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  • December 19, 2017 6:43 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from Reuters

    Southern California’s Getty Center, one of the world’s wealthiest art institutions, said it had survived a wildfire tearing through Los Angeles thanks to a disaster plan that has it ready for earthquakes as well.

    Fires that have chased almost 200,000 Californians from their homes covered the Getty’s hillside location in smoke this week. Perched above the busy 405 freeway, an artery of California’s traffic system, the Getty is among the most visited U.S. museums and reopened after two days closed.

    The Getty’s design, and a plan developed with insurers eager to keep the valuable collection safe, helped shield from damage art including Edouard Manet’s “Spring,” for which it paid more than $65 million in 2014.

    More than 5,700 firefighters have battled six large wind-stoked fires and several smaller ones that erupted since Monday. More than 200,000 people have been forced to evacuate. 

    As gray clouds swept onto the campus earlier in the week, a high-tech air filtration system pushed air out of buildings, making it harder for smoke to seep inside, said Linda Somerville, assistant director of insurance and risk management for the J. Paul Getty Trust, which oversees the Getty Center and has nearly $12 billion in assets, including art.

    The museum has its own water tanks and has landscaped the complex in order to keep flames at bay. 

    “By putting all these bells and whistles in, we are able to wet down our hillsides, close intake valves and keep smoke and debris out,” Somerville said. 

    Getty representatives meet quarterly with U.S. commercial property insurer FM Global, the Getty’s insurer, to review everything from brush on the property to sprinkler system design, Somerville said. 

    The Getty, which opened in 1997, also works year-round at preventing potential earthquake damage, Somerville said. 

    Art and display cases throughout the museum sit atop systems that absorb the energy of earthquake vibrations, known as base isolators. And experts who repair art and artifacts in the Getty’s conservation labs must secure the items to stable surfaces in case an earthquake hits. 

    “Everything is latched down at all times,” Somerville said.

    See Original Post

  • December 19, 2017 6:42 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from Campus Safety Magazine

    On the five-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, here’s a brief review of active shooter prevention and response best practices.

    It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since the Dec. 14, 2012 Sandy Hook school active shooter attack. Most of us can probably remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned that a deranged gunman had opened fire on the campus, killing 20 6- and 7-year-old students and six adults.

    Since then, the body count of U.S. active shooter attacks has escalated. The lethality of some of these recent attacks and their frequency is so significant that the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting that killed 13 people is no longer among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in history.

    Although this trend is terrifying, there is some good news to report. More schools, universities and hospitals are taking steps to protect their campuses from active shooters.

    Case in point, the gunman responsible for the Nov. 14 rampage that killed five in Northern California was thwarted from killing anyone at Rancho Tehama Elementary School because staff quickly locked down the campus and had everyone shelter in place when they heard the gunfire. Surveillance video shows the shooter trying unsuccessfully to enter the campus, although he did fire many shots at the building, injuring a student who was hiding under a desk. The quick actions of school personnel undoubtedly saved lives.

    The Nov. 14 rampage serves as another reminder that we must continue to incorporate into our protective measures the lessons from the Sandy Hook mass shooting, not to mention the lessons from the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy.

    Here’s a list of some of the promising practices, in no particular order, that we’ve gleaned over the years. Hopefully, your campus has already implemented all or at least many of these steps.

    1. Communicate to everyone in your community in a proactive and non-fear-based way that they must take threats they hear, read and see seriously, and encourage them to report their concerns to campus and local authorities.
    2. Work with local first responders to develop response plans, and conduct drills and full-scale exercises with them.
    3. Regularly and frequently train students, teachers, staff, clinicians and administrators on how to respond under stress to all kinds of emergencies, including active shooters, via drills and, when possible and appropriate, full-scale exercises.
    4. Incorporate Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) in new construction and renovation projects to delay or possibly even prevent the entry of potential attackers. Properly implemented CPTED concepts also enable administrators to get a better view of what is happening on and around campus, which also improves security.
    5. Adopt multiple layers of emergency/mass notification so that those who are able can take steps to protect themselves via lockdown, evacuation or by avoiding the area where the emergency is taking place. Emergency notification should be used to communicate with your community before, during and after an emergency. Additionally, adopt two-way radios so staff can communicate during an emergency.
    6. Create multidisciplinary threat and behavioral assessment teams on campus to identify and respond to at-risk individuals who show signs that they might harm themselves or others.
    7. Set up anonymous tip lines (text, email and/or phone) so that students, staff, clinicians and patients can anonymously report concerning behavior to campus officials and threat/behavioral assessment teams. Encourage the use of these solutions and educate the campus community on how to use them.
    8. Install locks and other appropriate access control equipment to prevent or at least delay the entry of unauthorized individuals to campus. Install locks on the interiors of classrooms so they can be locked from the inside of the room.
    9. Implement effective visitor management and records management systems to identify sex offenders, non-custodial parents, individuals with a history of domestic/dating abuse and workplace violence, etc. so they are not allowed entry into your facility.
    10. Develop effective parent/student reunification plans and processes.
    11. Make arrangements for mental health services to be provided after a tragedy so students, staff, clinicians, administrators and faculty can emotionally recover, even if they weren’t physically injured during the attack.
    12. Develop the plans, policies and procedures necessary to implement No. 1-11.

    This list is not complete and each item is multifaceted. That being said, sometimes we need to go back to the basics. This is especially true for folks who are new to the field of school, hospital and university security, but it’s also true for those of us who might have forgotten.

    I urge you to never forget the lessons we learned from Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and other campus tragedies. Otherwise, we’ll need to be reminded, and that reminder could be deadly.

    See Original Post

  • December 19, 2017 6:41 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from 9 News Australia

    A Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece which was valued just over $100m ten years ago is now being touted as the first painting in the world that could fetch $1bn at auction.

    The staggering 10-figure price tag is viewed in art circles as entirely possible, following last month's sale of Leonardo's Salvator Mundi for a world record $591m.

    Of the 20 Leonardo Da Vinci paintings thought to be in existence, all except two are held by the world's most famous and powerful art museums.

    One of those works, Madonna of the Yarnwinder, painted by Leonardo in the early 16th century, is privately owned by one of Britain's wealthiest aristocrats - Richard Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch.

    The art world is now wondering if the duke, who is Scotland's largest landowner, will be tempted to put his prized treasure on the auction block.

    The Madonna of the Yarnwinder, a small 48cm x 37cm canvas featuring a seated Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus, has been a possession in the duke's family for around 250 years.

    However, in 2003 the painting went missing for four years, after two men armed with a knife and axe stole it from the duke's Drumlanrig castle, near Dumfries. Drumlanrig Castle was used as a set in the popular British-American television drama series, Outlander.

    The two men had posed as tourists wanting to see the duke's collection of paintings, which is thought to be the UK's most valuable private holding.

    Alison Russell, an 18-year-old tour guide, described how the art thieves had been waiting outside the castle for the doors to open, one morning in August 2003.

    The pair ignored all the other paintings and galleries inside the castle, and instead rushed Ms Russell towards the room where the duke's prized centrepiece was hung.

    Once there, one of the men grabbed her and held a knife to her throat. The other stood guard by the painting with an axe, warning Ms Russell's co-workers to stay away.

    They removed the Leonardo painting from the wall, and escaped out a window.

    The biggest art theft in British history remained an unsolved mystery until 2007 when a man named Marshall Ronald contacted the duke, saying he knew where the Leonardo was and could arrange its return for a fee of almost $10m.

    That led to two undercover police, who posed as an art expert and the duke's representative, meeting with Ronald, an English lawyer.

    It was agreed the Leonardo would be taken to a law firm in Glasgow, where a second meeting was raided by police and the painting returned to the Duke of Buccleuch.

    The Madonna of the Yarnwinder is currently on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

    Jaynie Anderson, a professor of fine arts at the University of Melbourne, said Leonardo's Madonna of the Yarnwinder was a "much more beautiful painting" than the Salvator Mundi.

    The Salvator Mundi, showing Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes holding a crystal sphere, was significantly damaged, and it had required extensive restoration work at a New York City studio.

    "I'm amazed at the price the Salvator Mundi went for," Prof Anderson said.

    "The face is very damaged. And I think the fact that the face of Christ is damaged sort of inhibits you really liking the picture."

    Some art critics had also doubted the authenticity of Salvator Mundi in the lead up to last month's Christie's auction. In contrast, Prof Anderson said the provenance of Leonardo's Madonna of the Yarnwinder was "impeccable".

    "It is an important composition and a very interesting proposition for auction," Prof Anderson said.

    "If it went up for sale I think it could go for much more than the Salvator Mundi. It is a much more beautiful painting, a far more sexy painting."

    An auction would inevitably attract big money bidders from Chinese billionaires, Russian oligrachs and Middle East royals. However, such is the rarity and allure of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, Prof Anderson believed American billionaires and museums could also be prompted into action.

    "There is competition between elite museums to make the best acquisitions," Prof Anderson said.

    "The fact it is now on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland might mean that the Duke of Buccleuch intends to gift it to them when he dies. But that is an awful lot of money, so he is probably thinking about it. And if he isn't, the big auction houses like Christie's most certainly will be."

    As well as the scarcity of Leonardo's works, Prof Anderson said the Italian artist, who was born in 1452, had never gone out of fashion – unlike other famous painters.

    "Leonardo is very sympathetic. Everybody is fascinated with him as a personality," Prof Anderson said.

    Prof Anderson, an expert in Italian Renaissance art, described Leonardo as a melancholic, neurotic and beautiful man, and likened his appeal to Shakespeare's Hamlet.

    "When he walked down the street his contemporaries said you couldn't stop staring at him."

    Leonardo was not a prolific painter, but he was constantly drawing and writing, she added.

    "Contemporaries describe him working on The Last Supper, and how he spent ages just staring at it and not doing anything."

    It was confirmed last week that Salvator Mundi will hang at The Louvre in Abu Dhabi.

    There is a second version of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, which is likely the only other Leonardo da Vinci painting in private hands.

    The identity of the owner is unknown, but it is believed to be an American collector.

    See Original Post

  • December 19, 2017 6:40 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from NewsLetter

    The Ulster Museum is taking no risks after putting on display a painting by a Dutch master that has been stolen three times. There was a visible security presence as the museum unveiled The Cornfield by Jacob van Ruisdael which was stolen from the same stately home in Co Wicklow three times between 1974 and 2002 but recovered on each occasion.

    Acquired more than a century ago by Sir Otto Beit, the piece joined a considerable collection of Old Master works assembled by his relative, the diamond magnate Alfred Beit. In 1930, the collection passed to his son Sir Alfred Lane Beit – a former British MP – who relocated it some 20 years later to Russborough House where The Cornfield hung in the saloon alongside other Dutch paintings. The painting was stolen from Russborough House for the first time in 1974 by an IRA gang.

    The gang broke into the property making off with 19 paintings including the van Ruisdael. All of the stolen paintings were recovered in Co Cork a few weeks later. In 1986, the house was robbed again, this time by the Dublin criminal Martin Cahill nicknamed The General. He took the van Ruisdael as part of a heist of 18 paintings. However, The Cornfield was recovered days after the robbery.

    A 1998 film about Cahill’s exploits starred Brendan Gleeson and featured the infamous theft of the paintings from Russborough House. In 2002 The Cornfield was once again stolen from the stately home along with four other paintings. They were recovered three months later. Since then the painting has been acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme and allocated to National Museums Northern Ireland where it was today unveiled in the Ulster Museum. The acceptance of this painting settled tax worth £1million.

    Kathryn Thomson, chief executive of National Museums NI, said: “We are thrilled that The Cornfield by Jacob van Ruisdael has been given to National Museums NI for all our visitors to enjoy. “The Ulster Museum holds a small but important collection of 17th century Dutch paintings and the undisputed beauty of The Cornfield, an important work from the Beit collection, will significantly enhance this collection. “I have no doubt that this beautiful painting will captivate visitors to the Ulster Museum.” The Cornfield by Jacob van Ruisdael will be on display in the Life and Light Dutch and Italian Painting exhibition at the Ulster Museum. Admission to the museum is free.

    See Original Post

  • December 19, 2017 6:39 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from the Evening Standard

    The Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit, disbanded in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, has been re-formed after fears London was at risk from an increase in the theft and fraud of cultural items. 

    Following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire on June 14 the entire art crime squad was disbanded and seconded to help with the inquiry.

    Now the unit’s detective constables Ray Swan and Sophie Hayes have returned to the department joining new supervisor, detective sergeant Rob Upham. A third detective constable is due to join the team in the next few months.

    Upham, speaking to Antiques Trade Gazette said: “We’ve already started instigating investigations, have already yielded one arrest and from another investigation have recovered two paintings, previously reported stolen.” 

    Upham recently joined from the Met’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command. The art crime squad had been without a lead since Claire Hutcheon left in March 2016. 

    A Met police spokesman confirmed that the “Met’s Art and Antiques Unit has been reformed” and a third team member will join as soon as possible. 

    Specialising in tackling the theft and fraud of cultural items, art and antiques, the unit is responsible for the London Stolen Art Database - cataloguing the details of 54,000 stolen works.

    The unit has been temporarily closed in the past, for instance following the July 2005 bombings. However, this year there were fears it would be permanently closed due to budgetary pressures on the Met.

    Speaking during the summer, former Met Police art crime detective Dick Ellis raised concerns of a "vacuum (being) left in Europe's largest art market".

    He said the effective investigation of crimes relating to the “burglary of art and antiques, international cultural property theft, fraud and money laundering” are all directly impacted by the lack of a dedicated police unit. He highlighted that in contrast to the UK, the US had trained 400 officers since 2007 and the FBI has 16 special agents on its art crime team. 

    Six months on from the fire that claimed 71 lives, the Grenfell inquiry began a two day hearing this week to examine issues such as witness statements and timetables. The hearing of evidence will begin next year. 

    See Original Post

  • December 19, 2017 6:38 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from Computer Weekly

    The new generation of cyber criminals increasingly resembles traditional mafia organizations, requiring a new approach to dealing with it, according to a report by security firm Malwarebytes.

    Cyber criminals have the same professional organization as mafia gangs of the 1930s, but they also share a willingness to intimidate and paralyze victims, the report shows.

    Malwarebytes’ analysis also shows that, in spite of acknowledging the severe reputational and financial risks of cyber crime, many business leaders greatly underestimate their vulnerability to such attacks.

    The report calls for businesses and consumers to fight back by acting as “vigilantes” through greater collective awareness, knowledge sharing and proactive defenses. This includes a shift from shaming businesses that have been hacked to engaging with them and working together to fix the problem.

    Businesses must also heighten their awareness of cyber crime, and take a realistic view towards the likelihood of attack. The vast impacts of these attacks, the report said, mean that cyber crime must be elevated from a tech issue to a business-critical consideration.

    Malwarebytes’ data demonstrates the urgent need for such a shift in approach by highlighting the capacity of these fast-maturing gangs to inflict greater damage on businesses.

    The new cyber mafia, the report said, is accelerating the volume of attacks, with the average monthly volume of attacks in 2017, up 23% compared with 2016. In the UK, the report said 28% of businesses had experienced a “serious” cyber attack in the past 12 months.

    Ransomware attacks detected by Malwarebytes show that the number of attacks in 2017 from January to  October was 62% greater than the total for 2016.

    In addition, detections are up 1,989% since 2015, reaching hundreds of thousands of detections in September 2017, compared with fewer than 16,000 in September 2015. In 2017, ransomware detections rose from 90,351 in January to 333,871 in October.

    “The new mafia, identified by our report, is characterized by the emergence of four distinct groups of cyber criminals: traditional gangs, state-sponsored attackers, ideological hackers and hackers-for-hire,” said Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes.

    “Through greater vigilance and a comprehensive understanding of the cyber crime landscape, businesses can support the efforts of legislators and law enforcement, while also taking matters into their own hands.”

    Crime comes ‘full circle’

    Malwarebytes argues that the growth of cyber crime and a lack of clarity over how best to police it is damaging victim confidence, with those affected by cyber crime often too embarrassed to speak out.

    This is true for consumers and businesses alike, the report said, and can have dangerous ramifications as firms bury their heads in the sand instead of working to reduce future incidents.

    The report suggests that the answer lies in engaging and educating the C-suite so that CEOs are as likely as IT departments to recognize the signs of an attack and be able to respond appropriately.

    “The most damaging cyber attacks to businesses are the ones that go undetected for long stretches of time. In spite of high-profile occurrences over the past year, this report shows that many business executives may still have some knowledge gaps to fill,” said Kleczynski.

    “CEOs will soon have little choice but to elevate cyber crime from a technology issue to a business-critical consideration,” he said.

    The report concludes by looking at the future of cyber crime, arguing that the internet of things (IoT) will enable crime to come full circle, so that rather than a downtown shooting, executions can be enacted digitally – for instance, by hacking an internet-enabled pacemaker.

    However, Malwarebytes believes that if such attacks can be foreseen, governments should be able to legislate against them.

    The report concludes that knowledge, awareness and intelligence are the best weapons against the new gangs of cyber crime, and that individuals and businesses have to play an important role alongside law enforcement agencies governments and other bodies.

    “Rather than sit back and minimize the blow from cyber crime, individuals and businesses must take the same actions that previous generations of vigilantes once did against the fearsome syndicates of their day: fight back,” the report said.

    The reportThe new mafia: gangs and vigilantes – a guide to cybercrime for CEOs, features original data and insight taken from a global panel of experts from a variety of disciplines including PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Leeds University, University of Sussex, the Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling in India and the University of North Carolina.

    See Original Post

  • December 19, 2017 6:36 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from Mail & Guardian

    The national museum of the Central African Republic has seen better days.

    Located on one of the diagonal dirt roads that bisect the boulevards in Bangui, the museum is housed in a ramshackle double-storey building that used to be the residence of Barthélemy Boganda, the country’s first president.

    Today, the building is falling apart. The walls are cracking, the window frames are warped, and the cream and mud-brown paint job is peeling off. Worst of all, the roof leaks, endangering thousands of priceless historical artifacts.

    It’s Abel Kotton’s job to preserve and, eventually, display those artifacts. He is the director of the museum, with a mandate to catalogue the collection, and turn the museum once again into a proud showcase of Central African history.

    It is a daunting task. “This museum is the country’s ancestral heritage. It’s meant to bring the country together. But right now, it’s closed,” he said.

    His office is on the ground floor, his simple wooden desk perched in front of a stone wall. The wall itself, patterned to resemble leopard print, is a relic of an altogether more ostentatious era.

    Opened in 1966, the museum brought together items of artistic, cultural or archaeological significance from all 16 of the country’s provinces. But in 2014, as civil war broke out — an ongoing conflict — the exhibits were hastily boxed up to prevent looting or damage. The museum was shuttered and has yet to reopen its doors, despite the fading sign outside that proclaims that opening hours are from 9am to 3.30pm.

    Kotton has a lot of work to do. “First, we have to fix the leaks. Then secure the windows. Eventually, we want to build a new foyer to welcome visitors, maybe a coffee shop for refreshments and a souvenir shop so you can buy something on your way out.

    “And we need a website. Museums must be virtual these days. Have you ever heard of a museum without a website?”

    Kotton estimates that the complete overhaul will cost 70‑million CFA francs ($126 440). “We’re looking for partners who can help us rehabilitate the museum,” he says.

    The crates in which the collection was so hastily stored are upstairs. They look like oversized wooden coffins, and there are dozens and dozens of them. Many of the pieces inside have lost their labels; it will be difficult, if not impossible, to catalogue them again.

    The few that have been unpacked, however, reveal an extraordinary wealth of history.

    The artifacts include Puehl milk containers, traditional handmade rifles, a collection of cooking utensils from the marginalized Pygmy community and all kinds of traditional jewelry. There are one-of-a-kind tools, decorations and souvenirs from all over the country, and from each of its many ethnicities, all gathering dust and in danger of decay from being exposed to rain and humidity.

    In one corner, a taxidermied gorilla stands tall; in another, the official imperial emblem of Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa leans casually against the wall.

    “That’s why I won’t authorize you to take photographs up here,” says Kotton. “To have the imperial emblem on the floor like that strips the emperor of his dignity. We are working here to restore the dignity of our history.”

    Outside, in the museum’s unkempt, untended garden, Kotton dares to imagines what his museum could become. “In time, this will be a proper museum,” he says. “People will be coming here from all over the country. Muslims, Christians — it doesn’t matter; they will come here to learn.”

    But now, with so much work still to be done, Kotton’s vision feels far from reality. “The museum itself is a display case,” he says. “A display case for a country.”

    As it stands, the national museum’s display is disorganized, damaged and in grave danger of further deterioration. It’s an all-too-apt metaphor for the country itself.

    See Original Post

  • December 19, 2017 6:35 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    A cybersecurity audit of five major St. Louis cultural institutions announced last year is facing delays due to, well, security concerns.

    The board of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District approved moving forward with the plan in August 2016. It would test the vulnerability of each member institution — the Missouri Botanical Garden, the St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Science Center — to cyberattacks by would-be hackers.

    Private and public institutions globally are increasingly focused on the threat of cyberattacks, but testing their defenses presents its own security issues. Missouri Botanical Garden spokeswoman Katie O’Sullivan said information about deficiencies in an institution’s security systems “is highly confidential and could subject the Garden to hacking of our systems if generally distributed.”

    The audit would evaluate the institutions’ information technology systems, the software already in place and current safety policies. But doing so would require a consultant to access information and systems that the institutions say could make them vulnerable if not handled properly.

    “We’re happy to help and support this idea, but these are complex organizations,” St. Louis Science Center President and CEO Bert Vescolani said. “We just want to make sure we’re protecting everyone’s privacy in the appropriate way and doing all due diligence to get everything done that needs to get done.”

    That includes protecting information on donors that the institutions wouldn’t want leaked, as well as information on the strengths and vulnerabilities of each of their cybersecurity systems. These and other issues have led to roughly a year of talks with consultant BDO USA, the five institutions and the ZMD Board, which divides $70 million in St. Louis city and county property tax money among the five institutions annually.

    A final contract hasn’t been hammered out, but Zoo Museum District board chairman Thomas Campbell said it could be done before the end of December. On-site visits by the consultant would be made in the first months of 2018 and reports might be finished by midyear, Campbell said.

    Some of the terms requested by the member institutions include limiting who has access to the results of each audit and terminating the consultant’s contract immediately once the work is finished. Representatives say these changes would cut the risk of leaks.

    “We requested that the deliverables only be supplied to us so we can ensure they remain confidential,” Missouri History Museum spokeswoman Leigh Walters said. “Information related to our cybersecurity could be misused. If they present the information in a ZMD meeting, we asked that it go into closed session.”

    O’Sullivan and Walters said Zoo Museum District staff informed the Botanical Garden and the History Museum that their requested changes were acceptable.

    “We are awaiting a revised copy of the agreement from the ZMD which we plan to sign,” O’Sullivan said.

    Most of the institutions already do their own cybersecurity assessments at least once a year, those interviewed said. Zoo spokesman Billy Brennan said the organization has cyber consultants testing their systems “on a regular basis.”

    Brennan said the zoo is concerned about whether the ZMD audit unnecessarily duplicates services the zoo now gets from its consultants , but did not elaborate.

    “We’re currently working with the ZMD to negotiate this agreement and since that’s where it’s currently at, it would be premature to talk about any details at this time,” Brennan said.

    The St. Louis Art Museum would only provide one sentence in response to questions about its concerns with the cybersecurity audit: “The Museum regularly monitors its systems and is continually working to ensure the security of its data.”

    Campbell said he expects the final contract to allay the institutions’ concerns. He said even the Zoo Museum District board will only see some of the findings by the consultant, while detailed reports on each member will be distributed solely to those institutions.

    “We’ll have some information, it’ll be limited,” Campbell said. “But again, the interest is making sure these organizations are in no way inadvertently compromised.”

    See Original Post

  • December 19, 2017 6:35 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from SATPR News

    Following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York’s Cultural Property, Arts and Antiquities (CPAA) group, in coordination with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office (DANY), three marble statues originally excavated from the Temple of Eshmun in Lebanon were repatriated to their home country. The Consul General of Lebanon in New York accepted the return of the artifacts on behalf of Lebanon.

    “These three pieces have travelled through the underworld of art, being recovered here in New York. Now it is time that they are returned to Lebanon, their rightful home,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI New York. “The trafficking of cultural property and art is a lucrative criminal enterprise that transnational criminal organizations seek to partake of to make a profit; nonetheless, the cultural significance and worth of these returned treasures is beyond any monetary value.” 

    This year, HSI New York’s CPAA group, in a coordinated effort with DANY, seized several artifacts pursuant to search warrants and an ongoing joint investigation with partners in local and international law enforcement into the trafficking of stolen antiquities, including:

    • Torso E1912: In November, a marble torso, circa the 4th century B.C.E., was recovered from a private owner who acquired it after the statue was excavated in the 1970s from the Temple of Eshmun, an ancient place of worship near Sidon in southwestern Lebanon. The item was subsequently stolen during the Lebanese Civil War and sold by an antiquities dealer before being shipped to New York.
    • The Calf Bearer: In October, another marble torso, circa the 6th century B.C.E. and valued at approximately $4.5 million, was recovered from a private owner who acquired the artifact after it too was excavated from the Temple of Eshmun in the 1970s, stolen during the Lebanese Civil War, and sold to private collectors.
    • The Bull’s Head: In July, a marble bull’s head, circa 360 B.C.E. and valued at approximately $1.2 million, was recovered from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it was on loan for display by a private collector who acquired the statue after it was also was excavated from the Temple of Eshmun in the 1960s, transferred to the Byblos Citadel in Jubayl, stolen during the Lebanese Civil War, and sold to private collectors.

    All of the items were seized pursuant to judicially authorized warrants, but were thereafter forfeited once the owners were presented with evidence that the artifacts had been stolen from Lebanon.

    HSI plays a leading role in criminal investigations that involve the illicit importation and distribution of cultural property, as well as the illegal trafficking of artwork, specializing in recovering works that have been reported lost or stolen. HSI’s International Operations, through its 62 attaché offices in 46 countries, works closely with foreign governments to conduct joint investigations.

    HSI’s specially trained investigators assigned to both domestic and international offices, partner with governments, agencies and experts to protect cultural antiquities. They also train investigators from other nations and agencies to investigate crimes involving stolen property and art, and how to best enforce the law to recover these items when they emerge in the marketplace. Those involved in the illicit trafficking of cultural property, art and antiquities can face prison terms of up to 20 years, fines and possible restitution to purchasers of the items.

    Since 2007, more than 8,000 artifacts have been returned to 30 countries, including paintings from France, Germany, Poland and Austria; 15th to 18th century manuscripts from Italy and Peru; as well as cultural artifacts from China, Cambodia and Iraq.

    Learn more about HSI cultural property, art and antiquities investigations →

    Members of the public who have information about suspected stolen cultural property are urged to call the toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete the online tip form.

    See Original Post

  • December 05, 2017 8:51 PM | Anonymous

    Reposted from The National

    The ancient marble sculpture had made its way from Lebanon to New York, via a well-trodden path of dealers and collectors.

    And there it might have remained if it were not for a tenacious Manhattan prosecutor who spotted it in an old copy of House & Garden magazine dating from 1998 which featured homes built to show off art collections.

    The caption described how the master bathroom was decorated with a “breathtakingly beautiful” marble torso.

    A search warrant issued last month describes it in different terms: stolen property, a treasure excavated from a Phoenician temple.

    It is now in the possession of prosecutors in New York awaiting repatriation to Lebanon.

    It marks another success for Matthew Bogdanos, a real-life monuments man who spotted the photograph. His work as assistant Manhattan district attorney draws on experience gained in the US Marine Corps Reserves when he led an operation to recover thousands of antiquities looted from the National Museum of Iraq in the aftermath of the American invasion.

    Then, he would tell journalists that he always kept four things in his rucksack — his weapon, ammunition, water and a copy of the Iliad, Homer’s epic account of the Trojan war.

    It is an apt metaphor for a warrior trained in law and the classics who stands at the center of efforts to thwart the global trade in stolen antiquities.

    And it was a copy of the Iliad, given to him at the age of 12 by his mother, that set him on his chosen course.

    “It was identification with the Bronze Age Greeks and their values that led me to take up boxing, to join the Marines, to become a prosecutor,” Mr Bogdanos writes in his memoir, Thieves of Baghdad.

    At the time, he was waiting tables at his parents’ diner in Manhattan, doing his homework in spare moments and eating leftover dinners.

    He joined the Marines after school but was directed to attend college first so that he could become an officer.

    He paid his way to a bachelor's degree in classics by learning how to count cards and then cleaning up at blackjack in the casinos of Atlantic City, before adding a master's degree and a law degree from Columbia University.

    During his time at law school he interned for Harold Rothwax, a New York judge famous for his harsh tongue and matching sentences.

    “From the moment I stepped in his courtroom, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Mr Bogdanos said in a 2003 interview.

    He left the Marines after a decade in 1988, to join the Manhattan district attorney’s office. His stocky build and tenacity in prosecuting murderers and celebrities (including Puff Daddy) earned him the nickname “pit bull” in local newspapers.

    He returned to the Marines after 9/11, first in Afghanistan and then Iraq, as part of a counter-terrorism unit, using forensic skills to trace banned weapons and track terrorist funding.

    When he got wind of the damage done to the national museum in Baghdad he immediately offered to lead an investigation.

    His senior officer told him not to worry if his inquiries led him to point the finger at US forces. “That pit bull thing you do in New York? You do that in Baghdad, and let the chips fall where they may,” he said.

    Among the missing items were some of the world’s most important archaeological treasures. They included the sacred Vase of Warka, a 5,000-year-old carved alabaster stone vessel.

    Mr Bogdanos instituted an amnesty, promising a cup of tea but no questions for anything returned. That worked with amateur looters who felt entitled to anything left behind by Saddam Hussein’s vicious regime, but he also put together raids to recover objects stolen by organized gangs.

    The Vase of Warka was returned after two months by three young men who lifted it from the back of a red Toyota.

    Reporters beat a path to his digs inside the museum as they looked for a story that illustrated the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq and its reconstruction.

    They found a captivating character, as likely to quote Cicero as a Samurai warrior in blunt, New York tones.

    Back in civilian life and the work continues. Manhattan’s museums, auction houses and collectors put it at the center of the legal trade in antiquities, which also means it is frequently at the center of the illegal trade.

    Some of the artefacts were removed from their country of origin decades ago; others have entered the market more recently, as ISIL sold looted treasures to fill its coffers.

    In the past three years, at least $150 million (Dh550m) of treasures have been recovered, of which $3m have been repatriated.

    In recent weeks, Mr Bogdanos and his team have seized a plundered Persian artefact valued at $1.2m from a British dealer at an art fair, a Roman marble torso of Cupid from Christie’s days before it was to be auctioned, and taken possession of a 2,300-year-old bull’s head sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Often the current owner believes they have lawful possession, only to discover later that they have unwittingly bought stolen property.

    The bull’s head, for example, was stolen from Lebanon during its civil war. It was excavated from the Temple of Eshmun in Sidon in 1967 but disappeared when storerooms in Byblos were looted in 1981.

    It was Met museum staff who alerted authorities at the start of this year. It had been offered for display by its owner, who bought it from Lynda and William Bierewaltes, collectors in Colorado, who in turn purchased it in good faith for $1m in 1996. They bought it from a London dealer, Roger Symes, who was later unmasked as a key player in the illegal antiquities trade.

    That trail led Mr Bogdanos to the 1998 special issue of House & Garden which included a photographic feature of the Bierewaltes’ home. There, in the tranquility of the designer bathroom, stood the marble statue of the calf bearer.

    Both items are expected to be returned to Lebanon.

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