Category Archives: New York

President Obama Speaks on NYC Incident and BP Oil Spill in Louisiana

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Posted by Jesse Lee

A Massive and Potentially Unprecedented Environmental Disaster


[UPDATE 5/3/10 8:46PM: Read the comprehensive update from the Joint Information Center for May 3, 2010.]

[UPDATE 5/3/10 6:55PM: A readout of the President and Admiral Allen’s call with local government officials in the Gulf Coast Region.]

[UPDATE 5/3/10 5:53PM: Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke more on the details of ensuring BP pays for the costs of the spill in his Monday briefing.]

[UPDATE 5/2/10 9:30PM: Learn more from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ briefing aboard Air Force One on the return trip from the Gulf Coast.]

The President spent the day touring the Gulf Coast area and getting a first-hand look at the ongoing response from the federal government to the BP oil spill (the EPA has also dedicated a site to keeping the public up to date on that response).  After speaking to Admiral Thad Allen, who is serving as National Incident Commander, along with Coast Guard personnel, the President gave an update from Venice, Louisiana.  After commending the police officers and citizens of New York who reacted so swiftly to the incident in Times Square, he spoke at length on the terrible situation surrounding the spill:

They gave me a sense of how this spill is moving.  It is now about nine miles off the coast of southeastern Louisiana.  And by the way, we had the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, as well as parish presidents who were taking part in this meeting, because we want to emphasize the importance of coordinating between local, state, and federal officials throughout this process.

Now, I think the American people are now aware, certainly the folks down in the Gulf are aware, that we’re dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.  The oil that is still leaking from the well could seriously damage the economy and the environment of our Gulf states and it could extend for a long time.  It could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who call this place home.

And that’s why the federal government has launched and coordinated an all-hands-on-deck, relentless response to this crisis from day one.  After the explosion on the drilling rig, it began with an aggressive search-and-rescue effort to evacuate 115 people, including three badly injured.  And my thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the 11 workers who have not yet  — who have not been found.

When the drill unit sank on Thursday, we immediately and intensely investigated by remotely operated vehicles the entire 5,000 feet of pipe that’s on the floor of the ocean.  In that process, three leaks were identified, the most recent coming just last Wednesday evening.  As Admiral Allen and Secretary Napolitano have made clear, we’ve made preparations from day one to stage equipment for a worse-case scenario.  We immediately set up command center operations here in the Gulf and coordinated with all state and local governments.  And the third breach was discovered on Wednesday.

We already had by that time in position more than 70 vessels and hundreds of thousands of feet of boom.  And I dispatched the Secretaries of the Interior and Homeland Security; the Administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, who is here; my Assistant for Energy and Climate Change Policy; and the Administrator of NOAA to the Gulf Coast to ensure that we are doing whatever is required to respond to this event.

So I want to emphasize, from day one we have prepared and planned for the worst, even as we hoped for the best.  And while we have prepared and reacted aggressively, I’m not going to rest — and none of the gentlemen and women who are here are going to rest — or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source, the oil on the Gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people of this region are able to go back to their lives and their livelihoods.

Currently, the most advanced technology available is being used to try and stop a leak that is more than 5,000 feet under the surface.  Because this leak is unique and unprecedented, it could take many days to stop.  That’s why we’re also using every resource available to stop the oil from coming ashore and mitigating the damage it could cause.  And much of the discussion here at the center was focused on if we, and when we have to deal with these mitigation efforts.

Thus far, as you can tell, the weather has not been as cooperative as we’d like on this front.  But we’re going to continue to push forward.

I also want to stress that we are working closely with the Gulf states and local communities to help every American affected by this crisis.  Let me be clear:  BP is responsible for this leak; BP will be paying the bill.  But as President of the United States, I’m going to spare no effort to respond to this crisis for as long as it continues.  And we will spare no resource to clean up whatever damage is caused.  And while there will be time to fully investigate what happened on that rig and hold responsible parties accountable, our focus now is on a fully coordinated, relentless response effort to stop the leak and prevent more damage to the Gulf.

I want to thank the thousands of Americans who’ve been working around the clock to stop this crisis — whether it’s the brave men and women of our military, or the local officials who call the Gulf home.  They are doing everything in their power to mitigate this disaster, prevent damage to our environment, and help our fellow citizens.

During this visit, I am hoping to have the opportunity to speak with some of the individuals who are directly affected by the disaster.  I’ve heard already that people are, understandably, frustrated and frightened, especially because the people of this region have been through worse disasters than anybody should have to bear.

But every American affected by this spill should know this: Your government will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to stop this crisis.

This is one of the richest and most beautiful ecosystems on the planet, and for centuries its residents have enjoyed and made a living off the fish that swim in these waters and the wildlife that inhabit these shores.  This is also the heartbeat of the region’s economic life.  And we’re going to do everything in our power to protect our natural resources, compensate those who have been harmed, rebuild what has been damaged, and help this region persevere like it has done so many times before.

That’s a commitment I’m making as President of the United States, and I know that everybody who works for the federal government feels the exact same way.

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It’s a Helluva State by Cynthia Nixon

Op-ed by Cynthia Nixon

Cynthia Nixon and her girlfriend, Christine Marinoni

HP/Cynthia Nixon—My girlfriend and I want to get married. Only thing is: it’s not legal in NY State, where we live. So we started doing everything we could think of to reverse that. Including going up to Albany this past spring with two of our politico friends to speak to some Senators — Democratic and Republican — who were on the fence on the issue.

Wednesday’s No vote on same sex marriage was supremely disappointing on a personal as well as a political level. Guess Christine and I can kiss that Waldorf Astoria wedding… Brooklyn Botanical Gardens wedding… Montauk Beach wedding — you fill in the blank — goodbye. But we have two things today we didn’t have yesterday.

The first thing we have is clarity about who’s with us and who’s against us. And we’ll remember those yays and nays for next November and for Novembers to come. And there will be consequences.

The second thing is a new ally. Her name is Ruth Hassell-Thompson. She is a Senator from the Bronx and Mt Vernon and she is fierce.

State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester)

State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-NY)

Our gang of four met with her last spring and she explained to us in depth, over a long and respectful meeting why she thought she was going to vote no on gay marriage. Senator Hassell-Thompson is deeply religious. She felt strongly that marriage always has been and always should be the union between a man and a woman.

But she is a careful, thoughtful person and you could see her weighing the issue again and again in her mind. And in her considering she stumbled across something in her personal experience that began to change her perspective.

She spoke about how her mother had been a deacon in their church at a time when previously only men had been deacons. And how controversial that had been. And how vehemently many people opposed her mother’s appointment. And how none of those opposed could give any explanation for why her mother becoming a deacon was wrong, just that it was. Because it was new. Because it was shocking. Because it was an idea that took people a little time to get used to.

On Wednesday Ruth Hassell-Thompson voted yes.

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44-D’s True Crime: Discovery Channel’s Jack the Ripper in America

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Reviewed by Audiegrl

The greatest serial killer in history has never been named. But what if we are looking in the wrong place?


In 1888, a deranged killer stalked his prey on the streets of east London at night. After 121 years since the murder and mutilation of at least five prostitutes, the case remains unsolved and the true identity of Jack the Ripper has never been known. The world’s greatest criminal investigators have focused on searching for answers in London. However, in the 1890s a series of horrific murders took place across the United States in New York, San Francisco, Galveston and Atlanta, that mirrored the attacks in attacks in the UK. In this one hour special, Discovery Channel’s viewers will witness the new evidence, science and analytical techniques being used to reveal the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

NYPD Cold Case Detective Ed Norris

The Discovery Channel’s documentary, Jack the Ripper in America focuses on Detective Ed Norris, former head of the NYPD Cold Case Unit, who investigates and uncovers new evidence not seen since the time of the murders. In trying to solve the 118 year old murder of New York prostitute Carrie Brown, he begins to note the similarities between her murder and the famous Whitechapel murders in London. Brown’s murderer had a three-stage MO (strangled, penetrating wound, pulled apart) Because of the unusual and gruesome nature of the crime, the press of the day, immediately began asking the question, “Is Jack the Ripper in New York“. Norris sees the same unusual ‘signature‘ in both the London and New York killers. They both kill prostitutes by strangling, cutting the throat, and eviscerating the body. For Norris this indicates that he might be looking at the same killer.

Carrie Brown aka Old Shakespeare

Carrie Brown aka Old Shakespeare

The key in all cold cases is finding the clues missed by the original investigators. Although, Brown was murdered on April 23, 1891, Norris decides to let a new set of eyes look at the evidence. Enter Dr. Jonathan Hayes, the Manhattan Senior Medical Examiner. Dr. Hayes combs through the autopsy report of Carry Brown. He reaches some interesting conclusions, including a special marking on the body, which I won’t reveal here, you’ll have to watch the show. On August 7th, 1891, another unidentified prostitute is murdered with the same MO as Brown, and pulled from the East river. Visiting the New York Municipal Archives, Norris finds that the old newspapers of that time, reveal another shocking detail. The killer actually wrote to the NYPD, before the murder of Carry Brown. His letter is recreated below:

Capt. Ryan,

You think that “Jack the Ripper” is in England, but he is not, I am right here and I expect to kill somebody by Thursday next, and so get ready for me with your pistols, but I have a knife that has done more than your pistols. Next thing you will hear of some woman dead.

Yours truly,

Jack the Ripper

Richard Jones

Detective Norris wants to get into Jack’s head, and walk in his foot steps. He feels that he was an organized killer that took advantage of the conditions of the time: no ambient street lighting, a black curtain of smoke over the city caused by burning low quality coal, and counting on his victims to naturally take him to the dark, secluded places used in the prostitution trade. Norris takes viewers through a summary of the Ripper murders by using re-enactments and walking through the crime scenes. Next, Norris consults London historian Richard Jones, owner of Ripper Walking Tours and author of Uncovering Jack the Ripper’s London. Jones has spent more than two decades investigating the Whitechapel murders. He asks Jones if any of the serious Ripper suspects had ever traveled to the United States after the death of Mary Kelly. Jones provided him with three names: Severin Klosowski, Francis Tumblety, and James Kelly.

Known as the From Hell or Lusk Letter

Norris then consults with Sheila Kurtz, a Forensic Hand Writing Analyst, Master Graphologist and President of Graphology Consulting Group. Kurtz had successfully worked on the Son of Sam case among many others. After reviewing samples of the Ripper’s hand writing, Kurtz identified the writer as a very disturbed individual, who she said, “I wouldn’t want to be in his company“. For additional details on her analysis please visit her blog. The graphic to the left shows the letter was purportedly written in 1888 by Jack the Ripper.

Dr Thomas Bond

Dr. Thomas Bond

Norris then paid a visit to Britain’s National Archives. The archives hold thousands of original documents in the Ripper case. There, Norris discovers a document not previously used in the investigation. A profile of the killer. Sir Robert Anderson, the head of the police Criminal Investigation Departments, asked Dr Thomas Bond, Britain’s top police surgeon in 1888 to examine material connected with the Whitechapel murder investigation. Bond wrote a 19th-century version of a modern day unsub profile, based on personally examining the body of Mary Kelly and reading the autopsy reports on the first four victims. In the report, he describes in detail the type of person they should be investigating. Dr. Bond was sure that all five women had been killed by the same hand, because the throats of all victims had been cut in a similar way and the victims were presumably lying down when murdered. (for additional details on Dr. Bond’s profile, click here to read the report) Norris ultimately uses this 121 year old profile to narrow the three suspects down to one name. James Kelly. In the world of police parlance, Norris says that “Kelly looks good“.

Jack the Ripper victims: Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catharine Eddowes, Mary Kelly

In 1883, James Kelly only one month married, argues with his wife and accuses her of being unfaithful. In a psychotic rage, he uses the methods of strangulation and throat slashing to kill her. Kelly is caught, convicted and sentenced to die by hanging. Then his employer comes forward and explains that he believes Kelly is mentally disturbed. Kelly was then examined by a alienist and committed to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Kelly’s psychiatric report has been sealed for over 125 years, until Norris examines it.

Broadmoor Old Gate

Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum

In 1863, Broadmoor was the first custom-built asylum to house criminal lunatics. In Broadmoor, Kelly is a outwardly a model prisoner, but at the same time he is secretly planning his escape. Working in the asylum’s carpentry shop, he cunningly uses a piece of medal he carved into a key to aid his escape. In January of 1888, Kelly escaped and just disappeared. At that time a series of stabbings and slashing attacks of women start in London. Three victims: Annie Millwood, (February 25, 1888, stabbed repeatedly, but survived), Ada Wilson, (March 28, 1888, slashed in the throat, but survived), and Martha Tabram, (August 7, 1888, stabbed 23 times, did not survive). Norris feels these are the early attempts of Jack the Ripper, who like many serial killers, escalates and only gets more brutal over time. After these three attacks, the first London Ripper murder occurs. Surprisingly, Kelly was once considered a suspect by London police, but after only minimal checking at his old residence, they simply gave up, and were never able to find him. With the huge amount of pressure they were under, the case against Kelly went cold…

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Astonishingly, in 1927…forty years later, a much older Kelly voluntarily returns to the insane asylum and began to chronicle his travels. A typed copy of Kelly’s confession letter survives in the National Archives, and Norris is the first detective to read it. In the letter, Kelly describes having “problems dealing with society“, and being “overtaken with feelings of envy, jealousy, and malice“. Kelly states, “the thing has been hard because of all kinds of ‘skank’” (a term he uses to refers to women of low moral character) and “I’ve been on the warpath since I left Broadmoor Asylum.” Also in his letter, he admits to traveling to London after his escape, and more interestingly he tells of traveling to the United States and arriving in New York conveniently before the Carrie Brown murder. He was by profession, a trained upholsterer, and would have known quiet a bit about knives and how to use them effectively for the purpose of murder. Kelly also mentioned traveling to many cities in the US before returning to England and admitted that he came to the US many times over a period of 40 years.

USS Zaandam

First Norris wanted to check to make sure that Kelly’s confession matched up with actual travel records of the day. In Britain’s National Maritime Museum, they kept track of every ship that came to the United States. Kelly said he traveled to America aboard an Anglo-German steamer named the Zaandam that sailed from Rotterdam to New York. At the museum, Norris not only confirmed the ship existed, but that it sailed from Rotterdam to New York on October 7, 1890—two years after the last Ripper murder in London (11/88) and months before the April 23, 1891 murder of Carrie Brown in New York. You might be thinking, “How does a ‘wanted man’ get into the United States without detection?” Professor Dan Citrum is an expert in 19th-century immigration and explains how easily it could have been done. Remember this was before Ellis Island was established, so getting in and out of the country was very easy. No drivers licenses, no passports, and no photo id whatsoever. Many people back then, came to this country to start over, and remake themselves and get lost in the huge crowds of New York city. In his confession, Kelly admits to changing his name once his ship arrives to ‘John Miller‘, one of the most common names both then and now. Kelly used his new name like a disguise to blend in and escape police scrutiny.

Knowing from experience that many serial killers travel extensively, to avoid detection, Detective Norris plots the cities Kelly claims to have visited against the murders written about in the newspapers. He begins to see similarities in Ripper-like murders committed in other cities: New York NY, Trenton, NJ, Galveston, TX, New Orleans, LA, Philadelphia, PA, Baltimore, MD, Jackson, CA, San Francisco, CA, Denver, CO. Each of these murders occurred during the time that Kelly, thorough his confession letter, said he was in that city. Even the city newspapers asked the same question “Is this the work of Jack the Ripper” and “Is this the fiend of Whitechapel?” and “Has Jack the Ripper Invaded Texas at Last“. Detective Norris identified twelve murders across five states in just four years…and remember, Kelly was gone for forty years…you can do the math. To read an amazing collection of news reports, please visit Casebook: Jack the Ripper.

Using a asylum photo of Kelly provided by the National Archives, he was able to see what Kelly looked like at age 67. Norris then contacted Steve Mancusi, a NYPD senior forensic artist who has helped solve the most difficult cases for the last 30 years. He wanted Mancusi to use forensic imaging technology normally used for age-progression in missing child cases, but with this case, he wanted him to reverse the effects of aging, to show what Kelly would have looked like in his 30’s. The striking illustration below on the right is based on their findings.

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Both illustrations of Jack the Ripper

The left composite, was drawn based on 118 year old eye-witness accounts of Jack the Ripper in London. They examined different witness statements and used modern day forensics to come up with a portrait of the killer, even indicating what type of hat he wore.

The drawing on the right, is the result of Mancusi shaving 40 years off of James Kelly’s photo at age 67. As you can see, once they added the type of hat mentioned by eye witnesses, the drawings are a very close match.

In the end, there is no doubt in Norris’ mind that he has found Jack the Ripper. We may never know. John Kelly died of natural causes in 1929 inside Broadmoor Asylum and took his secrets to his grave. In my opinion, Jack the Ripper in America was very well done and is a must-see for all forensic buffs and amateur Ripperologists. I’m interested in seeing further research, analysis and discussion of Norris’ theory. Regarding any factual errors in this post, I apologize in advance, and encourage everyone to let me know what needs to be corrected.

Time After Time

On a lighter note, anybody remember the movie “Time After Time” starring Malcolm McDowell, John Warner and Mary Steenburgen? McDowell played H.G. Wells, who uses his time machine to chase his friend, Warner (aka Jack the Ripper) through the streets of modern day (1979) San Francisco. After watching Norris’ documentary, maybe Hollywood’s silly (but entertaining) version of the Ripper story had a sliver of truth to it after all. 😉

The Secret of Prisoner 1167: Was This Man Jack the Ripper? by James Tully


Hat tip and special thanks to Roy Corduroy for his suggestion to add this book to this post. Casebook: Jack the Ripper gives this book a three-starred review:

A triumphant achievement on the part of Jim Tully, well-researched and written. James Kelly is his suspect, a lunatic upholsterer and wife-murderer who is actually in the Guinness book of world records for his escape from Broadmoor asylum. Tully weaves a fascinating story, regardless of your feelings on Kelly as a suspect. Recommended.

Related Articles and Sites

Casebook: Jack the Ripper

Maps of Whitechapel, 1888-1894

Ripperological Preservation Society

Jack the Ripper Tours

Serial Killer Database – Jack the Ripper

The Whitechapel Society

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Vice-President Joe Biden Kicks It with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show

Posted by Audiegrl

Vice President Joe Biden makes his sixth appearance on The Daily Show and the first for a sitting vice president! Really? On second thought, I guess a show with Dick Cheney would have been kind of uncomfortable. 😉

In Part One, Biden says the Obama administration is creating new jobs by investing in energy, education and health care. In Part Two, he explains the necessity of the bank bailout and explains why the Democrats can’t pass anything in the Senate.

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Her Honor: A Portrait of Justice Soñia Sotomayor

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Justice Sonia SotomayerLatina Magazine/Shani Saxon-Parrish—America has never before met a wise Latina like Soñia Sotomayor. Latina contributor and former Editor-in-Chief Sandra Guzmán offers the first glimpse of the woman behind the robe in this exclusive profile of the newly minted Supreme Court justice.

Here is an excerpt from this fascinating story:

I first met Soñia in 1998, after she had been sworn in as a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. I was the Editor-in-Chief of Latina, and a mutual friend, New York attorney Lee Llambelis, suggested that Sotomayor was someone I should meet since I’d probably want to write an article on her (which appeared in our March 1999 issue). Sotomayor’s life story not only inspired readers, but also captivated me.

Since then, we’ve been to each other’s homes for dinner and shared many sweet, honest and confidential conversations. A doting hostess, she puts together cheese platters, makes tasty salads and hooks up a mean churrasco with a tangy lemon marinade. This past spring, she promised to share some of her culinary secrets, so we set a date to fire up the grill in her small yet superb two-bedroom condo in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village. Soñia thought things would finally slow down for her by the summer—but that’s when things really started heating up.

During those grueling confirmation hearings in July, Republican senators Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions and Jon Kyl dissected her now-famous “wise Latina” phrase, uttered during an inspirational lecture to Latino law students at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 2001.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, administers the Constitutional Oath to Judge Soñia Sotomayor in the Justices’ Conference Room on Aug 8, 2009. Mrs. Celina Sotomayor, the mother of the new Associate Justice, holds the family Bible during the ceremony.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, administers the Constitutional Oath to Judge Soñia Sotomayor in the Justices’ Conference Room on Aug 8, 2009. Mrs. Celina Sotomayor, the mother of the new Associate Justice, holds the family Bible during the ceremony

The senators aggressively argued that her remarks proved she would bring bias and a liberal agenda to the bench. But Sotomayor repeatedly explained that her comments were part of a regrettable “rhetorical flourish that fell flat.” “I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt: I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging,” she said. She added that she was simply trying “to inspire young Hispanics, Latino students and lawyers to believe that their life experiences added value to the process.’’

As the new personification of an intellectual rock star, Sotomayor has been inundated with interview requests—from Vogue to Newsweek, El País to Le Monde. But the new justice has yet to agree to a sit-down, aside from one she granted C-Span for a documentary on the Supreme Court. When I asked about a formal interview for this magazine, she told me, “I am not doing interviews and have said no to everyone. I do not want to be seen as having favorites.”

She did, however, agree to have her portrait taken for the cover and inside pages. And she went as far as granting me her blessing: “You will have to write based on our history together.”

And that’s exactly what I’ve done.

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