Photo Of The Day

Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Holiday at the Dictator’s Guesthouse

Jeffrey Edward Fowle is an American citizen arrested in North Korea in May 2014 for leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin. 

On the morning of August 1, 2014, Jeffrey Fowle woke before seven in his room at a guesthouse in Pyongyang, North Korea. Soon a young woman arrived with his breakfast of rice, broth, and kimchi. She smiled as she set the tray down on the large desk at the foot of the bed, then walked out of the room and locked the door behind her. It was Fowle’s 87th day in custody.

He sat at the desk, watching a shadow play across his window. An opaque vinyl film had been applied to the glass, so Fowle could see only silhouettes walking past. That April, when Fowle had travelled to Pyongyang, he’d felt that God wanted him to help North Korea’s oppressed Christian underground. His attempt took the form of a Korean-English Bible, left behind in a bar bathroom; he was taken into custody as he tried to leave the country. Fowle poured the broth over his rice and began to eat.

An hour later, Mr. Jo, Fowle’s interpreter and minder, appeared at the door: His slacks were ironed, and he’d traded his usual polo shirt for a crisp dress shirt. “Today is the day,” Mr. Jo said. “Be ready.”

A few weeks earlier, Mr. Jo had told Fowle that he might be allowed to speak with international media. It would be his first chance to tell the world about his situation, and to remind the U.S. government that he needed help. At noon, Mr. Jo led Fowle to a conference room on the other side of the guesthouse, reminding him of his talking points along the way.

“Emphasize your desperation for wanting to get home and that your family needs you back,” Mr. Jo said. “Put some emotion into it.” He suggested that it might be good if Fowle cried. In the conference room, Fowle was seated at a long table with a couple of North Korean journalists from the Associated Press Television News. Instead of press badges, each reporter wore a pin with the smiling face of Kim Il-sung.

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Photo Of The Day

Sandra Bridewell and Alan Rehrig, her third husband.

Sandra Bridewell and Alan Rehrig, her third husband.

The Black Widow

Sandra Bridewell was on her way up in Dallas society. She was beautiful, alluring, rich. But her husbands kept dying. So did one of her best friends. Her first husband’s death was ruled a suicide, though there were those who raised questions about that finding. Her second husband died of cancer, but Bridewell didn’t appear terribly attentive to his needs in his final weeks.

Her third husband was found shot to death in his vehicle in Oklahoma not long after he was supposed to have met with Bridewell (at that point, they were estranged.) And then there’s the case of her friend Betsy, the wife of the cancer doctor who treated Bridewell’s second husband. Betsy was found dead of a gunshot wound in her car in a Love Field parking lot. That too was ruled a suicide, though the circumstances were suspicious.

In a spacious apartment near the San Francisco Yacht Club, over-looking the bay, there lives a pretty woman who mostly stays to herself. She is 43 years old but looks younger. Always dressed immaculately, she carries herself in that calm, refined way of those who have known the comforts of money for a long time. Whenever she goes to the shops down the hill, her magnificent dark eyes lock onto the gaze of those she meets, and her smile is so natural that it can make men, even at a first meeting, feel oddly enchanted.

But here in Belvedere, a quiet shoreside village in posh Marin County, the woman keeps her distance. She comes to pick up her mail at a private mail box, and occasionally she eats lunch at one of the little restaurants that face the water. In the afternoon, she picks up her children at their school. Few of her neighbours have even met her. “She had this beautiful voice,” recalls long-time resident Silvia Davidson, who briefly leased a home to the new woman, “and she looked beautiful. But — how do I say this? She was like a mystery. She would say very little about herself.”

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Drug dealing and guns go together: you can’t have one without the other

Almost consistently, guns that are owned illegally by criminals are part of a more sinister criminal activity – drugs and gangs.

What I’ve noticed – and particularly in the last few weeks – is that Police only find guns when they are conducting raids for other reasons, like a raid on a dope grower. There might be other reasons they are at a house or business premise and accidentally find guns, but the guns are not the reason they’ve turned up.

It shouldn’t really surprise us when Police find gangs and drug lords in possession of firearms. The Media party are, of course, stunned and want to sensationalise the hell out of it.

But drug making and distribution is the pinpoint of illegal activities in New Zealand and, logically, I’d expect the scumbags are keen to protect their cash cow business from other drug kingpins who will advance territorially if they can.

Scumbag criminals aren’t exactly going to have a dance-off to settle differences are they?

The guns found and used over the last week or so totally clouded the real reason the Police were at these places – other crimes.  Read more »


Well, I guess that is one way to make housing more affordable

The NZ Herald, in its ongoing campaign against rising house prices, has hit upon a brilliant strategy for crashing the value of your house.

This week the Herald will investigate burglaries across the country in the most in-depth series on the subject ever done in New Zealand. Over five days we will examine where burglaries happen, talk to victims, burglars and the police and find out how you can protect your home and business. In part one we look at which areas are the most burgled and ask why so many crimes are unsolved.

Labour will be really pleased that the Herald has embraced their strategies for making housing more affordable.

They’ve even produced a handy interactive map to check if you can save thousands by living in a crime zone. Complete with handy colour coding to show the no-go zones…or, as I prefer to call them, bargain housing estates.

interactive_graphi1 Read more »

Government forms new intelligence unit to combat gangs

Gangs cause untold misery in New Zealand, whether it be from violence or their drug trade. Wherever a gang exists misery is often close behind.

The government has moved to better arm themselves with information and for that reason Police and Social Development have created a new gang intelligence centre.

The numbers are staggering.

Nine of every 10 gang members in New Zealand have received a benefit or other welfare, costing the country $525 million between 1993 and 2014, a new report reveals.

Sixty per cent of children born to gang parents were abused or neglected, the report, by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), also found.

In total, cycles of violence within gang families will cost New Zealand’s welfare system $714 million over their lifetimes.

The startling figures are behind a Government push to gather more data about gangs and their families, in an attempt to tackle the country’s rising prison population and poor record on family violence.

Police and Corrections Minister Judith Collins said gangs were a “huge driver” of child deaths and family violence, and tackling gangs would make a big difference to New Zealand’s poor record.

“If you…look at the number of people in jail, they are almost invariably victims of family violence themselves somewhere along the line, and that’s what breeds violence.

“If we’re going to really make a dent in those figures….and help people save their lives, we’re going to have to deal with those gangs.”

Read more »


Photo of the day


The Queen of Thieves’

New York’s First Female Crime Boss

During the Gilded Age, New York City’s first crime ring came into power under a leader who taught the city’s best criminals, bribed those in power, and made a fortune. Meet ‘Marm’ Mandelbaum.

She had the eyes of a sparrow, the neck of a bear and enough business acumen to build an empire as the “Queen of Fences.”

The press called her a “Queen Among Thieves” and the person who “first put crime in America on a syndicated basis.” In 1884, The New York Times named her “the nucleus and centre of the whole organization of crime in New York City.” During the Gilded Age, Fredericka Mandelbaum, a German-Jewish immigrant, rose to power as the country’s premier fence—seller of stolen goods. Described as “a huge woman weighing more than two hundred and fifty pounds” with “extraordinarily fat cheeks,” Mandelbaum was the head of one of the first organized crime rings and a driving force behind New York City’s underworld for more than twenty-five years.

Mandelbaum was better known as Marm, and a mother is exactly what she was. She set up shop in New York City sometime around 1864, and for 20 years she built up a reputable gang of thieves, pickpockets, and bandits—who all trusted her to pay them fairly for what they stole. It’s estimated that she and her gang handled merchandise that would today be worth somewhere around around a quarter of a billion dollars when adjusted for inflation. Part of Mandelbaum’s success was due to the way she treated her network of thieves. She stood by her own, and always kept a law firm on retainer for any of her gang who got caught. She was famous for handing out bribes to police and judges, encouraging them to look the other way. Unlike most of the other street gangs, a large number of Mandelbaum’s crew were women.

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This is one reason why many have lost all respect for the Herald

Here we have a story where two ratbag teenagers stole a car, were chased by police and crashed into an oncoming vehicle, which resulted in them being given a Darwin award.

However, to read it you would wonder if the thieves were innocent victims in the oncoming car such was the crim-hugging nature of the article’s first part.

Tributes are flowing on social media for a teenage girl who died today when a stolen car crashed into another vehicle following an early-morning police pursuit.

The 16-year-old, who died at the scene in Mangere, South Auckland, has yet to be publicly identified.

“Deepest condolences to the … family,” said one friend. “Still can’t believe you are gone. Such a humble soul?Why did it have to be you in the car?”

The victim’s cousin shared her sadness at the loss of a “beautiful soul, gone too young?”

The 15-year-old female driver of the car was taken to Middlemore Hospital, but was later transferred to Auckland City Hospital in a critical condition.   Read more »


Beast of Napier in the making

Looks like we have a real scumbag before the courts in Napier right now.

A Napier teenager faces 40 charges after more than two years of alleged torture of a young woman, including claims of rape, detaining her in a room with an aggressive dog and burning her with a hot wire brand and cigarettes.

The 19-year-old appeared before a JP in Hastings District Court on Saturday, when there was no application for bail and he was remanded in custody without pleas until his next appearance early next month.

Offences are alleged to have happened between April 2013 and September last year.   Read more »


Extension wanted for Clean Slate Act


There are calls for an extension to current Clean Slate legislation:

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have had convictions concealed under the Clean Slate Act and experts want the legislation extended to more offenders.

Ministry of Justice data showed 220,598 people had been eligible to have convictions concealed since the act was introduced in 2004.

The Clean Slate Act was designed to allow people with less serious convictions to put their pasts behind them if they had been conviction-free for at least seven years, had not been sentenced to imprisonment and met other criteria.

The Clean Slate Act applies to employment and any other situations where an individual is asked about their criminal record.

Steve Treloar, manager of the Prisoners’ Aid and Rehabilitation Society in Whanganui, said the Clean Slate legislation had worked extremely well.

He said he would like the initiative extended to people with more serious convictions. He suggested those sentenced to less than two years in prison have convictions concealed after 10 years.

He said a lot had offended when they were young.   Read more »


Learning to swim is good, The mumbo jumbo – Not so much

Maori kids, gang kids even, are being taught how to swim.

In Maori culture, water is an energy called Tangaroa. It can be calm and life-giving, or dangerous and life-taking.

A man who lost his son to suicide says connecting with Tangaroa is a good way to teach water safety.

“The aim for this camp is to build resilient young people, connected young people, confident young people, thrown in with a bit of leadership.”

Zack Makoare formed Te Taitimu Trust after in a bid to help young people and boost water safety skills. At this year’s camp they’re rafting down the Mohaka River, inland and north of Napier.

Fifteen-15-year-old Isabella Ngahuia-Love has been with the trust for eight years.

“I think it’s important to learn about water safety because as Maori we’ve got a larger death toll because the water’s a part of our culture, so you have to learn how to be safe in it,” she says.

Royal Timu’s father, Rex Timu, is president of the Hastings Mongrel Mob chapter. He says understanding the water can help in more ways than one. Read more »