International Cyber Thieves Stole $40 Million from a Bank in 10 Hours
In December 2012, and again in February of this year, a couple of highly coordinated cyberattacks targeted two Middle Eastern banks—Oman’s Bank of Muscat and the United Arab Emirates’ Bank of Ras Al Khaimah—in a $45-million heist that evidently surprised the shit out of authorities and “impressed” cybercrime expertsworldwide. It was only announced late last week that the heist occurred, and it’s believed that operations in 27 countries led to the grand total of $45 million stolen. That said, arrests have only been made in the United States (one of the suspects was caught with an iPhone full of cash-filled selfies) and Germany—which is extra crazy because the authorities believe the ringleaders were working outside of the United States. So, where are the rest of these digital bank robbers and their ringleaders?
To make matters even more intense, news broke on Saturday morning that the man believed to be leading the American wing of this global-bank-robbing scheme was executed in the Dominican Republic in late April. It doesn’t take a massive stretch of the imagination to conclude that someone is trying to prevent the information that was swirling around in that man’s head—i.e., how these cyberbank robbers were able to steal so much money from the banking system, without causing any alarms that would freeze the tampered accounts they were using—from being spilled out into the hands of the authorities. When his body was found, there was $100,000 of cash in his residence, along with an assault rifle, telescopic sight, and three pistols.According to Reuters, the American operation alone, allegedly led by this dead man, netted $2.4 million in stolen cash, taken from over 3,000 ATMs, within ten hours. This part of the story alone can now be referred to simply as the second-largest bank robbery in New York’s history.
Horse Racing: The Sport of America’s Lower Class
“If you wait until 4:08, you can get in for free,” the blatantly disinterested clerk at the entrance to Hollywood Park Racetrack and Casino informed me as I desperately tried to give her the $10 entry fee. It was 3:55 and I had already started to feel the effects of the weed chocolate I had eaten earlier, so I happily accepted her terms. I avoided making small talk with the clerk by feigning interest in my phone for 13 minutes. It’s surprising how little you can accomplish on a cell phone in 13 minutes. Finally, as the clock struck the “magic hour,” I sauntered through the gate with an extra $10 in my pocket, just ready to gamble it all away forever. There’s no such thing as a free ride, unless you’re high… or talking about the moribund sport of horse racing.
Much like the United States itself, horse racing culture can be divided into the camps of “have” and “have not.” The disparity between the gilded excesses of the Kentucky Derby and the barren wasteland of Hollywood Park is stark. Step-repeat lines, funny hats, and copious amounts of rich people materialize at Churchill Downs every year to see and be seen at what is an absurdly anachronistic, passé sport. The everyday reality of horse racing is that the stands are not even a third full, and instead of expensive suits and strange headgear, people wear varsity jackets with cougars embroidered on the back. Horse racing was and still is a pastime of our grandparents.
Which Horselete Should You Root for in the Kentucky Derby?
Photo via Flickr user Velo Steve
To those who aren’t horse racing fans—a category that includes nearly every person on Earth who isn’t incredibly wealthy or an aging alcoholic gambling addict with a permanent hacking cough—the Kentucky Derby, known to insiders as “the horse race that is happening this weekend in Kentucky,” is a mysterious, somewhat stupid tradition. The horseletes (like athletes, but they’re horses) have names like “Orb,” “Vyjack,” and “Palace Malice” and are owned by characters who could be James Bond movie villains. The people who are really into the Derby wear awful hats and get day-drunk on minty cocktails that taste like your grandfather. Not only that, the race is ten “furlongs” long, which means no one knows how long it actually is. So why care about it? Because it gives you a chance to root for—and gamble on—a horselete of your choosing, and distract you from your mostly miserable, horse-free life for two minutes, or however long it takes to run ten furlongs.
But what horselete should you bet on for? Presumably you don’t have a personal connection with one of the animals, and unless you are a huge fan of orbs or whatever a vyjack is, a name alone won’t determine your rooting interest. Which is why I’ve compiled this handy guide for you that matches up your personality with a corresponding horselete.
You Hate Hippies
If you get into heated arguments with Greenpeace canvassers and routinely go on rants about the evils of PETA, why not throw your support to Frac Daddy? This horse is, of course, named after thecontroversial natural gas extraction technique—primary owners Carter Stewart and Ken Schlenkermade their money in the oil and gas business. They decided not to name him “Frack Daddy,” I guess, because spelling, like environmentalism, is for loosers.
You Love Diversity
Horse racing is one of the few sports where men and women compete on the same playing field. There have been a number of jockettes (“lady jockeys”) who have ridden in the Derby, but none of them have won, yet. Rosie Napravnik’s ninth-place finish in the 2011 race is the best to date from a female rider, and she’ll be atop Mylute for this year’s edition.
Meanwhile, Kevin Krigger, who will be riding Goldencents, is the third African American jockey to ride in the Derby since 1921. Krigger is relatively unknown, but had arguably one of the best prep races leading up to the Derby, proving he deserves a spot this Saturday. A win by either Napravnik of Krigger would make history at an event that, um, has not always been known for its embrace of progressive politics.
Horse Racing Is Totally Depressing When You’re Blind
“Do you like sodomy? Do you like artificiality and cars? If so, stay in LA. Why would you decide to come to LA? If there’s wisdom I can give you, it’s leave LA. Do you fight?”
An artifact of some twisted bizarro strip stood in front of me in the bearing, smoggy heat, with foppish yellow pants, army jacket, scrunched up face, and a thick mane of dreads. He had a sociopath’s smirk and stood too close. On home turf this kind of thing is easy to ignore, but my friend and I were stuck in front of Sunshine Liquors just south of the 210 in Pasadena, duffel bags on the curb, waiting for a ride to the racetrack.
“Do you gamble?”
In whatever dazed alternate reality he lived in, the guy somehow still smelled it on us. When we said yes, he pushed, “Can I come to Santa Anita with you and gamble?” I managed to fend off the question. Then in normal derelict-gadfly fashion, he got bored and turned: “Well, I’m going inside to get some liquor.” He got about 20 feet away and then spun around, and offered, his voice raised the way your grandma would offer tea sandwiches, “Do you want to fight?”
Contrast this with the three homies we found spliffed up and and drinking tall cans at the bus stop ten minutes before. Nelson was just a truck driver, but his friends revered him, because last year he won the Super High Five at the Preakness Stakes. That’s in Baltimore, the second leg of the Triple Crown competition (which starts with the Kentucky Derby this weekend) and one of the biggest and oldest horse races in America.
In Cuba, Tattoo Artists Make More than Doctors and Lawyers
This year, a 52-year-old politician named Miguel Diaz-Canel was appointed vice president of the ruling Council of State in Cuba, making him a likely future leader of the country. Some Cubans hope he will lead their country into a new era. One reason: while he was governor of Villa Clara province, he sponsored a tattoo festival.
Today, when Cuban Americans journey back to their native country for visits, they frequently come bearing gifts for friends and family, ranging from sunglasses to flat-screen televisions. Che Alejandro wants something else: tattoo magazines, ink, and needles. “Right now there are only a few people bringing tattoo supplies to us,” Che Alejandro, who is known as the godfather of the Cuban tattoo scene, told me. “You can’t get a license to import them, so they have to bring little things in luggage and sell them to you. Many times it’s not the best quality.”
All the equipment tattoo artists need is either illegal or unavailable in Cuba. Autoclaves, which sterilize tattoo needles, are banned. This has forced tattoo artists to improvise. They fashion makeshift machines from baskets, medical supplies, and pressure cookers. Being a tattoo artist in Cuba is hard. But it makes Che feel that he is expanding space for personal expression in a country where individuality has long been frowned upon. Tattoo supplies are hard to find, so Che has innovated. He draws designs from his skateboard and comic books. He makes his own needles, and when working to complete a larger, more intricate tattoo, he offers big discounts to customers.
“We are going too slow,” he said, assessing the pace of change in Cuba. “We need to step up. People die waiting for freedom.”
I Used My Stockmarket Millions to Throw Raves and Sell Drugs
Think of drug lords in America and it’s likely that you’ll think of emotionally erratic men with harems of coked-up mega babes on big yachts in Miami. Or, if you watch a lot of HBO box-sets, terminally ill chemistry teachers or Idris Elba. One cliche that probably won’t spring to mind is a polite, educated ex-stockbroker from the UK’s industrial Cheshire.
Shaun “English Shaun” Attwood is an incredibly unlikely ecstasy kingpin. Growing up in Widnes, just outside of Liverpool, Shaun invested in the US stock market when he was young, made his millions, moved to Phoenix, Arizona, started throwing raves, and became a major drug supplier. While he wasn’t planning parties in the deserts of Arizona, he was working in direct competition with the Italian mafia and alongside the New Mexican Mafia to supply millions of dollars worth of ecstasy to the ravers of mid-90s Phoenix.
His motivation for doing all this (besides the fact that partying for a living is a lot more fun than selling shares)? He wanted to introduce Americans to the British rave culture he’d grown up with. Unfortunately, as is often the way when you’re handling millions of dollars worth of narcotics, Shaun was caught and ended up being sent to Maricopa County Jail, widely regarded as America’s toughest prison. Shaun’s been out of jail for a few years, so I called him to see if he’s still so keen to spread the love to the Yanks.
Shaun after being released from prison. Photo by Libbi Pedder.
VICE: Hey Shaun. So you went from being a millionaire stockbroker to becoming a major drug dealer in Arizona. How did that happen?
Shaun Attwood: The Manchester rave scene made such a big impression on me that I decided to transfer that scene to Phoenix, Arizona after moving over there. After becoming a millionaire as a young person, I had more money than common sense, so I didn’t see the law as an obstacle to my partying or a barrier to bringing tens of thousands of hits of ecstasy into America from Holland.
That was for the mafia, right?
Yeah, I was supplying ecstasy to the New Mexican Mafia. In the beginning, I didn’t know who they were, but it came about because I was a friend of a gang member’s brother. Years later, they were all arrested and the news headlines reported that they were the most powerful and violent mafia in Arizona at that time, committing murder for hire and executing witnesses.
And you were in direct competition with the Italian mafia member Sammy “The Bull” Gravano—what’s the story with that?
Yeah. Years later in prison, his son, Gerard Gravano, told me that he’d been dispatched as the head of an armed crew to kidnap me from a nightclub and take me out to the desert. I’d avoided him that night because my best friend Wild Man had got in a fight and we’d had to leave the club in a hurry.
Classism – Li’l Thinks by Kate Carraway
Illustration by Penelope Gazin.
Fun fact: when you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re probably talking about class. I mean, maybe, maybe not… but probably. Classism expressed from and about any point on the socioeconomic spectrum, is implicitly part of almost everything interesting and useful and real to talk about. The prejudices themselves aren’t invisible, but classism in action is sometimes quiet, or tucked into other ways of diagramming and demeaning the human experience; class is ever mutating, floating like a gas, present when it’s not there, and not there when it seems to be. If I were to take a wild swing at it, I’d say maybe half of what seems at first to be casually racist and sexist and generally xenophobic is classist (it’s not as if racism and sexism aren’t inextricably part of class) and basically allowed to be because nobody gets into it (at least, not outside of the broadest us-versus-them stuff of party politics, and mostly abstract economic debates), and nobody wants to.
Considering the finer, lived, human details of class, though, is so weirdly verboten. Money, status, “class”—both specific and temporal (what the middle class “is,” for instance, has changed along with its numbers)—are among the most determining and influencing aspects of how a life is felt and experienced, but addressing them directly—in conversation, in criticism—will have the effect of narrowing and nullifying instead of working to contextualize, expand, and be real with whatever. Some of this is that it’s “rude” (guh) to talk about what you have or don’t have. Some of this is that when people talk about class, which is largely outside of social sanctioning, there are more ways to be wrong, to offend. (Like, if you’re a huge racist, you’ve probably at least been told you are, at some point.) Classism is also mostly sanctioned: “white trash” should be a suuuuper fucking embarrassing thing to say (so should “rich bitch” and “trust-fund kid” and anything else that presupposes a character or quality based on economic status, or an imagined one), but it’s not.
McDonald’s Is Violating Labor Laws in Brazil
Brazil is home to more McDonald’s than any other place in the Western Hemisphere, aside from the US. The federal police in Brazil recently announced that they have been investigating McDonald’s for the past several months over allegations that its workers have been laboring in “slave-like conditions.” The case was announced last week, in response to a 17-year-old girl’s complaint, filed in October, that she had worked at a São Paulo McDonald’s for eight months without receiving any pay.
The girl testified that when she started at McDonald’s, she had been told to open a bank account to receive her salary via direct deposit. When she gave them her savings-account information, the manager told her to open a checking account. The girl opened the checking account but claims that management continued to make excuses not to pay her. Her mother, Maria das Graças Nonato, initially thought her daughter was lying to her about her earnings but eventually took her to meet with union representatives, who brought the allegations to the federal police.
Antonio Carlos Lacerda, a lawyer from the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union, says, “The police are focusing on this individual case because the girl has agreed to testify, but this is not an isolated incident. We know of many other similar situations, and this is why they have decided to step in. I believe that when the investigation is concluded, they will prove that there is a systematic pattern of this kind of behavior through the entire McDonald’s system.”
This incident is one more setback for McDonald’s in a long line of labor issues in Brazil. Last year, there were 1,790 cases against the company in the state of São Paulo alone for claims ranging from firing pregnant women in order to avoid paying maternity leave, to overtime violations and failure to pay the minimum wage. According to the news magazine Brasil de Fato, one of the reasons that McDonald’s has gotten away with so many labor crimes is that they focus on hiring teenagers from poor backgrounds who have little job experience and don’t know their rights.
Anonymous Hacked Bank of America and Seemingly Revealed That the Bank’s Spying on Hacktivists
You’ve probably already heard of Anonymous, the world’s most infamous group of cybertrolling hacktivists. They frequently make headlines for crashing websites and looting corporate and government servers. Usually these hacktivists come together in defense of others, such as Julian Assange, the people of Gaza, victims of police brutality, or even victims of rape. But now, Anonymous has turned its eyes on a personal rival. This enemy has its own cybersquad of secret spies who, according to Anonymous, spend the majority of their time in chat rooms collecting intelligence about them. With this latest release of stolen data, Anonymous has just pulled back the curtain on their foe: the Bank of America.
On February 25 @AnonymousIRC, an Anonymous Twitter account with over 280,000 followers, began posting “teasers” about a massive Bank of America data leak. The first post declared, “If you spy on us, we spy on you.” What followed was 14 gigabytes of private emails, spreadsheets, and a “text analysis and data mining” program called OneCalais. The emails in the release originated from “Cyber Threat Intelligence Analysts” who identified themselves as employees of a company called TEKsystems. The TEKsystems website appears to be nothing more than a staffing agency and seems wholesome enough. There’s definitely nothing that screams “we are cyberspies!” It’s safe to assume these analysts were hired by Bank of America, regardless of their TEKsystems titles, because according to the leaked emails that Anonymous released, each of them were using @bankofamerica.com email addresses while filing their reports.
Having a team on staff to protect a corporation from potential cyberthreats is nothing new. This isn’t what caught the attention of Anonymous to begin with; it was the methods being employed by Bank of America to gather data. Each of the 500 plus emails pilfered reads like a surveillance report, most of them reporting on the activities of online activists from Anonymous to Occupy Wall Street.
In China, Tigers Are Farmed Like Chickens
Tigers are some of the biggest victims of the wildlife trade, with the rare cats’ bones coveted for traditional medicine and their coats prized as rugs. In Vietnam, tiger parts are so valuable that they make better bribes than cash. And in China, tiger parts are in such high demand that they are being farmed like chickens.
According to a new report from the Environmental Investigation Agency, China’s tiger farms are huge, with thousands of captive tigers being bred for slaughter. That’s possible because China has essentially legalized the tiger trade, which is troubling considering that China is a signatory of the CITES treaty, which bans international trade of tiger parts (along with parts of other animals, like rhinos and elephants) and calls for domestic trade prohibitions.
But far more troubling is the EIA’s conclusion that China’s tiger farms are actually stimulating demand for wild tigers. The report states that there are somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 captive tigers in China, a population that boomed from just a few dozen in the 80s thanks to favorable legal policies as well as funding from China’s State Forestry Administration. (As the Times noted in 2010, China’s largest tiger farm is run by the SFA.) Meanwhile, China’s wild tiger population has plummeted to just a few dozen individuals, down from a high of around 4,000 in the late 1940s.