Criminals specializing in illicit tobacco sales shun the dark web

Dunhill Early Morning Pipe Tobacco, 1990’s Murray. Credit: Sjschen/Wikipedia

The dark web holds little appeal for criminals specializing in the illicit sale of tobacco, according to a study by criminologists at Université de Montréal.

While online sales channels for other black-market products have multiplied in recent years, the dark web isn’t a popular platform for tax-free tobacco, the study says.

It was conducted by Professor David Décary-Hétu, in collaboration with Rasmus Munksgaard and Vincent Mousseau, all of UdeM’s School of Criminology, and published in December 2019 in Trends in Organized Crime.

Using automated Datacrypto software he developed himself, Décary-Hétu scoured the dark web in the summer of 2018 to see if resellers of tobacco products had diversified their activities.

Eight cryptomarkets examined

The software targeted the eight largest dark web cryptomarkets to obtain data not just on tobacco products but on all illicitly sold products, revealing everything from the profile of each seller to feedback from buyers.

In these online markets—Dream Market, Rapture, Empire, Berlusconi, Apollo, Cannabis Growers & Merchants Cooperative, Olympus and Wall Street—the researcher identified 176,530 products offered illegally by 3,511 sellers in a variety of countries.

But tobacco traffickers and the number of products they offer are negligible compared to others: only 14 vendors offered tobacco products, or 0.4% of the total. And these vendors had only 204 products classified as cigarettes, cigars or roll-your-own tobacco.

The data collected also revealed that the average monthly income of a tobacco vendor was $2,830 U.S., five times less than the $14,912 U.S. a month earned by the average non-tobacco vendor.

Well-established networks

“Most importantly, these data show that illegal tobacco sellers make little use of the dark web to conduct their operations,” said Décary-Hétu.

According to him, it’s possible that tobacco sellers use the dark web to establish contact with potential buyers, but sales and deliveries are mostly made in person.

“These networks either source legal products sold at lower cost in some countries for resale in countries where tobacco taxes are high, or they source counterfeit or illegally manufactured products,” Decary-Hétu said.

Each country is different

Previous research has shown that the illegal trafficking of tobacco products has varied greatly over time from one country to the next. In the last 20 years, the share of illicit sales has ranged from five to 50 percent of what’s on the market.

In countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as in Europe, the proportion of smokers of illegal tobacco products is equivalent to five to 20 percent of the legal market.

In emerging countries such as Brazil and India, this proportion can be as high as 30 percent. Globally, it is estimated that the annual loss of tax revenue from tobacco-related products amounts to $40.5 billion U.S.

“Our study highlights the fact that illegal tobacco trafficking is essentially carried out outside the web because the normal distribution networks have been in place for several decades,” said Décary-Hétu.

“The dark web is at the centre of

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Innovation spins spider web architecture into 3-D imaging technology

Innovation spins spider web architecture into 3D imaging technology
A spiderweb-inspired fractal design is used for hemispherical 3D photodetection to replicate the vision system of arthropods. Credit: Sena Huh/Purdue University

Purdue University innovators are taking cues from nature to develop 3-D photodetectors for biomedical imaging.

The Purdue researchers used some architectural features from spider webs to develop the technology. Spider webs typically provide excellent mechanical adaptability and damage-tolerance against various mechanical loads such as storms.

“We employed the unique fractal design of a spider web for the development of deformable and reliable electronics that can seamlessly interface with any 3-D curvilinear surface,” said Chi Hwan Lee, a Purdue assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering. “For example, we demonstrated a hemispherical, or dome-shaped, photodetector array that can detect both direction and intensity of incident light at the same time, like the vision system of arthropods such as insects and crustaceans.”

The Purdue technology uses the structural architecture of a spider web that exhibits a repeating pattern. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF; CMMI-1928784) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL; S-114-054-002). It is published in Advanced Materials.

Lee said this provides unique capabilities to distribute externally induced stress throughout the threads according to the effective ratio of spiral and radial dimensions and provides greater extensibility to better dissipate force under stretching. Lee said it also can tolerate minor cuts of the threads while maintaining overall strength and function of the entire web architecture.

“The resulting 3-D optoelectronic architectures are particularly attractive for photodetection systems that require a large field of view and wide-angle antireflection, which will be useful for many biomedical and military imaging purposes,” said Muhammad Ashraful Alam, the Jai N. Gupta Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Alam said the work establishes a platform technology that can integrate a fractal web design with system-level hemispherical electronics and sensors, thereby offering several excellent mechanical adaptability and damage-tolerance against various mechanical loads.

“The assembly technique presented in this work enables deploying 2-D deformable electronics in 3-D architectures, which may foreshadow new opportunities to better advance the field of 3-D electronic and optoelectronic devices,” Lee said.

Novel testing platform designed for breast cancer cells

More information:
Eun Kwang Lee et al, Fractal Web Design of a Hemispherical Photodetector Array with Organic‐Dye‐Sensitized Graphene Hybrid Composites, Advanced Materials (2020). DOI: 10.1002/adma.202004456
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WGU Aligns to Amazon Web Services (AWS) Framework to Bolster Workforce Relevance of Cloud Computing Degree

Upgrades to cutting-edge online cloud computing program prepare students for in-demand cloud careers

Today, Western Governors University (WGU) announced the launch of key updates to its Bachelor of Science Cloud Computing (BSCC) degree program built in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS). The degree program is designed to prepare students with the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy and meet the demands of employers seeking cloud professionals.

WGU’s degree programs are online and competency-based, removing the barriers of time, allowing working learners to study and advance in their degree programs according to their schedules. Students in the BSCC degree program complete their credential on average in 18 months and prepare for industry-recognized certifications that include AWS Certifications along their path to degree.

“The technology skills gap has been exacerbated by a lack of innovation in technology education,” said Dr. Elke Leeds, Dean and Academic Vice President of WGU’s College of Information Technology. “WGU has a deep knowledge of the skills that employers are looking for, and we will continue to innovate in our degree programs and future educational offerings by ensuring that our curriculum meets the demands of learners and employers.”

WGU collaborated with two AWS education programs, AWS Educate and AWS Academy, to update its BSCC degree program. Team members from AWS Educate assisted WGU program developers to embed cloud-specific learning objectives and hands-on experiences into the program with the intent to ensure alignment with the needs of cloud employers. As an AWS Academy member institution, WGU has also incorporated AWS Academy Cloud Operations into its degree, which is a course developed by AWS experts and delivered by AWS accredited educators. As part of the course, students are also required to pass the AWS Certified SysOps – Associate exam.

“Western Governors University is a leading innovator in higher education, and we are proud to deepen our collaboration via this new bachelor of science degree in cloud computing,” said Josh Weatherly, Director of US Education Vertical Sales and Global Programs at AWS. “WGU’s competency-based learning model aligns with our belief in the importance of working backward from the skills employers are seeking while also providing the flexibility of remote learning anywhere in the world. We are excited for WGU’s cloud computing degree help expand and diversify the cloud workforce of tomorrow.”

For more information about WGU and the Bachelor of Science Cloud Computing degree program, visit

About WGU

Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves more than 127,000 students nationwide and has more than 202,000 graduates in all 50 states. Driving innovation as the nation’s leading competency-based university, WGU has been recognized by the White House, state leaders, employers, and students as a model that works in postsecondary education. In just 23 years, the university has become a leading influence in changing the lives of individuals and families, and preparing the workforce needed in today’s rapidly evolving economy.

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Curtis Mathes Launches New Web Site

FRISCO, Texas, Oct. 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Curtis Mathes Corporation (OTC: TLED) has rolled out their new website. The opening screen personifies the company’s 50-year journey from Black & White television manufacturer to design and manufacture of cutting-edge, frequency specific lighting technologies.  The Home Page showcases the subsidiary companies and the back end presents the company’s impressive leadership and advisory talent.  The latest news is kept current to insure our investors stay informed.

(PRNewsfoto/Curtis Mathes Corporation )
(PRNewsfoto/Curtis Mathes Corporation )

Clicking on the link for subsidiary Curtis Mathes Grow Lights, Inc. (CMGL) will take you to news of our latest offering – equipment financing packages from $5,000 to $500,000 for prospective Harvester® horticultural lighting purchases. The CMGL finance program is designed to reduce the initial capital expenditure for those looking to implement CMGL’s proprietary Harvester® lighting technology. 

“We are very proud of what our team has accomplished with the Harvester® and we’ve now made this technology even more accessible through our new leasing program,” remarked Tina Crawford, Curtis Mathes’ Director of Operations, “Our new website also provides more information about the unique DNA of our company, which is largely responsible for our recent product innovations and growth in sales.”

“As we continue to expand into emerging new markets, particularly with respect to horticultural lighting, our agile and innovative culture gives us the opportunity to differentiate ourselves and our customers,” said Robert Manes, President & COO of Curtis Mathes.

About Curtis Mathes Corporation (TLED): TLED is focused on research, development, manufacturing, and sales of state-of-the-art Solid-State Lighting (SSL) in various frequency-specific lighting technologies industries.  /

Forward Looking Statements: This press release contains “forward-looking statements” as that term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking statements are based on current expectations and involve inherent risks and uncertainties, and could cause actual outcomes and results to differ materially from the current expectations. No forward-looking statement can be guaranteed. Forward-looking statements in the press release should be evaluated together with the many uncertainties that affect TLED’s business and TLED undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.



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‘Spider’s web’ traps six galaxies around supermassive black hole

Six galaxies were trapped in orbit around a supermassive black hole during the early history of the universe, new observations reveal.

The new data from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile and other observatories gives astronomers a sense of black hole evolution when the universe was less than a billion years old, according to an ESO statement.

One mystery of supermassive black holes is how they got so large, some containing billions of times the mass of the sun. Supermassive black holes are also relatively common; they lurk at the hearts of most, if not all, galaxies, including our own Milky Way. The new observations give fuel to the idea that such black holes grow in gassy environments within “large, web-like structures,” according to ESO.

a close up of a star in the dark: An artist's depiction of a supermassive black hole with a web of galaxies trapped in its orbit.

© Provided by Space
An artist’s depiction of a supermassive black hole with a web of galaxies trapped in its orbit.

“This research was mainly driven by the desire to understand some of the most challenging astronomical objects — supermassive black holes in the early universe,” lead author Marco Mignoli, an astronomer at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Bologna, Italy, said in the statement. “These are extreme systems, and to date we have had no good explanation for their existence.”

Mignoli said the half-dozen galaxies were found in a “spider’s web” of gas that stretches away from the black hole to a distance of 300 times the size of the Milky Way. The rich gas environment could explain why these black holes grew so quickly in the short time after the Big Bang.

The spider-web structures may have grown out of collections of dark matter, which is a poorly understood substance that makes up most of the matter in our universe, but can only be detected  through its gravitational effects. The galaxies in the new research were only a bit easier to pick up: the astronomers required several hours of observations from several large optical telescopes, including the VLT, to study them.

Related Slideshow: The most stunning space photos ever (Provided by Photo Services)


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