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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

'The dog's eaten the underwear again...'

Dog rubber duck x-ray
The dog that swallowed a rubber duck

Underwear, a kitchen knife and a wig have made a list of the top 10 weirdest items removed from the stomachs of the nation's pets by an animal charity's vets.

The list, released by PDSA, also includes a 10-inch tent peg, a bell, a fishing hook and a rubber duck.

PDSA senior veterinary surgeon, Sean Wensley, said: 'There is a medical term for pets eating strange objects - pica.

'Dogs, especially puppies and younger dogs, use their mouth to investigate objects as well as to eat. Sometimes a dog will swallow an object by mistake, even though it had only meant to investigate it.

'Owners should give their pets the chance to investigate new objects by providing them with plenty of pet-safe toys to play with - that way the whole family can enjoy the festive season safely.'

The top twenty list in full is:
1. Ten-inch tent peg
2. Christmas decoration (star shaped)
3. Kitchen knife
4. Alphabet fridge magnets
5. Man's wig
6. Ann Summers underwear
7. Bell
8. Fishing hook
9. Socks
10. Rubber duck
11. Baby's dummy
12. Golf balls
13. Coins
14. Balloons
15. Metal ball from a computer mouse
16. Shoe laces
17. Power ball
18. Corn on the cob
19. Needle and thread
20. Box of chocolates

PDSA provides free veterinary care for the sick and injured pets of those unable to afford veterinary fees and promotes responsible pet ownership.

This year PDSA PetAid hospitals and branches provided more than 1.8 million free treatments and more than 200,000 preventive treatments, such as vaccinations, neutering and microchipping.

Original here

Dogfighting Making a Comeback in Afghanistan

Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

A dogfight in Kabul, Afghanistan. The sport, banned under the Taliban, is popular again, with dogfighters entering their charges in informal weekly tournaments on dusty lots.

By KIRK SEMPLE

KABUL, Afghanistan — In a dingy butcher’s shop reeking of slaughter, a half-dozen sheep’s carcasses dangled from hooks, and two men spoke of dogs.


Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Dogfighting tournaments in Kabul draw thousands of men and boys as spectators.

“My dog is younger than his dog, I have the advantage,” said one of the men, known as Abdul Sabour, 49. “And my dog is more energetic than his dog.”

“He’s lying,” grumbled the other man, Kefayatullah, 50. “His dog is old. He’s just here wasting his time. How many dogs has my dog beaten? Sixty! My dog has been a champion for three years!”

The men were arranging a dogfight, largely in the international language of trash-talking. They represented two groups of bettors. The purse, they said, was $50,000, a fortune in this impoverished country and one of the biggest prizes here in recent memory.

Afghans like to fight. They will boast about this. They will say that fighting is in their blood. And for all the horrors of three decades of war, they still find room to fight for fun, most often through proxies: cocks, rams, goats, camels, kites.

And dogs. Dogfighting was banned under the Taliban, who considered it un-Islamic. But since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001, the sport has regained its earlier popularity, with dogfighters entering their charges in informal weekly tournaments on dusty lots in the country’s major cities.

The sport has even experienced a resurgence in the south, where the influence of the Taliban is strongest, though the crowds have thinned somewhat since February, when a suicide bomber detonated himself at a dogfighting match. About 80 people were killed and more were wounded.

Here in the capital, there are two tournaments every week, both on Friday, the day of prayer. The bigger one unfolds in the morning in a natural dirt amphitheater at the bottom of a craggy slope on the city’s outskirts. It draws thousands of men and boys as spectators — like most sports and sporting events in Afghanistan, it is almost exclusively a male pursuit.

“It’s something from our ancestors,” said Ghulam Yahya Amirzadah, 21, whose family owns 17 dogs in Kabul and in their hometown in the northwest province of Badghis.

Mr. Amirzadah, who is known in dogfighting circles as Lala Herati, said he inherited the pastime from his father, who ran fighting dogs in his youth.

“It’s not about money,” Mr. Amirzadah said. “If my dog beats another dog, it makes me feel like I’ve won $100,000. I can survive just from the happiness.”

On a recent Friday, Mr. Amirzadah was at the dogfighting amphitheater, though without his dogs. He was watching the fights and arranging future matches for his stable.

More than 2,000 people were there — poor men who had arrived on foot as well as former warlords in sport utility vehicles accompanied by Kalashnikov-toting guards. And there were dozens of dogs — hulking, big-headed mastiff breeds that, in the right light and the wrong setting, might be mistaken for small bears. Some were so big that they had to be restrained by two men. A few owners, their arms tired, had lashed their dogs to the wheels of cars.

An informal committee of arbiters, including Mr. Kefayatullah and Abdul Sabour, was selecting the fights and matching up the dogs. Some fights had been organized days in advance, with hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands, riding on each.

A ringmaster, a toothless old man with a turban and a limp, presided over the event. He carried a wooden staff that he used to beat spectators who crowded the dirt arena and members of the dogfighters’ entourages who blocked the view.

Though dogfighting is again popular here, it is far from universally embraced. The country’s elite disparage it as the domain of the uncultured and the criminal.

“In my personal view, it’s not a good thing,” said Ghulam Nabi Farahi, deputy minister of information and culture. “In today’s world, these animals should be treated well. But unfortunately, there’s a lot of fighting.”

But dogfighters generally shrug at these sorts of remarks. In modern Afghan society, there are not many sources of entertainment, they argue. In addition, they say, the dogs are well fed and well treated.

“The interest of the people is increasing day by day,” said Sher Mohammad Sheywaki, 50, who was standing on the edge of the fighting pitch. “Even if people are starving, they’ll still keep dogfighting.”

A fight was about to begin. Two dogs were brought close by their owners, then released. They lunged at each other, thrusting upward on hind legs and clamping their jaws onto each other’s face. They tugged and twisted each other, looking for leverage, each trying to knock the other off balance.

Their handlers pressed in, shouting encouragement and slapping the dogs on their haunches, as a jockey would a racehorse. A cameraman crouched nearby, recording the fight for collectors’ DVDs. A large cloud of dust enveloped the scrum.

This fight, like most others, was over in a few minutes when one dog had pinned the other to the ground and held him there. They were pulled apart and hauled out of the ring.

In some countries, dogfighters will fight their dogs to the death. But Afghan dogfighting is more akin to Greco-Roman wrestling. A dog is declared the victor when he clearly establishes his dominance over the other, or when the weaker dog displays one of the telltale signs of submission, including backing off from the fight or putting its tail between its legs. They are usually pulled apart before they can inflict serious damage on each other.

The stakes for dogfighters are too high to risk their charges any further. Dogs may be a costly investment for the average Afghan, but they can also make their owners money.

On the eve of the fight between Mr. Kefayatullah’s dog, Palang (meaning tiger), and Abdul Sabour’s dog, Zambur (bee), the planned $50,000 purse dropped to $10,000, according to Mr. Kefayatullah.

The fight took place on a sunny and chilly Friday morning this month. It was heavily anticipated, and the crowd was large. For more than 10 minutes, Palang and Zambur tore against each other, drawing blood. Mr. Kefayatullah, Abdul Sabour and others with money riding on the fight stayed close and yelled encouragement, according to Mr. Amirzadah, who attended.

Eventually, Zambur, Abdul Sabour’s dog, ran out of steam and Palang overwhelmed him, prompting the men to call a halt to the fight. In celebration, friends of Mr. Kefayatullah swarmed Palang, whose fur was wet with blood, and showered him with Afghani bills.

Except for deep wounds on a leg and an ear, Palang was O.K. But his owner was not. Minutes after the fight, Mr. Kefayatullah collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. He had a heart attack.

“It was a stroke of joy and happiness!” he joked a week later, as he lay in a ward in the Wazir Akhbar Khan Hospital in Kabul. His wife and daughter sat at his bedside. “I’ll be up in no time,” he said, “and everything will be back to normal, like before.”

His wife’s face visibly tensed. “No you won’t!” she said, glaring. She was serious. He was smiling. The daughter looked embarrassed.

“It’s over,” Mr. Kefayatullah’s wife continued. “I will kill the dogs! I will give them some pills.”

Mr. Kefayatullah shrugged and smiled again, trying to defuse the situation. “She says a lot, but I don’t listen,” he said, and he vowed to be back at the Friday dogfights — with his champion dogs — soon enough.

Original here

On the Web, Pedophiles Extend Their Reach

John Kuntz/The Plain Dealer via Associated Press

Phillip J. Distasio, who has been charged with raping two boys, has argued on the Web in favor of legalizing sex with children.

By KURT EICHENWALD

At first blush, the two conversations — taking place almost simultaneously in different corners of the Internet — might have seemed unremarkable, even humdrum.

In April, with summer fast approaching, both groups of online friends chatted about jobs at children’s camps. Did anyone, one man asked, know of girls’ camps willing to hire adult males as counselors? Meanwhile, elsewhere in cyberspace, the second group celebrated the news that one of their own had been offered a job leading a boys’ cabin at a sleep-away camp.

But participants in the conversation did not focus on the work. “Hope you see some naked boys in your cabin,” a man calling himself PPC responded. “And good luck while restraining yourself from doing anything.”

The two groups were made up of self-proclaimed pedophiles — one attracted to under-age girls, the other to boys. Their dialogue runs at all hours in an array of chat rooms, bulletin boards and Web sites set up for adults attracted to children.

But it is no longer just chatter in the ether. What started online almost two decades ago as a means of swapping child pornography has transformed in recent years into a more complex and diversified community that uses the virtual world to advance its interests in the real one.

Today, pedophiles go online to seek tips for getting near children — at camps, through foster care, at community gatherings and at countless other events. They swap stories about day-to-day encounters with minors. And they make use of technology to help take their arguments to others, like sharing online a printable booklet to be distributed to children that extols the benefits of sex with adults.

The community’s online infrastructure is surprisingly elaborate. There are Internet radio stations run by and for pedophiles; a putative charity that raised money to send Eastern European children to a camp where they were apparently visited by pedophiles; and an online jewelry company that markets pendants proclaiming the wearer as being sexually attracted to children, allowing anyone in the know to recognize them.

These were the findings of a four-month effort by The New York Times to learn about the pedophiles’ online world by delving into their Internet communications. In recent months, new concerns have emerged about whether the ubiquitous nature of broadband technology, instant message communications and digital imagery is presenting new and poorly understood risks to children. Already, there have been many Congressional hearings on the topic, as well as efforts to write comprehensive legislation to address the issue.

But most of those efforts have focused on examining particular instances of harm to children. There have been few, if any, recent attempts to examine the pedophiles themselves, based on their own words to one another, to gain a better recognition of the nature of potential problems.

Last week, that world attracted new attention after reports that John M. Karr, who was arrested last Wednesday as a suspect in the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey, apparently used Internet discussion sites intensively in efforts to communicate with children, sometimes about sex. In e-mail messages to a journalism professor that investigators believe were written by Mr. Karr, statements about children seemed to echo the online dialogue among pedophiles.

“Sometimes little girls are closer to me than with their parents or any other person in their lives,’’ the e-mail messages say. “I can only say that I can relate very well to children and the way they think and feel.’’

The recent conversations among pedophiles that were examined by The Times took place in virtual rooms in Internet Relay Chat, a text-based system allowing for real-time communications; on message boards on Usenet, which has postings by topic; and on Web sites catering to pedophiles.

In this online community, pedophiles view themselves as the vanguard of a nascent movement seeking legalization of child pornography and the loosening of age-of-consent laws. They portray themselves as battling for children’s rights to engage in sex with adults, a fight they liken to the civil rights movement. And while their effort has brought little success, they celebrated online in May when a small group of men in the Netherlands formed a pedophile political party, and they rejoiced again last month when a Dutch court upheld the party’s right to exist.

The conversations themselves are not illegal. And, given the fantasy world that the Internet can be, it is difficult to prove the truth of personal statements, or to demonstrate direct connections between online commentary and real-world actions. Nor can the number of participants in these conversations, taking place around the Internet, be reliably ascertained.

Top row, pendants symbolizing “boy-love.” Second row, “girl-love” pendants. Third row, logos representing “boy-lovers,” at left; “girl-lovers,” at right. Fourth row, logos for “child-lovers” at left; and at right, for “online pedophile activism.”

But the existence of this community is significant and troubling, experts said, because it reinforces beliefs that, when acted upon, are criminal. Repeatedly in these conversations, pedophiles said the discussions had helped them accept their attractions and had even allowed them to have sex with a child without guilt.

Indeed, law enforcement officials say that the refrain of justification from online conversations is frequently voiced by adults arrested for molestation, raising concern that such conversations may lower pedophiles’ willingness to resist their temptation.

“It is rationalization that allows them to avoid admitting that their desires are harmful and illegal,” said Bill Walsh, a former commander of the Crimes Against Children Unit for the Dallas Police Department, who founded the most prominent annual national conference on the issue. “That can allow them to take that final step and cross over from fantasy into real-world offenses.”

Still, in their conversations, some pedophiles often maintain that the discussion sites are little more than support groups. They condemn violent child rapists and lament that they are often equated with such criminals. Many see themselves as spiritually connected to children and say that sexual contact is irrelevant. Yet the pedophiles consistently return to discussions justifying sex with minors and child pornography.

Many of these adults described concepts of children that veered into the fantastical — for example, at times depicting themselves as victims of predatory minors. A little girl in a skirt reveals her underwear by doing a cartwheel; a boy in a bathing suit sits on a bench with his legs spread apart; a child playfully jumps on a man’s back — all of these ordinary events were portrayed as sexual come-ons.

“It really is like going through the rabbit hole, with this entire alternative reality,” said Philip Jenkins, a professor of religious studies at Pennsylvania State University who wrote “Beyond Tolerance,” a groundbreaking 2001 book about Internet child pornography.

The conversations also demonstrated technological acumen, with frequent discussions about ways to ensure online anonymity and to encrypt images. That underscores a challenge faced by the authorities who hope to combat online child exploitation with technology. For example, in June, Internet service providers announced plans for an alliance that will use new technologies to locate child pornography traders.

Pedophiles were undaunted. Within hours of the announcement, their discussion rooms were filled with advice on how to continue swapping illegal images while avoiding detection — months before the new technologies were to be in full operation.

Portraits of Pedophilia

In a sense, the creation of the pedophiles’ online community was a ripple effect from the success of government efforts to crack down on them.

Washington’s efforts in the late 1970’s to stamp out child pornography by declaring it illegal were enormously effective, closing off traditional outlets for illicit images.

But the Internet soon presented an alternative. In the early 1980’s, through postings on bulletin board systems, pedophiles went online to swap illegal images. From there, they could easily converse with others like themselves, and they found theirs to be a community of diverse backgrounds.

In the conversations observed by The Times, the pedophiles often discussed their personal lives. Their individual jobs were described as being a disc jockey at parties (“a high concentration of gorgeous” children, a man claiming to hold the job said); a pediatric nurse (“lots of looking but no touching”); a piano teacher (“I could tell you stories that would make you ...well... I’ll be good”); an employee at a water theme park (“bathing suits upon bathing suits!!!!!”); and a pediatrician specializing in gynecology (“No need to add anything more, I feel”).

The most frequent job mentioned, however, was schoolteacher. A number of self-described teachers shared detailed observations about children in their classes, including events they considered sexual, like a second-grade boy holding his crotch during class.

The man relating that story held up that action as an expression of sexuality; he was not dissuaded when another participant in the conversation suggested that the boy might have just needed to go to the bathroom.

Some pedophiles revealed that they gained access to children through their own families. Some discussed how they married to be close to the children from their wives’ previous marriages. Pedophiles who said they were fathers described moments involving their own children, such as a man who told of watching his sons change for swimming in a locker room, complete with details about the older boy’s genitals and emerging pubic hair. Others insisted they would never feel any interest in their own children, but commented on the benefits presented by parenthood.

“I have a daughter and have never been attracted to her,” a man with the screen name of jonboy wrote. But, he added, “I did find her friends very attractive.”

Pedophiles chafe at suggestions that such comments reflect risks to minors. They point out, correctly, that family members and friends — not strangers — are the most frequent perpetrators of child sexual abuse. They never note, however, that the minors mentioned in their online discussions are most frequently those they know well, like relatives and children of friends.

Justifications Online

In the pedophiles’ world view, not all sexual abuse is abuse. There is widespread condemnation and hatred of adults who engage in forcible rape of children. But otherwise, acts of molestation are often celebrated as demonstrations of love.

“My daughter and I have a healthy close relationship,” a person with the screen name Sonali posted. “We have been in a ‘consensual sexual relationship’ almost two months now.”

The daughter, Sonali wrote, is 10. Whatever guilt Sonali felt for the relationship was eased by the postings of other pedophiles. “I am so happy to find this site,” Sonali wrote. “I thought having a sexual attraction to my daughter was bad. I now do not feel guilty or conflicted.”

In that, Sonali was demonstrating what experts said is the most dangerous element of the pedophile Internet community: its justification of illegal acts. Experts described the pedophiles’ online worldview as reflective of “neutralization,” a psychological rationalization used by groups that deviate from societal norms.

In essence, the groups deem potentially injurious acts and beliefs harmless. That is accomplished in part by denying that a victim is injured, condemning critics and appealing to higher loyalties — in this case, an ostensible struggle for the sexual freedom of children.

Pedophiles see themselves as part of a social movement to gain acceptance of their attractions. The effort has a number of tenets: that pedophiles are beneficial to minors, that children are psychologically capable of consenting and that therapists manipulate the young into believing they are harmed by such encounters.

“Every human being, no matter the age, should be allowed to have consenting mutual sexual relations with anyone they wish,” a man calling himself Venn wrote. “All age of consent laws must, and forever, be abolished.”

Those same types of comments online are now turning up in court. For example, a man known by the screen name Brother Peteticus is among those who have argued online for legalizing sex with children. In real life, he is Phillip J. Distasio of Rocky River, Ohio, who was arrested last year on charges of raping two autistic boys who were his students. In court this month, Mr. Distasio, 34, portrayed himself as following the dictates of his own religion, and made arguments frequently expressed by the online community.

“I’ve been a pedophile for 20 years,” Mr. Distasio said at the pretrial hearing. “The only reason I’m charged with rape is that no one believes a child can consent to sex. The role of my ministry is to get these cases out of the courtrooms.”

In the days that followed, some pedophiles supported that position online, agreeing with Mr. Distasio that mentally handicapped, prepubescent boys could consent to sex with their teacher.

That same logic is applied by the pedophiles to child pornography, which many of them said should be legalized. “Where is the problem?” from child pornography, a pedophile who used the screen name Writer said in an online posting. “Once again, the underlying issue is the repressive belief that sex is intrinsically sinful.”

In making these arguments, pedophiles often demonize parents and other adults as cruel, unloving people who exert authoritarian control over children and stand in the way of minors’ sexual freedom. “Anti-pedophiles are NOT about protecting children,” a man who called himself Christopher wrote. “They are usually the ones who are beating (they call it spanking) or emotionally neglecting their children.”

But their arguments often seem contradictory. While maintaining that they can be trusted with children, some pedophiles said they would not allow minors in their lives to be with other adults attracted to children. “I guess coming from the inside, I know a bunch of the bad stuff that can happen,” one man wrote.

Many pedophile sites conduct surveys to learn about the attitudes of their contributors. While none of these surveys are scientifically valid, they do reflect the thinking of some people who traffic in these sites. And not surprisingly, a large number of the surveys are about sex.

For example, on one site, pedophiles were asked if they would “have full intercourse with a little girl.” Seventy-four members responded. Only 17 replied no. The same number said that they might. The largest group — over 54 percent — said that they would.

Some attached comments to their survey response. One man provided descriptions of the acts he would repeatedly perform on an 8-year-old to prepare her. The words — too graphic to be printed here — raised no criticism on the site.

But in other discussions, pedophiles cautioned that some comments were too dangerous. When one man described in lurid terms his fantasies about molesting an infant girl, the response was quick. “This is best not discussed,” a man calling himself garvy wrote, adding that someday, pedophiles would need evidence proving that they cared only about children’s best interests.

“Such posts,” garvy concluded, “will be very damaging to the Cause.”

A Web of Deception

The booklet — recently circulated through a Web site for pedophiles — had been written, it said, “for any boy who is old enough to be able to read it.”

Called “Straight Talk for Boys,” it is an 18-page discussion of sex, particularly between children and adults, from the pedophiles’ viewpoint. Such encounters are depicted as harmless, even beneficial. The document criticizes parents and therapists. And it encourages boys to wear Speedo bathing suits and shower naked in public places.

But it repeatedly returns to one message: boys should never tell about sex with adults. “Older boys and men may be frightened about getting caught having sex play with you, because they can be put in jail,” it says. “So you have to think of ways to ‘signal’ your interest in another person without openly saying what you want,” adding that “nobody else can know about what you agree to do.”

The booklet comes with instructions, advising pedophiles on how to distribute it. “The best and safest way is to leave quantities of the booklet in places where boys in the 8 to 14 range can find them, and where adults will not discover them too quickly,” the instructions read. “Obviously, you don’t want to be observed placing the booklets in your chosen locations.”

The booklet reflects how pedophiles can use the Internet to advance their interests in the real world. Like many of those efforts, this one involved deception: the booklet does not reveal, for example, that it has been written and distributed by men who are sexually attracted to children, but instead portrays itself as objective fact.

Using deception to gain access to children is a recurring theme. For example, on a site for adults attracted to boys, someone calling himself Vespucci asked in June whether a single man could become a foster father. The respondents cautioned Vespucci to disguise his pedophilia.

“You better have a darned good excuse why you never married, such as your fiancĂ©e died in a car wreck,” replied a man calling himself simply “d.” “I highly recommend you date women for several years and keep at least a couple of those relationships going for at least a couple of months. Around the women, make a point of being nice to children.”

The deception would be worthwhile, d wrote. “It will help out in the reference-check dept. when you apply.”

Pointers on ways to get close to children were frequent topics. One man posted an Internet “help wanted” advertisement from a single mother seeking an overnight baby sitter for her 4-year-old daughter; another recommended shopping at weekend estate sales, since plenty of bored minors showed up accompanying inattentive parents.

Some participants in these conversations claimed to have established charitable efforts that put them in contact with children. For example, an organization called BL Charity said it was seeking money to send Eastern European children to camp.

The charity’s site, which recently closed, showed scores of images of children at camp and in their homes, supposedly taken by the men running the site. The effort was organized by pedophiles; BL is the online term for “boy-lover.” It eventually shut down, largely from a lack of money, according to a posting from the site’s operators. After the site closed, further details of BL Charity could not be learned. Not every organization and effort of the pedophiles is directly tied to trying to reach children. For example, pedophiles have created Internet radio stations for the purpose of providing support for one another and encouraging their perceived social movement.

It is not known how many such stations exist, nor the size of the audience. The most prominent station appears to be Sure Quality Radio, which on its home page proclaims, “From all levels of society you will find us, not as predators but as human beings, loving and caring for boys or girls or both.” The site has a program schedule and an online store selling mainstream music and movies featuring children.

People who work with Sure Quality Radio did not respond to questions e-mailed to them from The Times, although one person with the online name of boystory replied by saying he was immediately severing all ties with the station.

There are also online podcasts, recorded talk shows of 60 to 90 minutes featuring discussions among pedophiles. The discussions, as described online, deal with topics like “benefits of age difference in sexual relationships”; “failure of sex offender registries”; “children’s sexual autonomy, practices and consequences” and “the misrepresentation of pedophilia in the news media.”

With the chat rooms, radio stations and other organizations, pedophiles’ views are continually reinforced. But some realize that this online echo chamber can warp reality. For example, a man calling himself AtosW reported to fellow pedophiles that he had been chatting on a game site frequented by boys. A conversation began about the Dutch pedophile party, AtosW said, and the minors reacted with threats of violence.

AtosW was perplexed. “Why are posters THAT young so angry about it?” he asked. “It is after all THEIR rights that they are pushing for.”

A man calling himself Ritter responded. “Your post is a typical example of what happens when you spend too much time in the online BL community,” he wrote. “Believe it or not, most young children are NOT anxious to have sex with adult men.”

Original here

$10K statue stolen from Madoff's Florida estate

(CNN) -- Police say a sizable statue worth more than $10,000 was stolen this month from the posh Florida estate of Bernard Madoff, the Wall Street investment adviser accused of operating a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Bernard Madoff strolls down New York's Lexington Avenue after news of the fraud allegations breaks.

Bernard Madoff strolls down New York's Lexington Avenue after news of the fraud allegations breaks.

The 4-foot-high statue, which portrays two lifeguards sitting on a bench, was stolen December 19 from Madoff's estate in Palm Beach, police said.

The theft happened eight days after Madoff was arrested in New York in connection with the investment fraud allegations.

"The property manager left the residence one afternoon, and when she returned, she noticed a statue that was normally kept by the pool was missing," Palm Beach police Sgt. Richard Sorge said.

Sorge said investigators have "no leads, not a single clue" in the investigation of the heist.

Madoff, a former Nasdaq chairman, was arrested December 11 and charged with securities fraud. He is accused of operating a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme from his investment advisory business, federal authorities said.

The 70-year-old is under 24-hour house arrest at his Manhattan apartment while awaiting court proceedings. His $10 million bail was secured by properties owned by Madoff and his wife, including the Manhattan apartment and the Palm Beach estate.

Original here

Where Aren't They Now?: 15 Overlooked Deaths of 2008

By Lisa-Skye Ioannidis


How many greats have we lost this year? Heath Ledger. Bernie Mac. George Carlin. Charlton Heston. Arthur C Clarke. Michael Crichton. Jenny, the world’s oldest Gorilla. When these luminaries pass, the media stops and heaps on praise.

But then there are the unsung deaths, the people whose passing went largely unnoticed, but deserved better.

#15.
January 7: The Greatest Competitive Eater of All Time

Who:

Edward Abraham ‘Bozo’ Miller, Gastronomical Champion of competitive eating

How:

"Natural causes"

The Legacy:

This is a man who weighed 300 pounds, ate up to 25,000 calories per day, once ate 1000 packets of potato chips (flavor unspecified) and one time drank a lion under the table. Yet he lived until the age of 89 and married a former Princess of the Pasadena Rose Bowl (basically, a beauty queen). He was what all of America aspires to be.

#14.
January 10: Vampira

Who:

Maila Nurmi, the actress known for her "Vampira" character, the inspiration for both Elvira and the Simpsons' Booberella and immortalized in Tim Burton's Ed Wood biopic.

How:

Again, natural causes. DAMN YOU, NATURE!

The Legacy:

She was perhaps the first to combine horror and huge boobies, a combination that many believe should never be separated.

#13.
January 24: Jahna The Show "Girl"

Who:

Jahna Steele, a Las Vegas showgirl who was voted "Sexiest Showgirl on the Strip" in 1991, and "Most Beautiful Showgirl" in 1993. She also happened to have a penis.

How:

Unknown. She was working on her tell-all autobiography at the time, entitled Always a Lady (until you see the bulge, of course).

The Legacy:

Jahna passed himself off as a woman for years, draining the strip-club funds of countless unsuspecting bachelor parties. She-males now flock to the strip to try their luck as a dancer. Thus, Jahna turned getting drunk and trying to take a showgirl back to your room into just another way to gamble in Vegas.

#12.
January 26: Marlon Brando's Son

Who:

Christian Brando, murderer and wife beater. His parents had a bad divorce, and at 13 his mother gained sole custody. The same year he was pulled out of school to travel in Mexico. Around the same time he was kidnapped by a group of his mom's hippie friends. Marlon Brando got it fixed and was awarded custody.

In 1990, he shot his half-sister Cheyenne’s boyfriend. Cheyenne was pregnant at the time. She committed suicide five years later. They’re not exactly the happiest showbiz family we’ve ever heard about.

How:

Pneumonia.

The Legacy:

Cautionary tale for celebrity babies everywhere. Think before you make any bad choices, Maddox Jolie-Pitt.

#11.
March 10: Inventor of SpaghettiO's

Who:

Kurt Eberling, Sr. After fighting with Germany in the Korean War, he got a job at the Campbell Soup Company. One day he was just chillin’ at his house, staring at his kitchen, when he saw a piece of spaghetti curled up in the sink. This gave him a thought: he approached his supervisor with the concept of tinned spaghetti and meatballs, and SpaghettiOs were born.

Being that this was the forties, we assume this was after he beat his wife for keeping a dirty kitchen, but before his six post-work martinis.

How:

Cancer.

The Legacy:

This is the kind of story that desperate middle aged salesmen, a la Gil from The Simpsons, dream about until their dying day. They wind up scouring their house for that one idea that will make them rich ... then finally go to their boss with, "um, what if ... we sold dust, spider webs and broken dreams in a bottle?"

#10.
March 25: The Daddy of the Egg McMuffin

Who:

Herb Peterson, Food Scientist. March was a bad year for guys who invented convenient meals. Two days before Peterson, Al Copeland, founder of Popeye’s Chicken also died.

Peterson invented the Egg McMuffin in 1972, a process that surely involved eating every combination of bread, eggs, cheese and bacon. It's every fat kid's dream (up there with "finding witch dead in her gingerbread house, with no living relatives").

How:

Peacefully at home, with his family. Presumably surrounded by warm muffins, perfectly circular eggs, melted cheese and crispy, crispy bacon. The breakfasty scent being the last thing he was conscious of as he drifted off.

The Legacy:

We can’t think of one. We’re too hungry.

#9.
April 9: The Fucker Who Created the Chicken Dance

Who:

Bob Kames. Polka musician, member of the Wisconsin Area Music Industry's Hall of Fame, guy who recorded over seventy albums. So we mock him for the Chicken Dance, but what the fuck have we done today?

We should tell you that the Chicken Dance single was released in Poland in 1983, and sold 300,000 copies. Not just a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. Poland during the 80s was utterly retarded for polka.

How:

Prostate cancer, a symptom of which is painful ejaculation or difficulty achieving an erection. Though one of his albums was entitled Happy Organ, so at least he had some good times before it.

The Legacy:

Many ruined wedding receptions, and now you having the chicken dance stuck in your head until Easter.

#8.
May 4: Pringles Can Inventor

Who:

Fred Baur, chemist and food storage technician.

How:

Alzheimer’s. At Baur’s request, he was cremated and a portion of his ashes were buried in a Pringles can.

The Legacy:

A delicious new flavor, "Sizzlin’ Smokin’ Charred Old Man." Sorry, that was wrong. Actually he did inspire us to be cremated with our greatest achievement, and we will thus be buried with several gigabytes of dick jokes.

#7.
May 26: Kermit's Namesake

Who:

Kermit Scott , childhood friend of Jim Henson. Professor of Philosophy. Honored by a green felt amphibian.

Kermit the Human taught philosophy for over three decades. He then did a master’s in social work and became a counselor.

2008 was a bad year for that most common of person, "Men named Kermit who are associated with the Muppets." Kermit Love, puppeteer and costumer for the Muppets, died about a month after Scott. His name was just a coincidence. Which forces us to ask: just how many guys named Kermit were walking around in the 60s?

How:

Our team of trained monkeys couldn’t find an exact cause (the best they got was "at his home in Virginia") so we’re forced to assume it was the other Kermit seeking some sort of namesake vengeance, and that both died from injuries after a prolonged kung fu battle.

The Legacy:

Other than ruining "Kermit" as a baby name for several generations, he and his wife co-founded the Food Bank of Lafayette and the Welfare Rights Organization, among other charitable deeds that have left a strong legacy in his home town. Which, as much as we love him, is a lot more good than his amphibious namesake has ever done. Evading Miss Piggy’s come-ons won't feed the poor. Being green may not be easy, but being selfish sure is.

#6.
July 12: World's Oldest Blogger

Who:

Olive Riley, nursing home resident, Australian, old woman, blogger.

She mostly just blogged about whatever your Nana talks about when you finally get around to giving her a call, you ingrate. Family trips, stories from the good old days, coloring her hair, football. Oh, and typical blogger stuff, like posting pictures in her swimsuit.

How:

From being 108.

The Legacy:

As long as she doesn’t inspire our grandparents to get a Facebook account, we’re happy. (Please, please don’t let our grandparents find out about the internet. Goatse’d kill nana. And Lemon Party’d just give grandpa... ideas).

#5.
August 30: Killer Kowalski

Who:

Wladek ‘Killer’ Kowlaski. Once named WWF World Tag Team Champion with the adult film-sounding Big John Studd.

He actually legally changed his name to Killer Kowalski in 1963, which would have made for some frightened bank tellers and doctor’s receptionists. In college he majored in electrical engineering, but opted for a career in the more glamorous field of pretend-beating the shit out of people in a ring.

Reports indicate that outside the ring he was incredibly friendly, polite and vegetarian. Inside the ring, though, he ripped some guy’s ear off.

He didn’t drink milk or alcohol, and was a bachelor until he was 80. He died two years later.

How:

Heart attack.

The Legacy:

The guy lives 80 years without incident and dies just as he’s getting into the swing of married life? There must be some Al-Bundy-esque one liner in that.

#4.
September 10: The Shark Hunter

Who:

Frank Mundus, rumored to be the inspiration for Quint in the movie (and book) Jaws.

This guy was so fucking badass it actually makes our balls implode in a cloud of pink glitter.

He originally wanted to fish for bluefish. He decided that hunting twenty-pound sea creatures was a pussy’s game, and moved on to sharks. He once harpooned a 4,500 pounder. With a hand-held harpoon, none of this pansy-ass harpoon gun business. In 1986 he caught a 3,427 pound great white... with a rod and reel. Though some say he actually killed the whale the shark was feeding off, then fucked up the shark.

Also, he walked around wearing a slouch hat, a shark-tooth necklace, and a gold hoop earring. So basically, he looked like the pirate version of this:

You know what he was doing all summer of his 83rd birthday? Hanging out on his boat, making sharks wish they were never born, sandy-fleshed cowards they are. He returned home, and, deciding it was enough that generations of young shark folk would hear the ghost stories told in his honor, had a heart attack at Hawaii Airport.

Oh, and once he bought a dead whale to a New Jersey port. People weren’t cool with that.

How:

Heart Attack.

The Legacy:

Sharks now tremble in fear at the sight of a gold hoop earring, which is why they avoid suburban malls and time travel to the 1980s.

#3.
October 25: The Man Behind Deep Throat

Who:

No, not Watergate whistleblower Mark Felt, he died two months later. We're talking about porn director Gerard Damiano, the guy known for directing the Deep Throat porno. Prior to that, his career path went in the usual way: shoe shine boy, navy, then x-ray technician, then hairdresser, set hand on a horror film, pornographer. He also appeared in many of his films, in non-sexual roles.

How:

Stroke.

The Legacy:

It's hard to get accurate counts, but there are claims that it took in $100 million or more. It was said to be one of the first porno films with a plot and high production values, setting an example that not a single subsequent porno would bother to follow.

#2.
November 20: The Mother of the Slinky

Who:

When we think of people who invent toys, we think of a Wonka-esque magical character, full of fun and surprises, but with none of Gene Wilder/Jonny Depp’s unsettling undertones. Betty James, namer of the slinky, didn’t really fit this image.

Instead, she was leafing through a dictionary one day, as all care-free, fun-loving people will do, and saw the word "slinky." This reminded her of an upturned torsion spring her husband had mentioned offhand about a year earlier. When your life is constant thrills and joy, we’re assuming you don’t remember shit like "honey, this spring fell over today, and it was super weird!"

Anyway, he had the idea to sell it as a toy, but she had the idea to name it the Slinky, which was actually more important because the toy itself sucked. Though it does appear her husband had all the wackiness that she lacked, leaving the family in 1960 to join a religious cult in Bolivia.

How:

Congestive heart failure.

The Legacy:

That guy we talked about earlier, desperately searching his house for the next tinned spaghetti-esque million-dollar idea? He’s now reading a dictionary, highlighting and muttering to himself.

#1.
December 18: The "First Lady of Star Trek"

Who:

Majel Barrett has appeared in every incarnation of the Star Trek franchise. She’s also the widow of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek.

Seriously, if you've seen any of the movies or TV shows, you've seen her. Or at least heard her - she was the voice of the ship's computer. She also played Deanna Troi's flamboyant mom in The Next Generation.

How:

Leukemia.

The Legacy:

She almost killed Spock.

In the original Star Trek pilot, she played the "Number One" on the bridge, and was the cold, logical character while the character Spock was just some weird alien guy in the background. We're sure the fact she was banging the producer had nothing to do with her getting the role. Test audiences hated her, and so they dropped her character and instead fleshed out Spock to become the unfeeling Vulcan we all know and love.

Original here