Who is Christina Noudga? Charged with accessory to Tim Bosma’s murder after the fact

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Christina Noudga, shown here on a 2011 skydiving outing with boyfriend Dellen Millard, has been charged as accessory after the fact in the murder of Tim Bosma

Christina Noudga, shown here on a 2011 skydiving outing with boyfriend Dellen Millard, has been charged as accessory after the fact in the murder of Tim Bosma. Credit: Facebook

Christina Noudga, the girlfriend of Dellen Millard, has been charged as an accessory after the fact to murder in the death of Tim Bosma.

Noudga, 21, had been seeing Millard — who is charged with murdering Bosma, his father, Wayne Millard, and Laura Babcock — since the summer of 2011 shortly after he broke off his engagement to another Toronto woman.

According to sources, Noudga did not talk to police last year.

Noudga was also a friend of Laura Babcock, who disappeared in the summer of 2012 and made her last mobile phone calls to Dellen Millard. According to a friend of Babcock, Laura had told Noudga that she and Millard had become more than just friends. Police last year described Babcock’s relationship to MIllard as a non-traditional dating situation.

Noudga was a member of the “Help Us Find Laura” Facebook group before she took her profile down.

Last October, the Hamilton Spectator reported on a brief court discussion about having a certain woman removed from Milard’s “do not contact” list.

“At this stage, she has not given a statement to police and I can’t say she has relevant information,” Crown attorney Tony Leitch told the court.

For procedural reasons, the judge declined to deal with the matter and the woman. remained on the list. Due to a publication ban, the newspaper did not provide further details. There is more than one woman on Millard’s no-contact list.

How HFT firms access secure government briefings to get the jump on market-moving data

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In which I pick up where Michael Lewis’s fascinating, new book Flash Boys leaves off.————————————-

You start to follow the money, and you don’t know where the fuck it’s gonna take you.
-Det. Lester Freamon

In Montreal in the fall of 2007, a former journalism student of mine asked if I would serve as a reference for him. He hoped to be hired for what had in recent years become a rarity, a well-paid, entry-level journalism job. The position was at a local organization that I had never heard of and whose name is so very boring that I fear if I tell it to you, you may stop reading before my story has even begun.

So please consider before I reveal the name in question that it might have been picked not in spite of its boringness but precisely because of it. If you wanted to fly under the radar in the world’s financial and media capitals, could there be any better way to do so than as a representative of the Canadian Economic Press or CEP News for short?

Whether that utterly unsexy name was a stroke of inspired genius or sheer dumb luck, I will likely never know, but what I can tell you is that Canadian Economic Press was just one of several strange “news agencies” that I later discovered were tied to the secretive world of high frequency trading or HFT as it’s known. Along the way I also encountered many of the same things Michael Lewis did in Flash Boys : bumbling FBI agents, clueless government regulators and employees who didn’t know what the firms they worked for really did. Just like Flash Boys does, my HFT story ends with a microwave tower.

All of this happened because, as someone who is interested in the future of the troubled news industry, I was curious to find out how exactly how Canadian Economic Press planned to make money and who the people behind it were. The explanations provided by its marketing director, Paula Midena, made no sense to me. She said that CEP News had been founded to report on global economic news from a Canadian perspective, not a product for which there’s a booming market, and that the man in charge was Darren Corbett while the “original investor,” was Canadian Venture Media Corporation, neither of whom had profiles either on the internet or in various research-worthy databases.

Since Midena couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me more and no one else at Canadian Economic Press was available to talk, I posted the information I’d obtained on my blog and hoped that someone who knew about the situation would eventually find me and fill me in. The strategy worked and over the next few months I learned from anonymous commenters that Canadian Economic Press had suddenly shut down its Washington operations, that I should check out the D.C.-based Need To Know News (NTKN) agency, which had been started by Chicago traders and bore a strong resemblance to Canadian Economic Press, and that, according to a commenter using the name Tdot: “There’s tons of these news startups with bad business models. Here’s another one that’s hilarious, World Business Press (WBP Online) – Slovakian newswire, with an office in Canada, releases Canadian economic news… in English. How much demand can there be for that in Slovakia?”

Puzzled as I’d been by the advent of Canadian Economic Press, it was even more perplexing to learn that it was not alone. Beyond their acronymous names, CEP News, NTKN and WBP Online had a lot of other characteristics in common: very basic websites, mediocre news feeds, little to no information about who owned or ran the companies, and lots of young inexperienced reporters, almost none of whom seemed interested in how their employers were making money at a time when many traditional media companies were in deep financial trouble.

“At CEP, staff welfare goes to a whole new level,” one of the very few CEP journalists, whose spidey senses were tingling, wrote to me in an email. “Not only do you have free coffee, tea, juice and bottled water – there are fruitcakes, cupcakes, bread, cereal, cereal and fibre bars to go with it. Thats the breakfast sorted. Then every Friday – the ENTIRE Montreal staff (we’re looking at 25-30 people) get meals of their choice catered to the office all paid for by the company. The evening is rounded off at the Keg, a couple of streets from the Montreal HQ. Extraordinary isn’t it?”

Indeed it was and especially given the fact that CEP news had told the Canadian embassy in Washington that it had decided to close its D.C. bureau due to its investor pulling out. Determined to get to the bottom of the situation, I spent evening after evening on my laptop, glass of wine in hand, as I surfed the websites of forex trading companies registered in Cyprus and Belize, stalked the LinkedIn profiles of Montreal investment managers, and tried to decipher both Slovak company registration documents and the incomprehensible language on the websites of Chicago-based proprietary trading companies otherwise known as prop shops. On a few memorable occasions I thought I’d discovered the key to it all, but when I awoke the mornings after I quickly realized my theories made no sense. By the time CEP News folded in April of 2009, I still hadn’t figured out what was going on and was starting to doubt that I ever would.

And in that dark moment, the email I’d been waiting for for almost a year and a half arrived. It was from a trader who, though he did not wish to be named, was prepared to reveal his identity, unlike almost everyone else. He informed me that Canadian Economic Press had been funded by a Montreal-based proprietary trading firm called Vigilant Futures (which has since changed its name to Vigilant Global.) In the early days, he said, Vigilant Futures and CEP News had even shared office space. Arvind Ramanathan, one of Vigilant’s two directors, and Marco Gomez, who ran CEP’s operations in the absence of the elusive Darren Corbett, had both worked together as traders at Refco before it collapsed amid scandal in 2005. When I phoned Ramanathan, he confirmed to me that Vigilant Futures had invested in Canadian Economic Press to help out his friend Marco, but that the venture hadn’t worked out and had had to close down.

Once I learned that a trading company had been behind Canadian Economic Press, I was forced to reconsider a theory I’d initially rejected about CEP’s and the other news agencies’ whole raison d’être, namely that their main goal was to gain access to secure government briefing sessions all over the world. These “lock-ups”, as they’re known, are where government agencies regularly release key financial indicators to reporters, who in turn disseminate the data to the public at what is supposed to be exactly the same time. When the information is surprising — better than expected unemployment figures, for example, or an unexpected hike in interest rates — financial markets react. The advantage and profits go to the traders who get their first.

Given that I had reported from lock-ups, as a journalist for Reuters, one of the big three financial news companies, I was convinced there was no way anyone could systematically leak sensitive economic information to traders. On the rare occasions that I’d seen someone unintentionally break a lock-up embargo, irate officials from the central bank or finance minister’s office were on the phone within minutes. Journalists worried about losing their jobs over an accidental leak while intentional leaking could result in criminal charges. Regulators were constantly on the lookout for suspicious trading patterns ahead of a key economic data releases and ready to pounce if they saw any signs of insider trading.

What I’d failed to figure out, however, was that it wasn’t necessary to leak to have an advantage in lock-ups. I still pictured traders waiting by their screens, with fingers on buttons, and ready to pounce when Reuters (now Thomson Reuters), Bloomberg and Dow Jones all delivered their news and numbers at the appointed time. I didn’t understand that simultaneous no longer meant at the same minute or second and that so-called high frequency traders now worked in milli and microseconds. I didn’t appreciate that the new best way to do things was with so-called machine readable feeds that were algorithmically programmed to buy and sell automatically without the need for any microsecond-sapping human intervention. I didn’t realize that a trade could be carried out in less time than it took to blink an eye and that several of the news agencies in the lock-ups were using their own dedicated fibre optic lines to send data directly to their clients, whoever those clients were.

I wasn’t the only person who didn’t get this. Neither did the folks in charge of the lock-ups, most regulators, law enforcement agencies and the upstart news services’ competitors. As an anonymous source would later succinctly explain it: “(The new news agencies) were light years ahead technology wise over DJ, Reuters, Bloomberg, AP, etc. They built highly optimized networks to transfer this data through ultra low latency switches and lines that the other guys never thought of. They also were optimized to this single rifle shot of data through a network where the big legacy guys were using systems/networks optimized for throughput and continuously publishing hundreds or thousands of stories simultaneously and continuously.”

Keeping all this in mind, along with the fact that the stated purpose of government lock-ups is to inform the public and not to provide an infrastructure for high frequency traders, the obvious next question became why no one had kicked the wonky news agencies to the curb? But when I tried to discuss this issue with those responsible for the lock-ups, they proved almost as secretive and loath to talk about their business as the HFTs had been about theirs.

There had been complaints about NTKN and its relationship to specific Chicago traders, some of which are documented on the internet, since its arrival on the scene in 2005 yet it still managed to keep its much coveted seat in the U.S. Department of Labor lock-ups . And though CEP News had its access to Office of National Statistics lock-ups in England — where it was briefly allowed entry, thanks to a newly hired staffer who already had valid press credentials — revoked, it easily gained admission to lock-ups in Ottawa and Frankfurt. Econolive, yet another strange news agency which sprung up at about the same time Canadian Economic Press went under in 2009, was welcomed into lock-ups in Ottawa, Washington, and, for a short while, London. Run by an Israeli American named Yakov (Yankey) Mermelstein, who had no background in the news business and a history of active participation in web trading forums, it also used the name Empire News and had a corporate address in Jerusalem.

I was starting to think that instead of an indecipherable investigative report on incompetence in the administration of G-7 lock-ups, I might be better off writing a sitcom script. The pilot could focus on an email I’d just received from the FBI — which did not from an fbi.gov address but rather from Concerned Citizen at forbrocklehurst@gmail.com. “Ms. Brocklehurst,” read the email, “Any chance you’d be willing to talk by phone about your posting Monday regarding the visitors to your site? If so, could you send me a number where I could reach you this morning?”

The blog posting in question showed that officials at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission were searching my website for information on the news agencies and their owners. Concerned Citizen, who had a thick southern accent and identified himself as a United States special agent named Bob, asked if I’d be willing to take my post down as it could interfere with his investigation . He said someone at the SEC had erred in not using secure computers for their research and buttered me up by telling me how he and his colleagues checked out my website regularly. This was a very big story, he said, hinting that there might be a scoop or two in my future if did him this favour, which I did indeed do.

While I had initial suspicions that Agent Concerned Citizen might be a hoaxer, he wasn’t. The FBI turned out to be even worse at secure surfing than SEC employees and somehow managed to leave information stored in their C-drive files, including employees’ first names, on my web traffic monitoring program. So when Agent Concerned Citizen failed to return my emails, I did what I should have done all along and published the evidence showing the sorry state of FBI computers.

Only last year did I finally learn from a series of Wall Street Journal articles how the FBI had spent years investigating what it deemed to be suspicious activity in lock-ups. In 2011, it had installed a hidden camera in the room where the U.S. Labor Department holds its media briefing sessions, the Journal reported. And that same year, the SEC had also subpoenaed computer hard drives used by Need To Know News’s reporters.

None of this led to any criminal charges being laid although the suspicions did eventually cause the Department of Labor to commission the dramatically named Clean Sweep Red Team Report, from Sandia National Laboratories. As a result of this investigation, the DOL announced in spring of 2012 that it would overhaul procedures for its lock-ups and that all media participants would have to reapply for permission to attend. In May, it said three previously accredited news agencies would no longer be eligible to file from lock-ups because they were not considered to be “primarily journalistic enterprises” that disseminate original news to a “broad public audience.” Those given the boot were NTKN, the Bond Buyer and RTT News, which had briefly employed CEP’s old marketing director. The agencies did, however, remain eligible to participate in a variety of other government lock-ups.

At about the same time as Clean Sweep Red, Statistics Canada proposed changes that would slow things down in the lock-ups it oversaw. It announced that it would delay its releases to the public by as much as 16 seconds as part of a new data-loading process onto its website. Given that 16 seconds is a veritable lifetime in a world where milliseconds can mean millions of dollars of profits, there was immediate pushback.

Since the arrival of the strange news agencies, the big three financial data providers had caught up and were now also offering clients the direct machine readable feeds that used to be exclusive to their smaller rivals. According to Thomson Reuters, “strenuous representations” were made to both StatsCan and then Industry Minister Christian Paradis, arguing that such a change could cause chaos on financial markets. Within two days Statscan had backed down and agreed to hold consultations. Although spokeswoman Gabrielle Beaudoin said in October 2012 that a decision would be forthcoming very soon, the situation remains unresolved to this day.

Without understanding how lock-ups have evolved to become a crucial part of HFT infrastructure, it’s difficult to appreciate how complex it is to make any changes to them. When there was a fuss last year over possible leaks from a U.S. Federal Reserve lock-up, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt opined that the institution of lock-ups was obsolete and that it made much more sense just to release data on the web. But take away the lock-up with all the special fibre optic lines — and, more recently, microwave networks — leading out of it and the financial industry would be back to looking at numbers on a screen and pushing old fashioned buttons.

Michael Lewis’s  Flash Boys ends in the wilds of Pennsylvania at the foot of a microwave tower, the latest frontier in the race for speed. It was not unfamiliar territory to me as I had learned about how microwave networks were 30% faster than the most sophisticated landlines last summer when it came to my attention that Vigilant Global, now owned by the Chicago trading firm DRW, had applied for permits to build wireless networks in both North America and Europe.

In England, Vigilant had stated in a position paper, that the failure to create such a network could result in job losses in London’s important financial industry. But such arguments failed to convince city councillours in Castle Point, Essex who voted against the Montreal company’s request to put two satellite dishes atop a local water tower. “I don’t understand why every two or three months we are getting applications for more equipment on this building, “ Norman Smith, a Tory councillor , told the local newspaper.“I am happy to approve applications to replace existing, tired equipment but not more. Enough is enough.”

Postscript: I am working to add links to this story, but wanted to get it out asap.

The mystery ending of Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys: FCC License No. 1215095

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April 9 Update: Read my new article: How HFT firms access secure government briefings to get the jump on market-moving data

———————————–

You’re here because you googled FCC license 1215095, right? Perhaps you’ve already discovered the registrant, Converge Towers LLC, and its corporate ties to Cantor Fitzgerald, a New York financial firm best known for the devastation it suffered in the 9/11 attacks.

Or maybe that information is incorrect. (See the comments.) In my work, I discover quite a lot of errors and outdated information in internet databases. I haven’t actually called the FCC to check so for now, I can’t actually confirm anything about 1215095.

I think I might, however, know the story — or at least part of the story — Michael Lewis hints at at the end of his fascinating new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt.

That’s because a couple of months ago I wrote a post about how Vigilant Global — a Montreal-based HFT prop shop was building its own microwave networks.

I later learned this was something of a trend so I wasn’t surprised, but rather perplexed, by the final paragraph of Michael Lewis’ fascinating new book, Flash Boys, where he writes about a microwave tower he discovers in the wilds of Pennsylvania:

The application to use the tower to send a microwave signal had been filed in July 2012, and it had been filed by … well, it isn’t possible to keep any of this secret anymore. A day’s journey in cyberspace would lead anyone who wished to know it into another incredible but true Wall Street story of hypocrisy and secrecy and the endless quest by human beings to gain a certain edge in an uncertain world. All that one needed to discover the truth about the tower was the desire to know it.

Any inside information I have about this situation comes mostly from the anonymous correspondents who have gotten in touch with me over the years due to my coverage of HFT. I have written about it from a completely different perspective than Michael Lewis, and I can’t help but wonder if the hint at the end of Flash Boys is pointing to this other HFT story.

For the record then, here’s what one of my anonymous sources told me about HFT firms’ microwave networks:

Vigilant (which is now owned by DRW) had the fastest microwave line from Chicago to NJ … They shopped themselves around and Tower just, and now regrettably, missed out. DRW needed better technology which is why they bought (Vigilant) — not because it was making a lot of money, in which case they wouldn’t have been for sale.

According to this anonymous source, there are also microwave networks between Chicago and Washington, D.C., where economic news and indicators, are regularly announced by government agencies. To get their hands on this information as quickly as possible, several HFT shops even set up not just their own private microwave networks but also their own “news agencies.” Vigilant Global, for example, funded the now defunct Canadian Economic Press or CEP News. And the Wall Street Journal had a front page story last summer on the connections between Need to Know News, its owner Deutsche Börse, and various Chicago HFT traders.

According to my anonymous source, “The firm that has probably made more money from DC news services than anyone else is Virtu (formerly Madison Taylor and EWT),” which  is now in the process of going public.

“I *think* Virtu was/is a NTKN client,” wrote my source in an e-mail. They were the early adopters on the EIA numbers (oil and nat gas inventories) and less so on the macro economic data. They also put these strategies on FPGA cards to bypass the OS which shaved microseconds of reaction time.  The telco is only one part of the latency and if all HFT clients get it at the same time the one who processes it first wins.”

HFT-related microwave operations are also under way in Europe too where my source says that Jump is rumoured to have bought a de-commisioned NATO telco tower in Belgium to secure the fastest London to Frankfurt route. He also said:

London-Frankfurt has three commercial providers  (that I know of): Colt, Perseus, Fixnetix.  CIC was recently trying to sell various assets that they’d put together. In Europe, the regulatory structure for link licensing is byzantine, and you have to deal with UK/Ofcom, France/Belgium, and Germany. I suspect that several household-name HFTs are already running their own routes. (Jump, Virtu, and Final probably.  Tower isn’t there yet but will be.  Allston and Getco are doubtful)  Not sure about the UK coast where the trans-atlantic cable terminates to London or London to Stockholm which all will be done if it isn’t already.

I can’t say that this is all clear to me, but for those of you that follow HFT and microwave networks maybe you’ll find something of interest here. If you do, I’d love to know about it. Please contact me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com.

Oh, and if you want more on the telco aspect of all this, this Chicago Tribune article is detailed and interesting. Finally, here’s something I wrote on HFT and lock-ups.

Jeffrey Boucher Disappearance: Four Possible Scenarios

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On the Whitby waterfront, the search is underway again for Jeffrey Boucher.

Just about everybody has their own pet theory as to what happened, including me. Let’s take a look at the possibilities:

Accident If Jeffrey Boucher had an accident, it is one hell of a coincidence given that he had supposedly gone out for a super long run the night before. His wife was so worried about his longer-than-usual absence that his daughter took the family van and went out looking for him. The same scenario repeated itself the next morning, when the daughter drove around the neighbourhood again while the mother called the police.

Suicide Men of Boucher’s age are at a higher-than-average risk for suicide. He was facing big life changes including retirement and his younger daughter leaving for college. But usually when someone commits suicide — including people who no one believes would kill themselves — there are after-the-fact signs and reasons. This does not appear to be the case with Jeffrey Boucher, whose wife Kirsten remains adamant he wouldn’t have committed suicide.

Walk away Again, when someone walks away, the preparations will usually be discovered once the person has made off. In this case, there don’t appear to be any clues whatsoever that Jeffrey Boucher was planning to bolt.

Foul Play Much has been made of the reactions of Boucher’s wife and younger daughter to his disappearance, but there’s no template for how to behave when personal tragedy strikes. Shock can explain a lot. As a result of their reactions, the wife and daughter have been subject to intense scrutiny. In contrast, there’s been comparatively little attention paid to Boucher himself.

Discussing people who may be the victims of crime is rightfully a sensitive topic and can sometimes turn into victim blaming. My training in this area is old school. Until charges are laid or there’s evidence that someone is guilty, you do not speculate in public. Of course, the media doesn’t always obey these rules. Just look at the speculation over whether the pilots of the missing Malaysian Airlines jet were involved.

I don’t believe all public speculation is  always wrong, but what I do know is that when you get into speculation, there’s always a danger someone innocent will be hurt and their reputation harmed. On the other hand, there are also negative consequences to not asking certain questions and I’m sure most people would agree that it’s not out of line to ask about the pilots of the missing jets.

Keeping that in mind, here’s what I’ve always wanted to know about Jeffrey Boucher’s Sunday night outing. Who on earth goes for a two-hour evening run after a full day of skiing and with a morning run planned for the next day? Was he going somewhere else? If so, where and why?

Alternatively, he could have done an evening run because he knew he wasn’t going to be running the next day, in which case the question becomes where was Jeffrey Boucher headed Monday morning and why?

Obviously, these questions imply a foul play scenario, which is the way I’m leaning. That doesn’t mean that I’ve ruled out the other three possibilities.

I would love to hear from anyone who might be able to help answer my questions on the Jeffrey Boucher case and especially about a sweater photo online late last year: ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com or leave a comment.

A really good thing Rob Ford did for the TTC

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 TTC Chairs Stintz and Augimeri opposed the mayor’s smartest public transit decision

When Jon Stewart asked Robyn Doolittle why Torontonians put up with Rob Ford, she gave the standard answer. He was good at answering constituents’ calls and getting things done on their behalf. As much as that may be true, it’s only part of the answer.

A lot of people, myself included, were fed up with the David Miller regime, which fiddled while Toronto burned. Take the TTC, for example, which became an almost daily disaster during the Miller years and under the mayor’s appointee as chief general Manager, Gary Webster.

Anyone who rode the TTC — and I speak as someone who experienced the total hell of commuting on the Yonge line during rush hour for two years — knew this organization had huge problems that went far beyond whether the Eglinton extension should be a subway or light rail. And Webster, a TTC lifer who appeared to be in denial about the seriousness of the situation, clearly was not up to the job.

His successor, Andy Byford, has been a study in contrast. Almost immediately after Byford took over things began to change in a way that even commuters like me noticed. Announcements about the ubiquitous service stops became more informative, Byford showed up at stations regularly to talk to commuters, and he brought up a subject that had been all but forgotten during the endless Scarborough subway/light rail debate — the downtown relief line.

As a somewhat new Torontonian (I arrived in 2008 although I had also lived here from 1989 to 1992 when the subways actually worked), I had never heard of the downtown relief line pre-Byford. It was a giant CLICK that made total sense. I couldn’t believe that city council, transport reporters and the public had let themselves get so dangerously sidetracked for so many years. Where did everyone think these Eglinton line passengers were going to go if not the already jam-packed Yonge line?

Byford made the downtown relief line a priority again, showing that everyone who had hinted or come right out and called him Mayor Ford’s patsy were just plain wrong.

So, remind me, who opposed the Byford appointment? None other than outgoing TTC chair and wannabe mayor Karen Stintz, who, according to the Toronto Star, suggested that Webster’s departure would inject instability into the system at a time when the TTC can least afford it.

And incoming TTC chair Maria Augimeri, who said this to the Star about Webster:

“What message are you sending to the rest of our employees, that professionalism gets kicked out the door and toadyism wins? … This man is a consummate professional. You can rely on him to give you the truth. You can rely on him not to hide reports,” she said, in a pointed reference to a report revealed by the Star last week that Ford hid from the public because it didn’t support his plan to extend the Sheppard subway.
“Today is a clear demonstration of an abuse of power,” said an emotional Augimeri.

In hindsight, it’s clear that both Stintz and Augimeri were very wrong about Byford, who’s been the best thing to happen to the TTC in a decade. They were prepared to carry on in the Miller tradition, afraid to make a change.

Even if he Ford — who I find completely clueless about public transit and the desperate need for a downtown relief line – fired Webster because he wrongly thought Byford would be a yes man, at least he got rid of a guy who was not up to the job and replaced him with one who is. And for the record here’s the statement Ford, a non-TTC rider, made at the time:

“The general public — and subway, streetcar and bus passengers — all tell me it’s time for a change,” said Ford. “The time is right for a new leader to take the reins at TTC.”

It’s something to consider next time someone asks why anyone would vote for Rob Ford. The answer is because they didn’t want more of the same and that’s all the opposition was prepared to give them.

Mid-February Update – Mark Smich

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One of the things that readers like to complain about in the coverage of the Tim Bosma murder is why accused murderer Dellen Millard gets more attention than Mark Smich, his co-accused.

The short answer is that there’s more information out there about Millard, due to his family’s prominence, and his story is inherently more interesting.

That being said, I would love it if someone would talk to me about Smich, which no one has yet done despite my best efforts.

So if you have any information about either of the accused, please contact me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com.

Some thoughts on the Toronto Star’s jailhouse interview with Dellen Millard

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My immediate reaction, as a reporter following this story,was that the quotes from Dellen Millard confirm much of what I know and believe about his character. There was some new and very revealing information in the interview. But my number two reaction was that the piece was terribly edited and could have been far stronger.

Dellen Millard Jailhouse Interview

The article should have clarified that Dellen Millard spoke without consulting his lawyer Deepak Paradkar. That’s a pretty dumb thing to do and shows that the accused murderer of Tim Bosma doesn’t listen to his handpicked and highly paid legal counsel, who said in an email to me that he had not approved any interviews. Deciding to ignore your lawyer and talk to the press is the action of someone who thinks he knows best and can’t be told what to do, even in an extremely serious situation.

This is very similar to Millard’s behaviour when he wrote to a jailhouse groupie last summer. At the time Jim Van Allen, former manager of the OPP’s Criminal Profile Unit, described the decision to write the letter as “impulsive and somewhat reckless.”

“This type of personality is a nightmare for a lawyer. You can’t control them,” he said. “They are individuals who often don’t consider the consequences of their actions.”

Both incidents raise the obvious question of just how far out of his way the accused murderer will go to challenge and flout authority of any kind.

I’m also surprised at the Star‘s description of Millard as doe-eyed, which is not just Fifty Shades of Grey-style prose, it’s also wrong.  While it’s true that Millard looks very different in person than he does in his best-known party-boy photos, he is not, by any stretch of even a chick-lit-fueled imagination, doe-eyed. It’s a particularly bizarre characterization given that it seems designed to evoke innocence and, as a result, sympathy.

As for the “I shop at Costco” and I’m reading On War by Carl von Clausewitz stuff, all that is highly calculated to portray a certain persona. Millard is a complete control freak about his image and anything to do with himself. For example, he called the web developer to personally select the colour of the single-page Millardair website, he chose and orchestrated every detail for his engagement photo shoot, and he personally hacked up, with a kitchen carving knife,  the jeans he wore to get the distressed look exactly right.

Given the terrible, ungrammatical prose in the strange obituary that Millard wrote for his father – who, among other things, didn’t read and write five languages, as his son maintained — it’s also striking to see the Star describe Dellen Millard as “articulate” and, all the more so given that nothing in quotation marks reflects that choice of adjective.

But since I wasn’t there, I’ll just let that one go and raise my eyebrows — for now.

Dellen Millard and ex-fiancée: engagement photos

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Dellen Millard engagement photos

Dellen Millard’s engagement photos were shot at his family’s old Pearson Airport hangar just before it was demolished. The engagement also came apart at about the same time.

In the spring  of 2011, Dellen Millard arranged for engagement photos to be taken of himself and his fiancee at the Millardair hangar at Pearson airport. The concept for the shoot, the props and the location were all Millard’s choosing. But by the time, Millard — now accused of the murder of Tim Bosma — went to pick up the photos a few weeks later, the wedding had been called off.

Dellen Millard and his fiancee were set up by their mothers. They lived together briefly in a house in Oakville in her name. She left the country in the summer of 2013.

The full-sized photos can be seen here.

Believe her or not, discussing Linda Tirado’s teeth is a lose/lose situation

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When I wrote my response to Linda Tirado’s viral poverty porn essay, I skipped over the subject of her teeth. Every fabulist sprinkles a few grains of truth in her story and the teeth could have been the honest bits of Tirado’s tale for all I knew.

Yes, Linda’s online ramblings about her mouth had the usual warning signs — like the dentist who accused her of meth use — but I just didn’t want to go there. Now, however, Tirado has put out a 15-minute rambling YouTube monologue about her teeth, which the Huffington Post has gleefully reposted with a headline blaring: “Is this what you want? Author of viral poverty piece takes out teeth to prove her story.”

As tabloid headlines go, it’s absolutely brilliant, just like HuffPo’s earlier Linda Tirado heds — “Meet the woman who accidentally explained poverty to the nation” and “This is why poor people’s bad decisions make perfect sense.”

The Huffington Post, you see, has been exploiting Linda Tirado aka KillerMartinis from the get-go. Unlike the mainstream media, which has almost unanimously passed on  her story, due to all the giant gaping holes, HuffPo has been all over it, credulously gobbling up everything Linda feeds it. Whether it’s for the page views or because HuffPo can’t admit it was wrong or both, this online news organization is ignoring all the warning signs about Linda Tirado.

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Granted, something similar to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle affects all of us discussing the Linda Tirado situation. It’s not possible to engage without some degree of exploitation, but the Huffington Post and its reporter Ryan Grim can’t even bring themselves to acknowledge there might be something to admit.

HuffPo’s mission now, you see, is not just to continue exploiting Linda Tirado, but to savage her most vocal critics for the usual sins — hating, trolling and jealousy. Those critics are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the teeth. There’s just no way for them to get into the details of dental plates without looking bad even if they happen to be right.

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And yes, despite that dentistry video — described to me in an email as “fascinating macabre theatre” — we have no idea how Linda Tirado’s teeth became so bad. Maybe, despite her history of telling tall tales, the teeth story she’s putting out there is actually true. But it’s also possible that she took her insurance money and spent it on killer stilettos and martinis, and that her dentist had a point about the meth.

Right now, we just don’t know. Except for HuffPo, which does. The teeth tale and everything else is exactly what Linda Tirado says it is for this leader of the online news industry. Linda’s fantastical story would likely still have cred if it weren’t for Angelica Leicht aka @Writer_Anna’s biting critique, which also went viral. Sometimes it takes a girl from the dildo beat to point out in public that the emperor has no clothes.

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What @glsailor clearly doesn’t know is that when you write about sex toys for a living, you get to know the naked truth.

Linda Tirado’s Poverty Porn

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Once upon a time Linda Walther Tirado aka KillerMartinis wrote an essay about what it feels like to be poor. In spite (or perhaps because) of its nihilism and hopelessness, Linda’s story enchanted the internet and went viral.

Linda Tirado Poverty

Linda’s essay was hailed as brilliant, honest, brave, and shared and discussed all over Facebook, Twitter and the Huffington Post. But as anyone who knows a thing or two about poverty could tell you, Linda’s tale was pure poverty porn. Not honest or authentic at all, but designed — like all effective porn — to make its target audience feel good.

Cooking broccoli is so hard, Linda wrote.

Yes, yes, yes, responded her readers.

Planned Parenthood is three hours away and I can’t afford the gas, Linda explained.

Don’t stop, they said.

Smoking is the only thing that keeps me sane, Linda  revealed .

Oh my Gawd. More, more, more, said her fans. Where can we send you money for hitting every poverty talking point there is from junk food to the Patriot Act, and all in one easy read?

Linda quickly set up a gofundme.com account. And within a few days, she had raised more than $60,000 to write a book about what it’s like to live in dire poverty and despair — and also to head to Vegas for some much needed R and R.

If it hadn’t been for a bunch of haters poking holes in her fairy tale, Linda might have been able to keep on fundraising and reach her final $100,000 goal. But trolls did things like actually pay attention to paragraph two of Linda’s article, where she outlines a day in the life of a two-job, full-time student mom of two very young children. Anyone who did the math or actually knows anything about working mothers with babies and toddlers, would see instantly the story was ludicrous.And this is before factoring in Linda’s later claim that she drove an hour through snowy mountains to get to one of her jobs.

Then there was the curious fact that Linda skipped right over the crucial issue of child care, kind of a giant red flag waving. And a bit of internet surfing would have revealed to the “news” organization that spread Linda’s story that — for someone with two jobs, two kids and a full-course load — she spent an awful lot of time online at Jezebel.com, asking, among other things for decorating tips and how to preserve her china cabinet.

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The trolls also uncovered that Linda was a homeowner — no mortgage either — who had recently crowdfunded some overdue bills. And she turned out to have multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as internet personalities. Before she became a downtrodden young mom making bad decisions, Linda was a lesbian taking on the Mormon church, a hard-nosed political operator who knew the president, and a feisty fast food franchise manager putting entitled customers in their place.

Linda’s fans leapt to her defense accusing her detractors of being creepy stalkers who didn’t  want poor people to live in nice homes, vacation in Vegas or have an active fantasy life.

Linda herself was a little more circumspect. In a very tl;dr explanation on her fundraising page, she confessed that her essay was not 100% true. “I never meant to say that all of these things were happening to me right now,” she admitted. Then, further demonstrating that poor people can indeed be clever, Linda buried a whole bunch of information about her music lessons and private schools in acres and acres of effusive thanks to her donors.

Linda  also continued to display a certain way with words. She told everyone that her parents “helped us find a house to live in” never actually clarifying that she owned the house even when she talked to credulous reporters.

Linda followed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s example, coming sort of clean and moving on. She wasn’t going to  let a few pesky revelations spoil her moment of glory. Like any good con artist, she also knew her mark’s weaknesses and that people hate to admit they’ve been conned.

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After all, Linda’s fans had gone all out, calling her the voice of her generation or, as the HuffPo put it atop the article where Linda admitted she went to private school and wasn’t really poor, “the woman who accidentally explained poverty to the nation.”

What’s more, Linda was clearly relishing the new role her enablers had given her. Holding forth on Twitter, where she tweeted an astounding 1,500 times in one day, she flattered her newfound fans, entertained proposals from fellow poverty activists, and ignored the annoying types asking for clarification. That would  be letting facts stand in the way of the essential truth, which is, as all right thinking people know, small minded and pedantic.

But it turns out there is one factual line that even Linda’s staunchest supporters wouldn’t cross and that’s kiddie poverty porn. As one gofundme.com participant earnestly put it: “She didn’t claim to have an ill child. Refreshing, IMO.”

Read the follow-up: Why discussing Linda Tirado’s teeth is a lose/lose proposition

Relax, dog lovers, Popper cheats death in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

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If you are, like me, a dog, book and movie lover, you will feel a sense of dread when reading Donna Tartt’s new book, The Goldfinch. This is because it features a small white fluffster of a Maltese dog — called variously Popper, Popchik and Popchyk — who appears doomed from the moment he makes his entry into the novel, greeting with desperate shrieks the evil owner who has left him home all alone for almost two weeks.

Luckily for Popper, things change for the better thanks to Theo, the new teenage addition to his household,  and Theo’s bad-guy buddy, Boris. These two drug and booze-addled dudes let the little dog hang out with them, ending his life of isolation. The downside  is that their activities don’t exactly provide a safe and secure environment for the family pet, provoking many anxieties that he will go missing forever in a deserted Las Vegas subdivision.

Worse yet, when Theo and Boris encounter a mobster, it seems predestined that Popper will get what happens to so many movie dogs and end up lifeless on the front door stoop or kitchen counter with a threatening note attached to his collar.

Any half-serious movie goer knows just how often the loyal family dog meets a gruesome death, enough that there exists an entire website — www.DoesTheDogDie.com — devoted to answering this “most important movie question” and mentally preparing dog-loving movie goers for what’s to come.

That there is no literary equivalent to  www.DoesTheDogDie.com can be seen as a good thing  in as much as it  shows that tear-jerking pet death  has never been as big an issue for books as it is for movies. On the other hand, it also means there’s no quick reference guide to turn to if a reader does start to worry about a fictional dog’s future.

Therefore in the interests of calming the nerves of dog and literary fiction lovers reading The Goldfinch, I am hereby informing you that Popper survives this almost 800-page novel unharmed despite his many brushes with danger and long absences from the narrative.

And no, I did not forget the spoiler warning. The only thing this knowledge will spoil is a sadistic ride on the roller coaster of fear for an innocent little Maltese dog. Knowing Popper’s fate does not in any way affect the outcome of the rest of The Goldfinch.

Rest reassured dear Reader, Popper lives to a ripe old age.

Fed leak rumours shine spotlight on bigger problems with ‘media’ lock-ups

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Government never intended to become part of the high-speed trading infrastructure, but it can’t extricate itself without alienating Wall Street

Lock-ups, like the one the Fed is now investigating for a leak, make no sense in the age of the internet. The Fed and other agencies that announce potentially market-moving data could far more easily release it on the web, as Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt argues they should in this interview. But this is unlikely to happen anytime soon due to the simple fact that lock-ups have, over the past few years, become part of the infrastructure for so-called high frequency trading or HFT as its known.

Wall Street, a major donor to both U.S. political parties, would go ballistic if it no longer had access to the lock-ups through special fibre optic lines and, as of late, microwave networks. Instead of the data travelling straight to the Street via so-called machine readable feeds that allow profitable trades to take place in milliseconds, hedge funds and traders would have to figure out a way to get the data from the internet so they could then trade on it. It might take seconds like it did in the past and this is something, the masters of the universe wouldn’t be prepared to live with.

As a result of this most recent Fed leak investigation, several other leak and lock-up stories this year, and various ongoing SEC and FBI investigations, we’re likely to see two things happen in the very near (but far longer than milliseconds away) future. One, expect to hear more and more that lock-ups — originally conceived  to ensure the public received clear information in a timely fashion – have become obsolete in this era of global communications. And two, prepare for Wall Street to push back and tell us there will be market chaos if lock-ups are done away with. Financiers will argue that such a change would make the system unfair and susceptible to the horrible vagaries of regular old internet connections.

Access to lock-ups is so important to the HFT crowd that over the past decade, several trading companies have set up their own “news agencies” (yes, those are scare quotes) to gain the coveted entry key. Chicago’s JED Capital funded Need to Know News and then sold it to the Deutsche Börse. The Montreal-based proprietary trader Vigilant Global (formerly Vigilant Futures) founded the now-defunct Canadian Economic Press (CEP News) and, as a result, received direct feeds from lock-ups in Ottawa, Washington, London and Frankfurt. A Slovakian firm, World Business Press Online, cropped up in Bratislava, and started attending lock-ups around the world. Then came Econolive, also know as Empire News, which appears to be an Israeli firm, but this can’t be confirmed because no one there will return phone calls and their reporters don’t have the foggiest idea who owns the company. And last but not least there’s Buffalo-based RTTNews which — unlike many of the aforementioned new players — has been around since early internet days. In recent years, it’s had a makeover, however, and it too is now an active lock-up attendee.

All this activity eventually attracted the interest of the FBI, but failed to result in any arrests or prosecutions. Apart from the U.S. Department of Labor’s decision to kick Need to Know News and RTTNews out of its lock-ups in the spring of 2012, everyone’s still attending Washington’s other lock-ups and many go to similar lock-ups in the UK, Germany and Canada.

According to anonymous but proven-to-be reliable sources, it was never clear that there was indeed any illegal leaking by the new “news agencies.” Despite the suspicion and investigations, no evidence of malfeasance was ever found. Multiple insiders, who did not want to give their names, said the new “news agencies” profited simply because they were both more nimble and more sophisticated than bigger, better established news operations, which made them significantly faster in the age of HFT.

“While I can’t say if any of these (new) news companies were cheating, I can say they were light years ahead technology wise over DJ, Reuters, Bloomberg, AP, etc,” said one source in an email.  “They built highly optimized networks to transfer this data through ultra low latency switches and lines that the other guys never thought of.  They also were optimized to this single rifle shot of data through a network where the big legacy guys were using systems/networks optimized for throughput and continuously publishing hundreds or thousands of stories simultaneously and continuously.”

Since the invasion of the small news agencies beginning in 2005,  the big players have mostly caught up and just about everyone now offers machine readable feeds (you program your computer with algorithms that allow trades to be carried out in the blink of an eye) and low latency (ultra high-speed) services.

Many of the traders associated with new “news agencies” are said to have their own microwave networks, which are supposedly faster than even the newest fibre optic lines. In a study released after reports of the September 18 Fed leak, the large trading firm Virtu Financial confirmed that certain companies receive their data via microwave radio signals, a topic that traders usually don’t mention in public.

In August of 2012, the Chicago Tribune reported:

These microwave networks require a dish every 30 miles or so and Federal Communications Commission approval. High-speed traders, however, try to cloak their routes in secrecy. FCC filings do not list the traders themselves but limited liability companies with such nondescript names as Webline Holdings.

For this reason, it was unusual to see Montreal’s Vigilant Global publicly named when it requested antennae permits in both the U.S. and Great Britain. According to a source, Vigilant, Virtu and Jump Trading are confirmed to have their own microwave networks. Other firms who may own them are Allston Trading, Tower Trading Group, which owns the mysterious Latour Trading, and Final, an Israeli company that is a top volume player on the CME.

While some traders have said that they think the ongoing investment in proprietary millisecond-shaving networks is a costly war of diminishing returns, others are not yet ready to lay down arms. Jump is supposed to have “bought a de-commisioned NATO telco tower in Belgium to secure the fastest London-to-Frankfurt route,” said the source.

The source added that any one of these trading companies might own and/or be (exclusive) clients of the smaller news agencies accessing lock-ups. This conflict-of-interest situation is a huge annoyance to the legacy news agencies, who don’t make multi-million dollar trades on the side and must earn their profits solely by providing news. They’ve tried on many occasions to have the new players booted out of the lock-ups and their press passes revoked, but these efforts have been foiled partly due to governmental bureaucratic inertia and partly due to haphazard media accreditation systems devised by press gallery members themselves.

The whole situation is further complicated by the fact that it’s not just Wall Street that would be in trouble if lock-ups were abolished; Bloomberg,Thomson Reuters and Dow Jones would be cut right out of their profitable middleman role, which would undermine their entire business model. Last year, when Statistics Canada attempted to put information on the web before it was released from lock-ups, it was immediately forced to back down. Reuters reported that it and other news organizations had made “strenuous representations” to StatsCan and the minister in charge to block the change.  StatsCan was supposed to come up with an alternative proposal shortly, but there’s been radio silence ever since.

As much as the internet makes it possible to do away with lock-ups, powerful vested interests won’t let go of the keys to the money-making chambers without a fight.

The Story of Jo: A Suicide Girl

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What to do when your ex-boyfriend and the guy who took your porno shots turns out to be suspected killer, Dellen Millard

Back when she was 18, a suburban Toronto girl using the pseudonym “Josie” posed for a soft porn photo session with her aspiring photographer boyfriend. The amateurish results were featured in 2005 on the website Suicide Girls, which specializes in indie, tattooed and goth models. Josie’s spread, entitled Cockpit, showed her at Pearson airport where her boyfriend’s family owned hangars and airplanes. She invited readers aboard one of his grandfather’s prized planes and cheekily proclaimed that her “first official act as captain was to make the DC-4 a ‘clothing-strictly-prohibited’ aircraft.”

While the DC-4 in which she posed has since been broken up and sold for scrap, Josie’s photos have been preserved for eternity on the internet. Under normal circumstances they would likely have faded into obscurity, but in this case they ended up, some eight years later, getting more attention than ever when Josie’s ex and former photographer, Dellen Millard, was charged with murder in a sensational, headline grabbing case last May. MIllard and one of his buddies had gone for a test drive with Tim Bosma, a young father and husband from Ancaster, Ont., who was selling his Dodge Ram truck online. Bosma never returned and his burned remains were found on MIllard’s farm.

Police, the media and amateur web sleuths immediately set about finding out all they could about Millard, an underemployed 28-year-old who had recently inherited his family’s aviation business and other holdings. Within days, the murder suspect was also linked to the disappearance of his friend Laura Babcock, a Toronto woman, who had called him several times and then vanished in the summer of 2012. Soon after, Josie’s photos were uncovered and speculation arose that she too might have disappeared. Next came a reassuring rumour, that Josie had just tweeted something about “that awkward moment when you discover that your ex-boyfriend is charged with murder.”

If the rumour did indeed have any basis in reality, the tweeter must have swiftly realized the error of her ways and sensibly resisted the impulse to tell the internet about that other awkward moment when you delete a tweet that was a really, really bad idea. Whatever happened or didn’t, there is no record of such a tweet from Josie, who did indeed survive her stint as a Suicide Girl and still lives in the Toronto area.

Nor is there anything to indicate that Josie has any regrets about her porno past. In 2006, using her real name, she posted on a chatboard that she had felt perfectly at ease being photographed by her boyfriend and, even though she described herself as shy, she said she had no qualms about being seen naked all over the internet.

Josie also reveals much about her interior self in her online writing, which stands out as articulate and thoughtful. She recently reviewed the documentary, The Act of Killing, and jokes from time to time about serial killers and crime shows. All this makes her disinclination to reveal anything about Dellen Millard especially frustrating as she could likely provide insight into how someone, who appeared to have so much, could have ended up charged with such a horrific murder.

Perhaps Josie’s chosen to remain silent because she’s planning on telling the story herself. Her bio notes her aspirations as a writer, her career path indicates ambition, and her current gigs are in the film industry. For all we know, she may already be working on the screenplay, casting in her head Carey Mulligan as Josie, Josh Duhamel as Millard, Nicole Kidman as his aloof mother, Robert Duvall as the father who died in a mysterious suicide just months before his son’s arrest, and Victor Garber, as Detective Kavanagh, the man in charge of the murder investigation.

Or maybe, Josie’s just wishing that this all goes away and that her exploits in Cockpit continue to fly under the real-life radar. Both she and Millard were chameleons, who changed their hair colours and styles frequently, and appear almost unrecognizable from one photo to the next. It’s possible that no one even identified her when the media unveiled the porn photos, and that the the few who know who Josie really is will keep her secret.

As much as plain old soft porn pictures may be kind of meh these days, it’s a different situation when the photos were taken by a suspected serial killer who used to be your boyfriend. Murder remains taboo.

Coming this week: ‘The Story of Jo’

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I’m introducing a few new features on my website this week. From now on I plan on giving readers an update about what to expect in the way of new articles in any given week. Just check out This Week’s Agenda.

For example, this week, I’ve got an article coming up on Josie, the model who posed for accused murderer Dellen Millard’s porn shoot back in 2004.

Update: The Story of Jo is now posted here

I also want to do a round-up of the situation with hedge funds setting up news agencies to gain access to lock-ups where critical economic data is released.

Update: Now posted, Fed leak rumours shine spotlight on bigger problems with ‘media’ lock-ups

Time for Toronto police to answer some questions about Laura Babcock and Dellen Millard

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Stephen Woodhouse, the Toronto detective originally in charge of the Laura Babcock missing persons case, is on the Sunshine list. He earned $122,000 the year he was in charge of looking into her disappearance.

Shawn Lerner, Laura’s ex-boyfriend, says he provided Woodhouse with phone records showing Laura’s eight last calls had been to Dellen Millard. Lerner says he followed up on many occasions as did Laura’s parents. Often it wasn’t even possible to leave a message at the police station, said Lerner, and when he did, Woodhouse wouldn’t return his calls.

Woodhouse was eventually transferred off the case (it’s not clear whether he was promoted, as Lerner believes, or simply reassigned) and there were no new developments for months afterwards.

Mike Carbone, the lead homicide detective now in charge of the case, says in the video below (8:30) that it’s standard procedure in a missing person’s case to get a production order for phone records. This means that the police should have known about the phone calls to Dellen Millard and attempted to contact him, whether or not they misplaced the records Laura’s parents had provided to them earlier.

In light of this, here are some questions for Toronto police:

  1. What happened to the records Laura’s parents gave them?
  2. Did TPS obtain, as is standard procedure, Laura Babcock’s phone records via a production order? When?
  3. If these records were obtained, what follow-up was done?
  4. Did Dellen Millard refuse to speak to them or not return their calls?

Detective Stephen Woodhouse was quoted in the National Post as saying: “In a city of 3 million people, where do you start? We did the standard press release and put her picture out there… We followed the leads that we had.”

It’s time for the Toronto police force o explain why phone records — either provided by family or via a production order — weren’t among those leads.

Dellen Millard made eBay purchases from U.S. holster firm

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An eBay profile of Dellen Millard, the accused murderer of Tim Bosma, shows purchases from a number of sellers including Barsony Holsters and Belts in Hillsboro, Oregon. According to the seller’s feedback, items purchased by profile user dellmillard include the Barsony Brown Leather Concealment Shoulder Holster Walther PP PPK PPKS 380 22 32 and the Barsony IWB Concealment Holster for S&W Bodyguard .380.

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Barsony sells both holsters and belts

Further buyer and seller feedback shows that Millard’s other purchases included model cars and planes, jewelry, a multi-region DVD player, a Parkour iPhone case and bathroom faucets.

The mystery of the fourth test drive

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This is something about the Tim Bosma case that has bothering me for a while.

On May 15, I heard a test drive discussed on the CBC Radio Toronto afternoon show Here and Now. The conversation was between the fill-in host, Mary Ito, and a man, who I believe was one of the show regulars, possibly Robert Fisher. As I remember it, they discussed how a truck owner had come forward and said he was approached by the suspects in the Bosma case. The truck owner wanted to give the men his keys and let them go alone, but they kept pressuring him to go on the test drive with them.

Now I was walking down Yonge Street, listening on ear buds, so a number of things are possible:

  1. I misheard and they were talking about the TB case and then switched to discussing someone else involved in a totally different test drive situation, not involving these suspects.
  2. They were talking about a test drive related to the TB case, which later turned out to be a rumour and therefore has never been brought up again.
  3. They were talking about something that did indeed actually happen, got lost in the shuffle and, though important, has never been brought up again. (Yes, it happens.)

A few weeks later, while trying to clear up loose ends in the case, I tweeted about what I had heard (read it from bottom up):

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The next day crime reporter Sue Sgambati, broke the story of a “third test drive.”

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It did not match the description of the test drive I had heard about on Here and Now.

Next, the Star reported: “A source with knowledge of the investigation said a fourth person was also contacted about a “similar truck” — something police denied Wednesday.”

I then tweeted the following (read it from bottom up):

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Next, I contacted CBC radio, thinking maybe — because once upon a time I’d worked there for several years– they might let me come in and listen to a recording of the May 15 show, but no dice. They referred me to a third party service that was going to charge me several hundred bucks for something that may very well have led nowhere so I gave up. Temporarily. Until now.

C’mon CBC Radio folks, why doesn’t someone take an hour or two and listen to your May 15th Here and Now show (pretty sure it was the last hour) and try to get to the bottom of the “fourth test drive.” Who was the man talking about this test drive and where did he get his information? Have you ever tried to reach this supposed truck owner again? Yes, no, maybe so?

I realize it could be nothing but it could also be something important…

Police team searches full-time for Laura Babcock

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Updated with comments from Dellen Millard’s lawyer

Det. Jennifer Cash of the Toronto Police said yesterday that she is working full-time on the disappearance of Laura Babcock.

Babcock went missing in June 2012. Her last phone calls were to Dellen Millard, accused murderer of Tim Bosma.

Cash said in a brief phone interview Tuesday that an entire team was working on the case, but she declined to provide any further details and referred all questions to lead detective Mike Carbone, who is in charge of both the Babcock case and the investigation into Wayne Millard‘s death. Carbone has not yet returned calls.

Wayne is Dellen’s father. His death, from a gunshot to the head in November 2012, was originally deemed a suicide, but the case was reopened after Dellen was arrested for Tim Bosma’s murder in May of this year.

No new information on either the Babcock or Wayne Millard cases has been released since June 4 when the police held a news conference.

Update: Deepak Paradkar, Dellen Millard’s lawyer, said in an email: “Police have not contacted me or DELLEN about either one of the other two cases.”

 

Dellen Millard’s mother sells more of his properties

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Update Oct. 22: Dellen Millard’s Riverside Drive property is no longer on the market and the Royal Bank has registered a $3.8 million charge against it, according to property records.

————————–

Dellen Millard’s mother has sold the Distillery district condo her son bought the day after Tim Bosma, the man he is a accused of murdering, disappeared.

Madeleine Burns in 2004

Madeleine Burns in 2004

Purchased for $627,000 on May 7, the two-bedroom, two bathroom condo sold earlier this week for $710,000 after two months on the market, according to real estate records. The asking price was $719,000.

The condo, along with two other properties, were transferred to Millard’s mother  Madeleine Burns for $1 each days after her son was arrested. Last month she sold the Etobicoke home where Dellen Millard had lived with his father Wayne, who died in November 2012 of a gunshot wound to the head. While police originally classified that death as a suicide, they reopened their investigation after Millard’s arrest.

307 Riverside Drive in west Toronto

Three parcels of land are included in the asking price for 307 Riverside Drive in west Toronto

Burns — who was also put in charge at the family companies Millard Holdings and Millard Properties in May — has listed a rental property on Riverside Drive for sale as well. The asking price is $4.1 million including three land parcels. When visited in July, the property looked like it was not being kept up. A basement window was broken in and mail for previous tenants, including one of Millard’s cousins, was piled high in the foyer.

Dellen Millard’s letter from jail

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Here is the full text of the letter Dellen Millard, accused murderer of Tim Bosma, wrote from prison to one of his fans, a 31-year-old woman from the Kitchener area. For details on how it was authenticated see these two earlier posts:

If you have information on the Dellen Millard, please contact me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com.

Text of the letter

Dee,

The prisoners here call me ‘Big D.’ So I kind of feel like I’m writing to someone who has highjacked (sic) my nickname. I’m going to take it as a meanningful (sic) coincidence. Pleased to make your aquaintance (sic)!

I’ve never before found myself in prison. It’s been an uncomfortable experience so far. One of the worst parts has been that everyone seems to think I am a murderer. (Which I’m not, I go out of my not to step on ants.) I always suspected the news papers (sic) were full of shit, but until recently I had no idea! Another surprise was how the police conduct themselves. They formed their theory, and then went about making it a reality. I’m somewhat horrified at imagining how many innocent people might be imprisoned right now. Police corruption is nothing like Hollywood portrayed, truth really is stranger than fiction.

My closest friends and family stand by my side, which is really all I need. But I must say it is uplifting to get your letter! That someone out there who has not known me cant still see what’s being said about me just doesn’t addup, gives me confidence a jury can see it too.

continued…

I’d like very much to continue to write to you; to have your support and to have a proper conversation once I make bail.

(Which I hope will happen in September).

But for that to happen, I’m going to have to meet you first.

I get two twenty minute visits per week. Because I only get two, you can bet one will be taken every week by family.

I invite you to drop by :

tuesday 9am – 11am 6pm – 8pm

I look forward to meeting you Dee!

-Dellen -(BigD)

H.W.D.C.
2B left
cell 7
165 Barton St E
Hamilton On
L8L 2W8

Dee Letter page 1

Dee Letter page 2

Thoughts on Toronto and Rob Ford

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I have an article on Toronto’s travails in Chatham House’s The World Today magazine. It carries on where my La Presse piece from three years ago left off.

Here’s the start of my new article:

Toronto is a city that knows its place, or at least it did until recently. It had earned its nickname ‘Toronto the Good’, and was used to compliments from visitors who praised it for being ‘so clean’ and ‘so safe’.

Although Toronto overtook Montreal to become Canada’s largest city in the mid-Sixties, it always accepted it lacked that certain je ne sais quoi. Torontonians were content to forgo glamour and a home-grown independence movement for their booming job market and rising house prices.

It has helped, too, that over the decades Toronto, once seen as an uptight anglophile enclave, has succeeded in rebranding itself as the world’s most multicultural city – more than half of its inhabitants were born outside Canada. Toronto has gained enough confidence to ignore the barbed comments from the rest of the country.

Read the whole thing and see the very apt Rob Ford picture the editors chose to accompany the article.

The Dellen Millard Jailhouse Letter Part II

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Update: A full version of the letter is posted here.

Alleged Dellen Millard jailhouse letter

An excerpt from the letter believed to be sent from accused murderer Dellen Millard to a female fan

This is a follow-up to add some background to my earlier post on Dellen Millard’s jailhouse letter to a female admirer.

Like many others, my first reaction was that the letter must be a fake. I found the handwriting girly and the contents childish. It looked to me like something one of those killer groupies might write to herself and then display on Facebook to impress like-minded friends.

I only started to suspect there might be more to the story when a concerted effort was made to get me to drop my very preliminary research into the letter. After all, why even bother if it’s a fake?

For reasons of privacy and security, the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services could not authenticate the letter. However a look at other letters written from the same jail confirmed that the paper, standard Staples stock, is what prisoners use as is the pencil.

As for this specific letter, Millard was known by a group of people who worked with him as someone who liked to do little drawings of planes, making the fact that he would doodle a speeding truck or SUV on his letter slightly less odd, although still disturbing given the context. Members of the group also said they recognized his handwriting even though they did not keep any samples of it.

One member of the group said that the lines where Millard invites his correspondent to visit him in jail  jumped out and were typical of the controlling behaviour Millard often exhibited:

I’d like very much to continue to write to you: to have your support, and to have a proper conversation, once I make bail.

(Which I hope will happen in September).

But for that to happen, I’m going to have to meet you in person first.

A businessman who had dealings with Millard and still has handwriting samples said in his opinion the handwriting was an “exact match.” (Since I first wrote about this letter, a number of people have pointed out that this businessman is not a handwriting expert, which is true but somewhat beside the point given that even the courts don’t require a handwriting expert to authenticate documents.)

Jim Van Allen, former manager of the OPP’s Criminal Profile Unit, said of the letter: “I’m not surprised by the content…I think it’s totally consistent with (MIllard) and his circumstances.”

He noted that the letter was “implying (Millard’s) innocence although not defending it with any specific details.”

The letter’s purpose, said Van Allen, was to establish a connection with the recipient, “charm her a bit. Being in custody is boring. He’s looking to spice things up.”

Van Allen was struck by Millard’s comment that he “go(es) out of his way not to step on ants. In almost 800 murder cases, that (type of) phrase is generally only used by somebody that has involvement,” he said. “We refer to it as ‘words of confession framed in a form of denial.’ It more than lifts one of my eyebrows.”

Van Allen, who is now president of Behavioural Science Solutions Group, also noted how the letter blames other people, media and police but is “totally devoid of supporting details.” He described it as Millard’s “weak unsubstantiated attempt to defend himself.”

As for whether the handwriting is feminine, he said that research shows that gender differences are not seen in writing’s physical appearance, but rather in content style. He added that women are more likely to include little drawings as Millard did.

Van Allen described the decision to write the letter as “impulsive and somewhat reckless.”

“This type of personality is a nightmare for a lawyer. You can’t control them,” he said. “They are individuals who often don’t consider the consequences of their actions.”

Millard’s lawyer Deepak Paradkar said in an email yesterday: “I am not familiar with this letter and cannot authenticate it. I therefore have no comment on it.” (I forwarded him a copy of the letter and he said he would try to look at it when he got out of court yesterday.)

If you have any questions about the letter, please leave a comment. If you have more information about this letter or the investigations into Dellen Millard, please contact me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com.

Authenticating the Dellen Millard “Jailhouse Letter”

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Update: A full version of the letter is posted here.

The Dellen Millard “jailhouse letter” was originally posted on Facebook before the Canada Day long weekend. It was allegedly written by accused murderer Millard to an admirer.

Facebook friends of the letter recipient say she was so proud to receive it that she showed off electronic copies that were then passed on to far more people than she had originally intended. One Facebook friend described the recipient as being like a child who had just gotten a letter from Santa Claus.

A group of people who worked with Millard are convinced the letter is real. They say the handwriting, the doodles and the thought processes are completely in keeping with Millard’s character. They did not, however, have a sample of his handwriting.

Another businessman who dealt with Millard did have handwriting samples. Although he did not want to be named, he wrote in an email, “Upon my comparative review of the letter you provided to me, in your email, it does however suggest, that it it is an exact match to Dellen’s hand writing, in my opinion.”

A criminal profiler with years of police experience in this field said that, based on the content, there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the letter.

Millard’s lawyer Deepak Paradkar has so far not responded to e-mail and phone requests for comment emailed me shortly after this post went up. He wrote: “I am not familiar with this letter and cannot authenticate it. I therefore have no comment on it.” (I forwarded him a copy of the letter and he said he will have a look at it when he gets out of court.)

I have also verified the identity of the recipient of the letter who has declined to talk about it. She is a 31-year-old Kitchener resident who used a pseudonym on Facebook.

I plan to write a full article on this letter shortly. If you have information from credible named sources, I would be happy to talk to them.

If you have questions please post a comment. I prefer to discuss this on my personal site so that I can ensure no defamatory comments are published.

The letter can be viewed in Facebook groups discussing the Tim Bosma murder.

Read Part II of the Dellen Millard Jailhouse Letter

Coincidences are funny things

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More than a month ago, people like me, who’ve been following the Tim Bosma murder investigation closely, discovered a curious post on ancestry.com. It was from WW,  a 45-year-old Tillsonburg, Ont. man looking for his long lost father, Wayne Millard, which just happens to be the name of the late father of accused Bosma murder suspect, Dellen Millard.

Wayne Millard, who died of a gunshot wound to the head on Nov. 29, 2012 and whose death is now being investigated after originally being classified as a suicide,  was 71 so he could very well have been the father. What’s more, the MIllard family had roots in the area so it’s also possible Wayne Millard had spent time there.

On top of all that, WW first joined ancestry.com in November 2007, the same month that Dellen Millard registered with the Genebase site.

It seemed like a lot of coincidences and a good lead, and not surprisingly members of websleuths.com reported it to the police.

When I finally reached WW in early June, he said he was not aware of the Bosma murder and had not been contacted by police. Both he and his mother told stories that pretty much convinced me the man they were looking for was not Dellen MIllard’s father.

I then travelled to Woodstock to pick up some court documents that I thought might be relevant but which I can’t cite because several are covered by a publication ban. Based on the information in those documents, I did, however, follow up with others, who confirmed WW’s story.

At that point, I decided that, unless some new information comes to light, there was no reason to further pursue the WW connection. Without violating the publication ban, I can only say that there are reasons police might have not felt it necessary to interview WW.

On another note, it is important to remember, there are a few Wayne Millards in Ontario. The Toronto Star erroneously reported that Dellen’s father had bought a house in Ajax, when, in fact, it is owned by another Wayne Millard, totally unrelated to the family and this case — and, for the record, way too young to be WW’s father.

Did Toronto police question Dellen Millard about Laura Babcock’s disappearance?

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Missing woman Laura Babcock

Laura Babcock

You would think it would be relatively simple for Toronto police to provide an answer to the very basic question of whether or not they interviewed Dellen Millard about the disappearance almost a year ago of Laura Babcock.

In the four days before her disappearance, Laura made 13 calls, including her final one on July 3, to Millard, a fact that was revealed by CTV News reporter Tamara Cherry on May 17, shortly after Dellen Millard was arrested for the murder of Tim Bosma on a test drive gone horribly wrong.

Laura’s parents say they provided the police with the relevant phone bill last summer. Her ex-boyfriend Shawn Lerner, who first reported Laura missing on July 14, 2012, says both he and the parents asked multiple times for police to follow up.

According to Laura’s parents, police never did get around to interviewing Dellen Millard.

But Laura’s friends, some of whom have been active participants in the Help Us Find Laura Facebook group and other online forums, have said police did indeed talk to Millard:

The family pushed the police to investigate, as did many others. The police actually did nothing. For example, they didn’t obtain a subpoena for the serial number of an iPad (Shawn Lerner) lent to Laura, when doing so could give a clue as to her whereabouts. They spoke to Dellen Millard, who said Laura had been buying drugs from him, and took his word for it without digging any further into whether or not she even used drugs as he alleged.

The friends’ reports could of course be based on broken telephone-type misinformation and hearsay. When contacted, the person who posted the information above said she couldn’t vouch for it as she had heard it from others. She added that a lot of contradictory information had been circulated.

As for Shawn Lerner, who has advocated pro-actively and persistently for Laura, he  says he still doesn’t know whether or not police interviewed Millard.  When he would call 22 Division to speak to the officer in charge, he often didn’t get through; his messages didn’t get passed on; and when he did manage to speak to investigators, it was hard to get a straight answer.

Now, if you think the police should be able to clear this up in a second, think again. At the last press conference relating to Laura’s disappearance on June 4, the detective in charge, Mike Carbone, was asked if he knew whether Millard was interviewed about Laura’s disappearance. Even though he had been assigned to the case for more than two weeks at that point, he did not provide a definitive answer. “I don’t believe the police interviewed Millard at the time,” he said. (Video: 11:23 – 11:35)

When I asked police this week to provide once and for all the yes-or-no answer to this question, spokeswoman Constable Wendy Drummond responded, “I have just got word from Det. Carbone that he is not in a position to release any information about his investigation at this time.”

Given that answering this simple question would not affect the current investigation, I can only suspect that this ongoing obfuscation arises from the fact that police are damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.

If Dellen Millard was not interviewed, it’s a refutation of police claims that they conducted a through investigation.

But if police did, in fact, interview Millard, it’s a problem of another kind. Someone should have noticed a few months later when Wayne Millard, Dellen’s father, died from a gunshot wound to the head that his son and sole heir, had been tied to Laura Babcock’s disappearance. If Millard was indeed interviewed about Laura, why was that fact not known to the officers who investigated, deemed Wayne’s death a suicide, and allowed the body to be cremated?

Either way, something is drastically wrong. And the police, no doubt, would like the situation to go away.

In contrast to their vague answers about Millard, police made a point of saying   that Laura had contact with other people after her last phone calls to Millard. When asked at the press conference about contacts after July 3, Carbone did not say “I believe,” but rather, “There is more. At this point we’re reaching out to the public and trying to identify more witnesses so that we can confirm the contacts she had…There is still more information to follow up on. “(Video: 11:30 – 12:05)

A few minutes later, I stood next to a television reporter asking Carbone to confirm again that Laura had contact with people after her final call to Dellen Millard. The detective did reply yes, but he seemed very unsure of himself. So much so that the reporter asked the same question again to confirm it, and he said yes yet again.I found the whole thing bizarre because even answering for a second time, Carbone seemed so visibly uncertain. 

Vigilant Global builds new wireless network in Europe, North America

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Vigilant Global builds new wireless network in Europe, North America

Planning applications are underway in both the U.S. and U.K.

Earlier this month, city councillors in Castle Point, England, a town 30 miles east of central London, turned down a proposal from Vigilant Global, the secretive Montreal-based proprietary trading company, to add two new dish antennae to the local water tower.

The plans called for 60cm and 1.2m dishes – the latter of which would have been the biggest antennae on the building so far.

The failed application appears to be one of several Vigilant Global has made over the past 12 to 18 months including one in London’s Crystal Palace ward and another in Westmont, Illinois, just west of Chicago where Michael Bieniek of Lora, Chanthadouangsy & Castellanos, LLC, requested a permit to place more than three antennas on a structure on behalf of his client.

A Minstead Parish council report for another application states:

The dishes would aid the business of Vigilant Global, a company which serves the electronic finance sector. They are currently in the process of designing and implementing a wireless network to replace their existing fibre infrastructure.

The application further notes:

Vigilant Global is a Montreal-based R&D and IT firm that designs and deploys high-performance systems for the world of electronic finance. Vigilant Global operates a proprietary communication network across the UK for the transfer of information between various sites. They are currently in the process of designing and implementing a wireless network to provide redundancy to their existing fibre infrastructure. As such, they need several links and sites in order to establish a connection. The dishes at this site are essential to allow them to use this location as an intermediary, but network critical, link for the overall end to end connection.

The scheme merely seeks to install 2 new dishes, onto the existing mast, and one which is already populated with a significant amount of telecommunications equipment.

The most interesting information about the network, however, can be found in a statement  submitted on behalf of Arqiva and Vigilant Global in support of an application for full planning permission at a site off Cuckoo Lane, Bulbarrow Hill, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 0HQ. This existing electronic communications site is controlled and managed by Arqiva, which is “a radio site management company which provides much of the infrastructure behind television, radio and wireless communications in the UK and has a growing presence in Ireland, mainland Europe and the USA.”

I’ve linked to a cached version of the statement, which has been removed from the website where I found it 10 days ago, so I suggest that if you’re interested you make a copy before it disappears. Below I’ve picked out some of the juicy bits — or at least what I found to be the juicy bits.

From Section 1, INTRODUCTION:

1.4 As explained in more detail in the accompanying Economic Statement, the transmission dishes (point to point radio links often known as ‘microwave’ links),will form part of a wider network of low latency dish backhaul solutions for Vigilant Global, a company providing network solutions for clients operating within the London and global financial securities and trading markets.

From Section 2, LOW LATENCY DISH COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK:

2.1 As set out in greater detail within the supporting Economic Statement, within the financial securities markets there is an ever increasing demand for faster trading speeds through advanced communications technology. In particular, high frequency computer-based trading (HFT) has grown in recent years to represent about 30% of equity trading in the UK and possibly over 60% in the USA.

2.2 The key factor in high-frequency trading is ‘latency’, a term used by trading firms to define delays that occur in transmitting buy and sell orders. The “millisecond environment” in which today’s financial markets operate mean that computers respond to each other at a speed 100 times faster than it would take for a human trader to blink. This is extremely important. The US TABB Group estimates that a five millisecond delay in transmitting an automatic trade can cost a broker 1% of its flow; which could be worth £2.6m in revenues per millisecond.

2.3 One of the major restrictions to latency is the use of fixed line fibre optic networks. This is now leading to significant investment in the UK to improve trading speeds through the use of low latency wireless dish communicationnetworks.

2.4 The proposed development will form part of larger network of ultra high speed (low latency) wireless dish communications sites which will support the UK financial services industry. The low latency network being developed will be very high speed and is critical to enable competitive trading undertaken on an automated basis. The value of such trading runs into the millions each day and without such networks, City based financial institutions would find themselves at a disadvantage compared to other world financial centres. At best this would result in reduced profits, but at worst could mean financial institutions relocating from the UK.

2.5 The proposed new communications dishes at the existing communications site at Bulbarrow Hill is absolutely critical to meeting this low latency microwave networkand ensuring that London remains the world’s leading financial centre and hence a major contributor to the UK GDP. It is for this reason that achieving sustainable growth in the UK Financial sector and embracing new infrastructure requirements such as low latency communication networks is embodied in the former and present Governments UK growth agenda.

From Section 3, OPERATIONAL NEED – BULBARROW HILL:

3.3 The height of the mast, at 70m, and its geographical and topographical position on Bulbarrow Hill, make it an ideal technical solution for Vigilant’s requirements as it provides a direct and unobstructed path towards suitable other communication tower locations in the low latency network. These links form part of a transatlantic route that will run overland from Cornwall, Devon and Dorset (to/from the US) to the City of London and thereafter to routes across theChannel into Continental Europe, linking with financial centres there, particularly Frankfurt.

3.6 This is an important financial and operational benefit, as it executes the principle that the smallest number of radio sites connected by dish links will ensure lowest latency times due to shorter travel time for trading information. In the millisecond trading environment, this is very important to the successful operation of these low latency networks in the UK and will ensure that the UK securities and trading markets and wider Digital Economy remains highly efficient and globally competitive.

From Section 7, SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS:

7.1 In summary, the application seeks full planning permission for the installation of additional electronic communications apparatus that will form a critical role in Vigilant Global’s low latency network. This network, which supports the UK’s financial services industry, provides a nationally important communications infrastructure route linking the UK to USA and Europe.

These quotes strike me as especially interesting given that the FBI has now reopened its investigation into how media companies transmit government data to investors. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that one of the reasons the multi-year investigation had finally been shut down was because the government had concerns about whether it could prove in court that a time advantage for a trader of a sliver of a second—as little as a few thousandths—was enough to conduct profitable trades on confidential information.

Seems like someone should get hold of a copy of the Arqiva document not to mention the TABB Group’s estimates.

Globe has new info on Dellen MIllard’s incinerator and more

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Things I learned from today’s Globe and Mail article about the investigation into Tim Bosma’s murder:

  1. An employee of Millardair handled the purchase of Dellen Millard’s incinerator around July of last year and said it would be used to dispose of dead farm animals. “Since police seized the incinerator from Mr. Millard’s farm, investigators have been in regular contact with both (the Manitoba-based distributor) and SuperNova Manufacturing in Georgia. Tim Cook, a manager there, said police asked ‘how it operates and how long it takes for cremation and things like that.’”
  2. Dellen Millard “studied 3D games animation at Humber College in 2002 but was once ‘caught red-handed’ plagiarizing the work of his classmates, according to a source at the college.”
  3. “After starting a 500-mile off-road race on Mexico’s Baja peninsula two years ago, (Dellen Millard) and his friend pulled their yellow Jeep TJ out of the race at the sixth mile, a competitor said.”

Dellen Millard’s strange obituary for his father Wayne

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Wayne Millard with young Dellen Millard

Wayne Millard with young Dellen Millard

One of the first things that drew me to take a closer look at Dellen Millard, the accused murderer of Tim Bosma, was the odd obituary he wrote for his father.

Wayne Millard died on November 29, 2012 of what we now know was a gunshot to the head, but when I first read his obituary this had not yet been revealed and the police had still not reopened their investigation into Wayne’s death, originally deemed a suicide.

I found it strange that the obituary didn’t mention any other family members than Dellen. There was nothing about Carl Millard, the father in whose footsteps Wayne had followed and who he is said to have adored; not a word about Madeleine Burns, Dellen’s mother with whom Wayne supposedly remained on good terms; and no references to his aunts, cousins or the new woman in his life who he was reportedly about to marry. Everyone was excised from Wayne’s life except for the son, who is now being investigated for his father’s death.

Later I learned from the many people that I interviewed for my National Post article on the Millard family, that none of them were informed about the reception at Vinsanto restaurant in Wayne’s honour and that his colleagues at the new Millardair business at Waterloo airport were all told he died of a brain aneurysm. When still others learned through the grapevine or from the newspaper obit of Wayne’s death, they mostly assumed the cause was a heart attack.

At this point, Toronto police are saying next to nothing about their re-opened investigation into Wayne Millard’s death. And, unfortunately, as a relative newcomer to this city, I don’t have the police sources that the veteran Toronto crime reporters do. For this reason, I am asking anyone who could help me track down Wayne’s girlfriend/fiancee to please get in touch with me. You can leave a comment here (mark it confidential if you wish and I won’t approve it for publication) or send an email to ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com. Every little bit of information helps.

Dellen Millard: Four articles that shed light on Dellen Millard, accused murderer of Tim Bosma

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Here are four articles that provide insights into the character and motivations of Dellen Millard, the 27-year-old man accused of murdering Tim Bosma.

Suspect in Tim Bosma’s death was always ‘a little different’ and did ‘odd stuff’ at private school, classmate says

And one of the odd things he did was to seek attention by eating dog biscuits straight out of the box. This is a great Dellen MIllard profile from the National Post. Read all

Whoever killed Bosma is abusive, exploitive and a risk-taker: profiler

James Van Allen, former head of the OPP’s criminal profiling unit, tells the Spectator:

(Tim Bosma’s) killer is someone who is exploitive, abusive, lacks any empathy and is a risk-taker.

The murder deviates from what is typically seen in the car theft racket, he said, where excessive violence is not the norm.

“This is too elaborate to steal one truck; to have these allegations of multiple people involved, multiple attempts to access a truck.”

What doesn’t add up, he said, is why anyone would murder for a truck. And “is the crime incongruent with the person charged?”

Read all

Tim Bosma’s murder may have been “thrill kill”: source

The Sun has someone in the police leaking information to them. This article appeared early on in the investigation:

Police are looking into a small, “close-knit group of friends” that hung around together.

Dellen Millard, charged with first-degree murder, was part of that group.

“Social media was a big part of their activities,” the source said…

…On one hand, this murder had the look and feel of something out of the movie Fargo, but a police source said a new TV show , The Following, may be closer to it.

The show depicts a number of people following a leader involved in nefarious activities, including homicide.

Read all

Declining Dynasty: More about Dellen Millard and his father Wayne

This is my article from the National Post dealing with, among other things, the mysterious death of Wayne Millard

In his role as a business development consultant to Millardair’s new Waterloo airport venture, Al Sharif was happy to have only limited contact with Dellen Millard, the boss’s son and the guy in charge of hangar construction. As far as Mr. Sharif and other executives at the company were concerned, Dellen and his red mohawk spelled trouble.

“I thought he was just a spoilt little brat who had his way all his life and didn’t appreciate what his father was doing for him,” said Mr. Sharif. “He was an impediment to the hangar operation” who didn’t meet his deadlines, almost never arrived at work before noon, and refused to clear his collection of cars, jeeps, hot rods, jet skis and personal airplanes from the business premises.

Read all

Declining Dynasty: The Family of Accused Killer Dellen Millard

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Wayne Millard with young Dellen Millard

Wayne Millard with young Dellen Millard

I have a story on the Millard family and Millardair’s new Waterloo business venture in today’s National Post. It doesn’t seem to be online yet, but I’m sure it will go up eventually. Here’s the link.

The story focuses on Wayne Millard and his mysterious death.

If you have any information on any of the different angles relating to this story and Tim Bosma’s horrific murder, I would like very much to hear from you. You can reach me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com or @AnnB03 on Twitter.

In the meantime, here are the first two paragraphs from my article:

In his role as a business development consultant to Millardair’s new Waterloo airport venture, Al Sharif was happy to have only limited contact with Dellen Millard, the boss’s son and the guy in charge of hangar construction. As far as Mr. Sharif and other executives at the company were concerned, Dellen and his red mohawk spelled trouble.

“I thought he was just a spoilt little brat who had his way all his life and didn’t appreciate what his father was doing for him,” said Mr. Sharif. “He was an impediment to the hangar operation” who didn’t meet his deadlines, almost never arrived at work before noon, and refused to clear his collection of cars, jeeps, hot rods, jet skis and personal airplanes from the business premises.

CSIS hacking story appears in National Post

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The Post picked up my story on the CSIS hacking.

I’m still perplexed by the comment from Tahera Mufti, a media liaison officer at CSIS, who said the websites are fine, when they clearly aren’t. I can only think of two explanations:

  1. The charitable explanation: CSIS fixed the sites after I first posted about the problem here and the search engines just haven’t caught up.
  2. The non-charitable explanation: CSIS really does not understand the nature of the problem and didn’t see they had been hacked.

I also learned on the weekend that developer Sean Walberg had noticed the Viagra spam as far back as January. He took a screenshot of the hacking that shows it differently from my examples.

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 2.58.02 PM

Sean Walberg’s screenshot of the CSIS hacking

On Friday, you could still see this kind of result by viewing the Google cached versions of the infected www.csiscareers.ca pages but now those pages show a 404 message, which indicates to me that CSIS is actively clearing this up. As of this afternoon, Yahoo cached pages still show the infection, which makes sense since Yahoo (which is powered by Bing) doesn’t crawl as often and is slower to take account of changes.

Merger rumour mill: DRW Trading and Vigilant Global

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Take it with a shaker full of salt.

Here’s a nice FT piece on DRW and its head honcho Don Wilson.

I can be reached at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com

Update: I’m told by an anonymous but usually reliable source that DRW did indeed buy Vigilant Global. That means you can take it with a less salt, but don’t go salt-free.

Read my latest article on the kerfuffle over Fed “leaks” and see where Vigilant fits into the story.

Wattpad, What Pad, WTF Pad???!!!

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Wattpad is a bit of a tech darling as of late. Not only does it have the venture capital crowd on its side, it’s also got Margaret Atwood. In fact, credit where credit’s due, Atwood’s the one who coined the name “what pad,” which inspired WTF pad, whch sounds a lot like making reading and writing social, which is what Wattpad’s supposedly about. Or one of the things Wattpad might be about.

Except nothing about Wattpad, beyond the fact that it seems to have some very solid traffic and useage stats, makes much sense. If you don’t believe me, just go to their site and see if you can figure it out. I can’t and I’ve been dropping in once a year for a while now.

Although he makes a valiant attempt, this interviewer (I believe it’s Michael Healy)  seems equally perplexed by Wattpad. It’s almost as if he should have subtitles that read, “I don’t get it.”

In an attempt to get its story across, Wattpad often describes itself as wanting to do for writing what YouTube does for video. But that analogy doesn’t work for me for a number of reasons that I’ll only go into if someone asks.

Publicly at least, the Wattpad business model seems to be if we keep building it and they keep coming, we’ll find a way to monetize it. Think Twitter and Facebook. Fair enough, but we’re all still thinking about Twitter and Facebook, wondering if the former’s even profitable and if the latter’s ever going to live up to the hype.

Wattpad CEO Allen Lau is on the record for being a fan of  free and freemium (see video for just one example) and for talking — not all that clearly — about transactional relationships (the old way) versus gifting (the new way). Although at one point in his video interview he seems to advocate the write-for-free, sell-the-t-shirt-and-souvenir-book model, during the question period, he says he doesn’t want to get into the shrinking paper book market. It’s confusing if not contradictory.

For a company that’s all about story sharing, Wattpad either doesn’t have a very good story to tell, or they do but they’re not about to share it, which is kind of strange given that they’re hiring a PR manager when they’re not ready to divulge the plot.

In the past, I’ve called BS on some bizarre internet media companies — including Geosign which may have suckered U.S. venture capitalists out of a large chunk of the $160 million they invested — and I’ve turned out to be right. But I have a tendency to be overly sceptical and not see what I don’t know — like how Google was going to make a profit. Cough, cough.

In the case of Wattpad, I do think there’s a potentially viable business and this quote from the video (approximately 26 minutes in) is a clue, or one clue at least , to what the business model that Lau declines to talk about, might be.

A lot of people believe that on the internet we are going to get rid of all the middle men. I don’t think so. If you look at YouTube they are still a middleman, but the role of the middleman is quite different from the traditional world. (With the old model) the middleman is basically the gatekeeper, they would control the flow from the content creation side to the end user side. But for digital or for internet companies that role is changing. We are no longer the gatekeeper. We are the facilitator.We want to remove and reduce the friction between content creation and content consumption.

Lau also puts a lot of emphasis on being first and how one mega-player often reigns supreme on the internet in industries where competition used to be more vibrant. He cites Amazon and book-selling as an example.

My theory is that Lau wants to turn Wattpad into some kind of publishing marketplace where writers can use the social network as a focus group, get cover art, hire an agent, get publicity, find translators and much more.  Wattpad would collect commissions and fees from freemium users all along the publishing chain including present partners like Smashwords and Lulu.

Instead of helping writers monetize, which Lau says he doesn’t want to do, writers would help Wattpad monetize by paying for the freemium services they need. While only a handful are ever likely to break even or break out, they’re the ones who’ll provide the bulk of the revenues.

Wattpad has recently been asking published writers to put previously published works on line for free. Those who give it a whirl, like Jon Evans, have access to information about how readers read that they never had before.

Wattpad provides data

Lau  emphasizes the importance of data multiple times throughout the video. He also says on his blog that “the current ebook ecosystem is quite clearly just another bridge product” like Microsft’s Encarta encyclopedia on DVD. “Except for the output, the way ebook is written, edited, published and sold are more or less the same as the old traditional publishing system,” he writes.

That indicates to me that he’s aiming to make Wattpad the new ecosystem. I would be very surprised, however, if Amazon doesn’t understand all this just as well. Not only does Amazon likely have stats on how readers read every single ebook it sells, it’s also got its own publishing house and employs people who understand both traditional and “bridge” publishing models. It’s hard to believe that they wouldn’t understand that “the book” is evolving and that the future will be different.

As for the community aspect, Kindle Direct Publishing could build that out pretty fast and the big social reading sites have strong communities that are older and wiser than Wattpad’s mostly teen audience. They could move into the “new ecosystem” pretty fast if they wanted to.

End of Chapter One. I can now see if anyone’s interested and, if they are,  move on to Chapter Two in the Wattpad saga.

Review: The Daughter of time by Josephine Tey

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All the news about Richard III has reminded me of Josephine Tey’s great 1951 detective novel, The Daughter of Time.

The book began the most recent rehabilitation of Richard III, who until its publication was known in modern times mostly by his evil Shakespearian reputation.

Tey’s hero, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains — a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.

If you haven’t ever read it, now’s the time. And at just 204 pages, it’s the type of book that can be read and enjoyed on a Sunday afternoon, but will stay with you for decades.

Wall Street Journal reports that data release investigation won’t result in charges

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The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting story Monday about an extensive investigation into media companies in lock-ups and the possible premature release of sensitive  and potentially market-moving economic data.

I think we’re supposed to read between the lines about why no charges are being laid as the explanation given by anonymous source(s) doesn’t really seem plausible:

A key issue, one of the people said, was whether the government could prove in court that a time advantage for a trader of a sliver of a second—as little as a few thousandths—was enough to conduct profitable trades on confidential information.

Even so, these people added, investigators continue to have general concerns about the handling of federal economic data. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents focused much of their attention on activities at the Commerce, Labor, and Treasury departments, said people familiar with the probe. “There is a vulnerability there, but agents just can’t prove that it was being used illegally,” said a person familiar with the investigation. The FBI plans to brief agencies about its findings.

The Journal‘s article also notes that a Bloomberg computer was seized, which is new to me and shows the concerns weren’t limited to the suspicious small-fry newcomer news agencies.

After following this story for years and never being able to get anything about it into print with a mainstream news organization, these are my current thoughts:

  1. The lock-up system is obsolete. It’s become an infrastructure for high-speed traders when it was originally created to serve the public. It’s no longer needed in the internet age so governments (and not just the U.S.) should do away with it.
  2. Getting rid of a lock-up system, which benefits big Wall Street firms would be extremely hard. Not only would the government have powerful media companies like Bloomberg, Reuters and Dow Jones on its back, it would also have to deal with all their unhappy, major-donation-making Wall Street clients, who receive data from lock-ups and trade on it.
  3. While the Department of Labor finally booted all the strange “news agencies” from its lock-ups last summer, they may still be operating in other DC lock-ups. And they continue to operate in other countries including Canada.
  4. It’s not clear whether data was ever intentionally released ahead of time or whether advantages were gained solely through technological superiority.
  5. It’s ridiculous that the German Bourse, which owns Need to Know News has consistently been able to get away with “no comment” on this issue. The German press should take a look at it.
  6. The FBI has been looking into this for years (as my site visitor logs will attest) so it’s strange that after so much time and effort, the result is a big fat zero.

I’ll see if I can think of anything else, but that’s all for now.

Are the DOL lock-ups for algorithmic traders or the public?

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I’ve been bemused for awhile now about how proposed changes to the Department of Labor lock-ups have been played as a great affront to journalists and freedom of the press, when, in reality, those who would be most affected by the suggested restrictions are so-called algorithmic or high frequency traders.

The general public, who the lock-ups are supposed to serve, doesn’t care a fig if they get their employment figures minutes, seconds or, gawd forbid, milliseconds late. Only traders worry about that.

As former Keith Hall, former Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner, said at congressional hearings held last month, the DOL changes were “an effort to get traders out of the lock-ups.” This is confirmed in the Sandia report released earlier this week, which states: “The apparent root cause for the issues driving this assessment is the possible presence of algorithmic traders and/or their agents in the press lockup facility.”

If you thought this would be something that legitimate journalists might want to address, you’d be wrong. Most don’t understand what’s happening and those who do have employers with a vested interest in keeping the lock-ups as they are. I’m looking at you Bloomberg, Reuters and Dow Jones.

The reason this story has never gotten much attention is because Vigilant Global (formerly Vigilant Futures), which bankrolled Canadian Economic Press to access lock-ups; JED Capital, which funded Need to Know News (NTKN); and all the other assorted hedge funds I haven’t been able to identify yet are small fry when compared to Reuters and Bloomberg and their big Wall Street clients.

Yes, Reuters and Bloomberg are legit news agencies, but they make most of their money from the financial data side of their business. And you can bet that if Vigilant Global and JED Capital were getting data straight from the lock-ups, without a millisecond-sucking detour through a third-party news service, Bloomberg’s and Reuters’ biggest clients were going to demand that too.

When the Department of Labor panicked and announced its changes, it was silly enough to forget or underestimate how unhappy Bloomberg’s and Reuters’ Wall Street customers were going to be in an election year. Of course, it had to walk things back.

While it’s true that if the DOL had gone ahead with its changes as proposed, it could have wreaked havoc if initial data releases were market moving and made public in an unorderly manner. But here’s the thing — lock-ups are not for traders. Or they’re not supposed to be.

According to Carl Fillichio, Senior Advisor for Communications and Public Affairs at the DOL: “Press lock-ups (exist) for one reason only: to serve the general public by facilitating the news media’s ability to read, review, ask questions about and prepare news stories explaining embargoed economic data reports.”

It’s interesting then that journalists, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, whose executive director Lucy Dalglish testified at the congressional hearings, have blindly let themselves be used by Wall Street to push its agenda when, instead, they should be asking why traders are even in the lock-ups in the first place.

House committee hearing on new lock-up rules sure was interesting

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I listened to the whole thing and a number of things struck me:

  1. Boy, has Carl Fillichio changed his tune since his April 16th conference call with reporters, when he stonewalled and refused to answer reasonable questions. (The transcript to that call is here, but to fully appreciate the extent of his obnoxiousness, listen to the audio.)
  2. Keith Hall, former BLS Commissioner and now a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, is one straight shooter. He told the hearings that the Department of  Labor changes were “an effort to get traders out of the lock-ups.” What he didn’t explain, however, is why steps weren’t taken earlier to boot traders out of the lock-ups given that they’ve been there for years, and why the DOL won’t acknowledge this situation. (The only thing I can think of is that someone with influence wants the traders there. Hall said USDA likes traders in the lock-ups.)
  3. Some of the Dems on the committee seemed like they would be happy to just get rid of lock-ups, which they appear to think are designed for Wall Street fat cats. Hall, on the other hand, says he still sees value in lock-ups, but that given all the technological changes, they don’t have to take place under the same rules as in the past.
  4. Committee chairman Issa seemed to get nervous when Democrat Tierney  suggested that Bloomberg and Reuters are out to serve their clients and not the public.

Here’s some relevant background that bears repeating:

  1. It was Carl Fillichio who granted RTTNews access to the lock-ups last year, according to a DOL spokesperson. He did this when it was widely known that trading firms were starting front news agencies to gain admission to lock-ups. RTTNews had all the warning signs including key personnel tied to the Montreal-based prop trading firm, Vigilant Global (formerly Vigilant Futures), which had earlier funded CEP News. RTTNews — along with Bond Buyer and Need to Know News (NTKN) — were not accredited to participate in the revamped lock-ups, but that doesn’t answer the question of why Fillichio let RTTNews in in the first place.
  2. John Harada, the former head of NTKN, has boasted to financial industry insiders that his former news agency, a front for JED Capital, was guaranteed access to lock-ups thanks to his ties to Democratic Illinois senators. This information was given to me by sources who were astounded to hear Harada make such a claim.
  3. Fake news agencies fronting for hedge funds/prop traders continue to access lock-ups around the world.

 

Hedge funds (traders) with DOL lock-up connections

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These are the ones that I know about, but there are more:

  • JED Capital of Chicago used to be tied to Need to Know News (NTKN)
  • Vigilant Global (formerly Vigilant Futures) of Montreal started the news agency CEP News which accessed several lock-ups around. CEP News was subsequently folded, but its marketing director went to work for RTTNews

 

 

Still more scrutiny for new lock-up rules

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Not only is the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce demanding to know more about the changes to the lock-up rules, so is the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which will hold a hearing “Addressing Concerns about the Integrity of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Jobs Reporting” on Wednesday June 6.

The hearing will examine the influence of Department of DOL political appointees over the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) processes for collecting and disseminating employment data.

An announcement yesterday evening from the oversight committee said Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, “declined to testify.” According to Beltway Confidential, those who will be testifying include:

  • Mr. John Galvin, Acting Commissioner, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Mr. Carl Fillichio, Senior Advisor for Communications and Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor
  • Ms. Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
  • Mr. Keith Hall, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center
  • Ms. Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Ms. Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow, The Manhattan Institute
  • Mr. Rob Doherty, General Manager – United States, Reuters News
  • Mr. Daniel Moss, Executive Editor, Bloomberg News

In March, a DOL spokesperson told me that political appointee Carl Fillichio personally granted the questionable news agency RTTNews access to the lock-ups last year after Potomac Radio News left.

Congressman to DOL: Give us the background on the lock-up changes

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Congressman John Kline, chairman of the committee with primary jurisdiction over the U.S. Department of Labor, is requesting more information on why the lock-up rules are being changed. In a letter dated last Friday, he asks to see the study by the Sandia National Laboratory that was delivered in August 2011 and looks at the lock-up process:

To gain a better understanding of DOL’s new procedure – including the need for such procedures – please provide a complete copy of Sandia’s August 2011 report to the Committee on Education and the Workforce upon receipt of this letter. In addition, provide the committee with the following no later than June 15, 2012:

  1. An explanation of why DOL personnel believed there was an unauthorized release of economic data and when DOL personnel first discovered an unauthorized release had occurred.
  2. All communications and documents from or to the Office of the Secretary, the Office of the Deputy Secretary, the Office of Public Affairs. BLS. ETA. the Office of the Solicitor of Labor, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management concerning possible unauthorized release of economic data and the establishment of the new procedures outlined in DOL’s April 10, 2012 policy statement.
  3. All communications and documents between DOL and the Office of Management and Budget concerning the possible unauthorized release of economic data and the establishment of the new procedures outlined in DOL’s April 10. 2012 policy statement.
  4. An explanation of why Sandia was granted a sole-source award to produce the August 2011 report, including all procurement records.
  5. A timetable under which DOL plans to be in compliance with the recommendations included in Sandia’s August 2011 report.
  6. A description of any forensic examination of computers and/or other information technology (IT) equipment in the press lock-up area in connection with an unauthorized release of economic data.
  7. A description of the means by which DOL personnel communicated concerns about an unauthorized release of economic data to DOL’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), including any documents or transmittal letters that may have been referred to OIG.
  8. A description of DOL’s protocols related to the removal of the news media’s computers and other IT equipment from the press lock-up area, including a description of DOL’s plans for any unclaimed equipment.
  9. A list of any DOL-owned computers and other IT equipment in the press lock-up area determined to be missing, including the estimated cost of this property.
  10. An estimated cost of replacing privately owned computers and other IT equipment in the press lock-up facility with DOL-owned equipment.
  11. A copy of DOL’s new credentialing criteria for media outlets participating in the lock-up.”

RTT News, NTKN and Bond Buyer booted out of Department of Labor lock-ups

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Here are the news organizations that have been officially credentialed for Department of Labor lock-ups, effective July 6, 2012:

  1. Agence France-Presse
  2. Associated Press
  3. Bloomberg News
  4. Bloomberg Television
  5. CNBC
  6. CNN
  7. Dow Jones Newswires
  8. Fox Business Network
  9. Jiji Press
  10. Kyodo News
  11. Market News International
  12. MarketWatch
  13. The Nikkei
  14. Thomson Reuters
  15. Tribune Company

This is the old Department of Labor lockup list:

  1. Associated Press
  2. Bond Buyer
  3. Bloomberg
  4. Bloomberg TV
  5. CNBC
  6. CNN
  7. Dow Jones
  8. Fox Business
  9. Jiji Press Agency
  10. Kyodo News
  11. Market News
  12. MarketWatch News
  13. Need to Know News
  14. Nikkei News
  15. Reuters
  16. RTT News (replaced Potomac Radio last summer)
  17. Thomson Financial

So who got booted?

  1. Bond Buyer
  2. Bloomberg TV (but presumably it’s rolled into Bloomberg)
  3. Need to Know News
  4. RTT News
It’s no surprise that the strange news agencies, Need to Know News (tied to JED Capital) and RTT News, were kicked out. What’s truly surprising is that  NTKN survived this long and that the DOL granted RTT News access less than a year ago.
I’m not quite sure why the Bond Buyer got kicked out as I’ve never really looked into it.

And who got added?

  1. Agence France Presse
  2. Tribune Company

Makes sense to me.

Who’s behind the big changes to the Department of Labor lock-up rules?

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This post is delayed. Please check back later.

Update 10:30 April 17: The promised audio of Monday’s call, which was supposed to be posted to the DOL website yesterday, is still not available. The DOL linked it earlier, but the recording turned out to be muzak and now it’s disappeared.

Honestly, if they can’t upload an MP3 file, it doesn’t bode well for a smooth technical release of BLS data when the time comes.

Update 11:00 April 17: Ok, I’m posting even though the audio isn’t up yet. I’ll fix the link once it goes up.

Update 11:45 April 17: Link is fixed.

—————————————

As promised, I phoned into the U.S. Department of Labor’s briefing on the new lock-up rules. The DOL’s Senior Advisor for Communications and Public Affairs Carl Fillichio said at the very beginning of the call that it was not a press briefing and for planning purposes only, but the audio is now publicly available on the internet for anyone to listen to so I am going to go ahead and treat it as a public  briefing since, under the circumstances, that’s the only strategy that makes sense. There’s absolutely no logical reason why I shouldn’t be able to report on the call.

After listening to the briefing what struck me most was that these are huge changes for a bureaucracy. All the news organizations that currently attend the lock-up must remove their equipment and private communications lines on June 14th and 15th. Going forward, they will use government-owned and maintained  equipment and data and telephone lines. This poses a huge technical issue for many of the news organizations.

Some of the reporters for the big financial news agencies expressed concerns that the new systems and rules would lead to “uneven and unfair release of data.” One reporter asked if the DOL no longer cares about the orderly dissemination of data or just that nothing ever leaks.

As far as I could tell, there was contradictory information given on how the technical release of the data will happen. In answer to his question, one reporter was told that journalists in the lock-up will be able to transmit HTML files using a Win/ FTP client, but then an official for the Bureau of Labor Statistics said all information would be released in Word documents that will be transferred at precisely 8:30 a.m. after which news agencies will have to “get it efficiently” into their own systems.

I’ll admit that I don’t have enough technical knowledge to evaluate whether the first situation could work effectively.  (Maybe some of my helpful anonymous sources will be good enough to chime in in the comments or send me an email at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com.) But the second option outlined by the BLS official sounds like crazy talk to me. If everyone’s left having to deal with Word documents at 8:30 a.m. on July 6, when the new lock-up rules go into effect, it’s going to be complete freaking chaos, especially if the numbers are big news, which they well might be — both for traders and politicians.

I have to say, I wasn’t impressed with some of the officials’ lack of knowledge, but that could be because the people who did the talking during the call aren’t the ones who have the actual technical know-how.

What did strike me when it was all over is that someone very high up must have asked for these changes because this is not the type of thing bureaucrats do by choice. And that means some very powerful people must be unhappy with what’s been going on in lock-ups for the past few years and have decided it needs to be fixed NOW.

It’s difficult to believe that they would be this upset if it were just a few pipsqueak players like Need to Know News (NTKN)RTTNewsPotomac Radio News and the now-defunct CEP News involved. If that were the case, surely the solution would have been to just kick the problem organizations out.

When asked about the reasons for the changes by various different reporters, Fillichio repeatedly declined to comment. All he said was that “the world has changed” in the 10 years since lock-up procedures were last thoroughly reviewed and that it was a “prudent business decision” to implement new procedures. “There’s no current problem,” he said. “I’m trying to prevent a problem.”

So, what problem is it that he’s trying to prevent and who’s pulling the strings? Who demanded this be fixed now after a known and documented problem hass been allowed to persist for years? And why are the names of the two different news organizations who have broken lock-up rules in the past two years being kept secret?

As always, you can reach me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com. No theory is too wild to entertain.

Background info: In about 2006, Need to Know News (NTKN) was admitted to DOL lock-ups despite well-known rumours that it was not strictly a news agency and that it was tied to JED Capital, a Chicago proprietary trading firm.

CEP News arrived on the scene in 2007. Backed by the Montreal prop trader/hedge fund Vigilant Futures (now Vigilant Global), it concealed some of its sources of funding. It was temporarily admitted to lock-ups in Washington and London by hiring reporters who already had valid press credentials.

RTTNews, which was recently accredited by the DOL to attend lock-ups after Potomac Radio News closed up shop and its reporter Michael Duncan left town for the midwest.

 

Hmm, U.S. Department of Labor worried about lock-ups

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CNBC reports:

The federal government routinely churns out new data that can cause huge swings in individual stock prices and sometimes entire markets, including commodity trends, FDA drug approvals, and, perhaps most importantly, the monthly jobs report from the Department of Labor.

The release of that figure on the first Friday of each month can move financial markets around the world — generating millions in profits for traders who are well positioned for it.

But government officials are increasingly worried that their market-moving information could be leaking to traders too early, giving a select, aggressive few unfair access to information that is supposed to be available to everyone at the same time. And officials at several federal agencies say they’re taking new steps to ensure that no one on Wall Street gets advance access to their data.

CNBC has learned that the Department of Labor has asked Sandia National Laboratories — the organization that ensures the safety of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile — to scrutinize the security procedures surrounding the release of monthly jobs report data.

The story also notes:

Generally speaking, there are three groups of people in Washington who have advance access to market moving data – the federal workers themselves who produce and disseminate the numbers, White House officials who receive the information in advance through the Council of Economic Advisors, and financial reporters who are given advance access to some of the information through what is known as a “lock up.”

Each agency has its own procedures for ensuring its workers don’t deliberately or accidentally leak market moving data. According to a rule called Statistical Policy Directive No. 3, which dates back to 1985 and is published in the Federal Register, agencies are required to develop systems to protect the information, clear times and dates for distributing it, and even to “physically secure” copies of all materials prepared for public release between the time they are printed and when they are released.

That directive also requires agencies to release information in advance to the White House, stating that agencies “will provide prerelease information to the President, through the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, as soon as it is available.” Veteran White House economic officials tell CNBC that they received the monthly jobs report number as early as Thursday afternoon, before the information is released to the public on the first Friday of each month at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Federal rules state, “All employees of the Executive Branch who receive prerelease distribution of information and data estimates … are responsible for assuring that there is no release prior to the official release time. Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”

Similarly, many federal agencies hold lock ups for journalists during which they disseminate economic data to the journalists who cover the beat, answer questions, and allow reporters time to write stories. On the first Friday of every month at the Department of Labor, print and television journalists are sequestered in separate rooms before release of the monthly employment report. TV reporters are held in a basement room in a half hour lock up during which their email devices and mobile phones are confiscated by a government official.

The format for the Department of Labor jobs report lock ups has not changed in over a decade, people familiar with the process say. And that means when the February employment numbers are released Friday, it may mark the beginning of the end of a system that has not changed nearly as much as the world around it.

The huge profits would definitely provide an incentive to set up fake news agencies as camouflage.

How does the TTC define medical emergency?

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Toronto’s subway is regularly delayed during rush hour — two to three times a week on my route — for medical emergencies, and the delays are often long enough to make you late by 15 minutes to half an hour.I’ve always wondered just what exactly these frequent medical emergencies are, and Monday morning I found out when my Yonge southbound car was stopped at College for one of them. Here is a cartoonized but accurate version of the photo I took.

The older woman in orange appeared to have fainted. Instead of helping her off the train with a wheelchair or a couple of people to lean on, four uniformed TTC employees allowed her to continue to sit there for at least 20 minutes while they stood around and did nothing except tell me they hoped I hadn’t taken a picture because there were privacy issues.

I have been a regular user of subways in different cities my entire life and have never enountered such a high rate of medical emregencies as here in Toronto. My questions to the TTC are the following:

  1. What is your policy for removing sick passengers from trains?
  2. Is it in conformance with basic principles of first aid?
  3. Was it followed in this case?

Toronto police investigations into the deaths of Laura Babcock and Wayne MIllard

I have a new article in the Grid about the Toronto police investigations into the deaths of Laura Babcock and Wayne MIllard:

This past Thursday, there was a major breakthrough in the puzzling murder case of Tim Bosma, the Ancaster, Ont., man who put his Dodge Ram truck up for sale online last spring, went for a test drive with two prospective buyers, and never returned. The young father’s tragic death was one of the biggest stories of 2013, but for months there had been almost no news. The accused killers—Dellen Millard, the heir to an aviation company, and his friend Mark Smich—had both pleaded not guilty; the case was slowly winding its way through the courts.

 

Those who have been closely following the case weren’t expecting to hear much more until the trial begins in 2015. I had become increasingly pessimistic about whether two linked investigations by Toronto police involving Millard would ever yield results. So it was a huge surprise last Thursday when he was charged with two more first-degree murders: that of his father, Wayne, whose 2012 shooting death had been initially ruled a suicide; and that of Laura Babcock, a friend of Millard’s who went missing in 2012. (Smich is also facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Babcock.)

Read the whole thing.

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Janette Bertrand, Wealthy McGill Muslims and the Eaton’s Sales Lady

LOL. Everyone on Twitter’s mocking Janette Bertrand. The ancient 89-year-old feminist imagines hordes of rich McGill students taking over the swimming pool in her building and booting her out, which — ROFL — is why she’s pro charter and voting PQ.

ZOMG, what a freaking xenophobe. No wonder those guys didn’t want to swim with a dementia-ridden racist like that. PQ be cray. Do they seriously think rich McGill muslims are going to take over Montreal pools? Reminds me of that old story about the Eaton’s (apostrophe intentional) sales lady, #Qc2014.

Except, here’s the thing. Much of what Janette Bertrand is actually right.

For some time now, McGill and Concordia have been on a major and successful campaign to attract foreign students who pay very high tuition fees relative to the heavily subsidized locals. Unsurprisingly, these foreign students are often quite wealthy. As a result, they have gravitated toward buildings that Canadian students typically can not afford and do not inhabit, including condos and very high-end rental units.

As anyone who’s ever lived in a building with lots of students knows, when students start to make up a critical mass, it changes things.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s the dive-iest apartment building in the McGill ghetto or a brand new condo with spectacular views from the rooftop pool.

So yes, those wealthy students that Quebec universities went out of their way to attract, are having a noticeable impact. Just like when yuppies start gentrifying neighbourhoods.

Janette Bertrand is not imagining rich McGill students in places they didn’t used to be. It’s reality. And here’s more reality, those foreign students are coming largely from two places — China and the middle east.

And, cough, cough, immigrants from the middle east have been raising swimming pool “accommodation” issues for years all over Canada. Toronto dads were told last year they can’t watch their daughters‘ swim classes.  Calgary pools moved to allow head scarves, saris and other religious attire a few years back.  And, in Quebec, there have been gender-segregated swimming debates before.

This is not a ludicrously far-fetched outlier non-issue. In fact, it’s pretty typical of the problems that force us to think about how we define “reasonable accommodation” and how far we’re prepared to go. Now, I know some people will disagree with me here but I think reasonable people can disagree on what constitutes reasonable accommodation.

The Twitter mocking of Bertrand is mindless and mean. If you’re pro Burkhas in pools and segregated swimming, fine, but say so and explain why. Just don’t LOL and ROFL yourself into pretending it’s a non-issue that men in Bertrand’s apartment building — who may very well be wealthy McGill students, as she seems to think — object to swimming with women.

Personally, I don’t think it’s reasonable to have Burkhas in pools. I could probably be talked into girl-only swimming classes, but I don’t like the idea of banning fathers from watching. And I would vociferously protest if anyone in my building advocated for gender-segregated swims.

As for the Quebec charter, I don’t like it but I don’t get a say. I left my home province in 2008 and have never looked back. I voted “no” in two referendums. (LMAO, M. Parizeau). I’m not a fan of small-minded nationalism and the demagoguery that comes along with it. But I also don’t like shutting down discussion of how to make a multicultural society work nor am I in favour of ridiculing 89-year-old women, who have made major contributions to society.

What I find especially ironic is that the wealthy McGill students are now being equated — including by Franco Quebecers of all people — with that mythical Eaton’s sales lady, the one who ordered everyone to speak English or, worse yet, to “speak white.” In all the years and decades that she was held over my normally skeptical Anglo head, I never once doubted her existence. Sure, I thought she might have been a composite character, but she represented the reality of my childhood.

The fact that the Eaton’s lady is long gone doesn’t mean she didn’t exist. She did and so do the men at the swimming pool. Denial doesn’t change reality. It just makes it easy to laugh at an old woman, who doesn’t deserve to be treated that way.

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Another Quebec swimming pool with a middle east connection

The mysterious disappearance of Jeffrey Boucher

I have spent part of this week talking to people about the strange case of Jeffrey Boucher. Like many observers, I found the original reactions of Boucher’s wife and younger daughter to his disappearance very strange, but I also understand that in such an extreme situation, there is no one correct way to react. Shock can explain a lot. Odd reactions don’t equal guilt. They are just a jumping-off point to ask questions.

That’s why I am fascinated by the presence of Kirsten Boucher on the Websleuths forums where she posts as Mommybear and deals head on with people asking her all sorts of awkward, bizarre and sometimes cruel questions about the case of her missing husband.

She is so open and willing to engage that I phoned her up and asked her some questions of my own. I hope to soon write a story in which I will share the answers I received with readers, but for now I am still in the research stage and need some more information.

I would love to hear from people who knew Jeffrey Boucher and who have those little stories to tell that give insights into a person’s character.

As always, you can reach me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com or via Facebook if you prefer.

Update: A shoe that police believe belongs to Jeffrey Boucher was found a few hours after my original post. I modified it for this and other reasons.

Just a very quick note

I’m very interested in the case of Jeffrey Boucher, the 52-year-old Whitby teacher who seems to have just disappeared off the face of the earth. I might try and write something about it.

What else? I also wrote this about The Act of Killing, which I hated but almost everyone else seems to be touting for best documentary at the Oscars Sunday. The piece hasn’t gotten very many views and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s not very good or maybe it’s just a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear. This is what happens when you work on your own without an editor.

Feedback welcome, as usual.