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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Looking for answers, Casey Anthony's father bought gun

The father of accused child killer Casey Anthony sobbed on the witness stand on Wednesday as he testified that he bought a gun in August 2008 and planned to force his daughter's friends at gunpoint to tell him what happened to his then-missing granddaughter.

George Anthony, called back to the witness stand by the defense, also said he tried to commit suicide in January 2009, a month after 2-year-old Caylee's skeletal remains were found.

"It just felt like the right time to go and be with Caylee," he told jurors in the sixth week of the highly publicized first-degree murder trial in Orlando.

Prosecutors say Casey, 25, smothered her young daughter with duct tape on June 16, 2008 so she could "live the good life" free of the demands of motherhood. They say Casey stored the child's body in her car trunk, then dumped it in woods near her home.

When Casey's mother reported the child missing a month later, Casey claimed Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny.

Prosecutor Jeff Ashton told Judge Belvin Perry that George's testimony rebutted the defense contention that George was somehow complicit in Caylee's disappearance.

"This man had no idea who killed Caylee Marie Anthony," Ashton said.

Defense attorney Jose Baez said at the start of the trial that Caylee accidentally drowned in the Anthony family's backyard pool. He said George found her body, but the death went unreported.

Baez also claimed that George had sexually abused Casey starting at age 8. George has denied any sexual abuse or involvement in Caylee's death.

As her father broke down on the stand, Casey continued to write in a legal pad and whispered to her lawyers.


George said he never used the gun he bought. At the time he purchased it, Casey was under house arrest after being charged with lying to detectives during their investigation into Caylee's disappearance.

Within hours of bringing the gun home, someone from the jail arrived to tell him the weapon violated the terms of Casey's house arrest and took the gun away, George said.

He said his intent was to force answers from Casey's friends and associates, whom he did not name.

"I wanted to get answers from people that I believed were involved with my granddaughter (being) missing," he said.

George testified he continued to believe Casey's account of a kidnapping even after Caylee's remains were found in woods near their home on December 11, 2008.

George said he checked into a motel in Daytona Beach on January 22, 2009 with prescription pills and beer. He found it hard to accept that Caylee was dead, he said.

He described calling some relatives one last time and writing a multiple-page suicide note for his wife, telling her, "how I didn't want to be in this world anymore".

George said he would have died if law enforcement hadn't found him and taken him to the hospital.

Ashton told Perry he intends to introduce George's suicide letter into evidence, but the judge said he hadn't yet decided whether to allow jurors to read it.

Baez tried to stop George's testimony about the gun and suicide letter from being heard by the jury. Perry acknowledged that the testimony and letter normally would not be allowed, but ruled that prosecutors could ask George about his state of mind because Baez had "opened the door."

Earlier on Wednesday, Baez brought up the suicide letter and asked George: "You expressed some guilt, did you not?"


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

On The Run In Amsterdam

Our cabbie pointed out a canal bridge as we trundled through the narrow streets of Amsterdam.
"Under there," he said, "they used to put prisoners in cells and leave them to be eaten by rats."
The nine British fugitives the cops are hunting in Holland will be spared that fate, but the Dutch police don't mess about.
They gave us some footage which shows the arrest of a British robber suspect a few months ago and it shows a paramiltary squad storming the guy's hideout with machine guns.
That's just after they've blown his door in with explosives.
Amsterdam may be on its way to becoming the new Costa del Crime - and the weather this week certainly rivals Spain - but the Dutch cops are not slow in responding to appeals for help from Crimestoppers and our own Serious Organised Crime Agency.
In the past three years, 83 British fugitives have been arrested in Holland, most of them in the Amsterdam area.
Spain and Holland are the big drugs gateways into Europe (and so the UK) and I guess even a criminal on the run needs to keep his hand in.

UK criminal element have probably participated in the soft drug, marijuanha cafe scene that abounds your thinking about keeping their hand in as major drug dealers would appear gross speculation Martin. The local "aannemers" [entrepreneurs] together with the chinese mafia have it all stitched up and I am sure would react to any outside interference.
That said the majority of major or minor criminals that arrive can easily blend into a very cosmopolitan folk. English spoken everywhere [most TV is English with subtitles for the locals which means from 12 years of age, most can speak it] and a large immigrant population would benefit the UK's foreign trash that escapes there. [Don't recognise any of them pictured but am seldom now in Amsterdam]
Sad to think that you will be getting them back, but with Amsterdam prisons today resembling 5 * hotels for the inmates, they might eventually receive their due sentences.


Monday, 27 June 2011

Stewart "Specky" Boyd, who is suspected of ordering the deaths of at least nine people.

Boyd, 40, died in a suspicious car fireball smash with five other people in Marbella, Spain, in 2003 when the Audi TT he was driving crashed with a BMW being driven in the opposite direction.

The mobster had flooded the south side of Glasgow with heroin and is believed to have been forging links with the Russian mafia based on the Costa del Sol prior to his death.

MacKintosh said: "Stewart was a pal of mine. I liked him and got on well with him, despite what people say and how things turned out.

"He was one of the gamest guys I ever knew. He never had any fear.

"He was a clever guy, quite likeable, but has been made out as this ruthless killer.

"He ran a really tight crew, one of the top mobs in Scotland, and he knew how to operate.

"The thing with Boyd's time is that a lot of people around him were being killed.

"But I was an associate of Stewart's so I never had any reason to fall out with him. He was always all right with me."

He added that he believes Boyd's death was an accident and not, as some in gangland would say, the result of an underworld hit. MacKintosh said: "I don't believe there was anything sinister behind Stewart's death in that car crash.

"I believe it was simply a tragic accident that led to the deaths of six people.

"One thing is for sure, Stewart was well on his way to becoming a wealthy man when he was killed in that car crash."

Underworld sources have revealed that when Specky died, a lot of his money remained hidden away, forcing a desperate gangland struggle to find his lost stash.

MacKintosh said: "One thing that has led to an incredible lot of hassle is that Stewart's money never showed up.

"This has led to a lot of trouble. I don't how much he had planked away. I don't know where it is.

"But people have been trying hard to find it."

MACKINTOSH struck up an alliance with Ian "Blink" McDonald when the rising enforcer pleaded with him for a spot on a prison football team.

McDonald approached him at Barlinnie in 1985. MacKintosh said: "I met Ian because he was after a place in the football team.

"He came up to me because he knew I was a good player. I pretty much decided who got a start. But he was rubbish at football."

He joked: "In fact, even now he is still s***e at football. But it didn't stop us becoming good mates and we have been friends since.
"Ian was there for me recently after I was attacked. He's been through a lot himself, he survived attempts on his life and came through it all. He knows how to handle it." Convicted armed robber McDonald was targeted three times in May 2009.

First a bomb was planted under his black Mercedes motor, then days later he was battered and slashed in an attack close to his mother's home in Provanmill, Glasgow. Thugs then firebombed his £30,000 Mercedes, which is nicknamed the "Blink-mobile", as the gangland vendetta against him raged on.

McDonald, who served ten years of a 16-year stretch following an armed robbery at a bank in Torquay, Devon, in 1991, was also attacked by Jamie "Bull" Stevenson's enforcer David "Mincey" McKenzie, at a gangland funeral last November.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Inside the mind of a teen killer is a scary place.

That's according to researcher and speaker Phil Chalmers, who has interviewed more than 200 teens who look just like their peers, yet each has caused the death of another human being.

Chalmers was one of three presenters at a recent two-day seminar for law enforcement and educators that focused on teen killers, school shootings and preparedness.

Teen murders peaked in 1993, when 3,800 juveniles were arrested for homicide. Today, about 1,800 teens kill every year, said Chalmers, noting the trend is not new. The first teen murder recorded dates to 1786, when a 12-year-old Connecticut girl killed a 6-year-old by strangling and beating her with a rock. The deadly assault was triggered by a dispute over strawberries.

The youngest shooter, who shot and wounded his 18-year-old babysitter for stepping on his foot, was 4 years old. Police were so incredulous the child could have committed the offense, despite his confession, they returned the gun to him to test his knowledge of loading the weapon. They were shocked the boy was able to do so.

The top triggers for teen homicide are suspension, expulsion or arrest, said Chalmers, encouraging educators to seek aid from law enforcement when disciplining students.

The first school shooting occurred in 1956, said Chalmers. The first fatal school shooting happened 10 years later.

The first female school shooter opened fire on an elementary school across the street from her San Diego home. She killed two and injured nine. When asked about her motive, the girl answered, "I hate Mondays."

Like many other teen shooters, the girl's father armed her when he gave the gun to her as a Christmas present.

The deadliest school shooting in the United States was in 1999, when two students plotted and carried out a massacre at their high school in Littleton, Colo. Thirteen died and 23 were wounded in the attack on Columbine High School.

"School shooters are no different than terrorists," said Chalmers, noting the two killers planned the attack for 18 months. It would have been much more devastating had they been able to carry out their intent to detonate a bomb in the crowded cafeteria.

Statistics aside, Chalmers said, it's important to realize the phenomenon is nothing new, teen killers are getting younger every day and "they don't look like killers."

There are six types of teen killers, according to Chalmers.

There are family killers, who murder family members, and school shooters. Gang/cult killers are motivated by an outside group. Crime killers commit murder secondary to another crime, such as burglary or rape. Baby killers take the lives of newborns and thrill killers kill just "to feel what it feels like," Chalmers said.

Chalmers also has identified 10 causes of teen murder.

A 16-year-old from Minnesota was mentally ill and suicidal when his mother made him run errands for her and his dad assigned him the chores of shoveling snow and chopping wood. Motivated by a fight with his father over a record, the boy took up the ax he'd used to chop the wood and slaughtered his mother, father, brother and sister.

Some teens, without spiritual guidance and proper discipline, feel they have nothing to live for and nothing to lose.

"Prison to a lot of kids is good," said Chalmers, noting a bed, regular meals and health care is more than they may get outside custody.

Others are fascinated with the criminal lifestyle, as was the case with two New Hampshire teens who under the guise of taking a survey, entered the home of a couple who they killed by stabbing and cutting their throats.

Peer pressure motivates some, while others are nudged into killing through a fascination with guns, bombs and knives. An Oregon teen killer, following a suspension from school, used weapons purchased for him by his father to kill his parents. Returning to his high school, he shot several students, killing two and injuring 22.

"Innocent kids are victims because the shooter was bullied by other students," said Chalmers of the 15-year-old's 1988 shooting spree.

An Ohio boy had turned to Satanism and set up an altar in his bedroom before killing his parents. He decapitated his father and, short of the strength to lift her onto nails bored into the wall, killed, but failed to crucify his mother. The teen, who initially wanted to be a priest, was determined to break all 10 commandments.

Substance abuse causes others to murder. A Tennessee boy shot and killed his principal with a gun he'd taken to school as trade for prescription drugs.

"We need to tell schools what to do," said Chalmers.

Anger, depression and suicidal tendencies are a great motivator, according to Chalmers, who said, "Every homicide is subconsciously suicide and every homicide is, in a sense, a psychological killing." Awareness to the signs of suicide -- talk about a plan, giving away prized possessions, risky behavior -- can help to prevent both suicide and homicide, he said.

Media is the catalyst that throws some over the edge, said Chalmers, who said increasingly violent media, video games and music gives kids ideas. A 14-year-old quoted a line from a Stephen King book after killing his algebra teacher and two students at his Moose Lake, Wash., high school.

"We need to tell schools what to do," said Chalmers, referencing the case of the Tennessee case that was facilitated by a teacher who, after hearing rumors the boy was armed with a gun, sent him to the office.

"We need to be the protectors of our kids," Chalmers said. "Many victims come from families that are naive."

The top causes for teen murder are an unstable family life or school bullying.

It is with the face of a 16-year-old Pearl, Miss., teen that Chalmers paints the picture of a victim-turned-killer.

Yelling, "This ends now," the boy, after beating his mother to death, entered his school with a gun and started shooting.

"I guess the world's gonna remember me now. I'm gonna get pretty famous," the boy said.

In retrospect, he, as many others, say they were seeking attention and had demonstrated previous warning signs that, if identified, could have prevented mass murder, according to Chalmers, who said cruelty to animals, a fascination with setting fires and bedwetting into adolescence are behaviors that can warn of future homicide.

Warning signs of violence also include threats of harm, violent or threatening schoolwork or artwork, a fascination with deadly weapons, obsession with violent media, journaling or blogging about thoughts, threats and plans, showing a fascination with other school shootings or violent books, the commission of petty crimes, dressing the part of a school shooter, self-abuse and implementing a drastic change in appearance.

"Keep your eyes open," Chalmers said, noting by pulling a seemingly troubled teen aside to talk may be all it takes to derail a mass murderer's plan.

The death of a policeman gunned down during an armed robbery won't affect the Gold Coast's chances of hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games

The death of a policeman gunned down during an armed robbery won't affect the Gold Coast's chances of hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the evaluating committee says.

The Evaluation Commission (EC) of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) arrived on Queensland's tourist strip on Monday.

EC members will check details supplied in the bid, from the ability of state and federal bodies to provide the required level of security, to the quality of the Gold Coast's air and water, its existing and future event facilities, accommodation, transport and even food.

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But they said they won't be taking into account things like the death of detective Damian Leeding who was gunned down trying to stop an armed robbery at the Pacific Pines Tavern last month.

"It's not a major issue as far as I'm concerned," EC chair Louise Martin said.

"It's not a concern because I've read the event security documents and we've had a presentation from the top people.

"When you put (on) a major Games ... you can plan and plan and plan, but you can only do as much as required, know you've covered every part of the whole thing, and you have to trust and go with that.

"Cops get shot in other countries as well, and I'm quite sure your police force and security people will have it well under control."

CGF Chief Executive Mike Hooper agreed the commission would not give weight to the incident.

"It's a one-off criminal offence and while it's shocking and tragic, clearly in the context of delivering a safe and secure environment for the Games, we're comforted by the guarantees we've been given by the federal government of Australia and the state government of Queensland."

Premier Anna Bligh said everyone remembers what the Commonwealth Games did for the city of Brisbane, and the opportunity to do the same for the Gold Coast is a chance her government doesn't want to miss.

"This is an opportunity not only for jobs in construction, but it's another chance to put the Gold Coast on the international radar," she said.

"It is a great sporting event and we want the Gold Coast to be leading it."

Druggist Vinoda Kudchadkar collapses after arriving at his store to find four people slain by this savage killer, who was caught on surveillance

coldblooded robber fatally gunned down two terrified customers and two employees at a Long Island mom-and-pop drugstore yesterday in a chilling morning bloodbath.

The gaunt, glowering gunman stole prescription drugs from the pharmacy and then fled on foot toting a backpack, surveillance video shows.

He was still at large early this morning.

"This is a vicious, horrible crime," said Suffolk County Chief of Detectives Dominick Varrone. "Right now, our primary interest is apprehending the individual . . . involved."

Mercilessly gunned down in the shocking siege were Haven Pharmacy druggist Raymond Ferguson, 45, of Centereach; cashier Jennifer Mejia, 17, of East Patchogue, and customers Bryon Sheffield, 71, of Medford, and Jamie Taccetta, 33, of Farmingville.

Mejia's slaying devastated her relatives, who described her as devoted to her family, friends and church.

The perky teen was excited about her upcoming prom, on Wednesday, and her high-school graduation, on Thursday, grieving relatives said.

Her sister Leslie also had been scheduled to work at the pharmacy, but opted not to work on Father's Day, her family said.

"[Jennifer] was not only beautiful physically but also in her heart," said the slain girl's shattered dad, Rene. "She was a nice, quiet family girl who went to church and worked hard in school . . . It's very hard for us."

A neighbor of Ferguson described the pharmacist as "really pleasant," saying he'd gotten married about five years ago to a nurse who works in Queens, and moved to Centereach at that time.

"It's such a shame," said Rich Adell, 66. "He was a nice guy."

The tragedy unfolded at the Medford pharmacy at around 10:20 a.m., when the killer -- wearing a baseball cap, his skeletal features covered by scrubby facial hair, and his eyes hidden behind shades -- walked into the store with a handgun, apparently intent on stealing drugs, authorities said.

A police source said investigators are theorizing the assailant was an addict seeking narcotics like OxyContin.

What started out as a routine stickup suddenly turned deadly as the intruder trained his handgun on everyone in the store. He shot at least one of his victims in the head, officials said.

Mejia's friends and family set up a memorial Facebook page and flooded the site with words of condolence and sorrow.

More than 1,300 people had signed into the page by last night.

"Being at her house tonight with her family, broke my heart," wrote Claudia Barreiro. "We lost such a wonderful girl, but we gained a beautiful angel."

Another friend, Kristen Velasquez, wrote of the teen, "One of the most genuine girls I know."

"I would always come into Haven and have a chat with you," wrote another, Carly Cook. "You were so nice and so beautiful. You didn't deserve this."

A family friend, Efrain Villefane, praised the Mejias as a loving, "excellent" family, adding that the teen had three siblings.

"The kids don't go anywhere without the parents. They were brought up to never drink and to never smoke," he said.

Another relative said Mejia's mom, a native of El Salvador, was inconsolable.

"Her mother is crying her eyes out -- she's devastated," the relative said.

Suffolk cops were alerted to the chaos after receiving a 911 call from Taccetta's boyfriend, James Manzella. He said she entered the store and didn't come out as he waited for her in a car in the parking lot.

Manzella then went in to check on her and discovered the carnage.

Police launched a massive manhunt for the killer and had K-9 units canvassing nearby blocks.

"We are dedicating a great number of resources," Chief Varrone said. "Certainly, a crime of this magnitude, where four people are shot, is very unusual."

The pharmacy's owner, Vinoda Kudchadkar, showed up to his store with his wife after the murders and collapsed. He was taken to a local hospital.

"He came here and fainted from the shock," said a friend, John Ramirez, who added that Kudchadkar has owned the pharmacy for many years. "They're his employees and his patients."

The pharmacy is located in a medical park roughly one block from the Tremont Elementary School.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

UK is creating a National Crime Agency, similar to the American FBI.

UK is creating a National Crime Agency, similar to the American FBI. The new service will be coordinating the work of police and other law-enforcement organizations. British agents will start their work by dealing with the Internet.

Ordinary constables used to fight against organized crime and terrorism in the UK. Now this will be the responsibility of agents. British Home Secretary Theresa May has declared that the special agency being established in the country will stand above the police and other departments responsible for the country’s security.

At the first stage the agency will face three tasks: the struggle against organized crime, and there are about 6,000 gangs in the UK according to official data, tidying up the cyber space, and solving crimes against minors.

The Home Secretary said that the new agents will have more authority than ordinary constables, they will not have to ask for permission for their each step, like now.

First, the National Crime Agency will sort out the Internet situation and start searching for the sites of extremist and terrorist groups. No effort will be spared to block access to suspicious resources from computers belonging to schools, libraries and universities.

The government will allocate a substantial sum of 46 million pounds for the work of the agency. However, critics from law-enforcement ranks condemn the idea of creating a “British FBI”.

They say that it is ridiculous to talk about the consolidation of services responsible for order in the country and simultaneously  to carry out mass cutbacks in the number of policemen. This year, 12,000 policemen will be forced to retire. These people say that the government wants to establish an American-style agency which is out of place in the UK.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

'Psychic' call sparks huge police hunt

Texas authorities are investigating a report from a ‘psychic' who claimed up to 30 bodies, including children, were buried in a mass grave at a rural home east of Houston — but no corpses were found.
Police launched a search operation in Hardin after a caller to the Sheriff's office, claiming to be psychic, said scores of bodies had been buried at a house.
Texas Rangers arrived on Tuesday with a search warrant to allow authorities to search the home where the woman had claimed was a mass grave of dismembered bodies.
Liberty County Sheriff's Captain Rex Evans said authorities have a name and number for the caller and were working to track the person down. Asked if authorities thought the tip was a hoax, Evans said only that they found no bodies or anything to indicate a homicide had occurred there. "We are going to continue our investigation and find out how this individual had this information in the first place," he said.
County Judge Craig McNair told reporters the psychic had called the Liberty County Sheriff's Office late on Monday and Tuesday morning claiming bodies were at the scene, and deputies decided to investigate because they found what appeared to be blood on a door.
McNair also said deputies noticed an odour in the backyard but could not identify it. By Tuesday evening, deputies were milling around the house near Hardin, Texas, about 82km east of Houston, and there was even talk of FBI agents being called in.
Joe Bankson, the reported owner of the home, told the Houston Chronicle from Dallas he and his wife left on Sunday and he didn't know why police were there.
"I haven't killed anybody," he told the newspaper. "And I have a lot of friends, but I haven't helped anybody bury any bodies."
Blood on the porch
Bankson said he and his wife were long-haul truck drivers en route to Georgia. McNair confirmed the couple hadn't been at the home for at least two days and were truckers. Bankson also told Khou-TV in Houston that there was blood on the porch and in the house because his daughter's former boyfriend tried to commit suicide two weeks ago. "He got drunk and cut his wrist," Bankson said.


'Open-and-shut case': Alleged thief hides in suitcase

man in Spain allegedly stuffed himself into a suitcase in order to steal valuables from other passengers' luggage on an airport shuttle bus, the BBC reports.
On Friday, a bus company employee noticed a passenger struggling to put a heavy suitcase into the luggage hold and notified authorities. The shuttle service had previously alerted police to a string of thefts aboard its buses.
Police officers noticed the suspicious suitcase was warm, so they opened it. Inside, they found the alleged thief doubled up like a contortionist and dripping with sweat. The man was also found with a head lamp, a sharp tool that police believe was used to open zippers and locks, a small bag and a cell phone. 
"Once the trip began, he would get out of the suitcase, search for valuable objects and hide them in a smaller bag he carried with him," regional Catalan police told the AFP news agency.
Police believe the alleged thief was loaded onto the bus by an accomplice, who would then retrieve him 90 minutes later when the shuttle arrived at Barcelona's Girona airport.
The two men, Krzysztof Grzegorz, 29, and Jouoastaw K, 31, were arrested, the Daily Mail reports.
"I believe this is what the British call an open-and-shut case," a police spokesman said.
And just in case you are still wondering how the purported pilferer managed to pull off the heist, the Spanish-language El Periodico newspaper posted a diagram of the bus-burglary scheme on its website.


Raids on film provider in Germany, France and Spain

Police carried out coordinated raids in Germany, France and Spain Wednesday in connection with a probe into an Internet film provider suspected of breaching copyright rules, German authorities said.
Police investigating the German-language Kino.to company, used by four million customers daily, raided some 20 premises in Germany, the prosecutor's office in Dresden, southeastern Germany, said.
Thirteen people have been detained and one is still being sought, the statement said. It did not specify where the arrests had taken place.
The firm, which streams films over the Internet, is suspected of being involved with a criminal organisation and of breaching copyright laws over one million times, the prosecutor's office said.


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Chinese student who murdered a woman to try to cover up a road accident has been executed

Chinese student who murdered a woman to try to cover up a road accident has been executed, say state media.

Yao Jiaxin, 21, was put to death in Xian, Shaanxi province in northern China on Tuesday.

Yao is said to have stabbed 26-year-old mother Zhang Miao to death, fearing she would pursue him for compensation after he hit her with his car last October.

The case - called "odious" by the Supreme Court - sparked a debate about the morality of young people.

It caused renewed hand-wringing about the morals of the so-called "rich second generation" - the offspring of those who have prospered with China's economic expansion, say correspondents.

Yao's parents reportedly worked in China's booming defence industries.

Yao was a student at the Xian Conservatory of Music when he is said to have knocked over Zhang, a waitress, on her bicycle while driving in the city.

According to reports she suffered only minor injuries in the collision but, believing she would report him to the police, Yao stabbed her eight times with a knife and fled the scene.

'Peasant woman'
He is reported to have handed himself in to the authorities four days later, accompanied by his parents.

But that was not considered grounds for leniency when he was tried by Xian's Intermediate People's Court, which convicted and sentenced him to death on 22 April.

Yao confessed he killed Zhang because he feared the "peasant woman would be hard to deal with" over the accident, Xinhua said in an earlier report.

The high court turned down his appeal and the death sentence was later approved by the Supreme People's Court.

Gangster sport goes mainstream in South Africa

The white BMW appears to float across the asphalt as it does a 360-degree turn, its steel ballet incongruous with the acrid smell of smoking tyres and the lunatic snarl of the engine.

The car skids perilously close to the crowd of spectators clustered behind the wall of old tyres encircling the arena.

But these fans of "spinning" - an illicit urban motor sport practised on the streets of South Africa's townships - greet what looks like a near-death experience with wild applause.

"Check out the distance! Brother, that was inch-perfect!" says an enraptured spectator after the driver, 25-year-old Sunesh Pursad, leaves the circle of pavement known as the "dance floor".

Pursad is part of a group of spinners who are trying to clean up the sport's image, taking a pastime associated with violent young men to a larger audience.

There is a stigma in South Africa attached to spinning, which was born on the streets of Soweto, the township where Johannesburg's white citizens warehoused their black labour force during apartheid.

An element of danger pervades the sport, which is essentially a collection of car tricks that the owner's manual tells you never to try, with names like "the burnout", "the snake" and "the drift".

The most revered is the "get-out stunt", where the driver sets the car spinning in circles, then gets out, walks around, busts a few dance moves - all while the empty vehicle keeps whirling - before jumping back inside.

Spinners say these performances started at the funerals of "tsotsis", or gangsters, whose fellow gang members would spin cars as a kind of memorial service.

There were a lot of funerals for young men in Soweto in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The township was a violent place, racked by bloody fighting as the death throes of white-minority rule in South Africa played themselves out on the streets of black neighbourhoods.

Car ownership was extremely rare in Soweto under apartheid. Spinners say when a gangster died, fellow gang members would steal cars and spin them at the funeral, then set them alight.

"If a gangster used to steal cars, that's how he was going to be celebrated. All your friends would come and spin. That was the culture," says Pule Motloung, a spinner and filmmaker from Soweto who has made a documentary on spinning, "Love 4 the Box Shape", and is finishing a feature film.

Recent high-profile news stories have increased public concern over a link between urban car culture and criminal activity.

Last year prominent hip-hop star Molemo Maarohanye - better known as "Jub-Jub", which means "Marshmallow" - was allegedly drag-racing with a friend in Soweto when one of their Mini-Coopers crashed into a group of school children.

Four children died and two others suffered severe injuries, including brain damage. The men are on trial for murder and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Another alleged drag-racing accident in Pretoria killed three people in April.

Motloung and other spinners are fighting to distance their sport from these illegal drag races and to create a more mainstream space for it.

Last year they successfully applied to Motor Sport South Africa, the governing body for auto sports, to sanction spinning as a code. They have since been organising licensed spinning events and sponsored competitions with prizes of up to 60,000 rand ($8,700, 6,100 euros).

"We are trying to create a new image," says Motloung, 28.

"You can be ambassadors for your community by just taking this thing and revamping it and making it a positive thing."

Crowd-pleaser Pursad says the sport has been good for young men who might otherwise have been drawn to gangs.

"The important part about it is that it's good clean fun," he says.

He thinks the sanctioning of the sport has helped curb violence in the townships.

Rather than fight in the streets, he says, "We fight it out on the dance floor."


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Police arrest MacBook thief caught on camera by victim

Joshua Kaufman's MacBook was stolen, he pursued the thief who took it by using the "Hidden" software he had installed on the laptop. It allowed him to check in and capture snapshots of the guy in possession of the computer, using the built-in iSight camera. Kaufman created a blog with pictures of the man in various states of undress and activity as he used the MacBook. It took more than two months, but Tuesday, the Oakland police finally arrested the suspected thief, a limo driver who they tricked into picking them up.
As Kaufman explains on Tumblr in "This Guy Has My MacBook," the laptop was taken March 21 from his Oakland apartment, while he was away from it. He reported it to the police, "but they couldn't help me due to lack of resources."
Not so the resourceful Kaufman, an "interactive designer" at ExactTarget, which provides on-demand email and one-to-one marketing. He had installed Hidden, an app that starts at $15 a year, which not only locates the missing device, but also collects photos on the other side using the computer's built-in camera, as well as screenshots of activity on Macs.
Kaufman joins the ranks of other victims who refused to let thieves make a clean getaway, who used the tracking software installed on the devices to lead them to justice. We've told you about Mark Bao, who posted a humiliating video of his violator (which Kaufman repeated, with stills), and Hugo Scheckter, who tracked down his iPad and offered a play-by-play through tweets.
He posted several pictures of the alleged thief, who seemed to spend his time in front of the computer sleeping (see photo above), in bed (shirtless), signing into his Gmail, deleting Kaufman's Mac account and "staring deliriously" (see photo below). The app even captured a picture of the thief driving away with Kaufman's computer.



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