Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Puerto Rican Classroom

"Puerto Rico struggling to maintain its schools amid cutbacks, exodus" by Danica Coto Associated Press  May 17, 2015

SAN JUAN — Francisco Oller Elementary School once bustled with children, but now birds nest in classrooms strewn with leaves and with glass from shattered fluorescent lights. Long-discarded homework assignments paper the ground. Graffiti covers the walls.

The school, in a city just outside San Juan, is among more than 150 closed since 2010 as a worsening economic crisis in Puerto Rico has prompted hundreds of thousands of people to move to the US mainland over the past decade.

Driven by a combination of budget cuts and declining enrollment, the loss of so many schools is having a profound impact on communities in the US territory, forcing many children to travel to new campuses and creating a blight in places already hard-hit by recession.

The government says the situation could get much worse. It warned recently that by early next year it may run out of money to pay its bills, and over the next five years it may have to close nearly 600 of the 1,387 remaining schools across the island to save $249 million a year. At one time there were 1,460 public schools in Puerto Rico.

The trend ‘‘speaks volumes about how we’re losing population, about how we’re not being efficient in building the island’s future, about how we’re losing opportunities to create citizens,’’ said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. ‘‘I’m extremely concerned this will increase the hopelessness and mistrust that the island has in itself, and lead people to think that the only option to succeed and support their families is to leave the island.’’

Puerto Rico has seen school enrollment drop 42 percent in the past three decades, and an additional 22 percent drop is expected over the next five years, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, which signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the government to help restructure the island’s education system.

Much of the drop is the result of parents moving to the mainland in search of opportunities, including many teachers from the island being recruited for their bilingual skills.

Among the tens of thousands of people who left last year was 27-year-old Devis Gonzalez, who moved his family to Orlando after finding a job as a truck driver.

‘‘The reason was plain and simple: work,’’ he said. ‘‘Like everyone else, we were looking for a better quality of life.’’

His young son attended a school in a rural area of Puerto Rico’s central mountain range that teachers say is among dozens expected to close permanently this summer, raising concerns that some children might have to travel a half-hour by bus to the nearest school.

Many, including Senator Mari Tere Gonzalez, president of the Senate’s education commission, criticize the government’s handling of the closures.

She said officials did not take transportation logistics and special-education needs into account. The Boston Consulting Group noted that 30 percent of Puerto Rico students receive specialized education, twice the average on the US mainland.

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Sunday Globe Special: Pakistani SWAT Team

The war has been won:

"In Pakistan’s Swat Valley, focus back on normal living; With Taliban ousted, residents are more secure" by Tim Craig Washington Post   May 17, 2015

MINGORA, Pakistan — Here in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, known for gorgeous sunsets and the calming sound of cresting river rapids, there has been plenty of misery over the past decade.

First, Pakistani Taliban militants swept into this conservative part of northwest Pakistan, killing more than 2,000 people.

Then Pakistan’s army showed up to battle the Taliban, forcing 1.5 million residents to flee their homes. And even after soldiers regained control and residents returned, the 2012 shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was a reminder that life here remained cruel and unpredictable.

Now, with security finally improving, residents are releasing years of stress by flocking to new shopping and entertainment outlets that would have been unthinkable when the Taliban was executing men for shaving or women for dancing.

‘‘Before, we were very scared of them. Our education system was totally down, because when you would go to school, every morning there would be a man lying with his head cut, thrown by the Taliban on the road,’’ said Arsalan Khan, 25, a resident of this medium-size city. ‘‘Now, we can just focus on how to live normally.’’

Must have been all the drone strikes.

You ready for takeoff?

Though Swat’s residents have long been more educated and wealthier than those in many other rural areas of Pakistan, the changing lifestyles here offer a glimpse into how quickly an area can start modernizing when fears of Islamist militants fade.

Even before the Taliban gained effective control over this area in 2007, the mountains that tower over this agricultural region served as a barrier to technology and social changes. But residents say that isolation is quickly being replaced with demand for new haircuts, music, movies, and fashion styles.

‘‘We now want to dress like the people of Punjab,’’ said Abid Ibrahim, 19, referring to the eastern province that includes Lahore, often referred to as Pakistan’s most progressive city. ‘‘We want to make ourselves look like models, and with the hairstyles from magazines like developed people.’’

What's next, dating Dutch?

Ibrahim was at an amusement and gaming center called Motion Rider, which opened in Mingora in February. Life-size posters of a soldier in US military combat gear and European soccer stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo hang on the walls, and customers play Xbox games on big-screen televisions.

They are swatting around freedom!

The main attraction is a 3-D movie theater where seats move in sync with the action on the screen.

I no longer go to the movies, even though I still pay for the tickets.

On a recent visit, patrons were watching ‘‘Into the Forest,’’ a psychedelic ride in which viewers dodge neon trees, bees, butterflies, and giant mushrooms.

Bunch of beatniks.

‘‘Everyone had been very depressed, but now people just want to have fun,’’ said Syad Imad, 36, who owns Motion Rider.

Several new Pakistani clothing chains from major cities have also opened in the past year. One store sells women’s jeans, even though most women in Swat still wear a burqa or cover their faces with a headscarf in public.

Still, residents say the mere presence of women out shopping, unescorted by male relatives, is a sign of progress.

‘‘I am very optimistic about the future of Swat,’’ said Iffat Nasir, an activist and school principal, who added female enrollment in school is steadily increasing. ‘‘I see Swat becoming a very modern place.’’

Some analysts are less certain, noting the area still lags in expanding rights for women, tempering the influence of religious madrassas, and reinvigorating tourism. And they say advancements in Mingora and other population centers are not reflective of far-flung areas of the entire 3,300-square-mile valley, home to about 2 million people.

‘‘It’s still not back to what it was pre-Taliban times,’’ said Zebunnisa Jilani, who founded the Swat Relief Initiative, a local aid group. But, she added, ‘‘I’ve been to a lot of Pakistan, and I now think Swat is one of the safest places.’’

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"Pakistan arrests suspects in attack that killed 47 Shiites" Associated Press  May 21, 2015

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s interior minister on Wednesday said police have arrested the suspected mastermind and several gunmen involved in last week’s Karachi bus attack that killed 47 minority Shi’ite Muslims.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s announcement in Islamabad came just hours after the army said it had killed 13 militants in airstrikes in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Khan said the arrests were the result of an ‘‘excellent coordination between police and intelligence agencies’’ in Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital. The minister did not say when the arrests were made or give any details on the affiliation of the gunmen. He said some of those arrested confessed to taking part in the attack.

Both a Pakistani militant group linked to the Islamic State, which is fighting in Iraq and Syria, and a Pakistani Taliban splinter group have claimed responsibility for the May 13 assault during which gunmen stormed a bus with members of the Ismaili Shi’ite branch, forced them to bow their heads, then shot and killed them.

Oh, ISIS is now in PAKISTAN, huh? Even after they stayed out of Yemen? Or because they did?

Sindh province’s chief minister, Qaim Ali Shah, said during a news conference Wednesday that the arrested men were the same people who last month killed Sabeen Mahmud, a women’s rights activist gunned down after she hosted a discussion forum about nationalists in the country’s Baluchistan region, which has been engulfed in a low-level insurgency for years. 

Baluchistan is also a CIA base, which is why it gets little coverage in my pre$$.

Also Wednesday, the military said jets killed 13 militants in airstrikes near the Datta Khel village in North Waziristan, where the army has been carrying out a major operation against local and foreign militants.

My pre$$ very quiet about it.

North Waziristan was once considered to be headquarters of the Pakistani Taliban, who have been trying to overthrow the government. Pakistan says it has cleared 90 percent of the region since launching an offensive.

And yet airstrikes were necessary?

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Look what else the Globe dug up and found:

"US releases papers reportedly seized from bin Laden" by Connie Cass and Robert Burns Associated Press  May 21, 2015

WASHINGTON —A leader cut off from his underlings, disappointed by their failures, beset by their complaints, and regretting years of separation from much of his extensive family, according to images of the papers released by US officials.

Despite some surprising quirks in the collection, the overall message of the 103 letters, videos, and reports made public Wednesday hews to the terror group’s familiar mission: In the name of God, find a way to kill Americans. Kill Europeans. Kill Jews.

The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the documents, released as online images, were among books, US think tank reports, and other materials recovered in the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

PFFFFFFFFT! 

This comes out on the heels of Psyop Hersh "revelations!" that reinforce the LIES!

The information was declassified and made public after a review by government agencies, as required by a 2014 law. Hundreds more documents found at the compound will be reviewed for possible declassification and release, the office said Wednesday, four years after bin Laden’s death.

Uh-huh. 

The documents, as translated by US intelligence, mix the mundane language of business — personnel training, budget matters, financing for ‘‘workshops and collaborating groups’’ — with fervent religious appeals and updates on terror plots, written in flowery language full of praise for God.

The documents include a fill-in-the-blanks job application for Al Qaeda candidates that not only asks typical human resources questions about education and hobbies but also, ‘‘Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?’’ It requests an emergency contact should the applicant become a martyr.

This is such poor propaganda. Yeah, they had job applications, right. So stinks of CIA.

Drone strikes against Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, the near-suffocation of the group’s affiliate in Iraq beginning in 2007, and other developments severely undercut bin Laden in the years before his death. The terrorist threat shifted to Al Qaeda affiliates in other areas, including in Yemen and North Africa.

One letter from bin Laden mocks President George W. Bush’s war on terror, saying it had not achieved stability in Iraq or Afghanistan and questioning why US troops were ‘‘searching for the lost phantom’’ — weapons of mass destruction in Iraq....

By associating bin Laden with such criticism the propaganda pre$$ mouthpiece in effect discredits such criticism. 

Nice shell game they got going, huh?

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"Porn tied to bin Laden site not released" Washington Post   May 22, 2015

WASHINGTON — Newly declassified documents from the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 have revealed the late Al Qaeda leader’s remarkable English-language library, including books by Noam Chomsky, Bob Woodward, and even 9/11 conspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin.

Awwww, gee! Really laying it on thick.

Yet the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the files on Wednesday, has not released all the material found in the compound.

In fact, there’s reportedly a rather notorious stash that the US government doesn’t want you to see: a cache of pornography.

Why not? That would totally destroy the piety of Tim Osman, 'er, the long-dead CIA asset and scapegoat bin Laden.

Reports that pornographic material was found in the compound were first published by the Reuters news agency on May 13, 2011, a few weeks after a US military raid on the site left the Al Qaeda leader dead.

This is such a timed release of damage control crap!

Unnamed officials told Reuters that the pornography was modern and the collection extensive.

And the fetishes were what, women with rubber dicks?

Officials said it was unclear how it came to be in the hideout, which had no Internet connection.

I think we know who planted it.

Reuters also reported that the officials were unsure about the precise location where the material was found or who might have been viewing it.

Actually, I have some ideas:

"US troops and Defense Department employees improperly used their government charge cards to spend more than $1 million in casinos and strip clubs in one year, and the government is still struggling to stop it, according to a report released Monday by the top Pentagon watchdog. The Defense Department inspector general found that in the 12 months ending June 30, 2014, $952,258 was improperly spent using government charge cards in casinos and $96,576 was spent in ‘‘adult entertainment establishments.’’ The numbers would have been higher, the watchdog found, but some transactions were declined. The charges examined included 4,437 made in casinos and 900 made in adult entertainment venues, the IG found. In one example, an enlisted sailor made 12 transactions on a government credit card totaling $1,116 at adult entertainment establishments while traveling on a trip to El Paso. The IG recommended that the government use more data-mining to find potentially improper charges." 

Want to know where they were going?

"A supervisory agent and a telecommunications specialist for the Drug Enforcement Administration were arrested Wednesday on charges they were running a New Jersey strip club. A criminal complaint unsealed in federal court identifies David Polos and Glen Glover as part owners of Twins Plus Go-Go Lounge in South Hackensack. The club offers scantily clad and sometimes topless dancers, most of them in the country illegally, according to the complaint. The men, who worked at the DEA’s Manhattan headquarters, face charges they falsified national security forms by failing to disclose outside employment that could put them ‘‘in proximity to crime’’ and at risk for getting blackmailed. Polos and Glover ‘‘had important and sensitive law enforcement jobs with the DEA,’’ US Attorney Preet Bharara said. ‘‘As alleged in the complaint, they also had other secret jobs, which they concealed from DEA in order to maintain their national security clearance, betraying the oaths they had taken and creating needless risk for the agency they worked for.’’

What better place for sex parties, 'eh?

Although it has never been clear whether bin Laden had been viewing the pornography, the reports of adult videos in his compound prompted a flurry of mockery from the likes of the New York Post and Jon Stewart’s ‘‘Daily Show,’’ with some suggesting that the reports had been leaked to make bin Laden look hypocritical.

He had criticized the United States’ culture as sexualized in a 2002 ‘‘letter to America.”

Some experts pointed out that finding pornography on jihadists’ computers had become common by 2011, however, and CNN later reported on a separate case in which Al Qaeda had encoded pornographic movie files with secret documents....

Well, you won't be finding it on here unless the government plants it. The Globe is obscene enough for me, and no wonder CIA-Duh is so inefficient. They keep missing the messages!

--more--"

The Psyop Isn’t Over, either. 

Related: Was Osama a 9/11 Truther (and Also a GamePro Reader)?

Alongside an issue of al-Qaeda’s online magazine Inspire and U.S. articles about terrorism and foreign policy was a copy David Ray Griffin’s The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11a book that argues that 9/11 was an inside job.

Was Osama...a 9/11 truther? The New Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only conspiracy-friendly tome in bin Laden’s digital library. A document provided to BuzzFeed News also lists Fritz Springmeier’s Bloodlines of the Illuminati, Secrets of the Federal Reserve by virulently anti-semitic conspiracy theorist Eustace Mullins (Another of his works is titled “My Struggle Against the Jews”), and a saved copy of a web article alleging that 9/11 was predicted by a 1995 card game about the Illuminati. (This theory is also popular among members of Reddit’s “conspiracy” message board. It is unknown if Osama had a Reddit account.)

Think of it as a flight swatter.

UPDATE: ISIS Furious About Conspiracy Theories and Truthers!

Sunday Globe Special: Brelo Acquitted in Cleveland

Looks like another show jury to me:

"Cleveland officer acquitted in shooting deaths of two" by Kimbriell Kelly and Wesley Lowery Washington Post  May 23, 2015

A Cleveland police officer was acquitted Saturday for his role in the 2012 fatal shooting of two unarmed people in a car after officers mistook the sound of the car backfiring as gunshots.

After a four-week trial, a judge found officer Michael Brelo, 31, not guilty of two counts of felony voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30. Russell and Williams were killed Nov. 29, 2012, after they led 62 police vehicles on a chase across Cleveland.

‘‘The state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant Michael Brelo knowingly caused the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams,’’ said Judge John O’Donnell in his ruling, ‘‘because the essential element of causation was not proved for both counts.’’

In Cleveland, city leaders braced for protests and called for calm. After the verdict, sheriff’s deputies stood in front of the courthouse as protesters chanted ‘‘Hands up! Don’t shoot!’’ — which became a rallying cry after to the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

The verdict comes at a time of growing national scrutiny of the use of force by law enforcement against citizens, especially minorities. Brelo is white; the victims were black.

That wasn't in the initial report.

Brelo, a seven-year veteran, is the first of six officers to be prosecuted in the 2012 fatal shooting of Russell and Williams. Five police supervisors — none of whom fired shots — also each face misdemeanor counts for ‘‘dereliction of duty.’’ No trial date has been set.

When Russell’s Chevy Malibu finally came to a stop in East Cleveland, 13 officers opened fire, shooting at least 137 rounds into the vehicle.

Seems excessive to me.

Brelo, prosecutors said, was the only one who continued to shoot after the threat was over. He climbed onto the hood of the Malibu and shot 15 rounds into the windshield, striking Russell, who was driving, and Williams, who was in the passenger seat.

O’Donnell spent nearly 50 minutes explaining his decision. He walked through the conflicting forensic testimony, using two mannequins in the courtroom to show the trajectory and location of gunshot wounds to the victims. Ultimately, the judge said multiple officers fired shots that could have been fatal to Williams and Russell.

The judge said that officers acted reasonably based upon radio traffic that officers were being fired upon.

‘‘It is Brelo’s perception of a threat that matters,’’ O’Donnell said in court. ‘‘Brelo was acting in conditions difficult for even experienced police officers to imagine.’’

So if a cop even thinks.... we're all f***ed.

Brelo, who has been suspended without pay, did not testify.

Immediately after the judge’s verdict, Brelo put his head in his hands in tears, while several local activists watching in an overflow room began to chant ‘‘No Justice, No Peace.’’

The case hinged on whether the fatal shots were fired by Brelo or one of the other 12 officers. The judge heard from forensic pathologists, siblings of the victims, ballistics experts, a forensic mechanic, use-of-force experts, and police officers.

‘‘We are elated,’’ said Patrick D’Angelo, one of Brelo’s attorneys, who declared that the prosecutor was a bully. ‘‘This has been a blood fight, tooth and nail.’’

Authority usually is.

Steve Loomis, who heads the Cleveland Patrolman’s Union, slammed the prosecution, declaring that it had unfairly targeted his officers — many of whom did not cooperate with the investigation.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he was ‘‘profoundly disappointed’’ with the verdict. ‘‘The trial forced us to examine how and why so many errors and flawed assumptions could have led to the deaths of two unarmed people,’’ McGinty said.

After the judge’s verdict, the Civil Rights Division at Justice, the FBI, and the US attorney’s office issued a joint statement that said they would review testimony and evidence from the trial and ‘‘collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available and appropriate.’’ That review is independent, the statement said, of the federal investigation.

After the ruling, Renee Robinson, who said she was a cousin of Williams, sobbed uncontrollably in a crowd of demonstrators.

‘‘Why? Why? Why?’’ she said. ‘‘My cousin, from my family, she’s never coming back. And now that officer gets to go back to his family. Like nothing happened.’’

Mayor Frank Jackson called for calm. Hours later, more than 100 people gathered for a peaceful demonstration marking the 6-month anniversary of the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police.

Oh, yeah, him.

Rice, who was black, was shot while he was playing with a toy gun in a park near his home. County investigators are finalizing their investigation for prosecutors.

That is where my print copy ended, and least that won't be happening in Boston ever again.

Prosecutions of officers for the use of deadly force are rare given there have been thousands of fatal police shootings in the past decade. When criminal charges have been pursued, officers have most often been acquitted or cleared, according to a recent analysis.

From 2005 through early April, 54 officers have been charged criminally for shooting and killing someone in the line of duty, the analysis found. Of the 35 cases that had been resolved, 21 officers were acquitted or saw their charges dropped, 11 cases resulted in convictions, and in three cases the officers entered guilty pleas and were placed on probation. Brelo is the second officer in Ohio to face charges in a decade. The other officer also was acquitted.

The fatal shooting in 2012 of Russell and Williams in East Cleveland was the outcome of a chain of events that began shortly before 10:30 p.m. when an officer in an unmarked car activated his windshield strobe lights and attempted to stop the 1979 Chevy Malibu for a turn-signal violation. The blue Malibu, driven by Russell, stopped but drove off as the officer got out of his car.

About five minutes later, the Malibu that Russell was driving backfired as it drove past police headquarters. Officers mistook the sound for gunfire and began to pursue it. A forensic mechanic testified in court that a hole in the muffler indicated the car had a history of backfiring.

‘‘Old Chevy, on St. Clair just popped a round,’’ one officer radioed at 10:33 p.m. according to a transcript of radio traffic later introduced as evidence at trial. The radio transmission set off what became a 20-mile chase involving more than one-third of the 276 officers on duty with the Cleveland Police Department that night, according to prosecutors.

?????????????

During the chase, some officers reported that someone was shooting at them from the window of the Malibu. At least one officer reported that was not the case and at 10:47 p.m. radioed: ‘‘Passenger just put his hands out asking us to stop. He does not have a gun. He has black gloves on,’’ the officer said, according to the transcript.

‘‘There’s a red pop can in his hand.’’

That didn’t stop the pursuit. Seconds later, the Malibu dead-ended into a middle school parking lot and was rammed by an officer’s car. The car spun to a halt as officers began to open fire.

Brelo fired his Glock 17 from the driver’s seat of his car, reloaded and emptied a second 17-round magazine, according to the investigation. He exited his patrol car, according to testimony, to get to a safer position behind another squad car, according to court documents.

A state investigator who interviewed Brelo following the incident testified that Brelo said that he drew on his Marine training to ‘‘go to an elevated position and push through the target.’’

Brelo stepped onto the hood of the Malibu, where he fired 15 shots into the windshield, prosecutors said.

Brelo had told state investigators that he did not recall getting on the hood of the car.

He was lost in the moment, huh?

At trial, a state forensic scientist testified that he matched photos of footprints on the Malibu to impressions made of Brelo’s boots.

Were they Bruno Maglis?

When the firing ended, Brelo placed the Malibu that was still running in park and removed the keys as another officer searched the victims for a pulse and a gun. Neither was found.

Kind of cold pre$$ there.

The entire shooting was over in 17.8 seconds. Russell, the driver, was shot 23 times; Williams, 24. Prosecutors said that evidence showed Brelo fired 49 times.

Both Williams and Russell were homeless, mentally ill and addicted to drugs, family and officials said. Police later determined the pair were under the influence of drugs the night they were killed.

Cops kind of did everyone a favor then, including the victims. Put 'em out of their misery.

Williams and Russell met in a nursing home where Russell had been undergoing rehabilitation after a car accident in which he ‘‘tried to outrun a police car,’’ his sister Michelle Russell said in court.

Russell had struggled with drugs and had been diagnosed as bipolar, she testified. He was the father to an 18-year-old and a self-employed bathtub refinisher, a trade he learned after being incarcerated.

‘‘He was really trying to get his life together,’’ his sister testified of Russell and his struggle with drugs. ‘‘He would walk past the church, often ask the church members to pray for him that he could overcome, you know, that situation because he wanted to overcome that.’’

He won't have to worry about that now!

Williams was a sweet girl, said her uncle, Walter Jackson Sr. He said he and his mother helped raise Williams after her mother abandoned her as a child. As she grew older she got involved with drugs and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Jackson said.

Eventually, after repeated bouts with the law, she was imprisoned at a women’s correctional facility in Ohio alongside her mother, he said.

Jackson called his niece’s killing a ‘‘black eye’’ for the city. ‘‘Everybody was acting like [expletive deleted] cowboys that night,’’ he said. 

With white hats on.

It’s been nearly two years since an officer has been convicted of shooting and killing someone in the line of duty, according to the analysis.

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Related: Dead Zone

Also see: Dead Zone II

Related:

"Tulsa volunteer deputy cancels Bahamas trip after shooting" Associated Press  May 12, 2015

TULSA, Okla. — A former Tulsa County volunteer deputy charged with fatally shooting a restrained man has canceled his Bahamas vacation after media reports mocked him, his attorney said Tuesday.

Attorney Corbin Brewster said that 73-year-old Robert Bates canceled the June trip because of media ‘‘scrutiny and pressure.’’ Bates had planned the vacation before the shooting, but changed his mind, Brewster said. Bates resigned in the days following the shooting, Brewster said....

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Sunday Globe Special: Deadbeat Dads

Maybe a public figure could be a Fuhrer, 'er father to them all?

"Fatherhood class faces difficult test in N. Milwaukee" by Eli Saslow Washington Post  May 24, 2015

MILWAUKEE — Paul Gayle, 19, had pushed a creaky stroller through one of Milwaukee’s worst neighborhoods and ridden a bus across the city not because he wanted to attend a class called Fragile Families and Responsible Fatherhood, but because, like everyone else in the room, he saw no other choice.

Some of the men had been told to take the class as a condition of visiting their estranged children. Others had been lured by the promise of job referrals or reduced child-support payments.

Gayle had come mostly because of the promise of free baby supplies, and lately he had been purchasing his Pampers one at a time, repeating the same transaction so often at a corner store that a clerk had dubbed it the Daddy Paul Special, 75 cents for a single cigarette and a size-3 diaper.

Here in one of America’s most segregated cities, the biweekly fatherhood class has become President Obama’s preferred antidote to so many of the problems facing black men. His administration approved the 16-class curriculum and devoted more than $500 million to funding hundreds of fatherhood classes around the country.

One of the biggest grants went to North Milwaukee, where, ‘‘Strong fathers can be the first and best step toward fixing these communities and helping our children reach their goals,’’ Obama said last year while promoting the classes.

Gayle had been offered two jobs but failed the drug tests.

What was he doing, smoking pot?

It had been several days since he had seen the baby’s mother, a former longtime girlfriend who was no longer living with them.

‘‘Sapphire misses you. Are you coming over to see her?’’ he had texted once, and the silence that followed made him think Sapphire might become another black child whose long odds depended on a single parent, and that parent was him.

In the first fatherhood class he had recited 20 strategies for managing anger. In the fifth he had role-played effective methods of child discipline; Now the teacher asked the students to stand for a group exercise, so Gayle grabbed the baby and joined his classmates in the center of the room.

The teacher said he would read a series of ‘‘value statements,’’ and students would go to the right side of the room if they agreed with the statement, the left side if they disagreed, or stay in the center if they were unsure.

‘‘Men and women are equally capable of caring for children,’’ the teacher said, and all at once the men began to move, half to the right and half to the left, jarring at each other as they went.

Gayle still stood alone in the center of the room, watching everyone move, cradling the baby against his shoulder.

‘‘Paul, come on man, what are you sure about?’’ the teacher asked.

‘‘Me being honest?’’ he said. ‘‘You’re asking us for simple yes/no answers, and I can see it both ways. It’s a whole lot more complicated than you’re making it seem.’’

What, nothing in the world truly black and white as history, authority, and education tell us?

--more--"

Maybe a missing father was to blame for this tragedy:

"DA rejects charging white officer in Wisconsin shooting death" by Todd Richmond Associated Press  May 13, 2015

MADISON, Wis. — A white Wisconsin police officer will not be charged for fatally shooting an unarmed 19-year-old biracial man who witnesses say was acting erratically and attacked at least two people, a prosecutor revealed Tuesday.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said he won’t file charges against Madison Officer Matt Kenny in Tony Robinson’s death, which sparked several peaceful protests following the March 6 shooting in an apartment house near the state Capitol.

Ozanne, sweating profusely and mopping his brow repeatedly with a handkerchief, spoke forcefully for some 25 minutes laying out the results of a state Justice Department investigation. He cited three 911 callers whose accounts meshed with that from police. The callers described Robinson as ‘‘tweaking,’’ punching a friend, jumping in front of a car, punching one person trying to call 911 in the face, and assaulting two people on the sidewalk. One caller feared for both his safety and Robinson’s, Ozanne said.

“ ‘Tony is acting insane right now,’ ’’ one of the callers told dispatchers, according to Ozanne.

When Kenny reached the apartment building, he heard incoherent yelling, screaming, what sounded like a fist hitting something, and items being thrown or breaking. Kenny thought Robinson was upstairs and might be attacking someone, Ozanne said.

The officer ran inside and went upstairs with his weapon drawn, Ozanne said. He announced his presence and almost immediately the 6-foot-4 Robinson punched him in the side of the head, according to Ozanne. Kenny said he fell into the wall, hitting his head, Ozanne said.

Kenny said he was afraid he would fall down the stairs and lose consciousness, Ozanne said. Fearing that Robinson would then take his gun and shoot him as well as whoever was in the apartment, Kenny fired seven shots in three seconds, Ozanne said.

All seven struck Robinson, with every round entering the front of his body, the district attorney said.

‘‘I conclude that his tragic and unfortunate death was the result of a lawful use of deadly police force and that no charges should be brought against Officer Kenny,’’ Ozanne said.

Toxicology reports confirmed that Robinson had been using hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana, and had Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, in his system, Ozanne added. 

The poor kid was tripping out, huh?

The district attorney, who is biracial but identifies as black, stressed his own racial background before announcing his decision. He ended his statement with an implicit plea against violent demonstrations, saying ‘‘truth and lasting change does not come from violence, but from exercising our voices and our votes.’’

Oh, steering us over to the ballot box, 'eh? 

Yeah, change doesn't come from violence unless it is the U.S. government needing a regime change somewhere.

********************

Following the announcement, about 20 people sat in the street in front of the house where Robinson was shot, chanting ‘‘This is what democracy looks like’’ and ‘‘No justice, no peace.’’ Clergy stood around the protesters, protecting them from oncoming cars. No police were at the scene....

So they wanted a riot in Wisconsin like they did in Baltimore?

The shooting was another in a series of police confrontations that have ignited racial tension across the nation in the past year. Most recently in Baltimore, riots erupted after the funeral for Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. Other high-profile cases of officers killing unarmed black residents include the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Eric Garner in New York City; and Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C.

I'm suspicious of all those events because of the propaganda pre$$ flogging.

Six officers have been charged in Gray’s death, as has the officer who killed Scott.

Think I'm done there.

Grand juries declined to charge officers in Brown’s and Garner’s deaths.

--more--"

Robinson’s mother said ‘‘They didn’t give my son any respect.’’

"Decision in Wis. police shooting stirs protests" by Dana Ferguson and Todd Richmond Associated Press  May 14, 2015

MADISON, Wis. — Protesters angry about a prosecutor’s decision not to charge a white Madison police officer for killing an unarmed biracial man staged a mock hearing outside a courthouse Wednesday.

After a peaceful procession from the apartment house where Officer Matt Kenny killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson on March 6 through the streets of the state capital to the Dane County Courthouse, 150 to 200 protesters looked on as others laid out the case for why Kenny should stand trial.

‘‘Was Tony Robinson murdered and should Matt Kenny be charged with homicide?’’ Alix Shabazz, one of the event’s organizers, shouted to her fellow protesters.

The crowd gave its rousing approval.

Madison’s mayor, Paul Soglin, had warned that anyone who broke the law would be arrested. And at the end of the event, police arrested some two dozen protesters who locked arms and blocked an intersection near the courthouse. As the police were detaining those protesters, onlookers hurled insults at the officers, including racial epithets.

On Tuesday, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said he would not charge Kenny because he thought the officer’s actions were justified. Kenny shot and killed Robinson in an apartment house stairwell on March 6 after Robinson, who was high on mushrooms and already had attacked several people that night, struck the officer in the head.

The demonstration Wednesday was organized by the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, a group that has organized a series of protests since the March 6 shooting. All of the protests about Robinson’s death have been peaceful, unlike some of the demonstrations that followed the high-profile deaths of young black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore in the past year.

Before the march began, Shabazz implored her fellow protesters not to interact with the police.

‘‘They are not your friend,’’ Shabazz told them. ‘‘There is nothing positive that is going to come from that [interaction].’’

Gee, that's a little inciteful, no?

Police cordoned off the streets and rerouted traffic to accommodate the march, as volunteers from several community groups, including 100 Black Men and the Urban League, looked on, ready to advise anyone who appeared ready to break the law to think twice.

  I'm sorry, folks, but it's controlled opposition. Police are assisting and not cracking skulls?

Ozanne, who is biracial and identifies as black, is Wisconsin’s first minority district attorney. He pointed to his racial heritage as he announced he wasn’t going to charge Kenny, saying he views Robinson’s death through that lens but based his decision on the facts.

Could be a first.

‘‘I am concerned that recent violence around our nation is giving some in our community a justification for fear, hatred, and violence,’’ Ozanne said Tuesday. ‘‘I am reminded that true and lasting change does not come from violence but from exercising our voices and our votes.’’

According to witnesses, Robinson has consumed psychedelic mushrooms at a friend’s apartment on the night he was killed.

My drug and addiction, unfortunately, is a Globe and coffee.

He became violent and tried to grab one friend’s crotch and took a swing at another friend. He later went outside and punched a man on the sidewalk, attempted to strangle another man at a gas station across the street, ran in and out of traffic, and took a swing at a couple before going back inside.

Ozanne said toxicology reports confirmed Robinson had taken mushrooms, smoked marijuana, and taken Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug....

He was really tripping, huh?

--more--"

Also see: Was Wisconsin Shooting a Staged Psyop?

I don't rule it out; I don't rule it in.

Sunday Globe Special: San Francisco Cops Are Racist

Now, I could see in Miami or something, but in the most progressive city in AmeriKa?

"San Francisco police under fire for racist, homophobic texts; Release of racist texts puts city in national spotlight" by Paul Elias Associated Press  May 16, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — The original charges were shocking: Six San Francisco police officers were accused of stealing from drug dealers. Then federal prosecutors released racist and homophobic text messages.

Actually, not that shocking.

Those texts have now turned a small-time police corruption case into a racially charged scandal, thrusting a diverse and liberal city into the national debate over policing in minority communities.

‘‘We now know this can happen in San Francisco,’’ San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said. ‘‘We’re certainly not immune to the problems that we have seen in Baltimore, Staten Island, South Carolina.’’

You know what it is needed? A federal Gestapo, I mean, security force. 

The San Francisco turmoil comes amid growing tensions between police departments and communities of color. Large, sometimes violent protests over police treatment of black suspects have occurred in several cities over the last two years.

That has put police under a microscope.

Poor cops!

Three Fort Lauderdale, Fla., police officers were fired last month and a fourth resigned after they were found to have exchanged racist messages about colleagues and the predominantly black neighborhood they patrolled.

Yeah, well, I expect such things there. Up here Boston is a national model and no one is ever shot dead by police, or if they are they brought it on themselves.

In San Francisco, Police Chief Greg Suhr has moved to fire eight officers, two of whom have since retired. Six others also are facing some kind of discipline.

The district attorney, meanwhile, is looking into whether the department’s racial problems run deeper than the officers implicated.

‘‘In the process of looking at the text messages, increasingly I became uneasy that this may not be localized to the 14 officers that were being reported, but that we may have some systemic issues,’’ Gascon said.

San Francisco Police spokesman Albie Esparza says the department supports the district attorney’s examination, but disputes any suggestion that the police force of 2,100 sworn officers may suffer from systemic racism.

Truthfully, whether you are for the agenda or not, that has been endemic throughout the history of this country (even as the politicians sell you the freedom and myth they are also taking away).

‘‘This was an isolated incident,’’ Esparza said. ‘‘To say it’s systemic is unfounded.’’

The San Francisco police department hasn’t faced widespread allegations of discrimination since Officers for Justice, a group of minority officers, sued the department in 1973. Nearly half of the sworn officers are minorities today. 

So it could be a cla$$ kind of thing?

News of the racist texts prompted outrage among community leaders. The Rev. Amos Brown, president of the NAACP’s San Francisco chapter and minister at Third Baptist Church, said he wasn’t surprised.

‘‘We have seen this. We have lived this. We have breathed this discrimination,’’ he said.

Lawyers for several implicated officers characterized the text messages as ‘‘banter’’ and failed attempts at humor. In one, Sergeant Yulanda Williams was called racist and sexist names by one of the texting officers when she was promoted to sergeant in 2011.

‘‘We really have not moved as forward as we thought,’’ she said.

At least one of the accused officers, Michael Robinson, is white and openly gay.

I'm glad it's not a gay thing.

Another, Sergeant Ian Furminger, is white. Police officials have so far declined to release the racial composition of the other implicated officers.

Must be some African-American misogynists in there then.

Officer Rain Daugherty said in a suit to halt his termination that he is ‘‘deeply ashamed’’ of the texts he wrote. Daugherty argues that he and the other officers shouldn’t be fired because the department obtained the inflammatory texts in December 2012 but didn’t start the disciplinary process until two years later.

The department says the texts were part of the corruption investigation and couldn’t be disclosed until the criminal cases concluded.

It all started at the Henry Hotel in San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin neighborhood.

Hotel residents arrested in police raids began complaining in late 2010 to their public defenders that officers had entered their rooms without warrants and, on occasion, had stolen their valuables.

No, not in AmeriKa.

Public defender Jeff Adachi and his staff then obtained and sifted through 18 months of video surveillance from the hotel’s security cameras. The videos showed officers leaving with bags and other items that were never accounted for in evidence logs or court proceedings. The video also appeared to show officers entering rooms without warrants or permission from the residents. 

It's called a SHAKEDOWN.

The public defenders used the videos to confront and contradict officers’ testimony, leading to several criminal cases being dismissed. Adachi also called a news conference to announce his findings, releasing the incriminating videos.

Taking note, federal authorities launched an investigation and charged six police officers with corruption and related charges.

Furminger is currently serving a 41-month prison sentence in a Colorado prison. He is appealing his conviction, and his attorney declined to comment.

--more--"

You know what else is funny?

Slow Saturday Special: Baltimore Baby Swing Stopped

Sorry to push this on you:

"Police say woman was found pushing dead 3-year-old son on Md. park swing" Associated Press  May 23, 2015

BALTIMORE — A woman was found pushing her dead 3-year-old son on a park swing Friday, and authorities say she may have been there for hours, or even since the day before.

There were no obvious signs of foul play but it has not been ruled out, said Diane Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Charles County sheriff’s office.

Richardson said authorities are trying to trace the 24-year-old woman’s movements over the past several days ‘‘to find out what was going on in her life, what led to this moment.’’

--more--"

Sorry to drop that on you, but Baltimore has been put on the back burner lately.

Also see6 Baltimore officers indicted in Freddie Gray’s death

It's an ‘‘overzealous prosecution,’’ and I've no doubt they will be cleared.

Man at the top fixing it all though (after 6+ years of.... never mind):

"BearCat truck maker unruffled by Obama’s order; Pittsfield company makes SWAT trucks for police, military" by Callum Borchers Globe Staff  May 21, 2015

Images of police in armored vehicles patrolling the streets of Ferguson, Mo., last summer like soldiers in a war zone contributed to President Obama’s executive order this week to curb the flow of military-grade gear to local law enforcement.

So it would be natural to assume the Massachusetts company that manufactured some of those $350,000 bulletproof trucks is worried about losing business.

It isn’t.

The president’s decision to curtail federal funding for what he called “equipment made for the battlefield” won’t apply to certain vehicles made by Lenco Armored Vehicles in Pittsfield, whose eight-ton BearCats are used by all four military branches and rank among the most popular police SWAT trucks in the country.

And they ain't firing away spitballs, let me tell you.

“We don’t see the restrictions adversely affecting police acquiring BearCats,” said Lenco’s president, Len Light.

The ban explicitly states that it only covers vehicles like tanks that “utilize a tracked system instead of wheels for forward motion,” and the BearCat operates on wheels, not a track.

Law enforcement specialists say that armored vehicles like the ones made by Lenco vastly outnumber those with tracked systems, which are difficult to maneuver in urban settings and can damage roads.

The exclusion of BearCats and similar wheeled vehicles from the new White House list of prohibited equipment could allow law enforcement agencies to continue buying them on Uncle Sam’s dimeand using them on the scenes of protests like those in Ferguson, where Lenco trucks rolled through town with snipers on the roof, and more recently in Baltimore. 

Of course, Uncle Sam's dime comes from the U.S. taxpayer -- who, ironically, is the funder of his own oppression.

“We had a grand gesture of a presidential directive to rein in military armament, but every single item — including the armored personnel carriers — is toothless,” said Peter Kraska, who studies police militarization as the graduate program chair at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies. “They literally will lead to no changes.”

That is why I didn't really read the big announcement.

A White House spokesman declined to comment and referred questions to the Department of Justice, which pointed to new reporting requirements laid out by the president’s task force as examples of change. Police using federal funds to purchase BearCats and other tactical gear must report back to the government on their usage.

The BearCat is essentially a mobile fortress, which the military uses to patrol areas where soldiers might encounter enemy gunfire or a roadside bomb. Built on a blast-resistant, V-shaped hull, its walls and windows can repel fire from .50-caliber guns — which, incidently, are on the prohibited equipment list, along with grenade launchers and weaponized aircraft.

It does not have any built-in weapons but does feature a 360-degree rotating roof hatch from which a passenger can shoot. It can be outfitted with a battering ram and a hydraulic arm.

Police say they like the BearCat because it combines the nimbleness of a SWAT van with the protection of a tank. With a top speed of 90 miles per hour, it can chase down bad guys and keep police safer than they would be in their cruisers.

State Police rode in a BearCat when they approached the boat where Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hid at the end of an extensive manhunt in 2013 and used an arm attachment to remove a tarp that helped conceal him.

I figured that whole fraud would be brought in as a reason for its use. That was the point of the "drill gone live," wasn't it?

Cases like that one reinforce many law enforcement officials’ belief that military-style equipment — though it may look scary and seem unnecessary for everyday police work — is sometimes the key to public safety. Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement that efforts to restrict law enforcement access to military-grade gear are misplaced.

Yeah, they wan't to be armed to the teeth while the same government wants to take away your guns because of staged and scripted hoax shootings or false flag events that are given a go.

Unlike a baby, I get tired of whining about the propaganda pre$$ swinging.

“We ought not to be distracted by thinking the problem is with the types of equipment or how the equipment is procured,” Canterbury said. Instead, we need to focus on better command decision-making at the local and state level with respect to how and when the equipment is deployed in the field.”

Maybe even federalize it all, right?

The voices of people who disagree have grown louder in recent months, following several police shootings of unarmed black men. Public debate has encompassed law enforcement tactics in general, but equipment has become one flashpoint because of the heavy armament used in response to demonstrations in some cities.

“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” President Obama said Monday, as he adopted the recommendations of a task force he formed in January to examine policing methods. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message.”

Think the Israeli training has something to do with it? I do.

And this guy, ugh. I can't decide whether he can't be out the door fast enough or whether he should stick around because the next one could be even worse (likely will be; that's the pattern we have seen).

Armored trucks on wheels do appear on a less restrictive “controlled” equipment list issued by the White House, which states that police “must provide expanded justification for their acquisition, including a description of how the equipment would be deployed, the agency’s policies and protocols on deployment, and verification of training.”

Even the justification requirement does not concern Light, the Lenco executive. His firm is adept at helping police write federal grant proposals, and BearCats are already on approved equipment lists for nine Department of Homeland Security grant programs, where much of the funding for such tactical gear originates.

Obama’s action sends the right message, said David Sklansky, a professor at Stanford Law School and a former federal prosecutor who has argued against police militarization.

You know what? I'm tired of messages of symbolism, illusion, and imagery being sent. 

A softer tone from the White House on policing could encourage law enforcement to refocus on building trust in the neighborhoods they serve, he said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s definitely not a complete solution,” Sklansky said. “The greatest significance may be symbolic.”

The first statement is such a sad indictment of AmeriKa, and I have nothing more to say regarding the second.

That would be good news for Lenco, which started in the armored bank truck business in 1981. It was founded by Light’s parents, but he bought them out in 1992 and steered the company into heavy duty tactical units. Early clients were mostly foreign militaries, but Light sensed an opportunity in the law enforcement market.

War, repression, it's all an indu$try now. And who$e benefiting?

Lenco introduced its first SWAT truck, a larger version of the BearCat called the BEAR (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response) in 1999 — just a few months before the school shooting in Columbine, Colo.

Aaaaaaaah! The fore-runner of Sandy Hook, and another strange collection of contradictions regarding that event.

Sales picked up after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when new federal grants made it easier for local police to obtain advanced equipment without breaking municipal budgets.

When the current police state and total $urveillance $y$tem was given a big push.

--more--"

The Boston Globe says they don’t need the stuff (they are blocking off the McDonald's!), and it is prompting a rethink at the police academies.

Better check your phone for any tweets, and honestly, what kind of controlled-opposition idiot leaves a Twitter trail? That stinks of ricin letters and a completely staged psyop campaign for public relations and agenda-pushing purposes. 

For my part, the guy could be green, purple, hermaphrodite, whatever, it's the POLICIES and in particular the PILE of WAR CORPSES that bother me.

Time to get off the Saturday swing.

Slow Saturday Special: Dog Puke

It's what I found when I got back from the beach:

"First dog flu case reported in Mass. after Midwest outbreak" by Aneri Pattani Globe Correspondent  May 22, 2015

A new strain of canine flu that infected thousands of dogs in the Midwest recently has arrived in Massachusetts, officials said.

***********

While the hospital is awaiting confirmation of the flu strain, doctors suspect it is the same type that has infected more than 1,700 dogs in a single county in Illinois, as well as dogs in Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin, said Rob Halpin, an MSPCA spokesman....

Dr. Jinni Sinnott of Angell West’s emergency and critical care department, said, “Dog owners have to be on the front lines of protecting each other if we want to avoid an outbreak here.”

The strain involved in the outbreak — H3N2 — is more contagious than the previous one, Sinnott said.

“Infection happens nearly 100 percent of the time after exposure,” she said.

The flu, which causes coughing, runny nose, and a decrease in appetite, is spread through dog-to-dog contact. Dogs are sick an average of 10 to 20 days, but some could see symptoms last as long as a month, Sinnott said. The best treatment is rest and plenty of water, she added.

The virus does not pose a threat to humans, cats, or other animals, the MSPCA said.

If owners notice their dogs have flu-like symptoms, and if they have been to the Midwest recently, Sinnott suggests calling a veterinarian rather than bringing the dog to a hospital and possibly infecting other canines.

Dogs typically need to be hospitalized only if they are having trouble breathing or have stopped eating, she said. There have been no reported cases of dogs dying from flu.

To keep dogs from catching the virus, people should steer clear of dog parks and veterinarian offices in the outbreak states, Sinnott advised.

“One of the reasons we want to reach out to people now is because this is the beginning of summer travel season,” she said. There is an increased risk of infection when people are bringing their dogs around the country.

While the origin of the strain is unknown, Sinnott said, initial reports suggest it first appeared in the United States in Chicago. Before that, the strain had been reported only in Asia.

Everything comes from Asia. 

--more--"

So what are we supposed to do, eat them like they do?

Slow Saturday Special: Giving You a Little TLC

Had to Duggar it up:

"TLC pulls show after abuse report" Associated Press  May 23, 2015

LITTLE ROCK — The TLC network pulled the reality series ‘‘19 Kids and Counting’’ from its schedule on Friday, after reports that one of the stars, Josh Duggar, allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct when he was a juvenile.

In a statement, the channel said it was ‘‘deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and victims at this difficult time.’’ The statement didn’t elaborate.

Also Friday, Arkansas police said they had destroyed records outlining a nearly decade-old investigation into Duggar, a day after the 27-year-old resigned his role with a prominent conservative Christian group amid reports about the allegations.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which obtained the investigative records before their destruction, reported that Duggar was accused of fondling five girls in 2002 and 2003.

Duggar issued an apology Thursday on Facebook for unspecified bad behavior as a youth and resigned his role as executive director for FRC Action, the legislative action arm of the Washington-based Family Research Council. ‘‘I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions,’’ Duggar wrote. ‘‘In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy, and redemption.’’

No charges were filed against Duggar, and investigators concluded the statute of limitations had passed, according to the newspaper.

Duggar appears on the TLC reality show ‘‘19 Kids and Counting,’’ which stars his family. He is the oldest of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s 19 children.

TLC didn’t address whether its show would return. The program had been set to air in reruns after wrapping its season.

Springdale Police began investigating Duggar in 2006 when officers were alerted to a letter containing the allegations that was found in a book lent by a family friend to someone else.

Shouldn't have given it up.

The report, originally published by the tabloid In Touch Weekly, also states that a member of Harpo Studios, then the producer of Oprah Winfrey’s show, received an e-mail containing the allegations before the family was set to appear in 2006.

Gee, between the book liars, the attacking of war critics, and now this Oprah's star been diminished even though you got a car, you got a car, you got a car, you got a car.

--more--"

For my part, I never watch the crude on that channel; however, I do remember when cable was first coming online that the TLC channel was sold as the part that was a public service for the schools, it was going to have good stuff on it, it was literally going to be a learning channel, etc, etc, etc. And now look at it (well, don't, but you know what I mean).

Slow Saturday Special: Government Lied About Levy and Guandique?

"Levy murder defendant may be retried" Associated Press  May 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — A man convicted of killing Washington intern Chandra Levy is expected to get a new trial after government attorneys on Friday said the ‘‘interests of justice’’ would best be served by one.

After more than a year of sporadic hearings and legal wrangling, government attorneys withdrew their opposition to a new trial for Ingmar Guandique. In a four-page motion, they told a judge they were preparing to retry him.

Guandique’s attorneys had previously asked a judge to grant him a new trial because they said a key witness in the case, Guandique’s one-time cellmate, gave false or misleading testimony during his 2010 trial. Guandique’s attorneys said prosecutors knew or should have known the testimony was problematic and investigated further.

‘‘The government continues to believe the jury’s verdict was correct,’’ prosecutors wrote in their motion.

Levy’s mother, Susan Levy, said in a telephone interview that she has always had some questions about whether Guandique killed her daughter, though her husband is ‘‘100 percent’’ convinced.

--more--"

Are we being Conditized again? Is a horrific terror attack on the way? This smells of the summer of 2001, unearthing this mess for a new trial.

Sunday Globe Special: Back From the Beach

Look what I was covered in when I logged in:

Rush to Save Wildlife in California Oil Spill

At least the drought is over:

"Deluges in Great Plains boost comeback from years of drought" by Roxana Hegeman Associated Press  May 24, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. — Drenching rains that recently soaked the Great Plains have brought welcomed moisture to areas still recovering from droughts, greening pastures as ranchers begin the annual rite of moving cattle to the nation’s summer grazing lands.

Ranchers in Kansas and elsewhere in cattle country are still trying to rebuild herds that were decimated in the 2012 and 2013 droughts, when they sold off much of their livestock because of shriveled pastures and skyrocketing hay prices.

But in the past month, ranchers have benefited from inches of rain: parts of Oklahoma and Texas averaged between 400 and 500 percent of their normal rainfall, and central Kansas saw 125 percent of what’s normal, according to Don Keeney, MDA Weather Services meteorologist.

‘‘Nationally, range and pasture conditions are notably improved from last year and other recent periods of drought throughout the US,’’ Kansas State University Extension beef specialist Glynn Tonsor said, adding that it means beef cow herds will expand as planned.

That’s good news for consumers, who are seeing record retail beef prices — averaging $6.08 a pound for the all-fresh beef, according to the US Department of Agriculture, 14 percent higher than it was a year ago. Current prices are a result of a double whammy: tighter beef supplies because of cutbacks in herds during the drought and fewer calves going to the slaughterhouse now as ranchers restock herds.

The expansion is reflected in the last official count in January showing the nation’s cattle herd was up by 600,000 head compared with a year ago — which means more calves are being born this year. ‘‘We are expanding the herd very quickly right now,’’ said Kevin Good, a market analyst with industry-tracking group CattleFax.

His assessment is based on two important indicators. First, the number of heifers being slaughtered is down between 7 and 8 percent, reflecting that ranchers are keeping their young female calves rather than marketing them. Secondly, slaughter numbers are down 17 percent, an indication fewer animals are going to market than during the drought years.

Those dynamics all come back to the drought’s lingering effects that ranchers are now watching dissipate as lush pasture grasses replace the stunted stubble of dry years.

Kansas cattleman Ken Grecian sold off during the recent droughts about a third of his cattle herd that had once numbered 350. But last year’s summer rains encouraged him to begin rebuilding, and he added about 55 heifers this year.

Most of his grass recovered nicely last summer, and he put fewer cattle out so as not to overgraze it. This year, he thinks his pastures will have recovered enough to increase the numbers to near normal.

‘‘As far as the drought being broken, I don’t think it is broken yet,’’ Grecian said. ‘‘It wouldn’t take too many hot days to make things look tough again.’’

--more--"

Sand has turned to mud and then.... flood?

Also see: Cruise ship that struck coral reef in Bermuda back in Boston

Related: Day at the Beach

Sorry I ran out of gas yesterday:

"Summer season starts with lowest Memorial weekend gas prices in a decade" by Jay Fitzgerald Globe Correspondent  May 21, 2015

Gasoline prices have climbed over the past few weeks and may rise few cents more before Memorial Day, one of the biggest driving weekends of the year.

But grumbling motorists can take solace as they fill up their tanks before cruising to the Cape or other get-aways: Prices are the lowest in a decade heading into the holiday weekend and about $1 less than a year ago.

Most specialists say prices should hold near current levels for the rest of the summer, barring any natural or man-made catastrophes that could threaten supplies.

“It’s hard to remember that prices were so much higher last year,” said Rob Smith, an analyst at IHS Energy, a Denver research and consulting firm. “I was recently filling up my gas tank and noticed I was paying more than I was a few months back. Then I remembered how much it cost just a year ago.”

Average gasoline prices in Massachusetts have jumped nearly 20 cents a gallon over the past month to about $2.63 cents, according to AAA, a nonprofit auto services organization, but remain well below $3.65 a year ago. Nationally, prices are up more 25 cents to $2.72 a gallon, compared to $3.64 a gallon during the same period in 2014.

Gasoline has followed the price of crude, which accounts for most of the cost of gasoline. A year ago crude prices were above $100 a barrel, but soon after began to plummet, falling to a low of $43 a barrel in March as oil from the US production boom flooded the market.

Crude oil prices, however, began rising again, hitting $65 a barrel earlier this month, partly because of fears that US production was slowing.

********

Patrick DeHaan, an analyst at GasBuddy.com, a gas price site for consumers, and others expressed confidence that fuel prices, though they may still rise a few more cents in coming weeks, should remain largely stable through the summer as crude production holds at historically high levels.

In addition, prices normally jump in the spring as refineries shut down for routine maintenance and switch over to summer gasoline blends, formulated to reduce smog. Those refineries are operating again, which should also help stabilize prices, analysts said.

American motorists appear to be responding to lower gas prices and an improving economy.

Related: $$DW

Also see:

"Consumer confidence unexpectedly fell in May by the most in more than two years as Americans’ views on the economy dimmed. The University of Michigan preliminary index of sentiment dropped to 88.6, the lowest since October, from 95.9 in April. The 7.3-point decrease was the largest since December 2012. News that the world’s largest economy stalled last quarter shook Americans’ outlook, while the tick up in fuel costs since early March also contributed to the gloomier perceptions. Households still held relatively upbeat views on incomes, a sign spending will be sustained."

Even U.S. banks are saying the first quarter was again a contraction (blame the bad winter weather, blah, blah). So what to do about it?

Government to review mystery of slow first-quarter growth

Yeah, they are going to review the mystery of how and why they keep lying to you. I guess they think we will fall for anything these days.

*************

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, a unit of the Moody’s rating agency, said many consumers are spending gas savings on other items and services, from taking longer vacations to buying new household gadgets. But a surprising number of Americans appear to be stashing away their gas savings, Zandi noted.

Or there are none.

The US savings rate for disposable income rose to 5.5 percent in the first three months of the year, compared to 4.9 percent during the same period a year ago.

One theory is that people don’t believe gas prices will stay low for much longer, so they don’t spend it,” said Zandi. “Another theory is that people let it build up in their savings accounts and then spend it later. Eventually, I think people will end up spending the money. In fact, I’m expecting spending to increase this summer. I’d be surprised if it didn’t.”

Not me. These guys have been wrong for the last eight years with their carrot-and-$tick predictions. Look at 'em! All he has is "theories."

--more--"

Car ride back was kind of quiet until right at the end, huh?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Day at the Beach

It's where I will be headed once I finish this post:

"Report gives Boston-area beaches high marks; Says Boston region’s waters are cleaner than Waikiki’s" by Michael Levenson Globe Staff  May 23, 2015

Boston’s beaches, once synonymous with sewage and sludge, boast some of the cleanest waters of any urban beach in America — cleaner even than the iconic sun-splashed tourist meccas of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu and South Beach in Miami, according to a new report by a local environmental group.

RelatedOahu beach is named best in the US

Also seeOfficials seek cause of fatal Marine Corps Osprey crash

The findings came as something of a shock to sun worshipers in South Boston on Friday. Even on hot days, many assumed it was better to bake on the sand with a paperback than risk their health by plunging into the frigid, green-brown waves lapping the shores.

“I just didn’t think the beaches around here were clean,” said Maureen Sullivan, a 49-year-old South Boston resident who was sunning herself at M Street Beach. “A lot of times there’s this brown film on the shore — it almost looks like dirty suds.”

The report, by Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, a Boston-based environmental advocacy group, analyzed thousands of bacteria samples from 15 public beaches in nine communities.

**************

Bruce Berman, director of strategy, communications and programs at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay attributed results to the cleanup of Boston Harbor, a decades-long project that Save the Harbor/Save the Bay strongly supported. The harbor was for years a national punchline, branded “the filthiest harbor in America” by Vice President George H.W. Bush during his 1988 campaign against Governor Michael S. Dukakis.

Acting on a judge’s orders, the government spent more than $4 billion modernizing the Deer Island sewage treatment plant in the 1990s and building a 9.5-mile tunnel that carries treated sewage away from the shore and discharges it into the deep waters of Massachusetts Bay.

In 2011, facing another court order to clean up the harbor, the state opened a separate 2-mile-long, $225 million tunnel under Day Boulevard in South Boston to carry sewage and stormwater away from city beaches and to a new pumping station at Conley Terminal in South Boston.

Despite the massive pricetags, the projects had a significant impact, said Frederick Laskey, executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

“It’s great for the folks who live in the city and may not have the means to go to the Cape or the Maine shore to find a clean beach,” he said. “Well, they can find it right here.”

Still, even clean beaches can be forced to close when it rains, flushing bacteria and contaminants from sewers and drains into the ocean, Berman said. Last year, 51 “red flags” were flown on Boston-area beaches, signifying dangerously high levels of bacteria, compared to 109 in 2013, the report said.

The drop was due to a decrease in rainfall in the Boston area, from 13 inches on average in previous summers to just 7 inches last summer, according to the report.

“The big lesson is that you can swim on most of these beaches in any weather, but you should be cautious,” and as for the brown, soapy film that Sullivan, the South Boston beach-goer, complained about, it’s probably a harmless bloom of algae, Berman said. “It smells sweet,” he said, “and, trust me, sewage doesn’t smell sweet.”

But even clean water may not be enough to persuade some residents to dive into ocean. It’s just too cold, said Michael Guarnieri, 55, and then there was Alex Barbolla, 26, who said she would never take a dip, no matter how clean the ocean....

That's odd because I was told the oceans were heating up.

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Maybe you should just go the the water park instead.

So you see anything else at the beach?

"US pipeline accidents surge along with oil production boom" Associated Press  May 22, 2015

WASHINGTON — The oil pipeline leak that fouled a stretch of California coastline this week reflects a trend of large increases in both US oil production and the number of pipeline accidents.

Since 2009, the annual number of significant accidents on oil and petroleum pipelines has shot up by almost 60 percent, roughly matching the rise in US crude oil production, according to an analysis of federal data by the Associated Press.

Who could have seen that coming?

Nearly two-thirds of the leaks during that time have been linked to corrosion or failures of material, welding, or equipment failures, which are often associated with older pipelines, but can occur in newer ones, too.

Other leaks were blamed on natural disasters or human error.

No cause has yet been determined for this week’s pipeline failure northwest of Santa Barbara. Up to 105,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled, making it among the largest spills in the US over the past two decades.

Must be why it did not initially make print.

The leak covered sand and rocks with a thick, tar-like goo and forced two state beaches to close. About a fifth of the oil reached the Pacific Ocean. Federal regulators on Friday prohibited the pipeline from reopening until corrective actions are taken.

Plains All American Pipeline LP, which operates the pipeline, and its subsidiaries have reported 223 accidents along their lines since 2006. Those accidents resulted in a combined 864,300 gallons of spilled hazardous liquids, damages topping $32 million, and 25 federal enforcement actions.

The pipe in California had no previous problems and was thoroughly inspected in 2012, according to the company. It underwent similar tests about two weeks ago, although the results had not been analyzed....

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Related:

"An estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil was dumped into the ocean from a broken pipeline just off the central California coast before it was shut off Tuesday, creating a spill stretching about 4 miles along the beach, the Coast Guard said. The scenic stretch of coastline about 20 miles northwest of the pricey real estate of Santa Barbara is dotted with state-run beaches that are popular with campers, and the spill comes a few days before the Memorial Day weekend and subsequent summer camping season begin."

That $tinks!

I'm told "environmental damage was anticipated, but dead fish and oily birds had not been found in the calm seas or rocky coast by late morning," in print with this photograph on page A2 (and never you mind the approval of Arctic drilling, ugh!).

As for the radioactive spew that has fouled the Pacific for more than four years.... maybe those pipelines do need a rethink!
"Oil spill spreads across 9 miles of California coast" by Christopher Weber and Brian Melley Associated Press  May 21, 2015

GOLETA, Calif. — An oil spill that fouled beaches and threatened wildlife along a scenic stretch of the California coast spread across 9 miles of ocean Wednesday as cleanup efforts began and federal regulators investigated how the pipeline leaked.

Workers in protective suits raked and shoveled smelly black goo off the beaches, and boats towed booms into place to corral the two slicks off the Santa Barbara coast.

Up to 105,000 gallons spilled from an onshore pipe and a fifth of that — 21,000 gallons — reached the sea, according to estimates provided by officials.

The chief executive of the company that runs the pipeline, Plains All American Pipeline LP, was at the site of the spill Wednesday and apologized.

‘‘We apologize for the damage that it’s done to the wildlife and to the environment and we’re very sorry for the disruption and inconvenience that it’s caused on the citizens and the visitors to this area,’’ Greg L. Armstrong said at a news conference.

Crude was flowing through the pipe at 84,000 gallons an hour when the leak was detected. It took three hours to shut down, although company officials didn’t say how long it leaked before it was discovered.

Federal regulators from the Department of Transportation, which oversees oil pipeline safety, investigated the leak’s cause, the pipe’s condition, and potential regulatory violations.

The 24-inch pipe built in 1991 had no previous problems and was thoroughly inspected in 2012, according to Plains All American Pipeline LP. The pipe underwent similar tests about two weeks ago, though the results had not been analyzed yet.

There was no estimate on the cost of the cleanup or how long it might take.

A combination of soiled beaches and the pungent stench of petroleum caused state parks officials to close Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach, both popular campgrounds west of Santa Barbara, over the Memorial Day weekend.

The early toll on wildlife included two oil-covered pelicans, said spokeswoman Melinda Greene. Biologists were seen counting dead fish and crustaceans along sandy beaches and rocky shores.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife closed fishing and shellfish harvesting for a mile east and west of Refugio beach and it deployed booms to protect the nesting and foraging habitat of the snowy plover and the least tern, both endangered shore birds, a spokeswoman said.

The area is habitat for seals, sea lions, and whales, which are now migrating north.

Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday night declared a state of emergency, a move that frees up additional state funding and resources to help in the cleanup efforts.

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley said her office, along with the state attorney general, is investigating the pipeline spill for possible criminal prosecution.

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And California was already having water problems:

"Calif. farmers volunteer cuts in water usage; Record drought shaking system" by Jennifer Medina New York Times  May 23, 2015

LOS ANGELES — Ever since the Gold Rush, California farmers have staked their claim to water and ferociously protected their rights to use it to irrigate the crops that have made the state the greengrocer for the nation.

But on Friday, in a sign of how the record-setting drought is shaking up established ways here, state officials accepted an offer from farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to give up a quarter of their water this season, either by leaving part of their land unplanted or finding other ways to reduce their water use.

In return, the state has assured them that it will not seek further cuts in the growing season.

The deal is an important concession from a relatively small number of growers that officials hope will prompt similar agreements throughout the state’s agricultural industry, which uses 80 percent of the water consumed in the state in a normal year.

“We’re in an unprecedented drought, and we have to exercise the state’s water rights in an unprecedented way,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board.

“This is a breakthrough in what has long been a rhetorical battle,’’ Marcus said. “It’s a significant turning point to have people say, ‘We know this is complicated. We want to do something early in good faith that is a pragmatic solution for everyone.’ ”

In the weeks since Governor Jerry Brown announced across-the-board cutbacks for urban water systems, the state’s farmers have become something of a scapegoat. Residents who are expected to time their showers and let their lawns turn brown have angrily accused the agricultural industry of not doing enough to curb its use of water, although many growers have faced dramatic cuts for the last two years.

Farmers up and down the state feel besieged, and they have fought back with public relations campaigns to emphasize their conservation efforts and explain how their produce feeds much of the country. 

Public relations will solve any problem.

While the deal made Friday is unlikely to have a dramatic effect on food prices or the water supply, the concession by the farmers in the delta — who collectively own about 10 percent of the state’s agricultural land — was a preemptive effort to limit potentially steeper cuts. Under the agreement, farmers who want to take part will have until June 1 to submit a plan to the state for how they intend to achieve the cutbacks.

The deal applies only to delta farmers who own property next to a river or stream and have rights to divert water to be used there, or what are known as riparian rights. If farmers with such rights do not participate in the program they could face even deeper cuts later this year, officials said.

“There’s going to be a great deal of peer pressure to do the right thing,” said Michael George, the delta water master, who is responsible for administering water rights in the region and helped craft the deal. 

Doesn't it seem like the right thing would be $elf-explanatory? Why the pressure then?

The state has not moved to restrict water use for growers with the oldest, most established water rights since the 1970s, but it seems inevitable that those growers will be limited this year. For many farmers, a fear that the worst is yet to come convinced them that they would be better off giving up water before they began planting for the season.

“There is a threat that the state might try the unthinkable and tell us that we cannot use any of the water,” said Dennis Gardemeyer, a delta farmer who helped spur the deal. “I and almost everyone in the delta think that will result in all manner of lawsuits and they will not prevail, but there’s always that threat.”

I feel like I've seen this before.

Gardemeyer, who owns land that has been used for farming in the central part of the delta for roughly a century, said he began thinking about making the state an offer late last year, after hearing repeated talk of draconian cuts.

“You have people in the state who haven’t a clue of what it’s really like in the delta — we’re not the ogres we’ve been portrayed to be,” he said, citing water conservation efforts the region has long used. “We need to start to educate people and make everyone understand we’re doing everything we can to provide water for the rest of the state that’s in dire need.”

Gardemeyer said he expected many of the delta’s roughly 4,000 farmers to sign on to the proposal, largely by forgoing crops like corn that use a lot of water.

Because the delta farmers represent only around 5 percent of the state’s growers, it is unlikely that this deal will have a big effect on the overall water supply, said Jonas Minton, a former deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources.

Then why all the print?

Minton called the deal both “symbolic and potentially precedent-setting.”

Oh.

“California’s water rights system does not work well with this little water,” Minton said. “The question is really whether other elements of agriculture, in particular the large corporate farms, will follow suit. If agriculture as a whole came anywhere close to matching the kinds of urban cuts that have been implemented, we would have sufficient water for this year and next.”

Oh, they still have their exemptions, huh?

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You know who has good beaches?

"Lawsuit says Fla. dentist ran ‘house of horrors,’ mistreated children" Associated Press  May 23, 2015

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A children’s dentist accused of performing unneeded tooth extractions and surgical procedures without anesthetic has agreed to stop practicing dentistry in Florida.

The state Department of Health said Friday that Dr. Howard Schneider of Jacksonville had relinquished his license to practice.

Schneider faces multiple lawsuits and his office has been picketed in recent weeks by parents carrying signs as a growing number of ex-patients complain about his practices.

In the lawsuits, parents allege their children would go into Schneider’s office to get one tooth pulled, and come out with neck bruises and multiple teeth removed.

In addition to the lawsuits, Florida officials have launched an investigation. Schneider did not return a call seeking comment.

Schneider is the only pediatric dentist in Jacksonville who took Medicaid, so his practice attracted poorer clients, according to the lawsuit.

Schneider is also accused of wearing scary costumes and threatening the children with statements like ‘‘your mom will die if you tell her what happened,’’ according to statements from the plaintiffs.

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It could be worse, kids:

"After week in jail, Florida mom agrees to son’s circumcision" Associated Press  May 23, 2015

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — A Florida woman’s years-long battle against her child’s father over the boy’s circumcision ended Friday with her agreeing to the procedure in exchange for her release from jail.

In a remarkable turnaround after a week behind bars for contempt and an initial hearing in which she was ordered to remain jailed, court reconvened and a sobbing Heather Hironimus signed paperwork giving approval for the 4-year-old boy’s surgery.

She recoiled in tears and clasped her shackled hands after it was done.

The shift, though under duress, threatened the hero status given to Hironimus by a national movement of people opposed to circumcision, who have followed every turn of her case.

I'm uncomfortable with the Jewish ritual.

Attorneys for both Hironimus and the boy’s father, Dennis Nebus, declined to comment, citing an ongoing gag order in the case.

Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, which advocates against circumcision, said Hironimus had been ‘‘bullied’’ into signing, calling it the ‘‘saddest commentary on the court.’’

‘‘I don’t know what’s in his head,’’ she said of Judge Jeffrey Gillen, who presided over the case. ‘‘I don’t know how he can sleep at night.’’

Hironimus and Nebus had initially agreed to the circumcision in a parenting agreement filed in court, but the mother changed her mind.

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Time to head up the coast and home:

"Three years after Sandy, Jersey shore struggles to recover" by Wayne Parry Associated Press  May 21, 2015

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — In the months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey shore, Governor Chris Christie warned residents the damage would not be quickly undone.

Things would only look moderately better in the first summer after the storm, he said, and would be closer to normal in the second one.

But with the third summer after Sandy nearly here, the Jersey shore is still recovering despite the substantial progress that has been made in the 2½ years since the October 2012 storm. Beaches have been restored, roads rebuilt, infrastructure hardened, and many homes have been repaired.

Sorry to get stuck in the muck.

But thousands of others still have not, and only now is the state getting to the last of thousands of applicants who had been on a waiting list for New Jersey’s main rebuilding grant program. The federal government has awarded New Jersey $4.1 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds for disaster recovery; $1.64 billion has been given to homeowners so far. The state says it is handing out money as fast as it can while guarding against theft or fraud.

‘‘I want to go home, I want my kids to go home, and everybody else to go back home,’’ said Joe Karcz, whose home in Stafford Township had to be demolished. ‘‘Two and a half years later, my home is still a dirt lot. I’ve moved 12 times since the storm. The home I’m in now just got sold, and I’ll be moving a 13th time. It’s a travesty.’’

Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said the administration expected the final phase of recovery to be the most difficult.

‘‘New Jersey continues to see remarkable progress in recovering from the worst natural disaster in our state’s history,’’ he said. ‘‘We know there is still more work to be done.’’

Beach replenishment projects have widened beaches in many parts of the state’s 127-mile coastline, but some vulnerable spots remain, largely because oceanfront homeowners refuse to sign easements allowing the work to take place. Christie has vowed to use eminent domain to acquire the strips of land needed for the project but still hasn’t done so.

Wouldn't look good for a guy running for president.

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Did you get your letter from FEMA yet?

"Seacoast vacation homes hit by higher insurance; Vacation homes face $250 surcharge" by Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff  May 20, 2015

A vacation home on the seacoast used to be a retreat. Now, it can be more like a money pit.

Owners of summer homes on the coast not only are getting hit with higher flood-insurance premiums, but also a $250 annual surcharge. The fee, which took effect last month, affects only owners of second homes in flood-prone areas.

The surcharge is $25 for primary residences.

Nationwide, more than a quarter of the 5 million homeowners who use the National Flood Insurance Program are insuring vacation homes, according to a 2013 federal government estimate. While its unclear how many of the 60,000 policyholders in Massachusetts are covering secondary homes, flood insurance experts say it could affect thousands, from those who have cottages on Scituate’s Humarock Beach to owners of clapboard capes in Dennis.

“It’s exorbitant,” Jack Gleason, a 72-year-old retired teacher from Andover, said of the surcharge. Gleason, who has owned a cottage in Plymouth for more than 40 years, was notified this week that he has to pay the $250 on top of the hundreds he spends annually for flood insurance.

Gleason said he bought flood insurance a few years ago, after watching the extensive water damage caused by storms such as Hurricane Sandy. Flood insurance is a separate coverage from homeowners insurance.

“After this, I might have secondary thoughts,” he said about the costs. “It might force people out of flood insurance.”

Peter Ruffini, a managing broker for Coldwell Banker in Scituate and Cohasset, said coastal homeowners have to accept that flood insurance prices are going to increase substantially every year. The increases are cooling the real estate market in some coastal communities, Ruffini said.

“A lot of folks are rethinking the value proposition” of living near the ocean, he said. “When the first question is ‘Is it a flood zone or does it have flood insurance?’ most people don’t want to see it.”

The average annual premium for flood insurance — for both primary and secondary homes nationwide — is rising 19 percent in 2015 to $638, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The figure does not include the surcharges.

Recent hurricanes and tropical storms have triggered a need for the premium increases and surcharges. Federal flood insurance covers homeowners that private insurers refuse to cover because the risk of loss is too high, too expensive, and too frequent. The program, which is subsidized by taxpayers, is more than $24 billion in debt, hobbled by payments on claims after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

You will be doing a lot of digging in the sand.

The price increases are designed to make the program more self-sufficient, said Susan Hendrick, a FEMA spokeswoman.

“Providing flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program is an important way communities can protect themselves from one of the most common and costly disasters we face,” she said.

Congress in 2012 tried to do more to change the federal flood program and reduce the taxpayer subsidy, so the insurance would better reflect the costs and risks of living near the water. But the changes, including higher premiums, came as a separate effort that expanded flood zones. The two factors increased the cost of insurance for some by thousands of dollars annually, provoking a nationwide outcry from coastal homeowners.

Last year, Congress approved a scaled-back version of the reforms that included smaller, capped, premium increases. But the surcharge was one of the ways for the program to recoup its expenses, according to FEMA. And it remains unlikely to change.

US Representative William Keating, a Bourne Democrat, said homeowners got some relief with last year’s legislation, though more has to be done “to accomplish the difficult balance of ensuring our coastal homeowners are paying for affordable flood insurance while also maintaining the solvency of the program.”

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You should be happy they didn't seize it

As for the vacation this year:

Boston-bound cruise ship runs aground in Bermuda.... A Boston-bound cruise ship that was forced to return to Bermuda after striking a coral reef resumed its journey to Boston Wednesday afternoon, officials said."

The cruise was canceled due to the ship needing restoration

Maybe we should just go to the zoo:

"North of Boston, Stone Zoo’s accreditation is at risk; Aging facility cited for maintenance lag, funding issues" by Sacha Pfeiffer Globe Staff  May 19, 2015

This should be a celebratory time for Zoo New England.

The chronically underfunded organization, which runs the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, recently completed its largest-ever fund-raiser, surpassing its $6.6 million goal, and received the first seven-figure gift in its history. It has beefed up its board and has a modern new children’s exhibit in the works.

But now it is facing a new woe: The 110-year-old Stone Zoo is at risk of losing its accreditation, due to overdue maintenance and insufficient funding, and has until September to resolve those concerns.

The tenuous status of the two zoos is not new; for years they have struggled financially, raising questions about why it is so hard for the Boston area to manage facilities that thrive in other cities.

Both the Franklin Park and Stone zoos are saddled with aging campuses they inherited when they transitioned from state-run entities to a nonprofit structure in the early 1990s. Modernizing them would likely require more money than Zoo New England’s ambitious capital campaign just raised.

The Stone Zoo, 10 miles north of Boston near Spot Pond, uses an old trailer for a bathroom. Zoo New England’s chief executive, John Linehan, noted that it is difficult to raise money to replace it because donors aren’t clamoring to put their names on a facility that houses toilets.

On the fund-raising side, Zoo New England has numerous challenges. It’s competing for dollars in a crowded cultural marketplace. It must address some people’s fundamental opposition to keeping animals in captivity. And its zoos are not easily accessible by public transportation, often causing them to be overlooked.

Zoo officials also face longstanding questions about whether the Boston area needs and can support two zoos.

******************

Zoo officials said they believe the new gubernatorial administration offers an opportunity, considering their tense relationship with former governor Deval Patrick.

He hated animals, and what a total wreck was his administration!

That was due to a 2009 public relations debacle in which they warned that Patrick’s zoo budget cuts could result in animals being put to death. No animals were killed, but the political damage was done.

“The change of administration is what we’re hoping for,” said Zoo New England’s new board chairman, David Porter, the owner of Boston’s Baystate Financial.

What an indictment of Deval!

In what zoo officials take as positive signs, Governor Charlie Baker spoke at Zoo New England’s annual gala this month, and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash has had several conversations with them to discuss the accreditation issue and bond funding.

I think just about everyone is seeing it that way now.

A spokesman for Ash, Paul McMorrow, said: “We are trying to figure out how to make the zoos the most effective public-private partnership we can have, but as far as getting a number on a piece of paper, we’re not there yet.”

Last year, Zoo New England had a $14 million budget, of which $5.6 million was provided by the state, and ran a $342,000 operating deficit, according to its most recent tax filing. In prior years it has toggled between deficits and surpluses. “Every year we’re right on the line,” Linehan said....

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RelatedTwo new lions to debut at Franklin Park Zoo

I will be going silent for the rest of the day. Sorry.