Times Square Characters Beware

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There are some two-word phrases that all New Yorkers are loathe to hear: rent hike, cash only, subway delays and, most importantly, Times Square.  Times Square is one of those places that nobody who lives in New York likes: it’s crowded, expensive, full of tourists and obnoxious.  But most of all, it’s filled with hecklers and scammers who are hell-bent on taking your money.  While the major cities in Europe are filled with pickpockets who try to snag your wallet, Times Square has these people, who use questionable methods to swindle gullible tourists out of a few bucks.  Sometimes they’re people who offer you a “free CD”, only to try and get you to give them a cash donation (typically $10).  Others dress up as famous TV show and movie characters, and offer to take photos with you for a fee.

woody
A Times Square character, dressed up like Woody from the “Toy Story” movies, harasses a woman.

While these characters are annoying, what makes them so troublesome is that they often resort to intimidation to get people to give them money.  When people refuse to give them cash, these characters have been known to follow them to the ATM.  Many of them are also just a little bit crazy; there’s a well-known video of one such character, dressed in a full Elmo costume, going on a racist rant.  Without a doubt, such characters are making Times Square even more uninviting than it already was, and the New York Police Department has started to crack down on the Mickey Mouses and Iron Men that plague the area through a public education campaign that reminds the visitors of Times Square that the costumed characters can’t actually charge for photographs, and tipping is optional.  Just hours after the campaign was launched, people dressed as Iron Man, Spider Man and Elmo were charged with disorderly conduct and blocking pedestrian movement.  Another person dressed as Iron Man was ticketed and later released.

The Police are handing out fliers reminding tourists that these costumed characters can’t intimidate them, and to call 911 if they get out of hand.  Two weeks earlier, a man dressed as Spider Man hit a police officer who told him to stop harassing a tourist.

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Slenderman Case

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Back in May, there were reports of two children, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, who stabbed a friend in order to impress the fictional Internet bogeyman Slenderman.  The report seemed almost too ridiculous to be real, and sent shockwaves throughout the world.  Last Friday, Morgan was deemed incompetent to stand trial, at least for now.  One expert, Dr. Brooke Lundbohm, claims that the girl believes she has mind-control powers and can talk to Lord Voldemort, the villain from the Harry Potter book series.  She also claims to believe in unicorns.  During her competency review, Morgan also laughed inappropriately and squatted in her chair.

Slenderman
Slenderman, shown here in a photograph, was a well-known Internet character even before this case hit in May.

According to one expert, Morgan wasn’t concerned about a potentially long prison sentence.  She claims that she uses Vulcan mind control, made famous through the “Star Trek” franchise, to feel or believe whatever she wants.  He also said that the girl believes that she can speak to both Slenderman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Both doctors believed that Morgan wasn’t faking, although one doctor told the court she could be deemed competent in the future and therefore recommended medication for the girl, claiming that she needs to “grow up”.  The judge in the case set a November 12th hearing to discuss the competency report and found that the girl is “likely to become competent” in the future.  Morgan and Anissa are being charged as adults with attempted first-degree intentional homicide.  Both of their attorneys are hoping to have their cases returned to the juvenile court system.

In the past 20 years, the advent of the Internet has revolutionized popular culture.  There has been a lot of good that’s come out from this age of the Internet, with all sorts of information now being available at ones’ fingertips.  Yet there’s also a lot of bad that can come from it, as evidenced here.

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Liao Rongna Wanted

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Chinese judicial authorities have asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice for the arrest of Liao Rongna, a Chinese businessman suspected of raising billions in illegal money who has fled the country.  The 58 year-old is the chairman of Zhengling Group, a private auto and machine manufacturer based in China’s southwest Guanxi Zhuang.  He was once listed among the wealthiest individuals in China.  Chinese authorities have also asked the international police organization to arrest Liao’s wife.  He is the latest example of a Chinese businessman being chased by the police for illegal fundraising.  Private fundraising, such as gathering deposits and selling loans outside the formal banking sector, is common but nonetheless illegal, since it escapes regulation.

Liao Rong Na

Liao Rongna

Back in March, the owner of a troubled property developer in China’s coastal Zhejiang province was detained after he amassed loans of 3.5 billion yuan.  Earlier this year, local media reports emerged saying that Zhengling Group had problems repaying its borrowing.  Zhengling Group raised more than 7 billion yuan in illegal bank loans, and another 3 billion in individual loans, making it the largest case of illegal fundraising in the region.  Xinhua said police found more than 1,500 loan contracts, involving about 3.2 billion yuan, as part of its investigation.  As many as 600 creditors are currently expected to emerge.  The Zhengling Group said that its total assets reached 26.54 billion yuan by late July of last year, while group debts amounted to 8.52 billion yuan.

Interpol uses red notices to inform its 190 member countries that an arrest warrant was issued for an individual by a judicial authority, which seeks the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition or similar lawful action.  Liao appears on the site as “wanted by the judicial authorities of China for prosecution/to serve a sentence”.

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