Peter Banks Dies



Peter Banks Dies, popular as an original member of the prog-rock band Yes, has died aged 65.

According to the guitarist's website, Banks passed away on March 7 at his home in London due to heart failure.Reported nme.

 He was reportedly found after failing to show up for a recording session.Alongside Chirs Squire, who Banks played with in his first band the Syn, the duo helped form Yes in 1968.

The guitarist played with the prog-rock group for their first two albums, '1969's 'Yes' and 1970's 'Time And The Word', but a disagreement about the direction of the band led to Banks' dismissal before the release of the second album.

In a statement, Yes said: "We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of fellow bandmate and founding Yes member, Peter Banks. He was a huge piece of the fabric that made Yes what it is, and our thoughts, sincere condolences, and prayers are with him and his family. Peter, we shall miss you greatly."

Post-Yes, Banks formed Flash and released three studio albums – 'Flash', 'In The Can' and 'Out Of Our Hands' – before forming Empire, who also released three records ('Mark I', 'Mark II' and 'Mark III'). He also made a string of solo albums, most notably 1973's 'Two Sides of Peter Banks'.

Most recently, Banks published his autobiography, 'Beyond & Before', and was reportedly putting the final touches to a Flash live album, titled 'Flash – In Public', prior to his death.

Oklahoma executes man: Excuted today

A man convicted of committing three murders in three states during a 10-day rampage was executed Tuesday in Oklahoma for one of the murders, the 1999 death of a woman whose credit cards he used to buy Christmas presents for his family.

Steven Ray Thacker, 42, used his final statement to apologize to his victims' families and friends, several of whom witnessed his execution from an adjacent room at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

"I don't deserve it, but as God has forgiven me, I hope you will forgive me for the pain I've caused," Thacker said while strapped to a hospital gurney. He then thanked his family and friends for their support, and added: "An eternity in heaven is mine."

Thacker winked at his stepfather, Donald Johnston, who silently nodded back at him. Thacker then lay still, with his eyes closed and occasionally fluttering as if asleep. After two minutes, his breathing stilled and he didn't stir again. He was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m.

Thacker, a laid-off plumber's apprentice, was sentenced to death after being convicted of abducting 25-year-old Laci Dawn Hill from her home in Bixby, after going there under the guise of looking at a pool table she had advertised for sale. Her body was found six days later at a cabin in Mayes County, east of Tulsa. She had been raped and stabbed.

According to prosecutors, Thacker fled Oklahoma, stole a car in Springfield, Mo., and broke into a Missouri home looking for money. Forrest Reed Boyd, 24, arrived at his Aldrich home mid-theft and was stabbed to death by Thacker, who received a life sentence in that case.

Thacker then took Boyd's car and drove to Dyersburg, Tenn., where he killed Ray Patterson, 52, after Patterson arrived to help tow the car and discovered Thacker possessed stolen credit cards. A Tennessee court sentenced Thacker to death for that murder.

Marnie Reed, who described herself as Hill's best friend, read a statement after the execution on behalf of Hill's family.

"They say time heals all wounds, which I guess is true, but Laci's murder has left a huge scar to remind us all daily of what we have lost, what we will never have again," she said, adding that neither Thacker's apology nor his death could lessen that loss.

"It was time," she said. "Now we can truly celebrate and remember what an amazing person she really was."

In late 1999, while searching for Thacker, the FBI said he had been recently laid off from his job as a plumber's apprentice. Thacker's father-in-law, Keith Roberson, told the Tulsa World newspaper at the time that Thacker didn't have much money to spend on his family but suddenly seemed flush with cash.

"We just can't believe how he sat here at Christmas with us and carried on like nothing happened," Roberson told the newspaper.

Thacker waived his right to ask for clemency from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last month. Courts previously rejected Thacker's argument that he has a bipolar disorder and shouldn't be executed.

Bindi Irwin at 14

Bindi Irwin at 14 ... it's hard to imagine that Steve Irwin's daughter is practically all grown up. On March 12, Us Weekly posted a picture of Bindi Irwin, who looks more like a model than a wildlife aficionado. Bindi was turning heads in Sydney on Monday, promoting her new movie, "Return to Nim's Island."

Bindi kept things classy wearing "zoo" garb not unlike what her dad would wear to big events. According to Us Weekly, she wore a "short-sleeved button-up, khaki shorts and sneakers" for her close-up. No one was looking at her khaki shorts, however. It was her pretty face that really stole the show.

Bindi Irwin at 14 is not the same scrawny girl with pigtails. She has grown in to a beautiful young woman that her father would undoubtedly be so proud of. As far as her latest film goes, there are of course animals involved. In fact, Bindi says that the sea lions were "better trained than me. They hit their mark every time."

"Return to Nim's Island" with Bindi Irwin

"Return to Nim's Island" isn't Bindi Irwin's first film either. In 2010, Irwin starred in a "Free Willy" movie that went straight to DVD according to Us Weekly. Perhaps Irwin will have a future in film -- you know, just so long as the movies involve animals in some capacity.

Bindi Irwin at 14 has blossomed but she has kept her father's love of animals close to her still. She's quite the role model and she seems like a delightful young lady.

Manny Ramirez signs

Former MLB star Manny Ramirez said Tuesday he is ‘‘starting a new beginning’’ after signing a short-term contract to play with the EDA Rhinos in Taiwan’s professional baseball league.

The Rhinos said Ramirez, 40, will earn $25,000 a month to appear with the team during this year’s March-November season.

Speaking at a news conference in the Rhinos home town of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan, Ramirez said he felt ‘‘blessed’’ about the opportunity to play in Taiwan, where he will earn about 1/100th of his salary during his MLB heyday.

‘‘I don’t think about the money and contract,’’ he said. ‘‘I just think it is a great opportunity for me and the fans.’’

Ramirez’s arrival in Taiwan is the latest stop in a 22-year career that has seen him morph from a promising hitter in the Cleveland Indians organization to a bona fide star with the Boston Red Sox, and a huge attraction with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox.

In 2004 he helped lead the Red Sox to their first world title since 1918, and was named the Most Valuable Player in the World Series.

His last major league appearance was with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, where he went 1-17.

But Ramiriz has been dogged by serious problems off the field, earning lengthy bans for drug abuse in 2009 and 2011.

In 2012 Ramirez hit .302 for Oakland A’s Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento but his contract was not renewed.

Taiwan’s professional baseball league consists of only four teams, having been whittled down from a high of nine in 2008, amid a series of bribery and game-fixing scandals.

The Taiwan national team advanced through the first round at this year’s World Baseball Classic, but failed to get past qualifiers Netherlands and Japan during this past weekend’s games in Tokyo.

Wrestler throws medal in garbage

The story of a wrestler throwing a medal in the garbage is one the stories trending on the Internet Tuesday.

University of Iowa senior Matt McDonough was apparently so angry about his second-place finish at last weekend’s Big Ten tournament that he threw his medal in the garbage, UPI reported Tuesday.

McDonough is a three-time All-American wrestler. Many are asking, 'how could an experienced athlete take a loss so hard as to throw a medal in the trash?'

The story of the wrestler throwing away his medal in the garbage was first reported by a student reporter, Sam Louwagie.

UPI reports, “It was discovered later by an intrepid student reporter, Sam Louwagie, who has yet to explain why he was digging around in the trash."

Louwagie Tweeted:

“This is the 2nd place 125 pound Big Ten trophy. We found it in the garbage. twitter.com/SamLouwagie/st…

— Sam Louwagie (@SamLouwagie) March 10, 2013”

Why would McDonough be so angry at the loss?

"It was McDonough’s third loss this season, the most he has ever had," Louwagie wrote in his story for The Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa's student newspaper.

Louwagie got a lot of response to this story. He later Tweeted, “Lots of response on McD's medal last night. My take: It just shows his and the program's mindset. Fed up with 2nd, not accepting it.”

What do you think of a student athlete throwing a medal in the trash? Leave you comments below.

If you would like to be kept up to date on the story of wrestler throwing his medal in the garbage and other stories trending on the Internet, hit the subscribe button above. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Biggie Smalls ghost

It has been over sixteen years since rapper notorious B.I.G was was killed in a hail of gunfire in a drive by on a Los Angeles, California, street.

But two days after the anniversary of his murder, the rapper's children have announced Biggie Smalls will be given new life as a cartoon character.
Life after death: Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G will appear in a new cartoon 16 years after he was shot in Los Angeles, California
Life after death: Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G will appear in a new cartoon 16 years after he was shot in Los Angeles, California
His children, 16-year-old C.J. Wallace and 19-year-old T'yanna Wallace, will star in a cartoon series set in their late father's Brooklyn, New York, studio.

According to the Associated Press, B.I.G, whose real name is Christopher Wallace, will appear in 'spirit' and 'guide them through the adversities they face' when trying to keep the Brooklyn studio open and out of a larger company's hand.

Created by Ossian Media the group announced on Monday that the cartoon named House of Wallace has yet to sign with a network.
A family affair: Biggie's children, 16-year-old C.J. Wallace, pictured here in 2009, and 19-year-old T'yanna Wallace, will star in a cartoon series called House Of Wallace which is set in their late father's New York studio
A family affair: Biggie's children, 16-year-old C.J. Wallace, pictured here in 2009, and 19-year-old T'yanna Wallace, will star in a cartoon series called House Of Wallace which is set in their late father's New York studio
A representative for Ossian said however, 'a few serious networks are in discussion.'

This is not the first time that the rapper - who gained mainstream fame thanks to hit Mo Money Mo Problems and was seen as one of the main figures of the so-called East Coast hip hop scene in the 1990s - has been immortalised in cartoon form. In 2006 the ghost of Biggie was summoned as part of Southpark's Halloween special.
Cartoon connection: The rapper was also made into cartoon in Southpark's 2006 Halloween special
Cartoon connection: The rapper was also made into cartoon in Southpark's 2006 Halloween special
In this latest series Biggie will not be the only musical legend to be turned into an animated character, as it will also feature guest appearances from other musical artists.
Last photo: The East Coast rapper was pictured at the Soul Train Music Awards just hours before he was shot following an after party on March 9, 1997
Last photo: The East Coast rapper was pictured at the Soul Train Music Awards just hours before he was shot following an after party on March 9, 1997
While who will get the cartoon treatment has not been announced yet no doubt the cartoon may include appearances by may include the late rapper's best friend prior to his 1997 death Sean 'P Diddy' Combs and on and off girlfriend Lil Kim.

P Diddy was with the rapper - who was just 24 - when he was shot four times after leaving an after party for the Soul Train Music Awards on March 9. While he was rushed to hospital he later died of his injuries.

His murder remains unsolved despite an FBI investigation.

In the years since his murder, a number of conspiracy theories have emerged, including the suspicion that police officers were involved.

While the person or people responsible for his death have never been found, his murder is widely blamed on a rap war between the East and West Coast rappers.

Six months before the shooting, West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur was killed by a gunman in Las Vegas, Nevada, - legendary rapper and former CEO of Death Row Records Suge Knight was also injured in the shooting. The murder has never been solved.

Raised in Brooklyn, biggie started selling drugs at the age of 12 and served nine months in prison before going on to sell more than seven million records.
Friends to the end: Sean 'P Diddy' Combs, pictured here at Robin Thicke's birthday in Hollywood this week, was with the rapper when he was shot
Friends to the end: Sean 'P Diddy' Combs, pictured here at Robin Thicke's birthday in Hollywood this week, was with the rapper when he was shot

Deion Sanders wins custody

Deion Sanders, former Cowboys football player, has won custody of his two sons. The Texas jury awarded joint custody of his daughter with his estranged wife, Pilar Sanders, according to TMZ on March 12.

Deion and Pilar will share joint custody of their daughter, but Deion will have sole custody of their two sons. Deion will have the right to make the decisions for his sons, such as where they live, their education and extracurricular activities.

It only took the jury 44 minutes to reach a decision in the custody case. The judge will be the one to decide the custody schedule of the children.

Deion Sanders is now a NFL Network analyst. The couple announced their split December 2011. Since the announcement of their split they have fought over prenuptial agreement, criminal mischief, child support and now child custody. Both Deion and Pilar want what is best for their children. Hopefully they will be able to get along for the sake of their kids.

Halle Berry dress on Leno: Tonight Show

Halle Berry dress on Leno: Tonight Show
Halle Berry dress on Leno: Tonight Show
Halle Berry's dress on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno had the late show host noticeably eyeing the actress Monday night, LAtimes.com reported March 12. Berry has been known to tease Leno a lot on her many appearances on the late night show. Berry had stopped by to promote her latest movie, "The Call."

Berry also surprised everyone with the amazing news that she would be reprising her role as Storm in the "X-Men" franchise for the forthcoming movie, "Days of Future Past." However, Leno seemed to be more interested in her Reem Acra mini-dress that plunged down to her belly button and showed off plenty of stuff.

Halle Berry's dress on Leno distracts "Tonight Show" host

Halle Berry's Racy Style

    "I take it back, I like this dress better!" Leno told Berry, of the dress she wore on his show. "My wife and I [had] both agreed you had the best dress at the Oscars."

On Feb. 24, Berry, 46, wore a glittery black and metallic specially made Versace dress for the 2013 Oscars. The actress mentioned that she almost had to wear a different dress for the event. Berry said she wanted to dress like a Bond girl would wear going to the Oscars in 2013 and Donatella Versace came up with the dress she wore. However, it arrived the day before the Oscars, just barely in time for Berry to wear it.

There was only one problem with the gorgeous dress. She couldn't lift her arms in the long-sleeved gown so you won't' find any photos of her with her hands on her hips.

Police storm Oregon motel

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Police ended an eight-hour standoff and stormed a motel room in Oregon on Tuesday to arrest an ex-convict accused of killing his grandparents after they had thrown him a party to celebrate his release from prison, authorities said.

The suspect, Michael "Chadd" Boysen, 26, was taken into custody at about 7 p.m. local time suffering from self-inflicted knife wounds, Lincoln City Police Chief Keith Kilian told Reuters. Kilian said he did not immediately know Boysen's condition.

Boysen is suspected of slaying his grandparents in Renton, Washington, and stealing their car. Their bodies were found on Saturday, a day after he was released from prison where he had served a sentence for a burglary conviction.

Giant African snail: Killed

giant african snail
A "baseball-sized" giant African snail
A "baseball-sized" giant African snail that was found in Australia has been killed by country officials who say the animal posed a mammoth threat to local flora.

"Giant African snails are one of the world's largest and most damaging land snails," Paul Nixon, acting regional manager at Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said in a statement, according to the Brisbane Times. "Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements and responsive system has so far kept these pests out of Australia and we want to keep it that way."

According to Australia's ABC News, the large mollusk was recently found "crawling across the concrete at a Brisbane container yard." Seized and later identified as a giant African snail by entomologists, the animal has been "humanely destroyed" by biosecurity officers.

Native to East Africa, giant African snails are considered by the Invasive Species Specialist Group to be one of the 100 worst invasive species on the planet. The Brisbane Times writes that the pest is "capable of destroying 500 types of plants including vegetable crops, fruit trees and Australia’s native eucalypts."

According to Reuters, the snail -- which can grow up to 12 inches long and 2.2 pounds in weight -- can "lay 1,200 eggs a year, tolerate extreme temperatures and has few natural enemies in Australia." The animal is also capable of carrying a strain of meningitis, a potentially fatal disease.

To get a sense of the scale of these animals, check out this undated AP photograph of two giant African snails (story continues below):

This isn't the first time that unwanted giant African snails have caused a scare. In 2011, Florida officials announced that they were waging a battle against the virulent pest.

"It's us against the snails," Richard Gaskalla, director of plant industry at the Florida Department of Agriculture, told NPR's "All Things Considered" at the time.

In an April 2012 blog post, the USDA wrote that more than 40,000 of the giant snails -- which are said to be "prohibited for both interstate movement and importation into the U.S." -- had been captured in Florida over the course of six months.

"Everyone can help protect our precious resources and preserve our agricultural heritage by leaving hungry pests behind. When people are boating, fishing, birdwatching, hiking or even just cooking out in the backyard, there is an opportunity to fight invasive pests," the blog post continued.

Craigslist guilty verdict

Craigslist Guilty Verdict: Ohio man who used Craigslist to rob, kill found guilty, could face death penalty, A self-styled street preacher accused in a deadly plot to lure men with Craigslist job offers and then rob them was found guilty of aggravated murder on Tuesday and could face the death penalty.

A jury in Akron returned the verdict in the case against Richard Beasley, who was accused of killing two men from Ohio and one from Norfolk, Va. A man from South Carolina was shot but survived and testified about running for his life and hiding in the woods, scared he would bleed to death. Reported NY Daily News...

The jury that convicted Beasley will return later to consider whether to recommend the death penalty for him.

Prosecutors, who had asked jurors to use common sense and return a guilty verdict, labeled the 53-year-old Beasley the triggerman in the 2011 plot with a high school student he mentored. The 16-year-old student, Brogan Rafferty, was convicted and sentenced last year to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel told jurors there was no reasonable doubt that Beasley plotted the killings, and he presented three possible theories for aggravated murder — planning the crimes, done with a kidnapping or done with a robbery. He said there was “prior calculation and design,” a component of the death penalty aggravated murder charge.
“He was the mastermind behind this plot,” Baumoel said.

Prosecutors said the victims, all down on their luck and with few family ties that might highlight their disappearances, were lured with offers of farmhand jobs.

One man was killed near Akron, and the others were shot at a southeast Ohio farm during bogus job interviews.
The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon. Kern’s body was found in a shallow grave near an Akron-area shopping mall.

The survivor, Scott Davis, testified that he heard the click of a gun as he walked in front of Beasley at the reputed job site. Davis, who was shot in an arm, knocked the weapon aside. “I spun around,” testified Davis, who told a harrowing story of running through the woods and hiding for seven hours. “I was worried about bleeding to death.”
Prosecutors said it was a miracle that Davis, who also was the star witness at Rafferty’s trial, survived the encounter with Beasley in Noble County, 60 miles east of Columbus.

“Only by the grace of God did he escape with his life,” Baumoel told the jury. It was Davis’ escape on Nov. 6, 2011, that led authorities to find Pauley’s body in the same area where Davis was shot. Geiger’s body also was found in Noble County.

Beasley, who returned to Ohio from Texas in 2004 after serving several years in prison on a burglary conviction, testified that he met with Davis and that Davis was the one who pulled a gun.

“It misfired three times about 2 feet from my face, and I ran into the woods, and he ran after me,” Beasley said.
He testified that the two wrestled on the muddy ground and Davis ended up firing six shots.

“I said, ‘That’s your six,’ so if he was going to kill me, he was going to have to do it with his hands,” Beasley testified.

Beasley’s lawyers had said that investigators targeted him based only on a hunch and that the identity theft and robbery motives prosecutors offered were baseless.

Beasley’s testimony came after the prosecution rested its case without calling Rafferty, who had been subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution. There was no explanation why he didn’t testify, and attorneys were under a gag order.
Rafferty, from Stow, was tried as an adult but didn’t face a possible death penalty because he was a juvenile when the crimes occurred.

Rafferty, now 18, had said the crimes were horrible but he didn’t see any chance to stop the killings. He said he feared Beasley would kill him and his relatives if he tipped off police.

49ers trade Alex Smith

The San Francisco 49ers have agreed to trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, league sources confirmed to ESPN.

Kansas City will trade its second-round pick in the 2013 draft -- the second selection (No. 34 overall) in the round -- as well as another conditional mid-round pick in 2014 to acquire Smith from San Francisco, a league source told ESPN.

The 49ers now own 15 picks in the 2013 draft.

As a result of the trade, the Chiefs are expected to release former starting quarterback Matt Cassel, league sources told ESPN. Cassel has two years remaining on a $63 million, six-year deal he signed with Kansas City after he was acquired in a trade from the Patriots in 2009. He failed to live up to the lofty contract, however, and was benched during the 2012 season.

At this point, Smith will play under the terms of his remaining contract, which calls for a guaranteed base salary of $8.5 million in 2013. There have been no discussions between the Chiefs and Smith's representatives about negotiating a new contract.

Peter Banks dies: Guitarist is No More

 L-R: Peter Banks, Tony Kaye, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Jon Anderson - posed, group shot
L-R: Peter Banks, Tony Kaye, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Jon Anderson - posed, group shot
Peter Banks, the original guitarist for the British band Yes, died on March 7 at the age of 65, reports USA Today.

A post on his official website stated that Banks died from heart failure and was found in his London home after he didn't show up to a recording session.

Members of the band Yes released an official statement on their Facebook page, mourning the loss of their friend:

"We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of fellow bandmate and founding Yes member, Peter Banks. He was a huge piece of the fabric that made Yes what it is, and our thoughts, sincere condolences, and prayers are with him and his family. Peter, we shall miss you greatly."

According to Rolling Stone, Banks was part of Yes for their first two albums, and was then replaced by Steve Howe. Banks would go on to form the band Flash, and released three albums with them, before going on to form the band Empire and release another three records. The British musician also released several solo recordings and was working on a live collection at the time of his death.

Judge Judy sued: Over China


Judge Judy Sheindlin presides over a case on the set of her syndicated show "Judge Judy." (AP}
Judge Judy Sheindlin presides over a case on the set of her syndicated show "Judge Judy." (AP}
Judge Judy is reportedly being sued over some very pricey dishes she allegedly bought from one of her producers.

According to the lawsuit, obtained by TMZ, Randy Douthit sold Judge Judith Sheindlin china after his split from wife Patric Jones. The suit states the tableware bought by the judge was worth more than $500,000 but she bought it for $50,000. The lawsuit claims Sheindlin and Douthit entered into a fraudulent scheme to prevent Jones from obtaining the dishes in the divorce.

Jones is seeking the dishes or their value. But Judge Judy told TMZ to her knowledge no such lawsuit exists.

"I have not seen any complaint by the former Mrs. Douthit, however, I don't owe this lady a cent,” she said. “And if this 50-year-old woman would spend her time more productively at trying to find a job, instead of abusing the judicial system with frivolous lawsuits, we would all be a lot better off."

Giant African snail: Captured

A Giant African snail. Picture: Wikimedia Commons (cc)
A Giant African snail. Picture: Wikimedia Commons (cc)
AUTHORITIES in Brisbane have destroyed a ‘baseball-sized’ Giant African snail after worries it could do severe damage to the country’s ecosystem.

The snail, which can grow up to a foot (30cm) in length and weigh over two pounds (1kg), was found in a freight yard in the port city. Giant African snails are known to eat 500 different plants, fruits and crops.
Australian agriculture officials were keen to avert a repeat of the last snail outbreak in 1977, when an eight-month campaign was waged to capture and destroy 300 of the snails.

Australian biosecurity measures are notoriously strict, in order to protect the native ecology and wildlife. Unfortunately this means that the Giant snail has few natural enemies in the country, which necessitates the strong reaction from the authorities.

In a statement, Paul Nixon of the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said: “Giant African snails are one of the world’s largest and most damaging land snails.

“Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements and responsive system has so far kept these pests out of Australia, and we want to keep it that way.”

Giant African snail

Workers from Florida’s Department of Agriculture are fighting a slimy and dangerous enemy: giant African land snails that have invaded a residential area in Miami-Dade County.

“We have collected over a thousand so far and we have only just begun,” said Denise Feiber, Public Information Director for Florida’s Division of Plant Industry.
ht african land snails florida thg 110916 wblog Giant African Snails Invade Miami Florida
Florida Department of Agriculture/Division of Plant Industry
Investigators aren’t sure when or how the invaders slithered into town, but they are on a mission to eradicate the snails as fast as possible.  Giant African land snails can grow to be as long as 8 inches and consume at least 500 different types of plants.  They also destroy stucco and plaster.

“They leave excrement all over the sides of houses. They’re very nasty,” Feiber said.  “These things are not the cute little snails that you see.”

They also pose a health risk by carrying a parasite that can cause meningitis in humans.

Officials realized they had a problem on their hands last week when two sisters flagged down a fruit fly inspector performing a routine check.

“A homeowner came out and said, I found these snails in my yard and she had one of them.  He recognized it as potentially being a giant African land snail,” Feiber said.

Officials have been focusing on the one square mile area around the home in southwest Miami. They are only 30 to 40 percent done with their investigation and have already found 1,100 snails.

“We have gone back to some of these positive properties and cleaned up every one of these snails we have seen,” Feiber said. “We come back a few days later and we’re collecting more and more.”

The snails contain both male and female reproductive organs and typically lay 1,200 eggs a year.

Suzanne Howland lives in the affected area and told ABC Affiliate WPLG  that the snails multiply “faster than rabbits.”

“It’s amazing, there were literally hundreds in my yard,” she told WPLG.  “I saw them within a month and a half just take over my yard.”

Feiber said that they are investigating if the snails could have come from a smuggling incident that’s been under investigation since 2010.

In 2010, officials began investigating Charles Stewart, a man who practices the African religion Ifa Orisha, the Miami Herald  reported. Stewart was accused of using the snails in his rituals and investigators claim an African woman brought them to him by sneaking the snails under her dresses on flights to Miami, the Miami Herald  reported.

Floridians also battled the slimy mollusks in the late 1960s. A boy smuggled three snails on a flight and raised them as a pet. His grandmother grew tired of them and released them into her garden, Feber said.

“It took the state 10 years to eradicate and it was a million dollar eradication program and that was in the late 1960s, early 1970s,” Feiber said.  “Eighteen thousand snails were collected.”

Cardinals head to conclave to elect pope for troubled Church

The red curtain on the central balcony, called the Loggia of the Blessings of Saint Peter's Basilica, where the new pope will appear after being elected in the conclave is seen at the Vatican
Roman Catholic cardinals prayed for divine help on Tuesday, hours before a conclave to elect a new pope to tackle the daunting problems facing the Church at one of the most difficult periods in its history.

The cardinals, including the 115 aged under 80 who will vote for the next pope, filed into St. Peter's Basilica as choirs sang at the ritual solemn Mass that precedes a conclave.

They prayed that God would inspire them to choose the right man to replace Pope Benedict, who abdicated abruptly last month saying he was not strong enough to confront the woes of a Church whose 1.2 billion members look to Rome for leadership.

The Mass was the last event for the cardinals as a group before they enter the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday afternoon and make their choice for the next pontiff before Michelangelo's famous fresco of the Last Judgment.

In his homily, Italy's Angelo Sodano, dean of the cardinals, said they should pray "that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart".

He called for unity within the Church and urged everyone to work with the next pope, whoever he should be.

The secret conclave, steeped in ritual and prayer, could carry on for several days, with no clear favorite in sight.

Vatican insiders say Italy's Angelo Scola and Brazil's Odilo Scherer have emerged as the men to beat. The former would bring the papacy back to Italy for the first time in 35 years, while the latter would be the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.

However, a host of other candidates from numerous nations have also been mentioned, including U.S. cardinals Timothy Dolan and Sean O'Malley, Canada's Marc Ouellet and Argentina's Leonardo Sandri.

MANY CHOICES

Known as the "Princes of the Church", the cardinals will only emerge from their seclusion once they have chosen the 266th pontiff in the 2,000-year history of the Church, which is beset by sex abuse scandals, bureaucratic infighting, financial difficulties and the rise of secularism.

Many Catholics are looking to see positive changes.

"It's not an anxious moment, but a moment of great hope. The first thing the Church should do is return to the lives of the people, instead of losing itself in theology," said Italian Andrea Michieli, 22, who attended the Mass.

"The new pope should give a young image of the Church so everyone sees the Church is not just the Curia," he said referring the Vatican's central bureaucracy which has been criticized for failing to prevent a string of mishaps during Benedict's troubled, eight-year reign.

Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera told Italy's La Stampa newspaper there were many different views about the right profile for the next pontiff, with some wanting an academic, others seeking someone close to the people, or else a good manager.

Asked if the conclave could therefore drag on, he said: "I do not think it will be long because there are diverse opinions. We will come to an agreement very quickly".

The average length of the last nine conclaves was just over three days and none went on for more than five days.

Signaling the divisions among the cardinals, Italian newspapers reported on Tuesday an open clash between prelates in a pre-conclave meeting on Monday.

The newspapers said the Vatican hierarchy's number two under Benedict, Tarcisio Bertone, had accused Brazil's Joao Braz de Aviz of leaking critical comments to the media. Aviz reportedly retorted that the leaks were coming from the Curia, earning loud applause.

CORRUPTION AND INTRIGUE

All the red-hatted prelates in the Sistine Chapel were appointed by either the German-born Benedict XVI or his Polish predecessor John Paul II, and the next pontiff will almost certainly pursue their fierce defense of traditional moral teachings.

But Benedict and John Paul were criticized for failing to reform the Vatican bureaucracy, battered by allegations of intrigue and incompetence, and some churchmen believe the next pope must be a good chief executive or at least put a good management team in place under him.

Vatican insiders say Scola, who has managed two big Italian dioceses, might be best placed to understand the Byzantine politics of the Vatican administration - of which he has not been a part - and therefore be able to introduce swift reform.

The Curia faction of cardinals working inside the Vatican bureaucracy is said by the same insiders to back Scherer, who worked in the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops for seven years before later leading Brazil's Sao Paolo diocese - the largest in the country that has the largest national Catholic community.

With only 24 percent of Catholics living in Europe, pressure is growing within the Church to choose a pontiff from elsewhere in the world who would bring a different perspective.

Latin American cardinals might worry more about poverty and the rise of evangelical churches than questions of materialism and sexual abuse that dominate in the West, while the growth of Islam is a major concern for the Church in Africa and Asia.

The cardinals are expected to hold their first vote late on Tuesday afternoon - which is almost certain to be inconclusive - before retiring to the Vatican hotel for the night.

They hold four ballots a day from Wednesday until one man has won a two-thirds majority - or 77 votes. Black smoke from a makeshift chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel will signify no one has been elected, while white smoke and the pealing of St. Peter's bells will announce the arrival of a new pontiff.

As in mediaeval times, the cardinals will be banned from communicating with the outside world. The Vatican has also taken high-tech measures to ensure secrecy in the 21st century, including electronic jamming devices to prevent eavesdropping.

Cardinals earlier began moving into the Vatican's Santa Martha hotel, where they will live during the conclave.

Boy admits Kutcher prank

Prosecutors say a 12-year-old boy has admitted making a prank 911 call that drew police to Ashton Kutcher's home.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office says the boy admitted responsibility for making a false bomb threat and computer intrusion. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Prosecutors say the boy is also accused of making false 911 calls involving Justin Bieber's house and a bank. Those charges will likely be dismissed, but the district attorney's office says the allegations will be considered when the boy is sentenced.

The boy's identity has not been released.

His calls were among several targeting celebrities in the Los Angeles area in recent months in a practice known as "swatting." The pranks are intended to draw large police responses, including SWAT teams.

Longest female legs: Lady with long Legs

Longest female legs: Lady with long Legs
Longest female legs: Lady with long Legs
The longest female legs measuring 132 cm (51.9 in) belong to Svetlana Pankratova according to Guinness World Records. Svetlana, who is a 6-foot-5 Russian native is, as one can expect, an assistant coach for the George Mason High School girls’ basketball team. Before becoming a coach in Falls Church, the woman with the longest legs in the world “also played basketball in Portugal, Israel, and Spain before retiring in 2000,” wrote CBS DC in a news report on March 11, 2013.

When Svetlana Pankratova, who was born on April 29, 1971, grew up in Volgograd in Russia, she was already the tallest one in kindergarten and since children were arranged from tallest to shortest, the little kindergarten girl with the longest legs was always at the head of the line.

While having the longest legs was an advantage in kindergarten, it became a disadvantage in high school. Svetlana says that life as a teen with the longest legs “wasn’t easy because kids do tease you. … They tease whenever something is – I wouldn’t say not normal – but when something is different. So I would get teased a lot for being tall.”

Longest female legs
In an interview with Falls Church News-Press, Svetlana shared that she didn’t really notice that her legs were extraordinarily long until she was a teen and it was a challenge for her and her mother to buy clothes, especially pants for her.

“I never thought about it when I was growing up,” said the woman with the longest female legs. “I just never paid attention to my legs.”

While Svetlana started out being a swimmer, it didn’t take long for local basketball coaches in Russia to notice her and following her coaches' encouragement to play basketball instead of swimming allowed Svetlana to travel around the world.

From 1992 to 1995, Svetlana played women's basketball at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in Virginia, where she set two school records as an impact player. She graduated from VCU in 1997.

In 2000, after having played basketball in Russia, Portugal, Israel, Spain, and the United States, Svetlana retired and lived on the Costa del Sol in Spain working for an estate agent.

In 2002, a friend of Svetlana “saw a news story featuring a British woman who claimed to have the world’s longest legs for a woman. She showed Pankratova the article and suggested that Pankratova may in fact be the woman with the world’s longest legs. That’s when Pankratova contacted the Guinness Book of World Records to verify the claim. … At first, she thought it was a ‘silly idea,’ but she went ahead with the plan after being encouraged by her friend. It took six years, a lot of documentation and plenty of emails and calls to prove that she had the longest legs. ‘It’s not like I was always on top of it,’ Pankratova said. ‘I had other things to do and just kind of let it go’.”

It was on July 8, 2003, in Torremolinos, Spain, that Svetlana Pankratova’s legs were verified to be the world’s longest legs according to Guinness World Records.

On Sept. 16, 2008, the woman with the world’s longest female legs appeared with the then world’s smallest man to promote the 2009 edition of the Guinness World Records. In 2008, The Times World News reported about the two “Guinness World Record candidates [that]don’t see eye to eye” that,

“He Pingping, 20, a restaurateur from Inner Mongolia, was born with primordial dwarfism and is 2ft 5.37in tall – just over half the length of Svetlana Pankratova’s legs, which measure 4ft 3.9in." In March of 2010, He Pingping, died at the age of 21 while taking part in a television show in Rome. “He was taken to hospital but died on Saturday from what is believed to be heart complications.”

Unlike He Pingping, who was the then smallest man in the world, Svetlana Pankratova is not the tallest woman in the world but the woman with the world’s longest female legs. Her upper body is of much more typical dimensions and Svetlana's total height is 1.956 m (6 ft 5 in).. Svetlana does have very large feet with a size 13 (US), 46 (EU).

In 2010, Svetlana came back to the United States after reconnecting with her former college acquaintance, Jack Gosnell, fromVirginia Commonwealth University.

In August of 2011, Jack Gosnell who lives in Falls Church and Svetlana got married and when “LaBryan Thomas, head coach of George Mason High School’s girls varsity team, found out that Pankratova lived in the area," he invited her to start working with the girls basketball team in the middle of the 2010-11 season.

Svetlana’s position as an assistant coach for the George Mason High girls basketball team does not only provide her with the opportunity to show young girls what the woman with the world’s longest legs can do with them but also to visit her alma mater in Richmond, where the state championship is played.

NASCAR headstone banned


An Indiana woman who wanted to honor her late husband with a headstone that captured his interests in sports and the outdoors is suing a Catholic church for refusing to install it.

Shannon Carr spent $9,600 on the black granite headstone to mark the grave of her husband, Jason Carr, who died in an August 2009 automobile accident.

The headstone is shaped like a couch and features images of a deer, a dog and color logos of NASCAR and the Indianapolis Colts.
Distinctive: The headstone is shaped like a couch and features images of a deer, a dog and color logos of NASCAR and the Indianapolis Colts
Distinctive: The headstone is shaped like a couch and features images of a deer, a dog and color logos of NASCAR and the Indianapolis Colts


Row: Shannon Carr spent $9,600 on the black granite headstone to mark the grave of her husband, Jason Carr, who died in an August 2009 automobile accident. Now she's suing the church that won't let her put it up
Row: Shannon Carr spent $9,600 on the black granite headstone to mark the grave of her husband, Jason Carr, who died in an August 2009 automobile accident. Now she's suing the church that won't let her put it up

The Rev. Jonathan Meyer, priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church, notified the monument maker that the headstone didn't meet the cemetery's standards and couldn't be placed in the church's century-old graveyard, The Republic reported.

But Carr says in her lawsuit that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis Properties Inc., which owns the cemetery, never produced any regulations for the plot until more than a year after she tried to have the headstone installed in 2010.

The issue has divided the church community and sparked allegations that the church hasn't treated Carr's family with compassion, which Meyer denied.


'We provided the family funeral rites, prepared a funeral meal and offered family members individual counseling after the services,' Meyer said.

'We were with them the entire way until this matter came up.'

Meyer says in an affidavit that photographs of the monument were shown to the St. Joseph Parish Council six weeks before Carr purchased it and that the council determined the monument wasn't acceptable because of its secular nature. He said he informed Carr of the decision.
NFL fan: The stone features the Indianapolis Colts football team. But the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Indiana notified the monument maker that the headstone didn't meet the cemetery's standards
NFL fan: The stone features the Indianapolis Colts football team. But the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Indiana notified the monument maker that the headstone didn't meet the cemetery's standards
'They told her not to move forward with the purchasing of the monument, but she went ahead anyway,' Meyer said.

'We have consistently communicated the same message prior to the purchase and after the purchase. We did not think a granite couch was an appropriate monument in our historic cemetery.'

Meyer acknowledged that the rules for the cemetery were formalized after Carr bought the headstone, but he said they were known before that.

The archdiocese says various regulations regarding the cemetery have existed since the graveyard was established in 1907.
Faithful friend: The headstone features the image of a dog
Faithful friend: The headstone features the image of a dog
Archdiocese attorney John S. Mercer says in court documents that the lawsuit falls outside the court's jurisdiction because the First Amendment prohibits courts from taking indirect control over Church affairs.

Meyer said the pressure on the church to allow the monument to be erected reflects a flaw in today's society.

'Our culture breaks all the rules to make people feel good,' Meyer said. 'Faithful Christians know rules and regulations are set up so there can be good for everyone.'

Shannon Carr declined to discuss the case, but her father-in-law, Henry Carr, said the dispute has created bitterness within the church community.

'I haven't been back to (St. Joseph) church and have asked that I not be buried there along with my son,' he said.

'I'm told the controversy is splitting the church apart, tearing it in half. But I guess that's what has to be done.'
Stag: The stone also reflects Jason Carr's love of the outdoors
Stag: The stone also reflects Jason Carr's love of the outdoors

Paris Jackson NFL offer

Paris Jackson Gets NFL Cheerleading Offer
Paris Jackson Gets NFL Cheerleading Offer
Michael Jackson’s daughter was recently offered a job cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Eagles cheer director Barbara Zaun said: “We think Paris will make a great Eagle cheerleader. We thought that she had a lot of poise, confidence and enthusiasm in her cheer performance … Paris has that ‘wow factor’ that makes a great cheerleader.”

Paris was probably flattered by the NFL offer but, unfortunately, it will be a few years until she can cheer on the sidelines in Philadelphia. Paris is only 14-years-old and NFL cheerleaders have to be older than 18.

Zaun added: “She is already very comfortable with the limelight … So we think she would definitely stand out and impress the judges…We hope that she will try out for the team and be an Eagles cheerleader!”

Here’s a video of Paris Jackson with her high school cheerleading team. Do you spot anything special? Or, you know, could the Eagles be making their offer based on the fact that Paris is the Princess of Pop.

Do you think that Paris Jackson will take the Eagles up on their offer?

Paris Jackson may be flattered by her NFL offer but the young girl currently has her sights set on the world of acting. Paris is rumored to be starring in a new movie, Lundon’s Bridge and the Three Kings, but the film hasn’t gotten past the development stage yet.

Paris said: “You can be a totally different person on camera. It’s fun. You can take on another character … My dad was in the movie ‘Moonwalker,’ and I knew he could sing really well, but I didn’t know he could act,” she said. “I saw that and thought, ‘Wow, I want to be just like him.’”

U.S. expels Venezuelan diplomats

 Two Venezuelan diplomats were expelled from the United States, a U.S. official said Monday.
Two Venezuelan diplomats were expelled from the United States, a U.S. official said Monday.
Diplomatic tensions between the United States and Venezuela showed no signs of slowing Monday as the State Department announced that two Venezuelan diplomats had been expelled.

Orlando Jose Montanez Olivares and Victor Camacaro Mata were declared personae non gratae and ordered to leave the country in response to the South American nation's decision to kick out two U.S. officials last week, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

"Around the world, when our people are thrown out unjustly, we're going to take reciprocal action," she said. "We need to do that to protect our own people."

The expulsion of the Venezuelan diplomats comes after Venezuelan officials -- just hours before announcing President Hugo Chavez's death last week -- said they were expelling two U.S. Embassy officials and accused them of plotting to destabilize the country.

"In the day or days that followed there was some pretty heated rhetoric coming in our direction," Nuland said Monday. "I think I called it at one point a page from the old 'Chavista' playbook that we were hoping was going to change. ... There is work that we would like to do together, particularly in the areas of counter-terrorism, counternarcotics, economics and energy relations, but it's going to take a change of tone from Caracas."

The expelled Venezuelan diplomats have left the United States, Nuland said. Camacaro worked in the Venezuelan Consulate in New York, and Montanez worked at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, she said.

The expelled U.S. officials, both air attaches at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, were accused of having meetings with members of the Venezuelan military and encouraging them to pursue "destabilizing projects," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said.

"We will not allow any foreign interference in our country," Jaua said last week.

Nicolas Maduro, then vice president and now Venezuela's interim leader, also suggested as he criticized the U.S. Embassy officials last week that someone had deliberately infected Chavez with cancer.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell denied the accusations.

"This fallacious assertion of inappropriate U.S. action leads us to conclude that, unfortunately, the current Venezuelan government is not interested an improved relationship," he said.

It isn't the first time that diplomatic tensions have surged between the two countries.

Last year the State Department declared Venezuela's consul general in Miami persona non grata -- Latin for unwelcome or unacceptable person -- and expelled her from the United States. In 2008, Venezuela expelled the U.S. ambassador to the South American country. A day later, the United States said it was expelling the Venezuelan ambassador.