Thursday, April 29, 2010

Obama Administration Goes After Reporter's Sources

Paltalk News Network

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NEW YORK - If you think it's only Republicans who try to get reporters to cough up their sources in the name of national security, think again.

Remember when former New York times reporter Judith Miller was incarcerated while George W. Bush was president? She spent three months behind bars for refusing to reveal her sources in a CIA leak about the identify of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent and wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Well now it's time for a bit of deja vu.

Attorney General Eric Holder has authorized the issuance of subpoena which compels New York Times reporter James Risen to turn over documents and to testify before a federal Grand Jury.


He reported in his book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, about screw ups in the CIA's attempts to undermine Iran's nuclear weapons program.

So, let's get this straight.

The CIA fails in a mission to disrupt the Iranian program. But what's more important is - not its inability to do its job. Nope. What the government wants to rectify is the leaking of the information about the failure.

And to do that, it subpoenas the person who wrote about it.

Apparently, this administration, like the last, doesn't really understand that there's a First Amendment in the United States. Which grants Risen and Miller the right to report on the government - even if it's embarrassing - without fear of official retribution.

This is what separates the United States from totalitarian regimes where people are imprisoned or killed for their criticism of government.

The decision to subpoena Risen was ill conceived. It also shows that it really doesn't matter who is in power. It's the kind of authority that leads to abuses.

Risen's attorney says he will refuse to comply and will ask a judge to quash the subpoena. Let's hope he's successful. If not, another reporter likely will find himself imprisoned. And with him, so too will be some of the freedoms the Founding Fathers fought so hard for ensuing generations to enjoy.

Talk to Gary at 5 PM New York times weekdays on News Talk Online on the Paltalk News Network. Just go to and click on the Join the Chat button. There is no charge.


911 Operator: 'This Is Confusing'

Paltalk News Network

NEW YORK - Normally a dateline on a story just gives the city. But I'm going to give you a more precise dateline than New York. To test you. To see if it confuses you.

Here's the dateline: On 34th, east of 8th Avenue in the borough of Manhattan.

Now, is that confusing to you? Because it was for a New York City 911 operator this afternoon.

I was enjoying the spring weather on a plaza on 34th east of 8th Avenue adjacent to a building called 1 Penn Plaza when it happened. A window several stories above blew out, showering me, and the others who were pausing in the plaza with flying flying glass.

At first I thought it might have been a bomb. But no. There had been no explosion and there was no smoke.

Then I thought someone had jumped out the window. But, thankfully, there were no bodies at the foot of the building.

But one man had been cut. Not from flying glass. But because he tripped and fell in the rush to get out of the way.

So I pulled my cellphone from my pocket and I dialed 911.

The following is an approximation of the exact conversation based on my recollection. But I'm convince the tapes the city keeps of all 911 calls will verify its intended accuracy.

911 operator: 911 where is the problem

Me: On 34th east of 8th Avenue in the borough of Manhattan --

911: Sir, you have to tell me which borough

Me: In the borough of Manhattan. On 34th east of 8th Avenue --

911: You have to give me a building address. This is confusing

Me: At 1 Penn Plaza, in the borough of Manhattan --

911: 110? 110 Street?

Me: No, 1 Penn Plaza. Paul Edward Nora Nora Plaza

911: Sir this is confusing

Me: Nevermind, there's an officer here and she's calling it in on her radio

Thank God it wasn't a life and death emergency. God forbid the 911 operator be confused about that!


Talk to Gary at 5 PM New York Time weekday on News Talk Online on the Paltalk News Network at There is no charge

Gary Baumgarten
Host - News Talk Online
Director of News and Programing Paltalk News Network

Journalist shield law may not halt iPhone probe

April 27, 2010 10:43 AM PDT

The criminal investigation into Apple's errant iPhone prototype took a new twist this week, when Gawker Media claimed that the warrant used by police to search an editor's home was invalid.

It's clear that federal and state law generally provides journalists--even gadget bloggers--with substantial protections by curbing searches of their employees' workspaces. But it's equally clear that journalists suspected of criminal activity do not benefit from the legal shields that newspapers and broadcast media have painstakingly erected over the last half-century.

No less an authority than a California appeals court has ruled that the state's shield law does not prevent reporters from being forced, under penalty of contempt, to testify about criminal activity, if they're believed to be involved in it.

Jason Chen

Gizmodo editor Jason Chen in a video embedded in his April 19 post titled "This is Apple's next iPhone."

(Credit: Gizmodo/Screenshot by CNET)

California law does not prevent "newspersons from testifying about criminal activity in which they have participated or which they have observed," the court ruled in a 1975 case involving the Fresno Bee.

Eugene Volokh, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who teaches First Amendment law, says that court decision--the case is called Rosato v. Superior Court (PDF)--means that California's state shield law "wouldn't apply to subpoenas or searches for evidence of such criminal activity."

Translated: If Gizmodo editors are, in fact, a target of a criminal probe into the possession or purchase of stolen property, the search warrant served on editor Jason Chen on Friday appears valid. A blog post at on Monday, citing unnamed law enforcement officials, said charges could be filed against the buyer of the prototype 4G phone--meaning Gizmodo.

In the Fresno Bee case, the judges noted that the attorney-client privilege, the physician-patient privilege, and the psychotherapist-patient privilege are circumscribed during criminal investigations of lawyers, doctors, and therapists. Each of those privileges is stronger than the limited immunity that California extends to journalists.

Editors at Gizmodo, part of Gawker Media's blog network, last week said they paid $5,000 for what they believed to be a prototype of a future iPhone 4G. The story said the phone was accidentally left at a bar in Redwood City, Calif., last month by an Apple software engineer and found by someone who contacted Gizmodo, which had previously indicated that it was willing to pay significant sums for unreleased Apple products. Other gadget blogs were contacted too, including Engadget, and the criminal probe appears to be widening.

That criminal investigations can surmount journalist protection laws should come as no surprise. "It would be frivolous to assert--and no one does in these cases--that the First Amendment, in the interest of securing news or otherwise, confers a license on either the reporter or his news sources to violate valid criminal laws," the U.S. Supreme Court has said. "Although stealing documents or private wiretapping could provide newsworthy information, neither reporter nor source is immune from conviction for such conduct, whatever the impact on the flow of news."

Under a California law dating back to 1872, any person who finds lost property and knows who the owner is likely to be--but "appropriates such property to his own use"--is guilty of theft. There are no exceptions for journalists. In addition, a second state law says any person who knowingly receives property that has been obtained illegally can be imprisoned for up to one year.

Knowing that an item probably belonged to someone else has led to convictions before. "It is not necessary that the defendant be told directly that the property was stolen. Knowledge may be circumstantial and deductive," a California appeals court has previously ruled. "Possession of stolen property, accompanied by an unsatisfactory explanation of the possession or by suspicious circumstances, will justify an inference that the property was received with knowledge it had been stolen." (California law says lost property valued at $100 or more must be turned over to police.)

Stephen Wagstaffe, chief deputy district attorney for San Mateo County, did not return phone calls. CNET was the first to report the existence of an investigation last Friday.

The journalists-accused-of-crime loophole

A federal newsroom search law also does not protect journalists accused of a crime. The 1980 Privacy Protection Act says, in general, it is unlawful for state, local, or federal police to search newsrooms. Criminal proceedings targeting reporters are the exception.

Congress enacted the PPA after police obtained a warrant to search the Stanford Daily's newsroom for photographs of a clash between protesters and police, and the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that the search was constitutional. The purpose was, in that heady post-Watergate era, to force the use of less intrusive subpoenas instead of search warrants--while allowing searches in which journalists were the ones suspected of the crime.

The PPA does limit police searches for journalists' "work product materials" and "documentary materials." But both terms are defined to exclude anything, such as a computer or phone, that "has been used as the means of committing a criminal offense." Prosecutors looking to charge Gizmodo employees with a crime--and, again, that has not happened--would surely say that the MacBooks and other seized property were used to illegally obtain what's being called the "4G" iPhone.

In another twist, a subsequent Supreme Court court decision calls into question the constitutionality of the entire PPA, according to Volokh, the UCLA law professor. The justices ruled in 1997 that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which trumped local ordinances, "contradicts vital principles necessary to maintain separation of powers and the federal balance." Volokh says a federal law limiting the authority of local prosecutors to obtain search warrants might fall into the same category.

"If I were prosecuting, I'd go after (any blogger who bought the phone) vigorously," said Michael Cardoza, a prominent San Francisco defense attorney and former prosecutor. "I'd fight them tooth and nail to see that they wouldn't get protection under the shield law. I'd play hardball, in this case. They didn't find the phone as part of their reporting but instead bought property that they knew or should have known wasn't the property of the seller."

To be sure, the California newsroom search law does not explicitly permit searches of journalists suspected of a crime. And no court appears to have ruled directly on this topic.

But state courts have spent decades whittling away at protections for journalists in other areas, ruling that journalists can be required to testify in court when they're party to a lawsuit, that they can be forced to disclose information when they're not directly engaged in news gathering, and that they can be compelled to reveal the names of attorneys who leaked sensitive documents about murders. (Timothy Alger, now Google's deputy general counsel for litigation, wrote a 1991 law review article describing some of these exceptions. Its subtitle: "The Illusory Newsgatherer's Privilege in California.")

Orin Kerr, who teaches computer crime law at George Washington University, told CNET that he wouldn't be surprised if a state court follows suit and "read an implied exception for journalists involved in crimes."

Declan McCullagh writes about the intersection between law and technology for CNET and can be reached at Greg Sandoval writes about digital media for CNET and can be reached at

Pedro Espada Jr. hit with suit for allegedly pocketing $1.35M from sham job-training program

Thursday, April 29th 2010, 4:00 AM

Pedro Espada Jr. was hit with yet another lawsuit for allegedly  pocketing $1.35M from a phony job-training program.
Kamrass/Times Union
Pedro Espada Jr. was hit with yet another lawsuit for allegedly pocketing $1.35M from a phony job-training program.

Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. got hit with a new civil suit Wednesday - this time for pocketing $1.35 million from a phony job-training program.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo accused Espada and his son, Pedro G. Espada, of creating a bogus program to circumvent minimum wage law at a business run by the senator.

"The job-training program was a sham. There was no training, there was no program," Cuomo said. It's the latest legal blow to the Bronx Democrat.

Cuomo last week filed a civil lawsuit claiming he "looted" $14 million from the nonprofit Soundview HealthCare Network he founded. The FBI, IRS and Cuomo's investigators raided Soundview a day later as part of a sweeping fraud probe.

Cuomo's new lawsuit focuses on Espada Management Company, a for-profit operation that was hired by Soundview in early 2008 for $33,000 a month to provide janitorial services.

Cuomo said Espada and his son recruited people for a fake two-week training program and paid them as little as $1.70 an hour to mop floors and scrub toilets - while pocketing the rest of the cash.

The 100 trainees were really employees entitled to a minimum wage of $7.25 under state labor law, Cuomo's lawsuit says. He's seeking restitution for the workers.

In a Capitol news conference, Espada accused Cuomo of attempting a "political assassination in installments." He denied there was anything improper about the training program.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The raid on Jason Chen's home and thought you may be interested in our video, which sums up the case as it stands now and what its legal implications

Serrano Calls for MLB to Move All-Star Game from Phoenix in Wake of Anti-Immigrant Law

Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the Sixteenth District of New York

April 28, 2010 –Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano today called for Major League Baseball to move the site of the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix, due to the extremist anti-immigrant law enacted last week in Arizona.

“As a fervent baseball fan and a supporter of immigrants’ rights, I cannot abide the thought of a celebration like the All-Star Game being held in Phoenix next year,” said Serrano. “I will be reaching out to contacts in Major League Baseball in the coming days and urging them in the strongest possible terms to move the All-Star Game to another state. With nearly 1/3 of all Major Leaguers coming from foreign countries, there is no way that a state with this discriminatory law should be the host.

“Whether a player is foreign born, or just of an ethnicity that could be targeted by this unconstitutional law, everyone should be scared of a law that empowers law enforcement to arrest people based on looks. All players, whatever their national origin, should join with citizens across this nation in saying ‘this law is wrong.’ Major League Baseball should do the same.

“I would remind MLB that in 1993, the NFL was clear in its statement against this sort of behavior when it rescinded its offer to Arizona to host the Super Bowl. This came after NFL players warned that they would not play in a state that did not celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I urge the Major Leaguers playing today to follow the lead of their NFL counterparts in taking a strong stand against racism.

“This anti-immigrant law is unjust, wrong-headed, mean-spirited, and unconstitutional. It is important that everyone who believes in justice and our national spirit of decency speak out against this measure. MLB has a very loud megaphone and their rejection of Arizona’s action would be an important demonstration to the state that we do not tolerate such displays of intolerance in our nation.”

Espada: Cuomo Suit #2 "An Attempt At A Political Assassination" »

espada  jpg

State Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr. insists AG Andrew Cuomo's new lawsuit against him (like the last one) is filled with falsehoods and is just an attempted “political assassination,” the DN's Glenn Blain reports from the State Capitol:

“This is an attempt at a political assassination. I ask you: What did the attorney general not know last week that he is spewing out this week?" the embattled Espada demanded at a news conference.

Cuomo's lawsuit claims Espada and his son exploited janitorial workers at the family's health clinic business by classifying them as "trainees," enabling their company to pay a fraction of what state law would require.

Espada tried to turn it around on Cuomo, who's expected to announce his run for governor any time now:

“I repeat, this is a political assassination or an attempt at a political assassination delivered in installments and deliberately so designed to keep you from asking him the tough questions about when he announces and what his view and vision, leadership would mean to the budget process, again to the hard questions that face all New Yorkers.”

Espada insisted his management company is NOT a sham, as Cuomo alleges. Instead, he said it operates a legitimate program for “second-chance offenders” that trains people to do janitorial work at the medical centers.

The senator said the program pays a “stipend” to its workers -- but wouldn't reveal what that is.

Espada had lots more to say... Read on !

“It employs people who need a second chance in life," Espada said. "These people, many of them have felonies, and are trained in OSHA standards -- trained and fairly qualified in removal of medical waste. They are given certificates, etc. This is not a sham training program.”

“All of the participants in this program paid zero dollars to participate," he told reporters. "The company pays the participants a stipend… We don’t have to do this, but we do this to deal with the fact that, A, they have no money, no jobs and they need transportation and lunch, of course.”

Espada even claimed that workers get paid wages of $16 to $25 an hour once they graduate. (Cuomo's suit says it was more like $70 a week.)

“They were being trained in all aspects of janitorial work consistent with the requirements of the medical centers….This is on-the-job training where they go through a two-week period with a supervisor at the various sites and there is a whole curriculum and a training program.”

“Let's understand that these political stink bombs that he’s throwing in here, he never, ever really in his own mind thinks he’s going to be held accountable for it. It is supposed to destroy me.”

More Trouble For Pedro Espada, Courtesy of Cuomo »


State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo isn't done with state Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr. just yet:

A(nother) freshly announced Cuomo lawsuit alleges Espada and his son cooked up a "sham job training program" at Espada Management that has "victimized" at least 100 workers since 2005.

The scam, as alleged by Cuomo:

Labeling workers as "trainees" who were then paid wages far below the required state levels -- some making less than $70 per week.

These workers "typically worked for a two-week period with little training or direction and performed tasks such as cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, and sweeping - the same tasks a full-time janitor performed."

“This was a sham job training program pure and simple with workers receiving no training and getting virtually no jobs,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Espada ripped off his own community in order to maximize the amount of money he could siphon out of the Soundview clinic, according to our Complaint. The Espada business model at Soundview appears to have been based on lies and deceit, abusing hardworking people for profit and cheating the state out of tax dollars.”

Cuomo says workers were duped into joining the program with promises of jobs and training that never materialized. Instead, they were just replaced by other "trainees."

As you know, Cuomo's already after Espada for allegedly milking his taxpayer-funded Bronx health care clinics to the tune of $14 million.

Espada, in turn, has accused Cuomo of merely being on a politically motivated witch hunt.

The AG is scheduled to have a news conference in just a few minutes, and we'll have more for you in a bit.

In the meantime, you can read the complaint for yourself after the jump.

Pedro Espada's Enablers The people who brought you Albany's greatest scoundrel

By Tom Robbins

Andrew Cuomo's revelations about State Senator Pedro Espada's calculated looting of his publicly subsidized Bronx health care clinics have produced a wave of anger and disgust. As well they should.


Click Video
by Rafael Martínez Alequín

There is the $20,000 in sushi delivered to the suburban home far from his Soundview district, the $9 million severance contract, the jobs for the convicted felons who covered for him during the last investigation, the vending machine and janitorial contracts that go directly into the Espada family pockets. All of it has rightly stoked public outrage.

But if it is worth getting angry about any of this, then it should be worth the trouble to aim some of that fury at Espada's enablers. These are the deep-pocketed sponsors who have been all too happy to profit from this scoundrel regardless of his obvious taint.

Their campaign checks started rolling in early last year, days after Espada ended the first of his public hijackings of the Senate's new Democratic majority. His first ransom payment was chairmanship of the Senate's housing committee, a post that carries a guaranteed lifeline of donations. The names on the checks to New Yorkers for Espada are among real estate's most prestigious. They came from the Rudin family, the respected builders, who gave some $4,000; from Leonard Litwin, the grand old man of luxury rentals, who gave another $5,000; from Donald Capoccia, the successful developer who depends on government subsidies, who gave thousands more.

All told, more than $300,000 poured in from landlords happy to celebrate Espada's new leadership.

Last week, as the airwaves filled with tales of Espada's gluttony, calls were placed to these benefactors in hopes of hearing at least some expression of buyer's remorse. None could be found. These titans of property prefer not to discuss their dealings with the bad boy of the State Senate. Only Steve Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, who gets paid to take these hits for his team, was man enough to get on the phone. He offered no criticism: "I am not going to jump on him without seeing what happens," said Spinola. "Do you believe everything you read in the papers?"

Yes, he had helped direct his members' attention to Espada's fundraising efforts. "He has been identified by me as somebody with the position and ability to deal with issues that affect us," said Spinola.

And yes, Espada has responded to their concerns. "I know he has put forward a proposal about how to maintain affordable housing, which I think is a good proposal," he said. "There are other bills that have not come forward that we are clearly happy about."

The most recent example of such service came just days before Cuomo's lawsuit and the FBI raid. A session of the Senate housing committee had been scheduled for April 19. The Friday before the session, chairman Espada had a sudden announcement: Meeting cancelled. His reason? Landlords needed more time to "weigh in" on legislation being considered.

What complex new bills were these? One of them has been kicking around for years. It would tighten a rule that currently lets owners empty buildings by claiming they need all the apartments for themselves. This happened not long ago right here on the Lower East Side when a landlord's brilliant lawyer spotted the loophole and drove all residents of a five-story tenement right through it and out the door.

Bills to end this abuse have passed the Assembly repeatedly, but always died in the old Republican-controlled Senate. With the first Democratic majority in 40 years, the hope was that such simple measures of social equity might finally become law. They surely would have, except for the alliance quickly forged between the real estate lobby and Espada.

Spinola, a bona fide heavyweight in city and state political circles, acknowledged that Espada was asked to delay the meeting. "We clearly conveyed through our lobbyists our objections," he said.

It wasn't hard to deliver the message. One of the board's lobbyists is an attorney named Stanley Schlein, who receives $4,000 monthly for his efforts. He gets another $4,000 a month from the other major landlord outfit, the Rent Stabilization Association. This is money well spent since Schlein clearly has the senator's ear, having served as Espada's attorney on political matters. In fact, when Espada first threatened to align himself with Senate Republicans last year, it was Schlein who represented him in negotiations and won the ex-boxer the housing chairmanship.

Schlein was also at his side last summer when Espada pulled his second shakedown, briefly crossing the aisle to sit with the Republicans. The ransom this time was even higher: Espada was made majority leader, a post that comes with bigger office, bigger payroll, and bigger clout.

One of the first things Espada did was double the salary of his part-time public relations director, a veteran flack named Steve Mangione, to $56,000 a year. As good a gig as this may be, Mangione did even better last year moonlighting for the Rent Stabilization Association. Lobbying records show the RSA paid him $90,000 to craft radio ads for their cause. Mangione, whose past clients include George Steinbrenner and the former mobbed-up leaders of the school bus drivers' union, is an old hand at this. Back in 1997, when landlords carved a major hole in rent law protections, Mangione produced radio spots promoting that effort as well.

Such are the advisers who have the senator's ear. Together, they have helped the real estate lobby run the table. Tenant groups are out in the cold, despite having provided many of the troops that helped Democrats win their majority. Their hoped-for reward was that bills that had languished under Republican rule would gain new life. Instead, they have been strangled in their cribs in Espada's housing committee. Measures to curb the rent deregulation that landlords won during the Pataki years have been snuffed out. Ditto a plan that would—get this—let New York City decide its own rent rules.

Even Espada's "affordable housing" proposal, as Spinola dubs it, is a landlord-rescue scheme. The script was devised in a panic after landlords were hit with the devastating appellate court ruling in the Stuyvesant Town rent overcharge case. Owners, judges ruled, had illegally collected tax breaks while charging market rates. The ruling means that landlords may have to do the unthinkable: Roll back rents on high-end apartments.

As a fallback plan, landlords suggested that upper-end rents remain as they are, in exchange for freezing charges for lower-income residents. All that need happen is that the city forgo billions in taxes.

Espada, aware that Cuomo's investigation would soon surface, saw an excellent photo opportunity. He held "Freeze the Rent" rallies and papered them with his clinic employees. It was just for show. The proposal was already dead on arrival. When landlords pitched the plan to Vito Lopez, the powerful chairman of the Assembly housing committee, they struck out. "It's not something I find acceptable," Lopez said last week. "The numbers don't match up. They're not real."

Just before Espada's scandals exploded last week, veteran tenant advocate Michael McKee learned about the cancellation of the housing committee meeting. That's the last straw, McKee wrote to Senate leader John Sampson. If Democrats want tenant support in the fall elections, McKee said, they must remove Espada from his housing post. It is one thing to tolerate a rogue senator's own rapacious greed. It's quite another to let him use his official clout to feed the greed of others far more powerful than himself.

'This Is Alabama; We Speak English'

Mara Gay

Mara Gay Contributor

(April 27) -- Tim James is betting his election that Alabama voters prefer what he calls "common sense" to "political correctness." The Republican gubernatorial candidate is running a provocative ad arguing that Alabama's driver's license exam should be given only in English.

"This is Alabama; we speak English," James says. "If you want to live here, learn it." The campaign spot has had more than 60,000 views on YouTube.

The son of former Alabama Gov. Fob James promises to do away with the 12 foreign languages the test currently offers if he is elected in November. In the ad, James suggests his goal is to save taxpayers money. "Maybe it's the businessman in me," he says.

In the blogosphere, though, many say the controversial ad is about far more than saving taxpayers money and contains coded political messages James hopes will strike a chord with Republican voters in the state.

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder said it contains swipes against the federal government and President Barack Obama. Ambinder also noted that Alabama could lose federal funding if it offers the exams only in English.

"If the governor changes the rules, the state could lose billions of dollars in federal transportation funding," he wrote. "Conveniently, this allows James to hint at the prospect of a debate against Barack Obama's federal government, too."

Some say it is no mistake that the ad comes in the middle of an emotional debate over immigration reform.

The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama said the ad would hurt the state's reputation. "Making the driver's license test available in English only is a bad move and inconsistent with the strong recruitment Alabama has done in the last 15 years to bring international business to our state," the coalition said in a statement Monday.

Ambinder said the "ethnic coding in the ad is unmistakable," and at The American Prospect, Tim Fernholtz said James was exploiting fear against Latino immigrants for political gain.

"Maintaining federal funding, keeping the roads safe, or even simple nondiscrimination don't seem to matter to James," Fernholtz wrote. "He'd rather exploit racial tension and hostility toward the national government to get ahead."

But James says the exams are a public safety issue. On his campaign website, he cited a 2004 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report that connected a 72 percent increase in work/traffic-related fatalities to drivers' inability to read road signs in English.

"It makes common sense to ensure everyone with an Alabama driver's license knows and understands traffic laws and traffic signs," he said. "Political correctness may endear you to the Rachel Maddow crowd, but here in Alabama, the safety of our people comes first."

Drivers license exams are currently offered in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese.

At the conservative blog Hot Air, the blogger "The Other McCain" had sympathy for James' position.

"C'mon, Farsi? Thai? in Alabama?" he wrote.

Arizona Leads the Way Backward on Immigration

April 24, 2010

The long-deferred, urgent matter of immigration reform got a big kick in the pants yesterday. Arizona enacted a law that today’s Times calls “the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations.” Among other things, the law requires local police to demand papers from anyone officers have any reason to doubt is a citizen—anyone, in other words, who looks Mexican. If you’re brown-skinned, and don’t have your wallet, you’re going to jail. Failure to carry immigration documents is now a crime in Arizona. The mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon, called the law “unconstitutional on its face.” In a Washington Post Op-Ed today, Gordon blames local politicians who are “bitter, small-minded and full of hate,” and he names names: state senator Russell Pearce, the sponsor of the bill, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom I profiled last summer.

President Obama’s response to the news was well-aimed. While criticizing the Arizona law as “misguided,” he blamed its passage on “our failure to act responsibly at the federal level.” This came at a naturalization ceremony being held in the Rose Garden for twenty-four American soldiers born in China, Mexico, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. The symbolism of the scene was strong, but the failure fingered by Obama is real. Border security and immigration control are federal responsibilities. Southern land-border states like Arizona suffer first and worst when those systems break down. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is now talking about bringing major immigration-reform legislation to the floor after Memorial Day. The political momentum to pass such legislation, after the health-care reform success, may finally be at hand.

Meanwhile, Arizona will become an American-style police state. Racial profiling will be the law. Whites will be all right, just as they were in the Jim Crow South. God help everyone else. The nativist right seems to be calling the tune in Arizona politics today. Senator John McCain, facing a primary challenge from an anti-immigrant talk-radio host, abandoned long-held moderate positions on immigration policy and supported the new law. The governor, Jan Brewer, also being challenged from the right this year, did the same thing and signed the bill. The Arizona state legislature has tried to lead the nation backwards on racial issues before. In the nineteen-eighties, Arizona refused to recognize the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as an official holiday. This week the legislature’s lower chamber passed a bill that will require President Obama to produce his birth certificate if he wants to be on the ballot in Arizona in 2012. According to the Associated Press, “Supporters say the bill would help settle a controversy over whether Obama was born in the United States.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jon Stewart's Feud With Fox News Heating Up

Posted 6:30 PM 04/26/10
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Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's Daily Show, has been not-so-quietly waging war with Fox News for years -- and recently he's been turning up the heat. His most recent battle with the News Corp. (NWS)-owned network hinged on an airing of Fox & Friends, which two weeks ago asked (more than once) whether the crescent-moon shaped logo that the White House used during a nuclear security summit was some sort of Islamic image.

As the New York Times recently reported, Stewart had his staff call the White House to ask just that, and lo and behold, discovered that there were no Islamic ties after all. In fact, the White House told the Daily Show staffers that the image was based on the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom. Of course, Stewart proudly reported this news on his show on April 14.

On the next evening's broadcast, Stewart showed a montage of Fox news hosts and commentators, including conservative media analyst Bernard Goldberg, making wide-reaching generalizations about liberals. In particular, Stewart zeroed in on Goldberg, a Fox News contributor, calling him a hypocrite for complaining that Tea Party members are being stereotyped. Then, Stewart told Fox News to go f*** itself.

Fox News didn't take Stewart's jabs lying down. On the O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly referred to Stewart as a "devoted Fox News critic." He also said Stewart was a "key component of left-wing TV" because he holds so much credibility among younger Americans. Goldberg replied to Stewart by accusing him of giving a "lap dance" to New York Times columnist Frank Rich, a frequent GOP critic, when he was on his show.

"You practically had your tongue down his throat," Goldberg said on the program as if he were speaking with Stewart.

Fox declined to comment on this story. A spokesman for Comedy Central did not return calls by press time.

This type of sparring seems to meet the approval of Comedy Central's parent company Viacom (VIA), which recently extended Stewart's contract until 2013. Evidently, the Stewart-Fox feud isn't hurting the media giant's bottom line. According to research firm SNL Kagan, revenue for Comedy Central will hit $698.4 million in 2011, up almost 10% from $635.7 million in 2009. This year's figure is expected to be $663.2 million, up 4% from $635.7 million in 2009. Shares of New York-based Viacom, controlled by billionaire Sumner Redstone, have nearly doubled over the past year. When Viacom reports earnings April 29, Conservative Wall Street will have no problems with liberal Stewart. He delivers results and that's all that matters.

Stewart's place in the pop culture zeitgeist has never been stronger. He has eclipsed MSNBC's Keith Olberman as the left's leading Fox basher. (Yet, ever the equal opportunity offender, Stewart has also blasted the Countdown with Keith Olbermann host for hyperbolic criticism of newly-elected Republican Senator Scott Brown. Olbermann on a subsequent broadcast conceded that Stewart had been right.) His critiques of the mainstream media such as his brilliant take down of Jim Cramer last year are required reading for serious students of journalism. And, in some unfortunate instances, he is a more serious news man than people who earn a living at the profession.

"Comedians do social commentary through comedy. That's how it's worked for thousands of years, " Stewart said on his show last week. "I have not moved out of the comedian's box into the news box. The news box is moving towards me."

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Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home raided over iPhone prototype story

Originally Published:Monday, April 26th 2010, 10:37 PM
Updated: Tuesday, April 27th 2010, 9:16 AM

Don't take a bite out of Apple.

California cops raided the home of a prominent tech Web site editor after he posted inside info about a next-generation iPhone left in a bar. editor Jason Chen came home Friday to find cops in his house, looking for evidence of a felony linked to an online expose about the new iPhone.

"They then made me place my hands behind my head and searched me to make sure I had no weapons or sharp objects on me," Chen wrote on his Web site Monday night.

Chen said a detective told him it search stemmed from "a misunderstanding that could be cleared up if I answered some questions." He refused to be grilled.

A search warrant signed by a San Mateo County Superior Court Judge indicated detectives were searching for evidence connected to lost Apple device.

The warrant allowed sheriff's detectives to seize all records, "including digital photographs and/or video of the Apple prototype 4G iPhone."

Apple officials said last week the super-secret iPhone was lost in March by one of its researchers.

Chen said someone found the iPhone in a bar and contacted Gizmodo, which paid $5,000 for the opportunity to take the device apart and photograph it.

Detectives seized four of Chen's computers, his digital camera and several external hard drives.

Gaby Darbyshire, chief operating officer of Gizmodo's parent company, Gawker Media, said the raid was a blatant violation of Chen's First Amendment rights as a journalist.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting Away With Murder

CPJ’s 2010 Impunity Index spotlights countries
where journalists are slain and killers go free

New York, April 20, 2010—Deadly, unpunished violence against the press has soared in the Philippines and Somalia, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found in its newly updated Impunity Index, a list of countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. Impunity in journalist murders also rose significantly in Russia and Mexico, two countries with long records of entrenched, anti-press violence.
About This Report
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But Brazil and Colombia, historically two of the world’s deadliest nations for the press, each made marked improvement in curbing deadly violence against journalists and bringing killers to justice, CPJ found. Recent convictions in Brazil, in fact, moved the country off the index entirely.

“We’ve heard repeated pledges from governments that the killers of journalists will face justice, but until these promises are fulfilled, media will continue to be targeted by those who believe they are above the law and immune from consequences,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “One country, Brazil, made its way off this list of shame by investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators in these crimes.”

This is the third year CPJ has published its Impunity Index, which calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population. In compiling the index, CPJ examined journalist murders in every nation in the world for the years 2000 through 2009. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index, a threshold reached by 12 countries this year.

Al-Shabaab militants are suspected in the  murders of several Somali journalists. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)
Al-Shabaab militants are suspected in the murders of several Somali journalists. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)

Two countries immersed in conflict top the list. Iraq is at number one with 88 unsolved journalist murders, while Somalia is second, reflecting insurgents’ routine use of violence to control the news media. But many of the remaining countries on the index present themselves as democracies with functioning law enforcement, nations such as India, Russia, the Philippines, and Mexico.

In the Philippines, a record 30 journalists and two media support workers were brutally murdered in an election-related massacre in Maguindanao province in 2009, catapulting the country from sixth to third on the index. The massacre overshadowed gains that Philippine authorities had made, winning convictions in two journalist murders. In Russia, which is ranked eighth on the index, three journalists were slain in 2009, bringing the country’s 10-year total of unsolved murders to 18. Mexico moved up two spots, to ninth, reflecting the ongoing, unchecked violence against crime reporters in that country.

Police recover the remains of the 57 victims  in Maguindanao. More than 30 were media workers. (Reuters/Erik de  Castro)
Police recover the remains of the 57 victims in Maguindanao. More than 30 were media workers. (Reuters/Erik de Castro)

In many nations on the list, the plague of impunity is having a broader effect on society as a whole, effectively choking off the flow of news and information. In Sri Lanka, fourth on the index with 10 unsolved murders, many of the country’s most senior journalists have fled into exile in fear that they, too, would be targeted. In countries such as Mexico, CPJ research shows that self-censorship has been so widespread that major events and issues have gone uncovered.

CPJ developed the Impunity Index in 2008 to monitor trends over time in countries where journalists are regularly murdered and law enforcement falters. It is compiled as part of CPJ’s Global Campaign Against Impunity, which seeks justice in the murders of journalists. Underwritten by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the campaign has focused on two of the world’s worst offenders, Russia and the Philippines.

“Our goal in compiling this index is to spur leaders in these nations to action,” said CPJ’s Simon. “Many of these cases are solvable—the perpetrators have been identified but authorities lack the political will to prosecute.”

CPJ is releasing the 2010 Impunity Index to coincide with an international summit on impunity being held today and Wednesday in New York. The summit will convene press defenders and journalists from around the world to coordinate and improve strategies to reverse deadly violence against the press.

Among the other findings in CPJ’s Impunity Index:

  • Impunity in media killings is acute in South Asia. Six nations in the region—Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India—are included on the 2010 list.
  • Worldwide, more than 90 percent of victims are local reporters covering sensitive topics such as crime, corruption, and national security in their home countries.
  • In Brazil, prosecutors recently won convictions against four men, including three members of the military police, in the 2007 murder of Luiz Carlos Barbon Filho. Brazilian authorities have successfully prosecuted several other journalist murders in recent years. With only four unsolved murders still on the books, Brazil no longer meets the threshold for inclusion on the index.
  • Some other notable convictions took place in the last year. In the Philippines, a suspect was convicted in the 2006 murder of Armando Pace, while another defendant was convicted in the 2005 killing of Edgar Amoro. In a landmark Colombian case, three former public officials were convicted on charges of plotting the 2003 murder of radio commentator José Emeterio Rivas.
  • Threats against journalists are a key indicator, CPJ research shows. In at least four out of every 10 journalist murders, the victims reported receiving threats before they were killed.
  • Killers of journalists aim to send a chilling message to the entire news media. Almost a third of murdered journalists were either taken captive or tortured before their death.

For a detailed explanation of CPJ's methodology, click here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peter Chen Owner of "Red Plum" and "Toyo Sushi in an Exclusive Interview with YFP

video by Rafael Martínez Alequín


The state Senator who represents the poorest senatorial district in New York State, dines exquisitely on sushi. Pedro Espada racked up a bill for $20,000 at two tony Asian restaurants in Mamaroneck, New York. Toyo and Red Plum. Although the amount is spread out over a period of time, it still boggles the mind.

In a district where the average cost of dining out on a plate of rice and beans rarely exceeds $5, Espada has managed to exceed the per capital income of his constituients via his consumption of
rice and fish.

Speculation that his Soundview Healthcare Center footed the bill is yet to be proven. But whether the funds were derived from government allocated monies for poor diabetics or the slush fund of his senate budget, it is still a stunning allegation.

The formerly homeless, boxer, teenage father, Pedro has a lot of explain' to do. And although his accomplishments are many, his lies exceed such. King Pedro has built a fiefdom with Soundview Healthcare Center and his political office. He employed and enriched several family members at the expense of his larger family, the community.

Peter Chen, co-owner of Toyo and Red Plum where Espada dines elaborates on the good customer. See video above.


After this video was taken, Marzetta Harris (Dressed in black trousers and a white blouse) told me: "my brother would like to put you in a body bag." There is an order of protection against her. She is now a staff member for the NYS Senate. The woman with the hat is Pedro Espada's wife Connie.

video by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP

Pineapples For Vote: Courtesy Soundview Health Care

video by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP

Pedro Espada responds to Cuomo claims

Updated at 12:00 PM today

Up Close's Diana Williams sits down with embattled state Senator Pedro Espada.

Espada discusses the charges levied against him in a civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Espada says he has done nothing wrong and accuses Cuomo of trying to discredit him to help the gubernatorial hopeful's political aspiration.

Then, we are joined by a political expert to help break down the situation and see how these charges will affect both parties.

Finally, we're talking rubber rooms and measures taken by New York City recently to eliminate the holding rooms for teachers awaiting disciplinary hearings. They sometimes sat for months in waiting, all while still receiving paychecks.

You can watch this week's episode of Up Close above.
(Copyright ©2010 WABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)


At a campaign rally, while Pedro Espada, Jr. was running for NY State Senate, his followers, including his son Alejandro Espada assaulted a journalist and broke the journalist video camera. Listen carefully to this video. Also listen to previous video "Residents Tell Espada, "You Don't Live Here!"

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequin

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Espada Storms Off WCBS2 Set During Interview

Espada takes off his microphone (left), leaves the WCBS 2 set

For all you Pedro Espada critics—or fans—out there, you may want to set your DVRs to tape WCBS 2's "Eye on New York" at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. Because the State Senate Majority Leader huffed and puffed and blew his top in the middle of an interview, storming off the set during the taping. And it was all over how WCBS 2 reporter Marcia Kramer confronted him last year about actually living in Westchester and not in his Bronx district.

First, WCBS 2 showed a clip explaining Espada's various troubles—being accused of siphoning $14 million from the non-profit he runs, the possibility of criminal charges—after which he said, "Anyone watching what we just watched would think I am a hired assassin or some underground Mafioso. This is overkill to say the minimum; I mean this goes way beyond the pay of decency."

But he became furious when Kramer brought up how he apparently seemed to disguise himself when she caught him at his Mamaroneck home (see the 2009 video):

Espada: "The orange cap that I wear, I was not hiding from anybody. I've owned that home since 1991."

Kramer: "Senator, when I tried to talk to you, you got into a car, you put a baby in front of your face so that I wouldn't be able to get a picture of you, and you had your wife tear out of the driveway when the baby wasn't in the car seat."

Espada: "Marcia Kramer, this is not a mud-slinging session so I say. If you wanna make it that, you can come hide in the bushes in my house. … Human decency should prevail, even on this show."

Then Espada took his microphone off. Kramer said to him, "Senator what we're trying to do is give you the opportunity to answer these questions," but Espada asked, off camera, "Please direct me to the way out please." Espada has never liked Kramer's questions!

In the meantime, you can watch Espada's rebuttal to Cuomo's investigation on NY1's Inside City Hall. Espada said during that interview, "The truth of the matter here is that lies work, politically motivated tricks work, for a while, until the truth catches up with it. And the truth will catch up with Mr. Cuomo. I'm not only one or the first one that he has investigated and tried to destroy this political season to get where he wants to be, the anointed governor of New York State." No wonder Pedro calls Andy "The Prince of Darkness."

Residents tell Espada, "YOU DON'T LIVE HERE!"

Friday, April 23, 2010

Banking and Politics As Old As the Republic

by Gary Tilzer

Banking and politics have always been joined a the hip. The proposed 50 billion bailout fund will strengthen that connection. Wall Street likes that part of the reform package, because the government grantee will make it easier for them to borrow money and make deals. Congress like it because the more control it has will no doubt lead to more senators like Dodd getting special treatment from banks like countrywide.

It is important to understand that the intimate relationship between politics and banking policy is not new, nor is its economic influence now unique. Since the nation's beginnings banking regulations have been intimately connected to politics, and the politics of banking is a high stakes game not well understood by the public. It is clearly not understood by today's New York elected officials who sat like pawns watching Obama propose changes which will result in less financial jobs and taxes for local government.

A review of New York's economic history and banking policy from 1784 to the Civil War clearly shows that banks and banking policy were central to the state's economic development (and closely entwined with politics). It also shows that strong armed politics by elected officials and Tammany Hall in the early days of American resulted in New York becoming the banking capital of the world.

In New York City, the intimate relationship between banks and politics began when the Bank of New York was chartered in 1784. Founded by Alexander Hamilton, the bank was the only one in the City until 1799. Hamilton used the bank for his political ambitions as it furthered his Federalist Party and the conservative economic polices it espoused. Merchants who disagreed with Hamilton's political point of view ran the risk of having their loans called in at election time.

The Federalist chartering of the First Bank of the United States in 1791 had a profound effect on the economy. It also increased the influence of the wealthy in the politics of the 1790's. Just as important to NY was the chartering in 1799 of the Bank of Manhattan by Aaron Burr. It was the City's second major bank and a direct rival to the Bank of New York and its Federalist policies. The bank was chartered to bring water to the City, in an effort to reduce the perils of the Yellow Fever epidemics.

The Bank of Manhattan ultimately became instrumental in the rise of Tammany Hall as a political force and was also an important factor in the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800. In fact, Jefferson's election had the effect of breaking the Federalist's control of New York's commercial, financial and political institutions. The number of banks rose from 28 in 1800 to 89 in 1811. By 1816 it was up to 250. Since the only currency other than gold and silver was bank notes, a banking charter literally meant having a license to print money. The circulation of more notes from newly chartered banks enlarged the monetary supply, creating capital for an expanding economy - all of which was important to the City's economic growth. The capital for building the Erie Canal came from New York City's banks. In fact, the largest initial purchaser of Erie Bonds was the Bank for Saving of New York institutions. The state completion of the canal in 1825 was the watershed event in New York's rise as the world's premier financial center.

Nationally, banking policy had an even more profound effect on politics and the country than it did at the state level. Hamilton's First National Bank was rechartered as the Second Bank of the U.S. in 1816 by President Madison on the grounds that it was the only hope for restoring U.S. currency after the War of 1812. Both the First and Second Banks of the U.S. were private banks, privately owned and had exclusive rights to federal deposits, and thusly functioned like the Federal Reserve - controlling the money supply and the flow of credit. The Second Bank continued to push both conservative policy and politics.

President Andrew Jackson like all traditional Jeffersonian Democrats, opposed large, centrally controlled financial institutions. Thus Jackson and his supporters charged that the Second Bank was a tool of the moneyed aristocracy and was intent on oppressing working people. Jackson's veto of the Second Bank's recharter became a major issue in the 1832 election. Support from the working classes including Tammany Hall helped lead Jackson to re-election. Jackson's veto of the recharter and the subsequent withdrawal of federal deposits had broad repercussions. One effect was to shift the financial center of the country from Philadelphia to New York, where it remains to this day. A second and more far-reaching effect was to cause the Bank of the United States to contract the nation's money supply, causing widespread economic panic and a depression.

In contrast to federal banking policy, New York's policy was much more far-sighted and intelligent. The Erie Canal was financially successful beyond its most enthusiastic bankers' wildest expectations. The $7 million borrowed to build the canal was quickly repaid and shrewdly deposited, unlocking banks with a view to furthering economic development across the state. Additionally, in 1839, New York set up the Safety Deposit Fund which all state banks were forced to join. The fund insured depositors against bank failures and fund officials had the right to review the solvency of New York's Banks. This was the forerunner of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and generally of state and federal banking regulations and legislation - the subject of today's controversy. These state regulations played a prominent role in the state's rise as the nation's financial center and in the prosperity this city has enjoyed until now.

Our congressional delegation allowed deregulation to get out of hand during their watch, turning public opinion against Wall Street. Today they sit at Cooper Union without ideas, powerless to fight a president who is riding public opinion, making changes that will hurt their state. Financial Reform or New York Deform?