Bottoms Up, Kids

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American children may someday have a beer to call their own.

The maker of KidsBeer (search), a Japanese soft drink that looks like beer and tastes like Coke, plans to market the beverage in Europe, Britain's Sunday Telegraph reports.

"Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink," reads KidsBeer's Japanese slogan, according to the Telegraph.

One Japanese ad shows a boy first crying about a math test, then weeping in delight after a drink of KidsBeer. Another shows a father and daughter clinking mugs, one with KidsBeer, one with the real stuff.

Brewer Tomumasu (search) says 75,000 bottles of the brown-colored, frothy drink are sold per month in Japan.

"Children always copy adults," exulted Tomumasu head Satoshi Tomoda. "If you have this drink at events attended by kids, it would make the occasions even more entertaining."

Naturally, British officials were not cheered by the prospect of lager for little ones arriving on their shores.

"This product would be an alarming development for a nation which is already succumbing to a binge-drinking culture," said Tim Loughton, the Conservative Party "shadow minister" for children in Britain. "It will only train children to experiment with real alcohol even earlier. Are we to expect cheeseburger flavor baby purée next?"

Tomumasu has not said anything about bringing KidsBeer to North America, but that hasn't stopped public-health watchdogs from denouncing the foamy-headed menace.

"The last thing we need is another product that introduces kids to drinking when the alcohol industry already spends billions doing that," Amon Rappaport, a spokesman for the Marin Institute (search), an anti-teen drinking organization based in California, told the Times.

Politician Set to Run Naked Through Streets

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A Green Party lawmaker who pledged to run naked through the streets if a rival party leader was re-elected said he will honor his word.

Legislator Keith Locke (search), the Green Party's foreign affairs spokesman, said Monday he didn't want to break an election promise.

He had said he would do the nude dash if Act Party (search) leader Rodney Hide won a parliamentary seat in the Auckland suburb of Epsom.

Regarded as an outside chance, Hide romped home in the contest Saturday with a 3,200-vote majority.

"We haven't set a date, we've got preparations to do in terms of choreography," Locke said. "It will be artistic and it will involve body paint."

A local business group, the Newmarket Business Association, is helping pave the way for the lawmaker's run down Broadway, which is "a straight and wide strip — ideal for such exposure," said Cameron Brewer, the group's general manager.

"When Mr. Locke is ready, the ... association will warn the faint-hearted, clear the footpath on Broadway ... ensure there are the necessary officials, and provide a much-needed loincloth," Brewer said.

Chilly Willies Give Up On Nude Loch Ness Swim

INVERNESS, Scotland (AP) — One lap of Loch Ness was barely tolerable, but two more proved too much Saturday for a group of nude swimmers who surrendered to bad weather.

The four men and two women, taking turns of an hour each, began their charity stunt Friday night and completed their first 23-mile lap Saturday morning. And that was all, as temperatures sank and winds rose.

"We swam all through the night and successfully completed one length in 14 hours and four minutes but the conditions were so bad we couldn't go on," said Kevin Mitchell, 56, the first swimmer to set off Friday.

"The waves were so big and the wind was so strong that we couldn't keep the [escort] boat with the swimmer and that made it unsafe to continue."

British Naturism (search) had organized the sponsored relay to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Three Million Quarters Spilled on Freeway

HAMMONDVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A truck carrying tons of quarters caught fire last Tuesday and spilled most of them on a highway, where workers used heavy equipment, shovels and buckets to scoop up the singed coins.

The driver said the truck carried 39,000 pounds of new Kansas quarters, part of the U.S. Mint's state coin series, which were worth some $800,000, said Police Chief Michael Putnam.

The rear of the armored truck bound for Birmingham from the Philadelphia mint caught fire in the pre-dawn hours on Interstate 59 in northeast Alabama, Putnam said.

"It's kind of a surprise when you pull up on a fire call at 2:30 in the morning on the interstate and there are armed guards around the fire," he said.

Jim Starr Jr., a truck rider armed with a handgun for protection, said a grease fire ignited a rear tire, sparking a larger fire that destroyed the trailer. Putnam said the coins were on metal pallets in bags that burned, spilling the quarters on the road.

Police called in a front-end loader to scoop up the coins and deposit them in buckets. The road was partly closed for 12 hours, Putnam said.

Another truck from Colorado-based American Armored Transport Inc. was headed to the wreck site to collect the quarters.

Live Free, and Drive Free Too

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Oops! When the state introduced E-ZPass (search) at toll booths, it made driving through an E-ZPass lane without paying punishable by a $25 fine.

But in making the change, it inadvertently repealed the law that made it illegal to drive through other lanes without paying, officials now realize.

"We totally decriminalized the whole thing," said Earl Sweeney, deputy state safety commissioner.

State officials will ask legislators to fix the problem when they return to Concord for the 2006 session. In the meantime, Sweeney says all toll evaders are still subject to administrative fines of $25 for driving through without paying.

The error occurred last year, when the Legislature passed the law authorizing E-ZPass. Officials say it wasn't discovered until E-ZPass went into operation this summer.

Toll evasion had been a violation, comparable to a traffic ticket, but punishable by a $140 fine.

Foreign Names Banned in China

SHANGHAI, China (AP) — Farewell, "Aladdin Gardens." "White House Mini District" — you're history.

The southwestern Chinese city of Kunming (search) is forcing developers to change the names of those properties and others deemed too foreign sounding, saying they debase traditional culture, officials said last Tuesday.

At least nine developments in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, have changed their names since officials began implementing new guidelines last month. "Paris of the East Plaza," "French Gardens," and "Ginza Office Tower," were among others making the change.

"It's not proper to name those communities with so many weird foreign titles," said an official with the Kunming Urban Planning Bureau, who like many Chinese bureaucrats would only be identified by his surname, Xiao.

"We feel obligated to keep our local characteristics," he said.

Foreign sounding names are popular in China, lending a hint of exoticism to cookie-cutter housing developments and office buildings springing up in urban centers.

Many are targeted at China's rising middle class, who are better educated and increasingly drawn to foreign travel, culture and ideas.

A spokeswoman for Kunming Zhujia Real Estate Co., developer of the "White House Mini District," said the company was following the new rules.

"The old name seemed to suit the project, but I don't think there'll be any effect on sales," said the woman, who wouldn't give her name.

She said the development's name had been changed to "Zhujia Shangyu" — roughly translated as "Good Living Business Estates."

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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