Thursday, December 31, 2015

Go Navy!: These Are The Navy Jets That Just Started Striking The Islamic State

Thomas Gibbons-Neff at the Washington Post offers a look at the U.S. Navy aircraft off the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman that are attacking the Islamic State.

You can read the piece and view the photos of the aircraft via the below link:

Note: In the U.S. Navy photo above by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class B.B. Petrovski an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Jolly Rogers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Coalition Killed 10 Senior ISIL Leaders In December

Terri Moon Cronk at DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2015 — A high-value Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant leader killed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes Dec. 24 was just one of 10 ISIL leaders targeted and killed so far this month, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren (shown in the above U.S. Army photo) confirmed today.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via a live satellite feed from Baghdad, Warren said Syria-based Charaffe al Mouadan was “planning additional attacks against the West,” and was directly linked to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, leader of the cell responsible for the terrorist attacks in Paris last month.
The ISIL leaders were killed in coalition airstrikes that took place from Dec. 7-27, he said, noting that several were external attack planners linked to the Paris attacks.
‘Striking at the Head of the Snake’
“In addition to our tactical operations, we are also striking at the head of this snake by hunting down and killing ISIL leaders,” Warren said.
Warren also provided descriptions of the other nine deceased ISIL leaders:
-- Rawand Dilsher Taher, an external operations facilitator; and Khalil Ahmad Ali al-Wais, also known as Abu Wadhah of Kirkuk province, Afghanistan. Taher, killed Dec. 7 near Raqqah, Syria, was a trusted ISIL member who assisted with command and control and handling and transferring money and equipment. Abu Wadhad, the ISIL emir of Kirkuk province had a long history of targeting U.S. and Iraqi forces, and he was killed Dec. 7 near Huwayjah, Iraq.
-- Abu Anas, an ISIL bomb cell facilitator, was killed Dec. 8 near Kirkuk, Iraq. His death, Warren said, “will disrupt ISIL's ability to conduct [improvised explosive device] attacks near Kirkuk.”
-- Yunis Khalash, aka Abu Jawdat, who was ISIL’s deputy financial emir in Mosul, was killed Dec 9. His death will burden senior ISIL cadre to find a technically skilled and trustworthy replacement, Warren said. Mithaq Najim, ISIL’s deputy emir in Kirkuk province was also killed Dec. 9 near Huwayjah, Iraq. “Najim's removal disrupts ISIL’s ability to train, command and maintain fighters in Kirkuk province,” Warren said.
-- Syria-based Bangladeshi Siful Haque Sujan was killed Dec. 10 near Raqqah, Syria. Sujan was an external operations planner and a United Kingdom-educated computer systems engineer, Warren said, adding Sujan supported ISIL hacking efforts, anti-surveillance technology and weapons development. “Now that he's dead, ISIL has lost a key link between networks,” he said.
-- Akram Muhammad Sa'ad Faris, also known as Akram Aabu, an ISIL commander and executioner, was killed Dec. 12 near his base of operations in Tal Afar, Iraq.
-- Abdel Kader Hakim, another ISIL external operations facilitator, was killed Dec. 26 in Mosul, Iraq. Hakim was a veteran fighter and forgery specialist who had links to the Paris attack network, who also was part of ISIL’s external operations group who enabled attacks against Western targets. “His death removes an important facilitator with many connections in Europe,” Warren said.
--Tashin al-Hayali, an external operations facilitator, was killed Dec. 27 near Mosul, Warren said. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Crime Beat Column: Drugs Drive Crime, Says DEA Chief

The below column originally appeared in the South Philadelphia American in 1998.

South Philadelphia has it's share of the drug problem, to be sure, but we are blessed in comparison to the "Badlands" of North Philadelphia.

"Operation Sunrise," the joint Philadelphia and federal government counter-drug action mounted to combat the severe drug issue in the Badlands and elsewhere, was the idea of Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and Lawrence P. McElynn, the Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

I spoke to McElynn about the anti-drug operation recently when he was my guest on Inside Government, a public affairs radio program that I help produce and serve as an on-air host. The radio interview program, sponsored by the Philadelphia Federal Executive Board, airs on Sunday mornings at 6:30 on WMGK 102.9 FM and repeats at 7:00 on WPEN 950 FM.

"When Deputy Commissioner Johnson was appointed, we met at a diner and had a discussion about making a real partnership between the DEA and the Philadelphia Police Department to address the drug problem," McElynn told me on the air. "Our focus was to go to an area in the city that had the biggest problem and create a task force to operate there."

McElynn said Johnson took it a number of steps further, realizing that they had to deal with much more than just the drug problem in trying to return the neighborhood back to the people who live there. Johnson brought in a number of other departments that could two cars, seal houses and remove graffiti. But both agree that drugs remain at the core, noted McElynn. Drug addicts steal, rob and murder to make money to buy drugs.

"Normally, you drive up to the neighborhood, roll down your window,  you give them money, someone gives you heroin, and you drive away," McElynn said. "But two days after Operation Sunrise, it took us six hours to find someone to sell us heroin. But the real test will be in the long run. The drug traffickers are testing us, waiting to see how strong our commitment is. But we're here to stay."

McElynn said the DEA agents are working at different levels in Operation Sunrise. Some of them are visibly assisting the police officers and some are operating covertly to develop information that will take the operation to a national and international level. A classic case of partnership, McElynn said.

"Drugs are coming at us at every level of sophistication. Drugs are coming in commercial cargo shipments in the thousands of pounds and people are bringing pounds in suitcases," McElynn explained.

McElynn recounted an incident they had recently where someone had swallowed 99 condoms tied with dental floss and filled with 10 grams of heroin each.

"High purity levels, high demand and high availability, plus low prices, always cause addiction to rise. There are probably a million addicts in the U.S., up from 600,000," McElynn said.

McElynn said that the marketing strategy of the drug traffickers is to have high quality heroin at low prices and addict as many people as they can, and then over time lower the quality and raise the prices. Heroin is the most serious health threat in the U.S., McElynn told me.

"There has been a dramatic shift in control of the drug market in the U.S. in the past couple of years. Right now the Colombians sit at the top. They are in charge of cocaine traffic in partnership with the Dominicans coming through the Caribbean basin and the Mexicans coming coming through the western and southwestern part of the U.S.," McElynn explained.

The Colombians have also started to take over the U.S. heroin market, forcing out the Southeast Asian traffickers, McElynn added.

"Users have a romantic notion of heroin being the chic thing to do, something that is fashionable as portrayed by parts of the media, but they are being sold a bill of goods that just isn't so. When the drug takes hold of you, life becomes unbearable."

My Crime Beat Column: Philadelphia Police Inspector Gives Overview of Crime In Center City

The below column originally appeared in the South Philadelphia American in 1997.

Last week I overheard an elderly woman tell a friend that her car had been stolen that morning.

"The Devil's alive," the woman sadly told her friend.

In my time I've seen much of what this woman calls the "Devil's work." I've long been a student of crime, dating back to my days as a 12-year-old South Philly street kid and aspiring writer. I went on to do security work in the U.S. Navy and later as a Defense Department civilian employee. As a writer I've specialized in crime reporting for newspapers and magazines.

I've grown up on the mean streets of South Philly and I've been to the "Badlands" of North Philly, as well as those tough areas of Olongapo in the Philippines, Tijuana, Mexico and a number of other exotic and dangerous cities. One area I've often visited is a place that one does not normally think of as a hot-bed of crime.

While many Philadelphians and tourists call Center City, our business and cultural center, "downtown," when I was growing up in South Philly, we who were located geographically as far south as one can be within the city limits, called Center City "in-town." As in "I'm going in-town this afternoon."

I ventured in-town to pay a visit to Philadelphia Police Inspector Frank M. Pryor, the commanding officer of the Central Police Division in Center City. Pryor has commanded the Central Division for five years and he is responsible for a five square mile area that encompasses the 6th, 9th and Center City Police Districts. He also  commands the Central Detectives Division.

I sat across from Pryor's desk in his office near 21st and Pennsylvania Avenue. He told me that Center City's crime is down 7.4% in all part-one crimes (such as murder, rape, robbery).

"In my five years we have seen a 24% decrease in crime," Pryor said. "I like to think that community policing has made some impact."

Pryor said they pushed down the responsible duties of a captain and inspector to a sergeant. He noted that a month ago the mayor had a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and he asked the inspector to accompany him.

"I brought a sergeant with me because he's the guy who solves our problems," Pryor said. "He's in charge of a 12-officer service detail trained to deal with the homeless. A sergeant meeting with the mayor was unheard of years ago."

Pryor said each district has a community policing team made up of a community relations officer, a victim assistance officer and a statistician who does crime mapping.

"Community policing has put a name on the face of the cop," Pryor said.

Pryor said they have a major problem with the homeless. It's not a crime to be homeless, Pryor explained, but many people don't want them in their neighborhood.

"Unless they do something illegal, we are not going to bother them," Pryor said. "In the winter and during hot weather we transport them to shelters. But we have zero tolerance for aggressive panhandling."

Pryor explained that many of the so-called homeless are in fact street hustlers.

"We have identified 70 to 80 hard-core drug and alcohol abusers on the street. They don't want to be in a shelter, so we are looking at their conduct. They have their constitutional rights, but when they infringe on other's rights it is time to take appropriate action."

Pryor offered a bit of some common sense crime prevention advice.

"Car phones left visible on the console are often stolen. Put your phones and laptops in the trunk," Pryor said. "It only takes 30 seconds to hit that window and get your valuables."

Pryor said drugs were a problem in Center City, but it was not as severe a problem as other parts of the city.

"There are approximately 15 to 18 drug locations and we are working with the community and making a lot of arrests. I have a narcotics field unit that has beepers and the community people contact them directly."

Pryor said that male and female prostitution is a problem around certain areas. He said they also have a big problem with what they call retail theft, or shoplifting. He said that last year they arrested 2, 800 people.

Pryor told me that he is assigning more foot beat patrols back into the community. Bike patrols are also very successful. He had the idea to go to Corestates, who sponsors the bike race, and ask for a grant to provide bikes for the police. There are now 150 bikes in the city.

"From my perspective, I've seen the renaissance of Center City," Pryor said. "There are more restaurants, more businesses and more hotels. There is the Avenue of the Arts and the Convention Center. Most people don't realize that 40% of all taxes are generated from Center City residents and businesses," Pryor concluded.                                          

The Triumph Of William McKinley: Why The Election Of 1896 Still Matters

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of Karl Rove's The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.

At hand is a three-fer of a book: an account of the silver versus gold turmoil that gripped the United States near the turn of the 20th century; an incisive look at what veteran political strategist Karl Rovecalls “the first modern presidential primary campaign,” and astute advice on how the modernRepublican Party could benefit from the examples set by the 1896 William McKinley campaign.
Mr. Rove is perhaps the most skilled political strategist of his generation. As a Texas-based consultant, he ran more campaigns for more than 75 Republican congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, climaxing with two wins for President George W. Bush. Renowned during his Washington days as a bookworm, in the best sense, Mr. Rove puts his accumulated knowledge of history to use to craft a superb political read.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Sunday, December 27, 2015

War Reporter Turned Thriller Writer Gerald Seymour: 'Of Course I'm Still A Hack. You Can't Get It Out Of Your Veins'

Stephen Moss at the British newspaper the Guardian offers a piece on thriller writer Gerald Seymour.

Gerald Seymour’s publishers held a dinner for him last month to mark the 40th anniversary of his ground-breaking thriller Harry’s Game. He told the guests that from time to time he thought about retiring – he is now 74 and about to publish his 32nd book – and imagined a future for himself pushing a trolley round Lidl looking for the special offers. When he sketched out this scenario to his wife, he said, she bought him a present: a package of 500 sheets of blank printing paper.
The story, told against himself, is typical of Seymour, who is as ego-free as any writer you are likely to meet. He would be very comfortably off if he ever did retire, but there is no immediate prospect of that. His new book, No Mortal Thing, is out in January; the next is being written and the research has been done for several others. Lidl will have to wait.
... No Mortal Thing deals with the ’Ndrangheta, the little written about but immensely powerful mafia-like organisation based in Calabria which controls much of Europe’s cocaine trade. Seymour traces the way its tentacles stretch out from a small village at the foot of Italy, across Germany, the UK and the rest of Europe. He wants us to understand its power, viciousness and the immense damage it inflicts, and he criticises those who are not prepared to engage with the subject. “I dislike people who live in a comfortable, complacent world where they are simply not interested in what’s round the corner,” he says.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Saturday, December 26, 2015

My Crime Beat Column: A Visit To the Philadelphia Police Department's Sex Crimes Unit

The below column originally appeared in the South Philadelphia American in 1997:

A child is abducted walking to school one early morning. A woman is assaulted while getting into her car at a parking lot one early evening. Another woman is attacked while waiting for a subway on a lonely station.

I visited the Philadelphia Police Department Detective Bureau's Sex Crimes Unit and asked if these commonly feared incidents were typical.

"It happens, but that's not the large percentage of our cases," said Philadelphia Police Captain Eileen M. Bonner, the commanding officer of the unit. "Over 75 per cent of sex crime victims know the person who assaulted them."

I met with Bonner and Lt. Ken Coluzzi, who heads up the unit's special investigations, at their office at the old Frankford Arsenal. The unit has city-wide jurisdiction.

"A sex crime is committed when sex occurs between two people by force or intimidation, intellectual or sexual compulsion," Coluzzi said. "Force doesn't only mean a weapon. Any kind of force, like a physical threat or to suggest that harm may come if they don't comply with their wishes."

Typically, uniform patrol officers get the 911 call and then pass on the report to the sex crimes unit. Unit investigators go to the crime scene to protect it and gather as much physical evidence as they can. They talk to the victim if they are available and can speak, and they talk to potential witnesses.

"One crime is too many, but there are no crime patterns right now that we are investigating. There are only isolated incidents," Coluzzi explained. "We just recently had four women who were raped in the Center City and Fairmount area. Three were elderly women and one was a 38-year-old. A man broke into their homes and once inside he raped, robbed, and in one case, beat the woman."

Fortunately, Coluzzi told me, they apprehended a man who was charged with three of the four rapes.

I asked Coluzzi about sex offenders who use the Internet to entice victims.

Coluzzi replied that the unit coordinates Internet crimes with the State's Attorney General and U.S. Postal authorities. The unit gets involved when the case involves child  pornography or the solicitation of a minor for a sexual act.

Bonner added that the unit handles physical abuse of children as well as sexual abuse. She explained that the unit works closely with the city's Department of Human Services.

I asked if there was a typical sex offender, a "Chester the Molester" type.

Coluzzi said no, but he said that a profile of a sexual offender can be done on an individual series of crimes. He spoke of the FBI's Violent Crime Apprehension Program (VICAP) and the Pennsylvania State Police's Analytical Technique of Apprehension of Criminals (ATAC) systems. Homicides, violent sexual crimes and missing persons are registered in the two systems.

The unit submits a 15 page form with the particulars on the victim, the assailant and how the crime took place. A computerized consolidation of information and a profile of an assailant is disseminated throughout the country.

There is also no typical sex crime victim, I was told. The victims cross all social, economic and racial lines.

"The youngest victim was three months old and the oldest was in her nineties," Bonner said.

Coluzzi recalled one of their more well-known cases. In 1996 a man abducted young children out of their homes in the middle of the night, drove them away to be raped and then returned them to their homes. For two months the unit conducted extensive crime scene searches for searches for physical evidence and investigators worked the streets. Witness who came forward due to media attention were very helpful, Coluzzi said. The sex offender was caught and he is now in prison.

Another major case, dubbed by the media as "The Center City Stalker," was worked by Sgt. Patrick Ghegan, who joined our discussion.

"Back in '88 a man was accosting women in parking lots and buildings, and in one case, he waited in the ladies room," Ghegan said. "One woman near 8th and Market resisted and he beat her with a pistol."

Another one of the victims was having a baby and the assailant told her he was a security guard and could help her. He took her to a secluded area ad attacked her. After a three-week investigation the man was apprehended and was later imprisoned.

Coluzzi said that the unit's investigators can't get personally involved, but sex crimes do affect them more than a common burglary.

"It's a crime against a person. For the victim, it's a very traumatic experience that stays with them for the rest of their lives,' Coluzzi said.                    

My Crime Beat Columns

Crime Q&A: My Interviews with Cops, Crooks & Crime Writers:

On Organized Crime:

On Cops:

On Ian Fleming/James Bond:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At The James Bond Film 'You Only Live Twice'

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At The First James Bond Film, 'Dr. No'

On Espionage:

On Terrorism:

Q&A with Veteran Newspaper Columnist Stu Bykofsky:

 Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Beat Column: My Q&A With Veteran Newspaper Columnist And Author Stu Bykofsky 

On The Bug in the Philly Mayor's Office:

On Hemingway and Crime:

On Raymond Chandler:

On Elmore Leonard:

On Thriller Writer John le Carre:

On Thriller Writer Frederick Forsyth:

On Martin Scorsese's Film World of Crime:

On Thriller Writer Stephen Hunter:

On Crime Writer Ian Rankin:

On Thriller Writer Donald Hamilton/Matt Helm:

On True Crime Writer Arthur H. Lewis:

On The Philly Unicorn Killer:

On The Kitten Killers and How a Dog Guy Came to Adopt a Feral Kitten

Column Book Reviews:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Beat Column: Michael Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer In 'The Law Of Innocence'

Column Film Review:

Column TV Review

On Crime in the Military:

On The JFK Assassination:

On the Navy

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dean Martin: The Man Whose Voice Captured Christmas

I'm a huge fan of entertainer Dean Martin, whom I always think of as Dino, and during the Christmas season I listen to many of his classic Christmas songs.

So I was interested in reading Martin Chilton's good piece on Dean Martin and Christmas at the British newspaper the Telegraph.

When Elvis Presley was introduced to Dean Martin's young daughter Deana, the singer leaned in and whispered: "They call me the King of Rock and Roll, but your dad is the King of Cool."
The King of Cool, who died on Christmas Day 20 years ago, had a spectacularly successful recording career. Martin had 40 Top 10 singles between 1950 and 1969 and three of them – That's Amore (1953), Memories are Made of This (1955) and Everybody Loves Somebody (1964) – were million-sellers.
There were a lot of trials and tribulations before the man born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 17, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio, made it to the top. Martin, the son of an Italian immigrant barber, was a reluctant performer as a teenager, believing that he would make more money as a prize-fighter and cardsharp. But after a spell labouring in a steel mill, and at the urging of enthusiastic friends, he began singing at weekends in small clubs.
At 21, he was spotted performing in a bar by a jazz bandleader named Sammy Watkins, who was impressed by his lush delivery of songs. At that time, the youngster was calling himself Dino Martini (after the popular Italian opera star Nino Martini) but Watkins renamed him Dean Martin and a show business legend was born.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on ole Dino via the below link:

If you wish to learn more about Dean Martin you should read Nick Tosches' interesting biography of the great entertainer.

Mark Twain's Christmas Hope

The Wall Street Journal offers a look at Mark Twain's Christmas hope, expressed in a letter he wrote to a newspaper editor in 1890.

You can read the piece via the below link: 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Three Of My Newspaper Crime Prevention Columns

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Former LAPD Sgt And Bestselling Author Joseph Wambaugh's Hood Version Of The Christmas Song

Note: You can visit Joseph Wambaugh's Facebook page via the below link:

Navy SEAL, Dog Handler: How A Failed Mission To Rescue Bowe Bergdahl Caused Irreparable Loss

Dianna Cahn at Stars and Stripes offers a piece on a failed mission to rescue Bowe Bergdahl.

The juxtaposition of two American military men who could stand in the same courtroom in the coming months couldn’t be set in more stark relief.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl faces a general court-martial for walking off of his base in eastern Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl spent five years in Taliban captivity, where he was tormented, before being freed in a controversial prisoner exchange last year.
Jimmy Hatch, a Navy SEAL senior chief who led a platoon into a fierce battle to try to rescue Bergdahl, was shot and badly wounded on that mission. Beside him, service dog Remco lay mortally wounded, after running through a hail of bullets at two Taliban fighters hiding in a ditch, exposing their whereabouts.
Bergdahl is charged with not only desertion but also misbehavior before the enemy – an archaic, rarely used charge that includes “endangering safety of a command, unit, place, ship, or military property” and has a maximum penalty of life in prison. It could help answer the question of whether Bergdahl betrayed his country intentionally or should be viewed as acting as a result of mental health problems.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Many U.S. Troops Serving Overseas During The Holidays

As a teenage sailor in 1970 I spent Christmas aboard the USS Kitty Hawk as the aircraft carrier performed combat operations off the coast of Vietnam.

So the below piece by the DoD News' Jim Garamone interested me. My heart goes out to the servicemen and women who are separated from their families during the holidays.

WASHINGTON Dec. 22, 2015 — Thousands of U.S. service members and Defense Department civilians are serving around the world during the holidays to protect America, its interests and its allies.

Around 9,800 Americans are deployed to Afghanistan. And roughly 3,500 Americans are deployed to Iraq and Syria to assist in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Army's 82nd Airborne Division forms the nucleus of the deployment there.

All told, there will be roughly 220,000 American service members serving overseas this holiday season. They operate in more than 100 countries, on every continent.

"I want you to know that you are what I wake up to every morning," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told troops Dec. 19 aboard the USS Kearsarge. "You're what I think about all day. I'm so proud of you and 100 percent, 1,000 percent behind you."

Snapshot of Troops Around the World

The U.S. Navy has 36 ships deployed around the world. The largest is the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which has transited the Suez Canal and is headed for operations in the Arabian Gulf. There are more than 5,000 personnel aboard the ship. The Truman will be accompanied by destroyers, each with about 300 crew members. Submarines and resupply ships are also usually part of the equation.

The amphibious ready group centered around the USS Kearsarge is operating in the Arabian Gulf. There are 5,000 sailors and Marines aboard.

Navy ballistic missile submarines operate 24/7 around the world. The submarines are part of America’s nuclear triad, and there are around 150 crew members.

In the Pacific, there are roughly 50,000 American service members based in Japan. Another 28,500 troops are based on the Korean Peninsula.

About 500 service members will be celebrating the holiday season in Australia and more celebrating in Singapore.

Africa has one large base -- Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti -- and there are around 4,000 service members assigned there. Roughly another 1,000 service members are deployed elsewhere on the continent.

More than 64,000 U.S. service members are stationed across Europe -- from Rota, Spain, to the Baltic Republics. The highest number is in Germany, followed by Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain. There are another 3,000 based in Turkey, which is a NATO ally with most of its territory in Asia.
In Central and South America, there are roughly 5,500 service members deployed. U.S. airmen may also be operating to resupply scientists in Antarctica during the holidays.

'The Noblest Thing'

But it is not just overseas that U.S. service members are serving. Some Air Force missileers man the ICBM silos across the American heartland, while other airmen vigilantly defend the space, airspace and cyberspace. Coast Guardsmen must stay ready for incidents at sea.

And while many bases try to limit operations during the holidays, units still have to have on-call duty members prepared to be called to work at a moment's notice. Military police still have to guard the gates, and thousands of military and civilian specialists still have to care for those in hospitals.

America's military members are away from their families "doing the noblest thing you can you can possibly do with your life, which is protect our people and make a better world for our children," Carter said.

Note: In the above U.S. Navy photo taken by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Preston U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrives aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge in the Arabian Gulf on Dec. 19, 2015. The Kearsarge is the flagship for the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

NYPD Detective Killed By Suicide Bomber In Afghanistan

Larry Celona and Natalie Musumeci at the New York Post report on the death of a NYPD detective who was killed in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber.

An NYPD detective nicknamed “Superman” by his fellow cops was one of six US troops killed Monday in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan, where he was serving in the Air National Guard.
Detective Joseph Lemm, 45, of the Bronx Warrant Squad was killed when a bomb-laden Taliban assassin on a motorcycle targeted a joint American-Afghan patrol near a major US air base.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

On This Day In History The Continental Congress Created The Continental Navy

As notes, on this day in 1775 the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy.

On Friday, December 22, 1775, the Continental Congress creates a Continental Navy, naming Esek Hopkins, Esq., as commander in chief of the fleet. Congress also named four captains to the new service: Dudley Saltonstall, Abraham Whipple, Nicholas Biddle and John Burrows Hopkins. Their respective vessels, the Alfred, Columbus, Andrew Doria and Cabot, became the first ships of the Navy’s fleet. Five first lieutenants, including future American hero John Paul Jones, five second lieutenants, and three third lieutenants also received their commissions. 

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

FBI New York Art Crime Team Has Record Number Of Art And Cultural Items Returned In Second Half Of 2015, Seeks Public Assistance Locating Other Stolen Items

The U.S. Justice's Interpol Washington office offers the below report:

A Chilean tapestry, the Bark Washington painting, and the Ames Stradivarius violin were returned to their rightful owners following the investigative work and partnerships of the FBI’s New York Art Crime Team. The team is composed of Special Agents Meridith Savona and Christopher McKeogh, whose primary investigative work includes recovering art and cultural property and bringing those responsible for the theft, fraud, looting and trafficking to justice.
The Chilean tapestry known as The Ambassadors of Rome Offering the Throne to Numa Pompilio was returned in September 2015 to the owner’s attorney. The tapestry had been stolen from the owner’s residence in Santiago, Chile, in November 2006, and the theft was reported to INTERPOL Washington. The tapestry was recovered when it was placed for auction in New York in 2014. INTERPOL Washington requested the assistance of the FBI’s New York Art Crime Team on behalf of the Santiago Police to take custody of the tapestry. The case remains open with the Santiago Police. There were no charges filed against the parties attempting to auction the tapestry.
The Bark Washington painting was returned to the Oysterponds Historical Society in Orient, New York, by the FBI’s New York Art Crime Team in September. The painting, along with the Jennie French Potter painting and two whale busks, were stolen in March 2001. The return of the Bark Washington painting was made possible by an individual who bought the painting at an antique shop in East Marion, New York in 2001 for a few hundred dollars. The individual researched the painting on the FBI’s Stolen Art Database ( and discovered it was stolen. He then contacted the FBI, generously agreeing to return it to the rightful owner. The thief was never, and the case remains open.
Returned Bark Washington Painting (12/16/15)
A 1734 Stradivarius violin, the Ames Stradivarius, was returned in August to the heirs of deceased violinist Roman Totenberg. The violin was stolen from Mr. Totenberg in 1980, along with two antique bows, following a concert in the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was recovered by the FBI’s New York Art Crime Team in June 2015. The bows are still missing, and the FBI case remains open.
Returned Stradivarius Violin (12/16/15)
The FBI reminds the public to come forward with any information they may have about the missing items. Tips may be submitted to the FBI’s Art Crime Team at (212) 384-1000 or on our webpage ( Tipsters may remain anonymous. Art and cultural item buyers are recommended to review the FBI’s Stolen Art Database prior to a purchase to avoid civil forfeiture of stolen items. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Recommends Great Books For Giving During Holiday Season

John Timpane, my editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, passes along the titles of books recommended by the Inquirer staff.

It's sweet to read a great book - and sweet to recommend it to friends, to pass along the pleasure of a good read. In the giving spirit of the holidays, staff members tell us their favorites from this year. Prices are hardback.

As books editor, I have some perks and preferences. This was the year of The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster, 30), a book that really took off. 

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

Tis The Season: My Short Story 'A Christmas Crime Story'

You can read my short story A Christmas Crime Story via the below link:

Merry Christmas.

Watch George C. Scott's Powerful Performance As Scrooge In 'A Christmas Carol'

The late, great actor George C. Scott is best known for his powerful performance as General Patton, but I believe he gave an equally powerful performance as Scrooge in the fine 1984 TV adaptation of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol.  

This film is one of a half-dozen holiday films I try to watch each Christmas season.

Now thanks to you can watch the full film via the below link:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Denver Fugitive Placed On The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List

The FBI released the above wanted poster and below information:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation today announced the addition of Myloh Jaqory Mason, an alleged violent bank robber, to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

Mason is believed to have robbed at least two banks this fall. The first was in Lakewood, Colorado, on September 30, 2015. The FBI’s Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force says Mason and two others wearing costumes and masks from the movie Scream allegedly shoved guns in the faces of bank tellers and told them they would die unless they opened the vault.

The most recent bank robbery happened on November 18, 2015, also in Lakewood, Colorado. Agents say Mason and two others wore bright green and white skeleton masks when they took over the bank, allegedly brutalized tellers and got into the vault. After fleeing the bank, Mason and his partners allegedly broke into a man’s house, pointed their weapons at him, and demanded he drive them somewhere in his minivan. Instead, the victim ran and the robbers allegedly shot him four times.

After the robbers crashed the minivan, they attempted to carjack a woman and allegedly shot her, too.

“Mason and his gang have committed some of the most violent bank robberies we’ve seen in Colorado,” said Thomas Ravenelle, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Denver Division. “We believe he’s not going to stop and is a real danger to the community. But he can’t run forever. We will get him off the streets with the assistance of the public.”

On November 21, 2015, Jefferson County, Colorado, issued an arrest warrant charging Mason with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, attempted second-degree kidnapping, first-degree assault, and second-degree assault. Mason also faces a federal charge of convicted felon in possession of a ballistic vest. The federal arrest warrant was issued by the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, on December 3, 2015.

Both of Mason’s alleged partners, Tyrone Richardson and Miguel David Sanders, have been arrested.
“We appreciate the work of our FBI partners, and together we will locate and arrest this dangerous criminal,” said First Judicial District Attorney Pete Weir, “Mason presents a serious threat to our community. He is wanted in Jefferson County on 29 felony counts, including the attempted murder, kidnapping, and aggravated robbery of 10 innocent people during a violent crime spree in November.”

Mason was born on June 28, 1990. He is a black male, 6’2” tall, 155 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He has tattoos on his chest and both hands and arms. He is considered armed and dangerous.

“Mason is an extremely dangerous individual whose violent actions show that he is a threat to anyone who comes into contact with him. This includes family, friends, the public, and law enforcement officers. Getting him into custody is our highest priority,” Lakewood Police Chief Kevin Paletta said.
Mason is the 505th person to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, which was established in 1950. Since then, 473 fugitives have been apprehended or located, 156 of them as a result of citizen cooperation.

A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for any information leading directly to his arrest. People with information about Mason should take no action themselves but instead immediately contact the nearest FBI office or local law enforcement agency. For any possible sighting outside the United States, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Please call in tips to 1-800-CALL FBI. Tips may also be submitted online at
Additional information regarding Mason, including his wanted poster, is available on the FBI’s Internet website at

Italian Mafia Sees Huge Increase In Women Mobsters - And They're Often More Violent Than The Men

Michael Day at the British newspaper the Independent offers a piece on the increase of women involved with Italian organized crime.

As Nunzia D’Amico pushed her baby in a pram near her home in an eastern suburb of Naples, she probably looked much liked like any other mother. Laden with shopping, the 37-year-old was killed in a hail of bullets, yards from her front door. 

Her brothers, Salvatore, Giuseppe and Antonio, the three heads of the D’Amico clan, had been arrested. Their sister is believed to have been, when she was killed by a rival clan as part of the city’s brutal drugs war, in charge. 

An informant, Gaetano Lauria, who is accused of mob-linked murder in the same Ponticelli part of Naples, told police that D’Amico, who had a conviction for drug trafficking, had been leader of the family business. Her death in October underlined what prosecutors in Naples have long been saying: more and more women are taking over mafia groups as their husbands and brothers are jailed or murdered.
Even Sicily’s traditionalist Cosa Nostra crime organisation is embracing equal opportunities, with news this week that the treasurer of the group’s notorious Porta Nuova clan is a woman – 38-year-old mother of five, Teresa Marino. She was arrested along with 37 others in the island’s capital, Palermo.

Experts estimate there are 10 times as many female mobsters in Italy compared to 20 years ago – and they are often more violent and cynical than their male counterparts.

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

Former Philadelphia Sheriff And One Other Charged In Fraud Conspiracy

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

PHILADELPHIA—A superseding indictment, unsealed today, charges former Philadelphia Sheriff John Green, 68, of Kissimmee, Florida, and James Davis, 65, of Wyncote, Pennsylvania, with conspiracy and four counts of honest services fraud involving the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office (“PSO”). Davis is also charged with two counts of filing a false tax return and three counts of willful failure to file a tax return.
The indictment alleges that as Sheriff of Philadelphia, John Green was responsible for the execution of all the duties of the PSO, including the PSO’s sale of real property subject to mortgage foreclosure and tax sales at Sheriff’s sales. James Davis was co-owner of an advertising and public relations company, Reach Communications Specialists, and a title search and settlement company, RCS Searchers, Inc. John Green and James Davis enriched each other through their abuse of the public trust placed in the Sheriff to conduct his duties honestly in the best interest of the citizens of Philadelphia and the distressed owners who lost their properties at Sheriff’s sales. Green agreed to Davis’ companies receiving contracts, business, and fees from the PSO in the sale of the real estate, which they hid from the public, in exchange for Davis providing Green extensive personal benefits, which they also hid.

From 2002 through 2010, Davis and his companies developed near exclusive control of much of the work connected to the PSO court-ordered sales of properties. Davis and his companies also handled the advertising for Green’s reelection campaigns, including for Green’s 2007 reelection campaign.

According to the indictment, Davis provided Green with a stream of personal benefits that included: buying and renovating a home for Green which was then sold to Green at a loss; providing more than $210,000 in hidden payments to Green’s 2007 reelection campaign; and giving more than $320,000 as gifts and interest-free loans to Green for Green’s retirement home in Florida.

It is further alleged that in exchange for these benefits, no other vendors were allowed to bid and compete against Davis’ companies for the services that they provided to the PSO related to the sale of properties at Sheriff’s sales; Green expanded the amount of services provided by Davis’ companies and paid for out of the proceeds of the Sheriff’s sales; and Green allowed Davis’ companies to add and increase fees that were paid for out of the proceeds from the Sheriff’s sales. Each dollar that went to Davis and his companies from the property sales was a dollar that would never make it to the distressed property owners who were entitled to the remainder of the proceeds after the satisfaction of liens and necessary costs. Also, Davis was permitted to place friends and family members on the staff at the PSO who were assigned responsibilities connected to the Sheriff’s sales.
It is further alleged that Davis willfully filed a false U.S. income tax return for Reach Communications for tax year 2007 by falsely reporting a business loss of approximately $146,669, which he knew was not true. Davis allegedly filed a false individual 2007 U.S. income tax return, by falsely reporting a taxable income of $408,072, which Davis knew was not true. Davis is also charged with willfully failing to file tax returns for tax years 2008, 2009, and 2010.
If convicted of all charges, Davis faces a statutory maximum sentence of 94 years in prison, a $775 special assessment, a possible fine, and supervised release; and Green faces a statutory maximum sentence of 85 years, a $500 special assessment, a possible fine, and supervised release. The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture seeking $7,000,000 and property from Davis and Green.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, and the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sarah Grieb and Christopher Diviny.
An Indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.