Aug 072012
 

 The police on Monday arrested the son of a Long Island man who the authorities say tried to fake his own death last month. They said they charged the son with aiding his father’s scheme to collect life insurance money.

The son, Jonathan Roth, 22, called emergency officials on July 28, saying his father, Raymond Roth,

had disappeared after swimming off Jones Beach, in Nassau County. Raymond Roth’s wife said she presumed he was dead, but on Thursday, he was stopped by the police in South Carolina for speeding.

Mr. Roth, 47, has since returned to New York, the police said, though his specific location is unclear. The Nassau County district attorney’s office said he had not been charged.

Jonathan Roth was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and falsely reporting an incident, said John Byrne, a spokesman for the district attorney. Mr. Roth faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. It was unclear whether he had a lawyer.

Raymond Roth’s disappearance prompted a large emergency operation that involved a helicopter and police boats. The scheme apparently misled Mr. Roth’s wife, Evana Roth, who said she had been planning her husband’s funeral when she learned through e-mails between her stepson, Jonathan, and her husband on a family computer that he was still alive.

On Monday, Ms. Roth began divorce proceedings and obtained an order of protection against her husband, her lawyer, Lenard Leeds, said. In a news conference last week, she described her husband as an abusive alcoholic and expressed fears that he could try to harm her.

She said that her husband called her repeatedly after he was pulled over in South Carolina, but Mr. Leeds said Monday that those calls had stopped.

In the news conference, Ms. Roth said that she had uncovered e-mails implicating her husband and her stepson in the faked drowning. She also said her husband had increased the size of his life insurance policy in January and had withdrawn all of their money around the time of his disappearance.

Ms. Roth said her husband was fired from his job as a telecommunications manager on July 20, after he threatened to shoot two supervisors. The next day, his wife said, the police confiscated a licensed gun from Mr. Roth.

 Posted by at 2:30 am
Jul 312012
 

Writer Jonah Lehrer

resigned from the New Yorker on Monday after admitting that he had fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan in his nonfiction book “Imagine: How Creativity Works.” The book has been recalled by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Published in March, “Imagine: How Creativity Works” has spent 17 weeks on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Now it will be pulled from bookstore shelves. Its e-book edition has disappeared from retail sites such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

The book leans so heavily on Dylan’s approach to creativity that the publisher may have had no choice. The first chapter of its first section, titled “Bob Dylan’s Brain,” focuses on Dylan’s reluctance to atomize his own creative process. But Dylan didn’t quite say what Lehrer said he said.

Lehrer wrote of Dylan fending off questions about his songs in 1965. “Imagine” quotes him saying: “‘I’ve got nothing to say about these things I write,’ [Dylan] insisted. ‘I just write them. There’s no great message. Stop asking me to explain.'” Although part of that quote appeared in D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary of Dylan on tour, “Don’t Look Back,” the last sentence — about explaining — did not.

Michael C. Moynihan, an admitted Dylan obsessive and writer for Tablet Magazine, wondered about the origin of this and other Dylan quotes in the book. He spent a number of weeks communicating with Lehrer, during which Lehrer claimed he had been given access to archival footage — which he had not.

In a statement released Monday, Lehrer called his words “a lie spoken in a moment of panic.” The statement appears in the New York Times:

“Three weeks ago, I received an email from journalist Michael Moynihan asking about Bob Dylan quotes in my book ‘Imagine,’ ” Mr. Lehrer said in a statement. “The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes. But I told Mr. Moynihan that they were from archival interview footage provided to me by Dylan’s representatives. This was a lie spoken in a moment of panic. When Mr. Moynihan followed up, I continued to lie, and say things I should not have said.”

“The lies are over now. I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers. I also owe a sincere apology to Mr. Moynihan. I will do my best to correct the record and ensure that my misquotations and mistakes are fixed. I have resigned my position as staff writer at The New Yorker.”

“This is a terrifically sad situation,” New Yorker Editor David Remnick told the Associated Press. “But, in the end, what is most important is the integrity of what we publish and what we stand for.”

Lehrer, 31, had only recently moved to the New Yorker. He came to fame in 2007 when he published “Proust Was a Neuroscientist,” a surprise bestseller that made complex scientific ideas accessible. He followed that up with another popular science book, “How We Decide,” and in March published “Imagine.” He wrote a column for Wired that connected science and culture. This year, he moved to the New Yorker, where he came under fire for recycling ideas and language he’d used in earlier writings.

“Imagine” has been on the L.A. Times bestseller list for 17 weeks.

 Posted by at 12:14 am
Jul 032012
 

 Tests performed by a laboratory in Switzerland found significant traces of Polonium-210 on the late Palestinian leader’s clothes, adding a new twist to a case that has obsessed the Arab world for years.

Polonium-210 is the same substance used to poison the Russian dissident Alexader Litvinenko in London.

The claims are likely to renew long-held Palestinian suspicions that the Israeli spy agency Mossad assassinated Arafat, who died in a Paris hospital in November, 2004.

The Institute de Radiophysique in Lausanne found elevated levels of the element on Arafat’s personal effects. A urine stain in his underwear registered a level of 180 millibecquerels of Polonium-210, more than 20 times the dose to kill an average human being.

“I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported Polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids,” Dr Francois Bochod, the director of the institute, told Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab television station.

Al Jazeera sent Arafat’s clothes to the institute for testing after obtaining them from his widow as part of a nine-month investigation into the revolutionary’s death.

Many theories have been advanced in the past for the cause of Arafat’s death, and his case notes – which are alleged to show that he had suffered cirrhosis – have never been released.

A former speech writer for President George W Bush claimed he had contracted Aids from a homosexual relationship with one of his guards, while aides of Arafat have alleged that he was poisoned by Mossad with Thallium, another radioactive element.

British police and doctors initially believed that Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who defected to London, was killed with Thallium, a misdiagnosis because Polonium-210 is harder to detect with normal hospital equipment.

Some of Arafat’s symptoms, including vomiting, cirrhosis and coma, are compatible with Polonium-210 poisoning, which results in a long and agonising death. But it is not thought that Arafat suffered hair loss, which is thought to happen in half of cases of significant exposure to the element.

The dose allegedly ingested by Arafat was much smaller than the amount that killed Litvinenko, making it even harder to detect.

British police dealing with the Litvinenko case have alleged that only a sophisticated, state-backed intelligence agency could source Polonium-210 in a form that could be used to poison someone.
Palestinian Authority

 

 Posted by at 8:28 pm
Jun 292012
 

 After an extraordinary case with a plotline and cast list suitable for a John Le Carre novel, a Russian-Israeli multi-millionaire emerged yesterday as the loser in a $1 billion claim against a rival dubbed the “King of Diamonds” following a bitter dispute over a mining venture in Angola.

Arkady Gaydamak, 60, –

who brought the case in London despite being a fugitive from justice in Israel – was told he had signed away his rights to the business after a long-running and tumultuous relationship with Israeli businessman Lev Leviev.

Uzbekistan-born Mr Leviev –

who has a £35m house in Hampstead, north London – made his vast wealth from four decades as an internationally-renowned diamond trader. The case shone a light on how a handful of foreign players have made fortunes from exploiting Africa’s natural resources.

The dispute centred on a contract allegedly drawn up between the two men designed to share the proceeds of a the mining venture set up during Angola’s civil war – but was lost or shredded after it was handed over to Russia’s chief rabbi for supposed safe-keeping.

In a sometime damning judgement, High Court Judge Mr Justice Vos cast doubt on the word of both men, criticising Mr Leviev, 55, for re-writing history and arrogance and saying that Mr Gaydamak’s evidence could not be relied on.

“I did not find him a reliable witness. He was rather garrulous and unstructured in his answers … He could certainly not be relied upon as regards the details of his evidence,” he said in the 70-page written judgement.

The dispute grew out of Angola’s long-running civil war when the government was trying to wrest control of blood diamonds that Unita rebels were using to fund their cause. Mr Gaydamak supplied arms to the Angolan leadership and also security services, run by a former head of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad.

Mr Gaydamak, the father of former Portsmouth FC owner Sacha Gaydamak, said he signed an agreement in 2001 for Mr Leviev to act as his “front-man” for a venture in the world’s fifth largest diamond producer. He said that he was seeking a lower-profile after an international warrant was sought for his arrest during an inquiry by the French into kickbacks and illegal arms deals with Angola.

He had sought to split the proceeds 50-50 with Mr Leviev and had been due about $3 million a month but had received nothing since 2004. Mr Leviev said that no deal had been signed and a settlement was agreed in 2011, which ended their dispute.

In his ruling yesterday, Mr Justice Vos cast doubt on Mr Leviev’s claims that no deal had been signed. “I did not find Mr Leviev an entirely reliable witness. He displayed an arrogance, even a contempt, for Mr Gaydamak, which ill-became him since he had been so closely involved with him in 1999 and 2000.”

He added: “I think his denial of any partnership arrangement of any kind was simply implausible and frankly unbelievable.”

However, he said that Mr Gaydamak’s responses showed the “lawless” nature of his dealings in Angola before the 2001 deal.

The case is the latest series of complex business disputes brought to London by billionaires from Russia and the former Soviet states. Mr Gaydamak gave evidence via video link from Israel because he feared arrest on a European Arrest Warrant after he was sentenced in France to 36 months in jail for money laundering and tax evasion.

Mr Justice Vos said that the deal signed in 2011 – in the presence of General Kopelipa, ostensibly the prime minister of Angola – effectively settled their dispute and dismissed the claim.

In a statement after the ruling, Mr Gaydamak announced his intention to appeal. “I have said all along that I was bamboozled into signing” the agreement, he said.

In a statement from his solicitors, Mr Leviev was said to be “obviously very pleased with this outcome.”

 Posted by at 6:22 pm

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