Category Archives: Crime

And now for something completely different. . .


It’s a mystery with, as yet, no solution.

There’s an artist somewhere in Europe who’s filling the private and public art galleries of the world with sophisticated fakes, bronze statues — busts primarily — of gods and rulers from ancient Rome and Greece.

The forger is skilled, using ancient metal, presumably from bronze coins, and his work is superficially impeccable, as in this bronze bust of the Roman emperor Augustus exposed [PDF] as a fake by German archaeologist Stephan Lehmann of the Archaeological Museum of the University of Martin Luther, Halle-Wittenberg:

BLOG Spanish master

To expose the fakes, Lehmann has turned to Europe’s most powerful particle accelerators, the only instruments capable of revealing critical details without damaging the sculptures.

The following documentary in English from Deutsche Welle Documentaries looks at the world of forgeries of ancient bronzes, including the complicated egos of the forger’s victims and the collusion of governments and dealers who have little interest in exposing the hazards of a trade that generates hefty revenues for both:

The Mystery Conman

Program note:

For years, a talented fraudster smuggled counterfeit antiques onto the art market. No one knew who the person was but workshops in southern Europe aroused suspicion, especially one in Spain. Experts in Germany have therefore named the fraudster the “Spanische Meister” or “Spanish master.” The documentary follows archeologist Stefan Lehmann from Halle near Leipzig, who’s been on the shark’s tail. Around 40 counterfeits have been discovered so far, but he thinks it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Lehmann hasn’t made himself popular – the subject of counterfeiting tends to get swept under the rug within the art trade and museums. A Swiss collector is the first one to break the silence. He gave Lehmann access to a bronze head of Emperor Augustus, which he bought for several hundred thousand dollars on the New York art market. It’s an exciting case for Lehmann – will his examinations prove that the head is fake? Auction houses and galleries know exactly what they’re selling according to Christoph Leon, an art dealer from Basel who’s working with Lehmann. He says the market is full of fakes because the global financial market invests in antique sculptures so there’s a lot of money at stake. This film follows the trail of the dirty dealings and gives an insight into the unknown world of the antiques trade.

It’s hard not to root for the forger, who is deftly picking the pockets of the one percent by playing on their pretensions.

After all, the forger with the heart of gold has been a staple of film and fiction. But all too often it’s the public’s pockets that are picked, if the form of tax writeoffs given wealthy donors who pass on their fakes to public museums.

And we have to admit that our favorite TV show during our college years was a wonderful series starring A-list stars who profited handsomely from, among other things, peddling forgeries to the wealthy booboisie.

Quote of the day Ted Cruz in a nutshell [Nut’s hell?]


From journalist and author Gary Leech, writing for Counterpunch:

Perhaps nothing captures the imperialist arrogance of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz more succinctly than his campaign’s statement declaring, “What is best for America is best for the world.” In addition to the obvious fact that billions of people around the world might disagree with Cruz on this point is the fact that it is not at all clear that the Republican presidential candidate’s proposed policies are even best for most Americans. But given his victory this past week in the Iowa caucus, Cruz’s ultra-conservative views can no longer be ignored while mainstream and progressive pundits busy themselves dissecting the bombastic rhetoric of the far less scary Donald Trump.

In contrast to most candidates that run for president, Ted Cruz has a clear vision for the future of the country. The problem for many Americans is that it is a terrifying vision. It is a vision that is imperialist, racist, sexist, classist and homophobic. For instance, Cruz proposes building a giant wall across the US-Mexico border in addition to using high-tech measures to keep out “illegal” immigrants while allowing corporate labor needs to dictate the flow of “legal” immigrants into the country. In addition to strengthening the military to ensure US hegemony around the globe, he also vows to boost US military support for Israel and to withhold funding from the United Nations if it “continues its anti-Israel bias.”

On the domestic front, Cruz is calling for a flat tax that will benefit the rich and gut government social spending. He has also vowed to curtail women’s rights by stating that he will order the attorney general to investigate Planned Parenthood on his first day as president. And he opposes same-sex marriage, declaring that “marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman.” Finally, Cruz would not only fail to address climate change, which he views as a hoax, he would promote expanded oil and gas production. Given that these policy proposals make Cruz one of the most conservative presidential contenders in decades, it would behoove us to take a closer at them.

Psychedelics linked to reduced spousal abuse


Psilocybin [shrooms], LSD, and other psychedelic drugs [previously] have been shown to provide the most effective agents in reducing chronic severe depression and stopping smoking, and may be useful in fighting alcoholism.

Now comes word that they may also play a role in reducing spousal abuse.

Laws banning psychedelic use, even by researchers, were enacted under the Johnson and Nixon administrations, mainly because their use was associated with the antiwar movements of the area, and with young people who were opting out [mostly unsuccessfully over the long run] of the rat race, as negotiating the corporate maze was then known.

But lots of subsequent use has demonstrated that the bans were failure, since the drugs are still readily available in most places. And with research restrictions slowly being eased, dramatic evidence of their therapeutic potential is emerging.

The latest development, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health

Evidence in a study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia along with University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health Associate Professor Peter S. Hendricks, Ph.D., suggests hallucinogens such as psilocybin or LSD may have therapeutic potential for reducing intimate partner violence, or IPV.

Hendricks says the identification of risk and protective factors for IPV is an important goal for public health research.

“A body of evidence suggests that substances such as psilocybin may have a range of clinical indications,” he said. “Although we’re attempting to better understand how or why these substances may be beneficial, one explanation is that they can transform people’s lives by providing profoundly meaningful spiritual experiences that highlight what matters most. Often, people are struck by the realization that behaving with compassion and kindness toward others is high on the list of what matters.”

The study looked at 302 men ages 17-40 in the criminal justice system. Of the 56 percent of participants who reported using hallucinogens, only 27 percent were arrested for later IPV as opposed to 42 percent of the group who reported no hallucinogen use being arrested for IPV within seven years.

From the 1950s through the early 1970s, thousands of studies reported on the medical use of hallucinogens, mostly LSD. Due to the classification of the most prominent hallucinogens as Schedule I controlled substances in 1970, research on health benefits was suspended, causing many of these studies to be forgotten. However, research with hallucinogens has experienced a rebirth.

“Recent studies have shown that psilocybin and related compounds could revolutionize the mental health field,” Hendricks said. “However, additional research is needed. This study suggests that hallucinogens could be a useful avenue for reducing IPV, meaning this topic deserves further attention.”

Class cleansing, history, race, and the Super Bowl


A short but notable segment from Democracy Now! how issues of the issues of class and race are integral to America’s most iconic sporting event.

No Super Bowl in recent decades has evoked their spectral present more than the game’s 50th extravaganza, held in San Francisco, the nation’s most expensive city to inhabit, yet a city haunted by the issues of race and class.

It was, after all, San Francisco that brought the nation its first drug law, created in 1875 to repress a hard-working Chinese population by banning the use of opium, the drug which helped numb the pain brought on by long hours of physical exertion.

The San Francisco ordinance, quickly adopted by most other California cities with large Asian populations, didn’t halt sales of the drug; instead driving it underground and causing the price to spike.

Nor, as any visitor to modern San Francisco can attest, did it succeed in driving out its Chinese residents.

[The nation’s prohibitions of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin were all based directly on overt racist hysteria, as noted here.]

The San Francisco Bay Area was also the birthplace of the most prominent African American militants of the mid-20th Century, the Black Panthers.

And it was the Panthers who were, remarkably, celebrated in Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show by one of the nation’s most popular singers.

But before the game was held, another cleansing of San Francisco took place, this time one based on class and not race.

And with that by way of preface, from Democracy Now!:

Beyoncé Wins the Super Bowl: Pop Legend Invokes Black Panthers, #BlackLivesMatter at Halftime Show

From the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Zirin joins us from Washington, D.C., sports columnist for The Nation. His latest article, “The Streets of San Francisco: ‘Super Bowl City’ Meets Tent City.”

Thanks so much. His books include The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, which he co-wrote with John Carlos. Your response to all that happened last night, Dave?

DAVE ZIRIN: Well, there’s on the field and off the field. I mean, on the field, you had the Denver Broncos exhibit one of the great defensive performances in Super Bowl history. Off the field, what you had was really an unprecedented sweep of the homeless before a Super Bowl contest. And, you know, every Super Bowl in the host city has a narrative that exists outside the game. In New Orleans, it was “How will the city recover after Hurricane Katrina?” In New York, if you remember—we discussed this, Amy—it was the sweep and harassment of sex workers before the big game that took place in the Meadowlands.

And in San Francisco, it’s the fact that you have this city of only 800,000 people that has a homeless population of 10,000. Sixty-one percent of the homeless in San Francisco were working at the time they lost their homes. And one-third of these 10,000 people are children. And yet, the response from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was: You better get off the street. You better get gone, because we’re about to have a party for the 1 percent. We’re about to have a Woodstock for the wealthy and celebrate the Super Bowl and celebrate our conspicuous consumption. There’s no greater symbol of this year’s Super Bowl, to me, than the fact you could go to the game and buy a delicious hot dog with real gold flakes sprinkled on top, so you could eat gold with your hot dog while people are literally hungry outside the most unequal and, by some metrics, the wealthiest city now in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about what happened inside, at halftime, Dave Zirin? Can you talk about not only what Beyoncé—

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —did there with her song, the homage to the Black Panthers—

DAVE ZIRIN: It was too short.

Chart of the day: European online insecurities


From Eurostat [PDF], with the average for the 27 member European Union [minus Romania, which lacked the data] in black:

In the European Union (EU), the proportion of internet users having experienced certain common security issues over the  internet — such as viruses affecting devices, abuse of personal information, financial losses or children accessing inappropriate websites — stood  at 25% in 2015. In  other  words, three-quarters (75%) of internet users encountered no such online security problems in 2015.

In the European Union (EU), the proportion of internet users having experienced certain common security issues over the internet — such as viruses affecting devices, abuse of personal information, financial losses or children accessing inappropriate websites — stood at 25% in 2015. In other words, three-quarters (75%) of internet users encountered no such online security problems in 2015.

Julian Assange gets ol’ Palestinian treatment


You know, the one in which a few small powers reject the overwhelming votes in their favor from a vast majority of the world’s nations.

First, from the Los Angeles Times:

‘How sweet it is,’ WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange declares after U.N. panel backs his freedom

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Friday he felt vindicated by the findings of a United Nations panel that ruled he should be allowed to walk free.

And the inevitable, via Deutsche Welle:

Assange stays put as Britain, Sweden reject UN decision

The British and Swedish authorities have rejected a UN panel’s findings and say WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will still face arrest if he exits Ecuador’s embassy. He’s not budging, reports Samira Shackle from London

UPDATE: From The Real News Network, an interview [transcript] on Britain’s response with Assange’s own attorney:

UK Rejects UN Ruling that Assange Detention Is Illegal

Program notes:

After the UN finds Assange to be arbitrarily detained, Assange attorney Carey Shenkman explains how the UK is undermining the authority of the UN while simultaneously relying on it to release detained UK citizens

BBC News covers Old Blighty umbrage:

Julian Assange decision by UN panel ridiculous, says Hammond

The UK foreign secretary has branded as “ridiculous” a UN panel’s ruling that Julian Assange be allowed to go free, as the Wikileaks founder demanded the decision be respected.

And the response, via the Guardian:

Julian Assange accuses UK minister of insulting UN after detention finding

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond dismisses panel’s finding as ‘ridiculous’ but WikiLeaks founder hails ‘sweet victory’

Anonymous voices our own sentiments, and much more graphically:

BLOG Anon

The Empire Files: Bloodshed on the border


In the second part [first part here] of “The Empire’s Border,” her report on the bloody politics of the United States’ southern border, The Empire Files‘ Abby Martin examines the origins of that boundary line in bloody conflict, America’s first imperial war against another American nation state.

Her focus then shifts to the first border wall, erected after a fierce street battle in the border town of Nogales, Arizona/Juarez, Mexico 98 years ago.

Adding immensely to the border tensions was the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement [and do watch Hillary’s spouse preaching its virtues on signing the treaty into law].

Then came 9/11, and the subsequent paranoia-enabled national security spending binge, in which fears of boundary leakage proved centers of immense profits and bureaucratic binging. . .

Increased deaths became inevitable, especially given a media fueled campaign of paranoia direction against brown-skinned people.

Well, we’ll leave the rest for you.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: The Empire’s Border Part II – A Hidden War

Program notes:

In the second installment of this two-part episode, Abby Martin continues her investigation of the hidden war on the U.S.-Mexico border, looking at the root causes of the epidemic of migrant deaths. The Empire Files documents an inflated, paramilitary Border Patrol, the devastating impacts of NAFTA, how the U.S. Empire benefits from immigrant labor and what can change the equation.

Featuring interviews with Todd Miller, author of ‘Border Patrol Nation’, and Araceli Rodriguez, mother of Jose Antonio, a 16-year-old boy murdered by Border Patrol.