Thursday, July 28, 2016

Big City Nights

I'll leave the lights on for you:

"New York City casts a net to catch the next big startup" by Steve Lohr New York Times  May 03, 2016

NEW YORK — Sure, New York has added tens of thousands of good-paying tech jobs while the Wall Street job engine has sputtered. And the city’s startups pulled in $1.94 billion in venture funding in the first three months of this year, the most for any quarter in five years and second only to Silicon Valley, according to the research firm CB Insights.

But the big hit — the next Google or Facebook or even Salesforce, a powerhouse in online services for business — has proved elusive.

To improve the odds of fostering that next big thing in New York, executives at tech startups, big tech companies, and venture firms are creating a new policy and advocacy organization, Tech:NYC. The nonprofit will be formally announced at an event this week.

Tech:NYC has no set agenda yet, but the new organization arrives at a time when the path ahead for the local tech economy is uncertain. New York, it seems, has become fertile ground for startups, but has very few breakout winners.

There have been some notable failures...."

Why spoil the party after you got your nails done?

"New York authorities say they have ordered 143 nail salons to pay $2 million in unpaid wages and damages to 652 workers. A state task force established a year ago said Monday that it has opened investigations into more than 450 businesses, completing 383 so far. The state enacted reforms following a New York Times expose on underpaid nail salon employees, many of them immigrants. The changes include requiring salons to publicly post notices of workers’ rights to legal wages and a safe environment. As a state license condition, salons are required to get insurance or bonding to cover business liabilities and unpaid wages. Officials say 4,000 salons statewide have secured a bond. Owners are also required to provide protective equipment, including masks and gloves."


Time to go pick up your date:

"The new Tappan Zee Bridge has been under construction for three years and is expected to be completed by 2018 at a cost of $3.9 billion. It is being built alongside the original Tappan Zee span, which dates to 1955."

Should have taken the subway:

Bustling N.Y. subway tunnel to close for 18 months for repairs

At least the subway cars will be new.


Gotta climb some stairs:

"A New York police officer recklessly fired his gun into a darkened stairwell, shooting a man, and then ‘‘stood there whining and moaning about how he could get fired’’ instead of helping the dying man, a prosecutor said Monday at the manslaughter trial."

You can begin here; I have the rest on tape.

"In emotional testimony, N.Y. officer describes fatal shooting" by Marc Santora New York Times   February 09, 2016

NEW YORK — The rookie New York City police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project testified Monday that he drew his weapon because of the foreboding and dangerous environment and that he mistakenly fired his gun when he became startled.

As he described the events of that night, Officer Peter Liang broke down and had to take a break from testifying to compose himself.

The emotions on display in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn reflected the intensity of the feelings surrounding the trial, which has raised questions about the lethal use of force by the police and the difficult situations law enforcement officers can find themselves in even when performing what would be considered routine duty.

On Nov. 20, 2014, Liang and his partner, Officer Shaun Landau, were conducting what is known as a vertical patrol at the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York.

Liang had just entered a darkened stairwell when he fired his gun, the bullet ricocheting off a wall before striking Akai Gurley, 28, who was walking down the stairs with his girlfriend.

Liang, 28, is charged with manslaughter and other offenses.

Prosecutors have spent much of the two-week trial arguing that unholstering his weapon was unwarranted and reckless in a place filled with residents going about their daily business.

Liang said that before entering the stairwell, he had seen bullet holes on the roof. “I feel the need to take my gun out,” he said.

Struggling to keep his composure, he described the moment he fired his weapon — the result of a combination of dread and confusion.

“I heard something on my left side; it was a quick sound and it just startled me, and the gun just went off after I tensed up,” he said.

Liang was relatively new to the force. The dangers of the kind of patrol he was on were underscored last week when two officers, Diara E. Cruz and Patrick Espeut, were shot in a housing project in the Bronx.

As a lawyer for the defense asked Liang to recall the shooting, he became overwhelmed with emotion.

“I said, ‘Oh my god, someone is hit!’” he said, as his mother watched in the packed courtroom. “I went over the radio, ‘Pink Post One, male shot, call a bus.’ ”

He became unable to continue and was offered a brief break to compose himself before being questioned by prosecutors.

In addition to the manslaughter charge, Liang is charged with official misconduct for not helping Gurley as he lay on a fifth-floor landing. Transcripts from radio calls that night that have been introduced into evidence do not show that Liang called for an ambulance.

Gurley’s girlfriend, Melissa Butler, described in previous testimony how she crouched over his body, trying to revive him, but neither Liang nor his partner performed CPR, as is required under Police Department rules.


On Thursday, Landau was called by the prosecution to testify against his partner. “Peter was in shock,” he told the jury. “He couldn’t believe he just shot someone.”


Then deliberations began.

"NYC officer convicted of manslaughter in stairwell shooting" by Colleen Long and Jennifer Peltz Associated Press  February 12, 2016

NEW YORK — The courtroom audience gasped and Officer Peter Liang buried his head in his hands. Sentencing is set for April 14.

The shooting happened in a year of debate nationwide about police killings of black men, and activists have looked to Liang’s trial as a counterweight to cases in which grand juries have declined to indict officers, including the cases of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. Like Gurley, Brown and Garner were black and unarmed.

Meanwhile, supporters of Liang, who is Chinese-American, have said he has been made a scapegoat for past injustices.

Interesting point.

Liang radioed for an ambulance, but he acknowledged not helping Gurley’s girlfriend try to revive him. Liang explained he thought it was wiser to wait for professional medical aid.

While Liang’s trial unfolded, two other New York police officers, Patrick Espeut and Diara Cruz, were shot and wounded during a similar stairwell patrol in a different public housing complex. The gunman later killed himself. The judge barred any mention of those shootings in Liang’s trial.


He was sentence to probation, not prison, and was later exonerated?

"US won’t charge NYPD officer who killed unarmed teen" Associated Press  March 08, 2016

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors will not bring criminal charges in the case of an unarmed black teenager who was shot to death in his home by a white New York City police officer, officials said Tuesday.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said prosecutors found insufficient evidence to pursue federal charges in the 2012 death of Ramarley Graham and have officially concluded their investigation. The 18-year-old was shot in the bathroom of his Bronx home by an officer who had barged inside during a drug investigation. He was killed in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother.

In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said his office conducted a thorough and independent investigation, but determined ‘‘there is insufficient evidence to meet the high burden of proof required for a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.’’

Prosecutors have said police first encountered Graham when they spotted him and two other people walking into a Bronx bodega in the afternoon of Feb. 2, 2012 and then immediately walking out. The officers, who were conducting a street narcotics investigation, said they saw Graham adjusting his waistband and told fellow officers they believed he had a gun. Police followed him to his Bronx home. An officer made his way into the home and forced his way into a bathroom and shot Graham once.

Richard Haste, the officer who shot Graham, said he fired his weapon because he thought he was going to be shot. No weapons were found in the apartment.

Haste was initially indicted in the Bronx on a state manslaughter charge, but a judge dismissed the case after determining that prosecutors improperly instructed grand jurors. A new grand jury declined to re-indict the officer.

After the shooting, Haste was stripped of his badge and gun and assigned to the department’s fleet services division, officials said, but an internal disciplinary proceeding against him has been on hold pending the outcome of the federal investigation. In that time, Haste has received raises guaranteed by his union contract. A spokesman for the New York Police Department said Tuesday that Haste is currently on ‘‘modified assignment.’’

‘‘He’s gratified that the federal government has properly determined that there were no civil rights violations,’’ Haste’s attorney, Stuart London, said. ‘‘There never were any winners in this case because there was a loss of life.’’

Graham’s family received a $3.9 million settlement from New York City.

Last month, Graham’s parents and civil rights activists held an overnight protest at Bharara’s office, sleeping on the concrete steps of the Manhattan office building, protesting what they believed was a lag in the investigation. They have also repeatedly sent letters to local and federal officials calling for Haste to be fired.

Graham’s father, Frank Graham, told the New York Daily News that Tuesday’s decision was ‘‘heartbreaking’’ and ‘‘frustrating.’’

‘‘But we’ll just move onto the next fight — which is firing the officers immediately,’’ he said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy at Graham’s funeral, said the decision to not pursue federal charges against the officer was ‘‘very painful’’ for Graham’s family and the public.

Graham’s death has been cited during numerous demonstrations after grand juries in Missouri and New York declined to indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island. The deaths fueled a national conversation about policing and race. A federal grand jury is currently hearing evidence in Garner’s case.


The family should have held out for more money.

"Family of D.J. Henry reaches $6m settlement in son’s death" by Milton J. Valencia Globe Staff  March 14, 2016

The family of Danroy “D.J.” Henry, the young college student from Easton who was shot and killed by a Pleasantville, N.Y., police officer under questionable circumstances in 2010, has reached a $6 million settlement with the town and the officer.

The shooting of Henry attracted national attention, and the state’s congressional delegation had called for an independent federal inquiry. Henry’s parents were guests at President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address.

Federal prosecutors decided in April 2015 not to bring criminal civil rights charges against the police officer, Aaron Hess, saying they could not determine intentional wrongdoing....


Looks like ju$tice to me.

Police seek gunman in shooting at concert that killed 1

Man spent 5 months in Rikers Island jail because no one told him his bail was just $2 

Looks like fa$ci$m to me, and so does this next piece:

"Candie Hailey spent more than three years in a New York City jail, most of it in solitary confinement, before a jury decided she was innocent last year and set her free. Now, prosecutors say she hasn’t been punished enough. The 32-year-old woman went on trial Monday on criminal charges stemming from a confrontation with guards at the city’s Rikers Island jail in 2013. Hailey’s chaotic Rikers stint and subsequent struggle to return to society was documented earlier this year by the Associated Press. Hailey, who was diagnosed with borderline character disorder, mood disorder, and anti-social personality disorder, could face up to seven years in prison if convicted."

That also looks like torture to me as well as an Orwellian hole of state logic.

Judge was so upset he pulled a knife.

"After Times Square fake bomb scare, officers called heroes" by Joseph Frederick and Jennifer Peltz Associated Press  July 21, 2016

NEW YORK — Police used a robot to scan his vehicle, and hostage negotiators tried to talk with him over the next approximately six hours, with Meneses donning a red construction helmet and holding a household remote-control device as if poised to use it to detonate something, Aubry and Chief of Department James O’Neill said.

Ultimately, SWAT officers closed in, pepper-sprayed Hector Meneses, 52, and pulled him from the SUV, which was packed with 19 more garden lights and a capped pot with wires coming out, seemingly meant to simulate a pressure cooker bomb, officials said.

The bomb hoax in one of the world’s top terror targets came at a tense time for police and communities nationwide, amid anger and fear over police killing civilians, gunmen killing police, and recent attacks by extremists in Orlando and Europe....


This article looks like it appeared to justify using a robot assassin in Dallas.

And what's the buzz in New York these days?

"NYPD bee squad ready for sting operations on urban swarms" Associated Press  July 26, 2016

NEW YORK — The NYPD bee brigade responds to dozens of calls each spring and summer, including some recently where officers used vacuums to remove wiggling masses of tens of thousands of bees from a lamppost near Grand Central Terminal, the awning of a restaurant, and even a chained bicycle near Times Square.

Since 2010, when the city legalized beekeeping, the New York honeybee population has soared from just a few dozen illegal hives. Most of the buzzing inhabitants live in about 300 government-registered hives in gardens, backyards, and rooftops including an elegant Waldorf Astoria hotel terrace, according to the city’s Health Department. Hundreds more thrive in surrounding suburbs.

On the comeback trail are they?

City officials welcome the bees — except when hives become overcrowded and about half the bees leave to form swarms that last a few days while an egg-laying queen and her ‘‘scouts’’ search for a new home. To startled city residents, the phenomenon can have a horror-film quality.

Last month, the 911 alert that appeared on their handheld electronic device read: ‘‘Investigate possible crime: vicious animal.’’ That led to a swarm that had attached itself to a brick wall in Brooklyn. 

Have you seen September Clues?

‘‘You try to get there as quickly as you can to corral them because you don’t want the bees to fall on the public. Even a wind gust can knock them down,’’ Higgins said.

About 20,000 bees were once plucked from a Park Avenue bush.

As unlikely as it may seem in a city considered a concrete jungle, New York has plenty of bees drawn to greenery that produces pollen, including flowers, plants, trees — even landscaped rooftops.

‘‘They’ll come in with a loud buzz, like a school of fish, and then they cluster up,’’ said Daniel Higgins, one cop who knows a thing or two about sting operations. Higgins’s main job is working in a counterterrorism unit, [but] is also one of two official department beekeepers....


So when you gonna retire?

"New York City’s pension for civil employees voted to exit its $1.5 billion portfolio of hedge funds and shift the money to other assets, deciding that the loosely regulated investment pools didn’t perform well enough to justify the high fees. The action Thursday by the trustees of the $51 billion Employees Retirement System, known as NYCERS, may signal a growing willingness among public pensions to pull their money from the investment vehicles, whose highly paid managers have become a political lightning rod and have frequently failed to outperform. In September 2014, California’s Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest US pension, divested its $4 billion portfolio saying it cost too much and was too small to affect its overall returns."

I guess you will just have to keep working like the rest off us. 

Why don't you go down to Wall Street and bust a couple bankers? 

Or move to Chicago:

"State’s attorney asks to step aside from Chicago police case" by DON BABWIN Associated Press  May 05, 2016

CHICAGO — Cook County’s embattled state’s attorney asked a judge Thursday to appoint a special prosecutor to take over the case against a white Chicago police officer she didn’t charge until more than a year after he shot a black teenager 16 times.

In a motion that surprised civil rights attorneys who were set to continue their push to force Anita Alvarez off the case, her office filed a motion to have someone else prosecute Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is charged with first-degree murder in the October 2014 killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Juiced him, did he?

Alvarez was voted out of office under withering criticism of her handling of the case and is leaving office in December. She didn’t charge Van Dyke until hours before the court-ordered November 2015 release of the dashcam video.

On Thursday, even as she was asking off the case, Alvarez continued to defend herself against allegations that her close political relationship with the police officers’ union created a conflict of interest and made her reluctant to pursue criminal cases against officers in misconduct and shooting cases.

She explained her reason for asking off the case in a statement: ‘‘I believe that the results of the recent election and the impending transition of this office make this the best and most responsible decision.’’



Leaders pleading for peace in Chicago after wave of violence
Chicago releases videos of police shootings
Singer on Mexican ‘The Voice’ dies after shooting in Chicago

Should have stayed home.

Also see:

No grounds found for school takeover

The state is bankrupt and broke:

"State report shows Illinois staring down $8 billion deficit" Associated Press  July 14, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois state spending will outstrip what it brings in by nearly $8 billion this year, according to a government analysis.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability reviewed the budget deal that lawmakers and Governor Bruce Rauner approved in June on the brink of the new fiscal year, which began this month, at the behest of Republican state Representative David McSweeney.

The report, provided to AP in advance of general release Thursday, found that the state will spend $39.6 billion — including $3 billion in obligations that were not addressed in the six-month stop-gap budget agreed to by Democrats who control the Legislature and Rauner — but will bring in only $31.8 billion.

‘‘We’re setting up a major disaster,’’ said McSweeney, a Barrington Hills legislator, who was one of a handful of ‘‘no’’ votes against the first major budget deal reached in a year. ‘‘A tax increase becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because with every day that goes by, the deficit is getting worse.’’

The report indicates the deficit as of last month stood at $3.8 billion. It came on the same day it was learned that the state’s backlog of overdue bills could reach $10 billion by December.


They might be in trouble with the FBI:

"Illinois debt could provoke dispute with FBI" by John O’Connor Associated Press  June 08, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois, on the cusp of entering its second year without a state budget, counts among its many unpaid bills one that threatens to provoke a dispute with the nation’s top crime-fighting force.

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that the deadbeat state owes $3 million to the FBI for processing fingerprints and conducting background checks. The debt is now so long overdue that it could be turned over to the federal government’s collection agency — the Treasury Department.

The delinquent payment is just the latest unexpected consequence to emerge from a stalemate between Illinois’s Republican governor and the Democrats controlling the state’s Legislature. The impasse has left the state without a budget since July 1 and exacerbated a long-running problem of bills piling up. As of Tuesday, Illinois had more than $7 billion in unpaid bills.

Governor Bruce Rauner, a millionaire businessman in his first term, is holding out for changes in law to cut business costs and restrict the power of labor unions. Democrats say consideration of Rauner’s plans to limit workers’ compensation payments, crimp collective bargaining, adopt term limits, and create a balanced method for drawing political districts should wait until after lawmakers have tamed a multibillion-dollar deficit through spending cuts and tax increases.

The fingerprinting money has already been set aside. There’s nearly $19 million in an account called the State Police Services Fund, which is used to pay for FBI fingerprint expertise. But without a legislative appropriation, no one has any authority to spend the money.

The FBI says states rarely fall more than four months behind in payments, but it has not stopped examining Illinois fingerprints.

A spokesman for the agency’s Criminal Justice Information Service, Stephen Fischer, said the agency is exploring ‘‘alternative collection and processing options’’ to continue providing services to Illinois without going deeper into debt.

He did not elaborate, but Ken Zercie, a vice president of the International Association of Identification, said options could include federal grants or assistance from other agencies to fill the gap.

Zercie, who retired as laboratory director for the Connecticut Department of Public Safety, said the importance of gathering fingerprints and verifying identities and criminal histories means it’s a safe bet that the Justice Department won’t shut the door on Illinois.

‘‘That would be kind of illogical, given the state of everything,’’ Zercie said. ‘‘It’s a public safety issue.’’

This isn’t the first time the budget crisis has caused headaches for law enforcement. The AP reported in April that the secretary of state’s police force had to carry cash from driver’s license facilities for four months after an armored-truck company stopped work until it got paid.

The FBI processes 260,000 sets of Illinois fingerprints annually in criminal background checks for those seeking jobs such as school bus driver or private detective or applying for permits to carry concealed firearms or cultivate medicinal marijuana.


Looking more fa$ci$t every day is this country.

Isn't there anyone who can help?

‘‘We can show our respect by listening to you, learning from you, giving you the resources that you need to do your jobs. Our country needs that right now.’’

Also see: Obama the Hypocrite Hosts Cops in Chicago

Which side of the mouth was he talking out of?

Leads by example:

"Staff errors resulted in 152 federal inmates being freed after their correct release dates between 2009 and 2014, including three who spent more than an extra year behind bars, according to a report released Tuesday by the Justice Department watchdog. In a statement, Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush noted that ‘‘The Department of Justice is already taking affirmative steps to further reduce instances of inappropriate untimely releases occurring.’’ Five of those mistakes led to early releases, and none was charged with new crimes after they were freed."

That we know of.

Charges dropped in Freddie Gray case against Baltimore officers

The next Ground Nero going to be in Baltimore?

I guess white lights don't matter again.

Time for me to shut off the light. 

Good night, readers.


Obama breaks record for commuted prison sentences

Study calls Ferguson’s body camera policy worst in US

Understanding the benefits and risks of police body cameras

Activists give Boston’s body camera pilot program a mixed review

What they didn't catch:

Bill Bratton to step down as NYPD commissioner

Braintree police officer cleared in fatal March shooting

That's crazy. Here's an ice cream to make you forget it all and stay silent

See if you can shoot through that hoop.

"Chicago seeks tax hike to avert insolvency for largest pension" Bloomberg News  August 03, 2016

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is seeking higher utility taxes to keep the city’s largest pension fund from running out of money and set all four retirement plans on a path to solvency.

The city wants to raise the levies on water and sewer bills to shore up the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, the most underfunded of the four pensions, and Emanuel plans to discuss the plan Wednesday at an investor conference in Chicago, according to a person familiar with the plan who declined to be named before the mayor’s announcement. Without changes, the pension that serves more than 70,000 workers and retirees is on track to run out of money within a decade.

For years, Chicago failed to put aside enough taxpayer money to cover the rising cost of pensions. Its four retirement funds are short by $34 billion, and the strain is pressuring the budget as officials are forced to catch up. The stress spurred Moody’s Investors Service to slash Chicago’s rating to junk in May 2015, making it the lowest-ranked major US city except once-bankrupt Detroit. On average, all four of the city’s pensions are only 23 percent funded, according to an annual financial analysis.

Emanuel’s administration has taken steps to reverse the liabilities it inherited. In October, he pushed through a record property tax hike to shore up police and fire pensions. In May, he reached an agreement with unions to save the laborers’ fund from insolvency. That accord still needs state approval. Even with these steps that inflict pain on taxpayers, it will take decades to bring pension assets in line with promised benefits.

While these are positive steps, the unfunded liabilities aren’t going away. They’re just getting worse at a slower pace, Moody’s said in a July report. Chicago would have to raise nearly $1 billion a year to see a drop in pension liabilities. And that’s in addition to the $543 million property tax jump already approved for the public-safety funds." 

You will pay more for less and like it even if the money was stolen -- or, more appropriately, lost.