Tag Archives: California


Chester Bennington‘s family and closest friends gathered for a private funeral near his home in Palos Verdes, CA.

A couple hundred people attended the service Saturday afternoon at South Coast Botanic Garden — many of the guests were musicians who’d played or toured with Chester and Linkin Park. A full stage, including a drum kit, was set up for musical tributes to be performed.

Police provided tight security at the event. As TMZ first reported … the family opted for a private funeral, instead of a massive open service.



Extraordinary Ecotourism: 7 Excellent Earthly Escapes

Every time you travel, your goal should be to craft the experience of a lifetime.  This is especially true in the world of ecotourism, where the nature of a location carries more importance than the hotel or the nightlife around it.  Your goal as an eco-traveler is to discover the nature of this world in a way you have yet to experience, and it is our aim to guide you along that path.  From the rain forests of Costa Rica to the icy shores of Antarctica, these seven ecotourism destinations could make for the vacation of a lifetime.  If you’re ready to travel off the beaten path, join us to explore the beauty below…

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California gunman kills three ‘in race attack’ in Fresno

Three white men were killed and another wounded when a black gunman opened fire in Fresno, California, in a suspected race attack, police have said.

Kori Ali Muhammad shot 16 rounds in 90 seconds in the shooting spree on Tuesday, said Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

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Tesla Model 3: Specs, prices and release

Electric saloon – company’s cheapest car yet – is set to be packed with driverless tech

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has confirmed that the upcoming Model 3 saloon will not include a traditional speedometer.

He tweeted the news after fans quizzed him on the subject.

Musk’s argument for the lack of speedometer is that buyers “won’t care” about its absence, although he later confirmed the car’s “centre screen will show speed as an overlay that changes opacity according to relevance”.

He also likened the driverless Model 3 to a taxi, BGR reports, saying that “the more autonomous a car is, the less dash info you need”.

Fans were given a brief glimpse at the Model 3’s interior during its launch at the beginning of last year, when they saw a minimalistic dashboard with a large centralised touchscreen display at the top of the centre console.

Tesla’s affordable mass-market car also set to include a host of autonomous driving modes that will be upgraded through an over-the-air update programme, allowing the company to add software and firmware features after the vehicle has left the showroom.

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Hunter S. Thompson Tried to Get Paid in Cocaine at My Tequila Bar


As one of only two official tequila ambassadors for the Mexican government, 69-year-old Tomas Estes is credited with introducing Europe to agave spirits. Shaped by an adolescence spent motorcycling shirtless and drinking with Beatniks in 60s California, he opened his first bar in Amsterdam and today has a tequila brand, award-winning book on the spirit, and bars in Paris and London to his name. If you cut this guy open, he’d probably bleed tequila.

It all began when I was a teenager growing up in Los Angeles. My friends and I used to hop on over to Tijuana in Mexico and hit the bars. I digged the vibe there. I could do things that I couldn’t do back in the States.

That’s where my love for tequila started. We drank a lot of it. I remember this one bar in Ensenada, it was called Hussong’s and it’d been there since the 1800s. It was full of characters—sailors, rogues, adventurers. This was just after the Beat Generation in the 1960s and just before the hippy movement took off. They were exciting times, and it was a really great place to drink—people used to rock up on donkeys.

Down in Mexico and around California, I explored. This was the 60s, sexual freedom and liberation was beginning. Tijuana was like Sin City. And yeah, we got high, we drank tequila, we went to strip clubs. I carried a switch blade. I learned a lot about life in these years.

I used to just ride my bike in a pair of Levi jeans—no shirt—in the sun. All this helped me forge a career in the bar trade—uncovering the food, really understanding tequila and what it means to Mexico. And just life.

But also, I guess it’s fair to say that I went off the rails a bit and got into trouble back home. I ended up in jail five times—car theft, usually, but a bunch of other things too. I didn’t even keep the cars, I just drove them around a bit and left them.

Tijuana was like Sin City. And yeah, we got high, we drank tequila, we went to strip clubs. I carried a switch blade. All this helped me forge a career in the bar trade.

I got myself together by teaching—I won a scholarship to a university in southern California. I was a wrestler. Afterwards, I taught for a few years and, I think, for awhile, I was good. It was fulfilling. Imparting knowledge, discussing the world, studying life—all these things are so important.

But after a while I got a bit edgy and missed the scene. I needed something more—what is it that Yates said? “Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire.” To begin with, I knew I was lighting a fire. A few years in I felt that fire was gone, so I took a sabbatical and went to Europe.

When I found Amsterdam, I knew that’s where I wanted to live. It was so free, the culture was alive, and I saved up the money and opened my first bar there, Cafe Pacifico, in 1976. There wasn’t a Mexican restaurant in the city, there wasn’t tequila. I took it there and started a new fire.

It was a huge success. It was full of artists, musicians. There were drug dealers and characters. This was Amsterdam.

Cafe Pacifico was a very cool place. I remember Debbie Harry coming in. Everyone knew about it. One time, Queen picked up a platinum record award there. I met the Jacksons, Tina Turner and the Nike bosses used to sit at a table and drink tequila and eat (they probably did a few other things). Basically, it was inspiring to be there—creativity appeared at every turn.

After that, I came to London and opened another Pacifico. Back then, Covent Garden was just a void. You either drank in West London or in Soho—depending on how much money you had—but it took off. A day before I opened, a magazine asked to interview Hunter S. Thompson [there]. We had a full bar but hadn’t served a single drink.

When I found Amsterdam, I knew that’s where I wanted to live. I saved up the money and opened my first bar there in 1976. There wasn’t a Mexican restaurant in the city, there wasn’t tequila.

I remember him, he was everything you thought he’d be—petulant, temperamental. He seemed a bit violent but it was remarkable to meet the man, he had such presence. He also kept storming out of the room—apparently he was trying to negotiate his fee for the article in cocaine.

In the years since, tequila’s just grown and grown. It’s come up with London—the culture has transformed, Covent Garden is nothing like it used to be. Just as we’re finding new bars, people, experiences, we’re finding new agaves all the time.

The most exciting thing in the drinks industry coming out of Mexico right now is finding these little communities making their own liquor. OK, sometimes they get ripped off, but usually people are true to the spirit and true to the people. And that’s amazing.

These isolated villages are producing incredible tequila and mezcal, and every one of them is unique and extraordinary. And it’s great for the locals and strong for the economy.

Since opening Cafe Pacifico, I’ve had around 17 restaurants in total. And I’ve brought these odd and new drinks to each one.

Today, I’ve just got one in Paris, and a few bars here [London]. London is incredibly diverse and there’s a thirst for agave spirits right now—at El Nivel, we’ve got variations like raicilla, which is more acidic, almost vinegar-like.

And there’s sotal, which isn’t actually from the agave plant, but it’s medicinal in flavour and works well in cocktails. Each one has its own aroma and makeup.

This love for the drink isn’t just in the States and not just in Europe—it’s global. We’re all drinking it. And we’ve all got so much more to learn.

There’ll always be slammers, limes, shooters, but sipping proper, authentic, lovingly made tequila is something special.

Most people are only beginning to drink it properly. There’ll always be slammers, limes, shooters, but sipping proper, authentic, lovingly made tequila is something special. There’s no taste like it—something to savour.

I love the fascination for agave right now, it’s the drink of 2015 and I think we haven’t peaked yet. There’ll hopefully be another three or four years left of interest, this hype, before the world moves onto something else.

But agave spirits will always be here.


The new era of organized cybercrime

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During the murder trial of the contentious Jamaican dancehall artist known as Vybz Kartel—still ongoing—a critical piece of evidence vanished. Kartel and his associates had been charged with conspiring to kill Clive “Lizard” Williams, and prosecutors had obtained a compact disc of allegedly damning cellphone records, including text messages. Then it disappeared.

Losing that data wasn’t the only technological misstep for the legal team. Inspector Warren Williams, head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s cybercrime unit, gave a PowerPoint presentation intended to establish, via GPS location, where Kartel and any accomplices were in Kingston when exchanging these messages. Instead, he misidentified the relevant buildings on his own map.

There was also corruption in the air: It came out that a co-defendant’s cellphone was used while in police custody. For all the of the simplicity of the crime and punishment, there was a lot of sophisticated gadgetry involved—the kind that both enhances and vastly complicates our lives. Criminals and cops alike have been forced, as ever, to adapt to a virtual landscape, develop cutting-edge techniques, and reassess their potential allies.

All this ought to make us wonder if the term “organized crime” needs an updated definition in the Internet age. More and more, the Web is the very vector of criminal cooperation, as well as the means by which illegal enterprise is brought down.

As 2013 drew to a close, the British Bankers Association revealed a stunning statistic: “Traditional” bank robberies—those that tend to involve duffel bags and the threat of deadly force—had dropped 90 percent in the last 10 years. The trend was the same in the U.S., where the FBI recorded 3,870 robberies in 2012, the lowest figure going back several decades.

Increasingly sophisticated deterrents and alarm systems had certainly played a role in the diminishing of violent theft, but the trend also coincided with the rise of cybercrime targeting financial services. Indeed, hackers had begun to drain bigger bank accounts while taking far fewer risks.

“Instead of guns and masks, they [use] laptops and malware,” said Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, on the topic of a historic $45 million ATM scam.

“We certainly have much more diverse organized crime in the U.S. than in the past, much more transnational, much more linked to computers,” noted Louise Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University.

But given that the two styles of robbery call for vastly different skill sets, one has to wonder: Are the same people getting rich? Or has the Internet completely altered the landscape for illegal enterprise? As with most tectonic shifts in the history of crime, it’s been a messy transition.

Prohibition is widely considered the catalyst that allowed the American mafia to evolve from a petty, murderous gang into a semi-corporate entity with an established hierarchy of leadership and division of labor. The mafia’s business model took root in the public consciousness and flowered throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Even as bloody internal warfare rocked such institutions in the early 1980s and led to a major federal crackdown, criminal conglomerates were becoming transnational, coordinating activities on a global scale. The Internet, then, would appear to offer opportunities for further unchecked expansion.

In the virtual world of cyberspace, though, it appears that the DNA of organized crime will have to mutate once again.

Reading about the cases of old-style bosses like Boston’s James “Whitey” Bulger, the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s fictional mobster in The Departed, you might guess that the “traditional” forms of organized crime (dealing in protection money and other forms of extortion that rely upon face-to-face interaction and geographic boundaries) have all but crumbled before a more fluid underground economy. In a certain sense, you’d be right:

These dons tend to sound nostalgic for the days of massive analog scams. The biggest mob bust of the past few years ensnared 127 players on charges of homicide, arson, and loan-sharking. Meanwhile, your conventional pusher couldn’t hope to compete with the Deep Web black market Silk Road—but wasn’t that bazaar, with its anonymizing defenses and reported hit-job conspiracies, itself an example of “organized crime”?

It hardly helps that the term is so difficult to define. Would we consider the gangs pulled together by John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde “organized”? Perhaps that kind of loose, joyride-inflected camaraderie in a criminal enterprise is a better analogy for the scene we encounter on the Internet today, with its shifting alliances and adrenaline-junkie black hats. We still see many of the hallmarks of organized crime in online syndicates:

The elimination of rivals, traitors, and spies is a concern subordinate to the creation of wealth at the expense of various victims. Mercenaries and middlemen abound, selling their services to the highest bidder. Hackers are sometimes “flipped” and made to give testimony against their colleagues.

The vanishing of “territory,” however, means that the recognized families of the mafia no longer have a home base to defend or define themselves by. Muscle and physical threats are less essential, and schemes take fewer conspirators to arrange.

As globalization called for cooperation between syndicates and thus the emergence of a broader, flatter management structure, so too does the digital frontier demand a fresh approach. At the outset, that means acquiring the talent necessary to make cybercrime lucrative—however possible. Infosec Institute relayed reports that Mexican drug cartels have even forcibly recruited and kidnapped computer programmers.

“But,” Louise Shelley told the Daily Dot via email, “for over two decades, narcotics traffickers from Colombia have used the service of experienced computer specialists to encrypt their communications.” Similarly, she wrote, the cartel-affiliated, Los Angeles-based organization M-13, known to be involved in human trafficking, is using the Internet to get jobs done efficiently and quietly. You can kill and terrorize all you want, but money is becoming more virtual daily.

“Individuals who are not tech-savvy are losing out on organized crime in the U.S.,” she declared.

Ethnic solidarity remains a theme as organized crime seeps into cyberspace. A bank fraud and identity theft ring in California, for example, was the work of several men associated with the Armenian Power crime syndicate, two of whom were incarcerated and operating via cellphones smuggled into their prison (once again, turf is beside the point). More and more common, however, are confederacies assembled in far-flung regions.

Just skim some of the FBI’s big cybercrime cases: One press release touts the arrest of “10 individuals from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, New Zealand, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States.” The porous, frictionless Web results in bedfellows you may not have predicted half a century ago.

Of all the existing mafias, Russia’s have surely gotten the early lead in cybercrime, operating in poorly policed .su domains. “There is a segmentation of the market,” Shelley explained. “Some of the most lucrative transnational crimes, such as selling counterfeit pharmaceuticals online, are done by Russian organized crime groups.”

Last month, an Arizona man named David Camez was convicted for his role in the Carder.su identity theft syndicate, but he was just a small-time buyer of counterfeit IDs. The actual empire was run by Russian Roman Zolotarev—according to the testimony of former Secret Service agent Michael Adams, who went undercover to infiltrate the market—a mastermind who remains comfortably beyond extradition.

Nevertheless, the case was a watershed moment, as it marked the first use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, in a U.S. prosecution of cybercrime. The federal law was enacted in 1970 and designed to benefit law enforcement agencies going after mob families. In Camez’s case, rather than argue his guilt, lawyers stressed the question of whether Carder.su met the same legal/criminal criteria as the mafia—which, apparently, it does.

Similar struggles to reconcile organized crime and cybercrime are common in the heavily wired nation of India. A unit devoted to online crime in the city of Jaipur, for example, has come under fire for electing to pursue only those reports that indicate organized gang activity.

Back in 2002, the North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology published an essay titled “Organized Cybercrime? How Cyberspace May Affect the Structure of Criminal Relationships.” This was before there was much in the way of cybercrime to study, as author Susan W. Brenner, now a distinguished professor of law and technology at the University of Dayton School of Law, readily admitted. Nevertheless, she was able to put her finger on a future problem in the fight against the type of computer fraud that features an ensemble cast:

“Specifically, instead of assuming stable configurations that persist for years, online criminal organization may incorporate the ‘swarming’ model, in which individuals coalesce for a limited period of time in order to conduct a specifically defined task or set of tasks and, having succeeded, go their separate ways. If cybercrime adopts this organizational model, law enforcement’s task will become much more difficult; in the real-world, the stability and consistency of organized criminal groups gives law enforcement a fixed target upon which to focus its efforts. Police concentrate on identifying a permanent group of participants who engage in a set of routine illicit activities.”

That swarming behavior will sound familiar to anyone who has read about a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack orchestrated by the hacktivist collective Anonymous, in which multiple people attempt suspend a service by overwhelming it with external communications requests. If it’s not necessarily an effective means of making money, it’s still a useful method of collaboration toward a number of ends that range from mischievous to catastrophic. (Indeed, it often appears as if the greatest difference between real-world criminals and online outlaws is that the profit motive cannot be taken for granted. There is just as often an ideological point to be made, or a reputation to be earned, or a thrill to be extracted.)

In any case, the bonds forged between cybercriminals are those of convenience, not blood and mutual obligation. In 2011, Brenner identified the exact sort of legal pothole that she had predicted nine years prior, quoting from a case in which the five defendants, employees of Western Express International, had used the company as a front for the trading of stolen data and the laundering of cybercriminals’ money. The excerpt comes from the majority opinion of the Supreme Court—Appellate Division, which was considering whether New York’s Organized Crime Control Act, a state-specific RICO-like law, should be brought to bear:

[T]he nature of this organization, as indicated by the evidence presented to the grand jury, constitutes a ‘criminal enterprise’ having an ‘ascertainable structure’ as contemplated by the OCCA. … [T]he structure of Vassilenko’s enterprise … differs greatly from the way in which the word ‘structure’ is ordinarily used in the context of organized crime. The ‘structure’ at issue here is, essentially, a web site; there is no social club or office, no hierarchy of appointed positions.

“In other words,” Brenner explained, “it didn’t look like the kind of Mafia family the OCCA and RICO were designed to pursue.” And yet three judges opted to allow an indictment on that basis, helping to set the stage for David Camez’s RICO conviction two years later. The dissenting pair of judges argued that the “defendants’ combined activities, undertaken for their individual benefit, without any chain of command, profit sharing, or continuity of criminal purpose beyond the scope of the criminal incidents alleged in the indictment” were “insufficient to show they engaged in the type of criminal enterprise covered by the statute.” Vadim Vassilenko, ringleader of the ad hoc Western Express gang, in early 2013 pleaded guilty to a handful of money laundering charges, as well as a scheme to defraud and conspiracy in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor.

Just because the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys can now paint cybercrime, however imperfectly, as organized crime, we needn’t anticipate the disappearance of traditional mafias or the rise of purely digital cartels. In fact, the most notable push to monopolize the illegal drug market on Silk Road severely backfired. Nod, a notorious dealer, attempted to collude with other cocaine distributors on Silk Road to set prices even higher, but competitors chose instead to leak the documents in an effort to tarnish his reputation.

It’s far more likely that the crimes of the future will assume a shape that’s difficult for us to imagine at the moment. The Internet has developed a new set of specialized tools that make running an illegal operation easier than ever before: The digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin can be used to launder dirty profits, malware can remotely seize control of devices, and anonymizing browsers like Tor have been a boon to the dissemination of child pornography, now largely accomplished online.

But none of that matters when you don’t have access or expertise. Organized crime has always meant having your fingers in lots of different pies, so it’s natural that the Web would appear a new and fruitful frontier to be divided up, using as many parallel scams as possible. To accomplish that, old-school syndicates will need highly educated recruits. You can spot the generational chasm on the other side of the law, too: South Africa’s police can’t keep up with cutting-edge scams, and in the U.S., we’re grooming college kids to be masters of IT security.

Mobsters who resist the Web now occupy the place of gangs that refused to start bootlegging when Prohibition created a black market in 1920. Whether you get into the industry or not, it will soon change everything about the way business is done, so you may as well stick a foot out for a toehold. When Brenners published her 2002 article, she acknowledged “the perception that cybercrime is perpetrated by hackers, who are loners, and are therefore not inclined to engage in group criminality; and the fact that, to date, most documented cybercrime reveals that a majority of incidents involve individuals, not groups.”

Twelve years on, plenty of lone wolves still stalk the digital plains, and some are married to their isolation. Others are bound to form packs.

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