Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look Back At the Rat Pack's Frank, Sammy & Dino In 'Robin And The 7 Hoods'

Over at Detectives Beyond Borders, an always interesting crime blog, Peter Rozovsky made a remark about Frank Sinatra not needing his fellow "Rat Pack" "nuchscleppers."

I thought that Peter Rozovsky, a copy editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where I've been a contributor since 1999, was a bit unfair to Sinatra's pals Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin.

The late great crooners were much more than Sinatra's sidekicks.

Sammy and Dino were great singers and entertainers who more than held their own with Sinatra - and Sinatra himself would have the first to say so.

In defense of the Rat Pack I offered a link to a clip of Frank, Dino and Bing Crosby singing in Robin and the 7 Hoods, the 1964 musical comedy film that best showcased the Rat Pack, in my view.

You can watch the great crooners via the below link:

You can also listen to Dino sing I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face with Chris Botti from his wonderful CD, Italia, via the below link:

And you can read the discussion at Detectives Beyond Borders via the below link:

If you're interested in international crime fiction, check out

Friday, December 30, 2011

George Carlin's Words

I came across a funny clip of George Carlin's best routines on words on

You can watch George Carlin via the below link:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Car Theft Prevention Tips: New Year's Day Most Popular Car Theft Day

Josh Max at the New York Daily News writes that according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau New Year's Day is the most popular day for car thieves to steal your car.

It takes less time for a professional thief to break into your car, start it up and drive away as it does for you to walk into Dunkin’ Donuts and pick up a coffee – less than two minutes in some cases. And don't presume your wheezing clunker's immune; the most stolen vehicle of 2011, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, was the 1994 Honda Accord.

To read the rest of the story and learn some car theft prevention tips go to the link below:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Don't Tread On Me: Pentagon Tells Iran That Any Disruption Of Oil Route 'Will Not Be Tolerated''s Jennifer Griffin and the Associated Press reports that the Pentagon has warned Iran against any disruption of the Strait of Hormutz.  

...A spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy's 5th fleet warned Iran against disrupting shipments in the strait, saying the U.S. Navy keeps a "robust presence in the region" and is "ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation."

"Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated," Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Rebecca Rebarich said.

The warning comes as Iranian officials stand by earlier threats to use the passageway to retaliate if the West imposes new sanctions targeting Tehran's oil exports over the country's suspect nuclear program.

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

Snow: The Double Life Of A World War II Spy

Martin Evans at the British newspaper the Telegraph writes about Arthur Owens, code name Agent Snow, who, according a new book written by Nigel West and Madoc Roberts, was MI5's first double agent in World War II.

Mr West said Agent Snow’s contribution both to the war effort and to the development of espionage cannot be over stated.

He said: “Arthur Owens was the foundation of the double cross system which proved so vital in helping the Allies in so many areas. His contribution has never fully been appreciated, but it is hard to overstate how important his role was.”

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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mr. Ritchie, May I Have My Sherlock Holmes Back, Please?

Andrew Martin at the British newspaper the Independant asks film director Guy Ritchie if he can have his beloved Sherlock Holmes character back.

When people berated Steven Spielberg for dumbing down Tintin, I looked on with bemusement, but then I didn't spend half my childhood reading Tintin stories. I did spend half of my childhood reading Sherlock Holmes stories, which is why I have a bone to pick with Guy Ritchie, director of the Christmas blockbuster and nominal Holmes film, A Game Of Shadows.

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

The photo above is of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes.

Everything You Need To Know About 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'

Richard Rayner at offers an educational piece on John le Carre's classic spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the classic miniseries and new film based on the novel.

The Circus is MI6, Britain’s version of the CIA. “C” is “Control,” the murky and mysterious man atop MI6. But what’s the best way to keep track of the film’s timeline? And what about the shadow cast by Alec Guinness, who played George Smiley in a seven-hour 1979 BBC mini-series.

The new adaptation of John Le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is one of the best reviewed films of the Oscar season — but just as context and information is everything in the spy business, some background makes the film more meaningful as well, whether you’re about to see it for the first time or whether you have questions you want to discuss further.

This expert guide will both deepen the film and provide the ultimate cheat sheet.

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

You can also read my earlier post on le Carre's spy thriller - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is Almost Perfect, but for the Politics - via the below link: 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pretrial Wraps Up For Alleged Document Leaker

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., Dec. 22, 2011 - The prosecution and defense rested today after delivering their closing statements in the Article 32 hearing of a soldier charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Today's session, which adjourned at about 10:30 a.m., wrapped up eight days of pre-trial proceedings in the case against Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning that began Dec. 16.

An Article 32 hearing, often compared to a civilian grand jury, is a pretrial hearing to determine if grounds exist for a general court martial, the most serious of courts martial.

The investigating officer, Army Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, now has until Jan. 16 to issue his recommendations to the Special Court Martial Convening Authority, a Military District of Washington spokesperson told American Forces Press Service.

Alamanza may ask for an extension, if needed, the official said.

His report will recommend that the case be referred to a court martial, or that some or all of the charges against Manning be dismissed.

The Special Court Martial Convening Authority, Army Col. Carl Coffman, will then provide Alamanza's recommendation to the General Court Martial Convening Authority, and indicate whether he concurs with it, the MDW official said.

Manning, an intelligence analyst, is suspected of leaking military and diplomatic documents to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks in what officials believe is the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history.

WikiLeaks, in turn, released thousands of these documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on its website last year.

At the time, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other senior defense officials condemned the organization's actions, claiming the act put deployed service members at an increased risk.

The Article 32 hearing marked 24-year-old Manning's first appearance in a military court since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010.

He faces more than 20 charges alleging he introduced unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloaded it, improperly stored it, and transmitted the data for public release and use by the enemy.

The charge of aiding the enemy under Article 104 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice is a capital offense; however, the prosecution team has said it won't recommend the death penalty, a legal official said.

If convicted of all charges, Manning would face a maximum punishment of life in prison. He also could be reduced to E-1, the lowest enlisted grade, face a total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and dishonorable discharge, officials said.

Chinese National Sentenced To 87 Months In Prison For Economic Espionage And Theft Of Trade Secrets

The U.S. Justice Department released the below yesterday:
WASHINGTON – Kexue Huang, a Chinese national and a former resident of Carmel, Ind., was sentenced today to 87 months in prison and three years of supervised release on charges of economic espionage to benefit components of the Chinese government and theft of trade secrets.
The sentencing was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa O. Monaco, U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett of the Southern District of Indiana, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones of the District of Minnesota, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis Field Office of the FBI.
This is the first prosecution in Indiana for foreign economic espionage. Since its enactment in 1996, there have been a total of eight cases charged nationwide under the Economic Espionage Act.
“Mr. Huang stole valuable trade secrets from two American companies and disseminated them to individuals in Germany and China,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Economic espionage and trade secret theft are serious crimes that, as today’s sentence shows, must be punished severely. Protecting trade secrets is vital to our nation’s economic success, and we will continue vigorously to enforce our trade secret and economic espionage statutes.”
“The theft of American trade secrets for the benefit of China and other nations poses a continuing threat to our economic and national security,” saidLisa Monaco,Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “Today’s sentence demonstrates our commitment to detect, prosecute and hold accountable those engaged in these illegal activities.”
“The United States Attorney’s Office takes seriously its obligation to protect Hoosier businesses from economic espionage,” U.S. Attorney Hogsett said. “I thank the federal agents and prosecutors who helped bring this landmark case to a successful conclusion.”
“The Kexue Huang investigation and prosecution is an excellent example of how law enforcement and American corporations can work together to protect our corporations from economic espionage and the theft of extremely valuable trade secrets,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Holley stated. “Dow Agrosciences and the FBI cooperated extensively to make this important investigation a success. Economic espionage is a crime that undermines the competiveness of our corporations and our national interest in protecting intellectual property. The FBI will continue to work collaboratively with the private sector to aggressively investigate those individuals that seek to harm our country’s economic interests by stealing our intellectual property and thereby undermining our competitive economic position in the world.”
Huang, 46, was sentenced by the U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence in the Southern District of Indiana. On Oct. 18, 2011, Huang pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment filed in the Southern District of Indiana for misappropriating and transporting trade secrets from Dow AgroSciences LLC with the intent to benefit components of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Huang also pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment filed in the District of Minnesota for stealing a trade secret from a second company, Cargill Inc.
According to court documents, from January 2003 until February 2008, Huang was employed as a research scientist at Dow, a leading international agricultural company based in Indianapolis that provides agrochemical and biotechnology products. In 2005, Huang became a research leader for Dow in strain development related to unique, proprietary organic insecticides marketed worldwide.
As a Dow employee, Huang signed an agreement that outlined his obligations in handling confidential information, including trade secrets. The agreement prohibited him from disclosing any confidential information without Dow’s consent. Dow employed several layers of security to preserve and maintain confidentiality and to prevent unauthorized use or disclosure of its trade secrets.
Huang admitted that during his employment at Dow, he misappropriated several Dow trade secrets. According to plea documents, from 2007 to 2010, Huang transferred and delivered the stolen Dow trade secrets to individuals in Germany and the PRC. With the assistance of these individuals, Huang used the stolen materials to conduct unauthorized research with the intent to benefit foreign universities that were tied to the PRC government. Huang also admitted that he pursued steps to develop and produce the misappropriated Dow trade secrets in the PRC, including identifying manufacturing facilities in the PRC that would allow him to compete directly with Dow in the established organic pesticide market.
According to court documents, after Huang left Dow, he was hired in March 2008 by Cargill, an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Huang worked as a biotechnologist for Cargill until July 2009 and signed a confidentiality agreement promising never to disclose any trade secrets or other confidential information of Cargill. Huang admitted that during his employment with Cargill, he stole one of the company’s trade secrets – a key component in the manufacture of a new food product, which he later disseminated to another person, specifically a student at Hunan Normal University in the PRC.
In the plea agreement, Huang admitted that the aggregated loss from the misappropriated trade secrets exceeds $7 million but is less than $20 million.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia J. Ridgeway of the Southern District of Indiana, Trial Attorneys Mark L. Krotoski and Evan C. Williams of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Paulsen of the District of Minnesota, with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterespionage Section. Significant assistance was provided by the CCIPS Cyber Crime Lab and the Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
The sentence announced today is an example of the type of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force). Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders. To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My On Crime & Security Column: Organized Crime: A 'Hostile Takeover' Hits Business Hard

The national business web site published my On Crime & Security column today.

The column covered organized crime's takeover of a company.

Shoplifters will steal your products, and armed robbers will steal your money, but organized crime will steal your entire business.
Organized crime has long targeted businesses for extortion. Only last week a man who claimed to be a "strong arm" for organized crime pleaded guilty to charges that he attempted to extort $10,000 from a Massachusetts vending machine business.
But in one alarming case, organized crime stole an entire company.
Last month, federal authorities charged 13 individuals, including an alleged member and an associate of the Lucchese organized crime family, with racketeering and related offenses stemming from an alleged extortionate takeover of FirstPlus Financial Group Inc. (FPFG), a publicly held company in Texas. Racketeers allegedly looted FPFG through a series of fraudulent consulting agreements and acquisitions involving companies controlled by Nicodemo S. Scarfo and Salvatore Pelullo.

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

My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At Joseph Wambaugh's Classic TV Series 'Police Story'

In my first online Crime Beat column in 2002 I wrote about my attending the Philadelphia Police Department’s pilot Civilian Police Academy Program. 
I attended the 11-week program as a reporter on assignment for a Philadelphia weekly newspaper and I wrote a 12-part series on police training and operations. 
As I noted in my Crime Beat column, the academy instructors sought to disabuse us of our notions of police work gleaned through television. 
“It’s not like you see on TV,” was the often heard comment from the police instructors. 
“Police recruits are chomping on the bit when they first come here,” one instructor told us. “They want to be just like the cops on TV, but we bring the reins in on them.” 
The instructors hated TV cop shows. But there were a couple of shows about cops that cops liked. One was the comedy Barney Miller. Real cops told me they got a kick out of the show. 
Another TV program that real cops liked was Police Story, the realistic and gritty anthology series that aired from 1973 to 1978. Joseph Wambaugh, then a working detective sergeant with the LAPD and a best-selling novelist, was the creator and a story consultant on the series, which was produced by David Gerber. 
Season one of the innovative TV series is now out on a Shout! Factory DVD.
As a bonus feature, the DVD’s producer, Brian Blum, interviewed Joseph Wambaugh about the origins of the TV series.
“David Gerber contacted me because I was the writing cop,” Wambaugh recalls. “I was an LAPD detective sergeant who had written two best-selling novels, The New Centurions, which became a movie with George C. Scott, and The Blue Knight, which was I think was the first miniseries produced in the United States, with William Holden and Lee Remick. So David thought I would be the ideal person to create the first truly authentic and gritty cop show in the history of television – those were his words.” 
Wambaugh said Gerber contacted him in 1972 when he had 12 years of service on the LAPD. He remained a working cop, even though he had published two best-sellers. Wambaugh said that he and his detective partner, Richard Kalk, drove to the Burbank Studios to talk to David Gerber and his team. 
Wambaugh and Gerber agreed that they wanted to make an anthology series. 
“We would use different actors each week so we can do whatever we wanted to the self-contained drama. If we wanted to kill off the actors, we could kill them off,” Wambaugh explained. 
Wambaugh said that their program wouldn’t be a continuing family of actors, as television was used to. They encountered the argument that anthology television was dead, but Wambaugh and Gerber stuck to their guns. 
“The stars are no longer as important as the story,” Wambaugh said. “ I’m a writer. I wanted the story to be the star, not the actors. That’s how Police Story was conceived by David and myself.” 
Wambaugh noted that in addition to being an innovative, creative, terrific producer, David Gerber was a great salesman, and he sold the idea of Police Story.  
I was a fan of the Emmy-Award-winning program during its run on TV in the 1970s and I enjoyed watching the shows again on DVD. Hearing the Jerry Goldsmith theme song and the clever use of the static radio calls from police dispatchers that framed the beginning and end of the drama brought back good memories. 
The 6-DVD set offers 21 episodes from the 1973-74 season, including the pilot. The pilot starred several veteran TV actors, including Vic Morrow, who starred in the TV series Combat, Ed Asner from Mary Tyler Moore and Chuck Conners from The Rifleman.  
In later shows, Police Story featured other fine actors like Tony Lo Bianco, James Farentino, Angie Dickinson and Kurt Russell. 
Like the cops in Wambaugh’s novels, the LAPD officers in Police Story are not super cops or cartoon heroes. They are often average men and women and flawed characters who suffer from divorces, alcoholism and other family and personal issues. 
They are human.  
That is not to say that Police Story lacks action. The cops chase, hunt and fight the bad guys. The series offers ample gunfights, fistfights and car chases. 
But Police Story’s main emphasis was on character.      
Clearly, Police Story influenced later award-winning TV police dramas, such as Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and Homicide: Life On The Street. 

Police Story makes an ideal holiday gift and the DVD makes a fine addition to one’s DVD library. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Radio Stations That Switched To All Christmas Music Format Raised Their Ratings

Despite the grumbling of some folks about Christmas music, Paul Bond at reports that radio stations that switched to the all Christmas music format have raised their ratings, and in some cases, the radio stations doubled their ratings.

You can read the piece via the below link:

I was pleased to read this report, as I love Christmas music.

I wrote a piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer a few years back about Christmas music and the musical celebration of Jesus Christ.

You can read the piece via the below link: 

Ernest Hemingway's Granddaughter Returns To Author's Cuban Home

Louise Boyle at the British newspaper the Daily Mail offers a story about Ernest Hemingway's granddaughter visiting his old Cuban home.

The Cuban government has restored the home and actress and author Mariel Hemingway visited the home last month both to mark the 50th anniversary of her grandfather's suicide and to mark the release of her book, Hemingway: A Life in Pictures.

You can read the piece and view some interesting photos via the below link:

Kojak's Police Captain, Actor Dan Frazer, Dies At Age 90

The New York Times reports that veteran character actor Dan Frazer, best known as Captain Frank McNeil, Telly Savalas' police supervisor on TV's Kojak in the 1970s, died at age 90.

Frazer, seen in the center of the above photo with Savalas on the right, also portrayed a police supervisor, Lt. Byrnes, in Fuzz, a film based on Ed McBain's 87th precinct novel.

You can read the Times piece via the below link:    

Monday, December 19, 2011

Welcome To Hell, Fearless Leader: Senator John McCain Says The Late North Korean Dictator Is in A 'Warm Corner Of Hell' offers a report on U.S. Senator John McCain's comments on the death of North Korea's Communist dictator.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appears to have no doubt where deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il may have ended up in the afterlife.

“I can only express satisfaction that the Dear Leader is joining the likes of Qaddafi, Bin Laden, Hitler and Stalin in a warm corner of hell,” the
Arizona senator – not one to be wishy-washy with his words – said in a statement Monday.

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

A Private Letter from Genre To Literature

Daniel Abraham, a science fiction writer (seen in the above photo), wrote an amusing piece for about the clash between genre fiction and literary fiction in the form of a letter from the former to the latter.

But allow me this, dear: what you do is crueler. You take the best of me, my most glorious moments - Ursula LeGuin and Dashiell Hammet, Mary Shelly and Philip Dick - and you claim them for your own. You say that they "transcend genre". There are no more heartless words than those. You disarm me. You know, I think, that if we were to compare our projects honestly -- my best to yours, my mediocrities to yours, our failures lumped together -- this division between us would vanish, and so you skim away my cream and mock me for being only milk.

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

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: The Men Behind The Mole War

Jeff Stein offers a brief history of the real story behind John le Carre's spy novel, which was made into a classic miniseries and is now a feature film starring Gary Oldman.

Stein's piece in the Washington Post covers the Cambridge spy ring, a group of British men who spied for the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Included in the ring was a senior British Secret Intelligence Service officer named Kim Philby (seen in the above photo).

Beautifully directed, wonderfully acted and darkly stylized, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” the latest rendition of John le Carré’s iconic spy thriller, is drawn from real events that shook the British establishment decades ago.

But for two-plus hours, moviegoers — especially those born after the last hammer and sickle flew from the Kremlin in 1991 — might wonder what all the fuss was about.

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

You can also read an earlier piece on John le Carre and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy via the below link;

And you can read a BBC account of the Cambridge spy ring via the below link:

Defense Secretary Panetta Pays Tribute To Fallen U.S. Sailors From First Barbary War In Tripoli

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

TRIPOLI, Libya, Dec. 17, 2011 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta paused during his historic visit here to lay a wreath on the graves of U.S. sailors lost aboard the USS Intrepid more than 200 years ago.

Panetta, the first defense secretary to set foot in Libya, said he felt honored to pay respects to heroes of the United States' first overseas wars, interred in Tripoli's Protestant cemetery.

The crew aboard the Intrepid was on a mission Sept. 4, 1804, to destroy pirate ships moored in Tripoli harbor during the First Barbary War when their vessel exploded.

Navy Lt. Richard Somers, its commander, and his dozen officers and sailors were killed.

"These brave sailors from the Intrepid, who died in the service of their country, have our nation's enduring respect and gratitude," the secretary said in a statement released after today's visit.

"Having sailed into harm's way to secure our nation's interests, they volunteered for a dangerous mission and paid the ultimate price," he said. "Their courage, and that of their fallen sailors and Marines, have forever emblazoned the shores of Tripoli in our nation's conscience."

Panetta expressed appreciation that despite differences in U.S.-Libyan relations over the years, the Libyan people have maintained the cemetery with the respect and honor it deserves and designated it a protected historic property.

The United States looks forward to working with the Libyans "to ensure that this very special place remains an honored and protected landmark for both of our nations," he said.

Panetta called the Libyan people's efforts to restore the cemetery "a symbol of the vales we share, including an appreciation of the need to honor those who have sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of a cause greater than ourselves."

He reflected on the thousands of Libyans who gave their lives for Libya's liberation as well. "They sacrificed so that Libya and her people could have a new era of hope and opportunity," he said. "Because of their sacrifices, the torch of freedom burns brightly here in Libya."

The 2012 Defense Authorization Act, as passed by the House in December, includes a provision that requires the Defense Department to begin the process of identifying and returning Somers and his sailors to the United States.

Specifically, the bill instructs the secretaries of defense and the Navy to report back to Congress on the feasibility of recovering and positively identifying the missing commandos.

The above Defense Department photo of Leon Panetta is by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holy Chinese Commie, Batman!: Batman Actor Christian Bale Roughed Up By Chinese Guards While Attempting To Visit Blind Chinese Activist

Batman has dealt with some evil villains in his day, from the Joker to the Riddler, but Batman actor Christian Bale (seen in the above CNN photo) encountered some true life villains when he attempted to visit Chen Guangcheng, a blind Chinese activist, in Communist China.

You can read an account of the incident in the British newspaper the Daily Mail via the below link:

Crime Prevention: The FBI's Holiday Shopping Tips

Below are some good crime prevention tips from the FBI:

In advance of the holiday season, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reminds shoppers to beware of cyber criminals and their aggressive and creative ways to steal money and personal information.

Scammers use many techniques to fool potential victims including fraudulent auction sales, reshipping merchandise purchased with a stolen credit card, sale of fraudulent or stolen gift cards through auction sites at discounted prices, and phishing e-mails advertising brand name merchandise for bargain prices or e-mails promoting the sale of merchandise that ends up being a counterfeit product.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Always run a virus scan on attachment before opening.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail to the web address link you are directed to and determine if they match.
  • Log on directly to the official Web site for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify that the e-mail is genuine.
  • If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act impulsively.

Oliver North's Column: Iraq - Victory Or Defeat?

Retired Marine Lt Colonel Oliver North wrote about the end of the Iraq War in his latest column.

WASHINGTON -- They are coming home. For the first time since March 19, 2003, there are no U.S. combat or combat support troops in Iraq. There is still a contingent of U.S. Marines guarding the biggest American embassy in the world and the largest military attache's office at any diplomatic mission. But there is no doubt in anyone's mind -- ally or enemy -- that the war in Iraq is over. The only uncertainty now: Who won?

Short answer: America's soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines -- and the American people whose sons and daughters served in Iraq. Though our commander in chief cannot utter the word "victory," it is. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta -- in Baghdad for a ceremonial "casing of the colors" for U.S. Forces-Iraq -- came close when he said of all who served during eight years and eight months of war: "You came to this 'Land Between the Rivers' again and again and again. You did not know whether you'd return to your loved ones. ... Your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside and to offer hope for prosperity and peace to this country's future generations."

You can read the rest of his column via the below link:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Are We In A New Golden Age Of Crime Fiction?

Tom Nolan writes about a possible new Golden Age of crime fiction in the Wall Street Journal.

The private-eye novel, for instance, the hardiest of American detective-story forms, had another fine season, thanks to exciting books by both veterans and newer writers. The lone investigator uncovering nasty truths and righting wrongs has proved as appealing as the cowboy hero; and he (or she) has survived longer than the cowpoke by adapting to change: in technology, in literary technique and in job description. 

...The police-procedural is also a resilient U.S. form. No one wrote a better one in 2011 than Michael Connelly, with "The Drop," his latest chronicle featuring LAPD detective Harry Bosch. (And no one wrote a better legal thriller this year than Mr. Connelly, whose "The Fifth Witness" extended his equally compelling series with lawyer Mickey Haller.)

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pretrial Begins For Alleged Document Leaker to WikiLeaks

By Elaine Sanchez, American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., Dec. 16, 2011 - The Article 32 hearing for the soldier allegedly involved in what's considered one of the largest leaks of classified material in U.S. history got under way in a crowded military courthouse here today.

Pfc. Bradley E. Manning (seen in the above U.S. Army photo), an Army intelligence analyst, is suspected of leaking military and diplomatic documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, which released thousands of classified military documents on its website last year.

At the time, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other senior defense officials condemned the organization's actions, claiming the act put deployed service members at an increased risk.

The hearing today marked Manning's first appearance in a military court since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010. An Article 32 hearing, often likened to a civilian grand jury, is a pretrial hearing to determine if there are grounds for a general court martial, the most serious of courts martial.

The soldier, dressed in an Army combat uniform, his hair cut short and with black-rimmed glasses, sat between his civilian lawyer David E. Coombs, and his two military lawyers. The soldier was attentive throughout, eyes forward and his hands clasped or fiddling with a pen, taking notes occasionally. When asked if he understood the charges and if he was satisfied with his representation, he answered "Yes sir" each time in a soft-spoken tone.

The soldier, who turns 24 tomorrow, faces more than 20 charges and a maximum sentence of life in prison if proven guilty. The charges allege Manning introduced unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloaded it, improperly stored it, and transmitted the data for public release and use by the enemy.

The charge of aiding the enemy under Article 104 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice is a capital offense; however, the prosecution team has said it won't recommend the death penalty, a legal official said today.

First up today was Coombs for defense, who came out swinging. He almost immediately called for Army Reserve Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, the hearing's investigating officer, to disqualify himself from the hearing for bias or perception of bias, along with some rulings against the defense. It's the investigating officer's role to consider witnesses' testimony and evidence presented to counsel and to recommend if the case should be referred for trial to general court martial or other courts martial, or be dismissed.

Almanza serves as a reserve military judge as well as the deputy chief of the Justice Department's child exploitation and obscenity section. Coombs argued there's a conflict of interest since the Justice Department has an ongoing criminal investigation regarding this case.

The officer, Coombs continued, also allowed all of the government's 20 witnesses and only two of the defense's 38 witnesses, who were not in common with the government. He also argued the fact that the hearing is open, not closed, which can allow prejudicial information to impact the trial. Finally, Almanza is allowing unsworn statements from the prosecution to be considered, he added.

After lengthy recesses and with input from the defense, the government and his legal advisor, Almanza denied the defense's request for a recusal and for a stay, or delay, of proceedings.

Almanza said he doesn't believe that "a reasonable person knowing all the circumstances" of the case would question his impartiality, and stressed that no aspect of his civilian work is involved with or relates to Manning's case.

Almanza then called for another recess to give Manning's defense team time to file a writ, or legal document, to stay the hearing to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, located at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Turning proceedings back to the case at hand, Almanza reviewed Manning's rights with him, ensuring the soldier had a copy of the charge sheet and understood the charges preferred against him.

Almanza also discussed the possibility that classified information may be introduced into the hearing. If classified information needs to be discussed, he explained, a determination will be made to close portions of the hearing as required.

After one final recess, Almanza noted the hearing will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. Manning remains in pretrial confinement.

Manning's Article 32 hearing is expected to continue for several days, possibly up to a week. When the hearing is over, Almanza will file a report recommending either a trial, or that some or all of the charges against Manning be dismissed.

Charles Krauthammer's Column: The Wages Of Appeasement

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer takes President Obama to task for his appeasement of Iran and Russia in his latest column in the Washington Post. (I would have added China).

Obama imagined that his silver tongue and exquisite sensitivity to Islam would persuade the mullahs to give up their weapons program. Amazingly, they resisted his charms, choosing instead to become a nuclear power. The negotiations did nothing but confer legitimacy on the regime at its point of maximum vulnerability (and savagery), as well as give it time for further uranium enrichment and bomb development.

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

In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

Vanity Fair wrote about the passing of Christopher Hitchens tonight.

Christopher Hitchens—the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant—died today at the age of 62. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after. His matchless prose has appeared in Vanity Fair since 1992, when he was named contributing editor.

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

I didn't always agree with Hitchens - his atheism, his admiration for Che Guevara and his opposition to the American involvement in the Vietnam War are three areas of disagreement that come to mind - but I was thankful for his brilliant defense of the Iraq War and the war on terrorism, and his fearless opposition to Islamic fanaticism.

I've read nearly everything this fine writer and highly intelligent man wrote. I also enjoyed watching Hitchens debate. He was a very fine speaker and debater.

Although he famously did not believe in God or Heaven, my prayers are with him and and his family.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Top U.S. Military Leaders Mark Official End Of Iraq War By Stating The Mission Was Worth The Cost

By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 15, 2011 - Top U.S. military leaders observed the official end of U.S. Forces Iraq's mission here today after nearly nine years of conflict that claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 U.S. troops, and created a sovereign nation from the destruction of a brutal dictatorship.

On a stage in a smoky courtyard on the military side of Baghdad International Airport, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commanding general of U.S. Forces Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey addressed U.S. and Iraqi officials and more than 150 troops and media from around the world.

Also on the stage was Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command.

Panetta welcomed distinguished members of the Iraqi government and military.

"Thank you for your courage, for your leadership, for your friendship over these many years," the secretary said. "More importantly, thank you for your loyalty to the future of Iraq. Your dream of an independent and sovereign Iraq is now a reality."

"This is not the end," he added. "This is truly the beginning."

As U.S. Forces Iraq's mission ends, Jeffrey said, it's fitting to "look back at the sacrifices made by so many Americans and so many Iraqis."

It's also a time, he added, to "look forward to an Iraq that is sovereign, secure and self-reliant, an Iraq with whom the United States government will continue to work in every way possible, building on the successes of our colleagues in USFI led by Gen. Austin."

The USFI commander welcomed the beginning of a new chapter in the U.S. strategy with Iraq, adding that he found the ceremony to be poignant.

"Eight years, eight months and 26 days ago, as the assistant division commander for maneuver for the 3rd Infantry Division, I gave the order for the lead elements of the division to cross the border," Austin said.

"As fate would have it," he added, "I now give the order to case the colors today."

Casing the colors means packing the U.S. Forces Iraq flag and sending it home to the United States where it will be retired.

The home of U.S. Forces Iraq hosted 45,000 to 49,000 troops for the vast majority of Operation New Dawn and at the peak of the war housed 170,000 troops. Today only about 4,000 troops remain and every day hundreds more leave for staging and out-processing facilities in Kuwait.

The rest of the troops will depart Iraq over the next two weeks, , well in advance of the Dec. 31 deadline set by President Barack Obama, said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the official spokesman for U.S. Forces Iraq.

For more than 20 years, Dempsey said, "Iraq has been a defining part of our professional and personal lives ... Everywhere, at every level, we learned the power of relationships rooted in trust and respect with ourselves and with our Iraqi brothers."

The chairman recalled when he deployed to Iraq in 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm to end Saddam Hussein's oppression of the Kuwaiti people.

More than a decade later, Dempsey deployed to Iraq again.

"I remember leaving my family again to end Saddam Hussein's oppression of the Iraqi people," the chairman said. "And now today I stand here with the very heart of my family, my wife, Deanie, to bear witness to what our sons and daughters -- to what your sons and daughters -- have achieved."

Dempsey said he's proud that the United States with its coalition partners and the Iraqi people teamed up to "set a course that befits the promise and spirit of Iraq's children.

"I look forward to an enduring partnership between our countries," the chairman added.

The Defense Department values the relationship with Iraq, Dempsey said.

"We will stand with you against terrorists and others that threaten to undo what we have accomplished together," he said. "We will work with you to secure our common interests in a more peaceful and prosperous region."

Everyone who served in Iraq will carry an image of that time, the chairman said.

"Today my image is of Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Cooke ... of the First Brigade, First Armored Division, who on Christmas Eve 2003 was killed by an IED ... in northern Baghdad. Probably the finest noncommissioned officer I'd ever met," Dempsey said.

"We've paid a great price here," the chairman added, "and it has been a price worth paying."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Examining The Newspaper Column As Literature

Errol Lewis, a former columnist for the New York Daily News and one of the editors of Deadline Artist: America's Greatest Newspaper Columns, wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post that suggests that newspapers columns should and will one day be recognized as literature.

It's only a matter of time before the newspaper column takes its rightful place as a recognized and respected form of literature, every bit as vital as its more celebrated cousins, the short story and the novel.

The recognition should have happened a long time ago. An impressive list of literary masters honed their craft writing newspaper columns, including Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, O. Henry, Mark Twain and Damon Runyon. Generations of students have pored over Hughes's poetry, Twain's novels and O. Henry's short stories, unaware that the authors also tackled the issues of the day - death, war, sports, crime, politics - in thoughtful, delightful columns that often hold up remarkably well decades later.

Here is the start of "Chicago Gang War," that a young columnist named Ernest Hemingway penned for the Toronto Star in 1921:
"Anthony d'Andrea, pale and spectacled, defeated candidate for alderman of the 19th ward, Chicago, stepped out of the closed car in front of his residence and, holding an automatic pistol in his hand, backed gingerly up the steps. Reaching back with his left hand to press the door bell, he was blinded by two red jets of flame from the window of the next apartment, heard a terrific roar and felt himself clouted sickeningly in the body with the shock of the slugs from the sawed-off shotgun.
It was the end of the trail that had started with a white-faced boy studying for the priesthood in a little Sicilian town. It was the end of a trail that had wound from the sunlit hills of Sicily across the sea and into the homes of Chicago's nouveau riche. A trail that has led through the penitentiary and out into the deadliest political fight Chicago has ever known."
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

I've not yet read Deadline Artists, but I'm interested in doing so as I wrote a column for Philadelphia weekly newspapers for 13 years before I took my column online. I was influenced by the many newspaper columnists featured in the book.

You can read a previous post on the best newspaper column of all time via the below link:

Tinker, Tailor, Chinese Spy: China's Spies Are Catching Up

David Wise, the author of Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War With China, writes about the threat from Chinese espionage in the New York Times.

During the cold war, dozens of counterintelligence agents in the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. pursued Soviet and then Russian spies. The K.G.B. was seen as the enemy; China took a back seat. Only a handful of F.B.I. agents specialized in Chinese spy cases, and their work was not regarded as career-enhancing. Washington’s ongoing failure to make Chinese espionage a priority has allowed China to score a number of successes in its espionage efforts against the United States.

China’s foreign intelligence service and its military intelligence agency actively spy on the American defense industry, our nuclear weapons labs, Silicon Valley, our intelligence agencies and other sensitive targets.

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

I interviewed David Wise about Chinese espionage and his book Tiger Trap for Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read the interview via the below link:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Organized Crime Goes Green, As In Cash

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, writes that the mob is still knee deep, so to speak, in the garbage business.

Not for nothing was Tony Soprano a solid-waste management consultant.

The writers of the HBO series made New Jersey's most famous, albeit fictitious, wiseguy a player in an industry that for decades has been targeted for exploitation by organized crime.

In that respect, Soprano was a "garbage mobster," a term used by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation in a report made public last week that warned of the mob's continued presence in the multimillion-dollar waste-disposal business.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link:

Actor Corey Stoll Reads Hemingway's Letters At JFK Library In Boston

The entertainment web site reports that actor Corey Stoll, seen in the above photo as the legendary writer Ernest Hemingway as a young man in Midnight in Paris, read some of Hemingway's letters at the JFK Library in Boston.

Hemingway was, of course, recently portrayed with great effect by actor Corey Stoll in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” Stoll made an appearance at the Library last night with Spanier and novelist Ward Just for the most recent Kennedy Library Forum to discuss Hemingway and read several of his letters. The well-attended event showed there is much interest in the legend of Hemingway, but little knowledge about the man – apart from when the two line up.   

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

From Russia With Love: Notorious British Spy And Traitor Kim Philby Praised In New Book Written With Help From Russian Spy Agency

Will Stewart at the British newspaper the Daily Mail reports that the British spy and traitor Kim Philby is getting the hero treatment in a new book being published in Russia.

Kim Philby has been praised as "one of the greatest Soviet spies" by Russia's secret service. 

The man whose treachery led to the deaths of many British agents is being eulogised in a book and in a TV documentary in a push to make him a hero to a new generation of Russians. 

Philby was part of a ring of Cambridge-educated British agents which also included Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt who passed information to the Soviet Union during the Second World War and at least into the early 1950s.

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

My On Crime & Security Column: 'Flash Robs' Pose A Threat To Small Retailers

The national business web site published my latest On Crime & Security column today.

The column covered "flash robs," those mass assaults on businesses organized by social media like Facebook and Twitter.

You can read the piece via the below link: 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Almost Perfect, But For The Politics

Andrew Roberts at the Daily Beast likes the new film version of thriller writer John le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but he dislikes the anti-American, anti-west politics.

The new movie version of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is as good as cinema gets: subtle, taut, intelligent, gripping. The normally jaded audience at the theater where I watched on the Upper West Side of Manhattan burst into unaccustomed applause at the end. Because the book was written by the now obsessively anti-American John le Carré, it had the inevitable despicable moral equivalency one has come to expect from his work (more on that later), but stylistically, the film could hardly be bettered.

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

I liked the novel and the TV miniseries based on the novel. And despite having the same objections as Andrew Roberts, I plan to see the film as well.

I wrote about le Carre's spy world in a previous post that responded to le Carre's unfair attack on the late Ian Fleming.

As for le Carre’s realism, I’ve spokened to a good number of former and current CIA and military intelligence officers who object strongly to the moral ambiguity found in his novels. Most Cold War intelligence officers were, like Bond, patriots who were dedicated to fighting communism.

British, American and other Western intelligence officers were certainly not like their utterly ruthless KGB and Eastern bloc counterparts who were defending a totalitarian, evil empire. There was a moral distinction between the Cold Warriors that you will not find not in a le Carre novel.

William F. Buckley Jr, the late author, columnist and political talk show host, noted that films and novels in the 1960s and 1970s often portrayed CIA officers as no better than the KGB.

Having served briefly as a CIA officer, he objected. Buckley, who wrote his own series of spy thrillers, believed the CIA and the Western intelligence services were a force for good in the Cold War. I agree.

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

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of John le Carre's latest novel via the below link:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Guns Don't Kill People, Just Like Spoons Don't Make Rosie O'Donnell Fat

I saw the above expression on a bumber sticker yesterday and I laughed.

I liked the logic as well as the mocking of gun control advocate Rosie O'Donnell.

The humorless comedian wants to limit your right to own and/or carry a firearm for protection, yet her hired bodyguards all carry legal firearms.

You can watch a video clip of the awful O'Donnell badgering an intelligent and polite Tom Selleck on her TV show in 1999 via the below link:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Take The Lead: Encore's 'The Take' Is A Four-Star TV Crime Series

Linda Stasi at the New York Post rates the new crime series on cable a four-star series.

If you missed the first episode of Encore’s original miniseries, “The Take,” then be sure to order it up on OnDemand before you watch tonight’s knock-you-on-your-butt two-part episode.

The series from Martina Cole’s best-selling crime thriller centers around an East End London crime family in the 1980s and it’s every bit as good as “The Sopranos” was in its prime — which was all the time.

You can read the rest of Linda Stasi's piece via the below link:

I saw the first episode of The Take and I liked it. I plan to catch the second episode tonight, or I'll catch it later Comcast's On Demand.

Linda Stasi compared the British crime series to The Sopranos, but although Goodfellas was a film, not a TV series, I see The Take as more of a British version of Martin Scorsese's great crime film.

Tom Hardy (seen in the above photo) portrays a half-crazed British hood similar to Joe Pesci's wild and violent character Tommy in Goodfellas. I also liked Brian Cox as the crime boss. The character is like a British Paulie, the mob captain portrayed by Paul Sorvino in Goodfellas.

I look forward to watching the rest of this excellent crime series.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Philly D.A.: Abu-Jamal Can Go Rot In Jail

Mensah M. Dean at the Philadelphia Daily News covered yesterday's announcement that the Philadelphia District Attorney would not seek the death penalty for the convicted murderer of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

The bitter, divisive and protracted Mumia Abu-Jamal death-penalty case reached its legal conclusion yesterday with District Attorney Seth Williams' decision to not seek a new death sentence for the convicted cop-killer.

Williams' decision - backed by the family of slain Officer Daniel Faulkner - means that Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, MOVE sympathizer and radio-talk-show host who became an interational anti-capital-punishment figure while on death row, will remain in prison for the rest of his life without parole.

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

The above CBS photo is by Steve Tawa.

You can also read my previous post of Mumia Abu-Jamal via the below link:

Political Correctness Vs Security: Lawmakers Blast Obama Administration For Calling Fort Hood Massacre 'Workplace Violence' reports that lawmakers are criticising the Defense Department for labeling the shooting and murder of American soldiers at Fort Hood by an Islamic fanatic, Army Major Nidal Hasan, as mere "workplace violence."

Thirteen people were killed and dozens more wounded at Fort Hood in 2009, and the number of alleged plots targeting the military has grown significantly since then. Lawmakers said there have been 33 plots against the U.S. military since Sept. 11, 2001, and 70 percent of those threats have been since mid-2009. Major Nidal Hasan, a former Army psychiatrist, who is being held for the attacks, allegedly was inspired by radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in late September. The two men exchanged as many as 20 emails, according to U.S. officials, and Awlaki declared Hasan a hero.
The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, said the military has become a "direct target of violent Islamist extremism" within the United States.

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