Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mystery Writers Of America Announce 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Award Winners

The Mystery Writers of America released the list of their 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Award Winners.

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the winners of the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2015. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at our 70th Gala Banquet, April 28, 2016 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City. 

Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (Penguin Random House – Dutton)
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)
The Long and Faraway Gone
 by Lou Berney (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bullyby Allen Kurzweil (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
You can read the rest of the list of winners via the below link:

Friday, April 29, 2016

U.S. Navy Captain Select Sentenced To Over Six Years In Prison For Accepting Cash And Prostitutes In International Bribery Scheme

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

A U.S. Navy Captain Select was sentenced today to 78 months in prison for bribery charges, admitting that he accepted cash, gifts, travel expenses, entertainment and the services of prostitutes from foreign defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) in exchange for classified U.S. Navy information, including ship schedules that contained information related to the U.S. Navy’s ballistic missile defense operations in the Pacific.  In addition, he was ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $100,000 and to forfeit $95,000 in proceeds for the scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy of the Southern District of California, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations James B. Burch of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and Director Andrew Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) made the announcement.
Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 49, of San Diego, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the Southern District of California for one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery.

According to admissions in his plea agreement, from January 2011 until September 2013, Misiewicz provided classified U.S. Navy ship schedules and other sensitive U.S. Navy information to the defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, CEO and owner of Singapore-based GDMA.  GDMA provided port services to U.S. Navy ships and submarines when they arrived at ports throughout the Pacific.

Misiewicz admitted that when he was stationed in Japan, on the USS Mustin and in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he used his position and influence within the U.S. Navy to advance the interests of GDMA, including by providing Francis with classified ship schedules and other proprietary U.S. Navy information.  In return, Misiewicz admitted that Francis gave him cash, paid for luxury travel on at least eight occasions for Misiewicz and his family, provided his wife with a designer handbag and provided Misiewicz with the services of prostitutes on multiple occasions.  Throughout the conspiracy, Misiewicz admitted that he and his conspirators took steps to avoid detection by law enforcement by, among other means, using clandestine email accounts, which they periodically deleted.

To date, 10 individuals have been charged in connection with this scheme; of those, nine have pleaded guilty, including Misiewicz, U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, Lieutenant Commander Todd Malaki, NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau, Commander Jose Luis Sanchez and U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug.  Former Department of Defense civilian employee Paul Simpkins awaits trial.  On Jan. 21, 2016, Layug was sentenced to 27 months in prison and a $15,000 fine; on Jan. 29, 2016, Malaki was sentenced to 40 months in prison and to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $15,000 fine; on March 18, 2016, Alex Wisidagama, a former GDMA employee, was sentenced to 63 months and $34.8 million in restitution to the Navy; and on March 25, 2016, Dusek was sentenced to 46 months in prison and to pay $30,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $70,000 fine; the others await sentencing.

NCIS, DCIS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency are conducting the ongoing investigation.  Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Pletcher of the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case.        

Those with information relating to fraud, corruption or waste in government contracting should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at or the DoD Hotline at, or call (800) 424-9098.

Ransomware: Latest Cyber Extortion Tool

The FBI released the below information:

Ransomware has become a significant threat to U.S. businesses and individuals. In 2014, over 1,800 complaints were filed regarding ransomware, resulting in a loss of more than $23 million. In 2015, that number grew to more than 2,400 complaints with a reported loss of more than $24 million.
Perpetrators use ransomware to encrypt a user’s important files and documents, making them unreadable, until a ransom is paid. Ransomware victims are not only at risk of losing their files but may also experience financial loss due to paying the ransom, loss of productivity, IT services, legal fees, network countermeasures, and/or the purchase of credit monitoring services for employees or customers if their information was referenced in the encrypted files. Everyone is at risk from this threat; there is no indication at this time that any particular sector or type of business or individual is specifically targeted.
Prevention is the most effective defense against ransomware, and it is critical to take precautionary measures for protection. These measures include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Implement a robust data back-up and recovery plan. Maintain copies of your files, particularly sensitive or proprietary data, in a separate secure location. Back-up copies of sensitive data should not be readily accessible from local networks.
  • Never open attachments included in unsolicited e-mails. Be very vigilant about links contained in e-mails, even if the link appears to be from someone you know.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date.
  • Enable automated patches for your operating system and web browser.
  • Only download software, especially free software, from sites you know and trust.
If you believe you are a victim of an extortion attempt, we strongly encourage you to contact your local FBI field office, which may be able to provide guidance or assistance. Contacting your local FBI field office may also assist in identifying the perpetrator and the malware used, which could help prevent future victimizations. In addition, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), including as much information as possible in your complaint.
While the FBI recognizes that ransomware victims may feel they have few viable options if they do not have a data backup or if they cannot sustain a release of confidential or proprietary information, the FBI does not condone payment of ransoms. Payment of extortion monies may encourage continued criminal activity and lead to other victimizations, and the funds may be used by criminals to facilitate other serious crimes. In addition, in some cases, even if payment is made, the decryption key provided by the perpetrator to unlock files may not work due to the system configuration issues.
Any questions regarding this news release can be directed to SA Vicki D Anderson at the Cleveland Office of the FBI, 216-522-1400 or

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Estonian Cybercriminal Sentenced For Infecting 4 Million Computers In 100 Countries With Malware In Multimillion-Dollar Fraud Scheme

The U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York released the below information:

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that VLADIMIR TSASTSIN was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to more than seven years in prison for perpetrating a massive internet fraud scheme by infecting more than four million computers in over 100 countries with malware.  The malware secretly altered the settings on infected computers, enabling TSASTSIN and his co-conspirators to digitally hijack users’ Internet searches and re-route their computers to certain websites and advertisements.  As a result, the defendants received millions of dollars in fees from advertisers who paid the defendants to bring customers to their websites or ads, but were unaware that the defendants did so by digitally hijacking victims’ computers.  The malware also prevented the installation of anti-virus software and operating system updates on millions of infected computers, leaving those computers and their users unable to detect or stop the malware, and exposing them to attacks by other malware.  On July 8, 2015, TSASTSIN pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.  U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan sentenced TSASTSIN earlier today.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Vladimir Tsastin was sentenced today to 87 months in prison for his role in a massive fraud scheme, which victimized more than four million Internet users in 100 countries.  By falsely collecting advertising fees for every ‘click’ their victims made, Tsastsin and his co-conspirators collected over $14 million. Together with our law enforcement partners all over the globe, this Office will continue to investigate and prosecute sophisticated cyber frauds.”
According to the Indictment and other court documents previously filed in the case and statements made in court proceedings:
From 2007 until October 2011, TSASTSIN and co-defendants Andrey Taame, Timur Gerassimenko, Dmitri Jegorov, Valeri Aleksejev, Konstantin Poltev, and Anton Ivanov controlled and operated various companies that masqueraded as legitimate publisher networks (the “Publisher Networks”) in the Internet advertising industry.  The Publisher Networks entered into agreements with ad brokers under which they were paid based on the number of times Internet users clicked on the links for certain websites or advertisements, or based on the number of times certain advertisements were displayed on certain websites.  Thus, the more traffic that went to the advertisers’ websites and display ads, the more money the defendants earned under their agreements with the ad brokers.  The defendants fraudulently increased the traffic to the websites and advertisements that would earn them money and made it appear to advertisers that the Internet traffic came from legitimate “clicks” and ad displays on the defendants’ Publisher Networks when, in actuality, it had not.
To carry out the scheme, the defendants and their co-conspirators used dozens of “rogue” Domain Name System (“DNS”) servers and malware (“the Malware”) designed to alter the DNS server settings on infected computers.  Victims’ computers became infected with the Malware when they visited certain websites or downloaded certain software to view videos online.  The Malware altered the DNS server settings on victims’ computers to route the infected computers to rogue DNS servers controlled and operated by the defendants and their co-conspirators.  The re-routing took two forms that are described below: “click hijacking” and “advertising replacement fraud” (together, “click fraud”).  The Malware also prevented the infected computers from receiving anti-virus software updates or operating system updates that otherwise might have detected the Malware and stopped it.  In addition, the infected computers were left vulnerable to infections by other malware.
Click Hijacking
When the user of an infected computer clicked on a search result link displayed through a search engine query, the Malware caused the computer to be re-routed to a different website.  Instead of being brought to the website to which the user asked to go, the user was brought to a website designated by the defendants.  Each “click” triggered payment to the defendants under their advertising agreements.  This click hijacking occurred for clicks by users on unpaid links that appeared in response to a user’s query as well as clicks on "sponsored” links or advertisements that appeared in response to a user’s query – often at the top of, or to the right of, the search results – thus causing the search engines to lose money.  For example, when the user of an infected computer clicked on the domain name link for the official website of Apple-iTunes, the user was instead taken to a website for a business unaffiliated with Apple Inc. that purported to sell Apple software.  The advertisers who paid for such Internet traffic to their websites were never told that the traffic consisted of hijacked clicks and that the visitors had not intended to visit their websites.
Advertising Replacement Fraud
In the advertisement replacement scheme, using their DNS Changer Malware and rogue DNS servers, the defendants replaced legitimate advertisements on websites, without the paying advertisers’ knowledge or consent, with substituted advertisements that triggered payments to themselves.  For example, when the user of an infected computer visited the home page of The Wall Street Journal, a featured advertisement for American Express had been fraudulently replaced with an ad for “Fashion Girl LA,” which triggered a payment to the defendants from another advertiser.
To acquire the online infrastructure for the fraudulent scheme, enter into contracts to sell Internet traffic, and launder the proceeds from the fraudulent scheme, Tsastsin and his co-defendants created and controlled over a dozen front companies located and/or registered in the United States, Estonia, Russia, Denmark, the Republic of Seychelles, England, and Cyprus.  At the time of his arrest, TSASTSIN, assisted by his co-defendants, operated approximately 50 rogue DNS servers located in New York City and additional ones at a data center in Chicago. Each of the rogue servers contained approximately two hard drives; the larger hard drives received as many as 3,000 fraudulent “clicks,” or DNS resolution requests, per second, while the smaller servers received several hundred requests per second.
*           *           *
In addition to the 87-month prison term, TSASTSIN, 35, of Tartu, Estonia, was sentenced to one year of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $2.5 million and pay a $200 special assessment.  In imposing sentence, Judge Kaplan described TSASTSIN’s crimes as “brazen, sophisticated, and outrageous.”
On July 27, 2015, Gerassimenko, Jegorov, and Poltev were sentenced to 48 months, 44 months, and 40 months in prison, respectively.  Aleksejev was sentenced on October 30, 2013, to 48 months in prison.  Ivanov was sentenced on July 25, 2014, to time served.  Judge Kaplan also entered orders against each defendant forfeiting his criminal proceeds and the electronic and online infrastructure used to perpetrate their fraudulent scheme.  The last defendant, Taame, who is a Russian national, remains at large.   
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration-Office of the Inspector General, and the Estonian Central Criminal Police.  He also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for its assistance with the extraditions.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Lai is in charge of the prosecution.  Alexander Wilson, Deputy Chief of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, is in charge of the forfeiture aspects of the case. 

A Little Night Music: Chris Botti's 'Ever Since We Met'

I'm listening to Chris Botti's 'Ever Since We Met" as I'm working this evening.

You can hear Chris Botti's smooth sound via the below link:

Narconomics: How To Run A Drug Cartel

Gary Anderson offers a good review in the Washington Times of Tom Wainwright's Narconomics: How To Run a Drug Cartel. 

”Narconomics” is the book that Sean Penn wanted to write. Tom Wainwright may not have interviewed Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, but he did talk to drug kingpins every bit as ruthless and intimidating in writing this book. Along the way, Mr. Wainwright also talked to cops, hitmen, national presidents and addicts. He is one of the luckiest journalists alive just to have survived his research. The work that he has produced argues his thesis that the drug industry is run on very similar lines to companies such as McDonald’s or Wal-Mart; he makes a convincing case. Mr. Wainwright is an investigative journalist who is an editor for the Economist magazine; he began this project while covering Mexico, Latin America and the U.S. border for that publication.
Mr. Wainwright argues that most successful drug cartels operate like Wal-Mart in that they have a virtual monopoly on the product at the source of supply. The farmers who produce the basic cocoa, poppies or marijuana have no choice but to sell to a single buyer in their respective areas. This helps to explain why drug prices remain relatively inelastic and why eradication efforts fail; there are always sellers someplace to sell at the buyer’s price.
Like Mc Donald’s, some cartels such as the Mexican Zetas have also found franchising to be an effective business model. This is a symbiotic relationship. The cartel finds a local criminal gang that wants to expand its business. That gang knows the local territory and has established relationships. The franchise gets the brand name of the major cartel and its protection against other cartels for a cut of the franchise profits. Like McDonald’s and Burger King, the cartel has to maintain quality control. The difference between quality control in the fast food franchise business and the drug trade is that a drug franchise that comes up short may find its members hanging from a highway overpass.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link: 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Look Back At 9 British TV Shows That Made It To America In The 1960s

The MeTV channel's website offers a look back at 9 British TV imports to the USA in the 1960s

The British Invasion went beyond the Beatles and Herman's Hermits, beyond music in fact. Perhaps more so than any other time, the 1960s saw Americans devouring British pop culture, from Mary Quant's miniskirts to Mary Poppins. James Bond was the king of the big screen and MG advertised its cars in magazines.
Naturally, this carried over to television. The spy craze led to an influx of British television productions on American networks. Here were shows produced in the U.K. on the Big Three networks in prime time. Often, the imports were plugged in as summer replacements. Some of these shows were so massive, or used American actors, it's easy to forget they were English.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: I was a teenager in the 1960s and I watched and enjoyed 4 of the 9 British imported TV shows listed by I loved The Prisoner, Secret Agent, The Avengers and The Saint.

I now own DVDs of these classic British shows.

The above photo shows Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner.

Preliminary Report On Edward Lin Spy Case, Decision To Prosecute With Fleet Forces CO

Sam LaGrone at the USNI News offers a piece on the Navy officer accused of espionage and other charges.

Investigators with the Navy have submitted their preliminary report and recommendation for prosecution on accusations that a U.S. Navy officer passed secrets to China and Taiwan, service officials told USNI News on Wednesday.
The report will recommend to U.S. Fleet Forces commander Adm. Phil Davidson whether or not to begin court martial proceedings Lt. Cmdr. Edward Chieh-Liang Lin, 39, for alleged acts of espionage and other charges.
Now the recommendation from the investigating officer has been submitted, Davidson will make the ultimate decision – based on the report’s findings – on how to proceed with the case.
The ultimate recommendation from the investigating officer was not provided to USNI News, but several lawyers with experience in national security cases have said that the likelihood Davidson would elect to forgo a court martial for another method of non-judicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice is slim.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

FBI: Sextortion and Cyberstalking - How a Single Tip Uncovered an International Scheme

The FBI released the the below report:

The investigation that uncovered a far-reaching sextortion scheme by a U.S. State Department employee at the U.S. Embassy in London all started with a single complaint by a young victim in Kentucky. She went to the police.
“The victim basically was saying that she was being cyberstalked by some guy who got into her e-mail and was threatening to expose compromising photos of her to her friends and family,” said FBI Special Agent Andrew Young, who interviewed some of the hundreds of victims targeted by Michael C. Ford, a former State Department civilian employee who was sentenced last month to nearly five years in prison for hacking into the e-mail accounts of young women to extort them.
According to the facts of the case, between January 2013 and May 2015, Ford—while working in London—posed as a member of a large web company’s “account deletion team” and sent out e-mails to thousands of women warning them that their e-mail accounts would be deleted if they didn’t provide their passwords. Ford then used the passwords he received to hack into victims’ e-mail and social media accounts to search for nude and topless photos and personal information like contacts and addresses.
He hacked into at least 450 e-mail accounts and admitted e-mailing at least 75 women, threatening to circulate their compromising pictures unless they sent him more.
Following the initial complaint in Kentucky, local police reached out to the FBI in Louisville, where agents traced the source of the e-mails to a State Department server in London. The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) began an internal probe that led to Ford and uncovered the massive hacking, cyberstalking, and sextortion scheme. Young said the investigation showed Ford spent the bulk of his time at work using a government computer to “extort women, hack into their e-mail accounts, and threaten them.”
The FBI’s primary role in the investigation was interviewing victims across the U.S. to build a case. “They were angry,” said Young, who worked the case out of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office, which had jurisdiction because Ford had Georgia residency. “Somebody steals your most private pictures out of your computer, then comes back and threatens you with it. They felt compromised.”
At Ford’s March 21 sentencing, prosecutors presented evidence of another scheme he started several years earlier, in 2009. Posing as a talent scout, Ford combed through websites where aspiring models posted their pictures and contact information. He duped young women into sending personal information, including their measurements and dates of birth. “He would send them an e-mail with a link, and when they clicked on the link he got access to their computer and e-mail accounts,” Young said.
Ford, 36, of Atlanta, was indicted August 18, 2015 following his arrest by DSS during a visit to Atlanta. He pled guilty in December.
His plea was due in large part to the voluminous evidence against him, including the statements of victims like the one who came forward in Kentucky.
“There was no getting around it,” Young said. “Witness after witness and a lot of forensic evidence—it made putting him in jail a whole lot easier.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Additional Troops, New Technology Enhance Counter-ISIL Battle

Terri Moon Cronk at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2016 — The latest in military technology and the addition of up to 450 more U.S. troops announced yesterday will enhance the U.S.-led coalition’s efforts to enable ground forces in the campaign to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorism in Iraq and Syria, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for Operation Inherent Resolve told Pentagon reporters today.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, who’s responsible for planning, coordinating, synchronizing and executing Inherent Resolve combat operations in Iraq and Syria, briefed the media from Baghdad via teleconference on recent campaign momentum against ISIL.
The additional troops being sent to support the effort will advise and assist Iraqi and Syrian counter-ISIL ground forces “to continue to fracture and degrade the enemy,” Gersten said.
Latest Technology Enhances Campaign

The accelerated campaign to defeat ISIL now includes B-52 bombers, additional cyber capabilities and the Army’s High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System, Gersten said.
With the recent addition of the B-52 Stratofortress to the coalition air campaign’s arsenal, it is important to clear up any “misperceptions” surrounding the  bomber’s capabilities, he said, noting that today’s B-52 has more capabilities than B-52 bombers used during 1960s and 1970s.
The new Stratofortress is “a highly upgraded B-52 [with] an extraordinary platform that strikes with the same accuracy and precision that every other coalition asset has struck in the recent past,” he said.
Gersten emphasized that “a lot of discussion” surrounds the approval process for airstrike operations in a combat zone. “As the general officer responsible for synchronizing all combat operations in this theater, I can assure you that we do everything possible to mitigate the loss of civilian life and minimize collateral damage as we engage this enemy,” he said.

Cyber Capabilities in Combat
At the very high end of the combat operations spectrum, the coalition has begun to use its “exquisite cyber capabilities” in the fight against ISIL” the general said. Cyber is a standing capability, he added, and is “just another precision arrow in our arsenal, aimed directly at the heart of the … enemy.”
HIMARS to Counter ISIL
Two separate Army High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems -- also known as HIMARS -- will be used in Turkey to support counter-ISIL operations in Syria, while the second will support Iraq’s counter operations, Gersten said. As a mobile and “very agile” system, he added, it will be exactly where the military needs it to be at any given time. It will work in combination with coalition air assets, he said.
The coalition is working closely with its strong Turkish partners on HIMARS operations, the general said. “The HIMARS is simply one of many systems the coalition is bringing to fight this enemy,” he added. “We have fighters, we have remotely piloted aircraft, we have cyber, and now we have HIMARS.”
The U.S.-led coalition will “bring everything to bear against this enemy, wherever it presents itself,” Gersten said. 
Note: The above Air Force photo shows the B-52 Stratofortress in flight.

How Not To Be Shot By Cops: NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton Offers Common Sense Advice

Tina Moore the New York Post reports on the NYPD commissioner's advice on how to avoid being shot by police officers

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has some simple advice for New Yorkers – if you don’t want to get shot by cops, don’t point a gun at them.
“The best way to not get shot by a New York City police officer is not carry a gun and not raise that gun toward them,” Bratton said at a news conference Monday.
His comments came in reaction to a question about George Tillman, 32, who was killed on April 17 when an NYPD sergeant and three cops fired 13 shots at him, hitting him 11 times in Queens around 1:30 a.m. Police sources said he had a gun in his waistband and pulled it out as officers chased him near the corner of 135th St. and 116th Ave. in South Ozone Park.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Heyday: The 1850s And The Dawn Of The Global Age

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of Ben Wilson's Heyday: The 1850s and the Dawn of the Global Age.

Two long afternoon immersions in Ben Wilson’s book left me feeling as if I had been on a high-speed roller coaster, rocketing from the gold fields of Australia and California to the financial houses of London, battlefields in Central America and the steppes of the Caucasus and telegraph offices sprinkled over the continent.
The young historian (born in 1980) touches these locales, and many more, in depicting the 1850s as a significant decade in world history. And he skillfully melds seeming disparate happenings — a global jigsaw, if you will — into a narrative that is both convincing and entertainingly readable.
The driving force was interconnectivity of communications and travel — the transoceanic telegraph, railroads, express mail streamers and clippers, even news agencies. The undersea telegraph was made possible by development of gutta-percha, a hard and flexible latex to coat cables, insulating them from salt water. Once the telegraph came into use, Mr. Wilson notes, “events in one place reverberated around the planet with unprecedented celerity.”
The 1850s saw mass population shifts, with millions of persons finding new lives elsewhere; the overall global economy expanded an estimated five-fold.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Japan’s Most Salacious Crime News — And The American Who Publishes It

Anna Fifield at the Washington Post offers a piece on the American who is covering crime news in Japan.

 Gangsters, the sex trade, gruesome murders, adult videos, body discoveries, suicides, police up to no good. These are the core things Brett Bull looks for after hours.
Not to participate, of course, but to write them up.
The 47-year-old Californian is an engineer in Tokyo by day, Tokyo Reporter by night. Bull has created a site that, as its tagline says, delivers “salacious news on crime and culture.” Think of a hybrid of the National Enquirer, the New York Post and Penthouse. Online. In Japan.
There is the recent story about the Buddhist monk charged with murdering a nail artist. And the one about the playboy antics of a limbless author who was being considered as a political candidate by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party. Not to mention the piece about the husband who used garden shears to cut off the penis of a man he suspected was fooling around with his wife (and then flushed it down the toilet).
“Japan is supposed to be a safe country. But based on what I read, I really don’t know that’s true,” said Bull, sitting in a bar in Kabukicho, the heart of seedy Tokyo, not far from his office.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Even Broke, Mark Twain Traveled In Style

Richard Zacks, author of Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain's Raucous and Redemptive Around-the-World Tour, offers a piece from the book at the Daily Beast. 

Celebrity perks usually amount to a few comped bottles of champagne or courtside tickets. A British railway once set aside 35 miles of mountain track in the Himalayas forMark Twain to use as a private roller coaster ride. Six-seater car, a handbrake and a long way down if the car jumped the edge. (He expected it would.) He shared that opinion with his wife and daughter just as they boarded.
In 1895/1896, in a mostly forgotten trip, Mark Twain traveled around the world, performing 90 minutes of stand-up in 71 different cities, across the United States and the fading British Empire, in Australia, New Zealand, India, Southern Africa. He spent almost 100 days at sea and 50 days sick in bed.
This most American of authors rode an elephant in India, at a palace owned by one of the ten wealthiest men in the world, the “Gaikwar of Baroda.” (Twain loved the exotic names: the “Nizam of Hyderabad,” the “Nawab of Mysore.”) “I took a ride; but it was by request—I did not ask for it, and didn’t want it; but I took it, because otherwise they would have thought I was afraid, which I was.” The elephant’s gold ankle hoops and jewel-encrusted howdah were worth more than Twain’s entire savings at the time, which then amounted to nothing; the author of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer was traveling around the world to pay off huge debts from failed business ventures.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

U.S. Conducts Operation With Philippine Counterparts

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerome D. Johnson at the Defense Media Activity, Hawaii, offers the below piece:

JAMINDAN, Philippines, April 22, 2016 — At the break of dawn, a Philippine army platoon and one U.S. Army platoon from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, geared-up on Antique Airfield to conduct the final mission of Operation Handa Koa, part of this year’s Balikatan exercise.

The team of soldiers boarded two CH-47 Chinook and four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to launch an air assault. Together, they trekked through the jungle to reach their main objective, code-named "Rhino".

"We started off with a combined-joint amphibious assault on the island itself, and then a Marine air assault onto Antique Airfield. The combined Marines then took control of the airfield expand the lodgment, and conducted a defense," said Army Capt. James Hodges, 25th Infantry Division assistant operations officer.

"We then conducted an air landing with U.S. Army forces and Philippine army forces via C-130 to occupy the airfield, and then conducted air assaults from the airfield to a northern objective on Panay itself. Simultaneously, we had Philippine Special Forces conduct reconnaissance missions on the same two objectives to the north," Hodges added.

Working Together

The first phase of the operation began on the island of Luzon, which included numerous days of planning and synchronization at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo. A combined-joint U.S. and Philippine forces team then worked together to project assets from Luzon to conduct a large-scale operation on the island of Panay.

"As we transitioned out of the initial projection phase-down to our initial staging base, it gave us the opportunity to do final rehearsals here on the airfield and then understand a little more about the operational environment that we were going to go into specifically to the island of Panay, and then conduct the air assault today on the objective," said Army Lt. Col. Jared Bordwell, Task Force Patriot commander.

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment had the opportunity to work closely with their Philippine army counterparts at Fort Magsaysay before executing their mission on Panay. The soldiers conducted jungle survival training, close quarters training, and counter improvised explosive device training.

"The initial phase back at Magsaysay is when we started to understand each other and gain that appreciation for capabilities as well as form that camaraderie between the two forces," Bordwell said. "An infantryman is an infantryman. So the [Philippine soldiers] and their capabilities and our capabilities -- as we understood each other a little bit more -- they meshed very well with actions on the objective. It was just like having two U.S. platoons or having two [Philippine] platoons out there. Both company commanders did an incredible job of planning, synchronizing, and really enabling that communication during the actions on to facilitate the execution of the mission."

By training together, the U.S. and Philippine soldiers developed tactics, techniques, procedures, and built partnerships.

A Great Opportunity

"I think Balikatan was a great opportunity for my soldiers and myself to learn a lot about the Philippines, understand our partner here, and understand some of the unique challenges of the operational environment," Bordwell said. "I think it’s also a great teaching tool as we continue our partnership in the Pacific in the future, and more likely than not soldiers will be back here doing Balikatan or other operations. It’s a great partnership and a great ability for us to learn from our partners as well hopefully teach them some capabilities, and refine some of their overall abilities."

This year marked the 32nd iteration of the annual Balikatan exercise. The U.S. and the Philippines have a continued interest in strengthening their longstanding security alliance, which has provided a platform for security and stability in the region throughout the decades.

FBI: Violent Home Invasion Case Illustrates Threat Posed By Gangs

The FBI released the below report:

Violent gangs pose a significant threat to communities throughout the United States. You don’t have to live in South Central Los Angeles or Chicago’s inner city to feel the impact of gang violence, as a recent case from Washington state illustrates.
On a Tuesday evening in November 2014, three teenagers from Seattle’s Down with the Crew Gang—a violent affiliate of the Black Gangster Disciples gang—set out from Seattle for a 50-mile drive south to the community of Lakewood. Their intention was to rob a large-scale drug house they had received information about.
Around 9:30 p.m., a 66-year-old Lakewood man answered a knock at his door and was confronted by the three youths, who forced their way into the home. The gang members had picked the wrong house, but that didn’t matter to them. What happened next was 20 minutes of terror for an innocent couple.
The gang members pistol-whipped the man until he was unconscious, tied his hands, and placed a blanket over him. They broke down a bathroom door and dragged out his 61-year-old wife, stabbed her, tied her hands, and placed her under the blanket with her husband, who was bleeding severely.
“They brutalized the couple,” said Special Agent Kelly Smith, who supervises the South Sound Gang Task Force—one of more than 160 FBI-led Safe Streets tasks forces nationwide—which handled the investigation out of the Bureau’s Seattle Division. “The level of violence and complete disregard for human life was astounding in this case,” he added.
That disregard for life became even more apparent as the home invasion continued. The robbers were in and out of the house carrying stolen items to their car when the husband regained consciousness. He was able to free himself and his wife, and with all three assailants temporarily outside, he locked the front door and the couple retreated to their bedroom, where he called 911 and retrieved his handgun.
The robbers forced their way back inside, firing a gunshot through the front door. Then they kicked down the locked bedroom door where the couple had barricaded themselves behind their bed. Confronted again by the attackers, the man fired two shots, hitting 19-year-old Taijon Vorhees both times.
At that point, all three robbers fled and drove away. And the two uninjured gang members—Duprea Wilson and Qiuordai Taylor, ages 19 and 17, respectively—decided to help themselves rather than their wounded friend.
“They didn’t want anything to do with taking him to a hospital,” said Jeff Martin, a Lakewood Police Department detective assigned to the South Sound Gang Task Force. “They drove around until he was unconscious, then dumped his body and left him to die. They basically pushed him right out of the car.”
The wounded teen did, in fact, die. The two other subjects were apprehended within 72 hours of the crime. At trial in February 2015, the two surviving defendants faced 11 state felony charges. One of the charges was manslaughter—for allowing their friend to die without seeking medical attention.
In March 2016 a jury found Wilson and Taylor guilty on all counts, and later that month a judge sentenced them each to 56 years in prison.
Smith, who has supervised the task force since 2012, credits his local, state, and federal partners, along with experienced Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office attorneys, with bringing the case to a successful conclusion.
As for the victims, Martin said they have mostly recovered from their physical injuries, but there are still emotional issues to contend with. “There are definitely lasting effects from the attack,” he said, “maybe effects that will last the rest of their lives.” 

Foreign National Sentenced To 36 Months In Prison For Human Smuggling

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

A Guatemalan woman was sentenced today to 36 months in federal prison for conspiracy and human smuggling related to a scheme to smuggle undocumented migrants from India into the United States.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Antonio made the announcement.
Rosa Astrid Umanzor-Lopez, 36, was extradited to the United States from Guatemala and later pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to smuggle undocumented migrants into the United States for profit and human smuggling in the Southern District of Texas.  Umanzor-Lopez was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. of the Southern District of Texas.  She is expected to face deportation proceedings following her release from prison. 
At the plea hearing and in related court documents, Umanzor-Lopez admitted that between January 2011 and her arrest in Guatemala on Feb. 4, 2014, she and other conspirators recruited individuals in India who were willing to pay large sums of money to be smuggled into the United States.  For their smuggling operations, Umanzor-Lopez and her co-conspirators used a network of facilitators to transport groups of undocumented migrants from India through South America and Central America and then into the United States by air travel, automobiles, water craft and foot, she admitted.  Umanzor-Lopez also admitted that many of these smuggling events involved illegal entry into the United States via the U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen and Laredo, Texas.
Three other members of the conspiracy have also been convicted and sentenced, and a fourth remains a fugitive.
HSI agents in McAllen and Houston investigated the case with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Alien Smuggling Interdiction Unit.  Trial Attorney Ann Marie E. Ursini of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Leo III and Casey MacDonald of the Southern District of Texas prosecuted the case.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant support with the defendant’s extradition. 
The investigation was conducted under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a joint partnership between the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and HSI.  The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns.  ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence and prosecutorial resources.  ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.

Friday, April 22, 2016

On 400th Anniversary Of William Shakespeare's Death, Celebrate His Life

John Timpane, my editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, offers a piece on celebrating the life of William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death.

William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, making Saturday the 400th anniversary of his passing. He was baptized on April 26, 1564, although his actual birth date is not recorded anywhere. But it's a decent bet that right around this time, 452 years ago, one of the best-known writers in history was born.
His 400th yahrzeit will be observed in all sorts of ways in all sorts of places. So what's the best way you can celebrate his 52 or so years on this earth? What's the best way for anybody to celebrate him, whether they know Shakespeare, like Shakespeare, hate Shakespeare, are bored by Shakespeare, or shake at the thought of Shakespeare?
He's worth celebrating. Few human beings have brought so much pleasure; so much cathartic emotion; such music; so many enduring, human characters and situations and sayings and stories (granted, many repurposed - as in stolen - from other writers). He's funny, appalling, perplexing, poetic, dirty, profound, witty, and anything else around and in between. His plays and poetry have earned him a place he deserves among the best- and longest-known and most-loved human beings ever.
Here's the worst way to celebrate him: because you think you should.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Notorious International Computer Hackers Sentenced

The FBI released the below report:

Two international computer hackers from Russia and Algeria were sentenced to lengthy prison terms yesterday for their roles in developing and distributing a prolific piece of malware known as SpyEye. The malicious code caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to the financial industry around the world.
Aleksandr Andreevich Panin, 27, from Russia, was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison, and Hamza Bendelladj, 27, from Algeria, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in federal court in Atlanta, Georgia.
SpyEye is a sophisticated code designed to secretly automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information such as online banking credentials, credit card information, usernames, passwords, and other personally identifying information. Between 2009 and 2011, SpyEye was the preeminent malware for cyber criminals and was used to infect more than 10 million computers that caused close to $1 billion in financial harm to individuals and institutions.
Panin was the primary developer and distributor of SpyEye. He conspired with others, including co-defendant Hamza Bendelladj, to market various versions of SpyEye through the Internet. Prior to his arrest, Panin was planning to release a second version of SpyEye that could have been one of the most undetectable pieces of malware ever distributed.
Panin was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2013 when he flew through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. In 2014, he pled guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. Bendelladj was apprehended in Thailand in 2013 and extradited to the U.S.
“Through these arrests and sentencing, the risk the public unknowingly faced from the threat posed by the imminent release of a new, highly sophisticated version of SpyEye was effectively reduced to zero,” said J. Britt Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office. He added, “The arrests and sentences serve as a strong deterrent to future malware developers and their customers, regardless of where they are located.”