Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fraud Busting Begins at Home

New York Times op-ed January 29, 2006

Fraud Busting Begins at Home


When it comes to fighting fraud, New York State is 143 years behind the times.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the False Claims Act, allowing ordinary people to blow the whistle on fraudulent federal contractors by suing them on behalf of taxpayers. The so-called Lincoln Law gave whistleblowers an incentive to fight fraud by rewarding them with a portion of recovered stolen money.

Since Congress modernized it in 1986, the Lincoln Law has become the federal government's single most important tool in combating fraud. According to Taxpayers Against Fraud, a public interest group, federal whistleblower lawsuits have recovered $17 billion and saved billions more by deterring corrupt practices.

Yet New York's Legislature has been unwilling or unable to pass a False Claims Act to combat fraud against state programs, even though California, Florida, Texas and more than a dozen other states have done so, recovering tens of millions of dollars for their taxpayers. Just last month, Congress, which allows states to keep a percentage of Medicaid dollars recovered through federal whistleblower suits, approved a 10 percent penalty on states without False Claims Acts -- a penalty New York can ill afford.

New Yorkers deserve better. A strong False Claims Act would allow anyone with inside information about a major scheme bilking the state to secretly file a case against the perpetrators. The case would be referred to the attorney general, who could take over the suit, dismiss it, settle it or allow the whistleblower to prosecute it on the state's behalf. A guilty party would pay the state treble damages plus additional fines, and could be barred as a government contractor. The amount of money the whistleblower gets would depend on the value of the information provided, and the time and expense he or she spent on the lawsuit. Crucially, the law would prohibit employers from retaliating against whistleblowers for exposing fraudulent practices.

Although a False Claims Act would apply to all state spending, health care fraud best illustrates the need for the Legislature to act now.

For the same reason that Willie Sutton famously robbed banks, big-money schemes aim at Medicaid and other state health care programs. A former state investigator recently estimated that Medicaid fraud alone costs New Yorkers as much as $18 billion a year.

Health care fraud is particularly pernicious in New York because Gov. George Pataki's Department of Health, which is charged with referring Medicaid fraud cases to the attorney general for prosecution, has been ineffective. Health Department regulators last year discovered only 37 cases of suspected fraud out of 400 million claims and audited just 95 healthcare providers out of 140,000.

Complicated health care schemes are similar to the complicated Wall Street schemes that Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (whose office I will be running for) investigated because often only insiders can detect them. It turns out that health care workers like doctors, nurses, accountants and administrators are perfectly positioned to be health care fraud inspectors. The genius of a False Claims Act is that it gives workers strong incentives to expose fraud and strong protections against employer retaliation. It also gives health care unions an incentive to educate members how to spot, expose and prosecute health care fraud. If New York had its own law, it would better empower New York's attorney general to aggressively fight fraud against Medicaid and other joint federal and state programs in the face of federal inaction.

Opponents of whistleblower suits claim they invite frivolous and abusive litigation. To no one's surprise, these opponents tend to be big health care conglomerates and drug companies that are used to receiving a lot of government money with little government oversight. (They are also a major source of campaign contributions.) The truth, though, is that the attorney general's ability to dismiss a whistleblower-initiated lawsuit basically eliminates the risk of frivolous or abusive litigation.

In addition, empowering patients and health care workers to expose health care fraud isn't just a lifeline for the state's struggling Medicaid program, but also a lifesaver for Medicaid patients. For example, it's a fraud to bill Medicaid for faulty medical equipment, improper medical procedures or shipments of medicine with false expiration dates. Combating such practices can save patients from dangerous health care providers and businesses.

Lincoln knew government must be accountable to taxpayers, and that ordinary taxpayers can help. He was right. It's the status quo in Albany that's wrong. Mark Green is the former public advocate for New York City.

Mark Green is the former public advocate for New York City.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Acorn: Yesterday's Tenant Activist, Today's Landlord

Subject: Acorn: Yesterday's Tenant Activist, Today's Landlord
Date: 1/30/2006 4:53:27 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: tenant@tenant.net
Sent from the Internet (Details)

from the NEW YORK TIMES:Yesterday's Tenant Activist, Today's LandlordNew
York Times
January 11, 2005

Yesterday's Tenant Activist, Today's Landlord

Four years ago, dozens of frantic tenants in some dilapidated EastHarlem buildings known as Pleasant East confronted the threat ofeviction by enlisting the help of housing organizers from anationally known activist group.

The organizers taught them thebenefits of direct action, and a strategy of demonstrations, ralliesand meetings saved their homes.People were pumped up and happy. But the joyful strains of "Solidarity Forever" were abruptly silenced last month when theactivists - New York Acorn Housing Company - went from partners in organizing to landlord. The group bought the buildings from the federal government,
which had been managing the foreclosed properties. People who had once marched alongside tenants were now informing them that security and maintenance staff would be halved and a local management office closed.

Many tenants, who pay a fraction of market rents for their subsidized apartments, are angry and said the decisions were made without consulting them. But in contrast to their situation four years ago, when they had little idea how to save their buildings,now they are taking aim at the very people who taught them how to be grass-roots housing warriors.

"We're fighting Acorn with their own weapons," said Carmen Pichardo,a tenant leader and former volunteer with the group, which is formally known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. "What is Acorn but an organization of people? I learned a lot from them. They showed me we deserve certain things. So if we do not get certain things now, we will fight them.

"Acorn officials said the turn of events, while unpleasant, was notunexpected. They had faced similar upheavals in other buildings they had bought, but rode out the problems and won over doubters. Still,the current dispute offers a window into the
competing tensions confronting advocates turned landlords.

Acorn is known for its advocacy work for low and moderate-income families nationwide, and its political involvement with the Working Families Party in New York City. Its housing group controls more than 500 apartments in New York, and some of them are home to dedicated volunteer members of the organization, said Ismene Speliotis, who is in charge of housing. "The tension is as a landlord, we have to maintain affordable housing," she said. "But I can't just do good housing and say that's enough. I have an obligation to the institution so our members become city wideleaders. So if I do a bad job with housing, it hurts our organizing.

"At Pleasant East, Acorn's one-time allies now speak bitterly of having been used by the organizers. The buildings, four of them on two different blocks on East 117th and 119th Streets, had a sorry history of neglect over the years. Crime, especially drug dealing,was rampant, and the buildings were broken into regularly. At one point,numerous violations led federal housing officials to conclude that there was little option but to order a complete eviction.

Tenants reached out to Acorn organizers, who had begun to be active in the area, which has increasingly become the target for real estate speculators and yuppies seeking cheaper rents. The campaign that they mounted was ultimately successful, as
federal housing officials took over the building from its private landlord and canceled the eviction plans.

Under the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, armedguards were posted in the buildings, and a local management officewas set up in one of them so residents could make rent payments orrequest repairs.

Acorn, which expressed interest in buying the buildings in 2000,finally bought them in mid-December for $17 million, winning out over many speculators who had been eyeing the properties. The group realized since then that it could not afford to provide armedsecurity, which HUD had paid for from its own budget and not from the building's limited rent rolls. A similar review of maintenance staffled it to be cut in half, although those who remained were enrolledin a union.

Of the 111 apartments that are occupied, 25 of them now receivefederal rent subsidies. The rest of the tenants are paying reduced rents and have to be certified for government housing assistance.

Tenants pay 30 percent of their income, resulting in rents that range from about $300 to, in one case, $24 after subsidies.

"It was not a realistic way to run a building," Ms. Speliotis said, referring to the
staff and guard levels. "The tenants had been lulled into this sense of security and having an on-site office. But it did not make mathematical sense. I told them the numbers did not work. We did not have that luxury.

"She hopes to explain herself to tenants at a meeting next week. She already won over some of them at a recent gathering; they trust her to make good on promises that the building will be safer and better.

Dionisia Agramonte, a tenant, said she thought it was a waste of money to have armed guards on duty when the money would be better put to use rehabilitating apartments.

"Anytime the management changes, there are problems," Ms. Agramontesaid. "Now there will be no more transitions. In time, it will be a benefit to us.

"Ms. Speliotis said that she had hoped tenants would be willing to work with the local precinct so the police could come into buildings and patrol for trespassers, but that tenants refused. She admitted that supporting police patrols was an odd call for her group, which usually champions community power.

"We set up a committee in our Bronx building to work with the police so they could do vertical patrols," she said. "It is not a program in line with Acorn's view of civil rights, but it is a tool we have as a landlord."

This has not gone over well with residents who embraced the group four years ago.

"Humiliation is bad, but betrayal is worse," Ms. Pichardo said.

"They are worse than any landlord, because they used to struggle with us."

As she walks through the neighborhood, fellow tenants approach her, confused about where and how to pay rent or get repairs. Several tenants said they had called the new management office in Yonkers but had yet to have anyone come by and fix broken lights or closets.

The loss of armed security has especially alarmed tenants, who said they have already encountered teenagers drinking and smoking in the stairwell. Ms. Pichardo said the daughters of one neighbor came home recently and encountered a couple having sex in the hallway.

Miguel Ortiz, a musician who lives in one of the buildings, said he had not experienced any problems.

"Not yet," he said. "But it's still early."

Like many of his neighbors, he is unsure what Acorn plans for his building. Not that the group has been invisible.

"I think they are more political than anything else," he said. "We only see them in the newspaper. It's always about political action. That's cool, but we just want to make sure we have a place to live next week."

Politics has been a big part of Rafael Verdejo's life for much of his 68 years. For 27 of those years, he has lived in a six-room apartment, in whose living room he proudly displays his two diplomas and a portrait of Pedro Albizu Campos, the late Puerto Rican Nationalist leader.

Mr. Verdejo, who is retired, now gets by on $1,000 a month. "I do not have a bourgeois mentality," he explained.

His first dealings with Acorn were good. He has since soured on the group, feeling that it did not understand the tenants' concerns during the transition. Maintenance is bad, and so is communication, he said.

"I was always pro-working class," he said. "But when there is no collectivity in class struggle, then I have to criticize the organization. We cannot fool each other."

Maybe Engels was right, he added: Only a revolution will solve the housing crisis.

"He had such a futuristic vision," he said. "When you turn your back on the working class, something is wrong with you."

The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
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email: tenant@tenant.net
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
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Grey Wolf-6

Another reporter who doesn't understand Eminent Domain abuse

Subject: Another reporter who doesn't understand Eminent Domain abuse
Date: 1/29/2006 1:25:20 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
From: kitchen@hellskitchen.net
Sent from the Internet (Details)

NB - It's this sort of reporting that will result in incredible weak reform of Eminent Domain. Perhaps well-intentioned, I suspect that this report, like others, is driven by self-serving politicians who can't stand the thought of losing control over Eminent Domain. Surely a populist sentiment, so-called reforms are as meaningful as low-tar cigarettes. It's nonsense. [even though I'm a smoker, the analogy is valid]

While notification and compensation are indeed abused in the current practice of ED, what the reporter doesn't seem to realize that the main objection -- from the left as well as the right -- is that ED is being used to give the condemned property to other private interests under the guise of "public interest," not public use. This is the flaw of the Brodsky bill that would allow any municipality to make a declaration of blight and do the same thing what they already do, albeit by an authority. No wonder Brodsky didn't want to make his so-called hearings public. [remember that when he's running for AG]

And like Brodsky, the Bradly-Humbach-Reisman bill would do nothing to stop the state government from evicting 55 viable businesses and handing the land over to the New York Times/Ratner, nor would it stop the Atlantic Yards/Ratner plan, or the Columbia plan. Nor would it have saved the Washburn Wire Furniture site in East Harlem from being handed over to Costco/Home Depot. There's a long and growing list.

It might give the victims a little more notice that they were going to be screwed, and it might give them a bit more money, but it won't stop wealthy corporations from buying up the politicians in order to get someone else's land and from bulldozing communities.

The problem is that Eminent Domain is a tool, as much as Air Rights is a tool, that is being abused widely by politicians who find it too easy to unleash rather than using them sparingly, wisely and targeted.

The Brodsky and Bradly bills are designed to take the wind out of the ED fight, give a few crumbs back to the public in terms of compensation, fail to curtail the practice in a meaningful way, but allow them to take credit for that which they have not done.

And reporters, who are always under pressure to pound-out some copy that seems to make sense, will not perform due diligence, will not understand how communities are sold off, and drink too much kool-aid.

Moves made in Albany to soften eminent domain's impact

(Original publication: January 29, 2006)

If you believe that eminent domain often amounts to a shameful swindle of homeowners and small businesses, then here's something you can do about it.

Write to your representative in Albany and tell him or her to get behind a new piece of proposed legislation marked A09473, which was recently drafted by state Assemblyman Adam Bradley, a Democrat from White Plains.

Make no mistake. This is not a means to stop eminent domain, but a meaningful solution to make it fairer. Passing this law will help bring balance to a high-stakes enterprise in which government can legally seize private property under the justification of a public purpose.

Before I get into the specifics of Bradley's bill, here's some background. Traditionally, eminent domain has been used to make way for things like bridges, roads and libraries or, similarly, for urban renewal projects in abandoned areas. In recent years, however, it has gained well-deserved infamy because municipalities desperately in search of greater and greater tax revenue have increasingly resorted to condemning viable middle- and working-class neighborhoods as "blighted" so that hot-shot profiteers can transform the urban landscape into mega-developments complete with high-rise apartments, hotels and big-box stores.

Look no further than downtown Port Chester to see what eminent domain has wrought.

Though property owners are compensated for their losses, they often have little chance to fight against condemnation or even get a fair deal, especially in states like New York, where the system has long been rigged in favor of the unholy alliance of government and big corporate interests. They may get a judge's low-ball interpretation of a "fair market" value but find themselves unable to find a replacement property because they've been priced out by the ever-rising cost of real estate.

Public outrage about eminent domain bubbled over in the wake of last year's controversial 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision that upheld the right of New London, Conn., to expedite a giant hotel complex by seizing modest waterfront homes, some of which had been owned by generations of families.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a column in which I touted the ideas of John A. Humbach, a professor at Pace University School of Law in White Plains, who believes it is unrealistic and even reckless to indiscriminately stop cash-strapped municipalities from using eminent domain as a way to climb out of fiscal distress.

In a nutshell, Humbach said a better approach would be to ensure that an "unwilling seller" receives at least the amount of money needed to find a comparable home or business property in the same town.

I called this humanistic concept "Humbach's Rule."

Bradley told me the column "hit the nail on the head" and was the inspiration behind A09473. The current draft bill has four components.

� It calls for the option of a jury trial to decide any claim involving a private residence or a business with gross receipts of less than $1 million.

� It requires that the property owner receive compensation "at least equal to the actual cost of purchasing an equivalent property in a similarly situated location with a similar structure on the property."

� The bill demands that property owners be reimbursed for their legal fees and court costs.

� It calls for the reimbursement of all moving expenses and mortgage closing costs.

Bradley said the possibility of placing the issue of fair compensation into the hands of an impartial jury was the key piece of the legislation.

"It's pivotal," he said. "You're automatically going to have a much more sensible approach to what compensation is because Sam the shoemaker who's been in business for 80 years is going to have much more sympathy from a jury."

Humbach, who testified before a state Senate committee about eminent domain in October and who has read Bradley's bill, stressed that not all cases would necessarily go before a jury.

"It sits there in the background," he said of the possibility. "And that means that the homeowner or business owner can always say: 'This is just not fair. I want to take my case that I am being under-compensated to 12 people who aren't professionals and don't have an interest.' That'll keep both sides honest."

This bill makes sense. But believe me, the lawyers and powerful developers they represent will lobby like hell to make sure it never passes.

They tried but failed to stop a law that was pushed hard by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, that did away with the diabolical system of using legal classified ads as the only means to notify unsuspecting citizens that their property was about to be seized.

And they are trying to stop a proposed Westchester law, backed by Legislators Tom Abinanti, D-Greenburgh and Jim Maisano, R-New Rochelle that would, among other things, prohibit the county from giving grants to developers who have benefited from eminent domain.

The guys with the deep pockets don't have to win. But it's up to you.

Hell's Kitchen Online(tm) -- NYC's West Side Wonderland
web: http://hellskitchen.net
email: kitchen@hellskitchen.net
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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pinnacle in the News


Vol. 19, No. 2 Jan. 26 - Feb. 8, 2006

Controversial Landlord Fined for Illegal Rent Hikes


The state has found that a controversial management company intentionally overcharged some Bronx tenants after the buildings were purchased. The Pinnacle Group was caught flouting the legal limit for a rent increase in two cases, but advocates and tenants charge that the practice is rampant.

The state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) ruled last year that Pinnacle had overcharged two tenants after purchasing three Olinville Avenue properties in 2003. In addition to a rent reduction, tenants received monetary damages from Pinnacle because the error was �willful,� according to DHCR documents obtained from an organization helping in the cases.

The two Olinville Avenue tenants were charged $110 and $258 a month over the legal limit for increases to a vacated rent controlled apartment. In both cases, Pinnacle issued a rent based on the number of bedrooms, not a percentage increase from the previous rate, according to Hazel Miura of the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation, a Bronx organization assisting the tenants.

The Marino Organization, a public relations firm hired by Pinnacle, said they always follow rent guidelines. �The numbers are what dictates the rent,� said Frank Marino, the firm�s president, last week.

But after the rulings, other tenants suddenly received notices from Pinnacle stating that it had miscalculated their initial rent due to a �clerical error.� The Olinville Avenue residents received a credit and a new monthly rent.

Miura believes Pinnacle did this to avoid paying additional treble damages (fees levied by the state for willful overcharges). �What angers me is that it�s the same issue with all the other tenants,� she said about the overcharges.

Miura succeeded in reducing seven other tenants� rents in court, but they were not awarded further treble damages. When she brought up the issue with DHCR, Miura says she was told that since Pinnacle is handling the matter, they should not be further punished.

But tenants in other buildings bought by the company report similar issues. Pinnacle has quickly amassed a sprawling empire of apartments in low-income areas, including the northwest Bronx. As the Norwood News has documented in several previous articles, the company begins by making certain structural improvement to the properties. Pinnacle residents in the Bronx and Manhattan say, however, that the company then begins a campaign to drive them out.

Hundreds of Bronx tenants have been sued by Pinnacle for back rent or specious claims of false residency, according to housing court records. Some of the tenants were forced to pay. Other cases were dismissed after rent arrears were nullified or technicalities � like tenants paying rent with a married name instead of a maiden one � were thrown out.

Marino said that Pinnacle follows an appropriate timeline before resorting to a suit. He asserted that the total number of evictions is low.

Many tenants also feel that Pinnacle is breaking rules concerning Major Capital Improvements (MCIs), or large repairs that tenants help pay, to reap greater profits. Pinnacle requested MCIs for a new roof and elevator in one of its Riverside Drive properties in Manhattan, but neither was replaced � just refurbished, according to Rylona Watson, a tenant.

�It�s a recipe for fraud,� she said, during a building-wide meeting of Pinnacle tenants last week. �They have manufactured their documentation.�

Tenants also report questionable practices when the company renovates vacant apartments. Pinnacle claims to have done work ranging from $13,000 to $25,000 per unit, then passes a percentage on to the new resident, according to several tenants. But the work orders look fishy. A few obtained from Olinville Avenue apartments are not printed on company stationery. Some supply invoices are clearly from a store, but the bill totals don�t match the checks proving payment. None of the check stubs have identifying information on them.

�There is no way to determine what was actually paid with those checks,� Miura said.

In a particularly egregious example, a Riverside Drive resident�s bill listed six toilets and hundreds of drywall sheets. �They refused to acknowledge the fact that there were six toilets on it,� said Mark Gordon, who successfully reduced the costs in court.

DHCR oversees the MCI process. They are responsible for ensuring that fees passed on to tenants fall within the legal percentage, but the agency does not determine if the bills are legitimate or the work was necessary, according to Miura.

Peter Moses, a DHCR spokesperson, acknowledged that Pinnacle paid treble damages in the two cases. He would not say anything else about the matter or whether there were additional cases involving Pinnacle. �I�ve had very little luck in getting stats,� he said.

Marino said that DHCR wouldn�t approve inappropriate work. �These expenses are in line what they are seeing all over the city,� said Marino, who also represents Wal-Mart and BJ�s Wholesale Club, among other powerful companies, in their city real estate bids.

Some elected officials are starting to look into the issue. Council Member Robert Jackson and Bill Perkins, a former member also from Manhattan, pledged to further investigate during the tenants meeting last week.

�[Pinnacle] is not in it to be a long-term landlord. They are in it to purchase a building, bring it up, and then sell it for a huge profit,� Jackson said.

Catalonia Nears Autonomy From Spain


Washington Post
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Catalonia Nears Autonomy From Spain

Supporters of the idea said it was a matter of good governance and common sense. "We're moving toward a system like in the United States, where a person is a citizen of a state and of the country, too," said Jose Lopez, 52, a news vendor in Barcelona "It's not going to break up the country."

"The closer you are to the people, the better you understand and govern them," said Giordi Lopez, 40, an employee trainer in Barcelona.

"We want the right to administer our money, and the more the better," said Angela Dias, 66, a shopper on Barcelona's Portal de l'Angel pedestrian boulevard.

Fernando Moraleda, the government's top spokesman, denied that Zapatero was pandering to fringe parties to keep his coalition afloat. The spokesman noted that other regions were also exploring autonomy bills, including Andalusia in the south, Galicia in the far northwest, and Valencia along the central Mediterranean coast.

Spain's 17 official regions were created when the newly democratic country passed its constitution in 1978.
During Franco's reign, power was tightly centralized in Madrid, and restrictions against regional languages such as Catalan and Basque were enacted to cement the unity of the state.

"The country has functioned better with decentralization, and we're trying to give a new push to a society that has changed," Moraleda said. "We share a common project that will improve the more we recognize the differences that unite us."

A central aim of the proposal is to keep more Catalan tax revenue at home, based on studies showing that the region sends between 7 and 9 percent more tax revenue to Madrid every year than it receives from the government in the form of services.

"We need more infrastructure and investment in our own region," said Pilar Dellunde, a member of the Catalonia legislature from the separatist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party that helped draft the bill. "If we don't put more coal in this locomotive, the whole of Spain will suffer."

According to the 177-page bill, the goal is to fulfill a "dream of a Catalonia with no impediments of any nature to the free and full interdependence that all nations today require . . . compatible with the development of a pluri-national state."

The proposal calls for Catalan to be the official and "preferential" language of Catalonia, alongside Castilian Spanish. It declares that Catalonia will be responsible for collecting all taxes levied in the region, have its own judiciary, and have the authority to change laws passed by the parliament in Madrid.

Initially, Catalan officials wanted to retain about 90 percent of the taxes collected in the region, but it appears now that they will keep about 50 percent.

A key sticking point remains whether the law will refer to Catalonia as a "nation," or to Catalonian "nationality."
"It's not a question of independence or not -- we have a language, a history, and a special corpus of law," said Dellunde, the legislator. "We want a different state, more democratic, a real pluralistic state that recognizes its diversity. We are different in some ways, and we want a state that's democratic enough to recognize it."

Special correspondent Pamela Rolfe contributed to this report.

Columbia Spectator - Quinn Settling Into New Role

Columbia Spectator

Quinn Settling Into New Role
By Sara Vogel
Spectator Staff Writer

January 20, 2006

Though the new City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn (D-Chelsea), and eight new council members may still be breaking in their leather chairs on the council floor, the entire body is also in the process of considering the issues that will comprise its agenda during the current legislative session.

Over the next few weeks, the new leaders will define their approaches to addressing long-standing issues, such as the city�s unbalanced budget, the affordable housing shortage, failing public schools, and health care reform.

Quinn, who succeeds term-limited Speaker Gifford Miller, is expected to weigh in on the controversial proposal for Gateway Mall in the Bronx by Feb. 8, a decision which may help to clarify the new council�s position on development.

While Quinn fought against the West Side Stadium proposal as a City Council member, she has not solidified her position on Columbia�s expansion plans. �It will get the full review process in the council and we will determine then what the best solution is for the community,� Maria Alvardo, a spokesperson for Speaker Quinn, said.

Maxine Griffith, Columbia�s vice president of government and community affairs, said she is optimistic about meetings with the new council.

Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chair of Community Board 9, also expressed CB9�s eagerness to work with the new City Council leadership on expansion issues.

�Speaker Quinn has a long history dealing with community boards. I have had many satisfactory contacts with her,� he said.

Quinn�s status as both the first female and the first openly gay City Council Speaker has sparked headlines from New York to New Zealand. �Her first responsibility is to the constituents,� Alvardo said. �There is no female way to take out the garbage; there is no gay way to take out the garbage.�

But it is not up to Quinn alone to determine the course of the legislative session.

�[The agenda] comes from outside as well as inside: the Mayor, other government officials and departments, external events such as changes in the economy and disasters of a sort,� Douglas Muzzio, public affairs professor at Baruch College said.

Council members have already begun to prepare for the release of the Mayor�s budget at the end of the month.

Before she was appointed, Quinn told attendees of a City Council Speaker�s Forum that the council should not raise property taxes again as a way to decrease budget deficits, but that cutting services is not a viable option, either.

�We won�t let the budget end up being balanced on the back of the neediest New Yorkers,� she said.

Just a few weeks into her term, Quinn�s colleagues said they are optimistic about her leadership.

�I admire Speaker Quinn,� Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem) wrote in an e-mail. �She is no-nonsense and a person of her word.... She is a person of inclusion, not exclusion.�

The relationship between the council and Mayor Bloomberg is as of yet uncertain.

�It will be an evolving relationship,� Muzzio said. �All other things equal, it may be less contentious under Quinn [than under Miller] because she does not seem to have Mayoral ambitions.�

�Council member Quinn and [he] have an excellent working relationship,� said Jordan Barowiz, spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg. �He respects her intellect and commitment to New York and looks forward to working with her.�

�I don�t think it�s useful for me to say I�m going to butt heads with the mayor on X,Y, and Z,� Quinn said in an interview with The New York Sun. �Hopefully there will be [fewer] times when we butt heads, but if we have to, I have a hard head, so it will be okay.�

According to Spokesperson Alvardo, �Their ultimate responsibility is to the people of this city and they are going to work together to make New York City a better place to live.�

Leora Falk contributed to this article.

Columbia Spectator - In Perkins� Shadow, Inez Dickens Appointed Majority Whip, Ethics Chair for City Council

Columbia Spectator

In Perkins� Shadow, Inez Dickens Appointed Majority Whip, Ethics Chair for City Council

By Sara Vogel
Spectator Staff Writer

January 23, 2006

As a long-time representative of Morningside Heights and Harlem exits the political arena, a well-known community activist has stepped in to continue the advocacy work of her predecessor.

Inez Dickens, a high-ranking member of the New York State Democratic Committee and a lifelong resident of the 9th District, has assumed the office of term-limited City Councilman Bill Perkins, a neighborhood figure elected to the council for the first time in 1997.

In her first few weeks in office, Dickens, who was appointed majority whip and chair of the Ethics Committee by the council speaker last week, met with neighborhood leaders to start the legislative term by picking up where Perkins left off.

�Bill Perkins and I have been political allies for many years,� Dickens wrote in an e-mail. �We are Democrats and we do not differ greatly on issues. Rather we have always found ways to use our collective resources to empower and enrich our community.�

�I think [Dickens] will do a very good job,� Perkins said. �I want to help her in any way I can. She�ll be the greatest councilperson that this city has ever had.�

Perkins was an outspoken opponent of Columbia�s possible use of eminent domain in Manhattanville. Dickens also expressed her concern about gentrification and the effects of development on surrounding neighborhoods. �While I welcome ... a revitalized economy, I hope that the long standing residents of the Ninth Council District will not be displaced or adversely affected by economic development activities going on throughout northern Manhattan,� she wrote.

Dickens has already met with representatives from Columbia and Community Board 9 to begin learning both parties� views on expansion.

�We�re looking forward to having an opportunity to sit with her, brief her on Manhattanville plans, and also to hear her concerns and offer to be of assistance where her legislative agenda overlaps with the University�s agenda,� said Maxine Griffith, Columbia�s vice president for Government and Community Affairs.

CB9 is also optimistic about relations with the new councilwoman. �She is a very savvy person who has been around a long time,� Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chair of CB9, said. �I have no doubt that what we discuss will be fruitful.�

�I think [Perkins�] greatest accomplishments was what he did around the Central Park jogger cases and keeping alive the issue of wrongly convicted black and Latino young men,� said Juan Gonzalez, who has covered Perkins extensively for the Daily News. �I think it was a huge and very unpopular cause, but he stuck to it and was able to get several young men released from jail.�

While Perkins often sparred with the mayor and fellow councilmembers while in office and was often at the forefront of many controversial issues in city politics, he may be best remembered for many of the initiatives he introduced and championed to enfranchise minority groups and the poor.

�My sense is that Councilman Perkins has been one of the most effective councilmembers in terms of raising issues and getting legislation designed in order to confront major issues of concern, not only to minority communities but all communities,� Gonzalez said.

Dickens hopes to follow in this tradition by focusing on constituent services. �I want to be remembered as someone who spoke out against the pain, suffering, and injustice we see everyday,� she wrote in an e-mail. �Listening, I learn, I can then respond even if I can�t do all that I may wish to do.�

Perkins has many plans for his post-City Hall life, which may include teaching at the college level and heading up a progressive activist think tank. Though his campaign for Manhattan borough president was unsuccessful last November, Perkins did not rule out running for another elected position, including �something on the federal level.�

Alli Yang contributed to this article.

Columbia Spectator - Harlem Sen. To Run With Eliot Spitzer

Columbia Spectator

Harlem Sen. To Run With Eliot Spitzer

Surprising Many Political Pundits, Paterson Has Agreed to Run for Lieutenant Governo
By Sara Vogel

Spectator Staff Writer

January 27, 2006

State Senator David Paterson (D-Harlem), the Senate minority leader, will run for lieutenant governor alongside Eliot Spitzer, the state attorney general and front-runner in the race for governor, news outlets reported this week.

Spitzer�s selection of Paterson, who has represented Harlem in Albany since 1986, comes as a surprise to the political world, both because of its early timing in the campaign season and its implications for former Hillary Clinton counsel Leecia R. Eve, another black candidate whom many Harlem Democrats had endorsed for the position.

�Eliot believes that David will be a tremendous asset in helping to build consensus for change in the State Legislature,� Robert Toohey, Spitzer�s campaign manager, wrote on the campaign�s blog. �In David, he has a trusted partner who can deftly work the halls of the state capitol. This is critical because to a large degree an executive is only as effective as his ability to unite others in working towards a common goal.�

The lieutenant governor has few defined responsibilities other than being next in line for the governor�s chair and serving as the ceremonial presiding officer of the Senate. By running statewide, Paterson is giving up the prospect of assuming the much more powerful post of Senate majority leader in the event Democrats win control of the Senate within the next few years.

The Spitzer campaign declined comment on the particulars of the decision. Paterson�s office also declined comment and has not yet released an official acceptance statement.

Eve, who has not officially withdrawn from the race, has been preparing her campaign for lieutenant governor for almost a year. She was endorsed by several leading Harlem Democrats including Representative Charles Rangel (D-Harlem); David Dinkins, the former mayor; Percy Sutton, a former Manhattan borough president; and even Paterson�s father, Basil Paterson, a fixture in state and city administrations.

�I don�t remember David Paterson asking any of us for his support, but if Eliot has picked a candidate, who am I to deny him that decision?� Rangel told The New York Times.

At least one community leader expressed delight at the prospect of a Lieutenant Governor Paterson.

�As lieutenant governor, he will be visible and out in the forefront. I know he will not forget where he came from,� said

Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chair of Community Board 9. �When New York City gets the short end of the stick, Harlem gets no stick, and with David Paterson there, that will not happen.�

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Pataki announces program to boost biotech

Subject: (no subject)
Date: 1/27/2006 2:49:05 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: PatJonesNY
Reply To:
To: Reysmontj

Crain�s Health Pulse

Pataki announces program to boost biotech
by Catherine Tymkiw

Gov. George Pataki announced a $200 million program to promote biotech research, according to an announcement late Thursday.

Of the $200 million, $40 million will be used to build facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Columbia, Cornell, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Mount Sinai and New York University are among the schools and research facilities that will use the funds to expand biotechnology and biomedicine research. The grants would be matched another $600 million in already-pledged private and federal funding.

The initial $200 million will come from a combination of $40 million of previously authorized capital funding and $160 million from the Charitable Asset Foundation, a trust created in 2002 to help expand or create health care programs and solutions.

Two boards would be created to oversee the grant program. The Biomedicine Advisory Board would create a process for applications and reviewing proposals. The Bioethics Advisory Board would be responsible for keeping the foundation informed about ethical, social and legal issues arising from the applicants. Issues could range from using human research subjects to outlining protocols for procuring biomedical materials.

The hot-button issue of embryonic stem cell research was not addressed. �It was studiously neutral in language,� said a spokesman for New Yorkers for the Advancement of Medical Research.

The Catholic Conference is fighting the funding of stem cell research, using such tactics as sending �action alerts� to people on its mailing lists asking them to write the governor saying that destroying embryos is immoral. �There could still be a legislative fight on embryonic cell use,� according to NYAMR.

A version of this story appeared earlier in Crain�s Health Pulse.

Friday, January 27, 2006

New York Council Calendar for the week of 01/30/2006 to 02/03/2006:

Subject: RE: Council Calendar
Date: 1/27/2006 4:29:38 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: webmaster@council.nyc.ny.us
To: ReysmontJ@aol.com
Sent from the Internet (Details)

New York Council Calendar for the week of 01/30/2006 to 02/03/2006:
DATE: Monday, January 30, 2006
COMMITTEE: ADDITION* General Welfare, Chairperson(s):Bill de Blasio
TIME: 12:00 PM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall

Oversight - New York City's Child Welfare System

DATE: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* General Welfare, Chairperson(s):Bill de Blasio
TIME: 11:00 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall

Oversight - New York City?s Child Welfare System

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Education, Chairperson(s):Robert Jackson
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 16th Floor
DETAILS: Organizational Meeting

DATE: Wednesday, February 01, 2006
COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Zoning & Franchises, Chairperson(s):Tony Avella
TIME: 9:45 AM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
DETAILS: See Land Use Calendar

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Land Use, Chairperson(s):Melinda R. Katz
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
DETAILS: All items reported out of the subcommittees

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Rules, Privileges & Elections, Chairperson(s):Diana Reyna
TIME: 10:30 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall

Res. ___ - Amending various rules of the Council.

COMMITTEE: , Chairperson(s):
Committee Room - City Hall

Stated Council Meeting Ceremonial Tributes......... - 1:00 p.m. Agenda.............................................................................. - 1:30 p.m.

DATE: Thursday, February 02, 2006
COMMITTEE: Transportation, Chairperson(s):John C. Liu
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Oversight - Terror proofing the Subways: Is the MTA there yet?

*Selected Commitees are not listed.
This is an automated mailer, so please confirm these dates by checking the Hearings and Meetings Calendar on our website, for the schedule may change at the last minute. Thank you.
The Webmaster of the New York City Council

Another Spanish Cinema: Film in Catalunya, 1906 - 2006

Another Spanish Cinema:
Film in Catalunya, 1906 - 2006
Jan 27 - Feb 14

Organized by the Film Society in collaboration with the Institut Ramon Llull and Catalan Films. Special thanks the Filmoteca de la Generalitat de Catalunya and the Instituto Cervantes in New York. Special thanks also to Angela Bosch, Mary Ann Newman, Ramon Font, Rosa Saz Alpuente and Roman Gubern for their help in making this series possible.

Radiating out from one of the world's most beautiful cities, Barcelona, Catalunya has had its own language, cultural traditions and extraordinary achievement in the visual arts. It has also been a center for creative filmmaking that has often produced innovative works of great merit, works that are both part of Spanish film history but which also constitute a distinctive stream within that history.

Barcelona was arguably the capital of filmmaking in Spain during the silent era, relinquishing that position only with the coming of sound in the early 30s. After the Civil War the use of the Catalan language in any kind of public discourse was forbidden by the Franco government.

The 60s in Catalunya were marked by the emergence of what became known as the Barcelona School, a loose collection of filmmakers whose works reflected everything from a fascination with the world of design and fashion to a commitment to upturn traditional notions of storytelling in the cinema. Seen today, the films of the Barcelona School seem closer in spirit to American avant-garde work of the time than to the European modernism of the French New Wave, Antonioni or Bergman.

The death of Franco and the reestablishment of democracy in Spain led to an outpouring of nationalist spirit in Catalan cinema, which once again could be in the Catalan language. Works such as The Burned City and Diamond Plaza broke box-office records, and their screenings at times became political events.

Catalunya continued to be a haven for some of the most singular, offbeat filmmakers in Spain, such as Bigas Luna and Agust� Villaronga, whose films combined the anarchic streak of 60s cinema with pronounced use of genre, especially horror.

Beginning with his extraordinary documentary Oca�a, Intermittent Portrait, Ventura Pons created one of the most distinctive filmographies in contemporary Spanish cinema, examining and challenging sexual identities and stereotypes while drawing rich and often hilarious portraits of contemporary Catalans (and others).

Director Marc Recha in The Cherry Tree and other works has taken the Catalan countryside as his setting and his subject, showing the dark currents that often run beneath the seemingly tranquil and often gorgeous landscapes.

And Jos� Luis Guerin is that rare experimental filmmaker whose works attract considerable audiences, especially his marvelous Work in Progress.

Don Juan Tenorio
Ricardo de Ba�os, 1922; 130m
with live piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Jos� Zorilla's classic drama of reckless lust and final retribution has been a perennial favorite on the Spanish stage and screen. This 1922 version pulled out the stops in terms of sets, costumes, and bold, sweeping action; the Filmoteca of Catalunya has now beautifully restored the film, and we're delighted to be able to include it. Spanish actor Fortunio Bonanova stars as the intrepid Don, who on the basis of a bet with a friend sets out to seduce Do�a In�s, a young novice in a convent, but a string of unexpected events leads him into a duel and then to flee Seville. The poor, betrayed In�s dies of a broken heart. Years later he returns, but finds his every step haunted by the spirit of the woman he abandoned. This version proved so popular that in the mid-30s the Ba�os brothers released it again, this time with a synchronized soundtrack; unhappily, the work was soon banned as immoral by Franco.

Buy Tickets
Sun Feb 5: 2

Films of the Spanish Civil War
Compilation program, approx. 80m

Report on the Revolutionary Movement in Barcelona / Reportaje de movimento revolucionario en Barcelona Mateo Santos, 1936

Help Madrid! / Ayuda a Madrid!, F�lix Marquet, 1936

The Burial of Durruti / L'enterrament de Durruti, CNT-FAI, 1936

Heroic Division / Divisi�n heroica, F�lix Marquet and Adrian Porchet, 1937

Catalunya Martyred / Catalunya m�rtir, J. Marsillach, 1938

A rare opportunity to see a number of works created in Catalunya during the Spanish Civil War; each film an invaluable record of the times, created at the moment when the battle between the Republic and Franco's forces was raging all over Spain. Report on the Revolutionary Movement was one of the first films produced by the anarcho-syndicalists, showing the mounting of defenses against the Franco forces; Help Madrid! details the help being sent by Catalans to the besieged Spanish capital; The Burial of Durruti records a burial that became a rallying point for the resistance; Heroic Division looks at the battle to take Huesca; and Catalunya Martyred captures the terrible effects of Franco's aerial bombardment of Barcelona.

Buy Tickets
Sun Feb 5: 4:45

Gonzalo Su�rez, 1967; 92m
This modernist updating of the detective film begins as reporter Jos� Ditirambo is hired by the bitter widow of a recently deceased writer to find the young woman who, according to the widow, destroyed her husband's life. Unsure of how far he wants to go with his assignment, Ditirambo nevertheless begins to assemble a wide variety of possible connections to the young woman. He visits one of her ex-lovers, the millionaire Palacios, who give him a suitcase full of money for her; another connection gives him a gun with which he should kill her. "I have the impression that the world was created just for me" confesses Ditirambo at one point, and that suspicion that everything is predestined runs through the film, as everyone eventually is revealed to be part of someone else's plot.

Buy Tickets
Sun Feb 5: 6:45
Tue Feb 7: 4:20

Oca�a, Intermittent Portrait / Oca�a, retrat intermitent
Ventura Pons, 1979; 90m
Made on a shoestring, Pons's first major work is a remarkable and touching look at the life and world of one of Barcelona's most famous and outrageous transvestites. An Andalusian performance artist and political activist, Oca�a seemed to embody in his/her person several of the margins of Spanish society in the immediate post-Franco era, bearing witness in his frequent, extravagant walks down Barcelona's Ramblas to a spirit of rebelliousness that years of dictatorship had been unable to squelch. A milestone in Spanish cinema, and still a great cult favorite, Oca�a helped open a dialogue on sexual politics that continues to develop today.

Buy Tickets
Sun Feb 5: 8:30
Tue Feb 7: 8:30

Diamond Plaza / La Pla�a del Diamant
Francesc Betriu, 1982; 117m
Another watershed work for Catalan cinema, Diamond Plaza was based on a novel by Merc� Redoreda that many others had tried to adapt to the screen but failed. A rich historical fresco that stretches from the late 20s up through the early 50s, the film focuses on Colometa, beautifully played by S�lvia Munt, a young woman whose life registers everything from the euphoria that accompanied the declaration of the Spanish Republic to the devastation and economic hardship that defined the years following the Civil War. For the first time, many Spaniards from all regions saw their day-to-day lives during the darkest years of Franco captured on screen. An immensely powerful work, as well as an inspiring example of the new freedom Spaniards at last felt when addressing the recent past.

Buy Tickets
Tue Feb 7: 2
Tue Feb 7: 6:15
Sun Feb 12: 3

In a Glass Cage / Tras el cristal
Agust� Villaronga, 1987; 100m
"They don't make art-shockers like this anymore. In a Glass Cage is a great film, but I'm too scared to show it to my friends." - John Waters

Warning: this film contains images that some audiences might find upsetting.

In a house set off by itself on a lonely stretch of coast lives Klaus, a former medical officer in a concentration camp, his wife Griselda and her daughter Rena. Since suffering an accident, Klaus has been paralyzed and forced to stay in an iron lung. One day a young man, Angelo, shows up at their door, looking for work; they try to dissuade him, but it turns out Angelo has some information on one of Klaus's past crimes, so they allow him to stay and become Klaus's nurse. Gradually, it appears that Angelo has come not so much to care for Klaus as to learn from him; he's clearly bent on following in his master's nefarious footsteps, pursuing his model to the end of the line. Still banned in Australia, In a Glass Cage is an extraordinarily upsetting film; Villaronga so carefully and powerfully creates an atmosphere of total depravity, a world with no rules or boundaries, that watching the story unfold is profoundly unsettling - these are people completely aware of who they are and what they've done who reveal not a shred of conscience. Not for the faint-hearted, but not to be missed.

Buy Tickets
Wed Feb 8: 1
Sat Feb 11: 9:45
Sun Feb 12: 1

Warsaw Bridge / Pont de Vars�via
Pere Portabella, 1989; 90m
One of the key figures not only of Catalan but of Spanish cinema, Pere Portabella began his career as a producer of such seminal works as Saura's Los Golfos and Bunuel's Viridiana. In the 60s he was one of the founders and guiding lights of the Barcelona School, contributing to a number of its main works. After over ten years of inactivity in the cinema, Portabella roared back, arriving at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival with Warsaw Bridge. The film sets in motion three different characters, whose stories cross, run parallel or at times completely veer away from one another. Continuing with the experimental narrative approach that had characterized his work with the Barcelona School, Portabella creates a kind of "city symphony" of Barcelona (complete with a symphony orchestra playing outdoors), moving us through a dizzying number of locations as his characters keep trying to adjust to their new surroundings.

Buy Tickets
Wed Feb 8: 3
Sat Feb 11: 3:30

Anguish / Angoixa
Bigas Luna, 1987; 93m
"When critics and audiences were going ga-ga over the postmodern techniques of Scream, it was interesting that no one made note of Bigas Luna's Anguish, an immensely clever take on the genre made almost a decade before Craven's popular favorite... Bloody, scary, funny, and unsettling, Anguish is right up there with Mute Witness as the best fright flick that most people have never heard of." - Rod Armstrong, reel.com

One of Spanish cinema's resident malditos, Bigas Luna has fashioned a horror film that takes on the hardest subject of them all: why do people watch horror films? American actor Michael Lerner stars as a near-sighted mama's boy working for an ophthalmologist who is unexpectedly laid off. Goaded by his mother, he sets off take his revenge on a clear-sighted world - or is that that plot of the horror film we saw last week? Circling in and out of itself with grace and wit, Anguish has more than enough chills to delight fans of the genre while offering everybody else a reflection on why people like to be scared.

Buy Tickets
Thurs Feb 9: 2
Thurs Feb 9: 9:30
Sun Feb 12: 7:30

Jose Corbacho & Juan Cruz, 2005; 94m
One of the great box-office hits last year across Spain, Tapas is the the debut feature of actor Jos� Corbacho, who co-directed with his friend Juan Cruz. Five interlocking stories, stories with resonance in any large urban center, make up the narrative: young people wondering if their dead-end supermarket jobs are all the careers they'll ever have, a lonely, middle aged woman scared to follow up on some contacts she's made through the Internet, a retired couple carefully economizing their limited means. Yet at least once a day their stories and the many others that make up their neighborhood take time out for succulent little dishes - Spain's famous tapas - that come with some late afternoon refreshment. Gathering for tapas becomes much more than a time to eat, it's a time to reflect, to reassess, and especially to find out how everyone else is doing. Filmed largely in Barcelona's L'Hospitalet de Llobregat district, Tapas is a warm and often humorous portrait of a community and the rituals that not only sustain it but often taste quite good as well.

Buy Tickets
Thurs Feb 9: 4
Fri Feb 10: 8:30
Mon Feb 13: 1

Fausto 5.0
Alex Oll�, Isidro Ortiz, Carlos Padriso, 2001; 94m
Responsible for one of the most remarkable performances in the cultural festival that accompanied the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, the Catalan group La Fura dels Baus is widely considered one of Europe's most cutting-edge theater companies. Having earlier adapted Goethe's Faust to a multimedia play and then an opera, here they re-imagine it as film. Noted cancer specialist Dr. Fausto (Miguel Angel Sol�) sets off for a medical conference in a distant city; upon arrival he's picked up in a taxi by Santos (Eduard Fernandez), a former patient of Fausto's who claims that years before the good doctor saved his life - and now Santos would like to return the favor. Santos leads Fausto to a world existing in the shadow of the one we see and live in, a place where memory and fear compete for space with sensual reality. The extraordinary cinematography by Pedro del Rey bathes the images with rich curtains of color that give an instant theatrical feel to all its many locations. An auspicious entrance for a major theatrical company into the world of cinema.

Buy Tickets
Fri Feb 10: 2
Fri Feb 10: 6:30

Work in Progress / En construcci�n
Jos� Luis Guerin, 2001; 125m
One of the rare experimental filmmakers whose works often draw considerable audiences, Jos� Luis Guerin here offers a delightful visual essay on the transformation of Barcelona's "Barrio Chino" - so named because it was near the docks from which ships would embark for the Far East. Long known for its dimly lit cabarets, colorful characters and narrow back alleys, the Barrio inevitably began to fall victim to the wave of "urban renewal" that swept Barcelona around the time of the 1992 Olympic Games. Weaving together sequences of the Barrio's inhabitants, the construction workers sent to tear it down, and visitors hoping to catch a last glimpse of history, as well as beautiful period footage that shows the Barrio Chino in its more notorious days, Guerin takes us on a journey to one of Spain's most legendary neighborhoods. Awarded the International Critics' Prize at the 2001 San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Buy Tickets
Fri Feb 10: 4
Sat Feb 11: 1

Costa Brava
Marta Balletb�-Coll, 1995; 95m
Ana - played by director Balletb�-Coll - works as a tour guide but is really a performance artist, trying to scrape together the funds to stage on a new monologue. One day an American engineer living in Barcelona, Montserrat, comes on her tour. Although claiming not to be interested sexually in women, Montserrat feels attracted to Ana, and the two begin to spend a lot of time together. For her part, Ana doesn't quite know what to make of her new friend, whose culture and background - American, Jewish, science, academia - couldn't be further from her own. Yet gradually a bond begins to grow between them. Balletb�-Coll, who studied filmmaking at Columbia, brings a wonderfully light touch to the story; the action is so easygoing and free-flowing, especially the scenes between the two women, that the film has an improvisatory feel. Winner of Audience Awards at both the San Francisco and Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Festivals.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

MiamiHerald.com | 01/26/2006 | Muzzling free expression in Cuba

Posted on Thu, Jan. 26, 2006

Muzzling free expression in Cuba


Cuba has escalated its attacks on dissidents -- as if that could stifle the truth about its moral and economic bankruptcy. Yet the harassment, beatings and jailings have not deterred dissidents from calling attention to human-rights abuses and pressing for change in Cuba.

These critics simply won't back down. Their only defenses are the spotlight and international pressure that shame the regime and lessen some of the abuse. This is why Cuba's peaceful dissidents deserve the support of individuals, international groups and governments that cherish freedom.

Civil disobedience

The recent backlash against dissidents shouldn't surprise anyone. After 47 years of dictatorship, many Cubans are tired of empty promises and deprivation. They are taking to the seas in greater numbers. More than ever they are losing their fear. Nothing bothers the regime as much as a loss of control. So the regime resorts to an old method: It clamps down on uncontrolled activities, particularly any criticism of the regime.

The new wave of repression started in July when a mob attacked a dissident protest in Havana. The evictions, arrests and violence that followed were to be expected. What's new is that the measures aren't gaining popular support or stopping the protesters. Neighbors and co-workers, for example, no longer participate in the regime-organized mobs during ''acts of repudiation'' in which dissidents are insulted and often beaten -- another sign of the regime weakening. Acts of civil disobedience have nearly doubled since 2002, according to data from International Republican Institutes.

When the Ladies in White were harassed in an ''act of repudiation,'' the number of women marching to mass on Sundays more than doubled. The Ladies are relatives of political prisoners who peacefully protest for release of their kin. The Ladies landed in the international spotlight last year when the European Parliament awarded them its highest honor for human rights, the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. When Cuba denied the group's leaders permission to accept the award in person, the regime didn't win any points in Europe.

Not a free country

Cuba has more than 300 political prisoners, a number that also increased last year. It continues to arrest and detain people for speaking their mind, a crime that exists in no free country. It accuses dissidents of being lackies for the U.S. government, a ''crime'' punishable by 20 years or more in prison.

After 47 years of Fidel Castro, it is too easy to tune out news of such abuse. But Cuba's dissidents haven't given up. Neither should the world give up on the dissidents.

Hattie McDaniel, the first black actress to win an Academy Award honored with a U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamp.

Contact: Community Relations 202-268-4924
January 25, 2006
Stamp News Release No. 06-005


LOS ANGELES - Hattie McDaniel, movie actress, singer, radio and television personality, and the first African American to win an Academy Award today became the 29th honoree in the U.S. Postal Service's long-running Black Heritage commemorative stamp series.

The 39-cent Hattie McDaniel commemorative stamp highlights the achievements of this legendary performer who won the Oscar for her role as Mammy in the award-winning 1939 film Gone With the Wind. The new stamp is available today only in Beverly Hills Post Offices and nationwide tomorrow, January 26.

"When you are a person who is determined and hard-working, the tables can be turned. Hattie, though the youngest child of former slaves, achieved her greatest honor doing what she loved most-entertaining-for her role impersonating a slave," said Edgar Goff, nephew of Hattie McDaniel. "Her favorite expression was, 'Humble is the way.' "

Although McDaniel was often heavily criticized for playing maids and other stereotypical roles, she worked behind the scenes to battle racism and discrimination. McDaniel is remembered for saying, "I'd rather play a maid than be one," and although she encountered racism in Hollywood, she and several other black actors worked to change the film industry from within during the 1940's.

"The United States Postal Service is proud to salute the life and extraordinary legacy of Hattie McDaniel," said James C. Miller, Chairman of the U.S. Postal Service's Board of Governors, who dedicated the stamp. "This stamp is a powerful reminder of her unprecedented contribution to Hollywood and to her pioneering legacy to help make this country a better place."

The ceremony took place at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where the Hattie McDaniel collection includes photographs of Hattie and other family members, as well as scripts and other documents. The collection also contains a large number of recordings from the radio program, "Beulah."

Joining Chairman Miller from the Postal Service was Delores Killette, Vice President, Consumer Advocate. Also participating in the ceremony were Academy President Sid Ganis; Edgar Goff, nephew of Hattie McDaniel; Kim Goff-Crews, a grandniece of McDaniel and Dean of Students, Wellesley College; Dr. Mynora J. Bryant, International Grand Basileus, Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc. of which McDaniel was an honorary member; Ann-Marie Johnson, National First Vice President, Screen Actors Guild; Johnny Grant, Hollywood's Honorary Mayor; Linda Hopkins, Jazz and Blues legend; and Vonzell Solomon, performer, 2005 "American Idol" finalist and former postal carrier.

"We at the Academy are proud to see a portrait of Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar, gracing a U.S. postage stamp," said Academy President Sid Ganis. "We hope this newest recognition will remind Americans everywhere of the great stride forward made by this unassuming pioneer."

Among the honored guests were cast members from Gone with the Wind including Ann Rutherford, Patrick Curtis, Mickey Kuhn, and Cammie King Conlon; Wonderful Smith, McDaniel's friend and Chauffeur; Karl Malden, Member Emeritus, Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) and past president of the Academy; Jean Picker Firstenberg, Member, CSAC, and CEO, American Film Institute; Al Iniguez, Pacific Area Vice President, U.S. Postal Service; Bill Almaraz, Los Angeles District Manager, U.S. Postal Service; Koula Fuller, Beverly Hills Postmaster; and members of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.

McDaniel joins 28 other honorees in the Postal Service's Black Heritage commemorative stamp series which salutes outstanding African-American activists, theorists, writers, educators and leaders. Other notable Americans in the series include: the first African-American woman to be honored on a U.S. stamp and the first honoree in the Black Heritage series, abolitionist Harriet Tubman; Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.; prominent historian and son of a former slave, Dr. Carter G. Woodson; writer and composer Scott Joplin; Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; and classically trained performance artist Marian Anderson.

McDaniel was born June 10, 1895, in Wichita, Kan., and raised in Denver, Colo. Showing signs of her talent at an early age, she dropped out of school as a teenager to tour with vaudeville companies and traveled with musical ensembles and minstrel shows, including one run by her father. She sang on Denver radio as early as 1925, and she wrote and recorded several of her own songs.

McDaniel arrived in Hollywood in 1931 and soon began to appear in films. She is credited with appearing in more than 90 films, but is believed to have appeared in as many as 300, including uncredited roles as extras, maids, and chorus singers. She sang a duet with Will Rogers in Judge Priest (1934), a film directed by John Ford, and she often appeared alongside many of the brightest stars of the era, such as Clark Gable and Jean Harlow in Saratoga (1937) and Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams (1935), which featured a comic performance by McDaniel. Some of her other notable films included Show Boat (1936), In This Our Life (1942), which was praised for the depth and humanity of its black characters, and Since You Went Away (1944).

From 1947 until 1952, McDaniel played the title role in The Beulah Show, which was broadcast on national radio. As the first radio show to feature a black star, The Beulah Show was praised by the NAACP and the National Urban League. Although McDaniel again played a maid, she insisted that her character not speak in dialect, and she successfully negotiated the right to alter scripts that did not meet her approval. Shortly before her death, McDaniel was preparing to replace an actress in the television version of the The Beulah Show. McDaniel died of breast cancer at the age of 57 on October 26, 1952.

The stamp was designed by Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, MD and features a 1941 photograph of McDaniel by Tim O'Brien of Brooklyn, NY in the dress she wore on February 29, 1940, when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

The Postal Service continues its commitment to honor the historical achievements and contributions of African Americans. Through the popular Black Heritage stamp series these significant and educational contributions will continue to be recognized in the future. To see the Hattie McDaniel commemorative stamp and other images from the 2006 Commemorative Stamp Program, visit the Postal Store at www.usps.com/shop and click on "Release Schedule" in the Collector's Corner.

Current U.S. postage stamps, as well as a free comprehensive catalog, are available at 1-800-STAMP-24. A wide selection of stamps and other philatelic items is also available at the Postal Store at www.usps.com/shop. Beautifully framed prints of original stamp art for delivery are available at www.postalartgallery.com.

How to Order the First-Day-of-Issue Postmark

Customers have 30 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office, by telephone at 1-800-STAMP-24, and at the Postal Store Web site at www.usps.com/shop.They should affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes (to themselves or others), and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:


After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark. All orders must be postmarked by February 24, 2006.
How to Order First-Day Covers

Stamp Fulfillment Services also offers first-day covers for new stamp issues and Postal Service stationery items postmarked with the official first day of issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the quarterly USA Philatelic catalog. Customers may request a free catalog by calling 1-800-STAMP-24 or writing to:

DEPT 6270
PO BOX 219014
KANSAS CITY MO 64121-9014

Since 1775, the Postal Service and its predecessor, the Post Office Department, has connected friends, families, neighbors and businesses by mail. It is an independent federal agency that visits 144 million homes and businesses every day, six days a week and is the only service provider delivering to every address in the nation. The Postal Service receives no taxpayer dollars for routine operations, but derives its operating revenues solely from the sale of postage, products and services. With annual revenues of more than $69 billion, it is the world's leading provider of mailing and delivery services, offering some of the most affordable postage rates in the world. The Postal Service delivers more than half of the world's mail volume - some 212 billion letters, advertisements, periodicals and packages a year - and serves seven and a half million customers each day at its 37,000 retail locations nationwide. Its website, usps.com, attracts more than 21 million visitors each month.

# # #


Hattie McDaniel, the first black actress to win an Academy Award honored with a U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamp.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Jan. 26) - Hattie McDaniel, the first black actress to win an Academy Award, was honored Wednesday with a U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamp.

Hattie McDaniel is the 29th person honored in the Postal Service's Black Heritage stamp series.

More Coverage:
Read Her Bio, See Her Movies


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McDaniel is the 29th person honored in the Postal Service's long-running Black Heritage stamp series.

The 39-cent stamp depicts the plump-faced McDaniel in a 1941 photograph in the blue dress she wore when she received the Oscar for best supporting actress in "Gone with the Wind" in February 1940.

McDaniel played Scarlett O'Hara's maid in the 1939 movie about the Civil War.

"She was a most special lady," McDaniel's "Gone with the Wind" co-star Ann Rutherford told AP Television News.

Rutherford recalled how McDaniel thought some of her friends looked down on her for playing a maid.

"But (McDaniel) said, 'I'd rather play a maid than be a maid,"' Rutherford said.

Rutherford, who portrayed Scarlett O'Hara's sister "Carreen," was joined at the ceremony by fellow "Gone with the Wind" cast members Cammie King Conlon ("Bonnie Blue Butler") and Mickey Kuhn ("Beau Wilkes").

McDaniel was born in 1895 in Kansas and arrived in Hollywood in 1931 after starting her career in vaudeville and on radio. She died in 1952.

The ceremony took place at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where the Hattie McDaniel collection includes photographs of McDaniel and other family members, as well as scripts and other documents.

The collection also contains a large number of recordings from her radio program, "Beulah," which was broadcast on national radio and the first to feature a black star.

The new stamp was made available Wednesday in Beverly Hills and will be sold nationwide Thursday.

01/26/06 01:40 EST

Eminent Domain Activists Target Souter

Subject: Eminent Domain Activists Target Souter - Yahoo! News
Date: 1/26/2006 1:12:09 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: cstring.nyc@verizon.net
To: Reysmontj@aol.com
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Eminent Domain Activists Target Souter
By KATHY McCORMACK, Associated Press Writer Sat Jan 21, 7:17 PM ET

CONCORD, N.H. - Angered by a Supreme Court ruling that gave local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development, a group of activists is trying to get one of the court's justices evicted from his own home.

The group, led by a California man, wants Justice David Souter's home seized to build an inn called the "Lost Liberty Hotel."

AP Photo: Eric Marquis listens as Logan Darrow Clements talks about his plans to seize the home and property of U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter Saturday Jan. 21, 2006. Clements is going door-to-door getting signatures and leading an effort to seize U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter's property and buid an inn for being one of five justices who sided with a decision favoring government power to seize private property by eminent domain. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
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They submitted enough petition signatures � only 25 were needed � to bring the matter before voters in March. This weekend, they're descending on Souter's hometown, the central New Hampshire town of Weare, population 8,500, to rally for support.

"This is in the tradition of the Boston Tea Party and the Pine Tree Riot," Organizer Logan Darrow Clements said, referring to the riot that took place during the winter of 1771-1772, when colonists in Weare beat up officials appointed by King George III who fined them for logging white pines without approval.

"All we're trying to do is put an end to eminent domain abuse," Clements said, by having those who advocate or facilitate it "live under it, so they understand why it needs to end."

Bill Quigley, Weare deputy police chief, said if protesters show up, they're going to be told to stay across the street from a dirt road that leads to Souter's brown farmhouse, which is more than 200 years old. It isn't known whether Souter will be home.

"They're obviously not going to be allowed on Justice Souter's property," he said. "There's no reason for anybody to go down that road unless they live on that road, and we know the residents that live there. The last time (Clements) showed up, they had a total of about three or four people who showed up to listen to him."

Clements, of Los Angeles, said he's never tried to contact Souter, who voted for the decision.

"The justice doesn't have any comment about it," Kathy Arberg, a Supreme Court spokeswoman, said about the protesters' cause.

The petition asks whether the town should take Souter's land for development as an inn; whether to set up a trust fund to accept donations for legal expenses; and whether to set up a second trust fund to accept donations to compensate Souter for taking his land.

The matter goes to voters on March 14.

About 25 volunteers gathered at Weare Town Hall on Saturday before setting out in teams to go door-to-door. Organizer Logan Darrow Clements gathered nine signatures in less than an hour, with only one resident declining to sign.

He also distributed copies of the Supreme Court's decision, Kelo vs. City of New London, to residents.

The court said New London, Conn., could seize homeowners' property to develop a hotel, convention center, office space and condominiums next to Pfizer Inc.'s new research headquarters.

The city argued that tax revenues and new jobs from the development would benefit the public. The Pfizer complex was built, but seven homeowners challenged the rest of the development in court. The Supreme Court's ruling against them prompted many states, including New Hampshire, to examine their eminent domain laws.

Supporters of the hotel project planned a rally Sunday at the town hall. Speakers were expected to include some of the New London residents who lost the Kelo suit.

State Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare resident who is sponsoring two pieces of eminent domain legislation in New Hampshire, said he expects the group's proposal to be defeated overwhelmingly.

"Most people here see this as an act of revenge and an improper attack on the judicial system," Kurk said. "You don't go after a judge personally because you disagree with his judgments."


On the Net:

Weare-based Committee for the Preservation of Natural Rights: http://www.natural-rights.org/



Activists continue anti-Souter campaign; pledge Conn. protest

Associated Press

Published January 23 2006

WEARE, N.H. -- Activists who want U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter to pay a personal price for ruling New London, Conn., could seize private property for a development project rallied Sunday in Souter's small hometown, arguing the town should take Souter's home to build a hotel.

Their leader also urged the group to be ready to head to Connecticut on a moment's notice to try to save homes in line to be destroyed.

"We need to be ready to surround the homes," said organizer Logan Clements of Los Angeles. "We have to have a set of minutemen to stop the bulldozers."

Clements was greeted by rousing applause from about 60 people who attended Sunday's rally, some coming from as far away as Texas and Pennsylvania.

He said the five Supreme Court justices who sided with the Connecticut city on the eminent domain controversy "shot a hole in the Constitution." He said opponents should organize nationwide and vote officials out of office if they push similar projects.

Doug Schwartz, of New London, Conn., urged the crowd on. He said eminent domain problems have plagued the city for decades.

Clements said he and volunteers gathered 188 signatures Saturday in support of having the town take Souter's home so the property could be turned into a hotel - the "Hotel Lost Liberty".

Souter has declined to comment.

William Deans, of Allentown, Pa., said he joined the effort because Allentown officials are dealing with urban blight by seizing homes and property in his neighborhood.

At issue is the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in a case called Kelo v. City of New London. Souter joined the majority in ruling the city could seize homes to make way for a hotel, convention center, office space and condominiums near Pfizer Inc.'s new research headquarters. The court said the city had the authority because the development would benefit the public by creating jobs and increasing tax revenues.

New London officials last fall rescinded eviction notices sent to the home owners. They have been abiding by a voluntary moratorium on the seizing of homes until the state legislature can debate possible changes to the state's eminent domain laws.

A group of Weare residents called the Committee for the Preservation of Natural Rights already has gathered the 25 signatures required to place the seizure question on the town ballot in March.

Public outrage at the Supreme Court decision prompted many states, including New Hampshire, to consider tightening their eminent domain laws.

State Rep. Neal Kurk, a Republican from Weare, is sponsoring two proposed amendments to the state constitution that would limit eminent domain seizures to taking land for public use, such as building highways, and require higher payments to the former property owners.

Copyright � 2006, The Associated Pr

Other References toSame Subject:

Activists continue anti-Souter campaign; pledge Conn. protest
Stamford Advocate - Jan 23 12:11 AMWEARE, N.H. -- Activists who want U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter to pay a personal price for ruling New London, Conn., could seize private property for a development project rallied Sunday in Souter's small hometown, arguing the town should take Souter's home to build a hotel.
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Activists will try to evict Souter from home
Belleville News-Democrat - Jan 25 10:49 PMAngered by a Supreme Court ruling that gave local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development, a group of activists is trying to get one of the court's justices evicted from his own home.
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Souter's home an activist target
CNN.com - Jan 21 7:34 PMPeeved by the Supreme Court's decision to support the government seizure of private land for development, a group of activists is trying to get Justice David Souter evicted from his New Hampshire home under the eminent domain law.
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Activist group targets Justice Souter
UPI - Jan 22 6:57 PMWASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A group of activists is trying to have Supreme Court Justice David Souter evicted from his New Hampshire home under the eminent domain law.
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Alito puts partisan fissure in spotlight
Gainesville Sun - Jan 25 3:02 AMTrying to ease concerns that Judge Samuel Alito would overturn Roe v. Wade, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., right, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, holds up a poster from 1990 aimed at then-Supreme Court nominee David Souter, who has served on the high court for more than 14 years.
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Group angry at Souter visiting his town
WCAX 3 - Jan 22 7:06 AMCONCORD, N.H. The future of U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter's home in Weare (New Hampshire) will be the focus of a rally this afternoon by people who want to turn it into a hotel.
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Protestors try to seize Souter's home
Provo Daily Herald - Jan 22 12:12 AMCONCORD, N.H. -- Angered by a Supreme Court ruling that gave local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development, a group of activists is trying to get one of the court's justices evicted from his own home. The group, led by a California man, wants Justice David Souter's home seized to build an inn called the "Lost Liberty Hotel." They submitted enough petition
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Activists want Souter's home seized to make room for 'Lost Liberty Hotel'
The Salt Lake Tribune - Jan 22 12:28 AMCONCORD, N.H. - Angered by a Supreme Court ruling that gave local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development, a group of activists is trying to get one of the court's justices evicted from his own home. The group, led by a California man, wants Justice David Souter's home seized to build an inn called the ''Lost Liberty Hotel.
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Group gathers signatures in support of "Hotel Souter"
Stamford Advocate - Jan 21 4:11 PMWEARE, N.H. -- A group opposed to a U.S. Supreme Court decision on eminent domain gathered signatures Saturday in support of turning Justice David Souter's home into a hotel.
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OUR OPINION: This 'n that
Daily Press - Jan 24 6:18 AMJust in case you were wondering, the group that wants to build the "Lost Liberty Hotel" In Weare, N.H. � Supreme Court Justice David Souter's home � is making progress.
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David Souter
Read about David Souter in Newsweek. Keepmedia - current and archived articles from leading publications. Free trial. www.keepmedia.com

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