Countdown to the apocalypse
Indigenous Maya communities in southern Mexico have begun a year-long countdown to 21 December 2012, which will mark the end of a five-millenia cycle in the ancient Mayan calendar.
Some people have interpreted the prophecy as predicting the apocalypse.
But experts say it signifies the end of an era, not the end of the world. Maya priests have been holding special religious ceremonies, and Mexican tourism officials are preparing for a surge in visitors to the region.
Mexico’s tourism agency says it hopes to draw around 52 million visitors in 2012, with many heading to the Maya heartland in the southern states of Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Tabasco.
The Mayan civilisation, which reached its peak between 250 and 900AD, was fascinated by astronomy, mathematics and the cycles of time.
Its Long Count calendar began in 3114BC and moves forward in 394-year periods known as Baktuns.
The winter solstice in 2012 marks the end of the 13th Baktun, a date of special significance that reflects celestial alignments recognised by modern astronomers.
The idea that it could mean the end of the world — based on a Mayan text carved into a stone 1,300 years ago — has been spread on thousands of websites.
But archaeologists and Maya experts say the prophecy predicts the return to Earth of a powerful god and the start of a new era, not a global catastrophe.
They point out that other Maya prophecies refer to events far in the future.
This has not stopped the spread of millennial fears around the world.
Tourism officials are hoping that some of those who believe the end of the world is nigh will take the opportunity to visit the Maya region before it is too late.
Buried alive, rescued by ring
A Polish man who shot his partner with a Taser stun gun and then buried her alive in a Yorkshire wood was found guilty of attempted murder.
Marcin Kasprzak, 25, attacked Michelina Lewandowska, 27, the mother of his child, at their home in Huddersfield and then bound and gagged her with tape.
Lewandowska, also Polish, was placed in a cardboard box and buried in nearby woodland.
She managed to cut her way out of the box using her engagement ring, and dug herself out of the shallow grave, which was covered with earth and a tree branch, before flagging down a passing motorist.
Kasprzak denied attempted murder but was found guilty by a jury at Leeds Crown Court, northern England.
Fellow Pole Patryk Borys, 18, was cleared of the same charge. Both men have admitted kidnap and Kasprzak also admitted possessing a prohibited weapon.
The jury were told that Kasprzak attacked Lewandowska because their relationship had broken down and he wanted custody of their three-year-old son. Kasprzak told the court he only meant to scare Lewandowska and did not intend to kill her.
In a statement after the verdict, Lewandowska said she now hated her former lover.
“During my time inside my shallow grave where I was buried alive, I feared that my life was at an end and I was going to die,” she said.
“The thought of my son gave me the strength to fight my way out of the box and save myself.”
“For many years I loved Marcin Kasprzak very much. But after his horrific attack upon me my feelings towards him have turned to hatred.”
“I still have nightmares that Marcin will come back to find me and kill me. My only hope is that he can accept that what he did to me was very wrong.”
“I am pleased that he is now behind bars where he belongs.” SOURCE: news.yahoo.com
Tower fit for a king… or goats?
A devoted pet owner has built a 3 metre (10feet) tower to accommodate his South African goats as he thought they were pining for their natural hilly habitat.
Most animals are happy with a squeaky toy or some outdoor space but this takes pampering your pet to new heights.
Charles Back created the tower in his garden — and claimed it improved the goats’ quality of life.
The 55-year-old said: “People with goats aren’t usually that worried about providing their animals access to height but I think it’s necessary. The goats love the tower.”
Mr Back, who runs a vineyard and cheesery near Paarl, in the Western Cape, bought the goats to create a new range of cheese in 1981. He built the ‘mountain’ after his parents saw a similar thing while on holiday in Portugal. In the years since, the tower has inspired a tipple called ‘Goats do Roam’ and pictures of it have appeared on websites around the world. “People must find it funny,” Mr Back said. “I know it is pretty unorthodox.”
The brick tower has separate ‘rooms’ for the animals, accessed by a spiral wooden staircase. Mr Back’s creation has also sparked something of a craze, with towers now in Illinois, Memphis and Norway.
Flush your money away
A Japanese toilet manufacturer has created the world’s most valuable loo to please the “god of lavatories”.
Toilet maker INAX teamed up with an Austrian jeweller to create the toilet — studded with more than 72,000 Swarovski crystals.
It is on display in a showroom in Tokyo’s posh Ginza shopping district until the end of December, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Kazuo Sumimiya, director of the showroom for the Lixil interior fixture company, said “In Japan, we believe a deity exists in the lavatory. That’s why keeping lavatories clean and taking good care of it has been a Japanese custom since long ago,” he said.
“If we were to sell it, it would probably be worth around 10 million yen (Rs11,564,892).”
Visitors admired the dazzling fixture, with one woman saying she’d like to invite her friends to hold a party around it.
But Chikako Kawanami, 22, said: “It’d be hard. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable enough to use it even if I had this at home.”
Smaller is better?
Tiny Jyoti Amge has two reasons to celebrate her 18th birthday — the obvious one, and that she’s now due to be declared the world’s shortest woman by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Amge measured in at 62.8 centimetres (24.7 inches) tall — seven centimetres (2.76 inches) shorter than the 22-year-old American Bridgette Jordan, who had held the title since September.
It’s not Amge’s first Guinness record. Until now, she was considered the world’s shortest teenager, but in turning 18, she qualified for the new title.
A teary-eyed Amge, dressed in one of her finest saris, called the honour an ‘extra birthday present’ and said she felt grateful for being small, as it had brought her recognition.
After receiving a plaque, she and her guests cut a birthday cake.
Amge said: “I have put Nagpur on the world map. Now everyone will know where it is.”
She dreams of one day becoming a Bollywood film star as well as pursuing a university degree after she finishes high school this year.
“I want to be an actor,” she said.
Guinness says in a statement Amge has grown less than one centimetre (0.4 inch) in the last two years and will grow no more due to a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia.
The tale of the calming paw
Stewie the black cat was filmed by his owner Aaron Grant as he appeared to stroke baby Connar’s head with his paw to stop him crying. The clip shows the cat, noticeably nonchalant about his abilities, place his paw on top the crying baby and give it a number of calming strokes. Stewie then rests his paw on the child’s head for a while to maintain a soothing presence.
The video, shot in Grant’s home in Canada, has attracted nearly 350,000 views. YouTube user taliebev said: “This is brilliant. Animals can do just as good a job as humans!”
A 76-year-old British woman recently had a pen removed from her stomach, and doctors were shocked to discover that after 25 years of gestation, the pen still works.
The British Medical Journal Case Reports chronicled the medical case of the woman, who has not been identified, was sent to a GI specialist after various symptoms, including weight loss. When doctors scanned the woman’s intestinal tract, they discovered, “A linear foreign body in the stomach.” After the discovery, the woman said she remembered accidentally swallowing a black felt-tip pen, more than a quarter century ago.
While the pen was corroded after two decades of exposure to stomach acid, it still contained usable ink and could be used for writing.
Even though the pen was apparently not related to the woman’s current health issues, doctors went ahead and removed it anyway.
Living in a fairytale
Couple David and Janean Richards have an incredible 331,038 fairy lights covering their property — smashing the previous world record.
The couple, from Forest Act, Australia, have 331,038 lights covering their property. David Richards, a barrister and father of three, has been working for the past four years to bring together all the decorations.
The illuminations have helped to raise money for the charity SIDS and Kids — an organisation Mr Richards said helped his family during tough times in 2002. Although their entry into the Guinness World Records and the money raised for charity have obviously gone down well with the Richards, the household don’t plan to do the same thing next year.
The couple will be passing the lights on, as a way of encouraging the new owners to raise money for charity.
Brave Santa delivers treats for tigers
A brave Santa Claus has been delivered early Christmas presents to tigers at Australia Zoo.
Sumatran tiger Bashii and his friend Sunita were given edible treats and toys during the visit to the zoo’s Tiger Temple attraction.
Santa was careful to avoid the claws when he got up close and personal to drop off wrapped gifts and feed Bashii with a milk bottle at the Queensland zoo.
Australia Zoo’s head of tigers and international conservation manager Giles Clark said the seasonal gifts didn’t last long.
“From the moment Santa entered the Tiger Temple, Bashii was ready to pounce on the big bag of gifts that included milk treats and blow up Christmas trees and balls for the pool,” he said.
“Like any four year old, Bashii was pretty excited to see Santa and the trees and balls didn’t last very long.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2011.
More in Life & StyleWhere have the artists gone?