Australian man wins Pacific island resort in raffle

SYDNEY (AFP): A lucky Australian man has won his own remote Pacific island resort in a raffle, after shelling out just US$49 for the winning ticket to claim the paradise property. The man, identified as Joshua, won the 16-room Micronesian resort in a draw organised by the Australian owners, who were looking to handover the lodge to someone like-minded. Ahead of the draw, co-owner Doug Beitz said he was hoping the winner would be “someone who likes warm weather, likes meeting new people from around the world, is adventurous”. A video posted on Facebook revealed the winning number, drawn on Tuesday evening by a computer, to be ticket 44,980.

But Doug’s efforts to reach the new owner by phone and inform him of his life-changing win were not immediately successful.

He eventually tracked the lucky winner down and gave him the good news.

“His name is Joshua and he’s from Australia,” Doug said, adding that he lived in New South Wales state.

The man’s full identity was not immediately revealed until news of winning the Kosrae Nautilus Resort on the Micronesian island of Kosrae, which lies west of Hawaii and north of the Solomon Islands, had sunk in.

Joshua will take ownership of a resort, which is debt-free, profitable and has more than 20 years left on its lease.

Doug and Sally Beitz, who built the resort in 1994, have lived in Micronesia for more than two decades but said they felt it was time to return to Australia.

They were going to sell the property in the traditional way until one of their sons came up with the idea of the raffle.

“We will do financially well out of it,” Doug said ahead of the draw, for which tens of thousands of tickets were sold around the world.

If nothing else, it afforded some people an opportunity to dream of life on a tropical paradise.

“Thanks for the awesome dream,” wrote one ticket-buyer on Facebook. Another said: “Congrats Joshua, have a good life there.”



Longest serving US Air Force civilianm to retire after 70 years

WASHINGTON (AFP): The longest serving civilian in US Air Force history, a World War II veteran who fought under General George Patton, will retire in September after 70 years, the military said Tuesday. Anthony Duno, who was drafted into the US Army in 1944 at age 18, participated in the Normandy campaign, the Battle of the Bulge and was assigned to the Nuremberg Trials, the US Air Force said in a profile posted on its website. “I really believe the Battle of the Bulge was the most important, severe point of the war. It was so extraordinary because so many things happened that had never happened before,” Duno said. Duno’s 70 years include both military and civil service. After the war, Duno, a native of the Bronx in New York, became a civilian Air Force employee specialized in reselling US military facilities that were phased out in Europe.

He was honored on Friday at the Pentagon with a ceremony attended by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

“The Air Force was my life. I will deeply miss all the comrades, all the friends I’ve known,” he said in the profile.

Duno, who keeps a chest filled with mementos from his life, including a Christmas card from Patton, will retire in the northeastern state of New Hampshire.



Ice Bucket Challenge credited with ALS breakthrough

WASHINGTON (Reuters): The Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral two years ago, raising hundreds of millions of dollars, has helped identify a new gene behind the neurodegenerative disease ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, researchers say. The challenge involved people pouring ice-cold water over their heads, posting video on social media, and donating funds for research on the condition, whose sufferers include British physicist Stephen Hawking. Celebrities including Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, Ellen DeGeneres, Benedict Cumberbatch and former U.S. President George W. Bush were among millions of people who took part in 2014, attracting more than 400 million views on social media.

The challenge raised $220 million worldwide, according to the Washington-based ALS Association. News of the gene discovery again sent Ice Bucket Challenge viral, proving one of the top trending topics on Twitter on Wednesday.

The money funded the largest ever study of inherited ALS and identified a new gene, NEK1, that ranks among the most common genes that contribute to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the ALS Association said in a statement on Monday.

“Global collaboration among scientists, which was really made possible by ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations, led to this important discovery,” said John Landers of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Landers and Jan Veldink of University Medical Center Utrecht led the study involving researchers in 11 countries.

“It is a prime example of the success that can come from the combined efforts of so many people, all dedicated to finding the causes of ALS,” Landers said in a statement.

The research was published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics this week and scientists hope it will provide another potential target for therapy development.



Australian woman finds napping seal in cemetery toilet

SYDNEY (AFP): A woman using the toilets at a local cemetery in Australia had the fright of her life after finding a large fur seal napping in the cubicle.The discovery of the 120-kilogramme (264-pound) animal was even more surprising as he was half a kilometre (mile) from the nearest water. “We thought it was a practical joke when we were told,” Karina Moore from Devonport Council in northwest Tasmania state told AFP Wednesday. “It’s a big mystery. It’s very unusual to find a seal so far inland. “There’s a small creek about half a kilometre away but he would still have had to cross a busy road and several paddocks to make it to the cemetery.” The council called in Parks and Wildlife officials who sedated the seal, which they named Sammy, before moving him to a local beach and releasing him. Wildlife biologist Rachel Alderman told ABC radio Australian fur seals were common around Tasmania.

“They’re a really abundant species all around Tasmania, particularly in Bass Strait, and we’ve had them turn up in paddocks, people’s backyards, and now we can add a toilet block in a cemetery to the list,” she said.



Dali stolen from Dutch museum found after seven years

THE HAGUE (AFP): Two renowned paintings stolen from a Dutch museum seven years ago, one by Salvador Dali and the other by Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka, have been recovered, a specialist art detective said Wednesday. Dali’s 1941 surrealist work “Adolescence” featuring the Catalan artist and his beloved nanny and Lempicka’s sensual 1929 tableau “La Musicienne” have been tracked down, detective Arthur Brand said via his Twitter account. “We recovered the #Dali and the #DeLempicka, stolen in 2009 from Scheringa museum,” he wrote in a Tweet, posting two pictures of himself with the paintings. The two works of art were snatched from the Scheringa Museum of Realist Art in the northern town of Spanbroek in a daylight armed robbery on May 1, 2009.

Several masked men threatened staff and visitors with a gun and then drove off in a car with the two tableaux, police told AFP at the time.

Brand said the two paintings had then been given to a criminal gang in lieu of payment — a transaction which is common among criminal groups.

But “this organisation did not want to be found guilty of the destruction or resale of art works,” Brand told the Dutch daily De Telegraaf, and had contacted him through a go-between.

Brand said he had handed the paintings over to British police at Scotland Yard who are in contact with the rightful owners, whose identities have not been revealed.