Tuesday, October 31, 2017

'Goodfellas' Actor Ray Liotta Now Portraying KFC's Colonel Sanders

Have you seen Goodfellas actor Ray Liotta as Colonel Sanders in the latest KFC TV commercials?

Perhaps this goes with KFC's new Goodfellas customer service policy:

"Food not up fast enough? Fuck you, pay me. Wrong order? Fuck you, pay me. Think we're rude? Fuck you, pay me."

Goodfellas is one of my favorite crime films - the chicken is just OK.

You can read about Ray Liotta as the Colonel via the below link:

You can also watch Ray Liotta in the iconic "Fuck you, pay me," scene from Goodfellas via the below link:


Lenin: The Man, The Dictator, And The Master Of Terror

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Victor Sebestyen's Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror for the Washington Times.

Let not October pass by without proper notice of the 100th anniversary of one of the greater calamities of modern history: the seizure of control of Russia on Oct. 25, 1917, by what became the Communist Party.

As biographer Victor Sebestyen writes in his horrifying biography of Vladimir Lenin, under communism “millions of people were killed, jailed or sent into the great maw of the gulag.” The estimated body count, in Russia and the rest of the world, is in multi-digit territory.

Should we fret about communism now that the Soviet Union and its subsidiaries are defunct? Think again. Recent public opinions show that some 80 percent of Russians look with favor upon Joseph Stalin, Lenin’s successor as dictator. President Vladimir Putin recently spent millions restoring Lenin’s tomb in Moscow — an artifice that Mr. Sebestyen labels as “part shrine, part tourist trap.” Mr. Putin’s goal of “restoring Russia’s rightful grandeur” is frequently stated.

The Hungarian-born Mr. Sebestyen, a foreign correspondent for several London dailies, including the Times, the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard, traces Lenin’s origins as a member of the comfortable minor nobility. Born Vladimir Ulyanov, he was radicalized when an older brother was hanged for working against Czar Nicholas II.

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

Libyan National Charged With Federal Offenses In 2012 Attack On U.S. Special Mission And Annex In Benghazi

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

Mustafa al-Imam, a Libyan national approximately 46 years old, has been charged for his alleged participation in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans.

“The murder of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 was a barbaric crime that shocked the American people. We will never forget those we lost – Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Ambassador Christopher Stevens – four brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our nation," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  "We owe it to them and their families to bring their murderers to justice. Today the Department of Justice announces a major step forward in our ongoing investigation as Mustafa al-Imam is now in custody and will face justice in federal court for his role in the attack.  I am grateful to the FBI, our partners in the intelligence community and the Department of Defense who made this apprehension possible.  The United States will continue to investigate and identify all those who were involved in the attack – and we will hold them accountable for their crimes.”

“The apprehension of Mustafa al-Imam demonstrates our unwavering commitment to holding accountable all of those responsible for the murders of four brave Americans in a terrorist attack in Benghazi,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia.  “Together with our law enforcement partners, we will do all that we can to pursue justice against those who commit terrorist acts against the United States, no matter how far we must go and how long it takes.”

Mustafa al-Imam is charged in a recently unsealed three-count criminal complaint.  The complaint, which was filed under seal on May 19, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charges al-Imam with:

Killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm and dangerous weapon and attempting and conspiring to do the same.

Providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death.
Discharging, brandishing, using, carrying and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Al-Imam is in U.S. custody, and upon his arrival to the U.S. he will be presented before a federal judge in Washington, D.C.

Charges contained in criminal complaints are merely allegations that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s New York Field Office with substantial assistance from various other government agencies.  The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division of the U.S.  Department of Justice

Attorney General Jeff Sessions released the following statement regarding the arrest of Mustafa al-Imam for his role in the September 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya: 

 “The murder of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 was a barbaric crime that shocked the American people. We will never forget those we lost – Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Ambassador Christopher Stevens – four brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our nation.We owe it to them and their families to bring their murderers to justice. Today the Department of Justice announces a major step forward in our ongoing investigation as Mustafa al-Imam is now in custody and will face justice in federal court for his role in the attack.  I am grateful to the FBI, our partners in the intelligence community, and the Department of Defense who made this apprehension possible. The United States will continue to investigate and identify all those who were involved in the attack – and we will hold them accountable for their crimes.”

Monday, October 30, 2017

Social Security Administration Fraud Alert: Is That Phone Call From Us?

Jim Borland, the Social Security Administration’s Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications, offers the below information:

It’s the morning of a busy day at home and you get a call from an unknown number. You answer only to find yourself on the receiving end of a threatening message saying your Social Security benefits will stop immediately unless you provide your personal information. It happens every day to thousands of Americans.  And it’s not Social Security calling.

Scammers have many ways to lure their victims into providing information and then stealing their identities. Sometimes they call under a guise of helping you complete a disability application. Protecting your information is an important part of Social Security’s mission to secure today and tomorrow. Any request from our agency will come to you as a written notice first. If you do receive a call from one of our representatives, they will provide you with a telephone number and extension.

The Acting Inspector General for Social Security, Gail Stallworth Stone, urges everyone to stay vigilant of impersonation schemes and to not be afraid to hang up.

You must always remember that you’re in control. Also remember that Social Security will never do any of the following:

Call you to demand an immediate payment;

Demand that you pay a debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe;

Require a specific means of payment, such as requiring you to pay with a prepaid debit card;

Ask you for your personal information or credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or
Threaten you with arrest or deportation.

If you receive one of these scam calls or emails, do not provide them with any information. You should:

Hang up immediately;

For Social Security impersonations, contact Social Security’s Office of Inspector General at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

If you receive a notice from Social Security, please use the telephone numbers provided in the notice sent to you. You can also call 1-800-772-1213 or visit socialsecurity.gov for how to contact Social Security.

Remember that scammers try to stay a step ahead of the curve. You can do the same by protecting your information.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mob Talk 8: A Look Back At A Notorious Mob Hit, Caught On Tape By The FBI

Veteran organized crime reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser talk to a made South Philly mob guy and discuss a notorious mob hit on their Mob Talk video .

A Mob Talk exclusive:  A former wiseguy talks for the first time on YouTube about a gangland hit caught on video and audio tape by the FBI.  He takes mob experts George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser inside this bloody attempted hit gone bad that targeted a top ranking mobster.  What was the motive for the hit and who carried it out?  Find out from someone who was there in this new episode. Mob Talk has agreed to withhold the identity of the local wiseguy for security reasons.

You can watch the video via the below link:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Edgar Allan Poe, American Master: Denis O'Hare Embraces The 'Wicked' Side Of Horror Icon Poe

Robert Rorke at the New York Post offers an interview with actor Denis O’Hare, who portrays the late, great writer Edgar Allan Poe on Monday’s American Masters TV series.

On series such as “True Blood” and “American Horror Story,” actor Denis O’Hare has proven his affinity for roles with a Gothic feel. On Monday night’s “American Masters,” the Tony Award winner goes deeper than ever into that Gothic good night by interpreting the works of Edgar Allan Poe (1809 to 1849) — just in time for Halloween. The creator of the detective story and such spine-tinglers as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” Poe lived a life filled with reversals of fortune and doomed love affairs, yet he inspired many writers with his explorations of madness, fear and obsession.

O’Hare, 55, spoke to The Post from his home in Brooklyn.

Absolutely. He was such an iconic figure, with one of the great recognizable faces. I’m not sure anybody knew what the man sounded like. There are no recordings. We have descriptions of what his voice was like. Once I started reading his criticism, I said, “This guy is really smart and biting and wicked.” He had obsessions. He decided to go after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which makes no sense. He went after the pillars of society.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Edgar Allan Poe via the below link:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Navy's Decommissioned Aircraft Carrier Kitty Hawk To Be Dismantled

As a former sailor who served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War – 1970-1971 – I was hoping that the old warship would be turned into a museum celebrating her nearly 50 years of service.

But, sadly, USA Today reports that the U.S. Navy plans to dismantle the retired carrier.  

BREMERTON, Wash. — The fate of the former USS Kitty Hawk — a part of Bremerton's iconic waterfront of mothballed ships for more than eight years — has been determined.

The Kitty Hawk (CV 63) will be disposed of by dismantling, according to Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman Colleen O'Rourke.

O'Rourke cited an annual report to Congress that outlines the Navy's five-year shipbuilding plans. In this fiscal year's edition, released in April 2016, the Kitty Hawk was listed as one of the Navy's inactive ships slated for scrapping.

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

You can also read an earlier post on the USS Kitty Hawk via the below link:

And you can read about the USS Kitty Hawk's proud history via the below link: 

On This Day In History President Theodore Roosevelt Was Born

As History.com notes, President Theodore Roosevelt was born on this date in 1858.

Theodore Roosevelt, the future 26th president of the United States, is born in New York City. A dynamic and energetic politician, Theodore Roosevelt is credited with creating the modern presidency.

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

And if you want to learn more about President Roosevelt, I suggest Edmund Morris’ outstanding biography trilogy. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Marine General Joe Dunford: Chiefs of Defense Counter-ISIS Meeting ‘Historic’

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

FORT BELVOIR, Va., Oct. 25, 2017 — Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said the meeting here of more than 70 chiefs of defense at the Counter-Violent Extremist Organization Conference was a historic occasion.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hosted the meeting so the chiefs could chart the progress in the struggle against violent extremists and look at ways to improve the strategies in the long war against the terrorists.

Dunford; Brett McGurk, the president’s special envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS; and Australian Army Col. David Kelly, an exchange officer on assignment to the Joint Staff, spoke to the press following the conference.

During the meeting, the senior leaders from every part of the globe looked at the threats posed by extremist groups and examined strategies and tactics to combat them, the chairman said. The chiefs concluded “that we are dealing with a transregional threat and it is going to require more effective collective action by nations that are affected,” Dunford said.

Wide-Ranging Threat

He noted that in Iraq and Syria the coalition saw more than 40,000 foreign fighters from 120 different countries. The chairman added that figure describes the range of the threat in a nutshell.

The chiefs spoke mostly about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Dunford said, because they regard ISIS as the most virulent example of violent extremism in the world today. Still, he added, they envision the military network that has been built to combat ISIS will also deal with other transregional extremist threats as they arise.

The key takeaway from the conference is that “the most effective action against these groups is local action, but local action has to be informed by the nature of the trans-regional aspect and so cooperation globally is important,” the chairman said. But, he noted, global actions must be informed by local actions.


Violent extremists are connected by three things that Dunford calls the “connective tissue” of terrorism: foreign fighters, finances and the narrative. Cutting the connectivity between these groups is key to defeating them, the general said. Doing this will enable local forces to deal with the challenges posed by these groups, he said.

One example is the five-month battle for Marawi in the Philippines, which the chiefs were briefed about yesterday, Dunford said. About 30 foreign fighters returned to the Mindanao region after fighting with ISIS and persuaded local extremist groups to pledge to ISIS and launch attacks in the city. “Small numbers of ISIS leaders are attempting to leverage local insurgencies,” the chairman said.

The coalition is seeing something similar in Africa, he said, where a number of local insurgencies rebranded themselves and pledged allegiance to ISIS.

The chiefs discussed the movement of these individuals and the need for intelligence- and information-sharing within the coalition to stop them, Dunford said.

Global Effort, Global Approach

McGurk helps coordinate the whole-of-government approach to the campaign against violent extremism. He said the chiefs spoke a great deal during the meeting about all the efforts against ISIS, including the stabilization and humanitarian programs that are included in every military campaign. He also said foreign fighters trying to get into or out of Iraq and Syria has come to a near halt. “We believe we’ve cut their revenue down to the lowest level ever,” he said.

“Most interestingly today, we did a little walk around the globe, because it is not just about Iraq and Syria,” McGurk said. “We had very detailed presentations of operations against ISIS in Marawi, in the Sahel, we talked about how we are tracking foreign fighters around the world … and we had a very good presentation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia about the leading efforts that they have taken on to counter the narrative and leading the counter-messaging campaign in that part of the world.”

The chairman said the campaign against ISIS is at an “inflection point” and that all the chiefs discussed what’s next. “One of the points that was made several times today is the need for the coalition to stay focused on Iraq and Syria for an enduring period of time,” Dunford said.


Defeating the narrative of the terror groups is one of the toughest nuts to crack, he said, but progress is being made. “I’m not complacent, but I am encouraged by how the success on the ground in translated into undermining the credibility of the narrative,” the chairman said. “There have been some studies of young people who are radicalized and those numbers seem to go down. There are certainly indicators that fewer young people are being radicalized, and that’s as a result of us being able to demonstrate what ISIS is. They can only behead so many people and treat people they way they did in Mosul and Raqqa before those stories came out.”

The Saudi counter-ISIS messaging effort now has 41 nations involved. “Clearly, credible Islamic voices are going to be the ones that matter most in countering the narrative of ISIS, and countering it and discrediting it for what it is,” he said.

With 75 nations and entities such as NATO and the African Union Mission in Somalia, there are some who think the coalition is too big, Kelly said. But the coalition thrives on the diversity of views the coalition offers, he noted.

“What I bring to the Joint Staff, I feel, is a diversity of perspective,” the colonel said. “It’s that diversity of perspective that we are looking for in our planning. Can [the coalition] become too big? I don’t think so. I think the price of admission is wanting to be a part of solving the problem.”

The coalition is not a formal alliance, nor does any nation want it to be one, Dunford said. It all comes down to helping local and regional forces handle their security problems, and sharing information and intelligence to sever the connective tissue and defeat the narrative. “The bigger the coalition is, the better,” the chairman said. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Blue Lives Also Matter: Philadelphia Police Unveil Cars With Bulletproof Windows

The Philadelphia TV news station 6abc.com offers a piece on the new Philadelphia Police patrol cars equipped with bulletproof windows.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia police have 150 new patrol cars on the way with a feature that no other major municipality has: bulletproof windows.

The vehicles have ballistic shields affixed to the front door panels and what is dubbed 'transparent armor' backstops a large portion of the original equipment glass in the front windows.

It all makes this modified car resistant to pistol and shotgun ammunition.

"It is cutting edge in the sense that it provides protection for police officers seated in the vehicle from gunfire," said Commissioner Richard Ross.

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a video news clip via the below link:

Vice President Pence Says 1983 Marine Corp Barracks Bombing Was Opening Salvo In 'War On Terror'

The Daily Mail offers a piece on Vice President Pence’s comments about the Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983.

US Vice President Mike Pence described the 1983 bombing of a Marine Corps barracks in Beirut as the opening shots of the "war of terror" Monday, as he issued fresh warnings to Iran and Hezbollah.

Speaking during a ceremony at another building used to house Marines in Washington, Pence berated Tehran and framed the attack that killed 241 Americans as part of a series of outrages that included 9/11.

"Thirty-four years ago today, America was thrust into war with an enemy unlike any we had ever faced," said Pence -- who is the father and brother of US Marines.

"The Beirut barracks bombing was the opening salvo in a war that we have waged ever since -- the global war on terror," he said.

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

DHS, FBI Warn Companies Of Ongoing Cyber Attacks On Critical Infrastructure

Veteran national security reporter Bill Gertz offers a piece at Washington Free Beacon on the DHS and FBI public alert cyber attack warning issued to American companies.

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI issued rare public alert warning owners of U.S. critical infrastructure to battle an ongoing campaign of cyber attacks against their information and control networks.

Energy and industrial firms were notified Friday and again Saturday that sophisticated hackers are attempting to penetrate industrial control systems used by the electrical and nuclear power industry, as well as water, aviation, and manufacturing sectors.

"DHS assesses this activity as a multi-stage intrusion campaign by threat actors targeting low security and small networks to gain access and move laterally to networks of major, high value asset owners within the energy sector," the notice said.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Michael Vickers Honored By The OSS Society

Dan Boylan at the Washington Times offers a piece on Michael Vickers (seen in the above photo), former U.S. Army Special Forces enlisted man and officer, CIA officer and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, receiving the OSS Society’s Donovan Award

At the height of the Cold War, CIA agent Michael Vickers’ guerrilla war training included preparing to parachute into enemy territory with a small nuclear weapon strapped to his leg.

In the 1980s, he equipped rebel fighters in the Afghan mountains with stinger missiles to shoot down Russian helicopters. A decade later he helped dismantle al Qaeda and played a major role in the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

On Saturday night, all Mr. Vickers had to do was raise a martini glass.

He also held back a few tears, as the nation’s most prestigious association of clandestine services — The OSS Society — gathered to honor his distinguished career in addition to remembering thousands of their comrades who died in service to America.

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a World War II espionage unit, gave birth to America’s modern intelligence community and in its heyday deployed more than 13,000 operatives, a third of them women, including Hollywood actress Marlene Dietrich and chef Julia Child — in addition to four future CIA directors.

Considered Washington’s most secretive black tie affair, Saturday night’s OSS gala blended survivors of the unit sharing living history about death-defying missions, sobering moments about sacrifice at war and a raucous celebration of triumph and survival — replete with accompanying toasts.

Mr. Vickers won the society’s highest honor, the Donovan Award, named for OSS founder Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan (seen in the above photo) — joining past recipients, including the Earl Mountbatten of Myanmar, the astronauts of Apollo 11, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, President George H.W. Bush and multiple CIA directors.

The brains behind launching the OSS, Gen. Donovan is a legendary figure not only to the American intelligence community but among spies the world around. He nicknamed the unit “the glorious amateurs” and often described OSS personnel as performing “some of the bravest acts of the war.”

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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Gives Key Department Of Justice Task Force New Tools To Dismantle MS-13

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

Taking another step toward fulfilling President Trump’s goal of stamping out the brutal transnational criminal organization MS-13, Attorney General Jeff Sessions today formally designated the gang as a priority for the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (“OCDETF”).

Addressing the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Attorney General explained that the formal priority designation of MS-13 allows OCDETF to utilize an expanded toolkit in its efforts to dismantle the organization. This means that OCDETF should look to all laws in its investigative and prosecutorial efforts, including drug laws, gun laws, tax laws, RICO, and anything else that will cripple the gang. In his speech, the Attorney General said:

“But this work is not finished.  I am announcing today that I have designated MS-13 as a priority for our Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.  These task forces bring together a broad coalition of our federal prosecutors, DEA, FBI, ATF, ICE, HSI, the IRS, the Department of Labor Inspector General, the Postal Service Inspectors, the Secret Service, the Marshals Service, and the Coast Guard.  And they all have one mission: to go after drug criminals and traffickers at the highest levels.

"Now they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus.  I am announcing that I have authorized them to use every lawful tool to investigate MS-13—not just our drug laws, but everything from RICO to our tax laws to our firearms laws.  Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off of our streets.”

Note: I wrote a piece on MS-13 for Counterterrorism magazine. I’ll post it here when it comes out.

Defense Secretary Mattis In Philippines To Strengthen Ties With ASEAN, Discuss North Korea

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2017 — Strengthening ties with allies, increasing defense capabilities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and discussions about the threat of North Korea are among the topics Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will contend with on his trip to the region, he told reporters traveling with him yesterday.

The secretary arrived in the Philippines this morning Washington time. He laid out his agenda for the trip during an in-flight news conference.

Mattis will meet with Philippine officials before taking part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministerial set for Oct. 23-25. That meeting is at the former Clark Air Base.

“One of the first things I’m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists,” he told reporters. It was a very tough fight, as you know, in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines battled forces allied under the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Marawi. Coalition forces helped the Philippine troops with intelligence, advice and logistic support. While small pockets of terrorists remain, the government declared the city liberated Oct. 17.


The association has been in existence for almost 50 years and is a force promoting peace and stability in the region. It is a forum for the nations to discuss issues among themselves and hash out ways to cooperate that brings prosperity to the region, Mattis said. The meeting also marks 40 years of friendship and cooperation between ASEAN and the United States.

“ASEAN provides an international venue, giving voice to those who want relations between states to be based on respect, not on predatory economics or on the size of militaries,” he said. “ASEAN nations have demonstrated that they can listen to one another, they identify opportunities to increase defense cooperation for their own security and seek shared solutions to shared concerns. The U.S. remains unambiguously committed to supporting ASEAN.”

The secretary will take advantage of his time at the meeting to visit with his regional counterparts, he said. In addition to meeting Philippine counterparts, Mattis is scheduled to meet with representatives of Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

He will also hold trilateral talks with Japanese and South Korean defense officials.

North Korea

Mattis said the regional distubances created by North Korea will be on the agenda at ASEAN. He said will also emphasize the shared values the nations of the alliance have, the territorial sovereignty of the nations and the need for “freedom of navigation through historically international waters and fair and reciprocal trade.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mattis will lead the official U.S. delegation to the funeral of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016. The royal cremation rite ends the period of mourning for the country -- one of America’s treaty allies in the region. “He was understandably beloved by his people and a proponent of our strong Thailand-United States relationship,” the defense secretary said.

After the ASEAN meeting ends, Mattis will move on to Seoul, where he and South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo will co-chair the 49th annual Security Consultative Meeting. “There, we will underscore our ironclad commitment to each other,” Mattis said.

North Korea is a threat to the region and globally, defense officials have said. Two unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions have isolated the state from the rest of the world. The U.N. acted after North Korea detonated nuclear devices and flew an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan. During his meetings in South Korea, the secretary said he will discuss reinforcing diplomatic efforts to return to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

The defense leaders will also discuss “how we are going to maintain peace by keeping our militaries alert while our diplomats -- Japanese, South Korean and U.S. -- work with all nations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.

'Lost Kingdom: The Quest For Empire And The Making Of The Russian Nation' & 'Red Famine: Stalin's War On Ukraine'

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a review of Serhii Plokhy's Lost Kingdom and Anne Applebaum's Red Famine in the Washington Times.

In a European continent torn by incessant warfare over the centuries, Ukraine deserves sympathy for its most-abused-state status. As the real estate adage holds, “Location is everything.” And Ukraine has the misfortune to be snuggled against the southeast corner of Russia, historically its prime tormentor.

Two complementary books trace Ukraine’s travails, climaxing with Russia’s brutal seizure of a Ukraine that sought to become an independent nation after the 1991 collapse of communism and the USSR. Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decreed otherwise, and the Red Army crushed Ukrainian hopes for independence.

The Harvard historian Serhii Plokhy, the leading Western scholar on Ukraine, details Moscow’s historic insistence that Russia and its East Slavic neighbors occupy a joint historical space, and essentially comprise a single nation — despite strong language, cultural and religious differences.
Ukraine attempts to retain its independent, medieval Kyvian state over the centuries had off-again/on-again successes. At one point it was amalgamated into Poland.

In the 19th century Russian imperial authorities compromised (in a sense) by creating a tripartite nation composed of three tribes: Great Russian, Little Russian (Ukraine) and Belarusian. Russian revolutions in 1905 and 1917 destroyed the forced alliance, and Ukraine was independent again until the communists seized power after World War I. The “Lost Kingdom” of Mr. Plokhy’s title refers to its involuntary incorporation into the USSR.

Although the reborn-state received swift recognition from many European countries (plus the United States) Lenin moved to reclaim it for the new USSR in January 1918. But would the mostly-peasant regime mesh with the new communist regime? Karl Marx considered peasants “at best an ambivalent asset.” In an 1852 essay he had claimed they were not a class and hence had “no class consciousness”

Lenin was more pragmatic — and even more so because Ukraine had agricultural resources needed by the rest of the USSR. The area’s fertile land and mild climate permitted two grain crops annually, far more than the rest of Russia.

The first scheme was to convert private farms into collective agriculture, run by the state. Lenin put it directly in a 1922 message to colleague Vyascheslav Molotov: “We must teach these people a lesson right now, so that they will not even dare to think of resistance in coming decades.” The dreaded Cheka, the secret police, aided by the Red Army, slaughtered resistant rural leaders by the hundreds. But grain production was not enough to alleviate national shortages.

Thus Stalin and the ruling hierarchy in the early 1930s moved to a more draconian plan: to destroy what remained of Ukrainian culture and to seize the land for the state.

Segue here to Anne Applebaum’s gripping account of the grim years during which Moscow deliberately sought to starve Ukraine into submission. Ms. Applebaum won a Pulitzer Prize for an earlier book, “Gulag”, on the Soviet prison system. “Red Famine” relates a story that is perhaps more cruel, an account of the misery the Communists inflicted on an innocent populace.

The state-evoked famine that stretched over two decades is well-known in USSR history. The consensus of previous historians was that the primary reason for starvation was Stalin’s campaign for collective farms. But having gained access to Ukraine archives, Ms. Appelbaum relates an even more chilling story: that in its latter stages, the motive driving “land reform” was in fact the deliberate obliteration of the Ukrainian people.

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks At The Major Cities Chiefs Association 2017 Fall Meeting About Project Safe Neighborhoods And Other Initiatives To Reduce Violent Crime

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

Philadelphia, PA ~ Saturday, October 21, 2017:  Thank you Chief Manger, for that kind introduction.  And thank you for your 40 years of service in law enforcement. I know that the people of Montgomery and Fairfax Counties appreciate all that you’ve done for them.

Before I say anything else, I want to say thank you to Darrel Stephens, who is retiring as your Executive Director.  I’m told this is his last meeting.  Everyone please join me in a salute to Darrel for his lifetime of service to law enforcement.

On behalf of President Trump and the Department of Justice, I’m honored to be here with you all today—to be with the selfless and courageous men and women of law enforcement.  The President recognizes the importance of your work, and he is your strongest supporter.  He knows that your work is both noble, difficult and essential.

In many of your cities today, it’s getting even harder.

I want to talk about our situation today.

After 20 years of declining crime, the FBI’s annual crime report released three weeks ago reveals that for the last two years, the declines have been replaced by increases in violent crime.  These increases are the largest since 1991.  Even more troubling, the 2015 homicide rate increased 12 percent and in 2016 it went up another eight percent.  The 2015 increase was the highest since 1968 – a 20% increase in two years.

I strongly believe these trends are not a blip, and that if we do not act now and smartly, this nation could see a reversal of 40 years of  hard-won gains. The crime rate a few years ago had fallen to one half of 1980.

President Trump recognizes these threats to American families.  He ran for office—and he won—as a law-and-order candidate.  Now he is governing as a law-and-order president.

As soon as I was sworn in as Attorney General, he sent me an executive order to “reduce crime” in America.  We at the Department of Justice—and our state and local law enforcement partners—embrace that goal.

And, we in law enforcement know from experience that it can be done.  

That’s why, at the beginning of this month, after discussions with law enforcement across this country and our experts, I am pleased to discuss with you today – this group of law enforcement leaders – the Major Cities Chiefs Association –  something extremely important—a foundational strategy to reduce crime in America.  The Department of Justice is re-establishing a new and modernized Project Safe Neighborhoods—or PSN—program as our priority.  It will not be static but flexible and subject to change as experience and research dictates.

PSN is not just one policy idea among many.  This is the centerpiece of our crime reduction strategy.  There is great support for it among our experienced agents and prosecutors throughout the country—and importantly, our local partners.

As many of you know, this program began in 2001.  Based around a set of core principles, PSN encouraged U.S. Attorneys’ offices to work with the communities they serve to develop customized crime reduction strategies.

And it is a proven model.  One study showed that, in its first seven years, PSN reduced violent crime overall by 4.1 percent, with case studies showing reductions in certain areas of up to 42 percent.  That’s a remarkable achievement.  There are Americans who are alive and well today because this program made a difference.

Now, I know that there are other ideas out there.  But what we are talking about today is not just some theory.  We know that it works. Just like we know a well run community policing program works.

But why does it work?  I believe it works because of its emphasis on partnership with local communities, and because it has arisen from experience and sound research.

PSN is not a Washington-centered program.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  PSN simply provides a flexible framework that can be adapted to the situation on the ground in local communities like yours across the country.

Every city, and every district is facing a different set of circumstances and challenges.  For example, increases in violent crime are occurring disproportionately in certain areas.  According to one study, half of all homicides in this country occur in just two percent of our counties.

That’s why I have directed our U.S. Attorneys to do two things.  First of all, to target and prioritize prosecutions on the most violent people in the most violent areas.  And second, to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders—from the police chiefs in this room to mayors to community groups and victims’ advocates—in order to identify the needs specific to their communities and develop a violent crime reduction plan.  U.S. Attorneys can help ensure that all the right people are at the table, and coordinate our efforts so that we are working together toward the same goals.  And our U.S. Attorneys know that I am going to hold them accountable for that.

Forging new relationships with local prosecutors and building on existing relationships will ensure that the most violent offenders are prosecuted in the most appropriate jurisdiction.  But our goal is not to fill up the courts or fill up the prisons.  Our goal is not to manage crime or merely to punish crime.  Our goal is to reduce crime, just as President Trump directed us to do.  Our goal is to make every community safer—especially the most vulnerable.  PSN recognizes that we must partner with locally-based crime prevention and re-entry programs to do that.

While there is no quick fix, we must be open to policies that prevent crime and reduce recidivism.

Partnering with community leaders, and taking the time to listen to the people we serve really works.  I remember, when I was a U.S. Attorney, my office prosecuted a gang in Mobile.  When the case was over, community leaders asked for a community meeting to talk about how we could further improve the neighborhood.  At the meeting we split up into 10 subgroups.   State, county, and local officials listened to the people and we developed a practical plan based on the requests of the people living in the neighborhood.  It was a city, county, state, and federal partnership using existing resources, to fix the community.

And it worked.  I have never forgotten that work.  The result was a transformed community in a surprisingly short period of time.  Crime went down; home values went up; new houses were built; a police precinct was established.  I’ve been back to that neighborhood many times to see the progress.

I will say, however, that we have even more research, experience, and information to be effective today than we did back then.  The technologies and data available to us now far surpass what we’ve used in the past. Our police officers and police leaders are more professional and trained than ever before.

With these advantages we can make PSN even better than ever.

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein—a proud son of this city, by the way—will oversee implementation of these policy changes, and I could not be more confident in his leadership.  As the U.S. Attorney for the state of Maryland, he led the PSN program during its entire existence.  He knows it works and how to make it better.

An enhanced and expanded PSN will make better use of our resources. For example, we will be extending grant funding to implement the Crime Gun Intelligence Center model – which detects gunshots – to two new cities.  So far the Department has provided grant funding for it in Denver, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C..  Some of the people in this room—Chief Ed Flynn and Chief Charlie Beck—can tell you that it works.

Earlier this month I announced that we will extend funding to Kansas City and Phoenix.  Their police chiefs are here today: Chief Rick Smith and Chief Jeri Williams.  This grant funding will help you do your jobs—and you help us do our jobs.

And in the coming months, the Department will award more than $100 million in grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to hire more police officers.  We also intend to hire 230 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys in 2018 as a step toward our goal of eventually hiring a total of 300 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys.  These exceptional and talented prosecutors are key leaders in our crime fighting partnership.

With all of that in mind, the Department is asking Congress to invest in PSN.  The President’s fiscal year 2018 budget requested $70 million in locally-controlled grant funding to build on and expand the PSN initiative.

Our success, your success, in bringing down the crime rate for over two decades, and the promising success of PSN show us that there is hope.  Law enforcement officers—you and I—can make a difference.  With the right tactics and the right resources, we can reduce crime in this country.

And that’s what, together, we are determined to do so.

The Department of Justice will heed the President’s call. We will not concede a single block or street corner in the United States to lawlessness or crime.  The criminals, the gang members, and the drug traffickers should know:  we are coming after you—and we have better tools and are better coordinated than ever.

And so to everyone in this room, our friends and partners: thank you for your hard work to serve and protect this country.  It is truly a noble and high calling to work every day to ensure the safety and security of the people of this nation. You are on the front lines.

We are proud to stand with you.  God bless you all.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Fat Rat: George Anastasia Looks Back At The Life Of Criminal Ron Previte

Veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia looks back at the life of criminal Ron Previte for jerseymanmagazine.com.

They called him the Fat Rat, but he didn’t really care.

Ron Previte always knew who he was and what he had done. And he was okay with that, which made him unique in the underworld and immune to the slurs and epithets other wiseguys threw at him.

For him, it was a game and he always thought he knew how to play it better than they did.

It wasn’t about right or wrong, about morals or ethics. When it came to crime, he was totally amoral. He would smile and say he was a “general practitioner.” He did it all.

And becoming an informant, first for the New Jersey State Police, and then for the FBI, was part of his practice.

Previte died two months ago. He had been sick for over a year, battling various ailments that eventually led to a fatal heart attack. He was 73.

“What would you have bet that it would have been a heart attack that took him out?” an FBI agent asked at Previte’s memorial service. A dozen other law enforcement officials standing in the back of the funeral parlor down in Hammonton, NJ, that night nodded and smiled.

Nobody figured he would die of natural causes.

Ronnie Previte lived life on the edge and most people figured that he would die out there taking another chance, trying to make one more score.

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

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of George Anastasia’s book on Ron Previte, The Last Gangster, below:


Friday, October 20, 2017

Justice Department Announces First Ever Indictments Against Designated Chinese Manufacturers Of Deadly Fentanyl And Other Opiate Substances

The Drug Enforcement Administration released the below information:

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that federal grand juries in the Southern District of Mississippi and the District of North Dakota returned indictments, unsealed yesterday, against two Chinese nationals and their North American based traffickers and distributors for separate conspiracies to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues and other opiate substances in the United States.  

The Chinese nationals are the first manufacturers and distributors of fentanyl and other opiate substances to be designated as Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOTs). CPOT designations are those who have “command and control” elements of the most prolific international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

On Sept. 7, Xiaobing Yan, 40, of China, was indicted in the Southern District of Mississippi on two counts of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute multiple controlled substances, including fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, and seven counts of manufacturing and distributing the drugs in specific instances.  

Yan, a distributor of a multitude of illegal drugs, used different names and company identities over a period of at least six years and operated websites selling acetyl fentanyl and other deadly fentanyl analogues directly to U.S. customers in multiple cities across the country.  Yan also operated at least two chemical plants in China that were capable of producing ton quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.  Yan monitored legislation and law enforcement activities in the United States and China, modifying the chemical structure of the fentanyl analogues he produced to evade prosecution in the United States. 

Over the course of the investigation, federal agents identified more than 100 distributors of synthetic opioids involved with Yan’s manufacturing and distribution networks.  Federal investigations of the distributors are ongoing in 10 judicial districts, and investigators have traced illegal proceeds of the distribution network.  In addition, law enforcement agents intercepted packages mailed from Yan’s Internet pharmaceutical companies, seizing multiple kilograms of suspected acetyl fentanyl, potentially enough for thousands of lethal doses.

On Sept. 20, Jian Zhang, 38, of China, five Canadian citizens, two residents of Florida, and a resident of New Jersey were indicted in the District of North Dakota for conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in the United States, conspiracy to import the drugs from Canada and China, a money laundering conspiracy, an international money laundering conspiracy, and operation of a continuing criminal enterprise.  Zhang ran an organization that manufactured fentanyl in at least four known labs in China and advertised and sold fentanyl to U.S. customers over the Internet.  Zhang’s organization would send orders of fentanyl or other illicit drugs, or pill presses, stamps, or dies used to shape fentanyl into pills, to customers in the United States through the mail or international parcel delivery services.  Federal law enforcement agents determined that Zhang sent many thousands of these packages since January of 2013.

On Oct. 11, Elizabeth Ton, 26, and Anthony Gomes, 33, both of Davie, Florida were arrested. On Oct. 12, Darius Ghahary, 48, of Ramsey, New Jersey was arrested. Ton, Gomes, and Ghahary are charged with drug trafficking conspiracy in the Zhang indictment.

The investigations of Yan and Zhang revealed a new and disturbing facet of the opioid crisis in America:  fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are coming into the United States in numerous ways, including highly pure shipments of fentanyl from factories in China directly to U.S. customers who purchase it on the Internet.  Unwary or inexperienced users often have no idea that they are ingesting fentanyl until it is too late.  The Centers for Disease Control estimates that over 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in 2016, and the number is rising at an exponential rate.

Zhang was charged with conduct resulting in the deaths of four individuals in North Carolina, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Oregon in 2014 and 2015 and the serious bodily injuries related to five additional individuals.

These recent law enforcement efforts to keep fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from entering the United States were announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Acting Deputy Director Peter T. Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Assistant Commissioner Joanne Crampton of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

“Zhang and Yan are the first Chinese nationals designated as Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOTs),” said Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.  “CPOTs are among the most significant drug trafficking threats in the world. The defendants allegedly shipped massive quantities of deadly fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to communities throughout the United States, mostly purchased on the Internet and sent through the mail.  The chemicals allegedly killed and injured people in several states, and surely caused misery to many thousands of people.  Under the leadership of President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, we are taking back our communities by pursuing suppliers of deadly drugs wherever they are located.”

“Xiaobing Yan, Jian Zhang and their respective associates represent one of the most significant drug threats facing the country – overseas organized crime groups capable of producing nearly any synthetic drug imaginable, including fentanyl, and who attempt to hide their tracks with web-based sales, international shipments and cryptocurrency transactions,” said DEA Acting Administrator Patterson.  “At a time when overdose deaths are at catastrophic levels, one of DEA’s top priorities is the pursuit of criminal organizations distributing their poison to American neighborhoods. These indictments are a first step; our investigators remain relentless in their pursuit to dismantle these organizations and bring those responsible to justice. DEA, along with our global network of law enforcement partners, will go after these types of criminals wherever they operate.”

“This case began when local police officers responded to what has become an all-too familiar tragedy in the United States: the heroin and fentanyl overdose of two young adults, one who survived and another who did not,” said ICE Acting Deputy Director Edge. “Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Drug trafficking organizations that deal in such a deadly game will have to face the combined resources of federal law enforcement agencies and our international partners. ICE Homeland Security Investigations is committed to helping combat this new and growing epidemic.”

“We live in an increasingly global and interconnected world – crime has no borders,” said Assistant Commissioner Crampton. “Law enforcement must respond accordingly by working beyond our borders together to detect and disrupt criminal activity. By fostering a solid integrated and coordinated law enforcement approach, we will continue to disrupt international drug trafficking networks.”

The cases against Yan and Zhang are being investigated by the DEA, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the RCMP.  Valuable investigative assistance has also been provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Ministry of Public Security of China.  The case against Yan is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Meynardie in the Southern District of Mississippi.  The case against Zhang is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Chris Myers and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin in the District of North Dakota, along with Trial Attorney Adrienne Rose of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section.  Substantial prosecutorial assistance has been provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Oregon and the Quebec office of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

Both of the indictments announced today are the result of coordinated, multi-agency, multi-national investigations conducted by agents and investigators of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), and were further supported with national and international coordination led by the multi-agency Special Operations Division (SOD).  The OCDETF Program is a partnership between federal, state, local, and international law enforcement agencies. The OCDETF mission is to target the most serious transnational organized crime threats facing the United States, including drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering.  Prior to the announcement of these indictments, Jian Zhang and Xiaobing Yan were designated as OCDETF Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOTs), and are considered by the United States as some of the most significant drug trafficking threats in the world.

If convicted, Yan faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and three years of supervised release. Zhang faces up to life in prison and $12.5 million in fines. Any sentences will be determined at the discretion of the district courts after considering any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Twenty-one individuals in total have been indicted on federal drug charges in both North Dakota and Oregon as part of the investigation.