The Secret Service bagged their biggest haul of counterfeit US currency — $30 million from Peru

❝ The product is carefully created in rural facilities throughout the Peruvian countryside using cheap labor, then hoarded in stash houses controlled by violent gangs in Lima.

Once there, the goods are packed into parcels, loaded onto planes or hidden inside luggage, pottery, hollowed-out Bibles, sneakers, children’s toys or massive shipping containers bound for major U.S. ports of entry, such as Miami.

The product’s ultimate destination, according to the U.S. Secret Service, is generally New York, New Jersey, Boston and the greater Northeast.

❝ It’s here, federal authorities say, that a few powerful organizations pass the product to splinter groups that control the streets, reaping huge financial rewards before authorities have time to react.

It’s an illicit trade that bears an uncanny resemblance to narcotrafficking, and while there is some overlap between the two activities, this “product” has nothing to do with cocaine.

❝ But the profits created by smuggling the counterfeit currency known as the “Peruvian note” — generally considered the finest fake money on the planet — are just as staggering, if not more so, according to the Secret Service. Responsible for producing and distributing an estimated 60 percent of the world’s counterfeit U.S. notes, more fake American money comes from Peru than any other country, according to the Secret Service, which has been combating the currency’s rise since 2003…

❝ Once inside the United States, the currency might be used in low-level street crime, for Craigslist purchases, or in larger schemes that target big-box retailers.

The ruse ends at the bank, noted Don Brewer, the former Secret Service agent. He said banks rely on counting machines that can immediately separate fake bills from authentic ones by analyzing magnetic ink on legitimate currency.

By that time, however, the damage — to small businesses in particular — is already done.

RTFA. Entertaining — that is, as entertaining as crime can be. The generational skills used in Peru are an interesting counterpoint to our domestic flavor of techie counterfeiter whose skills are “good enough”.

Rebuilding in Japan after the Tsunami confronts generational conflicts, democracy

At age 39, Yoshiaki Suda, the new mayor of this town that was destroyed by last March’s tsunami, oversees a community where the votes, money and influence lie among its large population of graying residents. But for Onagawa to have a future, he must rebuild it in such a way as to make it attractive to those of his generation and younger.

“That’s the most difficult problem,” Mr. Suda said. “For whom are we rebuilding?”

The reconstruction of Onagawa and the rest of the coast where the tsunami hit is a preview of what may be the most critical test Japan will face in the decades ahead. In a country where power rests disproportionately among older people, how does Japan, which has the world’s most rapidly aging population, use its dwindling resources to build a society that looks to the future as much as to the past…?

So after the tsunami destroyed all 15 of the fishing villages that make up part of Onagawa, Nobutaka Azumi, then the mayor, proposed a reconstruction plan that seemed sensible enough: consolidate the villages. Having just a few centralized communities would save the town money, Mr. Azumi said, and perhaps increase their chances of long-term survival.

But the village elders fought back, saying they wanted the government to rebuild their ancestral villages so that they could spend their last years there. Younger residents, many of whom supported consolidation but were vastly outnumbered, were left grumbling among themselves.

After the mayor persisted, he was pushed out of office by Mr. Suda, who was backed by opponents of consolidation. Mr. Suda now says that all the villages will be rebuilt, including a hamlet with just 22 inhabitants and an island village whose residents are on average 74 years old.

“There were 15 locations, so there will be 15 locations,” Mr. Suda said. “We’re moving forward under the premise that there will be no centralization, though I’m thinking of asking them one last time if this is really O.K., whether their young relatives are in agreement.”

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Filial piety as law

An editorial in the current issue of China Daily

Everyone agrees that people should visit their aged parents regularly if they are living separately. But whether this requirement should be written into law is a controversial matter.

The proposed amendment to the law on elderly people has a clause that says independent children should visit their aged parents regularly and should not ignore their need for love and affection.

If the amendment is adopted, parents will be able to sue their children in court for not visiting them for a long time. The number of elderly couples not living with their children is rising, and the amendment could provide them with a legal weapon to defend their rights of being looked after – at least emotionally – by their children.

Some people call the amendment ridiculous and meaningless, because a legal code should not be aimed at mending broken relations between children and parents. They contend that most children try their best to take some time out of their busy schedule to visit their parents and most parents excuse their children for not being able to keep them company for long or regularly.

Hence, they say that even if the amendment is adopted very few parents will take their children to court for not visiting them for a long time or not fulfilling their emotional needs.

But such a legal provision will serve as a reminder to young couples that they have the obligation to meet the emotional needs of their aged parents irrespective of how busy they may be. Parents could even remind their sons and daughters of their legal obligation. Contrary to some people’s fear that such a law will have serious consequences, it will only help consolidate the bond between most parents and children.

My parents would have voted for a law like this. Especially with all the years I spent wandering the globe, missing holidays with the family.

Shamed by Catholic child abuse, Ireland tiptoes onto the path of reform

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Ireland will reform its social services for children in line with the recommendations of a report cataloguing decades of abuse by priests published last week, says Prime Minister Brian Cowen.

Cowen apologized to victims for the state’s failure to intervene in what the report described as endemic sexual abuse and severe beatings in schools for much of the 20th century and he urged religious orders to pay additional compensation.

“It is deeply shameful for all Irish people that this happened in our country and that for so long it was not confronted,” he told a news conference.

Cowen welcomed Tuesday’s announcement by the Catholic order of Christian Brothers that it would review the compensation paid to victims of sexual abuse and violence.

“I believe that other individual congregations involved should now also articulate their willingness to make a further substantial voluntary contribution,” Cowen said…

Successful legal action by the Christian Brothers, the largest provider of residential care for boys in the country in the period examined by the report, led the Commission to drop its original idea of naming the people against whom the allegations were made.

Sounds to me as if Eire is as guilty as ever of kneeling before the political will of the Catholic Church instead of standing up as a free people in a free land with faith in the laws of their own nation.

Placating the worst of the lot, the Christian Brothers, makes that clear. Cowards in charge of the government. More afraid of Bishops ordering their flock how to vote than enforcing modern standards of law and order.

Corruption is a built-in part of some state governments

Manny Aragon, NM state senate leader, heading for 6+ years in the slammer
Daylife/AP Photo by Laura Husar

Government corruption is an ingrained part of the culture in five states, a political scientist asserts.

Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana and Pennsylvania are states where they have had high-profile corruption cases and a public largely tolerant of corrupt officials, said Christopher Borick, a political science professor.

It’s part of the broader culture of how politics operates in these places. It’s passed down from one generation to another. It’s almost an expectation that ‘This is the way it’s done,'” Borick said.

In Pennsylvania, during the past decade, 10 state lawmakers faced criminal charges that related to their official duties, but no governor has gone to jail despite widespread corruption in the 1970s, said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College.

A former state attorney general, Ernie Preate, was sentenced to prison for a 1995 fundraising scheme. Former Auditor General Al Benedict was convicted of tax evasion and racketeering in 1988, and former Treasurer Budd Dwyer was convicted of agreeing to take a $300,000 kickback.

“The commonwealth has had its share of miscreant public officials over the years but it is far from the most corrupt state in the union,” said Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

That excuses it all, of course.

As usual, we’re skipped over, unnoticed, in New Mexico.