Saturday, May 31, 2014

De Blasio: NYC, Paris share common goals

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is introduced by New
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is introduced by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Friday, May 30, 2014, at City Hall as she attended a meeting and news conference. (Credit: Craig Ruttle)
New York City and Paris will continually exchange ideas on early childhood education, affordable housing and environmental sustainability, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday at a City Hall news conference with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
"Paris and New York have so much in common" as "cosmopolitan global capitals with a long history of progressive mindsets," de Blasio said.
De Blasio, a Democrat who took office Jan. 1, cited common goals with Hidalgo, Paris' first female mayor and a member of the French Socialist Party, who took office April 5.

PHOTOS: Bill de Blasio | NYC mayors

"We have the same platform in a couple of ways," he said. "It's really energizing, and we want to compare our experiences."
Paris wants to mobilize the private sector to help in the construction of affordable housing for middle-class residents, as New York does, Hidalgo said in French.
She has pledged to create 10,000 new housing units per year in Paris for low- and middle-income families. De Blasio seeks to build and preserve 200,000 affordable units in New York over 10 years.
Hidalgo condemned members of France's "extreme right" for their exclusionary and anti-immigrant policies. France's far-right National Front Party claimed the biggest victory in its history in local elections in March, although Hidalgo and the Socialists held Paris.
"I just honor and commend Mayor Hidalgo for being a voice of inclusion and tolerance in a multicultural society," de Blasio said, adding that New York is also working toward "a more perfect union."
De Blasio, who studies Spanish and uses it at most news conferences, was aided by a French-English interpreter.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Scientists Consider New Names for Climate Change

The Borowitz Report

May 30, 2014
NEW HAVEN (The Borowitz Report)—After a report from the Yale Center on Climate Change Communication showed that the term “climate change” elicits relatively little concern from the American public, leading scientists are recommending replacing it with a new term: “You will be burnt to a crisp and die.”
Other terms under consideration by the scientists include “your cities will be ravaged by tsunamis and floods” and “earth will be a fiery hellhole incapable of supporting human life.”
Scientists were generally supportive of the suggestions, with many favoring the term “your future will involve rowing a boat down a river of rotting corpses.”
“Any of these terms would do a better job conveying the urgency of the problem,” Tracy Klugian, a spokesperson for the newly renamed Yale Center for Oh My God Wake Up You Assholes, said.
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Photograph by Mike Olbinski Photography/Corbis.

Working Families Party Warns Cuomo of a Possible Opponent

Late Thursday, a co-chairwoman of the party said it expected to put its support behind a little-known academic with scarcely any chance to defeat Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the November race.
U.S. »
In Puerto Rico, Cocaine Gains Access to U.S.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

As Liberal Leaders Test Cuomo, de Blasio Stands by Him

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, at a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio, stopped short of vowing to help turn the State Senate over to Democratic control.

Espaillat’s ‘drop dead or move away’ vote under fire

By Carl Campanile

State Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s controversial votes as an Albany legislator more than a decade ago are coming back to haunt him in his bid to oust veteran Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel.
Espaillat, who previously served in the state Assembly, voted for a law in 1999 that scrapped the commuter tax on suburbanites who work in New York City — a move that has deprived the Big Apple of billions of dollars in revenues over the past decade.
The Rangel campaign claimed that Espaillat’s vote amounted to telling his constituents “to drop dead or move away.”
The repeal of the 0.45 percent commuter income tax was so controversial that it ignited bipartisan condemnation from then-Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Democratic state Comptroller Carl McCall.
“I find it hard to believe that Espaillat supported the measure because the repeal of the commuter tax was harmful to his district and his constituents,” McCall told The Post Wednesday.
“I can’t imagine why any New York City legislator voted for the measure. It was destructive to New York City.”
The bill passed 92-49.
But many city representatives voted no. Among the dissenters was Manhattan Assemblyman Scott Stringer, the current city comptroller, who is backing Espaillat’s bid to unseat Rangel in the June 24 Democratic primary.
Others voted for it included Assemblyman and then-Manhattan Democratic Party chairman Herman “Denny” Farrell.
The Rangel campaign pounced, accusing Espaillat of shafting his constituents and the city.
“State Senator Espaillat can’t defend why he voted with Republicans to give a $7 billion tax cut to upstate commuters that devastated the people in the congressional district he wants to represent,” said Rangel campaign adviser Charlie King.
“Think about it: we could have paid for universal pre-kindergarten, doubled the police force, increased affordable housing and covered the cost of the city’s youth, senior citizen, and parks services for years to come. The message Espaillat sent to Manhattan and Bronx residents with this vote was crystal clear: drop dead or move away.”
Espaillat, through his campaign, declined to explain why he voted to repeal the commuter tax — and instead sought the table on Rangel, the 22-term incumbent.
“Under Congressman Rangel’s watch, economic inequality in this district has spiraled out of control, and tens of thousands of tenants have lost their homes – that’s why voters are looking for change,” said Espaillat campaign manager Jesse Campoamor.
“It’s not surprising his desperate campaign has dredged up a 15 year old vote instead of addressing the financial anxieties Upper Manhattan and Bronx families are facing.”
Rangel has his own baggage to defend– including a congressional censure in 2010 for a host of ethics violations that includes dodging taxes on the rental of his Dominican Republican villa and converting a rent stabilized apartment into a campaign office.

Obama Defends Controversial Policy of Not Invading Countries for No Reason

The Borowitz Report

May 28, 2014

WEST POINT (The Borowitz Report)—President Obama raised eyebrows with his West Point commencement address Wednesday by offering a defense of his controversial foreign-policy doctrine of not invading countries for no reason.

Conservative critics were taken aback by Obama’s speech, which was riddled with incendiary remarks about only using military force for a clearly identified and rational purpose.

Obama did not shy away from employing polarizing rhetoric, often using words such as “responsible” and “sensible” to underscore his message.

Harland Dorrinson, a fellow at the conservative think tank the Center for Global Intervention, said that he was “stunned” to see Obama “defend his failure to engage the United States in impulsive and random military adventures.”

“History tells us that the best way to earn respect around the world is by using your military in a totally unpredictable and reckless manner,” he said. “Today, President Obama showed once again that he doesn’t get it.”
Photograph by Susan Walsh/AP.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Etchings at 9/11 Memorial Are Called Both Anguished Tributes and Vandalism

After reports of messages being scratched into the panels containing the victims’ names, a memorial spokesman said that the surfaces must be constantly checked for graffiti.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Attorney Norman Siegel With Families of 9-11 victims asking Mayor de Blasio to meet with them

Rejecting Bloomberg Policies, New York City Will Ease Some Hurdles to Public Assistance 

Steven Banks, the commissioner of the Human Resources Administration, testifies during a budget hearing at City Hall. Joining him are agency staff members, from left: Jill Berry, executive deputy finance commissioner; Ellen Levine, chief financial officer; and Jennifer Yeaw, chief of staff. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Mr. Banks said that the city hoped to create two new rental subsidy programs for the homeless. For families in which at least one person works 35 hours a week, the city has set aside only $6 million next year, but expects to spend a total of $80 million over four years, half of it provided by the state. For the chronically homeless and the disabled homeless, the city is hoping to divert some $60 million in city and state funds that it expects to save next year by capping the reimbursement rates to landlords who provide shelter for the homeless.

In a New Role, a Champion of the Homeless Looks to Prove His Critics Wrong
Steven Banks, the commissioner of the Human Resources Administration, wants to take the nation’s largest municipal poverty agency in a new direction.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cuomo’s pick for Lt. Gov. facing challenge from left

Gov. Cuomo’s new running mate for lieutenant governor, pro-gun and anti-illegal immigrant former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, of Buffalo, is “99 percent certain’’ to be challenged in the Democratic primary by a prominent anti-Cuomo “progressive’’ with millions to spend, The Post has learned.
Cuomo critic Bill Samuels, son of New York City OTB founder Howard Samuels — who ran for governor in 1974, losing the Democratic primary to Hugh Carey — told associates over the weekend that he’s furious that Cuomo selected Hochul, a bank lobbyist, whom he described as “out of step with the progressive reforms this state needs,’’ one source told The Post.
Samuels, 71, who told an associate that he’s “99 percent certain to run” against Hochul in the September primary, has already begun planning a campaign built around appeals to Mayor de Blasio’s core supporters: labor unions, left-of-center activists and African-American and Hispanic voters, the source said.
Asked by The Post if he was preparing to run against Hochul, Samuels — who has raised millions of dollars for state Senate Democrats and created a stir in March when he said Cuomo, 56, should run for re-election as a Republican because he’s helped re-elect Senate Republicans — responded, “I’m giving extremely serious thought to it.’’
Samuels told associates that he’ll make a final decision within a week, when the petitioning process for the primaries will be under way.
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Bill Samuels (pictured) is furious that Cuomo chose Hochul as his new running mate for lieutenant governor.Photo: AP Photo
A well-financed Samuels challenge to Hochul, a virtual unknown in heavily Democratic New York City who ran for Congress with the backing of the National Rifle Association, could upend Cuomo’s re-election strategy by dividing state Democrats, exacerbating racial tensions and forcing the governor to spend his campaign funds on Hochul’s behalf.
Bronx state Sen. Ruben Diaz, a socially conservative Democrat whose son, Ruben Jr., is Bronx borough president, publicly ripped Hochul last week for her high-profile opposition as Erie County clerk to then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan in 2007 to grant driver’s licenses to illegal “undocumented’’ aliens.
“You should know that Kathleen Hochul . . . is a well-known professional advocate against immigrants. Does anyone believe that she will support the DREAM Act that we in New York State’s Democratic community are fighting for?’’ Diaz asked.
“Our community has been slapped by Governor Cuomo twice: first, that no minority has been selected to serve with him at the top of the ticket; and second, that a person who adamantly opposes immigration rights was selected to serve in that slot,’’ Diaz continued.
Two Democratic strategists contacted by The Post said a serious race by Samuels against Hochul could be successful because of the widely chronicled unhappiness with Cuomo by left-of-center unions and party activists.
Samuels is not only a threat to Hochul — his candidacy could seriously threaten Cuomo’s hopes of winning a landslide victory against GOP challenger Rob Astorino in November.
That’s because the governor is counting on votes cast for the Democrats’ Cuomo/Hochul ticket being bolstered by votes for the same ticket that was approved last week by the Independence Party and expected to be approved this week by the Working Families Party.
However, if Samuels is able to defeat Hochul in the Democratic primary, the opposite would be the case.
A Cuomo/Hochul ticket endorsed by the Independence and Working Families parties would not count toward the vote total received by the Cuomo/Samuels ticket running on the Democratic line and would, in fact, serve to siphon votes away from a victorious Cuomo’s total.

In Courtrooms, a Crusade to Give the Flag Its Due

Shirley Shepard and her daughter, Andrea, both courtroom artists, have complained for years that the American flag is often improperly displayed.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mayor de Blasio gives pep talk to school staffers to boost prekindergarten enrollment

Starting late next week, the city will add thousands of new pre-K seats at community-based organizations to the directory of providers also available to city parents. The new classes will be held in day-care centers, faith-based institutions, libraries and other locations.

Saturday, May 24, 2014, 2:30 AM
NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi  
Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News Mayor de Blasio delivered a passionate pep talk to more than 500 city principals and other public school staffers Friday morning in a conference call aimed at boosting pre-K enrollment.
Prekindergarten classes for city 4-year-olds won’t start until September, but the de Blasio administration is already working overtime to promote its signature project — free, universal pre-K.
Mayor de Blasio delivered a passionate pep talk to more than 500 city principals and other public school staffers Friday morning in a conference call aimed at boosting pre-K enrollment.
The first registration period for district-run pre-K programs has already passed, but de Blasio used the call to boost interest in community-based early childhood centers which will house about 60% of the city’s pre-K seats.
“We need your help and we need your help now,” de Blasio told the school leaders and parent coordinators who listened in on the private call. “It’s going to be a historic moment for the public schools and we need your help to do it.”
Starting late next week, the city will add thousands of new pre-K seats at community-based organizations to the directory of providers also available to city parents. The new classes will be held in day-care centers, faith-based institutions, libraries and other locations.
Although the pre-K seats will be operated by private organizations, de Blasio assured principals and other school staffers that the community-run programs will be up to snuff.
The first registration period for district-run pre-K programs has already passed, but de Blasio used the call to boost interest in community-based early childhood centers which will house about 60% of the city’s pre-K seats. Andrew Hinderaker/Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall S The first registration period for district-run pre-K programs has already passed, but de Blasio used the call to boost interest in community-based early childhood centers which will house about 60% of the city’s pre-K seats.
“They’re based on the same exact standards,” said de Blasio. “But they’re in centers all over and in locations all over the city and in each and every neighborhood.”
Parents who applied for pre-K seats in district schools will learn in early June if they landed a spot. Those who don’t get seats should sign up for pre-K in one of the community-based outfits, de Blasio said.
Those parents can learn more about the community-run programs by asking their school administrators, by contacting the city or by reaching out to the centers directly.
The city currently has about 20,000 free, full-day pre-K seats. De Blasio intends to more than double that number to 53,000 in September and aims to have 70,000 slots by September 2015.

Read more:

Liu Announces Bid to Unseat Queens State Senator

John C. Liu, a former New York City comptroller, will mount a primary challenge against Tony Avella, among the Democrats who joined with Republicans to form a majority coalition in the State Senate.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Google Search Results: Dictator Not Found

May 21, 2014

Last week, the European Court of Justice (E.C.J.)—the E.U.’s equivalent of the Supreme Court—issued a ruling on the “right to be forgotten,” which grants Google users the right to have links about themselves removed from Google’s search results. Google has to scrub any material that a user wants taken down, as long as removing it doesn’t hurt the public interest. The decision applies to nearly anything found on the Internet— legal records, photos, even lawfully published news stories—and, in the words of the E.U. Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, represents “a clear victory for the protection of the personal data of Europeans.”
In the court’s view, Google isn’t merely an aggregator or organizer of Web content. Rather, it acts as a “controller” of that content, and it therefore has a greater responsibility for the privacy of its users. The burden now falls on the company to prove that old content still has a reason to exist. Google will have to comply with user requests to erase data that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” given “the time that had elapsed.” For all the court’s enthusiasm about this right, gaping questions remain about implementing the ruling. What will be the criteria to decide whether something remains “relevant” to the public interest? How much time will need to pass for someone to be “forgotten”? (And, of course, how will Google handle the onslaught of takedown requests?)
The test case for the E.C.J.’s landmark ruling came from Spain, where the right is known as the derecho al olvido. (Hundreds of other cases like it are percolating in the country’s courts.) Several years ago, a lawyer named Mario Costeja typed his name into Google and turned up an article about himself that was published in the late nineteen-nineties in a Catalan newspaper. At the time, Costeja had fallen into debt and needed to sell some of his property. The newspaper wound up publishing the details, which eventually appeared in its online archives. Those archives were searchable through Google. In 2009, Costeja complained to a government body called the Spanish Data Protection Agency, which ordered Google—but not the paper—to remove the links. (The debt “was resolved and paid years ago, and I’ve since been divorced, but according to Google I’m still in debt and married,” Costeja said.) Google appealed, and eventually the case rose to the Spanish high court, which sought direction from the E.C.J. That direction came last week.
The phrase derecho al olvido carries an odd resonance in Spain. The country lived under the harsh rule of a dictator, Francisco Franco, for nearly forty years. Franco had come to power after a bloody and protracted Civil War in which he and his forces killed a massive number of their countrymen—by some estimates, about two hundred thousand during the war, some twenty thousand in its immediate aftermath, and thousands more who died either in prisons in Spain or in concentration camps across the continent. When Franco himself died, in 1975, the country underwent a turbulent, but largely civil and pacific, transition to democracy. These years were full of promise, but the bloodshed and repression that preceded them never truly went away. The old guard did not step aside, really; it just rebranded itself for a new era. Francoists became cultural conservatives—retrograde, maybe, but mindful of their place in a new European order. A new ethos took root: Spaniards were encouraged to look ahead and not to the past, for the greater benefit of the public. (The legal system was tasked with overseeing this move forward. An amnesty law was passed in 1977 that halted the prosecution of Franco-era crimes.) The unspoken agreement to leave the past behind became known as the pacto de olvido, an agreement to forget.
This past Sunday, I spoke to Emilio Silva, the president of the Spanish Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, a group of advocates that pressures the government and the public to confront the crimes of the past. Among other things, the group tries to persuade Spanish courts to take up allegations of past atrocities that have gone ignored. “The ruling on Google gave me pause,” he said. “Sure, it sounds great that we all have the chance to cleanse our image, but what are the limits?” Spain, he reminded me, is a fábrica de olvidos, a factory of forgetting.
Since the early aughts, groups led by Silva and others have exhumed more than a hundred mass graves nationwide, where thousands of bodies of the Civil War dead are still buried. Most of them belong to leftists or Republican sympathizers. When Franco’s forces won, the dictator forced survivors on the losing side to erect a massive crypt to honor those who died on the winning side. Everyone else was consigned to state-sanctioned oblivion.
According to Soledad Fox, the chair of the Romance-languages department at Williams College and an expert on twentieth-century Spain, the entire concept of memory in the country is fraught with tension. “Those who were in a position to ‘remember’ were, in a sense, inclined to forget certain things,” she said. By noting this, she was challenging an idea that has emerged in some sectors in Spain: that only those who lived through the Civil War had a right to comment on the past. Fox suggested otherwise: the partisans who did battle in Spain before and during the Franco years often had a bias toward their own side; they have remembered what they wanted—a case of selective memory. A historical-memory law, passed in 2007 by the Socialists, officially condemned the Franco regime and made it easier to dig up mass graves. But it quickly became mired in controversy, and it has lost much of its force since conservatives retook office in 2011.
That same year, the Royal Academy of History, an organization supported by public money, omitted the word “dictator” in its official encyclopedia entry on Franco. Other entries were riddled with euphemisms, elisions, and even outright inaccuracies. A nationalist priest killed by Republicans was called a “martyr,” while Republican casualties received no such grace notes. Republican troops are called “the enemy” at another point, and pillaging by Franco’s forces in the cities that they initially invaded are glossed over as “normalizing civilian life.”
One word for all this, according to left-leaning critics at the time, was revisionism. (Silva put it more poetically to me: “History books are full of forgetting.”) Even more troubling has been the position of the courts. Despite international attention, the Spanish courts have largely refused to recognize the atrocities committed during and after the Civil War as “crimes against humanity,” even though the historical record suggests that Franco’s forces were bent on systematic extermination of ideological rivals. The Spanish court involved in the Google ruling is “the same court that has also tossed out complaints aimed at redressing the country’s own past,” Silva said.
Last month, the National Court denied an extradition request for Antonio Gonzàlez Pacheco, a notorious former police inspector during the Franco years known as Billy the Kid. Lawyers sought to have him tried in Argentina under universal jurisdiction. Silva pointed out a bitter irony: this court was willing to tout, and to institutionalize, a right to forget in a country in which it’s become hard to remember.
It’s still too early to say what effect the ruling on Google will have on the historical-memory movement. No alleged criminals, or their families, have requested that Google take down links about them just yet—at least not as far as Silva knows. It’s possible, too, that courts can say that preserving these links is in the public interest, although Silva is not optimistic. He and fellow human-rights advocates have used the Internet to track down criminals from the Franco era whose names appear in court documents. He worries that a robust right to be forgotten could throw off the pursuit. In 2008, a Spanish court fined a group called the Association Against Torture for publishing online, a few years earlier, a list of names of those accused of having committed torture. (The Association eventually had to take down the entire list.)
For the past thirty-odd years, the message of the Spanish state has been unmistakable: the decades-old amnesty law has rendered many of the crimes of the past irrelevant to the contemporary public interest. Does this mean that alleged victimizers now also have a right to be forgotten? “The notion of forgetting by legal decree scares me,” Silva said. “Any right to be forgotten has to be compatible with a right to know the truth.”
Photograph of Francisco Franco by Bettmann/Corbis.

An Apology from Prince Charles

The Borowitz Report

May 22, 2014

LONDON (The Borowitz Report) – In response to the international uproar created when he reportedly compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler, His Royal Highness Prince Charles today issued the following letter of apology to the Russian people.
My dear Russians,
Yesterday, it was reported that I compared your President Putin to Hitler. If by making this comment I have in some way offended you, I am deeply sorry. Adolf Hitler was one of the horrible villains in world history, and comparing President Putin to him was uncalled for.
What I should have said, and what I say to you now, is that this Putin chap can be a bit Hitlery at times.
Let’s take, for example, his penchant for taking territory that doesn’t belong to him and then adding it to his country and so forth. Would you call that behavior Hitlery or not Hitlery? From where I sit, it’s more like something Hitler would do than something he wouldn’t do, and so the verdict must be, yes, the chap is being rather Hitlery when he does that.
And, while we’re on the subject, what about Putin’s use of tanks? Also very Hitlery. Again, let me be clear: I am not calling him Hitler—but if you think you can use tanks and not come off a tad bit Hitlery, you’re not right in the head.
Since I made my remarks, some British politicians have suggested that I abdicate my position as Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne. In other words, they believe that I do not have the right to free speech. If memory serves, back in the nineteen-thirties another chap went around trying to punish people for speaking their minds. I’m not going to name names, but if the shoe fits…
Yours truly,
H.R.H. Prince Charles
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Photograph by Tim Rooke/REX/AP.

Catherine M. Abate, Ex-State Senator, Dies at 66

Ms. Abate was a former New York state senator and commissioner of New York City’s Correction Department whose campaign for attorney general was derailed by questions about her father’s connection to organized crime.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Philip Roth Says He Has Had His Last Sandwich

Author Philip Roth. (photo: Jenny Anderson/Getty Images)
Author Philip Roth. (photo: Jenny Anderson/Getty Images)

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
21 May 14

The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."

he novelist Philip Roth announced today that a sandwich he ate last week, a turkey one with lettuce and tomato on wheat, would be his last.
Roth’s retirement from sandwich eating, announced in an interview with a Dutch literary magazine, came as a surprise to the worlds of publishing and sandwiches.
In the interview, Roth attempted to soft-pedal the reasons behind his startling decision, saying only, “I had my first sandwich when I was three or four. That’s almost eighty years ago. That’s a lot of sandwiches.”
The response to Mr. Roth’s renunciation of sandwiches was skeptical, with some readers of the interview questioning whether the acclaimed novelist had not left the door open a crack to sandwiches in his future.
When asked by his Dutch interviewer if he had sworn off deli meats, Roth said, “I could see a situation at a buffet where they’d have those mini slices of rye bread, and I’d make an open-faced thingy with roast beef and maybe a pickle or whatnot. But that’s not the same thing as a sandwich.”
As if to quell any misunderstanding, on Tuesday afternoon Roth issued the following statement through his publisher: “Not only have I had my last sandwich, I have made my final public statement about sandwiches.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cops & DEA take down $11M drug ring

New York authorities crushed an $11 million heroin and cocaine ring after they caught Bronx smugglers delivering an illegal stash to a Connecticut drug den, law enforcement sources said Monday.
Investigators from the NYPD, Drug Enforcement Agency and New York State Police busted Edualin Tapia and Guillermo Esteban Margarin with 24 kilos of heroin, 9 kilos of cocaine and three guns, including two assault rifles, at a Hartford apartment building, sources said.
The May 16 takedown was the culmination of a six-month probe spearheaded by the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, who noted that the 50 pounds of heroin and 20 pounds of cocaine were bound for distribution throughout Connecticut and areas north of the state.
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Two assault rifles, a pistol and a money counter were seized during the bust.Photo: Supplied

“These arrests cut a pipeline moving huge amounts of heroin from New York City to the Northeast,” Brennan said. “Through cases like this one, we strive to cut off the supply of heroin as its source. Suppressing the availability of heroin, which is destroying an increasing number of lives, is a top priority.”
On May 15, investigators were keeping an eye on a suspected “heroin mill” — an apartment building on Orloff Avenue in The Bronx — when Tapia and Margarin showed up and walked inside with suitcases and a white box, authorities said.
The next day, officers got a tip that a Jeep Cherokee driven by Margarin and an Acura RDX commandeered by Tapia were heading north on Interstate 95.
They followed the vehicles into Hartford to the rear parking lot of an apartment building at 24 Bulkeley Ave., officials said.
After the dealers got out of their cars, Tapia allegedly grabbed a heavy white box from the Cherokee and slinked toward the building.
Undercover cops walked past Tapia, spotted 10 kilos of heroin in brick-shaped packages and signaled for backup, officials said.
An army of cops then descended on an apartment, finding several individuals at a sink frantically trying to dump a white, powdery substance down the drain with water running.
They seized 13 kilos of heroin in an open closet in the back of the apartment.
Authorities also executed warrants at several other locations and confiscated pounds of heroin and cocaine as well as two assault rifles and a handgun. Tens of thousands of dollars in cash were also recovered.
Margarin and Tapia were charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mayor Tells City’s Tabloids to Apologize to His Wife

The mayor reacted to front-page coverage of remarks Chirlane McCray made in a magazine about motherhood.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested two suspected high-level traffickers transporting drugs from the Bronx to New England, seizing 53 pounds of heroin.
Drug Enforcement Administration
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested two suspected high-level traffickers transporting drugs from the Bronx to New England, seizing 53 pounds of heroin.
The flood of heroin coming into and going out of New York City has surged to the highest levels in more than two decades.

Mayor de Blasio Delivers Keynote Address at Internet Weeks in New York City

G.O.P.: Evil Mastermind Behind Benghazi Is Frail Old Woman With Brain Damage

The Borowitz Report

May 18, 2014

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is an evil genius capable of masterminding the most elaborate cover-up in U.S. history and is also a frail old woman with brain damage, leading Republicans charged on Sunday.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus led the attack while appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he said that the American people should be wary of electing a woman who is capable of orchestrating the complex conspiracy to whitewash Benghazi while, at the same time, being too old, feeble, and brain damaged to serve in the Oval Office.
“These two aspects of Secretary Clinton would have me very concerned,” he said.
Mr. Priebus said he saw “no contradiction” between the portrayals of Secretary Clinton as an evil mastermind and a brain-damaged crone, explaining, “The one part of Secretary Clinton’s brain that works perfectly well is the part that creates elaborate cover-ups, and that is the part of her brain that is currently covering up the fact that she is brain damaged.”
The R.N.C. chairman said he was confident that once the American people realized Secretary Clinton is both an evil mastermind and a frail old woman with brain damage, they would reject her at the ballot box.
“The one thing the American people will not tolerate is double-talk,” he said.
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Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ex-Controller John Liu will run for state Senate against Dem incumbent Tony Avella: source

The failed mayoral candidate will be picked as the Queens Democratic Party's candidate on Monday. A Liu candidacy means two members of the five-member breakaway Democratic faction in the Senate are facing primaries from traditional Democrats this year.

Monday, May 19, 2014, 12:15 AM
Former city Controller John Liu will run for state Senate, a source says. Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News Former city Controller John Liu will run for state Senate, a source says.
ALBANY — Former city Controller John Liu has decided to run for state Senate, a source close to him told the Daily News.
Liu, 47, will enter a primary against Queens Democrat incumbent Tony Avella, who angered party leaders earlier this year by joining a faction of breakaway Dems who jointly control the Senate with the GOP. “This is John’s reemergence,” the source said. “He sees it as an opportunity to contribute.”
Liu served four years as city controller and is a former city councilman. He ran an unsuccessful primary campaign for mayor last year.
As controller, his campaign finances were probed, but he was never charged.
“A lot of people feel he got a raw deal,” the source said. “I think there’ll be an awful lot of excitement around his candidacy.”
Former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell will also be challenging one of the breakway Dems in the state Senate. Mariela Lombard for new york daily news Former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell will also be challenging one of the breakway Dems in the state Senate.
The Queens Democratic Party, which had been courting Liu, is set Monday to designate him as their candidate so his name can appear on party nominating petitions circulated in the district.
He has already met with key union leaders and hired consultant Neal Kwatra, a former chief of staff to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with deep union ties.
A Liu candidacy means two members of the five-member breakaway Democratic faction are facing primaries from traditional Democrats this year.
In addition to Avella, Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) is being challenged by former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell.
Liu will run in a primary against incumbent Tony Avella (D-Queens). Eric Jenks for new york daily news Liu will run in a primary against incumbent Tony Avella (D-Queens).
Liu is a prodigious fund-raiser, while Avella in January reported having less than $3,000 on hand.
* * *
William Fitzpatrick, a co-chairman of Gov. Cuomo’s now-defunct anti-corruption commission, is being branded a hypocrite by some Albany insiders.
Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga County district attorney, has repeatedly ripped lawmakers for misusing their campaign cash to fund their lifestyles.
Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) will have to run against Koppell. AP Photo/Mike Groll/Ap Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) will have to run against Koppell.
But records show his own campaign account spent tens of thousands of dollars on golf, fine meals and travel.
“Bill Fitzpatrick is dripping with hypocrisy, and every time he opens up his mouth he makes it worse,” said one insider.
He’s hit the links in such places as Hawaii, Riviera Beach, Fla., and Hilton Head, S.C. And he’s eaten at upscale eateries from Toronto to New York City to Florida.
While the outlays are legal, “they seem to sit in a gray area that the commission was charged with making more clear,” a second legislative source said.
William Fitzpatrick, a co-chairman of Gov. Cuomo’s now-defunct anti-corruption commission, is being branded a hypocrite by some after records showed his campaign account spent money on golf, fine meals and travel. Kevin Rivoli/AP William Fitzpatrick, a co-chairman of Gov. Cuomo’s now-defunct anti-corruption commission, is being branded a hypocrite by some after records showed his campaign account spent money on golf, fine meals and travel.
Fitzpatrick argued that much of the travel-related spending was tied to his role with the National District Attorneys Association. He argues he could have billed taxpayers for the travel, hotel and meals, but chose not to.
He deemed the spending as legitimate campaign expenses that “promotes me as district attorney” and said that the bulk of the golf outings were for charity.
“It’s a nice way to promote my name and sometime reward staff members so they can have an afternoon off,” he said.
Fitzpatrick called the comparison between his spending and that of the lawmakers “apples to elephants.”
“I didn’t pay for tanning sessions,” he said, referencing findings of the commission. “I didn’t pay for cigars. I didn’t pay for Do-Do the Clown.”
But the first source wasn’t buying it. “If there was a god of using campaign cash for personal use, all of Albany would bow down to Bill Fitzpatrick. For now, they just dismiss him,” he said.

EXCLUSIVE: Mayor de Blasio puts troubled 911 upgrade on hold for probe of budget, schedule delays

The 911 overhaul — a signature public safety imitative of the Bloomberg era — is years behind schedule and nearly $1 billion over budget. First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris has ordered an immediate 60-day suspension of the project and is asking the Department of Investigation to review 'what transpired in recent years,' the Daily News has learned.

Monday, May 19, 2014, 2:30 AM
The overhaul of the city's 911 system is behind schedule and over budget — and the de Blasio administration wants to know why. Here, a 911 operator at 11 Metrotech in Brooklyn. Todd Maisel/New York Daily News The overhaul of the city's 911 system is behind schedule and over budget — and the de Blasio administration wants to know why. Here, a 911 operator at 11 Metrotech in Brooklyn.
Mayor de Blasio has slammed the brakes on the city’s problem-plagued overhaul of its 911 system and is asking the Department of Investigation to probe why the huge project has fallen years behind schedule and is nearly $1 billion over budget, the Daily News has learned.
In a startling letter to key city commissioners, First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris has ordered an immediate 60-day suspension starting Monday on all work and expenditures on the 911 upgrade — officially known as the Emergency Communications Transformation Program.
The letter also notes that City Hall is asking the Department of Investigation “to conduct an independent review of what transpired in recent years.”
The city has found “additional significant and longstanding technical design, systems integration, and project management risks and issues that necessitate immediate corrective action,” Shorris said in the letter.
The News received an exclusive copy of the missive, in which city officials and outside experts are ordered to complete a top-down review of the project, which was expected to be finished by 2008.
Shorris was asked if the DOI’s involvement meant that he is concerned about problems that go deeper than just massive cost overruns or mismanagement.
New York Daily News
“If something has gone on, then there has to be accountability,” was all Shorris would say.
The suspension order is a stunning admission by the de Blasio administration that the 911 overhaul is more troubled than officials have been willing to admit.
“This project could be out of control” for both costs and delays, Shorris told The News .
Launched in the summer of 2005 at a projected cost of $1.3 billion, the 911 overhaul was the signature public safety initiative of the Bloomberg era.
Its aim was to centralize outdated call-and-dispatch operations for police, fire and emergency medical services into a single, state-of-the art computerized operation, complete with a newly constructed backup call center in the Bronx.
If something has gone on, then there has to be accountability.
But as The News began reporting in 2009, the project’s costs zoomed to more than $2 billion, it was repeatedly dogged by faulty performance from technology contractors, and it was years behind schedule.
A subsequent audit by then-city Controller John Liu documented millions of dollars in overbillings by one of the key contractors, Hewlett-Packard.
More problems have emerged since de Blasio took office.
Less than a week ago, for example, Shorris learned that 22 telecom sites that were supposed to be established all over the city as hubs for upgraded 911 radio communications were not ready to support the new equipment; it was previously thought they were.
“Those rooms needed a ton of work and could delay completion of the project by another 2 to 2½ years,” Shorris said.
NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News More problems with the city's 911 upgrade have emerged since Mayor de Blasio took office.
That’s when City Hall officials realized the entire project “might end up taking 14 to 15 to years to finish and potentially end up with hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs,’ Shorris said.
In March, the former head of the NYPD’s 911 center, Assistant Chief Charles (Chuck) Dowd, was suddenly bounced by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton following a meeting about foulups in the 911 system. Dowd was transferred to the Transit Division, later placed on modified assignment, and has since filed for retirement.
In 2010, Dowd and several other high-ranking officers were reprimanded by the NYPD for accepting “valuable gifts” from Verizon, when the telecommunications giant was vying for part of the original 911 contract.
In the letter to Bratton, incoming Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro and other senior city officials, Shorris not only suspended all work, but he also transferred the project’s control from the Office of Citywide Emergency Communications to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and its incoming commissioner, Anne Roest.
The letter specifies that “without the specific approval” of (Roest):
The 911 overhaul was a signature public safety iniative of the Bloomberg era. Kris Connor for New York Daily News The 911 overhaul was a signature public safety iniative of the Bloomberg era.
- “No contracts may be awarded or purchase orders issued.”
- “No work that would result in additional expenditures against existing contracts may move forward.”
- “No major system implementation or major procedural changes may be implemented.”
Roest is heading a new team of city officials and industry experts who will “conduct a full-scale review and validation of the project’s scope, schedule, budget and governance,” and propose within 60 days what the city should do, the letter said.
The city’s public safety chiefs quickly endorsed the new course.
“This review process will be instrumental in helping us build a system that meets the needs of the city and keeps New Yorkers safe,” Bratton said in a statement.
Nigro said: “The new system’s problems have been well-documented, and we must get this right. The best way to do that is to temporarily halt the project, review it thoroughly and discover the best way to move forward.”

Divergent Accounts of Plea Negotiations in an Occupy Wall Street Protester’s Assault Case

Cecily McMillan was convicted two weeks ago of assaulting a police officer during a Zuccotti Park protest in 2012. An array of vocal sympathizers have called for leniency in her case.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Top aide says Obama 'madder than hell' about veterans allegations

(Reuters) - White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said President Barack Obama is "madder than hell" about possible deadly healthcare delays at the Department of Veterans Affairs and is determined to investigate and fix any flaws in the system.

"We're going to get to the bottom of those things, fix them and ensure that they don't happen again," McDonough said on CBS's "Face the Nation" in an interview aired on Sunday.

The allegations that delays in treatment at veterans hospitals could have led to otherwise preventable deaths has sparked a growing political scandal, including calls for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

A top department official, Undersecretary of Health Dr. Robert Petzel, resigned on Friday in a move critics said was an effort at damage control. But McDonough sidestepped questions about whether Shinseki had Obama's full confidence.

"The president will continue to demand that he and all of us who work for him continue to fix these things until they are functioning the way that our veterans believe they should," McDonough said.

Petzel's resignation came a day after he appeared alongside Shinseki at a congressional hearing about accusations that VA medical facilities in Phoenix covered up long wait times for patients, including 40 who died while awaiting care.

Dr. Sam Foote, a whistleblower in the VA case, said on "Fox News Sunday" that Petzel's resignation was "a great first step". He said there was no way officials in Washington did not know of the issue.

"They knew this was a big problem," he said, adding he believed Shinseki should stay in his job to keep the focus on fixing the problem.

"I think our best bet at this point is to keep the secretary on board. But I think the president needs to keep him on a pretty short leash," Foote said.

The VA has put three senior officials in Phoenix on administrative leave after doctors there said they were ordered to hold veterans' names for months on a secret waiting list until a spot opened up on an official list that met the agency's two-week waiting time goals.

Allegations have been reported about similar cover-up schemes at VA medical facilities in at least seven other cities. The agency runs the largest U.S. healthcare group, overseeing some 1,700 hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other facilities.

(Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Jim Loney)

Join the discussion

Good Morning From Rikers

Cecily McMillan. (photo: Andrew Gombert/EPA)
Cecily McMillan. (photo: Andrew Gombert/EPA)

By Cecily McMillan, Justice for Cecily
18 May 14

ood morning. I’m writing from the Rose M. Singer Correctional Facility, dorm 2 East B on Rikers Island – where I’ve been held for the past 4 days.
Admittedly, I was shocked by the jury’s verdict on Monday, but was not surprised by the events that followed. An overreaching prosecutor plus a biased judge logically adds up to my being remanded to Rikers.
I was prepared then, as I am now, to stand by my convictions and face the consequences of my actions – namely that of refusing to forsake my values and what I know to be true in exchange for my “freedom.”
Packed into a room with 45 other women – often restricted to my cot – I’ve had nothing but time to measure the strength of my beliefs alongside that ambiguous concept – “freedom.” (I’ve come to the conclusion that it is far easier to weigh such tradeoffs from the comfort of one’s own bed.)
At Rikers, the day begins with 4:30am breakfast. Milk cartons in hand, the women echo a common set of concerns – “can’t reach my lawyer, my family won’t speak to me, no commissary” – and I become painfully aware of how privileged I am, despite what is supposed to be the great equalizing suffering of the prison experience.
Unlike my peers, I have a hell of a lawyer – Marty Stolar – who made the long journey to hold my hand and promise “I will not stop fighting for you.” I also have a gifted team of friends and organizers – #Justice4Cecily – that continue to provide around-the-clock care and mobilize public support. Finally, I’m incredibly lucky to have a vast and very much alive movement at my side, sending me “Occupy Love” from across the world.
Despite how obscenely unbalanced our circumstances are, my new-found friends – who have quickly become my comrades – are outraged by my story and resolve to do their part to keep me out of prison. After lunch, they spend their free time writing letters to Judge Zweibel, defending my character and pleading for leniency.
At 6:00pm dinner, the cramped circle of ladies ask me “What exactly is social justice organizing?” Over the complex choreography of food trading I tell them about Democratic Socialist leader Eugene Victor Debs. How nearly 100 years ago he publicly criticized U.S. involvement in WWI – in violation of the Wartime Sedition Act – and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for exercising his constitutional right to free speech. “Sort of like that,” I explain, “But he’s way out of my league – he’s my hero.”
By lights out, a subtle peace has begun to wash over me. I page through a book stopping at Debs’ speech to the Federal Court of Cleveland, Ohio – I read and reread, as if a personal mantra, these opening lines -
“Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said it then, as I say it now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
At the close of the night, I smile and shut my eyes. As I drift off, “Somehow,” I think, “this is all a part of the plan.”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cat Saves Little Boy From Being Attacked by Neighbor Dog

Rather Grimm Fairytales


Rather Grimm Fairytales

Jerry Krase (May 14, 2014)

11th U.S. Congressional District New York State Immigration Action Fund
The 11th United States Congressional District is currently represented by Michael Grimm (R). It covers all of Staten Island and some southern Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, and Gravesend. He is being challenged for the position by Domenic Recchia(D).

Dominic M. Recchia is trying to fill the somewhat dirty shoes of incumbent Congressman Michael Grimm. However, I must warn him that strange things have happened to those elected to represent Staten Islanders (and South Brooklyner’s) in Congress ever since la famiglia Molinari abandoned it. It’s like someone has cast an evil eye (malocchio) on the most conservative seat in New York City.

Ex-New York City Council Member Dominic M. Recchia (D) is running hard to fill the somewhat dirty shoes of incumbent Congressman Michael Grimm (R) with the avid support of State Senator Diane Savino (D) and Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D). However, I must warn all of the “Ds” that strange things have happened to those unlucky enough to be elected to represent Staten Islanders (and South Brooklyner’s) in Congress ever since la famiglia Molinari) decided they had better things to do with their time. It’s like someone has cast an evil eye (malocchio) on the most conservative seat in New York City.
Recently The New York Times Editorial Board with a rare, almost FoxNewsian, sense of black humor noted that the “Republicans Have a Grimm Problem”
“Representative Michael Grimm, the only Republican in New York City’s congressional delegation, was indicted last week on charges of tax fraud. He insists he is innocent, but these charges come at a particularly bad time for his fellow Republicans. A former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, Mr. Grimm was already in trouble with many voters after he was shown on television threatening to throw a NY1 reporter off a balcony. Now he is accused of operating a restaurant illegally.”
Once upon a time in the good old days of Statenislandia, Republican Party Stalwart Guy Molinari represented it in the U.S. Congress (1983-1989) when he left voluntarily to become Staten Island Borough President. As if by magic, he was replaced in a “special election” by his daughter Susan who, in turn, resigned from office in1997, just after giving the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention. She left to co-host CBS’s Saturday Morning Live. Subsequently she became Google’s top lobbyist and one of Elle’s 10 most influential D.C. women. However, for those who have filled her accursed shoes it’s been all downhill.
When Susan left her dad helped his protégé, Vito Fossella (D, C, RTL), to replace his fair-haired daughter in another “special” election. Vito ran and won as a regular “family values” guy, voting for example to impeach Bill Clinton for his moral turpitude and for the Marriage Protection Act. After four terms mostly agreeing with Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, Fossella was arrested while driving drunk on the way to visit his gumada (mistress) and their three-year old child. As to other lapses, Fossella was accused of misusing campaign funds for personal expenses and family vacations, to which he replied honesty “Mistakes have been made.” Advised by his ex-mentor Molinari one might assume, Vito decided not to run for re-election in 2008.
The embarrassed and disgraced Fosella was followed into the ill-fated office by DINO (Democrat in Name Only) Michael McMahon (D?) who spent only one term in Washington (2009-11). Ironically, the Times had endorsed Mike as a “Less-Liberal Democrat” who supported capital punishment as well as offshore drilling. While in office McMahon completed his right-leaning shape-shift and, among other things Republican, voted against what Democrats praise as the “Affordable Obama Care Act,” and Mike’s new friends condemn as “Obamacare.” As The Staten island Advance reported it just before his losing reelection bid: “At first blush, Rep. Michael McMahon said he's yet to see anything in President Barack Obama's revamped health care plan that would make him vote for it. ‘I haven't seen enough to have me come off my 'no' vote,’ ‘I don't see anything that would make me change my position.’" Democrats therefore saw little reason to support him in 2011 and the right-leaning McMahon was followed by a real right-winger and RINO (Republican In Name Only) Michael Grimm.  
As another Molinari protégé, Grimm was the perfect conservative candidate to take back the seat. A decorated ex-marine, U.S. Marshall, and FBI undercover agent, he was backed by Sarah Palin, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Tea Party folks. Grimm was victorious over McMahon only to be hoisted by his own Law and Order petard (petardo) by being accused of under-paying his Healthalicious restaurant workers off the books and, even worse, lying about it to Federal officials. 
Right now, Grimm’s most likely challenger, Dominic Recchia, is making all the right (centrist) noises on his campaign website:
As a nation, I can’t think of a more important time to have representation in Congress that knows how to come to the table, work with both sides, and get things done. I am a parent to three wonderful daughters and like a lot of parents out there I worry about what will happen if Congress continues to kick the can down the road on the major challenges facing our country. Whether it's the federal deficit, or transforming America's competitive advantage in the world, or rebuilding the middle class, I will use my experience and skillset to be part of the solutions that will shape our future. 
Recchia seems to have a good chance of defeating Grimm (or a possible Republican Party replacement) in this coming fall's General Election, but given the fates of the past three “winners” perhaps he should think thrice about it.