Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year, A New Monkey Mind

Californians can be very strange. A taxi passenger in Sacramento may have an anger problem, but he's no Grinch. Police report that a man pulled a knife on a cab driver during a dispute over the weekend but still made sure to pay his fare - plus tip. The rider argued with the driver about his desired destination on Saturday then pulled out a folding-blade knife, prompting the driver to run away on foot.

The passenger also fled - after leaving his cab fare and a tip. The passenger has not been found.

Well, on second thought, you don’t have to be a Californian to be strange. A Connecticut man, Drew Oliver, thinks it's time for bacteria, viruses and other maligned microorganisms to share the love. Instead of standard Christmas gifts, a growing number of people are looking under the tree for giant stuffed cold germs, cuddly E. coli, hug worthy heartworm and other oddities from Oliver's Stamford-based company, Giant Microbes. Oliver says the toys are true to the microbes they represent except, of course, for their eyes and enhanced colors.

Once popular mostly as "geek chic" among medical workers and niche groups, the stuffed microbe toys have spawned Facebook fan sites and a subculture of collectors who eagerly await each new release. They pounced on this fall's newcomers - including measles, rubella and the oh-so-popular diarrhea - and posted pictures on their Facebook pages of their new mini-microbe Christmas tree ornaments.

Being a purveyor of pretend pestilence might seem an odd career turn for Oliver, 40, who was a Chicago corporate attorney when he incorporated Giant Microbes in 2001. As a father of four, he thought stuffed versions of microbes that cause sore throats, the flu and other common ailments could help children understand the illnesses and avoid some of them with good hygiene.

O.K., there are some crimes our justice system is not set up to prosecute and does not have the punishments to fit the crime. Here is one story where the judge did the best she could. A federal judge in Mississippi has sentenced a man to 30 years in prison on charges of coercing an underage girl to pose for child pornography with poisonous snakes.

John Joseph Maillet pleaded guilty in September to one count of production of child pornography. He was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden.

Prosecutors say the girl was 15 when Maillet first enticed her to pose for pictures in April 2007 and was 16 when he had sex with her. The FBI reported there were 41 venomous snakes in Maillet's home when agents executed a search warrant in 2009. When they returned Aug. 10 of this year, shortly after Maillet's arrest, there were only 12 snakes remaining. Agents called in an expert who removed the remaining snakes from the property.

They say it is not clear what happened to the other snakes, but declined to search the girl.


Warning: This next story is rated “DW” (Disgustingly Weird), readers are advised to send small children out of the room before reading

This last story proves that all the weirdoes are not in San Francisco, nor in California, nor even in America, This story comes from Jolly Old England.

A British man who admitted to shooting his prostitute victims in the head with a crossbow before dismembering and eating them was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.

Stephen Griffiths, 40, who called himself "The Crossbow Cannibal," pleaded guilty to murdering Susan Rushworth, 43, Shelley Armitage 31, and Suzanne Blamires, 36.

Griffiths was caught when a building supervisor spotted him in the act on closed circuit television in Bradford, near the city of Leeds, in northern England, the Guardian reports.

"(The supervisor) saw an image of someone on the third floor dragging a person into flat 33," prosecutor Robert Smith said. Shortly afterwards, a woman ran from the apartment and fell to the floor. Griffiths shot her with a crossbow as she lay on the floor and dragged her into the flat by a leg. Griffiths allegedly "toasted" the death by raising a can of drink to the closed circuit security camera.

Police believe Griffiths might also be responsible for three unsolved murders after he indicated in an interview that he had killed six women in total. He claimed he had cooked and eaten parts of his first two victims, boiling one in a pot, and ate the third one raw, the Telegraph reports.

Special Report Section

Wars in 2011
(part 2 of a 7 part report)

Keep an eye on Zimbabwe in 2011 as the country's "unity" government -- joining longtime President Robert Mugabe with opposition leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai -- will warrant its conciliatory name less and less by the day. The flashpoint next year? Elections. Both men want to hold them -- but they don't agree about what Zimbabweans should be voting on.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai were never going to be fast friends. Since the two were brought together in February 2009, following a 2008 election that Tsvangirai won (but his opponent refused to recognize), Mugabe has continued to monopolize the real levers of power. Despite Tsvangirai's protests, it's Mugabe who still holds sway over the army, the security forces, and all the state functions that generate revenue.

Earlier this fall, Mugabe declared that he wanted the unity government to end in 2011. He wants full elections mid-next year, and his party, ZANU-PF, is giving every indication that it will employ the same coercive tactics used in elections past to deliver victory to Mugabe. Tsvangirai's idea of the 2011 ballot is quite different: he wants to pass a new constitution.

The row over elections has pushed the nominal two-year truce between Mugabe and Tsvangirai toward the verge of collapse. Open violence could break out around the elections unless regional and international mediators negotiate a compromise and bring real pressure to bear on Mugabe to play by the rules.


Iraq today is in far better shape than it was in 2007, when nearly two dozen Iraqis were dying each day in suicide bombings. But it's still far from out of the woods. And these days, it's not militants but the country's politics that post the biggest threat. The new government, formed in December after nine months of wrangling, is weak and lacks the institutions to rule effectively. Iraq's bureaucracies are nascent and fragile, and its security forces remain heavily dependent on U.S. training as well as logistics and intelligence support.

Meanwhile, grievances abound -- from minority groups to repatriated refugees -- and it is unlikely that the state will be able to appease these many political demands. Sectarian violence resurfaces in fits and spurts, and is far from quashed entirely; approximately 300 Iraqis died in violence in November.
Iraq's neighbors could exploit the country's ongoing political turmoil to gain influence and sway, particularly Iran, which has long supported Shiite militants. Insurgents also await an opportunity to capitalize on political discord. At the same time, U.S. troops will be largely -- if not entirely -- withdrawn by the end of next year. And lacking that safety net, it would take very little for the country to lapse back into conflict.

That course is not inevitable, however. More likely, Iraq will continue on its current trajectory, retaining enough stability to keep its citizens relatively safe, even if services remain deficient. But in a muddle-through scenario, it may be the best the country can reasonably hope for as it emerges from an 8-year U.S. occupation

Live Long and Prosper....

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