Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Washington Times Review Of James Lee Burke's 'Robicheaux'

The Washington Times published my review of James Lee Burke’s Robicheaux.

Dave Robicheaux, James Lee Burke’s troubled, flawed and heroic character, first appeared in the 1987 crime novel “Neon Rain.” The Cajun, semi-retired New Iberia, Louisiana, sheriff’s detective, a Vietnam veteran, former New Orleans homicide detective and struggling alcoholic, has throughout the series of novels seen more than one man’s share of violence and tragedy.

In “Robicheaux” Mr. Burke brings back his popular character to face off against his usual suspects; crooked cops, gangsters, corrupt politicians, psychotic killers, and heartless and greedy patricians.

Once again, Dave Robicheaux is both aided and hampered by Clete Purcel, his former New Orleans homicide partner and fellow Vietnam veteran. Purcel, a private detective, is a big and heavy man who drinks and eats to excess. Wearing a porkpie hat over his short blond hair and colorful Hawaiian shirts over his girth, he might appear comical to a casual observer, but Purcel is a dangerous, one-man wrecking crew.

Haunted by his abusive father, war memories and his violent past on both sides of the law, Purcel is self-destructive and prone to violence. But he also has a strong sense of justice and truly cares about crime victims and the oppressed. He is also loyal and protective of his few friends, Dave Robicheaux being one of them.

 “The man I came to see was Fat Tony Nemo, also known as Tony the Nose, Tony Squid, or Tony Nine Ball, the latter not because he was a pool shark but because he packed a nine ball into a bartender’s mouth with the butt of a pool cue. Of course, that was during his earlier incarnation, when he was a collector for Didoni Giacano and the two of them used to drive around New Orleans in Didi’s Caddy convertible, terrifying whoever couldn’t make the weekly vig, a bloodstained baseball bat propped up in the backseat,” Robicheaux, the narrator, informs us in the beginning of the novel. “Currently, Fat Tony was involved in politics and narcotics and porn and casinos and Hollywood movies and the concrete business.”

… Robicheaux is a provocative and powerful crime novel; gritty, atmospheric and mystical. 

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

Saturday, December 30, 2017

'Skinny Joey' Merlino, Reputed Philly Mob Boss Who Moved To Boca, Is Facing January Trial In New York

Paula McMahon at offers a piece on the reputed Philadelphia Cosa Nostra crime family boss, Joseph Merlino (seen in the above photo), who is going to trial in New York on racketeering charges.

Reputed Mafia boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino has survived more than 25 attempts on his life and been cleared of the most serious charges — three murder raps — leveled against him over the years.

When the flamboyant Philadelphia native, who now lives in Boca Raton, goes on trial next month, he hopes to beat the feds as they try to put him back in prison for much of the rest of his life.

The current case began last year when the feds arrested 46 men up and down the East Coast on charges they said read like “an old-school Mafia novel.” The men were accused of being part of an organized crime network that involved the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno and Philadelphia major crime families. Their business included gambling, selling tax-free cigarettes and collecting illegal debts, the feds say.

Merlino, 55, and Eugene “Rooster” Onofrio, 75, of East Haven, Conn., are the only two who are going to trial. Merlino is free on a $5 million bond and his trial starts Jan. 16 in federal court in Manhattan.

He is considered a “mob star” by some because he courted media attention, regularly marched in the Philadelphia Mummers parade and made a holiday tradition of distributing turkeys to needy families.

Mob crackdown shows South Florida is still home for organized crime, feds say
It’s no surprise that Merlino is going to trial, said David Fritchey, a retired federal prosecutor and former chief of organized crime for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, who helped send Merlino to prison in the past.

“That’s his personality. He’s gone to trial before and he’s dodged some legal bullets – he’s been hit but not as mortally as he could have been,” said Fritchey. “He’s the kind of guy who takes his chances.”

“But there’s a cost that comes with that kind of in-your-face criminality. It attracts the attention of law enforcement,” he said.

Fritchey said he anticipates one of the most interesting aspects of the upcoming trial will be seeing how a Manhattan jury reacts to Merlino. Though Merlino is something of a celebrity in Philadelphia and South Florida, he’s not so well known in New York City, the international capital of mob activity.

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

American Master, American Patriot: Bob Hope Was Determined To Entertain American Troops And Give Back To The Country He loved, Says Daughter

I'm a huge fan of Bob Hope, so I look forward to watching tonight's PBS profile of the late, great comedian, actor and performer on their American Masters series. 

Stephanie Nolasco at Fox News interviewed his daughter about this life and his entertaining the troops.

From vaudeville to Hollywood, Bob Hope conquered it all as a beloved showman — but his greatest achievement was entertaining the troops.

At the time of his death in 2003 at age 100, the New York Times reported the film, TV and stage star performed nearly all of his 400 radio programs at military bases and embarked on annual tours where he delighted American servicemen with his sidesplitting monologues. Hope even took time to befriend weary soldiers and, as his name implies, deliver hope to those fighting for their country.

His eight-decade career is the subject of a new PBS documentary, titled “American Masters: This is Bob Hope…,” which explores his contributions as a comedian, actor and proud patriot. And the unabridged director’s cut features over 35 minutes of footage just for fans.

Fox News spoke with his daughter Linda about growing up with Hope.

Fox News: What are some of your favorite memories involving your dad?

Linda Hope: The fun of his homecomings. When he would go away usually for several weeks at a time and finally come home, we anticipated it for days. Particularly right around the holidays because my mother had a rule that when dad was away at Christmas, we would only be able to open just a few presents on Christmas Day.

Then we would save the rest of our gifts so we can have a Christmas with dad. It was always much more fun that way. We basically had two Christmases…. It was always a great time with wonderful food. He loved roast lamb. We actually used to have that at least every other week, up to once a week. He loved it so much. And lemon meringue pie, he loved. Those were two things his mother used to make for him when he was growing up.

Fox News: When did his passion for entertaining the troops begin?

Hope: It started back before we had gotten into the Second World War and my dad was doing his radio broadcast. He had moved out to Los Angeles from New York. He was doing his show out of the NBC studio in Los Angeles. The troops were starting to build up a little bit. There was a sense that war was eminent. Roosevelt had tried to keep us out of the war for so long, but finally the writing was on the wall. Hitler was gobbling up all of Europe and a lot of young men were signing up. A lot of these bases around Los Angeles were filled with young men.

It turns out one of dad’s writers had a brother who was stationed in March Field in Riverside, California. He said, “Why don’t you think about bringing your show out here? There’s lots of guys and I know they would love to see you.” So he did that. He couldn’t believe the number of people in the audience because in a studio audience, you get 100-150 at most. But here, he had thousands of guys that were yelling and screaming. He loved the sound of laughter, clapping and people having fun. And I think he grew addicted to that over the years. He needed to be out there with those guys and make them laugh.

Fox News: Did he meet with the troops after his performances?

Hope: He certainly did. When he would go to different bases, he would always have a meal with them, see if they were exercising or take part in whatever it was they were doing. He took it all very seriously. It was very important for him to spend one-on-one time with the different troops.

Fox News: How did Bob Hope give back to veterans?

Hope: He would go to the hospitals all the time and just show up. Sometimes we would say, “Where did dad go?” And my mom would go, “Oh, he went to the VA hospital in Los Angeles to spend a few hours with the guys.” He would also do that if he was traveling someplace and there was a VA hospital there. He would make a visit and spend time with the different men while going through the different wards.

You can read the rest of the interview and watch a trailer for tonight’s show on Bob Hope via the below link:

Note: One of my life’s regrets was not seeing the Bob Hope Vietnam Christmas show in December of 1970. 

I was an 18-year-old sailor stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. We saw photos of Bob Hope's earlier shows aboard the Kitty Hawk and the rumor was that Hope would perform his show aboard our flight deck as the carrier lay anchored in Da Nang harbor.

But it was not to be. 

We did not see Hope or those beautiful girls that he always brought with him. When Bob Hope performed his Christmas show in South Vietnam that year, the Kitty Hawk was way up north, off the coast of North Vietnam, giving a good pounding to the Communists.

We missed the Christmas show, but our combat air sorties saved countless American and South Vietnamese lives that year.

I later watched the TV show about the 1970 show and I bought and read Bob Hope’s book about his Vietnam shows, Five Women I Love. 

The book is still part of my library.       

To learn more about Bob Hope, you can read Richard Zoglin’s Hope. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Darkest Hour: What The World Owes Winston Churchill

Victor Davis Hanson offers his take on the Darkest Hour film and what the world owes the late Winston Churchill in the Washington Times.

The new film “Darkest Hour” offers the diplomatic side to the recent action movie “Dunkirk.”

The story unfolds with the drama of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill assuming power during the Nazi invasion of France in May 1940. Churchill’s predecessor, the sickly Neville Chamberlain, had lost confidence of the English people and the British government. His appeasement of Adolf Hitler and the disastrous first nine months of World War II seemed to have all but lost Britain the war.

Churchill was asked to become prime minister on the very day that Hitler invaded France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The armies of all three democracies — together larger than Germany’s invading forces — collapsed within days or a few weeks.

About a third of a million British soldiers stranded in a doomed France were miraculously saved by Churchill’s bold decision to risk evacuating them by sea from Dunkirk, France, where most of what was left of the British Expeditionary Force had retreated.

Churchill’s greatest problem was not just saving the British army, but confronting the reality that with the German conquest of Europe, the British Empire now had no allies.
The Soviet Union had all but joined Hitler’s Germany under their infamous non-aggression pact of August 1939.

The United States was determined at all costs to remain neutral. Just how neutral is emphasized in “Darkest Hour” by Churchill’s sad phone call with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR cleverly assures Churchill that in theory he wants to help while in fact he can do nothing.

Within days of Churchill taking office, all of what is now the European Union either would be in Hitler’s hands or could be considered pro-Nazi “neutral.”

“Darkest Hour” gets its title from the understandable depression that had spread throughout the British government. Members of Churchill’s new War Cabinet wanted to sue for peace. Chamberlain and senior conservative politician Edward Wood both considered Churchill unhinged for believing Britain could survive.

Both appeasers dreamed that thuggish Italian dictator Benito Mussolini might be persuaded to beg Hitler to call off his planned invasion of Great Britain. They dreamed Mussolini could save a shred of English dignity through an arranged British surrender.

Not Churchill.

In one of the few historical lapses in an otherwise superb film, Churchill is wrongly portrayed as seriously conflicted and about to consider the deal with Mussolini — until he takes a subway ride and rediscovers the defiance of the average Londoner. The subway scene is pure fantasy.

… Churchill led the only major nation to have fought Hitler alone. Only Britain fought from the first day to the last of World War II. It alone entered the war without attacking a country or being attacked, but simply on the principle of helping an independent Poland.

The world as we know it today owes its second chance to Winston Churchill and the United Kingdom. Without them, civilization would have been lost in the darkest hours of May 1940.

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

To learn more about Winston Churchill I suggest you read William Manchester's outstanding trilogy, The Last Lion.

How Spielberg's 'The Post' Misses What Really Happened In Vietnam

Seth Lipsky at that other Post – the New York Post – offers his take on the Steven Spielberg film The Post, a film about the liberal, anti-war Washington Post that published “The Pentagon Papers,” which documented the government’s lies about the Vietnam War.

Ironically, most of the lies were told by the liberal-Democrat Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

‘Democracy dies in darkness” is the new motto of The Washington Post. It adopted the slogan amid the campaign of the liberal press to topple President Trump.

Steven Spielberg’s new movie about The Washington Post is a reminder — however unintended — of something else. Sometimes democracy dies in the full glare of the press.

That’s what happened in Vietnam. And the film, “The Post,” takes on a special irony today, as a press full of righteous indignation seeks to overturn an American election.

Spielberg’s epic is about events that took place in 1971. That’s when the WaPo published the secret history of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers.

The history had been assembled on orders of LBJ’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara. A security analyst, Daniel Ellsberg, who’d turned against the war, leaked the documents to The New York Times.

The papers showed that America’s leaders sometimes lied. About, say, the events in the Tonkin Gulf that led Congress to authorize the Vietnam War. Or about whether we could win.

The Times started publishing the papers in June 1971 but was stopped by a federal judge. Ellsberg then gave boxes of the papers to The Washington Post. All eyes then fell on the paper’s owner, Katharine Graham.

Played by Meryl Streep, the doughty doyenne is torn between two factions. On one side are her bankers, who are trying to raise capital for the paper; on the other, her famed editor, Ben Bradlee, played by Tom Hanks.

 “What are you going to do, Mrs. Graham?” Bradlee asks her.

The real drama, though, was the war. Bradlee is up on his high horse. “The way they lied — those days have to be over,” the editor tells Mrs. Graham.

Fair enough. It’s not my intention to fault either of them.

Yet this movie deals with only some of the lies about Vietnam. Inexcusable as they were, the lies told by the Americans were relatively small beer.

It was our Communist enemies who told the big lie — that war was a struggle for liberation by Vietnam’s noble comrades, who took on the Americans with pitchforks. What hooey.

The truth is that the war was a conquest of free South Vietnam by a well-armed, Soviet-backed regime in the north. At the end, the enemy emerged from the jungles with tanks and surface-to-air missiles.

The Pentagon Papers disclosed that our own leaders, in effect, refused to heed evidence that we would lose the war — and sent our troops anyway. “The Post” seems to buy into this theory. Yet it wasn’t sending troops that turned out to be the error.

Rather, it was assuming we couldn’t win. On the ground in Vietnam, our GIs did just that. In the most famous battle, Tet in 1968, our soldiers trounced the Communists. The cause of free Vietnam was betrayed in the US Congress, which had been turned by the anti-war movement.

… Let President Trump — and his critics — remember: When Congress cut off Vietnam, it wasn’t about saving our GIs. They’d long since been withdrawn.

No, the decision by Congress was to retreat in the face of Soviet Communism. It was about abandoning the hope of free Vietnam itself.

Vietnam’s democracy died in broad daylight.

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

You can also read my piece in the Washington Times on another view of the Vietnam War via the below link: 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Don’t Give To A Charity Imposter

Although the Christmas season often prompts us to share our good fortunes with the less fortunate, one should be wary of the crooks out there who take advantage of our generosity. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers the below piece to help you avoid bogus, crooked scams:

When you give to a charity, you’re giving because you care and want to help — and you want to be sure your money actually gets to those you’re trying to help. But scammers who pretend to be a charity try to get to your wallet. So consider these tips before you give:

Rule out anyone who asks you to send cash, pay with a gift card, or wire money.

Confirm the exact name of the charity and do some research, especially when donating for the first time. Search for the name of the charity online — plus the word “complaint” or “scam.” That’s one way to learn about a charity’s reputation.

Give to charities you know and trust, with a proven track record. Before you give to any charity, check them out with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.

Be wary of charities that seem to pop up overnight in connection with a natural disaster or other tragedy. 

Don’t assume that pleas for help on crowdfunding sites or social media are legitimate. Real victims’ pictures and stories can easily be misused to con you.

Before you text to donate, confirm the number on the charity’s website.

Never click on links or open attachments in e-mails, even if they appear to be from a charity. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer or be taken to a look-alike website run by scammers. 

For more information, visit If you think you’ve spotted a charity scam, tell us at

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Joy Of The Savior's Birth

Scott S. Powell at the Washington Times offers a piece on the joy of the savior’s birth.

For Christians, Christmas is a unique time of joy associated with the birth of the savior Jesus, whose life, death and resurrection makes possible a personal and intimate relationship with God. Jesus was born a Jew, and his teachings were built on the foundation of the Torah and the Old Testament. And so it is that Christians and Jews have much in common and share a natural mutual affinity.

Christians and Jews have both faced persecution throughout history, and hostility is again intensifying. And that persecution comes not just from radical Islamists, but also from secular progressives who now dominate Western culture.

Various towering intellectuals even wish that Christ had never been born. Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche, who separately inspired and influenced the rise of murderous totalitarian regimes in Russia and Germany both condemned Christianity and religion in general. For Marx, “religion [was] the opium of the people.” Nietzsche said Christianity was “the greatest of all imaginable corruptions.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is an American film classic enjoyed by more during the Christmas season today than when it first came out in 1946. Directed by the legendary Frank Capra, the film is an otherworldly story revolving around a main character played by Jimmy Stewart in a narrative showing what life would have been like if he had never been born. Similarly, since Capra’s collective cinematographic works exhibit a profoundly Christian vision, it’s worth extrapolating on how history and the present would be different if Christ had never been born.

History shows that the Christian Church has brought about more changes for the advancement and benefit of people than any other force or movement. Nonbelieving secular-minded people might be surprised by the myriad achievements by committed Christians — progressive accomplishments that they too celebrate.

Before Christ, human life was cheap and expendable all over the world. In the Americas, the Near East, Africa, the Middle East and the Far East child sacrifice was a common phenomenon. Babies, particularly females — who were considered inferior — were regularly abandoned. Author George Grant points out: “Before the explosive and penetrating growth of medieval Christian influence, the primordial evils of abortion, infanticide, abandonment, and exposure were a normal part of everyday life ” That changed in the West with the 6th century Christian Byzantine Roman Emperor Justinian whose Law Code declared child abandonment and abortion a crime.

… Suffice it to say that life both at home and around the world would no doubt be qualitatively worse today if Christ had never been born and Christianity had not become the greatest spiritual force ever to advance the care and development of people. Indeed, there is reason to sing “Joy to the World.”

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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Twas The Night Before Christmas: The Christmas Poem That Made A Scholar Immortal

The New York Post Editorial Board offers a piece on Clement Moore, the author of the world-famous poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Born in New York City in 1779, Clement Clarke Moore became a noted lecturer and writer. Yet his life would merit little more than a footnote in New York’s history, except for the one poem for which he is remembered. Written for his children in 1822, it was first published (anonymously) in the Troy Sentinel the next year. The poem, of course, was “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (“The Night Before Christmas”).

You can read the rest of the piece and the famous poem via the below link:

I have always associated the poem with the Mabel Beaton Marionettes, whose performance I saw as a young child on TV. Alexander Scourby portrayed Moore and read the poem. 

I’ve shown the old broadcast to my children and later to my grandchildren.

You can watch the Twas The Night Before Christmas performance, as well as The Nativity, via the below link:

Note: The above photo is of Clement Moore. 

'O. Henry's Full House': A Fine Film To Watch On Christmas Eve

There are a half dozen or so films I like to watch each year during the Christmas season. 

One of the films is O. Henry’s Full House.

The 1952 film offers four adaptations of O. Henry’s great short stories with Christmas themes, featuring five fine directors, fine screenwriters and a fine cast. 

The film presents some of my favorite short stories from one of my favorite writers. 

The O. Henry stories - The Clarion Call, The Gift of the Magi, The Cop and the Anthem, and The Last Leaf - offer humor, drama, pathos and irony.  

I especially like the crime story The Clarion Call, with Dale Robinson and Richard Widmark (seen in the above photo).

You can watch the opening of the film and the first story, The Cop and the Anthem with the late, great actor Charles Laughton and a young Marilyn Monroe (seen in the above photo), via the below link:

 You can also read about the film via the below link:

 And you can purchase the DVD via the below link:

Note: The above photo is of William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was O.Henry. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Santa On The Flight Deck

The U.S. Navy released a photo of Lt. Larry Young, dressed as Santa, as he signals an F/A-18 E Super Hornet on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

The Super Hornets are assigned to the Stingers of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 113

Theodore Roosevelt and its carrier strike group are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

The above photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley. 

Note: You can click on the photo to enlarge.

Friday, December 22, 2017

How Obama Manipulated Sensitive Secret Intelligence For Political Gain

Guy Taylor and Dan Boylan at the Washington Times offers a piece on the Obama administration’s manipulation of classified information for political gain.

They wanted him dead.

For years, a clandestine U.S. intelligence team had tracked a man they knew was high in the leadership of al Qaeda — an operative some believed had a hand in plotting the gruesome 2009 suicide attack in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA officers.

Their pursuit was personal, and by early 2014, according to a source directly involved in the operation, the agency had the target under tight drone surveillance. “We literally had a bead on this guy’s head and just needed authorization from Washington to pull the trigger,” said the source.

Then something unexpected happened. While agents waited for the green light, the al Qaeda operative’s name, as well as information about the CIA’s classified surveillance and plan to kill him in Pakistan, suddenly appeared in the U.S. press.

Abdullah al-Shami, it turned out, was an American citizen, and President Obama and his national security advisers were torn over whether the benefits of killing him would outweigh the political and civil liberties backlash that was sure to follow.

In interviews with several current and former officials, the al-Shami case was cited as an example of what critics say was the Obama White House’s troublesome tendency to mishandle some of the nation’s most delicate intelligence — especially regarding the Middle East — by leaking classified information in an attempt to sway public opinion on sensitive matters.

By the end of Mr. Obama’s second term, according to sources who spoke anonymously with The Washington Times, the practices of leaking, ignoring and twisting intelligence for political gain were ingrained in how the administration conducted national security policy.

Those criticisms have resurfaced in the debate over whether overall intelligence fumbling by the Obama White House in its final months may have amplified the damage wrought by suspected Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election last year.

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

Attorney General Sessions Reiterates Support Of DEA Efforts To Investigate Hezbollah’s Drug Trafficking And Related Activities And Orders Review Of Prior DEA Investigations

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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions today directed a review of the handling of Project Cassandra, a law enforcement initiative targeting Hezbollah’s drug trafficking and related operations in the United States and abroad, to evaluate allegations that certain matters were not properly prosecuted and to ensure all matters are appropriately handled.

“Protecting our citizens from terrorist organizations and combatting the devastating drug crisis gripping our nation are two of the Justice Department’s top priorities,” said Attorney General Sessions. “Operations designed to investigate and prosecute terrorist organizations that are also fueling that drug crisis must be paramount in this administration.  The DEA has worked tirelessly on this front. I am committed to giving our hard working and dedicated DEA agents all the tools that they need to allow them to shut down these drug rings.

“While I am hopeful that there were no barriers constructed by the last administration to allowing DEA agents to fully bring all appropriate cases under Project Cassandra, this is a significant issue for the protection of Americans. We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations

“The Department of Justice is absolutely committed to investigating and prosecuting international drug trafficking organizations and with the assistance of our DEA and FBI agents we will leave no stone unturned as we work to making America safer.” 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

On This Day In History The Terrorist Carlos The Jackal Atacked OPEC Headquarters

As notes, on this day in 1975 the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal (seen in the above and below photos) led a raid on OPEC.

In Vienna, Austria, Carlos the Jackal leads a raid on a meeting of oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). German and Arab terrorists stormed in with machine guns, killed three people, and took 63 people hostage, including 11 OPEC ministers. Calling his group the “Arm of the Arab Revolution,” Carlos demanded that an anti-Israeli political statement be broadcast over radio, and that a bus and jet be provided for the terrorists and their hostages. Austrian authorities complied, and all the hostages were released in Algeria unharmed.

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

You can also read more about Carlos the Jackal via the below link:

Note: Ramirez was given the name “Carlos the Jackal” by reporters after French police found a paperback copy of Frederick Forsyth’s classic thriller The Day of the Jackal in his abandoned apartment.  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Two Defendants Plead Guilty In Multimillion Dollar Prize Promotion Scams Targeting Elderly Victims

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

Two individuals who ran multimillion dollar prize promotion scams entered guilty pleas Dec. 12 in federal court in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Department of Justice announced.

Glen Burke, 57, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty to contempt and conspiracy charges arising from his operation of two predatory schemes that defrauded thousands of victims, many of whom were elderly, out of more than $20 million.  Burke conducted those fraudulent campaigns in violation of a 1998 court order obtained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) permanently banning him from telemarketing and making misrepresentations to consumers.  A co-defendant, Michael Rossi, 52, also of Las Vegas, also pleaded guilty in connection with one of Burke’s schemes.

“The Department of Justice is determined to punish the perpetrators of fraudulent schemes that exploit consumers, especially those that target the elderly or vulnerable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will work with our partners at the FTC and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to eradicate schemes that harm the elderly wherever we find them.”

Burke pleaded guilty to contempt for violating the court order prohibiting him from making misrepresentations to consumers.  That charge stemmed from Burke running a mass-mailing operation that misled consumers into believing that they had won large cash prizes, often millions of dollars. Burke specifically mailed consumers solicitations that used fake names and, in many cases, looked like they came from law firms or financial institutions, advising consumers to pay a fee – usually $20 to $30 –to claim their promised winnings.  Once consumers paid, however, Burke never sent any consumer a promised prize.

Burke, along with Rossi, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for running a fraudulent telemarketing operation.  Telemarketers working for Burke and Rossi falsely told victims that they had won one of five valuable prizes, typically: a Chevy Camaro; a Boston Whaler boat; a diamond-and-sapphire bracelet; $3,000 cash; or a cruise that could be exchanged for $2,300.  To claim the prize, consumers were told to pay hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of dollars.  Once they paid, victims received a nearly worthless piece of costume jewelry or nothing at all.

Sentencing is scheduled on March 12, 2018.  Under the contempt statute, Burke could be sentenced to any term of imprisonment and fine.  Under the conspiracy statute, Burke and Rossi face a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The court has the discretion to impose a lower sentence.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Readler commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and thanked the FTC for its valuable assistance.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Timothy Finley and Daniel Zytnick of the Consumer Protection Branch of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson of the District of Nevada.

Goulden: 'The Ghost: The Secret Life Of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton' Is A Sorry Excuse Of An Investigative Book

Veteran journalist and author Joseph Goulden offers a negative review of Jefferson Morley's The Ghost: The Secret Life CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton in the Washington Times.. 

As a holiday gift, permit me to save you 28 bucks and however much time you might waste on the sorriest excuse for an investigative book that has ever crossed this desk.

Jefferson Morley sets out to prove that James J. Angleton (seen in the below photo), the longtime — and controversial — head of counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency — was guilty of a medley of sins, including complicity in the murder of President Kennedy.

His “research” consists chiefly of sweeping up every bit of anti-Angleton dung he could in previous books. The more damning the allegation — and the more ridiculous — the better.

One must blink at some of Mr. Morley’s outlandish claims. An example: that Angleton had a homosexual relationship with Kim Philby (seen in the below photo), the British intelligence officer who also spied for the Soviet Union.

To be sure, the two men knew one another: Angleton was Philby’s liaison for CIA when the latter was assigned to Washington. They had many a chat over a bottle and lunch.

Mr. Morley’s evidence? A comment made by another officer to another author of another book. No substance is visible, just a suspicion. No matter; such is enough for the likes of a “historian” such as Mr. Morley.

To be sure, Philby’s treachery damaged Angleton. He spent his last years searching for “moles” in the CIA, an ill-guided effort that smeared many innocent people. He eventually was fired.

But Mr. Morley has little favorable to say about a career that began in the OSS and had a number of high spots. Brief mention is made of his acquisition of the famed “Stalin speech” in which successor Nikita Khrushchev shook communism to its core.

Why such a book? Mr. Morley is prominent in a claque of deniers who have spent decades trying to prove that someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald (seen in the below photo) killed Kennedy.

Their campaign even reaches the White House. Donald Trump’s intimate friend Roger Stone published a book in 2014 blaming Lyndon Johnson for the murder.

But the main target has been — and will be for eternity, it appears — the Central Intelligence Agency.

For the media, CIA is an easy target. Journalists love writing about “CIA murder plots” against foreign leaders, ignoring the fact that orders came from the White House.

Too, a deceased target can do nothing to rebut outlandish lies. For that matter, even living officers have trouble gaining redress from courts that hold them to be “public figures.”

Enter the deniers and their politics. A strong element among the deniers, like Mr. Morley, are on the far-left of the political spectrum. Hence, they are incapable of fingering a leftist for the most outrageous crime in American history.

Thus their need for a scapegoat, and the utility of Angleton. As Mr. Morley writes, carefully casting his accusation in the form of a question, “Was Angleton running Oswald as part of a plot to assassinate President Kennedy? He certainly had the knowledge and ability to do so.”

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Trump Can Repair The Damage From Obama's Narcoterror Fail

Jonathan Schancer at the New York Post offers a piece on how President Trump can repair the damage the Obama administration caused by derailing a major DEA operation so they could have their Iran nuclear deal.

The Obama White House systematically dismantled a top-secret government initiative called Project Cassandra, which was designed to target Hezbollah’s $1 billion in annual drug proceeds. The gripping story, by Politico’s Josh Meyer, lays bare the details of the Lebanese terrorist group’s cocaine and crime schemes, and suggests Obama allowed the activities to continue so as to not upset Iran, Hezbollah’s patron, amidst nuclear negotiations.

Put aside for a moment that Obama may have provided a glide path to a terror group’s drug activities so he could pursue a deeply flawed nuclear deal that only paused Iran’s march to the bomb, yet yielded this state sponsor of terrorism some $150 billion. We’re now faced with the urgent challenge of trying to rebuild a government bureaucracy that was gutted.

Here’s what needs to happen.

First, President Trump has yet to choose a new chief for the Drug Enforcement Administration. This is an urgent need. And as my colleague Emanuele Ottolenghi noted last month in The Hill, the new pick must appreciate “the growing convergence between transnational organized crime and terrorist groups like Hezbollah.”

Once the right person is in place, we need to revitalize the agency. Yes, that means more money and jumpstarting the interagency task force that fights narco-terrorism abroad.

But perhaps more important, we need to clarify the DEA’s mission. This crucial component of the bureaucracy needs to focus less on domestic gangs (let law enforcement do that) and get back to the business of fighting our drug wars abroad — where they can actually be won.

From there, the Treasury Department needs to swing into action. Hezbollah is already sanctioned under our terrorism program. But it must be named as a Transnational Criminal Organization and slapped with a Kingpin Act designation. This will give our economic-warfare fighters additional tools to target the group for its drug and other criminal enterprises.

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

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the DEA’s fight against narco terrorists, drug lords and death merchants via the below link:

The Secret Backstory Of How Obama Let Hezbollah Off The Hook: An ambitious U.S. Task Force Targeting Hezbollah's Billion-Dollar Criminal Enterprise Ran Headlong Into The White House's Desire For A Nuclear Deal With Iran.

Josh Meyer at POLITICO offers a piece on how the Obama administration killed a major DEA operation against the Hezbollah terrorist group, who are major drug traffickers, so Obama could get his Iran nuclear deal (and to his mind, his august place in history).

In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation.

The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.

Over the next eight years, agents working out of a top-secret DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, used wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.

They followed cocaine shipments, some from Latin America to West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East, and others through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. They tracked the river of dirty cash as it was laundered by, among other tactics, buying American used cars and shipping them to Africa. And with the help of some key cooperating witnesses, the agents traced the conspiracy, they believed, to the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.

They followed cocaine shipments, tracked a river of dirty cash, and traced what they believed to be the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.

But as Project Cassandra reached higher into the hierarchy of the conspiracy, Obama administration officials threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way, according to interviews with dozens of participants who in many cases spoke for the first time about events shrouded in secrecy, and a review of government documents and court records. When Project Cassandra leaders sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, officials at the Justice and Treasury departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.

The Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force. And the State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.

The money, allegedly laundered through the Lebanese Canadian Bank and two exchange houses, involved approximately 30 U.S. car buyers.

“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher

Veteran U.S. illicit finance expert sent from Pentagon to Project Cassandra to attack the alleged Hezbollah criminal enterprise., who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”

The untold story of Project Cassandra illustrates the immense difficulty in mapping and countering illicit networks in an age where global terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime have merged, but also the extent to which competing agendas among government agencies — and shifting priorities at the highest levels — can set back years of progress.

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

Threats Don't Take A Holiday: Many U.S. Troops Serving Overseas During The Holidays

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2017 — It’s the holidays, and millions of Americans are making their way to visit family and friends.

And many of those travelers are military personnel returning home from their duty stations.

But hundreds of thousands of military personnel will not be traveling. They will be continuing to protect the United States. And they are based around the globe.

Threats Don’t Take a Holiday

Many American service members must stay at their jobs because threats don’t take a holiday.

According to the most recent statistics available at the Defense Manpower Data Center, there about 1.3 million personnel on active duty, with about 476,000 in the Army; 323,000 Navy; 184,000 Marine Corps; 321,600 Air Force and 41,500 in the Coast Guard. There are 810,800 in the selected reserves.

Service members serve on all seven continents -- there is one service member in Antarctica -- and on all the seas. Military personnel in more than 170 countries.

There are about 13,000 troops from all service branches in Afghanistan. They are working to train and advise Afghan forces and supply the fires needed to help defeat the Taliban and terror groups.

There are 5,200 service members in Iraq and another 2,000 in Syria. They are working with Iraqi forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces to rid the region of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

There are roughly 28,000 service members in South Korea, deterring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Overall, there are more than 60,000 U.S. service members in the U.S. Central Command area of operations and aboard ships.

There are 710 U.S. troops in Kosovo.

Djibouti -- on the Horn of Africa -- hosts 3,100 American service members, and there are 505 service members in Niger.

There are 34,300 service members in Germany, 8,300 in the United Kingdom and 44,500 in Japan. Those troops’ presence reassures allies and deters competitors.

These are just some of where active duty personnel deployed this holiday season. They are joined by National Guard and Reserve personnel.

There are almost 20,000 National Guardsmen serving alongside their active duty brothers and sisters. They are operating far from their homes in some of the most dangerous areas on Earth.

Guardsmen are also helping their fellow citizens more directly with almost 5,000 battling wildfires in California or delivering supplies in Puerto Rico. And if the call comes on Christmas morning to help their fellow citizens, they will put down the coffee and put on the uniform.

From its the Navy has been an expeditionary force. Sailors will man their ships from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico. Navy officials maintain that roughly a third of the Navy is deployed at any one time. By that measurement, it means more than 100,000 sailors and Marines are afloat on Christmas.

Sailors are performing missions that cannot stop for the holidays. Christmas is just another day for sailors manning their posts aboard submarines with nuclear weapons. Sailors launching aircraft from the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf may have time for Christmas services.

The same holds true for Air Force missileers and airmen who will be in the silos, by the planes and in the command centers ensuring the nuclear system is ready if needed.

Monitoring Cyber, Space

U.S. Cyber Command personnel will monitor the cyber world for threats, and service members will scan space to ensure those assets are not threatened.

Even all these far-flung areas, service members will take time to remember the holidays. Dining facilities do their best to ensure every service member has a great holiday meal. Centers work overtime to help service members contact loved ones back home. At some places, there will be sporting matches and perhaps the troops may get a bit more rack time.

But this is the way it has always been. The military is always on duty and has been from Valley Forge in 1778 to Fredericksburg in 1862, from Bastogne in 1944 to Chosin in 1950, and from Linebacker 2 in 1972 to today.

The bottom line is the U.S. military stands guard so the world can know -- or hope for -- peace.

Note: In the above Air Force photo taken by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa, members of the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron participate in a white elephant gift exchange on Dec. 25, 2016 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.