Tag Archives: Dallas

Pig Gelatin Proves Oswald Acted Alone

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Advances in technology—specifically, in blood spatter analysis and crash test dummies—have been harnessed to prove that it was, in fact, Lee Harvey Oswald who killed JFK.

Blood spatter analysis has, apparently, been around for a while, but only recently has it gotten good enough to know what the spatter actually means. (More here, if you need to know and don’t mind pictures of spatter.)

Reconstructing the scene for a documentary by the Discovery Channel also involved another key piece of technology: the lifelike dummy. Technically they’re called ‘artificial surrogates’ and they’re made by an Australian company called Adelaide T&E Systems (motto: “engineering the world’s most biofidelic test platforms.” Biofidelic is a fancy word for lifelike.)

The Frangible Ballistic Heads (a great name for a band) are made from three different materials which simulate the brain, skull and external soft tissue (skin), which goes to make the spatter more lifelike. (The brain is made from gelatin made from pig skin and then dyed green, in case you’re trying your own Grassy Knoll reconstruction at home.)

The head was custom-fitted, based on JFK’s hat size. It was then attached to the company’s Hybrid III neck (“for improved response,” according to the website.) This is then attached to the company’s latest product, the Human Thoracic Surrogate, which can be fitted with “loadcells, accelerometers and pressure gauges to facilitate injury scoring,” according to Wesley Fisk, a partner at A&E.

They then brought in a bunch of scientists who did not know that they were investigating JFK, although the mock-up of the Dallas, Texas crime scene, complete with depository, grassy knoll (using real grass), etc, might have offered a clue. They were impressed by the Frangible Ballistic Heads. “The heads they used were quite interesting,” said one of the experts. “They were considerably more sophisticated than anything I’ve seen before.”

After the fake Oswald shot the fake JFK, they were asked to look at the spatter of all the green-dyed pig-gelatin. Turns out the the key was the lack of back-spatter—the stuff that goes the opposite way you’d expect if you’d just shot someone in the head:

The general lack of back spatter and the preponderance of spatter in another direction are two of the clues, among others, that the investigators used to pinpoint the origin of the shots.

Conclusion: just one shooter.

PS: The program hasn’t aired yet, but already it’s being called ‘baloney.’ Unsurprisingly.

Illustration: T&E Systems

The Phisher King Goes To Jail

Another phisher jailed, and another example, if any were needed, of the Russian gravitional pull to such tricks. But there’s a backstory to this that all accounts have ignored. Here’s the meat, first, from The Register:

An American who masterminded the UK part of a multi-million pound ID theft scam was yesterday jailed for six years. Douglas Havard, 24, was sentenced on Monday at Leeds Crown Court after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to launder money. His accomplice, Lee Elwood, 25, of Glasgow, was jailed for four years after pleading guilty to the same offences in June 2004.

The court heard the duo were integral to a phishing scam that netted an estimated £6.5m. The duo operated the UK end of an international operation that tricked consumers into handing over their banking credentials to bogus websites. The pair used credit cards obtained under false names, money raided from compromised bank accounts and the illicit purchase and sale of goods online to finance a lavish lifestyle.

According to a report on kvue last year, Havard was allegedly just one of

15 global middlemen linked to the hackers, who systematically stole from hundreds of bank accounts daily, one of Mr. Havard’s former associate says.

But it’s the Douglas Havard guy who is most interesting, and an example of the kind of people getting drawn into the phishing world: Check out this long and fascinating account from the Dallas Observer three years ago, when Havard was still on the run. One particular episode caught my eye:

Take the bar code scam, which allegedly began during Havard’s sophomore year at Winston. Havard bought a special printer and high-gloss paper precut in the shape of price stickers, with adhesive on one side. The equipment and materials were specialized, but not exotic; he could buy all he needed at an office supply store.

Havard went to Target and purchased, say, a box of Legos for $17. He duplicated the bar code on the Legos and then went back to the store. As he browsed through the toy department, he’d slap a bar code sticker reading $17 onto a box of MindStorm Legos that sell for $200 a box.

At the checkout, Havard paid $17 for the Legos. He later returned the Legos to the store, getting a cash refund or store credit for $200. Profit: $183. He’d then go back and buy two more expensive boxes for $17 each. Profit: $366. Investment: $17, plus the printer and sticky paper.

Havard’s research revealed that Target wouldn’t investigate until the sixth return, so he would do the con a total of five times in his own name, then use a fake drivers license and do it five times in another name. He then pulled in other people to repeat his performance five times each in various names, also using fake identities. After calculating how many Target stores were in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, he sent out his minions with handfuls of forged bar code stickers.

Havard was making up to $15,000 a day from the scam, according to the Observer. From there he graduated into credit card scams. And others:

He and a buddy started cruising the parking lots at NorthPark, looking for expensive SUVs loaded with fancy accessories like front grilles. They’d write down the license plate numbers, drive home and look up the addresses of the owners on the Internet. Late at night, they’d drive by the houses, steal the grilles and sell them on eBay.

It’s all quite a tale. Phishing in Leeds was perhaps the easiest scam Havard ever did.

Portable Media Centers: Damp Squibs?

How big are Portable Media Centers going to be?

Not very, says The Diffusion Group, a Dallas-based research consultancy. In a report it says both Microsoft-based and non-MS-based media players with video, audio and photo capabilities will “face stiff competition from less-expensive application-specific alternatives such as MP3 players, portable DVD players, and new portable photo storage technologies”.

Partly it’s price: “while PMCs offer consumers an ‘all-in-one’ package, its $500 price tag will make single application devices much more attractive to consumers,” Diffusion says. The other limitation is: Do people really want all this stuff? Given the main attraction of a PMC is storing and playing back video, and given that most folk still don’t use handheld video recorders (I’m guessing PVR here means portable or personal video recorders) as much as expected, “demand for a portable PVR is likely to remain very low for the next several years.” Then, says Diffusion, there are alternatives: Portable TVs are cheap, and the more fancy high end stuff, like Sony’s new LF-X5 with its live digital TV viewing with integrated Wi-Fi connectivity and a 7-inch viewing screen, are going to get cheaper.

I respectfully disagree. I don’t think everyone who has an iPod is going to get a PMC. But you only need to sit on a Virgin Atlantic flight and watch people tap into their fully independent video-on-demand (select programs, stop and start, fast forward and rewind) screens to see the power of portable video. Just because people aren’t using their PVRs as much as we expected, doesn’t mean they don’t want to watch video everywhere they go. And while personal TVs may satisfy some of this market, what is that compared to being able to store a few episodes of Seinfeld to watch on the train to work? If we’ve learned nothing else from MP3 players, we’ve realised that people want to design and personalise their portable entertainment. If not, everyone would still be carrying around portable radios. As prices drop — even Diffusion anticipates that the price of portable media centers will decline by more than 50% to below $250 in a couple of years — I think there’ll be more and more people packing these things.

Software: Calypso becomes Courier

 
 I’ve been a huge fan of Calypso, an email program that’s simple, highly fiddle-able, and small. Unfortunately its producers, MCS of Dallas, dropped it a few years back leaving a lot of users in the lurch. I’m still using it, however, despite its quirks under Windows XP, and am very glad to see that another company, Rose City Software, has reintroduced it as Courier 3.5. They promise new features — like “Color Markers” to help organize messages — and a cheap upgrade for Calypso users ($20 against $30 for the full thing.)
 
I’ve yet to try it out yet, but I’m glad to see that software as good as Calypso doesn’t always just die off. I’ll review Courier in a future posting.