U.S. diplomat killed

U.S. diplomat killed, US diplomat named Anne Smedinghoff, aged 25, died in a bomb attack Saturday while delivering donated books to a new school in Zabul Province.

Family and friends said Anne Smedinghoff had chafed at the restrictions that American diplomats can face in Afghanistan, where the excitement and passion for foreign service are often dampened by lives circumscribed by blast walls and checkpoints and fortified compounds.

Ms. Smedinghoff joined the Foreign Service three years ago, straight out of Johns Hopkins University, and moved to Kabul in July. Being locked in the embassy compound, though it kept her largely safe from suicide bombers and rocket attacks, was not for her, her family and friends said. She longed to be out among Afghans, helping to ease the tumult of their lives.

On Saturday, Ms. Smedinghoff, 25, got her chance. She joined a delegation accompanying the governor of Zabul Province to inaugurate a new school in Qalat, the provincial capital. She was to help deliver donated books.

At 11 a.m., a suicide car bomber detonated explosives that ripped into the convoy, killing Ms. Smedinghoff and four other Americans — a civilian and three soldiers — in the deadliest day for Americans in Afghanistan this year. The names of the other four victims had not been released Sunday night.

The attack reverberated from Afghanistan to Ms. Smedinghoff’s family home in the Chicago suburb of River Forest, Ill. In her honor, friends and relatives this weekend replaced their profile photos on Facebook with a picture of a black ribbon embossed with the State Department seal.

For Ms. Smedinghoff, the Foreign Service was a calling, her parents, Tom and Mary Beth Smedinghoff, said in a statement. Afghanistan was her second deployment, an assignment for which she had volunteered after a tour in Caracas, Venezuela. She died, her parents said, doing a job she thought must be done.

“She particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war,” they said. “We are consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world.”

Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois issued a statement on Sunday praising Ms. Smedinghoff for having lived a “purposeful life.”

“Only 25 years old, this brave young woman knew social justice was her calling, and selflessly lost her life while serving others in a war-torn country,” the governor said. “She was devoted to protecting America and improving the lives of others.”

Ms. Smedinghoff was the first American diplomat to be killed on the job since Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and four others were killed last Sept. 11 in an attack on a United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Sam Hopkins, a lawyer and a friend of Ms. Smedinghoff’s from her college days, described her as a “very focused very disciplined and very calm” woman who had breezed through a panoply of examinations to enter the Foreign Service at an unusually young age. On her first posting to Caracas, he said, she expressed strong desire to leave the embassy compound and plunge into the city’s gritty, often dangerous streets.

“She said she wanted to get a car and drive around,” Mr. Hopkins said. “She had no fear.”

As a public diplomacy officer, Ms. Smedinghoff was on the front lines of an effort to move Afghanistan beyond its decades-long struggle with war and oppression to a place where women might walk openly in the streets and where children, including young girls, might go to school.

It is a job fraught with dangers and frustrations that have been compounded as the United States, along with its NATO allies, has shrunk its military footprint. Bases have been scaled back and ground and air transports reduced, meaning less security for development work.

With most American and NATO troops preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the prospects for continued civilian aid of the kind Ms. Smedinghoff was helping to provide are now in doubt.

Yet in an emotional homage on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry held up Ms. Smedinghoff’s work as an example of the importance of the continued American effort in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the face of “cowardice” and “nihilism.”

“A brave American was determined to brighten the light of learning through books written in the native tongue of the students that she had never met, but whom she felt compelled to help,” Mr. Kerry said in Istanbul, where he is on a diplomatic trip. “And she was met by cowardly terrorists determined to bring darkness and death to total strangers.”

Tyson 50 Shades of Gray

Tyson 50 Shades of Gray, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is making headlines even before it becomes a movie. Thanks to Mike Tyson and the cast of “Scary Movie 5,” the sexy story will hit the big screen this month, according to an April 5 New York Post Page Six report.

The new installation of the “Scary Movie” franchise features a spoof of the movie. Between Jerry O’Connell, Ashley Tisdale and Tyson, “Fifty Shades of Grey” fans will get a preview of their favorite story. Page Six reports that the spoof features O’Connell as the “Kinky Lothario Christian Grey,” attempting to seduce Ashley Tisdale, but things end up a bit messy.

“Prepare for a night of unparalleled passion,” O’Connell tells Tisdale after blindfolding her. “Your safe word is . . . deeper.” A grimacing Tyson appears from another room telling Grey, “Golly . . . thanks for working on my prostrate like it was a speed bag.” O’Connell responds, “I was surprised by your performance as well. Not bad for a washed up, overweight, facially tattooed . . .”

It continues, but there is no reason ruin all the fun for those hoping to see the movie when it opens on April 12.

Tisdale told Page Six that she was “nervous” when she found out the “Scary Movie” cast would be spoofing “Fifty Shades of Grey.” In the end, the actress found it hilarious, even if she thought Tyson was a little “intimidating.”

So, when should fans expect the real “Fifty Shades” movie? According to author E. L. James, it will sometime in the future. “We don’t even have a filmmaker . . . so we are still a long way away from casting,” James told Page Six.

Two kids feared dead

Two kids feared dead, Two young children trapped when dirt fell on them at a home construction site Sunday were not expected to be found alive and crews expected to work through the night to recover their bodies, a fire official said.

A father of one of the children called 911 at about 6 p.m. to report what happened, said Lincoln County Emergency Services public information officer Dion Burleson. Crews were on the scene in minutes, but couldn't get to the 7-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl, Burleson said.

Crews used shovels and climbing gear trying to get to the children at the Denver neighborhood. Emergency personnel from several places, including nearby Charlotte, were on the scene late Sunday.

Video from WSOC-TV shows backhoes scooping dirt from a deep hole surrounded by dirt. Equipment surrounded the hole. Burleson said it is hard to estimate how far down the children might be.

The man who called was the father of at least one of the children, Burleson said. Neighbors told WBTV that the children were cousins.

This is "devastating for both the family members and responders who are on the scene," Burleson said. "This is a tragic night in Denver."

Jamie Oliver's chicken supplier fined after 'nauseous' smells 'depress' locals

A supplier which makes chicken dishes sold under Jamie Oliver's brand has been fined after people complained of 'nauseous' smells coming from one of its farms.

People living near Heale Farm in Kirkby on Bain, Lincolnshire, told the Environment Agency the smell surrounding the site had left them feeling 'sick and depressed'.

The BBC reports that Moy Park Ltd, the company which manages the site, has been charged with two breaches of environmental permit conditions.

It comes after 94 complaints were lodged by nearby residents between July 2008 and September 2011, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay cost of £42,500 in a hearing at Lincoln Magistrates' Court.

It said it had spent £400,000 over four years trying to combat the problem of the smell.

Moy Park produces ready-to-cook chicken dishes for a variety of companies.

They include Empire Chicken, Jubilee Chicken and American Style BBQ Chicken meals for Jamie Oliver's brand.

It is reportedly the second time Moy Park has been fined for an environmental offence, after a similar case at Sibsey, Lincolnshire in 2011 .

While Moy Park had been authorised to rear up to 156,200 broiler birds on a 37-day cycle, the permit also required the company to minimise its impact on the environment and local people, the court was told.

People living near Heale Farm in Kirkby on Bain, Lincolnshire, told the Environment Agency the smell surrounding the site had left them feeling 'sick and depressed' (stock picture)

Magistrates heard that the company took steps in February 2011 to lower the number of birds on the farm and had made a slight improvement to the smell.

A company spokesman told the paper they were 'disappointed' by the ruling which relates to historical events from 2009 and 2011.

They added: 'We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and strive to be a good neighbour.

'We believe we have taken all appropriate measures to mitigate potential odours at Heale Farm.

Hunt for the runaway aardvark: Lady McAlpine calls on public to help find her lost ring-tailed coati

The McAlpine family has appealed for help after a Brazilian aardvark, believed to have escaped from their sanctuary, was found dead in forest close to their home.

Lady Judy McAlpine, of the McAlpine construction empire, said the animal had escaped from the estate at Fawley Hill, Henley on Thames several months ago.

She told the Daily Telegraph: 'We're assuming this one is our boy, which is sickeningly sad, as he was adorable.'

She has now called for the public to help find a second male Brazilian aardvark, or coati, which escaped at the same time.

Lady McAlpine, whose husband helped found the famiyl construction company, which has helped them become one of Britain's wealthiest families, said the male must be 'very lonely' as they are pack animals.

She said: 'Coatis climb trees and I doubt there are too many roaming the woods of Buckinghamshire.'

The coati is believed to have last been seen by ramblers walking in Fennimore Wood, Marlow, Buckinghamshrie, last month.

It was found dead days later.

Barbara Brooksbank, 76, told the paper the animal, which appeared to be tame, had come down from a tall tree.

She said it was not the least bit afraid adding: '...it made me think it was someone's pet which had escaped.'

The McAlpine sanctuary holds animals which zoos are unable to.

Lady McAlpine has now called for the public to help find a second male Brazilian aardvark, or coati, which escaped at the same time

Coatis are native to South, Central and parts of North America and are commonly found in tropical forests, living mainly on a diet of insects.

They are not adapted to living in English habitats and as a result may struggle to survive here in the wild, particularly during periods of below zero temperatures.

The creatures have strong front claws which they will defend themselves if they feel threatened.

However, a Dangerous Wild Animals Act licence is not needed to keep a one as a pet.

A spokesman for London Zoo told the Telegraph the animals if anyone spotted a coati they should not try and pick it up or feed it. Instead they should monitor its location and call the RSPCA.

Bodies of American tech executive and his wife recovered from the South Pacific after their plane crashed in New Zealand

New Zealand navy divers have recovered the bodies of American wireless executive Eric Hertz and his wife Kathy after their small plane crashed in the South Pacific.

Divers recovered a second body Sunday from the wreck of the couple's twin-engine Beechcraft Baron at a depth of 56 meters (184 feet). They recovered the first body Saturday near Kawhia Harbour, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Auckland. Divers were also able to recover pieces of the plane.

Hertz, an experienced amateur pilot, radioed authorities March 30 to say the engine had failed. The couple had left from an airport near Auckland bound for the South Island town of Timaru.

The body of tech CEO Eric Hertz was recovered off the coast of New Zealand after his twin-engined plane crashed

Hertz, 58, had been chief executive of New Zealand's Two Degrees Mobile since 2009. He'd previously been chief executive at Seattle's Zumobi and held senior positions at Western Wireless, AT&T Wireless, Bell South, CellularONE and McCaw Cellular.

In New Zealand, Hertz helped launch Two Degrees as a competitor to the dominant wireless providers, Telecom and Vodafone.

The company is majority owned by Washington state-based Trilogy International, co-founded by wireless pioneer John Stanton. Two Degrees has named Trilogy's Stewart Sherriff as interim chief executive.

Kathy Picone Hertz, 64, worked for the Auckland University of Technology, helping youth prepare for the workforce.

In a statement, the families of the couple thanked rescue teams for their efforts in the challenging ocean conditions and said they looked forward to one day understanding what happened.

Eric's wife Kathy was with him when the plane crashed last week. Their bodies were finally recovered over the weekend

'The recovery of Eric and Kathy, along with the wreckage of the aircraft, is of immense relief to us all,' the families wrote. 'Knowing that they can rest together in peace and that we can say our farewells is of huge comfort at this time.'

A private memorial service has been scheduled Thursday in Auckland.

The couple is survived by daughter Ari Hertz.

Man who took hostages in Hillary Clinton's campaign office in 2007 escapes from jail

A man who took hostages at a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign office in 2007 escaped from a minimum-security correctional facility on Sunday, authorities said.

Leeland Eisenberg was discovered missing during an afternoon head count at the Calumet Transitional Housing Unit in Manchester, state Department of Corrections spokesman Jeff Lyons said.

Eisenberg was sentenced in May 2010 to 3 1/2 to 7 years for probation violations. The 52-year-old would have been eligible for parole in August.

Eisenberg was discovered missing during an afternoon head count at the Calumet Transitional Housing Unit in Manchester, state Department of Corrections spokesman Jeff Lyons said

Once he is found, he will be charged with escape, a felony punishable by 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison, Lyons said. Eisenberg isn't considered armed.

Eisenberg spent about two years behind bars for the November 2007 siege at Clinton's Rochester campaign office in which he claimed to have a bomb.

No one was hurt in a five-hour standoff and the bomb turned out to be road flares.

At his arraignment in that case, public defender Randy Hawkes portrayed Eisenberg as a man at the end of his rope emotionally after being repeatedly turned down when he sought psychiatric help.

Eisenberg ‘heard voices and saw a movie in his head telling him he had to sacrifice himself’ to shine light on the flaws in the health care system, Hawkes said.

Legal troubles: Eisenberg spent about two years behind bars for the November 2007 siege at Clinton's Rochester campaign office and was sentenced in May 2010 to 3 1/2 to 7 years for probation violations

Eisenberg was released on probation in November 2009. His first violation occurred soon after his release, when he failed to charge his monitoring bracelet.

He was incarcerated in January 2010 after failing to take mandatory alcohol breath tests.

In February 2010, he cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and fled, a day after being given a last chance at freedom by a judge who released him despite multiple probation violations.

He was found in his Dover apartment the next day.

Eisenberg's long criminal record also includes two rape convictions.

He was sentenced to 10 years for rape in Worcester, Mass., in 1985 but escaped the next year and committed another rape, prosecutors said.

He was sentenced to 11 to 20 years for that. He was released from prison in March 2005.

Criminal record: Eisenberg's long criminal record also includes two rape convictions

Borgen meets House of Cards: Lord Michael Dobbs teams up with creator of Danish political drama for 'major new project'

The writer behind one of British television's best loved dramas, House of Cards, has revealed he is working on a 'major project' with the creator of Danish political drama Borgen.

Author Michael Dobbs, whose political thriller was adapted into a BBC television series and recently an American version starring Kevin Spacey, said the collaboration is expected to hit BBC screens in 2014.

The Conservative peer said the project had 'a pretty good pedigree' and would star a 'strong female lead', the Telegraph reports.

House Of Cards, starring Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart, was one of British television's best loved dramas. Now author Lord Michael Dobbs has revealed he is working on a 'major project' with the creator of Danish political drama Borgen

Author Michael Dobbs, whose political thriller was adapted into a BBC television series and recently an American version starring Kevin Spacey, said the collaboration is expected to hit BBC screens in 2014

Dramatised by the BBC in 1990, Dobbs' House of Cards novel recently inspired a US remake starring Kevin Spacey. The original followed a conniving chief whip, played by Ian Richardson, who uses duplicity and guile to have himself elevated to the post of Conservative prime minister.

Borgen, created by Adam Price, features a politician who becomes Denmark's first female prime minister.

Lord Dobbs, who was made a life peer in 2010, confirmed to The World This Weekend on Radio 4 that he had 'got together' with Mr Price to work.

Borgen, created by Adam Price, features a politician who becomes Denmark's first female prime minister

Michael Dobbs said the new show will tell the tale of a political widow

He told the Daily Telegraph discussions first started with Price a year ago. He said while he did not want to go too far in revealing the plot, he did say it will tell the tale of a political widow.

He told the paper: 'She was married to a politician who dies, and it is her story of trying to follow in his footsteps.

'She doesn't enter politics willingly; she has been dropped into a situation that is a personal tragedy.

He also told the Observer he would be interested in telling the real story of Denis Thatcher.

He said of Margaret Thatcher's late husband: 'I tell you what I would love to do – the real story of Denis Thatcher. What a brilliant, brilliant character to base a play on.

'A man without whom Maggie could not have survived and done as well as she did, but who really has been misunderstood, and is wonderfully strong.

'I'd love to do that.'

‘It sounded like a giant thunder clap, but twice as loud’: Truck explosion shuts down entire Queensboro Bridge in New York

Authorities say an oxygen tank in the back of a truck exploded when the truck caught fire near the entrance of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in Manhattan.

Fire officials say it happened just before 7 pm Sunday on the Queens-bound lower level entrance to the bridge.

There were no reports of injuries and the fire was extinguished.

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Explosion: A truck burns after authorities say an oxygen tank in the back exploded near the entrance of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in New York, Sunday, April 7, 2013

Neighbor Jim Holtje said the explosion startled him out of his chair.

The 47-year-old said it ‘sounded like a giant thunder clap, but twice as loud.’

Authorities say the truck was carrying several tanks, including two oxygen tanks, one of which exploded when the truck's engine caught fire.

Both directions on the bridge have been closed to traffic.

Fighting flames: Firefighters battle the blaze after authorities said the oxygen tank exploded

Condi Rice plays first round of golf as one of Augusta National's two first female members ahead of the Masters

Phil Mickelson has won three green jackets, and he was the one asking all the questions on Sunday during a practice round at the Masters.

In his group was Augusta National's newest member — former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

'Awesome,' Mickelson said after playing 18 holes with his agent and Augusta members Rice and Lee Styslinger.

'She's one of my favorite people to be around. She's so knowledgeable and interesting to talk to. I always learn so much. When I saw she became a member, one of the first things I did was schedule a game close to Masters time. The fact she's here, we were able to work it out. It was really cool.'

New member: Condoleezza Rice, right, former Secretary of State and new Augusta National member, laughs on the practice range with members Dave Dorman, left, and Pat Battle, center, Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore made history in August when they became the first women invited to join the home of the Masters.

Moore is not expected until later in the week.

Rice had lunch with Mickelson and then donned her green jacket to meet with other members on the practice range. Even though she has been a member for more than seven months, it was no less striking to see her in the elegantly tapered jacket that for eight decades had been worn only by men.

She slipped away without taking questions, which is not unusual. Members don't typically give interviews during the week of the Masters.

Mickelson couldn't stop talking about her — especially her putting.

They played a $10 game in which they rotated partners every six holes, and it ended on a big note — Rice made what Mickelson described as a 40-foot putt with about 18 feet of break on the final hole. That gave her a net birdie.

'Perfect pace,' Mickelson said. 'Her speed, touch, being able to read the greens. She is one of the better members on the greens that I've seen.'

'Every once in a while,' Rice said as Mickelson gushed.

Sunday before the Masters is the last day members have the same access to the course as the players, and they occasionally play in the same group. Tiger Woods teed off with Steve Stricker and U.S. Amateur Public Links champion T.J. Vogel as Rice was finishing.

She walked over to the first tee to greet Woods, and they spent a few minutes chatting before Woods teed off. Woods spent two years at Stanford.

Speech: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, pictured, spoke to a group of Mississippi State University students on March 26, 2013

Rice became the first black woman to be a Stanford provost in 1993, and she now is a professor of political economy at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. She's also one of the Cardinal's biggest sports fans, along with being a member of the U.S. Golf Association's nominating committee.

This day was just about golf — except for Mickelson's inquiring mind. Lefty was asked if their round ever reached a point that he hounded Rice with too many questions. Mickelson laughed and said,

'She kept asking me about the golf course, and I kept asking her about countries.'
'It was really fun,' he said. 'And she can really putt.'

Told about what Mickelson said, Rice laughed and said, 'He's such a good friend. I've known him for years.'

Mickelson was thrilled to learn Augusta National had invited women to join, and he said it wasn't long before he called Rice to arrange a game.

'As soon as I saw she was a member, I called her to work up a game, just like I did Arnold (Palmer) back in the day as an amateur,' Mickelson said. 'She's just one of my favorite people to be around.'

Rice on the golf course — and later in a green jacket — attracted the most attention on an otherwise lazy day before one of the biggest weeks of the year.

Zach Johnson gave his caddie, Damon Green, the treat of a lifetime by inviting him to play. Graeme McDowell played with his University of Alabama-Birmingham golf bag in a game with Brandt Snedeker and Toby Wilt, an Augusta member who was Snedeker's winning partner at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The club's pro was on the tee, sending out members and players, just like any other country club. Masters week officially begins Monday, with the tournament starting Thursday. Yet, some players, like Mickelson and Adam Scott, have been around all weekend getting in their preparations before it gets too busy.

'My work is done,' Scott said. 'I've mapped out what I wanted to do. The course is the best I've ever seen it.'

Mickelson did not plan to return to the course until Tuesday. Scott said he would putt for about an hour on Monday, and perhaps play nine holes Tuesday and Wednesday. He looked across the course, empty of fans, realizing it would be packed for the rest of the week.

'The next three days will be about having fun,' Scott said. 'And then you switch it back on for Thursday.'

North Korea 'preparing to test ANOTHER nuclear missile' amid fears of a cyber attack on the U.S.

North Korea is continuing to stoke tensions with a fourth nuclear missile test, which comes as the regime may be looking to carry out war on a different battlefield - the internet.

South Korea's point man on North Korea, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, told a parliamentary committee today that 'there is such an indication' that the country is preparing to launch another test missile, according to two ministry officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ryoo was answering a lawmaker's question about increased personnel and vehicle activities at the North's nuclear test site.

Provocative act: North Korea is said to be preparing a fourth nuclear missile test, a new incendiary action amid tensions with South Korea and the U.S.

Ministry officials cite Ryoo as telling the lawmakers he wouldn't provide further details because they involve confidential intelligence affairs.

South Korean defense officials previously said the North completed preparations for a nuclear test at two underground tunnels. The North used one tunnel for its February 12 nuclear test.

The second remains unused.

North Korea's warning last week followed weeks of war threats and other efforts to punish South Korea and the U.S. for ongoing joint military drills, and for their support of U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear aspirations.

The Pentagon has strengthened missile defenses and made other decisions to combat the potential threat.

U.S. Gen Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said yesterday that he doesn't believe North Korea will engage in military action soon, 'but I can't take the chance that it won't.'

Troubling test: North Korea's warning last week followed weeks of war threats and other efforts to punish South Korea and the U.S. for ongoing joint military drills

Dempsey said the U.S. has been preparing for further provocations or action, 'considering the risk that they may choose to do something' on one of two nationally important anniversaries - April 15, the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, and April 25, the creation of the North Korean army.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un's regime may be preparing to launch cyber attacks against the South and the U.S.

North Korea, which has a reported 3,000 hackers in its cyberterrorism network, is believed to have been targeting various South Korean media and banking sites in recent weeks.

Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, told The Daily Caller: 'Defectors from the unit told South Korean intelligence officials that North Korea sends hackers to other countries for training as well as to conduct undercover operations.'

Klingner added that the North has 'very strong cyberterrorism capabilities.'

Seoul and Washington are taking the threats seriously, though they say they have seen no signs that Pyongyang is preparing for a large-scale attack.

Threats: Kim Jong Un's regime may be preparing to launch cyber attacks against the South and the U.S.

In addition, the U.S. said last week that two of the Navy's missile-defense ships were moved closer to the Korean Peninsula, and a land-based missile-defense system is being deployed to the Pacific territory of Guam later this month.

The Pentagon last month announced longer-term plans to strengthen its U.S.-based missile defenses.

The U.S. military also is considering deploying an intelligence drone at the Misawa Air Base in northern Japan to step up surveillance of North Korea, a Japanese Defense Ministry official said Sunday.

Three Global Hawk surveillance planes are deployed on Guam and one of them is being considered for deployment in Japan, the official said on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak about the issue.

North Korea successfully shot a satellite into space in December and conducted its third nuclear test in February.

It has threatened to launch a nuclear attack on the United States, though many analysts say the North hasn't achieved the technology to manufacture a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could fit on a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S.

Preparing for war: The North has threatened to launch a nuclear attack on America, though analysts say it doesn't have the technology to make one that could fit on a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S.

Why I drug my children on airplanes: We all know the hell of bawling toddlers on flights.

Somewhere high above the Atlantic, I caved in. It wasn’t so much the fact my daughter, Flo, then one, had been screaming since take-off three hours earlier.

Or even that, crammed into my economy-class seat with this bawling bundle, I had yet to pour myself the calming snifter I yearned for, open a miniature packet of pretzels or even go to the loo.
I was held hostage to the relentless, nerve-jangling wailing of my inconsolable infant. And so were the other 300 passengers.

It was the looks of hatred on their faces — glares saying: ‘Can’t you do something about that dreadful noise, you ineffectual mother?’ — that made me reach, in desperation, for the bottle in my handbag.

One spoonful of a sedating medicine was all it took to knock out Flo. She slept for hours, blissfully drugged

It wasn’t vodka. This was something that held the promise of a few hours of peace; the chance to eat dinner without having the contents thrown around. It was what was going to save me from a lynching at 37,000 ft.

One spoonful of a sedating medicine was all it took to knock out Flo. She slept for hours, blissfully drugged.

Who would have thought that for many people, this simple decision to sedate my daughter with an antihistamine was a dangerous abuse of my parental power? But many mothers, like me, believe it’s common sense.

The rights and wrongs of sedating babies on long-haul flights is a controversial war that is being waged on internet parenting forums, fuelled by the huge rise in families seeking long-haul destinations over Easter in the desperate search for sun.

According to industry analyst GfK, sales of family holidays abroad are booming, with bookings up 6 per cent from last year.

The price you pay for a sunshine holiday at this time of year is the interminable flight to get there.

And it’s how families are choosing to cope with hours cooped in a metal tube that is dividing opinion even more viciously than the ‘breast is best’ debate.

A friend who travels regularly between Britain and Australia to visit family recommended Phenergan Elixir to me.

The price you pay for a sunshine holiday at this time of year is the interminable flight to get there

This over-the-counter medicine contains promethazine, a sedating antihistamine. Usually administered on the advice of a GP to treat motion sickness or discomfort from certain allergies, it has become the secret weapon for many middle-class mothers embarking on long-haul flights.

And it’s one that has the PC brigade out in force, claiming that to drug children on a plane is tantamount to child abuse.

You have only to look on mothering websites to see the fury that has been unleashed. One woman rages: ‘Psychos who pop pills all day would drug their kids. Normal parents would never do that.’

Another furious post reads: ‘Drugging children on flights? If you’re not capable of occupying your offspring on a plane then perhaps you should stay at home.’

One outraged mother suggests taking a bagful of small toys to unwrap as distracting ‘surprises’ every 20 minutes for the duration of the journey.

Another advocates keeping your little darlings occupied by reading books and playing games with them.

Have these smug parents never travelled to the southern hemisphere? We’re not talking about a charter flight to Turkey — even I can be an attentive mother for five hours.

We’re talking about a gruelling flight to a time zone so far away you lose a whole day of your life to get there. Only it feels far more than a day.

By the time you have reached your destination, crumpled children in tow, the trauma of the journey will have aged you beyond recognition.

And before you all get started on why I choose to drag my offspring to far-flung corners of the Earth, let me explain that they have a grandfather in Fiji (a 28-hour flight) and a grandmother in Canada (an 11-hour flight).

Should we wait to be reunited as a family until the children are old enough to sit still, without noise or fidgeting, for hour after tortuous hour?

I think not. So ever since that first overseas flight with Flo, I have clutched my bottle of over-the-counter antihistamine tighter than my passport. Indeed, it is the first item to go in my flight bag, ahead of toothbrushes and teddy bears.

You can question my mothering skills if you want. You can call me selfish, irresponsible and foolhardy. But plenty of research has shown that what fellow travellers really despise more than crying children on planes are parents who do nothing about it. A poll by TripAdvisor found over a third of Britons would pay extra to travel in adults-only planes.

But why should they? We all know nothing raises the collective blood pressure among hundreds of strangers more than being stuck in a cramped space with a bawling baby or badly behaved toddler.
And while diversions and undivided parental attention can work up to a point, what is so wrong with a dose of something to make the whole process more bearable for everyone?

Should we wait to be reunited as a family until the children are old enough to sit still, without noise or fidgeting, for hour after tortuous hour?

This is where Phenergan Elixir comes in. Even the name holds the promise of something mystical happening.

For me, that’s having all my children conked out, so I can enjoy an in-flight movie and a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I remember one particular journey, undertaken without my husband, when I flew to Canada with Flo, who was then eight, Annie, six, and Monty, four.

Before the plane had taxied down the runway, I’d doled out the medicine in anticipation of a peaceful flight ahead.

Flo and Annie fell asleep almost instantly. However, Monty fought the sedative for hours.
Apparently, this can happen. Parents recount horror stories of Phenergan having the opposite effect and making children increasingly hyper on flights.

Eventually, in sheer desperation, I gave him another dose. He finally stopped kicking the seat in front of him and flicking peanuts across the aisle, and fell into a deep slumber.

Unfortunately, we were only a few hours from landing and when the plane’s doors went to manual I couldn’t wake up Monty. I tried cold water, standing him upright in the aisle, blowing on his face — all to no avail. We were the last passengers left on the plane.

Thank goodness the pilot offered to carry Monty over his shoulder as I struggled with bags and the other two children.

I was ashamed — and terrified in case the pilot cottoned on to the fact my child was drugged.

But did it put me off using the medication on my children again, including my youngest, Dolly, three?

No more than turbulence or the threat of terrorism have put me off flying. I’ve just got better with the timing of the teaspoon.

Dr Roger Henderson, one of Britain’s leading medics, says parents drugging children is not a new phenomenon. ‘We’ve come a long way, thank goodness, from the Victorian days of doling out opium, gin and laudanum for a good night’s sleep,’ he says. ‘Sedating children on aeroplanes is just the 21st-century equivalent.’

Provided guidelines and dosage are followed correctly, he sees no problem with parents resorting to Phenergan on flights.

‘There’s no harm in administering it occasionally,’ he says. ‘But I wouldn’t recommend regular use.’

That’s fine by me. With all our Airmiles used up we’ll be caravanning in Cornwall this summer. Though I’ll take a bottle just in case we get stuck in traffic.

This week FEMAIL shows you, step-by-step: How to do a sleek bun

Ever wanted to master that polished ballerina-inspired bun, using a doughnut hair sponge?

Here, FEMAIL shares a how-to guide with step-by-step pictures.

The ballerina topknot hasn't been out of fashion since it appeared on 2010's catwalks. This year's look is more professional but easy to achieve with a doughnut ring (£4.67, Boots), hairbands and pins

Step one: Brush your hair (and straighten if frizzy). Using a hairband, secure it in a high ponytail

Pull your ponytail high and slide a doughnut over it till it sits flat against your skull. Lean forward and spread the ponytail evenly around the doughnut so it is hidden. With very long locks, you may need to tuck some hair under it

Step three: Put another hairband, over the doughnut, sliding it underneath to hold your hair in place

For a sparkling office look, keep make-up sleek and eyebrows groomed

Five steps to Kate's new cut: How you can copy the Duchess' new style

When the Duchess of Cambridge changes her image, so must the women who make a living out of being her lookalike.

As the Duchess’s new fringe was unveiled (estimated cost £250), we joined 32-year-old Heidi Agan, who’s appeared as Kate on American TV and at Olympic events, as she booked into Jo Hansford’s London salon to get Kate’s new look.

India Sturgis reveals how to recreate that new style in five steps.

Fringe benefit? Kate Middleton lookalike Heidi Agan before she went to the salon (left) to replicate the Duchess of Cambridge's new hairstyle (right with the new 'do)


Kate’s morphed from soft, light-tinged auburn tones to a sleeker, chocolatey brown.

To get a similar tone, senior colourist Evie Perkins used a semi-permanent vegetable colour in a rich dark brown. Vegetable colours don’t contain peroxide, so dry out the hair less, keeping it in better condition.

The dye is carefully brushed through shampooed and towel-dried hair from roots to tips.

At home, sit in the bath as the colour can stain, and put a black bin liner around your shoulders for extra protection.


Leave the colour on for 40 minutes. Heidi sat underneath a Climazone machine, which produces a gentle heat to help activate the dye.

At home, sit in a warm room or wrap your head in an old towel which will keep the heat in. Afterwards, the colour is washed out and a conditioner applied. Vegetable colour lasts for eight or ten shampoos, so it’s ideal for experimenting.


For the fringe, hair stylist Ansha Iqbal pulled a small section of hair from the front and chopped into it at a steep angle. A straight, blunt cut can look too severe, little snips soften the effect. Make sure it’s left long enough to tuck behind the ears.

Extra layers were chopped into the lower lengths to add texture, volume and bounce.

Costly cut: The Duchess's new fringe is estimated to have cost £250 but Ms Agan says she was pleased with Kate's new style because 'she needed to do something because it's looked the same for years'

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were cheered by members of the public during an appearance on the balcony of the Guildhall in Cambridge


Blow-dry hair roughly until about 90 per cent dry, using your fingertips to encourage volume. Spritz volumising spray at the roots before finishing off with a nozzled hairdryer, which helps concentrates the heat and keeps hair smooth and sleek.

Take sections of hair and pull upwards while using the dryer to give extra root lift. For even more body, wind in Velcro rollers and blast with the dryer.


Remove the rollers when cool and roughly style the hair with your fingertips to tease out the curls and tweak everything into place. Don’t pull or flatten too much or you’ll undo all your good volumising work. Finish with hairspray. Congratulations, you’re a newly crowned copy-Kate!


Heidi says: ‘I love it, particularly the colour — it’s a lot more glossy — and the new cut makes it look thicker.

‘I was pleased Kate got her fringe cut — she needed to do something because it’s looked the same for years. I was getting bored with the same style.’

Ansha Iqbal and Evie Perkins at Johansford.com (020 7495 7774) Hair and make-up: Natalya Nair using Mac Cosmetics.

EXCLUSIVE: Maybe she should be brunette all the time!

Complete with a slick brunette crop and vampish make-up January Jones is barely recognizable as she strikes a sultry pose for the new issue of Vs. Magazine.

The Mad Men star, 35, who usually sports uptight outfits on the hit Sixties-era series, showed off her sexy side for the glossy's spring/summer edition which runs with the theme 'Passionate'.

In one shot she is seen blowing a puff of cigarette smoke towards the camera while another frame shows her reclining on a sofa with a peep of cleavage on display.

Transformation: Mad Men star January Jones is barely recognizable in a new shoot for Vs. Magazine, as she sports a slick brunette crop while posing in a selection of sexy outfits

Sultry look: Ms Jones blows a puff of cigarette smoke towards photographer Mark Abrahams

The moody black and white images were captured by top fashion photographer Mark Abrahams.

Classic designs from fashion labels including Bottega Veneta, Tom Ford, John Galliano, Burberry Prorsum and Jimmy Choo were used for the shoot.

Miss Jones, who has now returned to a platinum blonde, recently admitted that constantly dying her hair has caused bald patches to appear.

'My hair is falling out in clumps,' she told Grazia magazine.

Suffering for her art: Miss Jones, who has now returned to a platinum blonde, recently admitted that constantly dying her hair has caused bald patches to appear and her 'hair is falling out in clumps''

Career choices: Miss Jones said she would never appear in liquor, tobacco or fried chicken adverts, because as a mother she's conscious of being a different kind of role model

Testing: In the Western Sweetwater, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Miss Jones plays a red-haired former prostitute seeking revenge on the rancher who killed her husband

Touching on the subject in the Vs. Magazine interview conducted by shoe designer Brian Atwood, the single mother-of-one said: 'For the most part I’ve always been a blonde.

'But in the last four or five months, my hair has been every shade of the rainbow.'

'There's a high maintenance to my having dark hair, when the blonde roots start coming in it looks like I'm balding'

Changing her hairstyle has a useful purpose though, as it can help her to get into character - 'you look like what you imagine in your head,' she explained.

In the Western Sweetwater, which will premiere on Thursday night at the Sundance Film Festival, Miss Jones plays a red-haired former prostitute seeking revenge on the rancher who killed her husband.

Describing how she prepared for the role she joked: 'I went back to my days of… I had to dig deep into my past.

Moody: Miss Jones strikes a pose wearing an open back gown by Bottega Veneta

Getting into character: Miss Jones said changing her hair colour helps prepare her for different acting roles

'It was a really cool role, like being a female Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider.'

The Los Angeles-based actress, who was pictured for the first time as a brunette last November, revealed that the colour change was for a project but teased: 'I can’t tell you which, yet.’

Talking about the chestnut hue, the natural blonde, added: 'There’s a high maintenance to my having dark hair: when the blonde roots start coming in it looks like I’m balding or graying or something - not cute!'

She told ABC News that her one-year-old son Xander also prefers her as a blonde and when he looks at photographs of her with light tresses he says, 'Mama'.

Ms Jones will hit the small screen as Betty Draper again on April 7 as AMC airs the sixth season of Mad Men in the U.S.

Racy lady: The spring/summer edition of Vs. Magazine runs with the theme 'Passionate'

Discussing her character's evolution over the years she said: 'The most interesting thing to me is the fans’ reaction to her evolution because I remember being on the streets of New York in the first season or two and people would come up to me and be like, ''Oh my god, it’s you! Oh my god, poor Betty.''

'People wanted to hug me, they felt so bad for her. A couple of weeks ago, I was waiting at a jewelry store to get a clasp fixed and this other customer was glaring at me. Finally I was like, ''Yes?'' and she goes, ''I just want you to know, I hate your character.''

Asked if there was anything she wouldn't do in her career Miss Jones told Mr Atwood that she would never appear in liquor, tobacco or fried chicken adverts.

'I’m a mom now... so I’m conscious of being a different kind of role model,' she said.

Kate Boswoth, Eva Herzigova and Irina Shayk also feature in the upcoming issue of Vs. Magazine.

The full interview with January Jones appears in the spring/summer issue of Vs. Magazine. A video from the shoot will appear soon on fashiontube.com.

January Jones can't seem to keep away from the hair dye - and every role seems to require a different color. Here, we take a look at her most recent hues...

Hair crisis: January Jones brunette in November (left) and at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday - the newly blonde star revealed her hair is falling out because she constantly dyes it

Quick change: January opted for a darker shade of red in October before going back to blonde the same month

Shades of red: January stepped out with pink streaks last March and went completely red in June

That didn't last long! Ivanka Trump goes back to blonde just a month after debuting new brunette do

Ivanka Trump has gone back to her signature blonde bombshell look just a month after experimenting with a dark chestnut hue.

The billionaire heiress, 31, posted a photograph of herself at the hairdressers on Tuesday via Instagram informing fans that the 'experiment is over' and she has ditched the brunette wash.

'That was quick!','blonde is better!' and 'so pretty' were among the comments left by some of her 142.202 followers.

Back to blonde: Ivanka Trump has ditched her brunette hair a month after experimenting with a chestnut hue

Brave new look: The heiress debuted a chestnut hue last month druing a business trip to Uruguay

Ms Trump revealed that she had turned brunette in mid-January, as she left New York for Uruguay to attend the launch of TrumpTower Punta del Este - one of her father's latest ventures.

She uploaded a picture of herself seated next to her younger brother, Eric, on a plane with her brown hair straightened in a casual style.

And in another snapshot during her South America trip she rocked a more glamorous do with her locks wavy and worn to one side.

Hair experiment: Ms Trump, pictured as a blonde in September (left) and last month (right)

Her messages however made no reference to the makeover. Instead it was all work, with the captions reading: 'In the new sales center for Trump Tower Punta del Este. #puntadeleste #uruguay.'

The mother-of-one has spent most of her life as a blonde, as demonstrated in one image she recently shared from the Trump family photo album.

The picture shows her aged around 16 holidaying in Nice, France, with her long golden hair shimmering in the sunlight.

Flashback: Ms Trump as a youngster at her family home in Greenwich, Connecticut, sports mouse-colored hair

Life as a blonde bombshell: Ms Trump (centre) posted a picture of herself holidaying in the south of France as a teenager with her light hair shimmering in the sunlight

However a snap posted yesterday to her Instagram account reveals that she hasn't always been light.

It shows her as a youngster at her family home in Greenwich, Connecticut, sporting mouse-colored shoulder-length locks.

Before her trial as a brunette this year Ms Trump had kept her hairstyle relatively the same.

Although in 2012 she decided to mix it up a little stepping out with an ombre style at the Tribeca Film Festival in April and bangs a month later at the Met Gala.

Family girl: Ms Trump currently lives in New York's Upper East Side with her businessman husband Jared Kushner (left) and their 18-month-old daughter Arabella Rose

While she's not looking after her 19-month-old daughter Arabella Ms Trump spends her time running her eponymous retail label, which incorporates clothing, jewelry, handbags and shoes.

While she has already achieved sales in excess of $200million, she says her goal is to hit the $1billion mark with expansion into children's wear and other areas.

She currently lives in New York's Upper East Side with her businessman husband Jared Kushner.