Sunday, March 31, 2024

Celebrating Easter: A Look Back At Mel Gibson's 'The Passion Of The Christ'

This Easter, as we have in the past, my wife and I will again watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ after we come home from a family dinner. 

In 2004 I wrote a column about the great film for The Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine, where my Crime Beat column and my crime fiction appeared.

You can read the column below:

Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ 

I recently saw Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The film is powerful. I can't think of another film that has so touched me.

Gibson's film, based on the Gospels and history, also offers Gibson's artistic symbolism.

Biblical movies were a part of my growing up in the 1950s and the 1960s, along with westerns, comedies, horror and crime films. I was raised Catholic and the Biblical films, from Ben-Hur to The Greatest Story Ever Told, provided me with far better depictions of my religion than the dry readings I was taught at Catechism.

Later in life, I also very much liked the Franco Zefferilli's TV mini-series Jesus of Nazareth.

Over the years, I've read theology, philosophy, history, novels, and the original source material - The Bible. But the old movies left an indelible mark on my mind and my soul. Film is a powerful medium and Gibson's film will no doubt be with me all of my life.

As widely reported, Gibson sunk $25 million of his own money into his pet project, the portrayal of the last hours of Jesus. Gibson said he wanted to realistically show the brutal torture and murder of Jesus Christ. With the bloody violence, dialogue spoken in the original languages of Latin and Aramaic with subtitles, Gibson took a huge chance on this film.

His gamble - or, one might say, his faith - appears to have paid off. 

The film, which no one in Hollywood originally wanted to touch, was number one at the box office for three weeks running. To date, the film has made $315 million and with Good Friday and Easter coming up, the film is expected to earn much more. The film is expected to become one of the highest grossing films ever.

"This is a story about love, hope, faith and forgiveness," Gibson told reporters. "Jesus died for all mankind, suffered for all of us. It’s time to get back to that basic message."

Adding that he thought the world was going "nuts," Gibson noted that we could all use a little more love, faith and forgiveness. In a time of lessening morals, family ties and personal responsibility, as well as suicidal mass murderers acting in the name of God, I'm inclined to agree with Gibson.

Despite the strong public approval via the box office, there has also been much criticism and controversy surrounding the film, from cries of anti-Semitism to his use of graphic violence. The film is indeed violent, but I didn't see anti-Semitism in the film.

In the film we see Caiaphas and the other Jewish leaders judging Jesus and then taking him to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate, as we all know from the Gospels, washed his hands before the Jews and then had Jesus crucified. But Gibson also depicts sympathetic Jews, like Simon and Veronica who came to Jesus's aid. And of course, Mary and Jesus himself were Jews.

As Gibson told ABC News' Diane Sawyer, there were no Norwegians in evidence during Jesus' crucifixion, only Jews and Romans. He also disagreed with the assessment that his film will incite anti-Semitism. After viewing Shindler's List, Gibson told Sawyer, he didn't go out and beat up Germans.

Mankind, Gibson told Sawyer, killed Christ.

The film is truly violent, but I think the violence was necessary. Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus was "scourged" with a particularly nasty weapon called a flagellum, which is a whip with leather throngs holding pieces of metal and bone. In many cases, I've read, the victim died from the scourging and never made it to the crucifixion.

Gibson's film shows us Jesus' strength, authority, and grace. I particularly like the way Gibson portrays Jesus' confrontation with Satan at Gethsemane. Satan, as many critics have noted, resembles the bald, female Irish singer Sinad O'Conner, and he appears on the sidelines throughout the film. 

"The Prince of Darkness," Gibson suggests, is always close at hand.

After praying on his knees for guidance and strength, Jesus stands and forcefully stomps the symbolically evil snake that Satan had released from his cloak. Jesus is no meek hippie in this film.

Jesus also stood strong and dignified when facing the powerful Roman governor. Beaten, bound and bleeding, Jesus tells Pilate, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."

Jesus changed the course of history. 

Michael Grant, the author of The Twelve Caesars and History of Rome, wrote that millions of men and women have found Jesus' life and teaching overwhelmingly significant and moving.

"The most potent figure, not only in the history of religion, but in world history as a whole, is Jesus Christ: the maker of one of the few revolutions which has lasted," Michael Grant wrote in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels

"His was the most dramatic life ever lived."

Gibson, the director and star of Braveheart, gave us a superb film about Jesus. The Passion of the Christ is a fitting film for our age, I think. With terrorism and crime on the rise worldwide, I believe we need to see, hear, and feel how Jesus suffered and died for our sins.

Widely reported in the press was the case of a couple that fought with each other after seeing Gibson's film. Stating that it was the dumbest thing they've ever done, a Georgia couple admitted that they argued and fought over a theological issue and ended up stabbing and assaulting each other.

The deputy sheriff who arrested the couple told reporters that he thought the couple missed the point of the film.

Millions of us did not.  

Note: Mel Gibson is reportedly making The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection, a sequel to the 2004 film, with Jim Caviezel reprising his role as Jesus. It aims to continue the narrative and explore the three days between Jesus's death and resurrection.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Man Pleads Guilty To Selling $3.5M In Counterfeit And Deficient Electronics For Use In Military Systems

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

A California man pleaded guilty yesterday to a scheme to defraud the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) by selling over $3.5 million worth of fan assemblies to the DLA that were either counterfeit or misrepresented to be new.

“The defendant sold counterfeit and deficient fan assemblies for use in military systems to increase his profit,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Criminals who cheat the U.S. military by selling deficient or counterfeit goods put our national security at risk. This case demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the military supply chain and Americans’ security.”

“Through his company, Kim delivered counterfeit products to our armed services and tried to pass off non-conforming products with fake invoices,” said U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey for the Northern District of California. “Swindling our military is a sure way to find oneself in jail. This office is always on the lookout for fraudsters and will prosecute anyone caught cheating our military by providing products that endanger our service people or compromise our readiness.”

According to court documents, Steve H.S. Kim, 63, of Alameda County, controlled Company A, which sold fan assemblies to the DLA that were either counterfeit or were used or surplus fan assemblies that he claimed were new. To trick the DLA into accepting the fan assemblies, Kim created counterfeit labels — some of which used Company B’s registered trademarks — that he attached to the fan assemblies he sold to the DLA. When the DLA questioned Kim about the origin of the fan assemblies, Kim concealed his scheme by giving the DLA fake tracing documents that he created and often signed using a false identity. Some of these counterfeit fans were installed or intended to be installed with electrical components on a nuclear submarine, a laser system on an aircraft, and a surface-to-air missile system.

“The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), the law enforcement arm of the DoD Office of Inspector General, is fully committed to protecting the integrity of the DoD supply chain,” said Special Agent in Charge Bryan D. Denny of the DCIS Western Field Office. “Supplying counterfeit products to the DoD endangers the mission and betrays the public’s trust. This investigation demonstrates DCIS’ ongoing commitment to working with its law enforcement partners to hold individuals who defraud the DoD accountable.”

“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and our law enforcement partners work diligently to thwart attempts to infiltrate the DoD supply chain with potentially damaging counterfeit product,” said Special Agent in Charge Greg Gross of the NCIS Economic Crimes Field Office. “This case highlights the efforts of the investigative team to expeditiously shut down such a scheme and prevent possible grievous harm to our ability to conduct effective combat operations.”

“This case reflects Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) core mission set of investigating national security threats as well as protecting global trade and government supply chains,” said Special Agent in Charge Tatum King of HSI San Francisco. “In this case, the serious risks posed to mission readiness were especially alarming. HSI appreciates the joint efforts of NCIS, DCIS, and the Army Criminal Investigation Division (Army CID), together with the Justice Department, in bringing the violator to justice.”

“The result of this joint investigation underscores the importance of our federal law enforcement partnerships and shows that by working together we can identify, prosecute, and dismantle businesses that supply the U.S. military with fraudulent parts and services,” said Special Agent in Charge Keith K. Kelly of the Army CID Fraud Field Office. “Our Army communities and the public can rest assured that we are committed to pursuing anyone that would defraud the U.S. government for their own personal gain and put combat readiness at risk.”

Kim pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 17 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud count and 10 years in prison on the trafficking in counterfeit goods count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

DCIS, NCIS, HSI, and Army CID are investigating the case.

Assistant Chief Kyle C. Hankey and Trial Attorneys Louis Manzo and David D. Hamstra of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Lloyd-Lovett for the Northern District of California are prosecuting the case. Assistant Deputy Chief Adrienne Rose and Senior Counsels Jason Gull and Matthew A. Lamberti of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section provided substantial assistance with the investigation. 

Friday, March 29, 2024

National Vietnam War Veterans Day 2024

Today, on National Vietnam War Veterans Day, I’m thinking of my late older brother Eddie Davis (seen in the below photo). He served in the U.S. Army at Chu Lai, South Vietnam in 1968-1969.

I served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk on “Yankee Station” off the coast of North Vietnam in 1970-1971.

National Vietnam War Veterans Day is annually observed on March 29. It commemorates the hardships suffered and sacrifices made by nine million Americans during the Vietnam War. However, the holiday does not only honor the former soldiers but also their families who supported them before and after the war.

I salute all Vietnam Veterans.

Back in 2017, I wrote a piece on the Vietnam War for the Washington Times

You can read my Washington Times piece via the below link or the below text:

Vietnam War helped U.S. win the Cold War - Washington Times 

South Vietnam fell to the Communist North in 1975, but the war is in the news again due to Mark Bowden's book, Hue 1968" and the Ken Burns PBS series "The Vietnam War."

Mr. Bowden’s book is an outstanding work of reportage and storytelling, untainted by his personal anti-war views, which he only discloses in the book’s epilogue.


Alas, not so the TV series. We see John Kerry beginning his political career by telling Congress Vietnam atrocity stories. Mr. Kerry’s tales were later discredited by others who were present, but this was not covered in the series. Also absent from the series were gung-ho Vietnam veterans like Oliver North and James Webb, a Marine Vietnam veteran and author of perhaps the best novel on the war, “Fields of Fire.”


The series offered the views of former North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers and both American anti-war protesters and Vietnam veterans. But one later discovers in the series that the Vietnam veterans most prominently featured all went on to became members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and anti-war protesters.


As only a very small percentage of Vietnam veterans joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, this selected roster of talking heads appears to have been calculated to stack the deck in favor of the anti-war narrative.


If one is looking for another view of the Vietnam War, one should read Philip Jennings’ “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War.”  

A while back I spoke to Mr. Jennings, a Marine who flew helicopters in Vietnam.

My Extended Q&A With Richard Snow, The Author Of 'Sailing The Graveyard Sea: The Deadly Voyage Of The Somers, The U.S. Navy's Only Mutiny, And The Trial That Gripped The Nation'

In my previous post, I offered a link to my Washington Times On Crime column on Richard Snow’s Sailing the Graveyard Sea, the true story of the U.S. Navy's only mutiny. 

You can read the column via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: Sailing the Graveyard Sea: My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column On The Deadly Voyage Of the Somers, The U.S. Navy’s Only Mutiny, And The Trial That Gripped A Nation,

As I noted in my column, having served as a teenage U.S. Navy sailor on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, the mutiny interested me, as did the vivid descriptions of shipboard life in the U.S. Navy in the 19th century. 

I especially liked that Mr. Snow quoted extensively from the late, great writer Herman Melville and other former U.S. Navy sailors who served during that timeframe.   

Below is an extension of my Q&A with Richard Snow (seen in the below photo).

Q: How did you research the book? 

A: "Almost as soon as I started in, my heart sank because I immediately encountered two sources whose value, I was too stupid to spot quickly. The first came from Captain Mackenzie himself. It turned out he had written in the 1830s a highly popular book about his travels in Spain. The Navy has long been a bit suspicious of seafaring authors unless their subjects are gunnery or tidal charts, but two centuries ago the service was proud enough of Mackenzie’s success to order copies of his Spain book put aboard every U.S. warshipWell, good for Mackenzie. But this didn’t make me any more eager to read a three-volume (!) collection of archaic travel reminiscences. And, by God, once he’d finished with Spain the captain had sat down and given England the same treatment. It took me a while to realize what a singular stroke of luck this was for me. So much that happened aboard the Somers on her lethal cruise flowed from the captain, and here I was studying a long-dead, mid-level naval officer who had bequeathed me hundreds of pages of first-person narrative from which to tease clues about his character and personality. No other naval officer in that era ever supplied so many written clues about himself.

"I was at first equally opaque about the value of another crucial source, and here my reluctance came from simple peevishness about having to read tiny type. But that was all there was on offer in the pages of the transcripts of the court of inquiry and the court-martial. At least it did not take me long to realize that for the small price of having to squint I was able to eavesdrop on what people actually said. Any newspaper of the 1840s, in reporting a harsh conversation, would run something like “he rounded on his adversary with an oath…” In a trial transcript, he will call him” a son of a bitch.” The language lives on the page. Despite their minuscule type, these transcripts were a godsend, their energetic question-and-answer format helping to lend momentum to the narrative. I thought it was a nineteenth century phrase that reflected the many mortal perils the sea always has on offer—a little like Rudyard Kipling’s quatrain in which each ocean waves is, in effect, a gravestone: We have fed our sea for a thousand years/ And she calls us, still unfed,/ Though there's never a wave of all her waves/ But marks our English dead. It was only later that I realized the phrase had nothing to do with the nineteenth century at all."

Q: In your view, should Spenser and the other two men have been hanged at sea?  Should they have been court-martialed in port?  

A: "Opinion was divided in 1842, and it remains so today. But I finished the book believing that the mutiny—if mutiny it was—could have been contained until the Somers made port. Many of Captain Mackenzie’s actions remain baffling to me. Naturally I speculate on their causes—and I do think the hangings were unnecessary—but in the end I find myself thinking of something lieutenant Gansevoort’s cousin Herman Melville wrote. He gave his book White-Jacket the subtitle The World in a Man-of-War. He meant just that: a ship is its own world, carrying with it always the idiosyncrasies and unknowable corners and reckless passions of the world itself.

“Outwardly regarded,” he writes, ‘our craft is a lie; for all that is outwardly seen of it is the clean-swept deck, and oft-painted planks comprised above the waterline; whereas, the vast mass of our fabric, with all its store-rooms of secrets, forever slides along far under the surface.”

Q: Why was the court martial covered widely in the newspapers of the day?

A: "When the news first broke, Horace Greeley, editor of the New-York Tribune, asked: “…How many hundreds of worthy men would have been murdered in cold blood—how any women would have been devoted to a fate infinitely more horrible than the most cruel death that the hellish ingenuity of devils could devise?” 

"Greely was excitable, but he wasn’t a fantasist. To the New York of the 1840s, a town whose life was nourished by the sea, pirates were not the chummy rascals one can visit today in a Disney Park: they were remembered as well-armed, well-trained bands of assassins that specialized in arson, maiming, plunder, murder, and rape."

Q: How much did Mackenzie being a famous author and Spenser being the son of the Secretary of War impact the proceedings?

A: "If Mackenzie had merely hanged two ordinary seamen, he likely would have remained a naval hero. There the matter might have rested, had not a letter appeared a few days later in a Washington, D.C. newspaper. Captain Mackenzie’s first published account of the events had his ship simmering on the verge of combustion, with every passing day bringing the crisis closer, until, at the last possible hour, he destroyed the mutinous beast. The new letter told a different story: Spencer, the accused head of the plot, had been in double irons at the time of the executions, so closely confined that he couldn’t have stood upright, let alone lead an uprising; that the ship had been cruising in perfect peace for days through the densely-populated Virgin Islands whence help could have been summoned in a few hours if needed; that there had been no disturbances among the crew when the three mutineers were noosed and hanged.

"The letter’s tone was crisp and calm throughout, never suggesting the writer had any personal connection with the events it detailed. Save for one sad hint: of Philip Spencer the writer says that the paper gave his age as “over twenty. Had he lived, he would have been nineteen on the twenty-eighth of January next. “The letter was signed only with a cryptic initial “S” but the identity of its author soon got out: He was John Spencer, one of the most powerful legal minds of his day and President John Tyler’s secretary of war; Philip Spencer was his dead son. 

"No chance now that the story would soon blow over; rather, as the great naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison remarked, “No case of the century, prior to the assassination of President Lincoln, aroused as much interest and passion.” 

Sailing the Graveyard Sea: My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column On The Deadly Voyage Of the Somers, The U.S. Navy’s Only Mutiny, And The Trial That Gripped A Nation,

 The Washington Times ran my On Crime column on Richard Snow’s Sailing the Graveyard Sea, the true story of the U.S. Navy's only mutiny.  

You can read the column via the below link or the below text:

BOOK REVIEW: 'Sailing the Graveyard Sea' - Washington Times 

Sailing the Graveyard Sea: The Deadly Voyage of the Somers, the U.S. Navy’s Only Mutiny, and the Trial That Gripped a Nation.

By Paul Davis - - Thursday, March 28, 2024

Richard Snow, a former editor-in-chief of American Heritage magazine and a consultant on historical motion pictures, has written a fascinating book about a mutiny aboard a U.S. Navy ship in 1842. 

Having served as a teenage U.S. Navy sailor on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, the mutiny interested me, as did the vivid descriptions of shipboard life in the U.S. Navy in the 19th century. 

I reached out to Richard Snow and asked him how he would describe the book. 

“’Sailing the Graveyard Sea’ is a murder mystery, a sea story, a courtroom drama, and an account of the only mutiny in the history of the U.S. Navy,” Mr. Snow replied. “On December 16, 1842, the U.S. brig-of-war Somers dropped anchor in Brooklyn Harbor at the end of a cruise meant to teach many adolescents the rudiments of naval life. This seemingly harmless exercise ended in catastrophe. Commander Alexander Slidell Mackenzie came ashore saying he had narrowly prevented a mutiny that would have left him and his officers dead. Some of the thwarted mutineers were being held under guard, but three had been hanged: Boatswain’s Mate Samuel Cromwell, Seaman Elisha Small, and Acting Midshipman Philip Spencer. 

“What made the story the press sensation of the decade was that Midshipman Spencer’s father was the secretary of war. John Spencer’s boy, Mackenzie said, had been the ringleader who seduced the crew into planning to seize the ship and become pirates, raping and pillaging their way across the old Spanish Main. Philip Spencer was an 18-year-old malcontent fascinated by pirates—there was no doubt of that. But as more of the story leaked out, it became clear the drumhead trial that condemned the three men had no legal basis, that perhaps nothing like a mutiny had really occurred, and that the ship might have been seized by a strange, creeping hysteria that ended in the blood sacrifice of three innocents.” 

Q: How would you describe the USS Somers? 

A: “Beautiful. One of the very last ships built for the U.S. Navy before steam power came in, she represented the culmination of a thousand years of maritime evolution. But she was small—only 100 feet from stem to stern and twenty-five feet at her waist’s thickest. Designed for a complement of 90 men, with all her schoolboys packed aboard, she would sail with 120.” 

Q: How would you describe the accused mutiny? 

A: “A couple of months into the voyage, Philip Spencer waylaid the ship’s assistant purser, James Wales, swore him to secrecy, and, with the two crouched in one of the few corners of privacy the small brig afforded, said that Spencer and his confederates would seize the ship, swing the guns inboard to cover the decks, butcher the officers, and lead those crewmen who had been allowed to keep their lives into a paradise of looted treasure and fragrant tropical isles. He would make Wales one of his officers. 

“Then, as soon as he could get away, Wales hurried to tell the first lieutenant, Guert Gansevoort (all American literature is in this officer’s debt, as he persuaded his cousin Herman Melville to go to sea). Of course, Gansevoort immediately reported the plot to Captain Mackenzie.” 

Q: How would you describe the accused mutineer, Philip Spenser? 

A: “Mutineer or not, Spencer was a difficult fellow, moody, slyly insolent, surly to his fellow officers but overly gregarious with the crew. His academic life had been lethargic enough for his father to send him to sea. Pirates and piracy had long fascinated Philip Spencer. The hobby cost him his life.” 

Q: How would you describe Captain Alexander Slidell Mackenzie? 

A: “Captain Mackenzie was patriotic; his books swarm with tributes to the American flag; he was energetic and observant; he was unfailingly moralistic; he was utterly without a sense of humor. There is little in his writing from which a reader might predict the catastrophe to come when he took Philip Spencer aboard. Yet here and there, he shows a relish for violence that approaches the prurient.” 

Richard Snow does a fine job of describing the atmosphere, suspense and controversy surrounding the mutiny inquiry and Captain Mackenzie’s court-martial. 

• Paul Davis’ On Crime column covers true crime, crime fiction and thrillers. 

By Richard Snow.

Scribner, 304 Pages, $29.00

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Discussing Crime On Dawn Stensland's Philadelphia Talk Radio WPHT 1210 Program

I appeared as a guest today on Dawn Stensland’s WPHT Talk Radio 1210 program in Philadelphia. 

I was invited on the popular talk show to discuss two of my most recent Broad + Liberty pieces. 

The first piece was about the major open-air drug market in Kensington and my interview with a veteran Philadelphia narcotics officer.

And the second piece was about the drug addicts, drug dealers, aggressive homeless and assorted shady characters on Broad and Snyder in South Philly. 

In that piece, I interviewed a local woman who works at Broad and McKean and retired Philadelphia Police Sergeant Gary Capuano.      

You can listen to the radio program via the below link:

You can read my two Broad & Liberty pieces via the below links:

Paul Davis On Crime: The Kensington Initiative: A Veteran Narcotics Officer On Combating The Kensington Open-Air Drug Market. 

Paul Davis On Crime: South Philly's Broad & Snyder Drug Addicts, Aggressive Homeless and Assorted Shady Characters 

Tugboats Left Before Ship Reached Baltimore Bridge. They Might Have Saved It.

As I watched the film of the container ship crash into the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore Harbor yesterday, I asked myself one question. 

Where are the tugs?

I served on a U.S. Navy harbor tugboat at the American nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland in 1974-1975. 

Our tug, the USS Saugus (seen in the bottom photos), escorted submarines and surface ships in and out of the Loch. We sailed alongside the ships and were prepared to push and pull the subs and ships to safety in the event that they lost navigational power. 

Tugboats also perform this function in harbors around the world.

Emily Coz and Trevor Hughes at USA Today offer a piece on the Baltimore tugboats. 

As investigators work to determine what caused the hulking Dali container ship to topple Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key bridge in a matter of seconds on Tuesday, maritime experts around the country are pointing to what could have stopped it.


These small but mighty vessels tow and push ever-larger ships through channels and help them where their own propulsion systems – or lack thereof – cannot. They are standard equipment in ports worldwide and especially useful to help ships with docking and undocking.

On Tuesday, a pair of tugboats operated by McAllister Towing and Transportation did just that, helping the Dali unmoor itself from the main terminal at the Port of Baltimore and orient the ship toward the open waters.

But they broke away before the massive ship navigation under the bridge, as is common practice. Minutes later, the Dali appeared to lose power and propulsion, sending the craft adrift and directly into one of the bridge’s support columns. The steel-truss bridge immediately collapsed into the frigid Patapsco River.

The accident is igniting debate over the proliferation of “megaships” that fuel today’s commercial transportation industry and whether port protocols have ramped up to safely accommodate them. Although the Dali is average-sized compared to many of these behemoths, the devastation it caused in Baltimore was formidable.

Had the tugboats accompanied the ship all the way under the bridge, some experts said, they might have been able to stop, slow or steer it away from danger.

Such a scenario should be standard operating procedure in all ports, said Capt. Ashok Pandey, a master mariner and associate professor of maritime business at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. But he said the industry’s reliance on tugs has waned over the years as technological advancements gave many ships the ability to maneuver through channels independently.

Technology is great, Pandey said, until it fails.

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

Tugboats left before ship reached Baltimore bridge. They might have saved it. (

My Crime Beat Column: Take Steps To Avoid The Violent Crime Of Carjacking

Carjacking is on the rise in Philadelphia and across the country, often with deadly results.

Back in 2010, I wrote a Crime Beat column on carjacking for small business owners, but the information and crime prevention tips apply to all, and still apply today.

You can read my column below:

Carjacking is a crime that can end not only in the destruction of property, but also injury or loss of life. Here are things you can do to protect yourself from would-be carjackers.

For many small business owners, a car is as essential a tool as a computer.

In past columns, I’ve covered how car thieves can strip a parked car of its parts in less than five minutes, and I interviewed a police captain about thieves who break into parked cars and steal valuables.

In this column, I’d like to cover carjacking, which is a far greater crime as it involves an armed criminal and often the victim is terrorized, hurt or killed.

One story that illustrates the violent nature of carjacking occurred on Galveston Island in Texas last week. According to reports of the incident, a woman was sitting in the passenger side of an idling car when a man armed with an ax stepped into the driver’s seat and took off. The man would not let the woman out of the car, and he threatened to kill her with the ax.

This story might have ended in tragedy had the carjacker not crashed into another car. As a result of the crash, the carjacker was trapped in the car. Local firefighters pulled the man out. Local police officers arrested him. The woman was unharmed.

In Atlantic City back in May, another victim of carjacking was not so fortunate.

The family of Martin Caballero, 47, pleaded with the public to help find their loved one after Caballero disappeared on May 21st from the Trump Taj Mahal casino parking lot just minutes just minutes after arriving. He traveled to Atlantic City to help celebrate his daughter’s birthday.

According to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office on June 3rd, Jessica Kisby, 24, and Craig Arno, 44, were charged with murder after a body discovered in a farmer’s field was identified as Caballero. According to the Atlantic County Medical Examiner, the cause of death was multiple stab wounds to the chest.

A day earlier the Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel charged Kisby and Arno with the carjacking and kidnapping of Caballero. Housel stated he believed the victim did not know his attackers. The carjacking was a random crime.

Police officers and security experts say carjacking is preventable if one stays alert to their surroundings and follows the below security steps:

  • When stopped for a traffic light or other reasons, carefully observe what is happening around your car, via your side and rearview mirrors. Keep your windows up and doors locked.
  • Keep your purse, laptop, and other valuables out of view while driving.
  • Drive in the center lane to avoid being pushed over to the shoulder.
  • Don’t stop at isolated cash machines or other isolated areas.
  • Don’t stop to help a disabled motorist or pedestrian. Stay in your locked car and offer to call a service station or the police from your cell phone.
  • Don’t open your window for someone approaching your car asking for directions or trying to sell you something.
  • Don’t park your car in an isolated area.
  • If you are pulled over by someone in an unmarked car who claims to be a police officer, stay in your locked car and call 911 on your cell phone. Tell the person you are calling 911 to confirm they are in fact a police officer. If the person is truly a police officer, he won’t have a problem with your actions, and if he is not a police officer, he will take off to avoid arrest.
  • If you can’t drive away from a bad situation, stay in your locked car and yell and honk your horn repeatedly. Criminals don’t like noise and they tend to run away to avoid attention.
  • Below are some of the most common carjacking scenarios:
  • When the victim is stopped at a traffic light.
  • The carjacker pretends to be stranded.
  • The carjacker fakes an accident to get you out of your car.
  • The carjacker attacks the victim as they get in their car in parking garages, shopping malls and complex parking, and driveways.     

The best defense against a carjacking is having more than one person in the car. Another essential defensive tool is a working cell phone with a charger.

I bought my wife and daughter a large, heavy, tactical flashlight, which they keep beside the driver’s seat in their cars. It is good to have a working flashlight in the car if you need light, and the flashlight doubles as a club if you need to slam it on the hand of someone reaching into your car to harm you.

Businesspeople out on the road can be distracted with thoughts of business, but one should always remain alert and aware of the surroundings. 

This is the best defense against carjacking.