03 July 2010

Plagiarism mills

The Minneapolis City Pages features an expose on one of the US essay mills -
Kavoosi is in the business of plagiarism. For $23 per page, one of his employees will write an essay. Just name the topic and he'll get it done in 48 hours. He'll even guarantee at least a "B" grade or your money back. According to his website, he's the best essay writer in the world.

Kavoosi's business, Essay Writing Company, employs writers from across the country. Most of the customers are high school or college students, but not all. In one case, an author asked Kavoosi's crew to write a book to be published in his own name. ...

Kavoosi doesn't apologize for his work. On the contrary, he openly advertises it online and with large signs outside his Apple Valley office. Just last week, he and a couple of employees painted their bare chests and paraded around the suburb's streets to attract attention.
The expose goes on to claim that -
But all may not be as it seems when it comes to Kavoosi. The description on one of his many websites says the business has been "providing high quality essay writing" since 1998. It's actually less than two years old, and Kavoosi was only 12 years old in 1998.

An online listing for Dramatic Smiles Teeth Whitening — which Kavoosi says is a friend's company—advertises a "Dr. Jordan Kavoosi" who claims to practice dentistry in Austin, Texas. Kavoosi's cell phone number is listed at the bottom of the page, though he's not a doctor of anything.

No one is immune to Kavoosi's charm. At one point, Kavoosi even offered a cut of the profits to include his company's phone number and give this article a positive spin.

"We'll give you like 20 percent—15, 20 percent—commission per sale," Kavoosi offered. "So, ya know, if you write something like really good, positive, it gives you a little incentive."

The young entrepreneur has a lot to hide. A quick internet search of Kavoosi's name yields dozens of complaints from former writers accusing him of failing to pay the money he owes.

"The man, he is amoral," says Deborah Morse-Kahn, a former writer for Kavoosi. "He seemingly has no boundaries. Everything is a personal insult to him."
Unabashed, Kavoosi reportedly boasts that "I want to be like a big LA Fitness, where people can just come in here, play video games, get their homework done. Ya know? That's like everyone's dream."
At first, he charged $80 for a 10-page paper, he says, and outsourced the work to writers in India. But now the company has more than 20 full-time writers on the payroll and dozens more part-timers. He presides over an empire of plagiarism. ...

Upon request, Kavoosi pulls up a spreadsheet of the company's profits. In May, the enterprise made more than $21,000, the records show. In April, the plagiarism business hauled in $43,000.

"Wow, what?" Kavoosi says, leaning in toward the computer screen and squinting to read the numbers, surprised by the magnitude of his own success. "We did $43,000 in a month? What the heck? Where did all that money go?"

For Kavoosi, the future always looks bright. Next he's looking at renting space in the Burnsville Mall, where he hopes to attract more foot traffic. From there, he hopes to continue to grow the company, possibly franchising to other mall locations. He envisions a day when he has hundreds of writers on the payroll, churning out reams of plagiarized papers for the nation's callow youth.

"I only went to college for a year," he says, flashing a satisfied grin. "And everyone working for me has a four-year degree."
City Pages highlights 'plagiarism ethics' by noting claims that Kavoosi has mistreated his writers, for example allegations by Morse-Kahn -
One night, while scanning Craigslist for work, she came across an advertisement for Kavoosi's company and took a chance.

Kavoosi gave her an assignment and paid promptly within two days of completion. The money wasn't much, but it was enough to keep the lights on.

"There was a series of days in the first few weeks where I was working from seven in the morning to 11 o'clock at night," recalls Morse-Kahn.

Then one day, Morse-Kahn didn't receive her paycheck on time. When she contacted Kavoosi, he tried to bargain her down.

Payments became more infrequent. After one assignment, Kavoosi claimed that the student had gotten an F, so he wasn't going to pay. Morse-Kahn later received an email from the student thanking her for a job well done.

"You wrote an outstanding paper for me and you shared that you were not paid!" reads the email. "I really can't go on with my daily life knowing that!"

After the pattern of late or no payments continued, Morse-Kahn decided to cut her losses and look for work elsewhere. But Morse-Kahn wanted to ensure others didn't make her mistake. So she posted complaints on online message boards accusing Kavoosi's company of a being a con. Thanks to her, "Jordan Kavoosi Essay writing companies SCAM Complaints" is the first listing that appears under his name on Google.

When Kavoosi started losing writers due to the bad publicity, Morse-Kahn suddenly had his attention. First he tried to offer her money to replace the complaints with similar postings about his competitors.

"I have an idea," an email from Kavoosi reads, "ill pay you 80.00 to take off all the posting you posted on the internet about my company and me and stop harassing my writers, and then pay you 80.00 to post listings about some companies I don't like what you think about that? Will call you as well tomorrow to rap this issue up as well."

Morse-Kahn declined the offer. If she didn't want the carrot, Kavoosi would give her the stick. Under a pseudonym, someone from the essay-writing company posted messages disparaging her on the same online complaint boards. In one post, she was called an alcoholic. In another, the anonymous person accused her of molesting his child. Kavoosi says the postings were made by one of his "buddies," and not him.

Morse-Kahn says that's when Kavoosi started calling her late at night and threatening her.

"It's an awful way to wake up, to have this slurred voice in your ear," says Morse-Kahn. "He said 'We're gonna take you out. I'm gonna be there in 20 minutes.'"

Kavoosi denies making any threatening calls.

"She posted all that stuff - it's all lies," he says, adding that she only worked for him for three days, not for several weeks as she claims. "She needs to get a life."

He admits to eventually offering Morse-Kahn money to take down the posts and calling her late at night.

"I called her a couple times, sure," Kavoosi concedes. "I mean we're always up, that's just the type of business we're in ... there's nothing wrong with two humans meeting up."

Your papers, please

A sidelight from media coverage of the Victoria Police raid on premises occupied by the colourful Chaouk family ...

Today's Age reports (under 'Accused Chaouk's mother turns on media outside court') that -
Detective Acting Sergeant Timothy Kennedy said the raid at the Chaouk's Old Geelong Road home had also unearthed 36 blank passports missing for 14 years. ... The detective said the 36 blank passports - allegedly stolen from a Canberra printer - had been identified as some of 100 missing since 1996.
The accused, Omar Chaouk, 18, was remanded in custody on eight firearms charges in a hearing at Melbourne Magistrates Court. The police argued that Chaouk posed a threat to public safety because of his "access to weapons" (a pump-action shotgun and a Smith and Wesson revolver were found in a wood pile during the pre-dawn raid) and his "family's pre-disposition to violence". He was also characterised as a flight risk.

The family is reported as being "well known to police", with members having been charged with deception, drug trafficking, serious assaults and car rebirthing.

It is interesting to see the rediscovery of the blank passports, theft of blanks (and, in the case of Papua New Guinea, of the device holding that nation's passport database) being noted here.

30 June 2010

we'll huff n we'll puff n we'll blow your PM down

Apropos the threat by 'the mining industry' to leave Australia if crimped by The Very Big Tax I note a post by RW Johnston in the LRB -
The rot in South Africa has now reached the hard core: the mining sector that lays the golden eggs and pays for the World Cup and much else. Terrible trouble has been going on for some months now at the Grootvlei mine, the owner of which, Aurora, gets special treatment because its board members include a Zuma nephew and a Mandela grandson. The miners have not been paid for months and are on strike. The mines are flooded and highly toxic wastes are threatening to contaminate the water supply of the whole central Rand. Over at Sishen in the Northern Cape, meanwhile, the government has granted a prospecting licence for an iron-ore mine to a consortium of ANC cronies, even though the mine is already being exploited by another firm.

Cases like these are causing investors, foreign and domestic, to flee, thus contributing to South Africa’s ever-growing unemployment and the clear risk of a huge social explosion once the World Cup is over. Anyone who lives here and understands what is happening is bound to have an almost schizoid approach to the majesty of Brazil, Argentina and Germany. So lovely to watch, but one cannot but fear what comes afterwards.
Mining magnates might want to contemplate regime stability in the failing state immediately to our north. There is something to be said for good governance.

The new E&Y annual Business Risks facing mining & metalsreport [PDF] inconveniently notes that Canada, South Africa and other jurisdictions have increased royalty rates. Current concerns among the big miners are supposedly -
1. Capital allocation (17 in 2009)
2. Skills shortage (6)
3. Cost management (1)
4. Resource nationalism (9)
5. Maintaining a social license to operate (4)
6. Infrastructure access (7)
7. Access to secure energy (8)
8. Access to capital (3)
9. Price and currency volatility (11)
10. Climate change concerns (5)
E&Y suggests that miners should respond to 'resource nationalism' by -
+ Investing in transparent relationships with host governments to foster a greater understanding of the value of the project to the host
+ Aligning with the host government’s long-term economic and political incentives and thereby becoming an invaluable part of the infrastructure in the host country
+ Focusing on generating direct and sustainable benefits for the host community through pro-active and well organized social and community development programs
+ Aligning with multi-lateral agencies, such as the World Bank, to achieve a prominent victim status in the face of mounting resources nationalism
+ Encouraging direct government participation in the project to better align outcomes.
I confess to some difficulty in regarding the larger (or more obstreperous) miners as "prominent victims" and wonder about the 'transparency' in some of the recent advocacy.

On the subject of tax see Trevor Boucher's new 436 page Blatant, artificial and contrived: Tax schemes of the 70s and 80s [PDF], published by the Australian Taxation Office. Martin Daunton it's not, but readable.

Unmissable

I've been pointed to Shadow Government, a DVD from Katherine Albrecht et al. It apparently reveals "How the Global Elite Plan to Destroy Democracy and Your Freedom!" -
John Wilson wakes up, gets ready for his day and heads to work. He has no idea that he's being watched, tracked and studied. Is he a threat to national security? Is he a terrorist or a criminal? No, he's an ordinary American citizen. Like everyone else, John's rights and freedoms have been systematically destroyed - all in the name of security and convenience.

What if there were hidden forces with no ties to democracy or constitutional rights in power? What if new laws, media propaganda and Secret Societies labeled John a danger to society? And what if all this set the stage for a Biblically prophesied global government by the Antichrist?

Leading researchers, authors and minds like GRANT JEFFREY, DR KATHERINE ALBRECHT, EDWARD G. GRIFFIN, DANIEL ESTULIN, GARY KAH, CHUCK MISSLER, JOAN VEON, BRAD O’LEARY and many others take you through the incredible and hidden world of Surveillance, Rights and Freedoms, Global Government and Bible Prophecy.
Oh dear, secret societies, the Antichrist, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, Mossad, the CIA, the Bilderbergers, RFIDs, Google .... it would be hilarious if it wasn't so very very sad.

Estulin frets about assassination plots by the dark forces. Missler has insights about the Nephilim (DADT) and flying saucers. Veon worries about The New World Order (which apparently involves The Fabians). Griffin reveals the secrets of Noah's Ark ("It incorporates principles of higher mathematics and advanced hydrodynamics. It contains decks and interior chambers") on - but of course - Mt Ararat and the joys of "alternative therapies" for cancer. Some readers may be unimpressed by his disclosure that -
cancer is a deficiency disease - like scurvy or pellagra - aggravated by the lack of an essential food compound in modern man's diet. That substance is vitamin B17. In its purified form developed for cancer therapy, it is known as Laetrile. This story is not approved by orthodox medicine. The FDA, the AMA, and The American Cancer Society have labeled it fraud and quackery. Yet the evidence is clear that here, at last, is the final answer to the cancer riddle. Why has orthodox medicine waged war against this non drug approach? The author contends that the answer is to be found, not in science, but in politics - and is based upon the hidden economic and power agenda of those who dominate the medical establishment.
Officer Jack McLamb, another of the luminaries on the DVD, warns on his site about the New World Order -
Allegedly this new order is being set up to save THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD from a whole variety of "imminent" life and world threatening disasters. Of those sworn protectors of the people that are aware of this global scheme, few realize that the actual behind the scenes plan is for an oligarchy of the world's richest families to place 1/2 the masses of the earth in servitude under their complete control, administered from behind the false front of the United Nations. To facilitate management capabilities, the plan calls for the elimination of the other 2.5 billion people through war, disease, abortion and famine by the year 2000. As we can plainly see, their plan for "Population Control" (reduction) is well established and under way.
Proponents of the imminent (and Christian-flavoured) End Times will presumably be unimpressed by launch today of the 40 page Australian Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy [PDF] via the Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN) for Critical Infrastructure Resilience.

That Network -
provides an environment where business and government can share vital information on security issues relevant to the protection of our critical infrastructure and the continuity of essential services in the face of all hazards.
The new Strategy
aims to achieve the continued provision of essential services that support Australia's national security, economic prosperity, and social and community wellbeing in the face of all hazards.

A key imperative of the strategy is to have an effective business-government partnership with critical infrastructure owners and operators.
Quite useful, I would have thought, when dealing with acts of God (or sparring partner and RFID-fan The Prince of Darkness) such as floods, bushfires and influenza pandemics. Lacking a direct line to the supernatural I am, alas, unable to attribute responsibility to either Jehovah or Satan.

29 June 2010

Money Laundering

Austrac - Australia's "anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator and specialist financial intelligence unit" under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth) and the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (Cth) - has released a 72 page Typologies and case studies report -
to educate Australian businesses about their money laundering and terrorism financing risks, and assist them to recognise and guard against these risks in the future
The report is the latest of a series of studies. It features -
31 real-life case studies illustrating how Australian businesses have been misused by criminals to commit a range of serious offences, including drug importation and trafficking, identity fraud, and money laundering.
Scholars might be just a tad quizzical about some of the report's authorities (eg "'Terror cash claims', The Sunday Telegraph, 2 August 2009, p.7 and 'A Sydney driver, a flash car and the $1.5m found in a Mercedes Benz in Cabramatta', The Daily Telegraph, 20 November 2009) but perhaps the specialists at Austrac are saving the meaty research for the grown-ups. The depth of analysis in the published report is underwhelming, as are insights such as use of e-gold and other virtual mechanisms by bad people.

The report provides a shopping list of 'Indicators of potential money laundering/terrorism financing activity', commmenting that -
There are numerous indicators which may act as 'red flags' for reporting entities to identify potential money laundering or terrorism financing activity.

Although a single indicator does not necessarily indicate illicit activity, the existence of a 'red flag' indicator should encourage further monitoring and examination. In most cases it is the existence of multiple indicators that raises a reporting entity's suspicion of potential criminal activity, and influences their response to the situation. ...

Money launderers and terrorism financiers will continuously look for new techniques to obscure the origins of illicit funds and lend their activities an appearance of legitimacy. AML/CTF officers should continually review their products, services and individual customers to ensure their internal AML/CTF systems and training are effective.
What do the flags look like? They include -
* business undertaking transactions that appear to be inconsistent with its profile and/or transaction history
* cash deposits made to an account in one location, only for the funds to be withdrawn in a different location a short time later
* cash payments for international funds transfers
* cash withdrawals conducted at various bank branches on the same day
* co-mingling of illicit funds with legitimate sources of income
* common addresses provided for funds transfers conducted by different people
* consecutive cash withdrawals below AUD10,000
* customer refuses to complete the documentation required to complete the transaction
* customer undertaking transactions that appear to be inconsistent with their profile and/or transaction history
* increase in gambling activity
* international funds transfers to a country/jurisdiction of interest to authorities (e.g. a high-risk drug/fraud jurisdiction)
* large cash deposits and/or withdrawals
* large casino chip buy-ins/cash-outs
* large international funds transfers
* large withdrawal using a bank cheque
* multiple ATM withdrawals
* multiple cash deposits and/or withdrawals
* multiple cash deposits and withdrawals below AUD10,000
* multiple cash deposits at different banks/into different accounts
* multiple cash deposits at different banks, rapidly followed by outgoing international funds transfers
* multiple cashing of cheques
* multiple customers conducting international funds transfers to the same overseas beneficiary
* multiple deposits and/or funds transfers below AUD10,000
* multiple high-value international funds transfers
* multiple low-value international funds transfers
* multiple overseas customers transferring funds into the same Australian account
* multiple purchases of bank cheques or purchase of multiple travellers cheques
* multiple visits to currency exchange businesses to purchase travellers cheques
* outgoing international funds transfer with corresponding incoming funds transfer - appears to be a u-turn transaction*
* purchase of a bank draft with bank cheque
* purchase of high-value assets (jewellery, motor vehicles, real estate)
* purchase of high-value assets with cash and company cheques
* purchasing gaming chips for a third party
* same day transactions conducted at different bank branches
* significant deposits into personal account from an apparently unrelated company
* structuring of cash deposits
* structuring transactions to avoid reporting requirements
* third party cash deposits into several different accounts (with varying amounts) conducted on the same day
* transactions conducted in various geographical locations
* unusual customer behaviour at a casino
* use of front companies
* use of trust accounts to conduct international funds transfers
* use of cash couriers
* use of cheque cashing service to cash business cheques
* use of false documentation/identification and invoices
* use of international remitter, overseas bank accounts, third parties to carry cash or conduct funds transfers/transactions
The report has been promoted as revealing "criminal minds behind exploitation of businesses" -
This report shows that by fulfilling reporting requirements and keeping an eye out for suspicious financial transactions, businesses can help disrupt and stop serious crimes. ...

The report includes case studies showing how:

* a $450 million ecstasy shipment was intercepted
* transaction reports submitted to AUSTRAC helped expose an Australian who was laundering the proceeds of child pornography
* a pharmacy linked to a motorcycle drug gang received cash deposits worth $1.1 million in just 15 months
* after falling in with Nigerian fraudsters, an Australian admitted to carrying a suitcase stuffed with cash overseas to be laundered
* AUSTRAC information helped track transactions of individuals suspected of being involved in the theft of $714,000 from Sydney ATM machines ...

"Every transaction tells a story and when suspicious financial behaviour is reported to AUSTRAC it can work with law enforcement agencies to detect serious crimes, including terrorism, drug trafficking, people smuggling, tax evasion, sexual abuse and theft."

Zzzzzzz

From 'Struggling with Žižek's Ideology: The Deleuzian Complaint, Or, Why is Žižek a Disguised Deleuzian in Denial?' by Jan Jagodzinski in 4(1) International Journal of Žižek Studies (2010) [PDF] -
Überblick

The territory of analysis and commentary concerning Žižek’s 'spectral' confrontation with ideology is well trodden and already overdetermined. I am faced with the proverbial problem of starring at the white canvass, attempting to intervene in the heavily congested palimpsest of traces that are already in play, but remain invisible. In-depth attempts of addressing his reconceptualization of ideology have already been written by Matthew Sharpe (2004, 2006), Jodi Dean (2005), Tim Dean (2002), Fabio Vighi and Heiko Feldner (2007a,b,c), to name those I found most accomplished and helpful. What can be said that has not already been said? The charges of "inconsistency" or "oscillation" (Žižek 2005a, 219-220) means very little when addressing this question, since the very delirium of Žižek's style is meant to be explorative and thought provoking, a work in perpetual progress as with any philosopher/artist/scientist who toils at the brink of the unknown and the unthought. Inconsistency is part of his "obsession" as a "thinking machine" (Olson & Worsham 2001, 253), built into the very unfolding of his thought.

Given that the Real is an "inruption" of nonsense into the signifying system, which can never be signified, a 'nothing' that becomes detectable only after the event of it's effects are constructed backwards to paraphrase Eagleton (2001, 42), so it is with Žižek’s address on ideology. His 'logical' inconsistencies are those moments of inruption. Staying on track and going off-road are part of the same process. His writing remains a paradoxical affair, as ideology itself becomes a master signifier, acting like a spectral Joker that can take on multiple masks depending on which card game is being played. Yet, at the same time, ideology must minimally bear the weight of critique so that it remains politically enabling — exposing some aspect of the game itself. Without such a proviso the necessity of updating the force of this Marxist concept within a global capitalist neoliberal order could not be possible, and the concept of ideology itself becomes useless, empty or greatly reduced in its effect since there are conservatives who argue that in a multi-mediated society ‘everything’ is already ideological and therefore its an outdated concept. ...

The shadow title is meant sincerely for it seems to me there are many unacknowledged touchstones that present Žižek’s madness as a form of schizophrenia — the delirium of him as a writing machine. His work is systematically rhizomatic to use an oxymoron, leaving his own singular trail as he gropes for the unknown and the unsaid. By taking on the role of the analyst he seems to be performing what Deleuze called 'becoming imperceptible', a process of transformative encounters that charts his own becomings. Finally, anyone who has met or heard Žižek talk, the role of the academic clown/fool presents, oddly enough, the very opposition to the thrust of his mutant Hegelio-Lacan figure. It is of course, his avatar that does the fantasmatic work in the Star Wars, who seems to be his immortal spectral figure. Through his laughter and the will of his Spieltrieb, through his dirty jokes and sexual innuendos, the affect of his body spewing the materiality of the dynamic sublime as it were, doesn't he exhibit the very joy and the laugh of Zarathustra that Deleuze embraced? In this sense he does live out the singularity of his sinthome.
Dada lives!

Much more admirable is Anthony Daniels' tribute to Flaubert's Un coeur simple -
In it, he managed the difficult technical feat of making someone interesting who was good but ordinary and not particularly intelligent, and he also managed the far more difficult emotional and ethical feat of entering the world of someone with whose outlook he did not agree, and portraying it with sympathy, understanding, and admiration, recognizing in it the beauty that it possessed. Here is true tolerance, in a non-ideological sense; it is rare in an age of diversity in which ignorant armies nevertheless insist on clashing by night.