Friday, January 30, 2009

Untouched East Germany flat found

Untouched East Germany flat found

The East German flag
The Soviet bloc state of East Germany existed for about 40 years

A flat apparently untouched since before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 has been discovered in the German city of Leipzig, German media report.

An architect who renovates buildings in eastern Germany unlocked the door last week and was shocked to find himself in a veritable East German time warp.

It appears the inhabitant of the humble flat fled in a hurry and shrivelled bread rolls still lay in a string bag.

Grocery brands from the Socialist state filled the kitchen.

"When we opened the door we felt like Howard Carter when he found the grave of Tutankhamun," Mark Aretz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

"Everything was a mess but it was like a historic treasure trove, a portal into an age long gone."

A wall calendar showed August 1988 and an empty bottle of Vita Cola, Marella margarine, Juwel cigarettes and a bottle of Kristall vodka were in the kitchen.

Plastic crockery and aluminium cutlery completed the picture of a bygone state.

The only foreign product to be found was a West German bottle of deodorant.

A zinc bath stood upright against a wardrobe. There was no toilet in the flat - the occupant had to use a communal one on the landing.

According to Mr Aretz, documents and letters in the flat suggest the occupant was a man aged 24 who was in trouble with the East German authorities, and who left in a hurry some time before the Wall came down in November 1989.

Thursday, January 29, 2009



(2009-01-25) 符祝慧 东京特派员


   根据报道,在保存汉字文化上,日本汉字检定协会尽心尽力。每年年底,它都会在京都著名的清水寺内,举行汉字投票会,公布那年最热门的汉字,借以反映这一 年来的时局。去年,被挑中的是美国总统奥巴马口中的“变”字,贴切反映了突变的经济,受到外界重视。不过,“变”字在日文的另一意思是“怪”。日前,当日 本教育部清查各公益团体资产时,就为了汉字检定协会保有的73亿日元资金,摇头喊道:“怪”!

  当局报告,日本报考汉字测试的人数在 2000年为158万,到了2007年增加到272万。协会所收的考试费分不同级别,小学生程度是1500日元,大学以及一般社会人士以上的高级程度收 5000日元。协会则为每个考生支付2000日元费用,除去成本积累了大笔盈余,显示考试这门生意原来是该协会的大金库。



   对于这些命令,日本汉字检定协会关系人表示将尽力配合。不过,他也为难地指出:“其实在2004年时,也被教育部当局警告过一次,最后是将考试费从 6000日元降到5000日元,以为这就能解决问题。不过,后来才发现汉字测试越来越有市场,因为人们实在越来越重视汉字。”


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Teen killed mother in Halo 3 row

Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Teen killed mother in Halo 3 row

Daniel Petric
Petric's lawyers argued he was not guilty of murder on insanity grounds

A US teenager killed his mother and wounded his father in revenge after they took away his violent computer game, a judge has ruled.

The defence team for Daniel Petric, 17, had argued his addiction to the Halo 3 game, in which players shoot invading aliens, had made him insane.

But the judge rejected this, saying he had planned revenge for weeks.

Petric, of Ohio, was tried as an adult and faces a maximum possible penalty of life in prison without parole.

On the night of the shooting in October 2007, Petric used his father's key to open a lockbox and remove a 9mm handgun and the game, the court heard.

His father Mark, who was shot in the head and survived, testified that his son came into the room and asked: "Would you guys close your eyes? I have a surprise for you."

He said he expected a pleasant surprise. Then his head went numb from the gunshot.

The Associated Press news agency reports that Microsoft, which owns the intellectual property for the game, declined to comment beyond a statement saying: "We are aware of the situation and it is a tragic case."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Venomous mammal caught on camera

Page last updated at 06:22 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Venomous mammal caught on camera

By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

Rare footage of one of the world's most strange and elusive mammals has been captured by scientists.

Large, and with a long, thin snout, the Hispaniolan solenodon resembles an overgrown shrew; it can inject passing prey with a venom-loaded bite.

Little is known about the creature, which is found in the Caribbean, but it is under threat from deforestation, hunting and introduced species.

Researchers say conservation efforts are now needed.

The mammal was filmed in the summer of 2008 during a month-long expedition to the Dominican Republic - one of only two countries where this nocturnal, insect-eating animal (Solenodon paradoxus) can be found (the other is Haiti).

It is an amazing creature - it is one of the most evolutionary distinct mammals in the world
Dr Sam Turvey, ZSL

The researchers from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Ornithological Society of Hispaniola were able to take measurements and DNA from the creature before it was released.

Dr Richard Young, from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: "My colleagues were excited and thrilled when they found it in the trap.

"But despite a month's worth of trapping effort, they only ever caught a single individual."

Specialised teeth

The Hispaniolan solenodon is one of the creatures highlighted by the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) Edge of Existence programme, which focuses its efforts on conservation plans for animals that are both endangered and evolutionarily distinctive.

Hispaniolan solenodon (Gregory Guida)

Dr Sam Turvey, a ZSL researcher involved with the programme, told BBC News: "It is an amazing creature - it is one of the most evolutionary distinct mammals in the world.

"Along with the other species of solenodon, which is found in Cuba (Solenodon cubanus), it is the only living mammal that can actually inject venom into their prey through specialised teeth.

"The fossil record shows that some other now-extinct mammal groups also had so-called dental venom delivery systems. So this might have been a more general ancient mammalian characteristic that has been lost in most modern mammals, and is only retained in a couple of very ancient lineages."

Solenodon habitat in Haiti (Sam Turvey)
A population was discovered living in a remote corner of Haiti

Dr Turvey and other scientists working for the Edge programme recently discovered a population of solenodons living in a remote corner of Haiti.

The researcher said that the team was surprised to find them; previously it had been feared that the creatures had become extinct in this country because of extensive deforestation, recently introduced mongoose and dogs, and hunting by humans for food.

He said: "They are still incredibly vulnerable and fragile. So it is really important to get back out there to work how how these animals are surviving."

Hispaniolan solenodon (Gregory Guida)

Conservation efforts are now needed in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the teams believe, but the first step would be to find out more about the animal.

Dr Young said: "We know little about its ecology, its behaviour, its population status, its genetics - and without that knowledge base it is really difficult to design effective conservation."

The research will be undertaken by ZSL's Edge programme, Durrell, the Ornithological Society of Hispaniola, the Audubon Society of Haiti, and the Dominican Republic's National Zoological Park and Agency for Protected Areas and Biodiversity.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Festive goat up in flames again

Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Saturday, 27 December 2008

Festive goat up in flames again

Gavle goat
Authorities in Gavle had tried to fireproof the goat

A giant straw goat erected each Christmas in a northern Swedish town has been burned down - yet again.

The 13m-high (43ft) animal in Gavle has been torched 23 times since it was first erected in 1966. It has also been hit by a car and had its legs cut off.

The vandals are rarely caught, though in 2001 a 51-year-old American tourist spent 18 days in jail after being convicted of setting it alight.

In 2007, the goat managed to make it through the festive season unscathed.

Goat committee spokeswoman Anna Ostman said she was saddened to learn that this year's unlucky creature had been set on fire early on Saturday morning.

But she said: "We have been so happy that he survived through Christmas Eve, which is the toughest period every year.

"So far this year, people from 105 countries have followed the goat via the webcams and many become really sad when they learn that he's burned down."

The 7m-long (23ft), three tonne goat was originally designed to attract tourists to Gavle, which is 106 miles (170km) north of the Swedish capital.

1966: The first goat is burned down - beginning the tradition
1970: It is set on fire six hours after being erected
1971: Tired of arson, the project is abandoned. Schoolchildren build a miniature. It is smashed to pieces.
1976: A car crashes into the goat
1979: The goat is burned down before it is finished
1987: The goat is treated with fireproofing - but still goes up in smoke

But in its first year it was burned down on New Year's Eve and since then has been attacked regularly.

In 2005, it was torched by two arsonists dressed as Father Christmas and the Gingerbread Man.

Authorities in Gavle have tried to protect the goat using fireproofing chemicals and security guards.

But just 10 of the goats, which are built in the town's central square, have survived beyond Christmas since 1966.

Goats have a special place in Swedish tradition. According to folklore, they delivered festive gifts before Father Christmas took over.