INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from the Washington Post
Jerry and Rita Alter kept to themselves. They were a lovely couple, neighbors in the small New Mexico town of Cliff would later tell reporters. But no one knew much about them.
They may have been hiding a decades-old secret, pieces of which are now just emerging.
After the couple died, a stolen Willem de Kooning painting with an estimated worth of $160 million was discovered in their bedroom.
More than 30 years ago, that same painting disappeared the day after Thanksgiving from the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson.
And Wednesday, the Arizona Republic reported that a family photo had surfaced, showing that the day before the painting vanished, the couple was, in fact, in Tucson.
The next morning, a man and a woman would walk into the museum and then leave 15 minutes later. A security guard had unlocked the museum’s front door to let a staff member into the lobby, curator Olivia Miller told NPR. The couple followed. Since the museum was about to open for the day, the guard let them in.
The man walked up to the museum’s second floor while the woman struck up a conversation with the guard. A few minutes later, he came back downstairs, and the two abruptly left, according to the NPR interview and other media reports.
Sensing that something wasn’t right, the guard walked upstairs. There, he saw an empty frame where de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre” had hung.
At the time, the museum had no surveillance cameras. Police found no fingerprints. One witness described seeing a rust-color sports car drive away but didn’t get the license plate number. For 31 years, the frame remained empty.
In 2012, Jerry Alter passed away. His widow, Rita Alter, died five years later at 81.
After their deaths, the painting was returned to the museum. The FBI is investigating the theft.
Did the quiet couple who lived in a three-bedroom ranch on Mesa Road steal “Woman-Ochre” and get away with it?
De Kooning, who died in 1997, was one of the most prominent painters of the midcentury abstract expressionist movement. “Woman III,” another painting in the same series as “Woman-Ochre,” sold for $137.5 million in 2006. The works of de Kooning remain among the most marketable in the world.
The Alters had moved to Cliff (population 293) in the late 1970s or early 1980s, according to the Silver City Daily Press. H. Jerome Alter, who went by Jerry, had been a professional musician and a teacher in New York City schools before retiring to New Mexico, he wrote under “About the author” in “Aesop’s Fables Set in Verse,” a book he published in 2011.
“His primary avocation has been adventure travel,” the biographical sketch says, noting that he had visited “over 140 countries on all continents, including both polar regions.”
Rita Alter, who died in 2017 at the age of 81, had worked as a speech pathologist at the local school district after the couple moved to New Mexico, the Daily Press reported. Her former co-workers remembered her as “pleasant but quiet,” a friendly woman who was good with children but didn’t volunteer much information about her life.
In 2011, a year before his death, also at the age of 81, Jerry published a book of short stories, “The Cup and the Lip: Exotic Tales.” The stories were “an amalgamation of actuality and fantasy,” he wrote in the preface. Though none were literary masterpieces, one stands out in the wake of the de Kooning discovery.
“The Eye of the Jaguar,” concerns itself with Lou, a security guard at an art museum. One day, a middle-aged woman and her 14-year-old granddaughter show up. The older woman asks Lou about the history of a prized emerald on display. Six months later, she and her granddaughter return, then leave in a rush.
“Wow, those two seem to be in a hurry, most unusual for visitors to a place such a this,” Lou thinks. He reinspects the room and realizes the emerald is gone. Running to the door, he sees the pair speeding away and runs out to stop them. The older woman floors the accelerator, crashing into Lou and killing him. Then the two speed off, leaving behind “absolutely no clues which police could use to even begin a search for them!”
Jerry Alter’s fictional tale ends with a description of the emerald sitting in an empty room. “And two pairs of eyes, exclusively, are there to see!” it concludes.
He could just as easily have been describing the de Kooning. But nobody thought of that until the painting was discovered in the Alters’ bedroom, where it had been positioned in such a way that you couldn’t see it unless you were inside with the door shut.
After Rita Alter died, her nephew, Ron Roseman, was named executor of the estate. He put the house on the market and began liquidating its contents. On Aug. 1, 2017, antique dealers from the neighboring town of Silver City came to see what was left.
One of the men, David Van Auker, would later recall at a news conference that he spotted “a great, cool mid-century painting.” They bought it, along with the rest of the Alters’ estate, for $2,000.
Silver City, an old mining town near the Gila National Forest, has a high concentration of artists. So it didn’t take long for someone who recognized the painting’s significance to wander into Manzanita Ridge Furniture and Antiques.
“It probably had not been in the store an hour before the first person came in and walked up to it and looked at it and said, ‘I think this is a real de Kooning,’ ” Van Auker told KOB 4, a TV station in Albuquerque. “Of course, we just brushed that off.”
Then another customer said the same thing. And another.
It was becoming evident that the painting might be worth more than they had originally thought. Van Auker and his partners, Buck Burns and Rick Johnson, hid it in the bathroom.
Once the painting had been secured, Van Auker did a Google search for de Kooning. That’s when he spotted an article about the theft of “Woman — Ochre” and called the museum.
“I got a student receptionist, and I said to her, ‘I think I have a piece of art that was stolen from you guys,’ ” he told Dallas-based news station WFAA. “And she said, ‘What piece?’ And I said, ‘The de Kooning.’ And she said, ‘Hold, please.’ ”
Miller, the museum’s curator, told WFAA that what made her pause was when Van Auker described how the painting had cracked, as if it had been rolled up. It was a detail that no one could have invented. The dimensions were an inch off from “Woman — Ochre,” which corresponded with it being cut out of the frame.
Van Auker took the painting home and stayed up all night with his guns, he told Tucson Weekly, getting startled every time he heard a branch scrape against the side of the house.
The next night, a delegation from the museum arrived. When Miller walked in, Van Auker told the Daily Press, the room turned silent.
“She walked up to the painting, dropped down on her knees and looked. You could just feel the electricity,” he recalled.
Authentication would later confirm that it was a perfect match for the missing de Kooning.
Over the past year, a handful of clues potentially linking the Alters to the theft have surfaced.
Several people told the New York Times that they had a red sports car, similar to the one spotted leaving the museum. The car also appears in home movies obtained by WFAA.
Some of the couple’s photos show Rita in a red coat like the one that the woman at the museum had been wearing, KOB 4 reported. And Ruth Seawolf, the real estate agent who put the Alters’ house on the market, told the Silver City Sun News that she had taken home a luggage set and, inside, found glasses and a scarf that match the police description.
“In the Alters’ day planner from 1985, they took meticulous notes about what they ate, where they went, and the medications they had,” KOB 4 points out. “On Thanksgiving 1985, they mysteriously left it blank.”
And now there’s the family photo showing they were in Tucson the night before the painting was stolen.
The investigation has been underway for a year now. The FBI has declined to comment until the case is closed.
A composite sketch of the thieves. (Courtesy of the University of Arizona)
People who knew the Alters find it hard to think of them as criminal masterminds. And opinions are mixed about whether a sketch of the suspects resembles the couple.
“Composite sketches, in hindsight, resemble the faces in the Thanksgiving photo, down to their position side by side,” the Arizona Republic wrote.
The New York Times, on the other hand, theorized: “The sketch of the female suspect — described at the time of the theft as being between 55 and 60 years old — bears a resemblance to Mr. Alter, who was known as Jerry and was then 54. And the sketch of the young man — described at the time as between 25 and 30 years old — bears a resemblance to his son, Joseph M. Alter, who was then 23.”
The Alters had two children, Joseph and Barbara. Reporters from multiple news outlets, including The Washington Post, have been unable to locate either child. Several of the couple’s acquaintances told the Times that Joseph Alter has severe psychological problems, and has been institutionalized on and off since the 1980s.
Jerry Alter’s sister, Carole Sklar, told the New York Times that the idea that her brother, his wife, or their son could have stolen the painting was “absurd,” as was the theory that her brother disguised himself in women’s clothing.
“I can’t believe Rita would be involved in anything like that,” Mark Shay, one of her former co-workers, told the Daily Press. “I could see them buying a painting not knowing where it originally came from, maybe.”
Museum officials, however, told the Arizona Republic that the painting only appears to have been re-framed once during the 31 years it was missing, suggesting it had only had one owner during that time.
Something else doesn’t add up. Jerry and Rita Alter worked in public schools for most of their careers. Yet they somehow managed to travel to 140 countries and all seven continents, documenting their trips with tens of thousands of photos.
And yet, when they died, they had more than a million dollars in their bank account, according to the Sun News.
“I guess I figured they were very frugal,” their nephew, Ron Roseman, told WFAA.
Roseman couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday evening. But not long after “Woman — Ochre” resurfaced, he told ABC13 that he couldn’t imagine that his aunt and uncle had stolen the painting.
“They were just nice people,” he said.
See Original Post
Reposted from The Local
The two stolen paintings have been identified as 'Holy family' by 18th century French painter Pierre-August Renoir and 'Girls on the lawn' by 15th-16th century Belgian painter Peter Paul Rubens. Two gallery owners were the victims of the theft.
Both works of art were recovered together by the Monza police in the province of Turin following a 17-month investigation.
"We now have to confirm that the attributions are correct," said Major Francesco Provenza, commander of the Monza's police unit for the protection of cultural heritage, in an interview with Italy's TGR. Experts will now analyze the paintings to confirm their authenticity, before they will be returned to their rightful owners.
The paintings had been stolen in an elaborate scam involving at least eight different con artists, the police confirmed. At least one had posed as a Jewish rabbi with diplomatic immunity and offered the respective gallery owners €26 million for the paintings before stealing them. The theft took place at a rented office in Monza, above the Albanian embassy according to Repubblica and local daily Il Giornale di Monza, on April 20th, 2017.
According to Provenza, police received a tip-off about the whereabouts of the paintings. Four Italians and a Croatian national have been arrested, while three other 'foot soldiers' involved in the armed theft have also been identified. One has been arrested.
Corriere della Sera identified the man behind the theft as Nenad Jovanovic, a 44-year-old Croatian national, who had deceived the two gallery owners from Sardinia and London's Fulham Road, into believing he was a rabbi with a diplomatic passport – under the name Samuel Abraham Lewy Graham.
Earlier this month, Italian police – working with EU partners – seized 25,000 Greek and Roman archaeological items worth over €40 million.
Some 250 officers in Italy, Spain, Britain and Germany simultaneously swooped on 40 houses in that operation – the culmination of a four-year investigation led by the Italians, the European police agency said.
Italy has a police unit dedicated to recovering stolen art work. Three fifteenth-century paintings which were stolen from the Prince of Luxembourg's Tuscan villa by Nazi forces in 1944 were also found in Italy in 2016.
Reposted from Security Management
The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical complex in the world. More than 60 institutions operate within its 2.1-square-mile footprint in Houston, including The University of Texas Health Science Center, which produces the most healthcare graduates in the state, and the MD Anderson Cancer Center, a joint academic institution and cancer treatment and research center.
It's up to the University of Texas Police at Houston (UTP-H) to protect the 25,000-plus employees, 5,000 students, and 135,000 patients treated annually at the two institutions and across multiple cities—a Texas-sized job that requires the efforts of sworn officers, public safety officers, and civilians. The unique organization, which combines police and security operations under the same umbrella, serves a disparate community of patients, teachers, students, and healthcare workers. And a few years ago, the need for the ability to adapt and respond to an increasingly complex threat profile became apparent to UTP-H leadership.
"Don't get me wrong—we really did a great job of responding and mitigating threats, but we were response-oriented," says UTP-H Chief of Police and Chief Security Officer William Adcox. "Frankly, we weren't able to take a systematic focus across the entire risk spectrum on an institution-wide basis."
To do so, UTP-H took inspiration from the industry it serves. "Prevention has always been a major tenet of healthcare, and we wanted to look at opportunities where we could contribute to the prevention piece within security," Adcox explains. "We saw the organizational value in shifting to looking at prevention, integration, and near-miss opportunities, to the point where we even looked at our traditional planning cycle and how we could become more agile and adaptive to the threats."
The department embarked on a three-year process to overhaul its operations to become a more adaptable, responsive force with a shared purpose of prevention, protection, and preparedness.
"We wanted to try and get upstream of harm—prevent incidents before they occur, and be prepared to deal with what is occurring," says Raymond Gerwitz, director of risk strategy and operational excellence at UTP-H. "We created a shared purpose around prevention, preparedness, and protection and are engaging everyone in the idea. It's no longer enough to protect and serve—we want to prevent too."
When approaching the department's overhaul, leaders adopted a business state of mind. Most of UTP-H's senior leaders hold MBAs and have been trained in business principles, and Gerwitz says that mindset—an unusual one for security organizations—has gone a long way to inform the department's operational strategy.
"We ask, 'How can we operate more like a business rather than a security group?'" Gerwitz says. "We looked at the strategies of communities we serve, took those principles, and adapted them to our environment. You won't find many police departments or security groups that have a strategy map—it's not a thing they think about. We took that from corporate America and blended it into how we do things."
UTP-H began its overhaul with an internal value analysis that assessed operations at a day-to-day level to determine whether they aligned with the department's updated goals.
"We look at different groupings of employees, every single task that they perform—how much time does it take, and what resources, and why they do it. Because there's a law or regulation? Or because there's an organizational policy? Or because it's historically done? Or because there's an executive directive?" Adcox says. "You break it out and that gives you a good picture of your internal value analysis so that you can look at those tasks that you can effectively quit doing and see what bandwidth you can pick up."
One result of the analysis was the transition from a traditional police and security dispatch center into a more forward-facing risk operations center.
"In the call center's case, there were opportunities there to retire some misaligned tasks and insert new responsibilities that bring the value we're looking to provide to the organization," Gerwitz explains. "In essence it becomes a mathematical formula—I can retire tasks that are limited in value and re-purpose the staff to increase value without adding headcount."
Adcox says that it is important for employees to have both security training and a business mindset. "We really started placing priority on identifying members of our organization and people we would be bringing in that had a business acumen and were able to help lead us in new directions," he says. "We've been fortunate and able to recruit capable individuals who bought into the vision. It all starts with your people, and that's what's critical. Getting the right people in the right roles and then ensuring that there's a shared purpose—that's how we approached it."
The new department structure includes five service lines—healthcare security, investigative services, police services, risk management, and threat management—which often work together to respond to an incident.
"For the longest time, the face of the department was police services—the individual who wore the uniform, but now we have these five major service lines—the groups that set us on this journey of prevention," Gerwitz explains. "A big part of being engaged is understanding everyone's contribution—everyone has a role to play, even if it's in the background."
Gerwitz notes that the approach has paid off. Thanks to a combination of training and monitoring how calls are addressed, the percentage of calls handled by a single team member has increased. These percentages are tracked monthly and shared with staff, encouraging open conversations about how calls are managed and keeping team members engaged.
The switch in response protocol illustrates how UTP-H is achieving its goal of predictive policing by focusing more on analyzing calls and encounters. Adcox says that previously, as in many organizations, analysts would log the data of the encounter but not use it.
"That was our response—we'd handle it, log it, and move on," Adcox says. "We didn't know the basis for the suspicious person—what's the story? Now, we analyze and take data that comes in from multiple calls and visualize the data, and that better informs our officers of any trends, repeat offenders, potential threats that were averted, and what to look for. We now have an extended prevention opportunity on behalf of the communities we serve."
For example, the operations center team is now encouraged to handle call loads on their own without passing them along to another section to streamline the process.
"If they take care of a call on their own, they receive credit from a performance perspective on that," Gerwitz says. "If they hand it off to someone else downstream, then they don't. We monitor the percentage of things they are doing on their own on behalf of the organization without handing it off, because that generates efficiencies for us. And it empowers that group to try to handle things without having to go to others to get it done."
If a call comes in about a suspicious person on campus, the operator can look at surveillance footage and recognize that person as an employee. Operators may reach out to that employee's manager and ask why that person is in that area, but they don't send a resource out to respond because they know it's an authorized person who is perhaps in that area for a reason.
Gerwitz emphasizes how data visualization informs all aspects of the combined protection model.
"How do we want to go about creating a new shared purpose and engage the shift towards prevention? Let's find data we need," Gerwitz says. "We know the narrative, so what's the data that supports it? Now we have that data, so we create visuals to enlighten our staff and get them engaged in what we're all trying to do. For a long time, this information was kept in databases and didn't resonate with our managers."
Part of any organizational restructuring often includes developing a strategic plan, but once changes become the new normal it can be hard to measure whether operations are still true to that plan. Adcox and Gerwitz say the department constantly checks whether the department's efforts point to its guiding principles.
"Three years ago, when we started this process, strategic planning was viewed as a necessary evil," Gerwitz says. "There's this perception that our efforts were a waste of time because we wouldn't really use it. We had to change that mindset and educate everyone that some of what we're trying to do will be unrealized, some will be impacted by emergent needs, or executive mandates, or in response to particular threats. It's okay not to do everything as planned, but there is value in planning."
Data analysis and visualization play a big part in both sticking to the plan and adapting where needed. UTP-H does not shy away from recalibrating or retiring components in the department if they do not show added value.
"Putting all these things in place is good but validating and proving that they are providing value intended is the most significant piece," Gerwitz says. "How do you show people that you're doing the things you say? Or, if you need to, how do you recalibrate your organization to do something more valuable? In today's security field you have to adapt to threats coming, you can't lay back and rely on the same strategies. We don't spend a lot of time on traditional analysis. We let the current predict the future."
All calls, incidents, and interactions are meticulously documented in a robust, interactive database that can be accessed by employees and managers alike. In a demonstration, Gerwitz was able to assess all slip and fall incidents that occurred in May—27 instances—and in a few clicks could drill down and view when and where the incidents occurred, who was the responding officer, and the final outcome.
"To be able to see this type of detail is very powerful for supervisors and managers, we ask them to go in and conduct management by visualization," Gerwitz explains. "It's easy for them to see what's going on in their teams, and they can adapt their strategies based on what they're hearing from the outside—if there are lots of vehicle and pedestrian hazards in a certain area, they can look and see whether we're in those areas or we need to adapt our patrol tactics."
Near misses are of particular interest to the department, because they signal both a looming threat and an area where predictive policing can be used.
"We're almost fanatical about failure or near misses," Adcox explains. "We're not interested in numbers—how many doors we check that have to be secured, that kind of thing. What we are interested in are the doors that should have been secured that were found unsecured, or individuals in a certain part of the hospital who don't belong or are lost—those are near misses. We'll see how often that's occurring or if it's the same individuals. We have got to get in front of something happening."
UTP-H relies on metrics to inform its tactics and mitigate negative trends before they affect the community.
"It might be how we view and put together video feeds, or we might put together a specific covert operation or put cameras in certain areas," Adcox explains. "It might be working within a specific group of employees, asking them to watch for certain activity and report a certain way. It's very proactive."
All employees have access to performance and value visualization tools in the spirit of transparency and to understand the operations of the entire department and the impact their teams have in keeping the institutions safe. Gerwitz says that most employees don't view the information every day, but they are alerted when new resources are added. There has been a lot of thought put into how the data is accessed—the department is on its second iteration of the visualization tool, he notes.
"It's now much more graphic and in line with how people want to consume information," Gerwitz says.
Managers will also put together visualization boards specific to their teams, and in the case of groups like security officers who aren't often in front of computers, they will print them off and review them during meetings.
"It has been helpful in allowing people to straightforwardly show their value," Gerwitz explains. "Before we put this in place, it was hard for people when they were stopped to tell me how your team benefits what we're trying to do—it was hard for them to articulate that in a way that made sense to people. This program makes it easy. I think that's the biggest benefit to the department—now managers are able to adapt and show value at any moment based on what teams are doing. From an organizational perspective, the feedback we get from senior executives who use these processes themselves brings a lot of credibility to our team."
Adcox has worked with UT Health and MD Anderson for 14 years and is aware of the challenges of protecting the esteemed educational and healthcare facilities. Part of UTP-H's transition included opening more dialogue between the department and the institutions to ensure they are working towards the same goals.
"We bring in leaders from the institutions and walk them through our process and spend time on things they value," Gerwitz says. "If we bring in the clinical team, we'll spend a lot more time on issues they deal with in the clinics and how we adapt our training, versus meeting with the finance folks, where we validate our programs and show value."
One example of partnership between UTP-H and the institutions it serves is the approach to people experiencing a mental crisis. Beyond developing a trusted response protocol, the UTP-H threat management team strives to work with the school and hospital to predict potential personnel issues before they come to fruition.
"You bring all these pieces of information together, so they can present to you a real picture of what the situation is," Adcox explains. "You're able to get people help in advance of losing their jobs or harming themselves or someone else. It's been very effective, and we have progressive data and use data visualization to show that."
If an employee, patient, or visitor is actively in mental crisis, the threat management team is trained on how to respond and follow up. Gerwitz says that 98 percent of UTP-H responders are certified mental health officers due to the unique stresses of the joint education and healthcare environment—most other law enforcement departments in Texas provide less than 10 percent of their officers such training, he says.
"That employee in crisis will be assessed using tools we have been trained on to screen for the person's mental state," Gerwitz explains. "So, say on a scale of one to 10, I'm an eight—I'm in a bad place, and the responders apply a strategy to bring me down. Following that event, through peer review or interacting with me as they continue to monitor my status, they reassess me, and now I'm a five—they measure that delta."
The team has a calculated goal for an average reduction of the intervention score and, using data visualization tools, can track how successful different intervention methods are and adapt intervention tactics based on those statistics across a variety of populations.
"It's a team effort across the institutions—there are others participating in this effort, such as human resources, employee health programs, supervisors, and we can track who all handled each case and its outcome," Gerwitz explains.
Being able to map out the outcomes of police interactions with people in crisis has been impactful in promoting relations between the institutions and UTP-H, Gerwitz adds. Of the 98 threat intervention cases he mapped out, only two resulted in arrest. This statistic goes a long way in garnering trust with hospital employees who might be wary of involving police in a mental crisis.
"For a long time while implementing this, we had to break down the walls of thought that if you call the police, someone is going to get arrested," Gerwitz says, adding that the outcome statistic was well received by clinicians. "To me, this is the more high-level analytical, value-driven style, compared to performance monitoring that goes on in typical security operations."
Adcox agrees, noting that such data illustrates UTP-H's thoughtful approach to conflict in such a sensitive environment.
"In our business, our whole approach is an organizational health, individual wellness method," Adcox says. "It is not in any way a prosecutorial or criminal justice approach. Because we have a police component, you have that extra tool in your tool belt if you need to bring a situation under control."
Gerwitz says that another important culture shift has been thinking about the business success of the organizations UTP-H serves, not just its own success.
"Not only are these healthcare institutions and educators, they are also businesses," he says. "Part of the value we've been able to distill from all of this is that if you act like a business partner and are treated like a business partner, you can do better with your allocated resources and meeting the goals of the organization."
Adcox explains that UTP-H has assessed where its operations overlap with UT Health and MD Anderson and partners with them to share knowledge and training. In areas such as investigations and crisis training, the department can step in and share its own resources for the benefit of the entire organization.
"I cannot stress enough the importance of going into each of these places that perform these critical functions for these organizations and working with them," Adcox says. "Have a joint training, let us explain what we do and what our expertise is, and they'll teach you what's important to them, and then you have the trust factor and can start talking about how to integrate and help each other."
Since UTP-H is known for its high level of conflict resolution training, it has partnered with UT Health to train nursing students on handling people in mental crisis—everything from body language in the hospital room to handling a patient's family to deescalating conflict. Adcox says UTP-H also trains clinicians, physicians, and nurses working at the facilities in the same practices.
"We're able to bring that into play because of the expertise we've had to develop in being effective in our organization," Adcox says. "We also have an immersive simulation center so that you actually have practical, holistic experiences and not just the classroom. This technology is for the entire organization, not just us."
By aligning UTP-H with UT Health and MD Anderson's enterprise goals and overarching missions, the department is now seen as an equal and valuable partner—in business and protection alike.
"The struggle we have on the security and law enforcement side is that we're not accepted as legitimate business partners, we're a cost center that's a necessary evil," Gerwitz says. "You have to hold yourself to the same accountability and integrity and commitment to the organization as any other business unit. You're no different from the other teams working on behalf of the organization. This business approach is aimed at making sure we're being good stewards of the resources provided. When people believe you're doing that, they'll support you."
Reposted from BBC
The four suspects, who were captured on CCTV, raided the home of Prof Sir Christopher Evans in Bibury, Gloucestershire, on 9 July and took diamond rings, tiaras and bracelets.
The theft had a "devastating" effect on his wife Lady Anne, due to the sentimental nature of the items.
A "substantial cash reward" has been offered for information.
The CCTV footage captured the gang carrying items in a log basket across the grounds before putting them in a silver or grey Audi S5 and heading towards Cirencester.
Antique items taken include diamond rings, gold brooches, a tiara, a Cartier bracelet, a choker, silver candlesticks and three Art Nouveau silver rose bowls.
It is estimated the items stolen in the burglary - which happened between 17:00 and 20:00 on Monday 9 July - have a value of at least £1m.
In a statement, Sir Christopher, an internationally renowned life sciences entrepreneur originally from Port Talbot, said: "The real pain comes from what these stolen items mean and symbolize in our lives.
"Anne's engagement ring was her late father's signet ring - the only thing she has left of him. The diamond ring I bought my wife when our first child was born cost almost our entire savings at that point."
He added the couple had "always taken security around the property very seriously and we have obviously stepped up security with 24-hour dog patrols around the property".
Det Con Faye Satchwell-Bennett, from Gloucestershire Constabulary, said the burglary has had a "marked impact" on the victims, and asked that antiques dealers be on the lookout for any of the items.
Reposted from Observer
Every year, Crozier, a major fine art storage company with six locations on the east coast and one in Los Angeles, holds what Simon Hornby, the company’s president, calls “risk matrix exercises.” Though it might sound like something out of a Tom Cruise franchise, the reality is a little more mundane. It’s essentially a test of “all of the exposures we are subject to,” said Hornby. The potential for physical break-ins, for instance, or the possibility of “natural gas being cut off—that happened during [Hurricane] Sandy” in 2012—and the need to rely on back-up generators if electrical power was interrupted. Climate controls for some very delicate objects would be compromised if heat and humidity levels were unable to be maintained.
Then, there are worries about cyberattacks in which an outsider might try to take over Crozier’s computer system, demanding a ransom or hacking into clients’ personal information. “That would be devastating and lead to a loss of credibility for us,” he said. Among the protections that Crozier purchases is cyber security insurance, often referred to in the industry as “social engineering” coverage, and it purchases terrorism insurance as well.
As opposed to maintaining the generators, updating the computer security systems and establishing what to do if someone tries to break in, terrorism is more difficult to plan for, because, as Hornby put it, “you don’t know what it might be.” And its somewhat nebulous, albeit frightening, definition might be causing many to be unsure of whether they need to protect their collection against such scenarios or not, though the very existence of terrorism insurance for art has perhaps led some to believe they should.
Almost 17 years ago, people had a very straightforward idea of what terrorism consisted of, and it involved enormous destruction of property and loss of life. The insurance industry suffered losses of approximately $44 billion in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. These days, one is more apt to think of terrorism in terms of a single person wreaking havoc on a small area. The instances that terrorism insurance provides protection against can be somewhat foggy for a collector, business owner or institutional director assessing whether it’s necessary.
“Whenever I negotiate a loan agreement of an object to a museum in another country for a client, I insist on terrorism insurance, and I do get it,” said New York art lawyer Ralph Lerner. “Either I get it, or they don’t get the art.”
Negotiations for loans to U.S. museums, however, is another matter, he said. “Museums here don’t want to offer terrorism coverage to lenders, and clients seem to be flexible about that, especially if they want their items in a show.”
But that doesn’t meant the lender’s artwork is unprotected. The fine art insurance policies that most private collectors carry include most ordinary risks, such as theft and damage. Exclusions include wear-and-tear, the cost of any restoration, war and the effects of a nuclear detonation, but terrorism coverage is automatically included in these plans up to $10 million. For collections valued over $10 million, policyholders would need to purchase additional coverage, which can add between two-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half percent (and sometimes as much as 10 percent) additional to the overall premiums they pay, depending upon where the artwork is located. (You guessed it: New York’s Upper East Side is more expensive than anywhere in Des Plaines, Illinois.)
It can be “very expensive,” said art lawyer Susan Duke Biederman. Firmly in the “buy-it” camp, she recommended that collectors “try to insure to the maximum current value possible,” because “nothing is 100 percent secure in these times.”
As opposed to residential fine art policies, terrorism coverage is not automatically part of commercial property insurance. That means museums and commercial art galleries need to purchase protection for this potentiality separately. Collectors considering the loan of their artwork to a museum or the consignment of pieces to art galleries might feel safer if the institution has terrorism coverage. In this scenario, however, collectors are normally “more concerned about theft or something damaged in transit,” according to Gaile Sweeney, insurance underwriter for Flather & Perkins, a Washington, D.C.-based art brokerage agency.
New York art lawyer Peter R. Stern noted that the existence of terrorism insurance coverage for art has “not come really up with my clients, except in one type of situation.” That involves an “owner consigning or lending a work to a gallery and insisting that the work be covered against all risks and/or that the gallery be liable against all risks and the gallery having a policy with exclusions.”
Terrorism riders are not mandatory on commercial policies but, as of 2002, insurance companies must offer this coverage. The federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, a post-September 11 measure that promises federal government assistance to the insurance industry in the event of a catastrophe exceeding $100 billion, requires that any insurer offering a commercial property policy must also provide the prospective policyholder with an option to purchase terrorism coverage. That policyholder is not required by law or by the insurer to buy it, though.
But the art industry’s split might just mirror conversations being had about terrorism insurance in general across the county. According to a “2018 Terrorism Risk Insurance Report” published earlier this year by the national insurance brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan, 62 percent of all U.S. companies purchased terrorism coverage as part of their property policies in 2017. The northeast, with its high-value terrorist target cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., had a higher rate of this coverage, 73 percent, with the south coming in at 58 percent, the Midwest at 59 percent and the west at 54 percent. The northeast also had the highest premiums in the country, $30 per million dollars in coverage, compared to $18 in the Midwest, $20 in the west and $25 in the south. The report noted that while threats against major cities remain, “many recent attacks have come against soft targets and been perpetrated by ‘lone wolves’ and small groups with no direct connection to known terrorist organizations.”
Some galleries have terrorism policies, while others do not. “I do not have one account with an art gallery that does not have terrorism insurance,” Gaile Sweeney said. “To me, it’s not optional. I tell them, the pessimist that I am, that they need it, and it is part of the premium. Period.”
However, for Roland Augustine, owner of New York’s Luhring Augustine art gallery and a former president of the Art Dealers Association of America, terrorism insurance coverage is optional. “We have never elected to carry it,” adding that he has never known any collectors who have asked if the gallery has such coverage. The gallery also does not carry insurance covering cybercrime (“it’s pricey”), employment practices liability or coverage in the event of a kidnapping and ransom situation. “You can buy insurance for everything,” but it all adds up in a market that is already quite competitive and expensive to operate in.
Saving money by not purchasing terrorism insurance may only seem pound-foolish if there is a major event, and Patrick Drummond, director of underwriting at AXA Art Insurance, noted that there hasn’t been a terrorist-related art claim since 9-11. “Time takes away the sense of urgency,” he said.
Reposted from the Daily Mail
MPs voiced bewilderment today after it emerged that more than 220 works of art have gone missing from the Parliamentary collection.
A huge haul of paintings, etchings and prints are unaccounted for - with the authorities at the House blaming database errors but admitting they do not know whether they have been stolen.
Some of the missing works are thought to be worth thousands of pounds.
The issue, revealed after a Freedom of Information request by MailOnline, sparked calls from politicians for action.
There are some 9,000 works of art in the Parliamentary collection - which started to be assembled in 1841.
The works recorded as 'missing' include a wartime oil painting by William John MacLeod titled Burning of the Debating Chamber from Star Chamber Court
There are more than 6,000 paintings and prints, hundreds of busts, statues, tapestries and mosaics.
The total value of the collection has not been formally estimated but it is thought to be well over £10million.
More than 80 per cent are on show on the Westminster estate, with the rest supposedly in storage.
But according to the information disclosed by the Parliamentary authorities 224 works are recorded on the collection database as 'missing'.
They include a wartime oil painting by William John MacLeod titled Burning of the Debating Chamber from Star Chamber Court.
A watercolor of 'The Landing Place from the River Thames' by William Capon - whose paintings can fetch thousands of pounds at auction - is unaccounted for.
A portrait of William Pitt the Younger by Robert Dighton, another sought after artist, is also on the list released by Parliament.
Other painters whose works have gone AWOL include Philip Mount, Robert Soden, William Alister Macdonald, and Robert Blemmell Schnebbelie.
Scores of drawings, lithographs, engravings, etchings and aquatints have been recorded as astray.
A sketch by John Stanton Ward of a Principal Doorkeeper in the House of Lords has not been located. His paintings have sold for £5,000.
A cartoon by famous Daily Express cartoonist Carl Giles is also among the apparent casualties.
The FOI response said: 'An indication of whether these pieces are considered either lost or stolen is not held by the House.'
The authorities said the 'missing' tag dated from the 1980s when there was a 'less reliable' database.
They said it was not known whether the 'problem' items - the total value of which is unknown - had genuinely disappeared or had been wrongly recorded.
'We now use a Museum standard database and have succeeded in resolving many of the inherited anomalies, however identifying them is a labour-intensive process,' the statement added.
A portrait of William Pitt the Younger by Robert Dighton, another sought after artist, is also on the list released by Parliament
Parliamentary officials are hoping the pending multi-billion restoration project at the Palace of Westminster will allow them to track down some of the missing works.
'The Restoration and Renewal program is an important opportunity for the Parliamentary Art Collection to be reviewed in detail so that historic cataloging errors can be resolved and good documentation practice going forward can be ensured,' the response added.
Tory MP Sir Oliver Heald said he was 'very surprised' by the extent of the missing works of art.
'I will certainly be writing to the Speaker to see what has been going on here,' he told MailOnline.
'These things can be worth quite a lot of money.'
Reposted from the Guardian
An 18-year-old who became one of the youngest women to be convicted of terrorism offences in the UK has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 13 years.
A jury found that Safaa Boular plotted with her partner, Naweed Hussain, an Islamic State militant, to launch a grenade and bomb attack on the British Museum in Bloomsbury, central London. She was also found guilty of attempting to travel to Syria to join Isis.
Boular was the final member of her terror cell to be sentenced at the Old Bailey, after the convictions of her mother, Mina Dich, 44, her older sister, Rizlaine Boular, 22, and the family friend Khawla Barghouthi, 21.
Judge Mark Dennis QC rejected claims she had entirely renounced her Islamist views and downplayed the extent grooming played in her radicalization.
“In my view there’s insufficient evidence to say at this stage this defendant is a truly transformed individual. Her views were deeply entrenched. However much she may have been influenced and drawn into extremism, it appeared she knew what she was doing and acted with open eyes,” he told the court.
Boular met Hussain, from Coventry, who was 30 and a known Isis recruiter, online when she was 16, the court heard. They were in contact for three months before they declared their love for each other and had what she regarded as an online Islamic marriage.
Duncan Atkinson QC, prosecuting, told jurors Boular wanted to marry Hussain and to carry out a suicide attack in Syria. After police prevented her from joining him in the country, messages on her phone revealed repeated conversations about a potential attack in the UK.
Boular claimed she never agreed to any attack. Her defense lawyer, Joel Bennathan QC, said she was a child when Hussain groomed her. “Around November  he proposed to me about an attack at Christmas,” Boular told the court. “He asked me if I was scared of being in an attack and I told him yes I am. Then he went back to the same usual lovey-dovey topics.”
Jurors heard how the couple shared their enthusiasm for TV game shows such as Deal or No Deal but also fantasized about killing Barack Obama and exchanged extremist material.
They discussed plans for attacks in the UK several times. In messages after her birthday in March, Hussain mentioned an attack for a third time. He talked about “Tokarev” and “pineapples” – meaning guns and grenades – in relation to a proposed attack on the British Museum, the court heard.
After Hussain was killed in Syria, Boular told undercover MI5 officers she planned to carry out his plans for an attack in the UK and join him in martyrdom.
Rizlaine was shot when armed police moved in to arrest the gang on 27 April last year but made a full recovery. She was jailed for life with a minimum term of 16 years, having admitted preparing acts of terrorism.
Dich, from Vauxhall, south London, was jailed for six years and nine months, with an additional five years on licence, for helping Rizlaine Boular. Barghouthi, who pleaded guilty to failing to alert authorities, was jailed for two years and four months.
Reposted from the Times of India
Poor fire preparedness and lack of maintenance of the Government Museum, Egmore that houses artefacts worth crores of rupees, continue to threaten the grand old structure.
A recent reality check by TOI found that at least two fire extinguishers have not been refilled for nearly 10 months. Though the authorities insisted that the artifacts were safe due to elaborate safety measures in place, the country’s second oldest museum does not have any internal guidelines to be followed in case a fire breaks out. Sources confirmed to TOI that the museum did not have any standard operating procedure (SOP) to be pursued during emergencies.
The dry chemical powder (DCP) fire extinguisher installed on the ground floor of the anthropology department was past the expiry date as the label on it read. It was due to be refilled in September 2017. The DCP fire extinguisher on the first floor that houses bronze idols was to be refilled almost 10 months ago but nothing has been done.
S Vijaykumar, co-founder of Singapore-based India Pride Project which is working for the retrieval of stolen idols from India, said security at the museum was confined to preventing people from taking photographs on mobile phones. “Other important aspects such as fire safety and emergency evacuation seem non-existent. Further, the system of CCTV camera surveillance needs to be upgraded. Considering the poor light, the existing cameras are unlikely to produce any clear video feed,” he said.
When contacted, Pinky Jowel, the director (in-charge) of the museum, said an annual mock drill for fire safety was conducted at the museum. “Officials have been asked to frame guidelines for internal safety and security,” she said.
It does not stop at safety issues. The grand old buildings cry for renovation and proper maintenance. Cracks have started appearing on different parts of the structures that have been functioning since 1851. The unchecked growth of vegetation in several parts of the campus indicates a sorry state of upkeep by the authorities concerned.
Making do with meager grant from the government for annual maintenance, the British-era museum is in dire need of funds. Of the ?10 crore earmarked for the department of museums, the grandiose facility gets ?40 lakh for maintenance by the public works department (PWD). “We do not have trained engineers. Hence, the maintenance is carried out by the PWD,” an official said.
About 140 years after a British archaeologist discovered a 2,000-year-old sarcophagus at Pallavaram, the six-feet long artifact has been found smashed at Government Museum in Egmore.
The ancient earthen tomb with 10 legs was one of the first major discoveries made by British archaeologist Alexander Rea in 1888, which revealed the existence of a megalithic culture in Pallavaram on the outskirts of Chennai.
The country's second oldest museum has no record of the sarcophagus, though the transportation of the antique piece from hillocks of Pallavaram to the Government Museum was documented by Alexander Rea. Museum sources told TOI that the sarcophagus was broken more than ten years ago.
A museum curator said, “Once during a visit to the museum strong room, I found shreds of terracotta which appeared to be broken legs of a sarcophagus. After some inquiries I found the piece broke when someone tried to lift it.”In the absence of any record of the sarcophagus, the museum made no attempt to repair the broken piece or to ascertain the object. “We do not have a sarcophagus of this size in our inventory of prehistory artifacts,” said the curator.
The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal narrates how the first superintendent of the southern circle of ASI, Alexander Rea, moved the sarcophagus from Pallavaram to the Egmore museum by rail and cart in 1888, when modern transportation was a rarity in the country. “We have no record of the sarcophagus from Pallavaram,” said the curator. The museum, however, has a sarcophagus that, as records show, was discovered by Alexander Rea at Perumbarai of Kancheepuram district.
Mystery shrouds past in sealed strongrooms of govt museum
That the government museum in Egmore has a jaw-dropping array of about 11,000 ancient and priceless artifacts on display is a given. But what is not known is that the building sits over nearly 1 lakh items of civilizational and cultural importance, and that all of them are kept in strongrooms, a senior museum official not willing to be named said.
The museum administration has kept every small and big ageless curio relating to Tamil civilization – ranging from stone tools used during prehistoric period to iconic bronze idols of the Cholas – in these sealed rooms.
While the collection is an archaeologist’s dream, the way they are kept away from neutral scrutiny must be a conservationist’s nightmare.
Recently, museum managers had smashed a more than 2,300-year-old sarcophagus inside one of the strongrooms. The incident came to light only after TOI shot probing queries to authorities.
When TOI visited the museum two weeks ago, several stone idols and wood carvings — some from the Pallava period — were found kept in a small shed behind the museum galleries, shrouded in a thick blanket of dust. Besides this, more than 200 antique pieces of different sizes were seen bundled over each other in a dingy room.
Drawing inferences from all these facts it cannot be said with certainty that the artifacts in the strongrooms are well-preserved.
Museum authorities, however, said every effort was being made to conserve the artifacts in three strongrooms. The claim does not cut ice with heritage enthusiasts.
S Vijaykumar, co-founder of Singapore-based India Pride Project, an organisation working towards retrieval of stolen idols from India, said as per media reports, there were at least seven theft attempts at the museum in the last 20 years.
“Despite these break-ins, museum authorities said nothing was lost except for a replica of a Roman coin from the numismatic section. (The robbers exited via the bronze gallery). A recent theft was related to meteorite stones kept on display. A thorough audit of the acquisition register and physical tallying have to be done,” he said.
Just two armed policemen guard the museum’s bronze gallery. Sources said the museum is under the surveillance of 122 CCTV cameras, adding it has a minimal presence of private security guards after the visiting hours.
Though museum curators claim an annual audit is conducted to ensure artefacts are intact, former archaeology officer and secretary of Madurai-based Pandya Nadu Centre for Historical Research C Santhalingam wondered why the audit report has never been made public. “It is a government museum and the list of entire collection at the strongrooms should be in the public domain,” he said.
When contacted, Pinky Jowel, the director (in-charge) of the museum, said an app was being developed to promote the facility globally. “It will have security features to count the number of times a person visits the gallery. This would give a clue on the purpose of their visit,” she added.
Reposted from CNN
At first they thought it was a false alarm, but when staff at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum discovered vandals had flooded their new education center, they didn't know how to pay for the estimated $500,000 repairs.
Fast forward two months and the Kansas City, Missouri, museum has received donations from across the country.
"We've gotten a lot of love," museum President Bob Kendrick said. "I think it speaks to people's understanding and embracing of what this history represents."
In June, vandals cut a water pipe at the museum's site in the former Paseo YMCA, the building where the Negro National League was founded in 1920. By the time the pipe was discovered, water had been running for more than 12 hours and the bottom floor of the newly renovated building had been severely damaged.
"It was one of the darkest days in recent memory for me personally and professionally," Kendrick said. "Once I realized that someone had very deliberately, maliciously done that damage, it was just so disheartening."
Kendrick said repairing the damage will cost around $500,000. The money is needed to cover demolition, cleanup and restoration costs. Although the museum is still talking with its insurance company, its initial claim was denied.
Still under construction when the vandalism occurred, the Buck O'Neil Research and Education Center is a planned expansion of the museum, created in honor of John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil, a baseball player and the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball history.
The Negro National League is where many famous players got their start in a time when professional baseball was a segregated sport. Kendrick said many people who come to the museum don't know that legendary player Jackie Robinson got his start with the Kansas City Monarchs, a team in the Negro National League.
"It's a very powerful, triumphant story of courageous athletes who overcame tremendous social adversity to go on to greatness," Kendrick said. "The job at hand is to make sure that all those heroes of the Negro League are never forgotten. That's what we are trying to do."
While the damage has set the education center's expected opening date back many months, Kendrick said he has been blown away by the support the museum has received. "Small contributions are coming from virtually every corner of the country," Kendrick said. "It's lifted everybody's spirits."
In Chicago, a fan of the museum organized a fundraiser at the Nisei Lounge to raise money for repairs. In New Hampshire, one of Kendrick's Twitter followers, Tim Burnell, put together a fundraiser on Facebook that he said raised $365. He also got his workmates involved.
Monday our charitable fund at the office voted to donate $1K from our emergency fund. And Mrs. gave me thumbs up for a personal donation. So ... progress. C'mon," he posted on Twitter.
Back in Kansas City, Boulevard Brewing Co., a local brewery, hosted a "Bingo for Buck" night to raise funds for the museum. Kendrick said he has also been contacted by Little League teams and an elementary school that want to get involved in the effort.
"This groundswell of support has just been tremendous," Kendrick said. "As we've started going through looking at donations and seeing where they're coming from, they are coming from all over the country and they're coming in amounts whether its $5 or $5,000."
The support doesn't end there. Claudia Williams and the board of directors of the Ted Williams Museum in Florida pledged $100,000 to help repair the vandalism. According to Kendrick, Buck O'Neil and baseball player Ted Williams "were very close" back in the day.
The Kansas City Star reported that Hy-Vee, a supermarket chain, recently presented the museum with a $20,000 check, and the Royals donated $26,000 from proceeds of game-worn uniforms from the Negro Leagues salute in May.
Kendrick said the outpouring of support has energized his team to remain in good spirits and stay focused on repairing the education center.
"Even though we know we've got a task at hand, there are so many wonderful people who are stepping up to assist us that I have no doubt that this project will be right back on track and Buck's dream will be fulfilled," Kendrick said. "We're going to keep on keeping on."
According to Kendrick, if O'Neil was still here, he would say: "People will do bad things, but good people will fix them."
"And at this stage, good people are helping us fix this," Kendrick said.
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