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World's tallest animal: Rarest endangered Rothschild giraffes join family breakfast; unlikely bond with short goat at 1st sight

tall order: A rare Rothschild giraffe joins the breakfast table at the Carr-Hartley family's manor house in Kenya

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Eight endangered Rothschild giraffes, the rarest (only a few hundred left in the wild) on earth second only to the Niger Giraffe, are free to roam their 140-acre estate and are regular visitors at their English-style manor built in the colonial era. Back in 1794, the grandson of a Scottish earl, Jock Leslie Melville, and his American wife Betty bought the stately home. Later that year they moved two highly endangered Rothschild giraffe into the estate. The ones at the site grow up to more than 16ft tall, weigh two tons & have a life expectancy of up to 30 years. Every day shortly before 9am, the mammoth beasts stroll up to the house and poke their heads through the windows and doors in search of morning treats. Now, married owners Tanya & Mikey Carr-Hartley literally share their dining table with them.

affectionate: the unlikely friends bonded instantly and share bedding, play together, and even cuddle  read more »

Longest full solar eclipse of century turns day to night in Asia, celestial show inspiring awe & fear in millions

Top left: moon passes between sun & earth during solar eclipse as seen in Changsha, Hunan province, China; Bottom left: partial solar eclipse silhouettes birds surrounding minaret of shrine of Sufi Saint Bah-ud-din Zakria in Multan, Pakistan; Top right: dragonfly flies in sky during total solar eclipse in Seoul. South Korea; Bottom right: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan has seen what scientists say is the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century taken from the national observatory on Iojima island, Japan

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The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century was visible in a 155 miles corridor as it traveled half the globe and passed through the world's two most populous nations, India and China. The eclipse began at 5:28am local time (2358 GMT) in India and lasted up to a maximum of 6 minutes and 39 seconds when it hit the Pacific Ocean. Total eclipses are caused when the moon moves directly between the sun and the Earth, covering it completely to cast a shadow on Earth. Wednesday's was the longest since July 11, 1991, when a total eclipse lasting six minutes and 53 seconds was visible from Hawaii to South America. There will not be a longer eclipse until 2132.  read more »

Fête Nationale (14 July). Bastille, once symbol of despotism, absolute power & terror, now symbol of French Revolution & freedom

9 Alphajets from the French Air Force's Patrouille de France, or French Aerobatic Patrol, fly in formation over the Arc de Triomphe, trailing the colours of the French flag

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Fête Nationale is celebrated all over France and in many countries. On July 14, 1789, the Bastille, prison in Paris, a symbol of despotism, absolute power & terror, was turned into a symbol of French Revolution & freedom.

The Bastille was a prison in Paris originally called the Chastel Saint-Antoine. It was built between 1370 and 1383 (under kings Charles V and Charles VI) to serve as a fortress for the protection of the city against Anglo-Burgundian forces during the Hundred Years' War. The four-and-a-half-story building, surrounded by its own moat, was located at the eastern main entrance to medieval Paris. It had eight closely-spaced towers, roughly 77.1 ft. (23.5m) high, which surrounded 2 courtyards & the armory. The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The event is celebrated annually on July 14 in France and many other countries, officially called the Fête Nationale.

Eugene Delecroix’s painting entitled: Liberty Leading the People  read more »

Racing star in Tour de France '09 to win: Sebastien Joly thanks Lance Armstrong for support. Both cancer survivors

Tour de France riders Lance Armstrong and Sebastien Joly

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Racing star. Cancer survivor. U.S. cycling legend & 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong returns to competition primarily to promote his foundation against cancer. He has survived testicular cancer and retired from racing on July 24, 2005, but returned to competitive cycling in January 2009. Tour de France rider Sebastien Joly has thanked fellow cancer survivor Lance Armstrong for his support when he was diagnosed with the disease two years ago. Sébastien Joly (born June 25, 1979 in Tournon) is a French professional road racing cyclist. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer on June 25, 2007, the day of his 28th birthday. Now, both are courageously cycling in the on-going 96th Tour de France cycling race (July 4-26) over 196.5 kilometers (122 miles) with start in Marseille and finish in La Grande-Motte, southern France. Among the 21 stages, there are 7 mountain stages, ridiculously difficult, which make the legend of the Tour.

the pack passes through a tunnel during the third stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 196.5 kilometers (122 miles) with start in Marseille and finish in La Grande-Motte, southern France, Monday July 6, 2009  read more »

280 California parks bring annual $4.3 bil to state, mils locally. 200-park closure to shoot deficit? or economy?

Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu, California is the closest Pacific Ocean beach to Thousand Oaks, California. Its biggest claim to fame is as a popular location for photographers and movies, including The Karate Kid, Grease, The Craft, and Point Break

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The State Parks use less than 1/10th of 1% of the budget, yet return $2.35 for every dollar spent in revenues from surrounding communities whose economies are boosted by (or based on) proximity to the parks.

Proposed state parks closure list is not for the faint of heart

"This morning, I glimpsed the list of California state parks earmarked for closure if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger successfully cuts funding, and I became sickened and angry. There are 220 parks, reserves and beaches on the list. That would leave a mere 59 parks for our continued enjoyment." (Comment posted by Maggie Wolfe Riley: "The State Parks use less than 1/10th of 1% of the budget, yet return $2.35 for every dollar spent in revenues from surrounding communities whose economies are boosted by (or based on) proximity to the parks.")

Among 220 state parks the governor proposes to close, Anderson Marsh Park is a California State Historic Park  read more »

Bill Turner treats Zebedee with total kindness, winning over a friend from Nature, going together to the pub for a pint

horse racing trainer Bill Turner learned to ride Zebedee in just two weeks

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A horse racing trainer loves to trot to the pub for a glass of Red Stripe lager - on his zebra. Dad-of-two Bill Turner bought 14-month-old Zebedee for £4,500 from a Dutch game reserve. Bill, 61, said: "He loves being ridden and it means I don't have to worry about being breathalysed."

Zebras are notoriously difficult to break in but the former jump jockey soon coaxed Zebedee to accept a bridle and saddle. In less than three weeks Bill was riding his new mount round his farm. Now Mr Turner rides Zebedee to his local, the King's Arms, for a pint after work.

Bill, who saddled 600 winners in 30 years as a trainer, said: "It's a mile and a half to the pub and Zebedee pricks up his ears every time we go. "The RSPCA says its OK to ride him." Bill's wife Tracy, 61, followed in a lorry on the first pub outing in case Zebedee tired and had to be driven back. But ten-stone Bill said: "He had no trouble and even cantered for a bit. The regulars got an incredible shock when I rode up."

zebras

It was the trainer's lifelong ambition to break and ride a zebra. Bill said: "I've broken hundreds of horses and wanted to try my luck with a zebra. "Very few are ridden in Africa - usually the only way to mount one is to put it in a river." Finally a livestock agent who Bill deals with in Belgium found the zebra for him. Bill said: "They say zebras are so hard to train because they don't have any brains and panic easily. Zebedee gave me a hard time at first, coming at me with his front feet and also biting.  read more »

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