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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 19:14 GMT
10 things we didn't know this time last week
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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. Who could have known, this time last week, that a fish could talk? The fish in question was destined for a New York market, but just as it was heading for the chop, it started shouting warnings in Hebrew that the end of the world was nigh. It then claimed to be the soul of a local Hasidic man who died last year. Its warnings did the fish no good, however, for the two men who had heard the fish killed it anyway and sold it. One of them, Zalman Rosen, is fed up with questions about it, telling reporters: "Ah, enough already about the fish."

2. As the map of Iraq is pored over by armchair generals all over the world, descendants from Ireland's County Monaghan had a subdued St Patrick's Day.
The map of their county bears an unsettling similarity to that of Iraq, The Register website has pointed out. So much so that the Monaghan Association of New York had to stop carrying their traditional map-emblazoned banner on the St Patrick's Day march. A spokesman said: "We had been receiving some jeers and comments as we assembled for the parade in New York and we couldn't understand why. Until someone from the Louth Association pointed out the similarity."

3. The US-led coalition is not short of military hardware. But if it was, it could always resort to miming. Recorded sound of approaching helicopters, for instance, can be blasted through loudspeakers. And according to the BBC's Andrew North, witnessing this particular branch of psychological operations - "psyops" - can be frighteningly realistic. Sergeant Dan Voss told him: "When we see an Iraqi position we can make it appear there is an extremely large US force nearby, playing the sounds of tanks for instance or even of a group of US marines charging."

4. Robin Cook wondered, in his resignation speech as leader of the House of Commons, whether war would be taking place if Florida's hanging chads had "gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected". So what is the former vice president, the man who brought us the information superhighway, doing with his time? Making his own videos, apparently. This week he joined the board of directors of Apple, whose boss, Steve Jobs, pointed to his qualifications. Gore has been "a Congressman, Senator and our 45th Vice President," Jobs said. "Al is also an avid Mac user and does his own video editing in Final Cut Pro."

5. Mobile picture messaging seems to be taking off, as regular BBC NEws Online users will be aware. But what about when everyone's mobile phone can receive bits of video? Short films will become an artform in themselves, truly worth of former vice-presidents. This week the first World's Smallest Film Festival took place in New Orleans. It received 100 submissions, including an X-ray of a yellow pepper, pictures of a man falling down again and again, and a dog eating a roast chicken. The latter film was actually about the Dalai Lama's exploration of love.

6. The world's oldest private mint, in Birmingham, has gone bust after 209 years. One hundred years ago, the Birmingham Mint was the largest privately-owned producer of coins in the world. And in recent years it has been one of the largest producers of euro coins. Although 51 jobs have been lost, administrators have kept 64 people on and are hoping to find a buyer. Not necessarily for cash.

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

7. As fears of oil well fires in Iraq rise, thoughts will turn to the 1991 Gulf War when retreating Iraqi troops lit 700 Kuwaiti wells. It took up to nine months to put the fires out, and the Kuwaitis claimed it had cost them more than $20bn. Red Adair, the professional oil-well firefighter, and his team were among those tackling the blazes - a very messy business. So messy, points out the Economist, that showering in diesel became the accepted way for firefighters to get clean.

8. Friendship isn't measured in money, of course. It's the thought that counts. But who has been more generous to Tony Blair - Jacques Chirac or George Bush? After the row over royal gifts, the Guardian obtained a list of presents given to the prime minister. The French president gave Mr Blair a 500 fountain pen, two half-cases of wine, and a bottle of cognac. But the only gift from the president of the richest country in the world has been a holdall.

9. Could the talking fish have been a vision? Research has shown that one reason people have religious visions could be an effect of a brain disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy. BBC Two's Horizon programme spoke to Gwen Tighe, who has the disorder. When she had a baby, she believed she had given birth to Jesus. Her husband Benny was a bit puzzled. "She said, isn't it nice to be part of the holy family? I thought, holy family? It then turned out she thought I was Joseph, she was Mary and that little Charlie was Christ."

10. From Kenya comes the tragic tale of three men who died trying to retrieve a mobile phone from a latrine. A student dropped her phone in the toilet, and offered a 1,000-shilling reward ($13) for its return. First one man went down into the pit, then when he didn't return, a second followed him. When he didn't come back, a third tried to get him, but collapsed from the fumes, was taken to hospital but died on the way. A fourth man had to be held back from going down to help his two friends, acting Mombasa Police chief Peter Njenga said.


Thanks this week to reader Kerwin Hui, Cambridge.

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