Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Electronic Voting Machines Rigged?

BlackBoxVoting.org reports that the Diebold electronic voting machines can be made to change the vote totals by entering a simple 2-digit code:

By entering a 2-digit code in a hidden location, a second set of votes is created in the Diebold central tabulator, a program installed in 1,000 locations, which controls both paper ballots and touch-screens, each system handling up to a million votes at a time.

After invoking the 2-digit trigger, this second set of votes can be changed so that it no longer matches the correct set of votes. The voting system will then read the totals from the bogus vote set.

It takes only seconds to change the votes, and to date not a single location in the U.S. has implemented security measures to fully mitigate the risks. It is not too late to do so, and the corrective measures are relatively simple.

This program is not "stupidity" or sloppiness. It was designed and tested over a series of a dozen version adjustments, and has been in place for four years.
Our worst fears: [BlackBoxVoting.org]

Monday, August 30, 2004

Art Heist Database

Edvard Munch's famous "The Scream" (value $60 million) was stolen at gunpoint from an Oslo museum on August 22nd. It joins a list of thousands of stolen paintings maintained by the The Art Loss Register. The Register says it adds about 10,000 items a year to its database of 145,000 items. The Art Loss Register was set up in 1991 by several auction houses and art trade associations.

Munch painted four versions of "The Scream" in 1893. Another one was briefly stolen in 1994. The recent heist was played out like a farce. Two masked thieves cowed an unarmed guard. They dropped the fragil paintings twice on the way out, and sped away in an a stolen Audi, strewing bits of frame behind.

The register includes 467 works by Pablo Picasso, 289 works by Marc Chagall, and $300 million worth of art stolen from Boston's Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in 1990. The most valuable painting taken in the Gardner heist was Jan Vermeer's "The Concert".

Some recent high-profile art thefts:

July 2004 Santo Spirito in Sassia hospital, Rome: 10 paintings including "The Sacra Famiglia" by Parmigianino

May 2004 Pompidou Center warehouse, Paris: "Nature Morte a la Charlotte" by Pablo Picasso

Dec. 2003 Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, N.M.: "Special 21 (Palo Duro Canyon)" by Georgia O'Keeffe

Aug. 2003 Drumlanrig Castle, Scotland: "Madonna with the Yarnwinder" by Leonardo da Vinci

Dec. 2002 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam: "View of the Sea at Scheveningen," "Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen" by Van Gogh

July 2002 National Fine Arts Museum, Paraguay: "The Virgin Mary and Jesus" by Esteban Murillo, "Landscape" by Gustave Coubert, "Woman's Head" by Adolphe, self-portrait by Tintoretto, and others

Dec. 2000 National Museum, Stockholm: two works by Renoir, one by Rembrandt (Renoir's "Conversation" recovered)

July 1994 Schirn Gallery, Frankfurt: "Shade and Darkness" and "Light and Color" by J.M.W. Turner, among others

March 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston: Eleven works, including "Chez Tortoni" by Edouard Manet, "The Storm on the Sea of Gaililee" and a self-portrait by Rembrandt

'The Scream' stolen from Oslo gallery [Scotsman]
The Isabella Gardner Museum heist [CNN]
The Art Loss Register [artloss.com]

Chronic Heartburn linked to Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal Cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the US. It is linked to an epidemic of chronic heartburn. Heartburn and reflux are caused when stomach acid enters the esophogus and causes a burning pain.

It has been estimated that 20% of Americans suffer from weekly episodes of heartburn, while 7% suffer bouts every day.

Chronic heartburn is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. It is on the rise for the following reasons:

• greater consumption of fatty foods that can slow the emptying of the stomach
• increased obesity
• heredity
• bacterial changes in the gut
• and/or general wear and tear on the esophagus

Treatment for GERD includes drugs called proton pump inhibitors: AstraZeneca's Nexium (the purple pill) and Tap Pharmaceutical's Prevacid. These drugs cost about $120 a month.

"Heartburn was part of my life for many years. Now I'm retired and with Prevacid daily, so is my heartburn" - John Elway retired football player

Celebrity spokesman for Nexium: Mark Spitz, Olympic gold medal swimmer.

The bottom line is that little bit of heartburn over a period of time can kill you.

You Bet Their Life

The celebrity death pool site, Youbettheirlife.com has the motto: You can't cheat death, but you can profit from it.

Some of the team names for the 2004 contest: Toe Taggers, Bury Me Shallow, Excuse Me For Coffin, & St. Peter's Dance Party.

List of 2004 Celebrity Selections [YBTL]

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Albanian Mafia and Nationalism

Albanian Mafia

StrategyPage.com updates on the Albanian Mafia in the forgotten region of The Balkans:

THE BALKANS: Organized Crime and Nationalism

August 21, 2004: There are still 20,000 peacekeepers in Kosovo, and no peace. There is 55 percent unemployment, criminal gangs control much of the economic activity there is and most of the population believes that the province should be independent. But the province is still technically part of Serbia. The Albanian majority wants to expel, by force is neccessary, the remaining non-Albanians. The UN police force is 20 percent understrength and unable to deal with the growing crime rate. The organized crime situation in Albania and Kosovo is particularly worrisome, because Albanian gangs have been taking over from traditional mafia gangs in the United States. This is because massive prosecutions of traditional organized crime organizations in the U.S. has put 15 of 24 major gangs out of business. The Albanians have moved in to carry on a lot of the traditional mafia criminal activities. Most of these Albanian gangsters are Moslem, although few are particularly religious. But there is fear that this would provide Albanian members of al Qaeda could get some assistance from the growing Albanian criminal network that stretches from the Balkans to North America.

August 17, 2004: High unemployment in Albania, and the growing popularity of Albanian nationalists throughout the Balkans, threaten the governments in Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania itself. Criminal gangs often support the nationalists, out of conviction, or convenience.


The book Mexifornia: A State of Becoming by Victor Davis Hansen describes a grim situation in California regarding illegal immigrants. The INS estimated that 2.2 million or 32% of all illegal immigrants lived in California in January 2000. Today that number is certainly much higher. Synopsis: Hansen argues that continued immigration will lead to endemic poverty, eroded schools, soaring crime, and other problems. He presumes to describe the "mental landscape of the alien" describing immigrant life as one of poverty, frustration, envy, and inevitable degeneration. He recommends either cutting off immigration or enforcing rapid assimilation on newly arrived immigrants.

Antarctic Craters Reveal Asteroid Strike

The Guardian reported on Thursday (19-Aug) about newly discovered craters in Antarctica:

Scientists using satellites have mapped huge craters under the Antarctic ice sheet caused by an asteroid as big as the one believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65m years ago.

Professor Frans van der Hoeven, from Delft University in the Netherlands, told the conference that the evidence showed that an asteroid measuring between three and seven miles across had broken up in the atmosphere and five large pieces had hit the Earth, creating multiple craters over an area measuring 1,300 by 2,400 miles.

The effect would have been to melt all the ice in the path of the pieces, as well as the crust underneath. The biggest single strike caused a hole in the ice sheet roughly 200 by 200 miles, which would have melted about 1% of the ice sheet, raising water levels worldwide by 60cm (2ft).
Antarctic craters reveal asteroid strike [Guardian]

New Asteroid Threat to Earth [about.com]
Near Earth Objects - Are We In Danger? [about.com]

Albanian Mafia: Zef Vulevic Murder Update

Marash Gojcaj, the nephew and business partner of Zef Vulevic at the Danbury Gusto Ristorante was charged with his murder 2nd update: A jury in Danbury found Marash Gojcaj guilty on Nov. 5, 2010, of murdering his uncle, Zef Vulevic, in 2004.

1st update:
Marash Gojcaj, the nephew and business partner of Zef Vulevic at the Danbury Gusto Ristorante was charged with the murder of the popular chef and restaurateur. He was taken into custody on August 19th, 2008 after his release from the Westchester County Correctional Center where he was being held on a drunken driving conviction. This was over four years after the April 2004 murder.

On September 4, 2008 in Danbury Superior Court a
57-page arrest warrant charging Marash Gojcaj, 32, with the murder of his uncle was made public. The warrant was based on testimony from several anonymous witnesses, including restaurant employees and an alleged organized crime informant.


Albanian Mafia

On May 18th we wrote that we suspected that the Albanian Mafia had murdered Danbury, CT restaurateur/chef Zef Vulevic (aka Zef Vulaj and Joe Vuli). Zef Vulevic was last seen on April 5, 2004. Pieces of his body were found in garbage bags 25-miles away on Baldwin Road in Bedford, NY. on April 24, 2004.

Wednesday CNN reported about FBI comments regarding the Albanian Mafia:
Thousands of Albanians and others who fled the Balkans for the United States in recent years have emerged as a serious organized crime problem, threatening to displace La Cosa Nostra (LCN) families as kingpins of U.S. crime, top FBI officials said Wednesday.

The Albanian criminal enterprises, operating largely in New York and other Eastern seaboard cities, represent a major challenge to federal agents because of their propensity for violence and brutality, the officials said.

"They are a hardened group, operating with reckless abandon," said Chris Swecker, the newly named FBI assistant director for the Criminal Investigative Division.

Swecker and other officials said some of the Albanians served as enforcers in the established Mafia families for several years.
There has been no new news about the Vulevic case since May 2004.

The Stamford Advocate reported yesterday that Vulevic's restaurant is trying to rebound.

FBI: Albanian mobsters 'new Mafia' [CNN]
Did the Albanian Mafia Murder Zef Vulevic? [Johnsville News, 18-May-04]
Restaurant tries to rebound from murder as cops search for clues [Stamford Advocate]

1982 Cold Case Solved: Russell Jordan Murder

Russell Jordan was a 16-year old student at Los Gatos High School when he disappeared in 1982. His suspected bones were found along side the Los Gatos Creek Trail in 1995. However, police were unable to make a positive identification until 2003 through the use of new DNA techniques. An old high school acquaintance of Jordan, living in nearby Santa Cruz, CA saw the news story about the positive identification of Jordan. The story prompted him to remember a classmate's bizarre confession to the murder. The acquaintance contacted Los Gatos police who traced the killer, Sean Viehway to Klamath Falls, Oregon. Viehway confessed soon after the police started questioning him.

Sean Clark Viehweg told the Mercury News the killing had invaded his dreams for 21 years: He said he was a scared kid who ``ran like hell'' after bashing Russell Jordan to death with a rock in self-defense on a creek-side trail.

``It's haunted me my whole life,'' Viehweg, 38, said, breaking down behind a jail partition. ``It's cost me everything.''
NBC recently did a show about this case which was solved last year. The report concluded by saying that the authorities some how lost the bones of Russell Jordan that they had be holding for over 20 years. So in the end Russell Jordan is still missing.

Killer in '82 case describes slaying, ensuing panic [Mercury News]
Former Los Gatos man pleads no contest in '82 slaying [Mercury News]
Missing South Bay Teen Confirmed Dead [cbs5.com]
Santa Clara County Coroner can't find remains of '82 teen victim [ezboard.com]

Friday, August 20, 2004

Security Stats

• $2.4B has been lost by U.S. banks in the past year as a result of theft from unauthorized access to checking accounts. $1.2 billion was lost by U.S. banks and credit-card issuers as a result of e-mail phishing attacks in 2003.

Gartner Study Finds Significant Increase in E-Mail Phishing Attacks [gartner.com]

• The Department of Homeland Security has a $36.2 billion budget for 2004. Up 7.4% from 2003. They are asking for $40.2 Billion for 2005. Here is how the money in '04 will be spend:

Border Security - $18 Billion
Coast Guard - $6.8 Billion
Emergency perparedness/response - $6.0 Billion
Immigration Services - $1.8 Billion
Information analysis and infrastructure protection - $0.8 Billion
Science & Technology - $0.8 Billion
Other - $1.9 Billion
DHS Budget [dhs.gov]

• INS estimate of the number of illegal immigrants living in the US in 2000: 7.0 million

• Census Bureau estimated the illegal immigrant population was about 8 million in 2000.

• Approximately 78,000 illegal aliens are from countries who are of special concern in the war on terror.

• California had the most illegal residents in January 2000 - an estimated 2.2 million or 32% of the national total.

• The number of illegal immigrants might be growing by half a million a year.

Estimates of Unauthorized Immigrant Population [INS]
Illegal Immigration [Center for Immigration Studies]

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Hispanic Gangs in Rural America

 Murder Suspects, clockwise, from top left: Ismael Juraez Cisneros, Denis Rivera, Oscar Alexander Garcia-Orellana and Oscar Antonio Grande. Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a large street gang with ties to El Salvador that has long been a violent presence in the Hispanic neighborhoods of Washington, New York and Los Angeles is one of many Hispanic gangs moving its operations into rural America. The brutal murder of Brenda Paz in Shenandoah County, Va. is a prime example of the movement of gang crime into the small towns of rural America. Four members of MS-13 are charged with the murder of Paz. Her badly decomposed body was found on July 17, 2003 on the west bank of the Shenandoah River. Paz had been a key witness in half a dozen federal cases against MS-13. Paz a 17-year-old member of MS-13 had dated Denis (Rabbit) Rivera, one of the more vicious MS-13 gang leaders in the Washington, D.C. area. Hispanic gangs have moved into the countryside for several reasons: • unskilled jobs have shifted to the countryside where the giant food factories are now located • legal and illegal immigrant laborers follow these factory jobs - and the gangs follow the workers to these food-factory towns • gangs move to the countryside because there is less competition for drug dealing - in the crowded and carved-up inner cities, competition among gangs is fierce • weak law enforcement - understaffed, few Spanish speaking officers, lack of gang training An F.B.I. report says MS-13 is thought to be active in 31 states in the U.S., from Alaska to Oklahoma, the Carolinas to Colorado, and has tens of thousands of members in Honduras and El Salvador. Hillbangers [NY Times Magazine] [mirror] Mara Salvatrucha [wikipedia.org] Slain Woman Identified [dnronline.com, July 31, 2003] Mara Salvatrucha [KnowGangs.com] update - Sept 10, 2004: DEA attorney Douglas Kash writes about MS-13, the murder of Brenda Paz, and the Witness Protection Program [Hiding in Plain Sight A Peek into the Witness Security Program]

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

How to beat the Carneys at Carnival Games

Because we only fear nuclear war and carneys. We'll let you in on some secrets on how to strike back at these spawn of Satan. Here are a few strategies to beat some popular games at carnivals and fair midways.

Basketball Toss: Like the sign usually says: The hoop's aren't regulation. They often aren't even round, the cagey carneys bend them into ovals. The balls are also way over inflated so they'll catapult off the rim and backboard. The prizes are extra large, more than 36" tall.

Secret: Don't use the backboard or the rim. Go for a high arcing shot and get nothing but net.

Darts: The darts are dull and the balloons are soft so it's hard to pop them. The prizes are usually small.

Secret: Ask the operator to use his personnel set of darts or use the sharpest set at the booth. Don't aim at the middle of the board - that's where everyone tries to go. The middle balloons are easier, but the balloons around the edges are where the big prizes are hidden.

Shoot the Star Out: Simple game of using BB gun to shoot the red star out of the center of a white target. But you only get 200 BB's. Plus the gun sights are intentionally mis-aligned. This one of the hardest carnival games to win and it has the biggest stuffed animals.

Secret: First test fire a burst to see how much the sights are off. Then adjust your fire to try and carve out a circle around the star. Don't try blasting out the star's center. Finally, the carney will sometimes try and cheat you because there's often a judgment call on whether the star is completely removed.

Basket Toss: The baseball bounces right off the flexible bottom of the slightly tilted wooden peach baskets. Usually three balls for a dollar with a medium prize being offered.

Secret: Toss the ball like it's an egg - softly - using a slight underspin. Additionally, lean over the counter as far as they'll let you.

Dime Toss: The layout of the dishes and glasses is designed to fool customers into tossing the dimes sideways, as if skipping rocks on a pond. The prizes are "Simpsons" collectible beer mugs and crystal cake platters.

Secret: Toss the dimes high and directly into your target dish or plate.

Frog Launch: this is a newer game where the players use miniature catapults to toss rubber frogs onto rotating lily pads. The prizes are large stuffed animals - some frogs of course.

Secret: Most people mistakenly hit the catapult softly and aim for the closest lily pad. Take the exact opposite approach. Launch the frog as high as possible without regard for the lily pads. The key is to position the frog on the catapult with his legs folded under its stomach - as it might look in real life.

Good Luck!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

H.S. Senior created Blaster Internet Worm

A Minnesota high-school senior, Jeffrey Parson, of Hopkins, Minnesota, pleaded guilty Wednesday, August 11th, in federal court to unleashing a variant of the Blaster Internet worm that crippled thousands of computers last summer.

Prosecutors have recommended an 18 to 37-month sentence. Sentencing is Nov 2nd.

Virus Writer Pleads Guilty [Wired]

Saturday Linkage

• A giant colony of mutant ants stretching 60 miles is taking over Melbourne, Australia.
The Ants Are Coming! [cnn.com]

• Some kids rile up a large colony of 120,000 bees. Bees attack everyone in four city block area of Santa Ana, California.
Thousands of bees swarm Orange County neighborhood [Sacramento Bee]

• Truck drivers, Pete LaFountain and Barjas Marshed, are hit by a stone they thought was a meteorite that mysteriously flew through the wind shield of the truck they were driving early Wednesday morning on Interstate 90 West of Butte, Montana.
Flying object startles truck drivers [MT Standard]

• A rabbit whose tail caught fire as it hid in a bonfire raced into a shed and burned it down in Wiltshire, England.
Bugs bun-fire in shed [The Sun (UK)]

• A drunk joy-riding pilot, Louis Kadlecek, cuts power to 11,000 customers in Texas.
Joy-riding pilot sentenced to six years in prison [kfvs12.com]

Bicyclist Run-in with Deer

Cyclist Steve Goldman tells of his encounter with a deer at 20 mph while riding his bicycle:

I ride approximately 6 days a week, and Tuesdays & Thursdays usually are the tougher mid-week rides. I meet a good group of riders at approximately 5:15am, and we ride about 20 miles north to some of the nicer mountains in Southern New York State, motor over and through them, and then 20 miles back. With any luck, I am home at 8, 8:15am and on the desk by 8:30am. There is a Route 106, which is a 6-mile climb, steady at about a 6 percent grade. It is usually something which we hammer up at max throttle.

So two weeks ago I was chasing a Category 3 climber up this thing, about 300 yards off the front of the rest of the group. We crested the top, and there is a short descent to a mountain lake around which you ride before descending off the mountain. At the tail end of the lake is usually where we re-gather the group. Tearing across this road, the lake to my right, the mountain on my left, going about 32mph, heart rate pegged at about 170bpm, I hear a thumping to my right. I knew the guy I was with was just behind and off to my back a bit. I look over and see a little black nose.

A deer of moderate size had been drinking at the lake, must have heard us, and jumped scared onto the road. Amazingly, the thing started running up along my side. For a moment, probably due to the lack of blood in my head, I had a hard time grasping what was transpiring, but I immediately started braking. The deer was trying to get to the woods which were through me and on my left. I starting moving left on the road but there is nothing more onerous than going into a side ditch or gulley at speed, so I finally determined to come back towards him. This entire process took about 3 seconds. I figured I'd take my chances with the deer and pavement than a rock-filled gulley. As I made contact with the deer, I had a belief that he might change course (we were going about 20 mph now), but that thought was dispelled as he then decided to try to go straight through me. Deer are not smart. He clips my wheel and the handlebar spins. It is at this point that you know things are not going well but you do what you can to improve the situation.

With the deer literally at my hip, going 20mph, the wheel sideways, the last milliseconds before crashing, I leaned over his shoulders, grabbed his hide and used him to cushion my blow into the pavement. I literally tackled him and landed on his shoulders. If I had a rope, I could have hog-tied the 3 hooves and maybe taken home a trophy. My bike sort of stayed under me and was cushioned by the deer as well. My hip slammed into the pavement and so did my elbow which was on his other side. At 20mph, skin comes off easily.

The deer scooted forwarded once we hit the pavement and he was kicking to get away from me. He finally did and got up looked around a bit puzzled, but not mad and flew in to the woods...

I checked the bike over. Perfect. I literally had to pull deer hair out of the chain...The bike was fine. I was fine. I remounted it, and off we went. I still have some nice patches of missing skin on my hip and my elbow.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Most Dangerous Things in Everyday Life

Laura Lee wrote her new book: "100 Most Dangerous Things in Everyday Life and What you Can Do About Them," to poke fun at the culture of fear.

Here are some dangerous and deadly who-would-have-thoughts from Lee's book:

Desk germs: Your office desktop is 400 times dirtier than a toilet seat. The average desk has 21,000 bacteria per square inch, or 8,400 per square centimeter, while the average toilet seat has only 50. That's because we don't clean our desks well, or at all, and we do scrub toilet seats. Or at least most of us do. Gross, yes. Dangerous, probably not. These bacteria don't cause colds and flu.

Dishwashers: Each year, more than 7,000 Americans and 1,300 British citizens are harmed by their dishwashers. They reach in and grab an item and they're cut or they open the door and are burned by steam and hot water. The worst include people who have slipped and fallen into an open dishwasher and impaled themselves with knives in the silverware rack.

High heels: According to the National Floor Safety Institute, which studies slip-and-fall accidents, about 2 million Americans are admitted to hospitals because of falls. Forty percent of those are caused by footwear, and of those about 400,000, are from falls attributed to high heels.

It isn't just the fashion victim in stilettos who can be injured; bystanders are injured, too. A 120-pound woman wearing heels on a dance floor can pound her heel into someone else's foot with the force of an elephant.

Holy water: In 1998, student researchers in Ireland found that holy water from local churches contained coliforms, staphylococcis, yeasts and molds. Another student study found green worms and worm eggs in font water. Some churches in Dublin also removed holy water fonts after they found drug addicts were using them to rinse out their syringes.

Knickknacks: Warning: That snow dome from Lake Tahoe can maim. An estimated 15,000 people are injured each year by knickknacks, vases and urns. The problem: You reach to dust it and everything comes crashing down on you. One person's ''novelty item'' spontaneously erupted when ''placed on the toilet tank for decorative purposes.'' Lee's suggestion: Get rid of it all and go minimalist.

Suburban living: If you think you're safe in that gated community, think again. According to a University of Virginia study, you're more at risk of being killed by an SUV than someone living in the city is at risk of being mugged in an alley. Plus, suburb dwellers are fatter than city dwellers (unless you're part of the ladies' lunch and tennis crowd). Anyway, a 2003 study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that people in large developments weigh an average of six pounds more than people in ''compact'' communities.

Teddy bears: Stuffed bears are much more dangerous than grizzly bears. Eighty-two Americans were killed by bears between 1906 and 1995, while 140,000 injuries and at least 22 deaths a year are attributed to toys. Most of us know that buttons, eyes, bows and belts on stuffed animals are potential choking hazards, but it seems tripping over bears is the real danger.

100 Most Dangerous Things in Everyday Life and What you Can Do About Them [Barnes & Noble]
Living dangerously [tennessean.com]

Danger Zone: NY & DC

Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a firm which began by modeling the risk from natural disasters for insurance companies, has applied its techniques to terrorism.

RMS has classified cities in eight tiers based on terrorism risk (with tier 1 cities being the highest risk). These city tiers are based on Al Qaeda debriefings, intelligence reports, local economic values, population, name recognition in the Middle East, and expert opionion. There ar a total of nine cities in tiers 1, 2, and 3:

Tier 1: New York City and Washington, D.C.
Tier 2: Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles
Tier 3: Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Las Vegas

Peter Ulrich, who analyzes terrorism risk at RMS, points out that not all terrorism perils are equal. For RMS's clients, New York is clearly the biggest concern. That city alone accounts for about half of the nation's insured value. "Ninety percent of the risk [nationwide] is in 5 percent of the ZIP codes," he says. "New York and D.C. are head and shoulders above other cities."

RMS Publishes Paper on Applications of Building-level Data for Catastrophe Risk Management Featuring Sanborn CitySets™ Data [rms.com]
Imagining the worst [usnews.com]

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Stolen X-Box leads to Mass Murder

CNN Reports: Authorities in Deltona, Florida, have arrested and charged four people in the killings of six people in a rental home, Volusia County's sheriff said Sunday.

Sheriff Ben Johnson said the murder was organized by a man (Troy Victorino) who was angry because he believed his Xbox video game system and some clothes had been stolen.

Sheriff: 4 charged in Florida killings over Xbox [cnn.com]

Update: Here is a timeline of what law enforcement agencies did, and did not do, with Troy Victorino in the 12 days leading up to the murders of six young people in the early hours of Aug 6, 2004.

Through the Cracks

July 17, 2004 -- Abigael "Abby" Vazquez, 18, is punched in the head by Troy Victorino, 27, in a fight over a car debt. Victorino is 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, and has spent eight of the last 11 years in prison. Vazquez filed a complaint with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

July 20, 2004 -- Vazquez's complaint is forwarded to the State Attorney's Office.

July 29, 2004 -- Volusia County Sheriff's deputies arrest Troy Victorino, who is on probation, on charges of felony battery. He was released on $2,500 bond.

July 30, 2004 -- Sheriff's office notifies local probation officials of Victorino's arrest.

Aug. 2, 2004 -- This is the day Victorino's probation officer should have filed a violation report with a judge and requested a warrant be issued for Victorino's arrest, according to Department of Corrections rules.

Aug. 4, 2004 -- Probation Officer Richard Burrow fills out a report on Victorino's arrest, outlining the facts of Victorino's July 17 crime and July 29 arrest and noting that he appears to be "a threat to the community." It recommends that he be put in jail. But the report wasn't sent to the judge.

Aug. 5, 2004 -- Troy Victorino shows up in his DeLand probation office for his regular check-in. He then leaves without his probation officer detaining him to be arrested for violating probation.

Aug. 5/Aug. 6 -- Overnight, Troy Victorino allegedly goes to a Deltona, Florida, home and leads the beating and stabbing murders of six people (4 men and 2 women) and a dachshund. Three 18-year-olds -- Michael Salas, Robert Anthony Cannon, and Jerone Hunter, assisted Victorino in the murders.

Aug. 6, 2004 -- Probation officers walk the Aug. 4 report to the judge, who issues a warrant for Victorino's arrest for violating his probation with the July 29 arrest.

Aug. 7, 2004 -- Victorino is arrested on the warrant.

Aug. 8, 2004 -- Victorino and three others are charged with murder in the slayings.

Aug. 9, 2004 -- Corrections officials fire Richard Burrow, Burrow's supervisor (Paul Hayes) and two top probation officials (Robert Gordon, and Joe Hatem) for the oversight.

• Richard Burrow, 50, employed since 1983, ending salary $46,379
• Paul Hayes, 44, employed since 1982, ending salary $44,862
• Robert Gordon, 56, employed since 1972, ending salary $67,082
• Joe Hatem, 56, employed since 1974, ending salary $94,391

• Erin Bellanger, 22
• Francisco Ayo Roma, 30, boyfriend of Bellanger
• Michelle Ann Nathan, 19
• Roberto “Tito” Gonzalez, 28, who recently moved from New York
• Jonathan Gleason, 18
• Anthony Vega, 34

related links:
Picture of Troy Victorino [Mugshots.com]
Police arrest 4 in slayings of 6 in Florida [msnbc.com, Aug. 9, 2004]
The suspects [News-JournalOnlne, Aug. 9, 2004]
4 fired after suspect stayed free [St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 10, 2004]
Firings In Xbox Murders Aftermath [cbsnews.com, Aug. 10, 2004]
Another system failure to hold Victorino found [News-JournalOnlne, Aug. 12, 2004]
Through The Cracks [CBS News/AP]

Suicidal NYC Bicyclists Make Near Death Look Fun

The "drag race NYC" (50MB) video shows bicyclists zipping around New York City in traffic while filming.

video gallery by Lucas Brunelle

Saturday, August 7, 2004

Faulty 3M Co. Respirator Killed Thousands

Christoher Schmitt of US News reports on how the 3M Company started selling a faulty paper respirator, the 8710, in 1972 to hundreds of thousands of American workers - miners, shipyard workers, textile workers - who needed protection against contaminated air. 3M claimed the mask offered workers absolute protection, especially from small deadly particles. That was not true.

3M introduced the 8710 in 1972, and despite not having been tested for many expected uses, records and interviews show, company officials promoted it for use in conditions they did not fully comprehend. 3M also failed to tell users that the respirator did not meet government standards, or that it had other problems that could allow contaminants to harm workers, according to 3M documents and legal records.
Secrets behind the mask - How a promising device designed to protect workers left many fighting for their lives [US News]

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Survival Guide

The American Red Cross publishes an "Emergency Survival Guide" on their website.

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services -- water, gas, electricity or telephones -- were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away.

Cadaver Control

In a way, Sept. 11, 2001, was a kind of dry run for the country's medical examiners and coroners. While thousands of people died, their bodies didn't pose a major risk to rescuers. And the final disposal of the remains has gone smoothly.

Next time, the dead may be a huge threat to the living. Alarmed by the prospect of serious dangers, officials are paying more attention than ever to the medical risks posed by the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to coroners and medical examiners about how to protect themselves while still doing their jobs.

The Danger of the Dead [Wired]

Google Shows Hackers Where to Strike

Google's ability to record Internet sites' content can be used to pinpoint those with weak security, Johnny Long, a security researcher and computer scientist for Computer Sciences, told attendees at the Black Hat Security Briefings in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"I only use Google to find vulnerable servers," said Tim Mullin, security specialist for accounting-software maker Anchor IS. Mullin said other search engines don't have the advanced search option available on Google and don't cache old versions of Web sites. "Not only can I see what exists now, but I can see what the Web site looked like before."

Google a favorite among hackers, too [cNet]

Oil Price May Hit $100

Oil prices could potentially hit $100 per barrel, said Adam Sieminski, Deutsche Bank's energy strategist. He warned that because oil supplies have become so tight in recent weeks that a serious disruption in the Middle East could send prices rocketing to unprecedented heights.

Specifically, two major disruptions by extremists in Iraq and Saudi Arabia could result in $100 oil. This in turn could lead to a severe global recession.

Deutsche warns oil price may hit $100 [scotsman.com]
$100 OIL? [GlobalGuerillas.com]

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