Tagged: Theft

ATM strikes back

Hot foam may soon send criminals running if they damage ATM. ETH researchers have developed a special film that triggers an intense reaction when destroyed. The idea originates from a beetle that uses a gas explosion to fend off attackers.

Its head and pronotum are usually rusty red, and its abdomen blue or shiny green: the bombardier beetle is approximately one centimetre long and common to Central Europe. At first glance, it appears harmless, but it possesses what is surely the most aggressive chemical defence system in nature. When threatened, the bombardier beetle releases a caustic spray, accompanied by a popping sound. This spray can kill ants or scare off frogs. The beetle produces the explosive agent itself when needed. Two separately stored chemicals are mixed in a reaction chamber in the beetle’s abdomen. An explosion is triggered with the help of catalytic enzymes…

The researchers use plastic films with a honeycomb structure for their self-defending surface. The hollow spaces are filled with one of two chemicals: hydrogen peroxide or manganese dioxide. The two separate films are then stuck on top of each another. A layer of clear lacquer separates the two films filled with the different chemicals. When subjected to an impact, the interlayer is destroyed, causing the hydrogen peroxide and manganese dioxide to mix. This triggers a violent reaction that produces water vapour, oxygen and heat. Whereas enzymes act as catalysts in the bombardier beetle, manganese dioxide has proven to be a less expensive alternative for performing this function in the lab…

While protective devices that can spray robbers and banknotes already exist, these are mechanical systems, explains Stark. “A small motor is set in motion when triggered by a signal from a sensor. This requires electricity, is prone to malfunctions and is expensive.” The objective of his research group is to replace complicated control systems with cleverly designed materials.

Clever, yes? Effective, very likely? Likely to be instituted in the United States? Doubtful – we have enough lawyers and politicians dedicated to making the work environment as safe for criminals as we do for protecting victims.

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NYPD sued over coppers stealing White Castle hamburgers from Brooklyn men – and then arresting them!

Two Brooklyn men are suing the NYPD cops who took their freedom and allegedly tried to take their White Castle hamburgers.

It was Halloween 2012 in Coney Island, the neighborhood reeling from Hurricane Sandy, when Danny Maisonet and Kenneth Glover had a craving for sliders.

They were getting out of a taxicab, carrying a bag of the burgers, when they walked into cops rounding up a group of men suspected of looting a supermarket on Neptune Ave., lawyer Robert Marinelli said in the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

The cops — it’s unclear if they were kidding or starved out of their minds — demanded the bag of food. The plaintiffs refused to turn over the burgers…

Glover and Maisonet claim they were struck with flashlights and handcuffed. They were charged with obstructing government administration and disorderly conduct — not looting.

Officer Angelo Pizzarro swore in the complaint that Glover and Maisonet were standing in his way and forced him to walk around them while struggling with the alleged looters.

The charges against the duo were ultimately dismissed.

I’d wait a year or two before admitting to eating White Castle hamburgers. Though, I imagine a certain amount of time was wasted waiting to see if these phony charges were going to proceed to trial.

Truly, some coppers think they are above the law – and the rest of humanity.

Target data theft highlights backwards US transaction security

The massive data breach disclosed by retailer Target Corp last week is likely to teach its U.S. customers a painful lesson in payment card security and build support for an anti-fraud technology now sitting on the shelf.

For years, U.S. merchants and banks have balked at adopting a well-established system that uses credit and debit cards that store information on computer chips. The technology, ubiquitous in Europe, Canada and elsewhere, makes it harder for thieves to misuse data compared with cards that store data only on magnetic stripes.

The stores and credit card issuers don’t want to spend the money needed for a secure change.

The delay may prove costly to Target’s U.S. customers. The third-largest U.S. retailer said unknown hackers stole data from up to 40 million credit and debit cards used at its stores in the first three weeks of the holiday season.

Now, after years in which U.S. companies tolerated fraud as a cost of doing business, high-profile breaches such as the one at Target are raising demand for increased card security…

An early switch to the global card system may not have prevented the Target data theft but the chip technology would have reduced the value of the stolen data by making it harder for hackers to reuse the customer information. For one thing, the new systems are better at detecting counterfeit cards…

In much of Europe, 94 percent of sales terminals use the chip system, according to a 2012 report by consulting firm Javelin Strategy & Research. The figure was 77 percent in Canada and Latin America. That compares with only 10 percent of U.S. sales terminals with upgrades…

Consumers, who are generally not held responsible for covering for fraudulent purchases, have had little incentive to push for change. But the rising fraud rates also mean more dangers of identity theft.

You might think banks and credit card companies would have realized by now the additional risks offered by increasing identity theft. The concept of educated self-interest apparently has as little effect on the managers of big banking systems as it does the average American voter. :)

Obama should return Guantanamo to Cuba


That’s right – it’s called an invasion!

U.S. President Barack Obama should return the naval base at Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, and some detainees could stay on at a U.S.-run jail there, a former U.S. envoy to Cuba said.

Obama, by negotiating a deal with Cuban leader Raul Castro about the base on the communist island, could build a long-term relationship with its people, said Michael Parmly, head of the U.S. interests section in Havana from 2005-2008…

The U.S. base is a “historic anomaly” even though the two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, Parmly wrote.

“The current partisan tensions on the (Capitol) Hill ensure that it would be an uphill climb, but it is the thesis of this paper that a similar bold step, akin to the Panama Canal, is called for regarding Guantanamo,” he said, citing that 1977 U.S. return of the waterway to Panama as a precedent.

The 26-page paper by the retired diplomat, obtained by Reuters, is to appear shortly in the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, published by the Fletcher School in Massachusetts.

“Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is not U.S. territory. Cuba is the ultimate owner,” Parmly said.

Like Panama, Guatanamo is the creation of US military and economic interests. The needs of a sovereign nation never entered the equation in the past. How likely are Congressional thugs to decide to face the requirements of sovereignty or international law?

Overdue.

Scandal in South Korea over revelations of corruption in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants

Like Japan, resource-poor South Korea has long relied on nuclear power to provide the cheap electricity that helped build its miracle economy. For years, it met one-third of its electricity needs with nuclear power, similar to Japan’s level of dependence before the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima plant.

Now, a snowballing scandal in South Korea about bribery and faked safety tests for critical plant equipment has highlighted yet another similarity: experts say both countries’ nuclear programs suffer from a culture of collusion that has undermined their safety. Weeks of revelations about the close ties between South Korea’s nuclear power companies, their suppliers and testing companies have led the prime minister to liken the industry to a mafia.

The scandal started after an anonymous tip in April prompted an official investigation. Prosecutors have indicted some officials at a testing company on charges of faking safety tests on parts for the plants. Some officials at the state-financed company that designs nuclear power plants were also indicted on charges of taking bribes from testing company officials in return for accepting those substandard parts.

Worse yet, investigators discovered that the questionable components are installed in 14 of South Korea’s 23 nuclear power plants. The country has already shuttered three of those reactors temporarily because the questionable parts used there were important, and more closings could follow as investigators wade through more than 120,000 test certificates filed over the past decade to see if more may have been falsified…

With each new revelation, South Koreans — who, like the Japanese, had grown to believe their leaders’ soothing claims about nuclear safety — have become more jittery. Safety is the biggest concern, but the scandals have also caused economic worries. At a time of slowing growth, the government had loudly promoted its plans to become a major builder of nuclear power plants abroad…

The nuclear industry, they say, was built around the notion that South Korea’s industries needed inexpensive power, leading Kepco to build plants quickly and operate them cheaply.

“South Koreans have guzzled cheap electricity while turning a blind eye to the safety concerns of their nuclear power plants,” said Yang Lee Won-young, a leader at the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement. “They may end up paying dearly.”

Our history in the United States is almost the opposite in terms of economics. Back in the day – when I worked in a corner of the industry supplying components for nuclear powerplant construction – they were treated as the world’s newest, biggest cash cow. Frankly, I doubt that’s changed much. Which is one of the reasons I support the political battle for solar farms, wind farms, over nuclear power plants, nowadays.

Not only does the cost per nuclear megawatt continue to increase – in the United States. The opposite is happening in the other alternative sources. The economies of scale in the production of components is still driving installed costs down for wind and solar.

Governor billed taxpayers for sunscreen, dog vitamins


“I’m the ideal Republican candidate for President”

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife used taxpayer money to pay for sunscreen and dog vitamins, the Washington Post reported on Monday, a disclosure that comes as the Republican leader is said to be under scrutiny by the FBI.

The newspaper, citing spending records it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also said the McDonnells used state employees to run personal errands for their adult children and billed the state for deodorant, shoe repairs and a digestive system “detox cleanse.”

The Washington Post has previously reported that McDonnell, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2016, was under investigation by the FBI and a grand jury over a $15,000 catering bill from his daughter’s wedding in 2011 that was paid for by a campaign donor…

The governor has acknowledged that he stayed at the Roanoke, Virginia, home of the campaign donor, Jonnie Williams, and drove Williams’ Ferrari sports car back to Richmond.

Williams is the chief executive of Star Scientific Inc, a nutritional supplements maker in the Richmond area.

According to the Washington Post, the FBI is looking into whether the governor’s office helped advance the business interests of Williams in exchange for the gifts…

You have to love Republican family values – as practiced. The same hypocrites who prate all through election cycles about honesty and old-fashioned virtue – once they get into office the regal greed they foreswear takes priority in every aspect of their lives.

Gambling nun found guilty of stealing $130K from rural churches

A Catholic nun has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $130,000 from rural churches in the US state of New York to fuel a casino gambling addiction, police have said.

Sister Mary Anne Rapp, 68, was arrested in November when the theft was uncovered during a routine audit.

The nun, of the order of the Sisters of St Francis, said she stole the money between 2006-2011…She is due to be sentenced on 1 July and could face six months in jail.

She may also have to pay “reasonable restitution” for the money she spent at casinos in western New York, according to the Daily News of Batavia newspaper.

Sister Rapp, a nun for almost five decades, has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors, the newspaper reported…She was placed on leave in 2011 and agreed to attend addiction treatment.

I wonder what would have happened if she had a winning streak?

More realistically – I wonder what would have happened if she was a poor Borinqueña housekeeper stealing from the churches – instead of a nun?

Thieves get to fatal crash in Carlsbad, NM, before coppers — steal the victim’s tires, rims


If you’re coming to visit the Carlsbad Caverns – try not to have an accident on the way

When Carlsbad police heard of a fatal car crash Wednesday morning, they weren’t expecting what they saw when they arrived on the scene. Parts of the victim’s car were missing – an indication that someone had not only found the man hours earlier, but had also stolen from him in what were perhaps his last moments.

Steven Roy Reese, 26, of Carlsbad, was reportedly traveling southbound on the dirt road adjacent to the irrigation canal between Lea Street and Boyd Drive when he lost control of his vehicle, according to a press release from the Carlsbad Police Department. Officers believe Reese overcorrected to regain control, causing his 1996 Ford Explorer to flip two times and land on top of him. Reese was dead when police arrived on the scene, and a report from the Office of the Medical Investigator revealed Reese had been dead for approximately 8-12 hours before police found him…

Some time during the night, an unknown person reportedly removed Goodyear Wrangler tires, two Ford factory aluminum wheels and the battery from Reese’s 1996 Ford Explorer. This behavior is certainly unusual, Carlsbad police Lt. Jennifer Moyers said, and extremely insensitive.

The area in which the accident happened, about half a mile south of Lea Street, is not well traveled, so it’s not unusual that the police weren’t called immediately after the crash took place, Moyers said.

“But typically when we have something like this happen, people call in right away. It’s terrible,” she said of the thief who she believes may have found the car lying on its side during the night.

Moyers said the person who stole the parts from Reese’s car could definitely face criminal charges. “There could be a couple of charges – theft and failure to give notice of the accident,” she said.

If the person tries to sell the stolen items, that would be an additional offense as well, Moyers said.

Life in the American West?

Staff sergeant says she betrayed her country and her family – as an embezzler in Afghanistan


This is how we shipped cash to Iraq for Bremer

In Afghanistan, Tonya Long, a 13-year Army veteran, approved military cash payments to Afghan drivers of “jingle trucks,” the colorful transport trucks that carry supplies to U.S. bases.

Last week, Staff Sgt. Long stood in the dock in a federal courtroom here and read aloud from a statement she had written on notebook paper:

“I cannot express how sorry I am … I chose to betray my country and my family.” She did not ask for mercy, she told a judge, “because I don’t deserve it.”

Long, 30, had pleaded guilty to stealing at least $1 million and shipping the cash in hundred-dollar bills to the U.S. in the guts of hollowed-out VCR players.

Long’s scam is part of a pattern of fraud and theft among U.S. soldiers responsible for paying Afghans who support U.S. forces. Last year, 18 U.S. soldiers were charged with such thefts, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction. Nine U.S. contractors also were charged…

At least two other U.S. Army officers are under investigation in Long’s scam, and federal prosecutors say more indictments are likely. As part of a plea deal, Long agreed to testify against others allegedly involved.

At Long’s hearing March 4, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle called the case “a critically symbolic prosecution,” and speculated that Long and her suspected allies might have actually stolen $10 million or more. The judge suggested that such thefts have been going on since the U.S. mission in Afghanistan began more than a decade ago.

The judge said…Long’s theft undermined America’s mission in a country where the Afghan government is routinely accused of rampant corruption and bribery…

“There were tens of thousands of other soldiers … under 24-hour-a-day threat of death,” the judge told Long. “Where is your sympathy for them while you were stealing? What a betrayal!”

Under Long’s plea agreement, Boyle could not sentence her to more than five years in prison. He told her he was imposing the full five years, plus three years of supervised release — and ordered restitution of $1 million.

Someone mail me a penny postcard when Dick Cheney, George W Bush and flunkies like Paul Bremer and Ahmad Chalabi are indicted for corruption – sending our nation’s military off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, “losing” money by the pallet-load.

There’s no denying Sergeant Long is a crook. But, her crime compares to those of Bremer, Chalabi and Company like someone robbing parking meters compared to car theft rings shipping boatloads of hot cars to Mexico. And she didn’t kill any civilians in the process.

Mooching off Medicaid – Republican style


Looks and sounds like Florida’s governor Rick Scott with hair

Conservatives like to say that their position is all about economic freedom, and hence making government’s role in general, and government spending in particular, as small as possible. And no doubt there are individual conservatives who really have such idealistic motives.

When it comes to conservatives with actual power, however, there’s an alternative, more cynical view of their motivations — namely, that it’s all about comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted, about giving more to those who already have a lot. And if you want a strong piece of evidence in favor of that cynical view, look at the current state of play over Medicaid…

…In the end most states will probably go along with the expansion [of Medicaid] because of the huge financial incentives: the federal government will pay the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, and the additional spending will benefit hospitals and doctors as well as patients. Still, some of the states grudgingly allowing the federal government to help their neediest citizens are placing a condition on this aid, insisting that it must be run through private insurance companies. And that tells you a lot about what conservative politicians really want.

Don’t tell me about free markets. This is all about spending taxpayer money, and the question is whether that money should be spent directly to help people or run through a set of private middlemen.

And despite some feeble claims to the contrary, privatizing Medicaid will end up requiring more, not less, government spending, because there’s overwhelming evidence that Medicaid is much cheaper than private insurance. Partly this reflects lower administrative costs, because Medicaid neither advertises nor spends money trying to avoid covering people. But a lot of it reflects the government’s bargaining power, its ability to prevent price gouging by hospitals, drug companies and other parts of the medical-industrial complex…

But why would you insist on privatizing a health program that is already public, and that does a much better job than the private sector of controlling costs? The answer is pretty obvious: the flip side of higher taxpayer costs is higher medical-industry profits.

So ignore all the talk about too much government spending and too much aid to moochers who don’t deserve it. As long as the spending ends up lining the right pockets, and the undeserving beneficiaries of public largess are politically connected corporations, conservatives with actual power seem to like Big Government just fine.

RTFA. There are a few more Krugman illustrations and examples at hand to clarify any questions you may have. Serious economists have no problem differentiating between the level of informed self-interest for useful entrepreneurship – and unlimited greed, lust for money and power generally surrounded by a stinking cloud of lies about creating wealth for all.

The more crooked your economics, the bigger the lies have to be to provide cover for political flunkies, ideological puppets.