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From Ice Queen to Dance Queen - Kristi Yamaguchi Crowned Winner of 'Dancing With the Stars'

Original Source: Associated Press

(quote)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — After four consecutive male winners on "Dancing With the Stars," it was finally ladies' night. Kristi Yamaguchi was named the new "Dancing" champ on the show's season finale, becoming the first woman to win the ABC dance-off since its inaugural season. The figure skater came into the final contest Tuesday with a perfect score and bested fan favorites Jason Taylor and Cristian de la Fuente to claim the mirrorball trophy. "This is definitely for all those women out there to continue to be strong," she said after the show, hoisting the prize above her head.

The Olympic gold medalist was clearly the most talented dancer on this season's competition, regularly landing atop the judges' scoreboard. But viewer votes count just as much, and with the audience 75 percent female, men have had the edge. Last season ended with a shocker when race-car driver Helio Castroneves upset Spice Girl Melanie Brown.

Taylor, the massive but graceful pro football star, called Yamaguchi "just perfect," adding that he "grew up watching her compete for our country." De la Fuente, who was eliminated early in the two-hour season finale, said "it was impossible to beat her." His professional partner, Cheryl Burke, agreed. "Kristi deserved it more than any other woman in any other season," she said. "It's about time that a woman wins."

Winning the "Dancing" crown doesn't quite compare to winning an Olympic gold medal, Yamaguchi said, but it's still "a fun, amazing experience." "It's not just this (trophy) but what it represents," she said. "It's all the hard work and the time spent together and the friendships made, challenging yourself and learning something new."

Though Taylor and de la Fuente didn't win, each was victorious in his own way. Besides forming a close friendship with each other, Taylor, an aspiring actor, has taken meetings with Hollywood heavyweights, and de la Fuente learned an important life lesson. The actor ruptured a tendon in his biceps while dancing on April 28, but delayed the surgery necessary to repair it so he could continue in the contest.

"It's about wanting something in life and going for it," he said. "In this case it was a dance show, but it can be anything that you're afraid of. Go for it. Do it. The reward that you get when you put your heart, your soul, everything you've got in something, it's priceless."

(unquote)

Photos Courtesy of ABC

Dancing With the Stars: Kristi Yamaguchi, Mark Ballas

Dancing With the Stars: Edyta Sliwinska, Jason Taylor

Dancing With the Stars: Cheryl Burke, Cristian De La Fuente

Dancing With the Stars: Tony Dovolani, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Tom Bergeron

U.S. Military Planes Fly Disaster Relief to China's Earthquake Zone

Original Sources: CNN, The Virginia Pilot and Star Bulletin

(quote)

The Department of Defense has delivered critically needed relief supplies to the earthquake-stricken Sichuan province, the Pentagon said Sunday. The two C-17 Globemaster aircraft carried food, water containers, blankets, generators, lanterns and various hand tools. U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft from Elemendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii are making the flights directly to the airport at Chengdu, the largest city in Sichuan, officials reported.

Senior Capt. Guan Youfei, deputy director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense and Army Brig. Gen. Charles W. Hooper, the U.S. military attache in Beijing, greeted the first of two U.S. aircrews delivering earthquake relief supplies to China.

The People's Republic of China sent more than $5 million in aid to the United States following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005.

More than 32,000 people are known dead from the 7.9 quake that hit May 12. About 250,000 are hurt, according to Chinese government releases. Thousands remain missing and are feared dead under the rubble.

So far, almost 60 aid organizations from 13 countries have provided assistance to China in the aftermath of the quake. Among the countries are India, France, Singapore, the Philippines and the United States. "This is a mission about people helping people, simply that. It's reaching out to them in their greatest time of need," said Col. Joe Kim, vice commander of the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing.

(unquote)

Photos Courtesy of AFP and Chris Vadnais | Air Force

Senior Captain greets the first U.S. aircrews delivering earthquake relief supplies

Chinese soldiers collect aid from military helicopter from U.S. for earthquake disaster relief

Britain's Couch Potato Children Now among the Fattest in Europe

Original Source: Daily Mail

(quote)

British children are among the worst in a Europe-wide obesity league table, with around a third weighing more than they should. A couch potato lifestyle and a growing appetite for fast food is blamed for boys and girls weighing in near the top of a 27-country fat league.

Scottish girls take second place in the female rankings, with almost 33 per cent overweight. English girls are fourth, with 29.3 per cent too heavy for their height. The heaviest girls are in Portugal (34.3 per cent), while the slimmest are in Latvia and Lithuania (3.5 per cent overweight). Among the boys, Scotland was again second, with almost 35 per cent too heavy for their height. Only Spanish boys are heavier. English boys are in sixth place at 29 per cent - compared to the lean lads of Lithuania, where only 8 per cent are overweight. The figures, which were compiled by the IASO from government and scientific studies, come as British doctors warn they are treating children as young as two for obesity.

Obesity experts said the results could be partly explained by a couch potato lifestyle, in which TV dinners have replaced family meals and computer games are preferred to outdoor play. Dr Tim Lobstein, of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, said: "There is a big industry selling us more TV to watch, more computer games to play, more DVDs to sit and watch. There is a big industry promoting screen watching which is a sedentary behaviour and you just get fatter while you do it."

Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of the charity Weight Concern, said childhood obesity could only be tackled by parents, schools and government working together. Safe, accessible exercise facilities and nourishing and affordable meals should be a priority, he said.

(unquote)

Too much time in front of the TV eating junk food

Travel - "Discovering Old in New Ireland": cottages, sheep, Irish woman suddenly breaking into song

Original Source: New York Times

"Over the years, I have spent a lot of time in the western counties of Galway and Clare, and if nothing else, this is what I have gleaned: Ireland can be that place you missed as you traveled around Ireland, looking for Ireland.

Yes, you can find a thatched cottage here and there, if you try. Yes, you may even encounter a white clot of sheep blocking your rented car’s path, raising from musty memory some postcard caption about Irish Rush Hour. But to wander about, looking to bag with a digital camera some approximation of a time-faded Irish postcard, is to miss the complexities of a country that is thoroughly enjoying its wealth and adapting to its European Union membership while at the same time trying to preserve its dreamlike landscape and proud cultural heritage.

You may indeed hear a young Irish woman suddenly break into song in Kinvara. But you may also walk around the corner and be served dinner by a young man with an Eastern European accent instead of a brogue. Travel 10 miles up the road to Gort and you might wade into a celebration of Brazilian culture, staged by a transplanted community that is now an integral part of that old market town.

There you have it: delightful, post-millennial Ireland."

Images courtesy of New York Times

Street signs in Ballyvaughan in the west of Ireland

traditional village of Cong in County Mayo  read more »

Nearly One Third of World's Species Extinct Since 1970

Original Source: BBC News

(quote)

Between a quarter and a third of the world's wildlife has been lost since 1970, according to data compiled by the Zoological Society of London. Populations of land-based species fell by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29%. Humans are wiping out about 1% of all other species every year, and one of the "great extinction episodes" in the Earth's history is under way, it says. Pollution, farming and urban expansion, over-fishing and hunting are blamed.

The Living Planet Index, compiled by the society in partnership with the wildlife group WWF, tracks the fortunes of more than 1,400 species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, using scientific publications and online databases. It said numbers had declined by 27% in the 35 years from 1970 to 2005. Some of the worst hit are marine species which saw their numbers plummet by 28% in just 10 years, between 1995 and 2005. Populations of ocean birds have fallen by 30% since the mid 1990s, while land-based populations have dropped by 25%.

The WWF said that over the next 30 years, climate change was also expected to become a significant threat to species. Director general James Leape said: "Reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease and where water is in irregular or short supply. "No-one can escape the impact of biodiversity loss because reduced global diversity translates quite clearly into fewer new medicines, greater vulnerability to natural disasters and greater effects from global warming."

The WWF is calling on governments meeting in Bonn to honour their commitments to put in place effective protected areas for wildlife and to adopt a target to achieve net annual zero deforestation by 2020. The UK's Biodiversity Minister, Joan Ruddock, said the report showed that the international community had to work together to stem the decline. "The fact that human activities have caused more rapid changes in biodiversity in the last 50 years than at any other time in human history should concern us all," she said. "Supporting wildlife is critical to all our futures."

(unquote)

Images courtesy of BBC News and WWF

Over-fishing and demand for their fins as a delicacy have hit shark numbers
Land-based species, such as African antelopes, have fallen by 25 percent

we’re consuming more than the Earth can supply

Amur leopard
Penguins

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