Spain seizes fake Dakar rally support truck loaded with cocaine

Spanish police say they have seized more than 800kg (1,760lbs) of cocaine from a lorry disguised as an official backup vehicle for the Dakar rally.

The lorry was infiltrated into the race, which now takes place in South America, and loaded with cocaine before being shipped to Spain, police said.

The final destination for the drugs was the Spanish island of Ibiza, home to a major drugs trafficking ring…

The vehicle was sent from Bilbao in Spain to Argentina where it was loaded with the cocaine during a stage of the famous auto and motorcycle rally, held from 1-16 January.

It then followed the race to its conclusion before being shipped back to Bilbao, where it was seized by police when it arrived on Friday.

“The vehicle had been totally transformed to adapt it to its supposed participation in the competition as a support truck, with publicity and logos of the event painted on its side,” a police statement said.

The police said they also seized 15,000 ecstasy pills, hashish, guns and 47,000 euros in cash.

Pretty smooth stunt, actually. No doubt there’s already a movie deal in the works.

You can vary the plot between “superior police analysis” or a “paid mole” turned up the drug smuggling operation. Or even a mechanic at the Dakar Rally happening upon the truth.

Beef too crappy for sale in Mexico – returned and sold in U.S.

Beef containing harmful pesticides, veterinary antibiotics and heavy metals is being sold to the public because federal agencies have failed to set limits for the contaminants or adequately test for them, a federal audit finds…

The health effects on people who eat such meat are a “growing concern,” the audit adds.

The testing program for cattle is run by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which also tests meat for such pathogens as salmonella and certain dangerous strains of E. coli. But the residue program relies on assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets tolerance levels for human exposure to pesticides and other pollutants, and the Food and Drug Administration, which does the same for antibiotics and other medicines.

Limits have not been set by the EPA and FDA “for many potentially harmful substances, which can impair FSIS’ enforcement activities,” the audit found…

Even when the inspection service does identify a lot of beef with high levels of pesticide or antibiotics, it often is powerless to stop the distribution of that meat because there is no legal limit for those contaminants.

In 2008, for example, Mexican authorities rejected a U.S. beef shipment because its copper levels exceeded Mexican standards, the audit says. But because there is no U.S. limit, the FSIS had no grounds for blocking the beef’s producer from reselling the rejected meat in the United States.

Terrific. Just another reminder why it took an election just to begin the process of turning federal agencies into something that must be responsible to the electorate – instead of corporate rubber stamps.

Clovis Mammoth hunters: Gone with a whimper or a bang?

A team of researchers from the University of Arizona has revisited evidence pointing to a cataclysmic event thought by many scientists to have wiped out the North American megafauna — such as mammoths, saber tooth cats, giant ground sloths and Dire wolves — along with the Clovis hunter-gatherer culture some 13,000 years ago…

“The idea of an extraterrestrial impact driving the Pleistocene extinction event has recently caused a stir in the scientific community,” said C. Vance Haynes, a professor emeritus at UA’s School of Anthropology and the department of geosciences, who is the study’s lead author. “We systematically revisited the evidence for an impact scenario and discovered it just does not hold up…”

When the last ice age came to an end approximately 13,000 years ago and the glaciers covering a large portion of the North American continent began melting and retreating toward the north, a sudden cooling period known as the “Big Freeze” or, more scientifically, the Younger Dryas, reversed the warming process and caused glaciers to expand again. Even though this cooling period lasted only for 1,300 years, a blink of an eye in geologic timeframes, it witnessed the disappearance of an entire fauna of large mammals.

The big question, according to Haynes, is ‘Why did those animals go extinct in a very short geological timeframe?‘”

Scientists have suggested several scenarios to account for the rapid Pleistocene extinction event. Some ascribe it to the rapid shift toward a cooler and dryer climate during the “Big Freeze,” causing widespread droughts.

Haynes disagrees. “We find evidence of big changes in climate throughout the geologic record that were not associated with widespread extinctions.”

RTFA. Interesting step-by-step elimination of the points raised by one of the newer analyses also making it’s way around the TV documentary circuit.

Haynes is polite enough to consider his dissection an important review of cogent questions raised by a fellow researcher – and simply offers a reasonable conclusion to his research about the likelihood of a cosmic event being ruled out:

“No, it doesn’t,” Haynes said. “It just doesn’t make it very likely.”

South Korean children face gaming curfew

The South Korean government is introducing policies aimed at curbing the amount of time children spend playing online games.

The first involves barring online gaming access to young people of school age between 12am (midnight) and 8am.

The other policy suggests slowing down people’s internet connections after they have been logged on to certain games for a long period of time.

The Culture Ministry is…asking the companies to monitor the national identity numbers of their players, which includes the age of the individual.

Parents can also choose to be notified if their identity number is used online.

“The policy provides a way for parents to supervise their children’s game playing,” Lee Young-ah from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism told Reuters.

OK. This starts off as a voluntary program – which means nothing.

My initial response is that it works as a regulation for the companies and voluntary participation by parents. How well that works is anyone’s guess.

Brits as backwards as RIAA – with government complicity

Gill Murdoch and her husband, Ken MacKinnon, were surprised when a threatening lawyer’s letter came through the door of their Inverness home. It demanded that they pay £500 immediately because they had allegedly made available a copy of a computer game – Risk II – so that it could be pirated across the internet. The pair, 56 and 68 respectively, were stunned, not least because neither plays computer games. “We’re not into things like that,” Murdoch says. “We like to walk our dog, or cycle or garden – we don’t use the internet for anything other than for Googling information.”

She had been accused of making Risk II available on a peer-to-peer basis – a filesharing system allowing anybody to make a copy of the game. “I didn’t even know what peer-to-peer was,” Murdoch adds, admitting she had to ask a friend to explain what she had been accused of. Her first reaction was to call the law firm that had sent the letter. “I rang Davenport Lyons almost immediately, and spoke to a man who refused to give me his name. I never found out who he was,” says Murdoch.

“What happened is that I was told it didn’t matter whether we did it or not. I was told we must have Wi-Fi and somebody else used our connection – but we don’t have Wi-Fi. Then I was told we must have failed to protect our computer with Norton – but we had. He seemed not to care whether we did it or not,” she recalls. Worried by the call, she “thought for a moment I’d lost the house – because of all the legal bills I might have to pay”.

Sure of their innocence, the couple consulted various people. The council’s trade standards watchdog suggested they save up for a lawyer, but eventually, with the help of Which?, the consumer organisation, the claim was fought off after several months of hostile correspondence. But they were hardly alone in receiving an unexpected demand through the post. Over the past two years, three law firms, Davenport Lyons, ACS:Law, and Tilly Bailey & Irvine, have been targeting individuals accused of downloading or sharing pirate material – typically demanding between £500 and £700, amid accusations that the homeowner has been pirating copyright material.

What Murdoch’s case and others like it demonstrate are the problems inherent in trying to suppress internet piracy by identifying individuals who have supposedly engaged in the illegal filesharing of music, television, film or games – and seeking some form of legal redress. Until now this has been a minority sport, but the Digital Economy Act will make the targeting of households more likely. The act could mean that serial pirates have their internet connections cut off, if they can be accurately identified.

British elections comprise a sport unto itself. Most of the time I spent in Scotland or England, I admit I would have voted for the Looney Party over most of the choices offered. There were a few notable exceptions north of the Border.

The willingness of politicians to roll over, stick all four feet in the air and play dead for incompetent corporate cash is beyond unconscionable. Predictable as the rationales offered by both hacks of both species, corporate and parliamentary, the klown brigade seems unable to join up with advances in technology. Ordinary folks get to bear the burden of the result.

Oklahoma nutballs want a state militia

Achieved by the last OK militia

Fed up with what they see as Washington’s intrusion into their state, Oklahoma “tea party” leaders and some conservative legislators want to create a volunteer militia to defend against the federal government.

“Is it scary? It sure is,” said Al Gerhart, a tea party activist who heads the Oklahoma Constitutional Alliance. “But when do the states stop rolling over for the federal government?”

State Rep. Charles Key, a Republican representing Oklahoma City, said he believes there’s a good chance that legislation could be introduced next year to authorize a militia.

A tea party leader in Tulsa, J.W. Berry, has been soliciting interest through his newsletter, urging that readers “buy more guns, more bullets.”

It’s not a far-right crazy plan or anything like that,” Berry said. “This would be done with the full cooperation of the state Legislature…”

How’s that for an interesting dichotomy? If politicians collaborate in nutball paranoia – it’s not crazy?

Critics point out that the National Guard already provides for the state’s military needs. They worry a militia would stoke extremism…

Next Monday marks the 15th anniversary of the anti-government terrorist attack by Timothy McVeigh. The former U.S. soldier and militia sympathizer killed 168 men, women and children with a truck bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. He was executed in June 2001.

Typically, nutballs like this break out into two groups. Those who run their mouths and haven’t the courage to spend two hours canvassing a neighborhood filled with people a different color from their zip code. Those who nod their heads, fester, and commit terrorist acts – like McVeigh.

Parents sue WalMart, Arizona over ‘bath time’ pics of kids

Oh, the horror!

An Arizona couple is suing Walmart and the state after they were accused of sexual abuse for taking bathtime photos of their daughters.

Lisa and Anthony “A.J.” Demaree’s three young daughters were taken away by state Child Protective Services last fall when a Walmart employee found partially nude pictures of the girls on a camera memory stick taken to the store for processing, the lawsuit claims.

Walmart turned the photos over to police and the Demarees were not allowed to see their children for several days and did not regain custody for a month while the state investigated, according to their lawyer, Richard Treon.

Treon said the images in question were part of a group of 144 photographs taken mostly the family’s vacation in San Diego. He said there were seven to eight bath- and playtime photos of the girls that showed a “portion or outline or genitalia.”

At the time of the incident, the girls were 5, 4 and 1 1/2. It was about “wanting to admire their (children’s) beauty,” Treon said. “There was nothing sexual about it.”

Neither parent was charged with sexual abuse and they regained custody of their children, but the Demarees say the incident inflicted lasting harm…”This is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Treon said. “This is a serious incursion on people’s lives and privacy…”

Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Hunter is specifically accused of making slanderous remarks against the Demarees at a hearing where 35 of their friends and family members showed up to testify in support of the couple.

I don’t know if any of you were raised in the sort of straitlaced family that required clothing in the bathtub or considered nude children only to be sex objects – but, I wasn’t.

Fortunately, no one of my generation has been able to find the family pictures I recall with much chagrin. Especially those of my sister and me bathing in a horse trough on my grandparents’ farm.

Obviously the new nanny morality that sprang from the forehead of conservatives like Goldwater, Taft and Rove is taken as a Golden Rule by the corporate world.