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Sep 2, 2009

YSR Reddy declared dead in tragic chopper crash

The worst fears have unfortunately come true. Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy is said to have been killed in a helicopter crash on a hill in the dense Nallamalla forests, some 40 nautical miles (70 kms) east of Kurnool town.
It may be recalled that the chopper carrying the AP chief minister, his Principal Secretary P Subramanyam, chief security officer ASC John Wesley and two pilots went off the radar screens since early morning on Wednesday. The helicopter went missing over the Naxal and tiger-infested Nalamalla forests amid bad weather and incessant rains.
The AP chief minister left Hyderabad on a six-seater Bell 430 chopper at 8:35 am on Wednesday for Chittoor district. After 9:27 am, radio contact with the chopper was lost. The helicopter was found in a burnt and mangled state and survivors are unlikely. The bodies of all the five people on board the ill-fated helicopter have been found today.
"As of now, we have located the helicopter. We are not sure whether it has crashed or not. Our helicopters are there. We are trying to locate whether there are any survivors," Air Commodore Sagar Bharati of the Bangalore Air Command told reporters.
K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, Rajya Sabha member and a close aide of the AP chief minister, also confirmed that the chopper has been found. Union Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai said in New Delhi that it seems the helicopter crash landed but there is no confirmation yet.
YSR, as he was popularly known, was an influential political leader who propelled the Congress party-led coalition to victory in the assembly cum general elections in May this year.

Mar 3, 2009

Florida woman calls 911 three times over McDonald's Chicken McNugget shortage

Latreasa Goodman , who called 911 over her McNugget emergency

A woman in Florida has been ordered to appear in court after calling the police three times because a McDonald's restaurant had run out of Chicken McNuggets.

Latreasa Goodman, 27, purchased a 10-piece McNugget meal from a branch of the fast food chain in Fort Pierce on Feb 28, but was then told she would receive different items from the menu because McNuggets were out of stock. When she asked for her money back, she was told that that company policy was not to give refunds.

She told police who arrived at the restaurant: "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one."

"I called 911 because I couldn't get a refund, and I wanted my McNuggets," she said, according to the Fort Pierce Police Department report.

She was charged with misusing the 911 emergency system.

Last month, another Florida resident called 911 over a perceived fast food foul-up.

Jean Fortune, 66, dialed 911 to complain that the Boynton Beach branch of Burger King was out of lemonade to go with his chicken combo meal.

Pink dolphin appears in US lake

The world's only pink Bottlenose dolphin which was discovered in an inland lake in Louisiana, USA, has become such an attraction that conservationists have warned tourists to leave it alone.

Charter boat captain Erik Rue, 42, photographed the animal, which is actually an albino, when he began studying it after the mammal first surfaced in Lake Calcasieu, an inland saltwater estuary, north of the Gulf of Mexico in southwestern USA.

Capt Rue originally saw the dolphin, which also has reddish eyes, swimming with a pod of four other dolphins, with one appearing to be its mother which never left its side.

He said: "I just happened to see a little pod of dolphins, and I noticed one that was a little lighter.

"It was absolutely stunningly pink.

"I had never seen anything like it. It's the same color throughout the whole body and it looks like it just came out of a paint booth.

"The dolphin appears to be healthy and normal other than its coloration, which is quite beautiful and stunningly pink.

"The mammal is entirely pink from tip to tail and has reddish eyes indicating it's albinism. The skin appears smooth, glossy pink and without flaws.

"I have personally spotted the pink dolphin 40 to 50 times in the time since the original sighting as it has apparently taken up residence with its family in the Calcasieu ship channel.

"As time has passed the young mammal has grown and sometimes ventures away from its mother to feed and play but always remains in the vicinity of the pod.

"Surprisingly, it does not appear to be drastically affected by the environment or sunlight as might be expected considering its condition, although it tends to remain below the surface a little more than the others in the pod."

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, senior biologist with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "I have never seen a dolphin coloured in this way in all my career.

"It is a truly beautiful dolphin but people should be careful, as with any dolphins, to respect it - observe from a distance, limit their time watching, don't chase or harass it

"While this animal looks pink, it is an albino which you can notice in the pink eyes.

"Albinism is a genetic trait and it unclear as to the type of albinism this animal inherited."

A close relation of dolphins, the Amazon River Botos, called pink dolphins, live in South America in the Amazon.

British entrepreneur Rob Williams dies on skiing holiday in tragedy played out on Twitter

The 29-year-old died after he and business partner, Jason Tavaria, who together run a multi-million pound music firm, became separated from their party during a blizzard at the Swiss resort of Verbier, while on a trip with Michelle Dewberry, the winner of BBC television reality show the Apprentice.

Urgent appeals were posted by her on the Twitter website and Mr Tavaria, also 29, sent his friends and rescue teams a GPS satellite navigation signal from his iPhone, which pinpointed his location. He was rescued six hours later.

Mr Williams, however, had fallen 66ft down a cliff on to rocks below and due to the "white-out" conditions, a rescue helicopter could not be scrambled. Search teams on foot found him seven hours after he had gone missing, by which time the businessman had died in the freezing conditions.

After the initial posts left on Twitter, there was a long period of silence as the tragic death of Mr Williams became known.

The business partners had met at Liverpool University and launched the music equipment and instrument firm Dolphin Music. They are one of the leading providers of musical equipment on the internet and have also opened a flagship Guitar Shop in Liverpool city centre. They employ 54 staff and have achieved sales in excess of £9.2 million in 2007, when it was ranked Britain's 11th fastest-growing company.

Apple products 'banned' from Bill Gates' home

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has banned arch-rival Apple's iPhone and iPod gadgets from the family home, his wife has revealed.

Melinda Gates told Vogue magazine: "There are very few things that are on the banned list in our household. But iPods and iPhones are two things we don't get for our kids."

Her admission has raised giggles in the technology community, with some members of the blogosphere speculating that Gates' three children – Jennifer, 13, Rory, 10 and Phoebe, 7 – must instead use phones running the Windows Mobile operating system, and listen to their favourite songs on Microsoft's much-criticised Zune music players.

Mr Gates, a multi-billionaire, lives in a lodge-like house overlooking Lake Washington. According to reports, the home boasts plenty of cutting-edge technology, including automatic lighting, speakers hidden inside walls to create the impression of music following visitors wherever they go, and portable touch pads that control everything from the televisions to the temperature.

Mrs Gates admitted to be swayed by Apple's iPhone device, which combines a touch-screen music player and web browser with a fully featured mobile phone. "Every now and then I look at my friends and say 'Ooh, I wouldn't mind having that iPhone'," she said.

Bill Gates has stepped down from his role as chief executive of Microsoft, the company he co-founded with Paul Allen, in order to concentrate on the philanthropic work carried out by his charitable organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Last month, at TED 2009, the technology, entertainment and design conference, Gates let loose a swarm of mosquitoes to highlight the dangers of malaria.

“Malaria is spread by mosquitoes,” he yelled to the crowd before unleashing the insects, which were not carrying the disease. “I brought some. Here, I’ll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected.”

Military to use new gel that stops bullets

A new "bullet-busting" shock-absorbent gel is set to save the lives of British soldiers by substantially reinforcing their helmets.

The Ministry of Defence has awarded £100,000 to a small company that has developed a special substance that hardens immediately on impact.

It is hoped that the shock-absorbing substance will soon be fitted onto the inside of soldiers' helmets reducing in half the kinetic energy of a bullet or piece of shrapnel and hopefully making them impenetrable.

The gel, called d3O locks instantly into a solidified form when it is hit at high impact.

"When moved slowly, the molecules will slip past each other, but in a high-energy impact they will snag and lock together, becoming solid," said Richard Palmer, who invented the gel. "In doing so they absorb energy."

The d3O gel has already expanded into a range of sporting goods and is found in ski gloves, shin guards, ballet shoe pointes and horse-riding equipment. The substance relies on "intelligent molecules" that "shock lock" together to absorb energy and create a solid pad. Once the pressure has gone they return to their normal flexible state.

The gel is stitched into clothing or equipment that is supple until it stiffens into a protective barrier on impact.

If the product is taken on by defence contractors it could be used to reduce the current bulky and restrictive armour used by troops in on the frontline with gel pads inserted into key protective areas.

Mr Palmer said it was the equivalent to comparing "cumbersome" RoboCop to Spiderman with the latter's protection "nimble covert and flexible".

Fish with human faces spotted in South Korea

The "humanoid" carp are attracting attention in the town of Chongju in the centre of the country where they live in a small pond.

They are believed to be hybrid descendants of two carp species – the carp and the leather carp, also known as a tangerine fish.

Both fish are females and more than three feet long. They appear to have distinctive human noses, eyes and lips.

The fish live in a pond behind the home of a 64-year old South Korean man and have been there since 1986 although their looks are only just starting to attract attention.

"My fish have been getting more and more human for the past couple of years," the owner said.

He added that he knows of other fish with similar features, and as they are both females it will be impossible for them to breed and have fish-faced offspring.

This is the second time in recent months that carp have made headlines in Asia. Last November a shoal of the fish in Changsha, in China's Hunan Province turned on a duck who landed on their lake looking for food.

The Koi carp took exception to the intruder and fought back, bunching together into a seething mass to assert their authority, forcing the duck to fly away.

Looking for work? Debt collectors are in demand in the UK

An opportunity may have arisen for the estate agents and luxury car salemen put out of work by the recession.

Provident Financial, which lends to low-income households in Britain, plans to hire more debt collectors this year as an increasing number of consumers turn to the company as banks shun riskier customers.

The business may not be widely known in more affluent parts of the country, but Provident's agents already visit one in twenty British households. Customers of the doorstep lender borrow smaller amounts, on average around £400, which is paid back in weekly installments, with a sizeable "fixed charge" attached.

For every £100 borrowed, Provident's customers on average pay back £3 a week for 57 weeks. That amounts to £171 paid back on a £100 loan.

Provident aims to hire between 200 and 250 people this year, around 80 of whom will go door-to-door to retrieve outstanding debts. Collection accounts for "99pc of the man hours," according to chief executive Peter Crook.

Unlike its rival Cattles, Provident has been able to keep its level of loan arrears and impairments steady over the course of 2008, despite the worsening economy, by tightening up its lending criteria and turning away more applicants. The business has continued to grow despite this because of the increase in people approaching Provident for loans.

Banks, credit card companies and non-secured lenders have retreated from serving lower-income households since the summer of 2007, leaving an "increasingly under-served" market for Provident.

Feb 11, 2009

Unemployment to exceed 2m for first time under New Labour

Unemployment is expected to exceed two million for the first time since Labour came to power in 1997.

Official figures to be released on Wednesday morning will show that tens of thousands of people lost their jobs in the three months to December.

They come amid evidence that Britain's jobless total is rising twice as fast as the European average.

The unemployment total hit 1.92 million in the three months to the end of November. Since then thousands of staff have been sacked by major employers, including 27,000 at Woolworths.

A further 2,300 were made redundant by the Royal Bank of Scotland on Tuesday.

The number of people who claimed Jobseekers' Allowance in January will also be released, offering a more up-to-date insight into the damage being done to the jobs market by the recession. The total reached 1.16 million in December.

An analysis by the TUC showed that while Britain's unemployment rate - 6.1 per cent - is lower than the European average of 7.7 per cent, it is now rising twice as fast as the European average.

Between December 2007 and October 2008, Britain had the third sharpest increase in unemployment, behind Spain and Ireland, said the unions.

Over the same period, unemployment in France went up by just 0.1 per cent and fell 0.8 per cent in Germany.

In advance of the figures' release, James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said: "We know times are tough and we will do all we can to help people who lose their jobs find another as quickly as possible to prevent the long-term unemployment which has so scarred communities in the past from taking root."

Gordon Brown is to meet business leaders shortly before the figures are announced, to discuss ways of giving more assistance to people losing their jobs.

Rihanna postpones Indonesia concert after 'attack' by boyfriend Chris Brown

Rihanna, the R&B singer, has postponed a concert in Indonesia for the second time after claims she suffered "horrific" injuries allegedly at the hands of boyfriend Chris Brown.

Local promoter Showmaster said the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles had told them Thursday's concert in Jakarta would be cancelled.

Promoter Troy Reza Warokka said: "We spoke to Tony Goldring of William Morris Agency and he said the concert had to be cancelled because of an assault case involving Rihanna's boyfriend.

"He offered to reschedule but we don't think we'll take it up, not this year at least. This is her second postponement. Her fans are traumatised and we've spent so much money on production and promotional materials."

The 20-year-old Barbados-born singer pulled out of the Grammy Awards on Sunday amid rreports she was the victim of domestic assault allegedly at the hands of singer-songwriter Brown.

She has reportedly cancelled her 21st birthday party and gone into hiding after it was claimed she may need plastic surgery.

Her injuries are said to include a swollen and bruised face, bloody nose, split lip and bite marks on her forearm and fingers.

Brown, 19, was arrested on Sunday and freed on $50,000 (34,500) bail. He also pulled out of the Grammys.

Website claims an onlooker in LA's residential Hancock Park area called police after witnessing a "loud, violent confrontation". Hours earlier, the couple had attended a pre-Grammys gala at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

The young singer, who has a clean-cut image, has previously spoken of the "terror" he felt when witnessing his mother suffering domestic abuse at the hands of his stepfather.

Kanye West, who toured with Rihanna, said that the reports of alleged abuse were "devastating."

"I feel like, just as a person, I don't care how famous she is or even if she just worked at McDonald's, that should never happen," he said. "It should never come to that place." Rihanna had cancelled a concert in the Indonesian capital in November last year on security concerns following the execution of three Islamist militants behind 2002 bombings on Bali island.