What are we smuggling?

Each year, German officials give a press conference displaying some of the contraband seized by customs police. This year, they reported that German customs seized over five times as many pirated goods in 2006 as they did in 2005.

What else did they find? More drugs. They seized twice as much hashish and nearly twice as much cocaine in 2006 as compared to the year before. And endangered species, both flora and fauna, alive and dead, were confiscated in growing numbers. Below are some of the more bizarre findings from among the 53,000 tons of smuggled plants and animals seized in 2006:

Clockwise, from left: A stuffed baby caiman lizard, an ashtray made from an endangered species of turtle, illegal wine made from cobras, an equine skull and a stuffed lion cub. 

All photos Theo Klein/Getty Images News


Sarkozy: Let a thousand candidates bloom


Anti-immigration zealot and aging right-wing icon Jean-Marie Le Pen claims he has the endorsements necessary to enter France's already fascinating presidential race. Still, there's reason to doubt he can be the force that he's been in the past, when he sent France's political establishment into near apoplexy. Le Pen is a mesmerizing orator, but at nearly 79, he's getting a bit long in the tooth—and so is his base of elderly voters.

But what Le Pen's candidacy will do to the evolving race is anyone's guess. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is besting socialist Ségolène Royal and centrist François Bayrou in the latest polls, has been encouraging both Le Pen and far left candidate Olivier Besancenot to get into the race:

I fight Mr Le Pen's ideas. But I will fight to ensure that Mr Besancenot as well as Mr Le Pen can defend their ideas. Democracy mustn't be hijacked by a small number of people. That isn't democracy," he told France 3 TV.

It's damned magnanimous of Sarkozy. So what's the angle? The BBC sees it this way:

Mr Sarkozy's gesture may not be quite so altruistic as it seems - if the National Front is not represented in the elections next month, he will be forced to shift his own position to the right. That would alienate some supporters and give more ground to Mr Bayrou.