Monday, June 22, 2009

SEC charges 4 with helping Madoff

Agency claims that firms and executives recruited investors and fed money for giant Ponzi scheme. By Aaron Smith, staff writer Bernard Madoff, here in his mug shot, cultivated aura of exclusivity with help of accomplices, SEC says.

Today's News NJ Daryl Mikell Brooks on a Poverty Tour In Mississippi 6/20/09

Brooks and new Godson Mario from Mississppi

Brooks at the poverty march in Jackson, Mississpi

Daryl Mikell Brooks,The Gathering of Hearts Organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and others spoke at a Public Hearing and March on the crisis of poverty in the Delta of Mississippi on Friday and Saturday June 19-20, 2009.

Delivering on Dr. King’s 1968 planned “Poor People’s Campaign” in Washington, D.C. to demand President Lyndon and Congress’ in help addressing the need for jobs, decent homes, health care and education in rural America; the SCLC and Gathering of Hearts has planned a Poverty Tour, assessing the living conditions in the Delta on Friday June 19, followed by the Poor People’s Public Hearing at Quitman County Elementary School in Lambert, MS.

“Someone has to help shed light on the living conditions in places like Louisiana and Mississippi. No one should have to live like this, no where in the world and especially not in America,” said Antoinette Harrell, Founder of Gathering of Hearts, who has organized Poverty Tours for the last six months in both Louisiana and Mississippi.

According to the 2009 Mississippi Human Development Report, a new county-by-county assessment that examines disparities by county, race and gender, “a black male born in Mississippi can expect a shorter life span than the average American in 1960. A black woman in Mississippi earns less today than the typical American in 1960. The overall infant mortality rate for nonwhites in Mississippi is more than 18 per 1,000 births, about the same as Libya and Thailand. Overall, black Mississippian are worse off than other black Americans, ranking second to last on the health and income index (just ahead of Louisiana) but dead last in education.”

“Mississippi ranks last in overall human development, said Harrell. Two years ago, President Obama, talked about Bobby Kennedy’s visit to the Mississippi Delta over four decades ago, and how Kennedy, with tears in his eyes, asked a single question about poverty in America: “How can a country like this allow it?” Forty years later, President Obama answered, ‘We can’t.’ So we are calling on President Obama and lawmakers act now to address the crisis in Mississippi. We can’t wait.” Said Harrell.

Daryl Mikell Brooks, The Gathering of Hearts and the SCLC are also calling on national leaders, organizations, influencers, and the young people to join the fight on poverty.

MLK Destroys the Bootstrap Philosophy

Reports: Tear Gas Used on Iranian Protestors

Iran's most powerful security force threatened Monday to crush any further opposition protests over the disputed presidential election, warning demonstrators to prepare for a "revolutionary confrontation." (June 22)

Daryl Mikell Brooks and Kyle Petty in North Carolina

Today's News NJ Blogger Daryl Mikell Brooks hangs out with NASCAR great Kyle Petty at the North Carolina airport.

Perez Assaulted -- Claims Will.I.Am Is the Perp

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton is accusing Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.I.Am of assault -- but we've learned cops have targeted someone else.

After last night's MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto, Perez posted to his Twitter: "I was assaulted by Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas and his security guards. I am bleeding. Please, I need to file a police report. No joke."

But cops in Toronto tell us it was the general manager of the Black Eyed Peas -- Polo Molina -- who is under investigation and he turned himself in to police early this morning.

Here's the string of tweets Perez left on his Twitter page during the alleged beatdown early this morning:

-- I'm in shock. I need the police ASAP. Please come to the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel now. Please.about 5 hours ago from Sidekick

-- I was assaulted by Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas and his security guards. I am bleeding. Please, I need to file a police report. No joke. -- about 5 hours ago from Sidekick

-- Still waiting for the police. The bleeding has stopped. I need to document this. Please, can the police come to the SoHo Met Hotel. -- about 5 hours ago from Sidekick

-- I spoke to my lawyer. I really need to talk to the authorities. Please come to the SoHo Met Hotel. Have called the police. Need them here. -- about 5 hours ago from Sidekick

-- The Toronto police are here now. Thank you. Please stop calling them. -- about 5 hours ago from Sidekick

-- Thank u all from the bottom of my heart for ur concern. The police are investigating the assault now. I did the right thing by reporting it. -- about 3 hours ago from web

Looking into the Eyes of Iran

Both of BoomerCafe´s co-founders – Greg Dobbs and David Henderson – are former network television news correspondents. As such, each continues to closely follow world events. David and Greg each have written pieces about what’s happening right now in Iran, and we post them here because this may be another of the many shifts we boomers have seen in our world since we were young.

By David Henderson -

Much of the world has kept track of events in Iran following the questionable outcome of elections there on June 12 via Twitter. With severe restrictions by the regime in Iran on media coverage and apathy by the news media in the West, Twitter has served to redefine how many of us view the concept of media in the Internet era.

It is no longer about some editor or TV producer making decisions for us but rather we are sharing information and drawing our own conclusions.

Nothing has been more profound, in my opinion, than watching video of a young woman named Neda Salehi Aghasoltan die on the streets of Tehran yesterday. She was a student of philosophies at Tehran University. According to reports, she was shot by a police sniper while standing with her father or university professor, watching protesters.

The video is haunting, especially her last moment alive when she looked at the camera as if to seek our help. At least that was what I saw in her eyes.

The story of Neda is being heard around the world today, carried first – with a few exceptions – not by the sleepy, slow-moving traditional news media but by people, sharing on Twitter and online.

Just let me share this prayer for Neda and others in Iran today.

By Greg Dobbs -

Maybe Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fixed the election. But we have to ponder another plausible possibility: maybe he didn’t.

Why not? Because maybe he didn’t have to. He runs a repressive and dangerous regime, his police forces have brutally put down their own countrymen, and we’d love to see him ousted. But we might not speak for the majority of the president’s fellow citizens. History is my guide.

The first of many trips that I took to Iran for ABC News to cover the revolution, then the hostage crisis, was more than 30 years ago. With insurgents at his heels, the Shah was hanging on by a thread. The United States stuck with him because he still had some local support, but to virtually every journalist covering the run-up to the revolution, that support was pencil-thin. Generally the Shah’s backers were the rich and the educated. However, most Iranians were neither rich nor educated, and got no benefit from their authoritarian leader’s friendship with the West. Had there been an election in those days, the Shah’s challenger Ayatollah Khomeini wouldn’t have had to fix it. He’d have won hands-down.

In the three decades since, things have changed for the Persian people, some for better and some for worse. The suppressive violence surrounding Iran’s elections notwithstanding, there has been more free speech and open protest in recent years than we used to see under the Shah. What’s more, popular discontent with the country’s president is not primarily because of his radical rhetoric. No, it is mainly because of the economy; he has not figured out how to corral Iran’s rich resources.

The point is, just because we in the West detest somebody in the Third World doesn’t mean everyone within his own borders detests him. Or even most of them. The same Iranians who put Khomeini on a bandwagon and climbed aboard to ride it into the Islamic Republic are the ones who voted for Ahmadinejad. Does he command a majority today? Who knows, and anyway, the answer might now be moot, because the anger today on the streets of Tehran transcends the outcome of the election. But while the protests have been hugely impressive and impressively huge, all they prove is that Mir Hossein Moussavi, the comparative moderate who believes he should have won and we wish had won, has passionate support. Or perhaps more accurately, the notion of reform has passionate support, and Moussavi — like AyatollahKhomeini three decades earlier — is the messenger.

A close parallel is a recall election I covered a few years ago in Venezuela, this time for HDNet Television’s “World Report.” It was Hugo Chavez who was under fire, but the rich and educated weren’t in his camp; they wanted him out. I’ll never forget election day itself: we went to one well-to-do voting precinct in Caracas where the line of citizens waiting in the broiling sun to expel their president stretched for half a mile, which made me think the recall would work. But then we went to a sprawling slum, the kind of place where Chavez had bought support with his populist policies. The line was just as long, maybe longer. Sure enough, when the results were in, Chavez had beaten the recall. The Carter Center was down there too, and whether right or wrong, they confirmed the integrity of the outcome. Chavez’s opponents cried foul, but frankly reminded me of the Manhattan socialite who, after John Kerry’s bruising defeat in 2004 to George W. Bush, infamously said something like, “I just don’t understand it; I don’t know anyone who voted for Bush.”

Having covered stories in more than 80 countries, I have seen American foreign policy at its best and at its worst and at its worst, it assumes that people everywhere want what we want. They don’t. In some parts of the world, they want the kinds of rulers, and sometimes even political systems, that we condemn. The best example of that might be the Gaza Strip, which I’ve also covered for HDNet. The U.S. rightly encouraged free and open Palestinian elections; in Gaza, the terrorist group Hamas won. If that doesn’t teach us something, nothing will. We should shout out for the right of Iranians to demonstrate without consequences. And we should fight for Iran’s elections to be fair, but should not assume that if they are, we will like the outcome.

Martyrdom and mourning cycles in Iran

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting much of my news about Iran from Twitter. This weekend, many of the Tehran-related items were about Neda, a protesting woman who was killed with a shot to the chest. I have chosen not to watch, but there are graphic videos of the death. As those of us outside Iran are struggling to understand all of the social, political and religious nuances at play there, I must comment Robin Wright’s article in Time about the death’s consequences to the struggle there:

Although it is not yet clear who shot “Neda” (a soldier? pro-government militant? an accidental misfiring?), her death may have changed everything. For the cycles of mourning in Shiite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat — a way to generate or revive momentum. Shiite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran’s rich history. During the revolution, the pattern of confrontations between the shah’s security forces and the revolutionaries often played out in 40-day cycles.

We’re not told why the third, seventh and 40th days are significant, but it helps to know. Wright explains how the first clashes in January 1978 produced deaths that were commemorated with mass protests on the 40th day, resulting in new deaths and the 40-day period of mourning cycle eventually resulted in the shah’s ouster in January 1979.

Last week, TMatt wrote “it’s about time for people in our big newsrooms to start writing about the religious tensions that surround President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and that are helping to fuel those marches in Tehran (and, maybe, elsewhere in Iran).” This story provides some of that context. We learn that Neda is already being hailed as a martyr and that martyrdom is central to politics in the Shiite tradition:

The first Shiite martyr was Hussein, the prophet Mohammed’s grandson. He believed it was better to die fighting injustice than to live with injustice under what he believed was illegitimate rule.

In the seventh century, Hussein and a band of fewer than 100 people, including women and children, took on the mighty Umayyad dynasty in Karbala, an ancient city in Mesopotamia now in modern-day Iraq. They knew they would be massacred… .

Because of Hussein, revolt against tyranny became part of Shiite tradition. Indeed, protest and martyrdom are widely considered duties to God. And nowhere is the practice more honored than in Iran, the world’s largest Shiite country.

This story has gotten a lot of play throughout the media. But no one’s covered it as well as this piece in Time.

Photo of the shrine of Husayn Ibn Ali.

N Korea defends nuclear programme

North Korea has boasted of being a "proud nuclear power" and warned the US that it will strike back if attacked.

The statement came after US President Barack Obama said Washington was "fully prepared" for a possible North Korean missile test.

There have been recent warnings in South Korean and Japanese newspapers that the North is preparing another long-range missile launch.

The UN toughened sanctions against the North after a nuclear test on 25 May.

The North has also recently test-fired a number of short-range missiles recently, and in April launched a long-range rocket - which it said was to put a satellite into orbit but which the US said was a missile test.

Military analysts say North Korea's longest-range missile - the Taepodong-2 - has the potential range to reach Hawaii and parts of Alaska.

'Grave mistake'

"As long as our country has become a proud nuclear power, the US should take a correct look at whom it is dealing with," said the commentary in Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of North Korea's ruling communist party.

"It is a grave mistake for the US to think it will not be hurt if it ignores this and ignites the fuse of war on the Korean Peninsula."

The commentary was published after President Obama said the US military was ready to defend American territory.

"This administration - and our military - is fully prepared for any contingencies," Mr Obama said in an interview to be aired by CBS television on Monday.

Asked if Washington was warning of a military response, Mr Obama said no.

He added: "I don't want to speculate on hypotheticals. But I do want to give assurances to the American people that the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted."

Meanwhile, a US naval vessel is tracking a North Korean ship believed to be heading for Burma via Singapore.

South Korea's YTN news reported, citing intelligence sources, that the ship was suspected of carrying illicit weapons in violation of sanctions agreed under a new UN resolution.

China and Russia - the country's traditional allies - approved the sanctions earlier this month, and called for North Korea to return to international talks on its nuclear programme.

The UN resolution calls for inspections of ships to or from North Korea believed to be carrying goods connected to weapons of mass destruction. It also broadens the arms embargo and further cuts the North's access to the international financial system, but does not authorise the use of force.

Journalists endured death threats before escape

Two journalists held over seven months by the Taliban in Pakistan endured death threats before they escaped by tricking guards and dropping down a 20-foot wall with a rope, according to one of the former captives.

Afghan journalist Tahir Ludin provided the details in an interview published Monday by The New York Times.

Ludin was held captive along with David Rohde, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the Times, and their driver, Asadullah Mangal.

Ludin said the past two to three months seemed so "hopeless" that he considered committing suicide with a knife.

Ludin said the driver appeared to be overwhelmed by fear of their captors and had not participated in the planning or the escape.

The journalists were abducted Nov. 10 south of the Afghan capital of Kabul. They escaped Friday.

They plotted to keep their captors awake as late as possible to ensure they would eventually sleep soundly. Ludin challenged them to a board game.

At 1 a.m., Rohde woke Ludin, who recited several verses of the Quran and followed him out of the room. They made their way to the second floor.

Ludin got to the top of a 5-foot-high wall. When he looked down, he was greeted by a 20-foot drop.

Rohde handed Ludin a rope that he had found two weeks earlier and had hidden from the guards. They fastened the rope to the wall, and Ludin lowered himself along the rope.

He crashed to the ground, suffering a sprained right foot, cuts and bruises. Rohde then lowered himself along the wall and jumped without injury.

Ludin said they waited to make their escape attempt on a night when the city had electrical power. An old, noisy air conditioner masked other sounds.

As the two men walked away, dogs barked at them from nearby compounds and strays rushed at them. To their surprise, no Taliban members emerged from nearby houses.

After 15 minutes, Ludin said, they arrived at a Pakistani militia post. In the darkness, a half-dozen guards who suspected they were suicide bombers aimed rifles at them and shouted for them to raise their hands.

"They said, 'If you move, we are going to shoot you,'" he said.

Ludin said he was shivering in the darkness, and it took 15 minutes of anxious conversation to convince the guards that they had been kidnapped.

They were eventually allowed into the compound, ordered to take off their shirts, searched, blindfolded and taken to the base's headquarters. After Pakistani officials confirmed their identities, they were treated well.

Later that day, they were transferred to Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, and to an American military base outside Kabul.

Rohde confirmed the accuracy of Ludin's account but declined to comment further.

High court rules narrowly in voting rights case

The Supreme Court ruled narrowly Monday in a challenge to the landmark Voting Rights Act, exempting a small Texas governing authority from a key provision of the civil rights law but side-stepping the larger constitutional issue.

The court, with only one justice in dissent, avoided the major constitutional questions raised in the case over the federal government's most powerful tool to prevent discriminatory voting changes since the mid-1960s.

The law requires all or parts of 16 states, mainly in the South, with a history of discrimination in voting to get approval in advance of making changes in the way elections are conducted.

The court said that the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 in Austin, Texas, can opt out of the advance approval requirement, reversing a lower federal court that found it could not.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said the larger issue of whether dramatic civil rights gains means the advance approval requirement is no longer necessary "is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today."

The court's avoidance of the larger issue explains the consensus among justices in the case rendered Monday, where they otherwise likely would have split along conservative-liberal lines.

Justice Clarence Thomas, alone among this colleagues, said he would have resolved the case and held that the provision, known as Section 5, is unconstitutional.

"The violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains," Thomas said.

Analysis: Iran splits widen

More street protests will not be tolerated, Iran's Revolutionary Guards warn

By Jeremy Bowen
BBC Middle East editor, Tehran

The warning from the Revolutionary Guards is just the latest threat to be aimed at the Iranian opposition.

The official line was set by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during prayers last Friday.

Iranians have been told that the election was fair, that they should accept it and if they protest on the streets they risk getting hurt.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei strongly denies the election result was rigged

A priority for the authorities is stopping any more demonstrations.

They seem to have recognised that the presence of so many people defying the regime fuels the political campaign being waged inside Iran's elite by the man who thinks he won the election, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

His key ally is former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose daughter and several other family members were briefly detained over the weekend.

'No going back'

The challenge for the opposition is finding a way to keep the demonstrations going despite the threats.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei strongly denies the election result was rigged
The most significant thing about the demonstrations on Saturday was that they happened at all after such an explicit warning from the Supreme Leader.

Mr Mousavi's response was just as blunt. He has challenged the Supreme Leader's authority, like the demonstrators who support him. He said that the Islamic Republic needed comprehensive reform and the people needed freedom of expression.

Mr Mousavi and his supporters, who want the elections annulled, are unlikely to be satisfied from the latest announcement from the Guardian Council which supervises the poll. It said that there were irregularities, but crucially they wouldn't have affected the final result.

So the split between the two sides is widening.

There has been unrest on the streets before in the 30-year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But what makes this crisis unprecedented is the scale of the dissent on the streets and the fact that it is in parallel with a fracture in the ruling elite.

For the last 30 years years Iran's top leaders have disagreed with each other many times, but they have never taken their quarrels to the people like this.

Their stake in the survival of the system as it stood outweighed any advantage they might have hoped for by going public.

Mr Mousavi was a protege of late Ayatollah Khomeini, who led the revolution against the Shah, and is therefore a consummate insider.

But now he is publicly breaking with Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Khamenei. It looks as if there is now no going back for either of them.