Anthology

Top marathon runner robbed of shoes at gunpoint

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Nine-time Comrades Marathon winner Bruce Fordyce was robbed of his trainers and watch by two men who pulled up in a car near his home in Parktown, Johannesburg.

The Times newspaper quoted Fordyce as saying the muggers were “welcome” to his old running shoes, noting they had done about 621 miles and “smelled like camembert”

While running this am I was assaulted and held up at gun point by thugs. stole my shoes, watch. Stumbled home fresh shoes, finished my run

— Bruce Fordyce (@BruceFordycerun) June 23, 2017

Mr Fordyce, 61, said he returned home after the mugging to get another pair of shoes before completing his run.

The ultra-marathon he once won eight times in a row between 1981-88, is approximately 56 miles long.

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Hungry hackers stole from CIA vending machines

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A newly declassified report reveals that hackers managed to steal more than $3,300 of chocolate bars, crisps and other snacks from CIA vending machines in 2013.

CIA vending machines work off cards which need to be topped up with funds online.

One culprit figured out that disconnecting certain cables in the vending machines would enable them to dispense unlimited amounts of food, even if a card had run out of money.

After making the sweet discovery, they then told friends who began stealing snacks for themselves.

CIA
Image:The US intelligence agency dispensed some harsh punishment to the hacker and his friends

It took months before the US intelligence agency realised the junk food was being taken without payment through the sophisticated scheme.

After suspicions were raised, officials put surveillance cameras on the machines and put an end to the scam.

The perpetrator, one of thousands of contractors in the CIA, admitted he had used his knowledge of computer networks to cadge the candy.

He and his cabal were swiftly rounded up, escorted from the building and fired by their employers.

The CIA Inspector General’s report on the hungry hacker emerged following a Freedom of Information request by BuzzFeed.

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Toothpick crossbow craze sparks parents’ fears

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They are concerned that the ‘toothpick crossbows’ could cause injuries and even blind children.

The new toys are available online and in shops and sell for as little as seven yuan – about 80p.

The Shanghai Daily Newspaper said shop owners were struggling to meet demand.

Although the toy is intended to be used with toothpicks, if replaced with metal needles they could be powerful enough to crack glass, the newspaper said.

Police in China’s Chengdu have reportedly stopped sales of the toy and parents have urged the government to introduce a nationwide ban.

And parents in the UK, already frustrated by the fidget spinners craze, could find themselves facing demands for more dangerous toys.

The mini crossbows are available on eBay and other internet sites for import into the country.

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Killer whales ‘chasing’ fishermen to steal catch

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In a number of cases fishing captains have reported losing tens of thousands of pounds of halibut and black cod after being followed a number of miles by orcas.

One described the pods as like a “motorcycle gang” which leave little more than the lips of the fish they snatch.

While killer whales were previously an infrequent sighting for fishermen in the Bering Sea, the problem is now said to be “systemic”.

Fishermen say their lines are being stripped of thousands of pounds of halibut
Image:Fishermen say their lines are being stripped of thousands of pounds of halibut

“We’re being chased out of the Bering Sea,” fishing vessel co-owner Paul Clampitt told the National Post.

“When I started fishing in the early 80s, when we saw a whale it was an event. Now, they circle the boat.”

Mr Clampitt said his crew tried to use sound machines to deter the whales, but before long the orcas got used to noise.

“It became a dinner bell,” Mr Clampitt said.

A pod of Orca whales are seen off St Heliers Bay on June 24, 2009 in Auckland
Image:Killer whales have reportedly tracked fishing vessels for a number of miles

Fishing boat captain Robert Hanson said he was “harassed nonstop” by orcas during a trip in April, when his crew lost 12,000 pounds of halibut and used 4,000 gallons of fuel attempting to outrun the animals.

During another expedition to an area near the Russian border, Mr Hanson said he tried to fish for two days before giving up after a pod of at least 50 whales appeared.

“The pod tracked me 30 miles north of the edge and 35 miles west (while) I drifted for 18 hours up there with no machinery running and they just sat with me,” he told Alaska Dispatch News.

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Glastonbury attendees’ wee to power displays

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Display boards at this year’s Glastonbury festival are going to powered by urine, provided via a 40-person urinal which will be situated near to the headline Pyramid stage.

Technology designed by scientists at the Bristol Bioenergy Centre (BBiC) can harness the power of pee to illuminate the darkness and charge mobile phones.

While this isn’t the first time that “Pee Power” has featured at the festival, it is the first time in which it will be used to power information boards keeping attendees in the know.

The 40-person urinal will be conveniently placed by the Cider Bus, just a few hundred metres from the Pyramid stage.

Scientists and student volunteers working with the BBiC will be at the event to explain the technology to festival-goers.

Glastonbury Festival
Image:Electronic displays at Glastonbury will be powered by attendees’ wees

Their biggest challenge will be making Pee Power’s largest microbial fuel stack yet and the team have had to outsource the building of it for the first time.

More than 1,000 litres of attendees’ urine is expected to flow through the system every day, with the scientist’s microbial fuel cells generating energy from the fluid.

The fuel cells house bacteria which literally eat human urine and create biochemical energy as a by-product which can be converted into electricity.

The scientists say that the technology can use “any form of organic waste and turn it into useful energy, without relying on fossil fuels”.

Summer sound
Image:The headline acts at Glastonbury will be audible from the Pee Power urinals

Pee Power, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will later go to Uganda for its first overseas trial.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, director of the BBiC, said: “This unit is primarily about public engagement and Glastonbury festival gives us the chance to showcase our technology to potentially thousands of people.

“The festival updates are one way of showing that Pee Power and the Microbial Fuel Cell technology can be developed for a whole range of uses.”

“The second unit will be located at the area known as the inter stage near the press enclave and performers area. This unit will include a mobile phone charging unit and internal lighting.”

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118-year-old painting found in Antarctica

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Scientists stumbled on the delicate watercolour of a bird in a hut on Cape Adare, a peninsula on the continent’s far east side.

The almost perfectly-preserved artwork was painted by Dr Edward Wilson, a British polar explorer who died in Antarctica with his expedition leader Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

It was hidden among penguin excrement, dust and mouldy papers in the hut he sheltered in on a 1911 expedition from which he never returned.

The watercolour by Dr Wilson - discovered after 118 years - depicts a tree creeper bird
Image:The watercolour depicts a tree creeper. Pic: Antarctic Heritage Trust

The delicate painting is labelled ‘1899 Tree Creeper’, and depicts a white-breasted tree creeper bird.

But how it ended up in the Cape Adare hut 12 years after Dr Wilson painted it is a mystery.

Paper conservator Josefin Bergmark-Jimenez found the old artwork while clearing out the hut to ready it for restoration.

It was left in a portfolio sitting on the bed, but she was so surprised to find it that she jumped back in shock.

A caption of the lost painting by Dr Edward Wilson found in the Antarctic. Pic: Antarctic Heritage Trust
Image:A caption on the lost watercolour. Pic: Antarctic Heritage Trust

“I opened it and there was this gorgeous painting,” she said. “I got such a fright that I jumped and shut the portfolio again.

“I then took the painting out and couldn’t stop looking at it – the colours, the vibrancy, it is such a beautiful piece of work. I couldn’t believe it was there.”

The scientists were stumped at first as to who the artist could be.

The painting by Dr Edward Wilson found 118 years later by scientists in Antarctica
Image:Josefin Bergmark-Jimenez found the painting. Pic: Antarctic Heritage Trust

“The Cape Adare huts were built by Norwegian Carsten Borchgrevink’s expedition in 1899 and later used by Captain Scott’s party in 1911,” Antarctic Heritage Trust programme manager Lizzie Meek said.

“We knew the artist was likely to be among the men on those expeditions.”

By complete coincidence, her colleague Ms Bergmark-Jimenez went to a lecture on Dr Wilson while the team were working to discover the painter.

“The presenter showed some of Dr Wilson’s artwork,” she said.

“As soon as I saw his distinctive handwriting, I knew he had painted the Tree Creeper. This made sense as there was also a 1911 newspaper article from the Lyttelton Times in the papers and Scott’s party went to Antarctica via New Zealand.”

The watercolour was discovered in 2016 but kept a secret to let the Antarctic Heritage Trust focus on restoring the 1,500 artefacts they recovered from the Cape Adare huts.

It will be returned when the structures have been secured to ensure their continued protection.

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Tree-climbing, seed-spitting goats aid farming

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While the local goats have been considered something of a menace because of their fondness for the argan fruit, Spanish ecologists have observed an unusual way in which they might actually be helping – they are constantly spitting out their seeds.

Domesticated goats in the region are inordinately fond of climbing to the precarious tops of argan trees to find fresh forage.

In some arid habitats, such as argan forests, most green vegetation is at the tops of the trees – which can grow 10 metres high.

Local goatherds are known to encourage the activity, pruning the bushy, thorny trees to make it easier for goats to ascend them, and even helping the goats’ kids to learn how to climb.

During the bare autumn season in the region, goats can spend three quarters of their foraging time “treetop grazing” in the argan trees.

Argan is popular for the beauty products which feature in argan oil, made from the tree’s nuts.

In some arid habitats, such as argan forests, most green vegetation is on the tops of trees and goats climb there to feed. Pic: J Román/EBD-CSIC
Image:In argan forests, most green vegetation is at the tops of trees. Pic: J Roman/EBD-CSIC

However, the goats don’t like the large argan seeds. Like cows, sheep and deer, goats re-chew their food after fermenting it for a while in a specialised stomach, and while ruminating over their cud, the goats have been observed spitting out the argan nuts.

This means they are delivering clean seeds to new ground, wherever the goat has wandered.

Scientists believe that in gaining some distance from the parent tree, the seedling gains a much better chance of survival.

This novel seed dispersal effect is a variation on the mechanism ecologists call “endozoochory”, in which seeds more commonly pass all the way through the animal’s digestive system before departing at the other end.

The authors suspected that reports of goats dispersing argan seeds by this more common mechanism were mistaken.

The researchers have witnessed sheep, captive red deer and fallow deer spitting seeds while chewing their cud, and suspect this spitting variation on endozoochory may actually be common – and perhaps an essential route of seed spread for some plant species.

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Sinkhole opens up in front of Trump’s estate

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The hole appeared on the road just outside the National Historic Landmark in Palm Beach, where the Trump Organisation operates a private club.

The Palm Beach Post reported that the 1m radius hole appeared on Monday to the west of one the resort’s entrances.

It is near a new water main and isn’t a threat to the President’s property, Palm Beach County authorities said.

Donald Trump
Image:Donald Trump has spent seven weekends at the resort since he took office in January

Among the guests who have stayed are Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The resort has now closed for the summer.

Mr Trump bought the estate in 1985 for $10m and embarked on a multimillion dollar improvement programme.

Each of the club’s 500 members pays $14,000 annually in dues after paying an initiation fee, which currently stands at $200,000.

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Dutch king’s double life as an airline pilot

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For 21 years, King Willem-Alexander has taken to the skies twice a month to ferry passengers around on short-haul services for the Dutch airline KLM.

Although travellers may have recognised the monarch’s voice as he updated them on weather conditions and their time of arrival, the royal’s presence was never revealed.

The fleet of smaller Fokker 70 planes flown by the king are now being phased out by KLM, meaning he needs to take time out to retrain and learn to fly Boeing 737s.

The 50-year-old royal described his casual flights as a “hobby” – and said occasionally being able to leave his royal duties behind to concentrate on flying was “relaxing”.

The father-of-three says he has no plans to learn how to fly a bigger aircraft, as flights which involve an overnight stop mean he “cannot get back in time to the Netherlands in case of an emergency”.

On staying incognito, he told De Telegraaf newspaper: “The advantage is that I can always say I am speaking on behalf of the captain and crew to welcome them on board, so I don’t have to say my name.

“But then, most people don’t listen anyway.”

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Land Rover sinks in sand ‘as driver takes photos’

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Police and a tow company were called to Island Beach State Park in New Jersey on Tuesday.

The male driver, said to be aged around 20, had earlier tried to dig the vehicle out with a shovel, with little success.

Video filmed by passer-by Christopher Gillich shows waves hitting the vehicle before it was pulled to safety.

Mr Gillich said a passenger “had asked to go down by the water to take a photo so the kids drove down there and stopped”.

It was then he said the car started to be sucked into the ground until eventually it “couldn’t sink anymore” because the “frame was buried in the sand”.

Officials said the driver was not issued with a summons as he had a mobile sportfishing permit, which allows him to operate a four-wheel drive vehicle on fishing beaches.

Witnesses said the driver insisted on driving the vehicle away despite the engine making strange sounds.

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