busted
May 3, 2021

German prosecutors announced Monday that they have dismantled the child pornography platform "Boystown" and arrested three alleged site administrators and one extremely active German user. With more than 400,000 registered members, "Boystown" was "one of the world's biggest child pornography darknet platforms," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors in Frankfurt and Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office said the three German administrators were arrested in mid-April. Police then shut down the platform. The unidentified alleged site administrators — aged 40, 49, 58 — helped pedophiles spread child pornography while evading law enforcement, prosecutors say, and the site included "images of most severe sexual abuse of toddlers" among other vile pornography. The 58-year-old administrator was arrested in Paraguay and the 64-year-old super-user from Hamburg allegedly uploaded more than 3,500 posts to the site.

The bust stemmed from a multinational investigation involving Europol, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, the U.S., and Canada. Peter Weber

April 21, 2021

Norfolk, Virginia has fired a veteran police officer who donated $25 to Kyle RIttenhouse, the Illinois teenager awaiting trial for killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Lt. William K. Kelly III, the No. 2 officer in the Norfolk Police Department's internal affairs department, also used his official email address to praise Rittenhouse when giving him money through a Christian crowdfunding website, GiveSendGo, according to private records obtained by the group Distributed Denial of Secrets.

"God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You've done nothing wrong," Kelly wrote in his Sept. 3 donation note, The Guardian first reported, citing GiveSendGo's data breach. "Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don't be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership."

Kelly's "egregious" comments violated departmental policies and "erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve," Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer said Tuesday afternoon. Clay Messick, president of the local police union, called the decision hasty, "disappointing," and lacking in transparency. Kelly is not a member of the union, Messick added, but "it is hard to call this fair." The city said Kelly can appeal his firing. Kelly did not respond to the Pilot's requests for comment.

An unidentified veteran Norfolk Police officer told the Pilot that Kelly was a "golden boy" and said what he is purported to have done is "absolutely crazy" and threatens to further exacerbate racial tensions inside the department. Kelly's claim that every officer supports Rittenhouse is also flat-out wrong, the officer said. "Many of us here are pissed off because he doesn't speak for us and those views are certainly not mine."

Rittenhouse raised $586,940 at GiveSendGo between Aug. 27 and Jan. 7, The Guardian reports, and among the other donors using their official accounts were a city official in Huntsville, Alabama; a paramedic in Utah; and an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. GiveSendGo has hosted crowdfunding campaigns for the Proud Boys and other groups banned from other platforms. Peter Weber

October 23, 2019

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that Imaad Shah Zuberi, a 49-year-old California venture capitalist and prolific political donor, had pleaded guilty to "falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials." The charging document does not name any of the recipients of Zuberi's illegal campaign contributions, though his $900,000 contribution to President Trump's inaugural fund put Zuberi on the map for federal prosecutors in New York. Zuberi previously donated to Democrats, including former President Barack Obama.

"In addition to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), Zuberi is charged in a criminal information with tax evasion and making almost $1 million in illegal campaign contributions that included funneling money from foreign entities and individuals to influence U.S. elections," the Justice Department said. "While some U.S. officials were willing to take action on issues Zuberi put forward, most of Zuberi's business efforts were unsuccessful and his clients suffered significant losses."

The Justice Department singled out Zuberi's work on behalf of Sri Lanka and for a Bahraini citizen seeking U.S. pressure on Bahrain to lift sanctions. Zuberi also reportedly worked with Michael Cohen, then Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, to leverage their connection with Trump to obtain lucrative business deals. Zuberi faces up to 15 years in prison once he pleaded guilty.

"This case should deter individuals who seek to provide false statements to the department and covertly influence our political process on behalf of foreign governments," Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement. "The Department of Justice treats these crimes with the gravity that they deserve and will continue to aggressively identify, investigate, and prosecute FARA violations." Peter Weber

February 20, 2018

What's the best way to lose weight? Scientists still don't have an answer, but they have managed to rule out one trendy option.

A recent popular theory among dieters is that certain types of diets may be more effective than others, based on individual dieters' genes. But a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday says this is, essentially, bunk.

Researchers at Stanford University conducted a study on overweight adults to find out whether certain weight loss methods would be more successful with certain genetic makeups. In total, 600 participants were randomly assigned to either a low-fat or a low-carbohydrate diet. Additionally, all participants had their DNA analyzed to determine whether they had a gene that could predict better weight loss under one of the diets.

The participants then followed their randomly assigned diets for a year. But after comparing the diet regimens to the DNA analysis, the researchers found no evidence that the predicted gene markers made any difference in what form of dieting works best for different people, Live Science reported. While there was overall success in losing weight — an average of 11.5 pounds for participants on the low-fat diet, and 13 pounds for those on the low-carb one — there were no significant differences between those who had the expected "right genes" for each diet and those who didn't.

The researchers plan to continue to analyze their data in order to try to determine other possible indicators for what types of diets might work best for different people. Read more about the study's findings at Live Science. Shivani Ishwar

November 10, 2016

On Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration took control of Atlantic City, approving a five-year takeover to prevent the city, $500 million in debt, from declaring bankruptcy. Atlantic City and its mayor, Donald Guardian (R), had submitted a financial plan to the state government last week, but the state said it was insufficient to right the seaside town's finances. Under state control, the New Jersey Local Finance Board will have the power to overrule the City Council, hire and fire municipal workers, break union contracts, and sell off assets, including the defunct airport and the city's prized water utility.

"It's an incredible responsibility, one that I've lost sleep over the last few weeks," said Timothy Cunningham, head of the finance board. "I'm sure I'm going to lose sleep tonight." Steve Young, a community activist, wasn't sympathetic. "This is an example of what this country could turn out to be under Chris Christie and President-elect Donald Trump, taking away our rights and sovereignty," he told The Associated Press. "Who do we talk to as residents? What will government look like with the state of New Jersey overpowering the residents? We are headed for some bad times, and your city could be next."

Atlantic City, with about 39,000 residents, has been drained of revenue by a sharp decline in the city's casino business, thanks in part to legalized gambling in neighboring Pennsylvania and other nearby states. Five of Atlantic City's 12 casino's have closed since 2014, including the Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal, and the income to casinos dropped to $2.56 billion last year from $5.2 billion in 2006. At the same time, the city's value has dropped to $6 billion from $21 billion, says Marc Pfeiffer at Rutgers University. "The city's not dead," he said. "They haven't been able to get their expenses under control to live within their circumstances." Christie is widely expected to join the Trump administration. Peter Weber

July 19, 2016

It looks like it's pretty safe to rule out any chance that Melania Trump's plagiarism of Michelle Obama's convention speech was an accident. Despite some defenders saying Melania Trump lifted words "coincidentally," the Washingtonian used Turnitin.com to find that "the likelihood that a 16-word match," like the one between Trump's speech and Obama's, is "'just a coincidence' is less than 1 in a trillion." The longest match between the two speeches is 23 words:

Nevertheless, Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort proposed that the similarities between the speeches are indeed that one-in-1-trillion chance. "These are common words," he argued. Jeva Lange

July 18, 2016

A report by the World Anti-Doping Agency released Monday confirmed accusations by Russia's former anti-doping lab director, Grigory Rodchenkov, that the Russian government orchestrated an elaborate cheating scheme at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The report, produced by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, concluded "beyond a reasonable doubt" that "Russia's ministry of sport, its antidoping organization, and the country's federal security service" were involved in covering up the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes at the Sochi Games, The New York Times reported.

Just as Rodchenkov claimed back in May, the investigation found that tamper-proof bottles containing urine samples were broken into, and that contaminated samples taken from medal-winning athletes were swapped out. "The surprise result of the Sochi investigation was the revelation of the extent of state oversight and directed control of the Moscow laboratory in processing, and covering up urine samples of Russian athletes from virtually all sports before and after the Sochi Games," McLaren wrote in the report.

Russia said last week that if the report were to find any of the allegations to be true, the World Anti-Doping Agency would also bear responsibility for inadequately monitoring regulatory facilities. The Washington Post reported anti-doping officials in the U.S. and Canada have already prepared a letter calling for all Russian athletes to be barred from this summer's Rio Olympics. Becca Stanek

March 8, 2016

A Massachusetts seventh grader might have just proved Tom Brady's innocence. St. Pius V Elementary School's Ben Goodell — no relation to NFL commissioner Roger — won his second-straight science fair with a football PSI experiment, Sports Illustrated reports.

Goodell's Deflategate project required taking properly inflated footballs and exposing them to different weather conditions such as snow, wind chill, humidity, cold, and ice. "Every time, it dropped two PSI. The lowest PSI recorded during deflategate was two PSI under proper inflation. I had [the football] at proper inflation when I started," Goodell said.

"I think some people think science is only in a laboratory. It's really all around us all the time. That's what gets kids hooked: relevance," Principal Paul D. Maestranzi explained.

Indeed. "I wanted to prove that Tom Brady wasn't guilty," Goodell said. Jeva Lange

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