A six-year-old boy was taken to hospital after sitting on a pencil on his first day back at school.

An ambulance was called to Fairvale Public school in Syndey, Australia, and paramedics treated him for an injury to his buttocks.

The boy was in a stable condition at the city's Westmead Hospital, reported The Daily Telegraph.

Students in New South Wales have only just returned to school after an extended Christmas break.



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 A cable company has caused outrage by addressing a customer's bill to Mr A**hole Brown'.

A rogue employee changed the Ricardo Brown's name to 'A**hole Brown' and sent him a bill with his 'new' moniker printed on it.

"We have spoken with our customer and apologised for this completely unacceptable and inappropriate name change," commented Steve Kipp, vice president of communications for Comcast in Washington, USA.

The aggravation began when she'd phoned Comcast to try and reduce the cable bill and was put through to a retention specialist who tried to persuade her to sign a two-year contract. She declined.

After receiving the bill, Mr Brown's wife Lisa visited her local Comcast office and demanded that the name be changed immediately but had no luck.

She told US consumer blogger Christopher Elliott: "I am shocked. I was never rude. It could have been that person was upset because I didn't take the offer."

Comcast, who have now promised to fire the employee responsible, added: "We have zero tolerance for this type of disrespectful behavior and are conducting a thorough investigation to determine what happened."


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GILROY, Calif., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Authorities in California said a marijuana grow operation with more than 1,000 plants was disguised as a furniture store.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office Marijuana Eradication Team and Gilroy police announced Gilroy resident Phuc Nguyen, 39, owner of Gilroy Furniture & More, was arrested Thursday after a months-long investigation into illegal activity at his store.

Investigators said the front of the store was filled with furniture including couches, tables and chairs, but none of the objects were actually for sale and the store was never actually open.

"Furniture store coming soon," a banner in the store's window read.

Deputies said the back of the store contained more than $2 million worth of cannabis, including more than 1,000 live plants and 50 pounds of processed marijuana.

"We don't see a lot of storefront operations with a large-scale illegal enterprise going on in the back," Sheriff's Sgt. Kurtis Stenderup told KNTV. "I think in the movies and on TV they like to think it happens all the time, but in reality, we just don't see that level of sophistication."

Stenderup said Nguyen also allegedly bypassed a utility meter to steal $80,000 worth of water and electricity to cultivate the plants.

Nguyen was charged with theft of utilities and illegal cultivation of marijuana for sales. He was ordered held in lieu of $200,000 bail.


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FOUNTAIN, Colo., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A Colorado fire department said two firefighters carefully navigated a frozen pond to rescue two cows that unwittingly took the Polar Bear Plunge.

The Fountain Fire Department tweeted pictures Tuesday afternoon showing a pair of orange-clad firefighters tethered to the shore of the pond off Squirrel Creek Road while reaching for the cows, which apparently fell through the ice while walking over the frozen pond.

The department said the cows are doing well after warming up from their frosty dip.


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SYDNEY –  A hostage who died during a siege in a downtown Sydney cafe was killed when she was struck by fragments of a bullet fired from a police officer's gun as authorities stormed in to end the 16-hour standoff, a lawyer told an inquest on Thursday.

Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old lawyer who was among 18 people taken hostage last month by a gunman, died after being hit by six fragments of a police bullet that had ricocheted off a hard surface, Jeremy Gormly, a lawyer assisting the coroner, told the Glebe Coroner's Court. One fragment struck a major blood vessel and she quickly lost consciousness, he said.

Another hostage, 34-year-old cafe manager Tori Johnson, was killed after gunman Man Horan Monis forced him to kneel on the floor and then fired a bullet into the back of his head with a sawed-off shotgun, Gormly said. He is believed to have died immediately. A police sharpshooter witnessed Johnson's killing, prompting police to move in, Gormly said.

The details of the deaths of Dawson and Johnson came on the opening day of the inquest into last month's siege at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe. Monis, a 50-year-old Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a long criminal history, took the customers and workers captive and forced them to outline his demands in a series of online videos — including that he be permitted to speak to the prime minister and be delivered a flag of the Islamic State group.

The standoff ended when police stormed the cafe in a barrage of gunfire to free the hostages. Monis was killed, along with Dawson and Johnson.

Officials had previously refused to say whether the hostages died at Monis' hand or were caught in police crossfire. The coronial inquest — a court-like proceeding convened after unusual deaths in Australia — is aimed at ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

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California health officials on Wednesday declared electronic cigarettes a health threat that should be strictly regulated like tobacco products, joining other states and health advocates across the U.S. in pushing back against the fast-growing device.

The California Department of Public Health report says e-cigarettes emit cancer-causing chemicals and get users hooked on nicotine, although there is still more research to be done on the immediate and long-term health effects.

New generations of young people will become nicotine addicts if the products remain largely unregulated, California Health Officer Ron Chapman said.

"Without action, it is likely that California's more than two decades of progress to prevent and reduce traditional tobacco use will erode as e-cigarettes re-normalize smoking behavior," the report says.

E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine from cartridges into inhalable vapor without tar and other chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. E-cigarette makers say using their products, known as "vaping," is far safer than tobacco.

"Despite the health officer's false claims, there is ample evidence that vaping helps smokers quit and is far less hazardous than smoking," Gregory Conley, president of the e-cigarette advocacy group American Vaping Association, said in an email. "Smokers deserve truthful and accurate information about the relative risks of different nicotine products, not hype and conjecture based on cherry-picked reports."

The California report called for restrictions on the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes, protections against accidental ingestion of liquid nitrogen and an education campaign on the dangers of using e-cigarettes. California has already banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010.

A state senator introduced legislation this week that would regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products and ban their use in public places such as hospitals, bars and schools. A similar bill was defeated last year over opposition from tobacco companies.

Other states, including Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas, already have issued advisories cautioning the use of e-cigarettes.

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The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen suspended 14 police officers and put a police chief under investigation on Tuesday on suspicion of feasting on an endangered giant salamander, state media reported.

The officers allegedly were consuming the endangered animal, the world's largest amphibian, at a seafood restaurant, the state-backed Shenzhen Daily reported on Tuesday. The giant salamander can grow as long as 180 cm (6 ft).

China's leadership has called for Communist Party cadres and officials to forgo elaborate banquets and pricey junkets as it works to clamp down on government excess. Corruption, as well as a yawning gap between the rich and the poor, is a central source of public discontent with the ruling party.

Some of the police officers slapped and attacked a trio of reporters who were trying to photograph the banquet, snatching away their mobile phones and cameras, according to Southern Metropolis Daily, a respected newspaper in southern China.

Security personnel refused reporters' demands that they check surveillance video at the restaurant, the paper reported.

Numbers of the Chinese giant salamander, whose home is central and southern China, have "declined catastrophically" over the last three decades, mostly due to over-exploitation for human consumption, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Some in China believe consuming it can combat the effects of aging.

Traditional Chinese beliefs hold that animal products, such as bear bile and tiger bone, have medicinal properties. Environmental groups have decried a flourishing market for products made from endangered animals in the world's second- largest economy.

The Shenzhen Daily said the restaurant is unlicensed, and a representative of the eatery told the paper the salamander in question was raised in captivity.

The IUCN says there is some commercial farming of giant salamanders, but the vast majority being traded are believed to have been poached from wild populations.

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SPRINGVILLE, Utah –  A Utah couple and their three children who were found dead in their home last fall overdosed on drugs after the parents told friends and family they were worried about the apocalypse, authorities said Tuesday.

Police also found old letters written by the mother to a Utah inmate serving time for killing family members in the name of God, slayings chronicled in the 2003 Jon Krakauer book "Under the Banner of Heaven."

Benjamin and Kristi Strack and three of their four children -- ages 11, 12 and 14 -- were found dead in September in a locked bedroom of their Springville home. All five were in a bed, with the kids tucked into the covers around their parents.

At a news conference Tuesday, Springville Police Chief J. Scott Finlayson said investigators have concluded their probe and determined the family members died from drug toxicity from either methadone, heroin or a combination of drugs, including those found in cold medicine.

Authorities determined the parents committed suicide. The younger two children's deaths were ruled homicides, although Finlayson said there were no signs of a struggle.

The manner of death for the 14-year-old, Benson Strack, was undetermined.

Police said Benson wrote a goodbye letter, leaving some of his belongings to his best friend. The only other recent writing the family left behind was a notebook containing handwritten to-do lists about feeding the pets and other chores.

Finlayson said interviews with people who knew the Stracks indicated the parents were worried about evil in the world and wanted to escape from "impending doom."

"There seemed to be a concern about a pending apocalypse that the parents bought into," Finlayson said. "While some friends though that suicide may have been, or could have been, included in their plans, others believed they were going to move somewhere and live off the ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

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Jordan has agreed to demands from ISIS that it release a female jihadist held since 2006, in a move that could free a Jordanian pilot captured in Syria last month and possibly a Japanese journalist who pleaded for his life in a video released by the terror group on Tuesday.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said in a statement the nation was prepared to free Sajida al-Rishawi, who was convicted of taking part in a deadly hotel bombing, if the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, is released unharmed. His comments were carried by Jordan's official Petra news agency. Although he made no mention of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, a hostage audio message released by Islamic State a day earlier tied Goto's fate to that of Al-Rishawi, as well.


Al-Rishawi was sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack by al-Qaida on hotels in Amman that killed 60 people. Jordan is reportedly in indirect talks with the militants through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq to secure the hostages' release. The chairman of the foreign affairs committee of Jordan's parliament, Bassam Al-Manasseer, has been quoted as saying that Jordan and Japan would not negotiate directly with the Islamic State group and would not free al-Rishawi for the Japanese hostage only.

Earlier Wednesday, the mother of the Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto, appealed publicly to Japan's premier to save her son. The mother, Junko Ishido, read to reporters her plea to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which she said she sent after both Abe and Japan's main government spokesman declined to meet with her.


"Please save Kenji's life," Ishido said, begging Abe to work with the Jordanian government until the very end to try to save Goto.

"Kenji has only a little time left," she said.


The Jordanian government is under growing pressure at home ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

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MOSCOW, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- A heroic dog has become a viral star after it was recorded stepping in to help a feline friend that was having trouble removing a cup from its head.

The video, posted to YouTube on Saturday, shows the frustrated cat struggling with the cup on its head before the helpful dog casually walks over and removes the offending object.

The location of the incident was unclear Monday, but several YouTube comments suggested it was shot in Russia. The video bears what appears to be Russian writing in the lower right corner.



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