Thoughts Gallery April 2004
April 1
Image of the Day
A plane turned into a limousine with a Mercedes Benz car chassis and a diesel engine is being offered for tourists for USD 1000 for three hours, in Guadalajara, state of Jalisco in Mexico.
April 2
Image of the Day

Electronics giant Sony and another Japanese company have developed a "paper disc" that can record more than two hours of high-definition images and be destroyed with scissors for foolproof data security, officials said. The 25-gigabite Blu-ray optical disc is 51 percent paper and was developed jointly with Toppan Printing Co. Ltd. of Japan. "Since a paper disc can be cut by scissors easily, it is simple to preserve data security when disposing of the disc," Toppan managing director Hideaki Kawai said in a joint statement with Sony. Masanobu Yamamoto, senior managing director at optical disc development division of Sony, said the firms were able to use paper in the new disc as the Blu-ray technology does not require laser light to travel through the substrate.
      
The technical details of how it is possible to use paper as a data storage disc would be disclosed Tuesday at a conference in Monterey, California, according to Sony. The combination of paper material and printing technology is also expected to lead to a reduction in cost per disc and will expand usage, the two partners said. It has yet to be decided when the disc will be commercially available.The use of paper in electronics products is not new for Sony.
       
In 1950 when Japan was still struggling to rise from the ashes of World War II, Sony, then called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, made magnetic tapes using a similar grade of paper to that used for ordinary envelopes. Sony used racoon hair brushes to daub magnetic powder over the paper to produce what it cally "SONI TAPE", starting its history as an audio-video products maker. The Blu-ray disc format allows high-capacity optical-disc storage to be used for such technologies as high-definition televisions.

 

April 3
Image of the Day
At top, on a clear morning, the downtown Denver skyline with the front range peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the background and Cherry Creek Reservoir in the foreground, is seen looking northwest from near Parker, Colo. At bottom is the same view on a smoggy morning at the same time just two days later. Denver was included in a new pollution watch zone by the Environmental Protection Agency, as failing to meet federal health standards for smog-causing ozone.
April 4
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A garden of tulips frames the Washington Monument in Washington where weekend temperatures are expected to reach 80 degrees, the warmest weather since last November.
April 5
Image of the Day

It's funny how someone can capture a wrecked vehicle that was abandoned.
A member of radical Shiite leader Moqtda al- Sadr's Army of Mehdi militia flashes a V-sign near a US Humvee captured during an ambush on a US convoy.

April 6
Image of the Day
Coca Cola Co. is introducing Coca-Cola C2, a carbonated soft drink containing half the carbohydrates, sugars, and calories of regular colas, the company said. The company, which is looking to piggyback on the popularity of low-carb diets, will release Coca-Cola C2 in Japan first and then bring it to the United States this summer. The announcement follows a similar move by rival PepsiCo Inc., whose low-carbohydrate Pepsi Edge hits stores this summer.
April 7
Image of the Day
Russian Interior Ministry soldiers guard a platform carrying the Soyuz TMA-4 spacecraft as it is tugged to its launch pad at Baikonur cosmodrome. NASA rejected a Russian cash-saving plan to extend astronauts' missions to one year, but impoverished Russia said the decision was not final and the two nations may yet find a compromise. The burden of being the sole lifeline to the International Space Station for more than a year since U.S. shuttles were grounded has burned a large hole in Russia's budget and prompted it to search for ways to earn extra money. Extending the missions would enable Russia to double the number of tourists it sends into space -- a lucrative business it pounced on to supplement its inadequate funds.
April 8
Image of the Day
A coal miner at work in Ukraine. Coal is declining in many EU states but remains a kingpin of energy production in central and eastern Europe and in Germany
April 9
Image of the Day
Home Prices in L.A. Soar at Record Rate
Home values in Los Angeles County posted the biggest year-over-year increase in at least 15 years in March as frenetic buying activity pushed the median sale price up 29%, to a record $375,000, according to data released. Confounding predictions by the experts, sales were surprisingly strong, jumping 12% from a year ago to 10,875 new and resold houses and condos. Analysts and brokers said the heavy demand was driven by anxious consumers, many of whom are paying more than the asking price to get in the housing market before interest rates rise and supplies thin further. The inventory of houses available for sale has been at historical lows, and the latest flurry of purchases suggests that the market will only heat up as the busy home-buying season nears. "It's going to be a total frenzy," said G.U. Krueger, an economist at the Irvine real estate venture capital firm IHP Capital Partners. John Karevoll, an analyst at DataQuick Information Systems, which compiled the housing statistics reported Monday, was as surprised as anyone. "We've been expecting the rate of appreciation to ease back a bit," he said. "This is just the opposite."
      
The latest monthly price increase followed a 15.5% increase from March 2002 to March 2003. The new median price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — could buy a three-bedroom, two-bath house with about 1,300 square feet in communities such as Reseda, Santa Clarita or Bellflower. The accelerating home prices are boosting consumer spending in the county and providing a lift to the economy. Like the Wall Street boom a few years ago, the region's housing market is generating extraordinary wealth for many people. But the rapid run-up also is making it tough for many families to become homeowners. About 50% of the households in the county are renters, according to the Census Bureau. There is another downside: High prices increasingly are making it difficult for companies, already grappling with a tough business climate, to attract workers to Southern California. Countrywide Financial Corp., a big mortgage lender, recently said it had capped employment in the region partly because of high housing costs. "It's a big problem and it's getting worse and worse," said Jeanne MacDonald, managing director of the Western region for Futurestep, a Korn/Ferry International firm that helps companies recruit mid-level managers. Last month, she said, a candidate from Michigan was well down the path toward accepting a sales management job in Southern California — until he came to Los Angeles and checked out the home prices. "He was astounded by the difference," MacDonald said. No wonder: DataQuick said the median price of a house in Michigan was $133,500 in February, the latest figure available. T he median price in Los Angeles County has nearly doubled since March of 2000, when it was $192,000. The county's rate of appreciation in recent months has outpaced other areas in the region, such as Orange and San Diego counties, as well as nearly everywhere else in the country.
    
In San Diego County, the median price rose 16.8% in March from a year earlier, to a record $424,000. (March figures for other Southland counties will be out later this week.) In Chicago, the median rose 7.3% to $213,500. Miami's median climbed 11.1% to $200,000, and Seattle saw a 7.3% increase to $236,000. Among the country's less expensive big cities is Phoenix, where the median price rose 8.6% to $158,000.   The spectacular gains in Southern California have fueled concerns of a possible housing "bubble." But most analysts believe the real estate market is on much firmer footing compared with a decade ago, when sales and prices tumbled. Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo Bank, said the region's economy is stronger and there isn't the over-building of a decade ago. But for the long term, he said, if prices keep climbing as they have been, "it can basically stunt economic growth by discouraging people from moving in or expanding in Southern California." There also are risks to some buyers, who may be overextending themselves. DataQuick said 58% of the purchasers in L.A. County last month took out adjustable-rate mortgages, which initially offer lower interest rates than traditional fixed mortgages but could subject borrowers to higher payments if interest rates rise. A year ago, 29% of buyers used adjustable mortgages. For now, however, Karevoll said the market was "rock solid." He said there were few danger signs, such as rapid resales or purchases by people who don't intend to live in the houses. Based on where tax bills were sent this year, he said, about 7.5% of the houses in the county may be owned by investors, up just a tad from a year ago. "There is a bit of speculation and risk-taking, but not more than the market can easily handle," he said. Perhaps the single biggest factor behind the recent surge in prices is the unusually low inventory. Analysts said that at the current pace of purchases, there was enough supply of homes for sale in the county to last no more than a month or two in many areas. About six or eight months' worth of inventory is considered healthy.
     
In Long Beach, for example, there was only a three-week supply of homes priced between $250,000 and $449,000 in early April, according to Pat Veling, president of Real Data Strategies, a real estate research and consulting firm in Brea. Knowing that, he said, buyers are competing fiercely and bidding up prices. "It's overly motivated buyers who are struggling with these historically low inventory levels," Veling said. Making matters worse, many homeowners are holding off on selling because prices are rising fast and they don't want to lose out on potential gains. Experts said that was one reason an expected increase in property listings in March didn't materialize. If that trend persists, the busy summer buying season could be extraordinarily competitive. Some homeowners, however, think this is the time to sell. In the Linda Vista area of Pasadena, Jim Patrick is getting ready to put his four-bedroom, four-bathroom house overlooking the Rose Bowl on the market for $1.25 million. He doesn't want to miss out on the booming sellers' market.
       
"If I sit in my house and prices start to go down, I've lost some of my paper gains," said Patrick, who is general manager of an aftermarket automotive and distribution company. "So I'm just cashing out." The 41-year-old plans to lease his next residence and wait to see if interest rates go up and prices come down after the November election. Economist Krueger agrees that eventually "something has got to give," but he doesn't see signs of a price bubble either. "We have very low interest rates and very little supply," he said. Not much new housing is on the horizon, said Ben Bartolotto of the Construction Industry Research Board. During the last real estate boom in 1989, there were 23,794 single-family homes finished in the county. Last year only 10,216 homes were built. Demand for housing in the region also is being fueled by new arrivals. Last week the Census Bureau reported that Southern California picked up an estimated 1 million new residents over the last three years, a third of whom settled in Los Angeles County. The shrinking supply of land for housing construction will keep the market tight and prices high, Bartolotto said. That's not comforting news to renters like Sandra Rodriguez, 26, who with her husband and their two small children hopes to move out of their one-bedroom unit in Montebello. She said she recently found on the Web a four-bedroom home nearby listed for $275,000. Rodriguez bid $300,000 on it because she knew it would be competitive.
April 10
Image of the Day
Kris and I spent the day working on the manchaca property, we filled a trailor full of old tires, leaves, tree limbs and other left over garbage.  We cleaned out the rear two aluminum buildings and made them more move-in ready. Half a case of caulk later the main house is sealed up and ready to keep the little bugs and critters out. The cold front came in around 3:00pm and the gusts of wind quickly turned into a hard rainstorm.  The temperature dropped from the 80's down to the 60's
April 11
Image of the Day
Spent the day up in georgetown relaxing at erin's parents house and enjoying food and an easter egg hunt in the cold 60's weather
April 12
Image of the Day
"Toothing" latest hi-tech sex craze
LONDON - Commuters take note -- the respectable person sitting next to you on the train fumbling with their cell phone might be a "toother" looking for sex with a stranger. "Toothing" is a new craze where strangers on trains, buses, in bars and even supermarkets hook up for illicit meetings using messages sent via the latest in phone technology. "Toothing is a form of anonymous sex with strangers -- usually on some form of transport or enclosed area such as a conference or training seminar," says the "Beginner's Guide To Toothing" on a Web site dedicated to the pursuit. It is made possible by Bluetooth technology which allows users to send phone contacts, pictures and messages to other Bluetooth-enabled equipment over a range of about 10 metres (yards).
      Users discovered they could send anonymous messages to people they didn't know with Bluetooth equipment, spawning a craze dubbed "bluejacking". Jon, aka "Toothy Toothing" and the guide's author, explained toothing was born after he was "bluejacked" by an unknown girl while commuting to work in London. After a few days of flirting, she suggested a brief encounter in a station lavatory. "The meeting wasn't a romantic thing -- it was purely sexual. Barely anything was said," he told Reuters via e-mail.He said potential toothers begin by sending out a random greeting -- usually "Toothing?"."If the other party is interested, messages are exchanged until a suitable location is agreed -- usually a public toilet, although there are tales of more adventurous spots such as deserted carriages or staff areas," his guide adds. "Flirting is fun, sex is fun. We're just employing expensive, complex toys to find the most basic form of entertainment."
April 13
Image of the Day
I Don't Want a Cookie, Mom, Can I Just See the Box?
LONDON - It looks like an ordinary old-fashioned cookie tin, but the hidden drawing of two dogs having sex in the grass makes it an instant collectors' item. Biscuit makers Huntley & Palmers sold thousands of tins of treats featuring a copy of an early 20th century illustration of a genteel picnic -- without realizing that a disgruntled employee had hidden sexually explicit drawings in the scene. Lawrences Auctioneers in Somerset, southwest England, is hoping collectors will bid 250 pounds ($446) when one of the tins goes on sale next Friday. The unidentified artist who copied the illustration had lost his job at the cookie company and decided to take revenge on his employers while completing his final project. He included a small picture of two dogs having sex and another of a pair of naked lovers. An obscene label written on a jam jar suggests it contains something other than jam. "A grocer on a slow day in his shop spotted the added characters in 1980 and the company was quite embarrassed. But now it's very popular and they are collectors' items," said a spokesman for Reading Museum in England, where another of the tins is on display.
April 14
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Looks like christians aren't the only ones looking to hard for signs from above...
Palestinians gather to see a lamb born with what looked like 'Allah' spelled out in Arabic on its coat in the West Bank city of Hebron

April 15
Image of the Day
Louisiana May Ban Low-Slung Pants
BATON ROUGE, La. - People who wear low-slung pants that expose skin or "intimate clothing" would face a fine of up to $500 and possible jail time under a bill filed by a Jefferson Parish lawmaker. State Rep. Derrick Shepherd said he filed the bill because he was tired of catching glimpses of boxer shorts and G-strings over the lowered belt lines of young adults. The bill would punish anyone caught wearing low-riding pants with a fine of as much as $500 or as many as six months in jail, or both. "I'm sick of seeing it," said Shepherd, a first-term legislator. "The community's outraged. And if parents can't do their job, if parents can't regulate what their children wear, then there should be a law." The bill would be tacked onto the state's obscenity law, which restricts sexual activity in public places and the sale of sexually explicit items. Joe Cook, head of the American Civil Liberties Union's Louisiana chapter, said the bill probably does not meet the U.S. Supreme Court's standard for the prohibition of obscene behavior under the First Amendment. "What about a woman who is wearing a bathing suit under her garment or she has something like a sarong wrapped around her and it's below her waist," he said. "I can think of a lot of workers, plumbers, who are working and expose their buttocks ..."
April 16
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British vets find 28 golf balls in dog's stomach
MANCHESTER (AFP) - It was the mysterious rattling sound from the 18-month-old German Shepherd's stomach which first alerted the British vet to what might be wrong. A subsequent operation removed no fewer than 28 golf balls from the dog's belly and -- unsurprisingly -- the mystery ailment which made her stop eating has been cured, her owner said. Mike Wardrop said he was "gobsmacked" to discover what his pet, called Libby, had been up to during their daily walk around Didsbury Golf Club in Manchester, northwest England, where he lives and works as a bar manager. The German Shepherd had developed a habit of hunting down golf balls and bringing them back to her owner, Wardrop said. "It got to the stage where she would pick up four or five balls every day. She loved fitting them in her mouth. "She would bring them to me and I'd have a laugh. I had no idea she was wolfing them down as well." Libby stopped eating properly and when she began coughing blood was rushed to a nearby vets' surgery, where the problem was swiftly diagnosed. "The vets didn't even have to do an x-ray because they could hear the balls and feel them rattling around," Wardrop said. "They were having bets about how many would be in there. I think the highest bet was 11, so they were shocked when 28 came out." Wardrop said he was keeping the balls -- which weighed a total of six pounds (2.7 kilogrammes) -- as souvenirs.
 
April 17
Image of the Day
A police officer talks with two men in a tree in New York's Central Park. The two unidentified gay lovers protested their families' lack of understanding for their relationship by climbing the Central Park tree, having sex in front of the crowd that gathered, and refusing to come down for hours.
April 18
Image of the Day
Tamale Chef Kills Friend, Cooks Him
MEXICO CITY - A Mexican cook killed his drinking buddy, cut up his body and boiled him in herbs, according to police who fear he may have been turning him into tamales. Prosecutors said on Wednesday they had arrested Carlos Machuca, a tamale-maker, at his home in the western city of Morelia on Tuesday, after receiving an anonymous phone tip. Officers found a man's mutilated corpse in the living room and body parts simmering in aluminum saucepans on the patio, state prosecutors told Reuters. "We saw the flesh and the tamales, and our first impression was that he was making tamales with the flesh of the deceased, although it has yet to be confirmed," Lorena Cortes, a spokeswoman for Michoacan state prosecutors, said. But she also told Reuters by telephone that Machuca, 56, may just have been trying to dispose of the body. Police say he stabbed the man through the heart in a fight after they had drunk together. Tamales are made of packets of maize dough with a savory or sweet filling, typically wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. They often contain pork or chicken.
April 19
Image of the Day
A ten-day old marmoset clutches the finger of zoo keeper Manuela Werner in the zoo in Wittenberg, eastern Germany. The little Red Bellied Tamarin (Sanguinus labiatus) is being hand-fed as his mother rejected him. He gets about 1.5 milliliters of baby food every two hours.
April 20
Image of the Day
This recent but undated picture made by the US Department of Defense, flag-draped coffins of US casualties from Iraq are handled by fellow soldiers in Dover, Del. The photographs were released last week to First Amendment activist Russ Kick, who had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to receive the images. Air Force officials initially denied the request but decided to release the photos after Kick appealed their decision.
April 21
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Libya Confirms Oil Cargo to U.S.
TRIPOLI - Libyan state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC) said it had confirmed its first cargo to the United States in more than 20 years for loading in May after Washington lifted many of its economic sanctions. "We confirmed one cargo to be loaded in May to the States," Abdullah Gheblawi, NOC's general manager for international marketing, told Reuters, adding that the last shipment of oil to the United States was in about 1981. He said the agreement was with a major U.S. oil company for one million barrels of crude but would not name the firm. He said they were flexible to increase that cargo to two million barrels if needed. He said NOC was reviewing other requests.
      
Gheblawi's comments came after President Bush dramatically eased the U.S. trade embargo on Libya on Friday to allow U.S. companies to resume most trade and buy Libyan oil as a reward to Tripoli for giving up weapons of mass destruction.Bush also withdrew the U.S. objection to Libya entering the World Trade Organization, the latest sign of warming U.S.-Libyan ties since Tripoli's December 19 announcement that it would cease pursing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Among a host of actions, the White House said Bush had:
-- scrapped a rule that allowed the president to punish non-U.S. firms that invest more than $20 million a year in Libya's energy sector;
-- allowed the resumption of most commercial activities, financial transactions and investments;
-- permitted U.S. companies to buy or invest in Libyan oil and products and allowed U.S. commercial banks and other financial service providers to finance these transactions.
April 22
Image of the Day
Wooden computers offer 'greener' desktop
Bored by your beige computer? A Swedish company is offering what they say is an ecofriendly alternative: a range of wooden computer monitors and keyboards that aim to brighten office life, while cutting the environmental impact of computer junk. Around 45 million new personal computer systems were bought in 2002-03 in the United States alone, many of which will end up in landfills. There is growing concern that the plastic skeletons are stacking up, and that toxic materials in their casings, chips and displays are leaching into the environment. Many standard plastic computer casings contain chemicals called brominated flame retardants, added to improve fire safety. Once in the environment, the cancer-causing chemicals are thought to accumulate in animal and human tissues.
      
To prevent this, Sollentuna-based company Swedx are making computer screens, keyboards and mice encased in timber. Swedx's wooden cases are custom built using wood logged from managed forests in China, and they decompose faster than plastic. "It is a fascinating idea," says Maria Leet Socolof who studies clean technologies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Pine, not plastic. Swedx has sold several thousand computer pieces since it launched them last year. A 15-inch flat screen monitor, available in beech, ash or sapele wood, costs about EU400, a keyboard EU50 and a mouse EU40. That is roughly 30% more than plastic versions, says company vice-president Jan Salloum. Other companies are showing an interest in manufacturing wood-encased computers, and Salloum believes the market will grow.
        
Even if sales went through the roof, however, wooden computers are unlikely to be an environmental panacea. Discarded machines contain other pollutants including lead in the monitor's cathode ray tubes and heavy metals such as cadmium in microchips, says Eric Williams who studies computers' environmental impact at the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan. Producing personal computers also chews up resources: the creation of one computer requires ten times its own weight in chemicals and fossil fuels, according to Williams's calculations, largely due to the energy-intensive production of microchips. Producing a car or refrigerator uses one or two times its weight, he says.
       
There are other moves to clean up computers' environmental record. European Union legislation set to come into force in the next two years, for example, requires computer manufacturers to take responsibility for recycling electronic waste, and outlaws certain flame retardants and toxic metals from electronic equipment. Some American states have banned monitors from landfills. Meanwhile, Williams advises computer users to sell or give away their old machines rather than dumping them, to consider buying a used computer and to turn off workstations to save electricity.
April 23
Image of the Day
A tourist poses for a picture besides the world's biggest sandwich in Mexico City. The cheese, ham, mayonnaise and lettuce sandwich which measures 3.50 x 3.50 meters (11.5 x 11.5 feet) holds a Guinness Record.
April 24
Image of the Day
An Iranian clergyman peels an orange as soldiers parade to mark Army Day in Tehran, Iran.
April 25
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Sky High : A Bulgarian boy somersaults as others look at him on the Black sea coast in the biggest sea resort of Varna, some 450 kms north-east from the capital Sofia, just a month before the tourist season in the city.
April 26
Image of the Day
Talking Trash...
BERLIN - Berlin has introduced five talking waste bins which say thank you in three different languages or scream "goal" to help promote a cleaner city. The talking waste bins -- which curiously say thank you in French, Japanese and English but not German -- are located in an area popular with tourists at the central Potsdamer Platz and at the Zoo train station in the west of the city. Fifteen more solar-powered talking waste bins may follow in the short term, Bernd Mueller, spokesman for the city's waste disposal services, said. However, the city does not plan to teach all 20,000 Berlin bins to talk."That's much too expensive," said Mueller. "But everybody loves those bins."
 
April 27
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Teens Steal Skull, Use as Puppet
LONDON - Two Scottish teenage boys escaped a jail sentence for breaking into the tomb of one of Scotland's most violent noblemen and taking a skull to use as a ventriloquist's dummy. Sonny Devlin, 17, and a 15-year-old boy who cannot be named for legal reasons, were put on probation for three and two years respectively under the ancient crime of "violation of sepulchre" -- the first such trial for over a century, newspapers said. Last June, the boys broke into the mausoleum of Sir George "Bloody" MacKenzie, a senior official of Charles II who died in 1691. He earned his nickname for his zealous persecution of Presbyterians. The court heard the crime was motivated by "immature and drunken bravado more than anything sinister." The boys were accused of stealing the unidentified skull, using it "like a glove puppet" and then throwing it away.
 
April 28
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Artist Says She Made Pistol Out of Own Skin
AMSTERDAM - A Dutch artist has used a flap of her own skin to make a replica pistol to be shown at an Amsterdam art show next month, she said. "I made a pistol to express my concern about violence in society and to show the connection between what a pistol does and the human body," said Joanneke Meester said of the replica, which is about the size of a matchbox. Meester said she made the tiny replica pistol with a piece of skin -- 20 centimeters (8 inches) long and four centimeters (1.6 inches) high -- surgically removed from her abdomen. The puckered skin was stretched and sewn over a plastic and fiber pistol mold. Meester said she had the flap of skin removed under local anaesthetic to allow her to make the pistol. The surgery left her with 16 stitches. She froze the skin, then defrosted it to make a replica weapon preserved in formaldehyde. Meester, whose piece will be on display in a glass case at Amsterdam's Kunstvlaai exhibition organized in a former gas works in the Dutch capital from May 8-16, has used skin as a theme in her other work too.
      
The 38-year-old artist has made "cuddly toys" with pig skins she obtained from a butchers and produced video installations in which actors are mummified by skin-tight costumes, rendering their faces anonymous. But the pistol is the first time she has used human skin in her work. "It felt like something between chicken skin and pig skin," she said. "It took me about an hour to make (the pistol) and at a certain point the edge started drying up and you could see a little blood on the skin, congealed," she said. "If everyone made a pistol from their own skin, I think they would think twice about using a gun. I think there would be less violence in the world," she said. "But it's not that easy. Violence will always exist." In the television age too many people were distanced from its stark reality, she said. "It's actually not an unambiguous work of art," she said. "I can understand that it can come across as shocking."The art world is no stranger to controversy. A transvestite potter beat the creators of a pair of bronze sex dolls to land Britain's Turner art prize in 2003. A pickled sheep and a Virgin Mary figure made of elephant dung have also won the prize.
 
April 29
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Portland to Pay $145K in Arrest Lawsuit
PORTLAND, Ore. - The city of Portland has agreed to pay $145,000 to an elderly blind woman after police pepper-sprayed and shocked her with a stun gun. The altercation began as an attempt to remove shrubs and appliances from 71-year-old Eunice Crowder's yard, and ended with police citing her for harassment and disobeying an order. This week, the city agreed to settle her excessive force lawsuit out of federal court, a month after a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge dismissed the violations against her. "This case goes to show that police misconduct and excessive force can happen to anybody outside the mainstream," said Ernest Warren Jr., Crowder's lawyer. "It does not have to be an African American; it can be someone who is elderly and white." The Portland City Council approved the settlement, based on a review by the city's risk management division that indicated "there is risk the City may be found liable."
      
The June 9, 2003, incident began when Ed Marihart, a city employee, showed up at Crowder's home. He served her with an administrative search warrant to remove an accumulation of trash and debris. According to Crowder and her lawyer, the woman told him she was blind and hard of hearing, and asked him to read the entire warrant to her, but he refused. She said he placed it in her hands, walked outside and ordered others to start removing items from her yard. The city denies that the woman asked Marihart to read the warrant and maintains that Marihart explained to her why he was there. The woman followed the city employee outside. She was concerned that he and his co-workers had removed a family heirloom, a 90-year-old red toy wagon with rhododendrons in it. She asked to enter a trailer, where items from her yard were being placed, to feel around for the wagon. Marihart told her she couldn't enter the trailer and said the wagon was not inside. He then called police. When Portland Officers Robert Miller and Eric Zajac arrived at the house, Crowder acknowledged she had one foot on the curb and one foot on the bumper of the trailer. She felt someone step on her foot and asked, "Who are you?" Moments later, she felt someone strike her in the head, which dislodged her prosthetic right eye from its socket, and was knocked to the ground, she claimed in her lawsuit.
       Officers said Crowder ignored their commands not to climb into the trailer and tried to bite Miller's hand. They acknowledged she was "pushed onto the dirt next to the sidewalk," according to the city's legal brief filed in court. While on the ground, Crowder asked the officer what he thought he was doing and kicked Miller. She said the officer kicked her back, then pepper-sprayed her in her eyes. "While she's still on the ground, on her stomach, they tased her in the back and in the breast," her lawyer said. Police said they pepper-sprayed Crowder after she refused to stop kicking them. They admit that Crowder's prosthetic eye fell out at some point, and that Zajac stunned Crowder with a Taser, an electric stun gun, twice in the lower back and once in the upper back after ordering her to stop fighting and resisting. Warren said the city's argument is bogus. He said, "To kick the crap out of old folks seems a little bit much to me in the name of law enforcement."
 
April 30
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No-Carb Eating Couple Booted From Buffet
SALT LAKE CITY - A couple on the Atkins Diet have a beef with a local restaurant after being booted from the buffet for eating too much meat. Isabelle Leota, 29, and her husband Sui Amaama, 26, both on the no-carb diet, were dining at a Chuck-A-Rama in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville when the manager cut them off because they'd eaten too much roast beef. "It's so embarrassing actually," said Leota. "We went in to have dinner, we were under the impression Chuck-A-Rama was an all you can eat establishment." Not so, said Jack Johanson, the restaurant chain's district manager.
      
"We've never claimed to be an all-you-can-eat establishment," said Johanson. "Our understanding is a buffet is just a style of eating." The general manager was carving the meat, and became concerned about having enough for other patrons, Johanson said. So when Amaama went up for his 12th slice, the manager asked Amaama to stop. Offended by the request, the couple argued with the manager, then asked for a refund. The manager refused, and when the couple refused to leave, he called police. "I really feel like we were discriminated against, I feel like we were treated unfairly," said Leota. The restaurant's roast beef is cooked overnight and takes between 12 and 14 hours to cook, Johanson said. Depending on the location, a Chuck-A-Rama may have only between one and five roasts each day. But Johanson said the manager offered plenty of other buffet items for the couple to choose from. The couple are finishing their second week of the Atkins Diet, which requires taking in little to no carbohydrates, and they eat at Chuck-A-Rama's $8.99 buffet at least twice a week because of its convenience. "You can just go there and just eat meat," said Leota, a mother of two. Johanson said there's no written policy for what patrons can or can't eat, or for the size of their portions. But the restaurant reserves the right to talk to patrons if they abuse the buffet — a rare occurrence, he said. The couple said they won't return to the restaurant. "I don't have any desire to go there ever again," said Leota.