Tuesday, October 21, 2014

South Philly One-Time Mob Boss Joseph Merlino Ordered Back To Philadelphia For Parole Violation

Veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia is covering Joseph Merlino's federal hearings for Bigtrial.net.

It looks like an encore is planned for U.S. District Court in the ongoing Skinny Joey Merlino saga.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick issued a one-page ruling this morning denying a motion by Merlino's lawyer seeking to have his probation violation voided. Instead, Surrick set a hearing on the issues for Friday at 10 a.m.

Merlino, who has been living in Boca Raton for the past three years, drew a media horde when he appeared earlier this month for the first hearing in the case. That proceeding focused on a motion filed by defense attorneys Edwin Jacobs Jr. and Michael Myers who argued that federal authorities had failed to properly notify Merlino of the alleged violations.

Merlino, they said, had not been given a summons to appear in court prior to the expiration of his three-year probation. Prosecutors argued that the practice in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was to file a notice of a violation rather than issue a summons. That notice was filed on Sept. 2, five days before Merlino's probationary period ended.
Surrick provided not details in his order, but simply denied the defense motion, setting the stage for a return trip to Philadelphia by the one-time celebrity mob boss. 
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:


Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL Targets in Syria, Iraq

The U.S. Central Command released the below:

TAMPA, Fla., Oct. 21, 2014 - U.S. military forces continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria yesterday and today, using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct four airstrikes, U.S. Central Command officials reported.

Separately, officials added, U.S. and partner-nation forces conducted three airstrikes using fighter and attack aircraft against ISIL terrorists in Iraq. In Syria, four airstrikes near Kobani destroyed ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL building, and a large ISIL unit. In Iraq, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL fighting position south of the Bayji oil refinery.

Another airstrike southeast of Mosul Dam destroyed an ISIL fighting position, and an airstrike north of Fallujah suppressed an ISIL attack.

All aircraft exited the strike areas safely, officials said, and airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

The U.S. strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.

The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project power and conduct operations, Centcom officials said.

Computer Hacker Sentenced For E-Mailing Bomb Threat To Shopping Mall

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

PHILADELPHIA—David Barnhouse, 24, of Horsham, PA, was sentenced, on October 16, 2014, to 18 months in prison for hacking into his neighbor’s wireless router and using it to post a bomb threat on the website of the Willow Grove Park Mall. As a result of Barnhouse’s actions, the mall paid for increased security and the FBI, after tracing the threat to the neighbor’s router, executed a search warrant on the neighbor’s home. (The practice of making such false reports to bring police action against someone’s house is colloquially known as “swatting”—after the SWAT teams that law enforcement often uses to deal with such situations.)

On June 20, 2013, Barnhouse hacked into the Verizon FiOS router of his neighbor and, using their Internet service, posted the following message:

“We have planted an explosive device somewhere in the mall, and will detonate it unless all members of the Islamic faith imprisoned in the United States are freed by 7 p.m. on June 23. Even if you search the mall for 72 consecutive hours, you will NEVER find it.”

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge C. Darnell Jones, II ordered three years of supervised release and restitution to the mall for the costs of the increased security.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jeanine Linehan and Michael L. Levy.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy 83rd Birthday To John le Carre

Happy 83rd birthday to British spy novelist John le Carre.

John le Carre is the author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

You can learn more about John le Carre via a link to History.com.


You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of John le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor via the below link:


It's Elementary – Of Course Sherlock Holmes Was Real

Allan Massie offers an interesting piece in the Telegraph on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional (or perhaps not) iconic character.

The Museum of London has a new exhibition honouring the most famous Englishman of the 19th century. In his lifetime he had rivals for that title – Mr Gladstone, and WG Grace, for instance. But their memory has faded, and Sherlock Holmes stands supreme. It is quite right that the museum should be hosting this exhibition – the first in the capital since 1951 – for Holmes’s London is, even more than Dickens’s, the London of our historical imagination, the London of hansom cabs, horse-dung, flickering gas-light and pea-soup fogs, the London of sinister opium dens in Wapping.

Some still say that there was no real Holmes, that he was only the creation of an Edinburgh-born doctor, Arthur Conan Doyle. For these sceptics, he exists only in four novels and 56 short stories, almost all recounted by his friend, housemate and collaborator, Dr Watson. Yes, they admit, there is indeed a plaque on 221b Baker Street, proclaiming that Sherlock Holmes lived there; but, they add triumphantly, there was no such address when Conan Doyle wrote. It’s all a work of fiction.
Tell that to the Marines, but not to the Sherlock Holmes Society, or indeed to its New York brother, the Baker Street Irregulars. Tell it not to the Sherlock Holmes Society of Japan, which has more than 1,000 devoted members; there is a statue of Holmes in Karuizawa. The Japanese, it seems, are devoted to him because, in recounting his struggle with the Napoleon of crime and distinguished mathematician, Professor Moriarty, at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, he ascribed his victory to his knowledge of “baritsu”, the Japanese art of wrestling. (This should correctly be “bartitsu”, we are told; which only goes to prove that Holmes was human and capable of making a mistake.)

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:


Note: The above DVD cover shows actor Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. He's my favorite Sherlock Holmes actor. 

Gary Webb Was No Journalism Hero, Despite What The Film "Kill The Messenger" Says

Jeff Lean debunks the true story behind the film Kill the Messenger in a piece in the Washington Post.

An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof. That old dictum ought to hang on the walls of every journalism school in America. It is the salient lesson of the Gary Webb affair. It might have saved his journalism career, though it would have precluded his canonization in the new film “Kill the Messenger.”

The Hollywood version of his story — a truth-teller persecuted by the cowardly and craven mainstream media — is pure fiction. But Webb was a real person who wrote a real story, a three-part series called “Dark Alliance,” in August 1996 for the San Jose Mercury News, one of the flagship newspapers of the then-mighty Knight Ridder chain. Webb’s story made the extraordinary claim that the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the crack cocaine epidemic in America. What he lacked was the extraordinary proof. But at first, the claim was enough. Webb’s story became notable as the first major journalism cause celebre on the newly emerging Internet. The black community roiled in anger at the supposed CIA perfidy.

Then it all began to come apart. The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, in a rare show of unanimity, all wrote major pieces knocking the story down for its overblown claims and undernourished reporting.

Gradually, the Mercury News backed away from Webb’s scoop. The paper transferred him to its Cupertino bureau and did an internal review of his facts and his methods. Jerry Ceppos, the Mercury News’s executive editor, wrote a piece concluding that the story did not meet the newspaper’s standards — a courageous stance, I thought. “We oversimplified the complex issue of how the crack epidemic in America grew,” Ceppos wrote. “Through imprecise language and graphics, we created impressions that were open to misinterpretation.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:


You can also read an earlier piece on Kill the Messenger via the below link:


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Former U.S. Navy Shipmates Who Served Together During The Vietnam War Reunite After 40 Years Of Searching For Each Other

The below story in the Daily Mail about shipmates reuniting many years after serving together on the USS White Plains during the Vietnam War interested me, as I too reunited with two of my former shipmates.

Via social media I contacted a good friend and shipmate who served with me in 1971 during the Vietnam War on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA63). We shared good times ashore in the wild city of Olongapo in the Philippines and other ports-of-call during our WESTPAC cruise.

Through a Navy veteran's web site I later contacted another good friend who served with me in 1974 and 1975 on the Navy Tugboat USS Saugus (YTB780) at the nuclear submarine base in Holy Loch, Scotland. We shared some good times in the Scottish pubs.

I'm glad that after all these years I'm able to email and talk on the phone with these two old friends who shared some great and not so great times. There are a couple of other old shipmates that I'd like to get in touch with as well.

Sophie Ann Evans at the Daily Mail wrote a good piece on the two Navy veterans reuniting. You can read the piece via the below link:


Note: Above is a photo of the White Plains.

Below are photos of the Kitty Hawk and the Saugus and you can link to posts about the carrier and the tugboat via the below links: