Monday, May 31, 2010

US Congress links WA oil spill to BP's Gulf disaster


As the massive British Petroleum oil spill continues to pollute and poison the waters in the Gulf of Mexico, an uncanny parallel with many of the same players, unfolded last year off the coast of Western Australia. In testimony about previous spills before the House of Representatives another massive hole in the ocean floor in Australasia was the focus. What can be learned from that calamity in Australia as those responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf scramble to stop thousands of gallons of oil polluting that large body of water? That is the question at hand. But this story, largely ignored in the main-stream press is worth another look.

Andrew Dodd writes:

There are some striking parallels between the calamity unfolding off the coast of Louisiana and an almost forgotten oil spill off the coast of north-west Australia last year.

The two incidents have been linked in US Congressional hearings, reinforcing evidence tendered at a recent Australian inquiry. Perhaps the most alarming link is that the same company, Halliburton, has been accused of stuffing up the crucial cementing on both wells. And there are suggestions that other wells in Australian waters may also be vulnerable.

Last August the Montara well off the Western Australian coast suffered a "blowout" and spilled oil into the Timor Sea for 106 days. Like the Gulf of Mexico, the Australian well proved very difficult to plug and the rig eventually caught fire. But mercifully no one died and less oil escaped. It was remote and the currents were favourable so there was less damage. Even so, it was Australia’s worst oil rig disaster.

An inquiry into the Montara spill has been conducted by federal bureaucrat David Borthwick, and his findings will be handed down next month.

Transcripts of evidence reveal that oil services company Halliburton was part of the team overseeing the complex cementing process on the Australian well. The team got the mixture wrong and the cement failed to set. In evidence the drilling supervisor, Noel Treasure, admitted there had been a "calculation error with respect to the volume of cement which was missed by everyone, the people in Perth, on the rig and the Halliburton guys doing the cementing. Everyone missed it."

In the Gulf of Mexico, Halliburton has also been accused of failing to follow procedure. Two weeks ago, Congressman Bart Stupak told a House of Representatives committee:

"Halliburton, one of the world's largest oil service companies, says that it had secured the well through a procedure called cementing, and that the well had passed a key pressure test, but we now know this is an incomplete account. The well did pass positive pressure tests, but there is evidence that it may not have passed crucial negative pressure tests."

The government body that regulates oil drilling in the US is the Minerals Management Service. Its recently retired head of offshore regulation, Elmer Danenberger, linked the Montara and Gulf spills in congressional testimony earlier this month. He blamed the cementing process for these and several other spills.

He said "18 of 39 blowouts during the 15-year period from 1996 to 2006 involved cementing operations". He called for the development of an industry standard to address cementing problems and concluded "in light of the findings from the Montara blow-out (Australia), and related concerns elsewhere, there is significant international interest in such a standard".

Danenberger also sent a submission to the Montara Inquiry in Australia. Cementing was again a major focus.

"Based on the information that has been submitted to the commission, well bore integrity was compromised by deficiencies in the cementing of the 9 5/8" casing. Cementing problems are a leading cause of well control incidents"

Cementing isn’t the only problem. The Montara inquiry also heard testimony that the vital pressure containment caps, used to plug the well, were deficient and that the operator of the Montara Well -- a company called PTT -- failed to follow its own safety procedures. There was this alarming exchange between the counsel assisting the commissioner, Tom Howe, and Craig Duncan, the well construction manager for PTT.

HOWE: So it seems as though, in terms of compliance with PTT's own well construction standards, the situation is that not a single well is compliant?
DUNCAN: Given that we didn't test those corrosion caps, no.
HOWE: Do you mean you agree with me?

If this is the case, shouldn’t several other wells in the Timor Sea undergo urgent safety audits?

The Montara inquiry should be receiving much more scrutiny. It is not only yielding the answers to the worst oil rig disaster in Australian history, it might also be providing valuable clues to the causes of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- perhaps the worst oil rig disaster in history.

Here's looking at tú: life as a gringo gumshoe

The full dope on a a Latin life spent largely undercover by our very own correspondent, the Bogotá gumshoe

By Bogotá gumshoe
A woman walks beside a wall painted the colours of the Colombian  national flag in Bogota.
A woman walks beside a wall painted the colours of the Colombian national flag in Bogota. Photo: Reuters/Eliana Aponte

Think of private investigators and to most people images of Jim Rockford and Charlie's Angels spring to mind – a beach-bound existence, fast cars, beautiful women, and an answering machine. That might have been the scene in southern California in the 1970s, but life as a British private eye in darkest Latin America in the noughties is a somewhat more exotic, and potentially more dangerous, affair.

Detective work is not something I ever planned to do. Rather, it's a second career I drifted into while working in Latin America as a foreign correspondent. Luckily my familiarity with the region and some of its quirky cultural traits – at least to an outsider – made it a relatively seamless transition. That said, in Latin America reality is rarely, if ever, what it appears to be: there is always a layer of something unusual, or sinister, beneath the surface.

The types of investigation I undertake vary greatly, but they're always about people. One recent and typical case required me to dig up, on behalf of a multinational in London, details of the background and the reputation of Don Ricardo Pérez (no it's not his real name) – a wealthy, powerful and seemingly honourable individual with a business empire spanning Latin America. How many companies did the man own? How is he connected politically? And, most importantly, might there be any evidence of corruption?

Finding the answers to these questions can be like playing with a giant jigsaw: it can take ages to fit the pieces together to discover the full picture. But a private investigator – be he in South America or in south London – has a range of methods and tools at his disposal.

For starters, public records offices can be veritable goldmines of information. Tucked away in a basement archive somewhere in Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Caracas or Mexico City, even the most obscure company will probably be the subject of a dusty file waiting for the investigator to leaf through its dog-eared pages.

In it, he'll hopefully find names of shareholders, directors, business connections and other titbits. With names and addresses, court records can be accessed, helping fit together more pieces of the puzzle.

But unlike the West, a disadvantage in Latin America is that dealing with public archives can sometimes be a surreal nightmare. Often they're closed for days for no apparent reason. In addition, while some bureaucrats are helpful, others can be downright obstructive. And every now and again, files just go missing: for some dark reason someone has surreptitiously snatched a set of records.

In the case of Don Ricardo, I had gleaned useful details of his companies and assets. But some pieces were still missing. It was time to gather deeper background and arrange meetings over lunch with those in the know.

"So, Roberto, tell me: what do you know about Don Ricardo Pérez?" The response was insightful: "Don Ricardo's become a pretty seedy character, you want to steer well clear of him," confided my confidant Roberto, whose sources are legendary. "Business hasn't been going well for him recently, and it's known in government circles that he's got some shady deals going on with… [he names a Prominent Government Official]. He's going to get nailed sooner or later."

Detailed comments like Roberto's, supplemented with additional information from several other reliable contacts dotted around Latin America, helped fit together many of the other pieces of the puzzle.

To capture some additional insight, I decided a spot of surveillance was in order. Lurking in the bushes outside someone's house has been a technique long used by private detectives specialising in infidelity investigations, and with great effect. But subtle variations work in my field, too.

Rather than remaining ensconced behind a tree for hours on end, it was a matter of waiting in a parked car with a camera across the street from what I discovered was Don Ricardo's favourite restaurant.

It was only a matter of time: Don Ricardo came out smiling and hugging the Brother of the Prominent Government Official, and hands him a large brown envelope.

As a private investigator, I'm only in the business of providing information, I'm neither judge nor jury.

In the case of Don Ricardo Pérez, I had a detailed report ready on his business activities, background and reputation. It would be up to the client to make their judgment based on the information I had obtained. And it was time for me to leave town before anyone tipped off Don Ricardo that he was being watched.

While business-type investigations comprise my bread-and-butter work, sometimes clients need help with a more personal problem. Last year, a wealthy American businessman needed to delve into the background of Señorita María Fonseca (name changed again), a dishy diva he met on holiday in Peru. Was she the successful businesswoman that she said she was, and as young, free and single as she claimed? It was time for the old rubbish bin tactic. Like everywhere else in the world, in Latin America people unwittingly discard documents such as bank statements and all variety of compromising paperwork – a prized source of information for the private investigator. But rummaging through dustbins in the dead of night is a task best subcontracted out to those with experience in the finer arts of recycling: tramps naturally fail to arouse the suspicion of security guards.

Thanks to Arturo, a friendly beggar I found roaming the streets of Lima, I gathered enough background details on Señorita Fonseca to figure out that while she was definitely successful, she operated in a very different sphere to that which my client was led to believe: she was a professional confidence trickster, well known to the police. My client was a little disappointed but he was also pleased, because the investigation probably saved him a fortune.

While Arturo's dustbin assistance might be seen as sharp practice, other more brazen methods of research are now out of bounds. The new UK Bribery Act, for example, means that I cannot grease an official's palm to encourage them to hand over a copy of a useful file.

But on the bright side the new law means more work for investigators as the tighter rules mean that British companies must take steps to ensure that they are not involved in bribery or corruption – even through third parties.

When people ask what I do for a living, if I'm among friends, I'll tell them. The answer usually meets with surprise and curiosity. What on earth is a British private investigator doing here in Latin America? Who do you work for? I'm always happy to reel off a few anecdotes, but one thing I can never do is disclose who my client is – that's strictly confidential.

When I'm busy out in the field, I like to portray the image of an unassuming and harmless academic researcher, certainly not an international spy. As a middle-aged, balding man in jeans and a cardigan, I can usually get away with it, too. But every now and again someone gets the wrong end of the stick. While on a case in Argentina, the mood of a man I was chatting to at a lavish cocktail party in Buenos Aires suddenly changed.

"You're from MI6," he said, cradling a large whisky in his hand as he eyed my pinstripe suit. Despite my repeated denials, he insisted: "I'm sure you are!" It was an awkward moment, and I could see that once he had downed another whisky he would only become more hostile and probably start shouting. It was time to leave the party.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Media Matters: Under pressure, Glenn Beck somehow finds a new low

If you wondered how long it would take Glenn Beck to make his simulation of President Obama pouring gasoline on a person look comparatively tame, the answer is about 13 months.

Welcome to the meltdown. It isn't pretty.

Apparently feeling pressure from an investigation by Rep. Anthony Weiner into his promotion of Goldline and ongoing scrutiny from Media Matters and others, Beck uncorked an impressively paranoid conspiracy theory this week. According to Beck, the SEIU, AFL-CIO, Van Jones, Jim Wallis, the White House, Rep. Weiner and Media Matters are engaged in "Alinskyite" plots that seek to "destroy" him, his family, Fox News, Christianity, and the Founding Fathers.

Though all facets of this conspiracy theory are equally absurd, it's worth noting that Beck's call to "leave the families alone" rings especially hollow when viewed in light of the fact that earlier in the same radio show he suggested that Sasha and Malia Obama think "Jews are destroying the world" because they were exposed to Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Later in the week, he mocked 11-year-old Malia for several minutes on his radio show by impersonating her voice and saying things like "Daddy, why do you hate black people?" He proceeded to attack "the level" of Obama's daughters' "education." Despicable -- and entirely in character. While Beck subsequently apologized for his comments mocking Malia Obama, he has yet to address the balance of his attacks against the first family.

Earlier this week, while lauding his supposed Nostradamus-like ability to predict future atrocities, Beck suggested that his detractors merely rely on labeling him crazy, rather than factually debunking his paranoid ranting. Trying to "factually" debunk ideas like a widespread progressive effort to destroy Beck's family and the Founding Fathers is akin to trying to debunk the conspiracy theory that the world is actually controlled by shape-shifting lizard people: It is self-refuting ridiculousness.

And while the idea that nobody can refute Beck on factual issues is a good line for his viewers, it simply isn't true. Here are several examples just from this week.

Yet, Beck's factual inaccuracies pale in comparison to his recent use of violent rhetoric. Starting with his speeches at Liberty University and the National Rifle Association two weeks ago, Beck's fearmongering about impending violence from progressives has reached a fever pitch.

During a tear-soaked, unhinged commencement speech at Liberty, Beck told graduates that they "have a responsibility" to speak out, or "blood ... will be on our hands." His advice for graduates (as well as his daughter) included "shoot to kill." He also claimed that God installed an "alarm bell" in people that is telling them that "your rights are being taken." If you were wondering which rights these might be, he cleared up any confusion later that night during his speech at the NRA, when Beck agreed with Mao Zedong that "power comes from the barrel of a gun," and then asked the audience, "Why do you think they want to take yours away?"

Since then -- keep in mind we're just talking about the last two weeks here -- Beck:

  • informed listeners that "what's coming is horrific. I don't even want to speak it out loud."
  • continued his bizarre obsession with administration official Cass Sunstein, who Beck suggested has "frightening similarities" to Joseph Goebbels and who "controls everything" and "will control your every move."
  • talked about how the "world is on edge" and told his viewers that "those who survive" will "stand in the truth" and "listen."
  • discussed the ongoing controversy over Arizona's immigration law, telling his listeners that "we are being pushed" toward civil war and that Obama is "trying to destroy the country."
  • told his listeners that "you have to be prepared to take rocks to the head. You have to be prepared to lose everything."
  • responded to criticism from Media Matters and said, "You will have to shoot me in the head. We are not stopping."
  • and attacked Jewish Funds for Justice's Simon Greer for putting "the common good" first, which Beck claimed "leads to death camps," adding, "a Jew, of all people, should know this."

While he previously relied on vague hints about what progressives were going to do to people by running "documentaries" supposedly linking Hilter, Stalin, and Mao to progressivism, Beck has now discarded the relative subtlety. On Thursday, Beck continued his recent fearmongering about the "soft revolution" that is supposedly taking place in America (purportedly designed to silence voices like Beck's), and claimed that if the administration "can't get everyone to silence, that's when the arrests come, or that's when they start a hard revolution. That's when they start just shooting people."

Taken as a whole, Beck's recent actions are outrageous and potentially dangerous. Beck claims that he is a Vatican-approved, "wildly important" warrior fighting on behalf of good against forces of "great darkness." He also spends a lot of his time boasting about his purported ability to predict -- with unerring accuracy -- everything that is happening right now. He then transitions into predicting the coming death camps, imprisonments, shootings, and "rivers of blood" as a result of progressive policies.

What, exactly, is Beck trying to do here? Is this the kind of guy the GOP wants to elevate as the heir-apparent to Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the party?

Bored conservatives break out the impeachment card

Frankly, I'm surprised it took conservative media figures almost a year and a half to manufacture a reason to start clapping excitedly about impeaching President Obama.

Unsurprisingly, it's a bunch of overblown nonsense.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) said that the Obama administration offered him a job in order to convince him to avoid a primary fight with Arlen Specter for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania. This is far from an unprecedented political gesture. For example, in 1981, the Reagan administration reportedly offered former California Sen. S.I. Hayawaka a job in the administration in exchange for not seeking re-election.

In the words of George Edwards, professor of political science and the Jordan Chair in presidential studies at Texas A&M University, the Sestak offer is "old news historically."

Indeed, numerous legal experts have disputed the idea that the Sestak offer would constitute a crime, including former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Most media conservatives ignored all of this and went into a full-on feeding frenzy, turning to discredited sources in order to push the falsehood that this constituted "bribery." They declared the scandal "Obama's Watergate," and Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Dick Morris, and Sean Hannity all contemplated Obama's impeachment.

Who could have guessed that Beck, Limbaugh, Morris, and Hannity all thought Ronald Reagan should have been impeached?

Following the administration's response to the scandal today, Bush ethics chief Richard Painter said that there is "[n]o scandal. Time to move on."

Considering that conservative media outlets thrive on trumped-up, hypocritical nonsense like this, the fact that this is "no scandal" will hardly encourage them to "move on."

It's OK if you're a Republican: Memorial Day edition

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that President Obama would be attending a Memorial Day service in Chicago while Vice President Biden would lay the wreath at Arlington National Cemetery to honor our fallen troops. Hearing the words "Obama" and "troops" in close proximity, conservatives leaped into action.

Beck claimed that he is "sick and tired of people believing the lie" that Obama "has respect for the soldiers." Erick Erickson labeled Obama's actions "offensive." Fox & Friends spent an entire segment discussing how this was "breaking tradition," with on-screen graphics featuring the text "Trampling On Tradition?", "Offensive To Soldiers?" and "Memorial Day Miss-Out?"

A few big problems with this attack: First and foremost, Beck's asinine claim that Obama "decided not to honor the troops" is completely false. Obama will be speaking at a Memorial Day service at an Illinois cemetery that is dedicated as a national cemetery within the Department of Veterans Affairs's National Cemetery Administration.

Also, despite conservatives' suggestion that Obama's decision is somehow unprecedented, it isn't. Presidents George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan each missed the wreath laying at Arlington at least once during their presidencies and either marked the occasion elsewhere or sent a proxy in their place.

Conservatives like Erickson were undeterred in the face of these inconvenient facts. In a classic moment of circular logic, Erickson explained on Twitter that even though previous Republican presidents had not gone to Arlington on Memorial Day, Obama's decision was different because "no one questioned their support for soldiers and belief in American Exceptionalism." So, Obama hates the military because conservatives like Erickson smear Obama as anti-military. Right.

Hard to argue with logic like that.

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Media Matters' Ben Dimiero.

Former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson Endorses Tony Avella for State Senate

Bill Thompson Endorses his former mayoral rival Tony Avella for State Senate against Senator Frank Padavan.

"I am pleased to endorse Tony Avella for the New York State Senate. Tony has always been a strong independent voice in government and he will continue to put the interests of his constituents and all citizens of this city and state above those of the special interests," stated Thompson.

"Bill Thompson and I are united in our belief that Albany needs to change and the people of this state deserve to have elected officials in fighting for the interest of the people and not their own personal gain," stated Avella.

There are two Frank Padavans.”

There’s the one who fixes your potholes, Avella said, and there’s the one who goes to Albany and turns into “a totally radical Republican" who goes along with the Senate’s dysfunctional way of doing things. Avella told the reporters that Padavan accepted a $34,000 lulu when Republicans controlled the Senate and “did Joe Bruno’s bidding.

See Video bellow:

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner in Washington, DC, today warned he does not have "great expectations" about the recommendations.

Note: Yesterday, May 25th, the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status held its second hearing in the Obama's first term in Washington, DC, following up on its first hearing that was held in Puerto Rico. Outside of Puerto Rico, there was very little coverage of this event and so below we tried to put together information to provide a sense of the proceedings.
At yesterday's hearing, they announced that if anyone is interested in weighing in on any of the issues being considered by the Task Force (status, Vieques, the Island economy, etc.), one can write to them directly at
To view the proceedings, click on the following links:

"Pierliuisu Does Not Expect Much from the White House"

by Jose A. Delgado

El Nuevo Dia (May 26, 2010)

"White House holds hearing today on PR status, economy, Vieques" by Robert Friedman, Puerto Rico Daily Sun (May 25, 2010)

Pierluisi Does Not Expect Much from the White House
Thinks they will continue policy of "neutrality" on status issue
By José A. Delgado
(May 26, 2010)

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner in Washington, DC, today warned he does not have "great expectations" about the recommendations on Puerto Rico's political status can be made in October by the interagency White House group, the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status.

"It is a low priority," said Pierluisi, saying he does not believe that the 'task force' is likely to take sides in its first progress report on Puerto Rico's issues due in October when it will review the status alternatives that the Island has and the procedures that it should be used to guide the debate.
"You can't cover the sky with your hand. They want to be as fair as possible with the two main ideological actors," said Pierluisi, referring to estadolibristas (Commonwealthers) and statehooders and commenting on Tuesday's session at the White House by the interagency group that examined issues such as status, economic development, Vieques and others.
To Pierluisi, the analysis to be made by the interagency group designated by President Barack Obama cannot go beyond acknowledging, as did the House of Representatives on the HR 2499 bill on status, that Puerto Rico has four alternatives for its political future: the current commonwealth, statehood, independence and free association.

As for the procedural mechanisms, he maintained that the real short-term alternatives are two: a plebiscite or a Constitutional Assembly on Status.

In his view, because the government of the New Progressive Party (PNP) has already decided that the procedural mechanism to be used is a status plebiscite, the Constitutional Assembly should be considered as an option only if the people vote for independence or free association.

Pierluisi, however, made clear that the report to be submitted by the presidential "task force'' --- after sessions in San Juan and Washington --- could be important in terms of the initiatives they propose "to improve the quality of life" in Puerto Rico, including matters concerning the economy and Vieques.

Hector Ferrer, president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) thinks, for his part, that the discussion on Tuesday may have helped the interagency group understand, in terms of the development of the commonwealth, that the U.S. Constitution "is as dynamic" as the federal government wishes to make it.

At the meeting, constitutionalist Richard Pildes, a professor at New York University who conducted a legal study for the PPD, supported the theory that the federal Constitution does not prevent Congress and the Executive from agreeing on a bilateral agreement that is "mutually binding" with Puerto Rico.
Ferrer also stressed that the task force co-chair, Cecilia Muñoz, warned on Tuesday that there is division in Puerto Rico on HR 2499, which was adopted by the House and is now pending in the U.S. Senate.

"That's the truth," said Ferrer, referring to the two registered opposition political parties that are against 2499.

For the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), however, Tuesday's session at the White House only indicates that the working group "does not understand its role" or its "obligation to decolonize" in Puerto Rico.

The fact that the discussions would focus on statehood and commonwealth reflect the views of "those who raise funds" for the Democratic Party, but does not mean that these are the alternatives that Puerto Rico will face in the future, said PIP's Secretary for North American Affairs, Manuel Rodriguez Orellana.
White House holds hearing today on PR status, economy, Vieques
by Robert Friedman
Puerto Rico Daily Sun (May 25, 2010)
WASHINGTON --- Besides discussing the island's political future and its faltering economy at a hearing today, the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status will also look into "the future of Vieques," the White House said Monday.
Few details were offered about the hearing, the second of its kind following a meeting in San Juan in March.
Sixteen of the 18-member task force are expected to gather at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House at 1 p.m., when task force co-chairs Cecilia Muñoz, who is White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Tom Perelli, associate attorney general, will offer opening remarks.
After what are called "break-out sessions" on Safety and Security, Strengthening Community Services, Building Capacity and Sustainability, and Economic Development and Financial Fitness, the members will move into full task force discussions on Vieques and status.
The final hour of the hearing, 4-to-5 p.m. is scheduled for public testimony. No witnesses were listed, but Popular Democratic Party Rep. Luis Ramos Vega said in San Juan that he would appear before the task force. Ramos Vega represents those in the PDP calling for a significant degree of sovereignty in the island's relationship with the United States.
Also reportedly set to appear as witnesses are two constitutional law professors: Christina Duffy Burnett of Columbia University and Richard Pildes of New York University.
The hearing will be transmitted on the Internet at
Also on the status front, a letter from Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi was printed Monday in the Washington Post in response to a recent column titled, "Puerto Rico doesn't even want a vote, but D.C. must wait again?"
The columnist, Petula Dvorak, objected to the House passage of the Pierluisi status bill, which she wrote was "inviting Puerto Rico to join the union," before it gives a fair deal to the residents of District of Columbia, who have been pressing years for voting representative in the House. A recent bill to that end was withdrawn because of an amendment to force D.C. to give up its strong anti-gun laws, if it wanted the House vote.
Dvorak wrote: "this alluring little island is poised to have more say in Congress than anyone who lives within walking distance of America's Capitol dome.
"It's a statehood debate in reverse... Just a few days after the huge setback [to the D.C. voting bid], the House passed a bill inviting Puerto Rico to join the union."
She wrote that "for the most part, they've been happy with the way things are. Every decade or so, we ask them if they want to become our 51st star, and they politely decline."
Citing recent polls, she noted, "Things could be changing" in favor of statehood, and said later: "I have nothing against Puerto Rico becoming a state. If that's what the people want, it should happen. But doing it before addressing the inequity in our nation's capital is wrong."
Pierluisi noted that his bill "does not, in fact, invite the island to join the union. The bill simply authorizes a plebiscite process to ask voters in Puerto Rico whether they want to remain a territory, become a state or become a nation-either fully independent from or in free association with the United States."
He added in his letter: "The purpose of the bill is to clarify the status options, since there is confusion on the island on this score, and to consult Puerto Ricans on their preference. Even if a majority expresses a desire for statehood, Congress would not be bound by the results."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Boycott The Puerto Rican Parade: Osvaldo Rios is an Embarassment to Latino Male


New York City Council members and a state Assembly member are saying, "no tenemos amor por Osvaldo Ríos," model and Colombian Telenovela star after learning that the board of directors of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc. named him as the 2010 Puerto Rican Day Parade's Padrino Internacional.

The members, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Annabel Palma, Rosie Mendez, Julissa Ferreras, Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Assembly member Carmen Arroyo issued a press release voicing their "disgust" at the fact that board members overlooked Ríos' lengthy history of domestic abuse and that they will boycott the parade if he is not replaced and encourage fellow elected officials to do the same.

"We are disgusted at the selection of convicted domestic abuser Osvaldo Ríos as the Padrino Internacional of this year's Puerto Rican Day Parade," the statement read.

"The Board of Directors' decision is unacceptable and should be immediately withdrawn. Domestic violence is a destructive cycle. Lives are destroyed and futures are damaged by this horrendous crime.

We simply cannot remain silent on this issue. The Padrino Internacional is a position that should highlight the proud achievements of and leadership within the vibrant Puerto Rican community; a serial abuser most certainly does not qualify."

The annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade takes place along Fifth Avenue in New York City, on the second Sunday in June as a way to honor nearly 4 million Puerto Rican natives including people of Puerto Rican heritage.

Board members honor Puerto Rican celebrities by naming them "International Grand Marshal," or "National Ambassador of La Salsa", and "National Godmother." Celebrities adorned with these titles have ranged from singer Marc Anthony and wife Jennifer Lopes to sexy singer Ricky Martin.

"It's not a positive role model for my people, for my community and for our children," council member Mark-Viverito told WABC of Ríos as the board's selection for parade godfather.

Not everyone agrees with committee members though. An impromptu poll of the people in East Harlem yielded mixed responses.

"I think people can change if they want to change, and I think they should at least be given the opportunity to do so," Cathy Akhtar told WABC TV.

"As long as he's supporting our people, we're behind him, too," Linda Descartes said.

Others in the community, like Claribel Reyes, fear that honoring Ríos in such a manner may send contradictory message to batterers that abusing a woman is OK.

"And women really can't say anything about it, and we can still kick your butt and it's ok," Reyes said to WABC.

Mixed results or not, some leaders are saying that in a community where domestic violence is on the rise, they plan to put up a fight to have the parade roster changed.

Ríos starred as "Don Alejandro de la Vega" in the Colombian telenovela: "Zorro: La Espada y la Rosa" as well as "Santiago" in Telemundo telenovela "El Juramento."

The singing heartthrob, who once dated Colombian siren Shakira, has been married three times and has two sons. A 2004 article in the Puerto Rican Herald stated that the Puerto Rican and Armenian hunk was sentenced to three months in jail for beating former girlfriend Daisy Annette Santiago in 1996 at the couple's home in Isla Verde (Carolina), Puerto Rico. Ríos was arrested in Miami while he was recording the soap opera "Angel Rebelde."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bronx Borough President Rubén Diaz Jr., at City Hall, Launched his support for a living wage bill.

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP


Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU President

At a press conference held on the steps of City Hall today May 25th, workers, community groups, and elected officials met to launch the Living Wage NYC campaign, spearheaded by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), and City Council Members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma.
The campaign, which aims to pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, advocates for New York City subsidies for economic development to create living wage jobs. According to the campaign, the bill will guarantee that when the city gives businesses public subsidies, the jobs they create will pay at least a living wage. The purpose of the new law is to ensure that New York's economy recovers through an investment in rebuilding the middle class jobs needed to thrive in the 21st Century. Read more...

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We are now the fastest growing labor news publication in the U S.

Dem groups plan “afternoon of sushi and protesting” outside Sen. Espada’s home

A bunch of Democratic groups are planning a protest outside Sen. Pedro Espada’s home in Mamaroneck on June 5 to speak out against the embattled senator’s corruption allegations.

The protest will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. June 5 outside of Espada’s home at 115 Beechwood Drive in Mamaroneck. Check out the flyer below:

Espada Protest Flyer

Monday, May 24, 2010

NYC Councilperson Melissa Mark-Viverito Speak Out For Immigration Reform by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP

Thirty-Seven Arrested In New York as Civil Disobedience For Immigration Reform

Today, 37 persons were arrested, (21 males and 16 females), among them, clergy, labor and elected officials, along with community leaders in front of 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan, in a second round of civil disobedience intended to escalate pressure on President Obama and Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

The speakers also urge the Obama administration to intervene to stop Arizona draconian SB 1070 law and to place a moratorium on deportations. Among those arrested, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Chair, Churches United to Save and Heal, New York State Assembly member Adriano Espaillat, Bertha Lewis, President, The Black Institute and NYC Council person, Melissa Mark-Viverito.
See video below:

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Legal Ads Influence the News

By Gary Tilzer

Today's Daily News has 5 pages of legal ads from the NYS Comptroller. The paper also has a story about an
ongoing investigation, Gov. Paterson making nice by endorsing Andrew Cuomo(DN) The story does not contain anything about the NYS Comptroller who is also under investigation by Cuomo. Could the 5 pages of legal ads which the advertising thin Daily News be a factor in there reporting on the comptrollers? DiNapoli In Cuomo's Crosshairs Cuomo and his special counsel, Linda Lacewell, confirmed an April 5, 2007 meeting between Global Strategy Group’s Jon Silvan, a partner from Intermedia (a private equity investment firm seeking pension fund investments) and a MirRam Executive and DiNapoli at his Manhattan office is part of the AG’s probe.

Has the Daily News
abandoned their constitutionally protected role to inform the public. Could the reason why the DN did not go after the state comptroller was the paper needed his friends who appointed him, in our state legislators’ complicity to protect one of their most steady income streams. With the internet taking away regular business advertising, most local papers today depend on legal notices to survive, which our State legislators require our court system and other areas of government to print in newspapers. In exchange for this lucrative advertising, newspapers are careful not to bite the hand that feeds them. Many state legislatures across the country have begun to eliminate this system of media manipulation by allowing legal notices to be permanently posted (newspapers have less than a week shelf life) on the internet for free, but, of course, New York’s is not one of them. Our state legislators don’t want to give up their hold on our print media. Legal Ads Help Keep the Political Machines in Power (True News)

GANNETT's NJ newspaper the COURIER-POST sued the Penn newspaper PENN JERSEY ADVANCE, INC., to stop them from getting ads from the New Jersey courts, comptrollers an government. Gannett lawsuit which they won just shows you have important and political the revenue of legal ads are. NJ lawmakers wrote into their rules and law that all Jersey legal ads would go to Jersey newspapers because they knew the money from the ads would mean that they would get more positive coverage from the papers.

The legal ads system continues in New York and other cities because the political leaders have an arrangement with the local media to push them or the candidates they support. Local papers are filled with stories that praise elected officials and attack challengers to them. Many journalist in local papers say privately the ads effect what they are able to report. The Law Journal a very powerful paper in the legal field and courts in New York cannot exist without legal ads. Time seems to be running out on the Journal and other papers who depend on legal ads.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for Governor of New York

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in a rally between City Hall and the Tweed courthouse (better known as a monument to corruption) announced his candidacy for governor on Saturday, saying he was seeking not only to lead New York but to remake a state mired in political scandal and paralyzed by financial crisis. See Video below.

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will run for governor; New York Democrat announces run via web video

Friday, May 21, 2010

Immigration Debate Rages

Paltalk News Network

See  full size image

There's not much consensus in this nation over the debate over illegal immigration. An interesting contradiction in approaches can be seen when comparing Arizona with Los Angeles - and Los Angeles with nearby Costa Mesa, California.

Arizona, as well all know, has passed a law requiring local cops to enforce federal immigration laws. It's been heralded by anti-illegal immigration advocates. But criticized by others - like the ACLU which has filed a suit challenging the law - on the grounds that it's discriminatory against Latinos.

Joining the ACLU in its opposition to the law is the city of Los Angeles, which has threatened an economic boycott of Arizona.

Arizona officials are contemplating tit for tat of that - threatening to cut off the flow of electricity to LA. Los Angeles gets about a quarter of its electricity from Arizona.

Now, Costa Mesa, California, has weighed in - declaring itself a so-called "rule of law city." Which means - illegal immigrants aren't welcome here.

Kind of reminds me of the old "We reserve the right to refuse service" signs you'd see in the old South. Which translated into blacks aren't welcome here.

You could, of course, argue that there's a difference. The African-Americans who were denied service were - of course - in the United States legally. But laws and declarations of this type can having a chilling effect on Latinos who are in this nation legally as well. Especially if they fear they will be harassed - or scrutinized, because of their brown skin color.

Adding fuel to the rhetorical fire over illegal immigration was Mexican President Felipe Calderón's visit to Washington. In both a White House appearance with President Obama, and during an address to Congress, Calderon blasted the Arizona law.

It was, to put it mildly, a case of diplomatic poor form.

How dare a president of another country come to this country to complain about laws here?

If he's so concerned about the treatment Mexicans receive, maybe he should get his own house in order and focus less on the United States. After all, the Mexicans who come here are fleeing economic hardship and drug wars. There would be fewer Mexicans illegally crossing the Rio Grande if his nation were more stable.

By the way, doesn't Mexico have immigration laws? Shouldn't Americans who visit his country be respectful of their laws?

Presuming the Mexican authorities enforce their immigration laws - they'd have to racially profile too, wouldn't they. I doubt that they'd ask people who look Mexican to prove they are citizens. One could argue that Mexican immigration laws create racial profiling of gringos.

One thing's for certain. Until the United States comes to a consensus over how to address the immigration issue, this debate will rage on. Only time will tell if the Arizona law results in civil rights violations of United States citizens of Latino heritage. But if it does - that's a matter for the United States government to address. Not, President Calderón, the government of Mexico.

Facebook Shared Personal Data With Advertisers Without User Consent

Facebook, the giant social network now under fire over its privacy practices, has been sending personal information to online advertising companies without its users' consent, according to a Harvard Business School professor who filed a letter of complaint with the Federal Trade Commission Thursday.

"Facebook has been telling its users one thing and then doing the opposite," Ben Edelman, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, told DailyFinance Thursday. "Facebook never told anyone, anywhere, they were going to do this. It's no longer about quality of disclosure, but about whether Facebook is telling the truth in the first place."

Sending Data to Advertisers

According to Edelman, Facebook and other social networking sites including MySpace have been sending data to online ad giants that could be used to identify a user's name, age, hometown and occupation -- regardless of their privacy settings. Edelman said Google's (GOOG) Doubleclick and Yahoo!'s (YHOO) Right Media had received data from MySpace, while Facebook had sent data to its ad partners.

Software giant Microsoft (MSFT), which invested $240 million in Facebook in 2006 for an equity stake and an advertising arrangement, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment about whether it, too, has received Facebook users' personal data. Microsoft is the exclusive provider of banner advertising and sponsored links on Facebook using Microsoft's "digital advertising solutions," according to a press release when the pact was announced.

The ad companies receive the data in the form of Web addresses from which the clicks originated. In the case of Facebook and others, those addresses have sometimes contained information that could be used to identify users.

"If you go to your own profile and then click on an ad, the advertiser will know who you are," Edelman says. The Wall Street Journal first reported Edelman's finding Thursday evening.

This Is Informed Consent?

The new revelation prompted Facebook and MySpace to change their policies, the paper reported, with Facebook making changes to its code Thursday. "We fixed this case as soon as we heard about it," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to DailyFinance. "In addition, we have been working on ways to no longer include user IDs in referrer URLs."

Facebook characterized the issues as a "loophole" and says it has now been closed.

To date, the Facebook privacy debate has centered on the complexity of Facebook's settings, which makes them difficult to navigate. But the new report suggests for the first time that Facebook disclosed users' personal data without their consent. In other words, even if you took the time to tweak your privacy settings -- or even put your Facebook page on complete lockdown -- your user information has still been at risk.

"Facebook's transmission of usernames and user IDs to advertisers is contrary to Facebook's promises to users," Edelman wrote in his letter to the FTC Thursday. "For example, Facebook's privacy policy promises 'we do not share your information with advertisers without your consent' (section 5). Clicking an ad, with nothing more, is not 'consent' to share a user's name with an advertiser."

Google, Yahoo Claim Ignorance

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, D.C., said the disclosure that Facebook has "routinely turned over data-mined information to advertisers should not come as a surprise. Privacy groups have been telling regulators -- especially the FTC -- that consumer privacy has been at risk."

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the company was "recently made aware of one case where, if a user takes a specific route on the site, advertisers may see that they clicked on their own profile and then clicked on an ad. We fixed this case as soon as we heard about it."

"As is common with advertising across the Web, the data that is sent in a referrer URL includes information about the Web page the click came from," the Facebook spokesman continued. "This may include the user ID of the page but not the person who clicked on the ad. We don't consider this personally identifiable information, and our policy does not allow advertisers to collect user information without the user's consent."

Both Google and Yahoo, which had been receiving user information, claimed Thursday that they were unaware they were even getting it, and said they had never used it. In a statement to DailyFinance, a Google spokesperson said the company "doesn't seek in any way to make any use of any user names or IDs that their URLs may contain," but wouldn't elaborate.

Facebook Statement Raises Questions

This statement from Facebook raised additional questions. Facebook admits that the data "may include the user ID of the page," and yet claims it doesn't "consider this personally identifiable information." On Facebook, the user ID is either a string of numbers or a user name you chose.

A Facebook spokesperson said he didn't know how many users actually use a name in their user ID, which could be identifiable, but pointed out that people click on ads in Facebook outside their own profile page -- for example, on fan or friend pages -- in which case their user ID wouldn't have been revealed.

But Edelman said advertisers could use seemingly anonymous numeric user IDs to identify individual users.

"Given a user number, you can get the user's public profile page," Edelman said. "All of that information is public by default. Even though it's just a number I can still look you up, just as I can look you up based on your social security number."

Don't Collect This Data -- We'll Give It to You

Another question is why Facebook was sending information to advertisers that it prohibits them from collecting. Facebook says the improper information sharing occurred only when users clicked on the "Profile" link on their hompage, and then clicked on an ad, but the spokesman said he didn't know how many instances of that occurred.

Online privacy advocates were not amused.

"Facebook and others have been disingenuous when saying they protect consumer privacy," said Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy. "It's all about stealthily monetizing our every social media move."

See full article from DailyFinance:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul Under Fire for Remarks on Civil Rights Act

Steve  Pendlebury

Steve Pendlebury Editor

(May 20) -- Rand Paul, the new face of the tea party movement, is in hot water because of his comments about anti-discrimination laws.

The political newcomer knocked off the GOP establishment's candidate, Trey Grayson, in Kentucky's Republican Senate primary on Tuesday and called it a "mandate" for the tea party's drive to limit Washington's power.

During a victory lap of interview programs the next day, Paul was asked about his belief that the Americans With Disabilities Act gave government too much authority over private business. NPR's Robert Siegel wanted to know whether Paul felt the same way about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, Jack Conway, has claimed.

"What I've always said is, I'm opposed to institutional racism," Paul responded, adding that he would have marched with Dr. Martin Luther King if he'd been alive at the time. Although Paul said he supports nearly everything in the Civil Rights Act, he took issue with the part that outlaws discrimination by private businesses except for clubs.

Rachel Maddow pressed Paul on the question during a lengthy interview on her MSNBC program Wednesday night. She tried to get a clear answer on whether he thought the lunch counter at the Woolworth's in Greensboro, N.C. -- a flash point in the struggle for racial integration -- should have been allowed to remain segregated.

Paul said he didn't believe "any private property should discriminate" and insisted he would never patronize such a place. But he asked Maddow, "Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant or does the government own his restaurant?"

Paul accused Maddow of bringing up "something that really is not an issue ... sort of a red herring." But he faced the same question a month ago in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal's editorial board. (Click here to watch the video. Skip ahead to the one-hour mark.)

"Under your philosophy it would be OK for Dr. King to not be served at the counter at Woolworth's?" Paul was asked. He replied that he would have boycotted the store and denounced it, but added, "This is the hard part about believing in freedom."

He continued, "In a free society we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior. But if we're civilized people, we publicly criticize that and don't belong to those groups or associate with those people."

A week later, the newspaper published an editorial saying Paul has "an unacceptable view of civil rights, saying that while the federal government can enforce integration of government jobs and facilities, private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, or gays, or any other minority group."

Because Paul has consistently expressed his personal opposition to discrimination, "there's really no wound inflicted here," argued Hot Air's Allapundit.

"His reservations about the law have to do not with the ends but with the means of federal compulsion; he wants business owners to serve everyone but clearly prefers using boycotts and local laws to pressure them. It's not a question of being pro- or anti-discrimination, in other words; it's a question of how federalism and civil rights enforcement mesh," the blogger wrote.

Trying to turn a question about racism into a philosophical discussion about federal power "may work well in the classroom, but it's a tricky position to take as a political candidate on national television," noted Susan Davis on the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog.

"Rand Paul should have been better prepared to answer this question. This isn't the first time he has encountered it," said Clifton B, who blogs at Another Black Conservative. He said Paul is caught in a "Catch-22."

"If Paul says he fully supports how the feds forced the private sector to end segregation he loses libertarian street cred, but by only supporting the results of the Civil Rights Act and not the actual legislation, Paul gives the left room to paint him as a racist," Clifton B wrote.

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates also criticized Paul for responding to Maddow "with a series of feints and dodges."

"What's most troubling about this interview is not that Paul opposes a portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it's that it's clear Paul hasn't thought much about his position," Coates said. "Lacking a rigorous intellectual framework for his opposition, Paul is wobbly on defense."

Similar, if snarkier, criticism came from Gawker's Adrian Chen, who decoded Paul's remarks this way: "But it's simple: Rand Paul hates racism, but wants to allow businesses to be racist. He would definitely support a segregated Applebee's as long as it instantly went bankrupt because no one liked its racist food. He basically loves the idea of the possibility that somewhere in America someone could open up a racist business, but as soon as that business becomes a reality he hates it."

Paul issued a statement this morning that still didn't answer the lunch counter question directly but backed the current law.

"Even though this matter was settled when I was 2, and no serious people are seeking to revisit it except to score cheap political points, I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964," Paul declared.

Some commentators were irked not just by what Paul did or didn't say, but what he sounded like when he said it.

"What a disappointment. Rand Paul is just another politician who won't give a straight answer to a simple question," lamented Kansas City Star reader George Harris.

Even Paul's tea party supporters "won't enjoy watching him look like a slippery politician as he fails, over and over, to answer Maddow's questions directly," added Salon's Joan Walsh.

"He turned into a politician before our very eyes. This champion of the truth-telling Tea Partiers waffled and dodged like the most seasoned of pols," Michael Sean Winters charged in America magazine. He said there's no reason to doubt Paul is against discrimination, but that's not the question.

"The question is about the role of government in society and whether or not the federal government was right to insist that it be against the law to discriminate on the basis of race in private businesses that serve the public," Winters argued.

"He would not answer. His career as a non-politician politician lasted less than 24 hours."

DAILY FLOTUS Michelle Obama Hears Immigration Plea From Girl Worried About Deportations

First lady Michelle Obama and Margarita Zavala, the wife of President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, were visiting a Washington-area elementary school Wednesday when they heard unexpectedly from a little girl worried that some people -- maybe, just maybe even the youth's mother -- could face deportation one day. It was an extraordinary moment.

The child told Mrs. Obama, "My mom said -- my mom said that -- I think that she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn't have papers."

Replied Mrs. Obama, "Yeah, well, that's something that we have to work on, right? To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right? That's exactly right."

The girl then said, "But my mom doesn't have . . ." and the word she seemed to say was papers.

Mrs. Obama said: "Yeah, well, we have to work on that. We have to fix that, and everybody has got to work together in Congress to make sure that that happens. That's right."

The exchange came as the two women's husbands, President Obama and Calderon, grappled with the issue of illegal immigration in the United States, with the already divisive issue turning red hot with the passage of a new law in Arizona allowing the police to ask people to show papers proving they are in the United States legally.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala saw each other last month in Mexico City and reunited on Wednesday when Mexico's first couple arrived for a state visit.

The serious turn from the youngster came in the midst of an event intended to emphasize healthy eating and exercise, causes for both Mrs. Zavala and Mrs. Obama, with reducing childhood obesity Mrs. Obama's signature issue.

After the White House arrival ceremony on the South Lawn -- the first outdoor arrival ceremony of the Obama administration, complete with a 21-gun salute and both presidents reviewing U.S. troops -- Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala motorcaded to the New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland.

The women entered a gym filled with 14 second-graders and a banner on one wall that said, "Welcome, Mrs. Obama! Bienvenidos, Sra. Zavala!" The women played games with the children. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala skipped, hopped and ran around a bit with a gym teacher guiding the play. At one point everyone formed a circle and grabbed hold of an end of a big, colorful parachute filled with balls. When they "made waves," the balls tumbled out. The activity was a way for the gym teacher to talk about teamwork and the heart, veins and arteries.

Mrs. Obama was wearing a Calvin Klein raspberry dress; over her dress, Mrs. Zavala had on a blue raincoat, which she removed when all the activity began.

After about 25 minutes, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala drew the children into a circle while the adults sat on folding chairs. When the children looked at the cameras and reporters standing along a gym wall, Mrs. Obama noticed and explained, "They follow us around."

Speaking first, Mrs. Obama told the children, "You are so blessed to be in a school like this that's focusing and giving you this kind of information, and making it fun, right? Because what you see is that exercise and play -- that's all exercise is, it's a bunch of play. It's just games. But you get your heart moving, and you've got to do that."

As often happens when Mrs. Obama is with children, they wanted to know about her daughters, Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8.

When Mrs. Obama was told by a student about playing Wii, Mrs. Obama knew the product.

"The Wii Fit? Yep, Malia and Sasha have that, too," she said. After the chat turned to riding bikes, Mrs. Obama was asked if her daughters exercise.

"They do. They do it at school like you do, and they do it at home," and they ride bikes too. Asked if she exercised, she said "every single day," unless she was really busy. And what about Mr. Obama?

"He exercises every morning, every single morning."

After the gym, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala went to the cafeteria, where the children were eating a healthy lunch, family style.

The children sang a song before eating:
I watch my table manners,
I sit up nice and straight,
I say please and thank you and please put more on my plate,
I do not talk while chewing,
I do not play with food,
We enjoy lunch together, because our manners are so good!