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Girl Gets Stuck In Drain After Dropping Phone

Posted by Rattana_S On April - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Firefighters in Dover pull Ella Birchenough from a storm drain after she gets trapped up to her waist.

Firefighters have rescued a 16-year-old girl who became stuck in a storm drain while trying to retrieve her mobile phone.

Ella Birchenough tried to pull herself out of the hole in Dover, Kent, but panicked when she became wedged.

Tim Richards saw Ms Birchenough stuck up to her waist while he was driving home from work and pulled over to help.

“It’s not the type of thing you see every day. It was pretty weird,” he said.

“She was more concerned about getting her phone back rather than getting herself out of the drain.

“My mum knows her mum and she went to call on her. She was a bit panicky thinking Ella was going to sink, but when she came down to see she saw the funny side.”

Recounting her ordeal, Ms Birchenough said: “I was talking to somebody and I went to put my phone in my pocket and it fell down the drain.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m not leaving this’ and I jumped down to get it. I wasn’t really even stuck, I just needed somebody to help lift me out but my mum got all panicky.

“When they pulled me out I ran straight home and jumped in the bath. I think it was just water but I wasn’t taking any chances.”

A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “A teenage girl was released by firefighters from a storm drain where she had become stuck in Eaves Road, Dover.

“Crews then made the scene safe. The girl was uninjured.”

‘Darth Vader’ Joins Battle To Rule Ukraine

Posted by Rattana_S On April - 7 - 2014 1 COMMENT

A man dressed as the Star Wars character is attempting to run for Ukraine’s top job on behalf of a pro-internet political party.

The Star Wars character, who has sent chills through generations of children, has been chosen as the candidate to represent the Ukrainian Internet Party (UIP).

The party aims to create the world’s first “government by internet”, with paper-based bureaucracy being abolished.

Its figurehead Darth Vader was often seen at the protests in Kiev against the country’s previous president Victor Yanukovych.

Before that he was photographed with colleagues dressed as Star Wars Stormtroopers to help publicise what the party stood for.

In a statement released by his party, Vader said he wanted to restore the glory of Ukraine’s past.

He said: “I alone can make an empire out of a republic, to restore former glory, to return lost territories and pride for this country.”

UIP leader Dmitry Golubov said: “After winning intra-party primaries by a landslide, comrade Vader will be our party’s candidate.”

Mr Golubov is understood to have founded the party in 2006 or early 2007 before it was officially registered in 2010.

It has a number of high-profile supporters including a top lawyer and a world champion Thai boxer.

The party has carried out a series of publicity stunts, including declaring Darth Vader mayor of Odessa on the steps of the city hall and demanding land to park Vader’s spaceship in a city park.

But its leader is mired in controversy with Mr Golubov having spent time in prison for credit card fraud which involved using the internet.

The party says it had paid the required 2.5 million hryvnia (£135,000) registration fee to allow its candidate to take part in the presidential race.

Ukraine is holding a snap presidential election on May 25 after parliament ousted pro-Moscow leader Mr Yanukovych.

The move led the mostly pro-Russian Crimea region to hold a referendum, which backed a split from Ukraine. Soon after, Crimea was annexed by Russia.

According to the UIP, Darth Vader won 3% of votes in 2012 parliamentary elections.

The woman who lost a dog and gained 200 sloths

Posted by Rattana_S On April - 4 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Monique Pool first fell in love with sloths when she took in an orphan from a rescue centre. Since then many sloths have spent time in her home on their way back to the forest – but even she found it hard to cope when she had to rescue 200 at once.

It all began in 2005 when Pool lost her dog, a mongrel called Sciolo, and called the Suriname Animal Protection Society to see if they’d found it. They hadn’t, but they told her about Loesje (or Lucia), a baby three-toed sloth they didn’t know how to look after. Pool offered to take it – and was instantly smitten. “They’re very special animals to look at,” she says. “They always have a smile on their face and seem so tranquil and peaceful.”

Sloths are gentle creatures, but are far from easy to keep. Their diet presents enormous problems, and the local zoo had shied away from the task.

Pool sought advice from Judy Arroyo at the famous sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica, who told her she must feed Loesje goat’s milk – cow’s milk would be fatal. But goat’s milk is rarely available in Suriname and had to be sent over from the US. The leaves that sloths eat are also hard to source – and must be fresh.

Loesje had a surprise in store – she turned out to be a “he”. Male three-toed sloths display a characteristic spot on their backs when they’re a year old. “But we carried on calling him Loesje because he was used to the name,” says Pool. He was her very first charge but died after two years. “I didn’t know what was wrong with him,” she says. She wished she could just ask him. The experience taught her how little expertise there was in the rehabilitation and care of three-toed sloths, but she built up a network of contacts and hasn’t had a youngster die on her since.

Soon Pool became the go-to woman for sloths in Suriname. If the police, the zoo or the Animal Protection Society hear about a sloth, they call her. On average, one or two sloths a week pass through her home before being released a few days later, unless they are hurt and need time to recover.

However in October 2012 Pool was faced with a crisis – “Sloth Armageddon”, as she puts it. A piece of forest near the capital, Paramaribo, was being cleared and she was asked to remove 14 sloths.

“I’d never seen more than six together, so we knew we’d have a lot to cope with,” says Pool. As a machine operator carefully pushed over the 15m (50ft) trees, the sloths in the canopy would fall to the ground, where they were picked up by Pool and her volunteers. Sloths move very slowly on the ground – even when they’d like to get away fast.

A friend built enclosures in Pool’s back garden for the adults. “There were so many of them it was hard to open the cage and keep them all in,” she says. “As soon as they saw the doors open they’d try and get out.” At night, males would sometimes fight and have to be separated. “Normally sloths are solitary animals,” Pool says. “So to be so packed together was not a normal situation for them.” And they keep to different timetables – two-toed sloths are awake at night and three-toed sloths by day – so they had to be housed separately.

Four days into the rescue they realised they were dealing with more than 14 sloths – a lot more. “After a month we were close to 100, and at the end we got to 200,” says Pool. “On some days I had 50 animals at my house. We had 17 babies at one point, being fed with droppers by volunteers.” Pool had managed to source a steady supply of powdered goat’s milk by then.

Sloths were hanging everywhere – from the trees in her back garden, from the bars on the living room window, and anything else they could hold on to. “Two female adults sat on the TV stand and the babies would climb on the matriarchs.” One very young sloth, known as Lola, would pop up in the strangest places, like the stove top – though not when the gas was alight, luckily. “She was an amazing little thing,” Pool says. “She didn’t like to sit with the others, she preferred to hang behind the fridge where it’s nice and warm.”

This was when Pool invented the term “slothified” as a description for her home and life – she plans to write a book about the experience. This is how she defines it:

Slothified (adj.)

1. Overwhelmed by sloths

2. Overwhelmed by sloth – so tired after catching sloths all day that you don’t want to get out of bed

3. Overwhelmed by the cuteness of sloths (baby sloths in particular)

4. Overwhelmed by sloth lovers

The one thing Pool could not do was slow down. She was at full stretch for two months, spending whole days at the forest clearance site, and organising teams to feed and care for all the sloths at home.

Luckily for the neighbours, sloths tend to be quiet – most of the time. “We had one, Bolletje (Little Ball), who was on heat and made a lot of noise to attract males,” Pool says. “We’d rush into the room because we thought they were fighting. She must have cottoned on to this because later, when she was no longer on heat, she would call just to get our attention. She was very intelligent.”

The hardest thing was feeding them all. Although three-toed sloths are known to eat up to 50 types of leaves, they have very different preferences depending on the area they come from – young sloths learn which leaves to eat by licking leaf fragments from their mother’s lips. But luckily for Pool there is one tree all sloths eat, the cecropia. She was saved by a friend who worked in a forest resort in the interior. Every day, she sent Pool a load of fresh leaves via a bus that went back and forth with tourists. Two-toed sloths are easier to please – they will eat dagublad leaves (a relative of the sweet potato) which are sold by most greengrocers in Suriname. And they like apples.

The sloth’s diet explains its peculiar behaviour. Most leaves are hard to digest, so some leaf-eating animals (folivores) cope by eating huge quantities, others by regurgitating their food and repeating the digestion process. Sloths simply allow lots of time – the BBC’s David Attenborough calls them “mobile compost heaps“. As a result, they have a very slow metabolism. They save energy by hanging from their formidable claws, rather than using muscles unnecessarily. In fact, they move so slowly that they’re an attractive place to live – three-toed sloths host a number of other organisms in their fur, including algae and the “sloth moth”.

But sloths actually sleep less than was once thought – they are not lazy, despite their name. Scientists still have plenty to learn about them, as their life high in the tree canopy, combined with their slow and silent movements and effective camouflage, make them extremely hard to observe. So Pool’s access to sloths presents a great opportunity – she collects blood samples and other data for Nadia De Moraes-Barros, a researcher with the Anteater, Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Group.

“I realised there is a lot of bad information out there,” says Pool. “For example that they are slow and dim-witted, when actually they are very smart and deliberate.” She finds them far from stupid – a group of sloths learned how to open the bathroom door, and one, probably a former pet, even used the toilet. “The first time we thought it was a mistake,” says Pool. “But after the fourth time we realised they had taught her how to go to the toilet.”

Sloths only defecate about once a week – which makes them “wonderful houseguests,” says Pool. Recent studies have shone a light on their curious toilet habits. Rather than allowing their poo to fall from the tree, as the two-toed sloth does, three-toed sloths make a weekly pilgrimage down to the forest floor to poo on the ground, where they are vulnerable to attack by predators – half of all sloth deaths occur on the ground. So why do they do it? It is known that this behaviour benefits the sloths’ resident moths, who lay eggs in sloth dung. Scientists from the University of Madison now have a theory that the moths may in turn encourage the growth of luxuriant green algae on the sloth’s fur. This doesn’t just create excellent camouflage, the scientists think it may also be an additional food source. In other words, sloths might be farming algae in their fur, with moths providing the fertiliser.

Many people are scared of sloths because of their claws, which look quite fearsome, but Pool has never been attacked by one, despite the traumatic circumstances in which they tend to meet. One rescued sloth, who she called Smokey, was wounded but “very kind”, she says. “You wouldn’t believe she was wild, she’d touch you very carefully with her toes when she wanted something. All the babies loved her too.” Pool also thinks they have a degree of feeling in their claws. “Once when I was taking a three-toed sloth to the vet – she was miscarrying – she held my hand with her claw, as if she knew she wouldn’t survive.” She didn’t.

Last year, Pool took in a badly-injured two-toed sloth she named Stephane – one head wound contained 130 maggots. Stephane’s arrival coincided with an international sloth conference in Suriname, and Pool jokes that he must have planned it so that the best specialists in South America were on hand to treat him. Two months later, when the wound had healed, she took him back to the area where he was found. He disappeared up a tree so fast that she was unable to capture it on film. Those are the best moments for her. “It’s such a pleasure when you go with them to the forest,” says Pool. “If you hold a sloth, it starts reaching out for the trees, like it’s swimming with its arms – for them it can’t be fast enough.” The sloths are generally released an hour’s drive from the capital – one site, along a river, is completely uninhabited and probably will be for many years.

All the sloths rescued during “Slothageddon” were released back into the wild, apart from three babies – now teenagers – who aren’t quite ready to fend for themselves. Pool calls them “lounge sloths” because they roam freely around the house. It’s a tribute to her expertise that they have survived for so long – three-toed sloths usually die after months in captivity, and it’s a race against the clock to get them back to their natural environment. If new arrivals refuse to eat, Pool also lets them go – often their depression lifts when they see trees.

From June this year, most of the rescue work will be done at a new centre 67 km (42 miles) outside Paramaribo, where land has been made available by a tourism company. Meanwhile, another crisis looms. Pool has found out about a new patch of forest which is going to be cleared. The owner thinks there are 15 sloths, so Pool has calculated there could be as many as 300.

It’s likely to be Slothageddon II. “I don’t sleep much, it is difficult,” says Pool, who fits in rescuing alongside a full-time job as a translator. It doesn’t leave much room for anything else, she says. “I’m single, I haven’t found the right person who is as crazy as I am.”

(CNN) — A month ago, Elana Meyers was hurtling down the Sochi bobsleigh track at 150 kph on her way to winning an Olympic silver medal.

Now the 29-year-old has swapped the ice for a rugby ball as she sets out on her quest to be a Summer Olympian with the United States sevens team at the Rio Games in 2016.

It’s an ambitious bid — Meyers had never played the game until two weeks ago.

“I’m offside all the time,” she says frankly. “I’m running ahead of the ball all the time.

“The other problem is that with the bobsleigh, I was used to just running in a straight line. That seems to be my default setting, and it doesn’t work like that in rugby sevens. It’s a sharp learning curve.”

Meyers could have been forgiven for taking more time off after the Olympics. With a bronze from Vancouver four years ago, she had gone to Sochi seeking gold with new partner Lauryn Williams — a track star who tasted success at London 2012 in the 4 x 100 meters relay and won 400m silver in 2004.

In the end, they came agonizingly close to victory, edged out by just one-tenth of a second after four runs on the Olympic course by Canadian duo Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse.

It left Meyers with her demons. In the following days, she wrote on her blog: “Every night, I’m haunted by that last run. I haven’t slept much since it happened. I replay the skids so vividly in my head that any thoughts of the other corners are reduced to a mere hazy memory.

“So how does it feel to feel like you choked in front of the whole world? How does it feel to have your lifelong dream slip away literally from your fingertips? It sucks. Was I too exhausted? Did I just finally hit my mental limits? I don’t know.”

The inquest into every painstaking moment of that final run — the American duo’s slowest by half a second — has dissipated in recent weeks, but Meyers concedes “you still can’t help going through what happened, what you might have done differently.”

She has allowed herself to increasingly dwell on the silver lining of Sochi more often than asking “what if?”

Thankfully, there has been barely been a chance to stop and think — there were welcome-home celebrations in Georgia before she set out on her sevens mission, and Meyers also has a wedding to plan.

Prior to traveling to Russia, U.S. Eagles coach Ric Suggitt invited Meyers to the US Olympic Training Center (OTC) in California to test herself at rugby.

“A couple of girls on the bobsleigh team had previously played rugby and made the switch,” she says. “So I thought why can’t I do it the other way around?

“The coach asked me if I was interested in coming to practice and then come out after the Olympics for a trial. I’d never tried it out before so I thought, ‘Why not?’

“Even though I haven’t played the game before, I think they looked at me and thought I was the right build. I’m a big girl — I’m 175 lbs and 5 foot 8 inches — so I knew I wasn’t worried about doing the hitting or getting hit.

“I think I was just worried about not knowing the rules. It’s been a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, but it’s been a blast.”

The switch of sports is nothing new for her. Her first sporting foray of note had been in softball and there were hopes of being selected for the U.S. team for the 2008 Olympics. She missed out, and the sport was duly scrapped from the Olympic schedule.

By then, her focus had already switched to the bobsleigh, an event she first tried out in 2007.

It has brought her two Olympic medals and two world titles, as well as a fiance — fellow American bobsledder Nic Taylor.

The pair had been dating for two years when Taylor took the decision to pop the question at the 2013 world championships in St. Moritz, with Meyers standing on the podium.

Taylor had roses in his hand when he was handed the microphone by organizers, and he dropped to one knee. At the time, Meyers admitted: “It was such a shock. It was amazing.”

As if mastering a new sport wasn’t enough, Meyers is now planning a wedding for April 24.

“It’s been crazy but it’s mostly planned. Obviously the focus was on Sochi so we were a little bit late out with the invitations but we’re steadily getting the RSVPs in,” she says.

“I’m getting married at my parents’ house. It’s already been a great 2014 whatever happens with the rugby, and I’m pretty excited about the big day.”

The pressure is on Meyers to play a remarkable game of catchup with her fellow American rugby players as she attempts to marry her strengths to the requirements of the code — a shortened version of the 15-a-side union format.

But as an athlete nicknamed “E-Money” — from her ability to deliver when it counts in the pressure situations — she is confident she will get to grips with it.

“If it goes well, it would be awesome to be part of the team in Rio,” she says. “Rio was the thing that got me interested and that’s the very obvious goal.

“But that’s some way off. My legs were burning so much from that first week. It’s not that I’m not fit but this is such a different level of fitness, there’s so much cardio.

“But I’m optimistic that I’ll get better … a lot better. To get to Rio would just be super crazy.”

In her sporting switch, she has had a useful ally in Williams.

“Lauryn talked about how special the Summer Games was, how huge it was,” says Meyers. “She talked a lot about the pressure of being on the start line for the 100m final.

“I’ve basically been asking her for as much information as possible. She’s given me some good advice.”

Meyers has oval-ball history — her father used to play in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons, though his career was coming to an end when she was young.

“If I’m honest, the thing I remember the most was the team mascot, Freddie the Falcon,” she says laughing.

“I really remember there was a McDonald’s nearby and I remember eating a cheeseburger in the playground when the Falcon appeared. I’m not sure my Dad appreciates that being my favorite memory of him playing.”

Despite her new sporting flirtation, Meyers is not divorcing herself from the ice track just yet.

“As we get closer to Rio, I realize I may need to change my approach and focus more solely, on sevens, but I don’t want to give up the bobsleigh at the moment. I love it too much.”

Read: Gladiators ready? NFL vs. rugby sevens

Read: Rugby sevens in Las Vegas – like Mardis Gras and the Olympics

Read: Humphries pips Meyers to Sochi gold