For sale: One snake. Albino. Has two heads. Asking US$150,000 or best offer. The World Aquarium in St. Louis has been home to We, a one-of-a-kind two-headed albino rat snake, since 1999. Aquarium president Leonard Sonnenschein has decided to sell the six-and-half-year-old snake on e-Bay. The aquarium paid US$15,000 for the snake a few days after its birth, knowing full well that most two-headed snakes don't live more than a few months. But We has survived and thrived. At 2.5cm thick and 1.2m long, she is a healthy size for a rat snake. We has survived because, unlike some two-headed animals, both mouths are connected to the same stomach, Sonnenschein said.
Mitterrand tops poll
Francois Mitterrand emerged in an opinion poll on Monday as the Fifth Republic's best president, pipping Charles de Gaulle by a head and the incumbent Jacques Chirac by several lengths. Mitterrand, whose death 10 years ago this Sunday will be commemorated with a nostalgia fest, won the support of 35 percent of respondents in a poll for the left-leaning daily Liberation. Despite the scandals that have surfaced since his death, Mitterrand, who led France for 14 years from 1981, finished five points ahead of de Gaulle on 30 percent and 23 points clear of Chirac on 12 percent.
■ United Kingdom
African toad sneaks into UK
A toad unwittingly hitched a ride from Gambia to the UK in the training shoe of a British tourist returning to Birmingham. Farres Powell, 40, from Small Heath, was unpacking after a winter break at Kotu when the toad waddled out. "I was chatting with my partner about how good the holiday had been when we heard a rustling and looked down to see this toad emerge. We couldn't believe it -- it was the same toad we'd seen on the hotel balcony the night before while we were playing cards," he said. The Hollytrees Animal Rescue Trust came to collect the toad.
Iran bans paper, magazine
The government on Monday ordered the closure of a daily newspaper and banned a planned women's publication in the first media crackdown since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August. "The Supervisory Board on the Press agreed to the temporary closure of Asia newspaper and Nour-e Banovan and ordered their cases sent to court," the Culture Ministry said in the ban. No reason was given for the closure and ban, although a journalist at the economic daily Asia said the paper had been given a warning recently for printing photographs of women considered to have been improperly dressed.
■ Ivory Coast
Attack on army base foiled
Government troops crushed an assault on a major military base west of Abidjan, with three soldiers and seven of the attackers killed in the action, the army said. Heavy fighting took place at the Akouedo base near the city following the pre-dawn assault on Monday, but soon after 10am army chief of staff General Philippe Mangou said on national radio and television "the situation is under control" and later denied rumors of a mutiny. The army took 32 prisoners, soldiers told reporters at the base. Dead bodies in civilian clothes were identified only as being some of the attackers. The corpses wore good-luck charms known as gris-gris.
Likud to quit Cabinet
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his Cabinet ministers yesterday to quit Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government, a spokesman said. The ministers will hand in their letters of resignation at Sunday's weekly Cabinet. Sharon is expected to appoint new Cabinet ministers from his centrist Kadima party to replace the outgoing Likud ministers. Netanyahu was elected last month to head the Likud Party after Sharon quit the hard-line faction and formed a new centrist party. Sharon's appointments to the Cabinet will give an idea of what a future Sharon-led government would look like.