Friday, July 31, 2009

White House hosts so-called Beer Summit

The visage of four men--President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Cambridge [Mass.] police officer James Crowley--having a beer on the White House lawn is arguably surreal (or even absurd) depending upon whom you ask. The New York Times even live-blogged the much-anticipated meeting, but its implications almost certainly go far beyond the type of beer each man drank.

The facts that lead up to this meeting are all too known. Crowley arrested Gates outside his Cambridge home earlier this month after a woman reported a possible burglary. Authorities initially charged Gates with disorderly conduct, but the charges were subsequently dropped. And Obama sparked controversy with his assertion at a White House press conference on health care he felt the Cambridge Police Department acted stupidly by arresting Gates.

During what is traditionally a slow news cycle, this story simply keeps on giving. The subsequent brouhaha over the president's comments--and the arrest itself, however, clearly indicate the majority of Americans remain woefully reluctant to have any substantive discussion on race that does not extend beyond inflammatory sound bites or a steady stream talking heads from all political persuasions who want to add their two cents. This country has clearly made significant strides on this issue over the last decades, but Obama's election last November alone was not the long-awaited panacea that miraculously solved the continued scourge of racial injustice. And four men having a beer on the White House lawn alone will not eradicate it either.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bomb kills two Spanish police officers

A little more than a day after a car bomb injured more than 40 people in Burgos, a second device killed two Spanish police officers on Mallorca.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported the bomb destroyed the car in which two Civil Guard members, aged 27 and 28, were riding shortly before 2 p.m. local time. The device detonated outside a Civil Guard barracks in Calvia. And the attack took place near a popular beach and within kilometers of the Spanish royal family's summer home.

Spanish authorities have blamed ETA for both attacks. And there is precedent to suggest members of the group potentially could have planted the Calvia bomb as a way to disrupt Spain's lucrative tourism industry.

Another factor that could potentially contribute to a possible upsurge in ETA attacks is tomorrow marks the group's 50th anniversary. The group violated its own self-imposed ceasefire in Dec. 2006 when its members detonated a bomb inside a parking garage at Barajas Airport in Madrid that killed two people. Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's government initially blamed ETA for the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but evidence quickly suggested Islamic fundamentalists orchestrated the attacks that killed nearly 200 people.

French and Spanish authorities have arrested a number of high-ranking ETA members in recent years, but this latest incident clearly demonstrates the group continues to pose a potential threat.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Veteran N.H. sports reporter arrested on prostitution-related charges

Police arrested a veteran Union Leader sports reporter at his Manchester home earlier today in connection with prostitution-related charges in Northern Massachusetts.

Officers took Kevin Provencher into custody for allegedly deriving income from prostitution. He reportedly waived arraignment in Manchester District Court before he was escorted to the Bay State to answer to the two felony charges the Andover Police Department filed against him.

The Union Leader reported on its Web site Provencher has been with the paper for more than 25 years. He has been the publication's beat reporter for the Manchester Monarchs--an American Hockey League team in the Queen City--since 2001. Provencher has been the Union Leader's primary NASCAR correspondent at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon since 1990. And the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association have honored him for his reporting.

The newspaper declined to comment on his arrest, but it did announce it had suspended Provencher due to the "nature and seriousness of the charges."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer finally arrives in Bushwick

It's currently 78 degrees at the Weatherbug reporting station near my apartment; that must mean summer has made a long-delayed appearance in Brooklyn. And the thunderstorms that have swept across Brooklyn over the last couple of days simply confirm the previous observation.

A downpour seen from Jefferson Street passes over Maspeth, Queens, earlier tonight.

A couple of garden variety storms popped up over Brooklyn and Queens earlier this afternoon. A short downpour provided even more water to the basil, lettuce, parsley and tomatoes growing on my fire escape. The humidity remains, but the storms that swept across the area yesterday sparked tornado warnings in Fairfield, Nassau and Queens.

A short, but drenching downpour hit shortly after 6 p.m. The bulk of the storm passed north of Brooklyn, but two more followed behind it over the subsequent hours. Attached is a link to a video I took from my bedroom window late yesterday afternoon. Notice the lightning bolts in the background--over Manhattan.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Authorities charge dozens of New Jersey lawmakers, rabbis in massive corruption sting

For those who may naively conclude New York lawmakers have a monopoly on less than ethical political practices, the arrest of dozens of politicians and rabbis yesterday across the Hudson River in a massive corruption sting has once again proven something continues to stink in New Jersey.

Federal authorities arrested Hoboken Mayor Peter J. Cammarano, III, who took office less than a month ago, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell and Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez early yesterday morning. Others taken into custody include Assemblymembers L. Harvey Smith [D-Jersey City] and Daniel Van Pelt [R-Ocean County], Mariano Vega, Jr., president of the City Council in Jersey City, Brooklyn Rabbi Saul Kassin and leaders of a synagogue in tony Deal in Monmouth County. Law enforcement officials took a total of 44 people into custody. And they have been charged with money laundering, accepting bribes and a host of other related charges.

This massive sting will certainly continue to have potentially serious repercussions in the contentious gubernatorial campaign between Gov. Jon Corzine and former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. Joseph Doria, Jr., commissioner of the state's Department of Community Affairs, resigned hours after authorities searched is Bayonne home in connection with the sting. Corzine has also called upon Smith and Van Pelt to resign.

The breadth of this massive corruption will continue to unfold, but the fact remains there is something endemically wrong with politics in New Jersey. And this sting simply highlights the unfortunate reality much work lays ahead to tackle this albatross that continues to rear its ugly neck around the state.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Proposal to allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons sparks outrage

Roughly a day after a Jersey City police officer succumbed to wounds he suffered during a wild shootout last Thursday, members of the U.S. Senate are debating an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill that would allow gun owners to carry a concealed weapon anywhere in the country.

Senator John Thune [R-South Dakota] put forth the proposed amendment, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is among those who have blasted the proposal.

"This bill is an anti-police, pro-gun-trafficker bill," he told fellow mayors on a conference call. "This is going to put a lot more guns on the street."

The death of Det. Marc DiNardo, the murder of three Newark residents earlier this week, the shooting death of a Bushwick woman sitting outside her building with her grandson earlier this month and two additional Jersey City police officers who suffered injuries last night are among the series of recent incidents in this area that highlight the unfortunate reality Thune is arguably woefully ignorant of the unacceptable toll guns continue to inflict across the country. Freshman U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D-N.Y.], a self-described supporter of "hunter's rights," stressed to this reporter during an interview yesterday she remains a vigorous supporter of the Second Amendment. She testified against Thune's bill, however, on the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier today.

"In a city where 90 percent of guns used in crimes come from out of state, it is easy to see how Senate Bill 845 will pose a serious threat to New Yorkers," Gillibrand said.


Update: The Senate voted 58-39 in support of Senate Bill 845. It needed 60 votes for approval.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Man drowns off Cherry Grove

The beautiful weather that graced the beach this weekend did little to mask the tragedy that struck Cherry Grove late Saturday afternoon. A man police the Suffolk County Police Department later identified as Rahul Bhola, 22, of Flushing, Queens, drowned after he became caught in a strong current as he and another man swam.

Attached is the story I just filed for EDGE and the Fire Island News.

A man from Queens drowned Saturday afternoon while swimming near Ivy Walk in Cherry Grove.

The Suffolk County Police Department identified the man as Rahul Bhola, 22, of Flushing. Bhola was swimming in chest deep water with another man around 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 18. Police said he stepped further into the water and a strong current pulled him out to sea. The man with whom Bhola was swimming unsuccessfully tried to rescue him.

Members of the Cherry Grove Fire Department and lifeguards from Sailors Haven were among those who responded to the scene. They performed life saving measures on Bhola on the beach. A Suffolk County Police helicopter transported Bhola to Stony Brook University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Ismael Flores of Astoria, Queens, told the Fire Island News he saw a number of firefighters pull someone out of the water as he lay on the beach. He said hundreds of people were on the beach at the time, but a persistent southwesterly flow had kicked-up the surf. Flores further described the man firefighters pulled out of the ocean as having a bloody eye and cuts around his eyebrow and near his hairline.

"He looked like wax," Flores said.

Members of the Cherry Grove Community Association held a moment of silence in Bhola’s memory at their annual summer meeting yesterday.

"I was just begging to God not to take him," Flores said. "It was just a tragedy."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Syracuse jury convicts man accused of killing Lateisha Green

An Onondaga County jury has just found Dwight R. DeLee guilty of manslaughter as a hate crime in connection with the murder of Lateisha Green last November.

DeLee shot and killed Green outside a Syracuse house party on Nov. 14. He reportedly targeted Green because he thought she was gay--although she was transgender. The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation are among the groups that have worked with Green's family since the murder.

"It took a long time for Teish to live her life openly and proudly," Lateisha's mother, Roxanne Green, said in a press release earlier this year. "When she finally stood up and began living as who she was, she was taken away from me. I can't understand how anyone can hate someone so much because of who they are, and I hope that no other mother has to mourn a child killed because of who she was. I hope that justice will be done."

Boy in Bushwick will provide additional details of the verdict as they become available.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Congress debates hate crimes bill

While members of the Senate Judiciary Committee continued to question Judge Sonia Sotomayor during her Supreme Court nomination hearing, lawmakers also debated a bill that would add sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, among other things, to federal anti-hate crimes statutes.

Lawmakers could vote on the bill, dubbed the Matthew Shepard Act, by the end of the week. Legislators have attacked the proposed legislation to a $680 billion defense spending bill. And U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer [D-N.Y.] was among those who spoke in support of the bill yesterday.

Schumer evoked Ecuadorian immigrant José Sucuzhañay, who was allegedly beaten to death by Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix on a Bushwick street corner last December as he and his brother walked home arm-and-arm from a nearby bar, during his testimony.

"This bill sends a clear message to those perpetrators and others that in America we don't tolerate violence against vulnerable communities," Schumer said.

A vote on the bill could come as early as this afternoon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July on Fire Island

With summer finally in full swing, an increasing number of New Yorkers (and others) have begun to make the weekly trip to Fire Island. This past weekend was no exception with mild weather, low humidity and clear skies. The beach was packed over the last couple of days, and here are two videos from the last few days... even the deer have fun on Fire Island!

Sunset over the Great South Bay on July 12.

Even deer have fun in Cherry Grove!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Espada to be named Senate Majority Leader

After more than a month of gridlock, the New York State Senate could finally return to business with dissident state Sen. Pedro Espada's return to the party from which he defected.

Albany sources have confirmed media reports Espada will become Senate Majority Leader. This flip will once again give the Democrats a 32-30 majority. And this development could have a positive impact on the future of a bill that would extend marriage for same-sex couples.

One Albany insider told Boy in Bushwick earlier this afternoon Espada would allow the proposed legislation to go before the full Senate for a vote. State Sen. Malcolm Smith [D-Queens] repeatedly maintained he would not bring the bill to the floor unless he had enough votes to secure its passage. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mourning the King of Pop

I joined the untold millions who paused yesterday to watch Michael Jackson's memorial service on television. I expected a touching spectacle that celebrated his life and his music, but I must confess I became increasingly emotional over the two and a half hour tribute. Below is a journal entry from late last night that hopefully captures the spirit and essence of the day from my perspective here in Bushwick.

7 July, 2009

Today has been an extremely emotional day. I sat transfixed to Michael Jackson's memorial service on television. I shed tears for a tragically flawed man I had never met. I almost wept as Paris Jackson gut-wrenchingly expressed her love for her father. I continue to get goosebumps as the news continues to rebroadcast her sound bite. It was truly a heart-breaking moment that capped off an unexpectedly emotional day.

Some unexpected solace, however, in the form of roughly two dozen people who gathered in front of a music store on Knickerbocker Avenue earlier tonight to watch Michael Jackson's videos. "Thriller" topped off the scene. People sang along, tapped their feet to the beat and even danced on the sidewalk. Young and old gathered around to celebrate a man (they may have once seen in concert) they had never met. They shared anecdotes about the first time they saw him perform on television or how old they were when he released "Thriller." This corner of Bushwick joined many parts of the world in which people mourned and celebrated Michael Jackson. It indeed was a cathartic way to cap off an emotional and dare I say surreal day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson and Proposition 8

I am listening to the Michael Jackson memorial service as I write this blog, but an interesting tweet this morning that compared the massive amount of people expected to descend upon downtown Los Angeles and those who turned out to protest Proposition 8 certainly grabbed my attention.

Queerunity pointed out local authorities had expected up to 750,000 people to descend upon downtown Los Angeles today. This figure compares to the mere thousands of people who protested Prop 8 after California voters approved it last November. Some food for thought as the world pauses to mourn the late-King of Pop.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Palin resigns

This is arguably old news after the long holiday weekend, but Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced last Friday she plans to resign by the end of the month.

She made the surprise announcement at her home in Wasilla. Her husband Todd and members of her cabinet joined her, but the press conference, which came at a time many Americans were celebrating Independence Day away from their televisions and computers, sparked immediate interest as to whether she will seek higher office or whether she had an undisclosed skeleton in her closet.

The governor's apparent lack of experience and finesse during interviews after U.S. Sen. John McCain unexpectedly chose her as his vice presidential running mate made her an all too convenient punch line for the media and late night talk show hosts. Her family's plethora of less than flattering headlines in recent months, including her daughter Bristol promoting abstinence before marriage after she gave birth to her son Tripp last December, has not helped to heel this image.

Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell has repeatedly indicated Palin resigned, in part, because of the millions of dollars the state and her own family have spent to fight more than a dozen ethics complaints. Only two of these complaints have not been dismissed, but as one high ranking Democratic operative told me on Fire Island on Saturday, the "comic strip" that is Sarah Palin will almost certainly continue long after she leaves office in Juneau.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

India decriminalizes gay sex

As activists in this country continue to lobby the White House and state legislators to act upon a series of LGBT-specific proposals and bills, a court in Delhi has ruled gay sex is not a criminal offense.

This landmark decision strikes down a colonial-era law that described sexual acts between people of the same-sex as an "unnatural offense." Under the previous law, those convicted under the statute could have faced 10 years in prison.

Activists who gathered inside the court to hear the decision reportedly wept.

"It [the ruling] is India's Stonewall," Indian activist Aditya Bandopadhyay told the BBC. "We are elated. I think what now happens is that a lot of our fundamental rights and civic rights which were denied to us can now be reclaimed by us."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New York City + 5 years

As I look forward to a long (and busy) holiday weekend on Fire Island, I am at home in Bushwick reflecting upon the fact I moved to New York from New Hampshire five years ago today.

My good friends almost know the story of how I ended up in the five boroughs by heart--I called my former roommate, who lived in Hell's Kitchen at the time, one night to say hello and I simply told him I'd move to the city after he asked me if I wanted to. It's almost a bad cliche to say the last five years have flown by, but indeed they have. As a teenager, I honestly wanted nothing more than to leave my native New Hampshire and live in a more diverse and frankly exciting place. Brooklyn--and in particular Bushwick--certainly fit the bill! From my first full-time reporting job at the New York Blade, to my first summer on Fire Island, to working at GLAAD, to getting mugged, to traveling to Morocco and the Dominican Republic and learning how to embrace my inner Julia Child in the kitchen, the last five years have provided me a bounty of experiences that will surely last a life time.

I am a restless person by nature with an insatiable curiosity and even stronger sense of independence and self. The road that lays ahead will certainly be an interesting one that will obviously bring the unexpected, but I remain blessed to have experienced the last five years of it in New York.

P.S. I would also be completely remiss not to congratulate my parents on their 31st wedding anniversary.