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Painting that inspired iconic Christmas card is found hanging in pensioner's home... and it's now worth £70,000

As one of the most popular Christmas card scenes of all time, it has graced mantelpieces by the million.

But for the last 40 years, an elderly woman has contented herself with the knowledge that only she had the original painting of Beneath The Snow Encumbered Branches.

She bought the work by Scottish laird Joseph Farquharson for £1,450 in the 1960s, and kept it hanging above her sideboard in the sitting room.

Next week, it is expected to fetch upwards of £70,000 at auction after she decided to move to a smaller house where there will be less room to display it.




The oil picture of a shepherd with his flock on a snow- covered field was painted more than 100 years ago by Farquharson, who enjoyed depicting wintry scenes on his sprawling estate in Aberdeenshire. This led to his nickname 'Frozen Mutton Farquharson'.

To protect him from the cold, he built a painting hut on wheels which was kitted out with a stove and was hauled around the 20,000-acre property whenever he got his brush out.

For the picture in question, Farquharson used an employee to pose as the shepherd.

At one point, the laird asked the model if he wanted to warm up in the hut as he had turned blue in the cold, but the humble hand declined so his master could finish painting.



Nick Carnow is a director at auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull in Edinburgh, where the 20in by 31in painting will be sold on Wednesday. He said: 'Farquharson had a long career but paintings by him of this quality are rare.'

It is thought that Farquharson, who died in 1935 aged 88, exhibited the painting at the Royal Academy in 1901. Its subsequent history is unknown until the current owner bought it from art dealer Richard Green of Bond Street 40 years ago.

The card company WN Sharpe bought the rights to the picture more than 30 years ago. It has since been bought out by Hallmark Cards, which now has the rights.

Jo Marchbank, of Hallmark Cards, said: 'This painting is one of our most popular Christmas cards.

'It is probably something to do with the unique atmosphere Farquharson creates, the dramatic yet subtle depiction of a winter landscape.'

Man arrested for 'trying to sell Hitler's stolen gold bookmark'

Authorities have recovered a stolen 18-carat gold bookmark that reportedly was given to Adolf Hitler by his longtime mistress, Eva Braun.


Christian Popescu, a Romanian national, was arrested on Tuesday outside a Starbucks coffee shop in the Seattle area after allegedly trying to sell the bookmark to an undercover agent for £65,000.

Prosecutors said the bookmark was among several items taken in an auction-house heist in Madrid six years ago. At the time, some antiquities experts questioned its authenticity.

The bookmark is engraved with a portrait of Hitler as well as an imperial eagle and swastika, and its inscription indicates that Braun gave it to Hitler to console him after German forces surrendered at Stalingrad.

'My Adolf, don't worry,' it reads, adding that the loss was 'only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory. My love for you will be eternal, as our Reich will be eternal. Always yours, Eva. 3-2-43.'

Regardless of its authenticity, federal agents said its theft broke the law.

'Artifacts of historical significance are not souvenirs for illegal sale to the highest bidder,' Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's office of investigations in Seattle, said in a statement.

Popescu made an initial appearance in federal court yesterday, where he was represented by a public defender who left without speaking to reporters.

The operation began when ICE learned a man was trying to sell the bookmark in the Seattle area. An informant contacted Popescu, who confirmed he had the bookmark and provided pictures. Popescu told the informant he wanted £97,000 for it.

Spanish authorities estimated the bookmark was valued at between £8,400 and £11,000, according to court documents.

Investigators set up a meeting with Popescu at a Starbucks in Bellevue, Washington where the Romanian man showed an undercover agent the bookmark, charging papers said. He was arrested in car park as the agent paid him £65,000.

Popescu is being held on one count of sale or receipt of stolen goods. A detention hearing was set for Monday.

U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan said agents are still investigating how the bookmark arrived in Seattle. Five people were detained in Tuesday's operation, but only Popescu was arrested and charged, he said.

In 2002, three thieves walked into the Duran Subastas auction house in Madrid during work hours and stole the bookmark along with several pieces of jewellery from a glass showcase.

Zookeepers bring in polar bear to mate with a female... before discovering HE is a SHE

Handlers of a popular polar bear, brought to mate with a female in a zoo in northern Japan, found their breeding plan was doomed when they noticed that he, in fact, was a she.

Tsuyoshi, a four-year-old, 200kg cream-coloured polar bear, had been living in harmony with a female polar bear since June.

Masako Inoue, a zookeeper at the Kushiro Municipal Zoo, said the two often play together.





'We thought he was a male, so we never had any doubts as we took care of him,' she said.

'But one day we realised that the two bears urinated in the same way, and we thought, is that how males do it? And once we started to look at things that way, we weren't quite so sure.'

After two DNA studies of Tsuyoshi's hair and a manual examination, the zoo found out the bear was female.

'We do have mixed feelings,' said Inoue. 'But because Tsuyoshi was supposed to be a male, she came here, and because she came here, we were able to take care of her since she was very small.'

It is not uncommon for the sex of polar bears to be misread, Inoue said, as their long hair makes it difficult to distinguish, especially when the bears are young.

Tsuyoshi was pegged as a male three months after birth.

The Kushiro Municipal Zoo will talk with other zoos in the area to see what to do about their breeding plan, she added.

Pictured: The dolphins jumping for joy in 'Balamory' bay

Jumping for joy, these playful dolphins dive in and out of the water seemingly without a care in the world.

Their spectacular display takes place near a remote Scottish Hebridean town which doubles as the setting for the BBC children's programme Balamory.

The common bottlenose dolphins regularly entertain residents of Tobermory, the largest village on the Scottish Isle of Mull, with their acrobatic antics.




This display was captured by local photographer Nick Davies, 49.

'Whenever the dolphins start to appear in the bay harbour and start to do their thing the word gets around the village very quickly,' said Mr Davies.

'I live in a flat that looks out over the bay and was lucky enough to see the dolphins start to play.

'So I ran down, got into my kayak and went out into the bay to take pictures of them up close.'

Mr Davies, who has lived on the Isle of Mull for five years, said the island residents look forward to the dolphins' visits.





'There were around six adult dolphins in their pod this time and I was very lucky to be able to get them in such good action poses.

'Their displays and messing around can go on for anywhere between five minutes to around one hour and it all depends on what their mood seems to be.

'On this occasion they definitely seemed to be in a cracking good mood,' he said.

The Isle of Mull has long been known as a whale and dolphin haven, with tourism in the area growing as a result.

Porpoises, basking sharks and even killer whales have also been sighted off the coast of the remote and beautiful Scottish island.

The island and the town of Tobermory has also received a boost in recent years from the filming of the BBC children's programme Balamory.

A feast for the eyes: The artist who can turn a market stall into a masterpiece

Somewhere out to sea, the Good Ship Marrow ploughs through a mackerel ocean.

Elsewhere, garlic balloons float over fields of brocolli. At first glance, they may seem like ordinary landscape paintings.





But these particular artworks are more vegetable than Constable, more turnip than Turner, because the raw ingredient for all of them is food.

This is the latest portfolio of foodscape photographer Carl Warner, 45, who dreams up the landscapes and commits his ideas to a sketch before buying the ingredients.

Were it not for the fact most of them took days to create, using pins and superglue, they'd be good enough to eat.






Meet Harvey the dog who gets his daily exercise riding the waves

His name is Harvey and he's a surfer of the highest pedigree.

After all, it's not everyone who can balance with four feet on the board at once - let alone use his tail as a rudder.

The three-year-old labrador is the pet of Scott Pearson and his 16-year-old son James, both keen surfers.





He regularly joins them on Tynemouth beach in North Tyne-side, where he has his own sponge surfboard which he carries in and out of the waves in his jaws.

'He's been in the water ever since he was a pup,' said 43-year-old Mr Pearson, from Gosforth.


'Whenever we're out surfing he's always following us - he never stays on the beach.'

James, who hopes to join the British surfing team and is pictured right with his dog, said Harvey first took to a surfboard this summer.

'My Dad and I were out paddling on the board and Harvey just swam out to us and we put him on the board.

"He's a real natural and now every time he is out on his board people watch in amazement.

'It's great that I can now take Harvey out on the waves - I just hope he doesn't get better than me!'

Ouch! The painful moment a footballer felt the force of a bizarre throw-in

This is the painful moment an American soccer player was struck full in the face with a football as an opposition player performed an acrobatic throw-in.

The bizarre front-flip throw was taken by Paul Ladd during a U.S. amateur championship match.

The unfortunate player on the receiving end is left clearly dazed, not only by the players unique skill, but more so by the force of the football striking his face at point-blank range.

After being pole-axed, the player bravely holds his sore head and manages to stagger to his feet as concerned team mates rush to his aid.




The video concludes when the injured player valiantly gets back in front of Ladd for a re-take of the throw.

However, he is spared any further pain when Ladd avoids making the same mistake again and this time successfully hurls the ball a distance to rival that of 'human sling-shot' Rory Delap, of Stoke City.

The video has become a Youtube hit and attracted over 300,000 hits.





Among unsympathetic comments left on the popular website, one user said:'Haha..way to hit the kid Paul..watch what your doing next time!!!'

Another added: 'Is it bad that I was waiting for him to get nailed in the face again when he resumed his position guarding the throw-in?'

Others were more concerned whether the throw in was a legal move or not.

'Thats an illegal throw-in. A throw-in must be 2 steps, and only one of your feet can leave the ground', one said.


Kitten with two heads that meows out of both mouths

Shocked vets have delivered a kitten with two faces.

The kitten can only eat with one of its mouths, due to a cleft palate - but it meows simultaneously through both.

The only member of an otherwise normal litter of three, it is said to be doing well.




It was born in the vet's surgery after its mother developed complications during the birth.

Nurse Louisa Burgess, who delivered the kitten in Perth, Western Australia, with vet George Huber, said she had never seen a two-faced cat in 12 years of working in animal health.

'I have seen cats with two tails and extra legs, but not this,' she said.

'It has a full tummy and it survived the night so that is a good sign. It seems content, it meows and purrs.'




Ms Burgess added: 'This is the result of a congenital deformity. Something has gone wrong in the early embryonic development.'

One in a million cats is born with two heads.

The owners plan to keep the kitten and are said to be considering calling it Mr Men or Quasi Modo, according to Australian website InMyCommunity.com.au.

By coincidence there has been another report of a two-faced kitten in the US this year. Born in Texas in February, it was part of a litter of seven.

In August a kitten with four eyes, two noses and one mouth was born in Ohio, but it died after five days.

Sick thugs spear young swan with a wooden stake

A young swan was seriously injured when thugs stabbed it through the wing with a wooden stake.

The cygnet was found speared by the 2m weapon in Boreham, Essex, yesterday.

Dog-walker Wendy Palmer, who discovered the swan, dialled 999.

Minutes later 10 Essex fire officers and RSPCA workers arrived to help the ailing bird.

Passer-by Stephen Huntley, who captured the rescue on camera, said: "It looked like someone had deliberately attacked the bird with the stick - it was no accident. The poor creature looked in great distress."

The swan is now being cared for by the RSPCA.




Old king coal who is an artistic old soul

To the average householder, wondering how to keep the home fires burning this winter, it is a big pile of coal - enough indeed to fuel a whole street, let alone a single house.

To its creators Matthew Conford and David Cross, however, it is a work of art that is supposed to fuel the mind rather than the stove.

They spent two days carting the 15 tons of house coal from a newly reopened pit at Daw Mill Colliery, Arley, near Nuneaton, for the Lion and the Unicorn exhibition at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery in the West Midlands.



"It is a pile of coal, I am not claiming it to be transformed into something else," said Mr Cornford. "It is quite a big pile as well, but by displacing it into the gallery you can look at it differently.

“We hope it will trigger people to come in and debate the future of our energy needs.

"The starting point was thinking about the concept of Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the history of it being in the birthplace of the industrial revolution.

"The main driver of that was fossil fuel in the form of coal. This dirty black stuff and the availability of it in the region revolutionized not only us but the world."

But not everyone is enamoured by the “sea of coal” which has managed to leave its sooty traces on just about everything that comes into contact with it.

A museum spokesman said: "The room is dimly lit and we are thinking about ensuring that visitors can negotiate the space safely and can enjoy the exhibition. They are really large lumps of coal and some of the team who carried it in were quite small.





“Lots of the bags were bigger than they were. Everyone went home with little trails of coal dust on them. I suppose it was inevitable."

The museum says it has not introduced any special security measures to stop the £750-worth of coal from being stolen although the front of house manager and his staff are keeping a careful eye on it.

The spokesman said: "We did think about giving the coal away to people but were told we couldn't because it belonged to the artists. The gallery was founded by industrialists Philip Horseman and Sidney Cartwright and the region's economic and social development was built upon industry and production.

"The sea of coal is expected to have a sensory impact upon visitors and will draw out both the historic and contemporary significance of coal to the region. Returning coal to the gallery completes the cycle and acts as a reminder of the region's heritage."

The Daw Mill Colliery was swamped with inquiries for jobs after it announced a recruitment drive earlier this year in a bid by UK Coal to develop new reserves. It is the largest of the four mines operated by UK Coal and produces up to three million tons a year.

The Lion and the Unicorn exhibition is on until January 31.

Miracle puppy hit by car at 70mph so hard he was embedded in the grill... and survived

Few things on Earth can survive being hit by speeding cars at 70mph and left for dead.

But this puppy is clearly a special case.

The one-year-old pooch was knocked down by driver Marco Menozzi on a side road in Cozze, southern Italy.




But in an astonishing twist of fate, Menozzi hit the pup so hard - at 70mph - that he was embedded in the grill under the bonnet of the Peugeot 207.

There he managed to cling on until the car eventually stopped - 15 miles later.

He survived the ordeal with just a broken leg and some bruising.

'He's a very lucky boy,' said one policeman.

'He was saved because he was hit so hard. Any softer and he would have bounced off the car and been crushed under the wheels.'

Three killed in crash during police pursuit as another man dies in separate chase by officers

Three people were killed and a fourth seriously injured today as they were being chased by police.

Two men and a woman died when the vehicle hit the kerb and overturned at around 3.30am after the driver lost control.

They had earlier refused to stop for officers in Oldham, Greater Manchester, so police had given chase.

It ended in tragedy when the Vauxhall Vectra crashed through a wall, spun round and overturned onto its roof in a house's front garden.

A second woman survived the accident and is in a critical condition in hospital.




Greater Manchester Police said a police patrol had earlier tried to stop the car in Oldham town centre but the driver drove off so they followed.

The crash happened shortly afterwards in Middleton Road, Chadderton. It is not yet known why officers wanted to stop the vehicle before the chase started.

The area around the crash site was sealed off by police this morning. Forensic officers could be seen examining the overturned, burned out wreckage of the vehicle.




Paul Kelly, 40, a warehouse manager who lives about 100 yards from the scene, said he was woken up by a huge explosion at around 3.45am.

He said: 'It was so loud I thought something had come into my house. I ran to the window and could see the car in flames.

'By the time I got out into the street the police were already here and they told me to go back inside. The ambulances arrived and then the fire brigade.'

He added that the driver appeared to have lost control after going over a rise in the road and had hit the kerb. The force spun the car and it then overturned.

Another neighbour, Matthew Tipton, was woken up by police sirens and then a 'really loud explosion' .

'From what I heard, I think the police were possibly still on the other side of the main road when the car turned over and crashed.

'They must have been going at some speed because the rise in the road at the junction is bad enough when you're going at normal speed. Loads of police cars and fire engines arrived and were here for a very long time.'

Mr Tipton lives in the first house on Middleton Road, about 250 yards from the crash scene.

The garden walls of the two houses either side of where the car crashed also appear to have been demolished.

Speaking at the scene this morning, Superintendent Alan Greene said the victims appeared to be 'quite young' in age.

He said: 'The vehicle was going at considerable speed, so much so that the police car could not keep up with it. The speeds involved are really quite considerable and those in the car appear to be quite young people.'

The incident has now been referred to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, for investigation.

In a separate police chase, another man was killed when his car crashed on a motorway as he was being followed by officers.

Police were pursuing the car on the M1 near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, because it had failed to stop.

The man, thought to be a rear seat passenger, was killed at around 2am when the car careered off the road and hit a bank.

The driver and another passenger were arrested near the crash scene. The IPCC has also been informed of the second incident.

The car key that will pay your petrol bill

Drivers have got used to cars doing ever more for them – and now BMW is working on a vehicle that will even buy its own petrol.

After filling up, motorists will simply wave their ignition key in front of the pump to settle their bill, eliminating the need to queue up tediously in the forecourt shop.

The same technology will also work for parking meters, meaning drivers will no longer face the anguish of rooting around for the right coins and usually coming up a few pence short.




The system works because the key contains a tiny chip holding details of the driver’s bank account.

Fuel pumps and ticket machines need to be fitted with a small electronic reader that can decipher the details and debit the cash accordingly.

The system, which may also be fitted at toll booths and even train and Underground stations for drivers leaving their cars behind, does not use a PIN code – raising fears that the keys would be targeted by thieves.

But BMW said the keys could be quickly cancelled if lost or stolen and the company hopes the system will be so successful that its drivers will use the key as their personal credit card.

Dutch firm NXP Semiconductors, which has developed the key along with BMW, revealed a prototype – with two small antennas on the top – at a trade show in Paris this month.

A spokesman said the scheme could also be used by park-and-ride drivers who wanted to jump on a bus.





He said: ‘This key works in a very similar way to the Oyster card used on public transport in London.

‘If the petrol station is fitted with a reader, you could pay the bill just using the key and without the need to go inside.

‘There is no chip and PIN involved so it is quicker than a credit card. The key looks like the one now used in a BMW 7 Series.’

He explained: ‘All you need to do is hold it about 4in from the reader and it will automatically take the money from your account.

‘We hope it could also be used by people who want to leave their cars and jump on a train, and they could just hold their keys up to a reader in the train station.

‘This is all about making life easier for BMW drivers, and allowing them to get in their cars without worrying where their wallet is or if they have enough cash.’

Professor Raymond Freymann, managing director of BMW Group Research and Technology, said: ‘We are doing research in enhancing the capabilities of the car key into one smart device for access, payment and service that will simplify the lives of BMW car drivers in the future.’

The key has been given the green light by the German Federal Office of Information Security, meaning it is satisfied it meets the country’s highest standards for keeping bank details safe.

Bare of the dog: Meet the hairless American terriers that could make the perfect pet for allergy sufferers

They are small, bald and undeniably a bit freakish.

But hairless American terriers such as these could soon be a common sight in Britain.

Called Jet, Amber and Ruby, the dogs pictured here belong to Michael Daniels, 36, the first breeder of the terriers in the UK.




He suffers from extreme allergies and had given up hope of owning a pet until he read about the breed on an American website in 2004 and ordered one. It arrived via quarantine six months later.

'It was a godsend and they have now become an obsession,' he said.

Mr Daniels' dog Trinity is now is the mother of a litter of three pups.

The hairless terrier was first bred in the 1970s from a rat terrier that had a freak bald puppy.







Like sphynx cats, they are an acquired taste.

But Mr Daniels, from Romford, East London, thinks they will be a big hit here because of their suitability for allergy sufferers - and because they don't leave hairs all over the sofa.

Pictured: The moment a hungry crocodile took a bite at a zebra's head

This hungry crocodile may have bitten off more than it could chew when it took a bite at the head of this zebra.

The stricken animal was attempting to cross the Mara river in the Masai Mara game reserve in south-western Kenya when the reptile struck.

And the poor zebra's chances did not look very good as two of the croc's hungry friends lurked menacingly in front of it as well.




It is not known whether the zebra survived the attack.

The Masai Mara is one of the most popular reserves in Africa.

The Mara river is notorious for being infested with crocodiles - and battling against its current, stray animals can be easy pickings for the predators.




In the spring nearly one-and-a-half million wildebeest and zebras migrate between the plains of Tanzania's serengeti and Kenya's Masai Mara.

It is one of nature's mysteries why the animals leave their grazing grounds and then make the equally frantic journey back in the autumn.

Each year, thousands of animals perish on the 500-mile round trip.

As many as 6,000 wildebeest can die in two days.


Jim Bowen brings the world's oldest joke book to the London stage... and reveals the ancestor of Monty Python's Dead Parrot

Heard the one about the man who bought a slave which died?

You may have recently: it was performed on a London stage by comic legend Jim Bowen.

But the show was not exactly new or fresh - instead, the veteran comic was performing material from what may be the world's oldest joke book.

Made 1,600 years ago by the Greeks and unearthed from recently translated manuscripts, some of the jokes bear striking similarities with the famous Dead Parrot comedy sketch made by the Monty Python team.




The fourth century manuscript Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, which has been translated and put onto the internet as an e-book, contains a joke where a man complains that a slave he was sold had died.

"When he was with me, he never did any such thing!" is the reply.


In the Python sketch, written 1,600 years later, the shopkeeper claims the dead parrot is 'pining for the fjords'.

The 265 jokes in Philogelos are attributed to a pair of wisecracks called Hierocles and Philagrius, about whom very little is known.

The multimedia online e-book features video of Mr Bowen bringing the old jokes back to life in front of a 21st century audience at 'Downstairs at the King's Head' in north London.

Some of the jokes are strikingly similar to modern ones, with subjects including farts, sex, ugly wives and a dimwit referred to as 'a student dunce'.

'One or two of them are jokes I've seen in people's acts nowadays, slightly updated,' said Bowen.



'They put in a motor car instead of a chariot - some of them are Tommy Cooper-esque,' he added.

Some jokes are likely to baffle modern audiences, however - especially the ones about lettuce, which only make sense if you share the ancient superstition that the vegetable is an aphrodisiac.

The book has been translated by William Berg, an American professor of Classics.

'The text of Philogelos comes to us from several manuscripts ranging from the 11th to the 15th centuries," Berg said.

'All of them trace back to an earlier original, probably - judging from the content and language - from the 4th Century.'


Other jokes in the book include:

* Someone needled a well-known wit: "I had your wife, without paying a penny". He replied: "It's my duty as a husband to couple with such a monstrosity. What made you do it?"
* An Abderite sees a eunuch talking with a woman and asks him if she's his wife. The guy responds that a eunuch is unable to have a wife. "Ah, so she's your daughter? "
* A misogynist is attending to the burial of his wife, who has just died, when someone asks: "Who is it who rests in peace here?". He answers: "Me, now that I'm rid of her!"
* A fellow says to a butcher from Sidon, 'Lend me a knife as far as Smyma.' 'I don't have a knife that reaches that far,' answers the butcher.
* Consulting a hot-headed doctor, a fellow says, 'Professor, I'm unable to lie down or stand up; I can't even sit down.' The doctor responds: 'I guess the only thing left is to hang yourself.'
* A glutton is marrying his daughter off to another glutton. Asked what he's giving her as her dowry, he responds, ' She's getting a house with windows that look out onto the bakery.'
* Discovering a ladder has twenty steps going up, a student dunce asks if there are just as many going down.
* A Kymaean is selling a house. He carries around one of its building blocks to show what it's like.
* A Kymaean is out swimming when it starts to rain. Not wanting to get wet, he dives down as deep as he can.
* A stupid astrologer tells someone's fortune: 'You are not fated to produce heirs.' 'But I have seven boys!' objects his client. 'Well, better keep an eye on them,' advises the astrologer.

Obama battles pigs in lipstick and Sarah Palin on a skidoo in novel new computer game

Since Senator Barack Obama was elected President of the U.S he has kept a low profile, appearing briefly on his way to the gym or on an official visit to the White House.

But it appears all this time he has been battling pigs in lipstick and collecting American flags in Alaska.

The 47-year-old is the hero of a new computer game called Super Obama World - a side-scrolling platform game in the style of classic 1990’s games such as Nintendo's Super Mario Bros.



In the first installment you guide President-elect Barack Obama through Sarah Palin's home state of Alaska, taking on pigs and pitbulls in lipstick, hockey moms, Russian soldiers, greedy oil-company executives, and evenutally Sarah Palin herself on a skidoo.


Like in the classic Super Mario series, you jump on enemies to knock them out of the game and earn points, and collect flag lapel pins to earn extra lives. The difficulty increases as you advance from level to level in the game.

It was created by three-man American company Zen Soft who are based in Wisconsin. Their motto is 'We Make It Fun' and players said they found the simple concept surprisingly addictive.



The game makes a number of digs at the Republican Party and Sarah Palin. It features luxury stores Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, in reference to the controversy that the Republican campaign reportedly spent £75,000 on the vice presidential candidates clothes.

Also early on Obama can take a wrong turn ending up at a dead end signposted 'Bridge to nowhere.'

It was revealed during the Presidential campaign that Ms Palin's transportation department completed a £12million gravel road even though the new bridge it was supposed to lead to had been scrapped by Congress.

Three more Alaska levels are planned, plus a series of levels in Illinois (Obama's home state), Arizona (McCain's home state), and Washington D.C.

The game can be played online www.superobamaworld.com from any computer with Adobe Flash Player version 9.0 or greater installed.

Here's proof Brussels has been sprouting lies about wonky veg for years

The EU has finally conceded what we've all known all along: curly cucumbers and misshapen carrots are good enough to eat.

One of the great myths of EU bureaucracy was at last laid to rest, as after protests from supermarkets, grocers and farmers, Brussels revoked dozens of bans on less-than-perfect produce - having previously denied ever having any.

It has relaxed its regulations on 26 types of fruit and vegetable, from courgettes to peas, and from plums to artichokes.





Rules for another ten products, including apples, lemons and lettuces, will remain the same, but shops will be allowed to sell these with 'appropriate' warning labels.

So should we be celebrating this new dawn for misshapen fruit - and for the European Union - and applaud the decision to engage in a tiny bit of deregulation?

Well, before Eurosceptics start dancing to the EU anthem - Beethoven's Ode To Joy, actually - they should, as so often with Brussels, scrutinise closely the small print.



First of all, shouldn't we all feel just a tiny bit angry that, having been told for years that all these stories about Eurocrats dictating the size and shape of vegetables and fruit were simply Eurosceptic propaganda, we are now expected to give Brussels credit for bravely abolishing them?

The European Commission's website in London maintains - at taxpayers' expense - a list of so called Euromyths, which includes the size of peaches and the curvature of cucumbers. Will they now be eating their words?

Yes, we should congratulate the EU for finding the political courage to decide that onions are now allowed to have stems longer than 4cm, and that the 'minimum diameter' is no longer '10mm for trimmed and untrimmed Brussels sprouts'.






We should rejoice that battle-scarred apricots (with scars that are more than 2cm in length) can now make it past the fruit fascists, and that undersized aubergines now have a place in our greengrocers.

Perhaps we should even be pleased that - provided they are labelled prominently with the inviting words 'product intended for processing' - we will be allowed red varieties of apple where less than three-quarters of the surface is, in fact, red.

Or, with the same labelling, we can now enjoy strawberries which have carelessly lost their stalks.






But before we get too enthusiastic about the changes, think for a second what they don't apply to: food imported from outside Europe, for example, which is the subject of another raft of pointless legislation. In particular, the bendy banana ban is still with us.

Bananas entering Fortress Europe must not be suffering from 'abnormal curvature of the fingers' and must be 'free of any foreign smell and/or taste' (presumably they must smell European).

Apparently, the EU has no plans to remove this onerous banana regime but then, of course, it applies to foreign producers, whereas the standards abolished yesterday applied only to produce from within the EU.

You only have to think about all this for a second to realise that, despite yesterday's micro-step in the right direction, Brussels and the real world are not going to collide any time soon.