Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution

The prizewinning author of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation and American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson now gives us the unexpected story--brilliantly told--of why the thirteen colonies, having just fought off the imposition of a distant centralized governing power, would decide to subordinate themselves anew.

The triumph of the American Revolution was neither an ideological nor political guarantee that the colonies would relinquish their independence and accept the creation of a federal government with power over their individual autonomy. The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 is the story of this second American founding and of the men responsible--some familiar, such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, and some less so, such as Robert Morris and Governeur Morris. It was these men who shaped the contours of American history by diagnosing the systemic dysfunctions created by the Articles of Confederation, manipulating the political process to force a calling of the Constitutional Convention, conspiring to set the agenda in Philadelphia, orchestrating the debate in the state ratifying conventions, and, finally, drafting the Bill of Rights to assure state compliance with the constitutional settlement.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

In The Wright Brothers, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough tells the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright.

On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot.

Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did?

David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the surprising, profoundly American story of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Far more than a couple of unschooled Dayton bicycle mechanics who happened to hit on success, they were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity, much of which they attributed to their upbringing. The house they lived in had no electricity or indoor plumbing, but there were books aplenty, supplied mainly by their preacher father, and they never stopped reading.

When they worked together, no problem seemed to be insurmountable. Wilbur was unquestionably a genius. Orville had such mechanical ingenuity as few had ever seen. That they had no more than a public high school education, little money and no contacts in high places, never stopped them in their mission to take to the air. Nothing did, not even the self-evident reality that every time they took off in one of their contrivances, they risked being killed.

In this thrilling book, master historian David McCullough draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers story, including the little-known contributions of their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Today is Peace Officers Memorial Day, U.S. Flags are to be Flown at Half-Staff to Honor These Heroes

Presidential Proclamation -- Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week, 2015

Each May, our Nation salutes the American women and men who put their lives on the line every day to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. On Peace Officers Memorial Day and during Police Week, we recognize all those who have dedicated their lives to this vital task. With heavy hearts, we mourn the heroes taken from us only because they chose to serve, and we rededicate ourselves to carrying forward their noble legacy.

Our law enforcement officers have extraordinarily tough jobs. They regularly work in dangerous environments and in difficult, high-tension situations. And they often face challenges deeply rooted in systemic problems and broader social issues. These professionals serve to protect their communities and strengthen their Nation, and they deserve to go home safely to their loved ones at the end of each shift. As President, I am committed to making sure America's dedicated police officers receive the support and recognition they have earned, and to doing all I can to protect those who protect us.

One important way to make policing safer and more effective is by continuing to enhance relations and trust between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they serve. This will make it easier and safer for police officers to do their jobs, and it will strengthen the places we live and work. This important task will require our Nation -- our communities, our law enforcement, and our leaders at every level -- to come together to commit to meeting this challenge and moving our country forward, block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood. As President, I firmly believe it is within our power to make progress in our time, and I am dedicated to partnering with all those who are willing to do this necessary work.

My Administration is taking concrete steps to implement the commonsense, pragmatic recommendations my Task Force on 21st Century Policing put forward based on input from law enforcement personnel as well as criminal justice experts, community leaders, and civil liberties advocates. And we are engaging with local jurisdictions so they can begin to make the changes that will help ensure that police officers and their communities are partners in battling crime and that everyone feels safe on and off the job.

Our Nation's police officers are mentors in our schools, familiar faces on the corner, and pillars of our communities. They keep our borders secure and our roads safe, and in times of crisis, they rush toward tragedy. They are hardworking mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons who have dedicated their lives to public service, working every day to build a brighter future for their families and their Nation. Their selfless commitment and daily sacrifice represent what is possible for every city, town, and reservation in America, and our country has an enormous opportunity to lift up the very best law enforcement personnel as examples -- not just to other officers, but to all who aspire to lives of good citizenship. This week and every week, let us remember the patriots who laid down their lives for ours and honor all who strive to make our Nation more safe, more free, and more just.

By a joint resolution approved October 1, 1962, as amended (76 Stat. 676), and by Public Law 103-322, as amended (36 U.S.C. 136-137), the President has been authorized and requested to designate May 15 of each year as "Peace Officers Memorial Day" and the week in which it falls as "Police Week."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 15, 2015, as Peace Officers Memorial Day and May 10 through May 16, 2015, as Police Week. I call upon all Americans to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I also call on the Governors of the United States and its Territories, and appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day. I further encourage all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes and businesses on that day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Paul Carparelli pleads guilty for his role in reputed mob extortion plot

An Itasca man with ties to the Chicago mob faces more than 12 years in prison after pleading guilty Friday in federal court to three counts of conspiracy to commit extortion.

Paul Carparelli, 47, admitted to conspiring to travel across the country to collect — with threats of violence — debts ranging from $90,000 to $200,000.

During one planning session, Carparelli instructed an associate in the use of violence against a debtor.

“Go over there, give him an f—ing crack, and we’ll get in contact with him, ah, I’ll have somebody else get in contact with him in about a month,” Carparelli said.

Unbeknownst to Carparelli, his associate was working undercover for the FBI, according to prosecutors.

Carparelli appeared in a Dirksen Federal Building courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit and leg shackles Friday, after U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman revoked his bond last month.

During that April hearing, prosecutors said that Carparelli had threatened a witness while out on bond in the extortion case.

Sentencing is set for Sept. 29. Carparelli is expected to argue he should serve as little as five years behind bars.

Thanks to Stefano Esposito.

Joseph Hennessy Sentenced to 36 Months in $1 Million Fraud Scheme

A Chicago investment adviser was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment for fraudulently using new investor funds, including funds from elderly investors, to pay off old investors, leading to a loss of almost $1 million. The defendant, JOSEPH HENNESSY, 54, of Western Springs, was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $645,900 to the victims of the fraud and was sentenced to three years of supervision after his release by U.S. District Court Judge Harry D. Leinenweber. Hennessy was ordered to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on June 23, 2015. Hennessy pled guilty on December 16, 2014 to one count of wire fraud.

Hennessy operated Resource Planning Group, Inc., a registered investment adviser with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in Chicago. Hennessy also formed and operated the Midwest Opportunity Fund, a private equity fund that targeted for purchase and investment small to medium-sized companies based in the Midwest.

“What you did involved a massive abuse of trust that needs to be punished,” stated Judge Leinenweber when imposing the sentence, “People relied on you.”

According to court records, between May 2009 and February 2010, Hennessy solicited investors to invest in the Midwest Opportunity Fund, and offered a high interest rate between 10% to 15% per year with a short maturity date of between two and six months. Hennessy falsely represented to the investors that their funds would be used to invest in small to medium-sized companies. However, Hennessy used the new investor funds to pay off old investors in the Midwest Opportunity Fund. Hennessy also misappropriated funds from the accounts of two elderly investors and forged their names on wire transfer forms without their authorizations. Hennessy used the elderly investors’ funds to repay existing investors in the Midwest Opportunity Fund.

“Defendant Joseph Hennessy owed a fiduciary duty to his clients. He was an investment adviser tasked with managing his clients’ money. However, when defendant went into debt with the Midwest Opportunity Fund, he used client money like a personal piggybank, selling promissory notes and transferring funds out of new client accounts to pay off old debtors,” argued Assistant United States Attorney Sunil Harjani in the government’s sentencing memorandum.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

4 Teenage Girls Wanted for Allegedly Beating Victim with Baseball Bat Arrested by U.S. Marshals Task Force

Four teenage girls wanted in connection with a brutal baseball attack in East Lansing in March were arrested today. The women are charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery, and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder.

Chinonye Sky Nwangwu, 18, Paris Jeanine-Renee Strickland, 19, Tierra Desree Hubbard, 19, and Brittani Shonta Barber-Gribble, 19, are accused of luring a female out of her East Lansing apartment in the early morning hours of March 6, then beating her by punching, kicking, and hitting her with a baseball bat. The victim was able to escape her attackers and get back into her apartment, but only after being severely beaten.

The female suspects also stole the victim’s cell phone during the attack, and then vandalized her vehicle and caused significant damage before leaving the apartment complex. At least one of the attackers was known to the victim, but the motive for the crime is unclear at this time. Michigan State University Police detectives investigated the case and identified all five suspects and obtained arrest warrants for them in early May.

Investigators from the joint Marshals/Michigan State Police Lansing Area Fugitive Task Force in Lansing adopted the case soon after the warrants were issued. The investigation led the task force to Detroit, where authorities determined the women were living. Deputy Marshals and officers from the U.S. Marshals Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team (DFAT) in Detroit joined the investigation and developed further information on the women’s whereabouts.

On the morning of May 12, DFAT conducted simultaneous operations and arrested Nwangwu, Strickland, Hubbard, and Barber-Gribble in Detroit without incident. A fifth suspect, Madison Reed, 19, was arrested on May 11 in Detroit.

The women will be transported back to the Ingham County Jail in Mason today to await court appearances on the pending felony charges.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sheldon Adleson with Alleged Ties to Chinese Organized Crime

Alleged ties to Chinese organized crime may mean serious legal problems for American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the Guardian website reported on Sunday.

Adelson owns the Israel Hayom newspaper in Israel and is a key supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Suspicions of bribery and ties to organized crime emerged last week during Adelson's four days of testimony before a Las Vegas court in a wrongful dismissal suit.

Steven Jacobs, former CEO of Adelson’s highly profitable casinos in the Chinese enclave of Macau, is suing Adelson's Las Vegas Sands conglomerate, claiming that he was sacked for trying to break links to organized crime groups, the triads, and for attempting to halt alleged influence peddling with Chinese officials.

Far from laying the allegations to rest, the Guardian wrote, "the billionaire’s answers threw up yet more questions which he is likely to have to return to court to answer."

Information from Jacobs prompted investigations by the United States Justice Department and federal financial regulators. If the allegations are shown to be true, Adelson’s gambling licenses could be in jeopardy.

The Las Vegas court hearing was called to decide whether the full case should be heard in the U.S. or in Macau. If the judge rules that the case belongs in an American court, Adelson will face some difficult questions raised by his testimony, the Guardian wrote.

Many of the allegations concern the Hong Kong-born leader of the Wo Hop To triad Cheung Chi Tai, who is barred from entering the U.S. due to his “affiliation to organized crime.”

Adelson repeatedly told the court that his company “was not doing business” with Cheung, testimony that directly contradicted the evidence of his own deputy on the witness stand.

A Sands internal document indicated that Cheung was admitted to the casino’s exclusive Chairman’s Club, which normally comes with a personal letter from Adelson. Among the benefits are “extremely large lines of credit,” according to court records filed by Jacobs.

Las Vegas Sands finally broke with Cheung in 2010 following a Reuters report identifying his triad links.

In any future trial, he is likely to face questions as to why Las Vegas Sands waited until the Reuters report to act when Jacobs has said in court submissions that “those ties were well known to … Adelson, well before the Reuters’ article.”

Thanks to Haaretz.

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