Friday, July 31, 2009

Here's To Your Health

Robert Greenwald had made an important film on health care. Let us support his efforts and spread the message.

WBAI Turmoil

The progressive radio station, WBAI (99.5) FM labors on in controversy. The parent board, Pacifica Radio, rode in from California a few weeks ago and purged the station of some of it's key players. One of whom was controversial program director, Bernard White. White's critics allege that he maintained two sets of accounting books and misappropriated funds. They also charge
that White, who is Black, contributed to racial polarization amongst staff members and listeners.

White (see photo) spoke out at a recent meeting:

To date, no hardcore evidence has been presented in regards to White's alleged financial misdeeds. However, the war with words and microphones continues.
I'm waiting.
by Frank LeFever
( HelpFixWBAI (at) yahoo (dot) com ) Thursday Jul 2nd, 2009 7:47 PM
So far, Bernard has not made an out-right assertion that he never "mis-allocated" any WBAI funds.

He deflects questions about this with a "rhetorical" question.

He asserts that any allegations about mis-allocation of funds is "absurd".

However, he is careful not to deny, in writing, that he ever mis-allocated WBAI funds.

Similarly, he is careful not to say he will permit disclosure of what was said in the most recent executive session at which his performance was discussed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Sad State of Journalism in New York

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
by Gary Tilzer

A son of state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. escaped criminal charges yesterday by pleading guilty to a harassment violation for attacking a 76-year-old blogger at a political rally. Alejandro Espada, 30, the director of one of his father's health clinics, must pay $432 in restitution to replace City Hall blogger Rafael Martinez Alequin's camera. The blogger is unhappy with the deal the DA made with the son of the majority leader. Where are the journalist rallying behind Martinez? There are busy running away from him where he works in City Hall. They are upset he is causing reforms in the way the city issues press passes. If only those reporters who used Martinez's video about how Pedro Espada does not live in the Bronx wrote a story about how the DA took a walk on justice in his case, he would be in good shape. Only the Daily News and the online addition of the NYP report the outcome of the case. NY1 has blacklist Martinez and others from appearing on there spin news outlet and the times only writes about bloggers and journalist who are ruff up in China. A failed GM did make the front page of the DN today after attacking a reporter. At least the DN printed a story about Martinez assault trial and it soft ending for the Espada family. On the tape of the assault Padro can be heard telling Martinez that he will teach him a lesson (Martinez did the tape Espada does not live in the Bronx) I guess there is a lesson in getting to the DA and triple dealing your fellow senators in Albany, it just not the lesson we learned from our parents or in school. Espada's son gets slap for harass *** A Journalist Breaks Through City Hall's "Blue Wall of Silence" *** SEN. PEDRO ESPADA'S SON PLEADS GUILTY TO HARASSMENT CHARGE *** 'POSTIE PUNCHER' POL TO GET OFF EASY *** TRAITOR POL'S SUITE NEW DEAL Newly minted state Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada is getting dramatically larger office space along with his new title *** Mets Fire Bernazard; Minaya Claims Writer Wanted Job w/Mets A son of state Senator Pedro Espada Jr. has pleaded guilty to harassment against 76-year-old blogger Rafael Martínez Alequin at a campaign rally last September. According to Martínez Alequin, several people, including Alejandro, began shoving him and trying to grab his camera as he approached Espada. And when he begged Pedro to stop them, he answered, "He's trying to teach you manners papa. He's trying to teach you manners." (Here's video.) Alejandro, who's the director of one of his father's controversial health clinics, agreed to a restraining order and must pay $432 for the broken camera. But Martínez Alequin wants a stiffer punishment and tells the Daily News, "I was attacked because I was asking questions. I asked [Sen. Espada] to stop [his son]. I said they were hurting me. I was traumatized and I fear for my life." In other Espada dynasty news, our new state Senate Majority Leader is getting "dramatically" larger office space! Espada's spokesman tells the Post, "We have more responsibilities so we'll have more employees and we need more space." As Martinez Alequin can tell you, Espada really needs his space.

Dilan named to reapportionment task force

Capitol Confidential

Capitol Confidential

A behind-the-scenes look at New York politics.
By: Irene Jay Liu, Casey Seiler, Jim Odato, Rick Karlin

Brooklyn Sen. Martin Malave Dilan will serve as a co-chair of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, formed “to research and study the techniques and methodologies to be used in conducting the U.S. census. Its research and statistical data also aids the State Legislature in the decennial reapportionment of Senate, Assembly and Congressional districts.”

“New York is a dynamic state. In light of the 2010 Federal Census, I look forward to seeing that the people of New York receive fair representation here and in Washington,” Dilan said in a statement.

“Every ten years the task force meets the monumental task of how every citizen will be represented at the state and federal levels. Given the events and changes our great state has seen between 2000 and now, our task remains to ensure public policy bolsters the quality of life and the quality of representation each New Yorker expects and deserves,” said Senator Dilan.

The Task Force will eventually include four legislators and two non-legislators: Dilan will join Assemblymen Carl Heastie and Fred Thiele Jr., and Dr. Roman Hedges — plus, it must be assumed, a senator and a civilian to be named later.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Enough is enough: Only a citizen revolt can fix the state Senate, says one New Yorker

By Stephen Salup

Sunday, July 26th 2009, 4:00 AM

Now is the time for all good citizens to consider running for a New York State Senate seat - and to urge their friends and neighbors to vote against the incumbent state senators, whether Republican, Democrat, liberal, Conservative or independent.

New Yorkers need to express public outrage to the New York state senators for their disgraceful behavior.

I will be among the next wave of citizens to consider running for the Senate. I welcome others all across the state to join me. I intend to consider challenging Sen. Craig Johnson, who in my opinion does not represent the interests of the Long Island district that elected him, the district where I live.

Johnson walks lock step with the Senate leadership and, like so many others, he did not scream foul when the Senate quit working.

I served as a high level official in the administration of former New York City Mayor John Lindsay. In that position I had extensive experience with both the state Legislature and Congress and worked closely with the city's legislative representatives to Congress and the state Legislature. I took pen in hand and wrote laws to be submitted as part of the city's legislative package at the state and federal levels.

People like me - and there are many of them - can no longer sit back and complain. The system as we know it has grown too rotten and too detached from the people who call themselves our representatives. Many years ago, I was urged to run for office in Nassau County by a local political activist. I was told by party leaders that I was overqualified for the job - and that a major financial contribution to the party is usually required to be considered for the nomination.

Governmental positions should not be bought. Ever since, I have kept a wide berth of politics, except for serving as a member of my local village planning board.

But enough is enough. Someone has to step up and take on the New York State Senate and its members.

A legislator's job is really not a hard one. All that is required is to show up for work and be responsive to your constituents' wishes. Our senators have done neither. John Kennedy said sometimes party loyalty demands too much. What recently occurred in the state Senate is an example of party loyalty demanding too much and going too far.

Only under communism is the party primary. The basic philosophy of communism as a dictatorship of the proletariat is that the people are too dumb to run the government, so the party elite will run it for them doing what the party believes to be in the best interest of the citizens.

That is not how it is supposed to work in America and certainly not in New York. But that is how the New York Senate operates.

The outrage I am feeling - and that I know so many other New Yorkers share - wasn't just about what the Senate failed to accomplish, but about what they did do: While refusing to do the people's work, they actually found the time to give inordinate raises to their own staffers.

How can we rehire these clowns?

The Senate's conduct is disgraceful and embarrassing, and we the people have tolerated it far too long. If we fail to do more than rearrange the deck chairs this time, we will all share the blame.

All citizens must be part of putting a stop to the nonsense engaged in by the state Senate. We need senators who know how to work and will make decisions based on the merits, not on what the leadership tells them to do. We need senators who have backbone, energy and drive and know how to get things done, not how to prevent things from being done.

Surely there are citizens with these qualities all across our state. No engraved philosophy, and no ideologues wanted. Think through issues on the merits and by compromise, not in terms of absolutes.

It is time for Thomas Jefferson's legislature of citizen representatives to return to government, instead of the professional politicians. New Yorkers who have worked for a living should bring their real world life and business experiences to the Legislature.

Then perhaps the right thing will be done. No guarantees, but what is certain is those who call themselves state senators today do not have these qualities, and no matter what, when they run for re-election the public must vote against them - to send a message that New Yorkers will not stand for their irresponsible and disgraceful behavior. Then the next generation of senators and their leaders will think twice before making the great Empire State the laughingstock of America.

Throw the rascals out.

Salup is an attorney who lives in Roslyn.

Read more:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Mayor-for-Life 'Papa Doc' B

The video above is a beautifully presented piece about the schools under Mayor Bloomberg who has now served nearly two terms. All his ads are expensive, polished productions, free of peeve.

Um, say -- is that school bus in the background at 23 seconds by any chance from Jofaz, which was entangled in that corruption scandal involving city school bus contractors? Just asking.

Either way, likely campaign challenger William C. Thompson Jr. today is going after the potentially creaky premise that Bloomberg (who denounced the idea of extending term limits for himself before doing exactly that) has worked academic miracles. Thompson accuses Schools Chancellor Joel Klein of fudging graduation numbers. Rates were a target four years ago of Bloomberg opponent Fernando Ferrer.

Wayne Barrett, who consistently zigs when others zag, this week concentrates elsewhere -- raising the question of how the billionaire mayor has managed to politically sidestep his administration's biggest scandal, involving the death of two firefighters at the former Deutsche Bank building, where huge and significant irregularities have been discovered in the inspection and handling of a post-9/11 demolition job involving sensitive toxic materials. The full story is here. An excerpt is below the 'continued' click.

Continue reading "Mayor-for-Life 'Papa Doc' B

Friday, July 24, 2009

Barrett: Deal for Mayoral Control Close after Bloomberg Gets the Scalp He Wanted

By Wayne Barrett in Featured, Wayne Barrett
Senate Democrats and negotiators for the mayor have apparently worked out terms to settle the recent deadlock about extending the mayoral school control bill. Sources say the mayor has agreed to an amendment that would provide $1.6 million to the City University to oversee a parent training and exchange program, which was a key change sought by Senate Democratic Conference Chair John Sampson and other senators.

Sampson is now trying to get the full Democratic conference to sign off on the four chapter amendments to the assembly bill, which also include a temporary commission to examine the police protocols used in schools, a new oversight committee to guarantee that school arts funding meets state standards, and a change of rules to permit superintendents to visit schools and oversee principals. Sampson is expected to round up any recalcitrant Democratic senators today.

The protracted battle between Mayor Bloomberg and senate Democrats -- featuring the mayor's comic Neville Chamberlain attempt to liken the Dems to Nazis -- revolved around the original amendment's language, which proposed that the parent funding go to NYU's Metropolitan Center for Urban Education. The Bloomberg negotiators, according to a senate source, threw a fit at the thought of it.

The New York Post, which has turned itself into an echo chamber for Chancellor Joel Klein and the mayor throughout the year-long debate over the school bill, ran a story on July 20 claiming that the Democrats were trying to "shower enemies of mayoral control" with the paltry $1.6 million, and citing "the center's visiting scholar" Deborah Meier as a "thorn in Hizzoner's side." The paper left no doubt who was feeding it, citing "aides to Bloomberg and Klein" who said they were opposed to "having the city subsidize an outfit that includes critics of their education reform."

The problem is that Debbie Meier, a 78-year-old retired New York City teacher and principal who created a widely acclaimed network of East Harlem Schools decades ago, says she's never worked for the Center. Meier, who lives in upstate Hillsdale, is listed on the Center's website as a resident scholar, but she says "that's an honorary position" prompted by the decision of the Center's director, Dr. Pedro Noguera, to allow her "to keep an office there." Meier says she was formerly a part-time visiting scholar at the Steinhardt School of Education, which houses the Center, but that she "wasn't hired by the Center or ever paid by it."

"I would have absolutely nothing to do with the parent grant had the center received it," Meier says. She no longer teaches at the Steinhardt School and is not paid anything by it. Ironically, Michael Steinhardt, the hedge fund billionaire whose donations funded the Steinhardt School, is a close friend of the mayor's for 30 years and was one of the major early supporters of Bloomberg's presidential bid in 2006 and 2007. The Metropolitan Center is so respected it has received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a prime backer of Bloomberg and Klein's education efforts (Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank are also donors to the Center).

"The mayor got his facts wrong," says Meier, who has authored articles questioning Bloomberg's school achievement claims. "But even if he got his facts right, it would have been disgraceful to block the funding for the reasons he said. He needs a little understanding of academic freedom." Meier called the Bloomberg/Klein denial of the funding "blackmail," accusing them of "threatening anyone out there who disagrees with their version of mayoral control." She expressed surprise that Bloomberg would be so open about a policy that essentially said that "any institution" associated with a critic of the policies "has to be punished," even if he got the nature of the association wrong.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dana Rishpy Family Seeks Mormon Help

Israeli Consulate Seeking Good Samaritans in Dana Rishpy, Missing in Tulum Case
Filed under: Cancun Tourism, Dangers' Cancun Casa Blog
Posted by: Dangers @ 12:25 am

The following is a copy of an article from the Salt Lake Tribune seeking to assist in aiding the family of Dana Rishpy, who mysteriously disappeared from the Tulum area two years ago. Anyone with information should contact the Israeli Consulate or the writer of the article, Paul Rolly, at the Salt Lake Tribune.

More information on the Dana Rishpy case can be found on our blog at:

The Salt Lake Tribune

Did You Once Help Woman in Mexico?
By Paul Rolly, Tribune Columnist
07/16/09 Updated

The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles is trying to find a couple believed to be Mormons and living in Utah to learn what they remember of a 24-year-old Israeli woman who disappeared from Playa del Carmen, Mexico, two years ago.

The couple and their three children had stopped in the Cancun area while on a cruise and rented a car to tour Tulum, according to what the consulate has learned. Witnesses say the family found the bikini-clad woman unconscious near a road and took her to a beach-side restaurant to try to revive her.

The police were called and the family returned to the cruise ship. But witnesses in Mexico said the police eventually released the woman to a man who showed up and claimed to be her boyfriend.

The woman’s description fits that of Dana Rishby, who was in the Playa del Carmen area at the time and disappeared. She may have been drugged, according to witness accounts given to a private investigator hired by Dana’s parents, Dror and Dania Rishpy of Haifa, Israel.

Witnesses told the investigator the couple who found the woman indicated they were from the Houston area and they are believed to have been on a Carnival cruise ship docked in the port of Calica on April 5, 2007.

The Rishpys and their investigator believe the family that found and helped their daughter were Mormons. The Rishpys traveled to Houston in April and, with help from the Israeli consulate, filed information with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office there. The Houston Chronicle ran a story April 9 about their ordeal and their quest to find the family.

They still have not learned the names of the family that helped their daughter, but say they have been led to believe the mother and father are now in Utah on a Mormon mission.

The consulate hopes if the story is publicized in Utah, the couple who helped the woman believed to be Dana two years ago will see it and realize they are the people the Rishpys are trying to find.

The Rishpys say they just want to personally thank the couple for helping their daughter. The consulate hopes they might remember something that will help the investigation.

Anyone familiar with this story can contact me at The Tribune and I will get you in contact with the Israeli consulate.
Pedro Espada Thinks a Daily News Reporter Is Out to Get Him
By Azi Paybarah

Here's Daily News reporter Barbara Ross, who wrote about Pedro Espada's unreported campaign activity today, trying to get some answers after a press conference at City Hall today.

Espada calls it "yellow journalism" and "disrespectful" and walks away.

He then chats with New York Post reporter Carl Campanile about mayoral control for a bit. Then he's approached again by Ross.

When she asked why he can't accurately report his campaign finance activity, Espada said, "You don't want me to get it right."

It gets worse.

"You've been assigned to me to write negative story after negative story after negative story. Right? And that's all you do," he said.

"You try to redefine me in the worst possible way. That is your job. Admit to that. Your job is to write bad stories about Pedro Espada every day of the week. That is your job, isn't it, Barbara Ross?"

Azi Paybarah can be reached via email at

In praise of the gadfly

In praise of the gadfly

by: Chris Bilton

July 22, 2009 2:00 PM

When Don Barber shows up to council meetings, politicians are, like, shoo!
Mississauga swats away an annoying activist, but he’s a symbol of local democracy in action

If you’ve never been to a public consultation or a City Hall committee meeting, or even to a town hall–style debate, you might never have had the experience of witnessing a gadfly in action. At these kinds of public forums, there will invariably be one, if not a handful of folks, intent on discussing in intricate detail an issue that they’ve determined to be super-important no matter how little it has to do with the meeting at hand, or how much of everyone’s time they’re about to waste, or even how far from making a useful point they may stray. For an audience member, this kind of disruption is interminably frustrating. And for an elected official trying to save face, it must be sheer torture.

But there is no special constitutional clause ensuring the right to have public meetings run smoothly. And there is no asterisk beside the phrase “public consultation” that indicates that the “public” must be articulate and savvy — or even 100 per cent lucid. Sometimes it’s the gadflies, the obsessives and the borderline nutty who are able to shed light on important yet overlooked issues.

Which is why the news out of Mississauga City Hall that they are ending their tradition of public-question period, largely because of the persistence of one individual, is so troubling. It seems a petty action for any municipal government to undertake. The mayor’s office assures me that they’ve simply diverted public comment to the committee level, where discussion is limited to what’s on the agenda. But Hazel McCallion’s remarks to environmental activist and four-time mayoral candidate Don Barber that he is “ruining the opportunity for people to come before council because you misuse the freedom” tells a far more personal story.

Sure, a scheduled 10-minute opportunity for anyone to come before council and ask a question about anything is something of a rarity — in Toronto, people can do so only during committee meetings. Barber even admits that, in his experience, only a few people used the forum on a regular basis. But as a long-standing tradition of our neighbour to the west, it is — or was — a fine example of the inclusiveness of city politics.

According to Barber, he began to use question period as a forum when all other avenues were closed. Since his efforts in the mid-1990s to save the Cawthra Bush, he says his attempts to deal directly with staff and councillors have been to no avail. “If it wasn’t for that, we would never have been motivated to ask these things in public,” he says.

Asking things in public, however, has proven a troublesome endeavour for Barber. He’s been regularly denounced by the mayor and councillors, and even arrested in council chambers — though he still managed the best-ever showing against McCallion when he ran against her in 2006 with charges still pending. (They were eventually dropped.)

Nobody ever said that criticizing government from the outside is easy, mind you. In New York City, independent newspaper gadfly Rafael Martinez Alequin was stripped of his press credentials in 2007 for belligerent questions concerning race and class, and last year the mayor of Clarington filed a gag order against activist Jim Richards. Earlier this year the Montreal suburb of Pointe Claire tried, but eventually decided against, issuing fines for people who broke the rules during that city’s question period.

But censoring even the most obnoxious commentators — either through subtle procedural changes or overt gag orders — looks worse on a city council than it does on the people they’re trying to ignore. When only 32 per cent of people in the GTA even bother to vote during municipal elections, is it really wise to alienate the few who are interested?

Senate Majority Leader Espada fails to report posh fund-raiser at upscale restaurant Sofrito

Thursday, July 23rd 2009, 4:00 AM


Chef Ricardo Cardona prepares paella at midtown restaurant Sofrito, which hosted a 'free' fund-raiser for Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. (below)

Glitzy midtown restaurant Sofrito offers upscale paella for $1,000 a plate - and free gifts for Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. that he failed to report.

Espada filed campaign finance reports with the state this week that didn't mention the fancy East Side bistro threw him a free fund-raising party in March.

The cost of food and drink is considered an in-kind contribution from the restaurant - but it didn't show up on financial disclosure forms Espada filed Monday.

Blair Horner of the nonpartisan New York Public Interest Research Group said Espada's omission raises a red flag.

"He has to report the value of the in-kind contribution that is whatever the restaurant would normally charge for a political fund-raiser," Horner said.

"There is no defense for this information not being filed. If there is a pattern [of nondisclosure], the attorney general could get involved."

Donors said the Sofrito event was held to raise money and introduce Espada to the real estate community because he was the new chairman of the Senate Housing Committee.

Restaurant manager Evelyn Rivera confirmed the gift, minimizing its value by saying only 25 people attended.

"We had all intentions of charging them but we kind of felt bad charging them," she said, claiming she intended to charge Espada $15 a person for drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

"We supplied the alcohol," she said. "Beer and wine. Well, beer. There were two, three empanadas, just two or three."

One donor who attended estimated there were 150 to 200 people there that night.

"I am frankly somewhat embarrassed that I went," said the donor, who asked to remain anonymous. The donor and a colleague contributed $500 to Espada's campaign.

Another donor recalled leaving a check for at least $200 and was annoyed he never got to meet Espada. His contribution was not reported on Espada's financial disclosure forms, either.

Espada's election lawyer, Daniel Pagano, said not reporting Sofrito's "gift" was "an oversight" and promised an amended filing.

On the forms filed for Espada in Albany, there was only one donation dated March 5 - the day of the Sofrito fund-raiser - and 17 for the whole month of March. Espada reported raising $150,000 from January through June.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Publisher Reports: (Some) Bloggers (May) Get Press Passes

2009_7_presspass.jpg Long-time readers of Gothamist may remember that we've applied for NYPD press passes a couple of times, and have gotten denied. The explanation we were given was that the NYPD only credentials traditional media— radio, print, and television— and that online reportage simply did not qualify. So it was with great interest that we attended today's public discussion of "Rules for City Issued Press Credentials" at New York Law School.

As part of a proposed settlement of a lawsuit brought by Norman Siegel on behalf of three online-journalists that had their applications for press passes denied, the city has agreed to consider revising the press pass rules. As part of that process, Gabriel Taussig of the New York City Law Department and Siegel outlined the proposed new rules for the three dozen journalists, bloggers, and other concerned citizens who showed up, and solicited some feedback. Here is an overview:

  • Restrictions limiting press passes to certain mediums will be removed— in the future, online, offline, on-air, etc. will all be treated equally.
  • To qualify for a press pass, the journalist or journalism organization will need to provide six clips from the last 24 months showing news-gathering activity that would require a press card— that would include live reportage from police and fire scenes, public assemblies, government press conferences, or similar events.
  • The new system will consist entirely of working press cards, reserve cards (issued to freelancers by a news organization), and single-event cards. The other press cards that were issued as a courtesy (but didn't allow the reporter to cross police or fire lines) will be eliminated.
  • If an applicant for a press card is denied, there is a formal process to appeal, in which the city has a set period of time (90 days) to respond to the appeal. Previously, the city had no time limit for response, and applications often fell into a black hole of city bureaucracy.

After their presentation, people in the audience were allowed to ask questions. One of the main criticisms brought up is that it's difficult for a freelancer to assemble six clips without a press card, and without those clips the freelancer can't get a press card, creating a chicken-and-egg situation. Some of the mainstream organizations also wondered whether their managing editors would be allowed to get cards, given that they only report from scenes infrequently, but still need the cards for big emergencies like 9-11 or the Transit Strike. Other reporters were concerned the NYPD doesn't train its officers to respect press passes, and that the reserve press cards (which have no picture) are often impossible to use. And finally, some of the bloggers in the audience worried that the NYPD might reject our clips because they didn't have enough "on-the-scene" reportage, and the definition of that is vague. Does one fact reported from the scene count, or do you have to include an interview with a witness? What about a picture?

While most agreed that revising the rules was a good idea, some of the mainstream reporters worried that hordes of bloggers might block their access to important events. Siegel said that he did not expect it be an issue (he pointed out that even Mayor Bloomberg's press conferences are rarely oversubscribed) but if it did become a problem, the various parties would gather again to determine a solution.

Under the new rules, it seems like Gothamist would qualify for the new credentials. Once the new rules go into effect (a process that will take many months), we'll have each of our full time writers and editors apply, and we'll also ask for a couple of reserve cards for our interns and freelancers. We'll report back once we're approved or denied. It is our hope that with the new rules, the playing field for bloggers and professional journalists will become a little more level, and we'll have access to the same sources and scenes that current mainstream journalists take for granted. Hopefully, as a result, the quality of our reportage will improve, and we'll be able to pick up some of the burden being shed by the dying mainstream media organizations.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Councilmembers Enjoy Your New Home: Jail

Members Enjoy Your New Home: JAIL

Here It Comes . . . Slush-busters Eye A Dozen More Pols *** Mayor Bloomberg says he's 'outraged' over slush fraud Wants tough sentenced to deter others *** The City Council Slush Fund Scandal Is Way Bigger Than Miguel Martinez *** True News ask for an investigation of the City Council on October 10, 2008 A Letter to Garcia: (Michael) Garcia U.S. Attorney The Daily Gotham

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo on radar in slush probe

Friday, July 17th 2009, 4:00 AM

Lombard for News:
Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo.

Hours after Councilman Miguel Martinez admitted being a thief, prosecutors and investigators emphasized their inquiry into City Council slush money was far from over.

Already on their radar screen is Bronx Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo.

Like Martinez, Arroyo funneled hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from the slush fund into a nonprofit controlled by relatives.

The relative was her nephew, Richard Izquierdo, and the nonprofit was the South Bronx Community Corp. Last month Izquierdo was arrested for stealing money from an SBCC affiliate.

The charges included using funds from the nonprofit to pay for flights to Puerto Rico and other warm locales for Arroyo and her mother - and Izquierdo's grandmother - Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo.

Izquierdo also had the nonprofit supply a new floor for the assemblywoman's Bronx office, a criminal complaint said.

Before Martinez's plea, the DOI investigation netted two aides to Brooklyn Councilman Kendall Stewart. Both pleaded guilty last month to stealing $145,000 from a nonprofit Stewart subsidized from the Council slush fund.

Stewart has not been charged and has denied knowing anything about what his aides did with the money.

Friday, July 17, 2009

News Icon Walter Cronkite Dies at 92


NEW YORK (July 17) -- Walter Cronkite, the premier TV anchorman of the networks' golden age who reported a tumultuous time with reassuring authority and came to be called "the most trusted man in America," died Friday. He was 92.
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Evan Agostini, AP
14 photos
Walter Cronkite, whose long tenure at CBS News made him one of the most trusted and authoritative figures of his era, died on Friday at age 92. CBS vice president Linda Mason said Cronkite died after a long illness with his family by his side. He is seen here in 2007.
Cronkite's longtime chief of staff, Marlene Adler, said Cronkite died at 7:42 p.m. at his Manhattan home surrounded by family. She said the cause of death was cerebral vascular disease.
Adler said, "I have to go now" before breaking down into what sounded like a sob. She said she had no further comment.
Cronkite was the face of the "CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981, when stories ranged from the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to racial and anti-war riots, Watergate and the Iranian hostage crisis.
It was Cronkite who read the bulletins coming from Dallas when Kennedy was shot Nov. 22, 1963, interrupting a live CBS-TV broadcast of the soap opera "As the World Turns."
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Defining Walter Cronkite Moments

Kennedy Assassination

1969 Moon Landing

Cronkite was the broadcaster to whom the title "anchorman" was first applied, and he came so identified in that role that eventually his own name became the term for the job in other languages. (Swedish anchors are known as Kronkiters; In Holland, they are Cronkiters.)
"He was a great broadcaster and a gentleman whose experience, honesty, professionalism and style defined the role of anchor and commentator," CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement.
CBS has scheduled a prime-time special, "That's the Way it Was: Remembering Walter Cronkite," for 7 p.m. Sunday.
His 1968 editorial declaring the United States was "mired in stalemate" in Vietnam was seen by some as a turning point in U.S. opinion of the war. He also helped broker the 1977 invitation that took Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, the breakthrough to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.
He followed the 1960s space race with open fascination, anchoring marathon broadcasts of major flights from the first suborbital shot to the first moon landing, exclaiming, "Look at those pictures, wow!" as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon's surface in 1969. In 1998, for CNN, he went back to Cape Canaveral to cover John Glenn's return to space after 36 years.
"It is impossible to imagine CBS News, journalism or indeed America without Walter Cronkite," CBS News president Sean McManus said in a statement. "More than just the best and most trusted anchor in history, he guided America through our crises, tragedies and also our victories and greatest moments."
He had been scheduled to speak last January for the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., but ill health prevented his appearance.
A former wire service reporter and war correspondent, he valued accuracy, objectivity and understated compassion. He expressed liberal views in more recent writings but said he had always aimed to be fair and professional in his judgments on the air.
Off camera, his stamina and admittedly demanding ways brought him the nickname "Old Ironpants." But to viewers, he was "Uncle Walter," with his jowls and grainy baritone, his warm, direct expression and his trim mustache.
When he summed up the news each evening by stating, "And THAT's the way it is," millions agreed. His reputation survived accusations of bias by Richard Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew, and being labeled a "pinko" in the tirades of a fictional icon, Archie Bunker of CBS's "All in the Family."
Two polls pronounced Cronkite the "most trusted man in America": a 1972 "trust index" survey in which he finished No. 1, about 15 points higher than leading politicians, and a 1974 survey in which people chose him as the most trusted television newscaster.
Like fellow Midwesterner Johnny Carson, Cronkite seemed to embody the nation's mainstream. When he broke down as he announced Kennedy's death, removing his glasses and fighting back tears, the times seemed to break down with him.
And when Cronkite took sides, he helped shape the times. After the 1968 Tet offensive, he visited Vietnam and wrote and narrated a "speculative, personal" report advocating negotiations leading to the withdrawal of American troops.
"We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds," he said, and concluded, "We are mired in stalemate."
After the broadcast, President Johnson reportedly said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."
In the fall of 1972, responding to reports in The Washington Post, Cronkite aired a two-part series on Watergate that helped ensure national attention to the then-emerging scandal.
"When the news is bad, Walter hurts," the late CBS president Fred Friendly once said. "When the news embarrasses America, Walter is embarrassed. When the news is humorous, Walter smiles with understanding."
More recently, in a syndicated column, Cronkite defended the liberal record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and criticized the Iraq war and other Bush administration policies.
But when asked by CNN's Larry King if that column was evidence of media bias, Cronkite set forth the distinction between opinion and reporting. "We all have prejudices," he said of his fellow journalists, "but we also understand how to set them aside when we do the job."
Cronkite was the top newsman during the peak era for the networks, when the nightly broadcasts grew to a half-hour and 24-hour cable and the Internet were still well in the future.
As many as 18 million households tuned in to Cronkite's top-rated program each evening. Twice that number watched his final show, on March 6, 1981, compared with fewer than 10 million in 2005 for the departure of Dan Rather, Cronkite's successor.
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A vigorous 64 years old, Cronkite had stepped down with the assurance that other duties awaited him at CBS News, but found little demand there for his services. He hosted the shortlived science magazine series "Walter Cronkite's Universe" and was retained by the network as a consultant, although, as he was known to state wistfully, he was never consulted.
He also sailed his beloved boat, the Wyntje, hosted or narrated specials on public and cable TV, and issued his columns and the best-selling "Walter Cronkite: A Reporter's Life."
For 24 years he served as on-site host for New Year's Day telecasts by the Vienna Philharmonic, ending that cherished tradition only in 2009.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Cronkite was selected to introduce the postponed Emmy awards show. He told the audience that in its coverage of the attack and its aftermath, "television, the great common denominator, has lifted our common vision as never before."
Cronkite joined CBS in 1950, after a decade with United Press, during which he covered World War II and the Nuremberg trials, and a brief stint with a regional radio group.
At CBS he found a respected radio-news organization dipping its toe into TV, and it put him in front of the camera. He was named anchor for CBS's coverage of the 1952 political conventions, the first year the presidential nominations got wide TV coverage. From there, he was assigned to such news-oriented programs as "You Are There" and "Twentieth Century." (He also briefly hosted a morning show, accompanied by a puppet named Charlemagne the Lion.)
On April 16, 1962, he replaced Douglas Edwards as anchor of the network's "Evening News."
"I never asked them why," Cronkite recalled in a 2006 TV portrait. "I was so pleased to get the job, I didn't want to endanger it by suggesting that I didn't know why I had it."

Editorial comment:

Reward for betrayal

There’s no reason why the battle against Mr. Espada has to be fought mano a mano when all of New York can gang up on him.

How do you resolve a political crisis that costs taxpayers millions of dollars and makes New York State the laughingstock of the nation?

Simple. Reward the man whose personal ambition and greed kicked the whole crisis off.

Riverdale’s “own” state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., has managed to make a career out of behaving badly and then extorting personal benefits for returning to a semblance of virtue.

Mr. Espada told New York Magazine that he had “fun” planning the debacle that shut down the state Senate and government for more than a month. Over that time, he, state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and a small handful of others reveled in the attention their unconscionable behavior won them. When the manufactured crisis was over and the undistinguished legislator was faced with the consequences — Yonkers barely saved from the brink of bankruptcy, New York City poorer for a month without authorization to change its own tax laws, who knows how many other municipalities around the state in a similar position and no movement on a lot of good legislation already delayed by decades of reticent Republican management — what did he say?

“We needed this exchange. It happened in public. It happened and it took too long, and I’m sorry.”

Who is this man kidding?

And, more importantly, how does he get away with it, always coming out ahead?

Nobody currently in state government has the will and cunning to stand up to Mr. Espada one on one. But there’s no reason why the battle against Mr. Espada has to be fought mano a mano when all of New York can gang up on him.

People in the 33rd state Senate district, from Riverdale to Mount Hope, should get together now and start grooming alternative candidates from which they can choose a representative to Albany in 2010. While it may be true that the Democratic donkey would make a better representative of the public weal than Mr. Espada, it’s better to be on the safe side and pick a capable person who can make a reasonable case for themselves.

Of course, there’s always the possibility his various ethical lapses will land him in enough trouble that he is either forced to resign or gets thrown out of office. One notable campaign finance law violation led to felony guilty pleas by close aides, while Mr. Espada squeaked by unscathed, except for his reputation. The guilty are now back on Mr. Espada’s payroll.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson is currently investigating Mr. Espada on several fronts, but don’t get your hopes up. As he’s shown in the past, Mr. Espada is gifted in his ability to skate near the edge of illegality without sliding over.

New Yorkers, thankfully, may have a more permanent solution to the Senate crisis on the far horizon. In 2011, after the 2010 census results are in, the state’s legislative districts will be redrawn. It’s an opportunity to end years of the gerrymandering that is chiefly to blame for the decades of upstate Republican control of the state Senate that has led to a starvation diet for the city. A fair count should get New York City the representation it deserves, and put an end — at least for a while — to a divide so close as to allow Mr. Espada to work his magic.

Unfortunately, if the 33rd District doesn’t come together in looking for an alternative to Mr. Espada, he may, as majority leader of the Senate, be able to draw himself a district so stacked with supporters that he will remain a blot on state government for many years to come.

Now there’s an incentive for change.

This is part of the July 16, 2009 online edition of The Riverdale Press.

Senate Legislation Sponsored by Senator Dilan Bans Use of All Portable Electronic Devices While Driving

Legislation Will Protect New York’s Junior Drivers

(Albany, NY)—Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Brooklyn) today praised the passage of Senate legislation that will drastically reduce motor vehicle accidents in part caused by the use of portable electronic devices.

Senate bill, 3619A, bans the use of all portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle in motion. The measure also reduces from two to one, the number of non-family passengers under the age of 21 riding in a vehicle operated by a driver with a learner’s permit.

“This is a long-overdue safety measure for New York. Early on, New York recognized the dangers of talking on a phone when driving. However, texting and burgeoning technologies continue to pose serious, and sometimes fatal, distractions to drivers of all ages,” said Senator Dilan, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Although the legislation in part affects all classes of drivers, it specifically targets the state’s inexperienced drivers. Beyond limiting the number of passengers under 21, the legislation also increases the number of required driving hours an applicant’s parent or guardian must certify in writing from 20 to 50 hours.

The legislation also requires that 15 of those practice driving hours be done after sunset. Both these provisions must be met before junior drivers may take their road test.

Annually, a significant percentage of junior drivers are involved in accidents and are twice as likely as adult drivers to be in a fatal crash. According to a 2008 publication by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), sixteen-year old drivers have crash rates that are nearly three times greater than 17-year old drivers, five times greater than 18-year-old drivers, and approximately twice the rate of 85-year old drivers.

Some of the factors contributing to these higher crash rates include lack of driving experience and inadequate driving skills; excessive driving during night-time; risk-taking behavior; poor driving judgment and decision making; and distractions from teenage passengers.

The legislation also directs the Commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, in consultation with the Superintendent of the State Police, to further study the relation between the use of portable electronic devices and accidents.

“The crash rates among 16, 17 and 18 year-old drivers are too high, and are inextricably linked to inexperience and distraction,” said Senator Dilan. “I hope these measures give parents peace of mind knowing that their junior drivers will be better educated, and better equipped to get from point A to point B, safe and sound.”

The bill has passed both houses and awaits the Governor’s approval.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Liars and bullies: State Senate Democrats become ever more disgraceful


Thursday, July 16th 2009, 4:00 AM

Ah, for the good old days when no one was in charge of New York's Senate. Back then, its 62 members hurt the state only by doing nothing.

Now, power-mad with renewed control, Democratic leaders are actively and wantonly running their house like something out of a banana republic - holding the people's business hostage, playing everything for revenge against political enemies, breaking every promise of reform and proving that, individually and collectively, their word is dirt.

Yesterday was the day when the Senate Democrats were scheduled to come into session - led by President Malcolm Smith, Conference Leader John Sampson and Majority Leader Pedro Espada - to take up critical languishing measures.

Top on the agenda was extending mayoral control of city public schools. There was supposed to be a vote on legislation that mirrors a measure passed by the Assembly and has widespread bipartisan support.

Put it on the floor, as Sampson and Smith committed to do in writing, and it would pass. But Sampson anda handful of others wanted penny-ante additions. So the bosses delayed coming into session and two of their number, Brooklyn's Carl Kruger and Ruben Diaz of the Bronx, announced they were going home.

This is government by extortion. And every member of the Democratic majority is complicit. These include supposedly enlightened senators such as Tom Duane, Daniel Squadron, Jeff Klein, Liz Krueger and Eric Schneiderman, who have timidly given their proxies to the bully boys.

With their tacit support, for example, Sampson and Smith have elevated an accused domestic abuser to a highly paid committee chairmanship under circumstances demanding a full-blown criminal investigation. (See editorial below.)

Top to bottom, they are a disgrace.

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