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Baby tiger found stuffed in bag at Thai airport (AP)

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By THANYARAT DOKSONE, Associated Press Writer Thanyarat Doksone, Associated Press Writer – 29 mins ago

BANGKOK – Authorities at Bangkok’s international airport found a baby tiger cub that had been drugged and hidden alongside a stuffed toy tiger in the suitcase of a woman flying from Thailand to Iran, an official and a wildlife protection group said Friday.

The woman, a Thai national, had checked in for her flight and her overweight bag was sent for an X-ray which showed what appeared to be a live animal inside, according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring group.

The woman was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport before boarding her Sunday flight. The cub, estimated to be about 3 months old, was sent to a wildlife conservation center in Bangkok.

“The cub arrived at our unit Monday,” said Chaiyaporn Chareesaeng, head of the Wildlife Health Unit at the Department of National Parks’ Wildlife and Plant Conservation Center, where the animal was put under close supervision.

“He appeared exhausted, dehydrated and couldn’t walk, so we had to give him oxygen, water and lactation,” said Chaiyaporn. “We have monitored him closely. As of today, he looks better and can walk a little now.”

A DNA test was expected to provide details about its origin, said Chaiyaporn.

“I was a bit shocked because an animal isn’t supposed to be treated like this,” said Nirath Nipanant, chief of the airport’s wildlife checkpoint. “Had the animal passed the oversize baggage check and gone through four to five hours of travel, its chances of survival would have been slim.”

The woman, identified as Piyawan Palasarn, 31, faces up to four years in prison and a 40,000 baht ($1,300) fine for two wildlife smuggling-related charges, police said.

She denied the luggage with the cub belonged to her and said another passenger had asked her to carry it for them, said Adisorn Noochdumrong of the Thai Wildlife Protection Department.

The cub could have fetched about 100,000 baht ($3,200) on the black market in Iran, where it is popular to have exotic pets, Adisorn said. He said he did not know what the woman allegedly intended to do with this particular cub.

He said his office wants the law amended so the maximum prison term is increased to 10 years.

Wildlife experts say the number of tigers in Asia have plummeted over the years due mainly to habitat loss and poachers who sell their skins and body parts to booming medicinal and souvenir markets, mostly in China.

Conservationists say the government needs to do more to eliminate trafficking networks that operate out of the country.

“We applaud all agencies that came together to uncover this brazen smuggling attempt,” Chris R. Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s deputy regional director for Southeast Asia, said in a statement.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects that cub was alongside one toy, not among many, and that bag was overweight. Adds quotes. AP Video.)

Egypt culture chief sleepless over Van Gogh theft (Reuters)

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s culture minister blamed “incompetent” security staff for the theft of a $55 million Van Gogh painting from a Cairo museum and said worries for the safety of the country’s art treasures are depriving him of sleep.

“I feel like I am working alone and that I alone spend time thinking of how to manage cultural affairs,” the minister Farouk Hosni told daily paper al-Masry al-Youm Tuesday.

“I can’t work with these incompetent employees,” he said. “I’m tired and I can’t sleep, because I wake up in the middle of the night fearing for the artifacts and the museums.”

The painting, known as “Poppy Flower” according to a statement in Arabic, was stolen Saturday morning from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum, home to one of the Middle East’s finest collections of 19th- and 20th-century art.

The museum houses works assembled by Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil, a politician who died in 1953, including paintings by Gauguin, Monet, Manet and Renoir, as well as the Dutch post-Impressionist master Van Gogh.

An early investigation of the theft showed “flagrant shortcomings” in security, with only seven out of 43 security cameras working properly [ID:nLDE67M1IG], state media said.

Hosni, an abstract painter who has held the culture brief since 1987, said staff at the museum were guilty of negligence.

“The painting would have been stolen even if there were a thousand surveillance cameras, because of the negligence of the museum staff,” Hosni was cited as saying by Al-Akhbar newspaper.

The culture ministry’s head of fine art, Mohsen Shaalan, has been detained along with four other officials pending investigation for 19 days after being accused of “negligence and failing to carry out their employment duties.”

Nine other employees were barred from travel.

Hosni said the ministry would create a central control room to monitor all museums, supervised by his cabinet, and set up a committee to review surveillance of museums across the country.

“We are currently setting up an additional 18 museums and they will all be supplied with state of the art security sensors against theft and fires,” Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Dina Zayed; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Police: Sneezing fit caused NY woman to crash car (AP)

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NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. – Police in New York say a woman had a sneezing fit that caused her to drive off a road, crash into several trees and plow through a fence.

Authorities say 62-year-old Mary Jane Amelio (uh-MEEL’-ee-oh), of Clinton, was driving Thursday morning in New Hartford, near Utica, when she began to sneeze.

New Hartford police say her car left the road, hit several small trees and crashed through a fence before coming to a stop.

Amelio was taken to a hospital, where she was listed in fair condition after suffering injuries to her head, neck, back and leg.

Police say she was ticketed for failure to keep right.

Snake in electrical box causes NY hospital outage (AP)

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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – A snake slithered into a switch box outside a New York hospital, where it met its maker and caused a 10-hour power outage.

Officials at Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie say backup generators kicked on Tuesday afternoon when a common-variety snake got into the switch box and disrupted the hospital’s main power supply. Workers found the dead snake inside the box.

Hospital officials say there were no patient care disruptions caused by the outage, which lasted from 3 p.m. Tuesday to 1 a.m. Wednesday. Some emergency room cases had to be diverted to other hospitals.

While squirrels and other small animals have been known to get into electrical equipment and cause outages, a utility spokesman says it’s the first time he’s heard of a snake doing it.

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Information from: Poughkeepsie Journal, View the original article here

Venezuelan politician raffles breast implants (Reuters)

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CARACAS (Reuters) – A Venezuelan politician is offering breast implants as a prize in a raffle to raise funds for his election campaign, a newspaper said Friday.

“There are critics but also some people think it’s a nice idea,” Gustavo Rojas, an opposition candidate for a National Assembly position, told El Universal newspaper.

Cosmetic surgery, especially breast enlargement, is widespread in image-conscious Venezuela, whose beauty queens have won numerous international pageant titles.

Even a recession has not diminished Venezuelans’ appetite for cosmetic surgery with many people taking out loans for the surgery.

Rojas, of the opposition First Justice party, said he was not too worried about the medical details of his offer.

“The raffle is a financing mechanism, nothing else,” he told El Universal. “It’s the doctor who will do the operation, not me.”

Venezuelans vote on September 26 for a new parliament.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Bill Trott)