The landmark clock tower containing Big Ben at Britain's Palace of Westminster, is tilting, while media reports Monday said the mother of all parliaments was slipping into the River Thames, raising fears over its future.
The House of Commons commission, which is responsible for the upkeep of the 19th century neo-Gothic parliamentary estate popular with tourist photographs, was due to meet Monday. Media reports said it would discuss a surveyor's report which could recommend lawmakers move out for repairs costing up to one billion pounds, while the Daily Telegraph said another proposal might be to sell to Russian or Chinese developers for about 500 million pounds ($779.7 million).
But a commission spokesman said there was no surveyor's report, and members were only meeting to discuss setting up a group to look at general long-term renovation of the grade 1-listed building designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin.
"I think there's been twos and twos added together and come up with we are selling to the Russians, but they won't be talking about anything like that," the spokesman said.
The 96-metre tall clock tower, which houses the bell originally nicknamed Big Ben, leans about 46 cm to the left of its peak. A construction expert who worked on the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy and a multi-storey carpark under the houses of parliament in central London, said there was nothing to worry about, and it would take 10,000 years to reach an angle of concern.
Professor John Burland of Imperial College London also said work on the underground Jubilee train line in the 1990s had not caused dramatic movement, while a spokesman for the commission said the tilt could have existed since its construction in 1859.
The lean which is just visible to the naked eye had "been there for years," Burland said. "When I first started work on the car park it was obvious that it was leaning," he told BBC radio. "It was probably developed at a very early stage because there's no cracking in the cladding and we think it probably leant while they were building it and before they put the cladding on. "That was a long time ago and buildings do lean a little bit."
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LONDON (Reuters) - One in five British women believe that the debilitating "man-flu" disease which temporarily leaves sufferers prostrate on the sofa watching televised sports is real, according to a new study.
The survey, which questioned 2,000 British adults about health and wellbeing, showed that misconceptions and old wives' tales, including the myth that eating carrots improves night vision, prevail among the population when it comes to beliefs about common illnesses.
"Unbelievably, there are still a lot of misconceptions around how minor illnesses and conditions are caused or prevented," study leader Mike Smith, said in a statement.
The top 10 health myths ranged from the theory that eating carrots will aid night vision to the belief that too much stress will turn your hair grey, both subscribed to by one in 10 of the population.
More than a third of people said that sugar makes children hyper, and 37 percent said they believed we lose most of our body heat through our heads -- the most popular misconception of the survey.
While the face, head and chest are more sensitive to temperature change than the rest of the body, covering one part of the body has as much effect as covering any other, researchers said.
"The Contagion study suggests that a large majority of the population are still under the illusion that they can, for example, get square eyes from watching too much television, or get better night vision from eating more carrots," Smith said.
"These are just not true, but do go to show that no matter how many millions are spent on health and education, some medical myths still prevail," he said.
When illness strikes, almost half of people agreed that men exaggerate their symptoms to get attention, with 38 percent also believing that men take longer to recover from illness than women.
Over half of respondents admitted to self-diagnosis, using the internet to research their symptoms.
"Old wives' tales are just that -- tales that should not be listened to or abided by. If the public are in any real doubt as to how to treat a condition, they should always refer to their GP (family doctor) or professional medical adviser," Smith said.
The study was specially commissioned to mark the release of Hollywood thriller "Contagion" starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law.
A new fad for 'Scarlett Johanssoning' - posing partially naked in front of a mirror - is the latest craze on Facebook.
It comes after images purportedly showing the actress holding a towel with her bottom reflected in a mirror appeared online.
Since then, dozens of imitators have posted their own snaps recreating the pose on the social networking website.
They are collected on a special page - called 'scarlett johanssoning' - on Facebook.
As well as predictably glamourous snaps of semi-naked women, they include some tongue-in-cheek attempts to recreate the photo.
A Barbie doll, Ernie from Sesame Street, Paddington bear, Donald Duck, a pug dog and even a painting of President Obama are pictured in similar poses.
Reports surfaced earlier this year that hackers had stolen nude photos from up to 50 celebrities, including Miss Johansson, after breaking into their email accounts.
The FBI is currently investigating the hacking attack and is said to be closing in on those responsible.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the U.S. government grapples to find ways to trim the bloated federal deficit, a new report suggests officials might start with cutting out $16 muffins and $10 cookies.
"We found the Department (of Justice) spent $16 on each of the 250 muffins served at an August 2009 legal conference in Washington," said a DOJ Office of Inspector General report released on Tuesday.
The DOJ spent $121 million on conferences in fiscal 2008 and 2009, which exceeded its own spending limits and appeared to be extravagant and wasteful, according to the report that examined 10 conferences held during that period.
The review turned up the expensive muffins, which came from the Capital Hilton Hotel just blocks from the White House, as well as cookies and brownies that cost almost $10 each.
The department spent $32 per person on snacks of Cracker Jack, popcorn, and candy bars and coffee that cost $8.24 per cup at another conference, the report said.
The DOJ also spent nearly $600,000 for event planning services for five conferences, the document said.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said most of the gathering were held when there were no strict limits on food and beverage costs, adding the DOJ had taken steps since 2009 "to ensure that these problems do not occur again."
Word of the agency's extravagant spending drew a swift response from Capitol Hill.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee which has oversight of the Justice Department, said the report was a blueprint for the first cuts that should be made by the "super committee" searching for at least $1.2 trillion in savings.
"Sixteen dollar muffins and $600,000 for event planning services are what make Americans cynical about government and why they are demanding change," Grassley said in a statement. "People are outraged, and rightly so."
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A 27-inch tall (69 cm) college student whose hobbies include dancing and cheerleading is the world's shortest woman, Guinness World Records said on Tuesday.
Bridgette Jordan, 22, and her younger brother Brad, who measures 38 inches (98 cm) tall, were also named the "shortest living siblings" by the record-keeper.
Brad Jordan, 20, enjoys karate, gymnastics, basketball and performing magic tricks.
The siblings, who attend Kaskasia College in central Illinois, were both born with Majewski osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism type II.
"I believe that everyone should be confident in themselves," Bridgette said in a statement.
Previously, the shortest living woman was Elif Kocaman of Kadirli, Turkey, who is 28.5 inches (72 cm) tall. The record for shortest woman who ever lived was Pauline Musters, of the Netherlands, who measured 24 inches (61 cm) when she died from pneumonia at age 19 in 1895.
Jordan's record may not stand for long as 2-foot-tall (70 cm) Jyoti Amge in India turns 18 in December when she would qualify as the world's shortest woman, a Guinness spokesman said.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Royal wedding" and "winning" (as in Charlie Sheen's catch-phrase) were the two most used phrases on television in 2011, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
The rantings of the former "Two and A Half Men" actor beat "Arab Spring" and Simon Cowell's "The X Factor" singing show when it came to dominating TV screens in the official 2010-11 U.S. TV season, the Global Language Monitor said.
"This is apparently shaping up to be the Year of Kate (Middleton). She has come to dominate the small screen through her engagement, her fashion choices and most of all her royal wedding," said Paul JJ Payack, president of Global Language Monitor.
Middleton's April wedding to Britain's Prince William was watched by millions of people around the world and generated massive media attention.
But Sheen wasn't far behind. The comedy star embarked on a series of bizarre interviews, videos and even a nationwide tour after being fired in March from what was the highest-paid acting job on U.S. television.
"Winning" was one of his favorite phrases, followed closely by "tiger blood" and bragging about his various "goddesses," or live-in girlfriends.
A more subdued Sheen admitted last week he was out of control and making jokes that he never believed in. In an appearance at the Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, an apparently sincere Sheen wished his revamped TV show well.
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CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia's national broadcaster faced calls for a review of funding on Tuesday over a television comedy scene with a fictional Prime Minister Julia Gillard draped in a national flag after having sex on her office floor.
Conservative opposition lawmakers said the Australian Broadcasting Corporation had overstepped good taste with a scene in which actors playing Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson cuddled naked and used the flag -- with its historic ties to Britain and Australia's Queen Elizabeth -- as a sheet.
"Having sex in the prime minister's office under the Australian flag is the last straw for me. It is sick. I'm offended and we should take a stand," one lawmaker who could not be named told a closed door meeting of MPs, a conservative spokesman told a press briefing.
Another MP called for a rethink of taxpayer funding for the ABC, saying the programme degraded the office of prime minister, currently held by centre-left Labor rival Gillard, while monarchists said the use of the flag was disrespectful.
"I think a bit more discretion when using the flag is appropriate, even when you are trying to make a joke," Australians for Constitutional Monarch head David Flint told Australian media.
Commenters on newspaper websites were also upset with the show "At Home With Julia," which is based around the fictional home life of the country's first female leader.
"Rude, negative, abusive, disrespectful and now grubby," a viewer named Andrea Moore wrote in The Australian national newspaper's website.
Gillard herself has laughed off controversy over the satire, but a government protocol officer said the national flag, with its stars and Britain's Union Jack in one corner, should not have been shown lying on the ground.
An ABC spokesman for the programme said Gillard had only been shown in a "very gentle, tender scene."
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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - There's nothing illegal about a foot fetish but police in Conway, Arkansas, are looking for a toe-sucking man they said has crossed the line into assault.
Police have received two complaints in the past week about a man who seems desperate to suck women's toes -- whether they want him to or not.
"We want him off the streets," said Conway police spokeswoman LaTresha Woodruff.
Last Saturday, Ruth Harris, 83, told police she was sitting in a chair in front of her apartment when a man approached and said he liked her feet. According to a police report, the man took off one of her shoes and began sucking on her toe.
"The man then asked if he could kiss her and she had told him no and told him he was crazy," the report stated.
The man left quickly after people walked into the apartment complex's courtyard.
On Tuesday, police received another call from a woman who said that on Saturday she was shopping when she noticed a man staring at her.
The man then told the woman that he had a foot fetish and that "her toes are so long and succulent" and he wanted to suck them. When the woman's cell phone rang, the man retreated.
She told police the man had "messed up toes."
It is not the first time that Conway has dealt with this sort of complaint. In the 1990s, a man who was known as the "Toe Suck Fairy" kept Arkansans captivated with his foot fondling antics in Conway and Little Rock.
That assailant, Michael Robert Wyatt, pretended to be a podiatrist in order to fondle and suck a Conway woman's toes at a clothing store. He received probation, a fine and court-ordered therapy but his probation was revoked after he was arrested in another town on similar charges.
In 1991, he was convicted of making threats for telling a convenience store clerk that he wanted to cut off her feet and suck her toes while she bled to death.
Wyatt was sentenced to four years in state prison. He served just more than one year in prison, according to Conway police.
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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has banned TV programs showing half-naked men and love triangles, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday, in the latest sign of a conservative crackdown on media in the Islamic state.
It was not clear what prompted the ban -- Iran TV, which has a monopoly in the country, dedicates large parts of its schedule to religious shows and announcements from the government.
But viewers were gripped a few years ago by a locally-produced soap opera called Forbidden Fruit which told the tale of an old man who decided to leave his wife after falling in love with a young girl.
"Based on a new instruction, the broadcasting of programs that show tempting love triangles is banned," Fars said.
Exceptions would be made for shows that explicitly condemned such entanglements, it added.
"Showing half-naked men in Iranian and foreign productions is also banned," the report said, adding that producers were urged not to show "unnecessary mingling" between the sexes.
The statement did not say how the restrictions on partially-clothed men would affect Iran TV's sports coverage.
Since the 1979 revolution brought strict Islamic law to Iran, TV shows and films have had to comply with religious values by avoiding scenes that show intimate relations between men and women or flout Islamic dress codes for women.
The restrictions have pushed many Iranians to turn to illegal satellite channels for uncensored entertainment and international news.
Iran outlawed satellite dishes in the mid-1990s, saying it wanted to curb what it called Western efforts to corrupt its population through the spread of immoral programs.
The ban was largely ignored under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's predecessor Mohammad Khatami who tried to increase social freedoms after he was elected in 1997.
But hard-liners pressed for renewed restrictions after Ahmadinejad took office in 2005 and Iranian police launched a new crackdown on satellite dishes earlier this year.
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In Jinan, Shandong Province, China, the drivers are getting younger and younger, much to the chagrin of the police.
Authorities are unable to act legally against the parents of a four-year old girl whose parents made a video of her driving “adventure,” as she traveled along the highway in front of horrified passing drivers and pedestrians.
For two terrifying minutes, the little girl was at the wheel driving at speed and even overtaking several vehicles while the parents kept reminding her to concentrate.
The child’s father sat behind her sans safety belt and her mother was in the passenger seat.
Our little lady of the road made at least one potentially dangerous error. (Of course, how many does a fatal accident require?)
She lined up for a traffic light in the wrong lane. She did, however, within a few breathless seconds manage to maneuver the vehicle into the correct lane.
The parents had adjusted both the brake and the accelerator pedals so that their tiny daughter could reach them.
Children are not allowed to drive in China but according to the law, tickets cannot be issued to children under 14 years of age.
The most the police could do is educate the parents and hope that they would compensate any injured parties should an accident occur.
On the other hand, maybe letting children drive is an innovative approach to controlling the over-population in China!