Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10 Classic Dying Lines in Movies


The only thing better than a good death in a movie, is a good line immediately before it. Some lines have achieved immortality in their own right. Here is a brief sample, in reverse chronological order.

#10 - Jack Dawson

Leonardo di Caprio, Titanic (1997)


The Line: Never let go.

After the ship sinks (uh – you did know that, didn’t you), Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) scrambles onto a door which can only support one person and Jack remains in the freezing ocean. He assures her that she is going to survive, and die an old lady in her bed, before he succumbs to hypothermia.


#9 - William Wallace

Mel Gibson, Braveheart (1995)


The Line: Freeeedom!!!

After the deaths of his father and brother, and later his wife, at the hands of the English, William Wallace becomes involved in the Scottish uprising against King Edward I of England. After some military successes, he is betrayed to the English, taken to London, tried and convicted of high treason. As he is undergoing public execution by torture, the magistrate offers him a quick death in exchange for a plea for mercy.


#8 - Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise (1991)


The Lines: Thelma: Go!
Louise: You sure?
Thelma: Yeah … yeah.

Two girl-friends’ weekend out turns into a nightmare after one of them shoots and kills a man attempting to rape the other. On the run from the police, led by the gruffly sympathetic Detective Hal Slocumb (Harvey Keitel), the pair are cornered near a large cliff. The final scene is well-known to most movie fans. The lines may be less familiar.


#7 - Hans Gruber

Alan Rickman, Die Hard (1988)


The Line: What was it you said to me before? “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!”

Not quite as classic as Detective John McClane’s (Bruce Willis) line in the first place. McClane is a New York cop who has been caught up in an “exceptional” robbery disguised as a terrorist attack in Los Angeles. He has survived everything that the suave criminal mastermind and his gang have thrown at him. He confronts Gruber and a henchman with just two bullets left in his gun. They hesitate just long enough to give him a chance.


#6 - Roy Batty

Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner (1982)


The Line: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.

Batty is the leader of a group of replicants (bioengineered or biorobotic beings who serve as soldiers and slaves in off-world colonies) illegally on Earth. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a jaded ex-police officer who once specialized in “retiring” replicants, is coerced into tracking and killing them. After dispatching three of them, he confronts Batty in a cat-and-mouse chase. Batty saves Deckard’s life just before his pre-programmed four-year lifespan runs out.



#5 - Colonel Kurtz

Marlon Brando, Apocalypse Now (1979)


The Line: The horror… the horror…

Colonel Walter E Kurtz, a member of the US Army Special Forces in Vietman, has gone insane and is commanding a native army deep in the Cambodian jungle. Captain Benjamin L Willard (Martin Sheen), a deeply troubled special operations veteran, is dispatched to find Kurtz and to “terminate [him] with extreme prejudice”. After a hazardous journey, Willard and his last remaining crew member arrive at Kurtz’ camp. Willard attacks Kurtz with a machete, and he dies whispering words taken from Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, on which the movie is based.


#4 - Rabbi

John Cleese, Life of Brian (1979)


The Line: STOP IT STOP IT! Now look! No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle, understand? Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear, even if they do say “Jehovah”.

Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) and his mother Mandy (Terry Jones) are attending the stoning of a man condemned for blasphemy. In attempting to explain himself, he utters (not) the divine name again, and the crowd begins throwing stones. The rabbi attempts to restore order and is himself set upon by the crowd.


#3 - Obi-Wan Kenobi

Sir Alec Guinness, Star Wars [IV: A New Hope] (1977)


The Line: You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) joins forces with Obi-wan Kenobi to rescue a beautiful princess, who turns out to be his long-lost sister, and battle an evil warlord, who turns out to be their long-lost father and Obi-wan’s long-lost protegee.


#2 - HAL 9000

Douglas Rain, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


The Lines: I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a…fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the HAL plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January, 1992. My instructor was Mr Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it I can sing it for you.
[Dave: Yes, I'd like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.]
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.

HAL is the controlling brain of the Discovery One spaceship, bound for Jupiter on a top-secret mission. Due to a conflict in his programming, HAL becomes erratic and kills four of the ship’s crew. The remaining crew member, David Bowman (Keir Dullea), disconnects HAL’s circuitry.


#1 - Charles Foster Kane

Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941)


The Line: Rosebud…

This is the first line of the movie, and the film proceeds in two directions, one tracing Kane’s life and the other showing a reporter’s search for the meaning of the enigmatic utterance. The intriguing thing is that Kane is alone when he dies, so no-one hears his dying word.



Michael Corleone

Al Pacino, The Godfather: Part II (1974)


The Line: I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!

Not a dying line, but the heartbreaking moment which seals the character’s fate.


Monday, August 30, 2010

8 Ways to Ensure Human Survival


Recently, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking announced that if humans didn’t want to face extinction, our only option is to abandon planet Earth. In addition to the threats most species face, we humans also have the capability to destroy ourselves and/or our planet with thermonuclear weapons. Nuclear devastation tops a long list of ways for us to go out, including asteroid impacts, solar storms, disease outbreaks, etc. Here’s a fun fact: Over 99% of all species that have ever existed on our planet have gone extinct. Still, assuming Earth someday becomes inhospitable due to some catastrophe, here are 8 ways for us to avoid extinction.


#8 - Fix the Planet


In the event of widespread devastation such as a nuclear holocaust, asteroid impact or some other large-scale environmental disaster, one way humans could survive would be to simply rebuild. For shelter, humans would most likely be forced to settle in places either untouched or the least damaged by the disaster. Securing food and water may not prove as difficult as expected. There are many techniques for purifying, distilling, and ensuring water is safe to use. The short-term solution to food would be to forage. Nuclear fallout can be washed off sealed food, fruits and vegetables, etc. with minimal risk of danger. Long term solutions could include reintroducing destroyed species into nature. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway is home to over 250 million seeds, with a total capacity of more than 2 billion. Underneath a cooling layer of permafrost, it is located inside a mountain near the North Pole, 400 feet above sea level and far away from tectonic plates. If the food chain were ever disrupted, genebanks like Svalbard would be crucial to our survival.


#7 - Forced Evolution


If the food chain were disrupted by plague, or a deadly pandemic were spreading among humans, an option to fight back might be genetic manipulation. Scientists have already figured out how to force evolution of a virus to manipulate it’s behavior and reproduction, and they also know how to manipulate and replace genes in humans. Certain harmless viruses can be forcibly evolved to bypass our immune systems, making them perfect delivery systems for drugs that target specific cells. Genetic engineering and gene therapy in humans could potentially prevent future generations from contracting diseases and also to help the living by swapping out bad genes for good ones – a technique called somatic cell gene therapy.


#6 - Live Underground


In the early 1930s, plans were drawn up for a 35-story “depth scraper,” to be built underground in an enormous excavation. This was proposed as an engineering solution to survive earthquakes in Japan. The idea was never realized, but extended human habitation underground has long been a popular idea. If the surface of the earth was somehow rendered inhospitable to humans, through nuclear or solar radiation, a nuclear winter or impact winter, etc., living underground may be a solution to survival. The obvious problems are lack of sunlight, ventilation and food and water, but, as we’ve recently heard from the trapped miners in Chile, the psychological issues associated with being stuck underground are immense, and maintaining mental health is equally as important as maintaining physical health. Farming underground utilizing skylights may be possible, but recycling and efficient energy use would be paramount. Ultimately, living underground would most likely be a temporary fix until a return to the surface (or one of the last four list items) is possible.


#5 - Colonize the Ocean


One solution to the problem of overpopulation and mass over consumption of resources would be for humans to colonize the ocean. A technology called Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) uses the temperature differences between shallow and deep water to run an engine, which would provide an easily obtained renewable energy source. Solar and wave power could also be easily obtained at sea. OTEC technology can also be used to provide fresh water which could support large scale hydroponic farming. Extended human habitation would require underwater, partially submerged, or floating cities. Megastructures like the Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid have been suggested, but due to the immense weight issues involved, it would require technology that is currently unavailable.



#4 - Space Stations


If our planet is somehow damaged beyond repair or becomes too saturated with people, we may have no choice but to leave. The first step away from Earth would most likely be large space habitats. Space habitats have been a popular recurring theme in science fiction, with many of them resembling the Stanford Torus idea. This is comprised of an enormous rotating donut shaped ring (torus) which would simulate gravity on the interior by using centrifugal force. The interior of the torus would be large enough to simulate a natural environment, resembling a long valley that curved up at the ends until meeting overhead and forming a complete circle. Energy would primarily come from solar power, and building resources could be mined from asteroids or nearby moons and planets. In addition to providing habitation away from Earth, having multiple and separate space habitats would ensure the survival of our species even if one population is destroyed.


#3 - Satellite Outposts


Another option when leaving our planet would be to colonize satellites like moons or asteroids. Satellite outposts would most likely be specific to the resources available on the satellite. Almost all known elements can be found in stable forms on asteroids or comets. Satellites that are rich in specific elements or minerals could be mined for their materials and easily transported due to the lack of strong gravity. Large amounts of frozen water and carbon-bearing compounds have been detected on moons orbiting Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. One of Jupiter’s moons, Ganymede, even has a magnetosphere which would reduce solar radiation at the surface. Outposts on satellites, while being crucial for getting building materials and/or fuel, would likely not be permanent human settlements, as there would be no reason to remain once the resources have been consumed.


#2 - Planet Outposts


Once humans are in space, outposts and colonies on other planets would be the next step in expanding away from Earth. These settlements would be of a more permanent nature because of the more abundant resources available for extraction on planets, and because of the large amounts of energy needed to leave the atmosphere once on the surface. Habitats on planets like Mars and Venus would have to be underground or enclosed, due to the inhospitable conditions on the planet. Because of the extreme temperature and air pressure differences, methods to support life would be similar to that of underground or space habitats. There have also been less practical ideas on how to populate the larger gas giant planets. One method even involves suspending floating cities from giant balloons in the upper atmospheres.


#1 - Planet Terraforming


The last, and by far the most ambitious item on the list, is to deliberately make an inhospitable planet suitable for humans to live normally as they do on Earth. This process, called terraforming, is well beyond our current realm of technology and capability, but could possibly be a viable option in the distant future. The first step would be to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere of the planet, trapping the Sun’s heat and raising surface temperatures. In the case of terraforming Mars, raising surface temperatures would be needed in order to vaporize the polar ice caps. This would, in turn, release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further warming the planet. Ice would melt, raising atmospheric pressure and providing the much-needed water. The final (and by far the most time consuming) stage would be to plant trees that use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, making the air breathable.


12 Worst Traffic Jams



The world's longest traffic jam was 110 miles (176 kilometers) long, between Paris and Lyon on the French Autoroute in 1980.


A 60-mile-long traffic jam on a major Beijing highway has lasted more than nine days, with stranded drivers taking to playing chess on their cars as local vendors organize roadside shops like in a Cortázar short story. What's causing this potentially month-long jam? In short, increased traffic on the highway mixed with maintenance and construction. Britain's Sky News reported the snarls have been commonplace since May as a result of a spike in the number of trucks using the roads, with the daily peak reaching about 17,000. In this specific case, cars and trucks have been piling up since August 14, 2010 on the National Expressway 100, which is also known as the G110, the major route from Beijing to Zhangjiakou.


A traffic jam in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In June 2009, Sao Paulo set a new record for bad traffic, 295km of traffic jam accumulated throughout the entire city, meaning over 35% of the city's roads.


Gridlock resulting from vehicles and pedestrians "blocking the box" at the intersection of 1st Avenue and 57th Street in New York City.


Moscow also has different reasons for traffic jams. One of them is frosty severe winter. Transportation roads cannot work well because of black ice. The other problem is high quantity of life and, as a result, possession of many vehicles. And apparently, some streets must be reconstructed and broadened.


Car and Motorcycle jam in Taipei.


Vehicles are stuck in a traffic jam caused by a demonstration held by flood-affected people demanding that the government provide aid to flood victims in Nowshera, Pakistan.


Traffic jam caused by the celebration of the Diwali in North India.


Patna witnessed unprecedented traffic jam in December 1, 2009, following protest rallies taken out by different organizations in support of their demands. Throughout the day, traffic chaos ruled all the roads giving a tough time for commuters.


Another picture of Sao Paulo, at the intersection of Faria Lima and Juscelino Kubischek Avenue.


Frozen Traffic Jam in Moscow.


Traffic congestion caused by people fleeing from Houston, Texas, due to Hurricane Rita in 2005. Evacuees used Interstate 45 which was/is an official evacuation route.


Friday, August 27, 2010

10 Bizarre and Insanely Expensive Auctions


#1 - Lennon's Toilet (£1,000)


John Lennon's toilet is among the highlights of an auction of Beatles memorabilia. Bids are invited for Lennon's toilet from Tittenhurst Park, his Berkshire home between 1969 and 1972. Lennon told a builder, John Hancock, to keep the porcelain lavatory and "use it as a plant pot" after he had installed a new one. It was stored in a shed at Hancock's home for 40 years until he died recently. The toilet is estimated to fetch £750 to £1,000. The auction organizer, Stephen Bailey, said: "The toilet might be worth something, and it might not, but it is certainly one of the most unusual items we've sold."


#2 - 867-5309 Phone Number ($186,853)


One of the most famous phone numbers in popular music is up for sale – or at least, one version of it is. 867-5309, the titular digits of Tommy Tutone's 1982 hit, was listed in an eBay auction by New Jersey DJ Spencer Potter. Potter was not just selling the phone number, which would violate the telephone company's rules, but rather the DJ business to which the phone number is linked. He claimed he used to receive almost 10,000 calls each year, from curious "80s fanatics" hoping to have a word with Jenny, to whom the song is addressed. Of course, Potter's 867-5309 was not the only 867-5309 in existence. There are several 867-5309s across the United States (and the world) – his was simply the one with a popular New Jersey area code. The ebay auction ended on February 9th (2009) and the winning bid was an amazing $186,853.09.


#3 - A Jerking Off Manga-boy Sculpture($13,5 million)


“My Lonesome Cowboy” by Takashi Murakami, a life-sized sculpture of a bright-eyed anime manga-boy j**king off and whipping his j*zz into a gigantic lasso around his head at the Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening was estimated to go for $3-$4 million, surpassed expectations and ended up with a $13.5 million closing bid. Add in the 11% house commission and you've got yourself a world-famous Murakami for a cool $15.161 million. The only question that remains… where to put it?





#4 - Churchill's Denture ($23,000)


A pair of false teeth worn by Winston Churchill was sold at auction for more than $23,000 -- on the same day that plans were announced to put the British wartime leader's archive papers online for the first time. Churchill, famous for his rousing speeches during World War II, had several sets of the partial upper dentures specially constructed to hide his natural lisp and accentuate his signature slurred diction. The former prime minister "lived in fear of losing his false teeth" and would always have a spare set to hand, entrusted to his private secretary. The set which sold for £15,200 ($23,700) -- more than three times its expected price -- was put up for sale by Nigel Cudlipp, the son of the dental technician who made them, Derek Cudlipp. According to Nigel, his father said he could always tell how the war was going from the distance Winston hurled the teeth.


#5 - GigaYacht ($168 million)


The most expensive item ever auctioned on eBay was a 405-foot yacht, appropriately named the Gigayacht. A Florida company named 4Yacht sold the monstrosity for a final purchase price of $168 million. To even acquire the boat, the seller had to make a onetime payment of $84 million (half the sticker price) to hold it for him. The Gigayacht was designed by former naval architect Frank Mulder, who has since designed an even more extravagant Gigayacht for sale on eBay. The new boat is lavish as they come, featuring fourteen multi-level VIP suites and a helicopter garage.


#6 - Marilyn Monroe's Dress ($1.26 million)


In New York the sale of a dress that screen legend, Marilyn Monroe, wore when she breathlessly sang Happy Birthday to President Kennedy in 1962 broke records by fetching more than $1m at an auction. The flesh-coloured dress, so tight she had to be sewn into it, had been expected to attract the highest bid when it went under the hammer at the end of the first session of a two-day auction at Christie's of her personal belongings - and it did. It originally cost $12,000, and the final bid of $1,267,500 easily broke the previous record for a dress sale at an auction which had been the $225,000 paid for an ink blue, Princess Diana gown that was sold two years ago. The dress, which has become a part of 20th Century American history, was worn by the glamorous star just three months before she died as she serenaded to the young president who was later assassinated. It was sold to New York dealers, Gotta Have It! Collectibles. Company co-owner Robert Schargin said afterwards he thought it was worth $3m. "We really got the bargain of the century," he said.


#7 - World's Biggest Gold Coin (£2.68 million)


A Spanish precious metals trading company bought the world's largest gold coin for £2.68 million, its exact material worth, from the estate of an insolvent investment firm at a rare auction in Vienna. The 220.5 lb piece, one of only five Canadian $1,000,000 Maple Leaf coins the Royal Canadian Mint has ever produced, was snapped up immediately in a written bid from ORO direct, a gold trading company based in Madrid. There were no counter offers in an auction room packed with more journalists than potential buyers. The auction was ordered by the administrator of Austrian investment group AvW Invest, which filed for insolvency after its owner and chief executive was arrested on suspicion of fraud, breach of trust and other charges. AvW had acquired the coin in 2007, joining an exclusive club of owners including Queen Elizabeth, who is also displayed on one side of the coin, two unidentified investors in Dubai and one who is so reclusive even his or her residence is unknown. Its purity is 99.999 percent, the purest type in the market.


#8 -  Edward Scissorhands' scissor hands ($16,000)


During a Christie's auction of entertainment items, Edward Scissorhands' scissor hands was one of the top earners, selling for an astounding $16,000! The prop, composed of steel, leather, painted rubber and foam-latex, was only expected to garner $5,000! The scissor hands were created and designed by Stan Winston.


#9 - A Meteorite Collection ($1.4 million)


At first glance, it looks like a rather uninspiring collection of rocks. But these stones can truly be described as out of this world – and look set to net their owner an astronomical sum. Scots meteorite hunter Rob Elliott is thanking his lucky stars after auctioneers put a $1.4 million price tag on his stockpile. The former electronics engineer is selling 170 meteorites from his 1,000-strong collection after spending the last 13 years scouring the world for examples. Tonight Mr Elliott, 48, said that it was time for someone else to enjoy the fruits of his labour.


#10 - A Black Watermelon ($ 6,000)


A black jumbo watermelon auctioned in northern Japan fetched a record $6,100, making it the most expensive watermelon ever sold in the country - and possibly the world. The 17-pound premium Densuke watermelon, one of only 65 from the first harvest of the season, was purchased by a marine products dealer who said he wanted to support local agriculture. The fruit is grown only on the northern island of Hokkaido. In a country where melons are a luxury item commonly given as gifts, the watermelon's hefty price tag follows another jaw-dropping auction, where a pair of Yubari cantaloupe melons sold for a record $23,500. For seasonal, high-end fruits like the Densuke watermelon and the Yubari cantaloupes, Japanese buyers are often willing to pay top prices at auction for the prestige of owning the very first ones of the year.


8 Unbelievable iPod Stories


#1 - The girl who survived a lightning strike after the wire of her iPod diverted 300,000 volts


A teenage girl survived a terrifying lightning strike after she was saved by the wire of her iPod.
Schoolgirl Sophie Frost and her boyfriend Mason Billington, both 14, stopped to shelter under a tree when a storm struck as they were walking near their homes. Doctors believe Sophie survived the 300,000-volt surge only because it travelled through the gadget's wire, diverting it away from her vital organs. The teenager was taken to hospital and is recovering from burns to her chest and legs while Mason suffered damage to his eyes. Sophie will be thankful she was wearing her iPod, which she had been given four days earlier as a gift from her grandmother. Sophie and Mason were knocked unconscious by the lightning bolt while holding hands and taking shelter in a field. Mason came round and carried Sophie, who was scorched and unconscious, to a nearby road where he flagged down a female motorist who took the couple to Southend hospital. Sophie suffered burns to her body and legs, some temporary damage to her eyes and a perforated eardrum.


#2 - The soldier who was saved from an AK-47 attack thanks to his iPod


Kevin Garrad (3rd Infantry Division) was on a street patrol in Iraq and as he rounded the corner of a building an armed (AK-47) insurgent came from the other side. The two of them were within just a few feet of each other when they opened fire. The insurgent was killed and Kevin was hit in the left chest where his IPod was in his jacket pocket. It slowed the bullet down enough that it did not completely penetrate his body armor. The iPod in question was an older and thicker 20GB model, that had been previously manufactured and distributed by HP. The thickness of this model most likely served a big part in slowing down the bullet. Fortunately, Kevin suffered no wound.
Note: according to some sources the iPod did not actually save the soldier's life - it was in fact the vest he was wearing.


#3 - The teacher who got his neck broken by two students after he confiscated their iPod


Two students accused of attacking a teacher in a hallway of Germantown High School are now behind bars. The attack happened after 60-year-old Frank Burd confiscated an iPod from one of the students who was using it in class. The 14-year-old returned later with an 11th grader.
The teens allegedly pushed Burd, who struck his head on a locker. Schools CEO Paul Vallas said Burd broke his neck in two places. He was taken to Einstein Medical Center, but showed no sign of paralysis. The confrontation was caught on videotape. School officials were able to use the tape to immediately identify the students. 17-year-old Donte Boykin was taken to Northwest Detectives in handcuffs shortly after arresting the 14-year-old. Burd, a popular math and photography teacher, was sent to Einstein Medical Center for recovery.


#4 - The pair who was arrested for trying to trade iPod Touch and Marijuana for iPad on Craigslist


Police arrested two men in Arizona for attempting to trade a third generation iPod touch and about seven grams worth of marijuana for a 32G iPad via an ad on Craigslist. After receiving a tip about the ad, which included photos of both the iPod touch and marijuana, police officers sent an e-mail purporting to be interested in the exchange. When the police met up under the pretense of completing the trade, 20-year-old Jacob Walker and Jacob Veldare were instead arrested when Walker offered up the marijuana. Both now face charges for possession and the attempted sale of an illegal substance.Not only were the two unwise enough to post pictures of marijuana on Craiglist, but they were also gullible enough to believe that anyone would trade a 32G iPad, which costs $599, for a $299 32G iPod touch and a quarter ounce of marijuana of dubious quality.


#5 - The sub navigator who caused a £60m ship crash because he got distracted with iPod


The navigator of a US nuclear submarine was listening to his iPod when it collided with another ship, causing £60m damage. Crew on board of the attacked sub USS Hartford had also rigged up loudspeakers so they could listen to music on duty. Captain Commander Ryan Brookhart was relieved of his duties after the investigation revealed nearly '30 tactical and watchstander errors' which led to the ‘avoidable accident'. The navigator was also revealed to have been revising for an exam at the time of the collision. Fifteen sailors on board the USS Hartford were injured when it rammed into the transport ship USS New Orleans in the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passage in the Persian Gulf in March 2009. The US Navy report slammed the Hartford's ‘ineffective and negligent command leadership' and its ‘informal atmosphere'. The damaged sub will cost £57m in repairs, while the USS New Orleans, which ‘bears no fault' needs £1.5m


#6 - The man who found a one-year-old frozen iPod still alive


Andrew Robulack, a resident of Whitehorse, Yukon, found an iPod Classic emerging from a block of ice while he was taking a walk. At first, he mistook it with a piece of canine excrement, a common thing in Whitehorse this time of year, as he gladly informs us. But then he noticed that the unidentified frozen object had a familiar rectangular shape. Obviously, he got the frozen iPod out of the ice in which he thinks it had been laying “since early winter” and took it home to see whether it still worked. Incredibly, after only a few minutes of charging, the player booted up and seemed in full operating order. Of course, it needed some cleaning, but it even displayed the correct date. After the mud was wiped out, the iPod revealed that the only damages were a few scratches and some condensation under the screen; otherwise, it worked just fine.


#7 - The Tokyo subway train that was delayed because of an iPod fire


In August 2010, an unidentified, malfunctioning iPod brought a Tokyo subway train to a halt for several minutes during rush hour in western Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, 17 km (10.5 miles) from the capital's centre. Passengers started complaining about a burning smell, forcing the train to come to a halt while officials went searching for the source. A female passenger then came forward to show that her iPod had burst apart after overheating. The train was delayed for 8 minutes while the stench cleared. For the busy train line, which serves over 1 million commuters daily, that's an extremely rare delay -- the average delay for a train is a scant 20 seconds for some Japanese railways. Apple has described the problem as rare, and attributable to a single battery supplier


#8 - The girl who almost got injured after her iPod exploded


Ken Stanborough, 47, from Liverpool, had to drop his 11-year-old daughter Ellie's iPod Touch after he started hearing a hissing noise and felt it was getting hotter. After throwing the device out of his back door, within 30 seconds there was a pop, a big puff of smoke and it went 10 ft in the air. According to Mr Stanborough, Apple attempted to silence him and his daughter with a gagging order, offering a refund, only if he agreed to keep it quiet. A number of bloggers have reported cases where iPods have exploded — usually involving older versions of the digital music players.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

10 Incredibly Controversial Sting Operations


A sting operation is defined as “a complicated confidence game planned and executed with great care (especially an operation implemented by undercover agents to apprehend criminals)” Stings are commonly used throughout the world by law enforcement and recently it has become very popular with news and media organizations including trashy tabloids as ways of getting sensational headlines. One of the big concerns surrounding these operations is whether or not they constitute entrapment. I am personally on the fence concerning the ethics of sting operations because I know it can be a great tool to catch violent criminals. This list looks at some of the more interesting and controversial sting operations. Please comment if you have any additional information on these or other stings and if you believe these techniques are ethical.

#10 - ACORN Sting


ACORN stands for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. ACORN was a collection of community-based organizations in the United States that advocated for low and moderate income families. They also provided information on voter registration and affordable housing. In 2009, selectively edited videos were released by two young conservative activists, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles (shown above). The two dressed up like a pimp and prostitute and then used a hidden camera to elicit damaging responses from ACORN employees, that appeared to advise them how to hide prostitution activities and avoid taxes. The ACORN workers also didn’t seem to be put off by the request for help in getting financing for a brothel. This created a nationwide controversy, resulting in a loss of funding from government and private donors. On March 22, 2010, ACORN announced it was closing all remaining affiliated state chapters and disbanded due to falling revenue.

Interesting Fact: On January 25, 2010, James O’Keefe, along with three others, were arrested on felony charges for interfering with the phones of the New Orleans office of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. O’Keefe said he was investigating accusations that Landrieu’s office had ignored phone calls from constituents who were complaining about the health care debate. They were dressed as telephone repairmen as O’Keefe videotaped the operation. They were eventually charged with entering a federal building under false pretenses which is a misdemeanor. O’Keefe pled guilty and was sentenced to three years probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $1,500 fine.


#9 - Operation West End


This has been called the biggest undercover news story in Indian journalism. In 2001, a popular newspaper from India called Tehelka (meaning “sensation” in Hindi) launched its first major sting operation, “Operation West End” to expose the alleged culture of bribery at the India’s Ministry of Defense. The newspaper had two reporters pose as arms dealers from a bogus company in London. The undercover video shows several politicians and defense officials, including the secretary of the ruling party BJP, Bangaru Laxman, discussing and taking bribes for helping them procure government contracts. After the tapes were made public, Laxman and Defense Minister George Fernandes (shown above) resigned, and several additional defense ministry officials were suspended.

Interesting Fact: Instead of initially acting on the evidence from the sting operation, the Indian government accused the newspaper of fabricating the allegations. The main financial backers of Tehelka were made targets of investigations, and the newspaper company was almost ruined. In 2003, Tehelka was re-launched as a weekly newspaper, and was funded by faithful subscribers and other well-wishers. In 2007, Tehelka shifted to a regular magazine format.


#8 - Senator Larry Craig


On June 11, 2007, Idaho Senator Larry Craig was arrested by an undercover police officer who was conducting a sting operation against men cruising for sex at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Arresting officer Sgt. Dave Karsnia said he went into a stall shortly after noon and closed the door. Craig then entered the stall next to him and put his luggage against the front of the stall door. This is often used as an attempt to conceal sexual conduct by blocking the view from the front. Minutes later, the officer said he saw Craig peering into his stall through a crack, then tapped his right foot several times and then moved it closer to Karsnia’s, until their feet touched. Craig then passed his hand under the stall divider into Karsnia’s stall with his palm up and guided it along the divider toward the front of the stall three times. Karsnia then waved his badge back, to which the senator responded, “No!” The senator pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a fine, but changed his mind after word of his arrest later became public. Craig claimed he just had a “wide stance”, and he only pleaded guilty to avoid a spectacle. When he tried to withdraw his guilty plea, an appeals court turned him down. Craig served out his Senate term and was unsuccessful to clear his name in the Senate Ethics Committee. Craig did not seek reelection in 2008 and left office on January 3, 2009.

Interesting Fact: Shortly after Craig was arrested, the men’s room became kind of a tourist attraction, with men and women asking directions and stopping to take pictures. Even toilet paper from the restroom was offered on E-Bay. You can listen to Sgt. Karsnia and Senator Craig’s conversation right after the arrest here.


#7 - Sarah Ferguson


In May of 2010 Sarah Ferguson fell prey to Mazher Mahmood, a journalist for the tabloid newspaper “News of the World”. Mahmood posed as an international tycoon and was able to arrange a meeting with Ferguson. During the meeting, the Duchess was secretly videotaped and offered to connect the “tycoon” with the powerful inner circle of her ex husband, Prince Andrew. On the tape Sarah Ferguson is heard saying “500,000 pounds when you can, to me, open doors.” She is also seen taking away a briefcase containing $40,000 in cash. Ferguson‘s spokesman said she was both “devastated” and “regretful” after the reporting of the incident. She also said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that she had been drinking prior to soliciting the cash, and was “in the gutter at that moment”.

Interesting Fact: The man who posed as the tycoon, Mazher Mahmood, is known as the “Fake Sheikh” and has hoodwinked dozens of celebrities. He keeps his identity as mysterious as possible, and no one is sure if that’s his real name or what his real background is. The journalist claims to have received many death threats, does not appear in public, and has never allowed his face to appear in any of his stories.


#6 - Bait Cars


The first bait cars were used in the 1990s by the Minneapolis Police Department. Today the largest bait car fleet in North America is based in Surrey, British Columbia, which is known to many as the “car theft capital of North America”. The vehicles are specially modified, with audio/video surveillance and GPS tracking technology, and can be remotely controlled to disable the engine. Since 2004, when it was launched in Surrey, BC, it has contributed to a 47% drop in auto theft. One of the more controversial bait cars stings occurred in 2008, in Dallas TX, when a woman was killed almost instantly when a thief, driving a bait car slammed into her. The victim’s family was awarded $245,000 to settle the lawsuit.

Interesting Fact: The key in deciding when police are using a bait car illegally, and would cause entrapment, is whether they leave it in such a state that would entice someone who would normally not commit a crime. You can watch one of the more colorful (to say the least) bait car stings here. I’m sure many will be thinking the same thing I was thinking. “Where the heck was the kill switch?”



#5 - Marion Barry


Marion Barry is a well known politician and long-time mayor of Washington D.C. On December 22, 1988, police officers were about to make an undercover drug buy from Charles Lewis, a former Virgin Islands official, and were called back when they learned that Mayor Marion Barry was in Lewis’s hotel room. This led to a grand jury investigation into possible interference, by the mayor, in the drug investigation. Barry appeared before the grand jury and testified for three hours and later told reporters he had done nothing wrong. Then, on January 18, 1990, the FBI and D.C. Police set up a sting operation and arrested Barry in a Washington D.C. Hotel, after he smoked crack cocaine in a room with his former girlfriend, who had become an FBI informant. It was there that Barry said the now famous words that are often associated with him; “Bitch set me up”. As a result of his arrest and the ensuing trial, Barry decided not to seek reelection as mayor. A grand jury returned 14 counts against him, including possible perjury before a grand jury. If convicted on all 14 counts, the mayor could have faced 26 years in jail. The jury only found Barry guilty of cocaine usage and he was sentenced to six-months in prison. After Barry was released from jail he ran for city council. Because of the feeling by many that the government was just out to get Marion Barry, along with his general popularity; he received 70 percent of the vote. Then, in 1995, Barry was elected Mayor of Washington DC for the fourth time. Today, Barry is back serving on the D.C. city council.

Interesting Fact: Whatever you think of Marion Barry you have to admire his tenacity, and his passion for serving the people of D.C. The incident above is just a small chapter in his fascinating life. Last year HBO made a documentary called “The Nine Lives of Marion Barry,” You can watch the trailer here.


#4 - Joran Van der Sloot


Joran Van der Sloot is a Dutch national who is a prime suspect relating to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, who has been missing since May 30, 2005, during a high school graduation trip in Aruba. The case was revived on March 29, 2010 when Van der Sloot contacted John Q. Kelly, legal representative of Holloway’s mother Beth Twitty. Van der Sloot offered to reveal information around the circumstances of Holloway’s death, and the location of her body, for a total $250,000 with $25,000 paid in advance. Kelly and Twitty contacted law-enforcement authorities in Alabama, and the FBI set a sting operation into motion. On May 10, Van der Sloot accepted the amount of $15,000 by wire transfer to his account in the Netherlands, and then another $10,000 was paid to him in cash. In exchange for the money, he took Kelly on a drive to show where Holloway’s remains were. He pointed out a house and said his father had helped dispose of the body in the foundation. This turned out to be false because the house was not built when Holloway disappeared. Later Van der Sloot told Kelly in an e-mail that it was all a hoax. At this point Van der Sloot could have been arrested for wire fraud and extortion, but authorities delayed the arrest because they were trying to build a murder case against him. Van der Sloot was not only left free, he was allowed to leave Aruba and use the money he received from the sting to go to Bogotá, Colombia, and then to Lima Peru. In a Casino hotel in Lima he met Stephany Flores Ramirez, a 21 year old business student at the University of Lima. Security video shows Van der Sloot and Ramirez entering a hotel room together, but only Van der sloot leaving. On June 2, Ramirez was found beaten to death, her neck broken, in the hotel room which was registered in Van der Sloot’s name. Ramirez died on May 30, 2010, exactly five years from Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. Van der Sloot was arrested On June 3, and on June 7, he confessed to the killing.

Interesting Fact: Van der Sloot is currently locked away in the Miguel Castro prison in Peru, where murder charges are filed. He reportedly now says he’ll reveal the location of Natalee Holloway’s body if he is allowed transfer to an Aruba jail.


#3 - Perverted Justice Stings


Perverted-Justice in an organization that carries out sting operations by having volunteers pose as 10-15 year old minors on chat sites, and then wait for an adult to message or email the decoy back. If the conversation turns sexual in nature they will not discourage it or outright encourage it. Then they will try to identify the men by obtaining their telephone numbers and other details, so that a meeting can be arranged. The organization then passes the information on to law-enforcement. Perverted-Justice has also collaborated with an American reality program called “To Catch a Predator”. One of the more controversial cases occurred in 2006 in Murphy, Texas. Louis Conradt (Pictured above) was a district attorney in Texas, and posed as a 19-year-old university student and engaged in sexually charged online chats with someone who he believed was a 13-year-old boy. After Conradt asked for pictures of the boy’s penis, they brought in an actor to play the boy over the phone. When Conradt stopped responding to phone calls and instant messages, police and the reality show decided to bring the operation to Conradt’s home, with a search warrant. When officers moved in to make an arrest, they heard a gunshot. They found Conradt inside with a self-inflicted wound and he later died at a hospital.

Interesting Fact: The sting in Murphy, Texas, resulted in 23 arrests for on-line solicitation of a minor. In June, 2007, all 23 cases were not prosecuted due to insufficient evidence. Conradt’s family filed a suit against Dateline’s To Catch a Predator series for $105 million. The case was eventually settled out of court. In 2008 the network canceled production of all future episodes.


#2 - Rachel Hoffman


During a traffic stop in Tallahassee, Florida, on February 22, 2007, Rachel Hoffman (pictured above) was caught with 25 grams of marijuana. Then, on April 17, 2008, police searched her apartment and uncovered 151.7 grams of cannabis, and 4 ecstasy pills. She was reportedly told by police that she would go to prison unless she became an undercover informant for them. She was then sent, untrained, to an undercover meeting to buy a large amount of drugs and a handgun from two suspected drug dealers. While she was at the drug buy, the suspects changed the location of the buy. The policemen that were monitoring the sting, lost track of her when she left the buy spot with the two suspects in their car. While in transit, the two suspects executed her with the same gun she was supposed to buy. Her body was recovered two days later near Perry, Florida. On December 17, 2009, which would have been Rachel Hoffman’s 25th birthday, one of the murder suspects, was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. The second murder suspect is scheduled for trial in October 2010.

Interesting Fact: On May 7, 2009, a law called “Rachel’s Law” was passed by the Florida State Senate. Rachel’s Law requires law enforcement agencies to (a) provide special training for officers who recruit confidential informants, (b) instruct informants that reduced sentences may not be provided in exchange for their work, and (c) permit informants to request a lawyer if they want one.


#1 - Mr. Big


Mr. Big is also called “the Canadian technique”, and was developed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the early 1990s for unsolved homicides. It is used in Canada and Australia, but it is considered entrapment in many other countries, including the United States and England. The technique works something like this: An undercover police unit poses as members of a fictitious gang, into which the suspect is inducted. The suspect is invited to participate in a series of criminal activities (all faked by the police). In addition, the “gang members” build a personal relationship with the suspect, by drinking together and other social activities. After a period of time, he is introduced to Mr. Big, the gang leader. The suspect is told that the police have a renewed interest in the original crime, and to give the gang further details. They explain that Mr. Big may have the ability to influence the police investigation, but only if he admits all of the details of the crime. He is also told that he must be completely clear about any other past crimes, or the gang may not be willing to continue to work with him because he would become a liability. The photo above shows Royal Canadian Mounted Police during a memorial service, carrying the hats of four officers slain in Edmonton Canada, in 2005. Two of the men serving prison sentences for the murders made confessions to Mr. Big operatives.

Interesting Fact: In British Columbia, the technique has been used over 180 times, and, in 80% of the cases, it resulted in either a confession or the elimination of the suspect from suspicion. However, cases of false confessions and wrongful convictions have recently come to the public’s attention, and many are starting to question the controversial technique. In 2007, a documentary was made, called Mr. Big, that was very critical of the procedure.You can watch the trailer here.