scams and heists

‘It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of Renaissance or of any past culture.’ –Jackson Pollock

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It was June 2020, and Mr. Hamamoto, a former Goldman Sachs executive who invested in real estate, was searching for a business to take public through a merger with his shell company. He had raised $250 million from big Wall Street investors including BlackRock, and spent more than a year looking at over 100 potential targets. If he couldn’t close a deal soon, he would have to return the money.

Then, around nine months before his deadline, bankers from Goldman gave Mr. Hamamoto an enticing pitch: Lordstown Motors, the fledgling electric truck maker that President Donald J. Trump had hailed as a savior of jobs. What followed was a swift merger, then a debacle that put two of the biggest forces shaping the financial world on a collision course.

Lordstown went public in October via a merger with Mr. Hamamoto’s special purpose acquisition company, DiamondPeak Holdings. A Wall Street innovation, SPACs are all the rage, having raised more than $190 billion from investors since the start of 2020, according to SPACInsider. At the same time, small investors have become a potent force in the markets, driving up the stock prices of companies like GameStop and lapping up shares of SPACs, which are highly speculative and can pose financial risks.

In Lordstown, those forces eventually collided, highlighting the uneven playing field between Wall Street and Main Street. Small investors began piling into Lordstown shares after the merger closed, attracted to the hype around electric vehicles. That’s exactly when BlackRock and other early Wall Street investors — as well as top company executives, who all got their shares cheaply before the merger — began to sell some of their holdings.

Now Lordstown is flailing. Regulators are investigating whether its founder, Steve Burns, who resigned as chief executive in June, overstated claims about truck orders. The heat is on Mr. Hamamoto. The company has burned through hundreds of millions of dollars in cash. Its stock price has plunged to $9, from around $31. Investors are suing, including 70-year-old George Troicky, who lost $864,201 on his investment, according to a pending class-action lawsuit.

And Lordstown has yet to begin producing its first truck.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

image { Jackson Pollock at work in his studio in 1950 photographed by Hans Namuth }

‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ Is Leaving YouTube After $760,999 NFT Sale

Long believed by others to be a copy or the work of Leonardo’s studio, the “Salvator Mundi” was purchased in 2005 by a consortium of speculative art dealers for under $10,000. Eight years later, after the painting had been restored and declared the work of the Renaissance master, Bouvier bought it for $80 million after enlisting the help of a poker player to beat down the price.

The dealer swiftly sold it on for $127.5 million to his then-client, Dmitry Rybolovlev. […] And while Rybolovlev later auctioned off the painting for an astonishing $450 million in 2017, to a secret buyer now widely believed to be Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he nonetheless alleges that Bouvier defrauded him — a claim Bouvier denies. […]

In the documentary, “The Savior for Sale,” an anonymous high-ranking French official claims that Prince bin Salman was adamant that the “Salvator Mundi” be displayed next to the “Mona Lisa” in order to solidify its place as an authentic Leonardo — despite ongoing questions about whether the work is entirely by the Italian master.

The French government ultimately decided not to exhibit the painting under the Saudis’ conditions, which the anonymous official says in the film “would be akin to laundering a piece that cost $450 million.”

{ CNN | Continue reading }

She goes to the spa, has lunch, goes to the spa (again) and has dinner. Rinse and repeat. Every day.

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Stacy Blatt was in hospice care last September listening to Rush Limbaugh’s dire warnings about how badly Donald J. Trump’s campaign needed money when he went online and chipped in everything he could: $500.

It was a big sum for a 63-year-old battling cancer and living in Kansas City on less than $1,000 per month. But that single contribution — federal records show it was his first ever — quickly multiplied. Another $500 was withdrawn the next day, then $500 the next week and every week through mid-October, without his knowledge — until Mr. Blatt’s bank account had been depleted and frozen. When his utility and rent payments bounced, he called his brother, Russell, for help.

What the Blatts soon discovered was $3,000 in withdrawals by the Trump campaign in less than 30 days. They called their bank and said they thought they were victims of fraud.

the Trump campaign and the for-profit company that processed its online donations, WinRed, […] begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election.

Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out.

As the election neared, the Trump team made that disclaimer increasingly opaque, an investigation by The New York Times showed. It introduced a second prechecked box, known internally as a “money bomb,” that doubled a person’s contribution. Eventually its solicitations featured lines of text in bold and capital letters that overwhelmed the opt-out language. […]

Several bank representatives who fielded fraud claims directly from consumers estimated that WinRed cases, at their peak, represented as much as 1 to 3 percent of their workload. [..]

All the banking officials said they recalled only a negligible number of complaints against ActBlue, the Democratic donation platform, although there are online review sites that feature heated complaints about unwanted charges and customer service. […]

Over all, the Trump operation refunded 10.7 percent of the money it raised on WinRed in 2020; the Biden operation’s refund rate on ActBlue, the parallel Democratic online donation-processing platform, was 2.2 percent, federal records show.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

While still alive, they both were hurled into the fiery lake that burns with sulfur

fake drive-through coronavirus testing sites have been cropping up in recent weeks […] scammers are dressing up like medical professionals and conducting fake, unsanitary tests for money and identity theft, while possibly spreading the virus. […] Reports about such sites have emerged in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, and Washington state.

{ two cents | Continue reading }

related { Amplification-free detection of SARS-CoV-2 with CRISPR-Cas13a and mobile phone microscopy }

Axe on thwacks on thracks, axenwise. One by one place.

Several delivery services, including Postmates, Seamless, Grubhub, and DoorDash, offer food from restaurants without their explicit permission. The delivery apps pull up restaurant menus listed online, from which customers make their selections, and couriers working for the apps place orders on their behalf. The process essentially inserts third-party apps as middlemen into a service many restaurants say they want control over, or wish to opt out of entirely.

{ Eater | Continue reading }

A gull. Gulls. Far calls.

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Facebook said on Friday that it had removed hundreds of accounts with ties to the Epoch Media Group. […] Researchers said the profiles used photos generated by artificial intelligence. […]

The people behind the network of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts posted about political news and issues in the United States, including President Trump’s impeachment, conservative ideology, political candidates, trade and religion. “This was a large, brazen network that had multiple layers of fake accounts and automation that systematically posted content with two ideological focuses: support of Donald Trump and opposition to the Chinese government,” Mr. Brookie said in an interview. […]

The people behind the network used artificial intelligence to generate profile pictures, Facebook said. They relied on a type of artificial intelligence called generative adversarial networks. These networks can, through a process called machine learning, teach themselves to create realistic images of faces, even though they do not belong to a real person. […] This A.I. technique did not actually make it harder for the company’s automated systems to detect the fakes, because the systems focus on patterns of behavior among accounts. […] Facebook said the accounts masked their activities by using a combination of fake and authentic American accounts to manage pages and groups on the platforms. 

{ NYTimes | Continue reading }

photo { Ian Strange, SOS, 2015-2017 }

Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes and converts it to ethanol, carbon dioxide, and heat. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts produce different styles of wine.

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[We] discovered at least 450 websites in a network of local and business news organizations, each distributing thousands of algorithmically generated articles and a smaller number of reported stories. Of the 450 sites we discovered, at least 189 were set up as local news networks across ten states within the last twelve months by an organization called Metric Media. […]

Titles like the East Michigan News, Hickory Sun, and Grand Canyon Times have appeared on the web ahead of the 2020 election. These networks of sites can be used in a variety of ways: as ‘stage setting’ for events, focusing attention on issues such as voter fraud and energy pricing, providing the appearance of neutrality for partisan issues, or to gather data from users that can then be used for political targeting. […]

Some of these mysterious, partisan local news sites publish physical newspapers and many have minimal social media presence. At first, they do not  appear to be owned by the same network or organization, but a number of clues suggest that they are intimately linked. Our analysis demonstrates the links between the networks by identifying shared markers, such as unique analytics tokens, server IP addresses, and even shared design templates and bylines on articles. Further, the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for many of these websites—but not all—suggest they are part of Locality Labs, LLC. 

{ Columbia Journalism Review | Continue reading }

still { Martin Kersels, Pink Constellation, 2001 }

Why, why, tell ‘em that it’s human nature

Neumann created a company that destroyed value at a blistering pace and nonetheless extracted a billion dollars for himself. He lit $10 billion of SoftBank’s money on fire and then went back to them and demanded a 10% commission. What an absolute legend.

{ Matt Levine / Bloomberg | Continue reading }

The whool of the whaal in the wheel of the whorl of the Boubou from Bourneum has thus come to taon!

— Persistence 


— Talking too much 


— Contradictions between words and actions or behaviors 


— Triggering your intuition (this doesn’t feel right)

As a reliable general guideline, any time you are engaged in conversation with a stranger and you notice one or more of those characteristics in the conversation, you should expect that you are being scammed. 


{ Active Response Training | Continue reading }

In the end, Decalogue VI seems less interested in labeling its characters than in recognizing that sex — no matter how casual — still carries a psychological/spiritual weight

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The team say that sextortion emails demanding cryptocurrency payment first appeared in 2018. The scammers send their emails via botnets, such as Necurs or Cutwail. These are global networks of computers infected with malware that send out spam on demand.

This is offered as a service on the dark net. Various researchers have shown that spammers pay botnet owners between $100 and $500 to send a million spam emails. They can even rent botnets at a cost of $10,000 per month, which allows them to send 100 million spam messages. […]

Back in 2008, one group of cyber-crime experts infiltrated a botnet for 26 days and monitored spammers sending 350 million emails for a pharmaceutical product. The result was 28 sales. This generated a revenue of $2,732, which corresponds to a conversion rate of just 0.00001%. Nevertheless, the experts concluded that by using additional botnets, spammers could generate around $9,500 per day which adds up to $3.5 million per year.

Sextortion has the potential to be much more profitable, say Paquet-Clouston and co. The reason is that it does not require the spammers to host any kind of e-commerce website, or to procure, store, and ship products of any kind. And cryptocurrency payments are simpler than bank payments and do not require the involvement of a friendly bank.

{ Technology Review | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Caleb Brown, Sports Explosion, 2009 }

And the cloud that took the form (when the rest of Heaven was blue) of a demon in my view

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Cooping was an alleged form of electoral fraud in the United States cited in relation to the death of Edgar Allan Poe in October 1849, by which unwilling participants were forced to vote, often several times over, for a particular candidate in an election. According to several of Poe’s biographers, these innocent bystanders would be grabbed off the street by so-called ‘cooping gangs’ or ‘election gangs’ working on the payroll of a political candidate, and they would be kept in a room, called the “coop”, and given alcoholic beverages in order for them to comply. If they refused to cooperate, they would be beaten or even killed. Often their clothing would be changed to allow them to vote multiple times. Sometimes the victims would be forced to wear disguises such as wigs, fake beards or mustaches to prevent them from being recognized by voting officials at polling stations.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

On October 3, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance”, according to Joseph W. Walker who found him. He was taken to the Washington Medical College where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849 at 5:00 in the morning. He was not coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own.

He is said to have repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds” on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring.

All medical records and documents, including Poe’s death certificate, have been lost, if they ever existed.

Newspapers at the time reported Poe’s death as “congestion of the brain” or “cerebral inflammation”, common euphemisms for death from disreputable causes such as alcoholism.

The actual cause of death remains a mystery. […] One theory dating from 1872 suggests that cooping was the cause of Poe’s death, a form of electoral fraud in which citizens were forced to vote for a particular candidate, sometimes leading to violence and even murder. […] Cooping had become the standard explanation for Poe’s death in most of his biographies for several decades, though his status in Baltimore may have made him too recognizable for this scam to have worked. […]

Immediately after Poe’s death, his literary rival Rufus Wilmot Griswold wrote a slanted high-profile obituary under a pseudonym, filled with falsehoods that cast him as a lunatic and a madman, and which described him as a person who “walked the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in passionate prayers, (never for himself, for he felt, or professed to feel, that he was already damned)”.

The long obituary appeared in the New York Tribune signed “Ludwig” on the day that Poe was buried. It was soon further published throughout the country. The piece began, “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it.” “Ludwig” was soon identified as Griswold, an editor, critic, and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842. Griswold somehow became Poe’s literary executor and attempted to destroy his enemy’s reputation after his death.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

What happens to $47 billion of lease obligations if there’s a recession?

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{ What makes WeWork worth more, the company seems to be saying, is that it’s a tech company + Everything about the company is over-the-top: its growth, losses, potential conflicts of interest and financial gymnastics + The company’s IPO prospectus is an exercise in ducking reality }

No one speaks English and everything’s broken

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Ms. Giannulli, 19, is the daughter of the actress Lori Loughlin and the designer Mossimo Giannulli. […] Ms. Giannulli is a social media influencer with close to two million YouTube subscribers and over a million Instagram followers. In September, she posted two paid advertisements on Instagram that highlighted her identity as a student. […]

Ms. Giannulli […] was criticized in August after posting a video […] in which she said that she was only going to college for “gamedays, partying.”

“I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know,” she said. […]

Ms. Giannulli is one of a number of celebrity offspring who have lived out their teenage years on social media. In the video for which she was criticized, she described how the dissolution of a romantic relationship had been particularly difficult because people would send her tweets, Instagram posts and Snapchats of her ex with other young women.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

A total of 50 people nationwide were arrested in the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice, officials announced. Those arrested include exam administrators, coaches at elite schools, and nearly three dozen parents — including actress Lori Loughlin.

{ CNN | Continue reading | full indictment }

image { 1991 Topps Toxic High School #19 }

Pikes clash on cuirasses. Thieves rob the slain.

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The ATM-busting technique, known as jackpotting, has been around for almost a decade […] ATM jackpotting is both riskier and more complicated than card-skimming. For starters, scammers have to hack into the computer that governs the cash dispenser, which usually involves physically breaking into the machine itself; once they’re in, they install malware that tells the ATM to release all of its cash, just like a jackpot at a slot machine. These obstacles mean the process takes quite a bit longer than installing a card skimmer, which means more time in front of the ATM’s security cameras and jackpotters triggering an alarm in the bank’s control center at every step. But as chip-and-PIN becomes the standard in the U.S., would-be ATM thieves are running out of other options. […]

It was the Secret Service’s financial crimes division that spotted the series of attacks on multiple locations of the same bank in Florida in December and January, and put out a bulletin to financial institutions, law enforcement, and the public about the new style of ATM theft. The two major global ATM manufacturers, Diebold Nixdorfand NCR, also alerted the public and issued security patches within a few days. Banks started monitoring their ATMs around the clock. Less than 24 hours after the Secret Service’s public alert, Citizens Financial Group, a regional bank with branches all over the northeast, notified the local police that its security folks noticed one of its ATMs go off line. The police contacted the Secret Service, which made its first arrest on the scene.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

photo { Jerome Liebling, Union Square, New York City, 1948 }

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 }