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Staggering Picasso trove turns up in France

PARIS – Pablo Picasso almost never stopped creating, leaving thousands of drawings, paintings and sculptures that lure crowds to museums and mansions worldwide. Now, a retired electrician says that 271 of the master's creations have been sitting for decades in his garage.
Picasso's heirs are claiming theft, the art world is savoring what appears to be an authentic find, and the workman, who installed burglar alarms for Picasso, is defending what he calls a gift from the most renowned artist of the 20th century.
Picasso's son and other heirs say they were approached by electrician Pierre Le Guennec in September to authenticate the undocumented art from Picasso's signature Cubist period.
Instead, they filed a suit for illegal possession of the works — all but alleging theft by a man not known to be among the artist's friends. Police raided the electrician's French Riviera home last month, questioned him and his wife and confiscated the disputed artworks.
Le Guennec and his wife say Picasso's second wife gave them a trunk full of art that they kept virtually untouched until they decided to put their affairs in order for their children. The Picasso estate describes that account as ridiculous.
"When Picasso made just a little drawing on a metro ticket, he would keep it," said Jean-Jacques Neuer, a lawyer for Picasso's estate. "To think he could have given 271 works of art to somebody who isn't even known among his friends is of course absurd."
The pieces, which include lithographs, portraits, a watercolor and sketches, were created between 1900 and 1932, an intensely creative period for Picasso after he moved from Barcelona to Paris.
Among them are a richly colored hand study; a sketch of his first wife, Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, resting an elbow in a seated pose; and a collage of a pipe and bottle.
The collage and eight others in the stash are worth 40 million euros on their own, Picasso's estate says. All of the art is now held by the French agency charged with battling illegal traffic in cultural items.
Le Guennec, 71, claims to have worked at three of Picasso's properties in southern France: a Cannes villa, a chateau in Vauvenarges, and a farmhouse in Mougins, the town where Picasso died in 1973. The French daily Liberation, which broke the story Monday, said Le Guennec had installed a security alarm system for Picasso at the farhouse.
"It's a big surprise both in terms of the numbers and the quality... (of works) appearing from one day to the next," said Anne Baldassari, president of the Picasso Museum in Paris. "We are moved, surprised, intrigued — firstly moved, to have found an uninventoried stash of Picasso works."
Guennec's wife Danielle told The Associated Press by phone from their home in the town of Mouans-Sartoux, just north of Antibes, that the couple decided to come forward with the works this year because they were getting on in years, and "didn't want to leave any headaches to our children" with their own estate. Her husband had undergone a cancer treatment operation in March, she said.
The couple didn't intend to sell the art, she said.
"This was a gift," she said. "We aren't thieves. We didn't do anything wrong."
The work didn't appear to be much to her untrained eye, she said: "But even if this was a little jot of the pencil, it did come from the master."
Pierre Le Guennec, wearing a plaid shirt in an interview with France-2 TV outside his modest home, said he was given the trunk by Picasso's second wife and most-painted muse, Jacqueline Roque.
"Madame gave them to me. And if she gave them to me, he had to be aware of it," said Le Guennec. Roque died in 1986.
"It was a small pack like this," he said, gesturing with his hands as if he was holding a basketball. "It was little drawings, little odds and ends, little pieces of paper. It could have gone in the trash."
He elaborated on TF1 TV: "The master must have been hopping mad. Something didn't suit him, maybe he was angry at someone, and said: 'Here, give that to the electrician.'"
Picasso's son Claude, quoted in Liberation, noted that his father was known for his generosity, but that he always dedicated, dated and signed his gifts, as he knew that some recipients might try to sell the works one day.
The estate administrators, who pored over the works for about three hours in September, considered that the works might be fakes. But they ruled that out because of the expertise, variety of techniques and the use of certain numbers in the works that no faker was likely to have known, Neuer said.
"My husband was well-regarded by the master," Danielle Le Guennec said, but noted that the couple was having "a little difficulty" with his son.
"He's stabbed us in the back, taken us to court and accused us of theft. He'll have to prove it," she said. "We're still happy to have our works... we'll see what happens next."
The total number of Picasso works around the world remains unknown, said Baldassari. About 70,000 works have been inventoried among his heirs, but that doesn't include works he sold off or that are in museums, for example.
Picasso works are among the most coveted among thieves. In May, a Picasso lithograph was stolen from a collector's home in southeastern Marseille; days earlier, one of his paintings was taken from a Paris museum — one of the works swiped in a massive $123 million art heist.
That same month, "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," a 1932 Picasso painting of his mistress, set a world record for any work of art at auction, selling for $106.5 million at Christie's New York.
The Art Loss Register, which tracks stolen, looted or missing art, now lists 702 stolen Picasso pieces, including paintings, lithographs, drawings and ceramics. He is the most-listed artist in its database of 214,000 art pieces.
By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press



Box Jellyfish !

The top prize for “The World Most Venomous Animal,” would go to the Box Jellyfish. It has caused at least 5,567 recorded deaths since 1954.
Their venom is among the most deadly in the world. It’s toxins attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells.
And the worst part of it is that jelly box venom is so overpoweringly painful, that human victims go in shock, drown or die of heart failure before even reaching shore. Survivors experience pain weeks after the contact with box jellies.
You have virtually no chance to survive the venomous sting, unless treated immediately.
After a sting, vinegar should be applied for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Vinegar has acetic acid, which disables the box jelly’s nematocysts that have not yet discharged into the bloodstream (though it will not alleviate the pain).
Wearing panty hose while swimming is also a good prevention measure since it can prevent jellies from being able to harm your legs.
Jelly box can be found in the waters around Asia and Australia.

Inland Taipan !

The prize for “The World’s Most Venomous Snake” goes to the Inland Taipan of Australia.
Just a single bite from this snake contains enough venom to kill 100 human adults or an army of 250,000 mice.
Its venom is at least 200 – 400 times more toxic than a common cobra.
The Inland Taiwan’s extremely neurotoxic venom can kill an adult human in as little as 45 minutes.
Fortunately this snake is very shy and there have been no documented human fatalities (all known bites were treated with antivenin).

Puffer Fish !

Puffer Fish are the second most poisonous vertebrate on earth (the first one is golden dart Frog).
The meat of some species is a delicacy in both Japan (as fugu) and Korea (as bok-uh) but the problem is that the skin and certain organs of many puffer fish are very poisonous to humans.
This puffy fish produce rapid and violent death..Puffer’s poisoning causes deadening of the tongue and lips, dizziness, vomiting, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, and muscle paralysis.
Victims die from suffocation as diaphragm muscles are paralyzed. Most of the victims die after four to 24 hours.
There is no known antidote, Most deaths from fugu happen when untrained people catch and prepare the fish.
Statistics show that there were 20 to 44 incidents of fugu poisoning per year between 1996 and 2006 in all of Japan and up to six incidents per year led to death. Since Fugu’s poison can cause near instantaneous death, only licensed chefs are allowed to prepare it.

Poison Dart Frog

If you ever happen to be running through the rain forests somewhere in Central or South America, do not ever pick up beautiful and colorful frogs – it can be the Poison Dart Frog.
This frog is probably the most poisonous animal on earth.The 2 inch long (5cm) golden poison dart frog has enough venom to kill 10 adult humans or 20,000 mice. Only 2 micrograms of this lethal toxin (the amount that fits on the head of a pin) is capable of killing a human or other large mammal.
They are called “dart frogs” because indigenous Amerindians’ use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of their blow-darts.
Poison dart frogs keep their poison in their skins and will sicken or kill anybody who touches or eats it.

Marbled Cone Snail

This little beautiful looking Marbled Cone snail can be as deadly as any other animal on this list. One drop of its venom is so powerful that it can kill more than 20 humans. If you ever happen to be in warm salt water environment (where these snails are often found) and see it, don’t even think of picking it up. Of course, the true purpose of its venom is to catch its prey.
Symptoms of a cone snail sting can start immediately or can be delayed in onset for days. It results in intense pain, swelling, numbness and tingling. Severe cases involve muscle paralysis, vision changes and breathing failure. There is no antivenom. However, only about 30 human deaths have been recorded from cone snail envenomation.


More than 600,000 people killed by 2nd-hand smoke

LONDON – Secondhand smoke kills more than 600,000 people worldwide every year, according to a new study.
In the first look at the global impact of secondhand smoking, researchers analyzed data from 2004 for 192 countries. They found 40 percent of children and more than 30 percent of non-smoking men and women regularly breathe in secondhand smoke.
Scientists then estimated that passive smoking causes about 379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 deaths from lower respiratory disease, 36,900 deaths from asthma and 21,400 deaths from lung cancer a year.
Altogether, those account for about 1 percent of the world's deaths. The study was paid for by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and Bloomberg Philanthropies. It was published Friday in the British medical journal Lancet.
"This helps us understand the real toll of tobacco," said Armando Peruga, a program manager at the World Health Organization's Tobacco-Free Initiative, who led the study. He said the approximately 603,000 deaths from secondhand smoking should be added to the 5.1 million deaths that smoking itself causes every year.
Peruga said WHO was particularly concerned about the 165,000 children who die of smoke-related respiratory infections, mostly in Southeast Asia and Africa.
"The mix of infectious diseases and secondhand smoke is a deadly combination," Peruga said. Children whose parents smoke have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma. Their lungs may also grow more slowly than kids whose parents don't smoke.
Peruga and colleagues found the highest numbers of people exposed to secondhand smoke are in Europe and Asia. The lowest rates of exposure were in the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa.
secondhand smoke had its biggest impact on women, killing about 281,000. In many parts of the world, women are at least 50 percent more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than men.
While many Western countries have introduced smoking bans in public places, experts said it would be difficult to legislate further.
"I don't think it is likely we will see strong regulations reaching into homes," said Heather Wipfli of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who was not connected to the study. She said more public smoking bans and education might persuade people to quit smoking at home.
In the U.K., the British Lung Foundation is petitioning the government to outlaw smoking in cars.
Helena Shovelton, the foundation's chief executive, said smoking parents frequently underestimate the danger their habit is doing to their children.
"It's almost as if people are in denial," she said. "They absolutely would not do something dangerous like leaving their child in the middle of the road but somehow, smoking in front of them is fine."
By MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer