Ex-prosecutor charged for murder, drugs and prostitution ring

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

He used a restaurant in Newark, N.J., as a front for a cocaine-distribution network.

He traveled to New York City to oversee a $1,000-an-hour call-girl ring.

He had a witness killed in one drug case and hired a hit man to rub out another.

And he did it all out of his law office.

That’s the picture federal authorities have painted in a 39-count racketeering indictment charging prominent New Jersey defense lawyer Paul Bergrin with being the leader of a criminal enterprise that used violence, intimidation, and deceit to generate millions of dollars.

Bergrin, a former federal prosecutor, arraigned today with seven codefendants in U.S. District Court in Newark…

He was “no different than a street gangster,” added Gerald P. McAleer, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration office in New Jersey.

Both the DEA and the FBI worked the Bergrin case. In the months since the arrest, court papers have fleshed out their allegations.

Though the indictment includes one murder and one murder conspiracy, investigators contend that witnesses have linked Bergrin to at least three other homicides.

They also say Bergrin routinely bribed witnesses to win cases. And, they contend, when bribery wasn’t an option, he resorted to violence.

“No witness, no case” was the phrase he used repeatedly in his criminal-defense work, authorities say.

RTFA. Long, detailed resume of the corruption that someone charged with public responsibility for justice – may come to.

NASA’s composite image of the Crab Nebula

A star’s spectacular death in the constellation Taurus was observed on Earth as the supernova of 1054 A.D. Now, almost a thousand years later, a super dense object — called a neutron star — left behind by the explosion is seen spewing out a blizzard of high-energy particles into the expanding debris field known as the Crab Nebula. X-ray data from Chandra provide significant clues to the workings of this mighty cosmic “generator,” which is producing energy at the rate of 100,000 suns.

This composite image uses data from three of NASA’s Great Observatories. The Chandra X-ray image is shown in blue, the Hubble Space Telescope optical image is in red and yellow, and the Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared image is in purple. The X-ray image is smaller than the others because extremely energetic electrons emitting X-rays radiate away their energy more quickly than the lower-energy electrons emitting optical and infrared light. Along with many other telescopes, Chandra has repeatedly observed the Crab Nebula over the course of the mission’s lifetime. The Crab Nebula is one of the most studied objects in the sky, truly making it a cosmic icon.

Back in 1054 – this scared the Beejeebus out of your everyday superstitious supplicant. Couldn’t happen today – right?

Microsoft to pay Murdoch to keep News sites off Google – WTF?

Do you spell Ballmer with one or two “l’s”?
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Microsoft has had talks with News Corp about a tie up, which would involve News Corp getting paid to take its news websites off Google. News Corp, which owns such papers as the Wall Street Journal and the Sun, started the discussions, which were at an early stage, the source said.

News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch has said he wants to make people pay for access to his news websites. Other publishers including The New York Times are also searching for ways to charge for news online, convinced that they must not give news through search engines such as Google and Yahoo…

Microsoft, which relaunched its search engine as Bing this year, has been looking for ways to challenge market leader Google.

Earlier this year, it signed a 10-year global web search partnership with Yahoo, a deal that U.S. and European antitrust regulators are evaluating.

This not only sounds like an anti-trust violation, seems to me it would be restraint of trade under the Robinson-Patman Act. Not that either Murdoch or Ballmer really gives a hoot about ethics.

Then, there are reasonable considerations of the reception this cabal might receive among ordinary users of the Web and search engines. Yes, I might be concerned that Google wasn’t offering me 100% of what’s extant. No, I wouldn’t touch Bing with a 10-foot pole if they were skewing search results to offer up their business partners.

Melt rate of East Antarctic ice sheet accelerating

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

East Antarctica’s ice started to melt faster from 2006, which could cause sea levels to rise sooner than anticipated, according to a study by scientists at the University of Texas.

In the study published in Nature’s Geoscience journal, scientists estimated that East Antarctica has been losing ice mass at an average rate of 5 to 109 gigatonnes per year from April 2002 to January 2009, but the rate speeded up from 2006.

The melt rate after 2006 could be even higher, the scientists said.

“The key result is that [we] appear to start seeing a large amount of ice loss in East Antarctica, mostly in the long coastal regions (in Wilkes Land and Victoria Land), since 2006,” Jianli Chen at the university’s centre for space research and one of the study’s authors, told Reuters.

“This, if confirmed, could indicate a state change of East Antarctica, which could pose a large impact on global sea levels in the future,” Chen said…

Climate change is turning Antarctica’s ice into the one of the biggest risks for coming centuries. Even slight melting could drive up sea levels and could affect world’s cities.

Over the several years I have been studying climate change Antarctic ice was thought to be less-affected than the Northern Pole. Now that means and methods have improved, we get to figure out the bad news is universal.


note: at post time, the direct link to the study – in the Reuters article – was broken.

Catholic Church returns to “mandatory” politics

When it comes to America’s most famous Catholic family, no true compass guides the Roman Catholic Church. After Ted Kennedy’s death, that’s clearer than ever.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley presided over the funeral of the world-famous US senator, who also happened to be an abortion rights advocate. When challenged by conservative Catholics, O’Malley defended his participation as a way to promote civility when discussing divisive issues…

With Patrick Kennedy, the cassocks are off.

After Representative Kennedy of Rhode Island questioned why the church is vowing to fight any health care bill that does not explicitly ban the use of public money for abortions, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence fired back. Tobin called Kennedy’s support of abortion rights “a deliberate and obstinate act of will’’ that was “unacceptable to the church and scandalous to many of our members…’’

It’s an echo of what happened in 1975, when the bishop of Fall River denounced Ted Kennedy for supporting Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion…

More important, that decision legalized women’s right to choose. Something the Catholic Church and their Bible Belt allies fear.

The fight between Patrick Kennedy and the Providence bishop signals the start of another new day.

Echoing his father’s letter to the pope in which Ted Kennedy acknowledged human imperfections, Patrick Kennedy wrote his own letter to Tobin, saying “I embrace my faith which acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.’’

Responded Tobin: “Sorry you can’t chalk it up to ‘imperfect humanity.’ ’’

For the church, the time for comfort and civility is over. That’s using the compass of expedience.

Reactionary politics remain consistent over time. Just as McCarthyism was characterized by red-baiting, the Republican Southern Solution was defined by race-baiting, today’s single-issue clerics rely on fear and obedience to affect broader political issues. Healthcare reform being the best example.

The most absurd and unnecessary amendments take up half the debate, distract any reasonable concern over corporate profiteering – all in the name of a religious crusade. Meanwhile, prescriptions prices are inflated, hospital and home-care prices go through the ceiling. But, the holy bigots don’t consider real human needs important in comparison to their God’s mandate.

Nor do very many politicians have the gumption to stick to the issues in the face of a braying crusade.

Is too much cancer screening enough?

This week, the science of medicine bumped up against the foundations of American medical consumerism: that more is better, that saving a life is worth any sacrifice, that health care is a birthright.

Two new recommendations, calling for delaying the start and reducing the frequency of screening for breast and cervical cancer, have been met with anger and confusion from some corners, not to mention a measure of political posturing.

The backers of science-driven medicine, with its dual focus on risks and benefits, have cheered the elevation of data in the setting of standards. But many patients — and organizations of doctors and disease specialists — find themselves unready to accept the counterintuitive notion that more testing can be bad for your health.

Counterintuitive? Baloney! There is nothing intuitive or counterintuitive about these questions. There only is the latest data, advancing understanding through scientific analysis. Leave the psychologizing for the nutballs and skeptical paranoids.

“People are being asked to think differently about risk,” said Sheila M. Rothman, a professor of public health at Columbia University. “The public state of mind right now is that they’re frightened that evidence-based medicine is going to be equated with rationing. They don’t see it in a scientific perspective…”

“They” aren’t even attempting to read and examine a scientific perspective. “They” are only accustomed to being led about by pundits and talking heads.

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch said, “Now we’re trying to negotiate that balance,” he said. “There’s no right answer, but I can tell you that the right answer is not always to start earlier, look harder and look more frequently…”

As throughout history, it may take decades for medical culture to catch up to medical science. Dr. Rothman pointed out that it took 20 years for the public to accept the discovery in 1882 that tuberculosis was caused by a bacterium and not by heredity or behavior. More than 160 years after the Hungarian-born physician Ignaz Semmelweis posited that hand-washing could prevent the spread of infectious disease, studies still show that half of all hospital workers do not follow basic hygiene protocols.

Dr. Welch has the appropriate historic perspective. When analytical skills were less, testing not as precise, a shotgun approach had statistics on its side. The fact of that diminishing as a requirement is a positive. Discouraging unnecessary fattening of the wallets of medical specialists ain’t bad either.

South Korean serial killer offs himself on death row

One of South Korea’s most prolific mass murderers has killed himself while on death row.

The Justice Ministry said Jeong Nam-kyu died in hospital on Sunday – a day after being found hanging in his cell.

In 2007, the 40-year-old was convicted of murdering 13 people and robbing, raping and assaulting 20 others during a two year spree.

In a statement, the ministry said Jeong is thought to have died from a heart attack or brain injuries resulting from what is believed to be his suicide attempt…

He is believed to have left a note indicating he was worried about his execution, the Associated Press news agency reported…

Bye. Save the country the expense.