Police want to know who put oxycodone in Skittles?

Bailey Barzano was in the care of her grandparents Sunday when a trip to Tampa International Airport turned into a potentially life-threatening episode…

At some point, Bailey handed her grandfather what looked like an unopened bag of Tropical Skittles. No one thought to ask where the candy came from. Jeffrey Ball, 40, told deputies he opened the package and handed it back to the girl…

When another relative, James Shye said he was hungry, Jeffrey Ball offered him a partially eaten bag of Skittles. Shye poured the candies into his hand. Out came pills.

The adults in the car were horrified by the implications.

They noticed that Bailey was behaving strangely and seemed lethargic. Had she ingested some of these pills?

The family drove straight to University Community Hospital in Carrollwood…

Doctors believe Bailey swallowed the controlled substance, but aren’t sure how much, Sheriff Winsett said.

The fact that she chewed the pills like candy may have slowed how quickly her body absorbed any narcotic, doctors told her mother…

Deputies are continuing their inquiry. They interviewed Bailey once, Winsett said, but hope to have better results with the help of someone skilled in questioning very young children. “She’s a beautiful 4-year-old little girl who is full of energy,” he said.

Winsett believes it’s possible someone opened the bag, dropped in the pills, then resealed it. He said his office experimented with the wrappers and found it’s not that hard to do — at least if the consumer isn’t paying close attention to the condition of the packaging. But he cautioned against blaming the maker of the candy.

“We don’t have anything to indicate that this is anything other than an isolated incident,” Winsett said.

Skittles manufacturer William Wrigley Jr. Co. said the company is cooperating with the investigation, which Winsett said includes trying to track where the bag was purchased.

Pretty scary. Let’s hope it was nothing more than an isolated incident.

On the other hand, the creep who may have fabricated the package – is still out and about.

Antikythera computer probably older than thought

I thought my capacity for sheer jaw-dropping amazement at the Antikythera mechanism had been well and truly exhausted – until last night. The puzzling instrument is a clockwork computer from ancient Greece that used a fiendishly complex assembly of meshed cogs to simulate the movement of the planets, predict lunar eclipses and indicate the dates of major sporting events.

The clockwork technology in the device was already known to be centuries ahead of its time, but new evidence suggests that the enigmatic machine is even older than scientists had realised. “It is the most important scientific artefact known from the ancient world,” said Jo Marchant, who has written a compelling book on the find called Decoding the Heavens. “There’s nothing else like it for a thousand years afterwards…”

So what about the new stuff? Research from Prof Alexander Jones of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York, which has yet to be published, suggests that rather than dating from the 1st century BC the Antikythera mechanism may in fact have been constructed in the preceding century.

The new data concerns the four-year Olympiad dial, which has the names of significant Greek games etched into it – Isthmia, Olympia, Nemea, Pythia and Naa (plus one other that hasn’t been deciphered). The first four were major games known throughout the ancient world, but the Naa games, held near Dodona in northwest Greece, were a much more provincial affair that would only have been of local interest. “One possibility is that it was made by or for somebody in Naa,” said Marchant, who described the clockwork computer on the Guardian’s Science Weekly podcast last year.

This also helps to pin down the date because the Romans took over that region in the 2nd century BC. A Greek-inscribed gadget like this, reasons Jones, would not have been made after the Romans took charge.

The highlight of Marchant’s talk, though, was a new animation of the Antikythera device that brings it to life like nothing I have seen before. “That’s one of my favourite things at the moment,” said Marchant as the packed audience at the Royal Institution broke into spontaneous applause after watching the animation in stunned silence. I think I agree.

As do I.

Bernard Madoff amazed he was untouched by the SEC for so long

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Bernard Madoff has admitted that he cannot believe he got away with his $65bn fraud for so long, in his first interview since being jailed.

The disgraced financier chose to lift the lid on his crimes to lawyers who represent victims of his Ponzi scheme. According to San Francisco attorney Joseph Cotchett, Madoff was “very candid” and an “absolute gentleman” during their four-and-a-half hour meeting…

Madoff also admitted that “there were several times that I met with the SEC and thought ‘they got me'”…

It appears that Madoff was keen to speak to Cotchett to try to exonerate his wife. ABC News quoted Cotchett saying: “He cares about Ruth, but he doesn’t give a —- about his two sons, Mark and Andrew.”

Madoff is serving his sentence in the Butner Federal Prison, a medium-security facility in North Carolina.

Maybe if the SEC had investigators and administrators worth a fraction of their paychecks – maybe if they paid attention to their job description – he woudn’t have belief problems. He’d be serving the second decade of his sentence by now.

iPhones and the ‘augmented’ stadium

Researchers are creating software that links fans’ smartphones into a network so they can easily share messages, images and video.

The software could prove a boon for seated events when friends are not able to sit together but want to chat about the on-field action.

It could also help them include fans and friends who did not manage to get tickets to a match…

“We are not trying to take away from the quality of the football match, we are trying to augment it,” said Dr Matthew Chalmers, a reader in computer science at the University of Glasgow and principal investigator on the “smart stadium” project.

The researchers are working with the Tartan Army – fans who travel round the world following local Scottish football teams and the national side. Some Tartan Army fans have been given Apple iPhones fitted with prototypes of the software Dr Chalmers and his co-workers are developing…

For instance, he said, key members of supporter groups cannot sometimes travel to a match but want to keep up with what happens before, during and after…

The researchers also plan to use the Bluetooth short-range wireless technology built into most smartphones as a messaging system so those attending a match can keep in touch or share media.

He added that the researchers plan to release the software as a free mobile application so that anyone can use it.

Interesting they decided to drop Windows Mobile and switched to the iPhone early on.

Though it’s being developed for fans of [proper] football in the UK, I can see American sports fans – especially baseball and [American] football – enjoying the capabilities of a software and hardware combo like this. Even golf would work – fans wouldn’t have to whisper, they could text their comments.

Cripes – I’d load it onto my laptop Mac in the living room and use it to follow along a match from the Prem or the SPL. I’d love it.

Will Toyota build Yaris hybrid in France – bring ’em to the U.S.?

Already the undisputed leader in the gas-electric vehicle market, Asahi (via Reuters) reports the Japanese automaker is planning to launch a new compact hybrid based on the next-gen Yaris platform and due to go on sale in Japan for $15,760 by 2011. That bargain-basement price will be made possible by a low-cost version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, used in the current Prius and featuring a downsized four-cylinder engine that may make it even more fuel efficient than its larger sibling.

In addition to production plants in its home market of Japan, the report indicates that Toyota may also assemble the compact hybrid in France for the European market. This news comes just weeks after Toyota officially announced its intentions to build a hybrid version of its Auris hatchback in the United Kingdom. We certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota imported either of the new hybrids to the States in light of the success it’s seen with the Prius.

It’s expected that the new Yaris-based hybrid will go head-to-head with Honda’s recently announced Fit Hybrid. While Toyota’s interest in hybrid technology is anything but new, the fuel-saving models have just recently earned the top sales spots in Japan and are expected to be increasingly important in over the next few years as the latest round of strict emissions and fuel economy requirements are implemented worldwide.

Another couple of choices welcome in our family for certain. My wife’s ancient Volvo is too old and gets gas mileage too good for the Cash for Clunkers program. If and when it croaks we’ll probably turn it into a planter. Not unknown in our community. 🙂

Having a couple of affordable hybrid options for commuting and errands covers 99% of our time spent on motorized wheels. Though I think I’d still prefer she have something with all the cushy bits of a Prius – more choices is what it’s all about.

Dead father may reacquire rights. Sort of…


A Broward father lost all rights to his daughter after being declared an unfit dad. Now he is dead, and a court is reconsidering whether to restore his parental rights.

In life, he was a lousy father. His love for the crack pipe was mightier than the love for his children, a Broward judge decided, and ended his parental rights to his pre-teen daughter.

But before his appeal of the judge’s order was final, the father known in court records as C.A. died when he was hit by a car. And now, an appeals court is wondering: perhaps the little girl should keep her father, after all.

A Broward County court is set to consider restoring a dead man’s parental rights to his now 13-year-old daughter, so she might be able to receive part of a possible payout from a lawsuit over his death…

Child welfare legal experts…say the ruling appears to be the first time a Florida judge has been asked to restore a parent’s rights after death.

“Obviously, this case presents challenges that we haven’t dealt with yet,” Judge Frusciante said.

Where is Solomon when you really need him?

Had to happen: Landlord sues tenant after libelous [they say] tweet

Those 140-character “microblog” posts to Twitter don’t constitute much more than links, dinner recipes, and bitching, right? Be careful with the bitching, though—a property management company in Chicago has filed a lawsuit against a tenant who tweeted an off-the-cuff comment about the company. The company, Horizon Group Management, says that the Twitter user in question sent the message maliciously, and is now asking for $50,000 in damages.

It all started when Twitter user @abonnen (Amanda Bonnen, who has since deleted her Twitter account) said to a friend on May 12, “You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.” At the time of the tweet, Bonnen’s profile was public (meaning that everyone could read her Twitter stream) and she had about 20 followers.

Horizon must have been monitoring its mentions on Twitter—as many companies do these days—because someone there saw the tweet and immediately got moving with legal action. In its complaint, Horizon says that the tweet was “wholly false” and that the company has been “greatly injured in its reputation as a landlord in Chicago.” It is suing Bonnen on the grounds that her tweet was defamatory, she damaged the company’s reputation and business, and that she should be liable for the damages.

With 20 followers, @abonnen wasn’t likely to have a dramatic effect on Horizon’s biz. You would think.

But, then, she didn’t.

OTOH, anyone who spends time in the blogosphere considers their opinions free and clear of danger – with a bit of existing law to back that up. A case worth watching.