Tiny California mouse wins Guinness award for longevity

Tiny California mouse wins Guinness award for longevity
This still image from a San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance video posted on Twitter shows Pat the Pacific pocket mouse. (Twitter: @sandiegozoo)
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Updated 09 February 2023

Tiny California mouse wins Guinness award for longevity

Tiny California mouse wins Guinness award for longevity
  • Guinness has certified that the Pacific pocket mouse named Pat is the oldest living mouse in human care at 9 years and 209 days

SAN DIEGO: A tiny California mouse now has a big title after winning a Guinness World record for longevity.
A Pacific pocket mouse named Pat — after “Star Trek” actor Patrick Stewart — received the Guinness approval Wednesday as the oldest living mouse in human care at the ripe age of 9 years and 209 days, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance announced after a certification ceremony.
Pat was born at the at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on July 14, 2013, under a conservation breeding program, the alliance said.
The Pacific pocket mouse, which weighs as much as three pennies, is the smallest mouse species in North America and gets its name from cheek pouches the animals use to carry food and nesting materials, the wildlife alliance said.

The mouse once had a range stretching from Los Angeles south to the Tijuana River Valley but the population plunged after 1932 because of human encroachment and habitat destruction, the alliance said.
The mouse was thought to be extinct for 20 years until tiny, isolated populations were rediscovered in 1994 in Dana Point in Orange County but the species remains endangered, the alliance said.
In 2012, the alliance began a breeding program to help save the mouse from extinction. Last year, the alliance recorded 117 pups born in a record 31 litters. Many of the mice will be reintroduced to the wild this spring, the alliance said.
A new population of Pacific pocket mice was established in Orange County’s Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and the mice began breeding without human assistance in 2017, the alliance said.
Though it doesn’t receive the publicity of larger and more charismatic species, the Pacific pocket mouse is critical to its ecosystem because the mice disperse the seeds of native plants and their digging encourages plant growth, the alliance said.
“This recognition is so special for our team, and is significant for the species,” said Debra Shier, who established and oversees the conservation program. “It’s indicative of the dedication and incredible care we as an organization provide for each species, from the largest to the very smallest.”



Weapons to wasabi: Russian jihadist runs Syria sushi outlet

Weapons to wasabi: Russian jihadist runs Syria sushi outlet
Updated 30 March 2023

Weapons to wasabi: Russian jihadist runs Syria sushi outlet

Weapons to wasabi: Russian jihadist runs Syria sushi outlet
  • Islam Shakhbanov headed to Syria in 2015 “to take part in jihad.”
  • Shakhbanov was inspired to open “Sushi Idlib” after sampling Japanese cuisine during his travels

IDLIB: A Russian jihadist has traded his weapons for wasabi by opening a small sushi restaurant in war-torn Syria’s rebel-held northwest, as the conflict wanes and fighters look for other income.
Islam Shakhbanov, 37, from Russia’s Muslim-majority Dagestan republic, said he headed to Syria in 2015 “to take part in jihad.”
But after years of war, the Damascus government has regained control of most of the country and Syria’s main frontlines have largely frozen, putting many foreign fighters out of a job.
“In the end I opened this sushi restaurant,” the goateed man told AFP, standing near a banner displaying a fish, with slogans in Arabic, English and Russian.
Wearing a warm vest, and with a dark winter cap on his head, Shakhbanov said he fought alongside jihadist factions and the Faylaq Al-Sham rebel group until about five years ago.
Faylaq Al-Sham is a Sunni Islamist group that has acted as Turkiye’s proxy during several Turkish military campaigns on Syrian soil. It has also been the source of pro-Ankara mercenaries sent to battle in Libya on the side of the UN-recognized government.
The group fought fierce battles against the Russian-backed Syrian regime in Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia provinces, and is considered close to the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Shakhbanov said he had lived in countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, and was inspired to open “Sushi Idlib” after sampling Japanese cuisine during his travels.
He boasted it was the first sushi restaurant in the conservative enclave, Syria’s last main rebel bastion where many people depend on humanitarian aid.
Rebel-held Idlib is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced by 12 years of war.
The enclave is controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, the former Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, and other rebel groups — some of whom count fighters from central Asia and the Caucasus among their ranks.
Landlocked Idlib is surrounded by regime troops to the south but borders Turkiye to the north, with the coast less than 25 kilometers (16 miles) away in some places.
Shakhbanov said he imports many of his ingredients from Turkiye — pickled ginger, soy sauce, prawns and even crab.

Idlib was among the areas struck by a February 6 earthquake that collapsed buildings and killed tens of thousands, mostly in Turkiye.
The sushi restaurant survived unscathed.
Behind the counter, two chefs, also former fighters from Russia, chopped fresh salmon and cucumber, spreading the ingredients onto a bed of rice and seaweed before pressing everything into a roll.
The restaurant at first struggled to attract customers in the impoverished enclave where Japanese food is an oddity, but Shakhbanov bills his seaweed rolls as “affordable.”
A California roll sells for 60 Turkish lira ($3), double the price of a large shawarma sandwich more familiar to local residents.
He said he now has about a dozen regulars and hopes to attract more customers by adding fried dishes to the menu.
But Shakhbanov, married to a Syrian woman and with two young daughters, said he is ready to leave the sushi behind and taste combat again should divided rebel factions agree on a military strategy.
“I opened a restaurant,” he said, “but I did not abandon jihad.”

Actor, former MMA fighter Shah Hussain to feature in upcoming film

Actor, former MMA fighter Shah Hussain to feature in upcoming film
Updated 28 March 2023

Actor, former MMA fighter Shah Hussain to feature in upcoming film

Actor, former MMA fighter Shah Hussain to feature in upcoming film
  • Star was involved in choreographing the fight scenes of ‘Morris Men’

LONDON: British Pakistani actor Shah Hussain, who was formerly a professional mixed martial arts fighter, is set to star in an upcoming film, “Last Respects.”

Hussain has appeared in a number of popular productions, including Netflix’s “Red Notice,” SKY AMC’s “Gangs of London,” and Apple TV’s “Slow Horses.”

Featuring in “Morris Men,” Hussain played the role of Huss Ellis and, due to his extensive martial arts experience, he was closely involved behind the camera in choreographing the movie’s fight scenes.

In addition to being the first professional Pakistani MMA fighter in the early 2000s, he is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Hussain stars alongside a cast of prominent stars, including Peter Andre, Sean Cronin and Mark Pegg, in his forthcoming project “Last Respects.” The plot revolves around three gangsters who pay their respects to their ringleader, only to discover that it is a test of their loyalty.

Nestle hands out limited edition KitKat Iftar Bars in Canada

Nestle hands out limited edition KitKat Iftar Bars in Canada
Updated 28 March 2023

Nestle hands out limited edition KitKat Iftar Bars in Canada

Nestle hands out limited edition KitKat Iftar Bars in Canada
  • The 30-piece bars, which have one piece for each day of Ramadan, were given away in partnership with social media influencers in the country

LONDON: Food and beverage company Nestle Canada partnered with Muslim content creators to give away limited edition KitKat Iftar Bars for Ramadan.

Where regular KitKats contain two or four chocolate-covered wafer fingers, this extra-large version has 30 — one for every day of the holy month.

Nestle Canada said the special version of the snack was designed to commemorate the Iftar tradition observed by Muslims when they have their evening meal after fasting all day during Ramadan. KitKat’s long-time advertising slogan is “Have a break, and the company added that it wanted to celebrate the breaking of the fast at sundown.

Nestle Canada gave away the special KitKat Iftar Bars through partnerships with selected social media influencers in the country.


Prince Harry makes surprise showing at UK privacy case

Prince Harry makes surprise showing at UK privacy case
Updated 27 March 2023

Prince Harry makes surprise showing at UK privacy case

Prince Harry makes surprise showing at UK privacy case
  • Others taking part in the legal action include Elton John, Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost

LONDON: Britain’s Prince Harry on Monday made an unexpected appearance at London’s high court for a hearing in a privacy claim launched by celebrities and other figures against a newspaper publisher.
The publisher of the Daily Mail, Associated Newspapers (ANL), is trying to end the high court claims brought by high-profile figures including Harry and singer Elton John over alleged unlawful activity at its titles.
Harry, who now lives in California after quitting royal duties in 2019 and launching a barrage of criticism of the British royal family, was pictured arriving at the court in central London.
Others taking part in the legal action include actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost as well as John’s husband David Furnish, Doreen Lawrence — the mother of murder victim Stephen Lawrence — and former Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes.
Lawyers for the group told the court the publisher of the Daily Mail commissioned the breaking and entry into private property, illegally intercepted voicemail messages and obtained medical records.
“The claimants each claim that in different ways they were the victim of numerous unlawful acts carried out by the defendant, or by those acting on the instructions of its newspapers, The Daily Mail and The Mail On Sunday,” lawyer David Sherborne said in written submissions to the court.
The alleged unlawful included “illegally intercepting voicemail messages, listening into live landline calls, obtaining private information, such as itemised phone bills or medical records, by deception..., using private investigators to commit these unlawful information gathering acts on their behalf and even commissioning the breaking and entry into private property,” Sherborne said.
The alleged wrongdoing dates from 1993-2011, but some went on as late as 2018, he added.
Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, sat near the back of the court, two seats away from fellow complainant Frost.
ANL has described the allegations as “preposterous smears” and a “pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal.”
Britain’s phone hacking scandal, which first blew up in 2006, saw journalists at the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World hack into the voicemails of royals, celebrities and murder victims.
It triggered the closure of the mass-selling Sunday tabloid, a mammoth police investigation, a judge-led inquiry and criminal charges that gripped Britain for years.

A spokesperson for ANL also said the allegations were “unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence.”
A four four-day preliminary hearing is being held at the high court with ANL arguing that the allegations are “stale” and should be dismissed without a trial.
Harry, the younger son of Britain’s King Charles III, has long had a difficult relationship with the media.
His mother Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 after she and her companion, Dodi Fayed, left the Ritz Hotel pursued by paparazzi photographers.
In 2019 while on a tour of South Africa with his wife Meghan, Harry linked media intrusion to Diana’s death and spoke of his fears of history repeating itself.
“I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum,” he told television journalist Tom Bradby, accusing sections of the media of waging a “ruthless campaign” against Meghan.
“Everything that she (Diana) went through, and what happened to her, is incredibly important every single day, and that is not me being paranoid, that is just me not wanting a repeat of the past,” he said.
Both Harry and Meghan have been involved in other recent legal action targeting British newspapers.
The couple, whose popularity ratings have plummeted, have dominated headlines in the past few years due to a string of interviews, a Netflix series and Harry’s autobiography “Spare” in which they complained bitterly about their treatment as working members of the royal family.
Buckingham Palace has not responded to the claims, while the late Queen Elizabeth II famously commented that “recollections may vary.”

It’s no joke: club helps Jordanians win comedy gold

It’s no joke: club helps Jordanians win comedy gold
Updated 27 March 2023

It’s no joke: club helps Jordanians win comedy gold

It’s no joke: club helps Jordanians win comedy gold
  • Since its 2019 inception, Amman Comedy Club has trained people in stand-up comedy, sketch shows, satirical writing

AMMAN: When life gave them lemons, two Jordanians launched a club to train people in the art of comedy in a country where years of economic woes have left little to laugh about.

Since being founded in 2019, the Amman Comedy Club has been training aspiring comics, offering free, three- to four-month workshops in stand-up, improv, comedy sketches and satire writing.

Aided by foreign institutions such as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and with the help of Chicago-based comedy club The Second City, the club has already trained more than 140 people.

The new comedians hoping to put a smile on Jordanian faces range in age between 18 to 40 and include students, doctors and lawyers among others, keen to learn the art of comic timing and delivery.

“Comedy is a message, and our message is to make people laugh,” said Moeen Masoud, one of the club’s co-founders. “If you come to this place and spend two hours laughing and forget about your problems and worries, this means I have fulfilled my message.”

It is part of the founders’ broader social mission. “In our daily lives, we face a lot of economic, social and psychological pressures, and the best way to relieve these worries is to laugh,” the other co-founder Yazan Abu Al-Rous added.

Jordan’s deep economic difficulties were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to official figures, unemployment rose in 2021 to about 25 percent — and up to 50 percent among young people.

With public debt exceeding $47 billion, or more than 106 percent of the gross domestic product, the poverty rate also increased to an unprecedented 24 percent that year.

Shining a light on social issues through comedy could also help the country as societies need criticism “in order to grow and be able to fix their defects,” added Abu Al-Rous.

Masoud lamented that “comedy did not get the attention it deserves in Jordan.” “We have great ambitions, beyond Jordan. We aspire to have a tour in the Arab world and the wider world for Jordanian comedians and hope to train many people around the world.”

The duo has also spearheaded efforts to dispel one lingering notion about their compatriots.

“There is a stereotype that Jordanians do not laugh,” said Abu Al-Rous, who has a master’s degree in business administration.

“We at ACC wanted to challenge this idea and prove the opposite to the world, that we love laughter and jokes.”

So far, the club graduates have performed shows across Jordan and are also training students at private schools in stand-up comedy.

The club also runs psychological support courses for children in areas that host Syrian refugees.

Among the club’s graduates are now well-known comedians, who have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and perform weekly shows in Amman.

Graduate Abdullah Sobeih, 25, said his training taught him “how to choose topics that affect people’s lives, how a comic story is built.”

With over 340,000 followers on Instagram, the business graduate hopes his new career can help fellow Jordanians “make them forget their worries.”

“We know that people suffer from problems and pressures ... we are trying to bring them to this place in order to offer some relief,” Sobeih said.

He is among four of the club’s better-known alumni, alongside Kamal Sailos, Abdulrahman Mamdouh, and Yusef Bataineh, who are slowly establishing themselves as household names in Jordan.

In the 350-seat Al-Shams Theatre, the trio perform separate stand-ups to an audience of mostly young men and women.

“Our country is the only country in the world that when you google its name the results would show Michael Jordan,” said Yusef Bataineh to roars of laughter at the comparison of the Hashemite kingdom with the legendary US basketball player