Saturday, June 29, 2013

Outrage after Mayor Bloomberg says whites are stopped and frisked more frequently than minorities


Mayor Bloomberg’s off-the-cuff comments have finally come back to bite him.
Hizzoner declared yesterday that whites are stopped and frisked at a higher rate than minorities based on city crime statistics — giving instant ammunition to his political opponents.
“I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little. It’s exactly the reverse of what they say,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.
Bloomberg argued that black and Hispanic males are stopped disproportionately to the rate they are suspects in crimes — and that his critics base their statistics on the overall population.
Mayor Bloomberg
Tomas E. Gaston
Mayor Bloomberg
But mayoral candidates seized the opportunity to take a shot at the man they hope to replace.
“The mayor’s comments seem to indicate that if you’re black or Latino, you’re automatically a murder suspect in the city of New York,” said Bill Thompson.
“What he indicates to the hundreds of thousands of people who are stopped and frisked unnecessarily in past years is that ‘we’re sorry we didn’t stop more people in the city of New York.’ ”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said he was “outraged.”
“[The mayor] literally said the police aren’t stopping black and Latino people enough — that by the statistics, there should be more stops, particularly of young men,” de Blasio said. “That is unacceptable. It’s out of touch, it’s insensitive, and I dare say it is hurtful to people all over the city.”
Christine Quinn also criticized the mayor.
“I disagree strongly with the mayor on this point. We have too many stops that overwhelmingly focus on young men of color, yielding very few weapons,” she said.
Bloomberg cited NYPD statistics stating that whites make up 7 percent of all murder suspects, but 9 percent of all stops. Meanwhile, 87 percent of those who are stopped and frisked are people of color, though they made up 90 percent of all murder suspects.
“I don’t know where they went to school, but they certainly didn’t take a math course. Or a logic course,” he said of stop-and-frisk critics. “People say, well, you know, cops shouldn’t be stopping so many of any one group . . . The cops’ job is to stop so many of groups fitting the description. It’s society’s job to make sure that no one group is disproportionately represented as potential perpetrators.”
His comments followed the City Council’s passage of two bills on Thursday aimed at curbing the practice. One bill creates an inspector general in charge of monitoring the NYPD, and the other makes it easier to sue the city for racial profiling. They passed with a veto-proof majority, but Bloomberg has said he would pressure council members to vote against overriding.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last month said as many as 75 percent of the suspects in major crimes were described as black, though they make up 53 percent of stops.
“So really, African-Americans are being under-stopped in relation to the percentage of people being described as being the perpetrators of violent crime,” he said on TV’s “Nightline.” The stark reality is that a crime happens in communities of color.”
Additional reporting by Jensen Werley

Supreme Court Frees Americans from Burden of Voting

The Borowitz Report

June 25, 2013
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — By a five-to-four vote, the Supreme Court today acted, in the words of Justice Antonin Scalia, “to relieve millions of Americans from the onerous burden of having to vote.”
Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia stated, “Since 1965, citizens across the nation have lived under the tyranny of being forced to elect people to represent them. This is an important step to free them from that unfair and heinous obligation.”
Justice Scalia added that the Voting Rights Act had “thrust upon the shoulders of millions of Americans the terrible and unwanted burden of exercising their rights in a democracy.”
“Many of them have been forced to drive to polling places, wait in line, and then cast their vote because of the oppressive requirements of this Act,” he wrote. “It is our honor and duty to free them from those hardships.”
In conclusion, Justice Scalia wrote, “Our message today to the American people is simple: we are voting so you won’t have to.”

Scalia Arrested Trying to Burn Down Supreme Court

The Borowitz Report

June 26, 2013

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a shocking end to an illustrious legal career, police arrested Justice Antonin Scalia today as he attempted to set the Supreme Court building ablaze.
Justice Scalia, who had seemed calm and composed during the announcement of two major rulings this morning, was spotted by police minutes later outside the building, carrying a book of matches and a gallon of kerosene.
After police nabbed Justice Scalia and placed him in handcuffs, the Juror appeared “at peace and resigned to his fate,” a police spokesman said.
“He went quietly,” the spokesman said. “He just muttered something like, ‘I don’t want to live in a world like this.’ ”
Back at the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia’s colleagues said they hoped he would get the help he needed, except for Justice Clarence Thomas, who said nothing.
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Photograph by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP.

Friday, June 28, 2013

As Minority Officials Are Caught Up in Scandals, Some See a Conspiracy

For nearly three months, New York’s political world has been consumed by a procession of scandals, and minority communities, already upset over a loss of clout in the state capital, have felt the bulk of the pain.

Hey, MSM: All Journalism is Advocacy Journalism

Glenn Greenwald. ( Photo: Vincent Yu/ AP)
Glenn Greenwald. ( Photo: Vincent Yu/ AP)
By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
27 June 13

o New York Times Dealbook writer Andrew Ross Sorkin has apologized to journalist Glenn Greenwald for saying he'd "almost arrest" him, for his supposed aid and comfort of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. "I veered into hyperbole," was Sorkin's explanation.
I got into trouble the other day on Twitter for asking if David Gregory may have just had a "brain fart" when he asked Greenwald his infamous question, "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you be charged with a crime?" I hadn't seen the show and had only read the quote, and quite frankly, I don't watch a lot of David Gregory. Apparently, in context, even the question I asked is absurd (more on that later). But Sorkin is different. For Sorkin to call his outburst an accident, that I know is hilarious.  
Did he also "veer into" a long career as a shameless, ball-gargling prostitute for Wall Street? As Jeff Cohen eloquently pointed out on HuffPo, isn't Sorkin the guy who's always bragging about how close he is to top bankers and parroting their views on things? This is a man who admitted, in print, that he only went down to Zucotti Park after a bank C.E.O. asked him, "Is this Occupy thing a big deal?"
(Sorkin's reassuring response: "As I wandered around the park, it was clear to me that most bankers probably don't have to worry about being in imminent personal danger . . .")
And when Senator Carl Levin's report about Goldman's "Big Short" and deals like Abacus and Timberwolf came out, it was Sorkin who released a lengthy screed in Dealbook defending Goldman, one I instantly recognized as being nearly indistinguishable from the excuses I'd heard from Goldman's own P.R. people.
But the biggest clue that Sorkin's take on Greenwald was no accident came in the rest of that same Squawk Box appearance (emphasis mine):
I feel like, A, we've screwed this up, even letting him get to Russia. B, clearly the Chinese hate us to even let him out of the country.
I would arrest him . . . and now I would almost arrest Glenn Greenwald, who's the journalist who seems to want to help him get to Ecuador.
We? Wow. That's a scene straight out of Malcolm X. ("What's the matter, boss, we sick?") As a journalist, when you start speaking about political power in the first person plural, it's pretty much glue-factory time.
The irony of all of this is that this whole discussion is taking place in a phony "debate" that's now being cooked up about the legitimacy of advocacy journalism, which is exactly what Sorkin practices when he goes down to Zucotti Park on behalf of a bank CEO or when he talks about how "we" screwed up, letting Snowden out of the country. Preposterously, they've made the debate about Glenn Greenwald, who absolutely does practice advocacy journalism. But to pretend he's the only one is lunacy.
All journalism is advocacy journalism. No matter how it's presented, every report by every reporter advances someone's point of view. The advocacy can be hidden, as it is in the monotone narration of a news anchor for a big network like CBS or NBC (where the biases of advertisers and corporate backers like GE are disguised in a thousand subtle ways), or it can be out in the open, as it proudly is with Greenwald, or graspingly with Sorkin, or institutionally with a company like Fox.
But to pretend there's such a thing as journalism without advocacy is just silly; nobody in this business really takes that concept seriously. "Objectivity" is a fairy tale invented purely for the consumption of the credulous public, sort of like the Santa Claus myth. Obviously, journalists can strive to be balanced and objective, but that's all it is, striving.
Try as hard as you want, a point of view will come forward in your story. Open any newspaper from the Thirties or Forties, check the sports page; the guy who wrote up the box score, did he have a political point of view? He probably didn't think so. But viewed with 70 or 80 years of hindsight, covering a baseball game where blacks weren't allowed to play without mentioning the fact, that's apology and advocacy. Any journalist with half a brain knows that the biases of our time are always buried in our coverage.
Like many others, in my career I decided early on that I'd rather be out in the open about my opinions, and let readers know what my biases are to the extent that I can. I recognize, however, that there's value in the other kind of reporting, where papers like the Times strive to take personal opinions out of the coverage and shoot for a "Just the facts, Ma'am" style. The value there is that people trust that approach, and readers implicitly enter into a contract with the newspaper or TV station that takes it, assuming that the organization will honestly try to show all points of view dispassionately.
Some organizations do a great job of that, but others often violate that contract, and carefully choose which "Just facts" to present and which ones to ignore, so as to put certain political or financial interests in a better light. But that doesn't mean the approach per se is illegitimate. It's just different.
What's frightening now is that we suddenly have talk from people who ought to know better, not only advancing the childish lie that Glenn Greenwald and his ilk are the world's only advocacy journalists, but also that the legitimacy of such journalists is even in question.
Gregory, I later found out, shamelessly went there in his exchange with Greenwald, saying, "Well, the question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate with regards to what you're doing."
But even crazier was a subsequent Washington Post article, also cited by Cohen, entitled "On NSA disclosures, has Glenn Greenwald become something other than a reporter?" The article was unintentionally comic and surrealistic because despite writer Paul Farhi's above-the-fray tone, the mere decision to write such a piece is a classic demonstration of the aforementioned brand of hidden-bias, non-advocacy advocacy.
I mean, why not write exactly the same piece, but ask whether Andrew Ross Sorkin or David Gregory in this scandal has become something other than a reporter? One could make exactly the same argument using the behaviors of those two as the hook. The editorial decision to make it about Glenn was therefore a major piece of advocacy, despite the "agnostic" language employed in the piece (straight-news editors love the term "agnostic" and hilariously often think it applies to them, when in fact they usually confine their doubts to permitted realms of thought).
The Post piece was full of the usual chin-scratching claptrap about whether it's appropriate for journalists to have opinions, noting that "the line between journalism – traditionally, the dispassionate reporting of facts – and outright involvement in the news seems blurrier than ever."
This is crazy – news organizations are always involved in the news. Just ask the citizens of Iraq, who wouldn't have spent the last decade in a war zone had every TV network in America not credulously cheered the White House on when it blundered and bombed its way into Baghdad on bogus WMD claims. Ask Howard Dean, whom I watched being driven literally bonkers by the endless questions posed by "dispassionate" reporters about whether or not he was "too left" or "too strident" to be president, questions they were being spoon-fed in bars along the campaign trail late at night by Democratic Party hacks who resented the fact that Dean went through outside channels (i.e. the Internet) to get campaign funding, and in his speeches was calling out the Dems' pathetic cave-in on the Iraq issue.
Even worse was this quote in the Post piece from a University professor:
Edward Wasserman, dean of the University of California at Berkeley's journalism school, said having a "social commitment" doesn't disqualify anyone from being a journalist. But the public should remain skeptical of reporters who are also advocates. "Do we know if he's pulling his punches or has his fingers on the scale because some information that should he should be reporting doesn't fit [with his cause]?" Wasserman asked in an interview. "If that's the case, he should be castigated."
Wasserman, the piece pointed out, noted that he hadn't seen such cause for alarm in Greenwald's case. But even so, his opinion is astonishing. We should be skeptical of reporters who are advocates, because they might be pulling punches to advance a cause?
Well . . . that's true. But only if we're talking about all reporters, because all reporters are advocates. If we're only talking about people like Glenn Greenwald, who are open about their advocacy, that's a crazy thing to say. People should be skeptical of everything they read. In fact, people should be more skeptical of reporters who claim not to be advocates, because those people are almost always lying, whether they know it or not.
The truly scary thing about all of this is that we're living in an age where some very strange decisions are being made about who deserves rights, and who doesn't. Someone shooting at an American soldier in Afghanistan (or who is even alleged to have done so) isn't really a soldier, and therefore isn't really protected by the Geneva Conventions, and therefore can be whisked away for life to some extralegal detention center. We can kill some Americans by drone attacks without trial because they'd ceased to have rights once they become enemy combatants, a determination made not collectively but by some Star Chamber somewhere.
Some people apparently get the full human-rights coverage; some people on the other end aren't really 100 percent people, so they don't.
That's what makes this new debate about Greenwald and advocacy journalism so insidious. Journalists of all kinds have long enjoyed certain legal protections, and those protections are essential to a functioning free press. The easiest way around those protections is simply to declare some people "not journalists." Ten years ago, I would have thought the idea is crazy, but now any journalist would be nuts not to worry about it. Who are these people to decide who's a journalist and who isn't? Is there anything more obnoxious than a priesthood?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

CIA Agents Were Embedded in the NYPD

NYPD (photo: Getty images)

NYPD (photo: Getty images)

By Charlie Savage, The New York Times
27 June 13
Four Central Intelligence Agency officers were embedded with the New York Police Department in the decade after Sept. 11, 2001, including one official who helped conduct surveillance operations in the United States, according to a newly disclosed C.I.A. inspector general’s report.
That officer believed there were "no limitations" on his activities, the report said, because he was on an unpaid leave of absence, and thus exempt from the prohibition against domestic spying by members of the C.I.A.
Another embedded C.I.A. analyst - who was on its payroll - said he was given "unfiltered" police reports that included information unrelated to foreign intelligence, the C.I.A. report said.
The once-classified review, completed by the C.I.A. inspector general in December 2011, found that the four agency analysts - more than had previously been known - were assigned at various times to "provide direct assistance" to the local police. The report also raised a series of concerns about the relationship between the two organizations.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

About New York

After Decades Among Yankees and Mets, a Shutter Stops Snapping

The stadiums of the Mets and the Yankees are a little quieter after the death of Louis Requena, who spent decades snapping photographs there.

Weiner Gets a Step Ahead of Other Democrats in Poll

The former representative was supported by 25 percent of registered Democrats, while 20 percent supported onetime front-runner Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Subject: Africa News in Brief from Global Information Network


Jun. 25 (GIN) – Amid the torrent of nostalgic news features about South Africa’s first Black president, now ailing in the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, it has become impossible not to hear the anxieties of ordinary South Africans who fear the country’s new leaders will abandon the Mandela promise for economic prosperity derived from a racially equal society.
"Nelson Mandela wanted everyone to be equal. He was about employment, eradicating poverty," said Fuzile Moyake, a 25-year-old, speaking at a vigil at Mandela’s hospital. "But the current government, that's not what they're striving for. They're striving for me, myself and I."
Mandela was unlike other African leaders, several said. “If every other African leader behaved in the manner he behaved, then Africa would have gone very far,” said Wesley Matlala, a 39 year old civil servant in a press interview.
Others say the ANC has given up on many of the values that Mandela stood for.
"I think that corruption and crime (are) the biggest disappointment to Mandela's struggle and what he fought for," said Kavisha Pillay, 21. "They let the dream down."
Even former ANC stalwart, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seemed ready to jump ship, from the ruling African National Congress party to the newly-formed Agang party lead by a businesswoman, struggle veteran and former partner of black consciousness founder Steve Biko. "I welcome Dr (Mamphela) Ramphele's arrival on the political landscape,” he said. “Hers is a voice worth hearing, and I look forward to the contribution she will make towards building the society we know we can become."
National elections are slated for 2014.
Disturbing reports aside of a growing millionaire class leaving behind legions of the nation’s poor, the ANC leadership still finds much to applaud.
"South Africa is a much better place than it was in 1994 and the last five years has pushed that change forward," said Pres. Jacob Zuma, crediting the party's achievements since they began governing, but acknowledging there was still some way to go.
"Dealing with the massive task of rebuilding our country could not happen all at once," he said. "There are still communities we must reach."
All types of crime, with the exception of white-collar crime, had been reduced in the past 19 years, he said. “We also admit that the public service must still perform much better than it is doing now, to speed up services.”
Zuma said the government was looking forward to the official visit of US President Barack Obama on June 28. “This is a significant visit as the US is a major trade, investment, tourism and technology partner for South Africa.”
The US had about 600 companies operating within the South African economy, he said. w/pix of flowers for Madiba
Jun. 26 (GIN) – To the dismay of human rights groups, Nigeria resumed its execution of death row prisoners, hanging four at Benin City Prison. A fifth prisoner survived his execution by a “gallows glitch” but remains at “imminent risk” of death, said Amnesty International.
Chino Obiagwu of the national lawyers’ rights group Lepad said the men were hanged despite pending suits at the appeal court and had been on death row for 16 years. He said two were his clients, convicted of murder, but he did not know the crimes of the other sentenced men.
"Under Nigerian laws, an appeal and application for stay of execution should restrain further action. By executing the prisoners, Nigeria's government has demonstrated a gross disregard to the rule of law and respect for the judicial process," he said.
Obiagwu said a court dismissed his organization's appeal challenging the state’s signing of execution warrants and a motion to stop executions. That was around 3pm.
"They [authorities] had already started preparing for the executions, they turned us away from the prison and by 6.15pm we heard from clients [in the prison] that they had been executed," he said.
He said traumatized inmates called him to describe "terrible sounds" like a drum rolling, shackles scratching and the screams of those condemned begging for mercy.
Capital punishment is rarely used in Africa today. In 2012, only five African countries carried out executions, and 22 imposed death sentences.
Angela Uwandu, head of the Lawyers without Borders Abuja office, decried the killings: “The system we have is completely flawed - from the point of arrest to investigation. A system that cannot guarantee fairness should not result into the death penalty which is too absolute. So we want the federal government to exercise due caution.
“Let due process be adhered to. As long as convictions are based on confessions which are coerced or denied; trials going on for five years or more, where witnesses would have forgotten facts in the case; sometimes we have missing case files; we cannot claim that we have had a fair judgment and a perfect system and life is sacred while death penalty is too absolute. “
Meanwhile, the fifth man, Thankgod Ebhos, may be slated for death by firing squad unless great pressure is immediately brought on the government, Amnesty warned. Tried by a military tribunal, Ebhos was never able to appeal the sentence under laws in force at the time.
More than 1,000 people are reportedly on death row in Nigeria, a country of about 160-million people. w/pix of anti-death penalty activist Emeka Umeagbalasi
Jun. 26 (GIN) – Although the image of a Black president in the United States still thrills many people worldwide, his absence from Africa has eroded some of the good will he once enjoyed.
“Obama should not expect red-carpet treatment from all South Africans, despite the historic affinity between the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements,” observed Afua Hirsch in Ghana, writing for The Guardian newspaper. “Workers, students and Muslim groups are among those determined to give Obama a bumpy landing when he descends on Africa's biggest economy.”
Cosatu, South Africa’s major trade union group with over 2 million members, and the South African Communist Party have called on all workers to join mass protests including a march on the U.S. embassy against "NObama."
Academics and students say they will boycott the University of Johannesburg's award of an honorary law doctorate to Obama. The Muslim Lawyers' Association has called for the president to be arrested as a war criminal.
Bongani Masuku, speaking for Cosatu, said: "Obama is perpetuating American foreign policy. The US is an empire run on behalf of multinational companies and the ruling class of America. US foreign policy is militarizing international relations to sponsor and make their own weapons."
"I'm not disappointed because I didn't expect anything,” he said. “It's not about the individual; it's not about the race he came from. It's about the class he represents. It's like he's the gatekeeper for white monopoly capital. He promised things we knew he wouldn't be able to do."
"Cosatu joins the millions of people and workers the world over, particularly on the African continent and in South Africa, who are outraged at the horrifying record of US foreign policy in the world. We are particularly disappointed by the Obama administration's record in continuing the appalling US foreign policy performance," the group wrote on its website.
Obama's three-nation tour, starting in Senegal, is only his second to sub-Saharan Africa as president, and his first solely to the continent, after a fleeting visit to Ghana in 2009. Obama spokesman Ben Rhodes admitted that Africa had been "under-represented" in Obama's travel to date and said trade and investment would top the agenda.
Michele Obama, however, is highly regarded especially for her sharp sense of fashion including the use of African fabric. "I know women who have been copying her dresses – one dress in particular that she wore is very much in demand," said Sophie Ly Sow, a Dakar resident. The first lady will have tea with her Senegalese counterpart, and then visit the Martin Luther King school in Dakar.
Both he and Michelle will go to Gorée island, tour the House of Slaves museum and meet civil society leaders. That night, they will attend a dinner hosted by Senegal President Macky Sall. w/pix of anti-Obama flyer
Jun. 26 (GIN) – Two Kenyan authors are among 30 shortlisted for the new Kwani Manuscript Prize of 2013. The prize celebrates unpublished fiction from African writers and this year considered 280 qualifying submissions from Africans worldwide of which 30 made the next-to-last cut.
Stanley Gazemba and Timothy Kiprop Kimutai were tapped for their manuscripts Ghetto Boy and The Water Spirits. Other short-listed candidates are Ayobami Adebayo (Nigeria), Ayesha Harruma (Ghana/US), Toni Kan (Nigeria), Jennifer Nansubuga (Uganda/UK) and Saah Milimono (Liberia).
The top three manuscripts will be announced on July 1 and will be awarded $6,000.
Kwani Trust plans to publish three to five of the shortlisted manuscripts by April 2014.
“In reviewing the shortlisted stories, I’m blown away by the potential these manuscripts hold, the different styles, concerns and voices that they bring to new contemporary African literature, and further add to Kwani’s fiction list," enthused Kwani Trust managing editor Billy Kahora.
"We can’t wait to bring them out as novels in the region and partner with publishing houses across the continent to make them available across Africa."
Judges include Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (Granta magazine), Prof Simon Gikandi (US-based Kenyan scholar), Dr Mbugua wa Mungai (Kenyatta University, Kenya), Irene Staunton (Zimbabwe Weaver Press) and Helon Habila (Nigerian writer).
In a separate development, an appeal is being prepared for Tunisian rapper Ala Yaacoub, better known by his rap name Weld El 15. He was convicted June 13 following a trial in March.
Yaacoub was given a two-year jail term for his song "The Police are Dogs”, a video of which was posted on YouTube.
In the video the singer is heard saying: “Police, magistrates, I’m here to tell you one thing, you dogs; I’ll kill police instead of sheep; Give me a gun I’ll shoot them.”
The severity of the verdict angered his fans who attended the trial. In clashes that broke out afterwards some of them, as well as several journalists, were badly beaten by the police.
The court ruling was also strongly criticised by Tunisia’s political opposition and by human rights groups as an attack on freedom of speech. w/pix of S. Gazemba

Lisa Vives
Executive Director
Global Information Network
220 Fifth Ave.  8th floor
New York, NY  10001
212-244-3123 (voice)

Mayor Bloomberg defends NYPD's controversial English-only policy

Responding to a Daily News story about an officer reprimanded for speaking a single Spanish sentence to a colleague, Bloomberg said the ban on other languages is a 'life and death' issue.
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Mayor Bloomberg said all officers need to be able to understand the same commands instantly "when lives are on the line." Critics say the wide-reaching policy should not extend to everyday conversation between officers, however.

Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News

Mayor Bloomberg said all officers need to be able to understand the same commands instantly "when lives are on the line." Critics say the wide-reaching policy should not extend to everyday conversation between officers, however.

Calling it a “life and death” issue, Mayor Bloomberg on Monday defended the NYPD’s English-only policy as crucial to running the largest and most diverse police force in the nation.
“I don’t see how you can ever run any company or any organization unless everybody speaks the same language,” said Bloomberg, who routinely ends his news conferences in Spanish.
Hizzoner was responding to a Daily News story Monday that exposed the controversial policy so strict that one cop was cited for uttering one sentence in Spanish.
“In America, in New York, I think it’s fair to say that a majority of people speak English and so that’s the language that we have to communicate in,” Bloomberg said.
“This is life and death . . . Everybody has to be able to understand the same commands instantly and go in the direction they’re ordered to go when lives are on the line.”
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who frequently boasts about the diversity in the police department, said he’s “proud” that more than a quarter of NYPD officers are Hispanic.
But that doesn’t mean they should should go around speaking Spanish, he said.
“Suppose you are a citizen and you walk into a police station and you find the police officers speaking Gaelic,” said Kelly. “It would be somewhat unsettling, right?”
But critics say Kelly and Bloomberg are missing the point.
“We’re talking about conversations between officers. Not emergencies,” said Anthony Miranda, chairman of the National Latino Officers Association.
Miranda is a former NYPD sergeant who retired in 2002.
The News report Monday highlighted Officer Jessenia Guzman, who was issued an order of reprimand last month for speaking Spanish while on duty at an upper West Side precinct.
Department brass have also begun informing management trainees in the Police Academy to begin enforcing the strict policy across the agency.
“I find being told that I can’t speak the language my grandmother taught me degrading,” said one officer of Puerto Rican descent.
The crackdown on speaking other languages comes as the NYPD seeks to attract immigrants and minorities, particularly since Kelly took over in 2002.
In the past several years, non-English speakers have accounted for one in five Police Academy recruits, according to the NYPD.
After English, the second most-common language is Spanish.
Other languages include Farsi, Finnish and Igbo, which is spoken in Nigeria.
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The Other James Gandolfini

The 'Sopranos' star James Gandolfini was also an advocate for wounded vets. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)
The 'Sopranos' star James Gandolfini was also an advocate for wounded vets. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)

By Democracy Now!
22 June 13
ames Gandolfini, the celebrated actor best known for his role as mob boss Tony Soprano on the hit TV series, "The Sopranos," died Wednesday at the age of 51. While coverage of his death has focused mainly on his acting career, little has been mentioned about the more political side of his work. In New York City, he was a beloved figure not only because of his acting on the stage and screen, but also because of his major support for community media and producing documentaries critical of war. In 2010, he produced the HBO film "Wartorn: 1861-2010" about post-traumatic stress disorder from the Civil War to Iraq and Afghanistan. He also conducted a series of in-depth interviews with U.S. soldiers wounded in the Iraq War for a 2007 HBO film, "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq." We speak to the films’ co-directors, Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We end today's show with a look at a lesser-known side of a well-known actor James Gandolfini. Celebrated for his role as mob boss Tony Soprano on the hit TV series, "The Sopranos," he died Wednesday the age of 51. He was vacationing with his family in Italy when he died of a possible heart attack. The coverage of his death has focused mainly on his portrayal as Tony Soprano, a role that earned him three Emmys. He's also been recognized for his roles in films including, Get Shorty, Killing them Softly, and Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In a statement, Sopranos creator, David Chase, called James Gandolfini "One of the greatest actors of this or any time."
AMY GOODMAN: But, the news coverage has mentioned little about the more political side of James Gandolfini's work. In New York City he was a beloved figure not only because of his acting on the stage and screen, but also because of his major support for community media. And while his fictional roles have received wide acclaim, he has received less attention for his leading roles in two documentaries about the ravages of war on U.S. soldiers. In 2010 he produced the HBO film, "Wartorn: 1861-2010" about post-traumatic stress disorder from the Civil War to Iraq and Afghanistan. He also conducted a series of in-depth interviews with U.S. soldiers wounded in the Iraq war for 2007 HBO film called, "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq." the film centers on the idea that the soldiers remember two key dates in their lives - their birthday and they're alive day, the day when they narrowly escaped a violent death. This is the trailer for the film.
JAMES GANDOLFINI: Mike, I'm right in front of you, it's Jim Gandolfini.
SOLDIER: Hi, how you doing, Sir?
JAMES GANDOLFINI: How are you? It's good to see you again.
SOLDIER: Great. How you doing?
JAMES GANDOLFINI: Why did you join the Army?
SOLDIER: I wanted to go and protect the nation and defend it protect it and punish those who seek to destroy it.
JAMES GANDOLFINI: Everyone I've talked to know the exact date when they've been hit.
SOLDIER: It was one of those nights in the desert. I will never forget it.
SOLDIER: I had my left hand on the steering wheel. I was smoking and then the bomb went off.
SOLDIER: All I heard was screaming and everything went black.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the trailer for the HBO film, "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq." produced by James Gandolfini. For more we're joined here in New York by the film's co-directors, Jon Alpert and Matt O'Neill. They also co-directed, "Wartorn: 1861-2010." They work together at New York's Downtown Community Television, a community media center based in Chinatown where we also worked until we moved to our new studios. It's where James Gandolfini was a board member. Jon Alpert is the founder and Executive Director of DCTV. This year Jon and Matt were nominated for an Oscar for their short film "Redemption," about bottle and can collectors in New York City. Their other honors over the years include four Emmys for the 2006 film "Baghdad ER." We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! Jon, talk about James Gandolfini. He was a friend of yours, and was a board member of DCTV and he did your films.
JON ALPERT: He was a friend to many people. I think if you could just sort of crystallize him, he sort of believed in nobody left behind. He did not leave his high school friends behind or his college friends behind he didn't leave the soldiers behind. He did not leave people with learning disabilities - didn't leave them behind, didn't leave me behind. Any time he came to town, the phone would ring. Democracy Now! and DCTV used to be neighbors. We're, what 20 blocks away, and we consider each other friends, but we don't call each other up. We work, we're in our own little world. Jim's world was really big. He made sure that he never forgot anybody. When you were his friend, you were always his friend.
JUAN GONZALEZ: How did he get involved with DCTV to begin with? Because, obviously, it's a - the commercial acting world is somewhat removed from documentaries and community media.
JON ALPERT: Through working on the documentaries, we all showed a respect for the soldiers, horror at the cost of the wars. He worked really hard on those documentaries. The interesting thing about documentaries, in their essence, they show war in all its terror. They are antiwar films. The army has embraced these films and shows him to every single soldier that comes into the army. It was a really constructive series of documentaries. He came to DCTV - he especially liked our high school kids. He bought them all cameras this Christmas so they could tell their stories. We didn't have money for cameras. Jim bought the cameras.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to one of Jim Gandolfini's interviews with "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq." He's speaking with First Lieutenant Dawn Halfaker, who lost an arm in Iraq.
FIRST LT. DAWN HALFAKER: When I came back, a lot of people would ask me, well, what do - how do you feel about this? Do you ever think you'll get married? Do you ever think you'll have a boyfriend? Do you ever think you'll have kids? I did not know the answers to all those questions, but as I go through life, I am learning that it has nothing to do with whether or not I'm amputee. Do I wonder if I ever my kid, if I ever have a kid, do I wonder if they'll love me for who I am? I hope so.
JAMES GANDOLFINI: What were you just thinking about?
FIRST LT. DAWN HALFAKER: The reality of, will I be able to raise a kid? I won't be able to pick up my son or daughter with two arms. I won't. But, I just, I hope they still love me, and I hope I will still be a good parent. What can you do?
JAMES GANDOLFINI: Well, if it matters, I think you're going to be a wonderful parent.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Jim Gandolfini speaking with First Lt. Dawn Halfaker. Matt O'Neill.
MATTHEW O'NEILL: I think when you see that when he asks Dawn, Dawn, what are you thinking, after that long pause, I think is an example of why he connected to people. He listened so carefully to what the soldiers were saying. He paid attention to what we were talking about, about documentaries or about friendship. And he treated everyone with respect and warmth. I think, when you said the political side of Jim, I was thinking about these interviews, and it was not political in the traditional sense of the word, but he wanted people to hear the stories that he heard. He was inspired by what they said. He was inspired by the fact that he had never heard the stories before. He did USO tours and came back saying, why is nobody talking about these soldiers lives? How can I help tell these stories. You see in that film, in that clip there, about all you ever see of him in the film is the back of his head, because he wanted the cameras focused and the spotlight focused on other people.
JUAN GONZALEZ: That's one of the things I wanted to raise; how little he felt the need to be seen in the films or even to raise long questions of the film.
MATTHEW O'NEILL: It was always about them. I remember when we were doing press for the film out in Los Angeles and the press would be saying, JIm, Jim, or, James, James, Mr. Gandolfini! And he would always grab one of the soldiers and say, don't talk to me, talk to them, it's about them, it's not about me. I got nothing to say. He lent his energy and his warmth and his compassion to these stories that were not being heard. It was a real gift everyone.
AMY GOODMAN: Let's go to a clip from the HBO documentary, "Wartorn: 1861-2010" of James Gandolfini interviewing two members of the Louisiana National Guard at Camps Slayer in Iraq. The soldiers are Sergeant John Wesley Mathews and Sergeant First Class Jonathan Deshotels.
SGT. JOHN WESLEY MATHEWS: It's hard to be taught to do what we do. It's combat arms, and then they expect you to just turn it off. That is a hard thing about being in the guard, is that you go back and they expect you to just to just get back in society.
SGT FIRST CLASS JONATHAN DESHOTELS: Family, friends, whoever else.
SGT. JOHN WESLEY MATHEWS: ...and the Army. In early April of 2006 is really when I hit rock bottom. I actually contemplated suicide for a while. It had really got to the point where I did not know what it was. Mentally I did not know where I was. I was lost. I really felt like I was feeling my way with my hands in the dark.
SGT FIRST CLASS JONATHAN DESHOTELS: It's like you just can't get straight. You just can't get yourself right. And no matter what you do -
JAMES GANDOLFINI: You mean, talking to other people, talking to each other, there's nothing that helps?
SGT FIRST CLASS JONATHAN DESHOTELS: You just can't figure yourself out.
SGT. JOHN WESLEY MATHEWS: It will tear you apart. It will tear your life apart. And many a soldier has met an end at his own hand or at a bottle because they didn't know to do.
AMY GOODMAN: The documentary "Wartorn." The voice in the distance was Jim Gandolfini.
JON ALPERT: But, it wasn't distant from people because everybody thought that they knew him. He was sitting in your living room every Sunday night, and he was part of your family. He spent more time with you than your cousins. It was instant recognition. So, people were ready to talk and share intimate things with him and that was an extraordinary gift that he brought to these documentaries.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And his involvement with Downtown Community Television? As a board member, was he frequently in The Firehouse?
MATTHEW O'NEILL: He came by The Firehouse whenever he was in town. He continued to work in documentary's. He stayed involved in our lives the same way he stayed involved in the soldiers' lives. We've had so many of the people from "Wartorn" and from "Alive Day Memories" reach out to us as they mourn. He gave these men and women his cellphone number. He was a super big movie star and they stayed in touch with him for years because he lent that intimate connection and kept up with it.
AMY GOODMAN: Last comment, Jon Alpert?
JON ALPERT: We're in the middle of a documentary that he was producing about people with learning disabilities. It's another cause that he felt very strongly about, again, nobody left behind. The kids who were pushed into the back of the classroom, he felt that wasn't right. He knew that if they had the right educational opportunity they could blossom, and he wanted everybody in the country to think about that. I would also like the Democracy Now! community not only to think about Jim, but also another documentary filmmaker, Saul Landau. He's a friend of ours, and we need to send him our best wishes. He is a really good guy.
AMY GOODMAN: That's right, all the best to Saul. You can go to our website,, to see our interviews with Saul Landau who is battling cancer right now. I want to thank you both for being with us and all of the work that you do. Jon Alpert and Matt O'Neill who co directed, "Wartorn: 1861-2010" and "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq." They were were both produced by James Gandolfini. That does it for our show. A very fond farewell to our video production fellow Nemo Allen. We thank you, Nemo, for your persistence, for your dedication and wish you the very best in your journey to Colombia and beyond. You will always be with us.

A New Fascism on the Rise

Pilger: 'In the new American cyber-power, only the revolving doors have changed.' (photo: unknown)
Pilger: 'In the new American cyber-power, only the revolving doors have changed.' (photo: unknown)

By John Pilger, AlterNet
24 June 13
The power of truth-tellers like Edward Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate cinema, the corporate academy and the corporate media.

n his book, Propaganda, published in 1928, Edward Bernays wrote: "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."
The American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays invented the term "public relations" as a euphemism for state propaganda. He warned that an enduring threat to the invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.
In 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked US government files known as The Pentagon Papers, revealing that the invasion of Vietnam was based on systematic lying. Four years later, Frank Church conducted sensational hearings in the US Senate: one of the last flickers of American democracy. These laid bare the full extent of the invisible government: the domestic spying and subversion and warmongering by intelligence and "security" agencies and the backing they received from big business and the media, both conservative and liberal.
Speaking about the National Security Agency (NSA), Senator Church said: "I know that the capacity that there is to make tyranny in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law ... so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
On 11 June, following the revelations in the Guardian by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg wrote that the US had now "that abyss".
Snowden's revelation that Washington has used Google, Facebook, Apple and other giants of consumer technology to spy on almost everyone, is further evidence of modern form of fascism - that is the "abyss". Having nurtured old-fashioned fascists around the world - from Latin America to Africa and Indonesia - the genie has risen at home. Understanding this is as important as understanding the criminal abuse of technology.
Fred Branfman, who exposed the "secret" destruction of tiny Laos by the US Air Force in the 1960s and 70s, provides an answer to those who still wonder how a liberal African-American president, a professor of constitutional law, can command such lawlessness. "Under Mr. Obama," he wrote for AlterNet, "no president has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police state." Why? Because Obama, like George W Bush, understands that his role is not to indulge those who voted for him but to expand "the most powerful institution in the history of the world, one that has killed, wounded or made homeless well over 20 million human beings, mostly civilians, since 1962."
In the new American cyber-power, only the revolving doors have changed. The director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, was adviser to Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration who lied that Saddam Hussein could attack the US with nuclear weapons. Cohen and Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt - they met in the ruins of Iraq - have co-authored a book, The New Digital Age, endorsed as visionary by the former CIA director Michael Hayden and the war criminals Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair. The authors make no mention of the Prism spying program, revealed by Edward Snowden, that provides the NSA access to all of us who use Google.
Control and dominance are the two words that make sense of this. These are exercised by political, economic and military designs, of which mass surveillance is an essential part, but also by insinuating propaganda in the public consciousness. This was Edward Bernays's point. His two most successful PR campaigns were convincing Americans they should go to war in 1917 and persuading women to smoke in public; cigarettes were "torches of freedom" that would hasten women's liberation.
It is in popular culture that the fraudulent "ideal" of America as morally superior, a "leader of the free world", has been most effective. Yet, even during Hollywood's most jingoistic periods there were exceptional films, like those of the exile Stanley Kubrick, and adventurous European films would have US distributors. These days, there is no Kubrick, no Strangelove, and the US market is almost closed to foreign films.
When I showed my own film, The War on Democracy, to a major, liberally-minded US distributor, I was handed a laundry list of changes required, to "ensure the movie is acceptable". His memorable sop to me was: "OK, maybe we could drop in Sean Penn as narrator. Would that satisfy you?" Lately, Katherine Bigelow's torture-apologizing Zero Dark Thirtyand Alex Gibney's We Steal Secrets, a cinematic hatchet job on Julian Assange, were made with generous backing by Universal Studios, whose parent company until recently was General Electric. GE manufactures weapons, components for fighter aircraft and advance surveillance technology. The company also has lucrative interests in "liberated" Iraq.
The power of truth-tellers like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate cinema, the corporate academy and the corporate media. WikiLeaks is especially dangerous because it provides truth-tellers with a means to get the truth out. This was achieved by Collateral Damage, the cockpit video of an US Apache helicopter allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning. The impact of this one video marked Manning and Assange for state vengeance. Here were US airmen murdering journalists and maiming children in a Baghdad street, clearly enjoying it, and describing their atrocity as "nice". Yet, in one vital sense, they did not get away with it; we are witnesses now, and the rest is up to us.

Monday, June 24, 2013

NYPD officer reprimanded for briefly speaking Spanish under little-known department rule

Police Officer Jessenia Guzman said she was written up after speaking a single Spanish sentence. The NYPD has defended the policy. Comments (31)
Updated: Monday, June 24, 2013, 2:00 AM

Officer Jessenia Guzman said the person who spoke to her in Spanish was not reprimanded. Guzman has filed two federal equal employment opportunity complaints against the lieutenant who cited her.

Barry Williams for New York Daily News

Officer Jessenia Guzman said the person who spoke to her in Spanish was not reprimanded. Guzman has filed two federal equal employment opportunity complaints against the lieutenant who cited her.

NOTE TO COPS: No se habla español aqui!
An NYPD officer was issued a “memo of reprimand” after she was caught speaking Spanish while on duty — a violation of an English-only workplace rule for city cops, the Daily News has learned.
Police Officer Jessenia Guzman, a Bronx native with a bloodline to the Dominican Republic, says she was written up on May 14 for uttering a single sentence in Spanish. Guzman, 40, was working the switchboard at the 24th Precinct stationhouse on the upper West Side when she ran afoul of the little-known rule.
“It was just natural,” Guzman said, recalling the brief interaction with a colleague. “She walked by. She was going to get coffee. She said something. I responded (in Spanish). That was it.”
It seemed so inconsequential that she said she doesn’t even remember what the brief exchange was about.
Hours later, Guzman was called into a supervisor’s office and given the reprimand. It said she was “required to communicate department business in the language of English,” according to a copy obtained by The News.
“This policy is in place to allow proper supervision of personnel,” the memo signed by Lt. Richard Khalaf read.
The NYPD — which routinely touts the diversity of its force — defended the policy on Sunday.
“We’re a 24/7 operation,” said Inspector Kim Royster, an NYPD spokeswoman. “We should be speaking one voice, which is English.”
One in three NYPD officers is Hispanic. Police officials say there’s been a surge in foreign-born recruits in recent years, with one in five coming from countries outside the United States. More than 50 languages are spoken by NYPD employees.
The English-only reprimand will remain in Guzman’s personnel file for the remainder of her NYPD career. She’s been on the force 13 years.
National Latino Officers Association Director Anthony Miranda is concerned the policy could be used to unfairly target members of minority groups.

James Keivom/New York Daily News

National Latino Officers Association Director Anthony Miranda is concerned the policy could be used to unfairly target members of minority groups.

Members of the department have to “speak English while they are conducting business for the department unless speaking a foreign language is a necessary component to performing their duties and responsibilities,” according to a 2009 NYPD internal newsletter obtained by The News.
The restriction also doesn’t extend to breaks, personal calls or other “common-sense type situations such as a cursory greeting to a co-worker.”
Although the policy is at least four years old, the NYPD appears to have only recently begun enforcing it.
Several Police Academy executive training classes — required for officers advancing to high-ranking management positions — were told about the policy last month and instructed to begin enforcing it, a law enforcement source said.
“It used to be a joke, when white supervisors went around and said, ‘Hey, speak English,’ ” said Anthony Miranda, chairman of the National Latino Officers Association and a retired NYPD officer. “Now they’ve made it a rule.”
He’s particularly concerned that the policy will allow supervisors to unfairly target minority-group officers they don’t like.
In Officer Guzman’s case, she was written up for speaking Spanish, while the woman who spoke to her — also in Spanish — was not. Guzman has filed two federal equal employment opportunity complaints against the lieutenant who cited her for speaking Spanish.
The commanding officer of the 30th Precinct in Harlem has made it clear that cops must speak English on the job, said Linda Cronin, general counsel for the National Latino Officers Association.
“No speaking Spanish,” the precinct supervisor ordered at roll call, according to Cronin.
One of her clients — a Harlem cop who does not want to be identified — has been repeatedly threatened with disciplinary action for speaking Spanish. That officer uses Spanish only “reflexively” after spending a day in the field interacting with the community, Cronin said.
“When it’s good for the department, they can speak Spanish,” the lawyer said. “When it’s not convenient, you’ll be disciplined.”
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Sunday, June 23, 2013

U.S. Seemingly Unaware of Irony in Accusing Snowden of Spying

Surveillance cameras are only one part of the growing collection of surveillance technology being implemented in the US. (photo: Kodda/
Surveillance cameras are only one part of the growing collection of surveillance technology being implemented in the US. (photo: Kodda/

The Borowitz Report

June 22, 2013

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The United States government charged former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden with spying on Friday, apparently unaware that in doing so it had created a situation dripping with irony.
At a press conference to discuss the accusations, an N.S.A. spokesman surprised observers by announcing the spying charges against Mr. Snowden with a totally straight face.
“These charges send a clear message,” the spokesman said. “In the United States, you can’t spy on people.”
Seemingly not kidding, the spokesman went on to discuss another charge against Mr. Snowden—the theft of government documents: “The American people have the right to assume that their private documents will remain private and won’t be collected by someone in the government for his own purposes.”
“Only by bringing Mr. Snowden to justice can we safeguard the most precious of American rights: privacy,” added the spokesman, apparently serious.
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Photograph by Kin Cheung/AP