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Mon, 26 Sep 2022
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Costa Concordia Adds Discount Insult to Injury

Costa Concordia
© Minyanville

What has to be the one thing a passenger of the ill-fated Costa Concordia doesn't want? Next to ever having to hear Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" again, it would have to be setting foot on the deck of another Costa Cruises ship.

But a future voyage at sea is precisely what parent company Carnival Corp is offering survivors of the cruise liner that had to be evacuated in the middle of the night before it sank off the shores of the Italian island of Giglio. In an attempt to stem the tide of personal injury lawsuits with which the world's largest cruise operator is about to be slapped, Carnival has put an offer on the table.

Perhaps an all-expenses-paid voyage to a choice of any of the cruise line's ports? No? OK, so maybe not free but heavily discounted, right?

What are we talking here? Seventy-five percent off? Fifty percent?

Try 30.

"The company is trying to do everything they can for those passengers directly affected," said a spokesman for Costa Cruises. "The company is not only going to refund everybody but they will offer a 30 per cent discount on future cruises if they want to stay loyal to the company."

Eye 1

US, Florida: Immigration Authorities Released Man Who Went on to Kill 3 in North Miami

© Manatee County Sheriff's Office
Kesler Dufrene
In a year-old mystery, a felon freed after he could not be returned to Haiti killed three people. Was it random, or was he working with someone?

When burglar Kesler Dufrene became a twice-convicted felon in 2006, a Bradenton judge shipped him to prison for five years. And because of his convictions, an immigration judge ordered Dufrene deported to his native Haiti.

That never happened.

Instead, when Dufrene's state prison term was up, Miami immigration authorities in October 2010 released him from custody. Two months later, North Miami police say, he slaughtered three people, including a 15-year-old girl in a murder case that remains as baffling today as it did the afternoon the bodies were discovered.

DNA on a rifle found inside the house and cellphone tracking technology later linked Dufrene to the Jan. 2, 2011, slayings.


US, California: Body Parts Case: LAPD Probes Whether Victim Knew Killer

Detectives investigating the death of a man whose head, hands and feet were found along a hiking trail near the Hollywood sign are focusing on whether the killing was tied in some way to his personal life, according to law enforcement sources.

The sources stressed that detectives were not fully clear on the motive in the killing of Hervey Medellin, 66, a retired Mexicana Airlines employee. But investigators are looking into whether he was killed by someone he knew.

Detectives have not made any arrests, and the sources, who spoke on condition of annoymity because the case was ongoing, said they continued to examine other scenarios as well.


US: South Carolina's Attorney General Detects Voter Fraud

© unknown
Attorney General Alan Wilson
South Carolina's attorney general has notified the U.S. Justice Department of potential voter fraud.

Attorney General Alan Wilson sent details of an analysis by the Department of Motor Vehicles to U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles.

In a letter dated Thursday, Wilson says the analysis found 953 ballots cast by voters listed as dead. In 71 percent of those cases, ballots were cast between two months and 76 months after the people died. That means they "voted" up to 6 1/3 years after their death.

The letter doesn't say in which elections the ballots were cast.

The analysis came out of research for the state's new voter identification law. The U.S. Justice Department denied clearance of that law.

Wilson told Nettles he asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate.

Source: The Associated Press

Star of David

The Palestinian children - alone and bewildered - in Israel's Al Jalame jail

Israel's military justice system is accused of mistreating Palestinian children arrested for throwing stones

Palestinian children locked up in solitary confinement by Israel.

The room is barely wider than the thin, dirty mattress that covers the floor. Behind a low concrete wall is a squat toilet, the stench from which has no escape in the windowless room. The rough concrete walls deter idle leaning; the constant overhead light inhibits sleep. The delivery of food through a low slit in the door is the only way of marking time, dividing day from night.

This is Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel. It is one of a handful of cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old claimed that he had been kept in Cell 36 for 65 days.

The only escape is to the interrogation room where children are shackled, by hands and feet, to a chair while being questioned, sometimes for hours.


Apple's Foreign Suppliers Demonstrate Widespread Scamming and Horrific Abuse of Employees

apple logo
© deejayres on Flickr
Apple's bombshell report on its suppliers shows anti-employee practices as common as iPods. White collar criminologist William K. Black investigates.

Apple has released a report on working conditions in its suppliers' factories, highlighting a form of control fraud (fraud in which the head of a company subverts it for personal gain) that criminology has identified but rarely discussed. I write overwhelmingly about accounting control fraud because it drives our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. The primary intended victims of accounting control frauds are the shareholders and the creditors. Other private sector control frauds target customers (e.g., George Akerlof's 1970 article on "lemons"), and the public (e.g., the unlawful disposal of toxic waste, illegal logging, and tax fraud).

Anti-employee control frauds most commonly fall into four broad, but not mutually exclusive, categories - illegal work conditions due to violation of safety rules, violation of child labor laws, failure to pay employees' wages and benefits, and frauds based on goods and loans provided by the employer to the employee that lock the employee into quasi-slavery.


US: Was She 'Executed'? Iranian Molecular Scientist, 30, Shot Dead in Car Outside Her Texas Home While Talking on Cell Phone to Ex-Boyfriend

© YouTube
Targeted? The shooter walked up to Gelareh Bagherzadeh's car and shot her in the head at close range
  • He [ex-boyfriend] heard a loud thud - doesn't recall hearing any gunshots, but a loud thud - and then a screeching noise. He said it sounded like someone driving away'
  • They received two calls about gunshots in the area within 45 minutes
Detectives investigating the murder of an Iranian molecular scientist gunned down in her car as she drove home believe she was followed or that someone was waiting for her.

Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30, who lobbied on behalf of Iranian women's civil rights, was struck by a single bullet that entered the passenger door window as she talked on her cell phone with her ex-boyfriend.

Her car then rolled into and a garage door yards from her parents' home in a townhouse community just southwest of Houston, Texas.

The car's engine was still running when police found her body behind the wheel about 12:30am on Monday.

According to police, someone walked to the passenger's side of her car and shot her at point-blank range.

Eye 1

Indonesia: Man faces Five Years for 'God Does Not Exist' Facebook Post

Indonesia-soldiers & monk
© Reuters
31-year-old Alexander Aan faces a maximum prison sentence of five years for posting "God does not exist" on Facebook. The civil servant was attacked and beaten by an angry mob of dozens who entered his government office at the Dharmasraya Development Planning Board on Wednesday. The Indonesian man was taken into protective police custody Friday since he was afraid of further physical assault.

The posting was made on a Facebook Page titled Ateis Minang (Minang Atheist), which Aan created. At the time of writing, it had over 1,700 Likes. Aan's posting has been removed, but supporters on the Page are urging police to release him.

Dharmasraya Police Chief Sr. Comr. Chairul Aziz said the district branch of the council and other Islamic organizations believed Aan had defiled Islam by using passages from the Koran to denounce the existence of God and highlight his atheist views. "So it meets the criteria of tainting religion, in this case Islam," Chairul told The Jakarta Globe.

Cell Phone

Banks Using Mobile Phone Usage To Gauge Credit Risk

cell tower & barbed wire
© n/a
Does the number of text messages you send, or the time of day you make your first phone call, say something important about how credit-worthy you are?

Cignifi, a small Cambridge start-up with roots in the UK, believes it does. The company is out raising $2 million in funding to commercialize its technology this year, after a pilot test in Brazil in 2011.

"There's a vast market of consumers in countries like Brazil, China, India, and the Phillipines who want access to financial services like credit cards, loans, or insurance," says Jonathan Hakim, Cignifi's chief executive. "But while they may have jobs, and some have bank accounts, there really is no credit history for them." One thing they do have? Mobile phones.

Cignifi has developed sophisticated modeling software that can look at usage data from consumers' mobile phones and make predictions about who that person is and how they live. There's no single data point - like making lots of short calls between 2 and 5 a.m. every morning - that suggests that someone is a bad credit risk. But Hakim says, "The way you use your phone is a proxy for your lifestyle. It's not random. So we're looking at things like the length of calls, the time of day, and the location you make them from. Also things like whether you top up [a pre-paid SIM card] regularly. We want to see how stable the patterns are. When you look at that, you can create these behavioral clusters that give you information about users' appetite for new [financial] products, and their ability to repay a debt."


Iraq Falling Back into 'Authoritarianism': Human Rights Watch

unrest @ Iraq
© Agence France-Presse
Iraq is falling back into authoritarianism and headed towards becoming a police state, despite US claims that it has helped establish democracy in the country, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

The criticism from the New York-based HRW comes less than a year after thousands of Iraqis took to the streets nationwide to criticise the government for poor services.

"Iraq cracked down harshly during 2011 on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating and detaining activists, demonstrators and journalists," HRW said in a statement accompanying its annual report.

HRW noted that Iraq remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, that women's rights remain poor and civilians have paid a heavy toll in bomb attacks.