for Creative Loafing, dedicated specifically to gathering quirky news from Florida, "a civilization in decline."

News or the media?

Shepherd thinks it's not the news so much as it is the news media who are attuned to oddball stories.

"Now every day, it's 'Look how weird we are,'" Shepherd says. "'Look at what's happening.' There's not so much embarrassment anymore."

Mormino, the USF professor, said that since the 1980s, Florida has replaced California as the Strange State.

"Florida is a dream state," Mormino says. "And the dream comes in many versions. You can reinvent yourself here. You could be bankrupted twice in Illinois and move here and change your name.

"It's a state of strangers. I think we'll have a hold on the weird sightings for a while."

So The Drama!

Okay, this is various theatre news I've gathered over the past few days (sorry for any repeats):

1) Andrew LLoyd Webber is working on a sequel to Phantom of the Opera

2) Tim Burton is working on the movie version of Sweeney Todd; the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
a) Johnny Depp has been cast as Sweeney Todd, no news yet as to whom will be singing for him.

3) A musical version of Gone With the Wind is coming to the stage.
a) Hugh "Jack-of-all-trades-man" Jackman is cast as Rhet Butler.

Not So Happy Meals

Complaints rise at McDonald's

Richard Gibson
Dow Jones Newswires/AP
Feb. 26, 2007 04:15 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa - McDonald's Corp., which serves hundreds of millions of Happy Meals each year, also creates its share of less-than-happy patrons.

The company's accounting of guest satisfaction for 2006 shows that during a year in which the fast-food chain improved its financial performance on several fronts, the number of customer complaints also grew. Complaints per 100,000 guests totaled 20.1 at company-operated stores, compared with 18.5 in 2005.

Restaurants run by franchisees did somewhat better. They had 12 complaints per 100,000 guests from 11 per 100,000 the year before. Complaints at both types of stores were up from 2004 levels.

Transaction accuracy - or the lack of it - accounted for about one-fourth of the more than 500,000 complaints logged by the company's customer contact center last year.

"Wrong item included in order" and "product missing" led the service-errors reported list, followed by "incorrectly prepared product," according to information e-mailed to franchisees.

Other accuracy issues at which customers chafed included "condiments missing," "inadequate portion," customer "shortchanged or overcharged," and "napkins, straws or utensils missing."

After accuracy problems, customers complained most about what they regarded as "rude or unprofessional" employees. Those gripes represented more than 15 percent of the logged complaints.

Speed of service was the third-largest cause of negative comment, accounting for about 7 percent of those compiled.

Titled "Loud And Clear, The Voice Of The Customer," the report indicates that McDonald's takes guest satisfaction seriously. One section differentiates restaurants that it calls "brand builders" - those with the fewest complaints - from those with the worst record, which are labeled "brand destroyers."

Moreover, names of franchisees at both ends of the spectrum are identified, as are area supervisors and operations managers of company-owned McOpCo stores. Presumably by singling out individuals, those performing less well will feel peer pressure - if not more - and improve their operations.

The data reflect variances in satisfaction across the United States, with McOpCo stores in the company's West division recording the fewest complaints per 100,000 and the East division the most. The Central division was in the middle.

Hawaii recorded the highest regional customer satisfaction rate, as measured by complaints from those visiting franchised restaurants. The lowest-satisfaction region was Philadelphia, followed closely by Baltimore-Washington.

"Obviously, we take very seriously feedback we get from our customers," McDonald's spokesman Bill Whitman said Monday.

While declining to address specifics in what he called an internal document, Whitman said the company works with its franchisees and restaurant managers to provide them with feedback.

Although information customers provide is "not always what we like to hear, it's information we need to do a better job," Whitman said.

Along with complaints, some customers called in to express what the report categorized as "praise." Those calls accounted for 5 percent to 7 percent of the total.


Miracle baby comes back from the dead
by CHRIS BROOKE - More by this author » Last updated at 11:19am on 28th February 2007

After trying for 30 minutes to bring two-week-old Woody Lander back to life, doctors decided there was nothing more they could do and called in his parents to say their tearful farewells.

A nurse passed Woody to his heartbroken father and gently pulled a tube from his mouth so they could kiss him goodbye.

It was then that the miracle happened. The lifeless baby suddenly coughed and moved. Nurses immediately grabbed Woody back, re-attached the tubes and lifesaving equipment and he came back to life in front of his astonished parents.

No one has been able to explain why Woody, who had suffered a massive heart attack, was able to return from the brink. And despite being starved of oxygen for so long, he appears to have suffered no permanent brain damage.

Now 14 months old, Woody is a happy-go-lucky youngster who should be able to lead a normal life. His parents Jon, 34, and Karen Lander, 32, still can't believe what they went through.

They had been shopping in a supermarket near their home in Leeds in December 2005 when they noticed Woody looked ashen and felt cold.

They rang the NHS Direct emergency line from their car and an ambulance was sent to take them to Leeds General Infirmary. Soon after arrival, he suffered a heart attack and stopped breathing.

Mr Lander and his wife, an administration worker, were taken to a room to see Woody on a bed and a doctor giving him heart massage. They were taken to another room to wait for news.

Mr Lander, a civil servant, recalled: "It was awful, those 30 minutes seemed to last forever. After what seemed like an eternity the doctor came out and said, 'I think we have done all we can'. They had reached the cut-off point for resuscitation.

"We were taken back to see him and Woody was handed to us to say goodbye. We were just in bits. We didn't know what to say or do. They started taking his tubes out and that's when he started twitching.

"They took him straight back off us. They managed to get his heart going again and he came back to life in front of us. It was amazing. We still don't know how he managed to come round - we just know he's a little miracle. He's growing up into a happy and healthy little boy."

Two weeks before the drama Woody, the couple's first child, had been born naturally at the hospital, weighing 7lb 11oz.

After the heart attack, doctors discovered he had a blocked aorta which was restricting blood flow to his heart. He underwent a major operation to repair it and was allowed home three weeks later.

Mr Lander added: "The doctors said they had never heard of anyone coming round after 30 minutes of apparent lifelessness, let alone a baby.

"But the people at the hospital were unbelievable. They made the miracle happen. There must have been 100 people gathered round him."

Prince Charles says to ban McDonalds

Tue Feb 27, 11:42 PM ET

Prince Charles suggested Tuesday on a visit to the United Arab Emirates that banning McDonald's fast food was crucial for improving people's diets, a British news agency reported. Charles made the comments while visiting the Imperial College London Diabetes Center in Abu Dhabi for the launch of a public health campaign, The Press Association reported.

"Have you got anywhere with McDonald's? Have you tried getting it banned? That's the key," Charles was quoted as asking one of the center's nutritionists.

A McDonald's spokesman, Nick Hindle, called the remark disappointing. He said other members of the royal family "have probably got a more up-to-date picture of us," alluding to reports that Charles' son, Prince Harry, was spotted eating a chicken burger at McDonald's in 2005.

"This appears to be an off-the-cuff remark, in our opinion," Hindle said. "It does not reflect our menu or where we are as a business."

The Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald's Corp. took steps last year to display nutrition facts on its packaging and vary its menu to counter charges that its food is unhealthy and contributes to obesity. There are 25 McDonald's franchises in the United Arab Emirates.

Charles, who is first in line to the British throne, is an active advocate of organic food and in 1986 set up a farm on his Highgrove Estate that does not use artificial pesticides or fertilizers.

The prince was in the United Arab Emirates with his wife, Camilla, as part of a tour of Gulf countries.

The United Arab Emirates has the world's second highest number of diabetes cases per capita, with more than 20 percent of those aged 20 to 79 already diagnosed with the illness, while 40 percent of the population are at risk.

From the Begining

Alright, so I've started this new blog page because I'm now addicted to Fark, thanks Andy. This way I can post some of my favorite stories in the news for all of you on a page that isn't my home blogger site.