HAVANA — Robert L. Vesco, the fugitive financier who spent most of his life eluding American justice, might even have managed to die on the sly.
Mr. Vesco, who was sentenced to a long prison term in Cuba in 1996 and was wanted in the United States for crimes ranging from securities fraud and drug trafficking to political bribery, died more than five months ago, on Nov. 23, from lung cancer, say people close to him. If so, it was never reported publicly by the Cuban authorities, who said Friday that they considered him a “nonissue.” American officials said Friday they knew nothing about his death.
“We don’t know that it occurred,” an American official said.
If Mr. Vesco indeed eluded the American authorities until his final day, it was the fitting end to his nearly four decades on the run. He was wanted for, among other things, bilking some $200 million from credulous investors in the 1970s, making an illegal contribution to Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign and trying to arrange a deal during the Carter administration to let Libya buy American planes in exchange for bribes to United States officials.
Loves walks on the beach and … money laundering
CNN has a public service announcement for all you single ladies looking for love online: Beware of romance fraud! Apparently, Nigerian banking schemes are for amateurs; super-skilled scam artists search out sad singles on dating Web sites and pull at their purse- and heartstrings. The scammers try to tap into what every woman wants, as told by the Lifetime channel: They pose as goodhearted businessmen (for example, one scammer claimed to be the owner of a diamond mine who built orphanages in his free time), and make reckless use of the future tense and the word “we.” Once the woman is emotionally hooked, they will commonly tell stories of theft or injury that require an immediate transfer of money that will be — of course! — quickly paid back.
If you think the above scenario raises a red flag the size of that scammer’s Nigerian estate, the Web site RomanceScams.org lists some even more unbelievable tactics:
–Scammer asks for money to give to her/his family as a promise to the family. They claim this is a “tradition” or a “wedding custom”
–Scammer has a vision that he/she and the victim has to obey where God wants them to donate half of their monthly income for a month. The scammer went on a fast for 3 days and during that time God revealed to him/her where they would donate this money (sending it by WU) to some needy community Nigeria.
–Scammer has funds belonging to Saddam Hussein’s family in a consignment registered as Government Diplomatic Package and insured by the International Guarantee bond (IGB). Amount is $21 Million us dollars. They want to move this money to “victim” because Iraq is a war zone, so that the victim may invest it for scammer.
Yeah, and my pal Osama promises to come out of hiding if a nice American woman like yourself would just front me a couple thou’! The truth, though, is that these schemes sometimes work. Romance Scams has had more than 30,000 members since its start three years ago; 883 members have reported monetary losses that add up to a whopping $8,244,800.05. But those seven figures don’t account for all the women “losing their hearts,” as Patrish Giocolo, the site’s moderator and a victim of romance fraud, told CNN. Indeed, the scammers often invest six to eight months in developing a relationship with the women they’re scamming. And even once the jig is up, some scammers turn to intimidation (e.g., sending the victim their own obituary) or blackmail (e.g., threatening to expose nude photos or webcam screen shots) to keep the money flowing.
This article is a fine reminder to be cautious of any Internet romances that might inspire a soft-focus Lifetime drama. But, keep in mind that fewer than 900 women have reported successful romance fraud to Romance Scam, and there are an estimated 7,400,000 Internet users looking for love online.
— Tracy Clark-Flory
Morning Edition, January 17, 2008 · Almost everyone has heard a story about someone famous who doesn’t need much sleep: Martha Stewart, Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Margaret Thatcher, the list goes on and on.
In our fast-paced, global society, many people consider it a big plus to need as little sleep as possible. But almost every sleep researcher will tell you that most people need at least seven hours of sleep for biological and psychological health. So there is a glaring disconnect between what the messages in our culture say about sleep and the messages we receive from scientists.
Think of the scene in the film Thank You for Smoking. Nick, a public relations guy for the smoking industry, is talking to a Hollywood mogul, who calls him up late at night to give him an update on a deal.
“Are you still at the office?” Nick asks.
“Do you know what time it is in Tokyo?” replies Jeff, the mogul, “4 p.m. tomorrow. It’s the future!”
“When do you sleep?” Nick asks.
“Sunday,” says Jeff, in a priceless moment.
The scene in the film encapsulates this myth that successful people don’t need sleep and even provides a rationale: that our fast-paced society no longer lets us have such luxuries.
This is so bizarre that I don’t even have to wonder why I didn’t think of it.
MONROE, La. – A man was sentenced to more than four years in prison for bilking friends and family out of more than $800,000 by convincing them that his wife was a government agent who could arrange to have their medical problems diagnosed by satellite imaging.
Brent Eric Finley, 38, of Rayville, was sentenced in federal court in Monroe to serve 51 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. His wife, Stacey Finley, was sentenced in August to spend 63 months in prison and both are ordered to jointly pay restitution in the amount of $873,786.94.
The Finleys pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud, according to court records.
U.S. Attorney Donald W. Washington said in a news release following Monday’s sentencing of Brent Finley that the couple convinced numerous people that Stacey Finley was a CIA agent and with her contacts she could schedule a medical scan of the victims’ bodies by satellite imaging that would detect any hidden medical problems.
The Finley’s convinced their victims that, if any medical problems were found, secret agents would administer medicine to them as they slept in exchange for payment, according to a bill of information filed when the Finleys were charged in May.
“These audacious criminals should remind all of us that scam artists will go to great lengths to take our life’s savings,” Washington said.
One of my favorite authors defends the alternative therapy that everyone loves to hate. All of my education tells me that homeopathy is claptrap, but I believe in it nevertheless because of personal experience. I had an aching shoulder that had been interfering with my life for days. I took a homeopathic preparation of arnica and 20 minutes later my shoulder hurt so much it took my breath away and I had to lay down. About 15 minutes after that the pain was completely gone and did not recur. Sure, it could be a coincidence…
Picture this. I am staying in a remote cottage in Cornwall without a car. I have a temperature of 102, spots on my throat, delirium, and a book to finish writing. My desperate publisher suggests I call Hilary Fairclough, a homeopath who has practices in London and Penzance. She sends round a remedy called Lachesis, made from snake venom. Four hours later I have no symptoms whatsoever.
Dramatic stuff, and enough to convince me that while it might use snake venom, homeopathy is no snake oil designed for gullible hypochrondriacs. Right now, though, a fierce debate is raging between those, like me, who trust homeopathy because it works for them, and those who call it shamanistic claptrap, without clinical proof or any scientific base.
NICOSIA (Reuters) – Having marital problems? Have you tried putting egg in your underpants?
A woman in Cyprus is on trial for sorcery after pledging to shake off a curse apparently plaguing a man’s relationship with his wife and mother-in-law.
The suggested remedy consisted of an egg, a spoon, a nail, some pubic hairs and underpants, local media reported Friday.
“She cracked the egg into my underpants,” the 37-year-old man told a district court in the capital Nicosia.
The elderly woman wanted some 5,000 Cyprus pounds ($12,195) for her efforts, the man said, so he went to police.
Sorcery is banned in Cyprus though many people indulge in card readings and palmistry and read runes in coffee cups.
This is one of the saddest statements on our culture that I have seen recently. People have so little free time that they need “express” versions of classic board games like Monopoly, Sorry or Scrabble that can be played in 20 minutes. If you don’t have more than 20 minutes to sit down and play with your children or your family or your friends, maybe you need to change your life, not buy an “express” version of leisure. Board games are MEANT to drag on, to be lingered over, to pass time… We could probably all benefit from making the time to sit down and play a good old non-electronic board game with other people – for more than 20 minutes!
An enlightening summary from BBC. Oil demand around the world is increasing, partricularly from China and India, while several major supply sources are threatened, including the Middle East, Mexico and Nigeria. And with oil wealth rolling in to Russia and Venezuela, Putin and Chavez can afford to discount the wishes of the US government.
Oil prices have surged to record highs above $93 a barrel.
Prices have more than quadrupled since 2002 and are currently 40% higher than at the start of the year.
What factors are causing this unremitting increase and what are the likely consequences for consumers and the global economy?
A detailed and fascinating analysis of the situation in Iraq – much more substantial than the cartoonish picture would suggest. [Thanks, HuffPo!]
It was embarrassing putting my flak jacket on backwards and sideways, but in the darkness of the Baghdad airport car park I couldn’t see anything. “Peterik, put the flak jacket on,” the South African security contractor was saying politely, impatiently. “You know the procedure if we are attacked.”
I didn’t. He explained. One of the chase vehicles would pull up beside us and someone would drag me out of the armoured car, away from the firing. If both drivers were unconscious—nice euphemism—he said I should try to run to the nearest army checkpoint. If the checkpoint was American, things might work out if they didn’t shoot first. If it was Iraqi . . . he didn’t elaborate.
Arriving in Baghdad has always been a little weird. Under Saddam Hussein it was like going into an orderly morgue; when he ran off after the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003 put an end to his Baathist party regime, the city became a chaotic mess. I lived in Iraq for almost two years, but after three years away I wasn’t quite ready for just how deserted and worn down the place seemed in the early evening. It was as if some kind of mildew was slowly rotting away at the edges of things, breaking down the city into urban compost.
For advertisers in Thailand, the most spectacular location to promote their products is on the side of the country’s tallest building, the Baiyoke Tower in Bangkok.
But the image that appeared there a few weeks ago was not the usual logo for shampoo or a mobile phone company.
It depicted the statuesque head of a mythical Hindu figure, Jatukam Ramathep – actually a combination of two ancient deities, the guardians of some of Thailand’s holiest Buddhist relics.
So what was it doing on a Bangkok skyscraper? The answer is that was selling itself, and doing a whole lot better than the rest of the Thai economy.