Thursday, December 29, 2005

Alaska Flight #536 - Rapid De-Pressurization & Panic at 30,000 feet

Jeremey Hermanns was on Alaska Airline's Flight #536 on Monday, December 26th, which suffered a rapid de-pressurization and passanger panic at 30,000 feet. Mr. Hermanns kept his cool, put his mask on, and managed to snap some pictures with his Treo. He says:

Nothing can describe the helpless feeling you go through during a time like this, when you are absent any control, you cannot breathe, and everyone around is stunned into fear. It all started with a loud bang - the cabin air began to swirl and the engine sound became deafening. As a GA-VFR pilot, I knew something was terribly wrong. As the smell of acrid AV-gas/JP4 and burning plastic filled the cabin, it created more fear in the eyes of the holiday passengers around me. We were all gripped in silence, surrounded by the white noise from the engines that eerily engulfed the plane into a surreal atmosphere. And as the oxygen masks deployed from the ceiling in a familiar, video-esque manner, we all grasped them in fear - trying to figure out how to breathe through the flimsy pieces of plastic. Parents were the most confused – as the masks were too large for their babies’ faces and were not easy to put on in such a panicked situation. The next few minutes passed like seconds – the plane started diving down to a lower level … and fast.

Afterwards some Alaskian Airline employees apparently did not like Mr. Hermann's report and made some disparaging comments.

The depressurization was due to an "out-sourced" ramp worker damaging the aircraft's fuselage. Seattle's King5-TV reported:
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board believe the gap tore open in flight after the side of the jet was hit just before takeoff by a piece of baggage loading equipment, causing the Alaska Airlines MD-80 to depressurize in mid-air Monday.

The Menzies Aviation worker who hit the plane failed to report it because he didn’t think it serious enough. But a crease in the fuselage that the accident caused blew up into a hole when the aircraft reached 26,000 feet.

Alaska fired its own ramp workers last spring and replaced them with workers from London-based Menzies.

The ramp worker, fearing he'd get fired for the mistake, never told anybody what had happened. He has been suspended, and other Menzies workers are now receiving safety training....

The failure by the Menzies Aviation employee to report the problem is troubling to other aviation experts.

Menzies Avaiation is a British company that Alaska contracts with to provide baggage handling and other ramp services at Sea-Tac.

"Common sense would have dictated that if you run a vehicle into an airplane you should at least bring it to the attention of the crew and the maintenance staff so they can pass their professional judgment on it," said Dr. Todd Curtis with

Alaska Flight #536 - Rapid De-Pressurization and Panic at 30K Feet[]
Alaska Airlines comments on my story []
"Absolutely terrifying" flight after ground-crew mistake [Seattle Times, Dec. 28, 2005]
Alaska Airlines accident blamed on cost cuts [, Dec. 29, 2005]

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Yoga instructor Paul Cortez to be charged with murder of Catherine Woods

Catherine Woods The NY Daily News reported:
Yoga instructor Paul Cortez - the long-haired Lothario who wooed murdered stripper Catherine Woods at a Manhattan gym - will be charged later this week with her grisly slaying, authorities said yesterday. Cops matched Cortez's fingerprints to one found at the murder scene and would have charged him with the slaying yesterday but held off because the transit strike prevented grand jury members from getting to court, prosecutors said.
Paul Cortez
Paul Cortez, a singer in the rock band Monolith, was arraigned in connection with a previous, January 1, 2005, sexual assault on a 2nd women, for which he was arrested Monday (Dec. 19th), on three counts of first-degree criminal sex act.

Assistant District Attorney Martha Stolley described how Cortez forced himself on a 25-year-old victim he met that night at a Manhattan bar. The NY Post reported:
Once inside an East 116th Street apartment, the gym rat allegedly straddled the woman's chest before flipping her over and forcing her to submit to a sex act. She came forward only last Friday after reading postings on a Web site for the aspiring rock star's band, Monolith. The site blasted newspaper reports about Cortez being suspected in Woods' gruesome death, calling it bold-faced lies.
The band Monolith has a website on It appears the band has changed their tune and their website now has no endorsement of Paul Cortez or any evidence that he was ever in the band.

Ex-boyfriend accused, but not charged, in NYC stripper slay [Newsday, Dec. 21, 2005]
The Murder of Catherine Woods... Did the Rocker Do it? [The Dark Side, Dec. 21, 2005]
Dead dancer had 2 partners [NY Daily News, Nov. 29, 2005]

Sarah Fox Murder Case: Cold and close to forgotten [TJN, Dec. 2, 2005]

Details emerge from Paul Cortez Murder of Catherine Woods [TJN, Jan. 11, 2006]

See 2nd update:
The Catherine Woods Case: Was Paul Cortez imprisoned for a murder he did not commit? - Sept. 6, 2008

The Brick Testament

Cain kills AbelThere are those who believe it to be divinely inspired, but The Brick Testament has been created entirely by The Rev. Brendan Powell Smith who builds all the characters and settings out of LEGO bricks. Rev. Powell then photographs them to create the illustrated stories from the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is the world's first crime blotter.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Drowned Polar Bears Ominous Sign of Global Warming: population down 22% from 1987

The Wall Street Journal reported:

It may be the latest evidence of global warming: Polar bears are drowning.

Scientists for the first time have documented multiple deaths of polar bears off Alaska, where they likely drowned after swimming long distances in the ocean amid the melting of the Arctic ice shelf. The bears spend most of their time hunting and raising their young on ice floes.

In a quarter-century of aerial surveys of the Alaskan coastline before 2004, researchers from the U.S. Minerals Management Service said they typically spotted a lone polar bear swimming in the ocean far from ice about once every two years. Polar-bear drownings were so rare that they have never been documented in the surveys.

But in September 2004, when the polar ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of the northern coast of Alaska, researchers counted 10 polar bears swimming as far as 60 miles offshore. Polar bears can swim long distances but have evolved to mainly swim between sheets of ice, scientists say.

The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. "Extrapolation of survey data suggests that on the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds."

Is Global Warming Killing the Polar Bears? [WSJ, Dec. 14, 2005]
Scientists say drowned polar bears ominous; population down 22% from 1987 [, Dec. 18, 2005]

Sunday, December 18, 2005

'Merry Christmas' in 117 languages

Different ways to say Merry Christmans:

Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! or Zalig Kerstfeast
Hindi: Shub Naya Baras
Hausa: Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara!
Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Icelandic: Gledileg Jol
How "Merry Christmas" is said around the world

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

PriceRitePhoto Update: Changing Name at eBay to Barclay's Photo; Death Threats are issued

More news on the Brooklyn Camera Scam/Thomas Hawk affair - Thomas Hawk reports that PriceRitePhoto has changed their name to "Barclay's Photo:"

One of the things that these shady camera dealers seem to have a reputation for is carrying multiple different company identities and then changing names when things go wrong with an existing identitiy. So go figure that PriceRitePhoto has just changed their identity on on eBay on Monday of this week from PriceRitePhoto to "Barclay's Photo." Now barclaysphoto can welcome in a whole new round of suckers. Barclay's, like the bank, now that sounds catchy....

Also here's another piece of evidence (an old Google "sales representative" job offering ad from 2000) tying Chaim Pikarski to this maze of camera company names and businesses. Thus far the names that seem to be tying together include PriceRitePhoto, Barclay's Photo, Film4Less, Edigix, CP Industries, The Camera Zone, TheCameraMall, Film Shop, Film Shop Clipper USA.

The Film Shop in the job offering above, with Pikarski's name, is at the same address as Don Wiss (who yesterday received a death threat) documented as being associated with TheCameraMall. Evidence suggests that TheCameraMall may be linked with PriceRitePhoto.

It also looks like Don Wiss, an intrepid amateur investigator, who biked around Brooklyn taking pictures of bogus camerea shops, was called and given a death threat. This was like the threatening call Lee Holmes heard a coworker received recently when dealing with in (you guessed it) Brooklyn.

PriceRitePhoto Update #21, Changing Names at eBay to Barclay's Photo [, Dec. 14, 2005]
Customer Service at WaWaDigital – “I’m going to break your neck.”
[, Nov. 10, 2005]
Buying Cameras Online? How The Crooks Work [TJN, Dec. 13, 2005]
Dangerous shopping: [TJN, Nov. 30, 2005]

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Buying Cameras Online? How The Crooks Work

The murky and crooked world of online discount camera vendors is investigated at Shedding Some Light. The recent Thomas Hawk affair with looks like it is just the tip of the iceberg. There are scores of online scam artist posing as "legitimate businessmen" selling cameras and electronics at a discount. They all have pretty little logos on their websites saying they are stand-up guys. Many of these pretty little logos might not be worth the pixels they're printed on. An excellent investigative report:

They inspire trust, they sure make a website look great, but what do they mean?

We need help. We've been unable to identify a few of these. If the knowledgable among you could fill us in, we (and your fellow readers) would be grateful. And feel free to email us any notable decorations we have missed.

A warning: Some websites display logos they are not entitiled to use. Viewers can question the validity of any website's use of any logo by emailing the logo's sponsoring company. In particular, if a logo provides a clickable link which doesn't work, it is unauthorized. Please make a fuss.










Buying Cameras & Electronics Online []
all those pretty logos []
Dangerous shopping: [TJN, Nov. 30, 2005]
(via Slashdot)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Map of World based on population

This map of the Earth shows countries sized relative to their population. According to estimates published by the United States Census Bureau, the world population in June 2005 was approximately 6,450,000,000 people. About 60 percent of the world's human population lives in Asia. China is home to 1.3 billion people or approximately 20% or one-fifth of all mankind. India is home to a population of over one billion (15.5% of world total). Will the 21st century be the start of the "Age of Asia?"

189K JPEG Link [via boingboing]

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Sea level rise will threaten New Jersey Coast

New Orleans isn't the only place that will have to worry about rising sea levels. New Jersey the most densely populated state in the nation will have to fight the ocean this century if it wants to keep from getting 3% smaller. The AP reported on a recent Princeton study:

Rising seas caused by global warming and other factors will have dire consequences for New Jersey, submerging sections of the state's highly developed coastline by the end of the century, according to a report released Wednesday (Nov. 16th) by Princeton University.

The Atlantic Ocean, swollen by melting ice caps, could rise by up to 4 feet by the year 2100, moving the coastline 480 feet inland in a worst-case scenario, according to the study co-authored by Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at the university's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

That, in turn, would open the door for so-called 100-year floods occurring every five years, according to "Future Sea Level Rise and the New Jersey Coast," an 81-page report that forecasts an ominous future for the shore.

"We see very high vulnerability on the Jersey coast," Oppenheimer said Wednesday. "These things are not going to happen tomorrow. It gradually unfolds over the course of the 21st century. But we will be spending ever-increasing amounts defending the coast."

...Will gamblers be someday pulling up to Atlantic City's casinos in gondolas instead of tour buses?

The report says:
Sea level rise is a significant and growing threat to New Jersey. The coastal area spans 204 km along the United States mid-Atlantic coast with an additional 134 km of shoreline along the Raritan and Delaware Bays (Figure 1). Structural development along the coast varies from heavily urbanized centers, such as Atlantic City, to sparsely populated agricultural communities on the Cape May peninsula. New Jersey is the most densely populated state with over 8.6 million people inhabiting 19,210 sq km. The coastal region has experienced significant population growth and development over the past 50 years with the population of New Jersey's coastal counties growing from 3,345,010 in 1950 to 5,281,247 in 2000

A projected 1.22 meter (4 foot) rise in sea level would drown approximately 442 sq km, or more than 3 % of the state.

Report: Global Warming May Harm N.J. Coast [abc news, Nov. 16, 2005]
Don't dismiss global warming [Asbury Park Press, Nov. 28, 2005]

Abandon New Orleans - It's doomed! [TJN, Nov. 21, 2005]
New Orleans: Why rebuild a criminal cesspool? [TJN, Sept. 5, 2005]
Ocean Levels Are Rising [TJN, Sept. 28, 2004]
National Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability to Sea-Level Rise [Woods Hole,]
Impacts of Climate Change in the United States []

Monday, December 5, 2005

Spear-Phishin' attack: "It's like my underwear was spread all over the streets"

Amnon Jackont is an Israeli author, who was the victim of a "spear-phishing" attack last year. He is still very wary when he goes online. He said:

I must tell you that I still have a reflex of uneasiness when I get onto the Internet - I feel a trauma... People don't like it when I say this, but it's like being raped. It's like my underwear was spread all over the streets. It was a severe breach of privacy.

The New York Times reported on Mr. Jackont's attack that eventually led to a massive computer fraud case in Isreal involving the use of spear-phishing:
a distilled and potentially more potent version of phishing. That's because those behind the schemes bait their hooks for specific victims instead of casting a broad, ill-defined net across cyberspace hoping to catch throngs of unknown victims.

The Tel Aviv district attorney's office has indicted 15 senior members of three of Isreal's largest detective agencies for involvement in the attack on Mr. Jackont and other firms and government agencies in Isreal. The three Israeli priviate detective agencies implicated are:

  • Modi'in Ezrahi
  • Zvi Krochmal Investigations
  • Pilosoph-Baleli

Michael Haephrati, 41 and his wife, Ruth, 28 were arrested in England last summer as part of the computer fraud investigation. Mr. Haephrati is the alledged mastermind. He designed and transmitted a Trojan e-mail message that was responsible for pickpocketing hundreds of computers including Mr. Jackont's. This Trojan e-mail was impervious to antivirus and anti-Trojan software.

Gone Spear-Phishin'[NY Times, Dec. 4, 2005]
Alan Turing was right [, July 4, 2005]
Industrial Espionage using Trojan horses [, May 31, 2005]
Two Suspected Israeli Computer Hackers Face Extradition from London [, May 29, 2005]
PI arrested in industrial spying probe blasts police conduct []

Plague of Viruses, Worms, and Phishers [TJN, May 6, 2005]
Shadow Crew: International Identity Theft Organization [TJN, April 7, 2005]
On EBay, E-Mail Phishers Find a Well-Stocked Pond [TJN, Mar. 8, 2005]
You Can't Trust E-Mail [TJN, June 4, 2004]

Friday, December 2, 2005

Sarah Fox Murder Case: Cold and close to forgotten

Sarah Fox
Sara Fox

New York City is now considered the safest large city in the U.S. The New York Times recently reported:
Homicide figures for New York City show that the number of murders in 2005 may fall below 500, a figure that would be the fewest since 1961 and would bring the city's murder rate below the rate for the nation as a whole. So far this year, random murders and murders committed during robberies and burglaries have also declined. Experts note that both declines appear to be largely attributable to a greater police presence, fewer guns, and the decrease in random violence in the city that came with the waning of the crack epidemic. In Manhattan, the annual number of murders recently dipped below 100 for the first time since the 19th century.
So the bizarre unsolved murder of Juilliard School student, Sarah Fox, is a very sad and painful reminder that New York City has at least one psycho killer walking its safer streets. Ironically, the cops and DA think they know who the killer is, but they don't have the evidence to prosecute the case.

Fox's body was stripped of clothes and left in a "posed" position with tulip-tree blossoms sprinkled around it in May 2004 in a heavily wooded section of Inwood Hill Park in northern Manhattan. The Fox case initially received a fair amount of press attention, certainly to some extent, because Sarah Fox was young, white and attractive.

However, that press coverage has now long since moved on to the next hot new crime story. That crime story is currently the fake fireman, Peter Braunstein, Halloween rape case. Crime blogger, Steve Huff, was recently in New York to tape a segment for NBC's, Dateline regarding the Braunstein case. The night of November 27th when Steve was in New York another mysterious murder of a young attractive women took place. WCBS TV reported it this way:
The victim, Catherine Woods, was found on the floor of her bedroom apartment at 355 East 86th Street, where she lived with her boyfriend David Haughn.

It was around 7 p.m. Sunday when Haughn called police to say he had found Woods, wearing a jogging suit, lying face-down in a pool of blood in their bedroom. Neighbors had heard screaming. Woods' neck and hand were cut (...)

Woods was from Columbus, Ohio, where her father, Jon Woods, directs The Ohio State University marching band. "She danced since she was three," Woods says. "She went to New York to pursue her dream."

What the family may not have known, was that the dancing included some racy stuff. Anthony Regina says Woods worked at the men's club "Privileges" on West 23rd Street, as an exotic dancer...
Steve went on to say:
Catherine Woods's brief life, beauty, and apparent promise are perhaps presaging her murder, if it isn't solved soon, becoming the next big crime news to come out of the City.
Back in May on the one year anniversary of her disappearance WABC-TV did a report on the Sara Fox case and said:
...the man who was called a leading suspect in the case now plans to move away from the neighborhood. Some residents believe he knew far too much about the details of the crime to be innocent.

Evelyn Rodriguez, Inwood Resident: "I believe he's the one. I mean he told everybody he knew what's going on."

Capt. Geoffrey Hart, N.Y.P.D.: "He alleged to clairvoyant, and I'm not a judge or a jury. We have to develop all our leads, we have to have a sufficient case to go forward."

As of yet, a lack of any strong physical evidence and certainly no witnesses in this case have complicated the investigation further, affecting the people who use this park greatly.

Danielle Farina, Inwood Resident: "It's frightening. I take a walk in this park almost every day and it crosses my mind on a daily basis."
Manhattan may be safer than any time since the 19th century, but it still has cold-blooded killers, who prey on women, walking around.

It's sad to see a murder, like the Fox case, slowly sink into the cold case files. Especially, when the police and DA identified a prime suspect about a year ago. The reality is that crime never stops and new cases take center stage. Sometimes all you can do is write or say something to remember the victim when an unsolved murder case recedes from the public consciousness.

The Sarah Fox Fund
: to support a scholarship in her name and provide money for a reward for information leading to the arrest of her killer.
The Sarah Fox Fund
C/O Gloucester Federal Savings
1990 New Brooklyn Road
Sicklerville, NJ 08081
Body of Sarah Fox ID'd; Death Ruled A Homicide [Gothamist, May 27, 2004]
Juilliard Student Murder Mystery - Sarah Fox [TJN, May 28, 2004]
Sarah Fox Murder Mystery Update [TJN, June 9, 2004]
Sarah Fox murder case grows cold and reward is raised [TJN, Nov. 21, 2004]
Prime Suspect Identified in Sarah Fox Murder Investigation [TJN, Dec. 7, 2004]
Sarah Fox []
One Year Later, And Still No Arrest In Brutal Murder [abcnews/, July 1, 2005]

The Mysterious Death of Catherine Woods [Steve Huff, The Dark Side, Nov. 29, 2005]
Exotic Dancer Killed In Her Upper East Side Apt. [, Nov. 28, 2005]
Fake Fireman Rape Case: Peter Braunstein Prime Suspect [TJN, Nov. 12, 2005]

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dangerous shopping:

A sincere message to PriceRitePhoto manager Steve Phillips in Brooklyn, New York, please be nice to your customers. Being rude, abusive, and threatening does not win you any friends, also baiting and switching customer orders is a bad thing.

Your website says:

Our goal at Price Rite Photo is to make you, our customer, feel comfortable and satisfied with your experience here. Our commitment to sales quality and customer satisfaction is second to none. At Price Rite Photo, we have strong feelings about our customers and to that end our sales and support teams are dedicated to making your experience with us a pleasant and lasting one.

However, professional photographer, Thomas Hawk, had a very different experience when dealing with

"I will make sure you will never be able to place an order on the internet again." "I'm an attorney, I will sue you." "I will call the CEO of your company and play him the tape of this phone call." "I'm going to call your local police and have two officers come over and arrest you." "You'd better get this through your thick skull." "You have no idea who you are dealing with."

These are all direct threats that I received today from an individual who identified himself as Steve Phillips, the manager of PriceRitePhoto in Brooklyn, New York when I called to inquire about my order with them. My crime? Telling him that I planned to write an article about my unfortunate experience with his company regarding the camera order I had placed with him yesterday.

How are these people able to stay in business?

How indeed? FYI, PriceRitePhoto address:

1274 49th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11219
Google Map
update: This address is actually just a mail drop [The Brooklyn Mailing Center]

PriceRitePhoto: Abusive Bait and Switch Camera Store [, Nov. 29, 2005]
PriceRitePhoto rip-off artists exposed []
Abusive New York Camera Store Threatens Blogger []

: The users of (diggers) have been calling and posting recordings of their conversations with the firm on the internet. The influence of on business practices might get noticed by a lot of people in this case.

According to the Better Business Bureau of Metro New York also does business at other locations in Brooklyn and on the web under these names:
LGD Superstore
Lets Go Digital
A. Heffco Technologies, Inc.
C&A Marketing
Dealz Net
Hype Audio
Ideal Audio/Video
Ideal Photo and Video

The BBB says:
Based on BBB files, this business has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau because it failed to respond to one or more complaints.

update Dec. 2, 2005:

An Apology Letter From Ed Lopez, Owner of PriceRitePhoto [, Dec 1, 2005]
I received a call this morning from Ed Lopez, the owner of PriceRitePhoto. We spoke at length and he told me that the activity that has resulted from my post on my experience with his business has most certainly impacted his business. Mr. Lopez told me that he was calling to apologize and that Mr. Philips was going to be terminated at a company board meeting later on this morning.

PriceRitePhoto: Shut Down [, Dec 1, 2005]
PriceRitePhoto is, at least for now, off the internet. I received another call this afternoon from the Ed Lopez, the alleged owner of PriceRitePhoto. Ed has said that hackers have taken his site down off the internet. I assume he has been subjected to denial of service attacks that may have been inspired in part by my post on my horrible treatment that I received at his camera store.

Consumer-Generated Justice: Blogger Sidelines E-Commerce Site [, Dec. 2, 2005]
Most! Evil! Photography! Store! Ever! [Gothomist, Nov. 30, 2005]

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Cell Phone Bank Robber

Candice Rose Martinez
Chantilly, Virginia, teen-ager Candice Rose Martinez, 19, became notorious recently for allegedly holding up four Wachovia bank branches in Virginia while talking on her cell phone.

CNN reported:

[Martinez] admitted to the four robberies, according to an affidavit filed against her boyfriend, Dave Chatram Williams, who is accused of driving the getaway car during the holdups.

According to the affidavit, Williams, a former Wachovia employee, also has admitted his alleged role, the affidavit said. He was arrested Monday [Nov. 14th].

The robberies took place between October 12 and November 4, police said.

In three of the holdups, cameras captured a woman talking on a cell phone as she presented a box containing a note to tellers. In the fourth robbery, she did not carry a box but displayed a handgun and handed the teller a note, police said.

An affidavit filed in Fairfax County in connection with her arrest detailed one of the notes, which was taped to an empty box. The robber presented the note to a teller on October 22, the affidavit said.

The note said, "You have 40 seconds to put all your money in the box, do not make any sudden moves,"

'Cell phone bandit' suspect put on hold [cnn, Nov. 16, 2005]

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Locking down the accused Lego Thief: William Swanberg

William Swanberg

William Swanberg, 40, of Reno, Nevada, is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of lego building blocks. CNN reported:
Target estimates Swanberg stole up to $200,000 worth of the brick sets pilfered from their stores in Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California. The Legos were resold on the Internet, officials said...

Swanberg is accused of switching the bar codes on Lego boxes, replacing an expensive one with a cheaper label...

A Target security guard stopped Swanberg at a Portland-area store November 17, after he bought 10 boxes of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon set.

In his parked car, detectives found 56 of the Star Wars sets, valued at $99 each, as well as 27 other Lego sets.

Records of the Lego collector's Web site, Bricklink.Com, show that Swanberg has sold nearly $600,000 worth of Legos since 2002

Mr. Swanberg's profile is currently still online. It shows he has been a member since March 10, 2002 and has obtained the lofty "Orange Brick" ranking with a 6190 feedback profile. He also operates an online store there named "Bartering the Brick." He was still earning praise from his customers this weekend. Are his online customers "on the hook" for receiving stolen merchandise? Agents had to use a 20-foot truck to haul away the evidence - mountains of Lego bricks - from the home of Mr. Swanberg.

The AP reported that authorities had to use a 20-foot truck to cart away evidence from Swan's home.

Police: Man steals $200,000 worth of Lego sets [AP/msnbc, Nov. 25, 2005]
Time to build a police station: Man accused of Lego thefts [usatoday, Nov. 25, 2005]
William Swanberg [Wikipedia]

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chechen Guerrilla Fighter Website

The Chechen Mujahideen (guerrilla fighters) have an internet website. It's called the Kavkaz-Center (The Caucasus Center). They include an English Section where they discuss world events and guerilla activities in Iraq and Afganistan. Their mission:

Kavkaz-Center ( - is Chechen independent international Islamic Internet agency. Our agency was founded in March of 1999 in the city of Jokhar (Grozny). The founder is the National Center for Strategic Research and Political Technologies, which was in turn registered, with the Ministry of Justice of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in October of 1998 (N 1377/A-17).

The Kavkaz-Center Internet Agency is oriented to cover events in the Islamic world, Caucasus and Russia. One of the main tasks of Kavkaz-Center is to cover the events in the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (the C.R.I. for short) concerning the Russian military invasion against the C.R.I.

Kavkaz-Center is a private independent agency. It does not reflect viewpoints of any states, governmental structures or the Chechen government. Along with that, the Kavkaz-Center Agency has set the goal to cover the real events in Ichkeria under the conditions of total informational blockade, and bring to the world community the truthful information about the war, war crimes, the facts of genocide of the whole nation by the invading state and the position of the defending side - the Chechen Mujahideen.

A recent story is entitled "Chavez: Bush is a Genocidal Madman." The story uses the word: "Bushzarro." It seems this term has become a catch phrase for enemies and opponents of the Bush Administration:
Although I have a couple problems with Hugo Chavez, I love it when he tells the truth, especially when it is so difficult to get the truth here in Bushzarro world, a criminal nation with a corporate media filtering system allergic to the truth. "The planet'’s most serious danger is the government of the United States.... The people of the United States are being governed by a killer, a genocidal murderer and a madman," Chavez said at a meeting of Venezuelan and Brazilian business executives in Caracas, reports Forbes.

They also have an RSS feed for the site.
via Global Guerrillas

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ingy döt Net

Terry Brian Ingerson is legally changing his name to Ingy döt Net.

As I first pondered changing my name legally a few weeks ago, I thought "hmm, I'll just be Ingy, plain and simple". Unfortunately that's not really possible in this country (the US) and in this age of validated web forms and such. I need a surname, and I've decided that surname will be "döt Net".

Am I the first person ever to change their name to their domain name? Possibly, although I hope I am remembered for much more than that.

The surname "Blogspot döt com" is still available.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Doris Payne the 75-year-old Jewel Thief

Doris Payne: 75-year-old jewel thief Doris Payne: 75-year-old jewel thief
Doris Payne - Jewel thief charmed, then stole for more than 50 years

The Independent reported:

An immaculately dressed woman in her mid-seventies walked into the Neiman Marcus jewellery store in the Californian town of Palo Alto on 7 July.

As usual she tried on numerous rings and chatted to the sales person with an effortless warmth and ease. After deciding not to buy anything she appeared to leave empty handed. In fact, she walked out wearing a $31,500 ring.

It may well prove to have been the final act of one of America's most prolific jewel thieves. Knicknamed the "Grandmother Thief", Doris Marie Payne's traits were well known to the police who were amazed at how easily she could distract shop assistants and simply walk away with her loot.

75-year-old woman remembers jewel thief days [USA Today, Nov. 19, 2005]
Diamonds are a girl's best friend [cnn, Nov. 19, 2005]
Grandmother Thief's 50-year career of distraction comes to abrupt end []
via Prof. Hex

update: Elizabeth Easterly is writing a book about Doris Payne. Payne a coal miner's daughter became one of the world's most glamorous and elusive jewel thieves.
Now 75 years old, she is awaiting trial in Las Vegas for walking into Neiman Marcus, charming the clerk, and leaving with a $30,000 diamond ring on her hand. It’s something she’s done hundreds of times, at the world’s finest jewelry stores, over the past 50 years. She has hit Tiffany’s in New York, Bulgari in Rome, Her Royal Majesty’s jeweler, Garrard’s, in London. And she once walked out of Cartier in Monte Carlo with a 10.51 carat diamond ring on her finger. Held under house arrest for nine months, she managed to keep the diamond concealed by sewing it into her girdle.

Shine: The jewel thief next door. []

Abandon New Orleans - It's doomed!

Tim Kusky is a professor in the Earth Sciences Department at St. Louis University. He told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley that New Orleans should be abandoned:

“Because New Orleans is going to be 15 to 18 feet below sea level, sitting off the coast of North America surrounded by a 50- to 100-foot-tall levee system to protect the city,” explains Kusky.

He says the city will be completely surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico just 90 years from now.

“That’s the projection, because we are losing land on the Mississippi Delta at a rate of 25 to 30 square miles per year. That’s two acres per hour that are sinking below sea level,” says Kusky.

As the city assesses damage and plans to rebuild, Kusky believes there’s a better plan.

“We should be thinking about a gradual pullout of New Orleans and starting to rebuild people’s homes, businesses and industry in places that can last more than 80 years,” says Kusky. Instead, the law will allow residents to rebuild if their homes lie at the 100-year flood level, much of which was inundated by Katrina’s waters and would be put underwater again should levees fail.

The Johnsville News looked at both the quality of life in New Orleans and the geography and asked on Sept. 5th: Why rebuild the criminal cesspool that is New Orleans?
Do not reclaim or rebuild the cesspool - the parts of the city that are currently below sea level. Go green and turn the low lying areas back into protective swamps and wetlands - naturally barriers to hurricanes. The lowlands are lost.

Mr. Kusky in a Sept. 25th article for said:
The projected setting of the city in 2100 is in a hole up to 18 feet below sea level directly on the hurricane-prone coast. The city will look like a fish tank battered by coastal waves, surrounded by 50- to 100-foot-high seawalls that are barely able to protect it from hurricanes that are only as strong as Katrina. Such a city is untenable, and we as a nation need to face this reality.

New Orleans Is Sinking [, Nov. 20, 2005]
Time to move to higher ground [, Sept. 25, 2005]
New Orleans: Why rebuild a criminal cesspool? [TJN, Sept. 5, 2005]
Ocean Levels Are Rising [TJN, Sept. 28, 2004]

Security Threat: Child Hackers or 'click kiddies' reports:

A growing legion of semi-computer-literate teens short of something to do could be the biggest danger to security on the web...

These 'ankle-biters' or 'script kiddies' as they were previously known in online security parlance now have a new name: 'click kiddies'. Their evolution is thanks to the introduction of web-enabled applications, meaning canned exploits written by elite hacker groups are now more easily accessible to curious young surfers than ever before...

Regardless of their skill level, all script kiddies share a common strategy - they randomly scan the internet and if they find a vulnerable system, they start attacking it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Alex Rudaj - Albanian Mafia Trial - Week 8

Waiting..waiting...waiting. There has been no news about the Albanian Mafia trial, aka "The Rudaj Organization," since October 19th. The trial started Sept. 26th and there has been a grand total of four news stories about it by our count.

The last two reports were from the Westchester County based The Journal News:

Operation of Westchester gambling dens detailed at trial
[Journal News, Oct. 14, 2005]
Defense lawyers grill informant in NYC organized-crime trial [Journal News, Oct. 19, 2005]

A key prosecution witness last month was Maurizio "Mo" Sanginiti. He testified for 3 1/2 days before defense lawyers began their cross-examination. Sanginite said he ran a gambling house and an illegal sports bookmaking operation in Port Chester, NY, for the Rudaj group. The Journal News reported:

The book in Port Chester took in $250,000 a week in illegal sports bets when Sanginiti ran the operation in 2002, he testified. The Dobbs Ferry man has pleaded guilty to extortion and gambling, among other charges, and is testifying in hopes of receiving a much lighter sentence than the life imprisonment he could face. Sanginiti said Rudaj and "The Corporation" got 20 percent of the profits for providing muscle to the endeavor.

"They would protect us if we were owed money and if someone tried to move in on the territory," he said. If the operation lost any money, Sanginiti paid that out of his own pocket, he said. "The Corporation" was in the business of making money, not covering losses. The money was transported every week to Cafe Roma on Morris Park Avenue in the Bronx, which served as headquarters for "The Corporation," he said.

Sanginiti also testified that he ran a gambling house on Adee Street in Port Chester for Rudaj.

Marathon card games at the Adee Street den would take in as much as $15,000, he said.

Cafe Roma would apparently be just down the street from Morris Park Games (840 Morris Park Avenue) in the Bronx. Morris Park Games is Rudaj's game machine business. However, a basic search doesn't show a public address for a "Cafe Roma" on Morris Ave? Does that mean that "Cafe Roma" and the game company are at the same address? Butta bing! It's hard to imagine bags of cash being exchanged in a "public" restuarant.

Update Jan 5, 2005: The New York Times finally decided to report about the Rudaj case. In a story published on Jan. 3rd 2006 a reporter from the NY Times visited the small low profile Cafe Roma on Morris Park Avenue in the Bronx:
There is a small cafe on Morris Park Avenue in the Bronx where Albanian soap operas play on a large-screen television set. It is the Cafe Roma, and an uneasy quiet hangs in the air.

The cigarette smoke is thick, and stacks of playing cards lie unused on the bar. The bartender, a sallow giant with a mustache, plays chess between serving espressos and sugar-sweetened snacks. The bartender will not talk about it, but the authorities say the Cafe Roma was the headquarters of the Corporation, a violent, up-and-coming gang that had a bold objective: to become New York's sixth crime family, one headed not by Italian-Americans but by Albanian immigrants.
The story goes on to say:
In this country, investigators say, the numbers of such [Albanian] gangs are still unknown but are likely to be concentrated in several states where Albanians have settled in the past few decades, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Only a tiny fraction of Albanian immigrants actually belong to criminal gangs, investigators say, adding that they start by stealing from their own communities. The more sophisticated and daring of the groups go on to more profitable and violent work, often as low-level enforcers for established crime families.
2nd Update:

The TrueHoop blog at ESPN caught some more information from the NY Daily News regarding Maurizio "Mo" Sanginiti and his criminal activities, which even involved an NBA player.
From the witness stand in a Manhattan federal courtroom, Maurizio Sanginiti, 40, has claimed he arranged for a high school friend of [Celtic Player Mark] Blount to take his SAT for him and once had him injected with steroids to bulk up his skinny frame. "He couldn't get the score on his SAT, which I believe had to be an 800 or better, so we decided, me and him, to get somebody else to take the test for him," he told prosecutor Timothy Treanor. Sanginiti is the government's lead witness in a racketeering conspiracy case involving an Albanian-led gang accused of wresting control of Bronx and Queens social clubs from Italian crime families. As a cooperator he's been forced to reveal all other crimes he's committed, including those involving Blount.
He also says Blount was given money by various colleges. Who knows if it's true. The accuser could be seen to have some crediblity problems:
Sanginiti's money troubles had worsened. He was running a sports book operation for the Albanians as well as weekly Texas Hold 'Em games. He said he was in the hole for more than $250,000 in gambling losses. He was arrested last year for kidnapping a man he said took $465,000 in cash from him and his family and invested it in a failed Ponzi scheme.
trial links:
Alex Rudaj - Albanian Mafia Trial - Week 3 [TJN, Oct. 11, 2005]
Mafia turns scaredy-cat [NY Daily News, Oct. 9, 2005]
Albanian mob trial opens [Journal News, Sept. 28, 2005]

Gangs of New York: Rudaj vs. Gambinos [TJN, Dec. 15, 2004]
Albanian Mafia Boss Denied Bail [TJN, Dec. 10, 2004]
New Mafia Gangs of New York fly below the radar screen [TJN, Nov. 15, 2004]
The Rudaj Organization aka: The Albanian Mafia [TJN, Nov. 1, 2004]

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tag Soup

Here are some of the most popular web sites that are doing tagging right now.

* - a social bookmarking system
* Flickr - a photo publishing / sharing site
* Technorati Tags - a feature added to this popular blog search engine
* MetaFilter Tags - a feature added to the original group blog.
* BlinkList - personal and social bookmarking
* 43 Things - a social networking site that is built on tags

This (as in Roll Your Own Search Engine) search bar that TJN rolled includes one called "Tag Soup" - it checks all of the above sites for a particular tag or term(s).

Tags [Wikipedia]
Tags & Folksonomies - What are they, and why should you care? [, Jan. 11, 2005]
Folksonomies - Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata
tagscheme [blog]

Fake Fireman Rape Case: Peter Braunstein Prime Suspect

Peter Braunstein, age 41, was a journalist, aspiring playwright, and a former writer at the Village Voice and Women's Wear Daily. He is now the prime suspect in a sadistic 13-hour Halloween sex attack on a 34 year-old women in a Chelsea apartment. Reports say he outlined the sexual assault nearly a year ago on his home computer. If you have some time to kill you can follow the links below and see how this bizarre story has unfolded.

You can start here:

The Braunstein Case - Specialized Rollyo Search of:,,,,,,,, Note: some of Braunstein's own writings from theVillage Voice will be included.

Crime blogger, Steve Huff, started writing about this case soon after the Halloween attack. He chronicles the many internet clues Braunstein has left as the story twists and turns:
The Hunt for Peter Braunstein [Peter Brausnstein's blog at]

Now every cop, journalist and gossip blogger in New York City along with America's Most Wanted is hot on Braunstein's trail:
people began to call police to tell them the sketch resembled 41 year-old Peter Braunstein. But when police went to find Braunstein to talk to him about what happened, he was nowhere to be found and the coincidences don't stop there.

It turns out, Braunstein was already on probation for stalking his ex-girlfriend. And that ex-girlfriend is an editor who works with the victim in this latest attack. What's more, Braunstein is a writer and journalist himself. He covered popular culture for The Village Voice and for "Women's Wear Daily".

In 2004, Braunstein wrote an off-broadway play titled, "Andy and Edie," about the tormented relationship between famed pop artist Andy Warhol and doomed socialite Edie Sedgwick. Police have not charged Braunstein in connection with this crime, but say they want to hear what he has to say about that Halloween night.

The New York Daily News reported yesterday that Braunstein got his fireman gear on eBay:
The prime suspect in the sadistic Halloween sex attack bought firefighter bunker gear on eBay shortly before the Chelsea assault, law enforcement sources revealed yesterday.

Investigators tracked down the online purchases in recent days - drawing the first substantial link between journalist Peter Braunstein and the Chelsea attack, in which a phony fireman assaulted a woman for nearly 13 hours, sources said.

"He went online and used his eBay account to buy bunker gear. It's a concrete connection between him and what was used in the crime," a law enforcement source said.

Update Nov. 15, 2005:
The Braunstein story has brought out the worst in one popular NYC gossip blog according to the New York Times' David Carr:
In a way, Mr. Braunstein represents the very sweet spot of Gawker: he is a media writer, he worked at a division of Condé Nast, his publication covered the fashion world and he was convicted of stalking someone else from the same company. The fact that Mr. Braunstein is likely reading over the shoulder of the blogs adds a significant tingle-factor. A habitué of both the Web and Manhattan media circles, he planted items in Page Six, the gossip column of the New York Post, and he once created a blog to vilify his ex-girlfriend (the same woman he pleaded guilty to stalking earlier this year). In another way, the story is the wrong one for the permanently jaded sensibility of sites like Gawker. Last Wednesday, for example, Gawker ran a poll about Mr. Braunstein's whereabouts.

"It's been nine days since former Women's Wear Daily and Village Voice writer Peter Braunstein allegedly raped a 34-year-old woman in her Chelsea home, and he's still at large. Where is Peter Braunstein? Having lunch with Col Allan and Martin Dunn? Working at the Condé Nast Cafeteria? Waiting outside Gawker HQ?"

A COUPLE of things are off here. Maybe it's minor, but Mr. Braunstein is not being sought for allegedly raping his victim. Secondly, this may be just the mainstream media guy in me, but it seems remarkably puerile to make jokes about his location when Fairchild Publication, a division of Condé Nast that publishes Women's Wear Daily, has posted guards in the company's office because he is suspected of drawing a target on people working there. In order to stick out from the clutter online - and Gawker does it extremely well, having had six million visitors in October - Web sites need to not just push the envelope, but rip it to shreds.

This has been a fast moving story so it's unclear if Mr. Carr's point about Braunstein's status regarding the rape investigation is still valid.

When Bloggers Joke About the Unfunny [NY Times, Nov. 14, 2005]
Peter Braunstein swiping his way to freedom [, Nov. 15, 2005]

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