First up, apologies if this post contains more typos than usual, I'm sending it from my new ultra-small netbook and I'm still getting used to its itty-bitty keyboard. Which brings me nicely to my first story. That according to a survey for satellite channel SKY-HD, British consumers waste £52 billion a year on hi-tech features they don't use. For example, half of the people polled did not know their high definition television also required a hi-def signal source such as a blu-ray player or HD satellite receiver – like the ones sold by SKY-HD perhaps (Telegraph).
And it's not just the the British, military officials in Russia recently discovered 100 front-line battletanks parked and forgotten by the side of the road near Yekaterinburg in the Urals. Locals say the tanks, which were unguarded and unlocked, have been there for several months and lack only ammunition and the all important starter keys (Reuters).
Someone who might have had a use for those tanks were guests at a wedding in New Delhi in India recently. The Hindu ceremony was somewhat marred when an elephant hired for the event went on a rampage after becoming aroused by the smell of a nearby female in heat. The amorous pachyderm then proceeded to crush 20 limousines, smash through a nearby mall and mount a truck before it could be tranquilised (Orange).
Also losing it this week was the man on the RyanAir flight who found he had won 10,000 euros on a scratchcard he bought on the budget flight from Poland to the UK. Furious that the airline had not seen fit to equip all their planes with the requisite amount of cash onboard, hence he could not be given his prize there and then as he demanded, the unnamed passenger ate the winning card rather than wait to claim it at his destination (BBC News).
Next month will see the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne in Australia, where several thousand of the faithful faithless will gather to hear the like of Dawkins, PZ Myers and AC Grayling hold forth on enlightenment, reason, truth and science. Oh and they may mention God and religion once or twice. But isn’t it a little weird for a bunch of atheists to start acting like a religion? Maybe a bit, according to the head of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, David Nicholls. “[Atheists] do not believe in shoving views down thoats. They mistrust group-think and are suspicious of institutions. […] Atheists are, by definition, not joiners.” Individualists or not, over 2500 will congregate this March to swap thoughts and ideas, as a group (Sydney Morning Herald).
And if you can have an atheist congregation, how long will it be before there’s an atheist preacher? Well this is exactly the situation the Dutch Protestant Church found themselves in recently after one of their number, Klass Hendrikse, published a book called Believing in a God who does not exist. Surprisingly, they have decided to do nothing, concluding that Hendrikse’s beliefs, which include that God is not a real being but just a word for people’s shared feelings, are not so different from many other liberal theologies (RNW).
Slightly less tolerance was shown to Mark Edward Tynan of the Christian faith group “Servants of Jesus” this week when the Australian health watchdog banned him from practising any form of mental health medicine. The Psychologists Tribunal sadly took a dim view of Tynan’s opinion that dissociative identity disorder was caused by demons, and that one child’s mental health problems were due to her parents having dedicated her life to Satan. His innovative treatment plans of prayer and exorcisms were also roundly disapproved of (Telegraph(AU)).
Someone else to lose their job over a wacky belief this week is Baroness Jenny Tonge, shadow health spokesperson for the UK’s Liberal Democrat Party. Her problems started when an American blogger called Stephen Lendman resurrected the old “organ harvesting” myth in an article that accused Israeli medical teams sent to Haiti of doing just that. The allegations appeared in the Palestine Telegraph ,of which Tonge is patron, but it was for her suggestion to the Jewish Chronicle that an inquiry should be held to “dispel any rumours” that she got into trouble. Unfortunately for her, Liberal Party leader Nick Clegg did not feel the Israeli doctors should have to prove themselves innocent of any and all nonsense flung their way, and promptly removed her from her post (Spiked).
Given that Najibullah Zazi seems to have been planning terrorist assaults on the NYC subway system, is it possible he got his inspiration from a surname-related French New Wave film Zazie dans le métro?
Problem: Desertification (when viable land is encroached upon by desert) threatens the lives of millions of people in Africa. Solution: Build a wall to keep the desert from spreading. According to architect Magnus Larson, it is not as difficult as you might imagine. Take sand dunes at the edge of the desert, combine them with a mixture of water and bacteria, let dry and you've got an instant sandstone wall! Read all about it at BBC news.
An accident on Germany's A2 autobahn involving 259 cars has left 66 people injured, 10 of them seriously, but incredibly resulted in no deaths.
The pile-up occurred in the late evening, when a combination of heavy rain and a setting sun hampered the drivers' vision and made the road conditions slippery. The first accident happened near Hamelerwald, and began a cascade of other accidents that over the next two hours grew to span a 30 kilometre stretch of road. It finally took 340 emergency workers well into the next morning to finish dealing with the people and vehicles involved and the clean-up cost is expected to exceed 1.75 million Euros, i.e. $2.5 million (NY Daily News).
Like 218,000 others across a swath of northern Brazil three times the size of Alaska, the neighbors have fled the worst rainfall and flooding in decades, braving newly formed rivers teeming with anacondas, alligators and legless reptiles known as "worm lizards" whose bite is excruciating.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.