Sunday, August 10, 2008
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A woman who made news around the world when she had five pups cloned from her beloved pit bull Booger looked very familiar to some who saw her picture: She's the same woman who 31 years earlier was accused of abducting a Mormon missionary in England, handcuffing him to a bed and making him her sex slave.
Dog lover Bernann McKinney acknowledged in a telephone call to The Associated Press on Saturday that she is indeed Joyce McKinney, who in 1977 became a British tabloid sensation when she faced charges of unlawful imprisonment in the missionary case. She jumped bail and was never brought to justice.
Through tears, she explained that she went public with her efforts to replicate Booger, who died two years ago, hoping people would be able to focus on that story rather than the ''garbage'' of the past.
''I thought people would be honest enough to see me as a person who was trying to do something good and not as a celebrity,'' McKinney told the AP. ''My mother always taught me, 'Say something good or say nothing at all.'''
''I think I gave people too much credit,'' she said.
British tabloids first recognized the blond woman's smiling face when she appeared in news photographs this past week with the five pit bull pups she paid South Korean scientists $53,000 to clone.
McKinney, who initially denied a connection between the two women, acknowledged that she was one and the same after the AP ran a story noting the striking similarities in arrest records and court documents for the names Bernann McKinney and Joyce McKinney. They had the same birth date and Social Security numbers, the same hometown of Newland, N.C., and Joyce McKinney's middle name is Bernann.
But the now-57-year-old McKinney said that, as far as she's concerned, the Joyce McKinney of 31 years ago doesn't exist. She maintains her innocence and says the woman of all those years ago is a ''figment of the tabloid press. ... I don't want that garbage in with the puppy story.''
The story of Joyce McKinney is the stuff of pulp fiction: a North Carolina-born beauty queen who moved west, won the title Miss Wyoming USA and went on to college at Brigham Young University, where she became obsessed with a Mormon fellow student.
When that young Mormon took a missionary trip to England, authorities say McKinney hired a private detective so she could locate and follow him.
She and a male accomplice were accused of abducting the 21-year-old missionary as he went door to door, taking him to a rented 17th-century ''honeymoon cottage'' in Devon and chaining him spread-eagle to a bed with several pairs of mink-lined handcuffs.
There, investigators say, he was repeatedly forced to have sex with McKinney before he was able to escape and notify police.
In a 1977 court hearing mobbed by the British press, Joyce McKinney said she'd fallen head-over-heels in love with the Mormon man and acknowledged tracking him to England. ''I loved him so much,'' she told a judge, ''that I would ski naked down Mount Everest in the nude with a carnation up my nose if he asked me to.''
But she denied a sexual assault, saying the young man was a willing partner.
In her call to the AP on Saturday, McKinney repeated the same argument her lawyer made all those years ago: There's no way she could have overpowered the young Mormon because he was much bigger and stronger.
''I didn't rape no 300-pound man,'' she said. ''He was built like a Green Bay Packer.''
McKinney and her accomplice spent three months in a London jail before being released on bail.
Press reports at the time that said the pair then jumped bail, posing as deaf-mute actors in Ireland to board an Air Canada flight to Toronto and eventually a bus to Cleveland, where investigators lost their trail.
Joyce McKinney surfaced again in Utah in May 1984 and was arrested for allegedly stalking the workplace of the same Mormon man she was accused of imprisoning in England. News reports say that police found a length of rope and handcuffs in the trunk of McKinney's car, along with notebooks detailing the man's daily activities.
Set to stand trial for lying to police and harassment in 1986, McKinney again disappeared just before proceedings and the case was dismissed.
It now appears Joyce McKinney may have escaped justice in the long-ago British case also. London police told the AP they've consigned the case to the history books because of its age and won't seek McKinney's extradition.
''They don't have a case,'' she told the AP. ''It's been 31 years. They don't care.''
''It's taken years of therapy to get past this,'' she said. ''We go to church and serve the Lord and try to lead good lives and do good things.''
McKinney refused to say where she was when she called. While in South Korea, she told reporters she was a screenwriter and handed out business cards with a Hollywood, Calif., address. The AP found that address did not exist.
At the Avery County courthouse in McKinney's hometown of Newland in the western North Carolina mountains, a clerk said she instantly recognized the woman snuggling puppies as the Joyce Bernann McKinney who has been a frequent defendant in court cases there.
''She is a person of note in our little community,'' said clerk Julia Henson.
Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frey said there are several charges on file against Joyce McKinney, including an active warrant seeking her arrest on a 2003 charge of communicating a threat against another woman.
Other charges include passing bad checks, an assault on a public officials and an 2004 animal cruelty charge alleging she failed to take proper care of a horse. That charge was dismissed.
James Stamey, the husband of the woman McKinney was charged with threatening, said that McKinney left Newland about two years ago and that no one had really seen or heard from her.
Until she showed up in the news about the cloned puppies.
''That's our Joy,'' Stamey said from his home in Newland.
Years ago, Stamey said, McKinney was a beautiful girl worthy of the Miss Wyoming USA crown.
''She's ugly as sin now,'' he said. ''But, sure enough, that's her.''
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers James Martinez in New York, Marlon Walker in Raleigh, N.C., Meera Selva in London and Solvej Schou in Los Angeles, and AP researcher Jennifer Farrar.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST, California (CNN) -- Beyond the towering trees that have stood here for thousands of years, an intense drug war is being waged.
Authorities uncovered more than $1 billion worth of pot plants in Sequoia National Forest this week.
Illegal immigrants connected to Mexico's drug cartels are growing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of marijuana in the heart of one of America's national treasures, authorities say. It's a booming business that, federal officials say, feeds Mexico's most violent drug traffickers.
"These aren't Cheech and Chong plants," said John Walters, director of the National Drug Control Policy. "People who farm now are not doing this for laughs, despite the fact Hollywood still thinks that. They're doing it to make a lot of money."Walters spoke from a "marijuana garden" tucked deep into the Sequoia National Forest, a two- to four-hour hike from the nearest road, far removed from the giant sequoias the region is best known for.
Ten thousand marijuana plants, some 5 feet tall, dotted the mountainside's steep terrain amid thick brush, often near streams. This garden's street value is an estimated $40 million, authorities said.
Walters clutched three plants he said were worth $12,000 on the streets.
"This is about serious criminal organizations," Walters said. "They're willing to kill anybody who gets in their way. They're taking money back to those who kill prosecutors, judges and law enforcement." See photos of pot farm sweep in heart of U.S. national treasure »
Over the past eight days, a federal, state and county law enforcement initiative called Operation LOCCUST has eradicated 420,000 marijuana plants here worth more than $1 billion on the street. By comparison, authorities eradicated 330,000 plants over the six-month growing season last month, said Lt. Mike Boudreaux of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities have arrested 38 people and seized 29 automatic weapons, high-powered rifles and other guns, Boudreaux said.
For years, Mexican drug cartels have used the remote forest to conduct and conceal their business. But the pot production has intensified because it has become harder and harder to smuggle marijuana across the U.S.-Mexico border, Walters said.
"They come into our own national parks and risk the lives of sheriffs and others," Walters said. Watch Mexican pot farms in U.S. forest »
Sequoia National Forest is more than 350 miles from the border, named in honor of its 38 groves of giant sequoia trees dating back thousands of years. The forest covers 1.2 million acres in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Some of the workers have established residency in the United States, Boudreaux said. Most are in the country illegally, he said, many brought for the sole purpose of growing pot, maintaining production and protecting the camp.
"They're using family or very trusted family friends. They don't just use anybody," he said.
Authorities arrested nine people in one bust recently, all of them brothers or cousins ranging in age from 20 to 27, Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux described a sophisticated web in which workers and supplies are delivered to the camps by separate groups of people who don't know all the details about the marijuana operation.
"You're recruited in for that purpose as long as you're trusted. ... Each person has his function."
Once at the national forest, the growers carry with them everything they need: tents, food, guns, fertilizer, irrigation hose and marijuana seeds. Armed men keep watch over the gardens day and night during planting season, officials say.
They dam mountain creeks to create pools and then siphon the water into miles of gravity-fed hoses that lead to smaller tubing to irrigate the plants. Nearly all of the marijuana plants have individual drip lines.
"The people that are growing this are good at what they do," said Boudreaux.
The battle is being waged by a coalition of local, state and federal agencies. They rip up and remove the intricate irrigation systems, eradicate the plants and develop intelligence on the workers.
"The goal is not just to eradicate the plants but to go after the organizations," Walters said.
What's different this year from years past, officials say, is that they're working to destroy the entire infrastructure of the marijuana grown in this region, from the irrigation systems to capturing the growers to ripping up the plants. And they're trying to get at the heart of the cartels.
Walters said they have a "unique relationship" with Mexican law enforcement to go after organized crime -- that they will take names of those arrested here and try to work back to the crime families.
"In the past, all we've been able to do is what we call 'whack and stack,' " said Bill Wittman, sheriff of Tulare County.
Wittman says he has had "well over 200 people in the field every day" eradicating the plants and removing the irrigation systems as part of the operation.
"We're not just pulling the plants, we're targeting mid-level and upper-management of these trafficking organizations," Boudreaux said.
How do they find the gardens in such remote areas? They use aerial surveillance, human intelligence and other means. "Often times, we have people who will lead us to these gardens," Boudreaux said.
Allen Ishida, a member of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, said the illegal activity is alarming.
"I want to state that the guys growing the marijuana are not the guys I went to college with," he said. "These are organized drug cartels out of Mexico."
Boudreaux says authorities are furious that cartels are operating in a U.S. forest."It's something that's troubling for many of us in law enforcement," he said. "You have illegal criminal activity in the mountain regions not only destroying the natural beauty of the landscape but as well as the potential for this product to reach the children of this community."
TEN feet short of the finish line, Barbie Airplane was stranded.
The cheerful contraption — a Craftsman belt sander crowned with a powder-blue toy plane — had been careening down the 75-foot racetrack moments earlier. Then the sander’s rotating belt came undone, stopping it dead.
In the neighboring lane, Heavy Metal Waste, a circular saw souped up with skateboard wheels and flaming antennas, had already rocketed past. Cheers of victory rang from the bleachers.
“Time waits for no one!” heckled the announcer. So Randy Lisbona, a 47-year-old air-conditioning engineer from Dallas, hauled his broken-down belt sander off the track to make way for the next heat.
That’s how it goes at power tool drag races. The premise is simple: Take a hand-held power tool. Rebuild it into a racing machine.
Will it run? Maybe. Will it crash? Could be. Will it entertain? Most definitely.
In the six years since a pair of San Francisco Bay area artists held the first power tool drag races, technophiles have exported the tradition to three continents, holding similar competitions in Sacramento, Seattle, Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Israel. They’ve raced everything from power drills and grinders to upright vacuum cleaners, leaf blowers, chain saws and even the occasional fire extinguisher.
The creator of Heavy Metal Waste, 40-year-old Darrick Servis of Sacramento, insisted it didn’t take much science to beat Barbie Airplane.
“It’s a lot of zip ties, bailing wire, and clamps. It’s pretty lo-fi,” he said after a race in May at the Maker Faire, an annual summit of tinkerers and their inventions. But that’s what Mr. Servis likes about these races: “The ingenuity of it all, it’s kind of a MacGyver sort of thing, a lot of bubble gum and duct tape.”
That do-it-yourself spirit makes the races disarmingly accessible. You don’t need an engineering degree or a fat wallet to race power tools. All you need is a tool with a simple motor, along with a daredevil streak and a little spare time.
Take the simplest racing tool of all: the humble belt sander. Out of the box, it’s a ready-made racer. Put it on a flat surface with the belt facing down, lock the trigger into the on position, and your tool will automatically propel itself forward like a tiny tank. (For belt sanders that don’t have trigger locks, you could make MacGyver proud by cinching down the trigger with a zip tie.)
Need more traction? Try a belt with a coarser grade of sandpaper.
Other power tools take more patience to convert. Since they’re intended for hand-held use, most tools aren’t race-ready off the shelf. For example, if you plunk a circular saw down on a wooden racetrack, you might manage to saw the track in half, but your tool won’t go anywhere.
The solution? Build a chassis. Some folks like angle iron, while others prefer welded steel, wood scraps or PVC piping. Bolt on some wheels — skateboard and in-line skate wheels are cheap and popular — and mount the saw on the frame so it bites into the track. Instead of slicing downwards, your contraption will zoom full force ahead.
If this kind of tinkering sounds tricky, there’s no need to re-invent the wheel, or the saw blade, for that matter. A detailed tutorial at Instructables.com (www.instructables.com/id/Power-Tool-Racer.-Quick-&-On-The-Cheap!) gives step-by-step directions for converting a circular saw into a racer, courtesy of Jeremy Franklin-Ross, co-founder of the Hazard Factory artists’ collective in Seattle.
Hazard Factory has a trove of online building resources, including a chat forum, at www.powertoolracer.com. Make magazine, the guide for tinkerers who want to make rodent-powered nightlights or jam-jar jets, has an instructional podcast on the subject of power tool drag racers on its site, blog.makezine.com; the host, Bre Pettis, offers a valuable reminder: “Power tools are very dangerous. ... it’s just a good idea in general to keep your hands away from anything that could cut them off.”
Beginner builders can also find plenty of racing videos on YouTube and dozens of photographs at powertooldragraces.com/photogallery.html. Some regional racing groups hold build days, where novices learn skills alongside veteran tool freaks. Information on race schedules is at powertooldragraces.com and hazardfactory.org.
So far as hobbies go, this one is cheap. A serviceable power tool from a thrift shop, garage sale or Craigslist shouldn’t set you back more than $20. The add-ons — wheels, frame, eclectic decorations — can be scavenged for even less.
Mr. Lisbona said Barbie Airplane, his belt sander racer, cost next to nothing to build. The sander was a hand-me-down from a friend. The toy plane was a $2 find at a garage sale. The Barbie doll in the cockpit was on loan from a 4-year-old neighbor who, after handing it over, voiced second thoughts.
“She turned back and said, ‘The rule is: Don’t break it.’ ”
Belt sander racing has been a backyard hobby for decades, but full-fledged power tool drag racing didn’t crop up until six years ago in California.
Charlie Gadeken, who started the haphazard sport with a co-conspirator, Jim Mason, saw the races as a way to get more people involved in creating — and not just watching — mechanical art.
Even the best builders can bomb out on race day. Part of the races’ charm — and occasional terror — is their volatility. One year, a racer with a vertical flamethrower fell sideways, huffing out a fireball that threatened to fry members of the scattering crowd.
During another rally, a dapper fellow in a seersucker suit raced a can opener, which set the record for slowness. In five minutes, it crawled about a foot and a half, delighting the audience.
“You can come to the event with no intention of winning,” said Mr. Gadeken. He calls it “failing in style.”
When the power tool drag races ran at Kinnernet, a creative technology gathering in Israel, one of the most unusual entries wasn’t a speedster. Yedidia Vardi, a tinkerer, and Michal Levy, a musician, combined a cordless drill, roller skates, and a couple of mallets. They lined the racetrack with about 100 wine bottles filled with different levels of water. As their racer paraded down the line, it struck each bottle in turn, pinging out the tune of “Oh! Susanna.”
Other races have been less melodic. Rusty Oliver, the professed “chief lunatic” behind Seattle’s Hazard Factory, said his group wanted to create more aggressive challenges, so power tools leap though flaming hoops, and smash into each other in head-to-head runs.
After all, showmanship is half the fun. Few things are more practical and plainspoken than power tools. There’s a subversive glee in elevating them from mundane life on the workbench to speedy, stylish glory.
“The idea was to come up with something anyone could make, and make it funny, and silly and that kind of thing,” Mr. Gadeken said. “That’s how it got started.”
Mr. Oliver added: “We’re quietly attempting to create an opportunity for people to take chances. If you think you can get away with it, we think you can get away with it.”
I sat in my new office and smiled when Cracked.com’s Head editor, Jack O’Brien, walked in.
“Well,” I said. “If it isn’t ‘Don’t Step on the Jack Or You’ll Break Your Mamma’s Jack.’”
“I know. Long one, right?”
“Yeah. Hardly seems worth it to me. Also, don’t call me that.”
“Whatever you say, Boss.”
Today, it was important for me to be polite, to call him ‘boss’ and to generally not do the kinds of things I usually did to Jack, (the name-calling, the spitting, the robbing. I threatened him with a fork once.). Today, I needed to get on Jack’s good side. Today, I needed a favor. A big favor. But how would I subtly and slyly let him know?
“I need a big favor,” I yelled slyly. Classic.
“I’m gonna go right ahead and say ‘no’ before you even ask me for whatever it is you need.” I reached for my fork.
“Don’t you think you’re being a little hasty, Jack?” He reconsidered. The one’s who fear forks often do.
“We have a problem, Boss. Cracked has a problem. I think we’ve made some enemies. Some enemies who want us gone. Out of the way.” To get more comfortable, I started loosening my tie. “Now, I’m not totally surprised at the recent enemy surge; we’re a super huge website and I guess a few enemies come with the cost of fame. Hey, no one said this would be easy, right?” To get more comfortable, I started unbuckling my belt. “‘Easy,’ now there’s a tricky word for you. Let’s think about what that word means for a second. Let’s break it down, shall we? See, the Romans believed that ‘Easy’ was a-”
“Dan, what the hell are you talking about,” he said, interrupting me like a big, stupid jackass. He was getting impatient, (more jackass-like behavior), so I decided to cut right to the point.
“There’s this doofy, little website that’s trying to intimidate us, Boss. They want us gone. They want to muscle us off the internet. They think they’re better than us, Boss.”
“What’s the site?”
“Some Mom-and-Pop piece of shit called ‘Google.’ I’d never even heard of them before, I had to Lycos the name just to find out. It seems they’re a search module of some kind.” Jack just kept staring at me, probably shocked at the audacity of this lameass, dipshit website for jerks. I continued. “Now, Boss, it’s important to let these dicks know that Cracked will not be bullied. We need to send a message that sends these dicks right back home to Dicksburg, Dickslyvania, crying to their dick-Mommies with their dicks hangin’ outta their dicks.” I don’t really know anything about human anatomy.
“Google, Dan? What exactly is Google doing to bully us?”
“I’m glad you asked. I have here with me a series of pictures that prove Google thinks they’re better than us. You see, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, the Cracked offices are located in this big building, right? This building happens to be the exact same building that these Google fools, (”foogles”) decided to move into. Here, take a look at these pictures.” I handed him a stack of photographs.
“Well, already I hate this. The first picture is a naked one of you.”
“Oh, yeah, you can go ahead and keep that; I’ve got, like, a million. I’m using them as business cards.”
“There’s no contact number or email,” Jack said.
“More like cocktact number, am I right?” And email-genitalia, right gang? “But seriously, Boss, keep checking out the pictures.”
“See, now here’s what the Cracked headquarters looks like:”
This is seriously my office.
“And here’s what the fucking Google headquarters looks like:”
What’s a matter, Dicks? You couldn’t just write ‘Google’ once? Dicks!?!
Google has two floors.So did the Nazi’s.
“I’m not sure I see what the problem is,” Jack said. Poor, simple Jack.
“I think it’s pretty clear. They think they’re better than us. They’ve got all their flash and flair, and they think that it makes them a superior website. Let me ask you something, when was the last time Google hit the front page of Digg? Fucking never. So what gives them the right? They think they can come into our building with their fancy logos and their stupid displays with stupid multi-colored balls? They think they can get away with that?”
Google: Balls on the outside, Dicks on the inside.
“Well, I’m gonna let them know that they’re not the only ones with giant, multi-colored balls.” I showed Jack my business card again. He cringed.
“Dan… It seems to me like they’re not really doing anything. It kind of sounds like you’re just mad that they’ve got nicer stuff than we do.”
“It’s the flaunting, Secret World of Alex Jack. That’s my problem. Sure, they’ve got money, but they don’t have to be such dicks about it. We get it. You’re Google. Fuck off.”
“Dan, as if this whole situation wasn’t ridiculous enough already, what are you asking for?”
“Good question. $160,000. My original budget was a billion, but I managed to whittle it down to 160K, which, I think you’ll agree, is fair. And while I’m still willing to go as high as a billion, $160K is really all I’ll need to launch a full-scale attack on Google.whatever to let them know that we won’t be bullied.” He paused. Presumably, because $160,000 was such a fair and reasonable number.
“What are you planning on doing with this money?”
“Another good question. No clue. I haven’t really figured out the nature of this attack just yet, but I’m pretty sure it’ll cost around $160,000. I’m thinking about challenging them to a Death Race, like in that documentary I saw. Or maybe a debate, like in debate clubs. Or maybe just a caged debate, like in Bloodsport. It all makes perfect sense if you see my charts. I have charts at home that explain everything.”
I hope he won’t ask to see them, because I really don’t have any charts.
“So, let me get this straight, Dan. You’re asking me for $160,000 to launch a mysterious campaign against Google? Google?”
“Yes! I’m glad you understand. I only take cash. Come on, I’ll follow you to the bank.” Jack put his head down.
“I can’t believe I thought this wasn’t going to be something retarded.” He was massaging his temples at this point.
“Is that a vague way of saying you’ll give me the money? Come on, I’ll follow you to the bank.”
“I’m not going to give you this money, Dan.” I’m still gonna follow him to the bank.
“I don’t understand, Boss. I’m slapping you right in the face with the idea of the century, and all you can say is ’stop slapping me?’” I slapped him a couple of times to drive the metaphor home.
“You’re a real piece of work, Burt Jackarach. You come all the way out to my office and waste my time just to tell me you won’t be supporting me on this? On this, the most important battle in Cracked history? Horseshit.”
“First of all, this isn’t your office, it’s a strip club.” I was wondering why my secretary took such terrible dictation. And kept charging me for lapdances. “And second of all, I only met with you in the first place because you promised you’d return my cat, the one you stole two weeks ago. Do you have my cat with you, Dan?”
“Don’t be selfish, Apple Jacks. There are bigger things at work here than you and me.”
“Where is my cat?” I shook my head.
“You just don’t get it, do you?” I think I sold his cat and used the money to buy Cheez-its.
When it became clear that he wasn’t going to get his stupid, nerdy cat back, Jack politely thanked the strippers and left, walking out not just on me, not just on the strippers, not just on the bill, (that I was totally banking on him paying), but on Cracked and, hell, on America.
And so it’s down to me. The burden of honor falls on my shoulders. It is up to me to take down the apparent internet juggernaut that is Google.net, (or is it .com? I don’t have time to check.). I may not have the necessary funds or the support of my suit-wearing Cracked superiors, or even a formal plan, but mark my words, Internet: Google is going down. This isn’t over. Not by a long shot. A fucking long shot.
Google is probably going to push back, to counter my attacks in some way. I’ve gotta tell you, that wouldn’t be wise.
Sure, I know what you’re thinking, Google. You’re thinking ‘Did he get fired from Cracked, or not?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But seeing as Cracked does have the power to blow your site clean off the internet, you gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Am I feeling lucky?’ Well? Are ya?