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Jan. 25, 2010 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

Pair first to cross Antarctica unassisted

ATLANTA, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- An American -- who had never cross-country skied before -- and a Norwegian woman together became the first to cross Antarctica unassisted.

Ryan Waters, 36, a native of Cobb County, Ga., now living in Boulder, Colo., and Cecilie Skog, 35, a native of Alesund, Norway, reached the South Pole on New Year's Eve and arrived at their destination Thursday at the Ross Sea, completing their 70-day, 1,000-mile expedition, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Others have traversed the continent, but with the assistance of kites or dogs. Waters and Skog did it all alone, each pulling 300 pounds of equipment as they skied in temperatures as cold as minus 50 degrees.

"The mental part was the most difficult part. It was so many days of constant skiing and at times it was hard," Waters said.

Waters worked as a geologist for a number of years before focusing on his passion for exploration.

In May 2004, Waters became the second Georgian to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He had lived in South America, where he led more than 30 Andes Mountains expeditions.

The Norway Post reported Skog is the only woman to have reached both the North and South poles, climbed Mount Everest and the so-called "Seven Summits," the highest peaks on each of the Earth's seven continents.


Man says he will use leopard to save home

MOSCOW, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A Russian man said he will employ the assistance of his pet leopard to defend his Moscow home from demolition.

Sergie Bobyshev, of the Rechnik settlement, a rural area of the Russian capital, said the residents of the area were granted the land during the era of Soviet rule, RIA Novosti reported Sunday.

"We will fight to the bitter end," Bobyshev said, adding that his "very affectionate pet cat" will help him keep officials and construction workers away.

An investigation in 2006 spurred by an environmental watchdog group, Rosprirodnadzor, looked into 400 private homes built on land belonging to a federal canal agency. Most of the buildings were legalized, but court decisions have been handed down permitting demolition of the others, the news service said.

Bobyshev and the owners of several dozen of the residences on the protected land said they simply had been forgotten, RIA Novosti said.


Bad winter boon for Scottish mushers

EDINBURGH, Scotland, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Recent wintry weather in Britain has been a boon for Scottish mushers, who held their first true sled-dog race in 16 years Saturday.

The Aviemore Sled Dog Rally has been held in the Highlands every year since 1984. But for years the race has featured Siberian huskies pulling wheeled carts around the track.

This year, 1,000 dogs and 200 humans competed in proper conditions with sleds running on snow, The Scotsman reported. Judy Wakker of the Siberian Husky Club in Great Britain said the conditions matched those found in the German and Swiss Alps.

"The atmosphere is amazing -- it's buzzing," she said.

The rally includes competitions for many breeds of sled dog, including Alaskan Malamutes and Canadian dogs. Mushers were looking forward to the second day of the event Sunday with more snow and ice in the forecast for the Highlands.


Designer handbag makes political waves

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The leader of a Swedish political party has stirred debate after being photographed with an expensive designer handbag, local media report.

Social Democrat party leader Mona Sahlin and leaders of other political parties were featured in a group photograph, thelocal.se reported Saturday.

Sahlin is pictured with an $828 Louis Vuitton handbag, which has drawn both criticism and support from politicians and commentators, the news Web site said.

"A Social Democrat party leader must always have social equality at the fore," Goran Greider wrote in a letter to the newspaper Aftonbladet. "Consumerism comes from the rich."

But others defended Sahlin.

"I don't think that leading politicians need to start giving an account for what clothes they have," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told Aftonbladet.

Reinfeldt owns a luxury briefcase worth about the same as Sahlin's bag, a gift from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the newspaper said.

"I haven't asked any question's about Mona Sahlin's bag and I don't need to answer any when it comes to my own things," Reinfeldt said.

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