24 December 2007: 2007 was a silly year

And finally, we've tried throughout the year to keep you up-to-date with the stranger side of life, featuring stories like the Australian bank that issued a credit card to a cat, and the inadvertent invasion of Liechtenstein by the Swiss army, who got lost on manoeuvres in the dead of night. But there were a few that for various reasons we couldn't cover, so for the last broadcast of 2007 here are the most intriguing:

In Germany a 100-year-old woman in moved out of her retirement home after six weeks saying she found the other residents boring and too old.

Fishery officials in China restocked a river with 13 truckloads of live carp, then residents from the nearby city swarmed to the banks a short way downstream and caught most of them.

An American man ordered flowers for his mistress, and the florists sent the receipt to his home, thereby informing his wife of his infidelity.

A Belgian prankster put the entire country up for sale on the Internet auction site eBay, and might have sold it had the company not noticed and halted the bidding.

And finally, finally: a town in South Korea spent some 140 million dollars to build itself an airport, and then was then forced to admit that no airlines were prepared to fly there.

The International News will be back on the 2nd of January, and from all the International News team, have a merry and peaceful Christmas and a happy new year.

21 December 2007: The Three Kings Fight Back

In Spain, Santa Claus is under attack by his traditional rivals, the Three Kings

Spanish children traditionally receive Christmas presents on January 6, when parades commemorate the Three Kings said to have brought presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Christ.

But in recent years Santa Claus has made inroads, helped by Hollywood films and shops eager to use his image to persuade parents to buy more toys.

So a Spanish advertising agency is fighting back. An advertising campaign portrays Santa's sleigh shot down in an alley, calling him over-commercial and cruel to elves. In one video, three rapping Kings backed by dancing girls taunt Santa as an overweight import and tell him to stay out of Spain.

As yet, Santa has not responded.

20 December 2007: Has anybody seen our tank?

Police in Bulgaria have arrested two Germans and a Bulgarian army officer for stealing a World War II tank and attempting to steal another.

The first tank disappeared between October and December 13 and is still missing, while the second one only had a few of its parts stolen.

Investigators suspect the armoured vehicle or its parts may have been smuggled to Germany, to sell to collectors.

The vehicles had laid unused since World War II near Bulgaria's south-eastern border with Turkey.

Anyone who comes across the missing tank is asked to contact Bulgarian police.

19 December 2007: Illegal Walking

A pedestrian has been charged with damaging property, after walking over a car that was parked on the pavement, but the car driver was not ticketed for illegal parking.

Drivers in Greece's congested capital are notorious for leaving their cars wherever it suits them, including on pavements, wheelchair ramps and even hospital entrances.

"I could not get past the vehicle, a four-wheel drive, which had been parked right on the pavement so I got angry and just walked over it," the man told state television on Tuesday.

The owner of the vehicle saw him and called police. "They did not even bother giving the owner a parking ticket," he said.

18 December 2007: Happy Worms

Colin Bell, an inventor in New Zealand, has come up with an eco-friendly alternative to a septic tank, in which worms do all the necessary work. But local bureaucrats objected to his design on the grounds that it was unfair to the worms, saying they might suffer psychological harm because of their diet.

Auckland Regional Council told him that before his invention could go ahead he would have to find someone with the necessary qualifications to say the worms are happy.

So Mr Bell employed a vermiculture consultant to study the worms. She concluded that, as they were in excellent health and breeding, they were clearly happy and there was nothing to be worried about.

Now his "wormorator" can be installed as planned in a local campsite.

17 December 2007: Growing Old Disgracefully

Crimes committed by older people in Japan jumped threefold this year compared with a decade ago.

About 45,000 people over 65 were prosecuted between January and November, nearly half of them for shoplifting.

And assaults by older people rose to 1,700 from just 100 in the same period a decade ago, according to the National Police Agency.

SaintFM blames their parents.

14 December 2007: Cyber Chat

Users of internet chatrooms are constantly being warned that the person on the other end may not be who they say they are, with paedophiles regularly posing as children to make contacts. And now, it seems, it may not even be a person.

A Russian company has come up with a computer program that, it says, can simulate flirtatious chatroom exchanges. It boasts that the program can chat up as many as 10 women at the same time and persuade them to hand over phone numbers and other information. The makers claim that "Not a single girl has yet realised that she was communicating with a computer program", and that the settings on its software can be changed to attract men.

Computer security experts say the software could be used to collect people's personal details for identity fraud, though the creators deny it was intended for that use.

SaintFM repeats the warning – be very cautious in chatrooms.

13 December 2007: Parked Polly Prosecution

Greek traffic police are threatening to charge Coco the parrot with illegal parking.

Every morning, Coco's owner puts the parrot and his perch on the road, just outside his pet shop in Patras. Over the years Coco has become something of a local landmark, exchanging pleasantries with passers-by. But local traffic police say that Coco's owner must pay parking charges for the road-space he occupies, and if not they will fine him 60 euro (that's about forty pounds).

His owner has refused to move him, and SaintFM wonders if Coco will have to start busking to pay his bill.

12 December 2007: Sick as a parrot

Former England football boss Steve McClaren has at last won something: the Plain English Campaign's "Foot in Mouth Award" for a priceless piece of sporting wisdom.

McClaren won the award for his assessment of Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney, saying "He is inexperienced, but he's experienced in terms of what he's been through."

Last year's winner was supermodel Naomi Campbell, with her patriotic declaration: "I love England, especially the food. There's nothing I like more than a lovely bowl of pasta."

The annual awards highlight unclear language from public bodies and the media.

Two winners of this year's "Golden Bull" award, which highlights impenetrable or inappropriate use of jargon, are for a sign at London's Gatwick Airport stating: "Passenger shoe repatriation area only", and a statement from Virgin Trains which reads as follows:

"Moving forwards, we as Virgin Trains are looking to take ownership of the flow in question to apply our pricing structure, thus resulting in this journey search appearing in the new category-matrix format. The pricing of this particular flow is an issue going back to 1996 and it is not something that we can change until 2008 at the earliest. I hope this makes the situation clear."

11 December 2007: Taxing Children

As if raising children wasn't taxing enough, an Australian professor has suggested taxing people who have more than two.

He argues that the tax is needed because of the extra greenhouse gas emissions caused by the growing world population.

"Every family choosing to have more than a defined number of children should be charged a carbon tax that would fund the planting of enough trees to offset the carbon cost generated by a new human being," he said.

Under his proposals, parents with more than two children should pay about 2,000 pounds a head for each extra child and up to 350 pounds every year thereafter.

10 December 2007: Ham-fisted Advertising

An upmarket food store in New York's Greenwich Village was keen to encourage the local Jewish community to shop there, so offered specials for the Jewish Hanukkah Festival, which began on Wednesday.

Sadly one of the specials offered was ham, with the slogan "Delicious for Hanukkah". Pork and shellfish are among the foods banned under Jewish law.

The unorthodox sign was spotted by a local resident who, instead of alerting management, took a photograph and posted it on the Internet.

A manager at the store blamed the mistake on a clerk.

7 December 2007: Bank's Plans Binned

Earlier this week a member of the public discovered top-secret security plans for a bank's vault in a dustbin.

The vault, in the German central bank's Berlin offices, was recently reopened after extensive renovation works, including new security systems. The detailed drawings found in the bin included many of the vault's security arrangements, including the location of people detectors, stairwells, grilled gates and measurements with the depth of the vault's floor. The bin was in a public courtyard in central Berlin.

A Bundesbank spokeswoman said the bank was looking into how the plans could have ended up in a public bin.

6 December 2007: How does your garden grow?

Acting on a tip-off, police officers raided the Orthodox nunnery in a small Greek village and found more than 30 large cannabis plants growing in the enclosed garden.

Apparently two men posing as gardeners had persuaded the elderly nuns they would like to help them with the garden, and then proceeded to plant the cannabis. The nuns did not know what they were and assumed they were just large decorative plants.

Police decided not to arrest the nuns and have launched a hunt for the culprits.

5 December 2007: Rich Bitch Flees Death Threats

A dog who inherited 12 million dollars earlier this year has fled to Florida under an assumed name after receiving death threats.

Trouble, a white Maltese who belonged to late billionaire Leona Helmsley, was flown to Florida by private jet under tight security after receiving around 20 threats against her life.

The man in charge of the pampered pet's trust fund said that the cost of Trouble's round-the-clock security detail, medical care, chef-cooked meals and grooming were around 300,000 dollars a year.

SaintFM would like to point out that 300,000 dollars a year would be enough to keep around 500 people from dying in poverty.

4 December 2007: Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen?

A TV company in Los Angeles is trying to find backers for a new TV programme with title "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen?".

The proposal is for a TV dating programme that aims to create televised matrimony between American citizens and prospective immigrants. Marrying an American Citizen is one way to get residency in the USA.

In a statement, the company said that it has already signed up contestants for the first six episodes, and while it does not guarantee marriage or legal status, it will pay for a wedding party and honeymoon should a marriage result.

3 December 2007: Men R Us?

Women in Salzburg are now able to Christmas-shop without distraction.

A man-crèche has been set up in the town centre, and women can leave their boyfriends and husbands there while they hunt down all those last-minute presents, without a whingeing man getting in the way.

Women surrender their partners at the tent's entrance, free of charge, between 4:00pm to 10:00pm. They are given a ticket which they have to present on their return to collect their partner.

While in the crèche the men can play computer games, read newspapers or magazines such as Playboy, or simply have a drink at the bar.

Last year around 1,500 men found refuge there from the shopaholic tendencies of their 'better half', and its creator now plans to expand. He is planning to set up similar crèches in Vienna, Hamburg and Munich. The crèches might even operate all year round, the entrepreneur suggested.

30 November 2007: Teachers can be criticised

A German court has ruled that students have the right to criticise their teachers and publish their opinions on the Internet, as long as the words used are not defamatory.

The court in Cologne rejected a complaint by a teacher against the operators of a website (http://www.spickmich.de) on which students can class their teachers in categories such as "cool and funny", "sexy" and "gives fair marks".

The teacher had been given a very low rating on the website.

The website says it has more than 150,000 contributing students.

29 November 2007: Brief Encounter

It's cold in Denmark at this time of year, so an amorous couple who couldn't wait until they got home, decided to consummate their relationship in the waiting room of the station.

This annoyed the other travellers, who were forced to go out onto the freezing platforms to avoid embarrassment. They called in the police to derail the couple's activities.

A police spokesman remarked that, despite what they were doing, the pair were still dressed when the officers arrived. "That's why we didn't charge them with indecency," he said.

27 November 2007: Guard your valuables, at all times

A German father had a heart-stopping moment when he popped into the bank to get some money, leaving his car outside, with his 18-month-old baby asleep in the back. When he came out he found the car had vanished.

Fearing an abduction Police scrambled a team of 50 officers as well as a helicopter to track down the missing vehicle and child.

However the car was found nearby a short while later, with the baby boy still fast asleep inside. The baby seemed to have slept through the whole thing.

Police believe the car had been stolen by a thief who, having discovered the baby in the back, thought better of his crime and returned the vehicle.

What the baby's mother said to her negligent husband was not recorded.

26 November 2007: Massive Government Waste

According to figures compiled by its national Audit Office the German government wasted nearly one-and-a half billion pounds last year.

Examples cited in the Federal Audit Office's 2007 annual review of government spending, which found a lack of oversight in 85 percent of the cases it investigated, included:

  • Renting computers for three years which could have been bought for about 85% of the cost;
  • About 135 million pounds spent on a piece of railway track that was never built;
  • Maintenance of an underground air surveillance bunker that serves no military purpose;
  • The development of new seats for vehicles to carry elderly people, where the vehicles are now deemed so unsafe they can't be used on public roads.

"These are very troubling findings," the auditors said in a statement.

23 November 2007: Topless Calendar Surprise

A woman has caused surprise by posing for a topless calendar. That itself is not unusual; what caused the surprise is that Nora Hardwick is 101 years old.

Ms Hardwick will be Miss November in the calendar, which will raise money for a children's football team in her village in Lincolnshire.

Speaking to a local newspaper she said "I am always game for anything, especially if it's for charity, and I did enjoy it, though I don't suppose I will do it again."

The initiative echoes the calendar put together by the Rylstone and District Women's Institute in North Yorkshire, the story of which was told in the 2003 film "Calendar Girls".

22 November 2007: Eagles and Birdies

A golf club in Australia has more than eagles and birdies to contend with; it also has ducks. And animal lovers are up in arms over its plans to shoot them.

The Sydney golf club's plan was to cull the native wood ducks living on its course, because they are ripping up its greens. The club says it had already tried placing cat-like objects and rubber snakes around the course, and had resorted to shooting as a last resort. But when local animal lovers found out about the plan they dug up some of the greens in the dead of night and left a note threatening of more trouble if any ducks were harmed.

Now the club has abandoned the cull plan, and is seeking another way to persuade the ducks to relocate.

21 November 2007: The fast and the furious

A teenager speeding through a German town with seven squad cars in hot pursuit still managed to give the frustrated officers the slip, police have admitted.

To add to their embarrassment, the boy wasn't driving a high powered car - he was in a go-kart.

After leading the convoy on a 3-mile chase through the winding streets of Moenchengladbach, the 18-year-old driver spotted a private garage with an open door, where he decided to lie low. However, police later discovered his hiding place. He was charged with driving without a licence and driving a go-kart on a public street, which is not permitted in Germany.

Moenchengladbach has produced two Formula One racing drivers. Both Nick Heidfeld and Heinz-Harald Frentzen were born there.

20 November 2007: A Bigger Barbecue

A cook in Morocco has prepared the world's largest barbecue -- by spit-roasting a 1,200-pound camel.

Two centuries ago a Moroccan king offered a roast camel to his people. "It's a tradition that's fallen out of favour and I brought it back" said 63-year-old Christian Falco, who hails from the south-western French city of Perpignan.

Cooking the camel took 15 hours and used three tons of wood and 15 litres of cooking oil.

Some 500 intrepid diners then feasted on it.

19 November 2007: Just Desserts?

With people around the world trying to live on less than one dollar a day the recent announcement by a New York restaurant that it was offering an ice-cream sundae that cost $1000, and another desert that cost $25,000 ,was considered by many to be a bit tasteless.

So its critics will perhaps feel that the restaurant has got its just deserts. It has been shut down by health officials due to an infestation of mice and cockroaches.

Serendipity 3 on the Upper East Side failed its second consecutive health inspection in a month after inspectors found a live mouse, mouse droppings in multiple places, flies and dozens of live cockroaches.

"We're rectifying it as quickly as we can," said the owner.

16 November 2007: Diesel for 11p a litre

Soaring oil prices have led Thailand's police to seek cheaper and more environmentally friendly fuel, and they think they have found a solution: used cooking oil.

They now make biodiesel from old cooking oil donated by hotels, fast food shops and even shrines, using a locally-made machine that can produce up to 450 litres of biodiesel a day. The resulting fuel costs just 7.0 baht (that's about 11p) per litre. As well as being cheap, the biodiesel is much more environmentally friendly than a fossil fuel.

A spokesman said homemade biodiesel now accounted for 50 percent of the fuel used at the city centre police station.

SaintFM wants to know when that machine will be available here.

15 November 2007: The Bride's a Real Dog

An Indian farmer has married a dog, believing it will help him overcome a curse.

Some time ago the farmer found two dogs mating in his rice field, and killed them both by throwing stones. A few days later, his hearing and speech became impaired and he became unable to walk.

Doctors were clueless, but an astrologer finally told him he was cursed by the spirits of the dogs he had killed. He could undo the curse only if he married a dog.

After a long search for a 'suitable bride', he has now married a four-year-old mongrel. A Hindu priest conducted the ceremony.

"The dog is only for lifting the curse; after that he plans to get a real bride," a friend said.

14 November 2007: Feed the birds - $1000 a go

A New York City Councillor is fed up with things dropping out of the sky, and this time it's not Al Qaeda that bothers him; it's pigeons.

City Councilman Simcha Felder has called on the city to levy a fine of as much as $1,000 on people caught feeding pigeons, and to employ hawks to scare the birds away. Similar measures are already in force in London and are being introduced in Venice. New York tried a hawk previously, in 2003, but the programme was abandoned when the hawk attacked a small pet dog.

Councilman Felder is also proposing to distribute pigeon contraceptives to reduce their numbers, though exactly how the birds would be persuaded to cooperate with this wasn't made clear.

13 November 2007: Excuse me - haven't you forgotten something?

It's easy to forget little things when you go out, but a German man filled up at a petrol station, paid, and then went off without his car.

After the car had sat blocking the pump for about an hour, a woman working at the petrol station alerted authorities. Police contacted the man, who came straight back to fetch the vehicle.

"He just forgot about it and walked off home," said a police spokesman.

SaintFM thinks it was lucky for him his wife wasn't waiting in the car.

12 November 2007: Shark infested waters

A two-metre shark has been caught in a river in southern Iraq more than 160 miles from the sea.

A local man was fishing with his sons when they spotted a large fish thrashing about in his net. "I recognised the fish as a shark because I have seen one on a television programme," he said.

Locals blamed the U.S. military for the shark's unusual location. One local teacher said there was a "75 percent chance" the Americans had put the shark in the water.

9 November 2007: Green Bras

So many Japanese eat with disposable chopsticks the used implements are causing an environmental problem, but carrying around chopsticks for re-use has been difficult - until now.

A women's lingerie maker in Japan has unveiled a new bra with side pouches to hold compact chopsticks. Following the theme, the bra has cups fashioned to look like a bowl of rice.

The company also claims the chopsticks tucked in both sides of the bra will give lift to the breasts and "gently accentuate cleavage".

But before you rush off to buy one, the makers say for now this is only a 'concept design'. There are currently no plans to put the bra on sale.

8 November 2007: Green Chocolate

Lovers of chocolate can now help the environment.

English firm Ecotec has taken waste from the chocolate manufacturing process and turned it into an eco-friendly bio-diesel. Bio-diesel can replace conventional fuel in an unmodified diesel engine, thus reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

The chocolate waste used to be put into landfill, making its conversion into a useful fuel a double benefit.

But sadly one of the team confirmed that one hoped-for by-product of the new process hasn't materialised. "I'm afraid the exhaust doesn't smell of chocolate," he said.

7 November 2007: Please don't hand it in

A police station in Devon had to be evacuated after a man left a hand grenade on the front desk, having found it while digging on his allotment.

Officers at Paignton police station called in explosives experts after the World War II device was brought in by a member of the public.

The finder had unearthed it while working on his allotment, put it in his car and brought it to the station.

"In retrospect we would have preferred him to leave it where it was," said a spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police, who continued: "Our advice is that if people do find something like this, call us and we'll get the experts in."

6 November 2007: Green Donkeys

A Sicilian town has replaced its rubbish trucks with donkeys and claims to be saving money as well as helping to beat global warming.

The town of 10,000 people has replaced its four rubbish trucks with six donkeys. The donkeys each carry two wooden boxes and are accompanied by refuse men who have been renamed "ecological operators".
As well as significantly reducing its carbon emissions, the town estimates that it will save about £40,000 over five years. Other towns in the region are expected to follow.

5 November 2007: The Balkans Have It

A Bulgarian woman and a Romanian man have the world's best-looking bottoms, according to the jury of a backside beauty contest sponsored by a lingerie firm.

As well as a 10,000 euro cash prize, Kristina Dimitrova, who is 19, and 24-year-old Andrei Andrei each won a modelling contract for the company's next international advertising campaign and a year-long insurance policy for their rear ends in case of injury.

Some 15,000 people from 29 countries responded to a call by a European company to post photos of their backsides on the Internet. The site drew more than five million visitors.

2 November 2007: A flying centegenarian

A British pensioner has marked her 100th birthday in style by paragliding from the top of a mountain.

Peggy McAlpine, who has seen the reign of five British monarchs and 26 prime ministers, leapt from a 2,500-foot peak in the Five Finger mountains in Cyprus for the 15-minute tandem flight.

She was handed a glass of champagne on touch-down by her cheering fans, who toasted her success in a bid to enter the record books by becoming the oldest person to paraglide.

Peggy is not new to airborne antics, having bungee-jumped from scaffolding aged 70.

1 November 2007: Train Scare

Passengers on a German train were shocked to discover a blood-covered body. When they couldn't get any response from the man they sought help.

A first aid team called to the scene soon cleared up the confusion. The 24-year-old man had fallen into a drunken slumber on his way home from a Halloween party in Hamburg.

Police told the man to remove his make-up after which he was allowed to continue his journey.

31 October 2007: Friendly Smuggling

A 19-year-old woman appears to have escaped from a juvenile detention centre in northwest Germany by hiding in the suitcase of a fellow inmate who was being released.

Prison officers at the facility had noted that the suitcase of the released 18-year-old was particularly heavy, but failed to search it.

The fact that the other woman was missing was only noticed several hours later during the routine evening check of cells at the centre.

The police are looking for the two young women.

30 October 2007: A Moving Service

Church services can be moving, but churches themselves tend to stay put; but not so in Germany.

The 300 residents of one small German village, forced to move out of their homes to allow coal to be extracted from beneath, did not want to lose their 700-year-old village church. So they took it with them.

The church, complete with bells and altar, was loaded onto a truck and set off on the 7 mile trek to its new home. The 1,000-tonne load is costing the mining firm more than 2 million pounds to move.

29 October 2007: Police Stopped

A Brussels police chief has issued a warning to his officers to abstain from visiting brothels and drinking alcohol during working hours.

The police chief wrote: "Staff think that working hours are for drinking alcohol, playing sport, frequenting brothels or massage parlours, and developing intimate relationships with residents of their neighbourhood".

He warned that such acts would "no longer be tolerated."

Questioned by journalists a police spokesman said that the abuses cited were, in his words, "baseless rumours", and that no such activities had actually taken place.

24 October 2007: Fishy Food Found Fleeing

People in the German city of Stuttgart couldn't believe their eyes the other morning when they spotted a group of crayfish scuttling down the street.

Police were called to arrest the errant crustaceans, which had escaped from an Asian food shop by squeezing through gaps in the grating on their tanks and leaving by the store's front door, which had been left ajar.

The police succeeded in recapturing them all, so the shop's customers did get their shellfish dinner that night. The recaptured crayfish didn't comment.

23 October 2007: Smelly Kidappee

Kidnappers are active in Columbia, where more than 3,000 people are currently being held captive, mostly by anti-government guerrillas.

But the group who kidnapped Aldo de Fescol only held him for two days and then dropped him off at a veterinarian's office, saying he needed a bath. Aldo is a German Shepherd dog.

When nobody came to collect the newly sweet-smelling canine the vet called the police who identified the dog. He had been kidnapped - or maybe that's dognapped - last month from his home in a rich Bogota neighbourhood while his owners were away.

22 October 2007: A Tasty Reward

A brewery in New Zealand is offering a lifetime supply of free beer in return for a stolen laptop.

The computer, containing designs, creative work, contact details and financial information, was stolen from the Croucher Brewing Company in the central North Island city of Rotorua.

The owners are desperate to get it back because, while the company has back-up copies of its work, they are not as up-to-date as the data on the stolen machine.

The "lifetime supply" - which they say is about 12 beers each month - is offered to whoever turns in the person responsible for the burglary.

19 October 2007: Flushed with Success

The Islington area of north London is popular with pub and club goers, so needs an additional set of public toilets. And one local trader has an idea for how to name them.

Mike Weedon has proposed that they be named after Joe Orton, a local resident and renowned playwright. Joe Orton was openly gay, his life having been celebrated in the 1987 film "Prick Up Your Ears".

Islington Borough Council is not impressed with the idea. The deputy leader said "I would only support a naming plaque on a toilet if something worth commemorating happened there."

SaintFM things the best thing to say at this point is nothing at all.

18 October 2007: Spending a penny

An Austrian baker, who made his staff pay for the time they spent in the toilet, has been forced to end the practice.

According to papers filed with the courts, the owner of the bakery recorded employees' toilet visits on a computer and took the time off their annual holiday allowance.

A former employee took the case to the local labour court. The bakery owner ended the practice before the case got to court, and has agreed to pay compensation to his staff.

17 October 2007: Hey, did you know ...?

Research published this week shows that people prefer to believe what they hear through the grapevine, even when they have hard evidence to the contrary.

Researchers using a computer-based study technique found gossip played an important role when people make decisions.

In the study, the participants assessed other people who they knew only from their descriptions, such as "nasty" or as "generous". The participants were then given factual information; but they continued to give preference to the descriptions rather than the facts.

"They reacted on gossip even if they knew better" the researchers concluded.

The researchers defined gossip as "social information spread about a person who is not present".

16 October 2007: The Truth Will Out (at a price)

The Knights Templar, the medieval Christian order disbanded under accusations of heresy and sexual misconduct, will soon be partly rehabilitated when the Vatican publishes trial documents it has kept closely guarded for 700 years.

The Templars were founded in 1119 by knights, to protect Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. They amassed enormous wealth, and legends abound of their hidden treasures, secret rituals and power. In the recent bestseller "The Da Vinci Code" the Knights are portrayed as guardians of the legendary Holy Grail.

After Muslims re-conquered the Holy Land at the end of the 13th century the Templars were accused of heresy by King Philip IV of France. Members of the Order were burned at the stake and, despite his conviction that the Templars were not guilty, in 1312 Pope Clement ordered the Order disbanded. Many thing the Templars had been falsely accused, by people jealous of their wealth and power.

Now, if you want to make up your own mind, a reproduction of the minutes of the trials against the Templars is about to be published. The Papal Inquiry into the Trial of the Templars will be available from the Vatican on 25th October.

Be prepared to pay about 4,000 pounds for a copy.


15 October 2007: What would you do?

If a disaster were about to destroy the earth what would you do in your last 60 minutes?

Not surprisingly, the majority of Britons questioned in a survey said they would like to spend it either with or on the phone to their loved ones.

But the survey also revealed a strong hedonistic streak -- 13 percent would sit back, accept the inevitable and reach for a glass of champagne.

Sex appealed to only nine percent and two percent said they would reach for some fatty food.

Interestingly, the survey found that just three percent would turn to prayer.

12 October 2007: Moth Broth

Australians have hit on a radical solution to an unusually large invasion of moths -- eat them.

Millions of bogong moths have descended on Canberra and Sydney, clogging air-conditioning ducts, swooping on unwary pedestrians and setting off fire alarms.

Unusually strong winds have blown the moths off course as they migrate from the heat of Queensland state to the cool of the Snowy Mountains.

Now one Canberra restaurateur says he will include the moths on his menu next week.

"They can be made into a soup or served in some brandy," he said. "You flame them so the wings and the fur burn off and they go crunchy."

An alternative recipe involves putting a handful of moths through a coffee blender, then sprinkling them on an omelette, though one Australian naturalist said he preferred his moths raw. "It's like eating a prawn cocktail," he said.

11 October 2007: Thou shalt not steal

A judge in Singapore sentenced a man to four months in jail for trying to steal a book, and then admonished him with Scripture before sending him off to prison.

The man had tried to steal a copy of the Bible, and said he had tried to steal it to replace his old, tattered copy.

While sentencing the 26-year-old thief the judge actually gave him a copy of the Bible, saying "You will see at page 65 that it says 'Thou shalt not steal'. Sit in prison and read the Bible, and ensure that you don't come before the courts again."

10 October 2007: The Customer is Always Right

A Norwegian food retailer has decided to take a radical approach to customer complaints. It will accept them without question.

The second biggest food chain in Norway said competition among retailers was fierce and that in order to win new clients it had to become more creative. So now, if someone brings something back, they will get a full refund, even if there was nothing wrong with the product and the customer just didn't like it.

"We trust our customers," a spokesman said.

However the retailer did say it would be "cautious" about refunding cash for alcohol products after they had been consumed.

9 October 2007: Not Lost in Space

If an orbiting spacecraft goes round the earth several times a day, at what time should the crew do morning prayers?

These and other urgent questions for Muslim astronauts are answered in the world's first comprehensive guidebook for Muslims in space.

The book, entitled Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites at the International Space Station, has been 'launched' in time to be used by Malaysia's first Muslim astronaut, who will ascend to the orbiting laboratory this Wednesday. It explains how to perform ablutions, determine prayer times, fast in space, kneel on the ground while weightless and, perhaps most difficult when you are moving round the earth at nearly twenty thousand miles-per-hour: determine the location of Mecca when praying.

8 October 2007: Cutting edge research

Scientists who investigate more obscure things rarely get a mention, but the now annual Ig-Nobel Awards have addressed that.

Notable research from this year's 17th Ig-Nobel Award ceremony include the team which discovered that Viagra also works on hamsters, a Spanish group who asked whether rats could tell the difference between Japanese and Dutch spoken backwards, and a study into how sheets wrinkle.

Winners receive a small trophy affixed with a chicken and an egg.

SaintFM is fascinated by the report of the Japanese researcher who demonstrated that it is possible to extract vanilla flavouring from cow dung; not to know how, but simply: why?

5 October 2007: Animal-Friendly Space Cakes

In coffee shops in Amsterdam, hashish can be consumed openly in a relaxed atmosphere, but local animal rights groups were not happy. They complained that the "spacecakes" sold - which are baked with hashish and can give an intense high - were made with battery-farmed eggs.

So now the coffee shops are turning to using free-range eggs to reduce the suffering of chickens. Four large shops have already switched and 20 more plan to follow.

Soft drugs are officially banned in the Netherlands but under a policy of tolerance, buyers are allowed to have less than 5 grams of cannabis in their possession.

4 October 2007: Fear of frying

Staff at a Thai restaurant in London were puzzled when fire-fighters broke down their door and burst in, dressed in full chemical alert gear. All the staff were led out of the restaurant and had to wait in the street for three hours while the 'incident' was investigated.
Someone in the area had dialled 999 after what had been described as an "acrid cloud" had sent passers-by spluttering for cover. Fearing a terrorist attack police had sealed off the street and called a hazardous area response team to the scene. The smoke had been traced to the restaurant.

It transpired that the alert was caused by the restaurant's chef, who had been preparing an especially hot dish which involved dry-frying four kilograms of bird's eye chillies. The restaurant staff thought nothing of it, being used to the pungent aroma.

"I can understand why people who weren't Thai would not know what it was," the chef commented.

3 October 2007: Broken-up but not broke

In Japan divorce can be an expensive business. First there are the legal fees which, like everything else in Japan, are expensive. Then the spouse that is found to be at fault for the breakdown of the marriage can be required to pay compensation to their former partner of up to 4 million yen (that's about 17,000 pounds).

Now one bank in Japan has launched a product which it says will help. It will lend up to 5 million yen to the divorcing party to cover the legal costs and compensation payments.

The bank says that its "Re" loan ("Re" because the borrower is re-starting their life) is far cheaper than borrowing on credit cards, as divorcees have done in the past.

It has denied that it is encouraging divorce.

2 October 2007: Curious Myths

After today's ten o'clock International News there will be a feature on Sexual Health, so on that theme here are the results of a UK survey that asked teenagers how they could avoid starting a pregnancy. The results included some very strange ideas. And, for the avoidance of doubt, not one of these is true.

Some respondents relayed some old myths that everyone should know to be false. For example:

  • You can reuse condoms, and if you don't have a condom, Clingfilm or a crisp packet will be just as effective;

  • You can’t get pregnant if it's your first time; and

  • You can’t get pregnant having sex standing up.

Some showed imagination, but are equally inaccurate, including:

  • Jumping up and down after sex stops you getting pregnant; and

  • You won’t get pregnant if you 'wash' afterwards with coca cola.

And some are so weird it's hard to imagine how anyone could have thought of them. For example:

  • A boy is only fertile if his testicles feel cold; and

  • You can’t get pregnant if you have sex in a boat.

If you thought any of those to be true make sure you listen in at ten o'clock today.

1 October 2007: Too many would-be chiefs

Bulgaria is having local elections this month, and so many candidates are standing that the ballot papers will be 2 metres long.

The Election Authorities have announced they will have to import more than 11 million envelopes to accommodate the ballot papers because the ones available locally are not large enough.

The Administration Minister is also concerned that the ballot boxes may be also too small, though that will depend on how many people turn out to vote. Bulgaria has more than 70 political parties and coalitions, so voters may decide it's all too complicated and just stay at home.

28 September 2007: Records are good for you

This year's Guinness World Records book is published today, so we'll follow tradition and report a few of the more interesting achievements that it documents.

  • The record for smashing watermelons over your head is held by Australian John Allwood, who broke 40 in just one minute;
  • The most books typed backwards is 57, by Italian Michele Santana;
  • American Jackie Bibby shared his bath with a record number of live western diamondback rattlesnakes - 75 of them, to be precise;
  • And Frenchman Michel Lotito has the weirdest diet, having consumed a total of 128 bicycles, 15 supermarket trolleys, six chandeliers, two beds and a pair of skis.

Other records include throwing a washing machine for the longest distance; keeping the most yo-yos going simultaneously; and holding your breath, which you would have to do for more than 14 minutes to have a hope of winning for next year's book.

SaintFM feels that few of the achievements have any practical application, though maybe German Thomas Vogel is an exception: in one minute he managed, with one hand, to unfasten 56 bras.

27 September 2007: Gone home in 60 seconds

Californian police thought they'd scored a victory in their narcotics war when they stopped three Mexican youths just inside American territory who they believed were smuggling drugs.

The arresting officer handcuffed them and put them in his patrol car while he searched their truck. Unfortunately for him he left his engine running with his keys in the ignition, so one of the lads, still wearing handcuffs, grabbed the steering wheel and headed back into Mexico.

Mexican police used a helicopter to locate the American patrol vehicle, which they found in a remote area near the border.

The youths escaped.

26 September 2007: Spellbound

An astrologer in northern Greece has been charged with fraud for casting fake spells.

The astrologer took payments from a woman over a nine-month period, supposedly for spells to induce her lover to return. In total the payments came to about 100,000 pounds.

Eventually the woman despaired and spoke to the police.

Astrologers and diviners make a brisk business in Greece, where belief in the 'evil eye' still runs strong, and where the reading of palms and coffee-cups is commonly used to plan relationships and even business deals.

25 September 2007: Unidentified flying objects

There is usually little to amuse on the tense Israeli-Syrian border, but a recent escapade makes an exception.

Israeli radar systems picked up a potential incursion from Syria by unidentified aircraft, and sounded the alert. Fighter planes were scrambled to intercept the enemy, and raced to their target, only to discover that the invaders were: a flock of birds.

Israeli radar admitted the mistake, saying that officers had been unable to rule them out as enemy aircraft from the screen and were preferring not to take any risk.

24 September 2007: Politics with no cover-up

The new women's political party in Poland says it has nothing to hide, and is proving it with its new campaign posters.

The posters, for the parliamentary elections on October 21st, show various of the candidates posing nude.

Seven women, including the party's founder and president, appear on the posters, with the slogan "Everything for the future... and nothing to hide."

Polls taken before the posters' launch gave the party only 3 percent of the vote. If the posters improve that, politicians around the world will doubtless start thinking very carefully.

21 September 2007: Judgement Day

A court in the USA is to be asked to cast judgement on the ultimate judge -- God himself.

A lawsuit has been filed against the Almighty (in all his various aliases) for causing "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues" and other alliterative catastrophes.

The suit asks the court for an injunction ordering the defendant (i.e. God) to stop these activities and pay compensation for the damage done. The originator argues that, as these things are described in law as "Acts of God" it is God to whom the case must be directed.

According to reports "neither God nor any of his/her spokespersons could be contacted for comment".

20 September 2007: A hole in each one

Australia will soon have the world's longest golf course.

Plans to build the course received a welcome boost yesterday when the Australian government offered funding for the venture.

The 18-hole course will stretch along the Eyre Highway, which crosses treeless desert in the south of the continent. There will be one hole placed in each town along the way, and one at a remote sheep farm. In total the course will be 750 miles long, stretching from an inland mining town to the coast.

The golf idea was created to promote tourism in the remote-area and encourage people who drive along the highway to stop and see the local towns.

19 September 2007: Not so blue pills

Three men have been found guilty of a multi-million pound global conspiracy to sell fake Viagra and baldness cures.

The fake tablets were manufactured in illicit factories in China, Pakistan and Asia and then sold to unsuspecting customers in the UK and America for up to £20 per tablet.

The trial heard the fakes looked almost identical to the real thing, with carefully forged packaging, logos and patient information leaflets.

The counterfeits were sold via the Internet, to unsuspecting consumers who spent large amounts of money unaware that they were buying fakes.

SaintFM expects that the perpetrators will be given a stiff sentence.

18 September 2007: Sailors getting bigger cups

The Australian military has been forced to defended its decision to pay for female sailors to have breast implants, claiming the operations were not carried out for cosmetic reasons.

An Australian Defence Force spokesman refused to say how many women had had the operation funded by the Australian tax-payer.

He said the military would not pay for the surgery just to make the women "look sexy" but would pay where there were what he called "medical, dental or compelling psychological or psychiatric reasons".

Exactly what "medical, dental or compelling psychological or psychiatric reasons" would apply to breast enhancement was not stated.

SaintFM wonders whether this ruling also applies to male Australian sailors who wish to enlarge aspects of their bodies?

17 September 2007: Signs of the times

Campaigners for good English have attacked the growing tendency for people to put up stupid signs. As examples, they cite a number of silly so-called 'information' notices such as:

  • a packet of peanuts carrying the warning "may contain nuts";

  • a steam iron with the instruction "Do not iron clothes on body";

  • a bicycle manual with the observation "Removing the wheel can influence the performance of the bicycle";

  • sleeping pills that say "may cause drowsiness"; and

  • an aircraft door with a notice advising "Do not open door while airborne".

  • "They assume a lack of intelligence on the part of the reader", a spokesman commented.

    Other dislikes include a road sign which read "Caution: water on road during rain" and a police notice which simply said "Don't commit crime".

    The spokesman concluded: "If nothing needs to be said, say nothing."

    'nuf said.

    14 September 2007: Go on; make my day

    A would-be robber in Columbia made a mistake when he tried to hold up a school with a gun.

    Far from being intimidated by the weapon, the students promptly disarmed and subdued him. When police arrived all they needed to do was take him to hospital.

    His mistake was in trying to rob the local Karate school.

    13 September 2007: Home from home

    A British couple have been living in a budget roadside hotel for more than 20 years because they love never having to do the laundry or cooking.

    Although David Davidson and his wife Jean now live in the Travelodge Motel, which is just off the A1 trunk road in Grantham, they have kept their old flat in Sheffield and return every fortnight to collect the post.

    They are not bothered by having the smallish room, or by the passing traffic which rumbles along throughout the night. They pay about 15 pounds per night for the room which, as a UK newspaper points out, is less than some people pay for their mortgage. For that they get all their cooking, cleaning, laundry and maintenance done and they don't get large heating bills in the winter.

    The hotel is now renaming their room The Davidsons' Suite, and plans to mount a plaque in the reception to mark the anniversary of their arrival.

    They do sometimes go on holiday - and always stay in a Travelodge hotel.

    12 September 2007: A night to remember

    One Russian province is suffering from a declining population, and has decided that its future depends on it taking action.

    So today has been designated "Family Contact" day. It is unofficially being described as "Conception Day".

    The theory is that children conceived today will be born on or around Russia's Constitution Day on June 12. Mothers who succeed in giving birth on that day wil get prizes, the nature of which are yet to be confirmed.

    A series of concerts and exhibitions will take place today and employers have been encouraged to grant workers a day off.

    SaintFM thinks that the best time to grant workers a day off might have been tomorrow - to recover.

    11 September 2007: Give us a clue

    Police had little difficulty locating the culprits after a gang ransacked a campsite in northwest England. One of them had written his name on a wall.

    The 18-year-old was so drunk he wrote "Peter Addison was here!" in black marker pen, as well as his gang's name, on one of the campsite's walls.

    The campsite's owners were amazed that the names were genuine. "I thought that would be a decoy", one commented.

    "The daftness of this lad certainly made our job a lot easier", police admitted.

    10 September 2007: Winds & Trees

    A period of strong wind across St. Helena, starting in the evening of 5th September, caused an interruption to many aspects of island life. Falling trees blocked roads and brought down power lines and telephone cables.

    As a result Saint FM was unable to compile and broadcast the ‘And Finally …’ item on Friday 7th or Monday 10th September.

    Normal service should resume tomorrow.

    Trees permitting.

    6 September 2007: A Full Moon

    A group of Australian anti-war protesters is planning a cheeky protest against a visit by US President George W. Bush: - baring their bottoms in what they hope will be a world-record 'moon'.

    The "Bums Not Bombs" group will particularly target Bush because of his unpopular war in Iraq.

    The group says it needs 4,000 cheeks -- that is, 2,000 people -- to break the previous world-record moon.

    The group also plans to perform a "21 Bum Salute", to represent each of the countries attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, currently being held in Sydney.

    5 September 2007: Amazing Grace

    The Church of England has published a series of prayers aimed at helping people cope with the stresses of working life.

    The prayers include one for frustrated commuters, which concludes "Let me know your peace and grace ... For the sake of my sanity."

    Another likens work to "trying to blow a boulder uphill with a straw".

    And for those who's days consist of one irritating telephone call after another, how about saying this brief prayer each time the 'phone rings: "Father, as I talk to this person, give me a listening ear and a gracious tongue."


    4 September 2007: Negativity banned

    The mayor in one Russian city has decided that his local officials need to be more positive. So to help them he has banned a string of negative phrases.

    The list of 27 phrases that can no longer pass the lips of city officials include:

    "I don't know"
    "What am I supposed to do?"
    "That's impossible"
    "Nobody told me"
    "It's lunchtime"

    The mayor warned in a statement that "the use of these expressions by city administration officials ... will speed their departure."

    Another phrase from the banned list is "We haven't got the money."

    3 September 2007: A Bridge Bandit

    Russian police have detained a 45-year-old municipal worker. He's charged with stealing a bridge.

    The metal road bridge disappeared from a river crossing in a region east of Moscow. Police said they tracked it down to the man, who they say used his work truck to remove it, chopped it up and sold it for scrap.

    In a statement police called it "the bulkiest theft of the year".

    SaintFM expects the culprit will get a long span in jail.

    31 August 2007: The grass is greener on the inside

    Inmates at Japan's Abashiri Prison have something to look out for in their new prison exercise yard. There are marijuana shoots sprouting there.

    Prison officials think soil brought in to make the exercise yard already contained marijuana seeds. So far they don't think prisoners have actually been cultivating the plants.

    The prison does have a vegetable patch but, when questioned, the prison governor said, "We only grow potatoes and beans here."

    30 August 2007: Russians in the dark

    The Russian garrison at an air base in Kyrgyzstan has been left in the dark. Their electricity has been cut off because the bill hasn't been paid.

    The local electricity company said the barracks, which house 300 servicemen, have been cut off, but added that the air strip lights had not been affected.

    The Russian military has now promised that the unpaid bill, amounting to over £6,000, will be paid by the end of the week.

    29 August 2007: 'Cat Burglars' Escape from Bank

    Heavily-armed Philippines police surrounded a bank in Manila for several hours after its alarm went off, but the intruders escaped.

    The Special Weapons and Tactics unit rushed to the bank and made sure no one could leave the bank except through the front door.

    The police then entered the building, but failed to stop a stray cat slipping through the door to escape. Another cat fled through a small hole in the ceiling.

    Nothing was missing from the bank and there was no sign of forced entry so police concluded that the intruder cats had set off the alarms.

    The bank manager later admitted that he noticed the hole in the roof but did not do anything about it because the hole was too small for a person.

    28 August 2007: Seizing the bull by the ...

    The mayor of a South African town is proposing that the municipality changes its name, because he gets embarrassed about the existing one.

    The area is known as "eThekwini" which, according to local belief, means a bull's testicle, allegedly referring to the shape of the costal area's bay.

    Red-faced at explaining the name to visitors, a the mayor is now pushing for the area's name to be changed to the Zulu word for 'Watch Out'.

    24 August 2007: Family Planning

    A man in the United Arab Emirates has said that he aims to father 100 children by 2015.

    The man is already well on his way to his target. He currently has 78 children by 15 different women, 12 of whom he has now divorced because Muslim law limits a man to four wives.

    Asked about his plans he said: "In 2015, I will be 68 years old and will have 100 children. After that, I will stop marrying."

    SaintFM is impressed with his achievement so far, but wonders if he can keep it up.

    23 August 2007: The village formerly known as ...

    Residents of a small village in southern China thought changing the village's name would improve their fortunes.

    Unfortunately the lucky name they chose includes a very rare Chinese character, which is where the problems began. Police computers are unable to register the new name because they do not recognise the character.

    Even the regional newspaper had problems reporting the story because its computers also did not print the character. The newspaper was forced to describe it rather than printing it.

    22 August 2007: Elementary my dear Madison

    A school in Utah changed its name in May, to honour a former US president. Everyone was happy until a new teacher arrived last week.

    The new history teacher pointed out to the board at James A Madison Elementary School that the ex-president did not have a middle initial.

    One board member at the now to be renamed again School said "I hate being embarrassed."

    20 August 2007: Policeman on the job

    A British police officer, who had sex while on duty, has been acquitted in court, after the jury heard that he had remained able to respond to emergencies.

    In his defence he stated that he had continued to wear his police radio throughout the encounter.

    "If there was a call for me, I would have answered it and I would have dealt with it," he told the court.

    The jury accepted his defence and unanimously acquitted him.

    He may, however, still face police force disciplinary action.

    17 August 2007: POETS cost 50 million pounds a year

    Businesses in the UK say they are losing more than 50 million pounds a year because of POETS; employees leaving work early on Friday.

    The top excuses for starting the weekend early are a long lunch on Friday, a doctor's appointment and an out-of-office meeting near to home.

    The research team commented "Our evidence suggests that more and more workers are seeing Friday afternoon as an unofficial holiday."

    Motoring organisations support the findings, reporting that on Fridays the rush hour now starts around noon.

    By the way, POETS stands for "Go Home Early, Tomorrow's Saturday" (or something like that)

    16 August 2007: You wait till we get home!

    When US Sheriff's deputy Mike Moore suspected one of his colleagues of drink driving he did his duty, stopping the suspected offender and demanding a breath test.

    And when the colleague refused and drove off, he didn't give up. He called for backup and pursued the driver to insist on the test.

    His commitment to his job is confirmed by the fact that he was prepared to risk bad feeling at work, and also trouble at home. The colleague in question is his own wife.

    SaintFM hopes deputy Moore's dog has a large and comfortable kennel.

    15 August 2007: How does your garden grow?

    A Polish woman returned from holiday to find something new had been planted in her garden.

    Sadly for the woman, it was not a rose bush, or a new lawn, but a new road.

    A government spokesman wasn't sympathetic, saying: "It's not a busy road. She can still get to the back of her garden quite easily."

    14 August 2007: An Excessive 'Phone Bill

    A man who paid 27 pence more than he expected for a 'phone call has filed fraud charges, according to his local police.

    The man was listening to his local radio station in Germany, and thought he knew the answer to the phone-in quiz. So he went to a pay phone and made what he thought would be a 50-cent call.

    He was angered when the cost came to 90 cents, and even more incensed because the phone-in show admitted that the question was actually a riddle with no answer.

    The man did not see the joke, and went to a police station at 3 a.m. to file charges. Police and state prosecutors are now investigating whether he has a case.

    13 August 2007: Cowboy Boots Banned

    Country and western fans are having a hard time. On Friday we featured a Dolly Parton fan who was silenced for playing her records too loud. Now a police force in Florida has banned officers from wearing cowboy boots after the footwear was blamed for an accident.

    An officer who was wearing cowboy boots while driving crashed his car into a shop.

    Police knew the man normally to be a good driver so investigated the crash closely, and concluded the boots were to blame for causing his foot to slip off the brake. Now officers have to wear 'normal' shoes while driving.

    10 August 2007: No more 9 to 5

    A British country and western fan has been served with a noise ban after her passion for Dolly Parton songs upset her neighbours.

    According to Leeds City Council, Diane Duffin bombarded her neighbours in Leeds with repeated loud performances of Parton's songs such as '9 to 5', and also subjected them to other noisy disturbances and anti-social behaviour.

    As a result council and police officers have confiscated from Ms Duffin's property TVs, DVD players, a computer, games consoles, and a number of compact discs.

    9 August 2007: A Flying Crocodile

    Residents in one Russian apartment block have to look out for an unusual danger - a flying crocodile.

    The crocodile in question lives with his owner on the 12th Floor of the block, but would clearly prefer to be free. So when he gets the chance, he dives out of the window.

    At his third escape attempt, this week, he lost a tooth but was otherwise unscathed. His owner collected him from the emergency services a few hours afterwards, and the crocodile was last seen heading home on the back seat of his owner's car.

    His neighbours are now hoping the owner remembers to keep the window shut.

    8 August 2007: Hot Men and Women

    The residents of one of the world's coldest countries are also invincible when it comes to heat, it seems. Finnish competitors won in both male and female events in this year's world sauna-sitting championships.

    The male winner took the championship for the third year in a row, staying in a sauna heated to 110 degrees Celsius (230 Fahrenheit) for 12 minutes and 26 seconds. The women's event winner endured the same incredible heat for 10 minutes and 31 seconds, almost two minutes better than her closest rival, another Finn.

    Other competitors came from Russia, America, Germany and Turkey.

    Sauna-sitting is one of number of bizarre Finnish championships including wife-carrying and cell phone throwing.

    7 August 2007: Grounded!

    A Sicilian mother took her son's house keys off him and stopped his pocket money after he came home late one time too many.

    The woman then dragged her son to the local police station, and asked the police to "convince this blockhead to behave properly".

    "My son does not respect me," she said. "He doesn't tell me where he's going in the evenings and returns home late. He is never happy with the food I make and always complains. This can't go on."

    The police declined to take action. Her son is 61 years old.

    6 August 2007: Roos Reprieved

    The Australian city of Canberra has been invaded by kangaroos, seeking water following a 10-year drought. On two drought-ravaged military bases they are causing serious erosion due to over-grazing, and endangering a species of local lizard and the threatened gold sun moth, so the Australian military came up with a typical military solution - shoot them.

    However, following a public outcry, the roos are now to be reprieved. They are to be rounded up, tranquilised, and shipped to a village an hour away, using air-conditioned containers, at a cost of over three-thousand Australian dollars per kangaroo.

    The cost of moving each animal is more than a standard economy class return air ticket from Sydney to London.

    SaintFM thinks it would have been cheaper to just tell the creatures to hop it.

    3 August 2007: Scary Skates Stopped

    Bournemouth has been rescued from a deadly menace by the actions of its Trading Standard Officers.

    Following a tip-off they impounded a shipment of petrol-powered roller skates.

    The skates would have been capable of propelling someone at 20mph, but were without brakes so had no way of stopping. Furthermore, the engines were of poor quality and could easily have exploded in use.

    Fifty pairs of the the deadly skates were on their way from a supplier in China to an address in Bournemouth when Trading Standards pounced.

    1 August 2007: Being Cool at School

    There was a time when wearing sunglasses would have been seen as too cool for school, but no longer.

    At Sydney's Arncliffe Public School, "Sunnies", as they are called in Australia, are already compulsory in the playground.

    The move is aimed at protecting young eyes from the sun's dangerous ultraviolet rays, and Australian education authorities say they are considering adopting the plan at all state schools.

    Experts say that exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, already blamed for skin cancers, can also lead to cataracts, and advise that wraparound sunglasses are the best for eye protection for children from age three upwards.

    31 July 2007: ASEAN explained

    Politicians love their acronyms, and nowhere is this more evident than at the ASEAN. There is AIDA, FANS, AASROC, ELTO and an entire blizzard of obscure acronyms; so many, indeed, that the organisers of this weeks ASEAN meeting have given journalists a cheat-sheet listing all of the most widely used terms. The full list -- from AADCP to ZOPFAN -- is on the official ASEAN website, where there are 244 acronyms beginning with "A" alone.

    There are even acronyms composed of acronyms. The AADCP is the ASEAN Aquaculture Development and Coordinating Programme.

    ASEAN, by the way, is the Association of South East Asian Nations.

    30 July 2007: The Mounties face a new challenge

    Canada's mounted police, the Mounties, are said always to get their man, but now they have a new challenge. Keeper Rodney Dillinger has asked them to round up his missing bees.

    Mr Dillinger's bee colony became stressed and dissatisfied with their queen, so they raised a rival queen and then sent her into exile. Unfortunately for him, about half the bees - about 40,000 of them, sided with the old queen and left with her. Now he has called in the Mounties to track down his missing bees.

    A Mounties spokesperson remarked "It's the first time that the police have been called in to help capture bees".

    Mr Dillinger said "It's a common occurrence and they are not dangerous, but I'm worried someone may attack them. We haven't found them yet, but I know which direction they went".

    27 July 2007: If you can't beat 'em ...

    The international cycling fraternity, suffering after the recent string of disqualifications, is trying to find a way to deal with illegal drug use by competitors.

    Now the sport's fans in Italy have come up with an imaginative suggestion.

    In a survey, run on gazzetta.it, Italy's most popular sport Web site, the largest vote was for the simplest solution: legalise the drug taking.

    26 July 2007: Prickly Pair Panics Police

    German police rushed through the night to a home in Bremen after an emergency call, saying there were suspicious noises emanating from the garden.

    Cautiously searching the garden they soon located the source of the noise: two hedgehogs noisily engaged in what a police spokesman described as "ensuring the continuity of their species."

    The officers turned off their spotlights and discretely departed.

    No arrests were made.

    25 July 2007: Europeans Keeping Cool

    The UK may be flooded but continental Europe is suffering a heat wave, with temperatures remaining stubbornly above 40 Celsius (just over 100 Fahrenheit). This has caused people to behave differently.

    A women, described as tall and slender, walked into a petrol station shop in eastern Germany wearing nothing but a pair of golden stilettos and a thin gold bracelet. She bought cigarettes, climbed back into the waiting Ferrari and drove off. Police say they won't be investigating the incident because none of the witnesses wanted to make a complaint.

    But some tourists in Serbia were not so lucky. The three men were fined 10,000 dinars (about 84 pounds) each, having been reported by passers-by for cycling naked along the banks of the River Danube.

    24 July 2007: An unexpected result

    An Israeli man got a surprise when he hired a private detective to investigate his daughter.

    The man's son-in-law was concerned about his wife's fidelity. To prove his son-in-law wrong, the man hired the detective to check up on his daughter's movements. And indeed, the detective did report that the daughter was being faithful to her husband.

    But the report contained another, unexpected discovery. The girl's mother, the wife of the man who hired the detective, was having an affair with another man.

    The man was sanguine about the results. "I saved my daughter's marriage and at the same time, saved myself from a woman who had it all in life but chose another man," he said.

    23 July 2007: Airline for sale, for only 70p

    Italy should sell its national airline Alitalia for one euro, about 70 pence, according to Italy's infrastructure minister.

    Italy's government has been trying to sell the airline but the latest auction collapsed last week when the final bidder pulled out.

    At first glance 70 pence for an airline with about 180 aircraft flying to 100 destinations seems like a bargain, until you realise you also have to take on the airline's debts. These, as of May this year, amounted to roughly 750 million pounds.

    [some data sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alitalia and http://corporate.alitalia.com/en/Images/Net%20Debt%20fine%20giugno%202007%20ENG_tcm7-22236.pdf]

    20 July 2007: Gone In 60 Seconds - twice!

    A man in Malaysia has stolen a 140,000 pound Porsche car - twice.

    On Monday he walked into a car dealer's showroom and asked to be shown the Porsche 911 Targa 4 car. When the salesman started the engine to demonstrate the car's sound, the thief drove it out through the plate grass windows and off down the street. Unfortunately for the thief, the car only had a little petrol in it. It was found by police abandoned, about a mile down the road. But the thief didn't give up.

    The police took the car to the police compound, and on Wednesday night the thief cut the perimeter fence, snuck in, re-fuelled the car and drove it away.

    The thief still doesn't have his prize, however. After a six-mile police chase he again abandoned the car and ran off. Malaysian police are still looking for him.

    [With regard to the title, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_in_Sixty_Seconds_%282000_movie%29]

    19 July 2007: Computer Crash

    A German man, who startled his neighbours when he hurled his computer out of the window in the middle of the night, has been told he will not be charged with disturbing the peace.

    Police in Hanover, responded to calls from residents in an apartment block who were woken by a loud crash in the early hours of the morning. They found the street and pavement covered in electronic parts, and quickly located the culprit. Asked what had driven him to the night-time outburst, the 51-year-old man said he had simply got annoyed with his computer.

    "Who hasn't felt like doing that?" said a police spokesman.

    18 July 2007: Courting in Court

    A couple who met while on jury duty are to be married next month.

    The couple were both jurors in a murder trial in New York. Fellow jurors encouraged Juror number three, a lady called Traci, to go out for lunch with juror number six, a man called Jonathan, during a break in the trial.

    The trial judge, who will also perform the wedding, remarked "Juries are serious or sombre, but this jury was full of beaming, happy people. I didn't imagine they were playing matchmaker.

    SaintFM wishes the couple all the best, but hopes they also managed to pay some attention to the trial evidence.

    17 July 2007: Too Sexy To Travel

    A German bus driver threatened to throw a 20-year-old sales clerk off his bus because he said she was too sexy.

    The driver apparently stopped the bus, opened the door, and shouted at the woman "Your cleavage is distracting me. Every time I look into my mirror and I can't concentrate on the traffic. If you don't sit somewhere else, I'm going to have to throw you off the bus."

    The woman moved to another seat, but said she felt humiliated by the bus driver.

    A spokesman for the bus company defended the driver, saying "A bus driver cannot be distracted because it's a danger to the safety of all the passengers."

    16 July 2007: British Soldiers blamed for Basra Terror

    You would think the Iraqi port city of Basra already had enough problems, but now it has now been gripped by a new fear. Locals say the city is stalked at night by giant man-eating badgers; bear-like monsters said to have been released into the area by the British forces.

    British troops have been based in Basra since the 2003 US-led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein, and locals are quick to blame them for almost any calamity that befalls the area.

    Iraqi scientists have attempted to calm the public but, amid the confusion and mistrust spawned by the ongoing guerrilla war, the story has spread like wildfire in the streets of the city.

    The scientists say the tales are completely exaggerated, though based on fact. There is a local badger that grows to about 30 pounds, but it eats only small animals like hens and rats. These Honey Badgers were resident in the area long before the fall of Saddam, and do not usually threatens humans unless provoked. The scientists say the badgers are being driven into the city by the re-flooding of the marshland north of Basra that was drained by Saddam.

    13 July 2007: Can we move school, please?

    Scores of children in an Indian village are asking to move school because it is giving them nightmares.

    The school is located in a graveyard.

    About 200 children study in the makeshift school, which was set up in the graveyard several years ago after local authorities refused to provide land for it. The nearest other school is at least four hours away.

    Initially the children played happily among the graves, and even sat on tombstones to eat their lunch, but now many are complaining of nightmares and villagers are demanding proper premises.

    Local authorities say they are aware of the problem and are looking into it.

    12 July 2007: Cowgirls

    A group of teenage girls on a geography field trip set off a full-scale search and rescue mission, after becoming scared by a herd of cows.

    The seven girls, aged between 14 and 15, from St Albans, in Hertfordshire, were on a field trip in Dorset. They were dropped off at night, three miles from their outdoor centre in Swanage and told to map-read their way back to the centre. But the teenagers got stuck when they came across what they decided were potentially deadly cows.

    Following their distress call the Swanage Coastguard rescue team, police and an ambulance were scrambled to the scene to rescue the students. None of them was actually hurt.

    11 July 2007: Mixed Messages for Muscular Men

    New research just published aims to help us understand what women look for in men.

    Studies have previously shown that, when selecting a mate, women choose men who will commit and who have a good income. But a new study shows that, for a fling, they prefer muscles.

    Researchers from the University of California interviewed students about their sexual histories, and found that muscular men had more sex partners than less-built types. But women also saw them as more volatile, aggressive and likely to be dominant.

    "On the one hand, muscularity makes them more sexy to women. On the other hand, it makes women more suspicious about their romantic intentions," the researchers concluded.

    10 July 2007: Police on the scent

    German police received a call from a man's neighbours who were worried about him.

    The shutters of the apartment had been closed for more than a week, the post-box was filled with uncollected mail, and there was a nasty smell seeping out onto the staircase.

    Fearing the worst they broke into a darkened flat, expecting to find a dead body, but instead of a corpse they found the tenant asleep but definitely alive.

    They quickly established that the obnoxious odour was caused by a combination of the large pile of unwashed clothes and the man's terribly smelly feet.

    9 July 2007: Motorist's Money Mystery

    A German motorist was surprised when she looked in her rear-view mirror and saw lots of euro banknotes swirling in the air around her car.

    The woman immediately stopped and tried to collect all the flying money. She turned over what she found to the police, who went with her to the scene but could not find any more cash.

    German Police say they are puzzled about the money's origin.

    6 July 2007: Playing to Win

    One of Ireland's most prestigious universities is offering a degree course that will appeal to anyone who would prefer to play games rather than studying books.

    Trinity College Dublin's new Masters Degree in Video Games starts in October. The course has been designed in collaboration with some of the world's top gaming companies, and will focus on the science and technology behind video games.

    The University says the course is intended to prepare students for a career in the growing gaming and entertainment sector.

    The course is at graduate-level, though exactly what puzzles you need to solve to get to that level was not made clear.

    5 July 2007: The EU Gets Sexy

    The European Union's latest attempt to raise its profile has met with mixed reviews.

    Last week the EU's executive launched a special page on the Internet video-sharing site YouTube, called EU Tube. The executive said that the page would use "new and innovative ways of informing people on the activities of the European Union."

    If you're not interested in politics it all sounds very boring, but one video on the page is causing a great deal of interest. The clip in question is about the EU's support for European film makers, and features 44-seconds of sex scenes snipped from various EU-funded European films.

    By midday yesterday the video had been viewed over 1.3 million times, and had received mentions in blogs and British tabloids.

    Not everyone was impressed. One visitor wrote in a comment: "It was only a matter of time before the EU found a new way of humiliating itself."

    Judge for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koRlFnBlDH0

    4 July 2007: The Price of Love

    A man has been ordered to pay around £2,500 in damages over a love affair.

    The man, from Chicago, was sued by the husband of his lover, using a little-known piece of legislation called the 'alienation of affection law'. The law allows deserted spouses to seek damages from their rival for the loss of love.

    Alienation of affections was first recognized by the New York state legislature in 1864, but since 1935 it has been abolished in all but 7 states.

    As far as SaintFM can ascertain there is no equivalent in St. Helena.

    3 July 2007: No-Power Users

    Galadima Primary School in Nigeria is celebrating, because it has just received 300 Laptop Computers for its students from the One-Laptop-Per-Child programme, an international charity.

    The OLPC was founded by Nicholas Negroponte, an American professor, to provide laptops for every school pupil in developing countries. The aim is to help with understanding of information technology and the opportunities it brings to developing nations.

    But Galadima Primary has a small problem. Although the School is in the centre of the federal capital Abuja, it had no electricity supply. The pupils have to take the laptops home each night to charge the batteries.

    [Reference: One-Laptop-Per-Child programme]

    2 July 2007: A Queen, for 60 pence a year

    According to the latest accounts released by Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II costs British taxpayers about 60 pence per person per year.

    The head of state's expenditure was 37.3 million pounds, which the palace claims has decreased in real terms by seven percent over the last six years.

    5.6 million pounds of this was spent on travel by the queen and other members of the royal family.

    The accounts also reveal that the queen's household is becoming greener. It has reduced carbon emissions by 12 percent in the past year, and there are even plans to convert the royal train to run on biodiesel.

    29 June 2007: Wimbledon Judges See Red

    Some of the judges in the Wimbledon tennis championship started reaching for their rule books when French player Tatiana Golovin announced she would be wearing red clothing to play.

    The Wimbledon tournament has a dress code that specifies players' apparel should be "predominantly white".

    However, after some discussion the guardians of the world's most genteel tennis tournament gave the French player the go-ahead, on the grounds that the item in question was not covered by the rules.

    The rules apply to tops, shorts and skirts. It was deemed they did not apply to Ms Golovin's red knickers.

    "They say red is the colour that proves that you're strong and you're confident so I'm happy with my red knickers," she told reporters.

    28 June 2007: Green Grass Cutting

    Councils in Britain are under growing pressure from environmentalists to reduce carbon emissions by cutting their use of machinery.

    So Norfolk County Council has come up with a greener way to cut the grass. It is considering bringing in sheep to graze on the lawns outside its headquarters, to replace the current petrol-driven lawnmowers.

    "It would be an environmentally friendly option which would allow us to reduce our carbon footprint," said a spokesman.

    SaintFM is not sure whether this is an example of woolly thinking, or whether other councils will flock to take up the new idea.

    27 June 2007: All mouth, no trousers and no compensation

    Earlier this month we reported on an American judge who was suing the owners of a dry cleaning business for losing his trousers. He was demanding 54 million dollars in compensation, citing a sign in their window that read "satisfaction guaranteed."

    Unusually for America's infamous legal system, sanity has prevailed. The court ruled against him, saying "A reasonable consumer would not interpret 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer's unreasonable demands".

    Not only does he not get his 54 million dollars in compensation, he now has to pay the defendants' fees and other costs, estimated at well over ten thousand dollars.

    26 June 2007: What's in a name?

    Baby Autumn Brown, who comes from Wolverhampton, has a name to remember, and will have quite a challenge remembering it.

    The little girl's mother Maria, who is a boxing fanatic, decided to give her baby 25 middle names - all culled from the greatest boxers in history.

    The baby's full name is: Autumn Sullivan Corbett Fitzsimmons Jeffries Hart Burns Johnson Willard Dempsey Tunney Schmeling Sharkey Carnera Baer Braddock Louis Charles Walcott Marciano Patterson Johansson Liston Clay Frazier Foreman Brown.

    Maria told a newspaper "I'm hoping Autumn has a good sense of humour with her name."

    SaintFM thinks Autumn may never forgiver her mother, and notes that, at 27 letters, her initials are longer than many people's names.

    25 June 2007: Can I have a little more, please?

    In May the Indian prisons department outsourced the catering at the main jail in Bangalore, and has run into a serious problem.

    The food now being served up in the jail is so much better than the previous government-provided catering the inmates are reluctant to be released. Remand prisoners are refusing to apply for bail, juveniles are overstating their age to get in, and the prison is now overcrowded, operating at twice its official capacity.

    The attractive food is being prepared by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Hindu evangelist organisation commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement.

    "When we are getting tasty, nutritious food three times a day here, why should we go out and commit crimes," said one prisoner.

    22 June 2007: Has anybody seen our lake?

    Chile's National Forestry Corporation is used to losing things. Tools get left behind; employees don't turn up when expected; the usual stuff. But now they have lost an entire lake.

    The lake was situated in Patagonia and had a surface area of about 12 acres - roughly the size of 10 soccer pitches.

    "In March we patrolled the area and everything was normal ... we went again in May and to our surprise we found the lake had completely disappeared," said a CONAF official.

    CONAF is investigating the disappearance.

    One theory is that the area was hit by an earth tremor that opened a crack in the ground which acted like a drain.

    21 June 2007: Mars Pioneers Wanted

    If you fancy a trip to Mars you should contact the European Space Agency without delay.

    The ESA is looking for twelve ordinary people to experience the 17 month trip to Mars and back, with an emphasis on stress resistance rather than on physical fitness. The salary is 120 euros per day (that's about 600 pounds per week), with all meals provided, although it will only be packaged food like the Space Station astronauts eat. Men and women can apply.

    If you're interested you can contact the ESA, but before you rush off you should know that you won't actually be going to Mars. You and your colleagues will spend your 520 days on Earth in a simulator; an isolation tank that's only about the size of nine containers. The experiment is to test whether people can survive that long confined together in a small space.

    For details see http://www.spaceflight.esa.int/CallforCandidates

    20 June 2007: Get your knickers onto the roof

    Japan, which experiences 20 percent of the world's major earthquakes, prides itself on its disaster planning. It has one of the world's most sophisticated technological systems to predict disasters, but still feels there is room for help from the animal kingdom. So Japan's Disaster Management Agency has collected together hundreds of folk beliefs associated with calamities in the disaster-prone nation.

    Some make a degree of sense. These include "a swarm of ants climbing trees spells major flooding" and "if bees make their nests low, violent winds will hit."

    Other sayings are more puzzling. Try "when pheasants cry, a quake will come".

    Or how about SaintFM's favourite: "a woman's underwear on the roof saves the house from thunderbolts"?

    19 June 2007: Robin Hood Jailed

    A German bank manager, who has been dubbed by the media as the Banking Robin Hood, has been jailed for diverting funds from his rich clients' accounts to help his poorer clients.

    Over a five year period he transferred a total of around 2 million euros (that's about 1.4 million pounds) from his high net worth clients' accounts. Nobody detected the scam - it only came to light when he turned himself over to police and confessed.

    All of the misappropriated money went to poorer clients - he did not take any for himself. But the court still sentenced him to two years and 10 months in prison. He has the right to appeal the court's decision.

    15 June 2007: Monumental problems in Rome

    The ancient monuments in Rome had a bad time this week.

    First a man drove his car down the Spanish Steps, a sweeping 18th-century staircase where visitors are usually banned from drinking and singing, let alone driving. Apparently in the early morning light he mistook the steps for a road. He was found to be well over the drink-driving limit and was arrested.

    Then a builder constructing a car park managed to damage a 2,000 year-old water pipe, thus cutting off the water to the Trevi Fountain and several others. The pipe, known as the "aqueduct of the virgin" has been carrying water into Rome since 19 BC. While it is repaired the water company plans to re-route the water down a younger pipe - the "aqueduct of Paul", which has been bringing water to Rome only since 2 AD.

    14 June 2007: All mouth but no trousers

    An American judge has taken the owners of a dry cleaning business to court for losing his trousers. He is demanding 54 million dollars in compensation.

    Roy Pearson alleges that the company lost his blue and red-striped grey trousers and misled him with a sign in their window that read "satisfaction guaranteed." He calculated the 54 million dollar penalty at 1,500 dollars for every day the cleaners had the sign up in their shop. The case has dragged on for two years.

    Sources say this is quite legitimate under the District of Columbia's consumer protection laws.

    SaintFM wonders exactly who needs to be protected from whom.

    13 June 2007: Always read the instructions

    A grandmother nearly landed her 19-year-old grandson in court for counterfeiting, by sending him a fake 100-euro note which he tried to spend.

    German Police arrested the student in a shop after a cashier spotted that the note was not real. He explained that the note had been sent to him by his grandmother to congratulate him on passing his school exams.

    Nobody could understand why his granny would have sent him a forged banknote, but a phone call quickly cleared up the mystery.

    In his excitement at receiving the money the teenager had missed an accompanying note in the envelope which said: "I will pay 100 euros into your bank account; here is a photocopy."

    12 June 2007: 26 Toes

    They say cats have nine lives, but Des the cat also has 26 toes.

    While most pet cats have 18 toes - five on their front paws and four on their rear - the 10-year-old Des boasts seven on his front and six on his back paws.

    A cat with extra toes is called a Polydactyl. The extra digits have left owner Alison Thomas pondering whether Des is a UK record.

    One expert said cats with extra toes were common in the area around the old county of Cardiganshire and were sometimes known as "Cardi-cats".

    11 June 2007: Almost ready to go

    Poland has assigned 1,200 troops to the NATO forces in Afghanistan. Their task will be to patrol the mountainous border area with Pakistan to search for Taliban guerrilla activity.

    The troops and all their equipment have arrived in the country, and are almost ready to begin their mission. All they need now is to find their missing vehicle keys, which seem to have disappeared during the journey from Poland.

    "We shall have to send away for spares, so it may take from several days to several weeks for our contingent to become combat ready", said a spokesman.

    SaintFM is sure the Taliban won't mind waiting.

    8 June 2007: Peter Pan to the rescue

    Carter's Steam Fair was having a problem with youths, who were being a nuisance at their funfair.

    Attempts to get the trouble makers to go away had failed until the organisers tried a new tactic. They started playing Cliff Richard records.

    Playing tracks such as "Living Doll" on all their rides did the trick better than security guards could, without any danger of violence.

    The trouble makers just vanished. "It was just like the film 'Mars Attacks'" said a spokesman, referring to the part in the film where the alien invaders are chased away by playing Country Music to them.

    Cliff Richard is sometimes known as the Peter Pan of Pop, because he has been making records for nearly fifty years.

    7 June 2007: Beware the full moon

    Police in Sussex have decided to put more officers on duty during full moons, because they believe the lunar cycle may be linked to violent behaviour. They say that people in general, and drinkers in particular, are more aggressive during the full moon.

    The announcement has led some locals to joke that werewolves may be at large on the streets of Brighton. One night club bouncer said he may start checking for hair on the back of people's hands at the next full moon.

    Tales of werewolves – people who turn into wolves during the full moon – go as far back as ancient Greece. It is said that a werewolf can only be killed with a silver bullet. Whether Sussex police are now to be equipped with these was not clear.

    [for more about werewolves see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werewolf]

    6 June 2007: An All-Out Strike

    Government workers in South Africa have been striking over demands for improved pay and benefits, but now they have a further complaint.

    They say they work so hard they no longer have the energy for sex.

    "The harshness that we have in all our workplaces is so severe to such a point that when you get home at night it becomes a problem expanding our families," said a spokesman.

    The workers say they have not had a rise since 2004 - in pay, that is.

    5 June 2007: ...even unto the fourth generation

    Everyone knows that smoking damages the health of the smoker, and can also damage the people around them through passive smoking. But now Canadian researchers have established that a man's smoking can damage his children before they are even conceived.

    Their study shows that cigarette smoke causes changes in the DNA of sperm cells. Such mutations, know as germline mutations, are known to be permanent.

    "We have long known that mothers who smoke can harm their foetuses, and here we have evidence that fathers can potentially damage their offspring long before they even meet their future mate." said one of the team.

    They also established that the longer you smoke, the more the mutations accumulate, so the more likely you are to create defects in your children.

    However, as heavy smoking in men is known to cause impotence, maybe it won’t matter anyway.

    [The title is a quotation from The Bible, Exodos 20 v4: "...punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation..."]

    4 June 2007: Promises, Promises

    Council meetings in a small Spanish town may take a turn for the bizarre after the electorate voted in a new councillor.

    The former postman has promised to turn up for council meetings dressed as Elvis Presley, and says he wants to turn the town square into a nudist swimming pool.

    His manifesto also includes plans for the council to paint the town hall pink, and grow marijuana in the town's parks.

    Whether he will fulfil his election promises remains to be seen.

    1 June 2007: The Attack of the Killer Hamster

    A Worcestershire man nearly died after being attacked by his pet hamster.

    The hamster escaped from its cage and crawled down under the floorboards of his home near Evesham. When the man reached down to retrieve his pet it bit him. Unfortunately the unnamed man had an allergy to the protein in the hamster's saliva, and suffered a severe allergic reaction. By the time medics reached the scene he was suffering severe breathing difficulties and was in a semi-conscious state.

    Fortunately the ambulance crew were able quickly to administer anti-allergy drugs and rush him to hospital, where he made a full recovery.

    31 May 2007: Thieves get clean away

    Japanese police are looking for a thief or thieves who got clean away with an unusual item from a hotel.

    The stolen object is a bathtub made of 18-carat gold. The tub weighs 80 kilograms and is worth about half a million pounds.

    Police have admitted they have no clues to help them catch the cunning thieves.

    30 May 2007: Stand and Deliver

    An elephant in eastern India has turned highway robber.

    Local police have received complaints from motorists who say the elephant stands in the road and forces the approaching vehicle to stop. It then inserts its trunk inside the vehicle, gulps down any vegetables or bananas it can find, and allows the car to proceed. If a driver does not wind down the window or open the vehicle door, the elephant stays in front of the car until the driver allows him to carry out his inspection.

    Elephants are a protected and endangered species in India. Forestry officials say the elephant is old and looking for easy food, and have advised motorists not to harass it.

    SaintFM was unable to ascertain if the elephant only committed his crimes on trunk roads.

    29 May 2007: Rags to Riches

    A homeless pensioner, who has slept rough in London for over twenty years, is now able to celebrate.

    Harry Hallowes, who is 71, has been living in a makeshift shack on a piece of land in Hampstead since the 1980s. He didn't own the land; he just stayed there. Recently a property developer tried to evict him, to build luxury flats on the site, but under English law anyone who can prove they have occupied a piece of land unchallenged for twenty years can claim ownership. Harry's claim has now been upheld by the courts.

    The area around Hampstead is well known as an expensive place to live, even by London standards, with many stars and celebrities living there. Estimates for the value of Harry's 800 square-metre plot plot range from 1 to 2 million pounds.

    "I'm not impressed with figures", said Harry when told the news, "I just wanted a place to live."

    25 May 2007: One Final Perk

    Elected representatives in Italy get lots of perks, including generous pay, free lunches, free city-centre parking and a daily expense allowance, all paid for by taxpayers. But the citizens of Venice decided enough was enough when the regional council decided to give its members a 5,000 pound contribution towards the cost of their own funeral.

    "It's a stupid privilege which makes no sense." said an opponent of the measure. The perk is to be challenged in a future meeting.

    Italian politicians are already engaged in a bout of soul-searching after opinion polls showed the low esteem in which they are held by the electorate. One poll showed that only one in 10 people had any faith in elected officials.

    24 May 2007: Professional Thief

    Police in New York had little difficulty tracing a burglar who had stolen thousands of dollars worth of jewellery and other items from a house in Brooklyn.

    The thief left behind a set of keys and a computer disk containing, among other things, his Curriculum Vitae.

    The police contacted the man using the telephone number on the resume. When questioned he merely asked the police if they had found his keys.

    23 May 2007: A Job for The Boys

    While the row about same-sex marriage rumbles on in England, the flamingos at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust near Bristol have the issue sorted.

    Two male flamingos, Carlos and Fernando, have been together for six years, and are now being given the chance to adopt an abandoned chick.

    According to a spokeswoman for the trust, gay flamingos are not uncommon. "If there aren't enough females or they don't hit it off with them, they will pair off with other males," she said, concluding "Last week, when a nest was abandoned, it seemed like a good idea to make them surrogate parents."

    22 May 2007: Contra-Band

    Chinese smugglers are suspected of dodging taxes to the tune of over 600,000 pounds. What did they smuggle? Drugs? Guns? No, pianos.

    There are currently eight separate cases before the courts in Shanghai alone and Police discovered once cache of nearly 5,000 smuggled pianos.

    18 May 2007: An over-protective mother

    A German mother drove her son to a jeweller's, even though she knew he was going there to raid it. And while her 17-year-old son and his two accomplices attacked and robbed the jeweller, she waited outside in the car.

    When arrested, the woman said she knew her son intended to rob the shop and accompanied him because she was worried he would come to harm.

    In court, the judge was unimpressed by her motherly concern, and sentenced her to three years and ten months in prison for her part in the raid.

    17 May 2007: Bible challenged

    Hong Kong’s obscene publications regulator has received over 800 demands to reclassify the Bible as “indecent”.

    The calls come after a row over a sex column in a university student journal. The column was declared indecent by the Obscene Articles Tribunal, sparking a storm of debate about social morality and freedom of speech. Defending the student column, a Hong Kong website pointed out that the Bible contains sexual and violent content, including rape and incest, and called upon viewers to register complaints about it. As at yesterday lunchtime 838 complaints had been received.

    If the Bible is classified as "indecent" by authorities, only those over 18 could buy it, and it would need to be sealed in a wrapper with a statutory warning notice.

    Anyone wishing to check the website’s claims can go to http://www.truthbible.net/, but should note that the site is in Chinese with no English-language version. Or they could just read their Bible.