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Mad Monks report on cities' souls
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jim Crotty is an odd duck. He
refers to himself as "Monk" and a "mutant of Omaha," often
claims to be an "outlaw" and refuses to use a cellular phone
even though he lives and runs his business from a Winnebago.
Despite his oddball character, or perhaps because of it, he
presides over a small travel-writing business empire that he
hopes will bloom one day into a household name like "Lonely
Planet," "Rough Guide" or more traditional "Fodor's" guides.
After living on the road since 1986, Crotty and his cohort
Michael Lane, collectively known as the "Mad Monks," are
getting ready for the big time. Their first travel book, "The
Mad Monks' Guide to New York City," has just been released by
Macmillan Travel and a book on California is set for September
release. Unlike traditional travel books, the Monks' guides cut
right to what Crotty calls the "soul of the city."
Their New York book avoids dwelling on well-worn landmarks
such as the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty,
focusing more on the eccentric and offbeat such as "Miss Vera's
Finishing School for Boys Who Want to be Girls," "Fly Fishing
in Central Park" and even "Toxic Tourism" like Staten Island's
Fresh Kills Dump, the world's largest garbage dump/landfill.
Along with the sublime and the bizarre is a cornucopia of
the great city's diverse culture, from bars and restaurants to
entertainment spots, making it probably as useful for those who
live in the city as for those planning to visit it.
The Monks' books go further than most guide books, offering
irreverent essays on cities and their people and interviews
with some of the more interesting residents.
In the soon-to-be-released book on California, Crotty's
essay on Los Angeles describes the sprawling metropolis as "The
land of riots, smog, gangs, congestion, ethnic rivalry, poor
city planning, tabloid murder, surgically enhanced (or
disfigured) celebrities, and of course police brutality. Los
Angeles is America's demon nightmare city."
In true "Mad Monk" fashion, Crotty gave Reuters an
interview while leading a correspondent on a whirlwind tour
through the dilapidated downtown area of the City of Angels.
His abbreviated tour included the futuristic Victorian-era
Bradbury Building, revered for a century as one of the finest
examples of American interior architecture and, according to
Crotty, home to the shop where O.J. Simpson bought "the knife"
-- i.e. the weapon that police, at one point, believed was used
to kill his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron
Goldman. The knife was never found.
From there it went to a downtown market where lunch can
still be had for the odd sum of $2.03 before climbing a hill on
the Angel's Flight, the world's shortest railroad, separating
downtown L.A's ethnic squalor from gleaming glass skyscrapers.
Then it was back in the car for a quick stop at the Los
Angeles Gun Club, where you can pump metal into targets during
your lunch hour using rented state-of the-art firearms or
six-shooters of the Wild West variety.
On the way, Crotty repeatedly hollered out his car window
at Angeleno pedestrians, "Do you know where the Metro Rail is?"
No one seemed to know the answer, which was Crotty's point.
"The subway here is like an amusement ride. Where are the
people? Where are the rats?" Crotty asked with a laugh. "The
last time I was down there there were more people shooting
commercials than passengers."
Other "tourist" spots to be listed in the upcoming book
include Bischoff's Taxidermy in Burbank. It will "immortalize
your Costa Rican tiger," if you want, but these days it makes
most of its income from renting stuffed beasts to Hollywood.
"The unimposing warehouse is not open to the public, but
you can pass yourself off as a prop manager and gain easy
entrance," according to the book.
Crotty, or Jim Monk as he calls himself, spent the years
after leaving college on a New Age spiritual tour of the United
States that included, among other things, a stint as assistant
to a Tibetan Lama living in New York's Harlem.
But his strange journey began in earnest on April Fools
Day, 1985, when he met Lane, whom he describes as the
"quintessential 1960s hippie." Despite being a self-professed
"straight white male," Crotty fell in love with Lane and the
two have lived and worked together ever since.
"I tried to be his homosexual lover but I failed at that,"
Crotty said of his relationship with his fellow Mad Monk. "I'll
try anything once, I suppose."
In 1986, sick of being slaves to their appointment books,
the pair sold everything and moved from San Francisco to
Eugene, Oregon, in search of a more organic lifestyle. After
working as gardeners for a few months, they bought a Winnebago
recreational vehicle, dubbed it the Monkmobile and, with their
two cats, hit the road, where they have remained for 13 years.
With no obvious way of making money, they began to cobble
together Monk magazine, a hodgepodge of New Age spiritualism,
holistic medicine and travel scribblings. The magazine was
initially offered to friends. Those willing to pay $100 were
given a lifetime subscription, while $50 secured a subscription
and a piece of a wool sweater.
Slowly the magazine, which Crotty claims was the pioneer in
the field of "dashboard publishing," mutated into a travel
periodical charting the Monks' experiences. Crotty worked the
phones (public pay phones) and became a dab hand at selling
advertising as the magazine gained a nationwide cult following
and built a subscription base of almost 40,000 readers.
After 13 years on the road, Crotty and Lane have written
several books, together and separately, including Crotty's "How
to Speak America," released to shining reviews last year. The
Monks also work as roving travel writers for Playboy online.
After 13 years on the road there is not much in America
they have not seen, but that does not mean they are going to
stop moving. Asked what was next on his agenda, Crotty rubbed
his hands with glee and spoke with a sparkle in his eye about
his plans to conquer England as "the ugly American."
Members only at Iceland phallological museum
REYKJAVIK, May 17 (Reuters) - At the Icelandic Phallological
Museum it's members only. Eighty-two of them. Either dried on
wall mounts or pickled in preserving jars.
The aim of what founder and director Sigurdur Hjartarson
describes as a unique museum is to exhibit at least one specimen
of the penis of every mammal native to Iceland or its waters.
When man first settled the rugged North Atlantic island in
the ninth century, there was only one native mammal, the Arctic
Others have come with man, and now there are about 38
species in all, including around 15 whales, depending on how
many whales you count as Icelandic.
So far Hjartarson, a bearded figure who could pass for a
mild-mannered Icelandic troll, has 36 of them, and is now
lacking just one small whale and a man.
The man is taken care of, however.
On the wall is an official letter from 83-year-old Pall
Arason, who describes himself as "a worthy disciple of Don Juan"
and who has promised his organ to the museum on his death.
Arason, a pioneer of the tourist industry on the sparsely
inhabited island, where he is a noted womaniser, now lives in
retirement on his farm of Bugur in northern Iceland, but has
already been awarded the title of honorary member of the museum.
Two local doctors are on standby for his demise -- if they
can get to him while he is still warm they will be able to
exhibit his penis erect, Hjartarson says.
Not surprisingly, the longest exhibit is that of a blue
whale, the world's biggest living creature, although like most
of the whale specimens, only the tip is present.
Nevertheless, about one third of a blue whale penis measures
about one metre (39 inches) and weighs 36 kilos (80 lb). A full
specimen would have been about three metres (10 feet).
The largest in terms of girth is the sperm whale phallus.
Again, only the tip, about 40 percent of the full organ, is
present, but it weighs in at 57 kilos (120 lb).
The smallest is the penis of a field mouse.
Unfortunately, most of the whale organs were not
scientifically prepared, which is why only the tips are
Most were retrieved from stranded whales. When a whale dies
part of its penis dangles out of its body, but the base is still
Nevertheless, even the tips of these huge mammals can cause
"The problem with big pieces is I can't get big bottles,"
Hjartarson said. Now he uses plexiglass cylinders, sealed off at
The idea for the museum gradually unfolded in 1987, when
Hjartarson was a headmaster in the fishing town of Akranes in
Some of his teachers worked part-time at the local whaling
station, and brought him sample penises.
"Then the idea developed that it might be interesting to get
specimens from all of the Icelandic mammals," he said.
The museum finally opened in August 1997, with a 200,000
Icelandic crown ($2,700) grant from Reykjavik city council, in
which a feminist party is part of the ruling coalition. Either
because of, or despite, the feminists, the grant was approved,
as the city is keen to develop tourism.
Hjartarson, 57, says he has had 3,000 visitors in the 21
months since the museum opened, and the main revenue is the 300
crown ($4.00) entrance fee.
There is also a wide range of shiny wooden phallic keyrings,
salt and pepper pots, lavatory roll holders and the like, all
carved by Hjartarson, but sales are not significant.
"I'm almost breaking even. I haven't got back my investment
but I'll try another summer," he said.
So the museum is mainly a hobby, he says.
"What I like most is seeing the reaction of people...Some
people think I'm a little crazy or queer, but I don't mind."
Neither the school where he now teaches in Reykjavik, nor
the parents of his pupils have criticised his endeavour.
Some scientists come to inspect the collection.
It is also popular with groups of women. On a recent
Saturday afternoon two Icelandic youths were looking round,
followed by a party of Hawaiian tourists.
"Foreigners come more out of curiosity, because this is
unique in the world, Hjartarson said. "But what I'm trying to do
is to present a serious collection, like any other collection."
Hjartarson, a specialist in Latin American history, has led
an eventful life, living in Scotland, Sweden, Spain and Mexico.
His wife of 40 years -- they have four children and seven
grandchildren -- fully supports him in the project, he says.
The oldest exhibit dates from 1974 and is a tanned bull's
penis, traditionally used as a whip on Icelandic farms, where
every bit of an animal was put to use.
The strangest is probably a horse penis, smoked in memory of
one Jonas Halldorsson, who lived from 1853 to 1931, and was a
well-known gourmet who enjoyed a bit of smoked horse penis now
Traditional Icelandic delicacies range from putrefied shark
to boiled sheep's head, so a taste for smoked horse penis seems
Austin Powers sequel title goes local in Singapore
SINGAPORE, May 12 (Reuters) - Singapore's Board of Film
Censors has drawn the line against racy British slang in the
title of a new spy movie.
The film "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me", has become
"The Spy Who Shioked Me", the Straits Times newspaper said on
Ken Low, general manager of Singapore distributor Warner
Brothers, said the board rejected the original title and Warner
Brothers chose "shioked" instead. The word means "good" or "nice"
in Singapore's mix of English, Malay and Chinese dialects dubbed
The paper said the Board called use of the word "crude and offensive".
The word will be removed from banners and publicity material
for the film, starring comedian Mike Myers, which opens in
Singapore on June 24, Low said.
The film is a sequel to a 1997 movie "Austin Powers:
International Man of Mystery" which spoofed spy movies of the
1960s and was a worldwide hit.
'Diff'rent Strokes' actress dies of apparent overdose
LOS ANGELES, May 9 (Reuters) - Actress Dana Plato, a child
star of the "Diff'rent Strokes" television sitcom who later
descended into drug abuse and trouble with the law, has died of
an apparent drug overdose, police said on Sunday.
Plato, 34, apparently overdosed on a mixture of
prescription drugs on Saturday night while paying a Mother's
Day visit to the home of her fiance's parents in Moore,
Oklahoma, Sgt. Scott Singer said.
Singer said Plato was found "unresponsive and cold to the
touch" after taking medication and lying down for a nap. She
was pronounced dead at a local hospital after attempts to
resuscitate her failed.
"Preliminary reports indicated Ms. Plato may have died as a
result of an overdose," Singer said, adding that a doctor in
Tulsa had prescribed her the drugs, the painkiller Loritab and
Valium, a tranquilizer.
Plato and her fiance, 28-year-old Robert Menchaca, were on
their way to Los Angeles when they stopped in Moore, a suburb
of Oklahoma City which was hit hard in tornadoes last week.
Half of the town's 15,000 homes in the town were destroyed or
badly damaged in the twisters which killed 41 people in
Plato played Kimberly Drummond during the show's run from
1978 to 1984. Like her young co-stars Gary Coleman, who played
Arnold, and Todd Bridges, who played Willis, she ran into
trouble after the show's cancellation.
In 1991, she was handed five years probation after being
arrested for robbing a Las Vegas video store. She was given
another five years' in 1992 for forging Valium prescriptions.
In her last interview, Plato appeared on the Howard Stern
radio show on Friday to try to revive her career.
She said that she had been sober and off drugs for 10
years, but said she had been taking painkillers for lingering
pain after having her wisdom teeth removed more than three
months ago. In response to a call from a listener who accused
her of still abusing drugs, she offered to take a drug test.
Saying she was getting her life back on track, Plato said
she hoped to land more acting roles after appearing in several
"B" movies. Plato also modelled for Playboy magazine and
Victoria's Secret lingerie catalog.
Plato's fellow actors on "Diff'rent Strokes" also ran into
trouble with the law.
Coleman, 30, who now works as a security guard, was fined
and given a suspended jail sentence in February for punching a
woman who asked for his autograph.
Plato is survived by her 14-year-old son, Tyler, from an
New Colombian condom to help quick, safe sex
BOGOTA, May 13 (Reuters) - A Colombian condom-maker has
come up with a garment to help time-pressed lovers have safe
sex without even taking their panties off.
The so-called Panty Condom, trumpeted as the first of its
kind, consists of lacy panties, in black or white, with an
opening in the crotch.
A thin resin membrane stuck to the inside of the underwear
stretches like a condom.
Bogota-based manufacturer Natural Sensation launched the
condom-with-a-difference at a Bogota hotel late Wednesday.
It is set to retail in Colombian supermarkets and
pharmacies for about $3.60, including two spare membranes. The
membranes are made of a resin called AT-10 rather than the
latex used in traditional condoms.
Inventor Max Abadi said the company aimed to sell 50,000
Panty Condoms this year -- equivalent to about three percent of
the national condom market. He is also eyeing what he hopes
will be lucrative export markets in Central and South America.
Flock of mystery balloons puzzles Japan police
TOKYO, May 19 (Reuters) - The discovery of more than 20
mysterious balloons across central Japan, some with boxes
attached to them containing batteries, had Japanese police
scratching their heads on Wednesday.
Around 28 of the roughly conical balloons, which police
described as being made of vinyl and measuring six metres by two
metres (18 feet by six feet), were discovered across a wide range
of coastal and inland central Japanese towns on May 18 and 19.
A police spokesman in the central Japanese town of Fuji, near
Mount Fuji, said the four deflated balloons found caught in trees
and telephone wires appeared to each be attached to a small box
containing two batteries and two empty white plastic containers.
"We do not know what the purpose of these could be," he said.
There was nothing found with the balloons to indicate their
There was a similar incident in 1997, with balloons believed
to have been made in North Korea.
But police declined to speculate. "This is nothing
particularly noteworthy," said one spokesman in Ishikawa on the
Japan Sea coast.
Japanese tensions about North Korea, high since August 1998
when the secretive Socialist nation launched a rocket that
overflew northern Japan, were ratcheted to fever pitch in March,
when two North Korean ships entered Japanese waters.
US attorney sues to enter "lawyer-free" community
BAKERSFIELD, Calif., May 19 (Reuters) - The developers of
the new Fairway Oaks community designed their dream homes to
have five bedrooms, a Jacuzzi, a yard roomy enough for an
in-ground pool -- and no lawyers.
That made attorney Timothy Liebaert angry enough to sue.
"I was very mad," Liebaert told Wednesday's San Francisco
Chronicle after learning that his offer on a new Fairway Oaks
house in central California had been rejected because of his
"One (colleague) said I was so mad that I left burn holes
in his carpet. It was an immediate, visceral reaction."
Liebaert's next reaction was to sue Fairway Oaks developer
Donavan Judkins, saying that his civil rights had been violated
because of anti-lawyer discrimination.
The developer's lawyers say the "no lawyer" policy is the
builder's prerogative based on sound business reasoning:
lawyers, in general, are more apt to threaten litigation,
requiring greater management time and legal fees.
Thomas Clark, part of Judkins' legal team, told the
Chronicle that the move to bar Liebaert was "a valid and
rational business decision" and therefore not subject to
California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bans many kinds of
discrimination, including that of sex, race and religion.
Liebaert, who with his wife had already picked out the
carpet and tile colors for their new, $149,600 Fairway Oaks
home when the deal was canceled, said that discrimination was
discrimination and should be fought.
"I think that is repugnant to the American brand of
freedom," he told the Chronicle. "Who is next? Maybe they are
afraid if they sell to a police officer that a crime would be
California officials said Liebaert's case, which began on
Wednesday before a Kern County Superior Court judge, was taking
the law into uncharted waters.
"As far as I know, there is no case law deciding this one
way or another," Ann Noel of the state's Fair Employment and
Housing Commission told the newspaper.
Ancient salami puts 200 refugees in hospital
LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) - Some 200 Kosovo refugees at a
camp in Albania are in hospital with food poisoning after eating
imported Ukrainian salami that was 11 years past its expiry
date, Kosovo Albanian Radio 21.
The radio, whose web site was monitored on Saturday by the
BBC, said the refugees were from the Librazhde camp and quoted
an Albanian doctor as saying poisoning from food distributed as
humanitarian aid was becoming a common problem.
Dr Islam Cani, head of the Albanian Consumers' Association,
said canned food was a particular hazard. Many tinned items had
been withdrawn from camps because of corroded containers,
non-existent product expiry dates, poor quality and for other
He said the government was "only interested in the quantity
of food produced and not its quality", the radio reported.
His association had set up six regional offices to gather
information on the problem, it added.
Chinese baby survives high-speed train fall
BEIJING, May 24 (Reuters) - A newborn Chinese baby who
dropped through the squat toilet of a high-speed train was alive
and well after landing on the tracks, the official Xinhua news
The mother, a migrant worker nine months pregnant, had
squatted down to relieve herself but gave birth instead.
Panicked, she ripped off the umbilical cord with her bare
hands but fumbled the baby boy and let him slip through the
toilet hole and onto the tracks below.
Just as three railway workers spotted the infant another
train hurtled over his body, Xinhua said in an overnight report
seen on Monday.
"When that train passed and the three approached the rails
they could hardly believe their eyes: the baby was still alive
with his hands and legs quivering," Xinhua reported.
The 2.7 kg (5.9 lb) baby suffered slight bruising and a small
cut on the head, which required three stitches. Mother and baby
were in hospitals in the southern city of Guangzhou.
Ex-Marine is Pa. town's "Naked Bandit"
ALLENTOWN, Pa., May 13 (Reuters) - A 41-year-old Allentown
man known to police as "The Naked Bandit" pleaded guilty to
robbing a string of convenience stores while in the nude,
authorities said on Thursday.
Ex-Marine Stanley Heiserman once stole $400 from a roadside
mini-market while naked, save for the underwear on his head. Days
later, two cashiers handed over the money before bursting into
laughter as he left.
"It's nuts. You don't hear of things like this happening
too often. But this is what happened in four separate
robberies," said assistant Lehigh County District Attorney
Heiserman's naked aggression came to an end on Wednesday
when he pleaded guilty to committing six robberies in all, two
while fully clothed.
Police said he never had a weapon but once claimed to be
carrying a shotgun in a gym bag and on another occasion a pistol
wrapped in a flannel shirt around his hand.
"His logic was that the last time he did some robberies, he
had clothes on and was identified by his clothes," said Anthony.
Heiserman, who said he was honorably discharged from the
Marines, told county judge Robert Steinberg that he turned to
crime while on drugs and emotionally distraught about his dying
mother. He will be sentenced June 17 and faces a maximum of eight
to 40 years in prison under the plea agreement.
Police hunt "very ugly woman" for Arizona crimes
PHOENIX, Ariz., May 13 (Reuters) - Police said on Thursday
they were hunting a "very ugly woman" suspected of a string of
bank robberies in Arizona and justify using the description by
saying it's the best they have.
She is believed to have robbed seven Phoenix-area bank
branches in the last month, including three on Tuesday.
"She's been described by every victim who has seen her as a
very ugly woman," said Sgt. John Van Reusen, of the Phoenix
Police Department. "It's kind of insulting, but maybe that will
tick her off -- maybe she'll call me."
Police said the routine was always the same. Pretending to
be armed, the robber demanded money, stuffed it into a handbag
and fled on foot. The robber has been seen wearing at least
four different colored wigs and puts on heavy make-up.
Van Reusen said police were keeping an open mind. "We
haven't eliminated the possibility that it could be an ugly man
posing as an ugly woman," he said. "You never can tell."
Animals in Trinidad dressed to steal
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 14 (Reuters) - The sheep wore
a dress. The goats wore shirts, pants and hats.
Police in Trinidad said on Friday they found a collection
of nattily attired livestock on Wednesday as they pursued a
complaint from a farmer in Chaguanas in central Trinidad that
someone had made off with his animals.
They said they gave chase after they saw a rental car
driving with its headlights off.
The driver abandoned the vehicle, and police officers found
the dressed up sheep and goat in the back seat, and two more
goats -- in shirts and pants -- in the trunk.
Police said they believed the thieves had dressed the
animals to fool people into thinking they were people.
TORONTO - A Canadian judge dismissed a claim that Defence
Minister Art Eggleton, Citibank and several drug-store chains
were part of a conspiracy to kill a complainant because he is a
Turning the tables on the "Martian", an Ontario Superior
Court judge dismissed Rene Joly's "vexatious" case on the
grounds that he claimed not to be human and therefore had no
status before the courts.
Joly, described by a lawyer in the case as 'not your typical
Martian', began the action in April, contending that the
Shopper's Drug Mart chain had sold him poison instead of
medication, that Canadian troops in Germany had implanted a
microchip in his brain and that Citibank had perpetrated a
credit card fraud on him.
On Friday, 13 lawyers appeared in court to file a motion of
dismissal on behalf of their clients, including doctors,
dentists, hospitals and several drug-store chains.
Joly, 34, a college-educated sales manager, who began his
crusade three years ago, represented himself before the courts.
"Genetically speaking, I'm a Martian, yes," Joly told
Reuters. "And the judge's decision is tantamount to doing
nothing about flagrant crimes that have been committed.
Notwithstanding my allegations, the fact that we're allowing
these crimes to continue unabated and unpunished is a very bad
Weekly sex may prevent colds and flu - study
LONDON, April 14 (Reuters) - Having sex once or twice a week
gives a boost to the immune system that could help ward off
colds and flu, New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.
Moderate sexual activity increases levels of a compound in
the body called immunoglobulin A (IgA) that binds to bacteria
and triggers the immune system to destroy them.
"IgA is the first line of defence against colds and flu,"
Carl Charnetski, of Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, told the
weekly science magazine.
To prove the benefits of healthy but not overactive sex
life, Charnetski and his colleague Frank Brennan measured levels
of IgA in the saliva of 111 college students and questioned them
about how often they had had sex in the previous month.
Students who had sex less than once a week had a small
increase in the antigen compared to pupils who were celibate.
Those who had sex once or twice a week had a 30 percent rise in
IgA. Ironically the more sexually active people had lower levels
of the compound than students who had not had sex.
"My feeling is that the people in the very-frequent-sex
group may be in obsessive or poor relationships that are causing
them a lot of anxiety," said Charnetski.
"We know that stress and anxiety make IgA go down."
Taqueria's free lunch bill could come to $5.8 mln
SAN FRANCISCO, April 14 (Reuters) - No such thing as a free
lunch? Tell that to Casa Sanchez.
The small, family-run San Francisco taqueria came up with a
novel promotional scheme last year: a lifetime of free burrito
or taco lunches for anyone sporting a tattoo of the Casa
This week the 40th hungry person showed up tattooed with
the logo -- a kid in a sombrero riding an ear of corn shaped
like a rocket ship -- and the Sanchez family got worried.
"The food is great," bartender Greg Tietz told Wednesday's
San Francisco Chronicle, showing off his $80 Casa Sanchez
tattoo from a San Francisco parlor which now specializes in the
"Corn Man" logo design.
"I'm way ahead. I feel like I'm part of the family. I think
I got the better end of the deal."
Martha Sanchez, the restaurant owner's granddaughter, came
up with logo idea believing no one would submit to the
tattooer's needle simply for a lifetime of free lunches.
But as more and more tattooed people began arriving at the
restaurant, she started to do the math -- figuring that feeding
40 young people with free, $8 lunches for 50 years could end up
costing more than $5.8 million.
The Sanchez family has vowed not to renege on the free
lunch offer, but is now beginning to interview potential tattoo
candidates to weed out any that look "too hungry".
They also said that, over time, even the biggest burrito
addicts may think twice before arriving to collect their heavy
"You'd get sick of this food if you ate it for 50 years," a
hopeful Martha Sanchez told the Chronicle.
Las Vegas casino erects Lenin statue, axes head
LAS VEGAS, April 14 (Reuters) - Visitors to Mandalay Bay,
the newest mega-resort to grace that symbol of capitalism run
amok, the Las Vegas strip, are asking why?
Why -- amid robotic waiters, a four-story wine cellar, a
faux beach with artificial waves -- would the beach-themed
hotel erect a 20-foot (6 metres) statue of the founder of
Soviet Communism Vladimir Lenin?
And why have him overlooking the slot machines?
The Lenin statue, a monument to Soviet realism, stands with
one hand outreached and the other clutching a worker's cap just
outside the Red Square vodka and caviar restaurant in the
hotel's restaurant row.
The Miami, Fla.-based China Grill group, which owns Red
Square, decided to erect the statue in the walkway outside the
restaurant in order to attract patrons inside.
Officials at casino giant Circus Circus Enterprises Inc.,
which built the $1 billion Mandalay Bay, were initially happy
with the statue which follows a trend in Las Vegas toward
large, garish renderings of historical landmarks.
After all, just up the street Park Place Entertainment Inc.
is getting ready to open a $750 million resort that's a near
perfect replica of the Eiffel Tower. And two weeks from now
billionaire Sheldon Adelson will open a $1.3 billion
Italian-themed resort called The Venetian, complete with a real
moat, real gondolas with singing gondoliers.
But Lenin was not well received. Patrons, insulted by the
Communist symbol, were likening it to a statue of Hitler or
Most of the complaints were coming from U.S. service men
and women, Circus Circus spokeswoman Sarah Ralston said.
The story does not end there.
Lenin's 250-pound (113 kg) head is now missing. Management,
one night late last month, chopped it off, on orders of Circus
Circus Chief Executive Glenn Schaeffer, Ralston said.
Schaeffer also ordered that the decapitated statue be
splattered with white paint made to look like bird droppings,
"We debated how to deal with the issue. There were several
options. One was riding it out, hoping people would appreciate
the irony of it, the other was removing it," Ralston said.
After careful research, Circus Circus chose to alter the
gypsum-and-plaster statue, which was relatively inexpensive to
build because it was faux.
"We ran an extensive search of news clips on what happened
in the Eastern bloc to the (real) Lenin statues" after the fall
of Communism, Ralston said.
"In many cases townships had neither resources nor manpower
to physically remove these statues that in many cases weighed
hundreds of tons. What they did was lop the head off. It makes
the point. If there's any confusion about the symbolism, that
now goes away."
The hotel plans to turn the severed Lenin head into a table
inside the Red Square vodka bar and restaurant, Ralston said.
KLM apologises for squirrel slaughter
AMSTERDAM, April 15 (Reuters) - KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
apologised on Thursday for forcing over 400 imported
ground squirrels to their deaths in a shredder at Amsterdam's
A KLM spokeswoman said the airline's cargo unit had thrown
most of the consignment of 440 squirrels, which were bound for
Athens from Beijing, into a type of shredder commonly used by
the poultry industry to kill birds.
The animals were killed under orders from the Dutch
agriculture ministry because they lacked the proper import and
health papers, KLM said earlier this week amid a public outcry
over the slaughter.
"Though on formal grounds the action taken was correct, KLM
admits to having made a grave mistake on ethical grounds," the
airline said in a statement.
"The company fully endorses the criticism expressed by the
general public and various organisations in the Netherlands."
The employee directly responsible for the killings had been
suspended, KLM said. He was right to obey the ministry's order
but had "made an incorrect assessment of the solution".
About 20 squirrels had escaped while they were being moved
to suitable cages and were on the run, KLM said.
Honduran gives up drink after bottle found in gut
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, May 6 (Reuters) - A Honduran
fisherman woke up after a drunken binge to find somebody had
pushed a 4.4-inch (11 cm) bottle far up his rectum, a doctor
said on Thursday.
Doctors removed the bottle from Jose Lopez's intestine in
an operation in the city of San Pedro Sula, some 100 miles (160
km) north of the capital Tegucigalpa, more than two weeks after
it was introduced.
"The foreign matter was stuck in his large intestine. We
can't figure out why it rose that high instead of descending,"
surgeon Reiniery Jimenez told reporters.
Lopez, 43, said he slept in field near his home on April 18
after drinking after drinking a quart (a litre) of
aguardiente, a fiery local spirit. He said he had no idea what
had happened until doctors took an X-ray.
"When I woke up the next day I felt something strange which
gave me some pain and prevented me from defecating. I didn't
feel any pain while I slept," he told Tiempo newspaper. "It was
like being pregnant because I felt it moving up or down when I
walked or changed my position."
Lopez said he had since given up drink.
Jimenez said the patient was now in stable condition.
CHANDLER, Ariz. - Sean Barry learned two important lessons
Monday about handcuffs.
First, don't play with handcuffs unless you have the key.
Second, if you don't have the key, call a locksmith -- not your
local police -- especially if you are a wanted man.
The 23-year-old waiter learned these lessons the hard way
after being arrested at a southeast Phoenix suburban home by
police who responded to his telephone call for help when he put
the handcuffs on and could not get them off.
Officers made a routine computer check on Barry and found an
outstanding arrest warrant for failing to appear in court for
driving on a suspended license.
Police reported that he was taken into custody without
incident -- and with the handcuffs still on.
"We took them off like he asked," said Sgt. Ken Phillips, a
police spokesman. "Only he was in jail at the time." It was not
immediately known how Barry came to have the handcuffs in the
TORONTO - A Canadian candy maker said on Monday it had no
intention of pulling a wrapper depicting a cartoon of Adolf
Hitler, despite protests over the controversial packaging.
Tofita, a soft, chewy candy produced by Turkish-based Kent
Company, was pulled from the shelf of a small-town Nova Scotia
convenience store last week after a teen complained to the owner
and local media.
The brightly colored cartoon, depicting a sheepish Hitler
holding a daisy and holding a cat-o'-nine tails behind his back,
is one of a series of collectable wrappers.
"There is nothing making him look good here," said Aydin
Eryuzlu, president of May Nina Inc., the Canadian distributor of
"It sells very well, I wouldn't pull it off the shelves
unless it was bad, rotten, or has poisoned people," he told
Reuters in a telephone interview from the company's headquarters
in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga.
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