bizarre… in so many different ways…

‘Vatican air’ passengers’ holy water confiscated
By Malcolm Moore

The passengers on board the Vatican’s first flight to Lourdes may have been pilgrims in search of spiritual healing, but they still had to obey anti-terrorism rules, it has emerged, after several of them had their holy water confiscated.

The Vatican’s new service, a Boeing 737 painted in yellow-and-white papal livery, took off from Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Monday, serving swordfish canapes to 148 pilgrims reclining on headrests stamped with the message: “I search for your face, oh Lord”.

While the outward journey was smooth, turbulence struck on the return when anti-terror rules were strictly applied by the French police.

No bottles containing more than 100ml of liquid were allowed on board unless checked in, meaning passengers were forced give up the holy water they had just collected at Lourdes.

Many hoped to ferry the water back to sick relatives.

Instead, dozens of plastic containers in the shape of the Madonna were left at security, while one man decided to drink all of his.

“I did tell others that their containers would not be allowed. Those who travel a lot know that they do not make exceptions,” said Massimo Barra, head of the Red Cross in Italy, who was on board.

Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, the official on board from the Vatican’s travel agency, did not even try to argue with the rules, to the dismay of the pilgrims.

Many passengers asked the police how they could be foolhardy enough to throw away the miraculous water, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The spring at the sanctuary at Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in 1858, is famed for its miraculous healing powers, and every day long queues of believers wait to fill up their containers.

The water is so valuable that one French website,, is offering a litre for £64.

Despite the hiccup, the new service cut down an difficult overland pilgrimage to two hours.

Cardinal Ruini, the former head of the Italian bishops, was on board, along with Luciano Moggi, the disgraced former head of Juventus football club, who was seeking some spiritual comfort.

The Vatican has promised that seats would cost at least 10 per cent less than the industry average, and that some pilgrims may be able to fly to Lourdes and back in the same day.

It also wants to expand its service to routes such as Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and possibly even Jerusalem.

Mistral Air, the charter company which is providing the planes for the Vatican, said it expects to transport 150,000 pilgrims annually.

Liberia discovers ‘ghost’ workers
Liberia’s government says it has found more than 7,000 ‘ghost’ workers on its payroll – employees who do not actually exist, or do not work for it.

The discovery was made when the government embarked on a civil service overhaul to improve efficiency.

The Civil Service Agency head, William Allen, told the BBC that the ghost workers “got there through the usual avenue, which is corruption”.

He said they had cost Liberian tax payers about $2.6m (£1.3m) a year.

All the fake names have now been removed from the payroll and a biometric identity system is being introduced, he said.

“The biometric (system) is about 99.9% foolproof so once we install this technology we hope once and for all that we will be able to save the Liberian tax payers a huge sum of money,” Mr Allen said.

Liberia, under the helm of Africa’s first woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is in the process of re-building following its 14-year civil war.

Burning Man is burned too soon
Namesake of annual festival goes up in unsanctioned flames 4 days early in Nevada desert
August 29, 2007
Joe Garofoli, Leslie Fulbright

The climax of the annual Burning Man bacchanalia in a Nevada desert was scheduled for Saturday, when the 40,000-plus attendees were to gather around the 40-foot-high man-statue and watch him burn.

Instead, the effigy went up in flames four days prematurely early Tuesday, and a San Francisco resident faces felony arson and destruction-of-property charges in connection with the crime of burning Burning Man too early.

According to Jamie Thompson, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the land on which the annual event is held, the fire broke out at 2:58 a.m. Tuesday. Eyewitnesses said flames began about 10 feet up the wooden man’s left leg. Thompson said the huge platform beneath the statue was undamaged. No injuries were reported.

Paul David Addis, 35, posted $25,632 bail and was released Tuesday afternoon from the Pershing County Jail in Lovelock, Nev., where he was booked on felony charges of arson and destruction of property and misdemeanor possession of fireworks and resisting a public officer.

Meanwhile, festival organizers pledged to rebuild the big guy in two days – in plenty of time to burn him down again Saturday as part of the 21-year-old countercultural festival held the week before Labor Day on a patch of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

“We have the means and the will. The event continues on schedule, and the Man will burn on Saturday night,” said Andie Grace, communications manager for Burning Man. While organizers created a perimeter around the burn scene Tuesday, festivalgoers will be allowed to visit the pavilion beneath the structure during the reconstruction.

“Before the smoke even cleared Tuesday, we were making calls to our suppliers in Reno to get more wood,” Grace told The Chronicle. “They’re making cuts on it right now.”

Thompson said about 15,000 revelers are already at the festival site, but that number is expected to more than double by the weekend. Many were on the playa, the desert’s dry lakebed, viewing the total lunar eclipse early Tuesday morning when the fire broke out, according to Burning Man organizers.

Thousands of festivalgoers streamed out onto the playa from the surrounding Black Rock City encampment to watch the spectacle, witnesses said. The fire was doused within 25 minutes.

This was not the first time the Man has required rebuilding. Festival organizers say that in 1990, the Man was accidentally cut up with a chain saw while in storage before the event. It was fully rebuilt in time to be transported to the desert and properly destroyed.

“It’s anyone’s guess why someone would do this,” Grace said. “People here are stunned.”

Matthew Puffer, a longtime Burning Man devotee who lives in Oakland, said he knew Addis from their time together in Cyberbuss, a group that attended the event several times in the 1990s.

“People have been saying for years that it would be funny to sneak up and burn the Man early in the week. But it was always just one of those things that you hear people say,” Puffer said.

Reactions on the playa, where this year’s theme for the festival is “The Green Man,” ranged Tuesday from amusement and support to frustration and anger.

“We wait all year long. This is an adults’ Christmas party,” said one disappointed reveler who called herself Erica.

“I am disturbed that the Man is burnt. As I looked at it, I was going, ‘This can’t be happening,’ ” said Bob Harms of South Lake Tahoe, a seven-time burner.

“Some people were chanting, ‘Let him burn, let him burn!’ and some were chanting, ‘Save the Man, save the Man!’ ” said Kyle Marx of Eugene, Ore.

“Someone went to a great extent to interfere with everyone else’s burn. I think, frankly, an attention whore has made a plea for attention,” said a Burning Man volunteer who goes by the name Ranger Sasquatch. “In three days, we will have this rebuilt.”

As for the non-Burning- Man-conversant who wonder why anyone would furiously rebuild a 40-foot statue only to burn it again upon completion, Grace said “Burning Man has always been more about a community of people coming together. Sure, it’s the Man. But it’s also just a pile of sticks.”

Leading Lung Specialist Endorses Picking Your Nose and Consuming What You Find

Suspend what parents have been teaching kids for eons, and suspend the “wow is that gross” factor:

Picking your nose and eating it is one of the best ways to stay healthy, says a top Austrian doctor.

Austrian lung specialist Dr. Friedrich Bischinger says that those who pick their noses with their fingers are generally healthier, happier and more in tune with their bodies.

He encourages people to adopt a positive attitude to nose-picking, and to encourage children to perform the habit, not suppress it.

“With the finger you can get to places you just can’t reach with a handkerchief, keeping your nose far cleaner,” says Dr. Bishinger. “And eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body’s immune system.

“Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do. In terms of the immune system the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria are collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine.

“Modern medicine is constantly trying to do the same thing through far more complicated methods. People who pick their nose and eat it get a natural boost to their immune system for free.”

He noted that kids pick their noses happily and without abandon, but by the time they become adults they have stopped (or do so on the sly) under extreme pressure from a society that has labeled it anti-social and disgusting.

“I would recommend a new approach where children are encouraged to pick their nose. It is a completely natural response and medically a good idea as well,” says the respected doctor.

So is it really just a gross habit or gold worth digging for after all? Ultimately, that’s a pick you’ll have to make on your own.

Viacom hits me with copyright infringement for posting on YouTube a video that Viacom made by infringing on my own copyright!