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Friday, December 26, 2003  

The news desk: Strange stuff

Georgian eats mad coon

Georgia frat boys have again proven their perspicacity.

Possibly Rabid Racoon Becomes Dinner

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - A fraternity member was treated for possible exposure to rabies, and he and two others could be expelled for beating, skinning and then eating a raccoon that might have had the disease, the fraternity's president said.

The men had spotted the raccoon behaving erratically outside the Phi Kappa Psi house at the University of Georgia on Dec. 12. One hit it with construction pylon and shot it with a pellet gun in the fraternity's parking lot, Athens-Clarke County Animal Control officials said. Another skinned the raccoon, and a third cooked and ate some of its meat.

Erratic behavior can be a symptom of rabies in an animal, but the raccoon could not be tested because its carcass was burned. At least one fraternity member was treated for possible exposure to rabies, which can be fatal if left untreated.

The three members involved will go before the fraternity's grievance committee and face possible sanctions from reprimands to expulsion, said Larry Bales, fraternity president.

``It was a ridiculous situation - an isolated incident,'' Bales said. ``It was not a fraternity-sanctioned event.''

And some people wonder why Ricky West is so, um, intelligence challenged.

Fido, call home

Well, you can name an interplanetary probe after a hunting dog, but you can't make it point.

European Mars Lander Still Not Located

LONDON (AP) - Scientists waited in vain for a sign that Europe's tiny Mars lander, the Beagle 2, had survived a landing on the Red Planet. Both a U.S. satellite and British radio telescope failed to pick up its signal.

The Beagle 2, designed to search for signs of life on Mars, was believed to have landed shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday, its impact softened by parachutes and gas bags.

An early effort by an American satellite orbiting Mars, the Mars Odyssey, failed to pick up a signal from the Beagle. Late Thursday, scientists at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, England, scanned the Martian surface with a huge radio telescope between 5 p.m. EST and 7 p.m. EST, but received no transmission, the British physics and astronomy research agency said.

. . .Officials said reasons for not hearing back from Beagle could include its antenna pointing at the wrong angle, and the extreme Martian cold distorting its radio frequency.

Perhaps relayed broadcasts of Lassie will solve the problem.

Andy and Barney get tough

I may use the color-coded terrorism alerts as a fashion guide, but some folks in ole Virginny take them seriously.

Small town beefs up terror patrol

(CNN) - The Tappahannock Police Department doubled its typical Christmas Day task force Thursday to handle the remote possibility that the small Virginia town may be the target of a terrorist attack, Mayor Ray Gladding said.

Instead of one officer patrolling the streets, the town will have two of its 10 officers working the holiday shift to keep Tappahannock's 2,000 residents safe.

The stepped-up patrol follows the raising of the national terror alert to orange (high).

The eastern Virginia town ended up on the FBI's worry list, which includes Los Angeles, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; New York; and Washington. Another rural Virginia area made the list of areas of concern too -- Rappahannock County, with 7,000 residents about 50 miles west of Washington.

"The FBI just told us they intercepted some chatter. They just heard the name," Gladding said. "Somewhere, in translation, the name Tappahannock, Rappahannock [was heard] -- they weren't really sure."

"They couldn't tell what context the words was used in."

As a result, state highway patrols have been beefed up through the town, and residents have been told to keep their eyes open for anything unusual. So far, little has attracted attention.

I think they're needlessly scaring Aunt Bea. But then, you are reading someone who actually wore orange the other day.

6:44 AM