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Archive for September 23rd, 2010

International Authorities Bust A Huge Commercial Child Porn Ring

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September 23, 2010: Isaac Wolf / Scripps Howard via ABC 15 Phoenix – September 21, 2010

A four-year international investigation into the backers of hundreds of child pornography websites has identified 30,000 customers in 132 countries, led to hundreds of American convictions, and landed the ring running the sites in Eastern European jails.

Law enforcement officials from around the world pulled back the curtain on the previously undisclosed probe in extraordinary detail for Scripps Howard News Service.

The agents revealed the workings of what they call the most significant commercial child porn bust in the Internet’s history, in which multiple authorities from the United States, Canada, England, Italy, Belarus, Ukraine, Australia, and other countries, plus Interpol and Europol banded together to close down 230 websites, dismantling what is believed to be the most sophisticated commercial child porn operation to date.

Since the websites — with names like “Excited Angels” and “Boys Say Go” — went offline in January, the number of active commercial child porn sites has nosedived from perhaps 300 to the single digits, said Matt Dunn, of the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement (ICE), which was the lead law enforcement agency.

“You’ve taken an organization that was distributing large scale child porn and removed them,” said Dunn, of the Child Exploitation Section of ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center. FBI special agent Michael Dzielak investigated the ring with Dunn and other international partners. Like Dunn, he believes the bust has dealt a fatal blow to the child-porn-for-money market — at least for now. “It is a game changer,” Dzielak said.

Eleven members of the child porn ring were located in Belarus and arrested in 2008. In January of this year, Ukrainian authorities arrested five more. The ring used a variety of online and traditional payment methods, elaborate defense measures and a franchise business model one Interpol agent compared to a fast food chain to make millions of dollars providing 10,000 Americans and 20,000 others across the globe access to images and videos of sexually exploited boys and girls, some reportedly as young as 3 years old.

Among the U.S. child-porn buyers identified by the investigation were doctors, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, school teachers, attorneys and church preachers. Also snared were Department of Defense personnel or contractors, including several with top-secret security clearances. On September 15, Pentagon officials announced they were reopening their child porn investigation into 264 Defense Department employees or contractors based on Flicker evidence.

Outside the U.S., purchasers came from just about everywhere: From Andorra to Thailand, Azerbaijan to Uganda. Leads on the American buyers triggered more than 500 search warrants and at least 280 convictions involving ICE. Others were convicted by state or local authorities.

Where the pornography came from – and who the young victims are – is unclear. Dunn, section chief in the Child Exploitation Section of ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center, says many of the images were recycled from LS and BD studios, giant Ukrainian producers of child pornography raided in 2004. Efforts to identify the children are difficult because the pictures are old, Dunn said.

Child exploitation experts say the global bust does not mean the online universe is now child-porn free. The lion’s share of these images and videos are disseminated for free via e-mail and peer-to-peer file sharing between individuals, who often belong to trust-based clubs.

But the now-revealed global investigative assault — known by law enforcement around the world by an assortment of code names, including Projects Flicker, Myosis and Tornado — has, at least for now, eviscerated the marketplace for commercial child pornography, Dunn said.

Since 2006, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has seen a 50 percent reduction in commercial child pornography websites referred to its information clearinghouse, known as the CyberTipline, according to John Shehan, Executive Director for the organization’s Exploited Children Division.

A tip Dunn received in 2006 from the CyberTipline prompted the investigation into these websites. The material peddled on those sites was vile. One picture on the “Sexy Angels” site showed two naked prepubescent girls lying on a bed, legs open and vaginas showing, according to one description in an application for a search warrant based on the Flicker investigation. Other pornographic images show toddlers. “They’re in diapers,” Dunn said.

In exclusive interviews, Dunn and other authorities describe the lucky breaks — and boneheaded choices by the criminals — that helped them score a major victory for anti-child porn authorities. Though different sites provided images and videos focusing on different fetishes, they held many similarities. For one, they had a common design, payment method and price, ranging from $79.95 to $99.95 per month.

Initially, purchasers at the assorted sites were steered to a common credit-card processing website. But that site was actually a sham. After purchasers provided personal detail and credit card information on this fake payment site, they were led to a PayPal account to make the real payments. Law enforcement officials said PayPal was not involved in the child-porn operation, and stressed the company has worked closely with investigators. PayPal officials declined to comment, saying they are still working with law enforcement on the case.

Mick Moran, an Interpol detective based in Lyon, France, who focuses on online child exploitation, described the business structure behind the sites as a franchise model, comparing it to the burger giant McDonalds. “They’re the exact same websites,” Moran said. “All they had to do is find a way to get paid.” Indeed, the ring got paid well — making somewhere between $5 million to $8 million from early 2006 until late 2007, according to Dunn.

Details about the ring are sketchy. Aside from operating in Belarus, then in Ukraine, few details about the individuals or their ties to each other have been revealed. Investigators in the United States and around the world are watching closely to see if commercial activity resumes.

Dunn says he has no illusions that others won’t see the busts as an opportunity to set up their own enterprises to traffic in the lucrative images. But “if it starts to come back up, we’re in a much better position than historically we have been because we have this global understanding of how it works and have made successful partnerships,” he said.

The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: This is the international perspective as reported by Scripps Howard. Go to the link below for both the ABC 15 Phoenix report, followed by the above article– SJH

Link to original article below…

Written by Steven John Hibbs

September 23, 2010 at 1:38 pm

State Unemployment Rises As Jobs Picture Gets Worse In 27 States

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September 23, 2010: Annalyn Censky / CNN Money via Yahoo Finance – September 21, 2010

The national unemployment rate may have only ticked up slightly in August, but on a state-by-state basis, the jobs picture continues to look a lot more grim in places like Nevada, Michigan and California.

A total of 27 states reported higher unemployment rates in August, nearly double the 14 that saw increases in July, the Labor Department said in its monthly report on state unemployment Tuesday. While the rate remained at 9.6% for the country as a whole, Nevada, Michigan and California have consistently racked up rates above 12%.

Nevada had the worst rate for the fourth month in a row, at a record high of 14.4%, up from 14.3% in July. Michigan followed with 13.1% unemployment, unchanged from the prior rate, and California was third with a 12.4% rate, an increase from 12.3% in July. After Kentucky and Georgia joined the list, 13 states had unemployment rates above 10% in August, as opposed to 11 the previous month.

The jobless rates fell in 13 states, as opposed to 18 that saw decreases in July. Ten states and the District of Columbia had no rate change. North Dakota remained the state with the lowest unemployment, posting a 3.7% rate, followed by South Dakota with 4.5% and Nebraska with 4.6%.

The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: This is the same formula used before WWI and WWII. And where do the jobless turn? The military, as we teeter on the edge of WWIII while the looting continues unabated– SJH

Link to original article below…

New Research: Biblical Parting Of Red Sea “Could Have Happened”

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September 23, 2010: London Telegraph Editors / London Telegraph – September 21, 2010

One of the most dramatic episodes in the Old Testament, the parting of the Red Sea, may actually have happened, new research has shown from the NCAR in Colorado.

A new computer modelling study suggests a powerful wind could have divided the waters just as depicted in the Book of Exodus.

The likely location of the ”miracle” was not the Red Sea as such, but a nearby spot in the Nile Delta region.

In the biblical account, Moses and the fleeing Israelites are trapped between the Pharaoh’s advancing chariots and a body of water identified from translations as either the Red Sea or Sea of Reeds.

Thanks to divine intervention, a mighty east wind blows all night, splitting the waters to leave a passage of dry land with walls of water on both sides. The Israelites make their escape, but when the Pharaoh’s army tries to pursue them the waters come crashing back and drown the soldiers.

Scientists in the US studying ancient maps of the Nile Delta region pinpointed where the crossing may have occurred, just south of the Mediterranean Sea. Here, according to some experts, an ancient branch of the Nile flowed into a coastal lagoon then known as the Lake of Tanis.

Analysis of archaeological records, satellite measurements and maps allowed the researchers to estimate the water flow and depth at the site 3,000 years ago. An ocean computer model was then used to simulate the impact of a strong overnight wind on the six-foot-deep waters.

The scientists found that an east wind of 63 mph blowing for 12 hours would have driven the shallow waters back, both into the lake and the river channel. For a period of four hours, this would have created a land bridge about two miles long and three miles wide.

The waters really would have been parted, with barriers of water raised on both sides of the newly exposed mud flats. As soon as the winds dropped, the waters would have rushed back, much like a tidal bore. Anyone stranded on the mud flats would have been at risk of drowning, said the scientists, whose findings are reported today in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.

Lead researcher Carl Drews, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said: ”The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus…The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that’s in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in…People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts. What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws.”

The set of 14 computer simulations showed that dry land could also have been exposed at two other nearby sites during a wind storm from the east. Those events did not fit so well with the Biblical account, since both involved a single body of water getting pushed to one side rather than being parted.

Several previous theories have been put forward to explain the the parting of the Red Sea. One involved a tsunami, which can cause a body of water to retreat and then advance rapidly. But such an event would not have caused the gradual overnight divide of the waters as described in the Bible, or been so associated with winds.

Other experts have focused on a phenomenon linked to strong persistent winds known as ”wind setdown” which can lower water levels in one area while piling up water downwind. One study found that winds blowing from the north-west at a near-hurricane force of 74mph could in theory have exposed an underwater reef near the present-day Suez Canal, providing a walkable land passage.

Mr Drews’ team found that the reef would have had to be entirely flat to allow the water to drain off it in 12 hours. A more realistic reef with lower and deeper sections would have retained water-filled channels that would have been difficult to wade through. It was also unlikely that the refugees could have made the crossing in almost hurricane-force winds, said the Colorado researchers.

The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: Time and time again, historical accounts of the Bible have been proven to be true, or at the very least, highly probable to the chagrin of naysayers– SJH 

Link to original article below…

Written by Steven John Hibbs

September 23, 2010 at 12:11 am