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  • February 05, 2020 2:37 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Security Management

    Coaching is a crucial function of managing. Every effective leader must be able to do it well. Such is the philosophy of Cherissa Newton, coauthor of the book Coaching for Results and a leadership expert at the Center for Management and Organizational Effectiveness (CMOE). It’s also the view held by many seasoned security managers like David Barton, the chief information security officer at Stellar Cyber, who previously served as director of security for AT&T and corporate security group manager for Sprint over his long management career.

    “Hopefully as a leader, you realize sooner rather than later that being a good coach to your team is part of being a good manager,” Barton says. “You can’t have one without the other.”

    What differentiates coaching from managing? As Newton defines the concepts in a recent CMOE analysis, managing often involves day-to-day tasks like conducting meetings, assigning tasks, making departmentwide decisions, and dealing with staff conflicts.

    Coaching, on the other hand, is defined by Newton as “a two-way communication process between different members of the organization aimed at influencing and developing the employees’ skills, motivation, attitude, judgment, ability to perform, and willingness to contribute to an organization’s goals.”

    Both are crucial to effective leadership. According to Newton, the benefits of adding coaching to your management style can include enhanced performance, improved productivity, higher employee engagement and retention rates, and a stronger culture of trust in the workplace.

    A Two-Way Street

    The coaching definition’s opening phrase, “a two-way communication process,” is one of the most crucial aspects of coaching, according to veteran managers like John Torres, head of the security and technology consulting practice at Guidepost. Torres has more than 27 years of experience in federal investigative and security management for agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As an acting director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from 2008 to 2009, he oversaw 20,000 employees and a $5 billion budget.

    Torres says that working on many different teams early in his career gave him an opportunity to observe “good bosses and bad bosses.” Bad managers, he says, usually acted as the self-styled “smartest guys in the room.”

    “They were like, ‘This is how it’s done,’ and there was no room for questions, even when you often knew there were other ways to do it,” Torres explains.

    In contrast, good managers always maintained two-way communication—even when they knew that they were the smartest person in the room, he says. Those managers did not let their high knowledge level preclude them from being open to other opinions. “They had the ability to communicate and to listen,” Torres says.

    And two-way communication helps enfranchise an employee, which can significantly boost engagement and retention, Barton says.

    “Team members want to feel that they have a say in the direction of the team and how that relates to the overall direction of the company,” Barton says. “Lacking a two-way approach, communications feel dictatorial, and not team-orientated. Team members want to know they make a difference.”

    And team members also want to know what is expected of them, says Chris Stowell, one of the coaching experts at the CMOE. “They want an opportunity to do their best work every day,” he says. Coaching facilitates this; it allows for productive two-way discussions about expectations, results, and suggestions on how to enhance performance. “We may not always like what we hear, but ultimately, we want to do better, be better,” he adds.

    Not One-Size-Fits-All

    Good coaching effectively addresses a truism that holds at every workplace, experts say: each employee is a unique individual.

    That means that learning styles, productivity levels, workload tolerance, and preferred means of recognition differ from staffer to staffer. Sometimes the differences are slight; sometimes they are staggering. But one-size-fits-all management is not the most effective way to help employees fulfill their individual potential or maximize their contributions to the organization.

    “Each person learns differently and thrives under different management styles. It’s our job as a coach/mentor to understand these differences, embrace them, and then lead appropriately,” Barton explains.

    In one of his previous security positions, Barton suspected that a team member was in the wrong role. After a few weeks of observation and directed questions, Barton made a realization.

    “This person was not driven by technology—something essential for an engineer—but rather by people. So I spent a few days with this person discussing my perspective—only for them to agree (after I assured them their job was secure),” Barton says. “I then reached out to some of my peer leaders who led customer-
    facing teams and helped my team member move to the other department. They thrived and became a great contributor to our company.”

    Individual coaching proved useful for Torres when he was in federal law enforcement, managing a certain type of young idealistic federal agent who did not like to say “no” to any assignment. Soon that agent was “working around the clock.”

    Torres was able to coach the agent about the importance of not taking on a workload that would greatly increase the risk of burnout. “You can coach about work–life balance, to help ensure that they can stay focused and not go down a rabbit hole,” he explains.

    Learning about the individual employee is especially important when it comes to another crucial aspect of coaching: recognition. “Recognizing a staffer’s accomplishments plays a significant role in coaching,” Barton says.

    “For accomplishments you see daily or weekly, acknowledge them! Part of your role as a manager is to see growth, even small steps, from someone on your team,” he continues. “It is pretty easy to throw out a ‘well done’ via email, Slack, or text.”

    Stowell adds that coaching, which regularly recognizes accomplishments, does wonders for staff retention. “That’s very critical to ensuring that you can keep successful employees,” he says. But here again, the individual needs of staffers matter. “Everyone is different,” Stowell says. “Different people have different levels of recognition requirements, so to speak.”

    Thus, some employees prefer one-on-one acknowledgment of accomplishments, while some like more public recognition. In terms of rewards, some prefer material assets like gift certificates, raises, or bonuses, while others like work–life balance enhancements like extra time off or vacation time.

    “Team members are motivated by different things, such as money, public recognition, or promotions,” Barton says. “The manager also needs to think about reactions from the team and from other peer managers. Bigger organizations have processes for promotions, so it’s best to work with HR to ensure your promoted employee’s experience is done right.”

    In addition, a particularly potent form of recognition in coaching is one that cites the details of the accomplishment—details that might have been missed by others but which are noticed by the appreciative manager.

    “Noticing the details is a powerful tool. I develop a sense of how my team wants feedback, and I also show them I notice the details,” Barton says. “This is important if you want people to think they can learn from you.”

    Trust Building

    Coaching that recognizes details and serves as a learning tool for employees builds trust within the organization.

    How can managers increase their chances that they will build trust through their coaching? First off, it should be proactive rather than reactive coaching, Stowell says. To be more proactive, a manager can make coaching part of a daily routine and be ready to take advantage of small issues and developments as coaching opportunities aimed at elevating performance. This is especially effective in ensuring that coaching does not devolve into a reactive series of corrective conversations when things go wrong, he says.

    Of course, there are times when coaching needs to be corrective, but there are ways a manager can do this without discouraging the employee.

    “First, I think it is key to make sure you do it in private—shaming people does not build loyalty with your performers. That only builds fear and mistrust, and potentially your own team will start to throw others under the bus,” Barton says. “It can spiral.”

    But learning this lesson can be difficult for new security managers, who may sometimes be feeling the pressure of a high-stress situation when trying to correct a staffer’s mistake, Torres says. “Often, that’s not something they teach you early on in your career,” he explains. “And in a heated moment, you can say the wrong thing.”

    Given this, it often helps to adopt a measured mind-set so that heated moments can be avoided. It behooves a manager to dispassionately diagnose the root cause of the mistake, Torres explains. Was the mistake purely an issue of employee judgment? Or are there underlying policies and operating procedures that are creating vulnerabilities? Or is it a case of an overworked employee who is making more mistakes due to fatigue? “You take the attitude of, ‘How can we help you do this better?’” Torres says.

    Overall, this type of mindful coaching, which focuses not on the mistake but on stronger future results, shows that the manager cares about the staffer, and that also helps build trust. “Everyone wants coaching to some extent, because coaching is an investment. People want to know you care enough to invest in their success and coach them through their failures,” Barton explains.

    Be Coachable

    In his work as a coaching consultant for CMOE, Stowell has noticed a few recent trends among leaders who are considered successful coaches, and he shared practices that other leaders who aspire to improve as coaches could benefit from.

    One is “coaching on the fly,” which is more likely to take place in a workplace that is also a fast-moving production environment, or one that is that is highly matrixed. In some of these types of organizations, managers are increasingly prepared to do “quick hits” of brief developmental conversations that have value for both participants. And although they are short, these brief coaching episodes can still take preparation on the manager’s part, Stowell says.

    In Barton’s view, many fast-moving security workplaces could benefit from some coaching on the fly. “Coaching is a just-in-time response, as well as a thoughtful planned activity. A good leader has to be prepared for both approaches and take into account the situation, the team member, and the coaching needed,” Barton says.

    Another trend is coaching across teams, Stowell says. In many organizations, cross-functional teams are becoming more popular as a means of breaking down silos and soliciting a wide range of ideas and viewpoints. This gives team members and team leaders the opportunity to coach other members and leaders, even if the managers have no formal leadership authority over the coworkers they are coaching.

    However, in cases where there is no formal leadership authority, it can help if the coach is “a little bit provisional” in approaching the conversation, Stowell explains. So instead of saying something like “you did this wrong, please fix it,” the team member may offer “an observation around security such as ‘from my perspective, here’s what I am seeing, and here’s what the potential risk is.’ You’re bringing them into the conversation,” Stowell says.

    In the end, experts like Stowell say that everyone in an organization should be both coachable and a potential coach, whether they are a new employee or a manager, a line worker or a senior executive, young or old, experienced or new.

    “I should be able coach my leader and say, ‘From my perspective, here’s some feedback and insight,’” Stowell says.

    Torres has seen the importance of this throughout his career. Back in the day, when federal agencies were using computer banks, Torres remembers some older agents who badly needed technological coaching from younger employees. “They were deathly afraid of going near the computer. They were happy to be working on an old typewriter,” he says.

    Now, in the era of high-definition cameras and social media saturation, Torres takes advantage of the younger expertise in his senior role at Guidepost. “I continue to be coached by the younger generation,” he says.

    The future may hold even more challenges, such as coaching in virtual environments as organizations employ more remote teams and video conferences, Stowell says. In such situations, he recommends coaches do regular checks for understanding, such as asking staffers to briefly summarize information that was just conveyed, and be especially mindful of their tone of voice. “There are more opportunities for misinterpretations,” he says.

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  • February 05, 2020 2:20 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from ZDNet

    Hackers intercepted talks between an art dealer and a Dutch museum to scam the museum out of millions, and while they walked away with their ill-begotten proceeds, the victims are now fighting over who is responsible. 

    As reported by Bloomberg, London-based veteran art dealer Simon Dickinson and Rijksmuseum Twenthe were in the midst of negotiations over the acquisition of a valuable painting by John Constable, a 1700 - 1800's landscape painter from England. 

    In particular, it has been reported that the 1855 painting, "A View of Hampstead Heath: Childs Hill, Harrow in the Distance," caught the eye of the museum's director after they visited a European art fair in 2018.

    Conversations took place over email for months, and at some point during the talks, cybercriminals sent spoofed messages to the museum and persuaded Rijksmuseum Twenthe to transfer £2.4 million ($3.1 million) into a bank account from Hong Kong. 

    As a result, the art dealer was never paid for the painting. It is not known who is responsible for the theft.  

    In the aftermath of the scam, both Simon Dickinson and Rijksmuseum Twenthe are claiming the other side is responsible. 

    A lawsuit has been launched at a London High Court. The museum, based in Enschede, the Netherlands, claims that the art dealer's negotiators were roped into some of the spoof emails, and yet did not spot the scam.   

    The museum's lawyer has argued that this silence should be considered "implied representation," according to the publication. 

    In response, Simon Dickinson says that the dealer did not detect the presence of the eavesdropper and the museum should have double-checked the bank details before transferring any cash. 

    Each side is also accusing the other of being the source of the theft by allowing their systems to be compromised in the first place.

    Rijksmuseum Twenthe is seeking damages. On Thursday, the court threw out initial claims that the dealer was negligent -- but said that amended claims for damages may be considered.  

    In the meantime, the museum is holding on to the painting, Bloomberg says, despite Simon Dickinson being unpaid -- and is also preventing the dealer from selling the artwork on to any other collector. According to Artnet, the judge must now decide on who owns the painting. 

    Neither Rijksmuseum Twenthe or Dickinson have commented on the case.  

    See Original Post

  • February 05, 2020 2:18 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Pinnacol Assurance

    Each year, the influenza virus infects millions of people across the country, including over 3,800 who were hospitalized in Colorado last year. The flu attacks the respiratory system and is highly contagious. When just one person in a workplace contracts the virus, everyone is put at risk.

    February is peak flu season, and this year may be a rough one in Colorado.

    Through mid-January, the state has already recorded 909 hospitalizations, pacing ahead of 2019. Reports of patients with flu-like symptoms at Colorado outpatient clinics are pacing above seasonal baselines, with Denver experiencing a spike in emergency room visits.

    How can you protect your employees from the flu this year? Use these tips from Pinnacol experts to keep everyone as healthy as possible during flu season.

    1. Encourage flu vaccinations: The flu vaccination reduces the likelihood of developing the flu. If someone does contract the virus, his or her symptoms will be less severe. “It’s definitely not too late to get vaccinated,” says Pinnacol Senior Medical Director Tom Denberg, M.D.
    2. Know the flu symptoms: Help employees recognize the most common flu symptoms by listing the signs of flu on posters or in emails; these include aches, chills, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose and fever, though not everyone with the flu spikes a fever.
    3. Recognize at-risk employees: Certain groups are more likely to develop the flu, Denberg says, including people with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and rheumatic conditions, or those undergoing immunosuppressive therapy. “It’s especially important for them to take preventive measures and minimize their exposure,” he says.
    4. Tell sick employees to stay home: Denberg says employees often ignore this directive because they worry about falling behind with their workload. Hearing their employer say it’s OK to take sick days reassures them while they recover. Infectivity can last up to four days, Denberg says, and it takes several days for the flu to develop. A person is contagious that entire time, so encourage employees to head home as soon as symptoms arise.
    5. Advise everyone to wash their hands: Denberg says employees should wash their hands with soap frequently during flu season. A person can get the flu by touching virus-infected surfaces, including phones and keyboards, and then touching one of his or her mucous membranes.
    6. Track flu outbreaks: Know when flu might strike and prepare for it. Follow the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s flu report page to view statewide flu trends. Is an outbreak creeping closer? Warn your employees, and disinfect shared devices such as doorknobs, coffee pots and copy machines more frequently.
    7. Promote preventive actions: Provide tissues for people to cover their mouths with when they sneeze, and supply hand sanitizer to workers for use at job sites where they can’t wash their hands immediately. Invest in no-touch trash cans too.

    See Original 


  • February 04, 2020 2:31 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)



  • January 21, 2020 3:23 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from NBC News

    Federal health officials confirmed Tuesday that a case of the new coronavirus has been diagnosed in Washington state, just north of Seattle. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they will begin screening passengers for the virus at two additional airports: the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

    The outbreak has spread from the central Chinese city of Wuhan to cities including Beijing and Shanghai, the CDC said Tuesday. Cases have also been reported outside China, including in South Korea, Thailand and Japan. At least six people have died.

    The patient in Washington state, a resident of Snohomish County, is a male in his 30s. The CDC said the man arrived in the U.S. around Jan. 15 after visiting Wuhan. He had not, however, visited the seafood market where this virus is said to have originated.

    Health officials said the man did not have any symptoms when he arrived, but had read about the viral outbreak online. When he started to develop symptoms, he reached out to his health care provider.

    He's currently in good condition but remains hospitalized "out of an abundance of caution," health officials said.

    "We are grateful the patient is doing well," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Tuesday during a call with reporters.

    In a later interview with NBC News, Messonnier said "the risk to American public is low," but added that more information is emerging day by day.

    Still, "we should expect to see additional cases in the US and certainly around the world," she said.

    The case in the U.S. comes amid rising concern that the illness could be transmitted through so-called super-spreaders — highly infectious patients with the ability to sicken dozens at once.

    Nearly all of the 300-plus cases have been reported in China, including at least 14 health care workers who have fallen ill with the respiratory virus, a coronavirus known as 2019-nCoV.

    It's unclear whether those workers were all infected in the same place, but if so, "it just smacks of a super-spreader event," said Michael Osterholm, an international infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota.

    That's when one patient inexplicably produces much higher levels of a virus in his or her lungs, giving the patient the ability to infect dozens of people at a time. Osterholm said super-spreader cases occurred during two well-known coronavirus outbreaks: the SARS and the MERS epidemics. The 2003 SARS outbreak reached more than two dozen countries, sickening 8,098 people. Nearly 800 died.

    "For those of us who dealt with SARS and MERS, it's like déjà vu all over again," Osterholm told NBC News. "When you see super-spreaders, you know you've got a problem."

    There is no indication the patient in Washington state is a "super-spreader."

    China's National Health Commission confirmed 298 cases as of Tuesday evening. The majority have been reported in or near the city of Wuhan, and linked to a food market with live animals. Since the strain was first detected in December, the number of cases and their geographic spread has increased rapidly.

    Severe cases have generally been limited to older adults with underlying health conditions. But increasingly, Osterholm said, younger, otherwise healthy adults are falling ill.

    What is a coronavirus?

    Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. Some are mild, while others are more likely to lead to pneumonia. They're usually spread through direct contact with an infected person.

    The coronavirus gets its name from the crown-like spikes on its surface, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Corona is Latin for crown.) Including the newly identified form of the virus, there are a total of seven coronaviruses that can infect humans, the CDC says.

    There is no specific treatment for the new virus, and no vaccine to prevent it. The National Institutes of Health confirmed Tuesday they are in the "very preliminary stages" of research to develop a vaccine for the new virus, but declined to provide details.

    The outbreak is coinciding with massive travel in and out of China in advance of the Lunar New Year on Jan. 25, and prompted the CDC last week to start screening passengers arriving from Wuhan at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, the San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles' LAX. On Tuesday, the CDC announced that it would be screening passengers at two additional airports: Alanta's Hartsfield–Jackson and Chicago's O'Hare. All passengers whose flights originate in Wuhan will be rerouted to one of these five airports.

    On Wednesday, the World Health Organization will meet to discuss whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency. Such a move would help guide countries on how they should respond, usually by offering financial and/or political support. It could also recommend against practices that could be detrimental to affected regions, such as travel and trade restrictions.

    "One thing that we've seen in outbreaks in the past is countries try to put up travel bans or propose restrictive travel in an attempt to stop the spread of an outbreak," said Alexandra Phelan, an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law who works on policy issues related to infectious diseases.

    North Korea, for example, has reportedly closed its border to foreign tourists until the current coronavirus outbreak is under control.

    But, Phelan explained, such policies are ineffective because people still cross borders. "When you put travel bans in place, people don't go through the normal processes. You lose the opportunity to give people medical information, conduct appropriate screening or provide medical treatment," Phelan said.

    See Original Post

  • January 21, 2020 3:16 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from ArtNet News

    Senior officials at the Pentagon have rowed back on the possibility of carrying out US President Trump’s threat to bomb cultural sites in Iran. The US defense secretary acknowledged that carrying out the commander-in-chief’s threats, which have sparked worldwide condemnation, would contravene “the laws of armed conflict.”

    Trump provoked international outrage from museum directors, academics, and artists after he tweeted on Saturday that the US would strike Iranian cultural sites “very fast and very hard” should the country kill any Americans or attack American assets in retaliation for the US-ordered killing of an Iranian general on Friday.

    But in a news briefing at the Pentagon on Monday, January 6, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper appeared to contradict the president, telling reporters: “We will follow the laws of armed conflict.” He had been asked whether striking Iran’s cultural sites would constitute a war crime.

    Another White House official told the New York Times that of the 52 sites in Iran that Trump tweeted were potential targets, none qualified as cultural sites.

    The news that officials are distancing the US government from Trump’s threats will be met with a measure of relief from heritage professionals. In the wake of his provocative tweets and a statement to reporters, leading members of the international museum community condemned the president’s words. Responses included an unusually outspoken comment aimed at the White House from director Max Hollein and CEO Daniel Weiss of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as a post on Instagram by its former director, Thomas Campbell. The director of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Matthew Teitelbaum, also expressed his outrage, tweeting: “The preservation of antiquities and cultural sites should not be endangered by any US administration.”

    Since Monday, more organizations have condemned intentional acts of destruction of culture, including the World Monuments Fund, which described Trump’s threats as “absolutely unacceptable,” and called on “people and governments everywhere to stand up for the protection of our shared heritage.”

    The Association of Art Museum Directors, which represents the heads of 225 art museums in the US, Canada, and Mexico, also issued a statement urging the protection of Iran’s cultural heritage. The AAMD noted that “the United States has a long and important history of safeguarding art and artifacts during conflict, such as with the Monuments Men during World War II.”

    James Cuno, the president of the J. Paul Getty Trust, weighed in as well: “It is tragic,” he wrote, “that today there would be any contemplation or rhetorical threat of further destruction of cultural heritage, particularly when what precious little remains in the world is already suffering from wanton destruction, looting, neglect, reckless overdevelopment, and climate change.”

    Iran has 22 cultural sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Here are five of the irreplaceable treasures that have—in all likelihood—been spared thanks to the backlash against Trump’s threat, and some cooler heads in the Pentagon. 

    Persepolis

    The royal city founded by Darius I was the political and religious center of the Achaemenid Empire in the 5th century BC. Now a spectacular ruin, it is Iran’s most important ancient heritage site. Every summer between 1967 and 1977, Persepolis and the nearby city of Shiraz served as the setting of a groundbreaking international cultural festival bringing together leading artists from the West, Asia, and Africa.

    The Friday Mosque

    The Masjed-e Jāme’ in Isfahan is the oldest Friday mosque in Iran, which inspired the design of mosques across the region. Begun in the 8th century, its magnificent architecture is the result of 12 centuries of construction, incorporating the different styles of the Abbasid, Buyid, Seljuq, Ilkhanid, Muzzafarid, Timurid and Safavid eras.

    Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex

    A crossroads on the Silk Road linking the East with the West, Tabriz’s vast bazaar has been famous since the 13th century. Rebuilt under a brick-vaulted roof in the 18th century, its magnificence reflects the market’s importance on the ancient trade route. 

    Golestan Palace

    The walled palace is in the heart of historic Tehran. Built by the ruling Qajar family in the late 18th century, Golestan Palace was further embellished in the 19th century in a style that combines traditional Persian designs with European influences. 

    Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

    A triumph of 3rd-century civil engineering, the canals and waterfalls that form the Shushtar hydraulic complex powered mills, irrigated a vast plain and provided river transport as well as a defensive system for the fortified city.

    See Original Post

  • January 21, 2020 3:13 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Washington Times

    A former librarian and a bookseller have pleaded guilty in the theft of rare books from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in a years-long scheme.

    Sixty-three-year-old Gregory Priore, former manager of the rare books room, pleaded guilty Monday to theft and receiving stolen property. Fifty-six-year-old John Schulman, the owner of Caliban Book Shop, pleaded guilty to theft by deception, receiving stolen property and forgery.

    Allegheny County prosecutors said some charges were withdrawn in exchange for the pleas, but the deal contains no agreement on sentencing, which is scheduled for April 17 for both defendants. 

    Authorities alleged earlier that Priore stole prints, maps and rare books and handed them off to Schulman to resell them. Prosecutors said several hundred rare items worth more than $8 million were taken in a scheme investigators believed dated back to the 1990s.

    Authorities said last year that one of the items stolen, a Geneva Bible published in 1615, was returned to the library after it was traced to the American Pilgrim Museum in Leiden, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. 

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that defense attorneys for Priore declined to comment following Monday’s hearing. Schulman’s attorney, Albert Veverka, noted that his client wasn’t acknowledging any role in a conspiracy but said in a statement that he accepted responsibility “for his association with books under circumstances whereby he should have known that the books had probably been stolen.”

    “Mr. Schulman has dedicated much of his life to contributing to the bookselling trade and regrets that today’s guilty pleas negatively reflected upon the antiquarian book industry, his family and clients,” the statement said.

    See Original Post

  • January 21, 2020 3:09 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Washington Post

    Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has ordered the agency to address several internal recommendations for preventing violence targeting religious communities, marking the start of a long-sought shift, it appears, in the federal government’s response to a rise in such crimes.

    Wolf’s directive, quietly issued Thursday in a memorandum to leaders throughout the Department of Homeland Security, follows attacks late last month at a Hanukkah celebration in New York and, hours later, a Sunday church service in Texas. Calling the matter vital to U.S. national security, Wolf instructed the agency’s component heads to explain within two weeks how they will respond to guidance outlined in a recent internal report focused on preventing violent crime targeting faith-based groups.

    “The right to practice religion free of interference or fear is one of our nation’s most fundamental and indelible rights,” Wolf wrote in his memo. “As such, the targeting of houses of worship by violent extremists of any ideology is particularly abhorrent and must be prevented.”

    Wolf’s memo makes repeated reference to the 62-page report prepared by a DHS advisory panel and submitted to him on Dec. 17, days before the attacks in Texas and New York. The report recommends creation of a new leadership position at DHS to oversee faith-based programs, more consistency in the training provided to religious organizations and better coordination between state and local law enforcement.

    Findings by the Homeland Security Advisory Council describe a pattern of domestic extremism and hate crimes over the past decade — shootings, arson attacks and bombings targeting churches, synagogues, a Sikh temple and mosques across several states — that has put Americans’ freedom “under significant stress.”

    “If people start to change the way they behave, pray or even what they wear when they want to go to a house of worship of their choice, then we’re in a very dangerous time in America,” said Paul Goldenberg, a longtime security expert who co-chaired the advisory council alongside John R. Allen, a retired Marine general with expertise in the challenges associated with confronting international terrorism.

    Wolf’s predecessor as acting homeland security secretary, Kevin McAleenan, requested the study last year. The advisory council’s members met with experts, law enforcement personnel, community and government leaders, and visited several places of worship that have experienced violent attacks.

    Their report emphasizes that this is not the first time DHS leaders have been offered guidance for preventing violence against religious communities. The advisory council did so in 2012 and 2014 — and yet there was no evidence, the report says, that the agency acted upon actions urged in the past. And many of those recommendations, it notes, remain relevant and urgent.

    “This report should be converted into an implementation plan at the earliest possible moment,” it says.

    Homeland Security is a big agency dealing with a host of serious threats, said Goldenberg, a senior fellow at Rutgers University’s Miller Center who studies risks to places of worship across Europe. He noted that, as administrations change, people shuffle in and out of positions. That’s why one of the group’s top recommendations, he said, remains the establishment of a leadership position to oversee the department’s efforts to protect religious organizations.

    “We were looking for someone permanent to be assigned at senior level within the department that will own this portfolio going forward because this isn’t going away anytime soon,” he said.

    DHS has held emergency-response training events for religious leaders in the wake of some attacks. DHS hosted such an exercise for Jewish leaders in April, following the deadly mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

    In 2018, DHS also stood up the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, which made protecting religious institutions one of its core focuses.

    But the advisory council report warns that some federal policies are hindering law enforcement agencies’ ability to address threats to faith-based organizations. Even as attacks on places of worship spiked in the last three years, the group found training, resources and coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement “inconsistent” and “unlevel.”

    Brian Harrell, an assistant director within the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said the report proved timely in the wake of last month’s violence in New York and Texas, and pledged to further engage religious communities and to develop practices to keep places of worship safe.

    “We must consider threats highlighted in this report and be ready to respond in a quick, efficient and effective manner,” he said.

    Training is crucial, Goldenberg said, since those who encounter such attacks are the people praying in pews or celebrating religious holidays. He and Harrell acknowledged the challenges that come with protecting places meant to be open and welcoming.

    “It’s talking about somebody standing out in front of a mosque, synagogue or church with a trench coat on in the middle of the summer,” Goldenberg said. “It’s recognizing behaviors — suspicious behaviors. People need to understand that if they see something suspicious, they need to call the police.”

    The federal government should provide tools to help law enforcement agents spot troublesome threats online, he added, citing, for example, warnings that have appeared on the anonymous message board 8chan ahead of past attacks.

    The report also recommends Congress increase security grant money for faith-based organizations. The program overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is a vital source of funding for religious groups looking to bolster security, the report states. But the group found that it is insufficiently funded. The $60 million available in 2019 for nonprofits covered requests for only about one-third of the 2,037 applications received.

    “Churches, mosques, temples, synagogues have been attacked by heavily armed extremists executing military style tactics, bent on killing, attacking, terrorizing people of faith while praying within safe sanctuaries,” Goldenberg recently told lawmakers.

    “The question of whether the faith-based community is targeted by hatred and terror is not up for debate.”

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  • January 21, 2020 3:06 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from ArtNet News

    A group of activists failed in their attempt to dismantle Berlin’s most controversial Holocaust memorial. They were upset that the provocative sculpture originally contained the ashes of victims of the Nazi regime along with soil collected from the sites of concentration camps.

    Around 20 members of the Action Artists Committee (AKK) tried to take down the temporary monument near the Reichstag, Germany’s federal parliamentary building, on January 5. The activists, who were stopped by police, used an angle grinder and a sledgehammer against the eight-foot-tall steel column installed by the art collective the Center for Political Beauty (ZPS) in December.

    “No one should make art and politics with ashes of Holocaust victims,” AKK group member Eliyah Havemann told the German media. During their action, members carried the flag of Israel. Havemann’s grandfather, Dagobert Biermann, was a German resistance fighter in World War II who was murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942.

    The Center for Political Beauty, a self-described “assault team,” had installed the monument, which it claimed contained remains of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. The ZPS apologized for the upset caused to Holocaust survivors and their relatives. It has since said it has removed the human remains.

    The monument was originally intended as an artistic gesture to warn German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, the CDU, against cooperating with the far-right AfD party. In 2017, the ZPS installed another Holocaust memorial near the home of an AfD politician.

    The column is said to contain soil gathered at 23 sites near Nazi death camps across Germany, Poland, and Ukraine. The ZPS said it found traces of human remains in around 70 percent of the more than 200 samples it collected. After the outcry in December, the group says that it gave the human ashes to the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference so they could be properly buried in a Jewish cemetery. It is against Jewish religious law to use human remains.

    “We would like to sincerely apologize to those affected, their relatives and surviving dependants, who we have hurt in their feelings,” the collective said, according to Die Zeit. 

    For the time being, the collective’s memorial remains in place, though the local government office told rbb that it is trying to remove the installation as quickly as possible.

    The controversial column stands on the former site of the Kroll Opera House, which served as a home for the German parliament after the Reichstag burned down in 1933. Hitler used the fire as a pretext to seize power as a dictator.

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  • January 21, 2020 3:02 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The New York Times

    A painting by Gustav Klimt that was stolen from an Italian museum almost 23 years ago — only to be found inside one of the museum’s walls last month — is authentic, an Italian prosecutor announced on Friday at a news conference.

    X-rays of the painting, called “Portrait of a Lady,” were key to its authentication, Jonathan Papamarenghi, a councilor in Piacenza, where the museum is, said in a telephone interview. The X-rays showed that another portrait of a woman was underneath the painting, as had been expected, he said.

    It had the museum’s stamp on it as well, Mr. Papamarenghi added.

    A team of experts led by Claudia Collina of the Institute for Cultural Heritage in Bologna verified the work, he said.

    The whereabouts of “Portrait of a Lady” has been one of the art world’s biggest mysteries since the painting was stolen from the Ricci Oddi museum in 1997.

    Investigators found the painting’s frame on the museum’s roof, leading some to believe someone had used a fishing line to hook it off the wall and pull it through an open skylight. But Salvatore Cavallaro, one of the investigators on the original case, told the BBC in an article in 2016 that could not have happened, as the skylight wasn’t big enough.

    Two months after the robbery, it was briefly thought that the painting had been located: A package addressed to Bettino Craxi, a former Italian prime minister who had fled to Tunisia in the middle of corruption allegations, was intercepted at the border between Italy and France. But it turned out to be a recently painted fake.

    In 2015, someone claiming to have stolen the painting told an Italian newspaper that it would be returned on the 20th anniversary of the theft. It never arrived.

    Then, on Dec. 10, 2019, gardeners tidying ivy on the gallery’s walls found a metal panel that, when opened, had a bag with a painting inside. Mr. Papamarenghi said he was overjoyed that it had turned out to be the real artwork. “It’s a great, great moment for the city, and for the art community,” he said.

    Filippo Sardi, a spokesman for Piacenza’s police force, said in a telephone interview that the painting would not immediately be returned to the museum as it was still needed for investigations into the crime. It would be kept in the vault of a branch of the Bank of Italy, he said.

    Patrizia Barbieri, Piacenza’s mayor, said in a telephone interview that when it is eventually returned, the Council “will do everything it can to protect the painting,” including potentially investing in a new security system. “In the past 22 years, things have changed a lot with security systems, fortunately,” she said.

    The town had already been contacted by film companies and book publishers looking to adapt the story of the theft, she added. But the saga is still ongoing. The painting may be back, but who stole the painting and how? “It remains a mystery,” Ms. Barbieri said.

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