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Monday, May 21, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Literary Awards

Literary awards are lightening rods for controversy. In the history of the Nobel Prize For Literature, there are numerous examples of great writers passed over for their mediocre counterparts. In 1901, for example, Leo Tolstoy lost to a writer named Sully Prudhomme. Other great writers who have not won the prize include Marcel Proust, Henry James, and Joseph Conrad. While many writers scorn literary awards, few ever turn them down. In 1926, Sinclair Lewis refused the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Arrowsmith, but only because he was miffed about not winning it earlier for Main Street. Four years later, however, he accepted the Nobel Prize, becoming the first American so honored. In winning the Nobel, Lewis beat out Theodore Dreiser. Many American writers and critics considered Lewis' selection an insult, believing that Lewis had been awarded the prize because his novels were so critical of American culture.

Thornton P. Knowles 

A MS-13 Gang Double Murder Case

     In 2010, 17-year-old Juan Elias Garcia, a resident of the Long Island community of Central Islip, New York, belonged to the street gang MS-13, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha Gang. This violent, criminal organization, with ties to several Mexican drug cartels, has a strong presence on Long Island with more than a dozen chapters. (The gang also flourishes in other areas of the U.S. with substantial Salvadoran populations such as in southern California, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia.)

     The five-foot-four inch Garcia, nicknamed "Cruzito," dated 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta. A problem developed in their relationship when Garcia learned she had ties to two rival gangs, the Latin Kings and the 18th Street Gang. Pursuant to gang culture, Argueta's association with the rival groups amounted to "disrespecting" MS-13.

     To save face, Juan Garcia acquired permission from a gang leader named Heriberto Martinez to have his girlfriend murdered.

     On February 4, 2010, Garcia, as part of the murder plot, invited Argueta to dinner in Central Islip. She accepted his invitation and arrived with her 2-year-old son. From their meeting place, Garcia forced Argueta and the boy to accompany him to a nearby wooded area where they were met by a pair of gang assassins, Rene Mendez Meja and Adalberto Ariel Guzman.

     Meja shot the mother to death in front of her son, then, as the boy cried in terror, shot him in the head as well. The bodies were discovered the next day. To avoid arrest, Garcia fled to El Salvador.

     In 2012, Heriberto Martinez, the gangster who sanctioned the murder, was convicted for his role in the assassinations. The judge sentenced him to life plus 60 years. A year later, Meja and Guzman were found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They each received the same sentence.

     Juan Garcia, the gang member behind the killings, remained at large in Central America.

     In February, 2014, one day after the fugitive turned twenty-one, a federal grand jury sitting in Central Islip indicted the fugitive Garcia for murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The FBI, on March 26, 2014, placed Garcia on its Top Ten Most Wanted List. Two days later, Garcia turned himself in to law enforcement authorities in Nicaragua. After being briefly detained at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, FBI agents took Garcia into custody. He was immediately extradited to America.

     A U.S. District Court judge, on March 31, 2014, ordered Garcia held without bail. Speaking through an interpreter, the suspect entered a not guilty plea.

     In October 2014, Garcia changed his plea to guilty. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (In researching this story, I could find no mention in the press regarding whether or not these cold-blooded killers were in this country illegally.)

     In May 2018, in referring to the growing incidents of MS-13 brutality in the United States, President Donald Trump called these sadistic rapists and murderers "animals." Trump's sob-sister adversaries in politics and the media immediately criticized this characterization as inhuman and cruel. What's inhumane and cruel is the fact that government authorities have allowed these gangs of illegal aliens to flourish in the United States. 

Murdered in Abu Dhabi

     In October 2014, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Gulf Arab nation of United Arab Emerates (UAE), alerted Americans in the country to a posting on a jihadist web forum that called for "lone wolf" attacks on American teachers working in international schools. Abu Dhabi, an international business and banking hub that featured huge skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls, had a low violent crime rate and was considered one of the safest big cities in the world.

     Ibolya Ryan, Hungarian-born and raised and educated in Romania as a kindergarten teacher, came to the United States in the 1990s. In 1997, while living with her husband in Denver, Colorado, she took a job as a special needs teacher and enrolled in a course on how to teach English as a foreign language. In 2001, she returned to Hungary then later accepted a teaching position in Austria.

     In 2014, Ryan was living in Abu Dhabi and teaching at a large international school 35 miles from the downtown section of the city. The 47-year-old mother of three had divorced her husband and was residing in the UAE with her twin 11-year-old sons.

     On Monday December 1, 2014, while shopping at a high-end mall on Reem Island, a newly developed area of the city that was home to thousands of Western expatriates, Ryan entered the ladies restroom. Mall surveillance camera footage showed a person fully covered in a black, full-length gown called an abaya and a headscarf or hijab, following Ryan into the public restroom. This person was later seen leaving the mall in a hurry.

     Officers with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Abu Dhabi Police, when they responded to the shopping mall restroom, found a large, bloody kitchen knife with a blue handle and a trail of blood leading to one of the stalls. That's where they found Ibolya Ryan, the victim of a vicious knifing.

     Shortly after being rushed to a nearby hospital, Ryan died from her many knife wounds. Her sons were placed in the care of Abu Dhabi officials until their father came from abroad to pick them up.

     On Thursday December 4, 2014, UAE police officers raided an apartment in Abu Dhabi and took an Emirati woman named Ala'a Badr Abdullah Al-Hashemi  into custody. The authorities believed this murder suspect had earlier planted a homemade bomb at the doorstep of an Egyptian-American physician. The doctor's son found the bomb and called the police. Bomb experts came to the scene and defused the device.

     The day following the suspect's arrest, a spokesperson for the Abu Dhabi police said investigators believed Ryan's cold-blooded killing was an act of terrorism committed by a self-radicalized terrorist who acted alone.

     Ibolya Ryan's murder destroyed the sense of security expatriates in Abu Dhabi once enjoyed.

     The U.A.E. authorities moved quickly to try Ms. Hashemi. The prosecutor described the killing as an "Islamic extremism terror attack." In June 2015, the defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced to death. On July 13, 2015, Hashemi was executed by firing squad in Dubai, U.A. E.

     Attorneys for the executed woman said she had suffered from chronic mental illness. Court-appointed doctors, however, had determined that she was fit to stand trial. 

Obeying the Rules of Grammar

There's one thing to remember about the rules of grammar….They are not rigid; they change as our perceptions of our language change. What satisfied our eighth-grade teacher certainly won't satisfy an editor, but then our eighth-grade teacher wasn't trying to be an editor. The rules, however, were there to be learned, and once we learned them, we could believe they applied only when they made our work better.

William Noble, Noble's Book of Writing Blunders, 2006

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Wiseguy Nicknames

In the heyday of the Mafia, a lot of wiseguys were given colorful nicknames. For example, there was Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, Al "Scarface" Capone, Tony "Three Fingers" Rizzocascio, George "Butterass" DeCicco, Peter "Horseface" Licavoli, and Sam "The Plumber" DeCavalconte. If it ever becomes custom to nickname the wiseguys of academia, we might get: Professor Monty "Man Bun" Lawrence, Dean Gibson "Gobbledygook" Sinclair, Associate Professor Peter "Power Point" Lucas, Dr. Henry "Hypothesis" Higgins, Assistant Professor "I Want Tenure" Thomas, and Chancellor Miles "Mission Statement" Barnes.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Luka Magnotta Cannibal Killer Case

     Tenants in a working-class Montreal, Canada neighborhood complained of a bad smell coming from a pile of garbage behind their apartment building. At ten in the morning on May 29, 2012, when the janitor opened a suitcase at the site of the odor, he discovered a man's bloody torso.

     At 11:15 that morning, in Ottawa, at the Conservative Party headquarters, Jenni Bryne, a top political advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, opened a box that had been mailed to that address. As she opened the package, Bryne was hit by a terrible odor and recoiled at the sight of dried blood. She immediately called 911 which brought the Ottawa police, a hazmat unit, and officers with the Emergency Special Operations Section. The box contained a human foot and a note indicating that six other human body parts were in the mail.

     At 9:30 that night, the Ottawa police announced they had found a second severed body part mailed from Montreal. It was a hand found inside a piece of mail intercepted at the Ottawa Postal Terminal.

     On Wednesday morning, May 30, crime scene investigators and hazardous materials officers entered an apartment in the building where the janitor had found the suitcase containing the blood splattered torso. The masked searchers were interested in a second-story studio apartment rented by a 29-year-old tenant named Luka Rocco Magnotta.

     Luka Magnotta, a stripper, model, and bisexual actor in low-budget adult films who used the names Eric Clinton Newman (his born name) and Vladimir Romanov, had lived in the apartment about four months. Originally from Toronto, Magnotta had an Internet presence that included uploaded videos of animal cruelty. Two years earlier, a video appeared on the Web featuring Magnotta placing a pair of kittens inside an airtight bag then using a vacuum cleaner to suck out the air. He also had a blog under his name called "Necrophilia Serial Killer Luka Magnotta" that featured the following quote: "It's not cool to the world being a necrophiliac. It's bloody lonely. But I don't care." Magnotta was also the author of an Internet article titled, "How to Completely Disappear and Never be Found" in which he laid out a six-step program for changing one's identify.

     On May 25, four days before the gruesome discovery at the Montreal apartment, an uploaded 11-minute Internet video on an Alberta-based website called "Best Gore," showed a man being stabbed, his throat slashed, and his head cut off by an unidentified killer in a dark hoodie. The man in the video also severed the victim's limbs, then committed sexual and cannibalistic acts on the corpse. A dog in the dimly lit room ate part of the body. The snuff video was called, "1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick." The Canadian authorities believed the torso found behind Magnotta's apartment building, as well as the mailed body parts, belong to the man seen murdered online. Investigators also theorized that Luka Magnotta was the killer/cannibal in the video.

     In Apartment 208, crime scene investigators believed they were at the site of the videoed murder/dismemberment. Detectives also thought the torso found behind the building came from this apartment. The walls and floor were splattered in dried blood and in the bedroom they found a blood-soaked mattress.

     A forensic pathologist examined the torso and the two mailed body parts and found that the remains belonged to the same person.

     Luka Magnotta, the subject of a massive international manhunt, was described as a slightly built man who was five-foot-eight with short black hair and blue eyes. The authorities searching for the fugitive believed he was hiding out in Europe under a false identity.

     The man believed to have been killed in the snuff film was identified as a student from China named Jun Lin. The 33-year-old had been attending Concordia University in Montreal. He had been going out with Magnotta and was last seen on May 24, 2012. Lin was an undergraduate in the engineering and computer science department.

     Montreal Police Commander Ian Lafreniere believed that Magnotta was hiding in France. The fugitive was immediately placed on Interpol's equivalent of the FBI's most wanted list. A Toronto transsexual who had a sexual relationship with Magnotta, informed the police that the porn actor used drugs and possessed a bad temper.

     In 2010, after Luka Magnotta posted the disgusting video involving the kittens, a London reporter with The Sun newspaper questioned him for an article. In an email to The Sun, Magnotta warned that his next uploaded snuff video would not involve cats. "Once you kill, and taste blood, it's impossible to stop," he wrote. After the animal cruelty video was published, animal rights activists in Canada tried to get the authorities to intervene.

     On Monday, June 4, 2012, seven  police officers in Berlin, Germany, acting on a tip from a person who recognized Magnotta, arrested him in an internet cafe. At first Magnotta gave the officers a false name, then said, "You got me." Magnotta was in the cafe reading about himself on the Internet.

     On the day following his arrest, as Magnotta appeared before a German judge on the matter of his extradition back to Canada, staff members at two private boy's school in Vancouver, British Columbia, each received a package that had been mailed from Montreal. The package to the False Creek Elementary school contained a human foot. The parcel opened at St. George's contained a hand. The body parts belonged to Jun Lin. The authorities were still searching for the victim's head.

     Several months following his extradition back to Canada, Magnotta acquired an attorney named Luc   Leclain who argued that his client should be tried for the lesser homicide offense of second-degree murder because the Crown could not prove premeditation in Jun Lin's killing. In May 2013, following a week-long preliminary hearing involving thirty witnesses for the Crown, the Court of Quebec judge ruled that the prosecution had enough evidence to justify trying Magnotta for first degree-murder.

     In addition to first-degree murder, Luka Magnotta stood charged with the lesser offenses of causing indignity to Jun Lin's body (in the U. S. it's called abuse of corpse), broadcasting obscene material, using the postal service to send obscene material, and the harassment of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament. The Quebec judge scheduled Magnotta's first-degree murder trial for September 14, 2014.

     Luka Magnotta's murder trial got underway on Monday December 15, 2014 before Justice Guy Cournoyer of the Quebec Superior Court. His attorney, Luc Leclair, tried to convince the jury that the defendant, a schizophrenic, committed the murder is a psychotic state that had rendered him legally insane and therefore not guilty by reason of insanity.

     The Magnotta jury did not buy the insanity defense and found the defendant, on December 23, 2014, guilty of first-degree murder. The jurors also found him guilty of the lesser offenses. Judge Cournoyer sentenced Magnotta to life in prison for first-degree murder and gave him 19 years behind bars for the other offenses.
     

Landmark Crime Films

     In 1957, Robert Bloch published Psycho based on the crimes of Wisconsin serial killer and cannibal Ed Gein. Alfred Hitchcock brought the novel to the screen in 1960. That changed everything. A new bogeyman replaced vampires, werewolves and other monsters as the thing that would haunt human dreams. Thanks to Anthony Perkins' terrifying performance as the psychotic Norman Bates, the public's new nightmares featured the guy down the street and the girl next door with evil hidden in their minds and horrors buried under the floorboards or in the backyard. The perceptions that Norman Bates created are reinforced every time the news features another story of some gardner or carpenter or mailman or nurse who had killed a dozen or more people. Hitchcock also introduced the public to the fictional film version of a Ted Bundy-like killer in Strangers on a Train. 

     In 1967, the prototype of Hannibal the Cannibal, the professional as madman, was portrayed by Peter O'Toole in Night of the Generals. While the character of General Tanz is a Nazi, which personifies a monster already, the concept of such a brilliant serial killer character is a frightening creation. Here we have a sexual psychopath in uniform, with power and authority. Picture this same character as a police officer or some other powerful authority figure and you have the public's worst nightmare.

     In 1968, the groundwork for today's genre of true crime movies was laid out with the film The Boston Stranger. This was the first docudrama about a real-life serial killer.

     Also in 1968, Rod Steiger portrayed the perfect fictional serial killer in No Way to Treat a Lady. Here is a classic model of the sexual psychopath who vents his obsessional hate for his mother on his victims. The character is extremely true-to-life with all the chameleon qualities that exist in real serial killers. He is intelligent and egotistical and never changes his pattern until suitable motivation is provided.

Sean Mactire, Malicious Intent, 1995

     

What Is Addiction?

     Addiction is not a function of drug use--rather, it is a standard feedback phenomenon that occurs with or without drugs, whereby people immerse themselves in immediately rewarding experiences that detract from their larger lives. This definition of addiction makes clear that addiction is not a drug-centered trait. Addiction doesn't occur only with drugs and doesn't invariably occur when certain drugs are used. There is nothing inherent in narcotics, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana that makes them irresistibly addictive. Moreover, people who do become addicted, contrary to both popular mythology and government pronouncements, usually attenuate or end their addictions…(Keep in mind, cigarettes and cocaine were only declared addictive in the 1980s, and marijuana in the 1990s.)…

     The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that only a small percentage (less than five percent) of people who have ever used cocaine, heroin, crack, and meth are currently addicted to these drugs. Carl Hart, an experimental neuroscientist and author of High Price, calculates that 10 to 20 percent of those using drugs (he studies crack and methamphetamine) encounter problems…

     Some researchers questioned users in detail about their current and past drug experiences. The largest and most thorough such investigation of cocaine was conducted at Canada's addiction research agency. The study, published as "The Steel Drug," found that the large majority of people who experienced a range of problems from cocaine (sinusitis, nasal irritation, headaches, insomnia) quit the drug or cut back their use of it….

Stanton Peele, "How Television Distorts Drug Addiction," reason.com, January 18, 2015  

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Treating Celebrities As Important People

Americans have become celebrity obsessed. Intensely following the lives and foolishness of entertainers, TV new readers, politicians, athletes, and criminals who have become famous not only steals our attention from important things, it debases our culture. These pathological attention getters should not be taken seriously. It is idiotic to idolize people simply because they are rich and notorious. Fame does not confer wisdom. A society is in trouble when celebrities are treated as important people with important things to say.

Thornton P. Knowles

Eric Toth: Pedophile On The Run

     Born in 1982, Eric Toth grew up near Indianapolis, Indiana. He earned good grades in high school where he was considered self-centered and eccentric, and when he wanted to be, charming and manipulating. Abused as a child, he suffered bouts of depression and engaged in compulsive lying.

     The lanky young man enrolled at Cornell University in New York State. A year later he transferred to Purdue University at Calumet (Indiana) where he graduated with a Bachelor's degree in elementary education. During his college years he told several people he was an agent with the CIA.

     Upon his graduation in 2002, Toth volunteered at an elementary school in Indianapolis where he worked as a teacher's aide. His intense interest in boys between the ages 8 and 11 led to parental complaints and concerns. The principal, suspecting that Toth was a pedophile, terminated his association with the school. A lot of parents were glad to see him go.

     In 2003, Toth drifted around the midwest, always inserting himself into environments that put him in proximity to young boys. In 2004 and part of 2005 Toth worked as a counselor at a boy's camp in Madison, Wisconsin. It was at this camp he made videotapes of himself engaging in various sexual activities with several boys. When his behavior began to raise suspicion, he moved on. Moving on is what pedophiles do when too many people get suspicious.

     In the fall of 2005, administrators at the Beauvior Elementary School attached to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., hired Toth to teach third grade. Many of the students in this small prestigious Catholic School came from families of wealth and political power.

     Toth's enthusiasm for his job included tutoring children for free and even babysitting them at their homes. His gung-ho work attitude made him a popular teacher at the school. But his excessive familiarity with his male students, including having boys sit on his lap, raised eyebrows and suspicions.

     In 2008, a fellow Beauvior employee found disturbing photographs on a school camera assigned to Toth. The pornographic pictures featured the teacher and several boys. The school's principal confronted Toth, then fired him on the spot. After a security officer escorted Toth out of the building and off the campus, the principal called the police. The delay gave Toth the head start he needed to get out of town and disappear.

     Based upon the photographs recovered from Toth's camera, a federal prosecutor charged him with producing and possessing child pornography. This made Toth a fugitive from the law.

     A month after the Beauvior principal kicked Toth out of Beauvior Elementary, a car that had been rented under the name Jay Kellor turned up at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.  Inside the Honda, FBI agents found child pornography linked to Toth's tenure as a boy's camp counselor in Wisconsin.

     In the rented vehicle, agents also discovered a suicide note signed by Toth. According to the handwritten document, the authorities would find his body on the bottom of a nearby lake. A search of that lake failed to turn up Toth's remains. The FBI considered the suicide note a fake, a ploy to throw agents off his trail.

     Toth, going by the name David Bussone, showed up in January 2009 at the Lodestar Day Rescue Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Toth volunteered to help homeless man complete their 12-step alcohol and drug addiction treatments. He told his colleagues at the rescue center that he had been an educator at an elite east coast school, and that the experience had turned him against wealth and the materialistic lifestyle. He said he had taken a five-year oath of poverty, and had re-dedicated his life to helping the downtrodden.

     In the meantime, FBI agents across the country were still searching for Toth. The federal manhunt received a boost when the Toth case appeared on the television show, "America's Most Wanted." One of the homeless men at Lodestar saw the segment and recognized David Bussone as Eric Toth. The next day, realizing that he had been identified, the fugitive pedophile disappeared again.

     In July 2009, under a another pseudonym supported by stolen identification documents, Toth turned up at a hippie commune in Austin, Texas. One of the members of the community found Toth a job at an Austin computer repair shop called P.C. Guru. Toth worked at the store two and a half years during which time he tutored grade school boys for free. He also gave the mother of two of his students financial aid.

     The FBI, on April 10, 2012, replaced Osama bin Laden on the Bureau's Top Ten Most Wanted List with Eric Toth. In October of that year Toth used a fake passport, under the name Robert Shaw Walker, to flee to Nicaragua. He took up residence in a house in Esteli, a town 90 miles north of the capital, Managua. Toth told people he met that he had come to Nicaragua to write a book.

     On April 18, 2013, while attending a social function, Toth ran into an American tourist who recognized him. Two days later, Nicaraguan police officers surrounded his house in Esteli. Following the arrest, officers found 1,100 images of child pornography Toth had downloaded from the Internet onto his personal computer.

     Four days after his capture in Nicaragua, Toth was back in Washington, D.C. sitting in jail awaiting his trial.

     On December 13, 2013, Toth pleaded guilty before a federal judge to three counts of child pornography and two counts of identify theft. He faced up to 30 years in prison.

     On March 11, 2014, the judge sentenced the 32-year-old pedophile to 25 years in federal prison. At his sentencing Toth said, "I don't pretend that anything I could say here today would ever make up for what I did. Everything the prosecutor said about me is true."