Author Archives: Administrator

Dutch News: Jail for Kunsthal painting ringleader

Good news regarding stiff sentences for the Kunsthal thieves. I wish that they could have received more time, however, based on their refusal to provide information about the current whereabouts of all of the works, since the idea that they were burned is actually still up in the air (according to some press reports and a source of mine in Romania). Furthermore, the fine for the man who attempted to fence the art is astonishingly low, making his misdeed almost a smart bet for someone who was asked to move millions in stolen art.

The main suspect in the Rotterdam Kunsthal art robbery has been jailed for six years eight months, by a court in Bucharest on Monday.

 

The sentence for Romanian national Adrian P, who has not admitted his role in the robbery, is in line with that handed down to the other two main defendants last year. The sentences are now definitive and there is no right of appeal, news agency ANP said.

 

The defendants have also been ordered to pay €18.1m in compensation for the theft, which is said to be the value of the stolen works.

 

The mother of one of the suspects, who says she burnt several of the paintings in the stove at her home, was jailed for two years. She later retracted that statement.

A sixth suspect, who tried to fence the stolen work, was fined the equivalent of €10,000.

 

The seven paintings, which include works by Monet, Picasso and Gauguin were stolen in October 2012. Their whereabouts is still unknown.

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DHS Struggles with Intelligence & Analysis Capabilities

By Amber Corrin, Federal Times

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to struggle with prioritizing its strategies, despite having created systems for integrating analytic and intelligence activities, said a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). DHS’ existing intelligence framework is not effective, said the report, and fails to create “strategic departmental intelligence priorities” that would guide annual planning decisions. This has resulted in managers in DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) having difficulties developing strategic and tactical priorities for specific operations, the report found. The GAO report did say that the efforts to integrate analysis within DHS offices has helped to a degree, as they have allowed intelligence officials to coordinate component activities and prevent any duplication of implementation efforts or unnecessary overlap. I&A continues to have difficulties recruiting and hiring analysts, however, and has not made progress in using existing mechanisms to improve its workforce difficulties. The report noted that the mechanisms will help I&A evaluate whether its efforts are succeeding at achieving goals such as improving recruiting and hiring, improving morale, and reducing turnover. DHS agreed with the recommendations the GAO made for addressing these issues.
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Cypress, Sky and Field…and a Providence Patrolwoman

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A good friend from the Providence Police Department shared her thoughts with me recently about a certain major art theft I’m investigating. Her theory: the paintings I seek are hidden in a safe deposit box.  She went on to explain the basis for her theory, which I’ll not share here.  In any event, her theory came immediately to mind when I saw this story about a lost van Gogh:

MADRID, May 10 (Reuters) – Spanish tax inspectors checking the contents of a safe deposit box discovered a painting believed to be by Dutch master Vincent Van Gogh that went missing almost 40 years ago, a tax office source said on Saturday.

Confirming a report by Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the source said the painting was entitled “Cypress, Sky and Country” in English translation from Spanish and dated 1889. The pastoral work had last been on view in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in the Austrian capital Vienna, the source told Reuters.

He said an investigation was under way into how the painting wound up in the safety deposit box and whether it disappeared as a result of a robbery.

Art experts told the tax office that the painting, bearing three seals of authenticity and measuring 35 by 32 centimeters 13.7 by 12.5 inches), is most likely genuine although this must still be confirmed by Spain’s Culture Ministry. The value of the painting has not yet been assessed.

Van Gogh, a giant of the impressionist school whose works are among the most valuable in the world, committed suicide penniless in 1890 after a long battle with mental illness.

The painting was found during an operation to seize the contents of some 542 safety boxes from tax offenders who owed around 319 million euros ($438.83 million), El Mundo said.

The Madrid daily ran a photo of the painting. ($1 = 0.7269 Euros) (Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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More Madness from Boko Haram

The 12 Nigerian states with Sharia law

The 12 Nigerian states with Sharia law (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(CNN)

Fears for the fate of more than 200 Nigerian girls turned even more nightmarish Monday when the leader of the Islamist group that kidnapped them announced plans to sell them.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.

“There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women,” he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language.

Boko Haram means “Western education is sin.” In his nearly hourlong, rambling video, Shekau repeatedly called for Western education to end.

“Girls, you should go and get married,” he said.

The outrageous threat means the girls’ parents worst fears could be realized. Parents have been avoiding speaking to the media for fear their daughters may be singled out for reprisals.

“Wherever these girls are, we’ll get them out,” Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed Sunday.

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The Seven Year Snitch

Come the 10th of June 2007, it will be seven years since the public last set eyes on the painting A Cavalier (self portrait). Its place on the wall in a small enclave of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which forms part of the James Fairfax Galleries, has long since been claimed by another artwork, Mars and the Vestal Virgin (1638) by Jacques Blanchard. Sadly, with the investigation into the theft of A Cavalier at a standstill and with little attention given to its continued disappearance, those unfamiliar with the case will be unaware that A Cavalier once held pride of place in that collection. It is as if it never existed – and all because somebody (or bodies), decided to pinch, nick, steal, nab, rob, pilfer, purloin, take, snitch the painting…and now in 2014 we will have The Seven Year Snitch. Sound familiar? The name is borrowed from the 1955 film directed by Billy Wilder, The Seven Year Itch. You know the one, even if you haven’t seen it. Just picture Marilyn Monroe in a white pleated halter-neck dress standing on a subway grate to get the breeze, her pleats take flight and an iconic image is born! While the title of that movie refers to the suggestion that after seven years of marriage spouses may want to stray from home (and their marriage), in the case of A Cavalier, we’d much prefer that it hadn’t strayed at all but was still home, safe and sound, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Actually, the original meaning of the phrase is more relevant here where the “seven-year itch wasn’t a condition that supposedly began after seven years, but one that supposedly lasted for seven years” (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/seven-year-itch.html). Indeed, one could say that after seven years, we are itching to get A Cavalier back!

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Terrorists Given ‘Full Sight’ of Spy Methods by Snowden Leak, Warns Counter-Terrorism Official (Telegraph)

By Tom Whitehead

Stephen Phipson of the British Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) says that the leaks by National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden have given terrorists knowledge of government surveillance techniques–information he says they have used to alter their communications methods. Phipson added that terrorists have substantially reduced their use of traditional communication methods that can be monitored by mass surveillance methods in aftermath of the leaks. “The leaks we have seen in the press have made the work of the OSCT, intelligence agencies and other apparatus of government much, much, much more difficult,” Phipson said at a recent counterterrorism conference. In the same talk, Phipson called Syria the “front line of terrorism” and said that fighters returning from the conflict in that country pose as much of a threat to the U.K. as extremists from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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The Clarion Project: Saudi King Holds Daughters Prisoners

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has kept four of his daughters locked in a royal compound in Jeddah for the last 13 years. Their mother, his second wife who fled to London after the couple’s divorce, broke the silence and told Britain’s Channel Four about their plight. She has not seen her children for 10 years.

Princess Alanoud Al Fayez married then Prince Abdullah in an arranged marriage when she as just 15. She bore him four daughters: Sahar, Maha, Hala and Jawaher. 

The four have been kept in a compound in the eastern port city of Jeddah, which they cannot leave without armed guards. Their passports have been taken away, and they are barred from leaving the country. Their villa is dilapidated and falling apart, far from the living quarters of the princesses’ privileged childhood.

Princess Sahar, the oldest of the four, was in email contact with Channel Four’s Fatima Manji. She sent pictures and descriptions of their life in the compound and explained the treatment that they are suffering.

Read more HERE

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Long War Journal: Boko Haram attacks Borno and threatens the Niger Delta

The maniacal Boko Haram is alive and, unfortunately, well…

As if to ridicule the Nigerian government’s claims that it has security in the north under control and that it is winning the war, Boko Haram fighters have been on a rampage in Borno state over the past week. And while their Feb. 18 assault on the country home of Major General Tukur Buratai, Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta was meant as an insult, the following day the group carried out another high-profile attack on the town of Bama.

At approximately 4 a.m. on Feb. 19, Boko Haram gunmen armed with heavy weapons and explosives stormed the town. Residents fled the violence and destruction which, according to a Nigerian senator, lasted for seven hours. At least 98 people have been killed in the attack, Reuters reported, and many buildings, including the palace of the Emir of Bama, were burned to the ground.

According to Borno state’s chief of police Lawal Tanko, Boko Haram fighters were finally chased off when the air force was scrambled jets from Maiduguri, resulting in heavy losses for the insurgents as they fled. This is reminiscent of Boko Haram’s previous attack on Bama in December 2013, when the group attacked a base belonging to the 202 Tank Battalion, killing an unknown number of soldiers as well as their families who lived with them at the barracks.

 

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Stratfor: The American Public’s Indifference to Foreign Affairs

Excellent commentary on how we are increasingly insular when it comes to world events.

By George Friedman

Last week, several events took place that were important to their respective regions and potentially to the world. Russian government officials suggested turning Ukraine into a federation, following weeks of renewed demonstrations in Kiev. The Venezuelan government was confronted with violent and deadly protests. Kazakhstan experienced a financial crisis that could have destabilized the economies of Central Asia. Russia and Egypt inked a significant arms deal. Right-wing groups in Europe continued their political gains

Any of these events had the potential to affect the United States. At different times, lesser events have transfixed Americans. This week, Americans seemed to be indifferent to all of them. This may be part of a cycle that shapes American interest in public affairs. The decision to raise the debt ceiling, which in the last cycle gripped public attention, seemed to elicit a shrug.

The Primacy of Private Affairs

The United States was founded as a place where private affairs were intended to supersede public life. Public service was intended less as a profession than as a burden to be assumed as a matter of duty — hence the word “service.” There is a feeling that Americans ought to be more involved in public affairs, and people in other countries are frequently shocked by how little Americans know about international affairs or even their own politics.

Read more: The American Public’s Indifference to Foreign Affairs | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

 

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My latest for the Huffington Post

CHILDREN VERSUS BRIDGES

Jeremiah Oliver is a 5-year old boy from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, who hasn’t been seen since September of last year. The boy was supposed to be under the supervision of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, but, it has since been learned, DCF social workers not only were negligent in their oversight of Jeremiah, they also misrepresented their work to keep that fact hidden. Little Jeremiah is now feared dead.

Still, Governor Deval Patrick had the temerity to say yesterday that the problems at the DCF are “not systemic.” Is that a fact, Governor? Why is it, then, that your own independent investigation into the DCF found that nearly 20 percent of required home visits to check on children like Jeremiah were not made by your DCF’s social workers? How is it that more than one-third of the social workers employed by the DCF are not licensed to practice in their field? And what of the evidence unearthed by the Office of the Child Advocate showing that 249 allegations of physical and sexual abuse and poor care involving youngsters in state-watched settings were made last year?

While a normal person recoils in horror upon hearing about the consequences of the incompetence at his DCF, Governor Patrick sees them as “a great opportunity… to rethink and reinvigorate the department.” So, the cruelties that Jeremiah and hundreds of other children suffered are tolerable because they present an opportunity to for the Governor to fix the DCF? No, the problem is that the Patrick administration has been at the helm for more than six years now. He was supposed to make sure the DCF was doing their job before these things happened. Jeremiah Oliver is a person, he’s not an “opportunity” for a bureaucrat to do what he should have done years ago.

Nevertheless, the governor presses on, determined to distance himself from the problem. “It’s troubling to me too, but the question is, is it troubling to people who actually know what is engaged, what is involved in being a social worker in a child’s welfare agency?” he told the media yesterday, as if he was a randomly-chosen pedestrian doing a man-on-the-street interview. Perhaps his penchant for being out of his office, nestled in his mansion in the Berkshires or traveling the world, is what gives the Governor the sense of detachment from the waste, fraud, and abuse for which he is responsible at the DCF.

Is there a person outside of Massachusetts who is aware of this scandal? Of course not, because all of the attention is focused on a Republican governor from another state who may or may not have had a hand in creating a traffic jam. But Deval Patrick is a Democrat with presidential aspirations and a close friend of President Obama. So, where’s the national media on this one? As the legendary Boston talk show host Howie Carr likes to say, “there’s nothing to see here, folks. Move along.”

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