Why Do Smugglers Keep Hiding Gold in Airplane Toilets?

A Bangladeshi cleaning crew found nearly $2 million in gold bars the other day in an airplane toilet. An unknown culprit, who fled the Dhaka airport, the flydubai plane, and the 65+ pounds in gold before he could be apprehended, tried to smuggle 280 bars out of Dubai to the Bangladeshi capital.

The Daily Mail reported that Bangladeshi customs officials knew about the golden cargo, featuring photos of the proud officials in front of their booty.

But many questions remain. Was the plane toilet still making the universally scary sucking sound when flushed, or was it muffled by its precious content? Was it the smugglers' initial intent to put the gold in the toilet, or was it dumped there when they got scared of being caught? And why do incidents like this keep happening?

In a twin event earlier in October at the Chennai Airport in Delhi, the Indian Directorate of Revenue Intelligence retrieved 32 golden nuggets weighing 2.2 pounds each from an Air India plane's lavatory, where they were left by anxious smugglers who eventually ended up being arrested.

Gold, being pretty heavy, has to be a difficult thing to smuggle. It's hard to swallow (though it is done regularly) or to easily disguise as a plaster Jesus statue without it being suspiciously heavy. But there probably are probably smarter ways to go about it. Indian smugglers have melted their gold into staples, TV parts and toy batteries.

And there is no reason to abandon the toilet idea. (Golden toilet paper, anyone?) Or instead of the amateurish submersion techniques, just make an entire toilet out of gold.

The gold-in-the toilet incident makes for some pretty great hypotheticals and obvious puns (such as Time magazine's "flushing gold down the toilet"), but it is also an indication of a larger gold-smuggling problem in the region. According to The Daily Mail, in the last eight months Dhaka airport customs recovered gold weighing a total of 300 kg in over 100 hauls. In India, smuggling has also been on the rise with the government increasing taxes on gold imports, most recently from 10% to 15%,  the Times of India reported.

The country is the world's largest gold consumer, and the metal still a popular savings method. The government has been trying to curb gold imports in an effort to salvage the ever-weakening rupee. The gold is often smuggled in from Bangladesh, sometimes recovered from some deep trouble.



How Apple Helped China Reclaim Taiwan, and More Mapping Messes

Taiwanese officials are up in arms after discovering that Apple maps refers to their country as a province of China -- in simplified Chinese characters, no less.

The government filed a complaint with the company Tuesday, demanding that it drop the China reference. Kelly Hsieh, the head of the foreign ministry's North American affairs office, told reporters that the label degrades Taiwan and that "no compromise will be made over this kind of matter."

Taiwan's political status has always been a sensitive issue. Having split from mainland China in 1949, it has its own army, constitution, and democratically elected leaders. But China continues to assert that Taiwan is a breakaway province that will eventually be reclaimed. Apple's position on the dispute is, as yet, unclear: It's website refers to Taiwan in traditional Chinese characters, without mention of China at all. But the updated map app on Apple's iOS 7 says something rather different.

It's not the first time that Apple maps has frustrated Taiwanese officials. In 2012, the defense ministry complained that the iPhone 5 version of the app clearly displayed top-secret military facilities on the island.   

Apple's mum about the recent controversy, but it might consider discussing the matter with Google, which has repeatedly inflamed international tensions with its maps. In 2010, Google's re-drawing of the Thai-Cambodian sparked a diplomatic controversy. Later that year, a Nicaraguan commander justified a raid on a Costa Rican border area by citing Google's erroneous delineation of the contested boundary. The list goes on. In an interview last year, Google's chairman Eric Schmidt summed up the issue succinctly, saying, "Maps are really hard." Not as hard as international relations, it seems.  

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