Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rep. Anthony Weiner explodes at House rejection of bill to aid victims of World Trade Center dust

Friday, July 30th 2010, 7:19 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House's rejection of bill that would have provided up to $7.4 billion in aid to people sickened by World Trade Center dust has opened a sharp rift between two New York congressmen, Republican Peter King and Democrat Anthony Weiner.

The verbal jousting came on the House floor Thursday night as the vote neared. The results fell largely along party lines, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats supporting the measure, but it failed to win the needed two-thirds majority.

Video of the heated dustup between the two New Yorkers quickly became an Internet sensation and fodder for cable news networks Friday.

Arms flailing and his voice rising, Weiner took sharp aim at King, who represents part of Long Island.

"The gentleman is providing cover for his colleagues rather than doing the right thing," bellowed Weiner, whose district includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens. "Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans rather than doing the right thing on behalf of heroes. It's a shame, a shame."

King, a key backer of the bill, had moments earlier accused Democrats of staging a "charade."

The rift developed over how the bill was put before the chamber.

Democratic leaders opted to consider it under a procedure that requires a two-thirds vote for approval rather than a simple majority. The move blocked potential GOP amendments to the measure.

King said Democrats were "petrified" about casting votes on the amendments, possibly including one that would ban aid from going to illegal immigrants sickened by trade center dust. King said the bill was more important than "a campaign talking point."

King's comments rankled New York Democrats. They blamed Republicans for not supporting the bill and accused King of not doing enough to win more GOP support for the measure.

The jabbering continued during a raucous joint appearance by the two congressmen Friday on Fox News Channel. With tempers still running high, the two men repeatedly interrupted one another.

Weiner asserted that despite all the "whining about the process," the House had an up-or-down vote on a program to extend more aid to those made sick by the World Trade Center dust.

"Every day on the streets of New York I hear people say, 'Why don't you guys just have up-or-down votes?' We had one last night," Weiner said, jabbing a thumb toward King. "They voted it down."

Weiner went on to mock King, noting just 12 Republicans voted for the bill while 243 Democrats supported it.

"Twelve, Peter?" Weiner said. "That's all you can muster? Your influential position, that's all you could get?"

King fumed.

"This is phony hypocrisy," he shot back. "They could pass the bill right now if they wanted to."

New York lawmakers have said they plan to keep pressing for the bill once Congress returns from its August recess.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Espada challenges petitions of leading opponent

Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. is looking to boot his chief opponent, Gustavo Rivera, off the Sept. 14 primary ballot.

Espada's election lawyer Daniel Pagano released a statement saying the campaign is formally challenging the petition signatures filed by Rivera.

"Everyone seeking to be placed on the September Democratic primary ballot has a lawful obligation to submit valid petition signatures to the Board of Elections," Pagano said. "Upon line-by-line scrutiny and review of Mr. Gustavo Rivera’s petitions, we have found considerable evidence that the petition signatures Mr. Rivera filed with the Board of Elections are invalid."

Pagano called the legal challenge "good government at work."

"If Mr. Rivera’s petition signatures can’t stand up to scrutiny and meet election law standards, then they are invalid, and he deserves to be removed from the ballot because he is not a valid candidate, ” Pagano said.

Besides Espada and Rivera, Daniel Padernacht, a lawyer and Community Board 8 member, and Fernando Tirado, a district manager for Community Board 7, are seeking to win the Democratic nomination.

But Rivera has key backing in the district, including the Working Families Party, well funded activist Bill Samuels, who founded the New Roosevelt Initiative, and Manhattan Sen. Liz Krueger, whose mother, father and husband each donated $4,500 to Rivera.

UPDATE: Rivera's team just called to rip Espada.
Horacio Gutierrez, Rivera's chief campaign strategist, said that "it's very clear that Pedro Espada is running scared and he knows he cannot win Sept. 14th."
"Gustavo was all over the district and collected thousands of signatures from people who are disgusted with Espada, disgusted with his corrupt actions and they've had enough of him."
"Gustavo is going to be on the ballot on Sept. 14. Thousands of people in the Bronx have spoken and it's disgusting for Espada to try and disenfranchise them."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On patrol in Mexico's most dangerous city

Police trampled over the scene where one man was killed - in front of his young family

Mexico's Ciudad Juarez is one of the world's most dangerous cities, plagued by battles between drug gangs. A BBC team witnessed its violence at first hand on a police patrol, as Ian Sherwood reports.

The sun sets early now that winter is approaching. It is nearly 1800 and Ciudad Juarez has already descended into darkness.

We drive up to Estacion Delicias police station, where all is quiet.

As we approach a busy roundabout, there is a white Suzuki jeep surrounded by armed police in the middle of the road

I explain that we are here to spend the evening on patrol with the municipal police.

We are escorted to a marked police vehicle, which pulls away at high speed.

The police lights flash. There is no siren and it is not clear where we are going as the vehicle zips through the streets of Juarez.

A few minutes later we stop.

A priest stands over the body of a murder victim
On average, seven people have been killed each day in Ciudad Juarez in 2009

In front of us a car is surrounded by people, including several police officers, some of whom have their faces concealed with black masks.

Suddenly it becomes clear why Ciudad Juarez has the label of being the world's most dangerous city.

The body of a man is slumped in the front passenger seat of the car. He has been shot several times in the chest. Paramedics arrive and he is pronounced dead.

His wife is standing close by, holding her infant daughter. She breaks down as she tells us that it is her husband inside the car.

The police seal off the area with tape. The bullet casings are marked out close to the car.

As the investigation into this murder gets under way we are told that there has been another killing close by.

After being ushered into the police vehicle once more we pull away.

Last rites

As we approach a busy roundabout, there is a white Suzuki jeep surrounded by armed police in the middle of the road.

As we get closer, a body clearly is visible, loosely covered by a blue coat.

White Suzuki Jeep covered in blood
One of the headlines in the local newspaper here reads: "More people are murdered here than in Iraq"

We get out of the police vehicle and approach the officers to be told that two people have been killed. The second victim is inside the car.

There are several bullet holes in the driver's side window at the front of the car, a further bullet hole has penetrated the back window of the car.

Many bullet casings are scattered on the road, glinting under the street lights.

In the distance we see a priest approaching the body in the road. He kneels down and administers the last rites to the victim and then he walks away.

Some police officers take photographs of the scene, vehicles pass on the busy road next to us and some buses pass by carrying children.

They hang out of the windows of the bus trying to make sense of what they have seen.

Cries of grief

Rocks are placed next to the bullet casings in the road.

An elderly man is escorted to the body, he crouches down close, a police officer pulls back the blue coat and the man holds his face in his hands and weeps.

A young woman grieves at the scene of a killing
Friends and relatives of the dead fill the scene with cries of grief

He has just identified the body of his seven-year-old grandson, Jaciel Ramirez. The man in car is his 28-year-old son, Raul.

The elderly man then calmly crosses the street, where he is greeted by his wife. She cries out loudly after her husbands tells her the news.

She is comforted by a friend, as she asks: "What has he done to deserve this"?

More relatives and friends come to the scene, the air is filled with cries of grief. One girl screams the boy's name as she tries to get closer to his body.

She is held back by the police and is then consoled by a man who embraces her.

We do not yet have the answers as to why these people were murdered.

On this one evening on these streets 15 people were killed, their names are added to a growing list of nearly 2,000 who have been murdered in Juarez so far this year.

One of the headlines in the local newspaper here reads: "More people are murdered here than in Iraq".

In Ciudad Juarez a taskforce of thousands of federal army soldiers, federal police and municipal police patrol the streets under direct orders from the president of Mexico to bring the violence under control.

The people of this city are asking why they are still not safe?

Map of Mexican drug cartels

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ydanis Rodriguez's Side Of The Story »

ydanis rodriguez.png
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez -- or his lawyer, at least -- has found a way for him to put out his narrative of what happened in last month's "touching" incident. It's wrapped in a shroud of official City Council secrecy, but the Washington Heights Democrat is accused of improper physical contact (of the non-sexual variety) with a Council staffer after a heated budget argument.

Rodriguez has adamantly denied doing anything wrong, but since the Standards and Ethics Committee's meetings are closed, its questioning of Rodriguez, the staffer and witnesses has happened privately, leaving us all guessing.

So Rodriguez's lawyer Leo Glickman filed papers today seeking an injunction to hold the next meeting -- scheduled for Wednesday morning -- in public. You can read them below. They say Rodriguez is accused of poking the staffer between the throat and upper chest, after he asked her why two Puerto Rican and Dominican groups had $250,000 budget items yanked. They also say the committee has not interviewed other council members who witnessed the interaction.

"It's possible there was an unintended incidental contact he does not recall, but there was no intentional contact," Glickman said. "We want this to happen in an open and transparent way, and we want people to decide from themselves."

This is part of a newly-aggressive response from Rodriguez, including a community meeting last week to try to fire back against the charges.

sdny 10cv05661

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Gregoire Sagbo

A Russian Milestone: 1st Black Elected To Office

by The Associated Press

NOVOZAVIDOVO, Russia July 25, 2010, 09:22 am ET

People in this Russian town used to stare at Jean Gregoire Sagbo because they had never seen a black man. Now they say they see in him something equally rare — an honest politician.
Sagbo last month became the first black to be elected to office in Russia.
In a country where racism is entrenched and often violent, Sagbo's election as one of Novozavidovo's 10 municipal councilors is a milestone. But among the town's 10,000 people, the 48-year-old from the West African country of Benin is viewed simply a Russian who cares about his hometown.

He promises to revive the impoverished, garbage-strewn town where he has lived for 21 years and raised a family. His plans include reducing rampant drug addiction, cleaning up a polluted lake and delivering heating to homes.

"Novozavidovo is dying," Sagbo said in an interview in the ramshackle municipal building. "This is my home, my town. We can't live like this."

"His skin is black but he is Russian inside," said Vyacheslav Arakelov, the mayor. "The way he cares about this place, only a Russian can care."
Sagbo isn't the first black in Russian politics. Another West African, Joaquin Crima of Guinea-Bissau, ran for head of a southern Russian district a year ago but was heavily defeated.
Crima was dubbed by the media "Russia's Obama." Now they've shifted the title to Sagbo, much to his annoyance.

"My name is not Obama. It's sensationalism," he said. "He is black and I am black, but it's a totally different situation."

Inspired by communist ideology, Sagbo came to Soviet Russia in 1982 to study economics in Moscow. There he met his wife, a Novozavidovo native. He moved to the town about 100 kilometers (65 miles) north of Moscow in 1989 to be close to his in-laws.

Today he is a father of two, and negotiates real estate sales for a Moscow conglomerate. His council job is unpaid.

Sagbo says neither he nor his wife wanted him to get into politics, viewing it as a dirty, dangerous business, but the town council and residents persuaded him to run for office.

They already knew him as a man of strong civic impulse. He had cleaned the entrance to his apartment building, planted flowers and spent his own money on street improvements. Ten years ago he organized volunteers and started what became an annual day of collecting garbage.

He said he feels no racism in the town. "I am one of them. I am home here," Sagbo said.
He felt that during his first year in the town, when his 4-year-old son Maxim came home in tears, saying a teenage boy spat at him. Sagbo ran outside in a rage, demanding that the spitter explain himself. Women sitting nearby also berated the teenager. Then the whole street joined in.
Russia's black population hasn't been officially counted but some studies estimate about 40,000 "Afro-Russians." Many are attracted by universities that are less costly than in the West. Scores of them suffer racially motivated attacks every year — 49 in Moscow alone in 2009, according to the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy Task Force on Racial Violence and Harassment, an advocacy group.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Novozavidovo's industries were rapidly privatized, leaving it in financial ruin. High unemployment, corruption, alcoholism and pollution blight what was once an idyllic town, just a short distance from the Zavidovo National Park, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev take nature retreats.

Denis Voronin, a 33-year-old engineer in Novozavidovo, said Sagbo was the town's first politician to get elected fairly, without resorting to buying votes "Previous politicians were all criminals," he said.
A former administration head — the equivalent of mayor in rural Russia — was shot to death by unknown assailants two years ago.

The post is now held by Arakelov, a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan who says he also wants to clean up corruption. He says money used to constantly disappear from the town budget and is being investigated by tax police.

Residents say they pay providers for heat and hot water, but because of ineffective monitoring by the municipality they don't get much of either. The toilet in the municipal building is a room with a hole in the floor.

As a councilor, Sagbo has already scored some successes. He mobilized residents to collect money and turn dilapidated lots between buildings into colorful playgrounds with new swings and painted fences.

As he strolled around his neighborhood everyone greeted him and he responded in his fluent, French-African-accented Russian. Boys waved to Sagbo, who had promised them a soccer field.
Sitting in the newly painted playground with her son, Irina Danilenko said it was the only improvement she has seen in the five years she has lived here.

"We don't care about his race," said Danilenko, 31. "We consider him one of us."


By Rafael Martínez Alequín

A LARGE TREE WAS A VICTIM OF TODAY'S THUNDERSTORM, STOPPING TRAFFIC ON ORLOFF AVENUE . (Perhaps a Twister). The video shows how the impact smashed the side walk. The tree fell on a car and destroyed it. The sounds and voices of the residents of Orloff Avenue can be heard as the video was being shot. Let's see how quickly the local politicians will respond to help restore the situation.

video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

Petey Espada Plays his Cards Again

You heard it here first. Now Petey is at it again. Once more spotted at Empire Casino in the Bronx. Now, there is no law that says politicians cannot gamble. Hopefully, he is using his own money and not his constituents'.

Espada feels a bit bettor

Last Updated: 7:30 AM, July 25, 2010

Posted: 1:55 AM, July 25, 2010

Looks like scandal-scarred state Sen. Pedro Espada is betting on his re-election.

Espada -- accused of looting Medicaid funds -- was spotted playing the slots at Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway Friday night.

Espada's wife, Connie, had the hot hand. She won a "few thousand dollars" at a slot machine, Espada told The Post.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gay Priest Expose

We pray and we pay. Homage that is to the church and the priests that promise to help us absolve our sins. The irony here is who will absolve the priests from their sins? When will the Pope sanction homosexuality?

This video (shot by an Italian journalist) shows priests cavorting and being true to themselves....not the dogma of the Catholic church. What a pity that they can't just ditch the cloth for a pair of blue jeans.

New York's mosque opposition extends beyond Ground Zero

Paltalk News Network

NEW YORK - The celebrated case of the proposed mosque near Ground Zero is a story that's resonating with opponents and proponents around the world.

Purportedly, it's not an issue of Islam or mosques. It's because of its location - two blocks from the World Trade Center site. Insensitive, the opponents say - because those who attacked on September 11, 2001 did so in the name of Islam.

OK, maybe so. But then how does one explain the outrage that resulted in the canceling of the establishment of another mosque - this one on Staten Island?

This mosque was to be established in an abandoned Roman Catholic church convent. But the church, St. Margaret Mary, canceled its sale to the Muslim American Society, on the grounds that it could be used as a center for terrorism.

This church is nowhere near Ground Zero. So you can't say it has anything to do with sensitivities toward those who died on 9/11.

One might think that the Roman Catholic church would stand up against religious intolerance. After all, the Vatican has embraced ecumenical dialog and understanding. And its representative in New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, is a member of St. Margaret Mary.

But we don't hear Dolan using his pulpit to say this fear of all things Islam as terrorism is misplaced. Of course, we didn't see the Vatican do much to stand up to the Nazis when they started in on the Jews either, did we?

America must come to grips with the fact that Muslims are becoming an increasingly significant part of our society. Wishing - or perhaps in this case praying - Islam away isn't going to work. Like it or not, Muslims are here to stay.

While there is a serious problem of radicalized Muslims who use terroristic tactics against the West and toward fellow Muslims who belong to different sects elsewhere, it is a quantum, inaccurate, and dangerous leap to the conclusion that all mosques are centers of terrorism. If that were the case, would we not see dozens of terrorist attacks a day in our nation's cities?

Look at the Detroit area - home to scores of mosques. A search for mosques in Dearborn, Michigan on Yahoo Local comes up with 10. I'm pretty familiar with Dearborn and I'm sure this number grossly underestimates the number of mosques in this community. Dearborn - once best known as the home to Ford Motor Company's headquarters - is now more identified with its burgeoning Islamic population.

We've not seen a huge influx of Islamic terrorism in Dearobrn. Why, then, would Staten Islanders then presuppose that a mosque in their neighborhood will result in terrorism?

Besides, do they really believe that the number of Muslims in Staten Island will now suddenly decline? Or that the Muslim American Society won't find another location on Staten Island to serve the growing Muslim population there?

And if there are Muslim terrorist on Staten Island, do they really believe that they can't meet someplace else to plan an attack? Like someone's house?

Or would they now deny homes to Muslims on Staten Island as well?

If the good people of St. Margaret Mary Church really want to do something productive, perhaps they could start by publicly addressing the hate crimes that are taking place on a regular basis on Staten Island. Hate crimes targeting Hispanics and gays. Not one of the suspects of these attacks, by the way, are described as identifiably Muslim.

Then they should take a look in the holy water at the entrance to the sanctuary and address the hate they see reflected there. Before they enter to pray to a God who said, "Love thy neighbor as yourself.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

British PM David Cameron stuffs face with hot dogs, keeps mum on Lockerbie bomber deal

BY Michael Mcauliff In Washington, James Fanelli and Larry Mcshane

Thursday, July 22nd 2010, 4:00 AM

British PM David Cameron bites into a famed New York City hot dog during pit stop for lunch with Mayor Bloomberg near Penn Station.

British PM David Cameron bites into a famed New York City hot dog during pit stop for lunch with Mayor Bloomberg near Penn Station.

Should Britain face any kind of sanctions over the Lockerbie bomber release fiasco?

It's hot dog diplomacy: only open your mouth to take a big bite.

British Prime Minister David Cameron munched on the famed wieners Wednesday with Mayor Bloomberg on Eighth Ave., where both ignored questions about BP's role in Scotland's 2009 release of the Lockerbie bomber.

"Very good. Fantastic hot dog," Cameron replied as reporters unsuccessfully grilled him. "Lovely."

As Cameron spoke less than frankly, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond told the BBC he held no regrets over freeing convicted cancer-stricken Libyan terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

And in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - obtained by the Daily News - Salmond admitted the Scottish government knew Megrahi could outlive his grim three-month prognosis.

"There was a recognition at the time that he could die sooner or live longer," Salmond wrote to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the committee.

"This was made clear in the Scottish government's public statements."

Megrahi, released last August with terminal cancer, was greeted as a hero in Libya. The only man convicted of the 1988 bombing remains alive in Tripoli.

Salmond also implied BP - which received a $900 million oil drilling deal from Libya once the mass murderer was freed - lobbied specifically for Megrahi's release.

BP has only admitted to pursuing a broader prisoner release from the entire U.K.

Salmond noted that British officials specifically pressed to include Scotland in the deal - and Megrahi was the only Libyan held there.

The 270 people aboard doomed Pan Am Flight 103 included 189 Americans flying from London to New York.

The four senators from New York and New Jersey are clamoring for a new probe into Megrahi's release, particularly in light of the new statements.

"The various claims from the Scottish government raise more questions," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). "We need greater transparency here."

Cameron, who took office just 10 weeks ago, has said he doesn't need an investigation to confirm the release was a terrible mistake.

Bloomberg said earlier that he agreed with Cameron's criticism, but insisted it was not his place to ask about the flap.

"That's a federal issue, and there's no reason why I would bring it up," Bloomberg said. "It was a miscarriage of justice." Pressed on the issue, Bloomberg said later, "I'll leave the foreign policy to the President of the United States, where it should be."

Cameron arrived at Penn Station on an Acela train from Washington, where he met a day earlier with President Obama.

After dining alfresco with the mayor, he traveled to the Nasdaq offices in Times Square before heading across town to the United Nations for a meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Bloomberg hosted the prime minister for a more upscale treat last night at a private upper East Side dinner.

Angry Tenants Vow To Storm Pedro Espada Town Hall Meeting »

A coalition of tenants plans to storm what they're calling an invitation-only town hall meeting being held by State Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr., chairman of his chamber's Housing Committee.

espada town hall.jpg

"When calling to RSVP to the event, one is told that the “mailed invitation” must be presented at the door to gain entrance. Tenants and constituents are outraged that their Senator, and chair of the Housing Committee, has stopped every pro-tenant housing bill from reaching the senate floor and has the insolence to put on, yet another, phony theatrical production. A group of about 50 tenants will be demanding entrance into their Senator's secret town hall meeting tonight to ask him to "stop gagging the voice of his community" and sign on to repeal Vacancy Decontrol," said a statement from the tenants accompanied by the invite you see above.

When I asked, Alex Diaz, Espada's chief of staff, said this isn't about exclusion, but merely space limitations of the church where the event's being held:

"Sen. Espada is holding this town hall meeting at the request of Rev. Delgado for his congregation and the surrounding community. Although it is an open meeting, in the interest of safety due to the limited seating and standing room capacity, this meeting will be conducted within the operational parameters dictated by Rev. Delgado relative to these space constrictions and proper etiquette for a House of Worship. As such, Rev. Delgado has asked those interested in attending to register in advance," Diaz replied.

This isn't the first time Espada's drawn the ire of tenants, as you can see from this short video I shot at the State Capitol of protesters storming his office earlier this year.

Tenants Protest Espada from NYDN Brawl for the Hall on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg Boring News Conference

By Rafael Martínez Alequín

“City government is going to get a lot smarter and leaner to cope with crushing financial challenges next year -- so FDNY company closings are again on the table, and fees for residential sanitation pickups can't be ruled out. See videos of Mayor Bloomberg news Conference in Staten Island today.

video by Rafael Martínez Alequin for YFP. Part 1
video by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP
Part 2

Former New York City, Candidates for mayor Endorses today NYS Senator Bill Perkins for re-election

video by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kevin Rudd's fall from grace creates political flux in Oz

MELBOURNE, Australia — The dust has yet to settle as Australian national politics has moved at break neck speed in the weeks since the dramatic ouster of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in late June.

Rudd, who last year had high favourable poll numbers in the stratosphere among likely Australian voters and a popular administration that seemed rock-solid, even a sure bet against any opposition, found himself this year on the opposite end of the popularity surveys. His fall from grace with having served well over half of his three year term is nothing short of spectacular, say political insiders and historians.

Julia Gillard, Rudd’s deputy prime minister, assumed the role of her former boss in what some are calling a palace coup. Gillard called for an early election in recent days that has thrust this nation of 22 million into an unexpected, full-court-press for the highest post in the land.

Issues such as a proposed new tax on the mining industry, immigration and refugee entrants, and Rudd’s controversial flip-flop on a key environmental initiative, carbon trading omissions, or carbon cap and trade in the U.S., dogged his administration and his Labor Party’s chances at the polls this year. Those three issues were points that had been hammered away at by Rudd’s chief opposition in parliament, members of the conservative Liberal Party. Yet, unlike the Republican Party in the U.S. since the rise of President Barack Obama, Australia’s Liberal Party had seemed to be a political party in disarray. That disarray among his opponents makes Rudd’s ouster by his own party officials all the more remarkable: He had been a master of deflecting criticism and his own missteps, while Liberal Party officials bickered openly among themselves and jockeyed for leadership positions. He was expected to right his own ship, shore up support within his own party and successfully contest re-election in the November vote. It was not to be.

Results in three state-wide elections in Tasmania, South Australia and in New South Wales earlier this year made Labor Party officials nervous. The contests could be likened to the so-called mid-term federal elections in the U.S., with premierships, like state gubernatorial races, very much in play.

But two contests, one in South Australia, and the other in Tasmania, were cliff hangers, and nearly cost the Labor Party premierships with close votes. In both states, results over who had won were unclear, while in Tasmania there was a recount that lasted several days.

Meanwhile the Green Party, long advocates of environmental issues but considered marginal by the two main parties, had made inroads with three seats to the federal parliament in Canberra in elections held in Western Australia.

The vote in those three states while local in nature had national implications for the November ballots, high ranking Labor Party officials believed. The Green Party, seemingly out of nowhere, was now in a position to play king maker inside parliament house in Canberra.

Rudd’s rise to power within the Labor Party began in 2006, and for many political insiders, it was a peculiar triumph over opposition within it. Privately, some members of the inner circle of Labor politics did not like him, but the public loved him. There were many reasons for that in the ever fluctuating realm of Australian politics.

Chief among the reasons for Kevin Rudd’s rise to prominence: like the waning days of U.S. President George W. Bush’s last months in office, then Prime Minister John Howard seemed a leader who was out of ideas. The national economy was in recession, and there was discontent within union ranks across Australia.

As a party, Labor had been in opposition for 12 solid years, not unlike the Democrats in the early 1990’s, during the years of Ronald Reagan, and the first President Bush. For many in the Australian public, Rudd was a breath of fresh air.

To many party insiders he was a fresh face on the political scene, and seemed to be what the public yearned for. Rudd did not belong to any faction within the Labor Party, and thus, appeared not only independent, but also not burdened by favors owed to party insiders. To the Australian public, he seemed to be just what was needed: a politician with conviction for a new direction, and one with courage.

Fluent in Mandarin, Rudd was seen as the one man who could speak directly to Chinese leaders in the important economic trade relations shared between the two nations.

High numbers in the polls delivered Rudd and the Labor Party to power in a landslide election in the November 2007 vote. Yet, starting in late 2007, and away from reporters and cameras, Rudd’s popularity with party members began to change. Up close, those who worked with him began to resent him. His energy, enthusiasm and resilience for the new job were phenomenal. Yet word began to leak out that his resilience and energy was also equally matched by his temper and sense of self belief. Strangely, this can be a liability not only in politics, but in other sectors of Australian public life. Some members of his caucus felt belittled. Others, including ministers were frustrated while other staff members simply quit. Much of this was not made public. Yet, because of his popularity among Australian voters, Rudd took bold steps not taken by any other elected official in the history of the nation.

Australia has a complicated history on the matter of race, not unlike that found in the United States. Principally it has been the treatment of its original citizens, the Aboriginals, that Rudd took aim at in a dramatic speech before parliament in February of 2008. He issued an apology to what many call the Stolen Generation. This was a policy of relocation to tens of thousands of Aboriginal children in an attempt to westernize and modernize a people whose conditions and history mirror the American Indian nations in North America. The address did not concretely offer reparations to Australia’s lback population, but rather an acknowledgement of a racist policy few would discuss publicly.

Rudd also used his office as both a pulpit and platform to put this largely isolated nation onto the world stage. He was a frequent traveler and avid promoter of the new Australian voice in international affairs.

In 2009 Rudd made the cover of Time magazine as a man to watch and a new player to be reckoned with. Elected officials in both Europe and North America soon took notice. Rudd and the then newly elected U.S. President Obama became fast friends. There was talk of a new "special relationship" between the two countries, not unlike that found between the U.S., Britain and Israel.

At home, Rudd spearheaded an economic stimulus package that has not only helped to jump start a sluggish economy but has also led to a national unemployment rate that hovers just above 5 percent. All of this was for naught, as party officials began looking at national poll numbers that found Labor trailing the Liberal Party in November. The move to dump Rudd with the lagging poll numbers and replace him with Julia Gillard, his deputy, was swift, unexpected, spectacular and, some say, even ruthless in its timing.

New Prime Minister Gillard is now Australia’s first female head of state. She also becomes the third person to occupy the prime minister’s post in as many years. But many on the world stage are now asking, "who is she?" Is she a small ‘L’ liberal, pro-Labor, anti-racist leader in the mold of Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Bruntland? Or is she a neo-conservative whose party platform will shift and take the shape of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher? Only time will tell.

At present, nationally, with the dramatic changes inside government now taking hold, Labor has a 10 point lead over the Liberals. The election is now set for August 21st and Gillard has set the tone already by calling for just one debate between herself and Tony Abbott, the leader of the Liberal Party.

It is a contest political pundits and insiders expect to be robust at the very least. Of the race, Abbott told reporters recently that he expected “a filthy campaign,” containing dirty tricks and vigorous attack ads.

Gillard has already cancelled several cabinet meetings in Canberra this week and has hit the campaign trail. Abbott has followed suit making campaign stops in Sydney and Melbourne.

While all of this unfolds, the former prime minister, reportedly emotionally shaken by his spectacular fall, returned to his home state of Queensland to consider his next moves. Adding insult to injury, he was not asked to join the Gillard administration in any capacity while she re-shuffled the cabinet.

Many insiders had thought Rudd would still be an asset to the new government in some way that would include the use of his strongest skills, of diplomacy and bargaining. He was reportedly in touch with Obama, according to press reports here, less than an hour before his ouster.

Rudd, who has kept a low profile in recent weeks, was reportedly seen in both Washington and New York in recent days. As the first and only Gillard-Abbott debate draws near, the state of Australian politics is in flux and the fate of a former prime minister uncertain.

Contest to make Wabbit stew boils down to candidates Gustavo Rivera and Dan Padernacht

Bob Kappstatter

Tuesday, July 20th 2010, 4:00 AM

It looks like the contest to make Wabbit stew has boiled down to two leading contenders.

But last week the powers that be tried to budge one out of the Sept. 14 primary race, arguing he could wind up being a "Ralph Nader" spoiler, with state Sen. Pedro (Wascally Wabbit) Espada walking off with the most votes.

Candidate Gustavo Rivera picked up support from the state Democratic Committee (read that Andrew Cuomo), the powerful SEUI, Local 1199 United Healthcare Workers union; the muscular Working Families Party, and a pledge of 250G from plastics magnate/good government operative Bill Samuels.

Most recently a staffer to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rivera has worked up the local political ladder and was a midlevel operative for candidate Obama.

"He's a smart kid who did a lot of political work with unions," said one Bronx Dem insider, "but he's got no Bronx political party roots - he was never a part of the organization - or a community activist."

Edging up close behind Rivera is Dan Padernacht, a lawyer whose family is big in real estate. With 4,600 petition signatures, Padernacht is seen as a larger vote drainer from Rivera than Community Board 7 District Manager Fernando Tirado.

Smokeless room

Last week, Riverdale Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz set up a downtown meeting between Padernacht and state Dem Committee Exec Director Charlie King; Kevin Finnegan, political director at 1199 SEIU, and Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, who has close ties to the union, with all of them trying to talk Dan into quitting. As of yesterday, he was still in the race.

Big ideas, small bucks

According to their financial filings, Bill Samuels and his New Roosevelt Initiative folks said they're ready to spend $250,000 to help Gustavo Rivera topple Espada.

But according to their latest filings, they have just $104,391 on hand. They raised $29,153 and Samuels lent $259,625. Somehow, they spent $184,386. Well, not somehow. A whole bunch on consultants.

Little Charlie

Looks like after all that horn tooting over his Democrats for Change organization, Carlos (Charlie) Ramos came in looking short on his nominating petitions.

State Sen. Ruben (The Rev) Diaz Sr. has about "10,000-plus petition signatures against challenger Charlie's 3,100. Let's see if he can hang on to the required 1,000 minimum after legal challenges.

The Zen of Schlein

Assemblyman Peter Rivera and challenger Luis Sepulveda filed about 3,000 and 3,300 petition signatures, respectively, but neither filed challenges.

Dem Party election lawyer Stanley Schlein tells us he advised, "Take it to the streets. Don't waste your time killing trees with court papers."

Notes from a County dinner:

  • A packed room Wednesday night at Marina del Rey, equally divided between table-buying suits, Latinos and blacks. Now THAT'S a rainbow! We hear the party cleared close to half a mil.
  • Pedro challenger Gustavo Rivera sporting a shiner after he tripped getting off a bus and kissed the concrete.
  • Nobody applauded when Shelly Silver lauded Andrew Cuomo as making a great governor.
  • Among electeds showing their props: the governor, city and state controllers and assembly speaker: Paterson, Liu, DiNapoli and Silver. Lordy, sounds like a law firm. ...

Quid pro vote

We hear: Democrats who just barely control the Senate 32-30 are thinking of leaving some Republican district lines untouched when redistricting time rolls around. Quid pro quowould be a nice reserve bank of two to four GOP swing votes for Dems - without having to rely on chamber hijinks/headaches from Pedro or The Rev.

Monday, July 19, 2010


By Rafael Martínez Alequín

TODAY, Bronx Councilmember and former New York State Attorney General Oliver Koppell announces his endorsement in what many are calling the most important race in New York State this year. Not only does Councilmember Koppell’s district cover over a third of the district, the highest performing electoral districts in the Senate race are in Koppell’s district and consistently come out for him at election time.

"Gustavo Rivera is an intelligent, dedicated and experienced young man with solid credentials to serve in the State Senate," said Councilmember Koppell. "He has worked as staff member of the State Senate in Albany and most recently on the staff of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. He has more than ten years of active involvement in government and campaigns and understands how elected official can effectively and positively represent their district in state government."

Rivera is facing incumbent Pedro Espada, who is facing multiple corruption charges from various bodies including the New York Attorney General and the Bronx District Attorney, and Federal authority . He is being investigated for stealing $14 million of taxpayer funds earmarked for health care for poor residents, for lying on state and federal applications for grants, for paying workers $1.70 an hour and for not living in the Senatorial District. He live in Mamaroneck, Westchester County.

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

Anna Chapman, 'Bombshell' Russian Spy, Eyeing $250K Book Deal, Political Career: Reports

The Huffington Post

Curtis M. Wong

Anna Chapman

She may already be back in Moscow, but "bombshell" spy Anna Chapman continues her reign as the most infamous of the 11 members of an alleged Russian espionage ring apprehended in the U.S. last month.

According to The New York Post, the 28-year-old Chapman -- alternately referred to in the media as the "Stalingrad Stunner" and the "Bond girl" -- is busy shopping for a media deal worth $250,000, and demanding the money be paid into the Swiss bank account of an associate.

Sources say Chapman is hoping her tale of infiltrating U.S. society will then translate into a book deal and movie rights. Though Chapman agreed not to profit from her story as part of her plea bargain with U.S. authorities, there are "obvious issues about the enforceability of the provision" now that she's returned to Russia, her attorney Robert Baum tells Newsweek.

An earlier Newsweek article suggests that Chapman -- known in Russia by her maiden name, Anna Kushchenko -- could be eyeing a political career in her homeland. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) member Alexander Potapov says he "will do everything to promote her candidacy in the next parliament elections" in 2012 if Chapman expresses an interest. United Russia, the dominant pro-Kremlin party, is known for backing its party lists with local celebrities including gymnast Alina Kabaeva (romantically linked in the Russian press with Putin) and the Bolshoi Ballet's prima ballerina Svetlana Khorkina.

If all else fails, Chapman's supporters have offered yet another option for the accused spy to make a buck. "Anna, don't worry they will work things through and let you go," a man by the name of Dimitri Kotov reportedly wrote on Chapman's wall on the Russian version of Facebook. "Afterwards, Playboy will offer you a ton of money for a few pictures!"

Get HuffPost World On Twitter, Facebook, and Google Buzz!
She may already be back in Moscow, but "bombshell" spy Anna Chapman continues her reign as the most infamous of the 11 members of an alleged Russian espionage ring apprehended in the U.S. last month. ...
She may already be back in Moscow, but "bombshell" spy Anna Chapman continues her reign as the most infamous of the 11 members of an alleged Russian espionage ring apprehended in the U.S. last month. ...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez, Jumaane D. Williams Agains MTA plans to close subway booths

Local 100 President John Samuelsen and Council members Ydanis Rodriguez (Dem. Disrict 10 Washington Heighs) and Jumaane D. Williams (Dem. District 45 Brooklyn) teamed up at a City Hall press conference to urge a “huge public outcry” MTA against plans to close 89 more subway booths and fire an additional 220 Station Agents. See the following Videos.

Samuelsen “Jay Walder is putting transit riders directly in harms way” by removing the Station Agents from the system despite advice to the contrary from the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee and a variety of law enforcement agencies.

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP.

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín for YFP.

MSM Silent on NY Democratic Challenger for U.S. Senate

This week's primary petition deadline came and went, with little notice of a challenger to Kirsten Gillibrand: Gail Goode submitted 45,000 signatures in her bid for the U.S. Senate seat. The notable exceptions are Daily Politics, ( a must for political junkies, and Capitol Tonight (

The media blackout is, at turns, puzzling.

Early on, MSM reported numerous concerted efforts to discourage challengers to Gillibrand, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Long Island Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. On the Republican side, this list of dropouts include Guliani, Pataki, Rep. Peter King, Zuckerman and Bloomberg''s girlfriend, Diana Taylor.

For weeks, meanwhile, readers of New York's MSM were bombarded with article after article speculating about Harold Ford's non-candidacy, cumulating with a NY Times feature of Ford's white wife. Did MSM cover Ford so extensively because of his ties to Mayor Bloomberg?

With almost almost 25 years in public service, Gail Goode has worked in the Bronx DA's office, MTA, and as Deputy Borough Chief of Trials in NYC Corporation Council. Goode is experienced, competent, and can utter a grammatically correct sentence, unlike... well, like, um... Caroline Kennedy, whose air of entitlement led the Princess of Camelot to seriously believe she should be given the seat.

Contrast Goode with Alvin Greene, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate for South Carolina. Greene generated national media coverage simply by being an unpolished enigma. Could the media blackout of Goode exist because she does not offer a spectacle to be held up to media ridicule?

One would think the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Daily News, et al., would exhibit a modicum of curiosity. Having obtained three times the number of signatures necessary to get on the ballot from 24 of the state's 29 congressional districts, chances are she may prevail. Are the state's power brokers not interested in the stances a potential Senator Goode would take on issues important to them?

Perhaps MSM believes there is no reason to pay attention to a legitimate challenger to Gillibrand, i.e., one who actually submits petitions. Conventional wisdom clings to the notion that in a state where the majority of voters are registered Democrats, the winner of a Democratic primary will go coast through the general election. As the sitting Senator, Gillibrand has the power of incumbency.

One problem. Gillibrand was appointed a mere 18 months ago by Governor Paterson to complete Hillary Clinton's term. (There are many who, to this day, disagree with the governor's choice.) The only voters who have had the opportunity to chose her are the ones in her former congressional district. This year's election will be the first statewide test of voter confidence in Gillibrand. Most voters don't know who she is.

This week's release of campaign finances demonstrates whose money talks; Gillibrand has a formidable $7.5 million warchest. As Goode readily admits, she spent her life savings on the petitioning process. Having just stepped forward to run in April, Goode has not had a long fundraising leadtime. (One thing seems certain, Goode's finances demonstrate she is not a minion of Bloomberg, who pays his lackeys well -- even allows some to steal from him -- until he doesn't need them anymore.)

New York's media elite didn't wait for the long list of Gillibrand's speculative challengers to submit signatures before they wrote about them. Are they now waiting for Goode's signatures to be validated, then feign surprise at the newly emerged stealth candidate? Voters will wonder why.