Canadian family arrested for making wrong turn at border crossing

After visiting church, the McDaniel family decided to take a drive to visit a new farm built up the road from their own new home in New Brunswick.

What happened next sounds like something out of an April fools joke – the family was forced to stop, removed from their vehicle and arrested. Their vehicle was seized and the parents and their two kids were transported to a border processing facility to be fingerprinted.

Their crime? They had foolishly crossed into the United States by mistake. Thanks to some unclear signage, the family assumed they were still in Canada – without knowing that they had actually illegally entered their neighboring country.

Common sense would usually mean a quick search of the vehicle, and sending them back to Canada, but common sense is something often lacking in homeland security. A border patrol officer had the following to say:

“[The border officers] determined that none of the subjects had permission to be or remain in the United States legally, and they had effected an illegal entry, at which time they were transported into the Fort Fairfield border patrol station, where they were processed and given a voluntary return into Canada,”

So there you have it – while our government is hard at work letting a known terrorist board a plane with explosives strapped to his genitals, they are also hard at work harassing a family who are guilty of nothing more than missing a sign.

Vote for America’s best bathroom

It’s a room we visit several times each day, but the humble bathroom (john, head, bog, loo, etc.) is rarely celebrated in its true glory. Cintas Facility Services, a leading provider of bathroom supplies, wants to change that with its America’s Best Restroom Award. Check out their website to see the nominees and vote for your favorite. A good bathroom is the traveler’s best friend, and should be appreciated.

But we here at Gadling are too well traveled to get all starry-eyed about the glories of the garderobe. We’ve dealt with squishy Asian squat, public lavatory putrescence, and outhouse odor. So let’s hear your votes for the world’s worst bathrooms. Here’s my nominee:

In 1996 I left the Iranian border town of Zahedan and entered Pakistan. My first stop was Taftan, a miserable hole if I ever saw one. The streets were nothing but sand. Trash blew between bare concrete houses. Moneychangers swarmed around me like flies. Flies swarmed around me like moneychangers. Then disaster struck–I had to go to the bathroom.

The public toilet next to the bus station was an area about ten feet to a side enclosed by a concrete wall. There was no roof. There was no door, only a blind turn before you entered a sandbox that looked just like the street except that it was covered in crap. The flies here were so thick that I put my bandanna over my nose and mouth so I didn’t inhale any. There was no escaping the smell. I picked my way through a minefield of human waste until I found a clear spot for both my feet. The flies were relentless, and I had to fan myself constantly so they didn’t get stuck to my business end.

Like everywhere in South Asia, foreigners get stared at in Pakistan, and they make no exception for foreigners squatting with their pants down. A small crowd of other squatters stared at me with undisguised curiosity as I did what I needed to do and fled as quick as I could.

I only stayed in Taftan an hour until I could catch a bus for Quetta, but I will always remember the bathroom there, and the fact that I got pick-pocketed. They only got about five dollars worth of Iranian rials, but it’s the thought that counts. The thought of some guy’s hand in my pocket. I hope, I pray, that it wasn’t one of the guys watching me in the bathroom.

Think you can beat that? Give it your best shot.

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American journalists get the max in North Korean court

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters with Current TV, were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor this morning – the maximum sentence under law. The five-day trial yielded a verdict of guilt for the “grave crime” of illegally crossing into North Korea, the Korea Central News Agency reported, according to MSNBC. The English version of the story, at least, has not yet made it to the KCNA’s website, where the lead story involves Kim Jong Il’s visit to Kosan Fruit Farm.

The sentence is being called “reform through labor,” and no other details are provided. Under North Korean law, the two journalists will be moved to prison within 10 days of the verdict. Lee and Ling are unable to appeal, as they have already been convicted by the country’s highest court: the decisions are final. The trial was not open to the public, and representatives from the Swedish Embassy, which acts as a liaison for many western nations, was not permitted to observe.

Yet, this may not be the end of the road.

There are some analysts who believe that the conviction is part of a greater negotiating ploy in North Korea, which is effectively holding the journalists hostage in order to gain concessions, such as humanitarian aid. If the isolated nation gets what it wants, Lee and Ling would likely receive pardons. Of course, the “nuclear issue” remains in the background, as well.

Though little has been released about the circumstances of the journalists’ apprehension, it has been revealed that the two were investigating and reporting on human trafficking along the border. What is not clear, however, is whether they actually crossed into North Korea.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Be nice … or else pepper spray

Pepper spray? No thank you.Dear Gadling Reader,

It has come to our attention that on Monday, March 2nd, on the Canada/U.S. border just east of Vancouver, a dance instructor from Coquitlam, B.C. attempted to cross and visit his second home in Washington, where he had left his wallet.

The dance instructor, Desiderio Fortunato, was asked to shut his car off by the American border officer. Unfortunately for Mr. Fortunato, his dance instructor discipline got the better of him and he asked the officer to “say please.”

Then his dance instructor stubbornness got the better of him and he refused three times to turn off the car, because the officer refused three times to say please.

Mr. Fortunato was then pepper sprayed by the border officer, which, if Wikipedia is to be believed, caused him “immediate closing of the eyes, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and coughing. The duration of its effects depend on the strength of the spray but the average full effect lasts around thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours.” Then he was taken into custody by several officers and held in jail for three hours, and subsequently dismissed with a warning to be more cooperative.

According to the National Post, Mr. Fortunato “pulled a similar stunt at the same border crossing about one year ago. In that case, he was ordered to wait hours to be questioned before being allowed to cross.”

In conclusion, we have no choice but to dub Mr. Fortunato “kind of a douche.” Still, the pepper spray may have been a little extreme, and he should probably sue.

“I asked him three times and when I didn’t turn the car off, because he didn’t say please, he pepper sprayed me…. It was terrible. For half an hour or so I couldn’t see anything.” –Mr. Forunato, Kind of a Douche

Sincerely, Annie Scott and the Gadling Staff

Unmanned drone to finally crack down on wild US/Canada border

While much attention is paid to the border between the United States and Mexico, our neighbors to the north have yet to encounter the scrutiny that they deserve. No prison-like fences or vigilante minutemen have stood in the way of people sneaking back and forth between the United States and Canada. Well, the U.S. government has decided that these shenanigans have gone on for long enough. According to Wired and the New York Times, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency will use an unmanned drone aircraft to patrol a stretch of the border between the two North American allies.

The Predator B aircraft will operate out of Grand Forks (ND) Air Force Base and will be the first of its kind on the northern border. Three similar drones currently patrol the border with Mexico. Residents of North Dakota and “a slim part of Minnesota” can now sleep easy knowing that a remote-controlled airplane is buzzing overhead and keeping maple syrup, hockey and the word “eh” where they belong.

Surely a great deal of research went into the decision to have the $10 million unmanned aircraft patrol just a 300 mile stretch of the 5,525 mile long border with our ally, right? Well, John Stanton, executive director of the Customs and Border Protection service’s national air security operations was asked if he expected the drone to uncover a rash of drug smuggling, illegal immigration or terrorism. His response: “We hope to actually use this aircraft to measure that. You don’t know what you don’t know.” Neat!

But at least these drones are foolproof. Well, about that. The drone was supposed to arrive in North Dakota last Thursday. Because of maintenance issues, it arrived on Saturday. And a similar drone on the southern border crashed in 2006 outside of Nogales, Arizona. No one was killed, but it did narrowly miss hitting a house. The cause of the accident was found to be human error.

Well, it may sound like a boondoggle, but I am certainly relieved that someone will be keeping an eye on those hosers. We’re still recovering from the Celine Dion invasion of the 1990s. There’s just no telling what they could sneak in next. Pray that it isn’t curling.