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Sunday, January 16, 2021

During my freshman year, one of my dormmates suggested we all get t-shirts made up to read: “Hubbard House: Where Men Are Men, and Sheep Are Scared”.

That idea didn’t exactly fly, even when the reference was recognized. But now, twenty years later and thousands of miles away, sheep in Britain have a legitimate reason to fear for their safety:

The ovine crime wave began, insurance company and farm union officials say, after global food prices started jumping again. With bouts of bad weather in major producers such as Russia, Argentina and Australia and increasing demand in Asia, the price for many grains is now busting through the record highs they set in 2008. But meat prices have also surged, particularly for lamb.

Because of escalating world demand and scaled-back production in such nations as New Zealand, a farmer’s price per pound for lamb here is now about 35 percent higher than in 2008. The 45 head of sheep stolen from [farmer Andrew] Allen in late September, for instance, were worth $6,400 - or twice the price they would have fetched five years ago.

Rising prices have fueled what authorities here describe as a thriving black market for lamb and mutton, with stolen animals butchered in makeshift slaughterhouses before their meat is illegally sold to small grocery stores, pubs and penny-wise consumers.

Hard to imagine a similar run on barnyard assets here in the States. Obviously you couldn’t fence the beasts (without barbed wire, anyway). And where would you set up an illegal slaughterhouse without neighbors getting wise? What’s the alternative — illegally peddling wool shearings? American criminals are more inclined toward Industrial Revolution-style larceny.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/16/2011 07:05pm
Category: Business, True Crime
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Saturday, January 08, 2021

All I know is that the first fuckhead who cites Thomas Jefferson’s “Tree of Liberty” quotation in reference to today’s apparent political assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona deserves to have his/her own blood spilled — via a hard punch to the nose.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/08/2021 04:14pm
Category: Politics, True Crime
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Thursday, December 30, 2020

While there’s no shortage of Nigeria-based web domains ending in the standard “.com.ng”, the present shortlink-craving environment is prompting the imminent availability of branding-friendly .ng top-level domains from the African country.

Whilst it will be great for companies within the country to advertise shorter domains and work with an easy suffix, the real value is going to come from internet startups and established internet services that which to turn their company names into verbs.

Oo Nwoye, a Nigerian entrepreneur, spotted the domain registration, proposing that companies like Facebook and Google will move quickly to register domains like Googli.ng and Facebooki.ng.

Good to know that the registration land-rush will predictably proceed. I’m sure that the established Nigerian association with the Internet won’t dissuade anyone from signing up for the online verbi-dot-ng…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/30/2010 10:36pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet, True Crime
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Wednesday, December 29, 2020

If you’re a Christine O’Donnell fan, you could characterize new allegations that she misused her Delaware Senatorial campaign funds for personal expenses as a political witch-hunt.

But of course, you wouldn’t. Because as the former candidate insisted, she’s most definitely not a witch:

No, she’s definitely not a witch, then. Therefore, she can’t be the target of a witch-hunt. A vast conspiracy, on the other hand?

“We’ve been warned by multiple high-ranking Democrat insiders that the Delaware Democrat and Republican political establishment is jointly planning to pull out all the stops to ensure I would never again upset the apple cart,” O’Donnell said Wednesday in a statement after the Associated Press first reported the FBI and Justice Department were in the early phases of an investigation.

“Specifically they told me the plan was to crush me with investigations, lawsuits and false accusations so that my political reputation would become so toxic no one would ever get behind me. I was warned by numerous sources that the (Delaware) political establishment is going to use every resource available to them,” she said in the statement.

Quite a bit of toil and trouble for this Tea Party stalwart. Makes you wonder just what type of tea O’Donnell is brewing these days…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/29/2010 08:57pm
Category: Politics, True Crime
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Monday, December 27, 2020

lawsuit in a can
Dan hates spam, so much so that he’s made a going concern out of suing the spammers:

From San Francisco Superior Court small claims court to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, [Daniel] Balsam, based in San Francisco, has filed many lawsuits, including dozens before he graduated law school in 2008, against e-mail marketers he says violate anti-spamming laws.

His many victories are mere rain drops in the ocean considering that Cisco Systems Inc. estimates that there are 200 billion spam messages circulating a day, accounting for 90 percent of all e-mail.

Still, Balsam settles enough lawsuits and collects enough from judgments to make a living. He has racked up well in excess of $1 million in court judgments and lawsuit settlements with companies accused of sending illegal spam.

In a sense, this is email spam begetting litigious spam, in that Balsam’s suits are essentially court-clogging maneuvers, regardless of merit. Plus, consider that the spambots are generating revenue not only for their parent spam-scammers, but also, indirectly, for Balsam. Amid all that irony is, perhaps, a new business model for online commerce…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/27/2010 08:39am
Category: Internet, True Crime
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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

leggo my logo
Just to be clear: It’s okay to toss hats, and even 23,000 teddy bears, onto the ice in hockey arenas. But waffles are a no-no, at least in Toronto:

A 31-year-old man charged with mischief after throwing waffles on the ice at a Toronto Maple Leafs game says he did it out of frustration at the underperforming team.

“I’m just a normal Leafs fan and love them to death,” Joseph Robb of Oakville, Ont., said Wednesday in an interview…

His love affair will be from a distance, however, after being barred from the Air Canada Centre, as well as other Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment events at BMO Field and Ricoh Coliseum. Further punishment could follow from a January court appearance.

I’m wondering if the raw, frozen waffles are really an optimal rink-projectile. After all, studies have shown that Detroit’s famed NHL octopus-tossing works better when the cephalopod is first boiled, for a better bounce. Follow that learned Red Wings expertise and toast those Eggos before you fling them, Leafs Nation!

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/22/2010 10:50pm
Category: Food, Hockey, True Crime
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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

If you’ve ever pondered how superheroics and supervillainy would translate into real-world collateral damage, Law and the Multiverse provides legalese as applied to the comic-book context:

The answers are dry, technical and funny in their earnestness. The Second Amendment, [co-blogger James] Daily suggested, would protect many powers, but “at least some superpowers would qualify as dangerous or unusual weapons (e.g., Cyclops’ optic blasts, Havok’s plasma blasts)” that are “well beyond the power of weapons allowed even by permit.” Those super-duper powers would be tightly regulated, if not banned outright.

Then there’s this jurisprudential nugget: When Batman, the DC Comics hero, nabs crooks, is the evidence gathered against the bad guys admissible in court? Not if he is working so closely with Commissioner Gordon that his feats fall under the “state actor” doctrine, in which a person is deemed to be acting on behalf of government and thus is subject to the restrictions on government power. In fact, he might be courting a lawsuit claiming violations of civil rights from those who were nabbed.

Leave it to a couple of blawging lawyers to suck all the fun out of superpowered mayhem. On the other hand, it’s good to know that supervillain-insurance residual pools would keep a lid on premium payments.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/21/2010 10:33pm
Category: Bloggin', Creative, Pop Culture, True Crime
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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Talk about instant karma, or near enough:

Last month, DecorMyEyes.com owner Vitaly Borker bragged openly to the New York Times about how he aggressively cultivates negative feedback, which paradoxically boosts his eyewear business’ Google rankings and clickthru rate.

Today, we find out that those cultivation methods are criminally aggressive: Borker was arrested in Brooklyn on harassment and cyberbullying charges.

Online, his threats were “absolutely unspeakable” and “bone-chilling,” the prosecutor continued.

A pregnant woman was threatened with “physical and sexual violence” and a Colorado customer who complained was told: “I pee on your negative (comments). Now you lost your glasses b—h!”

Too bad Borker can’t claim to have been framed — pun intended…

It’s a measure of rough justice, assuming he gets what’s coming to him. There are scores of online con artists waiting to fill the void left by Borker, but so what — at least he’s out of the equation. (And yes, I halfway do expect to hear from Borker at some point over this very post, given his established Web acuity. So be it.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/07/2021 10:37pm
Category: Business, Internet, New Yorkin', True Crime
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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Recognizing the payout potential of a good piece of litigation, financial institutions are bankrolling the legal fees for third-party lawsuits, in exchange for a share of the winnings:

Most investments are in the smaller cases that fill court dockets. Ardec Funding, a New York lender backed by a hedge fund, lent $45,000 in June to a Manhattan lawyer hired by the parents of a baby brain-damaged at birth. The lawyer hired two doctors, a physical therapist and an economist to testify at a July trial. The jury ordered the delivering doctor and hospital to pay the baby $510,000. Ardec is collecting interest at an annual rate of 24 percent, or $900 a month, until the award is paid…

“If you want to use the civil justice system, you have to have money,” said Alan Zimmerman, who founded one of the first litigation finance companies in 1994, in San Francisco, now called the LawFinance Group. “If there’s less money, you’d have less litigation. But then you’d also have less justice.”

It’s a view of the American justice system as a jackpot-generating endeavor. Perhaps no riskier than any other venture capital targets in the business world. How long until the lawyers are eliminated at the capital-funneling intermediaries, and a big-board commodities market, open to direct investment, emerges? (I wish I were only kidding about that last part.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/16/2010 08:51pm
Category: Business, Society, True Crime
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Monday, November 15, 2021

Subway stealing is apparently no longer a young man’s game, as the NYPD says the City’s pickpocket threat is down to a small clique of 40-to-60-year-old veterans:

It once was common to come across teenagers as young as 13 learning the tricks of the trade from professionals — an urban apprenticeship of sorts for aspiring city criminals…

At some point, junior crooks decided picking pockets in the subways didn’t pay — at least not enough for the risk involved. A pick with a record can expect two years in prison if convicted of grand larceny, one undercover said. Young guys now just want to deal drugs, old-timer pickpockets have griped to police.

Hard to believe the ROI on thievery has fallen off so much. People have been pickpocketing for centuries, and sardine-can crowds like those underground seem ideal for the trade. The generational gap hints at no honor among thieves, indeed.

Still, I’m going to continue being acutely aware of where my wallet and other valuables are while I ride my daily trains, just as I have since childhood. Just because there’s a talent drought in the finger-felony business doesn’t mean it’s safe to let your guard down.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/15/2010 11:41pm
Category: New Yorkin', Society, True Crime
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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

At what age should a kid retire from Halloween tricking-slash-treating? Per small-town law, it’s when they’re old enough to start truly scaring those doling out the candy:

“When I was a kid my father said to me, ‘You’re too damn big to be going trick-or-treating. You’re done,’” [Bellville, IL Mayor Mark] Eckhert told ABC News. “When that doesn’t happen, then that’s reason for the city governments to intervene.”

Intervening, in this case, means putting an age limit on trick-or-treaters, and threatening the over-12 set with a $100 fine for those who ignore the law — though, according to ABC, that fine has rarely, if ever, been actually meted out. And while some residents of Belleville have complained about the ordinance, it seems that many more are relieved. Trick-or-treat age limits have also been popular in townships in South Carolina, Mississippi, Maryland, and Virginia.

A fine is extreme, and probably ineffective. But I do support the intent: Getting overgrown tweens out of the mix.

I get a kick out of handing out candy early on Halloween night, and seeing little kids awkwardly posing in their costumes. When a fat 5-foot-tall slob — wearing no mask or costume and lugging a pillowcase for his sugary loot — shows up, it kills the magic for me.

And that’s exactly what I encountered at my door, more than once, the last time I participated in the holiday tradition. Since then, I’ve kept my jack-o-lantern dark, because it frankly disgusts me to see such a display. If you’re going door-to-door looking for handouts, sans disguise, you’re no longer trick-or-treating — you’re now simply begging.

So sure, go ahead and ban these past-their-prime Halloweenies. Maybe it’ll kickstart their internal shame mechanism.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/27/2010 10:41am
Category: Society, True Crime
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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

It’s not every day that your neighborhood cemetery* yields something other than tombstones — in this case, a long-abandoned stash of munitions.

Officers cordoned off Second Street between First and Second Avenues on Monday, and Bomb Squad officers dug up areas near where the explosives were first discovered, but as of Monday evening no other suspicious packages had been found. [NYC Police Commissioner Raymond] Kelly said the package contained eight sticks of C-4 [each] weighing about one and a quarter pounds. He said the material was not commonly available.

“It could have been taken from a military installation, perhaps years ago,” he said. “We don’t know how old it is.”

Mr. Kelly said that based on the condition of the bag, the package might have been in the cemetery for several years.

Based on the neighborhood’s rough history, it seems pretty clear where this came from:

The cemetery abuts some brownstones and is about 100 feet from the notorious E 3rd Street clubhouse of the Hell’s Angels motorcyle gang.

According to “Hell’s Angels: Three Can Keep a Secret if Two are Dead” by Yves Lavigne, the biker gang stockpiled C-4 in the 1980s.

Mystery solved, as far as I’m concerned. Some bikers hid their stockpile there ages ago, then either forgot about it or otherwise got separated from it (untimely deaths?), and this undelivered payload sat there, untouched until now. Makes you wonder what else is hidden away in some of the City’s older nooks and crannies.

As for the cemetery itself, what stands out for me it that it never, ever, gets shoveled during winter. Many’s the time I’ve walked down 2nd Street, and had to practically skate down the long expanse of sidewalk along its gates. (The pavement on either side of it are always cleared of ice and snow, so this really stands out — I don’t know how this landmark gets away with it.) I’ve even slipped and taken a tumble on occasion — and I never fall, so that tells you how treacherous this stretch of the LES is. Hopefully, the next time I land on my butt, the impact won’t trigger the explosion of even more yet-to-be-discovered pyrotechnics…

*In fact, there are two neighborhood cemeteries on this same street. And to add to the redundancy, they have almost identical names: New York City Marble Cemetery and New York Marble Cemetery. The bomb-making material was found in the former site.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/12/2021 11:15pm
Category: History, New Yorkin', True Crime
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Monday, September 20, 2021

Unlike the Western stereotype of oversized, physically-imposing bodyguards, China’s nouveau riche prefer personal protection that’s subtler and stealthier:

Chen Yongching, 27, a former military martial arts expert who started his security company, Tianjiao Special Protection, in 2008, said the trend in China is for the bodyguards to be smaller in stature. “If they’re too big, it would be too obvious,” Chen said. “We can get lost in a crowd — you don’t recognize us.”

Chen said about 40 percent of his bodyguards are women. One, Chai Chang, 25, stands just 5 feet and 4 inches tall, and weighs 121 pounds. But she is trained in martial arts and freestyle fighting, and says, “When we practice, I fight two guys, no problem.”

And bodyguards are not permitted to carry firearms in the People’s Republic, so hand-to-hand is all they’ve got. It’s like a Chinese version of the ninja, corporate-tized.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/20/2010 10:19pm
Category: Business, Society, True Crime
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We all joke about getting buzzed off the coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks we chug throughout the day. Maybe we should cut back on that juice, before we wind up killing somebody:

Woody Will Smith, 33, admits to killing his wife in 2009, but claims in pre-trial filings that he was ingesting the pills and caffeinated drinks at the time to stay awake to keep his wife from leaving him, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports…

The Associated Press says a legal strategy involving caffeine intoxication is rare, but was used successfully last year in Washington state to clear a man charged with running down and injuring two people with a car.

Goes to show that you can overdose on just about anything. But can you credibly frame Starbucks and Red Bull as murder weapons?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/20/2010 09:15pm
Category: Food, True Crime
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Thursday, August 26, 2021

The name Muntadhar al-Zeidi probably won’t go down in history. But, improbably, the former Iraqi journalist’s George W. Bush-seeking missile of a shoe might:

Throwing shoes at the mighty has become a global phenomenon that shows no sign of fading away.

Since that infamous Baghdad press conference on Dec. 14, 2008, shoes have flown at the prime ministers of China and Turkey, the chief justice of Israel’s Supreme Court, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, a Ukrainian politician who favored joining NATO, and a string of Indian politicians…

Rare are the memes — the bits of viral behavior — that truly take root in the real world. Throwing shoes at world leaders has joined the club. But what makes shoe-throwing more lasting than, say, the Old Spice Guy?

Throwing a shoe is pure slapstick — aggression and humor blended, violence in which no one really gets hurt. It’s stronger than a sign, or shouted slogan, but short of actually harming a leader.

Validity of symbolism aside, I’m thinking that the political-pie-in-the-face crew is feeling ideologically upstaged.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/26/2010 08:49am
Category: Political, Society, True Crime
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Friday, July 23, 2021

Who better than Franz Kafka — or, at least, his legacy — to get caught up in a courtroom-setting morass over ownership of the author’s personal papers?

A protracted legal battle over the contents of four safe-deposit boxes in a Swiss bank, believed by some to contain unpublished works by Franz Kafka or other material shedding light on his life, came to an end on Wednesday when an Israeli judge ruled that the papers should be made public. The decision follows the opening earlier this week of a vault at a UBS bank in Zurich, where the documents were stashed in 2008 by two Israeli sisters who had fought for two years to keep the papers private.

The first find is a handwritten, unpublished short story. If the trademark Kafka quirkiness holds, it should be about the alienation stemming from having your correspondence rifled through after your death — and be fittingly unfinished…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/23/2010 05:45pm
Category: History, Publishing, True Crime
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Tuesday, July 06, 2021

CBS is rebooting classic cop show “Hawaii Five-O” for a Fall 2010 revival. But, according to the network, this latter-day “Five-O” carries an alphanumeric distinction:

Yep, in what the Eye has billed its “shortest press release in history,” the network has informed journos that it’s not the capital letter “O” but instead, the number “0,” in the show title “Hawaii Five-0.”

But yet, that zero is still pronounced “O.” As in “Oh.” As in, “Oh, we’re just effing with you.”

There must be a tongue-in-cheek spirit behind that pronouncement. Because if the Internet Movie Database counts for anything, it clearly lists both old and new series as “Hawaii Five-O”, as in the letter “o”. (Curiously, though, there’s an in-development feature film listed on IMDb that does, indeed, carry the title Hawaii Five-0, as in the number zero. What to make of that?)

In any case, it’d be hard to for CBS to undo decades of ingrained pop-cultural reference. I’m guessing there’s a couple of generations who’ve never seen a trace of the old Jack Lord TV series. Yet “five-o” is common West Coast urban slang for the police, and that distinctive instrumental theme song is instantly recognizable. Especially if you hang out with me, as I’ve been known to use it as my cellphone ringtone.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/06/2021 11:03pm
Category: Pop Culture, TV, True Crime
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Sunday, July 04, 2021

Leave it to six-time hot-dog eating champ Takeru Kobayashi to lend some actual drama to this year’s Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Thanks to his contract dispute with Major League Eating, “The Tsunami” found himself gatecrashing the event:

Kobayashi, wearing a black T-shirt that said “Free Kobi,” mingled with the crowd watching the contest, standing inside a police-barricaded pen just under the stage. When the eating ended, he slipped up the stage stairs.

Then, several security officers appeared and tried to usher him off. He grabbed a metal police barricade with both hands, holding on tightly as the officers pulled at him. Finally, they dragged him down the stairs, with Kobayashi resisting vehemently.

He was under arrest Sunday afternoon, charged with resisting arrest, trespass and obstructing governmental administration.

I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing: Getting arrested for attempting to upstage a celebration of competitive gluttony, or actually participating in a contest that demonstrates what a frankfurter-inhaling pig you are.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/04/2021 10:45pm
Category: Food, New Yorkin', Other Sports, True Crime
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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The home-office shredder that I ordered from Amazon arrived yesterday. I inaugurated it by feeding through a couple of pointlessly-printed invoices (which even more pointlessly included both my Social Security number and my tax ID).

Spending money on a homemade confetti-maker always struck me as a concession to one’s paranoiac impulses. Identity theft and financial fraud are facts of life, but there’s so much lower-hanging fruit in the digital realm that paper records hardly seem worth the trouble to either steal or safeguard.

But I will say that this little purchase — free, in a way, as I paid for it via a Coinstar gift certificate generated from my spare-change bowl — does now give me a small measure of peace of mind. Because now, I can dispose of my junkmail and similar hardcopies without the slight dread of them somehow falling into someone else’s hands. Hey, if I’m going to succumb to the general societal irrationality about phantom crimes, then I might as well succumb to the corresponding placebos.

At least this particular placebo slices and dices with noisy malevolence…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/30/2010 11:20pm
Category: Society, Tech, True Crime
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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

While the eleven alleged Russian spies just nabbed by the FBI didn’t seem to dig up much sensitive information, one of them is finding another brand of blown-cover success:

Anna Chapman cut a wide swath in New York even before her arrest on charges of spying for Mother Russia, judging by the sultry shots and videos suddenly popping up everywhere, starting with her own Facebook page.

Now, thanks to her penchant for seductive poses, she’s an international star. You’d hardly know her real pose, according to U.S. officials, was deadly serious: seducing government officials and businessmen into providing state secrets.

Seems like a roundabout way to generate some online buzz. If Chapman had wanted to make it big on the Web, she could just as easily have exposed herself on Chatroulette

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/29/2010 11:52pm
Category: Politics, True Crime, Women
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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Even taking into consideration the eminently-valid reasons for producing the rape-preventative apparatus known as the Rape-aXe, the concept is somewhat mind-boggling:

[Dr. Sonnet] Ehlers is distributing the female condoms in the various South African cities where the World Cup soccer games are taking place.

The woman inserts the latex condom like a tampon. Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line its inside and attach on a man’s penis during penetration, Ehlers said.

Once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it — a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest.

“It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it’s on,” she said. “If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter… however, it doesn’t break the skin, and there’s no danger of fluid exposure.”

Between this device, and those ear-aching vuvuzelas, this has already been a more-memorable-than-usual World Cup. Appropriately enough, for reasons having little to do with soccer…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/22/2010 08:00pm
Category: Other Sports, Science, True Crime, Women
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