Thoughts Gallery November 2005
November 1
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Bombs in Iraq Getting More Sophisticated
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - U.S. and British troops are being killed in Iraq by increasingly sophisticated insurgent bombs, including a new type triggered when a vehicle crosses an infrared beam and is blasted by armor-piercing projectiles. The technology, which emerged during guerrilla wars in Lebanon and Northern Ireland, has been used in recent roadside bombings that have killed dozens of Americans and at least eight British soldiers.
The alarming efficiency has led many British and a few U.S. officials to argue that rogue groups in Iran and perhaps Lebanon are giving expertise to Iraq's insurgents. But others caution against that idea, saying the technology is available to those who know where to look. Either way, the Pentagon is scrambling to find countermeasures, says Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a senior U.S. military officer in Iraq. "We're studying very hard where this technology is coming from and what we can do to combat that technology," Lynch said in a briefing in Baghdad last week.
The deadly munitions mark a steady improvement in the roadside bombs that debuted in 2003 in Iraq, often as simple as a single artillery shell wrapped with detonator cord linked to a battery. The new bombs are a deadly marriage of stealthy camouflage, shaped explosives that propel metal projectiles through four inches of armor and infrared motion-detector triggers that can't be blocked by electronic jammers. "It works like a burglar alarm, a beam that goes across a doorway. Once the beam is broken it triggers the bomb," said Amyas Godfrey, a former British army intelligence officer who left Iraq in October 2004 after serving two tours.
British officials and, to a lesser extent, their American counterparts have suggested Iraqi insurgents are getting advice and perhaps components from Iran or Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. In the 1990s, Hezbollah's Iranian-backed Shiite fighters used infrared-triggered penetrator bombs with great success against Israeli armored vehicles in southern Lebanon. Similar bombs have killed eight British soldiers in southern Iraq since May, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the circumstances "lead us either to Iranian elements or to Hezbollah." He conceded he had no evidence, and both Iran and Hezbollah denied involvement.
Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Iraq's insurgents are more likely just tapping a pool of common bomb-making technology, none of which requires special expertise. "There's no evidence that these are supplied by Iran," he said. "A lot of this is just technology that is leaked into an informal network. What works in one country gets known elsewhere." Last month, the London-based Independent newspaper quoted a British intelligence official as saying the Irish Republican Army was first to use infrared triggers in bombs aimed at British troops 15 years ago. The ballistics technology behind the bombs' shaped charges dates to World War II anti-tank munitions. The insurgent variety uses a cone-shaped plastic explosive charge that concentrates its force on a steel or copper projectile. The projectile is fired at high velocity and stretched into a molten slug that can burn through four inches of armor, Cordesman said.
Infrared triggers are easily obtained, said Godfrey, the former British intelligence officer. He said they are identical to motion sensors used to open elevator doors or set off burglar alarms. The new bombs also contain simple radio-controlled receivers that allow insurgents to arm them by radio or cell phone ahead of an approaching military convoy. "Usually they'll place an array of explosives locked to a single infrared sensor," Cordesman said. "What you get is an array of shaped charges, so you're not going to get hit with just one." He said the clustered projectiles are accurate — and effective — against armored Humvees and light armored vehicles at up to 50 feet. Heavily armored Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles are better able to withstand the blasts, although some have been destroyed. Even if a blast doesn't penetrate a vehicle's armor, "the impact will blow off shards of armor inside the vehicle that are red hot and cut people to ribbons," said Bruce Jones, a London-based intelligence expert who advises NATO.
Perhaps most worrisome for the Pentagon is that infrared triggers cannot be blocked by electronic countermeasures, such as devices that emit a radio beam to jam signals from cell phones, garage-door openers and other remote-control devices used to detonate bombs. "I don't know if you can disrupt an infrared beam without triggering the explosion," said Godfrey, now an analyst for the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies. Researchers are studying whether expensive vision equipment might let soldiers see the beams. Others suggest developing explosive detectors to scan roadsides for bombs or an electromagnetic pulse weapon that could fry unshielded electronics within reach of a convoy. As the Pentagon searches for a solution, Godfrey said U.S. and British forces are adjusting patrol routes and scanning maps for likely ambush points. Troops keep watch for bombs hidden in hollowed-out trees, the dirt or plastic foam painted to resemble concrete. "We can get very excited about covering ourselves with technology. But at the end of the day, you have to think like an insurgent," Godfrey said.
November 2
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Cocaine traces detected in River Thames
LONDON - So much cocaine is being used in London that traces of the white powdered narcotic can be detected in the River Thames, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper said. Citing scientific research which it had commissioned, it said an estimated two kilogrammes of cocaine, or 80,000 lines, spill into the river every day after it has passed through users' bodies and sewage treatment plants.
It extrapolated that 150,000 lines of the illegal drug are snorted in the British capital every day, or 15 times higher than the official figure given by the Home Office. "Because of the long-term complications of cocaine use, we are looking at a healthcare time bomb," clinical toxologist John Henry was quoted as saying. Cocaine use has been in the headlines in Britain after fuzzy images of supermodel Kate Moss apparently enjoying some lines in a London recording studio were published in a tabloid newspaper. She soon went into detox after losing some of her most lucrative contracts, but is already making a comeback, appearing Sunday on the front page of several newspapers -- including the Sunday Telegraph.
November 3
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This image from video made available by the website of RaiNews24, the all-news channel of Italian RAI state television, as part of a documentary aired in Italy, which allegedly shows white phosphorous being used by U.S. forces in Iraq in November 2004. The documentary alleges the United States used white phosphorous shells 'in a massive and indiscriminate way' against civilians during the November 2004 offensive in Fallujah. The report said the shells were not used to illuminate enemy fighters at night, as the U.S. government has said, but against civilians.
November 4
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This photo supplied by Guinness World Records shows Edd China talking to a shopper while driving his way into Guinness World Records book in Henley-upon-Thames, England, after engineering what the book calls the largest motorized shopping cart in the world. The 11.4 feet tall, 9.8 feet long and 5.9 feet wide cart was created to celebrate the book's self-proclaimed first ever Guinness World Records Day. Edd is also currently featured in the Guinness World Records 2006 edition book for his record for the World's Fastest Sofa.
November 5
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A woman approaches an artwork called 'Big Chook', made of fibreglass and high gloss epoxy marine paint, on Tamarama Beach in Sydney. Australian artist Jeremy Parnell says people frying themselves on the beach for a suntan inspired his piece which joins 100 artworks contributed by international and Australian artists at the annual outdoor Sculpture by the Sea exhibition which is in its ninth year.
November 6
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Norway feasts on sheep's heads, eyes and all.
VOSS, Norway - It takes guts to stare your food in the eyes and then swallow them, but once Norwegians are let loose on a smoked sheep's head, they let nothing go to waste, except the bare bones of the skull. In Voss, a tiny town in the mountains near the south-west Norwegian fjords, people have always eaten the "smalahove", which means "sheep's head" in the local dialect, and the autumn is the best season to munch this delicacy, eyes, tongues, ears and all. "The best part are the eyes. These are the most-used muscles and therefore they taste best," said Ivar Loene, who runs Norway's only "smalahove" factory, where patrons can also savour the traditional dish in the intimate setting of a wooden chalet.
To help his guests overcome any squeamishness, the stout 64-year-old host leads by example. He plunges his knife into a sheep's eye socket, takes out the eye, cuts it in half, discards the pupil and pops the remainder in his mouth. "It just melts on the tongue," he says with a smile bordering on the ecstatic. After being delivered by the local abbatoir, the heads are unfrozen and run through an infernal torchblowing machine which burns off the fur. They are then washed, cut open, emptied of the brain and gristle, before being salted and smoked.
They are served hot, with boiled potatoes and mashed kohlrabi. Cephas Ralph, a Scot visiting Norway on business, admits to his scepticism. "Oh my God! Oh no! It's got eyelashes. It's looking at me," he says after being served his sheep's head. His Norwegian colleages burst out in laughter, and Cephas Ralph says, somewhat sheepishly: "The meat is lovely but the eyeball... I think I will wait for a few years before I have another one."
A little later on in the evening he confides that "when I worked for the fire brigade, I saw torn off legs, arms, brains, but nothing compares to this". His English colleague, Nigel Gooding, keeps more of a stiff upper lip. "It's a bit a of a visual challenge. But the meat is very good," he says. But Gooding still says "no thanks" to the sheep's eye and also managed to stay out of the way of the ram's testicles, which are on the starter menu, served with a little pineapple. That the foreigners haven't fled the table altogether may well be due to the generous flow of home-brewed beer and the local firewater, "akevitt", which dull their resistance.
"A mouthful of smalahove and a sip of akevitt. The sheep's head is really a bit of an excuse to have a drink," says Geird Vikoeren, a leathery pensioner and a regular in this sheep's head haunt. Ivar Loene says demand for sheep's heads is rising every year and he reckons he will prepare some 60,000 sheep's heads either for local consumption or to be sent elsewhere in Norway this year. "As far as anyone can remember, we've always eaten sheep's heads in Voss. Since it was the main staple food of our ancestors everything had to be eaten, without leaving any waste," he said.
This was a long time ago, but even now that Norway, once poor, has become very wealthy thanks to its oil reserves old traditions die hard. "Today we eat gourmet sheep's head for pleasure," he added.  Norwegians also continue to eat the traditional "lutefisk", soaked stockfish, "rakfist", fermented trout, or whale meat, and even polar bear and seal meat. And as if this was not unusual enough, a restaurant owner in southern Norway recently added raven and seagull to the menu.
November 7
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Fridges, Coffee Pots Lose Favor in Schools
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Teachers in budget-stressed schools are accustomed to shelling out for paper, glue and pencils. But the staff here wasn't ready for this: a new fee for having coffee makers, microwaves and refrigerators in classrooms and offices. While school districts around the country are placing limits on personal appliances in an attempt to hold down energy costs, St. Paul's pay-for-plug approach appears to be unique. In announcing the policy this month, interim Superintendent Lou Kanavati described the $25 per appliance annual fee as one in a series of steps to save money. He said the district's energy costs this year could exceed $6 million — far more than the $3.6 million officials budgeted for.
For now, the district is asking for voluntary payment before deciding how to enforce the fee. People who pay it will get a sticker to affix to their appliance. Teachers, counselors and other St. Paul school employees say they're outraged. Mary Cathryn Ricker, president of the local teachers union, said complaints are rolling in. "I've been universally hearing from members who are frustrated at the least and insulted at the most," Ricker said. "They say, `We bring papers home to grade and we don't charge the district for electricity at home.'"
Elementary teacher Linda LeBoutillier has a microwave, refrigerator and electric pencil sharpener. She often spends her lunch hour working, so the appliances are a convenience issue. She's not sure what she'll do. "I may pay the fee or may re-evaluate my use of a microwave and just start bringing in cold lunches," she said. District officials say the appliances are taking a toll. In a memo to the staff, Kanavati relayed annual estimated costs of running them, ranging from $22 for a microwave to $75 for a coffee pot. "We're really not trying to make it miserable for people. But it's burning electricity," said Patrick Quinn, executive director of operations for the district. "Our quick estimate is that it's costing us $100,000 per year."
Indeed, school leaders nationwide are implementing energy-sparing nips and tucks, such as ordering bus drivers not to let buses idle and turning off vending machines overnight. In northern New York, the Malone Central School District is hoping to save money by dialing down thermostats and keeping some light fixtures off. Staff members also have agreed to consolidate personal appliances. Over holiday breaks, the 100 or so small refrigerators in the district's five buildings are cleaned out and unplugged, said David Brooks, superintendent of building and grounds. For now, he said, there are no plans for a fee. "We've talked about it but it hasn't gotten that far yet," Brooks said. "If we needed to do something further to reduce (appliances), we might."
The school board in Kenosha, Wis., went much further, adopting a policy banning microwaves, coffee pots and food making appliances in classrooms. "It didn't seem appropriate that we were lowering temperature set points but still keeping mini-refrigerators in classrooms," said Patrick Finnemore, director of facilities in the southern Wisconsin district. The change should yield $77,000 in energy savings, Finnemore said. Through the Washington-based Alliance to Save Energy, about 130 schools have received help developing more energy-efficient practices.
The alliance's Green Schools program focuses on teaching students, staff and others to change their habits, such as flipping off lights and computers when they leave the classroom. Participating schools have cut their energy use by 5 percent to 15 percent, with the savings rolled back into field trips and other perks.  Swarupa Ganguli, a senior program manager, hasn't encountered a fee-style system like St. Paul's. She doesn't plan to advocate for it, either. "We think that's punitive. It charges people to be more efficient," Ganguli said. "What we want to do is give them an incentive to be more efficient."
November 8
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Radish in intensive care after murder attempt
TOKYO - A giant white radish that won the hearts of a Japanese town by valiantly growing through the urban asphalt was in intensive care at a town hall in western Japan on Thursday after being slashed by an unknown assailant. The "daikon" radish, shaped like a giant carrot, first made the news months ago when it was noticed poking up through asphalt along a roadside in the town of Aioi, population 33,289. This week local residents, who had nicknamed the vegetable "Gutsy Radish," were shocked -- and in some cases moved to tears -- when they found it had been decapitated.
TV talk shows seized on the attempted murder of the popular vegetable and a day later, the top half of the radish was found near the site where it had been growing. A town official said on Thursday the top of the severed radish had been placed in water to try to keep it alive and possibly get it to flower. Asked why the radish -- more often found on Japanese dinner tables as a garnish, pickle or in "oden" stew -- had so many fans, town spokesman Jiro Matsuo said: "People discouraged by tough times were cheered by its tenacity and strong will to live."
November 9
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Ski season starts in Dubai desert
DUBAI - Skiing has officially started at Dubai's new indoor Alpine ski resort, offering the world's first indoor black-run just minutes away from the Arabian desert emirate's sun-baked beaches. The lower level slopes started welcoming skiers, while the upper ones were due to be opened on December 14, Ski Dubai chief executive Phil Taylor said. Snowboarders can also test their skills on a 90-meter-long (300 feet) quarter pipe, as well as jumps and rails at the ski dome nestled inside the brand-new, gigantic Mall of the Emirates. "I am now rushing to take a skiing lesson before heading back to a business meeting," said one Emirati national, who will have to swap his Arab traditional robe for warm ski gear before hitting the slopes.
Snowboarder Johnny Yammine, who usually spends his free time on motocross and mountain climbing expeditions in the Emirati desert, is "ecstatic about the good quality of snow and the varied terrain which is far better than indoor skiing I have tried in Europe." The 272-million-dollar resort is but the latest extravagant project in the Gulf emirate seeking to become a major tourism hub, following on from the world's tallest tower and only undersea hotel. Ski Dubai, a man-made mountain scene as big as three football fields that can hold up to 1,500 visitors, will have five slopes of different degrees of difficulty, the longest being 400 meters (yards) with a fall of 62 meters. The powdery snow slopes have been intentionally laid in terraces to avoid the risk of avalanches at the Ski Dubai dome due to hold 6,000 tonnes of real snow when fully operational later this month.
In the insulated dome, jets continue to pulverize real snow onto the slopes, much to the pleasure of the first visitors, many of whom are Gulf Arabs touching snow for the first time. Snow here is made the same way as in nature, with water atomized to create a cloud of tiny ice particles that allow snow crystals to form and fall on the slopes, lodges and plastic trees. The resort includes a snow park of ice caverns complete with howling wind where the young and less young can daub graffiti with their fingers on a frosted wall or play on a wall of acrylic icicles. Apres-ski pleasures are also catered for, whether it be drinking a hot chocolate or savoring a fondue by a crackling fireplace at either the Avalanche or St Moritz cafes, perched on the slopes.

November 10
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Man fined for reading porn to six-year-olds
STOCKHOLM - A Swedish drama student was fined 2,400 crowns for reading pornographic stories to a group of six-year-olds as part of a theater project on children's sexuality. A Stockholm court ruled that the stories the man had read out were deeply pornographic and completely inappropriate for the age group, newspaper Dagens Nyheter said on its Web site. It said the stories were about children having oral sex with each other. The man's lawyer told Swedish radio that he would appeal against the verdict as he had not meant the stories to be seen as pornographic and had not acted with intent.

Another dumb thing to do...

November 11
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As if the real pollution we create isn't enough, here is someone selling sound pollution devices to the public.

Rowdy teens beware: the Mosquito is coming
LONDON - A Welsh inventor claims to have found the perfect solution to rowdy youngsters -- noise. Howard Stapleton says his device, the "Mosquito," emits an uncomfortable high-pitched ultrasonic sound that can be heard by children and teenagers but almost no one over 30. It has successfully driven away noisy teens from a grocery store in the Welsh town of Barry and a shop in Stapleton's home town Merthyr Tydfil, making smoking, lounging and foul-mouthed youths a thing of the past. The ability to hear high frequencies deteriorates with age, but some adults might still be able to hear the Mosquito. No one except young troublemakers appears annoyed, however. "All I'm getting is pats on the back," Stapleton told Reuters. "No bricks thrown at me yet." He said teenagers he had talked to welcomed the device too, because they used to be intimidated by gangs hanging around the shops. The Mosquito has turned Stapleton into a media star, with appearances on British TV and radio and interest from as far afield as Australia, the United States and Canada.

November 12
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Man-sized scorpion lived in Scotland
PARIS - A scientist poring over 330-million-year-old tracks in a layer of sandstone in Scotland believes they were made by an extraordinary water scorpion that was as big as a man. The huge six-legged creature was about 1.6 metres (64 inches) long and a metre (40 inches) wide, according to the study, published in Nature, the weekly British science journal. The trackway, measuring six metres (20 feet) long, was found on the overhang of a bed of sandstone that, 330 million years ago, was probably close to the sea and had the consistency of soft plaster.
The traces comprise crescent-shaped prints left by the creature's limbs and a sinuous curve believed to have been gouged out by its tail. "The slow stilted progression, together with the dragging of the posterior, indicates that the animal was not buoyant and that it was probably moving out of the water," says Martin Whyte, a geography professor at Britain's University of Sheffield.
The find is unique, not just because of the gigantic size of the arthropod, but for the evidence it offers that this invertebrate species could survive out of water. Until now, the only advanced creatures believed to have ventured onto land from the sea at that era were early tetrapods -- vertebrates with four limbs.
November 13
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An end to hard butter misery?
LONDON - Ever get frustrated with fresh-out-of the-fridge butter that is too hard to spread? A UK-based company has launched a portable, temperature-controlled butter dish, ButterWizard, which keeps butter at what it says is the optimal spreadable temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a built-in fan and a chip which together control the temperature, adjustable for different textures, be it super-soft bread, crusty toast or delicate biscuits. "We were trying to find out what people's frustration with butter was. It's either too hard or too soft," said David Alfille, managing director of East Sussex-based company Alfille Innovations Limited.
"ButterWizard heats or cools the butter and you can adjust the temperature to suit yourself." Nutritionist Fiona Hunter said: "There are over 16 million UK households buying butter on a regular basis, but one complaint I hear time after time is the lack of spreadability of real butter." "Butter has been part of diet for thousands of years. The important thing is to spread butter thinly," she added.
November 14
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Scientists embrace plan for cyberhugs
SINGAPORE - Singapore scientists looking for ways to transmit the sense of touch over the Internet have devised a vibration jacket for chickens and are thinking about electronic children's pyjamas for cyberspace hugs. A wireless jacket for chickens or other pets can be controlled with a computer and gives the animal the feeling of being touched by its owner, researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) told Monday's edition of The Straits Times.
The next step would be to use the same concept to transmit hugs over the Internet, it said. "These days, parents go on a lot of business trips, but with children, hugging and touching are very important," the paper quoted NTU Associate Professor Adrian David Cheok as saying. NTU is thinking of a pyjama suit for children, which would use the Internet to adjust changes in pressure and temperature to simulate the feeling of being hugged. Parents wearing a similar suit could be "hugged" back by their children, the paper said.
November 15
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I think if this happened in the US they would be recalled and become collector's items
President's name misspelled on currency
MANILA (Reuters) - Filipinos could have collectors' items in their wallets after a small number of 100-peso bills slipped into circulation with an error in the president's name. The foul-up happened at a currency printer in Europe, which was making the bills in time for the Christmas spending spree in the Philippines, one central bank official said. On the front of the new 100-peso note, which is worth about $1.83, the last name of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is spelled "Arrovo," with a "v." "Those that are out already are legal tender," the central bank official said. "We're not releasing more of them. We're having it investigated." The number of bills mistakenly released was "insignificant" and some people had returned them, she added. The central bank "has apologized to the president over the incident," Deputy Governor Amando Suratos said in a statement. The peso, often hurt by political uncertainty, has been one of the best-performing currencies in Asia this year, hitting a six-month high of 54.30 to the dollar.

November 16
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Gruesome cadavers on view at New York exhibit

NEW YORK - Halloween is long gone, but New Yorkers will be able from Saturday to pay to view a roomful of human cadavers, filleted limbs and dissected organs as part of a gruesome yet realistic exhibit on the human body. 22 whole bodies and more than 260 organs will go on display in lower Manhattan's South Street Seaport, allowing visitors to see bodies damaged by obesity, black lungs ravaged by cigarette smoke, and close-ups of the central nervous, digestive and circulatory systems. To highlight function, one of the cadavers is in an athletic pose, holding a football.
They are not meant to be gross, rather the stripped-down bodies allow people to "see how their body is put together, its structure, its function, and so they can learn something about the impact of disease," said Roy Glover, a retired anatomy professor working with the exhibit.
The cadavers were poor people and are on loan from the Dalian Medical University in China. They are preserved through a technique called polymer preservation, which uses liquid silicone rubber that is treated and hardened. The process can take more than a year, and makes the bodies impervious to decomposition. The for-profit exhibit, where tickets cost $24.50 for adults, was organized by Premier Exhibitions Inc.. There is a similar show open at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa, Fla. that has drawn record crowds.

November 17
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Melting Arctic ice risks Canada-US territorial dispute
MONTREAL - Global warming is melting the Arctic ice so fast that a new sea route is opening up between the Atlantic and the Pacific -- and with it the risk of a territorial dispute between Canada and the United States. Temperatures around the North Pole are rising twice as fast as in the rest of the planet, according to UN and Canadian government experts. By 2050, they warn, ships will be able to sail around northern Canada for most of the summer.
This could reduce the sea trip from London to Tokyo to 16,000 kilometers (9,950 miles), against 21,000 kilometers (13,000 miles) via the Suez Canal or 23,000 kilometers (14,300 miles) going through the Panama Canal. The search for a Northwest Passage to Asia inspired explorers from the 15th to the 17th centuries. Many died. But now greenhouse gases are opening up the passage for them. "There are now more and more ice-free portions of Arctic maritime territory," said Frederic Lasserre, a geographer and specialist on the Arctic, at Laval University in Quebec.
If a ship has a reinforced hull, and the winds and currents are in the right direction, it is already "relatively easy" to take the route around the small islands and straights around Canada's Arctic territory, Lasserre added. Arctic temperatures are expected to rise significantly by the end of the century, according to experts, which will melt even more glaciers. "What we are seeing in the Arctic, and what we are seeing further south with the hurricanes, are the most pessimistic models of global warming," said Louis Fortier, an oceanographer who has just returned from an expedition to the region on the Canadian research vessel Amundsen. Lasserre predicted that within 30 years it would probably be possible for ships not normally equipped for the Arctic to tackle the Northwest passage. About 20-30 ships currently take it each summer now.
In a territorial dispute now linked to the global warming problem, Canada criticizes the United States, European Union and even Japan for not recognising its 1986 claim of sovereignty to waters around the Arctic archipelago. The United States insists that these are international waters. An American ice-breaker went through the archipelago in 1985 causing a diplomatic dispute with Canada, which reaffirmed its claim to the territorial waters. Canada, which is also arguing with Denmark over a small island off Greenland, based its territorial sovereignty on the ice that then linked all of the Arctic islands. But cracks are quickly forming in the claim.
If sovereignty of the Northwest passage ever came before a court, Canada could lose its ability to impose navigational rules in the region. There are huge environmental issues at stake. Canada would be unable to deny passage to any vessel that meets international standards for environmental protection, crew training and safety procedures. The United States argues that all waters between two open seas should be open to all shipping. Lasserre emphasized how the maritime and continental plateau frontier between the United States and Canada has never been formally agreed -- and this will become another looming dispute.
The commercial stakes are also high as the Beaufort Sea, which touches the Yukon in Canada and the US state of Alaska, has huge reserves of oil and natural gas. Experts have highlighted how access to these reserves will become a lot easier as global warming increases. Lasserre said that there is more than oil to be found in the Arctic. "There is also gold, diamonds, copper and zinc. There is going to be a lot of traffic caused by the mining exploration," he said.
November 18
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A model of Cyberhand is seen next to a human hand in the ArtsLab laboratory of the Polo Sant'Anna Valdera institute in the central Italian town of Pontedera, Italy. For now, it is a computer that orders 'Cyberhand' to greet you at the robotics lab where researchers are creating the first prosthetic hand capable of eliciting natural sensory signals.
November 19
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View of Popocatepetl volcano, spitting a plume of ash of five kilometers (three miles) into the sky. Popocatepetl, a volcano one hour southeast of Mexico's capital, kept up its pattern of erupting every ten years, when it spit a plume of ash into the sky.
November 20
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Harriet the tortoise turns 175
CANBERRA - One of the world's oldest living animals, Harriet the tortoise, celebrated her 175th birthday on Tuesday -- with a pink hibiscus flower cake at her retirement home in northern Australia. Australia Zoo, where Harriet has spent the past 17 years, says the Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise was collected by scientist Charles Darwin in 1835, although some historians have disputed this.
There is no doubt however over the age of Harriet -- who for more than a century was thought to be a male and named Harry -- and she is recognised by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living chelonian, or reptile with a shell of bony plates."She would definitely be the oldest living animal on Earth ... I can't see why she shouldn't live till 200," Australian conservationist and television celebrity Steve Irwin, who owns Australia Zoo north of the city of Brisbane, told Guinness World Records.
November 21
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A birthday cake for Harriet the Galapagos Land Tortoise is seen at Austalia Zoo in northern Australia. The world's oldest living chelonian, Harriet celebrated her 175th birthday with the hibiscus flower decorated layered sponge cake which included fruit, chocolate, vanilla and 15 kilogrammes of icing. Australia Zoo, where Harriet has spent the past 17 years, says the Tortoise was collected by British Scientist Charles Darwin in 1835, although some historians disputed this
November 22
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A Japanese man wearing a Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) robot suit, which is developed by University of Tsukuba, carries packs of rice weighing 30 kg (66 lbs) at the 2005 International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo. The robot suit is equipped with sensors that can detect electric nerve signals transmitted from the brain when a person tries to move his or her limbs, enabling the computer to start up relevant motors to assist the person's motion.
November 23
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A six-legged robot 'Asterisk', developed by researchers at Osaka University, moves across a netted ceiling during a demonstration at the 2005 International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo. The robot, which can be used for disaster rescue and security checks, is on display at the world's largest robotics trade show.
November 24
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Humanoid robots 'Plen', developed by a Japanese aircraft parts maker Systec Akazawa, are displayed at the 2005 International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo. The robot, which can be remotely controlled with a mobile phone equipped with bluetooth, goes on sale next March for 250,000 yen ($2,091).
November 25
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A humanoid robot 'HRP-2 Promet' of Kawada Industries performs a martial art during a demonstration at the 2005 International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo. The robot is on display at the world's largest robotics trade show that is being held until December 3.
November 26
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Unique Beethoven manuscript sold for $2 mln
LONDON - A unique manuscript by Ludwig van Beethoven that was lost for more than a century was sold at auction for 1.13 million pounds to an anonymous buyer. The final price was at the low end of the pre-sale estimates of up to 1.5 million pounds. "It is not a record, but it is an excellent price," said a spokeswoman for Sotheby's, noting that the record price for a Beethoven manuscript, of 2.13 million pounds, was set by the composer's Ninth Symphony in May 2003.
Discovered in July at the bottom of a dusty filing cabinet at a religious school in Philadelphia, the manuscript sold on Thursday is a work in progress for the Grosse Fuge in B flat major -- one of Beethoven's most revolutionary works. Not only is the 80-page document a working manuscript for the only piano version of a major work by Beethoven, it is one of his few compositions for a piano duet. Sotheby's said it was the most important Beethoven manuscript to have come to market in living memory and would prompt a complete reassessment of the German composer's works. It is the second time very rare musical documents have been found by chance at the former Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary -- now renamed the Palmer Theological Seminary. A Mozart manuscript was discovered there in 1990.
Beethoven, who continued to work as he went slowly deaf, wrote the work in 1826 -- one year before his death -- as the finale for his String Quartet in B flat major. The piece is notoriously difficult to perform and, because it was musically far ahead of its time, did not immediately sit well with audiences either.
The document contains multiple deletions and corrections and has places where the paper is rubbed through as Beethoven continuously tried and rejected different variations. Because it is so obviously a working document, it is not easy to read and has no printer's marks. Sotheby's said it was clear this was not the finished version and as such would give deep insight when compared with the published work. The manuscript was last at auction in 1890 -- first in Paris in May of that year and then again in Berlin in October, from where it is believed it was taken to the United States and lost to view until July this year.
November 27
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A man passes by sand sculptures of girls wearingbikinis at the Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A new law restricts the sale of postcards showing scantily clad women, a campaign aimed at reducing exploitation and sex tourism that has drawn mixed reactions in Brazil's tourist capital.
November 28
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Divorced Iranian slapped with 10,000-year alimony

TEHRAN - An Iranian man has been ordered by a divorce court to pay his ex-wife one gold coin a month in alimony for the next 10,000 years. Under Iran's marriage law couples sign a pre-marital agreement where the bride must stipulate the level of compensation they can demand during the marriage or in the event of separation and divorce. In this case the Tehran woman -- who was not named -- had asked for 15 million dollars worth of gold coins, the governmental Iran newspaper said. The court ruled that the husband should pay her the coins in single monthly installments, meaning his debt will stay with him for 10,333 years.

November 29
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Emily, a stowaway cat, looks through the plane window before heading to Wisconsin, at Roissy airport, north of Paris. Emily disappeared two months ago and wound up traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to France as a stowaway in a cargo container.
November 30
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China River Town Shuts Down Water Supply
YILAN, China - Another town on a poisoned Chinese river shut down its water system Wednesday as a toxic slick caused by a chemical plant explosion arrived, and the country's health minister warned that the spill was still a major problem. Running water to about 26,000 people in Dalianhe, on the Songhua River in China's northeast, was cut off at 6 p.m., said an employee of the government office of Yilan County, where Dalianhe is located. "It will last three days," said the employee, who would give only his surname, Gu. The slick arrived a day after Harbin, a major city upstream, declared its tap water safe to drink again. Its 3.8 million people had endured five days without running water as the slick of benzene and other toxic chemicals passed.
Schools in Harbin reopened Wednesday and businesses that closed due to lack of water, such as bathhouses, reported a surge in customers. But Health Minister Gao Qiang warned against complacency, saying the spill was still a "major problem." "This matter has alerted us to the need for perfect contingency plans and the effective implementation of those plans when faced with an emergency," Gao said at a news conference in Beijing. The toxins were spewed into the river by a Nov. 13 blast at a chemical plant in Jilin, a city further upriver from Harbin. The 50-mile-long slick is expected to reach the major Russian city of Khabarovsk within two weeks. The Songhua flows into the Heilong River, which becomes the Amur in Russia.
"Both the county government and residents have stored enough water for at least five days," Ma said. "The county government has dug five wells to provide water for the residents and will be sending tanker trucks to distribute water." A local TV station repeatedly broadcast phone numbers for families to call in emergencies and a promise to "safeguard market and social stability" — a warning to merchants not to raise prices for bottled water. The spill was an embarrassment for President Hu Jintao, who has demanded greater government accountability in the face of corruption and recurrent public health scares such as bird flu.
While Russian environmental officials have told the population not to panic, the World Wide Fund for Nature said the river faced "ecological catastrophe." Experts say the damage is likely to be long-lasting, but the full effects will not be known at least until next year with the thaw of river ice believed to contain benzene. "The benzene will remain in the ice until spring, and the (situation) will be dragged out," said Ilya Mitasov, a Moscow-based spokesman for the World Wide Fund for Nature. The river could take 10 years or more to flush out pollutants absorbed by mud and microorganisms, according to a Chinese expert, Zhang Qingxiang, of the Environmental Studies Department at Shanghai's East China University of Science and Technology. Farmers living downriver from Harbin said they had yet to feel any effects from the benzene, a solvent and gasoline additive that is usually colorless and slightly sweet-smelling. Benzene is used in the manufacture of plastics, detergents and pesticides.