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]

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