Society's Child

Monkey Wrench

Germany seizes cocaine-filled condoms sent to Vatican

© AFP Photo/Wolfgang Kumm
German customs officers present 100 kg of cocaine during a press conference in Berlin, on August 19, 2011
Berlin - German customs officials have intercepted a package addressed to the Vatican containing 14 condoms filled with cocaine, the finance ministry said Sunday.

A ministry spokesman told AFP that a box packed with 340 grammes of cocaine valued at 40,000 euros ($55,200) was seized at the international airport in the eastern city of Leipzig in January.

The narcotics, posted from an unnamed South American country, were in liquid form and had been poured into the condoms and placed in the package addressed to the main postal centre at the Vatican.

"I can confirm the incident as reported" in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, the spokesman said.

"But we cannot say anything more about the case," he added, saying it was now in the hands of local prosecutors.

Authorities handed the parcel to a police officer at the Vatican with the aim of laying a trap for a culprit who might try to claim it.

But the box had remained there since January.

German investigators believe the intended recipient, who remains unknown, was likely tipped off that the package had been intercepted.


The surprising questions that will tell you if your relationship is likely to last


According to US experts, a shared interest in films - particularly horror - is a sure sign of compatibility amongst couples.
  • Mathematicians reveal what you should ask if looking for love
  • The Harvard experts are brains behind dating website OK Cupid
  • 'Have you ever travelled alone?' is another key question
  • Also reveal that men believe women who like beer are more likely to sleep with them on the first date
Many people wonder what the secret to long-lasting love is but hours of soul searching might be a waste of time if new research is to be believed.

Whilst mutual trust, loyalty and a shared love of Breaking Bad might spring to mind, Harvard mathematicians have revealed three rather more humble questions to determine whether a couple have real potential.

And wait for it...they are: 'Do you like horror movies?' 'Have you ever travelled around another country alone?' and 'Wouldn't it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?'

The four experts who cam up with these questions are responsible for building dating website, OK Cupid, the fastest-growing dating website.

Grading The Online Dating Industry
Online Dating: Where Technology and Evolution Collide

Gold Coins

Failed exchange finds 200,000 Bitcoins

Failed Bitcoin exchange MtGox says it has found 200,000 coins worth $US116 million ($A128.58 million) in an old "digital wallet", after it collapsed in February admitting it had lost half a billion dollars in a possible theft.

The Tokyo-based digital currency exchange filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan last month, saying it had lost 850,000 coins worth nearly $US500 million at present prices.

But 200,000 Bitcoins were left in a "wallet" used before June 2011, the company said in a statement on its website on Thursday.

Bitcoin wallets are used for online transactions between currency holders.


The white-trashing of American television

What does a poor or lower-middle-class white person, especially one from the South or Southwest, have to do to get a break from fancy high-end TV producers? It is a remarkable fact about this new Golden Age of television, which began with The Sopranos in 1999, that its primary focus of attention is the population cohort known (with the exquisite cultural sensitivity we have all learned in the era of political correctness) as "white trash."

HBO's sensationally powerful True Detective, with its subsidiary cast of sweaty, unshaven, tattooed, heavily accented, strip-clubbing neo-Neanderthals from Louisiana, is just the latest manifestation of the white-trashing of TV. True Detective is the second HBO series set in and around the bayou, following in the footsteps of the vampire show True Blood - and let me tell you, those swamp folk, they like their sex dirty in every sense of the word.

The new show came along just after the final episode of AMC's Breaking Bad, about an Albuquerque scientist-turned-schoolteacher who serves as the Southwest's key methamphetamine supplier to an endless list of Caucasian scum. (The final episode featured the stirring rescue of the teacher's upper-middle-class-fallen-to-trash sidekick Boy Wonder, who will live to cook blue another day.) On air right now, True Detective joins Sons of Anarchy, the FX series about rival motorcycle gangs in California who spend most of their illicit gains on leather clothing. FX takes a lighter touch with Justified, the highly amusing series about a U.S. marshal forced to return to his white-trash home turf of Harlan County, Kentucky. Harlan was the nation's paradigmatic coal-mining community and, in its day, the source of a great deal of leftist sentimentality about the plight of the working class.

Star of David

Striking diplomats force Israel to close embassies all over the world

© AFP Photo / Juan Barret
The entrance gate to the commercial building where the Israeli embassy in Caracas is located
Employees of Israel's Foreign Ministry went on an all-out strike Sunday for the first time in the country's history over a dispute surrounding workers' salaries and conditions.

The dispute has been going on for nearly two years. Seven months of negotiations ended on March 4, when workers rejected a proposal by the Finance Ministry.

Israeli ambassadors abroad will not go to work, no consular services will be available, and Israel will not be represented at any international gatherings during the strike. Even the Foreign Ministry's political leadership and management will be locked out.

The strike is indefinite and will affect everyone, including employers bringing foreign workers to Israel for work, immigrants, and anyone who wants to travel to Israel - including foreign dignitaries.

"Today, for the first time in Israel's history, the foreign ministry will be closed and no work will be done in any sphere under the ministry's authority," a statement by the ministry's workers' committee reads.

It added that the strike would be "open ended" because of the "employment conditions for Israeli diplomats and because of the draconian decision by the Treasury to cut workers' salaries."


Russia: New Family Code amendments to protect traditional family, religious values

© RIA Novosti/Maksim Blinov
The head of the lower house committee for family issues has described a new set of legislative amendments protecting the values shared by basic religions, and inspiring young people to choose marriage over cohabitation.

MP Yelena Mizulina of the center-left Fair Russia party said that she opposed the complete rewriting of family laws, but urged changes in the existing ones so that a new Family Code matched modern reality.

The amendments will include a law protecting children against unwanted information. Mizulina said that when the current Family Code was adopted in 1995 lawmakers could not foresee shifts in information, in particular the development of the internet. Nevertheless, she said, the virtual world must live by the law, just like the real world.

Other possible changes could include outlining priorities in favor of traditional families and traditional family values. These include the concepts that have been supporting the Russian nation for over a thousand years - the union between a man and a woman, several children in a family, families uniting several generations and the deep connection between these generations.


Online poll gives victory to Venice residents who want to cut ties with Italy

© Agence France-Presse/Olivier Morin
St Mark's square in Venice is pictured on May 18, 2012
Italians in Venice and its surrounding region have voted in an online poll in favour of breaking away from the rest of the country and forming their own state.

Over two million residents of the Veneto region took part in the week-long survey, with 89 percent voting in favour of independence from Italy.

The online vote, organised by local independence parties, is not legally binding but aims to galvanise support for a bill calling for a referendum.

Twitter lit up with excited separatists sparring with disparaging Italians from other regions who described the poll as "total madness".

Supporters say the new Republic of Veneto would be inspired by the ancient Venetian republic -- a rich economic, cultural and trading power which existed from the seventh century until its fall to Napoleon in 1797.

The result was announced in Padua to a couple of hundred pro-independence campaigners who cheered and waved Venetian republic flags.

The Indipendenza Veneta party behind the bill says the separatist movement is fuelled by the government's apparent inability to stamp out corruption, protect its citizens from a damaging recession and plug waste in the poorer south.

The poll on asked inhabitants of historic cities such as Treviso, Vicenza and Verona whether -- if the new republic was created -- they would want to keep the euro and belong to the European Union and NATO.

But the region's president Luca Zaia told foreign journalists this week that the referendum bill -- which must be approved by the regional council before it goes before the parliament in Rome -- "still has some way to go".

Critics protest that an attempt to split from Italy could be unconstitutional.

Via Agence France-Presse

Life Preserver

'Covered' through Obamacare: Las Vegas man owes $407,000 in doctor bills

© Mark Damon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegan Larry Basich paid the premium on his Nevada Health Link insurance plan in November, but as of Feb. 25, it wasn't clear who was covering Basich. The retired civil engineer had a triple bypass on Jan. 3 and now has $407,000 in medical bills.
The hospital bills are hitting Larry Basich's mailbox.

That would be OK if Basich had health insurance. But he doesn't.

Thing is, he should be covered. Basich, 62, bought a plan through the state's Nevada Health Link insurance exchange in the fall. He's been paying monthly premiums since November.

Yet the Las Vegan is stranded in a no-man's-land where no carrier claims him, and his tab is mounting: Basich owes $407,000 for care received in January and February, when his policy was supposed to be in effect. Instead, he's covered only for March and beyond.

Basich has begged for weeks for help from the exchange and its contractor, Xerox. But Basich's insurance broker said Xerox seems more interested in lawyering up and covering its hide than in working out Basich's problems. Nor is Basich the only client facing plan-selection errors through the exchange, she added.

Xerox, meanwhile, said it's working every day to fix Basich's problem, and its legal counsel is routine.


News helicopter crashed near Seattle Space Needle: Casualties

Smoke rises at the scene of a news helicopter crash outside the KOMO-TV studios near the space needle in Seattle on Tuesday, March 18, 2014.
A news helicopter crashed into a street and burst into flames Tuesday near Seattle's Space Needle, killing both people on board, badly injuring a man in a car and sending plumes of black smoke over the city during the morning commute.

The chopper was taking off from a helipad on KOMO-TV's roof when it went down at a downtown intersection and hit three vehicles, starting them on fire and spewing burning fuel down the street.

Kristopher Reynolds, a contractor working nearby, said he saw the helicopter lift about 5 feet off the low-rise building before it started to tilt. The chopper looked like it was trying to correct itself when it took a dive.

"Next thing I know, it went into a ball of flames," Reynolds said.

Witnesses also reported hearing unusual noises coming from the helicopter as it took off after refueling, said Dennis Hogenson, deputy regional chief with the National Transportation Safety Board in Seattle. They said the aircraft then rotated before it crashed near the Seattle Center campus, which is home to the Space Needle, restaurants and performing arts centers.

Mayor Ed Murray noted the normally bustling Seattle Center was relatively quiet at the time. Had it been a busier day, "this would have been a much larger tragedy," he said.

Heart - Black

California women arrested in heinous child abuse case

© Fox News
Three starving children - including one who was chained to the floor to prevent her from getting food - were found last month in the squalid home of a Northern California couple, authorities said.

All three - two boys and a girl - were taken into protective custody, and one was hospitalized, Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller said Friday.

Authorities discovered them in the Salinas, Calif., home on March 14 after two of the young people missed appointments, according to several published reports.

"It was a particularly heinous case," Miller told the Monterey Herald. The children had "hardly eaten for months."

The boys are 3 and 5 years old, and the girl is 8, authorities said, and they all exhibited bruises and signs of other physical as well as emotional abuse.

The girl, who appeared to have suffered the most extreme abuse, was chained to the floor to prevent her from getting any food, they said.

"It seems that the little girl was the major target of this abuse," Miller continued, adding that she looked "like a concentration camp victim."

The girl was in the hospital for about five days, he said, and seemed "traumatized."