scams and heists

We are advised the waxy is at the present in the Sweeps hospital and that he may never come out!

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Nine months after the Ukrainian revolution, Manafort’s family life also went into crisis. The nature of his home life can be observed in detail because Andrea’s text messages were obtained last year by a “hacktivist collective”—most likely Ukrainians furious with Manafort’s meddling in their country—which posted the purloined material on the dark web. The texts extend over four years (2012–16) and 6 million words. Manafort has previously confirmed that his daughter’s phone was hacked and acknowledged the authenticity of some texts. […]

When he called home in tears or threatened suicide in the spring of 2015, he was pleading for his marriage. The previous November, as the cache of texts shows, his daughters had caught him in an affair with a woman more than 30 years his junior. It was an expensive relationship. According to the text messages, Manafort had rented his mistress a $9,000-a-month apartment in Manhattan and a house in the Hamptons, not far from his own. He had handed her an American Express card, which she’d used to good effect. “I only go to luxury restaurants,” she once declared on a friend’s fledgling podcast, speaking expansively about her photo posts on social media: caviar, lobster, haute cuisine.

The affair had been an unexpected revelation. Manafort had nursed his wife after a horseback-riding accident had nearly killed her in 1997. “I always marveled at how patient and devoted he was with her during that time,” an old friend of Manafort’s told me. But after the exposure of his infidelity, his wife had begun to confess simmering marital issues to her daughters. Manafort had committed to couples therapy but, the texts reveal, that hadn’t prevented him from continuing his affair. Because he clumsily obscured his infidelity—and because his mistress posted about their travels on Instagram—his family caught him again, six months later. He entered the clinic in Arizona soon after, according to Andrea’s texts. […]

By the early months of 2016, Manafort was back in greater Washington, his main residence and the place where he’d begun his career as a political consultant and lobbyist. But his attempts at rehabilitation—of his family life, his career, his sense of self-worth—continued. He began to make a different set of calls. As he watched the U.S. presidential campaign take an unlikely turn, he saw an opportunity, and he badly wanted in. He wrote Donald Trump a crisp memo listing all the reasons he would be an ideal campaign consigliere—and then implored mutual friends to tout his skills to the ascendant candidate. […]

In 2006, Rick Gates, who’d begun as a wheel man at the old firm, arrived in Kiev. (Gates did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this article.) Manafort placed him at the helm of a new private-equity firm he’d created called Pericles. He intended to raise $200 million to bankroll investments in Ukraine and Russia. […]

Manafort had always intended to rely on financing from Oleg Deripaska to fund Pericles. In 2007, Manafort persuaded him to commit $100 million to the project, a sum that would have hardly made a dent in the oligarch’s fortune. On the eve of the 2008 global financial crisis, he was worth $28 billion.

Deripaska handed his money to Paul Manafort because he trusted him. […] Manafort used Deripaska’s money to buy a telecommunications firm in Odessa called Chorne More (“Black Seas,” in English) at a cost of $18.9 million. He also charged a staggering $7.35 million in management fees for overseeing the venture.

But months after the Chorne More purchase, the 2008 financial crisis hit, gutting Deripaska’s net worth. It plummeted so far that he needed a $4.5 billion bailout from the Russian state bank to survive. The loan included an interest payment in the form of abject humiliation: Putin traveled to one of Deripaska’s factories and berated him on television.

As Deripaska’s world came crashing down, his representatives asked Manafort to liquidate Pericles and give him back his fair share. Manafort had little choice but to agree. But that promise never translated to action. An audit of Chorne More that Rick Gates said was under way likewise never materialized. Then, in 2011, Manafort stopped responding to Deripaska’s investment team altogether. […]

The FBI investigation into Yanukovych’s finances came to cover Manafort’s own dealings. Soon after the feds took an interest, interviewing Manafort in July 2014, the repatriations ceased. Meanwhile, Manafort struggled to collect the money owed him by Yanukovych’s cronies. To finance his expensive life, he began taking out loans against his real estate—some $15 million over two years, his indictment says. This is not an uncommon tactic among money launderers—a bank loan allows the launderer to extract clean cash from property purchased with dirty money. But according to the indictment, some of Manafort’s loans were made on the basis of false information supplied to the bank in order to inflate the sums available to him, suggesting the severity of his cash-flow problems. All of these loans would need to be paid back, of course. And one way or another, he would need to settle Deripaska’s bill. […]

The Reagan administration had remade the contours of the Cold War, stepping up the fight against communism worldwide by funding and training guerrilla armies and right-wing military forces, such as the Nicaraguan contras and the Afghan mujahideen. This strategy of military outsourcing—the Reagan Doctrine—aimed to overload the Soviet Union with confrontations that it couldn’t sustain.

All of the money Congress began spending on anti-communist proxies represented a vast opportunity. Iron-fisted dictators and scruffy commandants around the world hoped for a share of the largesse. To get it, they needed help refining their image, so that Congress wouldn’t look too hard at their less-than-liberal tendencies. Other lobbyists sought out authoritarian clients, but none did so with the focused intensity of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. The firm would arrange for image-buffing interviews on American news programs; it would enlist allies in Congress to unleash money. Back home, it would help regimes acquire the whiff of democratic legitimacy that would bolster their standing in Washington.

{ The Atlantic | Continue reading }

Oil on linen { Suzan Frecon, lantern, 2017 }

Dumbest movie ever with a predictable dumb plot, bad acting, worse script, straight up ridiculous

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…America’s system of government. The bureaucracy is so understaffed that it is relying on industry hacks to draft policy. They have shaped deregulation and written clauses into the tax bill that pass costs from shareholders to society.

{ Economist | Continue reading }

graphite pencil, crayon and collage on paper { Jasper Johns, Green Flag, 1956 }

Conan Boyles will pudge the daylives out through him, if they are correctly informed

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In 2012, hedge fund manager and venture capitalist Albert Hu was convicted of a financial fraud that stretched from Silicon Valley to Hong Kong. Today, he is locked up in the minimum security wing of Lompoc federal prison—inmate #131600-111—without access to the Internet. But, somehow, his bogus investment firm has come back to life.

On the surface, Asenqua Ventures appears to be legitimate. It has a website. It has a working voicemail system and lists a Northern California office address. It has distributed multiple press releases via PRNewswire, which were then picked up by reputable media organizations. It is included in financial industry databases like Crunchbase, PitchBook, and S&P Capital IQ. Its senior managers have LinkedIn profiles.

One of those profiles belonged to Stephen Adler, who earlier this week sent out hundreds of new Linkedin “connect” invitations (many of which were accepted). Among the recipients was Marty McMahon, a veteran executive recruiter who just felt that something was a bit off about Adler’s profile. So he did a Google reverse image search on Adler’s profile pic, and quickly learned that the headshot actually belonged to a San Diego real estate agent named Dan Becker.

McMahon called Dan Becker, who he says was stunned to learn that his photo was being used by someone who he didn’t know. Then McMahon did another image search for the LinkedIn profile pic of Adler’s colleague, Michael Reed. This time it led him to Will Fagan, another San Diego realtor who often works with Dan Becker.

{ Fortune | Continue reading }

Can’t hear with the waters of. The chittering waters of.

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Seafood fraud comes in different forms, including species substitution — often a low-value or less desirable seafood item swapped for a more expensive or desirable choice — improper labeling, including hiding the true origin of seafood products, or adding extra breading, water or glazing to seafood products to increase their apparent weight. […]

One in five of the more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled.

{ Oceana | PDF }

polaroid photograph { Andy Warhol, Lobsters, 1982 }

‘Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery.’ –Lao Tze

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Researchers in France wanted to know if non-reflective thinkers (those who trust their initial intuition) would be more likely than reflective thinkers (those who use analytic reasoning to question their initial intuition) to believe an unusual or uncanny experience was the result of some supernatural explanation such as astrology or extra-sensory perception. They conducted three separate experiments to see if participants who appeared to have their minds read “through telepathy” by a fellow participant would see the experience differently based on whether they were reflective or non-reflective in their personal style.

Of course, you have likely already guessed that the “fellow participant” was not a participant at all but rather what researchers call a “confederate” who was able to “read” the actual participant’s mind and identify the cards the participant chose at random. (In truth, the experimenter could see the cards chosen and the confederate was cued about which card it was by the language the experimenter used to tell the confederate to focus on the “image” of the card the participant was “telepathically sending” to the confederate.) So the participant (either a reflective or a non-reflective thinker) was incredibly able to telepathically send the images of the cards to the confederate. And guess what? When asked how they explained their heightened ability to telepathically communicate, the reflective and non-reflective thinkers had varying explanations.

The reflective (analytical) thinkers thought it was a fluke and the non-reflective thinkers thought they were fabulous telepathic communicators. […] We showed that a single uncanny experience may be enough for non-reflective thinkers to seriously consider the possibility of supernatural causation. This makes them especially vulnerable to scammers who attempt to leverage paranormal beliefs into profits. A common trick, for example, consists of pretending to detect a paranormal ability in an individual, only to offer him or her an expensive training aimed at developing this potential. Individuals with a predominantly non-reflective cognitive style should be well warned against their own reaction to such and other encounters with the supernatural.

{ The Jury Room | Continue reading }

Everybody go Ho-tel, Mo-tel, Holiday Inn

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Denis Vrain-Lucas was trained as a law clerk, but by 1854 he had begun to forge historical documents, especially letters. Lucas began by using writing material and self-made inks from the appropriate period and forged mainly documents from French authors. He collected historical details from the Imperial library. As his forgeries were more readily accepted, he began to produce letters from historical figures.

Over 16 years Vrain-Lucas forged total of 27,000 autographs, letters, and other documents from such luminaries as Mary Magdalene, Cleopatra, Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Joan of Arc, Cicero and Dante Alighieri - written in contemporary French and on watermarked paper. The most prominent French collectors bought them, helping Lucas accumulate a significant wealth of hundreds of thousands of francs.

In 1861 Vrain-Lucas approached French mathematician and collector Michel Chasles and sold him forged letters for Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal. In one of them Pascal supposedly claimed that he had discovered the laws of gravity before Newton. Since this would have meant that a Frenchman would have discovered gravity before an Englishman, Chasles accepted the letter and asked for more. Lucas proceeded to sell him hundreds of letters from historical and biblical figures.

In 1867 Chasles approached the French Academy of Science, claiming to have proof that Pascal had discovered gravity before Newton. When he showed them the letters, scholars of the Academy noticed that the handwriting was very different compared to letters that were definitely by Pascal. Chasles defended the letters’ authenticity but was eventually forced to reveal that Vrain-Lucas had sold them to him. […] In February 1870, the Correctional Tribunal of Paris sentenced Vrain-Lucas to two years in prison for forgery. He also had pay a fine for 500 francs and all legal costs. Chasles received no restitution for all the money he had wasted on the Vrain-Lucas forgeries.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

The sound of a billion jaws collectively hitting the floor

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[T]he Inuit, the Masai, and the Samburu people of Uganda all originally ate diets that were 60-80% fat and yet were not obese and did not have hypertension or heart disease.

The hypothesis that saturated fat is the main dietary cause of cardiovascular disease is strongly associated with one man, Ancel Benjamin Keys, a biologist at the University of Minnesota. […] Keys launched his “diet-heart hypothesis” at a meeting in New York in 1952, when the United States was at the peak of its epidemic of heart disease, with his study showing a close correlation between deaths from heart disease and proportion of fat in the diet in men in six countries (Japan, Italy, England and Wales, Australia, Canada, and the United States). Keys studied few men and did not have a reliable way of measuring diets, and in the case of the Japanese and Italians he studied them soon after the second world war, when there were food shortages. Keys could have gathered data from many more countries and people (women as well as men) and used more careful methods, but, suggests Teicholz, he found what he wanted to find. […]

At a World Health Organization meeting in 1955 Keys’s hypothesis was met with great criticism, but in response he designed the highly influential Seven Countries Study, which was published in 1970 and showed a strong correlation between saturated fat (Keys had moved on from fat to saturated fat) and deaths from heart disease. Keys did not select countries (such as France, Germany, or Switzerland) where the correlation did not seem so neat, and in Crete and Corfu he studied only nine men. […]

[T]he fat hypothesis led to a massive change in the US and subsequently international diet. One congressional staffer, Nick Mottern, wrote a report recommending that fat be reduced from 40% to 30% of energy intake, saturated fat capped at 10%, and carbohydrate increased to 55-60%. These recommendations went through to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were published for the first time in 1980. (Interestingly, a recommendation from Mottern that sugar be reduced disappeared along the way.)

It might be expected that the powerful US meat and dairy lobbies would oppose these guidelines, and they did, but they couldn’t counter the big food manufacturers such as General Foods, Quaker Oats, Heinz, the National Biscuit Company, and the Corn Products Refining Corporation, which were both more powerful and more subtle. In 1941 they set up the Nutrition Foundation, which formed links with scientists and funded conferences and research before there was public funding for nutrition research. […]

Saturated fats such as lard, butter, and suet, which are solid at room temperature, had for centuries been used for making biscuits, pastries, and much else, but when saturated fat became unacceptable a substitute had to be found. The substitute was trans fats, and since the 1980s these fats, which are not found naturally except in some ruminants, have been widely used and are now found throughout our bodies. There were doubts about trans fats from the very beginning, but Teicholz shows how the food companies were highly effective in countering any research that raised the risks of trans fats. […]

Another consequence of the fat hypothesis is that around the world diets have come to include much more carbohydrate, including sugar and high fructose corn syrup, which is cheap, extremely sweet, and “a calorie source but not a nutrient.”2 5 25 More and more scientists believe that it is the surfeit of refined carbohydrates that is driving the global pandemic of obesity, diabetes, and non-communicable diseases.

{ The BMJ | Continue reading }

related { Beware the Man of One Study }

image { Isa Genzken, X-ray, 1991 }

bitch i’ve always been an artist

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Imagine receiving a text message that one of the world’s most prominent artists had appropriated your work, divorcing it of its original meaning. That’s exactly what happened to Audrey Wollen, a Los Angeles-based artist whose recreation of Diego Velázquez’s ‘The Rokeby Venus’ as a self-portrait was recently used by Richard Prince as part of his New Portraits series. […]

I was really angry, but not at all surprised. An old, white, successful, straight male artist feeling entitled to the image of a young female body is not surprising. My photograph wasn’t included in his show at Gagosian, but by distributing it through the internet under his name without any consent, he completely erased my authorship and identity. I really was just a photograph of a naked girl, up for grabs. Maybe I’m idealistic, but I don’t think art should simply reiterate the status quo. […] I think a lot of people mistake Prince’s work as purely an issue of appropriation - like, if you condemn Prince, you condemn appropriation on principle. That’s not the point: Appropriation is chill, as long as the person doing the appropriating is not the person in power. What Prince is doing is colonising and profiting off a territory of the internet that was created by a community of young girls, who, needless to say, do not have the cultural space Prince has. Selecting specific bodies from a sea of images, amputating them from their context, and then naming yourself the owner of those bodies: that isn’t just boring art, that verges on predatory and violent behavior.

{ Audrey Wollen | Continue reading }

Superboy-Prime: [battling Superman] I’m the only one who can rescue this messed-up universe.

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This report describes the details and type of operations carried out by an organized criminal group that focuses on financial industry, such as banks and payment providers, retail industry and news, media and PR companies. […] The organized criminal group backbone are citizens of both Russian and Ukrainian origin. […]

The average sum of theft in the Russian territory and in the post-Soviet space is $2 million per incident. […] To date the total amount of theft is over 1 billion rubles (about 25 million dollars), most of it has been stolen in the second half of 2014. […]

The key is that fraud occurs within the corporate network using internal payment gateways and internal banking systems. Thus money is stolen from the banks and payment systems, and not from their customers. While this is their main and most lucra- tive activity, the gang has also ventured into other areas including the compromise of media groups and other organizations for industrial espionage and likely a trading advantage on the stock market. […]

The average time from the moment of penetration into the financial institutions internal network till successful theft is 42 days.

As a result of access to internal bank networks the attackers also managed to gain access to ATM management infrastructure and infect those systems with their own malicious software that further allows theft from the banks ATM systems on the attackers command. […]

The main steps of the attack progression are the following ones:

1. Primary infection of an ordinary employee computer.
2. Getting a password of a user with administra- tive rights on some computers. For example, a password of a technical support engineer.
3. Gaining legitimate access to one server.
4. Compromising the domain administrator password from the server.
5. Gaining access to the domain controller and compromising of all active domain accounts.
6. Gaining access to e-mail and workflow servers.
7. Gaining access to server and banking system administrator workstations. 

8. Installing the software to monitor activity of interesting system operators. Usually photo and video recording was used.
9. Configuring remote access to servers of inter- est including firewall configuration changes.

{ Group-IB and Fox-IT | PDF }

‘every time I go by this Fresh Market, this dude with a whole beard-trimmer aesthetic is in front of it making out with a different woman’ —Jeb Lund

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[D]etoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.

“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.” The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.” […]

In 2009, a network of scientists assembled by the UK charity Sense about Science contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. The products ranged from dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos. When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins. […]

Then there’s colonic irrigation. Its proponents will tell you that mischievous plaques of impacted poo can lurk in your colon for months or years and pump disease-causing toxins back into your system. Pay them a small fee, though, and they’ll insert a hose up your bottom and wash them all away.[…] No doctor has ever seen one of these mythical plaques, and many warn against having the procedure done, saying that it can perforate your bowel.

{ The Guardian | Continue reading }

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow, and which will not, speak

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A quarter of all public company deals may involve some kind of insider trading. […] The study [PDF], perhaps the most detailed and exhaustive of its kind, examined hundreds of transactions from 1996 through the end of 2012.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘Funeral by funeral, theory advances.’ –Paul Samuelson

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Over the past year, I’ve spent a great deal of time trolling a variety of underground stores that sell “dumps” — street slang for stolen credit card data that buyers can use to counterfeit new cards and go shopping in big-box stores for high-dollar merchandise that can be resold quickly for cash. By way of explaining this bizarro world, this post takes the reader on a tour of a rather exclusive and professional dumps shop that caters to professional thieves, high-volume buyers and organized crime gangs. […]

Like many other dumps shops, McDumpals recently began requiring potential new customers to pay a deposit (~$100) via Bitcoin before being allowed to view the goods for sale. Also typical of most card shops, this store’s home page features the latest news about new batches of stolen cards that have just been added, as well as price reductions on older batches of cards that are less reliable as instruments of fraud. […]

People often ask if I worry about shopping online. These days, I worry more about shopping in main street stores. McDumpals is just one dumps shop, and it adds many new bases each week. There are dozens of card shops just like this one in the underground (some more exclusive than others), all selling bases [batches of cards] from unique, compromised merchants.

{ Krebs on Security | Continue reading }