United States’ first female Muslim judge found dead in Hudson River

A groundbreaking black jurist who became the first Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge was found dead in New York’s Hudson River on April 12, police said.

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York’s highest court, was found floating off Manhattan’s west side at about 1:45 p.m. EDT (3:45 p.m. GMT), a police spokesman said.

14judge-master768Police pulled Abdus-Salaam’s fully clothed body from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

 Her family identified her and an autopsy would determine the cause of death, the spokesman said.

On Wednesday, after responding to an emergency call, officers with the New York Police Department’s Harbor Unit found the body of Judge Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman to serve on New York State’s highest court, in the Hudson River in Harlem with no apparent signs of trauma and no indications of foul play. The police are treating her death as a suicide, although an investigation is continuing.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement on Wednesday that Judge Abdus-Salaam was a pioneer with an “unshakable moral compass.” He added, “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”

Abdus-Salaam graduated from Barnard College and received her law degree from Columbia Law School. She became a public defender in Brooklyn after law school, the New York Times said, representing people who could not afford lawyers.

In one of her first cases, she won an anti-discrimination suit for more than 30 female New York City bus drivers who had been denied promotions.

Well, let’s hear from the USA. The whole world is waiting to hear your story, guys!

“The President of the Universe holds no real power. His sole purpose is to take attention away from where the power truly exists…”

Once again, hats off to Douglas Adams. He saw it all!

“But it was not in any way a coincidence that today, the day of culmination of the project, the great day of unveiling, the day that the Heart of Gold was finally to be introduced to a marvelling Galaxy, was also a great day of culmination for Zaphod Beeblebrox. It was for the sake of this day that he had first decided to run for the Presidency, a decision which had sent waves of astonishment throughout the Imperial Galaxy – Zaphod Beeblebrox? President? Not the Zaphod Beeblebrox? Not the President? Many had seen it as a clinching proof that the whole of known creation had finally gone bananas.

Zaphod grinned and gave the boat an extra kick of speed.

Zaphod Beeblebrox, adventurer, ex-hippy, good timer, (crook? quite possibly), manic self-publicist, terribly bad at personal relationships, often thought to be completely out to lunch.

President?
 No one had gone bananas, not in that way at least.
 Only six people in the entire Galaxy understood the principle on which the Galaxy was governed, and they knew that once Zaphod Beeblebrox had announced his intention to run as President it was more or less a fait accompli: he was the ideal Presidency fodder.

There was a mood of immense excitement thrilling through all of them. Together and between them they had gone to and beyond the furthest limits of physical laws, restructured the fundamental fabric of matter, strained, twisted and broken the laws of possibility and impossibility, but still the greatest excitement of all seemed to be to meet a man with an orange sash round his neck. (An orange sash was what the
President of the Galaxy traditionally wore.) It might not even have made much difference to them if they’d known exactly how much power the President of the Galaxy actually wielded: none at all. Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the job of the Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract attention away from it.

Zaphod Beeblebrox was amazingly good at his job.”

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Chapter 4

Thoughts on Transparency and Corruption – and who’s telling the story

I want to preface what follows with a clear statement that I love my country. New Zealand is the land of my birth, the land where my children grew up, and I am always proud to acknowledge it as my homeland. I also love my adopted country, Turkey, for other reasons entirely. However, in neither case does that love blind me to the fact that both countries have their weaknesses and problems.

2017-02-03t093355z_1712985742_lr1ed230qk7wi_rtrmadp_3_france-shooting-jpg-cf

Martial law in Paris? Over one guy with a machete?

One thing I find difficult to understand, though, is how those two countries are depicted in international media. Turkey is unrelentingly portrayed as a land torn by internal divisions, corruption and violence. New Zealand, on the other hand, despite much evidence to the contrary, still manages to retain a reputation for squeaky cleanliness in nature and government, a South Sea paradise of equality and opportunity.

Well, let’s start with Turkey. An article in Time Magazine in January trumpeted, A Relentless Cycle of Terror Threatens to Tear Turkey Apart”. “The bloodshed,” we read, “has become endemic over the past year and a half, as Kurdish separatist militants and Islamic State jihadists have slaughtered hundreds, and an abortive military coup attempt left more than 200 people dead and sparked a wave of repression by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

Another source maintained that “martial law” is in force in Turkey, and the country is under threat of “military intervention” by NATO.

The recently released Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Turkey 75th out of 176 countries, equal with Bulgaria, Kuwait and Tunisia, behind the Solomon Islands and Burkina Faso, but marginally ahead of Brazil, China and India. On that list, New Zealand is ranked 2nd in the world for “perceived” lack of corruption (more on that later); the United States is 18th, and Estonia, 22nd. Well, I don’t want to single out Estonia for unfair attention, but I can’t help observing that, according to the CIA World Factbook, that tiny Baltic state is a growing producer of synthetic drugs; increasingly important transshipment zone for cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and synthetic drugs since joining the European Union and the Schengen Accord; potential money laundering related to organized crime and drug trafficking is a concern, as is possible use of the gambling sector to launder funds; major use of opiates and ecstasy.”

FH_FITW_Report_2017.indd

From Freedom House. Apparently the green countries are free

An organization calling itself Freedom House has also just released a report entitled Freedom in the World 2017. Ranking all countries from 100 (Blissfully free) to 0 (Miserably enslaved), New Zealand again scores at the top end (98). The USA registers a creditable 89, while Turkey’s rating of 38 places it in the seventh group out of ten, in descending order.

OK, I’m not going to spend a lot of time here defending Turkey. Merely, I will observe that, if your intentions are bad, you can blacken pretty much anyone’s name. Paris, I understand, remains on “a high state of terrorist alert” fifteen months after 130 people were killed (slaughtered?) in a series of attacks by ISIL operatives. The state of alert continues and was justified, apparently, when a guy with a machete attempted to “storm” the Louvre Museum, and was shot by police before he could actually harm anyone. Turkey’s state of alert, on the other hand, is labelled “martial law”, and its government is accused of carrying out a “wave of repression”, despite having narrowly avoided overthrow by a military coup in July that left hundreds of civilians dead. I’m not making light of the tragedy in Paris, but come on, people!

When I first came to Istanbul in 1995, platoons of soldiers jogging around the streets carrying automatic weapons were a common feature of urban life. Martial law, high state of alert or whatever, I haven’t seen such sights here for years.

What about New Zealand, then? Well, despite scare-mongering implications by senior government spokespersons, the last hint of terrorism,” according to a recent Bloomberg article, “came a generation ago, when French spies bombed a Greenpeace campaigning ship docked in Auckland harbor in 1985.The focus of that article was New Zealand’s emergence as a popular bolthole for the mega wealthy.” The reason, they suggest, is the country’s location about as distant as you can get from normal terrorist targets without actually leaving planet Earth.

3fc2270e36abb53621f286382276e85e_xl

NZ’s former Prime Minister dining with China’s richest man

 

Maybe those Bloomberg people are right – though if the world is indeed “going to hell in a handbasket”, as Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom reckons, the greed of those “mega wealthy” parasites would be one of the main reasons. But New Zealand may hold an additional attraction besides its isolation and natural beauty. The notorious Panama Papers, leaked to the world’s media in April 2016, brought to light documents hacked from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. Among the revelations:

  • Details from the Panama Papers show how a stream of foreign cash became a torrent flooding into New Zealand trusts in order to avoid tax offshore.
  • Tens of thousands of Panama Papers documents reveal how New Zealand, Niue, The Cook Islands and Samoa have become prime destinations for the rich to hide their financial secrets.
  • Wealthy Latin Americans are using secretive, tax-free New Zealand shelf companies and trusts to help channel funds around the world.
  • Mossack Fonseca actively promoted New Zealand as a good place to do business due to its tax-free status, high levels of confidentiality and legal security.
  • The number of foreign trusts in New Zealand has surged to almost 10,700 this year from less than 2,000 ten years ago, according to Inland Revenue figures.
  • At the centre of the New Zealand operation is Roger Thompson, a former Inland Revenue employee. His accountancy firm – Bentleys, in the heart of Auckland’s business district – is the New Zealand agent for Mossack Fonseca.

Well, I don’t know about Mexican or other Latin American tycoons, but I do know that a controversy has arisen recently over the granting of New Zealand citizenship to “technology billionaire and Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel”. The story broke when it was learned that Thiel had bought a 193-hectare waterfront estate on Lake Wanaka, near Queenstown – playground for the wealthy in NZ’s South Island. Apparently Mr Thiel was made a citizen at a private ceremony at the New Zealand consulate in Santa Monica, USA, in August 2011. It seems he failed to meet the usual requirements for citizenship, even admitting he had no intention of living in the country, but allegedly donated $NZ1 million to the relief effort after the devastating 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, and got fast-tracked.

countries_implicated_in_the_panama_papers-svg

Countries said to be implicated in the Panama papers in red. What colour is Turkey?

It’s a worthy cause, of course, and you can’t criticise the guy for that – but there does seem to have been a certain amount of shady stuff surrounding the rebuild of NZ’s third largest city. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) was established in 2011 to oversee reconstruction, but seems to have been plagued by suggestions of mismanagement until it was disestablished in April 2016, with the city still far from recovered. Panel members for instance, were reportedly being paid $1,000 a day for their services, and staff numbers at one stage ballooned to 357. I don’t know if there’s any connection to Peter Thiel’s generous donation, but three former high-level CERA employees are currently under investigation for having abused their positions as public servants to carry out lucrative private property deals.

Another interesting foreign national awarded NZ citizenship under highly questionable circumstances is a gentleman known variously as Yong Ming Yan, Liu Yang, William Yan and Bill Liu. Despite warnings from the Department of Internal Affairs, evidence that the guy was using fraudulent documents, the vast sums he loses gambling in Auckland’s Skycity casino and his Number 5 ranking on the Chinese Government’s list of most-wanted criminals, the NZ Government is in no hurry to hand him over, and he is said to have recently cut a secret deal with the NZ police after $40 million of his assets had been frozen on suspicion of money-laundering – the charge he is wanted for in China.

In view of the above, you may be surprised to learn that Peter Thiel’s name does not appear on National Business Review’s Rich List for New Zealand. Nor is there a single Chinese name, in spite of the fact that Wang, Lee, Chen and Liu have overtaken Smith as the top four surnames in Auckland. The Neo-con National Government frequently reassures local citizens that the remarkable influx of immigrants from China is totally unrelated to the explosion of prices that has seen Auckland become the 20th most expensive city in the world to buy a house, with an average selling price of $911,800. According to that source, you can buy cheaper in Berlin, Madrid or Dubai!

Those people compiling the Corruptions Perceptions Index made some interesting observations in their report, one of which was “This year’s results highlight the connection between corruption and inequality, which feed off each other to create a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society, and unequal distribution of wealth.” Well, no surprises there, but in the light of that, let’s consider a recent UNICEF report stating that “As many as 28 per cent of New Zealand children – about 295,000 – currently live in poverty.” An article in the New Zealand Herald quoted the mayor of a region in the North Island as saying, “subcultures of poverty” persisted in the area despite years of central Government programmes.

“Our failure to deal with entrenched poverty means we are turning our young people into unskilled dependants and, in some cases, drug addicts, gang members and criminals,” he said.

highest-rent-in-the-world_revised4__1397022845_94-4-213-11-1024x625

Auckland, with the population of Philadelphia, PA, and Phoenix, Arizona

In the mean time, guys like Yong Ming Yan, or whatever his real name is, can steal money from China (at least $129 million, they claim), launder it in New Zealand, lose $300 million in Auckland’s Skycity casino without jumping off the harbour bridge – and be rewarded with citizenship. What’s next? A knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday honours? For sure the Skycity owners will be pretty happy with the guy who made such a generous contribution to their $1 billion revenue last year. I can’t see the obvious benefits to New Zealand, though, given that those owners apparently live in Australia, and most of the profits go offshore.

All of which led me to ask, who is compiling the statistics and writing those reports about freedom and corruption in the world? So I checked out Freedom House. According to its own website:

Freedom House was established in 1941 in New York City . . . with the quiet encouragement of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to encourage popular support for American involvement in World War II at a time when isolationist sentiments were running high in the United States.

Having been created in response to the threat of one great totalitarian evil, Nazism, Freedom House took up the struggle against the other great twentieth century totalitarian threat, Communism, after the end of World War II. The organization’s leadership rightly believed that the spread of democracy was the best weapon against totalitarian ideologies. Freedom House embraced as its mission the expansion of freedom around the world and the strengthening of human rights and civil liberties here at home. As a result, Freedom House strongly endorsed the post-war Atlantic Alliance, as well as such key policies and institutions as the Marshall Plan and NATO.”

Wikipedia provides further insights. I didn’t check out all the board members, but four names caught my eye: Kenneth Adelman, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Donald Rumsfield and Paul Wolfowitz. Mr Adelman was a long-term member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, a “lifelong neo-con activist” who was a big supporter of the US destruction of Iraq, and outspoken proponent of the discredited claim that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Brzezinski, clearly of good Protestant Anglo-Saxon stock, is known, among other achievements, for cosying up to Communist China, overseeing the transition of Iran from an important US ally to a major terrorist threat, and arming the Taliban in Afghanistan to oppose the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld was US Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford, and again under George Dubya Bush. He was a major organiser of US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and supporter of using “enhanced interrogation techniques” on unconvicted prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Wolfowitz is another neo-conservative, former president of the World Bank and once considered by the George Dubya administration as possible head of the CIA.

FREEDOM House? Phooey to them, say I! What value would you place on any report of theirs?

As a conclusion that may or may not be relevant to the present discussion, I read reports of an interview with President Donald Trump the other day. Apparently he had appeared on the Fox News channel where the interviewer was giving him a hard time about his refusal to criticise Russia’s Vladimir Putin, demanding to know how he could lend support to “a killer”. Trump’s quoted response?

1422701321866

That’s Him saying it, up there on The Mount

“There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

I have to tell you, the big DT went up considerably in my estimation. The USA has had a few presidents in recent years making political capital out of their Christian faith. This, however, is the first time I have heard one echo the words of that religion’s eponymous founder quoted in Matthew 7:5.

“You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

CIA apologizes to Turkey over ISIL oil trade allegations

Look at this! Two years ago it was all over the international news media! Turkey is buying oil from ISIS/Daesh! And now the CIA are apologizing for having got it wrong! What an absolute disgrace! How can you come out with such allegations without being 100% sure you’ve got your facts right?

What will we hear next? We’re terribly sorry we supported that coup attempt on 15 July. We genuinely thought we were doing the right thing. We apologise for using the money markets to undermine the Turkish Lira – it was all a perfectly understandable misunderstanding. How dare you, America! Who do you think you are? Playing God to shape the world in your image – when you don’t even know yourselves.

john_kerry_pathological_liar_over_syria“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the CIA have apologized to Turkey over allegations in 2014 about oil trade between Ankara and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Meeting with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on the sidelines of a U.N. Security Council meeting in 2014, Kerry had said they had information that Turkey was importing oil from ISIL, a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that Çavuşoğlu denied this claim at the time.

“We know who gave you this information. Some Arab countries are reacting to us because of disagreements over the Egypt issue. They are conducting a campaign on the issue. This is a very serious accusation,” Çavuşoğlu told Kerry at the time, according to the official.

After requesting the document of the allegations in a number of meetings with Kerry, Çavuşoğlu was given a file that included information on coordinates in Turkey.

The file was then investigated by Turkish intelligence agencies, and Ankara determined that the coordinates belonged to an asphalt worksite of Kilis Municipality, on the border with Syria.

After this information was conveyed to the U.S., Kerry apologized and the CIA filed a written apology to Ankara, said the official.

He also refuted claims that the U.S. provided heavy weapons to the People’s Protection units (YPG) in Syria. “We don’t have such information, and the U.S. has also categorically refused the claims,” said the official.”

And look at the weasel words in that denial! “We don’t have such information.” What, you don’t have information on who you are supplying weapons to?

“We categorically refuse the claims.” Not “deny”, you understand, just “refuse” – whatever that means. And tell me what “categorically” means in this context.

Read more

The epic fail of the American electorate

Well, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the Washington Post, but this Petula Dvorak seems to have some useful words for American citizens . . . if they have ears to hear.

Hey, America, do you like this election?

No?

donkey-elephant-usa

Vote for a corrupt donkey or an elephant in a china shop – and let’s see what you get

But this is what you created.

You, America, stopped listening to facts you didn’t agree with, stopped reading newspapers or watching broadcasts that didn’t entertain you or confirm what you already believed, stopped trying to understand legislation and policy, stopped bothering to engage in civil discussion or master the basics of civic responsibilities.

You, America, blame Washington for everything that’s wrong with this country, but then you tell pollsters that the federal government isn’t doing enough to help you.

You, America, actually believe that reality television is real. And that politics is a form of reality TV. And so, we have an election that’s more “American Idol” than U.S. Constitution.

Canvassers this week actually found voters who thought they could vote online.

What? There’s not an app for that?

You realize we’re probably just one election cycle away from a Kardashian in office. Because, what the heck? Let’s try something new!

Read the whole article

Turkey’s 15 July coup attempt had nothing to do with America – Where’s the proof?

It’s not so easy to catch them red-handed – but they are perfectly happy to admit they do it, at home and abroad. This one from the New York Times:

Hillary Clinton Liked Covert Action if It Stayed Covert, Transcript Shows

Hillary Clinton longs for the days when Americans knew how to execute a covert action abroad and not spill the details to reporters.

17clintonspeeches-superjumboAddressing a Goldman Sachs event in 2013, in one of the speeches that WikiLeaks published on Saturday, Mrs. Clinton gave a tough-minded, realpolitik answer to the question of how to handle a problem like Syria. If the best chance of success was to act secretly inside that country, she made clear, she had no problem doing that.

She went on to say — as her audience already knew because of revelations in the news media — that as secretary of state she had advocated secretly arming the Syrian opposition and moving forcefully to counter the Russians, who at that point were supporting President Bashar al-Assad but had not yet fully entered the conflict.

“My view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene,” she said in answer to a question from Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, which paid Mrs. Clinton about $225,000 a speech to give what felt like an insider’s view of the making of American foreign policy, months after she left office.

But she quickly acknowledged that “we used to be much better at this than we are now.” “Now, you know, everybody can’t help themselves,” she added, and officials go out to “tell their friendly reporters and somebody else: ‘Look what we’re doing, and I want credit for it.’

And another one:

Donald Trump rallies infiltrated by paid Hillary Clinton operatives, investigation reveals

Agents working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign paid professional agitators to incite violence at Donald Trump rallies, an explosive investigation has revealed.

In a new hidden-camera sting by conservative activist group Project Veritas, undercover journalists infiltrated two political consulting companies with ties to the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

In the 16-minute video, Democratic operatives are caught out describing how paid agents “infiltrate” to stage fake grassroots protests to create a sense of “anarchy” at Donald Trump events.

The agents notably lay claim to the violent Chicago protests in March, which forced Trump to cancel his rally and left two police officers seriously injured.

“It doesn’t matter what the friggin’ legal and ethics people say, we need to win this motherf*****,” Scott Foval, founder of consulting firm the Foval Group told an undercover journalist.

“I’m saying we have mentally ill people, that we pay to do s***, make no mistake. “Over the last 20 years, I’ve paid off a few homeless guys to do some crazy stuff, and I’ve also taken them for dinner, and I’ve also made sure they had a hotel, and a shower. And I put them in a program.

“Like I’ve done that. But the reality is, a lot of people, especially our union guys, a lot of our union guys … they’ll do whatever you want. They’re rock’n’roll.

“When I need to get something done in Arkansas, the first guy I call is the head of the AFL-CIO [American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organisations] down there, because he will say, ‘What do you need?’ And I will say, ‘I need a guy who will do this, this and this’. And they find that guy. And that guy will be like, ‘Hell yeah, let’s do it’.”