World News Quick Take

Agencies

Fri, May 20, 2011 - Page 7

AUSTRALIA

‘Planker’ left in a coma

A man was in a coma yesterday after falling off a car reportedly while “planking” as three others were charged for taking part in the Internet craze on the roof of a moving vehicle. Simon Hallam, 20, may never recover from horrific head injuries after falling heavily onto the road from a fast-moving car as he attempt to “plank,” according to local reports. The “planking” craze involves someone lying flat on their stomach with their arms against their bodies in unusual and sometimes dangerous situations, with photos of their exploits posted on social media sites. Hallam’s father, Terry, told the Brisbane Courier-Mail that what happened to his son was a strong warning to others thinking about joining the craze. “The Internet and Facebook, they’re just dreadful things ... they encourage this sort of behavior among the young ones,” he said. Separately, Queensland police charged three men in their 20s with public nuisance for “planking” on the roof of a moving car. Toowoomba District Acting Inspector Jim Fenton said he was in disbelief. “We would question their level of intelligence and due regard to self-preservation,” he told reporters.

GERMANY

Students consider sex work

One in three university students in Berlin would consider sex work as a means to finance their education, a study by the Berlin Studies Center said on Wednesday. The figure in Berlin was higher than students surveyed in Paris (29.2 percent) and in Kiev (18.5 percent), the three cities included in the report. The study found about 4 percent of the 3,200 Berlin students surveyed said they had already done some form of sex work, which includes prostitution, erotic dancing and Internet shows. The results surprised the authors, who said they undertook the study because student prostitution had been often reported, but little was known about its relationship to education policy. “It’s possible that because educational reforms have increased student workloads, they have less time to earn money. Coupled with higher student fees, in this instance, [that] leads students into prostitution,” said Eva Blumenschein, one of the study’s authors and a 26-year-old student at Berlin’s Humboldt University.

SOUTH AFRICA

Crocodiles delay voters

A crocodile-infested river forced election officials to delay the opening of a polling station in Limpopo Province on Wednesday, the local elections chief said. Officials running the voting station for the country’s local elections had to wait for a special army vehicle to ferry them across the perilous Olifants River, delaying the poll opening by two hours, provincial election officer Nkaro Mateta said. “It is really quite dangerous. If you cross on foot then you will be attacked by crocodiles,” she said. Another station “on top of a mountain” also opened two hours late because a helicopter had to be used to take election staff there, she said.

SWITZERLAND

Suicidal patient shoots monk

Police say a suicidal hospital patient has mistakenly shot dead his roommate, an 87-year-old monk. Police in the eastern canton of St Gallen say the 80-year-old man was handling a gun on Monday when he triggered a shot that injured his fellow patient. The monk from a nearby Benedictine abbey died shortly afterwards. The incident happened at a hospital in Uznach, about 30km east of Zurich. Police spokesman Hans Peter Eugster was unable to say on Wednesday how the man managed to take a firearm into the hospital undetected or whether he would face charges.

UNITED STATES

Obama birth mug on sale

President Barack Obama has seen off the “birther” conspiracists who hyped rumors he was not American — now he is trying to rake in campaign cash from the row with a “Made in the USA” campaign mug. The white mug comes with a picture of the beaming president on the front and a reduced rendition of his birth certificate, released by the White House in a successful attempt to quell the controversy, on the back. “Last year, the President said, ‘I can’t spend all of my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead,’” Obama’s campaign manager Julianna Smoot told supporters in an e-mail. “This is about as close as we can get.” The limited edition mug to help supporters “stay caffeinated for campaign events (and everything else)” is available on Obama’s 2012 campaign Web site, for a US$15 donation.

UNITED STATES

Chatty woman kicked out

A young woman who insisted on noisily chatting on her cellphone throughout a marathon 15-hour train ride was forcibly removed by police following numerous passenger complaints. The woman was traveling on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, which runs between Los Angeles and Seattle, Washington, and was speaking loudly enough to annoy surrounding passengers, Amtrak spokesman Vernay Graham said. “I guess she got into some sort of confrontation with others passengers that were sitting around her,” said Graham, adding that the train had almost reached its destination when the conductor decided to call local police after the train pulled into the station at Salem, Oregon. “We consider them unruly passengers when we’ve asked them to stop doing some kind of behavior and they continue on,” Graham said.

ARGENTINA

Local hero to the rescue

“I revile injustice,” said Menganno (SuperSomebody), a local superhero who dons a blue mask, pads and shield in the hope people can change — for the better. Menganno really is a hero to the people he helps; he patrols the streets of Lanus, a town on the southern fringe of metro Buenos Aires, on a motorbike offering help to anyone in need. “I am a real superhero: flesh and bones. My goal is for all of us to be better people and to care more about each other. That is what I am fighting for,” he said in an interview. He does not seek glory, which is why he chose the name Menganno — the Spanish-language equivalent of “Tom, Dick and Harry.” He admits his wife and two sons know about his unusual pastime, and apparently are helping him keep his identity under wraps. On a typical day, he tools around on his bike assisting locals, delivers shoes to the needy and chatting with adoring kids.

BRAZIL

Valentim is world’s oldest

Maria Gomes Valentim, a great-great grandmother, is the world’s oldest living person at the age of 114 and 313 days, Guinness World Records said on Wednesday. Valentim is the first Brazilian to hold the title after her claim was authenticated by the world records authority. Previous titleholder, Besse Cooper from Monroe, Georgia, is 48 days younger and is now the “Oldest Living North American.” Valentim was born in 1896, when Queen Victoria was still on the throne of England, in the town of Carangola, where she still lives. She was widowed in 1946 after a 33-year marriage and has five great-great grandchildren. According to the Guinness World Records Web site, she attributes her longevity to a healthy diet that includes a roll of bread every morning with coffee and fruit — and the occasional glass of wine.