02/10/2015 archive

Brooklyn DA Gets It Right: Update

Up date: 2/11/2015 15:00 EDT

From the NYT:

A New York City police officer was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on several felony charges, including second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in an East New York housing project.

The officer, Peter Liang, appeared in a suit and tie and stood silently as a prosecutor read the charges against him in the death of the man, Akai Gurley: the top charge of manslaughter as well as criminally negligent homicide and second-degree assault, both felonies, and misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct. [..]

He pleaded not guilty before Justice Daniel Chun of Brooklyn and was released on his own recognizance.

It has been reported that a New York City police officer has been indicted in the shooting a young black man in a Brooklyn housing project stairwell on November 20 of last year. According to three sources close to the grand jury proceeding, rookie Police Officer Peter Liang, 27 will be charged in the death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley inside the darkened stairwell of the Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn. There was no comment from the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. An official statement on the charges is expected Wednesday.

On the night of Nov. 20, Gurley and his girlfriend, 28-year-old Melissa Butler, left Butler’s seventh-floor apartment inside the Louis Pink housing projects. The pair tried to take the elevator but it wasn’t working, so they entered the building’s stairwell.

The building’s superintendent had requested that the New York City Housing Authority fix the lights in the stairwell months earlier, but when Gurley and Butler entered, it was still dark.

Just as they entered stairwell, two first-year police officers — Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau — entered from the eighth floor. The two cops were conducting a “vertical patrol,” in which officers walk the stairs of public housing buildings in order to prevent crime.

According to multiple reports, Liang was carrying his gun in one hand and a flashlight in another, when he opened the door to the stairwell. At that moment, a bullet was fired from Liang’s gun, striking Gurley in the chest. Gurley managed to get down two flights of stairs before collapsing on the fifth floor, where a neighbor called 911 and Butler tried to administer first aid.

Gurley — a father of a 2-year-old daughter, and who had been planning on surprising his mother in Florida for Thanksgiving the following weekend — was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The indictment comes after grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, a borough of New York City, voted not to charge the white police officers who killed two black men, Michael Brown, 18 and Eric Garner, 42, that raised serious questions about the grand jury system, and the relationship of local district attorneys with the police.

This could not have been an easy case for DA Thompson but, it will now be decided in a public trial before a jury if Off. Laing should be held responsible for Mr. Gurley’s death.  

How Big Pharma Markets to Doctors

John Oliver opened the second season of HBO’s “This Week Tonight” with a humorous but sobering segment on how big pharmaceutical companies market their drugs to doctors, spending an estimated $24 billion per year in direct marketing.  In his witty but serious way, he explains that 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug, and spent $329 billion, $1000 per person, on those medications in 2013. John quipped, “Walter White could have made more money cooking up rheumatoid arthritis medication.”

Big Pharma tactics include everything from lunch, to sexy sales reps to expensive dinners with other doctors who pitch the sale as “thought leaders.” The drugs are often pushed for “off label” use, that is, use that the FDA has not approved and most of the reps know very little, if anything, about the drugs that they’re pushing.

Drug companies are like high school boyfriends, they’re more interested in getting inside you than in being effective once they are there.

One a the good things that the Affordable Care Act did is it created a web site, OpenPaymentsData.CMS.gov that which enables average citizens a chance to search for perks given to doctors by pharmaceutical companies.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: Reform After the Ebola Debacle

The World Health Organization’s anemic performance in handling the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa may yield one positive outcome: sweeping, and long overdue, institutional reforms to improve its ability to respond more quickly to the next outbreak of a lethal infectious disease. Scrambling to answer growing criticism, the W.H.O.’s executive board recently endorsed changes to enhance the agency’s rapid response capabilities.

The reforms call for well-trained public health workers to rush to the aid of beleaguered countries and an emergency fund to support their initial operations, among other advances. One big question, which can only be answered in practice, is whether the organization’s 194 member states will set aside their typical politicking on behalf of national self-interests and allow it to function as the global health leader it ought to be.

Robert Reich: Back to the 19th Century

My recent column about the growth of on-demand jobs like Uber making life less predictable and secure for workers unleashed a small barrage of criticism from some who contend that workers get what they’re worth in the market.

A Forbes Magazine contributor, for example, writes that jobs exist only “when both employer and employee are happy with the deal being made.” So if the new jobs are low-paying and irregular, too bad.

Much the same argument was voiced in the late nineteenth century over alleged “freedom of contract.” Any deal between employees and workers was assumed to be fine if both sides voluntarily agreed to it. [..]

So it’s not surprising we’re once again hearing that workers are worth no more than what they can get in the market.

But as we should have learned a century ago, markets don’t exist in nature. They’re created by human beings. The real question is how they’re organized and for whose benefit.

Mark Weisbrot: Environmental Movement Has Held Back the Keystone XL Pipeline, for Good Reason

Ditching the Keystone XL pipeline should be a no-brainer. The 1,179-mile pipeline extension would carry some of the world’s dirtiest oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas. And it shouldn’t be necessary to repeat this, but since we have a Congress controlled by a party that denies the reality of climate change, it is:  97 percent of climate scientists agree that human activity has warmed the Earth. The evidence of climate disruption is all around us, from warming ocean surface and land temperatures, melting Antarctic ice sheets and glaciers, rising sea levels, and increasing heat waves and other changes in extreme weather events. [..]

This is important because it is estimated that if we are to have even a 50 percent chance of avoiding the 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warming that scientists have set as an upper limit, at least two-thirds of the world’s proven reserves of oil must remain unexploited. Keeping this oil in the ground will be one of the great struggles of future years, since oil companies could lose hundreds of billions of dollars of assets, and they are politically powerful.  But the longer any oil stays undeveloped, the less likely it is to be used: exploitation delayed is exploitation denied. And since the oil from Canada’s tar sands brings much higher carbon emissions than the average oil produced today, it is a prime candidate for staying in the ground.

Bill Boyarsky: Playing Politics With Measles-That’s Pretty Sick

Observing the Republican Party tangle itself up in the politics of measles is rare good news for Democrats who feared they were mired in a losing streak after the GOP gained control of Congress.

Some of the Republican presidential hopefuls are so desperate to win votes from the hard right-wingers who will dominate the phony media show known as the 2016 Iowa caucuses that they are pandering to those who believe that children are harmed by vaccinations against measles. The Iowa caucus-goers constitute a thin but influential slice of the electorate that will determine the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. Since Iowa is first and political writers are enamored with the place, the caucuses have a disproportionate influence on debate around the country on issues such as the measles epidemic.

At the heart of this particular debate is the question of whether parents should be required to have their children vaccinated. [..]

For them, It’s a race toward the right, inflaming and politicizing an issue that scientific evidence-and a majority of Americans-say is not an issue at all.

Ralph Nader: Large Foundations: Rethink Your Priorities

The number of large foundations has been consistently increasing. Some of these foundations are bulging with billions of dollars in assets that could be contributed to nonprofit “good works.” It is potentially the golden age of philanthropy, but unfortunately many areas of recognized need are too often ignored by foundation boards and their executives. Organizations with track records of effective advocacy and accomplishment stand ready to take on neglected problems of our society. Unfortunately, these groups lack adequate foundation support.

When foundations do donate to important areas, such as energy policy, they often award grants to the same organizations that are not original, motivating or making necessary waves. Year after year, these bland organizations are seen as the “safe choice” for donors who are timid about new ideas and groundbreaking approaches. Cushy relationships, as has been demonstrated in the energy/environmental field, often amount to an annuity of contributions for lackluster studies and reports from the same old recipients futilely running over the same old ground.

Robert Creamer: Meet IL Governor Bruce Rauner — Poster Boy for War on Middle Class

Last fall, Illinois GOP candidate Bruce Rauner spent $63.9 million — $27.3 million of his own money — to buy the right to occupy the Illinois Governor’s mansion.

Now that he’s in office his first moves have confirmed that he is the poster boy for the War on the Middle Class.

Rauner is a hybrid of the worst traits of Mitt Romney and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. In fact, you could say he personally embodies the reason why — even though our economy has grown 77% in the last 35 years — the wages of ordinary Americans have been stagnant or actually declined. [..]

Rauner’s first major assault on the middle class was an executive order giving state workers who are covered by labor contracts the choice to benefit from those contracts without paying a “fair share” contribution to support the union that negotiates and administers them.

CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Freed

After serving 23 months in federal prison for exposing the Bush administration’s torture program, former CIA analyst John Kiriakou told Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman he would do it again and called for the prosecution of CIA officers who tortured prisoners.

In 2007, Kiriakou became the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the agency’s use of waterboarding. In January 2013, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. Under a plea deal, Kiriakou admitted to a single count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by revealing the identity of a covert officer involved in the torture program to a freelance reporter, who did not publish it. In return, prosecutors dropped charges brought under the Espionage Act. Kiriakou is the only official to be jailed for any reason relating to CIA torture. Supporters say he was unfairly targeted in the Obama administration’s crackdown on government whistleblowers. A father of five, Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and case officer, leading the team that found high-ranking al-Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah in 2002. [..]

In a wide-ranging interview, Kiriakou says, “I would do it all over again,” after seeing the outlawing of torture after he came forward. Kiriakou also responds to the details of the partially released Senate Committee Report on the CIA’s use of torture; argues NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden did a “great national service,” but will not get a fair trial if he returns to the United States; and describes the conditions inside FCI Loretto, the federal prison where he served his sentence and saw prisoners die with “terrifying frequency” from lack of proper medical care.

Transcript can be read here

TBC: Morning Musing 2.10.15

I have a couple articles for your perusal this morning.

First, an interesting take on the reasons behind what Saudi Arabia is currently doing regarding their oil:

Saudi Arabia Sees End Of Oil Age On The Horizon

In 2000, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former oil minister of Saudi Arabia, gave an interview in which he said:

“Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”


On This Day In History February 10

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 10 is the 41st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 324 days remaining until the end of the year (325 in leap years).

On this day in 1937, Roberta Flack is born in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and was raised in Arlington, Virginia.

During her early teens, Flack so excelled at classical piano that Howard University awarded her a full music scholarship. She entered Howard University at the age of 15, making her one of the youngest students ever to enroll there. She eventually changed her major from piano to voice, and became an assistant conductor of the university choir. Her direction of a production of Aida received a standing ovation from the Howard University faculty. Flack is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and was made an honorary member of Tau Beta Sigma by the Eta Delta Chapter at Howard University for her outstanding work in promoting music education.

Flack became the first African-American student teacher at an all-Caucasian school near Chevy Chase, Maryland. She graduated from Howard University at 19 and began graduate studies in music, but the sudden death of her father forced her to take a job teaching music and English for $2800 a year in Farmville, North Carolina.

Flack then taught school for some years in Washington, DC at Browne Junior High and Rabaut Junior High. She also taught private piano lessons out of her home on Euclid St. NW. During this period, her music career began to take shape on evenings and weekends in Washington, D.C. area night spots. At the Tivoli Club, she accompanied opera singers at the piano. During intermissions, she would sing blues, folk, and pop standards in a back room, accompanying herself on the piano. Later, she performed several nights a week at the 1520 Club, again providing her own piano accompaniment. Around this time, her voice teacher, Frederick “Wilkie” Wilkerson, told her that he saw a brighter future for her in pop music than in the classics. She modified her repertoire accordingly and her reputation spread. Subsequently, a Capitol Hill night club called Mr. Henry’s built a performance area especially for her.

When Flack did a benefit concert for the Inner City Ghetto Children’s Library Fund, Les McCann happened to be in the audience. He later said on the liner notes of what would be her first album “First Take” noted below, “Her voice touched, tapped, trapped, and kicked every emotion I’ve ever known. I laughed, cried, and screamed for more…she alone had the voice.” Very quickly, he arranged an audition for her with Atlantic Records, during which she played 42 songs in 3 hours for producer Joel Dorn. In November 1968, she recorded 39 song demos in less than 10 hours. Three months later, Atlantic reportedly recorded Roberta’s debut album, First Take, in a mere 10 hours. Flack later spoke of those studio sessions as a “very naive and beautiful approach…I was comfortable with the music because I had worked on all these songs for all the years I had worked at Mr. Henry’s.”

Flack’s version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” hit number seventy-six on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972.

Flack’s Atlantic recordings did not sell particularly well, until Clint Eastwood chose a song from First Take, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, for the sound track of his directorial debut Play Misty for Me; it became the biggest hit of the year for 1972 – spending six consecutive weeks at #1 and earning Flack a million-selling gold disc. The First Take album also went to #1 and eventually sold 1.9 million copies in the United States. Eastwood, who paid $2,000 for the use of the song in the film, has remained an admirer and friend of Flack’s ever since. It was awarded the Grammy Award for Record Of The Year in 1973. In 1983, she recorded the end music to the Dirty Harry film Sudden Impact at Eastwood’s request.

Flack soon began recording regularly with Donny Hathaway, scoring hits such as the Grammy-winning “Where Is the Love” (1972) and later “The Closer I Get to You” (1978) – both million-selling gold singles. On her own, Flack scored her second #1 hit, “Killing Me Softly with His Song” written for Lori Lieberman in 1973. It was awarded both Record Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female at the 1974 Grammy Awards. Its parent album was Flack’s biggest-selling disc, eventually earning Double Platinum certification.

In 1999, a star with Flack’s name was placed on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. That same year, she gave a concert tour in South Africa, to which the final performance was attended by President Nelson Mandela.

In 2010, she appeared on the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, singing a duet of “Where Is The Love” with Maxwell.

Flack is also a spokesperson for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; her appearance in commercials for the ASPCA featured The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.

The Daily/Nightly Show (What is it good for?)

Hurray.  Well, in a meta sense, we know 3 of the 4 panel members today Michael McKean, Wes Moore, and Kimberly Dozier.  I predict that the question will not be whether the U.S. should be a global bully, but where with all of those tempting targets like Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Nigeria, and Korea just waiting for a little “suck on this.”

We needed to go over there, basically, and take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble…. What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying “Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we’re just going to let it grow? Well, suck on this!” That, Charlie, is what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia! It was part of that bubble. We could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

Who says our elite media is full of genocidal maniacs?

Keeping it 100 Larry?  Suck on this-



What?  Hebrew International House Of Latkas.  This is a Billion dollar franchise opportunity I’m telling you.

This week’s guests-

The Daily Show

I dunno.  Is Thursday something besides Abraham Lincoln’s birthday?  Still no guest.

Patricia Arquette will be on promoting… Boyhood?  That’s getting a little old though Oscar season is right around the corner.  CSI: Cyber is slated to debut March 4th so there is that I suppose (oh, and if you want a hack toolkit let me recommend DEFT, Digital Evidence & Forensics Toolkit, currently in version 8.2.  Your target computer will have to support a DVD though).

Other than that the question is how will Jon handle the Brian Williams scandal.

Jon Stewart’s Brian Williams dilemma: How will “Daily Show” handle a friend becoming a punchline?

by Sophia A. McClennen, Salon

Monday, Feb 9, 2015 08:30 AM EST

Of all TV news icons to fall, though, Williams is in a unique spot. Williams, perhaps more than any other TV news anchor working today, has been particularly visible in popular culture. Williams has consistently attempted to court a younger audience and cultivate a “hip” vibe by making regular appearances on late night comedy. He has been on David Letterman’s show numerous times, he appeared on “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live,” and he has made appearances on Conan O’Brien’s show as well as on “30 Rock.” In each of these cases he has traded his gravitas as a news anchor for laughs and for a chance to reach a wider audience.

But now as we reflect on what the revelations of his exaggerated experiences in Iraq (and possibly elsewhere) mean for his career, it is worth wondering what we can learn about Williams’s special connection to comedy. Certainly in hindsight these stunts reveal a degree of parody and performance that are much less funny in light of his diminished integrity.

One of the best examples of this heightened parody is his repeated appearances on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” A few months after Fallon stepped in as host in 2014, his staff created a mash-up of Williams where he appeared to rap to hip-hop. The show made a few of these mash up videos and they repeatedly went viral. But even funnier- and even weirder in light of recent events – are the “slow jams” Williams did with Fallon, where he read news to music and Fallon sang and made puns. The slow jam with Fallon was funny because it was a parody of Williams as a serious reporter. Now that we know the truth – that Williams was less serious and more egotistical – the slow jams seem more like examples of shameless self-promotion.

It is important to point out, though, that this story is about more than the inflated ego of one nightly news anchor. Instead, the decline of Williams needs to be read as part of the ongoing blurring of entertainment and news. TV news has long been in decline as a trusted source of information to the public. Numerous studies show that network news is decreasing as a source of information for the U.S. public, especially among younger viewers. Williams, who won a Peabody for his reporting on Katrina (reporting that is now also being called into question) may have been one of the most visible TV news journalists, but his presence as a public figure was nothing in comparison to TV anchor predecessors like Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather.

The real news below.