College buddies stayed in touch – ripping off banks of $422K

Armed with ATM cards and a little-known federal regulation, four old college buddies used a “beaut of a scam” to rip off Brooklyn banks for $422,000.

The four, who studied finance together at NYU, exploited a regulation that requires banks to repay customers who claimed their ATM cards were lost or stolen within 10 days, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said.

Using something known in the banking world as Regulation E of the Federal Electronic Funds Transfer Act, the four cleaned out their accounts and put in claims for some $700,000 over five years, prosecutors said…

Cameras caught defendants taking the money out, but they were almost always wearing motorcycle helmets or some other covering to protect their identities, Hynes said.

They thought that nobody was looking,” Brooklyn rackets chief Michael Vecchione said. “But these institutions have massive data bases and it’s just a matter of time when they cross-reference them and people get caught…”

Eric Manganelli, 36, a lawyer; Lam Dang, 37, a financial consultant; and John Tluczek, 37; and his wife, Marzena Tluczek, 35, who both have worked for banks over the years, face multiple counts of grand larceny, falsifying business records and other charges.

Each faces 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison for the top counts. Hynes vowed to ask for consecutive time, if they are convicted.

Greedy bastards.

The rule isn’t so obscure, though – except maybe to journalists. Believe me, the banking IT folks I chat with all knew about it.

When a dyslexic driver programs the GPS…

A Swedish couple in search of the isle of Capri drove to Carpi, an industrial town in northern Italy, because they misspelt the name in their car’s GPS.

Italian officials say the couple asked at Carpi’s tourist office where they could find Capri’s famous Blue Grotto.

The car’s sat nav system had sent them 650km off course to Carpi.

Capri is an island. They did not even wonder why they didn’t cross any bridge or take any boat,” said a bemused tourism official in Carpi.

Once they realised their mistake, the couple got back in their car and headed south, the official added.

Maybe GPS should come with spell check?

China and Taiwan leaders declare first official contact since 1949

Chinese President Hu Jintao sent Taiwan counterpart Ma Ying-jeou a telegram on Monday applauding his election as party chief, the first direct communication between leaders of the two sides since the civil war ended in 1949.

Taiwan’s Nationalist Party (KMT) elected Ma as chief on Sunday, giving him more control of the island’s China policy at a time when ties are warming.

“I hope our two parties can continue to promote peaceful cross-Strait development, deepen mutual trust, bring good news to compatriots on both sides and create a revival of the great Chinese race,” Hu, who is also chairman of the Communist Party of China, said in the 73-word message in Chinese.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

Colonization of Formosa by mainland China began in the 16th Century. A fact which seems to escape most Westerners.

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Senate Panel Endorses Sotomayor – including 1 honorable Republican

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted, 13 to 6, to endorse the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, easing her path to likely confirmation as the first Hispanic member of the tribunal.

As expected, all 12 Democrats on the judiciary panel voted for Judge Sotomayor. But among the seven Republicans on the committee, only Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voted in favor.

“She is a restrained, fair and impartial judge,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who heads the committee.

The action sends the nomination to the full Senate, where her confirmation by a comfortable margin seems to be assured…

Mr. Graham said he supported the nomination, despite early reservations. “I feel good about Judge Sotomayor,” he said, adding he was sure that she would decide cases “based on what she thinks is right” and be an inspiration for young women. The Senate is expected to debate the nomination next week, so Judge Sotomayor is likely to be sworn in as the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice (and only its third woman) in time for the start of the high court’s next term, which begins in October.

Graham made than one important political point which also places him outside the pale of reactionary ideologues. Essentially, he told his fellow Republicans – President Obama won the election. Remember that? He deserves to submit and place his own choices on the Supreme Court as have presidents before him.

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ back before Congress – again

A key U.S. Senate committee will hold a hearing on the military’s controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays and lesbians, according to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold the hearing in the fall, she said in a written announcement.

” ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is an unfair, outdated measure that violates the civil rights of some of our bravest, most heroic men and women,” Gillibrand said in her statement. “By repealing this policy, we will increase America’s strength — both militarily and morally.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, urged Obama in early July to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Murphy, D-Pennsylvania, appeared at an event with gay, lesbian and straight service members to launch a new initiative.

“We can not afford to wait any longer” for the policy’s repeal, Murphy said at the National Press Club in Washington. “Now is the time to change this, when our military is stretched so thin” with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…

Nearly 13,000 service members have been discharged for their sexual orientation since 1993, Gillibrand said…

And it’s not just gay groups urging a change in policy, but former generals and top Defense Department officials.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that a review is needed.

“Sixteen years have now gone by, and I think a lot has changed with respect to attitudes within our country, and therefore I think this is a policy and a law that should be reviewed,” Powell has said.

And then you’re left with homophobes, copouts and know-nothings who would rather talk than do anything – especially when that “doing” requires supporting civil rights for all Americans. Something our politicians have a great deal of experience at delaying – if not defeating.

Quit wasting our nation’s time. Get rid of this 19th Century law!

Homeland Security wants to build center for infectious diseases in the middle of Tornado Alley in Kansas

Aftermath of tornado in Manhattan, Kansas – last year

The Department of Homeland Security relied on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate a $700 million research facility for highly infectious pathogens in a tornado-prone section of Kansas, according to a government report.

The department’s analysis was not “scientifically defensible” in concluding that it could safely handle dangerous animal diseases in Kansas — or any other location on the U.S. mainland, according to a Government Accountability Office draft report obtained by The Washington Post. The GAO said DHS greatly underestimated the chance of accidental release and major contamination from such research, which has been conducted only on a remote island off the United States…

“Drawing conclusions about relocating research with highly infectious exotic animal pathogens from questionable methodology could result in regrettable consequences,” the GAO warned in its draft report. DHS’s review was too “limited” and “inadequate” to decide that any mainland labs were safe, the report found. GAO officials declined to comment on the findings…

The DHS lab would replace and expand upon the mission of a federal research facility on a remote island on the northern tip of Long Island, N.Y. Critics of moving the operation to the mainland argue that a release could lead to widespread contamination that could kill livestock, devastate a farm economy and endanger humans. Along with the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease, NBAF researchers plan to study African swine fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever and other viruses.

This project must have been designed by the same clowns who thought up the TSA for airport security.

Of course, the only howls about pork were from the Congress-critters who didn’t succeed in getting the facility for their own state.