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Monday, May 12, 2008

Racing Industry Is Stuck in Perpetual Post Time


Mark Abraham/European Pressphoto Agency

The death of the filly Eight Belles, left, after the Kentucky Derby cast a negative spotlight on the horse racing industry among millions of the sport’s casual fans.

Thoroughbred racing has been too slow to change.

An insular industry built on horses and gambling is out of step, out of touch and out of sync with contemporary American culture.

Even the industry’s reaction to the death of Eight Belles was typically defensive, a massive circling of the wagons. Critics were accused of not knowing the game, not knowing the sport.

Casual fans know what they see. They peek in on this world three times a year — in Louisville, this week in Baltimore and next month in New York.

The fatal misstep of Barbaro during the 2006 Preakness Stakes and now the death of Eight Belles after the 2008 Kentucky Derby compels casual viewers to look at racing as some sort of barbaric enterprise. They have seen heartbreaking accidents in two of the last three Triple Crown seasons and can draw their own conclusions.

“There is going to be a part of society that will never understand,” said Doug Reed, the director of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. “Racing will always be a niche product.”

Reed, 52, joined Arizona’s 34-year-old program in 1994 after an extensive run in the thoroughbred industry. He has worked at nearly every level of the industry — from maintenance crew to racing official — and at tracks in a number of states, including Maryland, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois and New Mexico.

The industry has a much greater problem than convincing the public that it does not abuse animals. It needs to become a player in a booming gaming industry once again. While the gaming industry was gaining by leaps and bounds in the 1990s, racing, fat from its profits, fell behind.

“Whether it be casinos, Native American facilities, lotteries, the competition got fierce,” Reed said in a telephone interview. “And yes, the industry did probably fall asleep. Now we’ve stagnated.”

The racing industry was slow to see the changes coming, slow to anticipate the impact of casinos and lotteries. Racing felt it would be fine because it had a monopoly.

“Complacency is one of the reasons companies fail,” Reed said. “Softened by success would be the academic term. You can get complacent real easy when things are going well, and you let your guard down. I think that’s what we did. And then you’re playing catch-up.”

There was tremendous growth in the 1990s, but racetracks have not kept up. Airport terminals became shopping malls. Football and baseball stadiums and basketball arenas are like theme parks. Racetracks, however, stayed racetracks. And the industry, Reed said, “took the customer for granted.” He called it a “textbook case of complacency.”

“We were profitable, the money was rolling in,” Reed said. “Tracks did not reinvest in themselves quickly or substantially enough to keep up with the times. Customers and reinvesting are the two things they could have done better. The entertainment bar was raised, and we were too slow to react.”

One of the impediments to change is fragmentation.

“We are 30-some different states with 30-some different rulebooks regulated by 30-some different racing commissions or other regulatory governmental bodies,” Reed said.

But what tipped the scale against the industry was the perception — and the reality — that horses, the foundation of the industry, were being abused in the normal course of training and racing. The new and intense focus on animal rights has caught the industry flat-footed. Reed has noticed the change.

“Things that were not issues 20 years ago are more on people’s minds these days,” he said. “Animal rights, animal safety. Anything to do with animals. I notice it in our students.

“When I was younger, I don’t think it was talked about as much or just wasn’t at the top of my mind. Now our students talk about it, they have more concerns. Society’s consciousness — about everything — is raised to a new level.”

Can thoroughbred racing flourish in this new culture of consciousness?

To its credit, the racing industry began to do some soul-searching after Barbaro’s injury in 2006.

In October of that year, the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and the Jockey Club sponsored the first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit. In March, the second summit was held in Lexington, Ky., and several areas of concern were identified, including ways to attract and retain more regulatory veterinarians, improving track surfaces to reduce injuries and creating a research and development plan for drug testing.

“They’ve been looking at safety and welfare and duty of care,” said Reed, who attended the summit. “I wish it was 5 or 10 years earlier, but they have been looking at it. Unfortunately, it’s going to look like they’re reacting. It’s moving slowly, but that’s the nature, unfortunately, of the fragmented organizational structure of this industry.”

The struggle for thoroughbred racing is not for survival — there will always be racing. The challenge is for an outmoded industry to become relevant.

E-mail: wcr@nytimes.com

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For Mortgages Underwater, Help Swims In

ANTIOCH, Calif. -- While lawmakers in Washington struggle to solve the nation's foreclosure crisis, officials here are using a small fish to clean up some of the mess.

The Gambusia affinis is commonly known as the "mosquito fish" because of its healthy appetite for the larvae of the irritating and disease-spreading insects. Lately, the fish is being pressed into service in California, Arizona, Florida and other areas struggling with a soaring number of foreclosures.

[Mosquito Fish]

The problem: swimming pools of abandoned homes have turned into mosquito breeding grounds.

"They are real heroes," says Josefa Cabada, a technician at the Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District, a government agency. "I've never seen a mosquito in a pool with mosquito fish."

The mosquito fish is well suited for a prolonged housing slump. Hardy creatures with big appetites, they can survive in oxygen-depleted swimming pools for many months, eating up to 500 larvae a day and giving birth to 60 fry a month. That can save environmental crews from having to repeatedly spray pesticides in the pools while the houses grind through the foreclosure process.

Some local agencies, increasingly worried about mosquito-borne diseases like the West Nile Virus, are taking to the air to find problem swimming pools. The Turlock Abatement District, near Modesto, Calif., last month hired a plane to fly over 55 square miles, snapping pictures of pools from about 5,000 feet. On the ground, mosquito-control crews cross-referenced properties that had greenish-brown pools with a street map and a database of local foreclosed homes.

A significant threat to public health can be resolved through the use of a biological intervention. Learn more about the fish that eats mosquito larvae to reduce the threat of the west nile virus. WSJ's Michael Corkery reports. (May 8)

In the Turlock district alone, about 475 stagnant pools were identified on the flyover. Many of those will be filled with mosquito fish.

To deploy the fish, communities are turning to workers like Ms. Cabada, a former Navy sailor. She has raised pet fish since she was a girl and keeps a 55-gallon aquarium at home along with her five love birds, two dogs, two pet pigeons and a rooster. Many mornings, she collects hundreds of fish, housed in massive bubbling tanks at mosquito-control headquarters, and transports them to pools and other water sources in a cooler in the back of her pickup truck. In the sweltering heat, the fish ride up front.

"They're my buddies for the day,'' Ms. Cabada says.

After Hurricane Katrina

The fish have been used to keep mosquito populations down for many decades by farmers and environmental crews who stock them in cattle ponds, irrigation ditches and decorative ponds. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, mosquito fish were stocked in the thousands of swimming pools abandoned around New Orleans in the storm.

[Josefa Cabada]

Native to the Gulf Coast states, the mosquito fish have mouths shaped to slurp larvae off the water's surface like noodles. The females can grow up to 3 inches long, and reproduce quickly. Technicians in Contra Costa typically release about 150 fish into each pool. Within weeks, the pools teem with a thousand of the scaly, gray predators.

When Ms. Cabada released fish into a pool behind a vacant home one recent day, they darted and dove through the water, which was the color of herbal tea. "It comforts you just to see them swimming around," she says.

Located along the delta where the Sacramento River meets the salt waters of the San Francisco Bay area, Contra Costa County's warm climate makes for prime mosquito country. The area is also struggling with foreclosures. Default notices more than doubled to 4,718 in the first quarter from the previous year, according to the research firm, DataQuick Information Systems.

[neighborhood]
Turlock Mosquito Abatement District

But like everything else about the housing crisis, the fish aren't a perfect fix. They baffle some bankers and agents hired by lenders to look after the vacant homes, says Carlos Sanabria, the Contra Costa mosquito control district's operations manager. "People think some trout-size thing is going to be swimming around in there clogging up the vents," he says. "I explain it's not something you are going to have for dinner."

Not everybody likes turning swimming pools into giant aquariums. "First you have fish, then you have birds that eat them" and then bird droppings, says Arnie Shal, a retired accountant, who lives next to several foreclosed houses with pools in Clearwater, Fla. "It's not really a healthy situation."

Mr. Shal, 71 years old, recently protested the use of mosquito fish in his posh development to the neighborhood association. He fears the fish will die in the Florida heat and allow mosquitoes to breed out of control. "This is trying to fix a serious health issue on the cheap," he says, "Everyone is under budgetary pressure, I understand. But they are going to leave us bug infested."

There are other concerns. A 1999 study showed that when biologists introduced mosquito fish to a pond containing tadpoles of the California red-legged frog, which is a threatened species, the fish harassed the tadpoles and harmed their growth. The frogs that emerged from the pond were 30% smaller than frogs raised in a pond without mosquito fish.

Stubby Tadpoles

"The Gambusia just keep taking bites out of the tadpoles, and the tadpoles end up kind of stubby," says the study's author, Sharon Lawler, a professor of entomology at University of California at Davis. She says well-intentioned buyers of foreclosed houses should be cautioned not to transfer the Gambusia from a pool into a pond containing the fragile tadpoles.

In addition to raising fish, Contra Costa scientists keep an indoor colony of mosquitoes for research. It falls to the district's entomologist, Steve Schutz, to provide the insects with their regular "blood meal," which he says the females need in order to reproduce. Every week or so, he sticks his arm into a screened cage containing more than a hundred mosquitoes in a hot and humid room called the "insectary."

He usually reads a book or works on a puzzle while the mosquitoes bite him for about 20 minutes. "I have been doing it so long that it doesn't even itch that much,'' he says. The district used to use a bobwhite quail for the blood meal, but Mr. Schutz says it's less hassle to offer up his arm.

'It's Organic'

It can take months after a defaulted homeowner leaves a house before the banks start caring for the property, Mr. Sanabria says. During that time, the fish can contain the mosquito problem, while a bank hires a caretaker to drain the pool or restart the filtration system. The fish are more environmentally friendly than constant spraying with pesticides. One problem with putting a cover on the pool is that the cover's exterior can collect water and breed mosquitoes, if left unchecked.

"This is how we are supposed to take care of things,'' says Robert Kloepping, who lives next to a vacant home with a pool containing mosquito fish in Antioch, Calif. "I think it's cool, man. It's organic."

The fish face a bleak future once they've done their job. Some begin eating each other after they run out of mosquito larvae. When the houses are sold, new owners can collect the fish and return them to the mosquito-control agency. In some cases, the environmental services department in Maricopa County, Arizona offers to come back and round up the fish it dumped in pools. But most fish will probably die as home owners drain the pools or begin treating them so they can swim in them.

"That's part of the program,'' says Chris Miller, a biologist at the Contra Costa mosquito and vector control district. "They are sacrificial."


Write to Michael Corkery at michael.corkery@wsj.com

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Panda Bear Cub's Growth

An amazing series of photographs documenting the first three months of a cute panda bear's growth.











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News Bizarre


Michelle Duggar, 41, shown with her children and husband, Jim Bob, third from right, had her 17th child on Aug. 2. She's expecting again. She's been pregnant for 11 years of her life.
BETH HALL: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Soon she'll have enough kids for 2 baseball teams

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. — Mother's Day draws a crowd in the home of an Arkansas woman — she is pregnant with her 18th child.

Michelle Duggar, 41, said she is six weeks along and that everything is going well.

This weekend, Duggar will join her husband and their 17 children to celebrate Mother's Day with brunch at a hotel in downtown Little Rock. Their youngest child, Jennifer, is 9 months old. Their oldest, Josh, is 20.

The Duggar children include 10 boys and seven girls. Within the group are two sets of twins.

"We've had three in January, three in December. Those two months are a busy time for us," Michelle Duggar said, laughing.

The fast-growing family lives in Tontitown in northwest Arkansas in a 7,000-square-foot home. All the children — whose names start with the letter J — are home-schooled.

Lots of show and tell

Jim Bob Duggar, a former member of the Arkansas Legislature and an unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate, has not been specific when asked how he supports such a big family. But he said he was guided by a seminar about 20 years ago — a system he still advocates — that blends finance and religion.

The family has become well-known through news coverage of new births and with programs about them on Discovery Health, which is filming the family again.

The new show looks at life inside the Duggar home, where chores — or "jurisdictions" — are assigned to each child. One episode of the new show involves a "jurisdiction swap," where the boys do chores traditionally assigned to the girls, and vice versa, Duggar said.

"The girls swapped jurisdictions, changing tires, working in the garages, mowing the grass," she said. "The boys got to cook supper from start to finish, clean the bathrooms," among other chores.

Michelle Duggar, who has been pregnant for 11 years of her life, said she and her husband will continue to have children as long as God wills it.

The other Duggar children, in between Joshua and Jennifer, are Jana, 18; John-David, 18; Jill, 16; Jessa, 15; Jinger, 14; Joseph, 13; Josiah, 11; Joy-Anna, 10; Jeremiah, 9; Jedidiah, 9; Jason, 7; James, 6; Justin, 5; Jackson, 3; and Johannah, 2.

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Medical Mystery: The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep

Rhett Lamb, 3, is often irritable, but it's not just the routine growing pains of a toddler's life that has affected him. It's the fact that Rhett can't sleep.

Rhett Lamb
Three-year-old Rhett Lamb is awake nearly 24 hours a day.
(ABC News)

"We went to the doctor after he was born, and I kept telling him something was wrong. He didn't sleep. They thought I was being kind of an anxious mom, and we went back and forth," Rhett's mother, Shannon Lamb, said. "Finally, they [were] starting to realize now that he really doesn't sleep at all. But we've had a lot of different diagnoses and nobody really knows."

His sleep deprivation caused made him very irritable.

"That's going to have a great impact on his behavior during the day -- his irritability, his ability to eat -- and I'm sure it also impacted the parents tremendously," said Marie Savard, an ABC News medical consultant.

Rhett is awake nearly 24 hours a day, and his condition has baffled his parents and doctors for years. They took clock shifts watching his every sleep-deprived mood to determine what ailed the young boy.

After a number of conflicting opinions, Shannon and David Lamb finally learned what was wrong with their child: Doctors diagnosed Rhett with an extremely rare condition called chiari malformation.

"The brain literally is squeezed into the spinal column. What happens is you get compression, squeezing, strangulating of the brain stem, which has all the vital functions that control sleep, speech, our cranial nerves, our circulatory system, even our breathing system," Savard said.

In order to relieve the pressure on Rhett's brain stem, doctors performed surgery this week that they hope will allow him to sleep properly for the first time in his life. Surgeons made an incision at the base of Rhett's skull to the top of his neck and removed the bone around the brain stem and spinal cord, which produced more space.

"Doing the decompression, relieving that pressure, should absolutely improve those symptoms," Savard said.

Still, doctors said the Lambs may not see major changes for several months or possibly even a year. But Rhett's parents hope their son will be able to get some rest and be normal.

"There is a 50-50 chance that the sleep will improve," Shannon Lamb said. "Once the sleep improves, we can work on the behavioral stuff. He's very irritable all of the time.

"I would love to see him play and have a good time and be happy," she said.

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Fort Worth Donut Shop Robber Shot & Killed

FORT WORTH (CBS 11 News) ―

A Fort Worth businesswoman was almost robbed at her shop, but a neighbor comes to her rescue. In the end, the man suspected of the crime is shot and killed.

Chong Im Randle, who friends call Angel, described her conversation with the would-be robber. "I say you not to shoot. Okay, you kill me I'm going to heaven. You go to jail."

By Friday afternoon Angel appeared calm and collected as she detailed the morning's activity. "He followed me, then grabbed me. I hit him with my elbow."

Randal says 45-year-old Richard Lane wore a mask when he broke into Happy Donuts around 1:30 a.m., with what looked like a rifle. He stole money from the cash drawer, beat Randal up and tried to steal her car.

"I grabbed my telephone," Randal explained. "He said, don't call police. I say I gotta do something."

Meanwhile her neighbor, 54-year-old Stanley Livingston, heard the commotion next door, grabbed his shotgun and ran over to help. That's when Lane allegedly pointed his gun at Livingston, who fired one shot killing the robber.

Fort Worth defense attorney Trey Loftin told CBS 11 News, "We're a gun toting state. We have a lot of John Wayne in our blood. We're gonna shoot first and ask questions later." Loftin says Livingston will most likely not be charged.

Randal, who says this morning's robbery was the second in two weeks, is grateful her neighbor was there. "If my neighbor no come, what is gone happen? I might die."

According to Fort Worth police Lane was armed with a BB gun rifle during the robbery. State records indicate Lane had an extensive criminal history, including aggravated assault and aggravated robbery.

After talking to police Randal was back in the store. She said she had to keep her promises to customers. "We have orders that have to be delivered," she said.

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Texas Teen Handcuffed For Wearing Skimpy Dress to High School Prom
"They didn't give me any options, but to go to jail or go home.”

Woman fired for giving 16-cent treat to toddler


TORONTO (Reuters) - An attendant at a Canadian restaurant who was sacked for giving a bite-sized doughnut, worth 16 cents, to an agitated toddler was given her job back on Thursday after the case received wide media attention.

Nicole Lilliman, a single mother, said she was dismissed from a London, Ontario, outlet of the Tim Hortons coffee and doughnut chain after video cameras captured the 27-year-old giving a Timbit to a toddler.

"It was just out of my heart, she (the toddler) was pointing and going 'ah, ah...' I should have gone to my purse and got the change, but it was busy," Lilliman told the Toronto Star newspaper.

Tim Hortons said on Thursday that the firing was a mistake.

"It was the unfortunate action of one manager who unfortunately made an overzealous decision, and thankfully we were able to rectify the situation," said company spokeswoman Rachel Douglas.

Douglas said the company, a Canadian icon with stores on virtually every high street across the country, told Lilliman that she could have her job back, and Lilliman had accepted.

A single Timbit sells for 16 Canadian cents (16 U.S. cents), but most shoppers buy boxes of 10, 20 or 40 of the deep-fried goodies, which come in a variety of flavors.

Douglas said Tim Hortons had received a number of complaints. "Thankfully we're able to go back to them and say we were able to fix the situation," she said.

(Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Janet Guttsman and Peter Galloway)

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A Look Inside Local Cuddle Parties

PHILADELPHIA (CBS 3) ― In today's non-stop rush to get here and there, maneuvering through a crowd of hundreds and in and out of lines of traffic, some people worry that they are losing touch with each other. Now as CBS 3's Mary Stoker-Smith reports there's a way to really reach out and touch somebody else. You can do it a cuddle party.

A Cuddle Party may look like a pajama party for grown-ups. It's fun but there are rules. The number one rule, pajamas stay on the whole time. This is a non-sexual event.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way you may ask yourself, what's a cuddle party?

"This is a way of framing touch in a positive way," says cuddle party facilitator Edie Weinstein-Moser.

Edie says the parties which are held around the country and in our area are meant to help people achieve better intimacy, and communication. And it allows people to express themselves in a comfortable and safe environment.

There's snuggling, nuzzling and even spooning. But not everyone's ready for a group hug right away since you may not know everyone. So to get comfortable there are a few steps to start with.

The first step, whether you're with a partner or by yourself, is to sit and chat in a welcome circle. You hear the rules which include asking permission and getting a verbal yes before you touch anybody. And if everyone agrees to all of the rules, the cuddling begins.

"I love experiencing the feelings that come up when you connect with each individual person," said cuddle party-goer Linda Hunter at a recent Phoenixville party.

"Day to day life can get isolating so it's nice to have something to break out of that pattern," says Eric Merlino, another cuddle guest.

For Eric Hunter, "I have finally completely overcome my social anxiety that I had for decades."

Cuddle parties last for about 3 hours and pajamas and stuffed animals are optional.

"These folks enjoyed themselves, they tell me they leave feeling lighter emotionally and physically," said Edie. "You can't help but smile being around this."

And who doesn't love a good hug once in a while?
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Man loses 35,000 dollars in 'marinaded money' scam

A wad of 100 dollar bills. A Vietnamese man in Norway lost around 35,000 dollars after he was led to believe that mixing the cash with a special liquid would double its value, Norwegian media has reported.(AFP/File/Tengku Bahar)
AFP/File Photo: A wad of 100 dollar bills. A Vietnamese man in Norway lost around 35,000 dollars...
A Vietnamese man in Norway lost around 35,000 dollars after he was led to believe that mixing the cash with a special liquid would double its value, Norwegian media reported Saturday.

A 32-year-old Frenchman is set to stand trial in a lower court near Oslo next week on charges that he cheated a gullible Vietnamese man out of 180,000 kroner (35,00 dollars, 23,000 euros) earlier this year, local daily Romerikes Blad (RB) reported on its website.

The victim of the con, who was not identified, was reportedly told by the Frenchman to leave a mixture of real cash with blank bills to marinate in a special liquid overnight, and the next morning he would have double the amount of cash at his disposal.

But when he showed up the next morning to collect his prize, both the cash and the suspected con-artist, whose name was not revealed, had disappeared.

"He has given a statement that leads us to believe that he really believed this was possible. But we are of course having a hard time understanding how someone could actually believe such a tall tale," police officer Ragnar Ingberg told RB.

On March 3, the Frenchman was arrested while trying to leave the country with nearly 200,000 kroner in his possession.

The man's defence lawyer, Jan Schjatvet, told RB his client had come to Norway to find used cars in mint condition to sell in Africa, and that he was flabbergasted at the charges against him.

"He is extremely surprised to be charged with something that is so incredible. This sounds completely crazy," he told the paper.

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Narco subs pose new challenge for US coast guards

A narcotics smuggler is perched atop a mini-submarine carrying cocaine during an interception by US authorities in 2007

MIAMI (AFP) — The first time they found one, authorities dubbed it "Big Foot." They had heard rumors that such things existed, but nobody had actually seen one.

It was late 2006, and Big Foot was not lurking in a forest, but at sea, 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Costa Rica. And it was not an ape-like creature, but a hulking, blue vessel resembling a submarine and carrying several tons of cocaine.

Nor was it a solitary beast.

Authorities say they are detecting more and more seacraft like Big Foot -- known as self-propelled semi-submersibles -- carrying larger and larger loads of drugs.

Chugging around the southern curve of Central America and up towards the United States, they have formed a kind of illicit fleet and become a major drug trafficking tool.

"It's significant. We believe they can carry upwards of eight or 10 tons of cocaine," said Rear Admiral Joseph Nimmich, director of the Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Florida, where military and government agencies track drug shipments.

"It's in fact a logical progression," he added. "As we get better at interdiction, they move to try to counteract our success."

Experts estimate 25 to 40 semi-subs left South America last year laden with cocaine, and they expect that figure to double in 2008.

Nimmich said cartels started looking for alternative ways to transport their cargo several years ago, when drug enforcement officials cracked down on trafficking by fishing vessels.

One answer was the "go fast," a souped-up speed boat that blasts across the water so fast that authorities have to use helicopters to give chase. Another was the semi-sub.

Unlike speedboats though, semi-subs have a low profile. They travel just beneath the ocean's surface, making them difficult to find on radar screens. Big Foot also had lead shielding to minimize its "heat signature" and throw off infrared sensors.

More recently, traffickers have started outfitting semi-subs with a scuttle valve so crews can quickly sink the vessels if authorities get close enough to board and collect evidence.

Zachary Mann, a spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection, said finding semi-subs involves a "layered" approach of high-tech monitoring and "good ole' fashion police investigative work."

In some cases, this means visually spotting them from the air, although they are painted blue and produce a wisp of a wake. Even here, the traffickers alter their methods, travelling more slowly during the day so their wake is smaller.

Hoping for a new weapon in their arsenal, the US Coast Guard is working with Congress to make it illegal even to be aboard an unflagged semi-sub in international waters, whether or not authorities find cocaine at the scene as evidence of wrongdoing. The crime would carry a 20-year prison term.

"This vessel has no purpose other than illicit trafficking," Nimmich said.

In the meantime, semi-subs have grown bigger, sturdier and faster. Some can cover up to 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) during a non-stop two-week voyage. They have crews of three or four men who share a tiny cylindrical capsule just four-feet high.

"This is another example of just how nimble drug traffickers are, mainly because of the profits that are available," said Adam Isacson, an expert on Colombia at the Center for International Policy in Washington.

The value of cocaine spikes once it arrives in the United States, he said, where 2007 figures put the price of a gram at 118 dollars.

Motivated by huge profit margins, drug traffickers have maintained a steady supply of cocaine to US consumers despite billions of dollars in US anti-narcotics aid to Colombia, where almost all cocaine is produced.

Other smuggling techniques involve stashing drugs in containers, or paying human "mules" to ingest them before travelling. Agents have found cocaine dissolved in diesel fuel, stashed inside fake plantains, stuffed inside lollipops, and even hidden in breast implants.

Despite difficulties interdicting semi-subs, the US Coast Guard seized a record 355,000 pounds (160,000 kilos) of cocaine in 2007, up two percent from the previous year.

The figure was boosted by the agency's largest cocaine bust ever -- a 42,845-pound (19,280-kilo) cargo -- stacked on the deck of a freighter.

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