Strange sounds stump Clintonville No explanation found for large booms

Download 56.09 Kb.
Size56.09 Kb.
The solar wind is 377.8 km/sec. There are four sunspots, not so much clusters at this time, and 1445 is crackling with C Class Flares. Sunspot cluster AR1429, the source of so many strong flares and geomagnetic storms earlier this month, is still erupting. The active region produced a significant coronal mass ejection on March 24th but it is pointed away from earth at this time.
On Tuesday, March 27th, between midnight and 5 am EDT, NASA plans a rapid-fire launch of five sounding rockets from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rockets will deliver a chemical tracer to the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere, forming milky white plumes that reveal high-speed winds at the edge of space. The display should be visible to the naked eye from coastal areas between South Carolina and New Jersey.
Strange sounds stump Clintonville

No explanation found for large booms

Updated: Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 10:28 AM CDT

Published : Monday, 19 Mar 2012, 11:28 AM CDT

  • Reporter: Bill Miston

CLINTONVILLE - Residents in a Waupaca County community say they are puzzled by some explosion-like sounds.

There are still really no answers in Clintonville about whom or what caused the loud booms people say they heard Sunday night and into the morning.

The police department started getting calls shortly before 2 a.m. from people saying their homes were rattling and shaking. The calls focused on the northeast area of the city.

Both Clintonville city leaders and residents say they are confused. 

"It was kind of like constant boom, boom, boom!” said resident Joseph Clauson. "And you could feel like the ground shaking beneath you and whatnot.”

"It almost felt like a heavy duty thunderstorm, but it was shaking though,” said resident Al Miller.

"And we both just started searching the house,” said resident Lindsay Pockat.

Police, fire and utility crews first looked for obvious causes, like elevated gas levels in manholes and sewers. But city officials say nothing was out of the ordinary. Now they are looking at other possibilities.

"We've talked to meteorologists, geologists. We've talked to our county and the counties around, seeing if people have explosive permits,” said Clintonville City Administrator Lisa Kuss.

The city did confirm there are no mining or explosive companies working in the area.

While the calls for the noises started late Sunday night and early Monday morning, Art Bassette says he's heard the same noises over the last couple months.

"But it would be just one loud clap and I just thought somebody's playing. Some kids had some firecrackers and didn't know what to do with themselves. I don't know. I don't think anybody else knows, do they?” said Bassette.

City officials say they believe the public is safe.

Kuss says she talked with the United States military. Military officials say they have nothing going on in the area which would cause the booming sounds. 

Mysterious booming sounds are occasionally heard on the North Carolina coast, often powerful enough to rattle windows and doors. They cannot be explained by thunderstorms or any manmade sources — their source is a mystery.

Such dins are not unique to North Carolina or the modern age. People living near Seneca Lake in upstate New York have long known of similar booming sounds, which they called “Seneca guns.” In coastal Belgium, they are known as “mistpouffers,” or fog belches; in the Ganges delta and the Bay of Bengal, “Bansal guns;” in the Italian Apennines, “brontidi,” or thunder-like; and by the Harami people of Shikoku, Japan, “yan.”

“What’s going on is an interesting challenge, whatever it might be,” said seismologist David Hill, scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey office in Menlo Park, Calif.

Long list of explanations
A host of plausible explanations may now exist for these enigmas, including earthquakes, rock bursts, mud volcanoes, explosive venting of gas, storm-driven waves, tsunamis, meteors, distant thunder and so-called booming sands.

“It seems there is quite a range of processes in nature that might be responsible,” Hill told OurAmazingPlanet.

“Earwitnesses” described sounds like booming cannons or falling stones accompanying small to moderate earthquakes in England from 1880 to 1916. In 1975, U.S. Geological Survey researchers managed to record both acoustic and seismic signals of an earthquake swarm in California, finding that three earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 2.0 to 2.8 produced sounds that began within 0.02 seconds of the arrival of seismic waves at the scientists’ station. Similar results were seen with quakes in the French Pyrenees in 2004.

All in all, audible sounds from earthquakes might be perceived even when shaking is not, Hill suggested. For instance, while earthquakes are rare in coastal North Carolina, they are relatively common in the Charleston area of South Carolina, the site of the 1886 magnitude 7.6 Charleston quake, and the Catskill Mountains that Seneca Lake is located within do host low-level earthquake activity. Locals could be hearing an earthquake that is too small for them to feel.

Also, rock bursts, where long-buried rock can suddenly release stress, often because of mining removing confining material above it, can essentially be seen as a type of small, near-surface earthquake. Scientists have reported feeling perceptible jolts and hearing sharp booming sounds from such bursts, Hill said.

Giant waves might also be responsible for the mystery sounds, Hill suggested. Scientists have found that booming sounds are apparently familiar to big-wave surfers during extreme waves. In addition, after the catastrophic 2004 magnitude 9.1 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami, multiple witnesses said they heard loud, offshore booming sounds closely accompanying two or three of the largest waves that struck the coast at any given site.

“I was surprised to learn about the possibility that tsunamis produce these kinds of sounds,” Hill said. “I don’t think anyone understands that process.”

Hill suggests the sounds heard off the coasts of North Carolina, Belgium and the Bay of Bengal might be large waves caused by distant storms that break well offshore, beyond outer banks or barrier beaches. Such waves might also disrupt offshore methane hydrate deposits, leading to explosive venting of high-pressure gas trapped deep within the Earth.

Booming sands and seismometers
Another possibility is meteors. Meteors can generate sonic booms and explode dramatically as they plummet from space. Given how long it can take a shockwave to reach the Earth’s surface from the upper atmosphere, visible signs of the meteor can vanish before its sonic boom is heard, especially during the daytime, Hill noted.

Under the right circumstances, even sand dunes can generate a variety of sounds, including whispering, humming, whistling and squeaking. Booming sands, comparable to rumbling thunder, can be heard to distances of 6 miles and for as long as 15 minutes, are possible as well. They generally appear limited to large sand dunes in arid climates with steep faces pointing away from the wind, and seem to require loosely packed, very smooth, almost spherical sand grains.

“In the eastern desert in Egypt, the Bedouins have a long history of hearing booms and avoiding that area — after installing seismometers there, researchers were able to go back and see these sounds seem correlated with small earthquakes that caused booming sands,” Hill said.

In the future, after potential artificial sources of mysterious booming sounds are ruled out, such as military exercises and quarry blasts, seismic networks could quickly reveal if earthquakes or volcanoes were responsible. For instance, the USArray, a mobile network of seismometers, is currently moving east across the United States and “it might help resolve the issue of what the sounds on the North Carolina coast are,” Hill said.

Hill detailed this research in the September-October issue of the journal Seismological Research Letters.
USGS: Micro-quake near Wis. city bothered by booms


Associated Press

ap photo
AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger

US Video


Buy AP Photo Reprints

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A minor earthquake occurred this week near the eastern Wisconsin city where researchers have been investigating a series of unexplained booming sounds, federal geologists said Thursday.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 1.5-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday just after midnight in Clintonville, a town of about 4,600 people about 40 miles west of Green Bay.

Geophysicist Paul Caruso told The Associated Press that loud booming noises have been known to accompany earthquakes. It's possible the mysterious sounds that town officials have been investigating are linked to the quake, he said.

Earthquakes can generate seismic energy that moves through rock at thousands of miles per hour, producing a sonic boom when the waves come to the surface, Caruso said.

"To be honest, I'm skeptical that there'd be a sound report associated with such a small earthquake, but it's possible," he said.

Those reservations didn't stop Clintonville City Administrator Lisa Kuss from declaring "the mystery is solved" at a news conference Thursday evening.

She said USGS representatives described the event as a swarm of several small earthquakes in a very short time.

"In other places in the United States, a 1.5 earthquake would not be felt," she said. "But the type of rock Wisconsin has transmits seismic energy very well."

The U.S. Geological Survey says earthquakes with magnitude of 2.0 or less aren't commonly felt by people and are generally recorded only on local seismographs. Caruso said the Tuesday earthquake was discovered after people reported feeling something, and geologists pored through their data to determine that an earthquake did indeed strike.

Local residents have reported late-night disturbances since Sunday, including a shaking ground and loud booms that sound like thunder or fireworks.

City officials investigated and ruled out a number of human-related explanations, such as construction, traffic, military exercises and underground work.

Clintonville resident Jordan Pfeiler, 21, said she doubted an earthquake caused the noises. She said the booms she experienced were in a series over the course of several hours and not continuous as she might have expected if they were caused by an earthquake.

Still, she said, "It's a little scary knowing Clintonville could even have earthquakes."

Steve Dutch, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said a 1.5 magnitude earthquake produces the energy equivalent of 100 pounds of explosives and could produce loud sounds.

But he was reluctant to describe Tuesday's event as an earthquake, saying the term is generally used to refer to widespread stress in the earth's crust. What happened in Wisconsin could be near the surface, perhaps caused by groundwater movement or thermal expansion of underground pipes, he said.

Still, Dutch said it was possible that the event could produce a series of sounds over time.

"If you've got something causing a little bit of shifting underground, it may take a while for whatever is causing it to play itself out," he said

Caruso, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist, said Tuesday's event was confirmed as an earthquake because it registered on six different seismometers, including some as far as central Iowa.

Jolene Van Beek, 41, had been jarred awake several times by late-night rumbling this week. When asked by telephone Thursday whether she thought the noises were caused by an earthquake, she joked that she was at a nearby lake "waiting for the tsunami to hit."

"Anything to do with earthquakes is going to freak people out," she said. "You'd never expect it in Wisconsin."
1000’s of New Agers Descend Upon Mountain Called Noah’s Ark.
A mountain looming over a French commune with a population of just 200 is being touted as a modern Noah's Ark when doomsday arrives – supposedly less than nine months from now.

A rapidly increasing stream of New Age believers – or esoterics, as locals call them – have descended in their camper van-loads on the usually picturesque and tranquil Pyrenean village of Bugarach. They believe that when apocalypse strikes on 21 December this year, the aliens waiting in their spacecraft inside Pic de Bugarach will save all the humans near by and beam them off to the next age.

As the cataclysmic date – which, according to eschatological beliefs and predicted astrological alignments, concludes a 5,125-year cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar – nears, the goings-on around the peak have become more bizarre and ritualistic.

For decades, there has been a belief that Pic de Bugarach, which, at 1,230 metres, is the highest in the Corbières mountain range, possesses an eery power. Often called the "upside-down mountain" – geologists think that it exploded after its formation and the top landed the wrong way up – it is thought to have inspired Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Since the 1960s, it has attracted New Agers, who insist that it emits special magnetic waves.

Further, rumours persist that the country's late president François Mitterrand was transported by helicopter on to the peak, while the Nazis, and, later, Israel's Mossad, performed mysterious digs there. Now the nearby village is awash with New Agers, who have boosted the local economy, though their naked group climbs up to the peak have raised concerns as well as eyebrows. Among other oddities, some hikers have been spotted scaling the mountain carrying a ball with a golden ring, strung together by a single thread.

A grizzled man wearing a white linen smock, who calls himself Jean, set up a yurt in the forest a couple of years ago to prepare for the earth's demise. "The apocalypse we believe in is the end of a certain world and the beginning of another," he offers. "A new spiritual world. The year 2012 is the end of a cycle of suffering. Bugarach is one of the major chakras of the earth, a place devoted to welcoming the energies of tomorrow."

Upwards of 100,000 people are thought to be planning a trip to the mountain, 30 miles west of Perpignan, in time for 21 December, and opportunistic entrepreneurs are shamelessly cashing in on the phenomenon. While American travel agents have been offering special, one-way deals to witness the end of the world, a neighbouring village, Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, has produced a wine to celebrate the occasion.

Jean-Pierre Delord, the perplexed mayor of Bugarach, has flagged up the situation to the French authorities, requesting they scramble the army to the tiny village for fear of a mass suicide. It has also caught the attention of France's sect watchdog, Miviludes.

A genial sexagenarian, Mr Delord says: "We've seen a huge rise in visitors. Already this year more than 20,000 people have climbed right to the top, and last year we had 10,000 hikers, which was a significant rise on the previous 12 months. They think Pic de Bugarach is 'un garage à ovnis' [an alien garage]. The villagers are exasperated: the exaggerated importance of something which they see as completely removed from reality is bewildering. After 21 December, this will surely return to normal."

Masking his fears of what might happen on 21 December, Mr Delord jokes that he will throw a party and supply vin chaud and cheese. "I'm sure we'll have a little fete to celebrate that we're still alive," he smiles. "I suppose it's up to each of us to find our own way."

MF’s Corzine Ordered Funds Moved to JP Morgan, Memo Says

By Phil Mattingly and Silla Brush - Mar 23, 2012 7:07 PM ET

  • LinkedIn

  • Google +1


  • Print



Jon S. Corzine, MF Global Holding Ltd. (MFGLQ)’s chief executive officer, gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in a brokerage account with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), according to a memo written by congressional investigators.

Edith O’Brien, a treasurer for the firm, said in an e-mail quoted in the memo that the transfer was “Per JC’s direct instructions,” according to a copy of the memo obtained by Bloomberg News. The e-mail, dated Oct. 28, was sent three days before the company collapsed, the memo says. The memo does not indicate whether that phrase was the full text of the e-mail or an excerpt.

Enlarge image jon corzine

Jon S. Corzine, former chairman and chief executive officer of MF Global Holdings Ltd., during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington on Dec. 15, 2011. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

`storm cloud\' headed for corzine, berenzweig says


Play Video

March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg News reporter Phil Mattingly and Seth Berenzweig, managing partner at Berenzweig Leonard, talk about a Bloomberg News report that Jon S. Corzine, MF Global Holding Ltd.’s chief executive officer, gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in one of the brokerage’s JPMorgan Chase & Co. accounts in London, according to an e-mail sent by a firm executive. They speak with Trish Regan and Adam Johnson on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart." (Source: Bloomberg)

pelosky, brusca, lipton on mf global, march 23


Play Video

March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg News reporter Phil Mattingly, Jay Pelosky, consultant at J2Z Advisory, Bloomberg View columnist William Cohan, Robert Brusca, president of Fact & Opinion Economics, and Bloomberg Television markets correspondent Joshua Lipton talk about a Bloomberg News report that Jon S. Corzine, MF Global Holding Ltd.’s chief executive officer, gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in one of the brokerage’s JPMorgan Chase & Co. accounts in London, according to an e-mail sent by a firm executive. They speak with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Television's "Taking Stock." (Cohan is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. Source: Bloomberg)

mf global’s corzine ordered funds moved to jpmorgan


Play Video

March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Jon S. Corzine , MF Global Holding Ltd.’s chief executive officer, gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in one of the brokerage’s JPMorgan Chase & Co. accounts in London, according to an e-mail sent by a firm executive. Bloomberg's Julie Hyman reports on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart." (Source: Bloomberg)

cftc may act on new rules by summer, chilton says


Play Video

March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, talks about the investigation into bankrupt commodities broker MF Global Inc. and prospects for regulations that would place tighter restrictions on firms' use of investor funds. Chilton speaks with Scarlet Fu on Bloomberg Television's "InBusiness With Margaret Brennan." (Source: Bloomberg)

Enlarge image mf global

MF Global Holdings Ltd. signage is displayed at 60 East 53rd Street in New York. Photographer: Stephen Yang/Bloomberg

O’Brien’s internal e-mail was sent as the New York-based broker found intraday credit lines limited by JPMorgan, the firm’s clearing bank as well as one of its custodian banks for segregated customer funds, according to the memo, which was prepared for a March 28 House Financial Services subcommittee hearing on the firm’s collapse. O’Brien is scheduled to testify at the hearing after being subpoenaed this week.

“Over the course of that week, MF Global (MFGLQ)’s financial position deteriorated, but the firm represented to its regulators and self-regulatory organizations that its customers’ segregated funds were safe,” said the memo, written by Financial Services Committee staff and sent to lawmakers.

Steven Goldberg, a spokesman for Corzine, said in a statement that Corzine “never gave any instruction to misuse customer funds and never intended anyone at MF Global to misuse customer funds.”

JPMorgan Overdraft

Vinay Mahajan, global treasurer of MF Global Holdings, wrote an e-mail on Oct. 28 that said JPMorgan was “holding up vital business in the U.S. as a result” of the overdrawn account, which had to be “fully funded ASAP,” according to the memo.

Barry Zubrow, JPMorgan’s chief risk officer, called Corzine to seek assurances that the funds belonged to MF Global and not customers. JPMorgan drafted a letter to be signed by O’Brien to ensure that MF Global was complying with rules requiring customers’ collateral to be segregated. The letter was not returned to JPMorgan, the memo said.

The money transferred came from a segregated customer account, according to congressional investigators. Segregated accounts can include customer money and excess company funds.

Corzine Testimony

Corzine, 65, in testimony in front of the House panel in December, said he did not order any improper transfer of customer funds. Corzine also testified that he never intended a misuse of customer funds at MF Global, and that he doesn’t know where client funds went.

“I never gave any instruction to misuse customer funds, I never intended anyone at MF Global to misuse customer funds and I don’t believe that anything I said could reasonably have been interpreted as an instruction to misuse customer funds,” Corzine told lawmakers in December.

In his statement, Goldberg said Corzine did not specify which funds should be used to replenish the JPMorgan account.

“He never directed Ms. O’Brien or anyone else regarding which account should be used to cure the overdrafts, and he never directed that customer funds should be used for that purpose,” Goldberg said. “Nor was he informed that customer funds had been used for that purpose.”

$1.6-Billion Shortfall

The bankruptcy trustee overseeing the liquidation of the company’s brokerage subsidiary has estimated a $1.6-billion shortfall between customer claims and assets available.

Lawmakers and investigators from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice have been reviewing events leading up to MF Global’s bankruptcy filing. Executives including Corzine, a Democrat who served in the Senate before he was elected governor of New Jersey, gave testimony on the collapse at three congressional hearings last year.

“If client funds were transferred at his direction, it raises new questions,” Seth Berenzweig, managing partner at Berenzweig Leonard LLP, a law firm in McLean, Virginia, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “This is a new storm cloud that is now headed for Jon Corzine and it raises a lot of issues.”

Representative Randy Neugebauer, a Texas Republican and chairman of the Financial Services oversight and investigations subcommittee, is preparing a final report on his investigation into the firm’s failure.

What Went Wrong’

“One of the goals of our investigation is not only to find out where the money went but to identify what went wrong in order to prevent this from happening again,” Neugebauer said in a statement.

O’Brien is scheduled to appear before lawmakers with Christine Serwinski and Laurie Ferber, two other MF Global executives named by Corzine as being involved in the transaction, according to the memo. Henri Steenkamp , the firm’s chief financial officer, is also scheduled to testify, as is a representative from JPMorgan who has not yet been identified.

MF Global and its brokerage sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a $6.3 billion bet on the bonds of some of Europe’s most indebted nations prompted regulator concerns and a credit rating downgrade. Corzine quit MF Global Nov. 4.

During his testimony, O’Brien was identified by Corzine as someone with knowledge of a transfer of funds from customer accounts before the firm sought bankruptcy protection Oct. 31.

Reid H. Weingarten, O’Brien’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

The memo’s account of the e-mail exchanges aligns with what Terrence Duffy, the executive chairman at CME Group Inc. (CME), told lawmakers during a December congressional hearing. Auditors at CME, which had authority to oversee MF Global, learned from an employee of the brokerage that Corzine knew about the loans involving a European affiliate, Duffy told committee members.

What I see coming is John Corsine’s assumption of room temperature. He knows where the money went, and the receivers of the money do not want to give it back. He also knows who told him to steal that money. Why would a man like that engage in this plot? There are only two reasons. One, he is stupid. Two, he has friends in high places that have eaten tofu at $35,000 a plate suppers for the president. He will pay the price before he ever gets a chance to accept a plea with immunity.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. MF Global was margined at a rate above 90%. There are 20 more firms that are margined at 80% and 70%, and they control billions of dollars. What is the real exposure here?
Ann BarnHardt Interview
It isn’t the bank that is being robbed anymore. It’s a cleaner crime now.

Tide detergent new black market darling; stores lock it down

Atlanta Business Chronicle by Carla Caldwell, Morning Call Editor
Law enforcement officials across the country are battling a new crime wave – theft of Tide laundry detergent. The retail price of the product – roughly $10 to $20 a bottle – and its ongoing popularity in households is making it a growing target for thieves who swipe it from store shelves and resell it at a discount on the street, reports The Daily.

Theft of Tide detergent has become so rampant that some police departments are setting up special task forces to stop it. Some retailers, including some CVS stores, are even locking down the liquid, The Daily reported.

A Tide thief in West St. Paul, Minn., took $25,000 worth of the product over 15 months before he was arrested last year, the website said.

“That was unique that he stole so much soap,” said West St. Paul Police Chief Bud Shaver. “The name brand is [all] Tide. Amazing, huh?”

Police said Tide, made by Procter & Gamble    (NYSE: PG) is the detergent stolen most often because it is among the most popular detergents, and the detergent's orange label is among the most recognizable of laundry product brands.

It was unclear from The Daily report posted this week how widespread theft of Tide is in Georgia.

Is black-market baby formula financing terror?

By Mark Clayton, The Christian Science Monitor

On the day terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, a Texas state trooper pulled over a rental van driven by a Middle Eastern man toward Houston. Opening the cargo door, the officer found a huge load of ... baby formula.

False alarm? Not really. Police later identified the driver as a member of a terrorist group and linked him to a nationwide theft ring that specialized in reselling stolen infant formula, says Sgt. Johnnie Jezierski of the Special Crimes Service of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Proceeds were wired to the Middle East. The driver is still under investigation.

Operation Blackbird, as Texas investigators dubbed their multistate baby-formula investigation, has since led to felony charges against more than 40 suspects, about half illegal immigrants. Authorities have seized some $2.7 million in stolen assets, including $1 million worth of formula.

Blackbird was just the beginning. In the nearly four years since 9/11, police have uncovered and dismantled a growing number of regional and national theft rings specializing in shoplifted infant formula, over-the-counter medicines, and personal-care products. At least eight of the major baby-formula cases have involved "fences" who are of Middle Eastern descent or who have ties to that region, according to a Monitor review of congressional testimony, news accounts, and a study by the National Retail Federation released Tuesday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has traced money from these infant-formula traffickers back to nations where terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hizbullah, are active, investigators say. Then, the trail usually goes cold. Once funds enter such countries, there's often no way to track them.

FBI Director Robert Mueller first talked of a possible link in a speech last fall. He did it again in testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence in February, saying: "Middle Eastern criminal enterprises involved in the organized theft and resale of infant formula pose not only an economic threat, but a public health threat to infants, and a potential source of material support to a terrorist organization."

So far, most officials are unwilling to draw conclusive links between proceeds from shoplifted formula and terror financing, saying only that they're "likely" or "probable" in some cases.

"Just because you have an infant- formula operation doesn't mean it's a terror funding operation," says Sergeant Jezierski. "But to say there's no terrorist funding isn't the case either."

While many terrorist groups eschew criminal commerce because it tends to attract police attention, other groups finance themselves with theft, fraud, and smuggling. The Irish Republican Army, Colombia's FARC, and Hizbullah all have engaged in criminal enterprises, says Matthew Levitt, a former FBI counterterrorism analyst, now director of terrorism studies at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Some Al Qaeda cells, mostly at the fringes of their operations, have engaged in criminal self-financing, he says. "Important operational funding can come from these criminal activities.... If you are funding yourself, it's freeing up the home organization."

Less convinced is Mardi Mountford, executive director of the International Formula Council, an Atlanta-based trade association that represents infant formula manufacturers in the United States. "We've heard that speculation, but we're not aware of a direct connection."

Theft of baby formula from store shelves has risen over the past decade, costing retailers billions of dollars. Formula was the fourth most-often-shoplifted item last year, according to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, a Washington, D.C., trade group.

In the wake of several cases in North Carolina and Florida, some retailers have transferred formula from store shelves to behind the counter. One big grocery chain, Albertsons Inc., now keeps a few cans on the shelf — along with a sign directing customers to the courtesy counter.

Calling it "a serious security issue" for retailers, the National Retail Federation unveiled its 200-page report highlighting "organized retail theft" of infant formula. At least seven of the report's 10 case studies detail fencing operations run by citizens of Middle Eastern origin.

"The rings I identified dealing in stolen infant formula are operated mostly by Middle Easterners," says Charles Miller, a loss-prevention consultant and author of the report. They typically organize the rings, pay the shoplifters (who are mostly from Latin America), repackage the formula, and resell it. Out of $30 billion in annual retail theft, about $7 billion of infant formula is stolen and resold for a tidy profit, Mr. Miller estimates.

The scheme works this way: A shoplifter may get $5 for a can of formula from his fence, who then reboxes the loot and sells that to a dishonest retailer for $9 a can. That retailer then sells it for perhaps $15 or $16 a can. The result may be a $6 or $7 profit a can for the dishonest retailer — instead of pennies a can for the honest merchant, Miller says.

Several Middle Eastern businessmen have already been charged or convicted in connection with baby-formula thefts.

Mohammed Khalil Ghali was sentenced in February to 14 years in prison, convicted on 15 counts that included transporting stolen goods and money laundering. A search warrant states that money generated from the sale of the goods was wired to banks in the Middle East, "specifically Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine." Nine of the 11 individuals indicted in the case are of Middle Eastern descent, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Samih Fadl Jamal was a fixture in Phoenix, until investigators discovered that his company gained $11 million in profits from the sale of $22 million of stolen baby formula from 2001 to 2003, prosecutors say.

In all, 27 people connected to the Jamal Trading company scheme were indicted, most from Iraq, Jordan, or Lebanon. Some are naturalized U.S. citizens; others overstayed student or visitor visas, the National Retail Federation report said. Investigators' wiretaps indicated that about $8 million was funneled to countries in the Middle East, where it disappeared. Mr. Jamal, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Lebanon, was convicted in April of 20 counts of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen property and other related charges, as well as money laundering.

Of course, just because the money goes to the Middle East doesn't mean it's going to terrorists, some groups point out.

"To say that — 'Oh, there's a chance that these funds went to fund terrorism because there are terrorist groups active in this country' — is irresponsible," says Rabia Ahmed of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington. "We've seen many cases like this, where a prominent Muslim leader has been charged with horrible things, but it ends up being some kind of immigration technicality."

First identified in the early 1980s, organized retail theft is a key feature of baby-formula theft. Teams of professional shoplifters may travel 200 to 300 miles over a week or more, Miller says. Typically each has a shoplifting list of specific brands of infant formula, medications, shaving products, and batteries given them by their fences.

Shoplifting teams may involve five or six women or young men. Typically they disperse into a store in pairs or separately, posting lookouts to watch for store security. Then a separate team loads carts of formula and goes straight to the exit where a vehicle is waiting, investigators say.

Formula is a favorite of theft rings mostly because of the steady demand, high cost, and large profit margins. Its price is also supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's $4.9 billion Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

To battle this trend, Texas authorities mandated that retailers participating in WIC must purchase their infant formula from approved WIC wholesalers or the manufacturers themselves. U.S. Rep. John Carter (R) of Texas sponsored legislation included in the WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 that aims to eliminate the market for stolen infant formula with a similar mandate. But those measures have not been implemented in most states.

As of May, the USDA has mandated that stores nationwide use a licensed wholesaler, say Oklahoma officials, where a recent burst of formula shoplifting has drawn attention even though Oklahoma is one of the few states that require stores to buy from a licensed wholesaler.

A key problem is that many local law enforcement officers view baby- formula theft as petty shoplifting — and shoplifting laws tend to be soft, experts say. Few shoplifters go to jail.

But there are signs that that attitude is changing. The Retail Industry Leaders Association in March testified before Congress, asking for tougher laws to crack down on organized shoplifting. Major retailers like Wal-Mart, Kroger, Walgreens, and others reported to be losing millions on shoplifted baby-formula have internal teams focused on the problem.

Although the FBI has also deployed teams nationwide to crack down on organized retail theft, some investigators say the problem is growing — and moving onto the Internet. On Monday, the online auction house eBay carried more than 1,000 offers of Enfamil baby formula. "This problem is getting worse, no question," Miller says. "It is in every state in the union, and neither law enforcement nor the retailers have their arms around it."
Do you want to know why these items are being stolen and traded like illegal drugs across the nation? Why are commodities showing up as black market bulk trade items ahead of bales of cash? Because it’s value does not change like the dollar.
Andy Bobbert’s Report
Inflation is taking the lead as a driving force. This is not due to market growth, shortages, or demand. It is 100% driven by the agency-government printing money to pay the US debt. All the money has been borrowed that can be magically created with federal reserve pixie dust.

Download 56.09 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page