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Consider it a bargain: The world's largest white truffle sold at auction Saturday for $61,250 -- far less than the cool $1 million its owner reportedly had hoped for.

The White Alba's Truffle weighed 4.16 pounds (1.89 kilos) when unearthed last week in the Umbrian region of Italy, making it by far the largest ever found.

Sotheby's said it was purchased by a gourmand from Taiwan, who had placed his winning bid by telephone.

Bidding started at $50,000 for the record-breaking fungus.

It was owned by the Balestra Family of Sabatino Truffles, whose CEO told the New Haven Register newspaper this week that he hoped it would fetch seven figures.

"I told everybody I wanted a million dollars," said Federico Balestra telling the newspaper that a Sabatino employee in Italy "was hunting truffles for us and found the truffle for us."

Balestra added that the massive fungus -- slightly smaller than an American football -- was large enough "to feed a party for 300-400 truffle dinners."

Long after the dinner plates are cleared away, the Balestra truffle was expected to enjoy immortality as an entry in next year's edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

News reports said this new record holder was about twice the size of the previous champion.





A runaway horse sparked mayhem in evening rush-hour traffic in Vienna, galloping along a busy road pursued by nine police cars and the animal's distraught owner, police said Thursday.

The young animal was being trained to pull one of the Austrian capital's famous Fiaker carriages popular with tourists when it escaped at dusk on Wednesday, police spokesman Roman Hahslinger said.

Tearing along one of the main routes out of the city, "the horse collided with a car, damaging the vehicle, and then jumped onto another, smashing the windscreen with its hooves," Hahslinger told AFP.



The Baltic nation of Lithuania on Saturday unveiled what it billed as the world's largest-ever coin pyramid ahead of its switch from the litas currency to the euro on January 1.

Volunteers spent nearly three weeks arranging one million coins, worth 10,000 litas (2,900 euros), into a pyramid over one metre (yard) tall.

"We have certainly beaten the world record. Previously, the biggest pyramid of this kind was made up of 600,000 coins", said 26-year-old volunteer Domas Jokubauskis.

All the coins will eventually be donated to a children's charity.

The Baltic nation of three million, which joined the EU in 2004, will become the 19th member of the eurozone on January 1, 2015.

Its neighbours Estonia and Latvia joined the European single currency in 2011 and 2014 respectively, eyeing improved investor confidence.

Lithuanians are divided over the currency switch, with 47 percent supporting it and 49 percent against it, mainly due to fears of price hikes, according to a Eurobarometer survey in September.


A dinosaur tooth found in Malaysia is at least 140 million years old and belongs to a new species within the "bird-hipped" Ornithischian order, researchers said Thursday.

While still unsure of the exact species of dinosaur, lead researcher Masatoshi Sone from the University of Malaya said the discovery means "it is plausible that large dinosaur fossil deposits still remain in Malaysia".

"We started the programme to look for dinosaur fossils two years ago. We are very excited to have found the tooth of the dinosaurian order called Ornithischian in central Pahang state" last year, he said.

Researchers from Japan's Waseda University and Kumamoto University also took part in the project.

Ornithischian, or "bird-hipped", is a major group comprised of herbivous dinosaurs such as triceratops.

The dinosaur would have been about as big as a horse, Sone said.





A set of panda triplets, the world's only known surviving trio, celebrated reaching their 100-day milestone in a Chinese zoo Wednesday as the public were allowed to visit them for the first time.

Their births at the end of July were hailed as a "miracle", given the animal's famously low reproductive rate, and fears that they may not survive have been quelled.

A video from Guangzhou's Chimelong Safari Park showed the three cubs sprawled on their fronts on a blanket in a small enclosure, nudging each other with their snouts and lying back yawning.

The two male and one female cubs, which first opened their eyes in September, now weigh six kilograms (13 pounds) each, the zoo said.

Visitors to their glass enclosure will be limited to 1,000 a day.

The celebration video traced the triplets' lives so far and portrayed the two young male cubs as looking up to their sister.

"Our older sister 'Long Long' leads us, and we are happy," the birthday song said.

The animals have not yet been officially named but will be soon, according to the zoo.



Monica Lewinsky said she was one of the first casualties of digital harassing, getting to be "Patient Zero" after her issue with Bill Clinton, as the previous White House assistant provided for her first discourse in 13 years.

In an enthusiastic location at Forbes' inaugural Under 30 summit in Philadelphia that reviewed the 1998 sex outrage with Clinton, the 41-year-old advertised a crusade to end web tormenting.

Lewinsky told a auditorium that she was "the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet.""I was Patient Zero," she said.




Dozens of Hong Kong police were massing early Monday at protest sites where pro-democracy demonstrators have been holding more than two weeks of rallies, paralysing parts of the Asian financial hub.

The police, who were dressed in high visibility jackets but not wearing riot gear, removed at least one barricade from the main protest site in Admiralty, in Hong Kong's busy Central district, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Police were also gathering at a secondary site in Mongkok, according to television reports.

Demonstrators calling for Beijing to grant full democracy to the former British colony have brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill over the last fortnight, prompting clashes with elements who oppose the blockades and widespread disruption.





Australian tennis legend John Newcombe has lifted the lid on "party boy" George W. Bush and the drink-driving revelation that clouded his 2000 US presidential election campaign.

Bush, who served as president from 2001 to 2009, admitted to the drink-driving arrest that he kept secret for nearly 25 years just days ahead of the poll, after the story broke on US networks.

The incident occurred in 1976 near his family's Kennebunkport summer home in Maine, and followed a night's drinking with Wimbledon champion Newcombe, who was also in the car.

Newcombe has kept quiet since on exactly what happened but told Melbourne commercial radio station SEN late Thursday that he was with the Bush family that night as a guest of George H. W. Bush, who was then director of the CIA.





Activists in Saudi Arabia said on Thursday they are revving up a right-to-drive campaign using social media in the world's only country that bans women from getting behind the wheel.

An online petition asking the Saudi government to "lift the ban on women driving" has attracted more than 2,400 signatures ahead of its culmination on October 26.

"The issue is not that of simply a vehicle driven by a woman, but the acknowledgement and recognition of the humanity of half of society and the God-given rights of women," the petition states.

It adds the ban is a result of tradition and custom because there is "no single Islamic text" or judicial ruling prohibiting women from taking to the kingdom's highways.

The petition website,, includes short videos of women driving while clad in the head-to-toe black robes they are required to wear, with only their eyes exposed.

It features an "honour wall" naming 108 women whom it said have defied the kingdom's driving ban.

Activists are also encouraging women to post pictures of themselves driving using a Twitter hashtag, #IWillDriveMyself, as well as on Instagram and YouTube.

"This year will be bigger," one Tweet vowed, following a similar campaign last year.

"We are trying to do something to refresh this demand" that women be allowed to drive, one activist, Nasima al-Sada, told AFP.

"It doesn't stop," she said of the national campaign.

"We are asking the ladies to sit behind the wheel and take action" on October 26 "or any day", Sada said from the kingdom's Eastern Province, home to most of the country's oil reserves.

- 'It's our right' -

Saudi Arabia is OPEC's biggest oil exporter and the country's economy has been one of the best performing in the Group of 20 leading nations, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Several Saudi women holding corporate CEO and other senior management positions were included in this year's Forbes list of 200 most powerful Arab women, but they cannot drive in their own country.

Last year, activists also focused their demands on October 26 -- which they simply call a "symbolic" date as part of efforts to press for women's right to drive.




Crisis-hit Ukraine and the European Union will try on Thursday to forge a joint stance at crunch talks with Russia in the latest gas war with its westward-leaning neighbour.

The meeting of Ukraine and EU energy officials in Brussels became even more critical after EU member Slovakia reported a 50-percent drop in Russian supplies following its decision to divert imports to Ukraine to help ease its spreading fuel shortage.

Europe's top energy envoy will then try on Friday to convince both the Kiev and Moscow gas chiefs, during talks in Berlin, to strike a compromise before winter forces Ukraine to consider tapping into the Russian gas bound for Europe.

Russia cut its deliveries to Ukraine in mid-June after a pro-Western government took power, saying that Kiev had not been paying its bills on time.

Since then pro-Russia rebels have waged an ongoing separatist struggle in eastern Ukraine.

An acrimonious first round of talks in Berlin broke up last Friday with EU and Russian talk of an initial agreement being quickly quashed by Ukraine.



The EU energy commissioner said at the time that the "winter package" allowed Ukraine to purchase emergency supplies of gas at a reduced rate over six months.

This would give Moscow and Kiev time to negotiate a long-term contract and ways to settle Russia's debt claim of $5.3 billion (4.2 billion euros) that Ukraine denies owing.

Russia's energy minister said he thought a successful outcome on this occasion was likely.

But his Ukrainian counterpart stressed that Kiev rejected many of the conditions demanded by Moscow and laid out in last week's EU plan.

"The European Commission has submitted its proposals. And we have submitted our slightly different ones," Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan said shortly before setting off for Brussels.