Posts Tagged ‘fraud’
Why do archaeological fraudsters work so hard to deceive us? Because bad science makes for good stories: “What Lies Beneath.”
[image above sourced here]
* Terry Pratchett,
As we dig, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt; he was born on this date in 1769. The younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher, and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, Alexander was a geographer, naturalist, explorer, and champion of Romantic philosophy. Among many other contributions to human knowledge, his quantitative work on botanical geography laid the foundation for the field of biogeography; his advocacy of long-term systematic geophysical measurement laid the foundation for modern geomagnetic and meteorological monitoring.
Readers can try their hands at recognizing the identifying hues of tech brands, NFL teams, and NHL clubs at Name that Blue.
[TotH to @mattiekahn]
As we cogitate on color, we might recall that it was on this date in 2001 that energy high-flyer Enron (which had blue, among other colors, in its logo) declared bankruptcy. The company, to that point a widely-cited exemplar effective corporate management (Fortune named it “America’s Most Innovative Company” six years in a row), turned out to have been innovative in an altogether different way: it was revealed that Enron’s performance– it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion during 2000– was largely the product of institutionalized, systematic, and stealthily-executed accounting fraud. In the aftermath, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed; Arthur Andersen, the auditing firm that certified Enron’s results (and was, in the most charitable construction, asleep at the switch) went out of business; 11 financial institutions (among them, Deutsche Bank and Citicorp) paid over $20 billion dollars into the bankruptcy creditors’ account in recompense for having colluded with management… and “Enron” became synonymous with “corporate fraud and corruption.”
Last week, the United States Postal Service announced that it would be ending Saturday letter deliveries as of August, 2013. The decision is partly financial—it will save a couple billion dollars—but then, the post office wouldn’t be going broke if not for a series of legislative mandates so absurd that they make the decision to sponsor Lance Armstrong look almost prudent.
To commemorate the change, The New Yorker has collected a series of its Postal cartoons– “Is the Post Office Being Funny?”
As we check the forecast for rain, sleet, or snow, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that a Florida audience enjoyed what they thought was a club performance by Aretha Franklin. In the end the performer, a woman named Vickie Jones, was arrested for impersonating the diva, and charged with fraud– but she was sufficiently entertaining that nobody in the club demanded a refund.
From Collectors Weekly:
These days, “snake oil” is synonymous with quackery, the phoniest of phony medicines. A “snake oil salesman” promises you the world, takes your money, and is long gone by the time you realize the product in your hands is completely worthless. But… the original snake oil actually worked.
In the 1860s, Chinese laborers immigrated to the United States to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. At night, they would rub their sore, tired muscles with ointment made from Chinese water snake (Enhydris chinensis), an ancient Chinese remedy they shared with their American co-workers.
A 2007 story in Scientific American explains that California neurophysiology researcher Richard Kunin made the connection between Chinese water snakes and omega-3 fatty acids in the 1980s.
“Kunin visited San Francisco’s Chinatown to buy such snake oil and analyze it. According to his 1989 analysis published in the Western Journal of Medicine, Chinese water-snake oil contains 20 percent eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the two types of omega-3 fatty acids most readily used by our bodies. Salmon, one of the most popular food sources of omega-3s, contains a maximum of 18 percent EPA, lower than that of snake oil.”
However, it wasn’t until several years after Kunin’s research that American scientists discovered that omega-3s are vital for human metabolism. Not only do they sooth inflammation in muscles and joints, but also, they can help “cognitive function and reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and even depression.”
So why does snake oil have such a bad rap?
Well, hucksters that sold patent or proprietary medicine caught wind of the miraculous muscle-soothing powers of snake oil. Naturally, they decided to sell their own versions of snake oil—but it was just much easier to forgo using actual snakes…
As we give credit where credit is due, we might recall that it was on this date in 1721 that John Copson of Philadelphia became the first insurance agent in the Americas, and took out the first advertisement for insurance (in the American Weekly Mercury); he opened the first insurance office several days later. While there’s no record of how Copson fared, his initiative was sufficiently precedential that four years later the first book printed by Benjamin Franklin contained a long passage extolling the virtues of indemnification.
Happy Towel Day!
… but you can’t make him think.
There is enough iron in a human being to make one small nail.
A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top.
Rapper Ice Cube’s real name is O’Shea Jackson.
There are 336 dimples in a regulation golf ball.
Readers can recharge with hundreds of other fatuous facts at Unnecessary Knowledge.
As we perfect our impersonations of Mr. Nigel-Murray, we might recall that it was on this date in 1986 that Ivan Boesky copped a plea, accepting a $100 million dollar fine for insider trading– he confessed to making $200 million trading illegally on inside information– and agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors in rolling up the nationwide network of nods-and-winks that had fueled the Wall Street boom of the 80s. Among those caught in the subsequent round-up was Junk Bond king Michael Milken, who was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud, and pled guilty to six. Milken’s fines and payments-in-restitution totaled over $1 billion. Boesky served 22 months of a three year sentence in Federal prison. Milken was sentenced to 10 years; but served only 19 months.
Boesky (top), Milken on their ways into the courthouse (source)