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By United Press International  |  July 24, 2006 at 6:30 AM
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Fourth-largest cross in middle of debate

ALTO PASS, Ill., July 24 (UPI) -- America's fourth tallest cross atop Bald Knob Mountain in Alto Pass, Ill., is at the center of a controversy over its operation.

Built in 1963 -- partly with $100 donations from hundreds of families for miles around -- the 10-story-high cross is not only a part of local lore, it is also part of a budding trinity of regional tourism that includes wineries and orchards, said the Chicago Tribune Sunday.

Since February, though, an escalating divide among the board that runs the not-for-profit cross threatens one of the most visible landmarks in southern Illinois.

On one side of the board are descendants of farmers who in the mid-1900s planned, designed and raised the money to build what they then touted as America's tallest shrine of goodwill.

On the other side are board members who say their longstanding counterparts have run the cross with slipshod accounting and little regard for God.

In Alto Pass, locals concede that they have too long ignored the cross. Now they plan to fight the board by organizing pastors and soliciting help from state lawmakers.

Scotland issues new bagpipe rules

EDINBURGH, Scotland, July 24 (UPI) -- Scottish health officials are putting new restrictions on how long people can play bagpipes, because excessive use of the instrument can damage hearing.

The new guidelines suggest that pipers should play for a maximum of 24 minutes a day outside and only 15 minutes a day in a practice room, The Scotsman reported.

The bagpipe, in addition to being a very loud instrument, is also an enduring cultural symbol in Scotland. Scottish soldiers have been known to scare off enemies with noise from bagpipes.

Although military officials support the guidelines -- saying they are aimed at preventing hearing loss in soldiers -- many say the idea is ridiculous.

"If you are practicing to become a serious piper, you cannot do so within these kinds of limits," said Roddy MacLeod, the principal of the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. "You need at least an hour a day on the bagpipes. I'm afraid that 15 or 24 minutes just isn't long enough for practice."

Only 244 dance spots left in New York

NEW YORK, July 24 (UPI) -- A move's afoot in New York City to loosen a 1926 noise bylaw that's left dancers only 244 spots to dance legally in the city of 8 million people.

A Saturday demonstration in front of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's home was the latest in a series of moves to revamp the 80-year-old law that was enacted to keep noise down in neighborhoods, the New York Post reported.

"When you hear the rhythm and you want to move and you can't, that's the beginning of a repressive government," said dancing demonstrator and civil-rights lawyer Norman Siegel.

Bloomberg has followed former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's path of quality-of-life bylaw enforcement that targets noisy, late-night party spots, the newspaper said.

The city council has a debate scheduled on modernizing the noise ordinance, the newspaper said.

Tokyo man grows 19-foot tall cactus

TOKYO, July 24 (UPI) -- A Japanese man has grown a 19-foot tall cactus outside his home in Tokyo.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported that the cactus has reached the roof on the second floor of Joji Tanaka's home, gaining lots of attention from local residents.

A surprised botanical garden worker commented that it is rare for cactuses to grow so tall at a regular home.

Tanaka reportedly received the cactus from a friend eight years ago, when it was just under a foot tall.

Tanaka, who enjoys listening to classical music, attributed the growth of the cactus to the music coming out of his home.

His granddaughter, who is in her fourth year of elementary school, reportedly is raising a cactus that rivals Tanaka's when it comes to height.

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