Bottle boat completes trip across Pacific

Face-transplant patient speaks

A Spanish man who underwent the world's first full face transplant appeared before TV cameras Monday for the first time since his surgery, thanking his doctors and the family of the donor.

Identified only as Oscar, the 31-year-old spoke with considerable difficulty at a news conference at Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital, where he was operated on in late March.

During the 24-hour surgery, doctors lifted an entire face, including jaw, nose, cheekbones, muscles, teeth and eyelids, and placed it onto the man. He has been described as a farmer who accidentally shot himself in the face five years ago.

Oscar is expected to regain up to 90 percent of his facial functions.

He is able to drink liquids and eat soft foods, and has been able to speak for the past two months, the hospital said. One good sign was that a week after the operation, he had to be shaved because of beard growth.

At the news conference, Oscar seemed relaxed as he looked out at reporters with eyes he cannot yet close completely.

Union soldier gets headstone edited

The headstone of a former slave and Union soldier no longer identifies him as a member of the Confederate army, after his family failed to notice the error for years.

More than 100 of Samuel Brown Sr.'s surviving descendants and Civil War buffs in period dress gathered at Vallejo's Sunrise Memorial Cemetery in California on Saturday for the dedication of his new headstone. Brown was born into slavery in Georgia in 1833. He joined the Union Army after he was emancipated and served for about one year.

How the 90-year-old was buried under a Confederate headstone at the Northern California cemetery remains unknown.

A cemetery employee spotted the mistake and contacted the Sons of Union Veterans. The memorial organization held the dedication with the American Civil War Association, a war-reenactment group.

Times wires

Bottle boat completes trip

A sailboat largely constructed from 12,500 recycled plastic bottles has completed a four-month journey across the Pacific Ocean meant to raise awareness about the perils of plastic waste.

The Plastiki, a 60-foot catamaran, and its six crew weathered fierce ocean storms during their 8,000 nautical miles at sea. It left San Francisco on March 20, stopping along the way at various South Pacific island nations including Kiribati and Samoa. It docked Monday in Sydney Harbour.

Expedition leader David de Rothschild — a descendant of the well-known British banking family — exchanged high fives and hugs with his crew.

De Rothschild, 31, said the idea for the journey came to him after he read a United Nations report in 2006 that said pollution — and particularly plastic waste — was threatening the world's oceans.

He figured a good way to prove that trash can be effectively reused was to use some of it to build a boat. The Plastiki — named after the 1947 Kon-Tiki raft sailed across the Pacific by explorer Thor Heyerdahl — is fully recyclable and gets its power from solar panels and windmills. The boat is almost entirely made up of bottles held together with organic glue made of sugar cane and cashews, but includes other materials, too. The mast, for instance, is recycled aluminum irrigation pipe.

"There were many times when people looked at us and said, 'You're crazy,' " de Rothschild said. "I think it drove us on to say, 'Anything's possible.' "

Bottle boat completes trip across Pacific 07/26/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 26, 2010 11:37pm]

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