Daily Archives: March 11, 2012

NYPD cop put in psych ward for reporting corruption


Photography: Henry Hargreaves, Prop Styling: Sarah Guido

The NYPD Tapes Confirmed

The report police hid for nearly two years that corroborates a Voice investigation — and vindicates a whistle-blower the NYPD tried to destroy

Village Voice | Mar 7, 2012

By Graham Rayman

In 2010, The Village Voice produced a five-part series, the “NYPD Tapes,” about a cop who secretly taped his fellow New York Police Department officers.

For more than two years, Adrian Schoolcraft secretly recorded every roll call at the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn and captured his superiors urging police officers to do two things in order to manipulate the “stats” that the department is under pressure to produce: Officers were told to arrest people who were doing little more than standing on the street, but they were also encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports.

Arresting bystanders made it look like the department was efficient, while artificially reducing the amount of serious crime made the commander look good.

In October 2009, Schoolcraft met with NYPD investigators for three hours and detailed more than a dozen cases of crime reports being manipulated in the district. Three weeks after that meeting—which was supposed to have been kept secret from Schoolcraft’s superiors—his precinct commander and a deputy chief ordered Schoolcraft to be dragged from his apartment and forced into the Jamaica Hospital psychiatric ward for six days.

In the wake of our series, NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly ordered an investigation into Schoolcraft’s claims. By June 2010, that investigation produced a report that the department has tried to keep secret for nearly two years.

The Voice has obtained that 95-page report, and it shows that the NYPD confirmed Schoolcraft’s allegations. In other words, at the same time that police officials were attacking Schoolcraft’s credibility, refusing to pay him, and serving him with administrative charges, the NYPD was sitting on a document that thoroughly vindicated his claims.

Investigators went beyond Schoolcraft’s specific claims and found many other instances in the 81st Precinct where crime reports were missing, had been misclassified, altered, rejected, or not even entered into the computer system that tracks crime reports.

These weren’t minor incidents. The victims included a Chinese-food delivery man robbed and beaten bloody, a man robbed at gunpoint, a cab driver robbed at gunpoint, a woman assaulted and beaten black and blue, a woman beaten by her spouse, and a woman burgled by men who forced their way into her apartment.

“When viewed in their totality, a disturbing pattern is prevalent and gives credence to the allegation that crimes are being improperly reported in order to avoid index-crime classifications,” investigators concluded. “This trend is indicative of a concerted effort to deliberately underreport crime in the 81st Precinct.”

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The investigation found that crime complaints were changed to reflect misdemeanor rather than felony crimes, which prevented those incidents from being counted in the all-important crime statistics. In addition, the investigation concluded that “an unwillingness to prepare reports for index crimes exists or existed in the command.”

Moreover, a significant number of serious index crimes were not entered into the computer tracking system known as OmniForm. “This was more than administrative error,” the probe concluded.

There was an “atmosphere in the command where index crimes were scrutinized to the point where it became easier to either not take the report at all or to take a report for a lesser, non-index crime,” investigators concluded.

Precinct Commander Steven Mauriello “failed to meet [his] responsibility.” As a result, “an atmosphere was created discouraging members of the command to accurately report index crimes.”

Mauriello’s lawyer and union representative say he did nothing wrong.

Some 45 members of the command were interviewed, and hundreds of documents were examined.

The implications of the report are obvious: If the 81st Precinct was a typical station house, then crime manipulation is more widespread than city officials have admitted.

John Eterno, a criminologist at Molloy College and a former NYPD captain, says that what was happening in the 81st Precinct is no isolated case. “The pressures on commanders are enormous, to make sure the crime numbers look good,” Eterno says. “This is a culture. This is happening in every precinct, every transit district, and every police housing service area. This culture has got to change.”

As for Mauriello, he’s no rogue commander, says Eterno, who has published a book about crime reporting with John Jay College professor Eli Silverman. “Mauriello is no different from any other commander,” he says. “This is just a microcosm of what is happening in the entire police department.”

Indeed, it is clear from Schoolcraft’s recordings that Mauriello was responding to pressure emanating from the Brooklyn North borough command and police headquarters for lower crime numbers and higher summons and stop-and-frisk numbers.

The seven index crimes—murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, grand larceny, and auto theft—are the central public indicators of the city’s crime rate and, by extension, its reputation. The crime numbers are also the bedrock in evaluating the Bloomberg administration and critical to attracting tourism and economic development to the city.

As a result, Mayor Bloomberg and Kelly have gone to great lengths to insist the crime statistics are accurate. They have publicly downplayed the Schoolcraft allegations and insisted that any “underreporting” is a tiny anomaly.

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US-Funded Afghan Air Force Suspected of Drug Running: Report

ABC | Mar 8, 2012

The U.S. government has reportedly launched a pair of probes to determine whether Afghan officials have been using military planes — much of which paid for by the U.S. — to illegally smuggle guns and drugs around the country.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, both the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan are separately investigating suspected illicit activities carried out under the noses of U.S. military advisers and possibly with the knowledge of high Afghan officials.

Suspicions about alleged corruption in the Afghan Air Force (AAF) were disclosed publicly in January in a U.S. Air Force special investigation report on the murder of eight U.S. Air Force personnel and one contractor by an Afghan officer who later turned his gun on himself in the Kabul airport in April 2011. The shooter in that case was identified as Col. Ahmed Gul, a cargo and passenger coordinator for the AAF with reported financial and mental problems.

In the Air Force report, two witnesses stated they believed the AAF to be a hotbed of “nefarious” activity where Afghan officials could make quick money by ferrying people or cargo around the country — often with little or no screening.

Related

U.S. Funded, Trained and Equipped Afghan Air Force Running Guns and Drugs

“There is a distinct lack of transparency in the way the Afghan Ministry of Defense [and the] AAF like to schedule and fly their missions,” one witness, only identified as a Lieutenant Colonel, says in the report. “The Afghans either don’t know or don’t want to tell us who or what they’re flying around the country. All this looks very suspicious to the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan mentors who have been in country for more than a few months.”

Specifically, the witnesses said the Afghan air officers would be paid directly to usher top Afghan officials around at the last minute. In its report today, The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger as saying the current allegations also include the transport of narcotics and weapons “for the use of private groups” within Afghanistan. The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan is home to 90 percent of the world’s opium — the main ingredient in heroin.

Though the Air Force investigation did not find a singular motive for Gul’s sudden attack, when the shooting took place a new system “was being developed to ensure [AAF] flights were officially tasked through a legitimate [AAF] process…” the Air Force report said.

In a statement to ABC News, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force said today it is working with its Afghan partners to “arrest and reverse criminal penetration in the [Afghan National Security Forces] and to ensure security ministries and their forces become sufficiently resistant to and insulated from criminal network interference and subversion.”

“ISAF takes seriously any allegation of impropriety on the part of its forces or those of the Afghan National Security Forces we mentor and partner with,” the statement said. The statement noted that in the last year, 50 “criminal actors” had been discovered in the security forces.

A DEA spokesperson told ABC News that by policy, the administration does not confirm or deny any potential ongoing investigations. A spokesperson for the AAF and Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, told The Wall Street Journal they were unaware of the investigations. The AAF spokesperson denied the allegations.

Monckton’s Schenectady showdown


Attendees listen to Monckton’s speech at Union College. Photo by Charlotte Lehman

Monckton vanquishes Union College “Greens too yellow to admit they’re really Reds”

wattsupwiththat.com | Mar Mar 10, 2012

by Justin Pulliam

THE NEWS that Lord Monckton was to give his “Climate of Freedom” lecture at Union College in Schenectady, New York, had thrown the university’s environmentalists into a turmoil. The campus environmentalists set up a Facebook page announcing a counter-meeting of their own immediately following Monckton’s lecture. There is no debate about global warming, they announced. There is a consensus. The science is settled. Their meeting would be addressed by professors and PhDs, the “true” scientists, no less. Sparks, it seemed, were gonna fly.

Traveling with Lord Monckton on the East Coast leg of his current whistle-stop tour of the US and Canada, I was looking forward to documenting the Schenectady showdown. I have had the pleasure of listening to His Lordship at previous campus events. He is at his best when confronted by a hostile audience. The angrier and more indignant they are, the more he seems to like it.

The Union Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) sponsored the lecture, which was video streamed by CampusReform.org (where a video recording is available). The afternoon of the event, Lord Monckton appeared on the CFACT leaders’ hour-long weekly show on the Union College radio station. As a result, that evening 200 people packed a campus lecture theater to hear Lord Monckton speak.

As they filed in, Lord Monckton was chatting contentedly to a quaveringly bossy woman with messy blonde hair who was head of the college environmental faction. Her group had set up a table at the door of the auditorium, covered in slogans scribbled on messy bits of recycled burger boxes held together with duct tape (Re-Use Cardboard Now And Save The Planet). “There’s a CONSENSUS!” she shrieked.

“That, Madame, is intellectual baby-talk,” replied Lord Monckton. Had she not heard of Aristotle’s codification of the commonest logical fallacies in human discourse, including that which the medieval schoolmen would later describe as the argumentum ad populum, the headcount fallacy?  From her reddening face and baffled expression, it was possible to deduce that she had not. Nor had she heard of the argumentum ad verecundiam, the fallacy of appealing to the reputation of those in authority.

Lord Monckton was shown a graph demonstrating a superficially close correlation between CO2 concentration and temperature over the past 150,000 years. Mildly, he asked, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Was it CO2 concentration that changed first, or temperature that changed first, driving the changes in CO2 concentration?”

The student clutching the graph mumbled that it was impossible to tell, and nobody really knew.

At Lord Monckton’s elbow, an elderly lady – presumably on faculty at Union College – said, “Perhaps I can help. It was temperature that changed first.”
“Exactly,” said Lord Monckton.

“However,” she continued, “CO2 then acted as a feedback, amplifying the temperature change. That’s one way we know CO2 is a problem today. And what,” she said, turning noticeably acerbic in a twinkling of Lord Monckton’s eye, “caused the changes in temperature?”

“Well,” said Lord Monckton, “we don’t know for certain, but one plausible explanation …”
“… is the Milankovich cycles!” burst in the venerable PhD, anxious not to have her punch-line stolen.

“Yes,” Monckton agreed imperturbably, “the precession of the equinoxes, and variations in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit and in the obliquity of its axis with respect to the plane of the ecliptic. Actually, it is arguable that the cycles were first posited by an autodidact university janitor, a Mr. Croll.” The yakking crowd of environmentalists grew more thoughtful. Their propaganda had made him out to be an ignorant nincompoop, and they had begun to realize they had made the mistake of believing it.

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Kiribati on the move – but not sinking


According to the Kiribati Government Website here, Kiribati is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3,500,000 square kilometres, (1,351,000 square miles) straddling the equator, and bordering the International Date Line to the east. Total land area is 811 Sq km; this includes three island groups – Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands. 21 of the 33 islands are inhabited. The population is [was] 112,850 (July 2009 est.).
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Climate scientists have expressed surprise at findings that many low-lying Pacific islands are growing, not sinking. Islands in Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia are among those which have grown, largely due to coral debris, land reclamation and sediment.
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by Andi Cockroft
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I certainly am standing on the shoulders of Giants here, citing our very own Willis Eschenbach’s excellent essay on Pacific Island Nations and their “shrinking” coral reefs. Published in these hallowed pages just over two years ago as “Floating Islands”.

As background, I would thoroughly recommend a re-read – however I will borrow bits and pieces from Willis’ work – heck, you may as well assume that (towards the end) I have plagiarised much from Willis’ excellent post.

But now for today’s story.

Sitting eating breakfast under the golden arches, a very rare event for me, I was drawn to something in the local newspaper here, the Dominion Post – and as I’ve seen in comments in other posts of mine, the owners of the Dom, Fairfax Media, are so unmitigatedly biased it’s unbelievable. I say this is a rare event for I rarely eat under the arches, and never ever read the rubbish in the Dom – but hey there’s an exception to every rule.

As reported in print at the Dom, online at the Beeb here and the Telegraph here; the Kiribati Government (pronounced kirr-i-bas or kir-ee-bahs – the local affectation of “Gilberts” from Colonial days) is looking to purchase around 23 Sq km (9 Sq ml) on nearby Fiji’s Vanua Levu as a staging post for relocation of the Kiribati’s 100,000 people.

Autonomous Mind picks up with a repost here – more later

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American soldier opens fire on Afghan villagers as they sleep, kills 16


Afghan boys sit on the ground near the scene where Afghans were allegedly killed by a U.S. service member in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March. 11, 2012. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says a U.S. service member has killed more than a dozen people in a shooting including nine children and three women. Karzai called the attack Sunday “an assassination” and demanded an explanation from the United States. He says several people were also wounded in the attack on two villages near a U.S. base in the southern province of Kandahar. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

Associated Press | Mar 11, 2012

By HEIDI VOGT and MIRWAIS KHAN

BALANDI, Afghanistan (AP) — Moving from house to house, a U.S. Army soldier opened fire Sunday on Afghan villagers as they slept, killing 16 people — mostly women and children — in an attack that reignited fury at the U.S. presence following a wave of deadly protests over Americans burning Qurans.

The attack threatened the deepest breach yet in U.S.-Afghan relations, raising questions both in Washington and Kabul about why American troops are still fighting in Afghanistan after 10 years of conflict and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The killing spree, the worst atrocity committed by U.S. forces during the Afghan war, comes amid deepening public outrage spurred by last month’s Quran burnings and an earlier video purportedly showing American Marines urinating on dead Taliban militants.

The Quran burnings sparked weeks of violent protests and attacks that left some 30 Afghans dead, despite an apology from President Barack Obama. Six U.S. service members were also killed by their fellow Afghan soldiers, although the tensions had just started to calm down.

Residents said Sunday’s attack began around 3 a.m. in two villages in Panjwai district, a rural region outside Kandahar that is the cradle of the Taliban and where coalition forces have fought for control for years. The villages are about 500 yards (meters) from a U.S. base in a region that was the focus of Obama’s military surge strategy in the south starting in 2009.

Villagers described cowering in fear as gunshots rang out as a soldier stalked house after house firing on those inside. They said he entered three homes in all and set fire to some of the bodies. Eleven of the dead were from a single family, and nine of the victims were children.

Some residents said they believed there were multiple attackers, given the carnage.

“One man can’t kill so many people. There must have been many people involved,” said Bacha Agha of Balandi village. “If the government says this is just one person’s act we will not accept it. … After killing those people they also burned the bodies.”

But U.S. officials said the shooter, identified as an Army staff sergeant from Fort Lewis, Wash., was believed to have acted alone and that initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and turned himself in. He was in custody at a NATO base in Afghanistan.

In a statement, Afghan President Hamid Karzai left open the possibility of more than one shooter. He initially spoke of a single U.S. gunman, then referred to “American forces” entering houses. The statement quoted a 15-year-old survivor named Rafiullah, who was shot in the leg, as telling Karzai in a phone call that “soldiers” broke into his house, woke up his family and began shooting them.

“This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven,” Karzai said.

Obama phoned the Afghan leader to express his shock and sadness, and offered condolences to the grieving families and to the people of Afghanistan.

In a statement released by the White House, Obama called the attack “tragic and shocking” and not representative of “the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan.” He vowed “to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.”

The violence over the Quran burnings had already spurred calls in the U.S. for a faster exit strategy from the 10-year-old Afghan war. Obama even said recently that “now is the time for us to transition.” But he also said he had no plan to change the current timetable that has Afghans taking control of security countrywide by the end of 2014.

In the wake of the Quran burnings, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, visited troops at a base that was attacked last month and urged them not to give in to the impulse for revenge.

The tensions between the two countries had appeared to be easing as recently as Friday, when the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding about the transfer of Afghan detainees to Afghan control — a key step toward an eventual strategic partnership to govern U.S. forces in the country.

Now, another wave of anti-American hatred could threaten the entire future of the mission, fueling not only anger among the Afghans whom the coalition is supposed to be defending but also encouraging doubts among U.S. political figures that the long and costly war is worth the sacrifice in lives and treasury.

“This is a fatal hammer blow on the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan. Whatever sliver of trust and credibility we might have had following the burnings of the Quran is now gone,” said David Cortright, the director of policy studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and an advocate for a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Gen. Allen offered his regret and “deepest condolences” to the Afghan people for the shootings and vowed to make sure that “anyone who is found to have committed wrong-doing is held fully accountable.”

“This deeply appalling incident in no way represents the values of ISAF and coalition troops or the abiding respect we feel for the Afghan people,” Allen said in a statement, using the abbreviation for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

In Panjwai district on Sunday, grieving residents tried to make sense of why they were targeted.

“No Taliban were here. No gunbattle was going on,” cried out one woman, who said four people were killed in the village of Alokzai, all members of her family. “We don’t know why this foreign soldier came and killed our innocent family members. Either he was drunk or he enjoyed killing civilians.”

The other 12 dead were from Balandi village, said Samad Khan, a farmer who lost all 11 members of his family, including women and children. Khan was away from the village when the attack occurred and returned to find his family members shot and burned. One of his neighbors was also killed, he said.

“This is an anti-human and anti-Islamic act,” Khan said. “Nobody is allowed in any religion in the world to kill children and women.”

One woman opened a blue blanket with pink flowers to reveal the body of her 2-year-old child, who was wearing a blood-soaked shirt.

“Was this child Taliban? There is no Taliban here” said Gul Bushra. The Americans “are always threatening us with dogs and helicopters during night raids.”

Dozens of villagers crowded the streets as minibuses and trucks carried away the dead to be washed for burial. One man used the edge of his brown shawl to wipe away tears.

Officials wearing white plastic gloves picked up bullet casings from the floor of a house and put them in a plastic bag.

An AP photographer saw 15 bodies in the two villages, some of them burned and other covered with blankets. A young boy partially wrapped in a blanket was in the back of a minibus, dried blood crusted on his face and pooled in his ear. His loose-fitting brown pants were partly burned, revealing a leg charred by fire.

It was unclear how or why the bodies were burned, though villagers showed journalists the blood-stained corner of a house where blankets and possibly bodies were set on fire.

International forces have fought for control of Panjwai for years, trying to subdue the Taliban in their rural strongholds. The Taliban movement started just to the north of Panjwai and many of the militant group’s senior leaders, including chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, were born, raised, fought or preached in the area.

The district has also been a key Taliban base for targeting neighboring Kandahar city and U.S. forces flooded the province as part of Obama’s strategy to surge in the south starting in 2009.

The Taliban called the shootings the latest sign that international forces are working against the Afghan people.

“The so-called American peacekeepers have once again quenched their thirst with the blood of innocent Afghan civilians in Kandahar province,” the Taliban said in a statement posted on a website used by the insurgent group.

U.S. forces have been implicated before in other violence in the same area.

Four soldiers from a Stryker brigade out of Lewis-McChord, Washington, have been sent to prison in connection with the 2010 killing of three unarmed men during patrols in Kandahar province’s Maiwand district, which is just northwest of Panjwai. They were accused of forming a “kill team” that murdered Afghan civilians for sport — slaughtering victims with grenades and powerful machine guns during patrols, then dropping weapons near their bodies to make them appear to have been combatants.

Obama has apologized for the Quran burnings and said they were a mistake. The Qurans and other Islamic books were taken from a detention facility and dumped in a burn pit last month because they were believed to contain extremist messages or inscriptions. A military official said at the time that it appeared detainees were exchanging messages by making notations in the texts.

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Vogt reported from Kabul, Afghanistan. Associated Press writers Sebastian Abbot and Rahim Faiez contributed to this report in Kabul. AP photographer Allauddin Khan contributed from Balandi. Lolita C. Baldor and Kimberly Dozier contributed from Washington.

Islamic states, Africans walk out on UN gay panel

MSNBC | Mar 7, 2012

By Robert Evans

GENEVA — Brushing aside high-level U.N. appeals for cooperation to halt murder and violence against gays and lesbians around the globe, Muslim and Arab countries on Wednesday stalked out of a Human Rights Council panel to tackle the issue.

Speaking before the walkout for the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Pakistan described homosexuality as “licentious behavior” while African group leader Senegal said it was not covered by global human rights accords.

Nigeria – where gay rights groups say there have been many attacks on male and female homosexuals – declared none of its citizens was at risk of violence because of sexual orientation or gender identity before it too left the chamber.

And Mauritania, for the Arab group, all of whose members are also in the OIC, said attempts to impose “the controversial topic of sexual orientation” would undermine discussion in the council of all genuine human rights problems.

The walkout, which diplomats said not all countries in the Islamic and African groups joined, was the first by three major blocs in the 47-member council, which has been dominated until recently by a caucus of developing countries and their allies.

It came after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay told the session that gays and lesbians should be protected by all governments.

“We see a pattern of violence and discrimination directed at people just because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” Ban said in a video message to the panel, chaired by African group dissenter South Africa.

“This is a monumental tragedy for those affected — and a stain on our collective conscience. It is also a violation of international law. You, as members of the Human Rights Council, must respond,” the U.N. chief declared.

Islamic and most African countries have long kept discussion of what the U.N. dubs “sexual orientation and gender identity” out of the council but a strong drive by the United States and South Africa brought it onto the agenda last June.

With a developing country bloc in the body eroding, Latin American countries like Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay joined in to push through a narrow vote to mandate Wednesday’s panel and the High Commissioner’s report.

Pillay, once a South African high court judge, told the session her life under apartheid had taught her that “ignorance and bigotry” could only be overcome by education and frank discussion among people with different views.

In her report she detailed the often fatal abuse – she labeled it “homophobia” – homosexuals faced around the globe ranging from mob killing for males, multiple rape of lesbians “to cure them” and torture in public and private jails.

The report said 76 countries among the U.N.’s 192 members had laws  homosexual behavior. At least five – in particular Iran – provide for the death penalty while efforts are under way in Uganda to introduce the same punishment.

“I know some will resist what we are saying,” said Pillay, who earlier this week was accused by Egypt in the council of promoting homosexuality by pressing on with the report despite the objections of Islamic countries.

In a clear reference to Islamic and African countries, she said some states would argue that homosexuality or bisexuality “conflict with local cultural or traditional values, or with religious teachings, or run counter to public opinion”.

But while they were free to hold their opinions, she declared, “That is as far as it goes. The balance between tradition and culture, on the one hand, and universal human rights on the other, must be struck in favor of rights.”