Vatican Bank under investigation for money laundering again

The Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as “the Vatican Bank,” with a long history of implication in money laundering scandals involving funds from the Italian Fascist government of Mussolini, the looting of the Croatian treasury at the end of World War II, the smuggling and laundering of funds belonging to concentration camp victims and prisoners, and decades of close working relationships with Italian organized crime, is back in the news.

This time, events have put the Vatican, technically a sovereign state, on its heels, as, for the first time, the Italian government has blocked Vatican accounts apparently involved in illegal transfers and laundering.

Over the decades, there have been hundreds of allegations, investigations, and more than a few murders related to the murky netherworld of the Vatican’s oft-alleged dealings with organized crime and unsavory ultra-right wing financiers involved in funding death squads in Latin America, but this is the first time the Italian government has ever actually stepped in to block illegal Vatican transactions.

A new day? It’s certainly too early to know. Previous Italian governments have moved to investigate the criminal operations alleged against the Institute but in most cases, they’ve been subverted, coopted, suppressed, or just cut off at the knees.

We’ll have to see if this really is different.


Just how nutty are Tea Party leaders?

How about nutty enough to claim — as Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell did on Fox News in 2007 — that “American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains”?

That’s a real live quote from the real live GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in Delaware, the most notable rising star in the Tea Party movement.

Obviously, these are people who cannot absorb and retain simple facts, cannot deal logically with basic arguments, and who subscribe to elaborate conspiracy theories that defy any sort of reasonable credulity, such as the notion, widely held among Tea Party types, that there is a nation-wide conspiracy reaching back to the early 1960s in order to promote the supposedly false idea that President Obama was born in Hawaii, and not in Kenya or Indonesia, as several competing conspiracy theories favored by Tea Party partisans suggest.

Self-proclaimed Christian advocate admits racial attack was faked

I don’t normally read local crime news, so I didn’t see this story until it had already blown up in the principal’s face. But it’s a real doozy.

The upshot is this: Bethany Storro, a self-professed advocate for Jesus, claimed two weeks ago that she had been attacked — acid thrown in her face — by an athletic black woman who taunted her, calling her “pretty girl” and trying to get Storro to drink the acid before throwing it on her face.

Storro, stoically bearing up under surgery to repair the damage, vowed to go on Oprah to tell her story and tell the world about Jesus. (Roughly, her words.)

Except that it turns out that Storro made up the attack, made up the athletic black woman attacker, made up the “pretty girl” taunts, and threw caustic liquid in her own face…

Familiarity breeds… uh oh. Bad news for Meg Whitman in eBay poll

Since California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has run on her record as a businessperson, it’s interesting to look at a poll of her former ‘business partners’ — the sellers who helped make eBay the groundbreaking success it became.

According to that  poll, 61% of eBay sellers favored Democratic Party rival, Jerry Brown, as opposed to only 26% for Whitman. Among eligible California voters among the eBay sellers, the news was only a little better, her support rising to 32% as opposed to 55% for Brown.

Survey Shows whether eBay Sellers Would Vote for Meg Whitman

CIA fooled by Blackwater front companies?

It appears that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency couldn’t even see through discredited security contractor Blackwater’s use of front companies in order to bid on jobs that were not open to them or that they would have been highly unlikely to get, hiring the disgraced firm for a number of contracts.

According to James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, writing in  the New York Times, the bad boys of Blackwater snookered their way back into the employment of  The Company with surprising ease:

Blackwater Worldwide created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq, according to Congressional investigators and former Blackwater officials.

While it is not clear how many of those businesses won contracts, at least three had deals with the United States military or the Central Intelligence Agency, according to former government and company officials. Since 2001, the intelligence agency has awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates, according to a United States government official.

Ping Punked… Apple’s social media/music site near collapse from spam & other probs

Ping punked… Apple’s social media/music site near collapse from spam & other probs

Apple’s foray into social music is not going well as its Ping service is experiencing a multitude of problems, including comment spam, a lack of promised functionality, and generally inconsistent user experience.

Security researcher Chet Wisniewski at Sophos said Apple is not employing any type of spam or URL filtering, as comments such as those advertising “free iPhones” were already appearing some 24 hours after the site’s launch. He also said that Apple has made it easy for those to abuse the service.

“No credit card or other positive identification is required to participate,” he pointed out in a blog post. Without this, a user could create accounts easily simply by creating a bogus iTunes account which in turn would allow a bogus Ping account to be created.

Ping is also suffering from a case of overpromising and underdelivering, apparently. In his presentation on Wednesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that the service would tie in with Facebook in order to assist in music discovery and finding friends to follow.…ice/1283542490

Unfortunately for Apple, Facebook is currently saying, no way…


Facebook Zings Ping

The Facebook APIs that let other services, such as Ping, search for friends on the social networking giant’s site are normally open unless other services expect to make heavy use of them. If they do, they have to sign an agreement with Facebook.

The first round of negotiations between Apple and Facebook fell through because Cupertino found Facebook’s demands onerous, AllThingsD reported.

However, the Ping site continued to let subscribers search for friends on Facebook until Cupertino was denied access to the social networking giant’s APIs.

Apple and Facebook have resumed talks on letting Ping subscribers find their friends on Facebook, AllThingsD reported.

Fear and Loathing

Perhaps Facebook’s “onerous” demands were based on fears about a new influx of spam from the Ping service. Prior to Ping’s launch, Facebook had been hit by a wave of Apple-related spam, Graham Cluley, Sophos senior technology consultant, wrote in his blog. Often, the attacks will post bogus messages on the victim’s Wall advertising free iPads or iPhones.

“Facebook is definitely having huge challenges fighting the spam and scams,” Chester Wisniewski, a senior security advisor at Sophos, pointed out. “It’s looking closely at every link that comes into its service to see if it has malicious content. At this point anything that might introduce more nightmares to Facebook isn’t welcome.”

That fear, if it exists, is perhaps well founded — within 24 hours of its launch on Wednesday, Ping was hit by a wave of comment spam.…wlc=1283547379

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