Thoughts Gallery January 2004
January 1
Image of the Day
Divers feed champagne to a fresh water pike in a lake near Opole, Poland. Three Polish divers face a police investigation for possible illegal fishing and animal abuse during an outdoor New Year's party. 'They may have committed offenses of poaching and maltreating a fish,' said Maria Niedziolka of the National Fishing Authority, which notified police of the incident.
January 2
Image of the Day
A pony rubs his nose on a cat in the Budakeszi game park near Budapest, Hungary on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2004, after snow started to fall in the morning hours in some parts of Hungary.
January 3
Image of the Day
'Honey, Feel Like Saving a Little Water?'
MANILA - Couples in the Philippine capital have been asked to start sharing the tub at bath time as part of a conservation drive. "Start sharing baths with your partner to conserve water," the environment department advised the parched capital's 12 million residents. Unseasonably dry weather has depleted water levels in the main reservoirs supplying the metropolis and officials were meeting on Friday to consider rationing and other measures. Environment Secretary Elisea Gozun warned things could get worse before the monsoon season begins in May and said officials were "sounding the alarm early to avoid a water shortage."

January 4
Image of the Day
Tipping the scale : Eleven-month-old baby elephant 'Califa' stands on a scale the Hanover zoo during the annual weighing of the 2,663 animals from 240 species.
January 5 
Image of the Day
Japanese businessmen hold a service aimed at fending off viruses and glitches for their computers in a purification ceremony conducted by a Shinto priest according to Shinto rituals at Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo
January 6
Image of the Day

Levi's Closes Last Two U.S. Sewing Plants

SAN ANTONIO - Levi Strauss & Co., the California Gold Rush outfitter whose blue jeans are a globally recognized symbol of America, closed its last two U.S. sewing plants Thursday. About 800 workers at the 26-year-old San Antonio plants lost their jobs in the move, which was announced last September. The financially troubled company, based in San Francisco, has been shifting production to overseas contractors for years to offset drooping sales in the ultra-competitive apparel market. Only two decades ago, it had 63 U.S. manufacturing plants. Levi Strauss spokesman Jeff Beckman said the 150-year-old company was making a delayed but unavoidable business decision. "We tried to do our best to maintain manufacturing in the United States, but we have to be competitive to survive as a company," he said.

January 7
Image of the Day

Man's Apartment Encased in Aluminum Foil

OLYMPIA, Wash. - What kind of friends coat your apartment — and nearly everything in it — with tinfoil while you're away? Here's a hint: One of the only objects that escaped the shiny treatment was a book titled "Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends." Chris Kirk found his downtown Olympia apartment encased in aluminum foil when he returned home Monday night from a trip to Los Angeles. The walls, ceiling, cabinets and everything in between shimmered, after the prank orchestrated by Kirk's longtime friend, Luke Trerice, 26, who was staying in the apartment while Kirk was away.
"He's known for large-scale strangeness," Kirk, 33, told The Olympian. "He warned me that he would be able to touch my stuff, but it didn't sound so bad." Trerice, who lives in Las Vegas, and a small group of friends draped the apartment with about 4,000 square feet of aluminum foil, which cost about $100. Not surprisingly, the idea was hatched on New Year's Eve. "It was just a spur of the moment thing," Trerice said. "I really don't even consider it art. I consider it a psychology project. ... He seems to be upbeat, so I consider this a success.
No detail was too small or too time-consuming. The toilet paper was unrolled, wrapped in foil, then rolled back up again. The friends covered Kirk's book and compact disc collections but made sure each CD case could open and shut normally. They even used foil on each coin in Kirk's spare change. And to sweeten the theme, they left silver Hershey's kisses sprinkled throughout the apartment. "The toilet was hard. The molding around the doorways took a very long time," Trerice said. Aside from "Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends," which doesn't include this particular trick, only a portrait of his girlfriend, the bed and a bath mat were left unfoiled."He took special pains not to move anything," Kirk said. A foil-encased picture hanging outside his apartment was Kirk's first clue that something inside was amiss. "I heard him open the door and gasp and start laughing," said Beth Kelly, who lives in an apartment down the hall. "I love the quarters. It's almost more funny realizing the things that were left unwrapped."
Andras Jones, who lives on the same floor, became curious about what was transpiring in Kirk's apartment as he noticed "a parade of strange characters" going in and out. Since Kirk's return the entire building has been buzzing about the transformation, Jones said. "There's a party atmosphere down by the room," Jones said. "Of course, everyone has their favorite part. I think the kitchen is just amazing."
Kirk's awestruck neighbors and friends kept him up until late Monday night. He hasn't started unpacking his belongings and isn't sure when he will. " As I was trying to sleep last night, I realized that, actually, it's creepy," Kirk said. And as for whether Trerice will ever be allowed to stay again at the apartment unsupervised, Kirk said: "I don't know. We'll see."But Trerice hopes Kirk will find a way to get him back. "I'm going to be insulted if he doesn't try," Trerice said. "It's kind of a challenge."

January 8
Image of the Day

NASA to Start From Scratch in New Effort

If NASA returns astronauts to the moon and then takes aim at Mars, the agency will have to go back to the drawing board to get the job done. The rockets, equipment and engineers that put American footprints on lunar soil have long been lost, junked or retired. For the seven moon-landing missions from 1969 through 1972, NASA built craft designed specifically for single landings and short stays. The command ship accommodated three astronauts and the lunar lander only two. The reserves of power and propulsion were tightly budgeted, a problem that almost cost the lives of the astronauts on the only failed landing mission, Apollo 13. Apollo was drilled into space with the giant Saturn V rocket, the most powerful launcher ever built by the United States. After the Apollo program ended, the equipment, tools and plans for building the rocket were lost. A new lunar and Mars effort could require even larger lift rockets, depending on the mission scheme selected.
For an extended lunar expedition, which sources said Thursday is what President Bush has in mind, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would need to design and build a large mother ship, able to transport a number of crew members and a large inventory of supplies and equipment. If the mission design follows the Apollo plan, the agency also would have to build a landing craft able to ferry crew and supplies between the moon's surface and a command ship in lunar orbit. A colony on the moon almost certainly would require an atomic reactor for power. Some small reactors were used on six Apollo missions, but they were designed to produce just enough electrical power to operate scientific instruments left on the surface.
       For Mars, everything required by a moon voyage would have to be multiplied, perhaps many fold. Some who have studied Mars exploration say a manned expedition would last at least three years, with long voyage out and back, and just a limited stay. All fuel, water and other supplies would have to be carried along or sent ahead on robot craft. The crew size would have to be expanded to allow for sickness or death that is likely for such a risky expedition. Over the years, NASA has conducted a number of basic studies aimed at achieving the moon and Mars.
       The Apollo missions depended on the powerful three-stage Saturn V rocket that vaulted the craft into Earth orbit and then restarted to drill it toward the moon. After leaving Earth orbit, the third stage of the Saturn V was discarded and the momentum of the rocket firing carried the craft outward until it slipped into the grip of lunar orbit. It was rather like throwing up a baseball that was then captured at the top of its arc by the moon's gravity.
       NASA has tested an ion rocket system that could be used to continually accelerate a spacecraft with a steady pulse after the craft leaves Earth orbit. Such a rocket could trim the three days that Apollo needed to reach the moon and shorten the voyage to Mars by months. Some experts have suggested that robot craft loaded with supplies and equipment could be landed on the moon and Mars ahead of an astronaut crew. That way the mothership could be reserved for the human crew, which would use the supplies upon arrival.
       NASA also has done studies on shelters for the lunar surface, on vehicles that could be used for transport and on new surface space suits. It also has studied the possibility of extracting rocket propellant and oxygen from lunar soil, or from any water deposits that might be discovered on the moon or Mars.  No firm cost estimates have been developed, but informal discussions have put the cost of a Mars expedition at nearly $1 trillion, depending on how ambitious the project was. The cost of a moon colony, again, would depend on what NASA wants to do on the lunar surface.

January 9
Image of the Day
Couple Swimming in $7.7 Million Water Bill
DALLAS - A Texas couple needed a drink after they got a water bill for $7,714,510.21 instead of the usual $50 or $60.  Stella and Chuck Richison were sent the bill from the coastal city of Corpus Christi, Texas. The city has acknowledged that the bill was sent in error because of a computer glitch. "They must have been thinking we were watering all of Corpus Christi," Stella Richison said on Thursday.  She said she opened the letter from the utility seeking nearly $8 million and handed it over to her husband, saying: "Honey, you've got a bill." They called the water department to question if the figures were correct and were met by silence on the other end of the phone. "Then, they all chuckled and they freaked out," Richison said. The Richisons plan to frame the $7.7 million water bill and hang it in their house -- perhaps over the kitchen sink.
January 10
Image of the Day
Prankster Using Drive-Through Speaker
TROY, Mich. - Some drive-through customers at a Burger King are getting more with their meals than they expected.  Police in the north Detroit suburb are looking for someone who is using a device to broadcast on the same frequency as a Burger King drive-through speaker, The Detroit News reported Thursday.  The person has interrupted business transactions three times, most recently Tuesday, with obscene remarks to startled customers.  When the 41-year-old manager went outside to apologize to customers and look for the source of the mischief, a voice boomed out of the outdoor speaker: "There's nothing you or the police can do about this, so get ... back inside and take your goons with you," Troy Police Lt. Gerry Scherlinck said.  Police suspect the calls are being made by a radio transmitter or walkie-talkie near the restaurant. The person could be charged with a misdemeanor if caught. Kevin Barnes, a spokesman for Michigan Multi King, which owns the restaurant, said his company wants to keep the incidents low-key.  "It's rare, but I've heard this has happened at other businesses," he said.
January 11
Image of the Day
Sixty-five percent of Britons don't know in which US city the hit musical 'Chicago' is set in, according to a nationwide survey for an upcoming TV quiz show. Sadly I think the percentage might even be lower for US citizens, especially if you asked them to locate chicago on a map.
January 12
Image of the Day
'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin holds his baby son, Bob, while feeding a giant crocodile with a dead chicken at Queenland Zoo in Queensland, Australia. Irwin triggered outrage when he held his one-month-old baby while feeding a snapping crocodile during a show at his Australian zoo.
January 13
Image of the Day
Churches Offer Free Movie to Boost Flocks
Four Church of England parishes are trying to boost their congregations by offering free cinema tickets to watch Mel Gibson's controversial movie "The Passion of Christ." Four churches in the Archbishop of Canterbury's diocese in the southeastern county of Kent have block-booked 20,000 pounds ($37,020) of tickets to give away for the graphic film depicting the torture and death of Jesus Christ in an effort to drum up new recruits. "Gay bishops being thrown out of the Church is not the sort of publicity we need," Russ Hughes, director of worship and prophecy at St Luke's -- one of the four churches involved in the scheme -- told the Times newspaper Tuesday. "Hopefully this will put the emphasis back on Christ. We are competing for people's attention with things like the 9/11 disaster and Kylie Minogue's rear end, so we are not going to get people in by running a jumble sale. "This is the greatest opportunity for the Church in the last 30 years and if we did not use it we may not get such an opportunity again."
January 14
Image of the Day
McDonald's Salad Has More Fat Than Cheeseburger
Global hamburger giant McDonald's latest line in healthy looking salads may contain more fat than its hamburgers, according to the company's Web Site. McDonald's, plagued by health critics and flattening sales, has launched the biggest change to its menu in 30 years with its plans to get into the multi-million pound prepared salad market. "You can choose your salad, topping and dressing. You can mix and match to suit your diet and lifestyle," said a McDonald's spokeswoman. However, consumers hoping to lose weight by switching from burgers to salads may be disappointed, according to the Interactive Nutrition Counter on the McDonald's Web site. For example, on the new menu to be launched at the end of this month, a "Caesar salad with Chicken Premiere" contains 18.4 grams of fat compared with 11.5 grams of fat in a standard cheeseburger. The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) told Reuters it welcomed the salad menu but warned that salad dressings bought in fast-food outlets or supermarkets could be very high in fat and calories. BNF said the recommended daily fat intake for men is 95 grams per day and for women 70 grams per day.
January 15
Image of the Day
Handyman Nailed with His Own Nail Gun
An Australian handyman admitted he was stupid to shoot himself in the head with a nail gun in a misguided prank that left him with a nail lodged in his brain. Brad Shorten, a father of three from Victoria state, was enjoying a few beers with friends after working on his house when they began joking about industrial accidents. Shorten, 33, picked up a nail gun that he thought was empty, pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger. He later said he had turned off the gun's compressor and taken out its nail cartridge but did not realize there was still enough pressure in the gun to fire a nail.
January 16
Image of the Day
Passionate Public Kiss in Indonesia Could Mean Jail
Couples caught kissing passionately in public in Indonesia could spend five years in jail. Members of parliament in the world's most populous Muslim country have proposed an anti-pornography bill that includes a ban on kissing on the mouth in public. "I think there must be some restrictions on such acts because it is against our traditions of decency," said Aisyah Hamid Baidlowi, head of a parliamentary committee drafting the bill. Heavy kissing could carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail or a $29,000 fine. Anyone caught flashing would face similar penalties. The bill also proposes bans on public nudity, erotic dances and sex parties, with jail terms ranging from three to 10 years. Watching such shows could lead to two years behind bars. Indonesians have long followed a moderate version of Islam, although an emphasis on Muslim practices and identification with Islamic traditions have grown stronger in recent years. Public displays of affection are frowned upon by many, though prostitution is rampant in many parts of the archipelago.
January 17
Image of the Day
Illegal pigeon race called off after 5,000 birds drown
At least 5,000 pigeons were killed when their cages fell of a cargo boat on the way to the start of an illegal race off the Taiwan coast. AFP Photo About 30,000 birds were due to take part in the third of a seven-leg race with about 100 million Taiwan dollars (three million US) of illegal bets staked on the result. Gambling in Taiwan is allowed only on the state-run lottery although the authorities often turn a blind eye to pigeon racing, which is hugely popular on the island off China's southeast coast. The accident happened as chains holding the bird cages became loose on one of the two boats taking the birds into the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, newspaper and television reports said. "I have taken part in pigeon races for 20 years but such an accident has never happened before," Tsai Jui-bin, an official of a pigeon association in central Chiayi county was quoted as saying by the Chinese-daily United Daily News. The race was cancelled.
January 18
Image of the Day
Woman Tried to Pass Fake $1M Bill
A woman was caught trying to use a fake $1 million bill to buy $1,675 worth of merchandise at a Wal-Mart, and was later found with two more of the bills in her purse, police said. The United States Treasury does not make $1 million bills, but people can buy souvenirs of such a bill at some stores, police said. "It looks real, but of course there's nothing real about this," Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton said Tuesday. "People do crazy things all the time. I think it's just another example of some odd things that occur." A clerk at the store immediately noticed the bill was fake when 35-year-old Alice Regina Pike handed it to her on Friday, Cotton said. Pike then tried to use two gift cards with only $2.32 of value on them to buy the merchandise, but when that didn't work she again asked if the clerk could cash the $1 million bill, Cotton said. The store then called police. Pike, of Porterdale, was charged with forgery. There was no listing for her phone number in directory assistance, and she could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Covington is 32 miles southeast of Atlanta.
January 19
Image of the Day
Nebraska Mayor Implements Shaving `ban'
Beware of going whiskerless in Lexington these days. Lexington Mayor John Fagot has implemented a "ban" on shaving for every man in town older than 21. Those caught clean-shaven without a shaving permit could face being dunked in a horse tank or other benign punishment. The mayor implemented the lighthearted ban to get the town in the spirit of this summer's Plum Creek Days, a festival bearing the town's former name. One of the festival's traditional highlights is a beard-growing contest. The not-so-consequential edict is in effect until July 5, the last day of the three-day festival. The ban is part of a Lexington-area tradition that began in 1939 with the first Plum Creek Days festival. Those wanting to shave can avoid being arrested and taken to Kangaroo Court by purchasing a special shaving permit. Along with the shaving ban, the mayor has proclaimed all men and women must dress in Western or historic clothing on Fridays beginning in May. Kangaroo Court will be held every Friday beginning June 4 and will included "trumped-up charges and fun sentencing," Fagot said.
January 20
Image of the Day
Man Makes Youth His Designated Drivers
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A man who allegedly had a few too many drinks decided he shouldn't drive drunk so he handed his car keys to his female companions all too young to drive, police said. Lionel Cerda told officers that he had been nodding off, so he first let a 14-year-old drive. But when police pulled the car over after midnight on Saturday, they found Cerda in the front seat, with empty bottles at his feet, the 14-year-old in the back with an open can of beer, and a 10-year-old at the wheel. "This," said Lt. Dave Haskins, "is a strange one." Officer Christina Abshire saw a car swerving and breaking erratically, going 5 mph. She followed the car, then pulled it over. As she walked over to the driver's window, the car sped off. She then pulled it over again, and found the three inside. Abshire said Cerda explained to her in thick, slurred speech that the girls were his relatives, and he was teaching them how to drive. Cerda was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and child endangerment.
January 21
Image of the Day
Boy, 11, Saves Mother After Heart Attack
An 11-year old Belgian boy managed to resuscitate his mother after she collapsed with a heart attack, just days after he received first aid training in school, a Belgian daily said on Saturday. "I'm no hero. I just did what I had to do," Ayrton Steenhout told Het Laatste Nieuws paper. His 37-year-old mother collapsed on a family outing to the coastal town of Blankenberge. "If it wasn't for our son, my wife wouldn't be sitting here any more," his proud father said. Ayrton's mother received a pacemaker and is now out of hospital.
January 22
Image of the Day
Domestic Violence TV Show Leads to Shooting
An Oklahoma woman shot her husband to death during a fight after the couple watched a daytime TV talk show on how to survive domestic violence, officials say. Teri Lynn Carver, 35 is not facing charges for gunning down her husband Cecil, 38, at their home in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Rose because evidence at the scene suggested the death was an accident, District Attorney Gene Haynes said Monday. Police and prosecutors said the couple was in bed on Feb. 24 smoking marijuana and watching a Montel Williams TV talk show on surviving a lover's attack. Teri told her husband that his actions resembled those of abusive husbands featured on the show, which caused Cecil to turn violent. Cecil then struck his wife, fetched a handgun and fired a shot into the bed's headboard near Teri to show that he did not like his wife calling him a violent partner, police said, citing a statement the wife gave to investigators. Teri then called for help and when her husband tried to wrestle the phone away from her, she reached for the gun. Teri shot her husband in the arm and the bullet entered his chest, killing him, police said. Evidence at the scene and reports from neighbors seem to support Teri's statement, police said. "The TV show gave them a reason to fight, but in a situation of domestic violence, they really don't need an excuse," said Lt. Pat Knowles, a police detective for Mayes County.
January 23
Image of the Day
January 24
Image of the Day
Topless March Is a Bust
A demonstration billed as a topless march to protest anti-nudity laws drew thousand of curious spectators Sunday but only a handful of marchers. Organizers had expected 1,000 topless women to march down Main Street in Daytona Beach and voice their outrage over the arrest of women who bare their breasts during spring break events. Local officials say hundreds of women are carted off to jail each year for exposing their breasts on the beach, in bars and on the streets. But after a federal judge refused to stop police from arresting female protesters who doffed their tops, only about 50 women made the march. And only one, organizer Liz Book, took off her shirt. Book was immediately arrested and taken to jail, though a bare-chested man who marched was unmolested. "I don't ever want to see another woman arrested because someone showed her breasts," said Book, a 42-year-old Brownie troop leader. "Our breasts are not criminal."
January 25
Image of the Day
Seniors Brawl After Salad Bar Dispute
A dispute at the salad bar turned into a food fracas at an upscale retirement home, with a man taking a bite out of another's arm and other residents suffering minor injuries. Police said resident Lee Thoss, 62, of the Spring Haven Retirement Community was picking through the lettuce, which disgusted 86-year-old William Hocker, who was standing in line behind him. Hocker told Thoss no one wanted to eat food he had been playing with. Thoss yelled and cursed at him, Hocker told police, and Hocker called him a nasty name. Then, witnesses said, Thoss then began punching Hocker in the face. In the buffet melee that followed, Allen Croft, 79, tried to grab Thoss, who bit him on the arm, reports said. Thoss' mother, Arlene, in her 80s and also a Spring Haven resident, jumped in to break up the fight and ended up with a cut arm. Harry Griffin, 92, was standing at the salad bar and cut his head when he was knocked to the ground. "All the old folks were either getting up to help or trying to get out of there," police spokesman J.J. Stanton said of the scene last Sunday in the well-appointed dining room, which features an ice cream bar and a pastry chef. Arlene Thoss, Croft and Griffin were treated at a local hospital and released. Stanton said all involved declined to press charges, but home administrators have asked Lee Thoss to move out.
January 26
Image of the Day
Woman Served Salad with Human Thumb
An Ohio woman was served a salad containing part of a restaurant worker's thumb sliced off while chopping lettuce, a health official said on Friday. The woman "thought it was gristle or something like that" when she tried to chew the unexpected garnish, said William Franks, health commissioner for Stark County, where the incident occurred earlier this week. "Physically I think she's OK, other than hysteria," Franks added. Stark County officials did not release the woman's name. The restaurant worker accidentally sliced off the tip of his thumb while chopping the ingredients on Monday night at the Red Robin restaurant near Canton, Ohio, he said. Despite a search, it could not be found. "The salad should have been discarded," Franks said. Instead, the workers sanitized the counter area and then refrigerated the ingredients before rushing off to get medical help for the man. The salad fixings were then served to a lunch crowd on Tuesday, when the piece of thumb was discovered by the patron. The restaurant is part of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. .
January 27
Image of the Day
Customs Gets Tribeswoman's Goat
A Gambian tribeswoman has been arrested at a London airport with her bags crammed with illegal snails, catfish and goat meat. Nenneh Nyana Jaiteh, 48, was arrested after arriving on Friday from Banjul, Gambia, with 187 pounds of illegal animal products in her bags, Customs and Excise said Sunday. "That's a significant amount of meat -- more than the weight of an average adult male," said spokeswoman Kathryn Corcoran.
  January 28
Image of the Day
Marijuana Found in Load of Frozen Chickens
Frozen chickens and marijuana a combination that put the driver of a tractor-trailer rig in jail. The man, whose name has not been released, was arrested Saturday after an officer from the state's Motor Transportation Division found 1,240 pounds of marijuana hidden in a load of frozen chickens. The truck was headed for the Midwest when it was pulled over on Interstate 25 near Raton as part of a routine traffic stop. The officer became suspicious and a search of the truck turned up the marijuana.
January 29
Image of the Day
World's Oldest Man Dies at 114 in Spain
A retired Spanish shoemaker who was officially the world's oldest man has died at his home at the age of 114, his family said on Saturday. The Guinness World Records recognized Joan Riudavets Moll as the world's oldest man following the death of Japan's Yukichi Chuganji, also 114, in September. Riudavets, who attributed his longevity to a life of moderation, was born on Dec. 15, 1889 -- the year Adolf Hitler and Charlie Chaplin were born and the year the Eiffel Tower was completed. He had been retired for half a century. He died at home in Es Migjorn Gran on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Menorca on Friday night, a police spokesman there said. "I spoke to him a few days ago and he had all his faculties," the spokesman said. "He spoke and reasoned perfectly well without any problems. It was a natural death; he had not been ill." Riudavets' grandson said he was still taking walks at the end of his life and was always surrounded by friends. "He nearly always had people around him and he had a great gift for words," his eldest grandson, Pablo, told Reuters. "There were a lot of anecdotes." Riudavets, who joined the family shoe-making business and retired in 1954, lived to see huge advances in medicine and science, but he never stopped marveling at inventions like the airplane -- first flown when he was a teenager -- and electricity. "The airplane was something incredible, but the most important change was electricity -- without doubt, it changed everything," the Guinness Web site quoted him as saying. He attributed his long life to doing everything in moderation, including smoking "but not too much." He used to sleep up to 14 hours a day but also enjoyed playing football and the guitar. Trini Pinto Alvarez, who lives in the village, said: "He was a shoemaker, he worked hard, had a good life ... Everybody knew him. When he had birthdays, the village threw fiestas."
January 30
Image of the Day
Unlucky number "4" deleted from license plates
Officials in south China have decided to delete the number four, which is traditionally considered unlucky, from license plates, drawing flak for encouraging superstition state media said. AFP/File Photo "Four" sounds almost exactly like "death" when pronounced both in the local Cantonese dialect and in Mandarin, causing many car owners to shy away from having it on their license plates, the China Daily reported Monday. The number has been cleared from the computer data banks in Guangdong province that generate the license numbers, meaning that by the end of the year no new license plate will include four among its six digits, it said. The paper suggested that some officials might actually believe removing the unlucky number from license plates could have a real effect on traffic safety. "The rising number of traffic accidents has been troubling everyone from policy makers and traffic management officials to motorists and pedestrians so much that all measures are being considered to solve the problem," it said. While some locals have welcomed the move, others have attacked it as caving in to superstition and traditional beliefs, which have made a comeback in recent years. Dread of the number four extends far beyond license plates, with many buildings in the province lacking a fourth floor, the paper said. New cellphone users in Guangdong are often also offered compensation of up to 500 yuan (60 dollars) if they choose a number ending with a four, according to the paper.
January 31
Image of the Day
Mozart's 'healing power' touted in concert
A British millionaire convinced of the "healing power" of the music of Mozart for mothers-to-be and newborns will host a series of piano recitals at which they will be his guests. AFP/File Photo Expectant women and children under three will be admitted free to the first recital, in London's Saint George Hall, where the audience will be encouraged to take part in the "healing power of the Mozart effect," according to Sheepdrove Trust, an association financed by multi-millionaire Peter Kindersley. Other adult concert-goers will pay six pounds (nine euros), and children over three will get in for three pounds. Kindersley had the idea of holding a series of concerts for infants and expectant mothers after hearing about research findings that classical music, especially Mozart, can stimulate alpha waves in the brain, which engender a sense of well-being. Other studies on premature babies have shown that playing Mozart for them helps raise the amount of oxygen absorbed by the blood. The concert in the 500-seat Saint George Hall will be the first in a series of recitals to be given by Russian pianist Mikhail Kazakevich aimed at babies and the unborn.