Articles by disinfogreg


The list of offenses goes on….

via NY Times

Two former employees of Blackwater Worldwide have accused the private security company of defrauding the government for years by filing bogus receipts, double billing for the same services and charging government agencies for strippers and prostitutes, according to court documents unsealed this week.

In a December 2008 lawsuit, the former employees said top Blackwater officials had engaged in a pattern of deception as they carried out government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Blackwater has earned billions of dollars from government agencies in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, when the company won contracts to protect American diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan. The former employees who filed the lawsuit, a married couple named Brad and Melan Davis, said there was little financial oversight of the money.

Ms. Davis also asserts that a Filipino prostitute in Afghanistan was put on the Blackwater payroll under the “Morale Welfare Recreation” category, and that the company had billed the prostitute’s plane tickets and monthly salary to the government.

Whoops, sounds like somebody broke the first two rules. Personally, I wouldn’t mind taking a crack at some of these overpaid adrenaline junkies.Thanks Bloomberg.

banker fight club

“We get a lot of finance guys,” said Max McGarr, the gym’s program director and a professional fighter. “It’s a good release from their job. If you lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s good to come here and get it out.”

“It’s a great stress reliever,” said Richard Byrne, chief executive officer of Deutsche Bank Securities, who practices jiu-jitsu and sparring at Renzo with Cholish and other professional fighters. “Talk about a great way to get aggression out, and it’s an unbelievable workout.”

Cholish and his roommate, Erik Owings, also a professional fighter, converted the top level of their duplex apartment on the Upper East Side into a gym, where Byrne sometimes brings Wall Street colleagues to work out.

“It’s the dungeon of pain,” said Brian Peganoff, an assistant vice president in corporate cash management at Deutsche Bank. Peganoff, 27, learned tae kwon do as a child and started boxing as a workout while attending Pennsylvania State University in University Park. He began jiu-jitsu about two years ago.

“People on Wall Street are pretty competitive and I think that carries over,” Peganoff said. “That’s the ultimate competition, putting two people in a cage and seeing who is the better guy.”


Nerds behind bars.The Volokh Conspiracy illuminates this tragic first-world problem.

In a decision issued today, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Wisconsin prison’s rule forbidding inmates to play Dungeons & Dragons or possess D&D publications and materials [HT: Josh Blackman].

The prison’s rationale for the ban is that playing D&D might stimulate “gang activity” by inmates. But the government conceded that there is no evidence that Dungeons and Dragons actually had stimulated gang activity in the past, either in this prison or elsewhere. The only evidence for the supposedly harmful effects of Dungeons and Dragons were a few cases from other states where playing the game supposedly led inmates to indulge in “escapism” and become divorced from reality, one case where two non-inmates committed a crime in which they “acted out” a D&D story-line, and one where a longtime D&D player (not an inmate) committed suicide. Obviously, almost any hobby or reading material might lead people to become divorced from reality, or in rare cases commit suicide. And disturbed individuals could potentially “act out” a crime based on a scenario in almost any film or literary work. Should prisons ban The Count of Monte Cristo on the grounds that it might encourage escape attempts? Moreover, the “escapism” rationale conflicts with the gang argument. People who become engrossed in escapism and retreat from society are presumably less likely to become active gang members.


Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O’Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group’s credibility.

Landrieu said: “This is a very unusual situation and somewhat unsettling for me and my staff. The individuals responsible have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purposes of committing a felony. I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward.”

Landrieu’s Republican counterpart, Sen. David Vitter, called for a racketeering investigation against New Orleans-founded ACORN last year in the wake of O’Keefe’s videos.

via NY Daily News

As Haiti reels from the devastating earthquake, luxury cruise ships are creating controversy by dropping off vacationers at private beaches only 60 miles away from the carnage.

Florida’s Royal Caribbean International was docking the 3,100-passenger Navigator of the Seas on Monday so tourists can jet-ski, para-sail and picnic in the sand.

Another ship, the Independence of the Seas, anchored off on Haiti’s north coast on Friday at the resort of Labadee, according to The Guardian. It’s a tony, wooded resort peninsula with five pristine beaches that’s leased from the government and protected by 12-foot fences and armed guards.

The ships have, and will, come loaded with relief supplies, says Royal Caribbean, which has luxury liners scheduled to dock Monday, Tuesday and Thursday bearing more than 100 pallets of supplies each.

“This is equivalent to over three semi-trucks-full two or three times a week,” Royal Caribbean associate vice president John Weis wrote in a blog post to guests.
The vessels are also sending extra lounge chairs, bedding and mattresses to a a gymnasium in Cap Haitian that’s being used as a makeshift hospital.

The decision to bring tourists to sunbathe in Haiti, despite the massive death and destruction, sparked considerable internal debate at Royal Caribbean.

It’s not a monster this time, but a human corpse. With “very long fingers”. Hmmm.

via NY Daily News

PLUM ISLAND, N.Y. — A human body has washed ashore on suburban New York’s tiny Plum Island, where the U.S. government has an aging lab for studying dangerous animal diseases.

Police say a security guard on foot patrol discovered the clothed body Thursday afternoon on the southwest beach area of the island, where access is restricted.

Police say the partially decomposed body was that of a white male about 6 feet tall with a large build and very long fingers. They say there were no obvious signs of trauma.

The Suffolk County medical examiner will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Plum Island is about 100 miles northeast of New York City in the Long Island Sound. It has been called a potential target for terrorists because of its stock of vaccines and diseases, such as African swine fever.


Is this the latest regurgitation of the Atkins/Southbeach type diet fad? Or are we finally de-volving?

via NY Times

Mr. Durant, 26, who works in online advertising, is part of a small New York subculture whose members seek good health through a selective return to the habits of their Paleolithic ancestors.

Or as he and some of his friends describe themselves, they are cavemen.

The caveman lifestyle, in Mr. Durant’s interpretation, involves eating large quantities of meat and then fasting between meals to approximate the lean times that his distant ancestors faced between hunts. Vegetables and fruit are fine, but he avoids foods like bread that were unavailable before the invention of agriculture. Mr. Durant believes the human body evolved for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and his goal is to wean himself off what he sees as many millenniums of bad habits.

These urban cavemen also choose exercise routines focused on sprinting and jumping, to replicate how a prehistoric person might have fled from a mastodon.

No, it’s not the latest cast member from MTV’s Jersey Shore. It’s even more disturbing:
via treehugger


There’s been a spate of amazing animal discoveries recently–the giant rat-eating plants found in the Philippines, a huge woolly rat discovered in a volcanic crater–and now, yet another creature has emerged that could be right out of a sci-fi film. It’s a bizarre creature that survives by eating its hosts’ tongue and then attaching itself inside the mouth.

The sea-dwelling parasite attacks fish, burrows into it, and then devours its tongue. After eating the tongue, the parasite proceeds to live inside the fish’s mouth. There’s a horror film waiting to be made about this thing. Surprisingly, the fish doesn’t seem to suffer any severe impediment–just the loss of its tongue–and seems to have no trouble surviving with its new, far uglier tongue.

How brilliant! How irresponsible! How stupid! Shield Security, a Dutch firm offering corporate and executive protection services, created these special suitcases with steel letter recruitment messages inside to entice airport security workers looking to make a career move. Brilliant—because, well, it’s the cheapest, most targeted ad effort I can imagine. Irresponsible—because, well, I don’t want people with the all-important job of airport security distracted from doing their goddamn job because they’re daydreaming of a better employment opportunity. And stupid—because, well, Amsterdam airport apparently doesn’t have the highest quality security personnel.

thanks animalnewyork

Hard to buy this kind of publicity, sometimes you just have to go for it:

via NY TImes

An antiwhaling group’s high-speed boat and a Japanese whaler reported colliding at sea on Wednesday, with each blaming the other.

Video taken from the deck of the Japanese ship, Shonan Maru 2, showed the collision with the Ady Gil, a sleek black trimaran belonging to a group that aggressively confronts the Japanese whaling fleet each year as it plies the waters south of Australia and New Zealand.

The video shows a frothy wake coming from the stern of the Ady Gil, although it is unclear whether the trimaran was moving. The Shonan Maru 2 was directing a water cannon at the Ady Gil before and during the collision, which is clearly seen on the video, and the nose of the Ady Gil was sheared off.

The Institute of Cetacean Research, which overseas Japan’s whaling program, said the Ady Gil had rapidly approached the Shonan Maru despite repeated warnings to keep away, and suddenly slowed down in the Japanese ship’s path. The Shonan Maru could not avoid hitting the front of the Ady Gil, the institute said in a statement.

But the group that owns the Ady Gil, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said the strike was deliberate. Its Australian director, Jeff Hansen, said in a telephone interview that the trimaran “was pretty much at a full stop” and that the Japanese ship deliberately ran into it. He said the trimaran had not sunk, “but it’s in two pieces, and we’re trying to salvage what we can.” One crew member was reported injured.

A companion vessel, the Bob Barker, was used to rescue the crew, Mr. Hansen said. That boat, a former Norwegian whaling ship, was named after the former American game show host who donated $5 million to the group.

The Ady Gil, a former racing boat capable of speeds up to 57 miles an hour, was added to the Sea Shepherd fleet last October. At the time, the group’s founder, Paul Watson, said he would use the boat “to intercept and physically block the harpoon ships from illegally slaughtering whales.”

The Japanese Whaling Association calls Sea Shepherd “a terrorist group.”

via HuffPo

A human skull that apparently was turned into a ballot box for Yale’s mysterious Skull and Bones society is going on the auction block.

Christie’s estimates the skull will sell for $10,000 to $20,000 when it is auctioned on Jan. 22. Fittingly, the auction house has agreed to keep the seller’s name a secret. On Monday, it described the person only as a European art collector.

The skull is fitted with a hinged flap and is believed to have been used during voting at the famous society’s meetings. The auction house said it also may have been displayed at the society’s tomblike headquarters on Yale’s campus in New Haven, Conn., during the late 1800s.

Skull and Bones, an elite society founded in 1832, has closely guarded its members’ names and its activities since the early 1970s. Prior to that time, the group published an annual roster.

Publicly known members, known as Bonesmen, include President William Howard Taft, both presidents Bush, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, businessman and diplomat Averell Harriman, publisher Henry Luce and author and commentator William F. Buckley Jr.

Low on cash with lots of time on your hands? Tired of being sober all the time?
via Brokelyn


Here’s one worth a try: making some good old, 25-to-life, brewed-in-a-bag prison wine.

Brewing at home usually requires a pricey set-up and lots of time—usually just enough to scare off the casual brewer. Prison wine, or “pruno” does not. The stuff’s been made since the dawn of law enforcement and comes from the even older tradition of home brewing. Pruno can be made from almost anything, but it relies on the simple brewing principle that sugar + yeast + time = alcohol.

Traditionally, oranges and grapes are the preferred sugar in the equation, and moldy bread is the yeast (given that yeast packets probably aren’t sold at the prison commissary). But we’d rather not poison anyone with home-made botulism, so we’ll use the store-bought stuff, since we can go out and all. Also, since the genuine issue pruno generally is brewed on the DL, conditions are far from sanitary. We’ve added a few steps to replace just dumping everything into a trash bag and letting it molder under the bed. So, follow our advice, use the recipe below, and you’ll be imibing like a con in under a week.


10-12 oranges (or in a pinch, other sweet items you have around, like grape jelly or cake frosting)
1 large can of fruit cocktail (for a nice finishing flavor)
1 packet of dried yeast
3 cups of sugar
1 one-gallon plastic bag with strong seal

Here’s the perfect excuse to back out of your new year’s resolution.



For smokers under pressure to give up in 2010, it will seem like the ultimate excuse: quitting smoking appears to increase the risk of diabetes.

Smokers are on average 30 per cent more likely than non-smokers to develop type 2 or adult-onset diabetes. Now a study of 10,892 adults over 10 years has found that, in the first six years after giving up, former smokers are 70 per cent more likely than non-smokers to develop the disease.

Hsin-Chieh Yeh and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, found that the risk of diabetes is highest straight after quitting and gradually reduces to that of non-smokers. This is most likely because quitting makes people more likely to put on weight, which is known to increase the risk of diabetes.

The results shouldn’t discourage people from quitting, but former smokers should gradually increase the amount of exercise they do, suggests Martin Dockrell of the UK anti-smoking charity ASH.

Journal reference: Annals of Internal Medicine, vol 152, p 10

Very interesting. Who knew?


Are you eating Genetically Modified Foods? Do you know how to tell? I recently found out that you can easily tell whether the produce you purchase at the grocery store is a GMO just buy looking at the PLU (price look up) code.

Here are the rules:
If the PLU is 5 digits and begins with an 8, then it a Genetically Modified Organism
If the PLU is 4 digits (even if it begins with an 8) then it is not a GMO

When you purchase processed foods, you need to know that according to Wikipedia, as many as 75% of all processed foods on American shelves contain at least one GMO. As far as I can tell, there is no way to tell if a packaged item contains GMOs or not. Just another reason to skip over the middle of the grocery store as much as possible.

More shenanigans from our beloved mega-banks, concerning this Facebook contest :


via the NY Times

JPMorgan Chase & Company is coming under fire for the way it conducted an online contest to award millions of dollars to 100 charities.

At least three nonprofit groups — Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the Marijuana Policy Project and an anti-abortion group, Justice for All— say they believe that Chase disqualified them over concerns about associating its name with their missions.

The groups say that until Chase made changes to the contest, they appeared to be among the top 100 vote-getters.

“They never gave us any indication that there was any problem with our organization qualifying,” said Micah Daigle, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “Now they’re completely stonewalling me.”

Three days before the contest ended, Chase stopped giving participants access to voting information, and it has not made public the vote tallies of the winners.

“This is a problem of accountability,” said David Lee, executive director of Justice for All. “Simply publish the votes and let us see that the 100 organizations named as winners won.”

via Arthur [Huxley] reminded me that drugs are beneficial if they provide the only access to our nightlife. I realized that the expression “blow my mind” was born of the fact that…

from National Geographic


Meticulous ancient notetakers have given archaeologists a glimpse of what life was like 3,000 years ago in the Assyrian Empire, which controlled much of the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform, an ancient script once common in the Middle East, were unearthed in summer 2009 in an ancient palace in present-day southeastern Turkey.

Palace scribes jotted down seemingly mundane state affairs on the tablets during the Late Iron Age—which lasted from roughly the end of the ninth century B.C. until the mid-seventh century B.C.

But these everyday details, now in the early stages of decoding, may open up some of the inner workings of the Assyrian government—and the people who toiled in the empire, experts say.