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Last Updated: Friday, 4 April, 2003, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
10 things we didn't know this time last week
Photo from reader Meg Pickard

It's easy to lose track of the news. So at the end of the week, it's good to keep an eye on some of those things which shouldn't go unnoticed.

If you spot something you think should be included next week, send it to us using the form at the bottom of the page.


1. A metre-long crocodile was found living quite contentedly in the fountain outside the town hall in Walthamstow, east London. "We have no idea how it got there, but it's evidently been living happily, and feeding over the winter on tiny fry and bits and pieces that found their way into the water," said a spokesman from Colchester Zoo where the south American cayman is now living.

2. The battle for hearts and minds in Iraq has met the advance of technology. The New York Times reports from Diwaniya: "One of the American soldiers coming out to greet Mr Juwad carried a device called a 'phraselator,' a small computer that barks out stock Arabic phrases like, 'Do you speak English?' and 'I need to search your car.' The phraselator speaks, but it does not translate Iraqi replies into English."

The specimen is a sub-adult

3. The giant squid is not the biggest squid, as was proved by the discovery of a "colossal squid" in Antarctic waters. The beast, which is thought could grow to three times the length of a London bus, is also "one of the most frightening predators out there" according to squid expert Dr Simon O'Shea. It has a huge beak, and unique "swivelling hooks" on the clubs at the end of its tentacles, which means it can even take on a sperm whale.

4. David Bellamy, the much parodied botanist, tried LSD. It was all in the course of being a university tutor, and in any case a long time ago. "I never tried heroin," he said, "but LSD? Well. That had an effect. I thought I was a ball made of different coloured glass. I wanted to be bounced; I wanted someone to bounce me to see if I would break. And the next morning my head really hurt!"

5. It's a long way since Monica Lewinsky. But Matt Drudge, the fedora-wearing king of the Drudge Report, is making $3,500 a day, according to Business 2.0 magazine. That's 800,000 a year for an operation that has just two employees. Former Slate boss Michael Kinsley told the magazine: "Matt... thinks he's this incredibly powerful, ruthless avenger. But he's actually sort of an innocent, Walter Mitty type - except that his fantasies are more or less true."

6. It's just a shame that, while that particular US web-institution is in rude health, a UK one has hit the buffers., arguably one of the most useful sites on the web, went into administration on Thursday. Unless a white knight comes in to save the day, where else will you now be able to find out what houseprices/crime rates/councillors' phone numbers are for your area? Or indeed what your area looked like in 1860?

7. Why go to New York when you can build it from polystyrene in a paddock? Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings, is to remake King Kong and will film the final scene - originally set in Manhattan - in New Zealand because of the cost of filming in NYC. He said: "We'll just find some flat land and build a big back block set of New York streets and then use our computers to extend the buildings, make the streets longer and the buildings higher. It may just be a field somewhere on someone's farmland."

If all this is old news to you, you could always try our weekly news quiz, Seven Days Seven Questions

8. It might not have seemed like it, but 2002 was officially a good year. There were fewer tragedies than normal, which led insurers Lloyds of London to make a profit again after the huge payouts for the Twin Towers. Boss Nick Prettejohn said: "By our own definition of tragedy, we had around eight registered during the course of 2002. That compares with some years when we might have had as many as 24 or 25." (Author Gore Vidal has, however, announced he is suing Lloyds and four other agencies for $60,000 for refusing to pay him after a burst water heater in his Hollywood Hills home damaged first editions of his books.)

9. "War, What is it Good for? Absolutely nothing," sang the late Edwin Starr, who died this week. But who was aware that the Nashville-born superstar was living in Nottingham? And who knew that the great song was not actually originally an anti-war anthem? It was, he told the Nottingham Evening Post, a plea to end gang rivalry in 1968 US cities but it was then adopted by the anti-Vietnam war movement, and it went on to sell four million copies. A new version, completed shortly before his death, is due to be released soon.

10. Surgical masks, a "must have" for people in Hong Kong and China who hope to protect themselves from the deadly Sars virus, may be a waste of time. While the virulent strain of pneumonia is spread through coughing and sneezing, the masks offer "almost no respiratory protection from airborne particles" according to the Australian Associated Press. "Surgical masks are designed to keep wounds sterile during surgery when a surgeon talks or coughs," according to respiratory protection specialist Dr David Bromwich. "They are not designed to protect the wearer." A better bet would be a special toxic dust mask with a "class P2 particulate filter" which costs about 3.


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