'Sicilian Space Program' launches pastry into
ROME (Reuters) - Sicilian amateur scientists have launched a model cannolo, a cream-stuffed pastry roll symbolic of the Italian island, into the stratosphere, capturing bizarre images of the dessert flying far above the earth.
The 'Sicilian Space Program', which cost a rough total of 350 euros, had symbolic importance as well as being a scientific feat, the three natives of the island town of Enna behind it told Reuters.
"Sicily has always been a place of negative connotations, mafia and unemployment. We wanted to lift up Sicily in our own way," said filmmaker Fabio Leone, 34, who recorded the project with Antonella Barbera, 38.
Their heavily indebted island, long plagued by organized crime, was forced to impose a strict spending program by Rome in 2012 and has one of the highest unemployment rates in Italy.
Attached to a large helium-filled balloon, a home-made spacecraft called the 'Cannolo Transporter' equipped with two cameras and a GPS tracker, captured stunning and comical images as the cannolo soared above the clouds towards space.
It rose to at least 29,768 meters according to Paolo Capasso, 37, a computer technician responsible for the careful calculations behind the launch on February 2.
As a real cannolo would be unlikely to survive the voyage, the group made a model of the cherry-studded pastry with a polymer clay material hardened in an oven.
The craft had to weigh under 2 kilos to qualify for the easiest official permits required to fly into high altitude.
The body of the craft was made from an insulated icecream box, which protected the camera batteries from temperatures that dropped below -50 degrees Celsius.
Atmospheric pressure decreased as the Cannolo Transporter rose, causing the balloon to expand until it eventually burst. It then tumbled back to earth, slowed by a small parachute.
It landed in hills near the village of Bompietro, 25 km (15 miles) from where had been launched at the peak of the Rocca di Cerere nature park. It was recovered by the team who followed the GPS signal on a hunt through fields of sheep.
Iconic Australian’s oddest job yet: mayor
GEELONG, Australia (Reuters) - Darryn Lyons has been called many things - heroic war photographer, parasitic paparazzo, reality TV star - but his latest title may be the most shocking yet: Mr. Mayor.
The 48-year-old Australian, whose Big Pictures photo agency in London helped to usher in the modern paparazzi era with its ruthless pursuit of celebrity pictures, was recently elected mayor of his hometown of Geelong, just south of Melbourne.
Sporting his signature mohawk haircut and fur-lined mayoral robes when Reuters visited his home for a photo shoot, Lyons believes his penchant for flair is just what the city needs.
"At the end of the day, if you want to sell Wilson tennis balls, who would you want to have doing it? Roger Federer. If you want to sell a restaurant, you want Gordon Ramsey," he told Reuters in an interview at City Hall.
Whether or not Lyons is on a par with that kind of company, Geelong needs all the help it can get.
The city of 180,000 people is struggling with the flight of thousands of manufacturing jobs, placing Lyons improbably at the centre of efforts to save one of Australia's major centers.
Although his reputation has dark spots - he admits to cocaine abuse at the height of his celebrity but denies reports that his formidable abdominal muscles are implants - there is much to recommend his business savvy.
Born the youngest of three children to a middle-class family in Geelong, Lyons began working as a photographer for local newspapers straight out of school.
In 1988, Lyons says, he arrived in London with just A$500 in his pocket - about $400 at the time. A chance meeting with media baron Rupert Murdoch landed him a job with The Daily Mail, a British tabloid for whom he photographed the Balkan wars.
In 1992, Lyons founded Big Pictures and turned from stalking snipers to celebrities. At its height, the company had dozens of staff photographers around the world and made him very rich.
Among his treasures - in addition to the private jet and yacht - are the last photographs of Britain's Princess Diana as she was dying, which he keeps locked away in a safe.
His success led to a star turn in 2005 when the BBC aired "Paparazzi", a behind-the-scenes look at his company. That led to further slots on reality TV shows like "Celebrity Big Brother" and "Dragons' Den".
Although Lyons was one of Britain's most recognizable faces, his business was battered by the global financial crisis and collapsed in 2012, leaving him at a crossroads.
Early last year he decided he'd had enough of the celebrity lifestyle and, together with fiancée Elissa Friday, returned triumphantly to Geelong.
Friday, a former contestant on the "Beauty and the Geek" reality TV show - a lascivious portrait in the mayor's home makes it clear which role she played - is referred to by Lyons as the "mayoress".
His campaign for the election held last November was attacked by the business community, whose members went so far as to take out negative ads in Geelong's main newspaper.
Lyons won easily with almost 30 percent of the ballot and, after his first 100 days in office, is genuinely popular. He was just nominated for the quirky World Mayor Competition.
Even the business community seems to appreciate the attention he is drawing to the embattled city.
"I see the mayor's role as a marketing tool," Lyons said with a broad grin. "The people of Geelong, mostly, love it as a marketing tool."
Third-graders caught smoking pot at school
Three third-graders were caught smoking marijuana in the boys' bathroom of their northern California elementary school last week in what the local police chief says marked the youngest pot bust he has ever encountered.
The three boys - two 8-year-olds and one 9-year-old - were caught last Thursday by another student, who informed school administrators, who in turn alerted local law enforcement, said Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson.
Police officers detained the youngsters for questioning, then released them to their parents, Stinson said.
The police chief of Sonora, a picturesque "Gold Country" town in the Sierra foothills about 130 miles east of San Francisco, said the youngest person he previously knew of being busted for smoking pot was about 10 years of age.
A pipe and a very small amount of marijuana were seized in last Thursday's incident, he said, adding that the boys seemed to have had little smoking experience and did not appear to be under the influence when confronted.
Stinson declined to comment on anything the boys said, or on the possible origins of the pot, except to say that "it came from several sources."
He said the incident will remain under investigation to determine whether the boys could be considered criminally culpable. Under California law, no one under 12 is usually charged with a crime, but the boys could be subject to juvenile justice proceedings.
"The first step is - we have to determine whether they knew right from wrong," he told Reuters.
The superintendent of the local school district, Leigh Shampain, declined to comment on any details of the case but confirmed that students had been caught smoking marijuana in the school restroom last week.
Both he and the police chief said the case underscores concerns that legalizing marijuana for recreational use by adults in California would make it easier for minors to gain access to pot in the future.
Said Stinson, "It's something to think about."
California in 1996 became the first of 20 U.S. states to allow marijuana use for medical purposes, and a Field Poll in December found that 55 percent of registered voters supported expanding legalization to recreational use.
Colorado and Washington state approved ballot measures doing just that in November 2012. The last time such a proposal was put to California voters, in 2010, it was defeated.