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Saturday, 28 April 2012

Chinese man dies after testicle squeeze

A Chinese man has died after a woman violently squeezed his testicles until he collapsed during a dispute about parking. The 41-year-old woman tried to park her scooter in front of the 42-year-old man's shop so she could pick up her child from primary school in Haikou City, Hainan, China News 24 reported. When he refused to let her park, a verbal argument escalated into a brawl, with the woman's husband and brother coming to help her. The woman then grabbed the man's testicles and squeezed them until he collapsed on the ground. He was rushed to hospital but later died.

Lock your doors alert as Whitby double murder suspect spotted on run

Detectives hunting double murder suspect James Allen have urged Yorkshire residents to lock their doors and windows after reported sightings of him on the East Coast raised fears the killer could strike again. Allen, a 35-year-old drug user with previous convictions for violence, is believed to have killed his former next-door neighbour in Middlesbrough and murdered a Whitby housewife while on bail for other offences. Police called on him to hand himself in yesterday as they revealed sightings of the suspect had been reported in Whitby, Scarborough and Middlesbrough. More than 100 officers from the Cleveland and North Yorkshire forces are investigating the murders of Colin Dunford, 81, and Julie Davison, 50. Both victims suffered head injuries. The detective leading the inquiry, Temporary Detective Chief Superintendent Gordon Lang of Cleveland Police, said it was a “24/7 operation” that would not stop until Allen is found.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Gas canister man storms office

One of the country's busiest shopping streets has been closed as a man wearing gas canisters stormed into an office and threatened to blow himself up, it was reported. Tottenham Court Road in central London was closed after police received emergency calls at midday. Scotland Yard sent a hostage negotiator to the scene amid reports the man had held people hostage inside the building several floors up. Pictures emerged of computer and office equipment being thrown through one of the office windows. A police spokesman said it was "too early to say if the suspect was armed or indeed had taken any hostages" but businesses and nearby buildings were evacuated. Joaqam Ramus, who works at nearby Cafe Fresco, said before being evacuated: "There was talk of a bomb and somebody having a hostage in a building. "All Tottenham Court Road is closed and so are we - the police told us to shut. "We don't know what it is but it seems someone has a hostage."

Busy London street evacuated over ‘hostage situation’

POLICE have been called to a potential hostage situation after Tottenham Court Road in London, one of the country’s busiest shopping streets, was closed. Businesses and shoppers were evacuated from the area at midday. Scotland Yard said it had sent a negotiator to the scene after reports of a man throwing furniture out of a window several floors up. A spokesman said it was “too early to say if the suspect was armed or indeed had taken any hostages”. Joaqam Ramus, who works at nearby Cafe Fresco, said before being evacuated: “There was talk of a bomb and somebody having a hostage in a building. “All Tottenham Court Road is closed and so are we - the police told us to shut. “We don’t know what it is but it seems someone has a hostage.” A spokesman for Transport for London could not confirm details of the ongoing operation but confirmed they were “aware of an incident”. Staff from news website The Huffington Post UK were evacuated from their building after a man reportedly wearing a gas canister threatened to blow himself up in the adjoining building, they said. People near the scene reported shots being fired and said computers and equipment had been thrown out of the windows of the office block housing the Huffington Post. Huffington Post UK executive editor Stephen Hull posted a video on Twitter of an office worker who saw the man enter the building. Abby Baafi, 27, the head of training and operations at Advantage, a company which offers HGV courses, told Mr Hull the man had targeted her offices and was currently holding four men hostage. In a video posted on YouTube, she said: “What happened is, we were in the office and someone came in. He asked him what his name was and he said it was Michael Green. “I recognised him because he was one of our previous customers but he is not quite stable - mentally stable. “He turned up, strapped up with gasoline cylinders, and threatened to blow up the office. “He said he doesn’t care about his life. He doesn’t care about anything, he is going to blow up everybody. “He was specifically looking for me but I said ‘My name’s not Abby’ and he let me go.” Ms Baafi said the man failed the HGV training course and wanted his money back.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Credit card fraud websites shut down on three continents

Three men have been arrested and 36 criminal websites selling credit card information and other personal data shut down as part of a two-year international anti-fraud operation, police have confirmed. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), working with the FBI and US Department of Justice, as well as authorities in Germany; the Netherlands; Ukraine; Australia and Romania, swooped after identifying the sites as specialising in selling card and bank details in bulk. The move comes as a blow to what is a growing black market for stolen financial data. Detectives estimated that the card information seized could have been used to extract more than £500m in total by fraudsters. SOCA claimed it has recovered more than two and a half million items of compromised personal and financial information over the past two years. “The authorities have shut down 36 websites but it is difficult to know how many other people had access to that data. They could spring back up somewhere else if a gang is not eradicated completely,” said Graham Cluley of internet security firm Sophos. He added: “This is big business and, just as in any legitimate company there are people who specialise in different things, so there are those who actually get their hands on the personal data and those who sell it on; they are not often the same person.” An investigation by The Independent last summer found that scammers were making a “comfortable living” getting their hands on sensitive information and selling it online. Card details were being offered for sale for between 4p and £60 per card – depending on the quality – according to one source in the business. Some cards would be sold with incomplete or unreliable information; others ready to use. Some of the card details for sale on the websites shut down by SOCA were being sold for as little as £2 each. Investigators said that the alleged fraudsters were using Automated Vending Carts, which allowed them to sell large quantities of stolen data. They are said to be a driver of the growth in banking fraud over the last 18 months because of the speed with which stolen data can be sold. Lee Miles, Head of Cyber Operations for SOCA said: “This operation is an excellent example of the level of international cooperation being focused on tackling online fraud. Our activities have saved business, online retailers and financial institutions potential fraud losses estimated at more than half a billion pounds, and at the same time protected thousands of individuals from the distress caused by being a victim of fraud or identity crime.” An alleged operator in Macedonia was one of those arrested, while two British men accused of buying the information were also detained. Britain’s Dedicated Cheque & Plastic Crime Unit also seized computers suspected of being used to commit fraud.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Shooting a 'warning' from rival bikie gang

SIMMERING tension between rival bikie gangs exploded on the Gold Coast yesterday with the drive-by shooting of a tattoo parlour in the heart of Bandidos territory. Police fear the attack could be a push for territory by the Hells Angels as the outlaw gang seeks a toehold on the lucrative Glitter Strip. Less than 24 hours after police commissioner Bob Atkinson told the Bulletin that bikie gangs were "one of the greatest challenges to face law enforcement", the Bandido-protected Mermaid Beach tattoo shop was hit by at least four shots in the early hours of yesterday morning.  High-ranking police yesterday said it was "inevitable" that the violence that has plagued Sydney would eventually spill across the border. "We do not believe it is directly connected to the war between the Hells Angels and the Nomads that has been unfolding in New South Wales," said police. "But it is a similar style of attack. "We know the Hells Angels have been pushing to establish a chapter on the Gold Coast -- that push is coming from Sydney. "Tradelink Drive is not their most profitable chapter." While detectives have attempted to play down the shooting, police say there is "no doubt" it was intended as a warning. The Bandidos are the largest and one of the most secretive bikie gangs on the Gold Coast. The club has gained strength as its main rival -- the Finks -- have been severely weakened with so many senior members behind bars and Bandido territory stretches south from Broadbeach. Police said last month's Hells Angels National Run was intended as a direct message to all gangs on the Gold Coast. More than 200 patched gang members descended on Surfers Paradise for the run. "These clubs are so well organised, they do nothing without a reason," police said. "You can bet they had some purpose in coming to the Gold Coast. "They taunted the Finks and nothing happened, now the Bandidos tattoo shop is shot up in the same way the gym controlled by the Hells Angels was hit a few months ago. "You join the dots." The shop is owned by a senior member of the outlaw gang who has been a patched member of the Bandidos "for years", police say. In an exclusive interview with the Bulletin, Mr Atkinson said the danger of bikie gangs was "under-rated" by the community. "The outlaw motorcycle gangs nationally present one of the greatest challenges to police. "I think the degree of that challenge and the risk they present to our society is underrated." The Gold Coast has one of the highest populations of bikie gangs in the country. Mr Atkinson said he would not be surprised if the Hells Angels were not considering a move closer to the Glitter Strip. "They are businesses, they look for opportunity so that wouldn't be a surprise," he said. "They market themselves as a group of mature men who have a love and interest in motorbikes and they do that very cleverly. The reality is they are highly sophisticated, well organised criminal enterprises that pose a genuine risk to the community and many are well represented by the finest and best lawyers who they retain to represent them." South East Region Assistant Commissioner Graham Rynders said the gangs were constantly looking to expand. "One of things about OMCGs is they look for opportunity for criminal enterprise," Mr Rynders said. "Throughout Queensland, throughout the country, probably throughout the world they are looking to expand. It is obviously dictated to by territory, depending on who or what other groups exist in what areas."

Jury hears grisly details about murder scene

Police discovered a grisly scene on Sept. 10, 2000, when they entered a Cogmagun Road home in Hants County. “It was a very brutal scene,” Cpl. Shawn Sweeney, who was a constable with the Windsor rural RCMP detachment that day, testified Tuesday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Kentville. It was the second day of trial for Leslie Douglas Greenwood, 42, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Barry Kirk Mersereau, 48, and his wife, Nancy Paula Christensen, 47. Sweeney, a Crown witness, testified that he and four other police officers who responded to a 911 call found Christensen sitting upright in a chair in the living room of her Centre Burlington home with a bullet wound in her left cheek, under her glasses. She had a cup of tea in her hand and a small dog was sitting in her lap. There were several bullet casings and lead fragments scattered on the floor. Mersereau was lying face down, with pools of blood around his head and body. Another dog, believed to be a German shepherd-Rottweiler mix, was hiding under covers on the bed in the master bedroom. A third dog was tied to the front porch and another had run off into the woods. Sweeney told Chief Justice Joseph Kennedy and the seven-woman, five-man jury hearing the case that the house appeared to be neat and orderly, with no signs of struggle. “It didn’t appear to be a house that was rifled through or things thrown around,” Sweeney testified. Const. Glenn Bonvie told the court it was immediately obvious that Mersereau and Christensen were dead. “There was no movement. There was no doubt that they were deceased.” Crown witness Ronald Connors owned a hunting cabin in the woods about half a kilometre away from the couple’s house. He testifed that he heard several shots at about 8:15 p.m. on Sept. 9. Connors said he heard six shots fired in quick succession, followed by a pause and a couple more shots. Moments later, there were more shots. He said he thought at first someone might be jacking deer, but Connors concluded that the shots didn’t sound like those from a high-powered hunting rifle. The jury was shown a video of the two bodies as they were found. Former RCMP officer David Clace, then in charge of the RCMP’s forensics identification unit in New Minas, said a large amount of money was found in plastic bags in a gym bag in one of the bedroom closets. The bag was later determined to contain about $65,000 in cash. Crown attorney Peter Craig has told the court that the victims were shot to death in their home in an execution-style killing as part of a Hells Angels-ordered killing. “They were killed in their home in a quiet community, with a teapot on the stove, with no signs of struggle and their baby in the next room,” Craig told the jury. He said evidence presented by as many as 40 Crown witnesses will show that Michael Lawrence and Greenwood murdered the couple on the orders of Jeffrey Lynds, a former Hells Angels operative who died recently in a Montreal jail of an apparent suicide. Lawrence, who owed Lynds money, pleaded guilty last January to three charges of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years. Also killed that day, by Lawrence, was Charles Maddison, an innocent man who picked Lawrence up hitchhiking. Lawrence shot him to take his truck to commit a planned robbery. Craig said Lawrence, expected to be a crucial Crown witness, will testify that he and Greenwood shot the couple, one with a .357 Magnum, the other with a 32-calibre handgun, in what he called “planned and deliberate” killings. The couple’s 18-month-old baby boy was safely recovered from the house by neighbour Ruby McKenzie, who went to the victim’s home the day after the shootings. McKenzie said she brought the baby back to her mobile home and called police. Greenwood sat quietly during the proceedings, occasionally exchanging comments with his lawyer, Alain Begin. Begin is expected to argue that Greenwood went to the Mersereau house the day of the shootings to buy drugs, and that Lawrence shot the couple while Greenwood was waiting outside. Also charged with first-degree murder in the killings is Curtis Blair Lynds, 36, who is serving time in a federal prison for drug trafficking. A preliminary inquiry in his case is scheduled to begin July 16.

Reopen Madeleine case, police urge

Scotland Yard has urged Portuguese authorities to reopen the search for Madeleine McCann as detectives said there are 195 potential leads to finding her alive. The detective leading the Metropolitan Police review said the case can still be solved before officers released a picture of what she might now look like as a nine-year-old. Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said he believes her disappearance was a stranger abduction, as he said there are 195 "investigative opportunities". Police refused to say what evidence they had uncovered to suggest Madeleine is alive. Mr Redwood confirmed that his team of more than 30 officers involved in the case had been out to Portugal seven times, including a visit to the family's holiday flat in Praia da Luz. It will be five years ago next week since the three-year-old went missing as her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, dined with friends nearby. A spokesman for the McCanns said the family was pleased with the image. Mr Redwood said his 37 officers had dealt with 40,000 pieces of information but the "primacy still sits in Portugal" in the attempt to find her. Commander Simon Foy said: "Most significantly, the message we want to bring to you is that, on the evidence, there is a possibility that she is alive and we desperately need your help today to appeal directly to the public for information to support our investigation." Mr Redwood said "evidence that she is alive stems from the forensic view of the timeline" that there was the opportunity for her to be taken. Investigations show "there do appear to be gaps", he added. Detectives in Portugal are also understood to want the case reopened but must gain judicial approval via the courts.

Insecure websites to be named and shamed after checks

Companies that do not do enough to keep their websites secure are to be named and shamed to help improve security. The list of good and bad sites will be published regularly by the non-profit Trustworthy Internet Movement (TIM). A survey carried out to launch the group found that more than 52% of sites tested were using versions of security protocols known to be compromised. The group will test websites to see how well they have implemented basic security software. Security fundamentals The group has been set up by security experts and entrepreneurs frustrated by the slow pace of improvements in online safety. "We want to stimulate some initiatives and get something done," said TIM's founder Philippe Courtot, serial entrepreneur and chief executive of security firm Qualys. He has bankrolled the group with his own money. TIM has initially focused on a widely used technology known as the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Experts recruited to help with the initiative include SSL's inventor Dr Taher Elgamal; "white hat" hacker Moxie Marlinspike who has written extensively about attacking the protocol; and Michael Barrett, chief security officer at Paypal. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote Everyone is now going to be able to see who has a good grade and who has a bad grade” Philippe Courtot Many websites use SSL to encrypt communications between them and their users. It is used to protect credit card numbers and other valuable data as it travels across the web. "SSL is one of the fundamental parts of the internet," said Mr Courtot. "It's what makes it trustworthy and right now it's not as secure as you think." Compromised certificates TIM plans a two-pronged attack on SSL. The first part would be to run automated tools against websites to test how well they had implemented SSL, said Mr Courtot. "We'll be making it public," he added. "Everyone is now going to be able to see who has a good grade and who has a bad grade." Early tests suggest that about 52% of sites checked ran a version of SSL known to be compromised. Companies who have done a bad job will be encouraged to improve and upgrade their implementations so it gets safer to use those sites. The second part of the initiative concerns the running of the bodies, known as certificate authorities, which guarantee that a website is what it claims to be. TIM said it would work with governments, industry bodies and companies to check that CAs are well run and had not been compromised. "It's a much more complex problem," said Mr Courtot. In 2011, two certificate authorities, DigiNotar and GlobalSign were found to have been compromised. In some cases this meant attackers eavesdropped on what should have been a secure communications channel. Steve Durbin, global vice president of the Information Security Forum which represents security specialists working in large corporations, said many of its members took responsibility for making sure sites were secure. "You cannot just say 'buyer beware'," he said. "That's not good enough anymore. They have a real a duty of care." He said corporations were also increasingly conscious of their reputation for providing safe and secure services to customers. Data breaches, hack attacks and poor security were all likely to hit share prices and could mean they lose customers, he noted.

Anti-depressants likely do more harm than good, study suggests

Commonly prescribed anti-depressants appear to be doing patients more harm than good, say researchers who have published a paper examining the impact of the medications on the entire body. See Also: Health & Medicine Pharmacology Birth Defects Mental Health Research Mind & Brain Depression Disorders and Syndromes Psychiatry Reference COX-2 inhibitor Psychoactive drug Seasonal affective disorder Anti-obesity drug "We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs," says Paul Andrews, an evolutionary biologist at McMaster University and lead author of the article, published recently in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology. "It's important because millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants each year, and the conventional wisdom about these drugs is that they're safe and effective." Andrews and his colleagues examined previous patient studies into the effects of anti-depressants and determined that the benefits of most anti-depressants, even taken at their best, compare poorly to the risks, which include premature death in elderly patients. Anti-depressants are designed to relieve the symptoms of depression by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, where it regulates mood. The vast majority of serotonin that the body produces, though, is used for other purposes, including digestion, forming blood clots at wound sites, reproduction and development. What the researchers found is that anti-depressants have negative health effects on all processes normally regulated by serotonin. The findings include these elevated risks: developmental problems in infants problems with sexual stimulation and function and sperm development in adults digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and bloating abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly The authors reviewed three recent studies showing that elderly anti-depressant users are more likely to die than non-users, even after taking other important variables into account. The higher death rates indicate that the overall effect of these drugs on the body is more harmful than beneficial. "Serotonin is an ancient chemical. It's intimately regulating many different processes, and when you interfere with these things you can expect, from an evolutionary perspective, that it's going to cause some harm," Andrews says. Millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants every year, and while the conclusions may seem surprising, Andrews says much of the evidence has long been apparent and available. "The thing that's been missing in the debates about anti-depressants is an overall assessment of all these negative effects relative to their potential beneficial effects," he says. "Most of this evidence has been out there for years and nobody has been looking at this basic issue." In previous research, Andrews and his colleagues had questioned the effectiveness of anti-depressants even for their prescribed function, finding that patients were more likely to suffer relapse after going off their medications as their brains worked to re-establish equilibrium. With even the intended function of anti-depressants in question, Andrews says it is important to look critically at their continuing use. "It could change the way we think about such major pharmaceutical drugs," he says. "You've got a minimal benefit, a laundry list of negative effects -- some small, some rare and some not so rare. The issue is: does the list of negative effects outweigh the minimal benefit?"

Madeleine McCann, the British girl who went missing while on holiday in Portugal half a decade ago, could still be alive, Scotland Yard said on Wednesday.

Madeleine McCann as she might look aged 9
Madeleine McCann as she might look aged 9  Photo: Teri Blythe

Detectives released a new “age progression” image of the toddler, which they said showed what she would look like today at the age of nine.

On Wednesday, Britain’s biggest police force said that as a result of evidence uncovered during a review “they now believe there is a possibility Madeleine is still alive”.

Officers have so far identified nearly 200 new items for investigation within historic material and are also “developing what they believe to be genuinely new material”.

Scotland Yard urged Portuguese authorities to reopen the search for her amid the new "investigative opportunities".

Police said the image, created ahead of what would have been her ninth birthday on May 12, had been created in “close collaboration with the family”.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Opiates Killed 8 Americans In Afghanistan, Army Records Show

Eight American soldiers died of overdoses involving heroin, morphine or other opiates during deployments in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, according to U.S. Army investigative reports. The overdoses were revealed in documents detailing how the Army investigated a total of 56 soldiers, including the eight who fell victim to overdoses, on suspicion of possessing, using or distributing heroin and other opiates. At the same time, heroin use apparently is on the rise in the Army overall, as military statistics show that the number of soldiers testing positive for heroin has grown from 10 instances in fiscal year 2002 to 116 in fiscal year 2010. Army officials didn't respond to repeated requests for comment on Saturday. But records from the service's Criminal Investigation Command, obtained by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch, provided glimpses into how soldiers bought drugs from Afghan juveniles, an Afghan interpreter and in one case, an employee of a Defense Department contractor, who was eventually fired. The drug use is occurring in a country that is estimated to supply more than 90% of the world's opium, and the Taliban insurgency is believed to be stockpiling the drug to finance their activities, according to a 2009 U.N. study. While the records show some soldiers using heroin, much of the opiate abuse by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan involves prescription drugs such Percocet, the Army documents show. Judicial Watch obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information of Act and provided them to CNN. Spokesman Col. Gary Kolb of the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led command in Afghanistan, verified the documents to CNN on Saturday. One fatal overdose occurred in June 2010 at Forward Operating Base Blessing, after a soldier asked another soldier to buy black tar opium from a local Afghan outside the base's entry control point. The first soldier died after consuming the opium like chewing tobacco and smoking pieces of it in a cigarette, the documents show. The reports even show soldier lingo for the drug -- calling it "Afghani dip" in one case where three soldiers were accused of using the opiate, the Army investigative reports show. The United States has 89,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. death toll since the September 11, 2001, attacks that triggered the war has risen to more than 1,850, including 82 this year, according to the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Central Command. Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said his group was interested in soldiers' drug use partly because the risk was present during the Vietnam War. "You never want to see news of soldiers dying of drug use in Afghanistan," Fitton said. "Our concern is, will the military treat this as the problem that it is, and are the families of the soldiers aware of the added risk in this drug-infested country? "There is a dotted line between the uses. Prescription abuse can easily veer into heroin drug use," Fitton added. "Afghanistan is the capital of this opiate production and the temptation is great there and the opportunity for drug use all the more." The group is concerned that "there hasn't been enough public discussion, and we would encourage the leadership to discuss or talk about this issue more openly," Fitton said. In one case, a soldier bought heroin and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax from five "local national juveniles at multiple locations on Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, and consumed them," one report states. Soldiers also distributed heroin, Percocet and other drugs among themselves, according to the reports. Another soldier fatally overdosed in December 2010 after taking several drugs, including morphine and codeine, though the drugs were not prescribed for him, the Army documents show. One female soldier broke into the Brigade Medical Supply Office at Forward Operating Base Shank and stole expired prescription narcotics including morphine, Percocet, Valium, fentanyl and lorazepam, the documents show. The investigative reports show soldiers using other drugs, including steroids and marijuana, and even hashish that was sold to U.S. servicemen by the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police personnel, the reports state.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

police hunt for Michael Brown's missing millions

British police are still trying to trace £18m allegedly stolen by the Liberal Democrats' fugitive donor Michael Brown, who is expected to be extradited to Britain within the next 10 days. Brown, 46, was in a holding cell near Madrid airport on Sunday, having been deported from the Dominican Republic, where he had been on the run from UK authorities for three years. Brown, who gave £2.4m to the Liberal Democrats before the 2005 general election, is not expected to challenge a formal move to extradite him to London which has already been set in motion. He was convicted of theft and false accounting in his absence in Britain in 2008 and sentenced to seven years in jail. Detectives are still trying to trace around £18m of Brown's stolen money, which had been moved between his accounts in the US, Britain and Switzerland, the Guardian understands. Brown was estimated to have stolen more than £60m in a number of frauds. Most of his assets have been accounted for in property deals, a Bentley, a yacht and the private jet once used to fly senior Lib Dems across the UK. However, more than £18m has not yet been accounted for. "The file at Interpol on Brown and his associates remains open," a source told the Guardian. Brown's return will be another embarrassing development in the long-running saga over the Lib Dems' biggest single donation. The party has refused to compensate any of Brown's victims, claiming it received the money in good faith and spent it on the 2005 election campaign. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg welcomed Brown's return to Britain but said on Sunday that the party would not be returning his donation because the Electoral Commission had concluded the money had been received in good faith. The deputy prime minister, who pointed out that the donation was made before he was elected to Westminster, told BBC1's Sunday Politics: "I'm very pleased he's coming back to serve his sentence. This is a convicted fraudster. "I should stress that this is something which happened as far as the Liberal Democrats are concerned before I was even an MP, yet alone leader of the Liberal Democrats. What I've been told is that the Electoral Commission in 2009 looked at this exhaustively – as far as the receipt of that money by the Liberal Democrats from one of his companies. They categorically concluded that the money was received in good faith and all the controls, all the checks that should have been made were reasonably made by the Liberal Democrats at the time. If we'd been shown wanting on those accounts then of course we should pay the money back." But Brown's return will increase focus on the Electoral Commission inquiry into Brown's donations. The inquiry failed to call the Lib Dems' former treasurer, Reg Clark, who resigned over Brown in 2005 and warned advisers to the former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy that Brown should be treated with extreme caution. One of Brown's victims said the Lib Dems should return the money. Tony Brown, managing partner at law firm Bivonas which represents US attorney Robert Mann who lost more than $5m (£3m), said Brown may be asked to give evidence as part of his client's claim against the Lib Dems. "The Lib Dems have refused to repay this money to our client even though they know that this is the proceeds of crime. The Electoral Commission has failed to investigate this properly in our view. So now that Brown is returning to the jurisdiction, we can investigate again and establish the basis on which the Lib Dems received this money." Brown is expected to appear before a Spanish court to confirm his name and will then appear before an extradition hearing within 10 days. City of London police, who first uncovered Brown's fraud, confirmed his deportation. Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart said: "We hope that him facing justice will bring some closure to the victims who suffered as a result of his frauds." A close friend of Brown's told the Guardian on Sunday that he had arrived in Spain on Saturday after "volunteering" for deportation from the Dominican Republic, where he has been hiding for three years under the name of Darren Nally. "He asked to return to Britain. He is going home to face the music," the friend said. Brown appeared to come from nowhere when the party was paid £2.4m in the runup to the 2005 election from his company 5th Avenue Partners. A fast-talking and brash Glaswegian, he had walked into the party's then headquarters in Cowley Street and offered it money. He was not registered to vote, had no interest in politics and had never been a party member, but said he was giving the money to create an even playing field. Brown wined and dined with Charles Kennedy and other party grandees, and used his private jet to fly Kennedy across the country during the election campaign. Former Lib Dem insiders say he dazzled them with stories of Gordonstoun public school, St Andrews University and his connections with royalty and the US government. The truth was that he had attended his local school and completed a City and Guilds in catering at Glasgow College of Food Technology. He had no US government links – although he was wanted in Florida for cheque fraud. He was arrested in late 2005 after four former clients said he had duped them out of more than £40m in a high-yield fraud. His victims included Martin Edwards, the former Manchester United chairman, who had invested £8m with 5th Avenue Partners. The court would later be told that 5th Avenue Partners was wholly fraudulent and Brown had given money to the Lib Dems to give himself an air of respectability while duping his victims. The party had been used as part of his cover story, a judge said. In June 2008, while awaiting trial, Brown fled and a warrant was issued for his arrest. In the weeks before he disappeared, from his Hampstead bail address in north London, he changed his name on the electoral roll to Campbell-Brown and allowed his hair to turn grey. He travelled to the Dominican Republic where he enjoyed a millionaire's lifestyle while on the run. He lived in gated communities yards from some of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean, drove a series of 4x4 vehicles and was a regular at exclusive golf courses. In Punta Cana, an exclusive resort on the eastern tip of the island, he could often be seen walking his dog – named Charles, after the former Lib Dem leader. He was arrested in Punta Cana in January on unrelated fraud allegations.

Donaldson enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in Marbella and Tenerife, trafficking accused found hiding in loft with £70k in cash

 A SUSPECTED drug trafficker was found by police hiding in a farmhouse loft in Scotland with a bag stuffed with £70,000, a Spanish court was told last week. Ian Donaldson, 32, is accused of helping fund an international drugs ring smuggling cocaine and speed from Spain to Scotland The former amateur racing driver – who drove a Lamborghini with the distinctive Lambo 88 plate – was tracked down to the farm by officers from the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency. Donaldson – who enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in Marbella and Tenerife– is one of six Brits facing court in Madrid accused of making millions from the drugs trade. Detective Inspector James Wallace of the SCDEA told the court: “I arrested him on February 27, 2009. He was hiding in a loft area in a farm building. We also found £70,000 hidden in a bag.” Eight SCDEA detectives gave evidence to the National Court in the Spanish capital last week via a video link from Edinburgh. The court heard Scottish police mounted a surveillance operation after Donaldson, from Renton, Dunbartonshire, was released on bail. Detectives watched him in a series of meetings in Glasgow and Hamilton in April 2009, as he tried to hide the origins of his fortune, prosecutors allege. Donaldson met with fellow accused Mary Hendry and Joseph Campbell and was observed discussing large sums of money and swapping paperwork for a nightclub in Gran Canaria. It was alleged they were secretly plotting to make it look like Donaldson had made some of his wealth from the club. Meetings took place at supermarkets in Glasgow and Hamilton and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. DI Wallace told the court: “We saw he (Donaldson) was creating a defence for the Spanish charges. “I believe they (Hendry and Campbell) were both subservient to Donaldson, who instructed them on what to do.” The detective said Donaldson and his company IRD Services were also investigated for money- laundering in Scotland. He added: “There is evidence he purchased seven vehicles in Scotland, worth up to £900,000, between 2006 and 2008.” Mary Hendry told the court she only met Donaldson twice for legitimate business meetings. She said: “Joseph Campbell introduced me to Ian Donaldson because I was trying to sell my restaurant. “I met him the next day and he said he was not interested. I never saw him again.” It is alleged Donaldson was the money man for a gang of drug smugglers based in Tenerife and Marbella, led by Glaswegian Ronald O’Dea, 45. The gang are alleged to have spent millions on luxury villas, fast cars and yachts. In October 2008, police seized a a haul of amphetamines worth £660,000 heading to Scotland after stopping a lorry in Oxfordshire. Donaldson, Hendry and O’Dea share the dock in Madrid with fellow Scot James MacDonald, 62, and Londoners Steve Brown, 45, and Deborah Learmouth, 49. The gang face charges ranging from drug-trafficking to money-laundering. They deny all charges. Two other defendants – Brian Rawlings and Joseph Campbell – failed to show up at the trial. The judges will give their verdict at a later date.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Wayne Rooney launches phone-hacking claim

Wayne Rooney and England rugby union World Cup winner Matt Dawson are among the new wave of high-profile figures suing Rupert Murdoch's News International over alleged News of the World phone hacking. The England and Manchester United football star, his agent Paul Stretford, Dawson, now a BBC rugby commentator and Question of Sport team captain, actor James Nesbitt and Sir John Major's former daughter-in-law, Emma Noble, are among 46 new phone-hacking cases filed at the high court in London. Times Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that publishes the Times and Sunday Times, is also facing its first civil damages claim, from Northern Ireland human rights campaigner Jane Winter, who is also suing NoW publisher, News Group Newspapers. Winter's claim is related to an article in the Sunday Times in August 2006, her solicitor confirmed. A reference to the article was made in a witness statement she submitted to the Leveson inquiry in February. Winter alleged in evidence to the inquiry that her emails to the former British army intelligence officer Ian Hurst were hacked by NoW. A News International spokeswoman said Winter's case would be "defended vigorously". Others who have filed claims in the past few days seeking damages for alleged invasion of privacy from News Group, the News International subsidiary that published the now-closed Sunday tabloid, include former Conservative cabinet minister and chief whip Lord Blencathra and former Fire Brigades Union general secretary Andy Gilchrist. The list of new claimants also features Michelle Bayford, the former girlfriend of the victim of the 2006 so-called "elephant man" drug trial case. Her then boyfriend, Ryan Wilson, spent three weeks in a coma and lost all his toes and parts of his fingers to gangrene. Another claimant, Anne Colvin, was a witness in the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial. At a case management conference at the high court in London , Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing victims of alleged phone hacking, told Mr Justice Vos that he had 44 new cases filed while two others had submitted their claims via another legal representative. The court also heard that law firm Harbottle & Lewis has a number of "sensitive clients" who wish to remain anonymous. It is expected that up to 200 new claims will be filed over the coming months, Tomlinson told the court in a previous hearing. Claims filed in the past week bring the number of new cases against News International to 46. This figure includes earlier claims filed by public figures including Cherie Booth, Alex Best, the former wife of the late footballer George Best, and Colin Stagg, the man wrongly accused of murdering Rachel Nickell. Others who have filed claims include comedian Bobby Davro, actor Tina Hobley's former husband Steve Wallington, TV personalities Jamie Theakston and Jeff Brazier, the former boxer Chris Eubank, and footballers Peter Crouch, Kieron Dyer and Jermaine Jenas. The cases are part of a second wave of civil actions which Vos is managing following the settlement of more than 50 cases earlier this year including claims by Jude Law, Charlotte Church and Lord Prescott. Tomlinson did not disclose the names of the claimants on Friday, but court documents show that new cases submitted to the high court in the past week bring the number of new actions faced by News International to nearly 50, a number that is expected to rise considerably. Tomlinson told the court that News International had received 100 requests for discovery of preliminary disclosure. He said there were 4,791 potential phone-hacking victims, of which 1,892 had been contacted by the police. The police believed 1,174 were "likely victims". Court 30 in the Rolls Building of the high court was packed, with more than 50 law firms acting for victims. Vos said there were 58 firms of solicitors representing only 100 victims, which he told Tomlinson was "unbelievable". The judge added that he wanted to ensure costs are reduced for claimants. "Many of them have seen the light and have instructed lawyers who have specialist knowledge of this case," said Vos. He suggested possible tariffs of costs for each element of the legal action. This would mean fresh claimants could access to information relating to the News of the World's phone-hacking activity already produced on discovery in earlier cases, without incurring the costs associated with a full action. "I will have no sympathy for outrageous cost estimates," he said. "A claimant is entitled to have a solicitor, but what he is not entitled to have is a solicitor who knows nothing about the case and charges the defendant for that."

Friday, 20 April 2012

Hacking scandal: the net tightens on the Murdochs

 Rupert Murdoch's grip on his media empire was dramatically challenged yesterday after his company was labelled a "toxic shadow state" which launched a dirty tricks campaign against MPs and now faces a salvo of phone-hacking claims in the United States. On a tumultuous day for the media mogul, the lawyer who brought the first damages claims against the News of the World in Britain said he had uncovered new allegations of the use of "dark arts" by News Corp in America and was ready to file at least three phone-hacking lawsuits in the company's backyard. The sense of a legal net tightening around Mr Murdoch and News Corp was heightened by the announcement that he and his son James will testify separately next week before the Leveson Inquiry into press standards during three days of what is likely to be uncomfortable scrutiny of alleged widespread criminality in their British tabloid newspapers. In a separate development, the royal editor of The Sun became the latest journalist on the paper to be arrested on suspicion of making corrupt payments to public officials. The arrest coincided with the publication of an incendiary book on the scandal which levelled new accusations that the NOTW set out on an extraordinary campaign of intimidation of MPs to try to blunt their investigations into its alleged law breaking. Last night senior MPs called for News International (NI) to be investigated by the Commons for potential contempt of Parliament over the claims that members of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee were targeted by attempts to dig dirt on their private lives. Dial M for Murdoch, written by the Labour MP Tom Watson and The Independent's Martin Hickman, also alleges that: l Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of NI, was bugged in her own office shortly before she resigned last summer over the phone hacking of Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl. l On his release from prison, Glenn Mulcaire, the convicted NOTW hacker, allegedly was contracted to give security advice to a private security company, Quest, whose chairman is Lord Stevens, a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. l NI intermediaries approached Mr Watson with a "deal" to "give him" former NOTW editor and Downing Street press chief Andy Coulson but that Ms Brooks was "sacred". NI, which runs Mr Murdoch's British newspapers, said it had no comment to make on the book. At a packed Westminster press conference, Mr Watson, who is a member of the Culture, Media and Sport committee, said the claim that the NOTW set out in 2009 to undermine the MPs investigating it came from Neville Thurlbeck, the NOTW's former chief reporter. In the book, Mr Thurlbeck, who has been arrested in connection with phone hacking, says: "An edict came down... and it was find out every single thing you can about every single member: who was gay, who had affairs, anything we can use." Mr Thurlbeck told The Independent last night that the order to target the MPs, which involved assigning two politicians each to a group of six reporters, had not originated from inside the paper but instead came from "elsewhere inside News International". He insisted that NOTW staff had been reluctant and there was a "degree of procrastination" before the plan was "suddenly and unexpectedly halted about 10 days later". Mr Watson, who has received an apology from NI after he was placed under surveillance, said he believed the campaign was nonetheless successful and had contributed to a decision by the media committee not to demand that Ms Brooks give evidence to it in 2010. He added: "Parliament was, in effect, intimidated. News International thought they could do this, that they could get away with it, that no one could touch them; and they actually did it, and it worked." Labelling News Corp a "toxic institution", he added: "We conclude that the web of influence which News Corporation spun in Britain, which effectively bent politicians, police and many others in public life to its will, amounted to a shadow state." Former Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price, who is gay and was a member of the DCMS committee, is described in the book as having been warned by a Conservative colleague that their private lives would be raked over if they called Ms Brooks to give evidence – "effectively they would delve into our personal lives in order to punish us". Hours after publication of the book, Mark Lewis, the lawyer who has doggedly pursued hacking claims, told a press conference in New York that he was investigating allegations of impropriety at Mr Murdoch's US media companies, including Fox News. He said a high-profile trip to America to prepare claims on behalf of victims whose phones were allegedly hacked on US soil had generated a slew of new allegations about wider use of "dark arts" to obtain private information. He said: "The investigation in the UK began with one claim by one client and look where it is now. While it starts in America with three cases, it seems likely it might end up with more." The allegations will provide an awkward backdrop for the Murdochs to their appearances before the Leveson Inquiry. Rupert Murdoch, who is the first witness before the inquiry to be scheduled for two days of testimony, will be questioned about practices in his British newspapers and whether he had knowledge of those activities. Chris Bryant last night confirmed that he would be asking Parliament to investigate the claims that NI carried out targeted intimidation. Royal editor of The Sun arrested The royal editor of The Sun was arrested yesterday after News Corp handed over information to detectives investigating alleged illegal payments to public officials. Duncan Larcombe, 36, who had previously worked as the newspaper's defence editor, was arrested during an early morning raid at his home in Kent on suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt and conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office. Officers from Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden also arrested a 42-year-old former member of the armed forces and a woman, 38, at their home in Lancashire. All three were later released on bail. Mr Larcombe was the paper's royal correspondent from 2005 to 2009 before being appointed defence editor for 14 months. He returned to the royal beat last year and led the newspaper's coverage of the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William. He was the second Sun defence editor to be arrested during the police inquiry.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

British police arrested three people, including the royal editor of Rupert Murdoch's Sun tabloid

British police arrested three people, including the royal editor of Rupert Murdoch's Sun tabloid, a source familiar with the situation said, in an escalation of a long-running phone hacking scandal which reaches into Britain's political establishment.

Thursday's arrests and the fact they stemmed from information given to the police by Murdoch's company itself is likely to reignite tensions within the media group, just days before parliament gives its verdict on how the culture of illegality came about.

Next week Rupert Murdoch and son James will also appear before a judicial inquiry to answer questions over the conduct of the press, which will focus on the close ties between Murdoch, his executives and the political establishment.

James Murdoch will appear in court room 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday while lawyers at the inquiry have cleared a day and a half to grill the 81-year-old Rupert on Wednesday and Thursday.

"This was always going to be an important six weeks in this affair, with the Murdochs and politicians going before the Leveson judicial inquiry, but it will be exacerbated by the arrests and the imminent committee report," said Steven Barnett, communications professor at the University of Westminster.

Police made the arrests one day after prosecutors confirmed they had started to examine the police case against four journalists and seven others to establish whether they should be charged with a range of offences including perverting the course of justice.

Press reports have speculated that one of those named in the files is Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of the News of the World and Sun tabloids and a close friend of both Murdochs and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Brooks has been arrested twice, once for corruption and intercepting communications, and more recently for perverting the course of justice, along with her husband, Charlie Brooks.

The three arrested on Thursday were detained at dawn and questioned over inappropriate payments made to police and public officials.

The source familiar with the situation said one of those was Duncan Larcombe, royal editor and a former defence correspondent at the Sun, Britain's biggest selling daily newspaper.

A spokeswoman for Murdoch's British newspaper arm News International confirmed that one of those arrested was a Sun journalist but declined to give further details.

Larcombe was previously a defence correspondent at the Sun and another person arrested on Thursday was described by police as a 42-year-old former member of the armed forces. A woman aged 38 has also been arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office.

ROUTINE HACKING

Murdoch's British newspaper arm has been rocked in the last year by allegations that journalists at the Sun's sister title, the News of the World, had routinely hacked into phones to generate salacious front-page stories.

The police investigation, which forced the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World, has since moved on to the Sun newspaper and whether its journalists paid police and public officials for stories.

While damaging the reputation of Murdoch, the intense spotlight has also revealed the extremely close links he and his executives have with politicians and senior police officers, embarrassing many with tales of horse rides and Christmas drinks between the upper echelons of Murdoch executives and politicians.

Police said the latest arrests were prompted by information provided by the Management and Standards Committee, a small team set up by Murdoch's News Corp to co-operate closely with the police in a move that has infuriated newspaper staff.

The 81-year-old Murdoch was forced to travel to London in February to reassure journalists of his commitment to the Sun after a string of earlier arrests caused a showdown at the paper by staff who felt they had been abandoned by their management.

Since then, the Sun has launched a Sunday version and both the Sun and Murdoch's Times newspaper have noticeably hardened their position towards the government, which turned on Murdoch at the height of the hacking scandal last year.

That antagonism is likely to be exacerbated in the coming weeks when the parliamentary select committee, which summoned James and Rupert Murdoch at the height of the scandal last year, publishes its findings.

The committee investigated allegations of phone hacking after they first surfaced in 2006 and it has since looked at whether it was misled in its initial inquiry by a host of News International executives who pleaded innocence.

Paul Farrelly, a leading member of the committee, told Reuters they hoped to publish the long-awaited report by May 1.

Tom Watson, a member of the committee who has campaigned against Murdoch, told reporters he thought News Corp had become a toxic institution which operated like a shadow state

Secret Service scandal sheds light on sex tourism in Latin America


Type in "sex tourism" and "Brazil" in Google, and the first site that comes up is not a news report or academic study, but advice on going rates and how to hire prostitutes. But ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, officials are starting to clamp down on the country's image as a haven for sex tourism. Brazil's Tourism Ministry recently said it identified more than 2,000 sites advertising the South American giant's sex industry, many of them hosted in the US. To counter the reputation, the tourism ministry has stepped up efforts to advertise Brazil's natural beauties like beaches and the Amazon, instead of bodies for sale. And they have circulated information reminding visitors that sexual exploitation of minors is a crime.  Brazil's preventive efforts seem more crucial than ever after the scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, during the Sixth Summit of the Americas last weekend. Some 11 US Secret Service agents were sent home for allegedly hiring prostitutes in the steamy colonial city, also a major destination for sex tourism.  “Large events create an obvious clientele and traffickers recognize an opportunity to make money,” says Heather Smith-Cannoy, who teaches international relations at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. “I think that in many places around the world there is a 'boys will be boys' attitude about the patronizing of prostitutes," Ms. Smith-Cannoy says. But when considering the combination of large profits for traffickers, and pimps or hustlers, and a relaxed cultural attitude about visiting prostitutes "we can begin to understand both the supply and the demand side of this industry,” says Smith-Cannoy. The trafficking–tourism link Sex “tourism" is nothing new. By some accounts it dates back to the 15th century, with Columbus's arrival to the Americas. As the middle class grew in industrialized nations, and the opportunities to travel with it, the formal industry was developed.  Prostitution is tolerated to varying degrees in Latin America, but it is the human trafficking associated with sex tourism, especially that of minors, that alarms officials most. (The case of Cartagena did not involve minors.) According to the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (CATW-LAC), 500,000 women and girls from Latin America and the Caribbean are sexually exploited each year. Not all prostitution involves sex trafficking, a multibillion dollar industry, but the nongovernmental organization World Vision estimates that up to a quarter of women in prostitution have been trafficked.  At the same time, the majority of human trafficking victims — 79 percent — are brought into the sex trade, according to the United Nations. Countries in Asia, notably Thailand, have long been at the center of the problem, but Latin America is starting to play a larger role. “While most trafficking victims still appear to originate from South and Southeast Asia or the former Soviet Union, human trafficking is also a growing problem in Latin America,” writes Clare Ribando Seelke in a 2012 Congressional Research Service report. Poverty, displacement from rural areas, and increased demand for prostitution all play a role in the growth of sexual exploitation, says Humberto Rodriguez, the communication officer of Fundacion Renacer, a Colombia-based group that combats the sexual exploitation of youths in the country. Anywhere the tourism industry grows, he says, so does the opportunity for sexual tourism. 'Not enough is being done' Within sex tourism, the exploitation of children is the biggest concern.  According to the US State Department 2011 report on the trafficking of persons, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua all have significant child sex tourist industries. Colombia, it says, is also “a destination for foreign child sex tourists from the United States and Europe, particularly to coastal cities such as Cartagena and Barranquilla.” Countries around the globe have addressed the problem of human trafficking in general since the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, was adopted in 2000, but many say not enough is being done. The US State Department assesses efforts around the globe to combat human trafficking. In 2010, 80 percent of countries in South America were placed on the Tier 2 list, which means they were not fully complying with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act, while 60 percent of countries in Central America and the Caribbean were on the Tier 2 Watch List. Cuba fell to the lowest level of cooperation, Tier 3. The State Department says that prostitution of children over 16 is legal in Cuba, leaving those over the legal age vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. Venezuela fell to Tier 3 in the 2011 report. Colombia sits on the Tier 1 list, and while the case of the US Secret Service agents does not fall into Fundacion Renacer's work — as it did not involve children — Mr. Rodriguez says the case may not have generated so much attention in the past. “People are paying attention to it now,” says Rodriguez. Through their work and an international certification program called The Code, which brings tourism operators into the fight to prevent the use of children in sex tourism, society in general is more aware of prostitution, he says. Efforts like these are particularly important as countries become hosts to big events like the Summit of the Americas, or as crises occur.  An increased demand for prostitution increases human sex trafficking rings, says Cannoy-Smith. She and a co-author have researched the impact of UN peacekeeping forces in Kosovo, Haiti, and Sierra Leone on trafficking. “When the UN intervenes in civil conflicts, the peacekeepers themselves have often been linked to running and patronizing trafficking rings,” Smith-Cannoy says. “Again, I think that poverty, desperation, the specter of large profits, and relaxed cultural attitudes make these dynamics possible.”

Sex Robots Will Revolutionize Sex Tourism,

 

They don't spread disease and they can't be sold into sex slavery. Those are just two of the advantages of robot prostitutes, which will be edging out their human competition in the sex tourism market by the year 2050, according to an article published in the journal Futures. The Dominion Post, which found the study, writes that sex tourists will shell out about $10,000 Euros for services ranging from massages and lap dances to intercourse, according to the article. The researchers lay out why this scenario will be the future of sex tourism: Human trafficking, sexual transmitted diseases, beauty and physical perfection, pleasure for sex toys, emotional connection to robots and the importance of sex in Amsterdam are all driving forces. But some are not so sure that robots will be replacing female sex workers any time soon. CBS Las Vegas spoke to Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nev. “Those Australian researchers ought to come to the Bunny Ranch to see what real American sex is like – there’s no way to duplicate it,” Hof told CBS Las Vegas. “At the Bunny Ranch, we say ‘it’s not just the sex, it’s an adventure’ – and often times it’s more about the adventure than it is the sex.”

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Coachella sees 99 arrests, mostly alcohol-related

 

Just under 100 people had been arrested at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival by Sunday afternoon, mostly on alcohol-related charges, authorities said. Indio police arrested one person on assault charges and 98 others for alcohol- or drug-related offenses, said Benjamin Guitron, the department spokesman. "That's just a little bit higher than previous years (of the festival)," Guitron said. "We don't know why - we've been doing this for over a decade, and it's not any different as far as how we're handling it." About 60 percent of the arrests through Saturday morning and 80 percent of the arrrests Saturday night were on alcohol charges, with the rest drug-related, he said. No one had been arrested Sunday as of 3 p.m. Police were encouraging people to dress comfortably and hydrate well with non-alcoholic drinks as Sunday's temperatures were significantly higher than the festival's rainy beginning and weather than visitors might be used to. "We just want people to have a good time," Guitron said. "If you can avoid us, other than saying hello and asking for directions or saying `thank you,' we'll all have a good time."

Police in downtown Los Angelese are fighting crime by predicting offences - before they have even happened.



Unlike the usual method of responding to 911 calls, cops use computers which show them 'red spots' where an incident is most likely to occur.

They are then deployed onto the streets in a bid to deter thugs, burglers and gangsters from going on their next crime spree.

Technical: LAPD cops study an enormous computer screen showing 'red spots' where the next crime is most likely to committed

Technical: LAPD cops study an enormous computer screen showing 'red spots' where the next crime is most likely to committed

 

The 'predictive policing' system pulls together crime statistics and pinpoints the areas where most offences are being carried out. Police are then sent to patrol those streets

The 'predictive policing' system pulls together crime statistics and pinpoints the areas where most offences are being carried out. Police are then sent to patrol those streets

The programme has some similarities with the hit science fiction film Minority Report.  The movie is set in 2054 and a special police unit is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes.

However, unlike LAPD's system who use computer data, those in Minority Report employ special psychics called 'precogs'.

Tom Cruise plays 'PreCrime' captain John Anderton but the system eventually predicts that he will commit a future murder and he has to take flight.

 

 

Such disturbing situations are unlikely to happen with LAPD's system, which uses crime statistics - and not premonitions - to pinpoint the next likely incident.

The system has been trialled in the Foothill division of downtown LA since November and could be rolled out to other areas if it is successful

The system has been trialled in the Foothill division of downtown LA since November and could be rolled out to other areas if it is successful

The 'predictive policing' system being used in the Foothill Division of downtown LA has been developed from the same kind of mathematical calculations used to predict earthquakes and aftershocks.

It analyses the times, dates, and places of recent crimes such as burglaries, break-ins, and car thefts. It also looks at the frequency of offences and predicts how many are likely to be carried out if the trend continues.

If a spate of crimes have happened in one area, or a crook appears to be moving across the region, this is flagged up the software. The data is then aggregated and 'hot spots' are formed.

Capt. Sean Malinowski says the system is able to put police on the streets before crimes have happened.

Futuristic: Tom Cruise, left, as John Anderton in the science fiction hit Minority Report, which uses psychic 'precogs' to predict future crimes

Futuristic: Tom Cruise, left, as John Anderton in the science fiction hit Minority Report, which uses psychic 'precogs' to predict future crimes

Anderton uses his special powers to predict crime to map future offenders on a giant computer screen. The premonitions backfired when he was himself accused of a future murder

Complex: Anderton uses his special powers to predict crime to map future offenders on a giant computer screen. The premonitions backfired when he was himself accused of a future murder

'Sixty-five percent of our crimes are burglary, grand theft auto and burglary from a motor vehicle. And that's what these boxes represent,' he told CBS.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the main goal was to prevent crime. Since the system was introduced burglaries are down 33 per cent and violent crime is also down 21 per cent.

Police Chf Beck said: 'I love catching people - it's what I live for - but what I'd rather do is live in a place and work in a place where crime didn't happen.

'Everybody thinks they do their profession as well as it can be done and so they don't need any help. If this old street cop can change the way that he thinks about these things, then I know my kids can do the same.'

He added that the system helps police to use their officers more effectively. It has been tested in the Foothill Division since last November and if it is found to be successful it could be roled out across more divisions in LA.




Monday, 16 April 2012

British terror supergrass sentence cut by two years


jailed British terrorist has had his sentence cut by two years in a supergrass deal after giving evidence about an al Qaeda-linked “martyrdom” plot in New York, it was revealed today. Former teacher Saajid Badat was jailed for 13 years in 2005 for plotting with shoe bomber Richard Reid to blow up a transatlantic airliner in 2001 in what an Old Bailey judge said was a “wicked and inhuman” plot. He has now had his term reduced by two years under the first “supergrass” deal involving a terror convict, after providing intelligence to US prosecutors investigating an alleged plot to blow up the New York subway on the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attack. Details of the deal — kept secret for more than two years — were revealed today by the Crown Prosecution Service as a trial of the alleged al Qaeda plotters began in New York. Defendant Adis Medanjanin, a 27-year-old Bosnian-born US citizen, is charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing “material support” to al Qaeda. He is said to have had terrorist training in Pakistan in 2008 and then returned to begin a plot to use beauty parlour chemicals to blow up the subway. Badat, from Gloucester, joined Reid’s shoe bomb conspiracy but pulled out at the last minute.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Hooker-loving Secret Service agents on President Obama's security team busted in dispute over $47 in Colombia


A Secret Service agent shamed the United States after a wild night of babes and booze that ended in an argument with a Colombian hooker over as little as $47. One of 11 elite agents assigned to ensure President Obama’s protection at a summit meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, was busted after his lady of the evening refused to leave his hotel room in the morning without her fee. That woman was one of 11 hookers hired by the agents — and the only one who hadn’t left Cartagena’s swank Hotel Caribe, where White House staffers, members of the press and dignitaries are staying during the Summit of the Americas meeting, sources said.  President Obama's Secret Service team was reeling from a prostitution scandal. The confrontation occurred early last week, said Rep. Pete King, a Long Island Republican who was briefed on the incident yesterday. One of the agents sent home after agency bosses in DC learned what was going on was “in a supervisory role,” said King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. A hotel employee told The Associated Press that agents arrived at the beachfront hotel a week ago and drank heavily during their stay. Prostitution is legal in much of Colombia inside “tolerance zones” controlled by police. The going rate for hookers in Cartagena is around $47, according to Colombian TV. The trouble began for the Secret Service after the agents’ night of carousing, when a hotel employee noticed a hooker’s ID was still at the front desk at 7 a.m., in violation of hotel policy on overnight guests, King said. The manager went to the agent’s room where the woman had spent the night and saw the two inside arguing, King said. “She said the agent owed her money,” King said. “He said he didn’t have to pay her.” He eventually forked over the money and the situation was resolved. But the cops were called and they filed a report, which was sent to the US Embassy. The probe widened yesterday to include five members of the US military who were allegedly involved in the same incident, officials said. The service members, with the Southern Command, are still in Colombia “because of the expertise and the knowledge that these guys have,” a military spokesman told CBS News. A statement released by the Southern Command said the service members “violated the curfew . . . and may have been involved in inappropriate conduct.” An expert on the Secret Service yesterday said that, although the agents involved in the scandal were not breaking Colombian law, most of them are married and could have been exposed to blackmail. “It could have resulted in a potential assassination attempt on the president,” said Ronald Kessler, author of “In the President’s Secret Service.” “It the biggest scandal in the history of the Secret Service and the most basic breach of security,” the author said. Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said that Obama’s security was not compromised because of the incident. “This entire matter has been turned over to our Office of Professional Responsibility, which serves as the agency’s internal- affairs component,” he said. None of the agents involved was directly assigned to protect the president. Donovan said the agents involved were relieved from duty and replaced. But the scandal has made the United States the laughingstock of the important summit, as diplomats have been gossiping about hooker high jinx rather than focusing on Obama’s goals in the region. “I had a breakfast meeting to discuss trade and drugs, but the only thing the other delegates wanted to talk about was the story of the agents and the hookers,” chuckled one Latin American diplomat. Without mentioning the Secret Service scandal specifically, Obama — who arrived in Cartagena on Friday — blasted “flashy” coverage of the controversy.

Western embassies targeted in Afghanistan attacks

 

Gunmen have launched multiple attacks across the Afghan capital Kabul. Western embassies in the heavily-guarded, central diplomatic area are understood to be among the targets as well as the parliament building in the west. There are reports that up to seven different locations have been hit. The Taliban has admitted responsibility, saying their main targets were the British and German embassies. There is no word at this stage on any casualties.

Taliban free hundreds from Pakistan prison

Hundreds of prisoners are believed to have escaped from a jail in northwest Pakistan after it was attacked by anti-government fighters armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Some of those who escaped from the facility in the town of Bannu, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, early on Sunday morning were "militants", an intelligence official told the Reuters news agency. "Dozens of militants attacked Bannu's Central Jail in the early hours of the morning, and more 300 prisoners have escaped," Mir Sahib Jan, the official, said. In Depth   Profile: Pakistani Taliban "There was intense gunfire, and rocket-propelled grenades were also used." Many of those who escaped following the raid were convicted Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters, Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder reported from Lahore. A prison official in Bannu confirmed that "384 prisoners have escaped". A police official identified one of the inmates who escaped as a "dangerous prisoner", who took part in one of the attempts to kill the former president, Pervez Musharraf. The TTP, an umbrella organisation for anti-government groups that are loosely allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, took responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for Hakeemullah Mehsud, TTP's leader, confirmed to Al Jazeera that the group was responsible for the attack. Another Taliban spokesman told Reuters: "We have freed hundreds of our comrades in Bannu in this attack. Several of our people have reached their destinations, others are on their way.".   Our correspondent said the attack took place in the early morning and had resulted in an exchange of fire that had left several people wounded. "After the attack the paramilitary and regular military forces came to that location and tried to surround the area," he said. "They have arrested up to a dozen men, but most of the people have indeed escaped." The injured were rushed to a local hospital in Bannu. Sources told Al Jazeera that as many as 150 fighters were involved in the attack. After blowing up the gates of the main prison at around 1:30am local time (20:30 GMT on Saturday), they entered the compound and freed the inmates, the sources said. The attackers had arranged for the transportation of the inmates from the facility. A police official told Reuters that Bannu's Central Jail held 944 prisoners in total, and that six cell blocks had been targeted in the attack.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Alaska coast guards found dead at Kodiak Island

 

Two members of the US Coast Guard in Alaska have been found dead, prompting concerns that a killer could have struck at a remote island outpost. A captain at the Kodiak Island Station said they were unsure what happened and a suspect could still be at large. The base and schools in the area were put on lockdown and residents of the island were told to remain vigilant. The names of the victims will be released after their families have been notified, the coast guard said. "It is possible that the suspect remains at large," Commanding Officer Captain Jesse Moore said. "Since we don't have all the details, we strongly advise all Kodiak residents to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement officials." The captain also said the unit was "deeply saddened" to have lost two shipmates. Officials were unable to determine whether the deaths were a double murder or a murder-suicide. "This is a rare occurrence and we are going to do everything possible to ensure we find out exactly what happened," he said. Agents from the FBI have been sent to Kodiak from the town of Anchorage, about 250 miles (402km) away. Kodiak has a population of about 6,300 people.

An Albanian fugitive accused of multiple murders in his home country has been arrested in north London after 15 years on the run.

Ndrieim Sadushi, 41, was last night picked up on an international warrant by police outside his home in Southgate.

An Albanian court found him guilty in his absence of three killings and an attempted murder in the eastern European country in 1997.

At an extradition hearing in Westminster Magistrates' Court today, Sadushi claimed he had been the victim of mistaken identity and was in fact 31-year-old Arjan Kasa.

 

But district Judge Michael Snow ruled police had got the right man after being told his fingerprints matched those of the convicted killer.

Sadushi, who is said to have used at least six aliases while evading the authorities, will face a life sentence if he is sent back to his homeland.

 His barrister Richard Hallam stands by the claim that his client is Arjan Kasa.

Prosecutor James Stansfeld said that, in addition to being wanted by the Albanian police, authorities in Italy accuse Sadushi of drug trafficking, passport fraud and controlling prostitutes.

Italian courts sentenced him to 13 years and four months in his absence.

He has been linked to the notorious Kadeshi armed gang, of which all the other leaders have been arrested.

Sadushi is due to appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court today

Sadushi is due to appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court today

Hannah Pye, representing the Albanian authorities, said: 'The request for extradition comes from Albania, after he was handed a custodial sentence, following a conviction for five offences.'

‘Those were, the creation and participation in an armed gang, three counts of murder and one attempted murder.

‘For that he was sentenced to life imprisonment, and an appeal against the sentence was upheld by the Albanian appeal court in 2000.’

Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s extradition unit arrested Sadushi outside a property in High Road, Southgate.

The UK Border Agency holds no record of him claiming asylum and he is thought to have entered Britain on the back of a truck in 2000. 

Last year he was one of 14 suspects to have their mugshots released as part of Operation Sunfire, a coordinated effort to bring some of the UK's most wanted fugitives before extradition courts.

Twelve of the suspected murderers, rapists and robbers pictured were from eastern Europe, while the other two were wanted in connection with crimes in Italy and Australia.

Sadushi will return to court on April 25.




Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Laser attacks on planes are surging, warn aviation officials

 

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is warning of a global surge in laser attacks on planes after almost 2,000 incidents were reported in the UK last year. There were 153 incidents at Heathrow in 2011 involving lasers being shone towards aircraft. The second most affected airport was Manchester with 148 incidents, while Birmingham had 143 and Glasgow 107. Liverpool's John Lennon airport had 90 incidents. Throughout the UK last year, the CAA said there were a total of 1,909 incidents, whereas in 2005 there were just 20. At John Lennon airport, a crew member was temporarily blinded as the plane landed following a laser being shone into the aircraft. In October last year, a jumbo jet whose pilot was trying to correct an error after dropping to 300 metres (1,000ft) had a laser shone at it. Incidents in Liverpool peaked during a five-week period last summer, when there were 30 separate laser reports made by pilots who were passing over residential areas as they prepared to land. A CAA spokesman said: "We are currently seeing a global surge in incidents of lasers being deliberately shone at aircraft on final approach to airports. "The aviation industry and the police are doing everything possible to combat the problem and we strongly urge anyone who sees a laser being shone in the night sky near an airport to contact the police immediately." He added: "It's a serious problem and has been getting worse over the last three years. Largely due to the availability of lasers on the internet and the relatively cheap price." Since 2010, shining a laser or light at an aircraft in flight has been a specific criminal offence. The CAA said it needed the public's help to stop the potentially dangerous attacks and urged anyone to contact the police if they witnessed lasers being pointed at planes. The CAA said UK aviation enjoyed an "excellent" safety record because of an open culture of reporting incidents. A spokesman for John Lennon airport said incidents involving flights were few and far between. He said: "JLA is extremely proud of its safety record, which for the period 2007-2011 includes almost 400,000 aircraft movements, accommodating in excess of 25 million fare-paying passengers. "The report from the CAA relating to Liverpool John Lennon airport needs to be put into context as it will include all manner of incidents, many far less serious than others, as well as including incidents occurring away from the airport, but relating to aircraft that originated from here or heading to Liverpool." Ryanair and easyJet flights were targeted as they came in to land at Liverpool at altitudes as low as 150 metres (500ft). One pilot described how the laser "lit up the cockpit" and had a "significant impact" on the flight crew's night vision. An Airbus jet was targeted twice with the first officer's vision "impaired" by the strength of the beam. The captain of another flight needed a medical checkup after "a direct strike to the right eye". In February 2010, a 16-year-old was fined £250 after admitting to shining a laser pen, purchased on eBay for £8, into the cockpit of an easyJet flight from Belfast to Liverpool.

Crisis-hit Greece rents police for €30 per hour


Greece is offering a ‘cop-for-hire’ service, renting out policemen for €30 per hour, plus €10 if you want a police car too. It triggered fears that security of people who cannot afford a policeman for hire may be affected in favor of those who can. This new way for the cash-strapped Greek state to raise money will "pay for the cost of using police materials and infrastructure, and allow to modernize them", the Ministry of Citizen Protection said in a statement. The Police services on offer were previously used in "exceptional cases" – escorting the transportation of dangerous material or art works and were free of charge. Now, Police services have a price-tag. If you need something special the hourly fee for patrol boats is €200, and €1500 for helicopters, according to the Proto Thema newspaper. Even though the ministry said it would only accept such hires if they do not affect the security forces' operational capacity, only those with the cash will benefit from the initiative. The newspaper says the less wealthy will be left to deal with crime by themselves. The financial crisis left Greece with rising unemployment, a fast-growing crime rate and a surge in illegal immigration. Security has substantially deteriorated in the Greek capital in recent years, with previously safe and calm neighborhoods of the city becoming literally off limits after nightfall.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Vinnie Jones heads to Marbella


Vinnie Jones is heading to Marbella for a role as a twisted garrotte killer. The British actor and ex-footballer – who was once given a yellow card after just three seconds on the pitch – will play a lead in gangster movie Shill, to be filmed entirely on the ‘Costa del Crime’. “Jones plays Branch, a guitar-playing nutter who chokes his victims with his strings,” said Shill writer and producer Paul Grimshaw, who based the film on his own experiences. The Shill actors will meet investors at Marbella Film Festival in October this year, with filming set for spring 2013. “We’ll be filming over a six-week period which will be a chance for some real star-spotting in Marbella,” said Grimshaw, who has worked as an estate agent in Marbella for 20 years. The film – also likely to star Tom Hardy – focuses on ‘shill bidding’, online fraud which involves falsely inflating prices of goods sold on auction sites such as eBay. Having made ten million pounds in cash, the team embark on a spending spree to Marbella to hide the money from the law. But after Shill makes a deal with crime baron Drake, a bloody and brutal mutiny is unleashed

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Man in court on murder bid charge

 

A man will appear in court charged with attempted murder following a bottle attack at a celebrity-packed party thrown by smartphone company BlackBerry. A 37-year-old man remains in a critical condition in hospital following the incident at Pulse nightclub in Southwark, central London. Ashley Charles, 25, of Nevanthon Road, Leicester, will appear at Camberwell Green Magistrates' Court in connection with the incident. The party on Tuesday night was attended by journalists, celebrities including rapper Wretch 32 and stars of The Only Way Is Essex and BlackBerry competition winners. Brit award-winning singer Jessie J had been performing at the party before the bloody brawl and spoke of her shock on Twitter.

Emails sent to the Big Pictures agency in 2010 and 2011 contained the flight details of dozens of celebrities, including Madonna, Princess Beatrice and Sienna Miller.


Richard Branson's airline Virgin Atlantic is under mounting pressure to explain how an insider was apparently able to pass the confidential flight details of as many as 70 celebrities to a major paparazzi agency. Emails sent to the Big Pictures agency in 2010 and 2011 contained the flight details of dozens of celebrities, including Madonna, Princess Beatrice and Sienna Miller. Some of the figures alleged to be affected are friends of Sir Richard and his family and the allegations could prove hugely embarrassing for the tycoon, who is known for his close ties to the world of show business. A senior employee is understood to have resigned on Thursday after initial allegations that she passed on the flight details of eight celebrities including the singer Cheryl Cole and her former husband, the Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole, singer Robbie Williams and actress Scarlett Johansson. The airline launched an internal investigation and insisted it had "robust processes in place to ensure that passenger information is protected". But yesterday another cache of emails came to light that suggested that dozens more famous passengers may have been subject to the privacy breach. Emails seen by the Press Gazette contained the flight details of dozens of celebrities ranging from film stars Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet to Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May. The emails, sent over several months, suggest a degree of familiarity between the two correspondents. In one, Big Pictures allegedly wrote to the Virgin insider, understood to be a supervisor of Upper-Class passengers, saying it was "trying to sort you out some money with accounts". One email, reportedly containing details of a return flight from Heathrow to Newark taken by Borat actor Sacha Baron Cohen and his actress wife Isla Fisher, included the comment: "They're in economy!!!!!!" Big Pictures also appears to have been given an anonymous tip-off about a flight taken by people referred to as "Madonna's kids". In a statement issued on Thursday, Virgin Atlantic called the allegations "extremely serious" and said it had launched an immediate investigation. Virgin Atlantic's spokeswoman could not confirm whether Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson would be personally apologising to the celebrities affected and refused to comment any further pending the outcome of an investigation. The allegations are hugely embarrassing for an airline that markets itself as a glamorous alternative to other long-haul carriers and is known to be popular with the rich and famous. Branson is yet to comment publicly. Others who appear to have been affected include Rihanna, Russell Brand, Rob Brydon and Jonathan Ross. Legal experts said that such disclosures may not be a criminal offence. However, solicitors for Ashley Cole and Sienna Miller said they were taking legal instructions over the allegations. No representative of Big Pictures, owned by the former Celebrity Big Brother contestant Darryn Lyons, was available to comment.

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