Tuesday Reads: Boston Marathon Bombing Anniversary, Tom Lehrer and NSA, and Other News

Good Morning!!

 

Sports Illustrated photo shoot, Copley Sq. Boston, April 12, 2014

Sports Illustrated photo shoot, Copley Sq. Boston, April 12, 2014

One year ago today, this was the scene at the Boston Marathon finish line.

 

boston_marathon_explosion_20

 

One year ago today, the finish line of the Boston Marathon was rocked by two explosions that left three young people dead and 260 people injured–many with with limbs blown off by the crude bombs.  A year later, the survivors–and the city are still recovering. Last year I was listening to the radio when suddenly I realized something terrible had happened. I rushed to turn on the TV and try to figure out what was going on. It was a disaster. People were lying in the street bleeding along with separated body parts. What could have happened?

Just watching it on TV, I was so shaken that for the next week or so I was in shock. My hands shook, I was easily startled, and I felt an inner tremor that wouldn’t go away. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like to be on the scene or to be one of the injured. But that wasn’t the end of it. Late at night on April 18, word came that a campus police officer had been shot at killed at M.I.T. and an SUV had been hijacked, presumably by the shooter or shooters. I stayed up all night listening to police scanners on line a following reports on Twitter. I knew immediately this must have something to do with the suspected bombers, whose photos had been released to the public earlier that day.

The suspects had driven through Brighton, Watertown, Waltham, and back to Cambridge. They had driven through Watertown three times–who knows why. I suspect they thought there was someone there who would help them hide from the police. One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died that night after a dramatic firefight; but the other, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev somehow escaped in the stolen SUV. He wasn’t caught until the next day.

At some point the Governor asked people to “shelter in place” in much of Boston as well as Watertown and nearby suburbs. There’s a misconception that this was “martial law,” but there was no “order” for people to stay indoors, and many went out and were not arrested or anything. Still it was shocking. Even more shocking were the massive numbers of law enforcement officers in the streets of a residential neighborhood–knocking on doors and asking to search houses. At one point, hundreds of rounds were fired at a boat in a backyard where the second suspect was believed to be hiding. It was clear that the response by law enforcement was not particularly well organized.

Now, a year later there are still many questions about what happened, about the suspects, and the response by federal, state, and local law enforcement.  I’ll spare you further details, but here are a couple of news links to anyone who cares to click on them.

Boston Globe: Marathon victims’ families, survivors gather in Boston

Jun Lu and Ling Meng felt they had to make the 7,000-mile trek from their home in China.

After losing their only child, Lingzi Lu, at last year’s Boston Marathon, they wanted to be at the race, cheering on runners.

“We cherish everything that Lingzi was a part of,” Jun Lu said through an interpreter. “Even though last year’s Marathon [was tragic], we want to be there to witness something good come out of it.”

Lu and Meng will be among the many family members of victims coming to Boston this week for official remembrances that are stirring up hope, but also pain.

Survivors, too, will make the trip for informal reunions with the EMTs and police officers who stanched their bleeding and the doctors and nurses who helped them heal.

On Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of the bombings, Vice President Joe Biden will lead a ceremony at the Hynes Convention Center, followed by a flag-raising and a moment of silence at the finish line.

“The last year has been very painful,” said Lu, whose daughter, a 23-year-old graduate student at Boston University, is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery. “But fortunately, we’ve received so much love from people all over the world. We’re humbled.”

Boston Globe: A year since Marathon attacks, many of wounded struggle

A year later, shattered bones have knitted back together, burned skin has regrown, and the survivors who lost legs are walking on prosthetic limbs. What remains for many are the relentless injuries nobody sees.

While there have been remarkable stories of recovery and perseverance among the 275 wounded in the twin explosions on Marathon Day 2013, many still battle hearing loss, ringing ears, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

One shakes so badly from anxiety that he has a hard time working as a carpenter. Another, college freshman Sydney Corcoran of Lowell, has developed an eating disorder. Corcoran has endured leg surgeries, complications, and more surgeries, but her emotional scars run deeper. She is often on edge, startles easily, and has trouble sleeping, symptoms of PTSD.

Her mother, Celeste Corcoran, was seriously injured in the blast, too, with legs so mangled both had to be amputated. “My legs were blown off and that’s huge,” she said. “But so many more people suffer in silence because everybody looks at them and sees this whole person.”

On a day for gauging how far they have come, many of the survivors are thankful for the progress they have made in the hands of skilled and caring doctors, nurses, and therapists. Still, some have nerve damage in their legs that has not healed, and the 16 people who lost legs have had to get their prosthetics adjusted repeatedly as their residual limbs shrink.

Vanity Fair: Boston Marathon Bombing Anniversary Prompts Tributes—and Unanswered Questions

Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing that left three dead, wounded 264 runners and revelers, and began a bizarre manhunt for the attack’s perpetrators that would end in a shootout four days later.

President Barack Obama and his senior advisers scheduled a moment of silence in the Oval Office at 2:40 P.M., according to Politico. The attacks took place at 2:49 P.M. local Boston time….

Mental-health experts also told the Globe that anxiety is likely to affect children and other victims of the attack as the anniversary approached, and that such concerns affect not only those who witnessed the actual bombing but also those who endured the ensuing lockdown of much of the city.

I can vouch for that. I’m feeling very shaky this morning and I have that familiar fluttering tremor in the center of my chest and an anxious knot in my stomach. As for the questions:

An investigation by Vocativ into the alleged national-security failures that left the Tsarnaevs—who the F.B.I. had been told to look out for by Russian authorities—unaccounted for in the days before the attack revealed that the F.B.I. had indeed lost track of the eventual bombers. In an unclassified report, agents admit a “huge lapse” could have “changed everything.” Meanwhile, the A.C.L.U. has sued the F.B.I. for more information in the death of Ibragim Todashev, an alleged Tsarnaev associate who an F.B.I. agent shot and killed while he was allegedly confessing to he and Tamerlan’s involvement in a 2011 triple murder. A year after the marathon bombing, it seems as though questions of justice surrounding those accused of perpetrating the attack are far from answered.

In other news . . . one silly story and a link dump:

Tom Lehrer performing

Tom Lehrer performing

Do you remember Tom Lehrer? Back in the ’50s he wrote a sang darkly humorous satirical songs. A few days ago, Ben Smith had an interesting article about him at Buzzfeed, Looking For Tom Lehrer, Comedy’s Mysterious Genius. Here a bit of it:

Lehrer had been a sensation in the late 1950s, the era’s musical nerd god: a wryly confident Harvard-educated math prodigy who turned his bone-dry wit to satirical musical comedy. His sound looked further back, to Broadway of the ‘20s and ‘30s — a man and a piano, crisp and clever — but his lyrics were funny and sharp to the point of drawing blood, and sometimes appalling. One famous ditty celebrates an afternoon spent “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.”Another cheerful number, “So Long Mom,” dwells on the details of nuclear holocaust. “I Got It from Agnes” is an extended joke about sexually transmitted disease….

In the recent history of American music, there’s no figure parallel to Lehrer in his effortless ascent to fame, his trajectory into the heart of the culture — and then his quiet, amiable, inexplicable departure. During his golden decade, he appeared on The Tonight Show twice,drew a denunciation in Time magazine, and by the early 1960s, seemed poised for a lasting place on an American cultural scene that itself was undergoing a radical upheaval.

Then Lehrer simply stopped performing. His entire body of work topped out at 37 songs. He bounced around Cambridge, never quite finishing his doctorate on the concept of the mode — the most common number in a set — in statistics. He kept the Sparks Street house but began spending most of his time in Santa Cruz, Calif., where he became a beloved instructor in math and musical theater for some 40 years.

“There’s never been anyone like him,” said Sir Cameron Mackintosh, the legendary Broadway producer who created Tom Foolery, a musical revue of Lehrer’s songs, in the ’70s. “Of all famous songwriters, he’s probably the only one that, in the great sense of the word, is an amateur in that he never wanted to be professional. And yet the work he did is of the highest quality of any great songwriter.”

It turns out Lehrer is still alive at the age of 86. Buried deep in Smith’s article is a brief, off-hand mention that Lehrer once worked for the National Security Agency (NSA). It was while he was in the army from 1955-57. Calling Greenwald and Snowden! Time to demolish Lehrer for his perfidy! Amazing, it’s even in his Wikipedia entry–who knew? And he worked at Los Alamos before that.

Tom Lehrer, then and now

Tom Lehrer, then and now

From an interview with Lehrer I found; I don’t know the date:

>GEO: I was surprised to learn that you enlisted in the Army back in 1955.

TOM LEHRER: That’s one way of putting it, but probably not the appropriate verb. The point is that they were drafting people up to the age of 35. So I dodged the draft for as long as anybody was shooting at anybody. And then when I realized that I would have to go — there was really no way out of it except getting an essential full time job, which I didn’t really want to do — I waited until everything was calm and then surrendered to the draft board. I wouldn’t call it “enlist”. “Enlist” means that you have to spend another year. I allowed myself to be drafted. I was 27 at the time and there were a lot of graduate students who were like me who had gotten deferred as graduate students and now had to pay up. So it was a kind of an odd group there, a lot of educated people in my “outfit”, I believe is the word. And we had a lot of fun. So I did that for two years in Washington DC and had a great time — especially since there was no war — though vice president Nixon was trying to get us into one in Indo-China even then. So there was that little threat. And there was Suez and a few other little things that looked a little tricky. But it didn’t look like there was going to be a real war. So it seemed to be safe to go in. And I’m sure that a lot of my cohort felt the same way.

>GEO: And what did you do?

TOM LEHRER: It was NSA. I think I’m allowed to say that now. I asked around before I surrender [sic] to be sure that I would not be in special services or something playing volleyball with the troops in Korea. I wanted to make sure that I got a nice cushy job. We were called “The Chair Borned”. And I found out that they were hiring mathematicians. So I arranged to be hired.

A few more interesting stories:

CNN: ‘Blood moon’ mesmerizes sky gazers.

NYT: Ukraine Falters in Drive to Curb Unrest in East.

Reuters: Russia says Ukraine close to civil war as Kiev begins offensive.

Politico: George Bush’s Paintings Aren’t Funny. But they are fascinating.

Fox News: Teen punished for recording alleged bullying to sue school district.

LA Times: Sex offenders charged with rape, murder of four Orange County women.

NY Daily News: Sex offender serial killers wore GPS trackers when raping, killing at least 4 women: police 

 

 So . . . What are you hearing and reading. Please share your recommended links in the comments.

 

 

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Lazy Saturday Reads

cherry blossoms dc

Happy Saturday!!

The cherry blossoms have reached their peak in Washington DC, just in time for today’s Cherry Blossom Parade, scheduled for 10AM-12PM today. WaPo:

The blossoms reached peak Thursday and should still be putting on a good show this weekend. Because of the variability of weather, they aren’t always this near peak at parade time.

The parade proceeds west along Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th streets.

Further south, in Augusta GA, the azaleas are in full bloom just in time for the Masters Tournament, which is going into its third day despite the loss of Tiger Woods to back surgery this year and Phil Mickelson’s failure to make the cut. Left-hander Bubba Watson was leading the pack by 3 strokes as of last night.

Masters azaleas

From the Augusta Chronicle: Bubba Watson storms to 3-stroke lead.

Bubba Watson never led during the first three rounds of the 2012 Masters Tournament but rallied on the final day and won in sudden death. The former Georgia Bulldog is on top now, halfway through the 78th Masters, with some breathing room.

Watson, 35, ripped apart the second nine at Augusta National Golf Club on Friday with five consecutive birdies en route to 4-under-par 68 – which included bogey on No. 18 – to build a three-shot lead over John Senden, of Australia. It matched the largest 36-hole lead since 2006.

Senden, who qualified for the Masters on March 16, when he won the Valspar Championship, also had a second-round 68 and is alone in second place.

Australian and defending champion Adam Scott made a spirited comeback to stay within shouting distance of Watson. Scott, who opened with 69, was 3-over after five holes Friday but played his final seven in 3-under, finishing with 72, tied for third place, four behind Watson.

Tiger’s absence has hit ESPN hard: ESPN’s Masters ratings plummet without Tiger Woods.

There was a feeling around the Masters that the absence of Tiger Woods might not hurt as much as expected. With Tiger having ceded some of the spotlight to younger golfers in recent years, the sport was healthy enough to survive without him in Augusta.

Television viewers apparently had a different opinion.

ESPN’s first-round telecast was down 800,000 viewers from last year to a record low of 2 million. That’s the lowest Thursday viewership in the seven years the network has been broadcasting the Masters.

Forsythia at Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain MA

Forsythia at Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain MA

Okay, I know it’s unlikely that anyone else here cares about professional golf; I just wanted an excuse to post some pretty photos of spring flowers.

Up here in southern New England we’re just beginning to see a little yellow showing up on the forsythia bushes, but it’s going to be warm for the next few days, and soon Arnold Arboretum will showing off acres of yellow blossoms like those in the photo to the right. And it won’t be long before our cherry trees and azaleas are in bloom too!

Spring has sprung!

Can you tell I’m trying to avoid the news?

In a little over a week, Boston will host its big spring event, the Boston Marathon, and between now and then we’ll be hearing endless talk about what happened here last year.

I’d like to avoid all the coverage, but I’ve decided instead to try to pay close attention to the coverage in corporate and alternative media and notice how the powers that be attempt to shape the narrative of last year’s dramatic events as well as the public process of dealing with them.

Yesterday, Boston NPR station WBUR had a very good discussion of Unanswered Questions Around The Marathon Bombing on the local program Radio Boston. It’s worth a listen.

I was quite surprised that one of the participants, Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone Magazine brought up the fact that nearly every breaking story on the events of last year came from CBS’ John Miller, who was obviously the designated target for FBI leaks. And Reitman was actually permitted to discuss this issue at some length.

JohnMiller-300x225

Miller began working for CBS in 2011; before that he worked for the Federal Government as “Associate Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analytic Transformation and Technology”; and before that he was “Assistant Director for Public Affairs for the FBI.”

Currently he is working with his old friend Bill Bratton as “Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence” for the NYPD. Is this guy a journalist or is he a tool of law enforcement? He did work for ABC News in the 1990s. As such, he got an interview with Osama bin Laden in 1998. I wonder how that happened?

Here’s a piece about Miller in Men’s Journal from March 2013–shortly before last year’s Boston Marathon.

John Miller’s office at CBS News is filled with keepsakes from his two lives as top cop and leading reporter: badges from his tours with the New York and Los Angeles police departments; a photograph from his 1998 interview with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan; his FBI badge and ID; even an LAPD Beach Patrol cap. (“The one job I never got,” Miller jokes.) “When I was covering the cops, I wasn’t one of those guys who showed up to work everyday saying ‘I’ve gotta find the scandal in the police department,'” says Miller. “And when I was with the police department, I didn’t hate the press for doing its job, either. Which I think has made it easier to toggle back and forth.”

But is avoiding anti-cop stories really the best attitude for a “journalist?” And how can such a journalist be expected to critically analyze leaks handed to him by law enforcement sources? I think the answers to those questions are obvious. And yet Miller basically shaped the news narrative on last year’s Boston Marathon bombings.

Last night NBC aired an hour-long program on the Boston attack: 108 Hours: Inside the Hunt for the Boston Marathon Bombers, hosted by Brian Williams. It was interesting for me to watch the video of the events that took place in Watertown as police hunted for the accused bombers; but of course no hard questions were asked. Everything law enforcement officials had to say was taken at face value.

One tidbit I learned was that President Obama had been on the phone with Governor Patrick during the lockdown of much of the city, and Obama had expressed concerns about the notion of government officials shutting down a major American city. I found that fascinating considering that critics on both the left and right have portrayed Obama as a tyrant who was probably in control of those kinds of decisions.

The news event that I’ve really been avoiding is the deadly bus accident in California.

I find it so painful to read or hear about children being hurt that I generally avoid such stories, but today I feel I have to cover the terrible bus crash in California. You may recall that we had a terrible bus accident in Boston just about a year ago. In fact there have been bus crashes all over the country. What’s going on?

Despite new regulations mandating seat belts on recently built tour buses, passengers are still losing their lives in crashes.

A crash Thursday in Northern California killed 10 people and injured 34 when a tour bus carrying Los Angeles-area students collided with a FedEx truck. Eerily, the crash occurred almost exactly one year from the date of a tour bus crash in Irving that killed three people and injured dozens of senior citizens.

The history of serious crashes involving tour buses or motor coaches stretches back into the 1950s and highlights a pattern of danger that federal regulations have just begun to attempt to mitigate.

Congress wrapped bus safety improvements, including a provision for seat belts in recently built tour buses, into a larger transportation bill which was signed into law in 2012. Those regulations, however, only apply to buses produced in 2007 or later. The regulations do not order buses built before 2007 to be retrofit with safety belts.

The industry opposes requiring that existing buses be retrofitted with seat belts saying the seats are not designed for them and may not be strong enough to withstand the repeated pulling of straps. Retrofitting is also more expensive than adding belts to new buses.

Read more at the link. The story references numerous other articles about bus accidents.

Reuters on the latest incident: Investigators focus on cause of deadly California crash

Investigators were focusing on Saturday on what caused a FedEx tractor-trailer to collide with a bus in a fiery crash in northern California that killed 10 people, five of them teenage students en route to a college recruitment event.

It remained unclear whether the FedEx driver was somehow distracted or lost consciousness, or whether a mechanical failure occurred when his truck swerved across the median of Interstate 5 and slammed head-on into the motor coach full of students from the Los Angeles area on Thursday.

The California Highway Patrol also raised the possibility that a separate collision on the truck’s side of the highway might have been a factor in Thursday evening’s fatal crash.

According to early highway patrol accounts of the accident, the truck side-swiped a car after crossing the center divider but before hitting the bus. Two witnesses, Bonnie and Joe Duran, who were reported to be in the clipped car, told California media outlets that the truck was on fire before the collision. “I was heading along in the outside lane and I looked over and saw the FedEx truck coming straight for me and he was in flames already,” Bonnie Duran told a local CBS-affiliate.

More at the link.

I have a few more interesting reads for you today that I’ll just list briefly.

I highly recommend reading this op-ed at the WaPo by former SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens: The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment. It’s an excerpt from his new book Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. 

See also Scott Lemieux’s review of Stevens’ book at The American Prospect: How John Paul Stevens Would Amend the Constitution.

Here’s a brief but encouraging story by WBUR (NPR)  about the three women running for governor of three New England states: Women’s Groups Target New England Gubernatorial Races.

I really liked this thoughtful post about the internet, privacy, and the NSA leak story at Haft of the Spear blog: You Were Promised Neither Security Nor Privacy.

Don’t miss this troubling story at the WaPo: Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with the military’s special operations. Can we all agree that the FBI (and CIA) are a lot scarier than NSA metadata storage?

Those are my offerings for today. What stories have you been following? Please share your links in the comment thread and have a nice Spring weekend!


Thursday Reads: Disasters, FBI Shooting Reports, and Other News

kubrick-subway-newspapers

Good Morning!!

I never know if I should say “good morning” on days when the news is of disasters. But life goes on, and we humans are curious and driven to make sense of what is happening around us.

Yesterday felt surreal to me. There was a full-fledged blizzard not far south of me on Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard, but here in the Boston area we got no snow or precipitation of any kind–just the wind howling outside all day long.

Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard bore the brunt of the storm as it hit Massachusetts, dropping up to 10 inches of snow. The snow had stopped by the afternoon but robust winds were expected through Wednesday night.

Hurricane-force wind gusts of 83 mph were reported Wednesday morning on Nantucket, where more than 1,200 National Grid customers lost power and the high school was opened as a shelter.

NSTAR reported almost 10,000 customers out on Cape Cod at the peak of the storm.

In Chatham, wild winds hammered the coast, as the National Weather Service warned mariners to stay off the water.  A 19th century house that was under renovation collapsed in Chatham at the former of Silver Leaf and Main Street.

The pressure dropped down to 960 millibars, and that is stronger than the October snowstorm we had a couple of years ago and the February blizzard in 2013, so this is a pretty massive storm, “Storm Team 5 Cindy Fitzgibbon said.

And yet, here in Greater Boston where the nor’easters usually hit hardest, there was nothing but wind–and in Boston’s Back Bay, a windblown 9-alarm fire that trapped and killed two firefighters and injured 13 others. From CNN:

Bostonfire1

“In 30 years, I’ve never seen a fire travel that fast, escalate that quickly, and create such havoc in such a short period of time,” Deputy Fire Chief Joe Finn told reporters.

He identified those killed as Lt. Edward Walsh, 43, and Firefighter Michael Kennedy, 33….

According to Finn, firefighters were able to rescue a number of people stuck on upper floors.

He said Walsh and Kennedy became trapped soon after entering the building. They were both later located in the basement, where the fire appears to have started.

Fueled by strong winds, flames quickly engulfed the four-story building.

At one point, there was an explosion and a number of firefighters were blown down stairs, Finn said.

“That fire … was blowing like a blowtorch out the front, from the rear to the front,” the deputy fire chief added.In addition to those killed, 13 firefighters were injured. Some suffered burns, others broken bones.

At least 18 people were taken to local hospitals.

Jacob Spillers was saved Saturday after being trapped in the mud in Oso, WA

Jacob Spillers was saved Saturday after being trapped in the mud in Oso, WA

On the other side of the country, the aftermath of the mudslide in Oso, Washington continues. The NY Daily News reports: 90 still missing in fatal Washington state mudslide; 16 bodies recovered 

Washington authorities on Wednesday reduced the number of people missing from a community wiped out by a mudslide to 90, as the families and friends of those still unaccounted for begin to confront the reality that some may never be found.

The official death toll remains at 16, with an additional eight bodies located but not recovered, Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said. Authorities said they expected more bodies to be found on Thursday.

The number of missing had been fluctuating — at one point reaching as high as 220 — but authorities were able to verify that 140 people reported missing had been located, Pennington said. That left 90 people missing, plus 35 others who may or may not have been in the area at the time of the slide.

The revised numbers come at the end of a rain-soaked fifth day of searching for survivors in the small community of Oso, some 55 miles southeast of Seattle. But as time passes and the death toll continues to rise, the chances grow increasingly dim of finding people alive amid the debris.

With little hope to cling to, family members of the missing are beginning realize their loved ones may remain entombed forever inside a mountain of mud that is believed to have claimed more than 20 lives.

So heartbreaking . . . There was one bit of good news–the incredible rescue of a four-year-old boy from the rubble.

The young child was trapped by the mud and debris after a major landslide in Oso over the weekend. Rescue workers had to use a helicopter to reach the scene, where they managed to carry the boy to safety.

Watch a video of the rescue here.

On Tuesday, we finally got two official reports on shooting of Ibragim Todashev in Florida, and I spent much of the day yesterday reading them. You may recall that Todashev was a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers who had been killed during the chaotic shootout in Watertown, MA on April 18, 2013. An agent from the Boston FBI office and two Massachusetts State troopers had gone to Orlando less than a week after the Marathon bombing to interview Todashev about his relationship with Tsarnaev and his possible involvement with Tsarnaev in a triple homicide that took place in Waltham, MA on September 11, 2011.

Along with many others, I’ve been extremely suspicious of the FBI in this case, but having read the reports from the Justice Department Civil Rights Division and the Florida State Attorney’s office, I now believe that the shooting was in self defense and that Todashev and Tsarnaev likely committed the Waltham murders. If it hadn’t been for the ridiculous secrecy maintained by the FBI, we all could have been spared a year’s worth of confusion and conspiracy theories.

As I understand it, there were legitimate tips that Todashev was acquainted with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and that he should be talked to about the bombing and the triple murders. The reason the questioning took place at Todashev’s Orlando residence was that he refused to be interviewed any more at the police station because the FBI had arrested his girlfriend on their last visit there. Who could blame him?

As to the incident in the apartment, it turns out that Todashev’s verbal confession to involvement in the murders with Tsarnaev was recorded. As soon as he admitted involvement, he was read his Miranda rights and signed a waiver that he was willing to talk without an attorney present. This is all recorded on video. Todashev’s story was that he thought he was going to help rob some drug dealers and he had no idea Tamerlan planned to murder them. Todashev also verbally indicated he thought he could make some kind of deal for the information he had. He asked how much prison time he would get and whether he would be allowed to smoke in jail. Again this is all recorded–the recordings themselves have not been released, but I’m willing to accept the word of the Justice Department and Florida investigators that they exist.

From the Justice Department report:

Initially, Todashev was not completely forthcoming. As the conversation developed, 
he proffered that he had direct knowledge of the 2011 triple homicide. At 10:25 p.m.,
Todashev verbally “waived his rights” and signed a Miranda form acknowledging his 
understanding of his right to be represented by an attorney and willingness to speak
at that time without an attorney.
In response to continuing questioning, he hesitantly, but indisputably, admitted
complicity in the murders. The verbal confession was recorded on the troopers’ 
recording devices. More than one recording device was activated at different times
by the troopers as either the memory capacity or the battery power of a particular
recording device diminished during the course of the interview. Also, one trooper
was using his cell phone both to record parts of the interview and to send text
messages to other law enforcement officials.
As midnight approached, Todashev agreed to write a statement to memorialize his 
verbal confession and to provide extenuating and mitigating facts that he felt 
explained his conduct.

At some point, when the FBI agent was looking down at his notes and a Massachusetts state trooper was looking at his cell phone, Todashev allegedly threw the small table on which he was writing and hit the agent in the head, opening a large wound. Then everything turned to chaos. From The Boston Globe, a brief description of the shooting, based on the Florida report.

State and federal investigators knew Ibragim Todashev was dangerous. But he was calm when he led them to his small, dark Orlando apartment last May. He asked them to take off their shoes and ushered the investigators inside, through the door emblazoned with the image of an AK-47.

Over the next several hours, the 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter chain-smoked, twitched, and eventually, confessed to being involved in the grisly slayings of three men in Waltham in 2011.

Then the room exploded. Authorities said Todashev hurled a coffee table at a Boston FBI agent, striking him in the head, and then charged the agent and a Massachusetts state trooper with a metal broomstick. In seconds, Todashev was dead, felled by seven bullets fired by the agent.

“I was in fear for my life,” the agent said. “There was no doubt in my mind that Todashev intended to kill both of us.”

The two reports are still unnecessarily mysterious, in my opinion. Why was the alleged written confession completely blacked out? In my opinion, that should have been released on day one, along with many of the other details of the incident. There are many unanswered questions–worst of all, why did the agent who killed Todashev refuse to be interviewed by investigators? The two reports of his conduct were based on his written report to the FBI.

Frankly, I was still doubtful until I read Todashev’s handwritten partial confession–which was obtained by Susan Zalkind of Boston Magazine. In my opinion, the photo of the confession appears genuine and the handwriting is similar to the other sample we have from Todashev, a gym membership application.

Todashev handwriting

Here is Boston Magazine’s transcription of the blurred handwriting:

My name is IBRAGIM TODASHEV
I wanna tell the story about the robbery
me and Tam did in Waltham in September
of 2011. That was [?] by Tamerlan.
[?] [?] he [?] to me to rob
the drug dealers. We went to their
house we got in there and Tam had
a gun he pointed it [?] the guy that
opened the door for us [?]
we went upstairs into the house
[?] 3 guys in there [?] we put them
on the ground and then we [?]
[?] taped their hands up

I think one of the questionable words (used twice) is “offered.” It looks like he started to describe what happened and then went back to the “offer” by Tsarnaev. My version:

My name is IBRAGIM TODASHEV
I wanna tell the story about the robbery
me and Tam did in Waltham in September
of 2011. That was [?] by Tamerlan.
[We went] he [offered] to me to rob
the drug dealers. We went to their
house we got in there and Tam had
a gun he pointed it [?] the guy that
opened the door for us [?]
we went upstairs into the house
[?] 3 guys in there [?] we put them
on the ground and then we [?]
[?] taped their hands up

That was [offered] by Tamerlan.
[?] [?] he [?] to me to rob
the drug dealers.

For anyone who wants to read more, here are two summaries of the Florida Report and Susan Zalkind’s lengthy recap of the case.

Boston Globe: Todashev reports detail a confession, then chaos

Boston Globe: Takeaways from the Todashev shooting report

Boston Magazine: The Murders Before the Marathon

This has been a largely Boston-centric post, so I’ll add a few more links to other news before I turn the floor over to you.

CNN: Obama, Pope Francis meet for first time

NYT Editorial Board: Giving Up on 4-Year-Olds

AP: New York Schools are Mostly Racially Segregated

Boston Globe: Satellite spots 300 objects in search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane

AP: India Declared Polio-Free

Reuters: Hopes fade as 25th body found in Washington state mudslide

NYT: Military Cuts Render NATO Less Formidable as Deterrent to Russia

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Weather, Spring Fever, Boston Bombing, Ukraine, and True Detective Spoilers

Calvin&Hobbes fireplace

It’s Saturday!!

Another snowstorm is coming, but it’s not yet clear how bad it will be or how much snow will fall in which areas. From the Weather Channel: Ice Storm Possible for Mississippi Valley, Ohio Valley; Snowstorm for West, Midwest, Northeast.

After a brief reprieve from blockbuster winter storms in the Midwest and East – and a much-too-lengthy reprieve in California – Winter Storm Titan is will lay down a swath of heavy snow from California to the East Coast, and also a swath of sleet and freezing rain from the Plains to the Mid-Atlantic States.

  • Saturday: The main event east of the Rockies will begin to unfold as snow spreads east across portions of the Plains, Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. For parts of the Northern Rockies, this will just be a continuation of snow from the previous, weaker disturbance. Widespread snow is likely across Wyoming, but will gradually wind down over western and southern Montana. Farther south the snow will be more tied to higher elevations. (See inset map for details.)
  • Sunday: The more significant part of Winter Storm Titan begins with snow, sleet and freezing rain becoming heavier. A stripe of significant ice accumulation is likely Sunday and Sunday night from the Ozarks through into the Mid-South region, Ohio Valley and West Virginia with snow farther north from the central Plains into the mid-Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley. These threats spread into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Sunday afternoon and night.
  • Monday: Snow/sleet tapers off in the Ohio Valley Appalachians, but should linger in the Appalachians and along parts of the I-95 Northeast corridor much of the day, before ending off in the evening. Ice/sleet areas early in the day in the Mid-Atlantic states should changeover to snow Monday morning.

Calvin&Hobbes snow

Whatever. Winter is almost over. It’s March 1, and there are signs of spring–at least down at Fenway South in Ft. Myers, Florida (and many other spring training locations). Yesterday the Red Sox played their first Grapefruit League game against the Minnesota Twins, losing 8-2. But who cares? A hot new pitching prospect shut down the Twins for two innings, striking out four–a good sign for the upcoming season. Baseball is back, opening day is a little over a month away, and that means spring is coming!

OK, I know I’m being really provincial, but I’ll bet you’re seeing signs of Spring too. What is giving you hope for the end of this long, cold winter? Even the folks down south have suffered greatly this year.

One more Boston story. The FBI is claiming that accused Boston bomber Dzhohar Tsarnaev “made a damaging statement” in a visit with one of his sisters recently. Of course they won’t even give a hint as to what he said, so I don’t know what to make of it. The Boston Globe:

The filing said that Tsarnaev, despite the presence of the agent, who was legally allowed in the room, “was unable to temper his remarks and made a statement to his detriment which was overheard by the agent.”

The filing did not say what the statement was.

The filing was made as part of an ongoing battle between the prosecution and defense over special administrative measures, special prison restrictions, that have been imposed on Tsarnaev.

The defense says the prosecution is refusing to turn over information they need and that the FBI is monitoring their meetings with Tsarnaev and preventing them from developing their defense strategy. I think the feds need to keep in mind that they will have a Massachusetts jury–very few people here support the death penalty, and most potential jurors will be troubled by FBI efforts that might prevent a fair trial. After all, we just recently went through the Whitey Bulger trial, in which we heard endless tales of FBI abuses and we’re still waiting for an explanation as to why an agent from the Boston office shot Ibragim Todashev down in Orlando last May.

We’re coming up on the 2014 Boston Marathon, and we still have almost no explanations of what really happened during the Marathon bombing and the shootout in Watertown a few days later. And then there’s the Waltham triple murder, which the FBI is trying to pin on two dead guys–Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Ibrigim Todashev. Susan Zalkind summed up many of the questions in this month’s Boston Magazine coverstory: The Murders Before the Marathon. There wasn’t a whole lot of breaking news in the article, but it’s a very good summary of events so far.

There’s a lot happening in Ukraine. I’ll just give you a couple of links to check out, because I’m not qualified to comment on the situation–other than I’m sick of everyone expecting the U.S. to get involved in every crisis.

The latest from ABC News: Putin Asks Parliament to Use Military in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked parliament Saturday for permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine, moving to formalize what Ukrainian officials described as an ongoing deployment of Russian troops in the strategic region of Crimea.

Putin’s motion loosely refers to the “territory of Ukraine” rather than specifically to Crimea, raising the possibility that Moscow could use military force in other Russian-speaking provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine where many oppose the new authorities in Kiev….

He said the move is needed to protect ethnic Russians and the personnel of a Russian military base in Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea. Putin sent the request to the Russian legislature’s upper house, which has to approve the motion, according to the constitution. The rubber-stamp parliament is certain to approve it in a vote expected Saturday.

In Crimea, the pro-Russian regional prime minister had earlier claimed control of the military and police there and asked Putin for help in keeping peace, sharpening the discord between the two neighboring Slavic countries.

Calvin war

President Obama warned yesterday that there would consequences for military intervention in Ukraine, but he didn’t specify any actions he would take. At this point, I think these warnings are just being ignored, because there is seldom any follow-up. As I said earlier, I don’t want to get involved in any more foreign conflicts. Let Europe deal with it if they want to. We have plenty of problems here at home that require government action.

From Reuters: West voices alarm on Crimea, calls on Russia to respect Ukraine sovereignty.

A week after violent protests forced Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich to abandon power in Kiev, Ukraine’s new leaders say Russia is trying to take control of the southern Crimea region, which has a majority ethnic Russian population.

France, Britain and Germany issued calls for de-escalation in Crimea hours after U.S. President Barack Obama warned that military intervention in the region would be deeply destabilizing and “carry costs”.

“France is extremely concerned by the reports from Crimea, which describe significant troop movements,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement. “We call on the parties to abstain from acts that could raise tensions and affect Ukraine’s territorial unity.”

It does appear that Putin is intent on reviving the Cold War. I hope he’s not successful.

Tomorrow night we’ll get an other episode of True Detective–there are only two to go. I gathered a bunch more links in the past couple of days. Some of them have spoilers, so be careful. 

This is an older post, but it provides some very good background on the weird aspects of the story. From Grantland’s Molly Lambert, Carcosa or Bust: The Satisfyingly Weird Mysteries of ‘True Detective’. Just a taste:

Hallucinatory spirals, talk of “black stars” rising in the sky, dead women trussed up like ancient horned gods and tattooed with mysterious symbols, all supposedly in reference to Robert W. Chambers’s fairly obscure weird fiction classic The King in Yellow? Damn, True Detective, you’ve given me a lot to absorb.

Where is the show going with its recently clarified Lovecraftian ties? Does it even really matter, when the ride is this great? The most satisfying part of a mystery is rarely its resolution. Sustained anticipation is much of the thrill. Like earlier TV mysteries Twin PeaksThe X-Files, and Lost, True Detective is a show with its own internal mythology, which taunts both the protagonists and viewers with signs just beyond our comprehension. When some bits of information are guaranteed to be important later, every single bit of information feels like a potential clue. Attempting to read a show scene by scene and pluck out exactly what will prove crucial from a galaxy of visual and verbal details can feel absolutely maddening….

You can spend endless amounts of time pondering True Detective’s more concrete questions, let alone the existential ones. Are the wooden triangles strewn around the sites of the ritualistic murders pagan symbols, bird traps, or neither? Given creator Nic Pizzolatto’s professed affection for weird fiction, were Reggie Ledoux’s gas mask and the reference to a “green-eared spaghetti monster” meant to invoke Cthulhu, the giant octopus monster that signals cosmic doom in the work of seminal horror writer H.P. Lovecraft? Is the mystery even going to get solved?True Detective’s flashback structure accentuates the gaps in our knowledge. Everything we know is gleaned from flashbacks and interrogations, but there’s no guarantee that future information won’t flip our perspective. Hell, there’s no guarantee that Rust and Marty’s flashbacks are accurate. After all, if we can see Rust’s subjective hallucination of birds assembling into a spiral in the sky, who’s to say we’re not seeing other events from his subjective perspective too? This kind of theorizing, not baseless but impossible to prove conclusively, will make you feel like True Detective’s detectives. Maybe the show’s obsessions with madness, reality, and truth really are contagious.

CalvinandHobbes-TracerFacts

Then read Lamberts latest post: Five Things to Consider for This Week’s Episode of ‘True Detective’. She has some good questions.

A guy at Reddit did some sleuthing and came up with some photos posted by True Detective crew members. Here’s a link to a lot of photos, some from the upcoming episodes. I looked at them, and got some sense of what’s coming, but not much more than I got from the teaser trailer. They didn’t ruin the suspense for me. Just be warned if you want to stay completely in the dark.

A few more links to explore as we wait for tomorrow night to roll around:

Rolling Stone: The Dark Thrills of ‘True Detective’

Forbes: The Business Of HBO’s ‘True Detective’

Slate: The True DetectiveGlossary

Complex Pop Culture: Pictures of You: “True Detective” and the Dilemma of the Dead Woman’s Photograph

International Business Times: ‘True Detective’ Season 1 Spoilers: What’s On The Video Tape In Episode 7? Theories On Hart’s Daughter And Connection To The Yellow King

Now what’s on your mind today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!!


Tuesday: “I Was There, But I Didn’t Do The Murders”

Ibragim Todashev and Reni Manukyan (courtesy of The Guardian)

Ibragim Todashev and Reni Manukyan (courtesy of The Guardian)

Good Morning!!

This morning public radio station WBUR in Boston broadcast a detailed report about the killing of Ibragim Todashev in his apartment in Orlando, Florida, on May 22, 2013, reportedly by an agent from the FBI office in Boston.

Todashev was a friend of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The FBI claims that before he died, Todashev confessed that he and Tsarnaev had participated in a grisly triple murder that took place on September 11, 2011 in Waltham Massachusetts. For some more background, here is a post I wrote about the case on May 30 of last year.

The WBUR report by David Boeri provides the most detail yet on this confusing and frustrating story. You can listen to the 13-minute broadcast here and/or read the written report, Interrogation Turned Deadly: Questions Remain In Todashev Shooting. Until now, the FBI has stubbornly stonewalled the media and Congress, even refusing to allow the release of Todashev’s autopsy.

According to the report, WBUR learned the names of the FBI agents and Massachusetts State troopers who were present in Todashev’s apartment at the time of the shooting, but agreed not to reveal the names because it would put the agents and troopers in danger.

Todashev’s widow Reni Manukyan, from whom he was separated, was also interviewed for the story.

If you’re at all interested, I highly recommend reading the whole article at WBUR, because it is too long and detailed to summarize, and excerpts won’t do it justice.

But here are some new details about how the shooting happened. Keep in mind that for weeks leading up to the final day of Todashev’s life he had repeatedly been interviewed by FBI agents, called on the phone by them, and tailed by them everywhere he went. Todashev’s girlfriend had was also being held on immigration charges and was being pressured to inform on him.

Inside the condominium unit, I have learned from law enforcement sources, Todashev faced an agent assigned to the Boston office of the FBI and two Massachusetts State Police troopers — one of them assigned to the Middlesex district attorney. Middlesex County has responsibility for investigating the unsolved triple murder in Waltham in 2011. With the troopers’ arrival, it appears the focus of interest was changing from terrorism to murder….

In Orlando, the interrogation of Todashev was extraordinarily long.

“The fact that there were multiple officers present there questioning him for a period of hours clearly indicated that Mr. Todashev did not feel that he was free to leave,” said Thomas Nolan, who chairs the criminal justice department at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Nolan was also a Boston police officer for 27 years.

“Mr. Todashev was obviously not free to leave if he chose so,” Nolan added. “So he was in effect in custody here.”

At this point the agent(s) should have read Todashev his Miranda rights, but the FBI won’t say whether that happened. They may have decided that since Todashev had “invited” them into his home, they could continue questioning him until he told them to stop or asked for an attorney. If so, they apparently made the wrong decision.

“If you’re beginning to accuse somebody of a triple murder back in Massachusetts, that’s going to generate stress and crisis and conflict,” said Tom Shamshak, a police trainer, instructor in investigations at Boston University and former Massachusetts police chief.

There was a challenge and a danger in being in Todashev’s home, because it was his home— where he was most comfortable, and where, if there were any weapons, he knew where they were and the police did not. The one place police would know there were weapons was the one place they are told in training to avoid when making accusations and where they dread going when responding to calls of domestic disputes: the kitchen, which has knives….

“The accusatory tone in an interrogation … it’s hot,” Shamshak said. “So you have a hot, volatile back-and-forth with the officers: ‘I don’t want to hear that. I know you did it.’ It’s like a volcano.”

And, at some point in the long night of a very long interrogation, Todashev broke, according to law enforcement sources familiar with accounts of what happened who requested anonymity because they do not have permission to speak publicly.

“I was there, but I didn’t do the murders,” Todashev said, according to those sources. Under the heat, they say, Todashev blamed Tsarnaev for the murders.

That was what the agents had been waiting for. Next, they tried to get Todashev to write out a confession and sign it; but they claim Todashev lost control, flipped over the table, knocked the agent down, “came at him with a ‘pipe,'” and according to the agent, “would have split his skull.” And so,

Sources say the FBI agent fired in two bursts. With a burst of three bullets, Todashev went down, according to this account. Then, to the amazement of the agent and the trooper, the ultimate fighter Todashev came up again. The agent fired four more. It was 12:15, the official time of death, Manukyan says.

I’ve already quoted too much from the story, so please go read the whole thing if you’re interested–it’s absolutely riveting. Congratulations to David Boeri and WBUR for getting so much detail–apparently from sources who were present at the scene of Todashev’s shooting. Perhaps this will put enough pressure on the FBI for them to release their own report.

I have a few more news items for you, but I’ll post them in the comment thread. I’ve already had a horrible WordPress glitch today that made me have to rewrite part of this post, and I’m way behind in my real-world schedule. So, please join me in the comments!


Thursday Reads: Updates on Drone Assassinations, West Fertilizer Plant Explosion, and Boston Bombing Aftermath

Newsstand in Copley Square, Boston

Newsstand in Copley Square, Boston

Good Morning!!

I have lots of news updates for you today.

First, as I’m sure you heard, the Obama administration has finally admitted that it has killed four American citizens with drone strikes.  Charlie Savage reported in The New York Times yesterday that President Obama will give a speech this afternoon at the National Defense University in which he will

open a new phase in the nation’s long struggle with terrorism on Thursday by restricting the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military….

As part of the shift in approach, the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, arguing that its actions were justified by the danger to the United States. Mr. Obama approved providing new information to Congress and the public about the rules governing his attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies.

A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists.

Lethal force will be used only against targets who pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot feasibly be captured, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Congress, suggesting that threats to a partner like Afghanistan or Yemen alone would not be enough to justify being targeted.

Savage writes that Obama may eliminate drone attacks on groups of men assumed to be associated with al Qaeda that in the past have also killed many innocent civilians. He will also argue for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison and renewing efforts to return inmates to their “home countries.” CNN also has a helpful article on the President’s speech and proposed policy changes.

The speech will be at 2PM, and I will post a live blog if people are interested in watching it together. I’m sure it will be live streamed at C-Span and other news sites.

Important update on West, Texas disaster.

Yesterday evening Reuters released their own “Special Report.” on the situation.

(Reuters) – The fertilizer-plant explosion that killed 14 and injured about 200 others in Texas last month highlights the failings of a U.S. federal law intended to save lives during chemical accidents, a Reuters investigation has found.

Known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, the law requires companies to tell emergency responders about the hazardous chemicals stored on their properties. But even when companies do so, the law stops there: After the paperwork is filed, it is up to the companies and local firefighters, paramedics and police to plan and train for potential disasters.

West Fertilizer Co of West, Texas, had a spotty reporting record. Still, it had alerted a local emergency-planning committee in February 2012 that it stored potentially deadly chemicals at the plant. Firefighters and other emergency responders never acted upon that information to train for the kind of devastating explosion that happened 14 months later, according to interviews with surviving first responders, a failing that likely cost lives.

It’s a complex story, and you really should read the whole thing, because the West disaster is not an isolated incident.

The lack of preparedness endangers not only firefighters and emergency medical technicians, but also people nationwide living near chemical stockpiles similar to those that exploded in West.

At least 800,000 people in the United States live within a mile of 440 sites that store potentially explosive ammonium nitrate, which investigators say was the source of the explosion in West, according to a Reuters analysis of hazardous-chemical storage data maintained by 29 states.

Hundreds of schools, 20 hospitals, 13 churches and hundreds of thousands of homes in those states sit within a mile of facilities that store the compound, used in both fertilizers and explosives, the analysis found.

The rest of the states either refused to provide Reuters with data, provided “incomplete data” or simply didn’t respond to their requests.

Since 1990, companies have reported more than 380 incidents involving ammonium nitrate to the National Response Center, a federal agency that collects reports of spills, leaks and other discharges within the United States. Eight people were killed, 66 injured and more than 6,300 evacuated in those incidents, according to the center’s data.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story, because reporting of these kinds of incidents is voluntary!

Update on Boston Bombing Investigation

I spent most of yesterday following breaking updates in the Boston Marathon bombing case, which continues to get stranger by the day.

Early yesterday morning, there were reports of the FBI fatally shooting a man in Orlando, Florida with connections to accused (deceased) Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. While the circumstance of the shooting are still not at all clear, here’s a brief summary of what I gleaned from reading hundreds of news reports.

Initially news reports said that a Chechen immigrant, Ibragim Todashev, had been shot by an unnamed FBI agent after Todashev attacked the agent with a knife during an interrogation at Todashev’s apartment house overnight. Todashev and a friend named Khusen Taramov had been interrogated for hours on Tuesday afternoon, according to Taramov. Then agents had let Taramov go while they continued questioning Todashev.

According to Taramov, he and his friend Todashev had been followed by law enforcement for some time and had been questioned previously. Todashev had been planning a trip home to Chechnya, but the FBI wanted wanted him to postpone it so they could continue to question him. The agents returned to question the two men further after midnight Wednesday when they learned that Todashev had decided to cancel his flight. That is when the shooting took place. At the time, two FBI agents from the Boston field office, two Massachusetts state troopers, and “other law enforcement” officers were present. It’s not clear who the other law enforcement officers were, but Emptywheel questioned yesterday whether they might have been from the FBI High Value Interrogation Group.

Later in the day it became clear that Todashev was considered a suspect in a shocking triple murder that took place in Waltham, MA two years ago on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Todashev lived in the Boston area–in Allston, Cambridge, and Watertown; and was acquainted with Tamerlan Tsarnaev through their mutual involvement in MMA mixed martial arts fighting and the two had spoken by phone or Skype about a month before the marathon bombings. Todashev is not suspected of involvement in those.

As I reported here previously, Tamerlan and Dzhokhor Tsarnaev had reportedly been connected to the murders by “forensic” evidence, presumably DNA. One of the murdered men was Tamerlan’s “best friend,” Brian Mess. The three men had their throats slit and their bodies were covered with large amounts of marijuana and $5,000 in cash. After the murders, both Tsarnaev brothers stopped seeing friends and Tamerlan did not even attend Mess’s funeral. Not long after, Tamerlan traveled to Dagestan and stayed in Russia for nearly seven months.

Back to yesterday’s events. Later reports indicated that Todarov did not have a knife when he “lunged” at the FBI agent, and it was no longer clear which law enforcement officer or officers had shot the “suspect.” A team of FBI agents are in Orlando to review the shooting, and perhaps we’ll learn more about what actually happened.

Multiple news sources have reported that Todashev had implicated himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the Waltham murders and that FBI agents were trying to get him to sign a written confession when he became enraged and attacked an agent, who sustained “non-life-threatening” injuries. Apparently Todashev didn’t want to sign whatever document the FBI agents had prepared for him. Since the FBI refuse to tape their interrogations, we may never know what the reported “implication” consisted of.

According to his friend Khusen Taramov, Todashev willingly answered the FBI’s questions.

The ex-roommate said Todashev shared the substance of his previous conversations with investigators with him and that he was completely forthcoming. That’s why he was surprised that Wednesday’s interview ended the way it did.

‘‘He told them everything,’’ Taramov said. ‘‘He told everything he knew. … I don’t know why that (the shooting) happened. It’s crazy.’’

But Taramov also said Todashev was afraid before Wednesday’s interview. ‘‘That’s what he asked me before he pretty much died,’’ Taramov said. ‘‘He asked me, ‘If something happens can you go out and tell all the truth, what exactly happened.’’’

It is clear that Todashev was prone to violence and people found him intimidating. He was involved in road rage incidents in Boston and Orlando.

Sorry I don’t have links for every detail, but the story is so complex and I’ve gotten information from so many sources that I thought it would be best for me to summarize it in my own words. There has been much more news breaking on this story, and I won’t try to include everything in this post. Anyone who is interested is welcome to ask me questions, and I’ll answer as best I can.

Here is one story from this morning from Fox Orlando: Moments leading to fatal FBI shooting in Orlando still unclear.

Federal and Central Florida law enforcement agencies are still collecting and processing evidence from the shooting scene at a condominium complex on Peregrine Avenue, near Kirkman Road and Universal Orlando, where Ibragim Todashev was shot early Wednesday.

Initially, FBI officials said Todashev, 27, became violent and lunged at an agent with a knife while he was being questioned about Tsarnaev and an unsolved 2011 triple murder in the Boston suburb of Waltham. The agent, acting on an “imminent threat,” then shot Todashev, they said.

Sources say Todashev, a Russian national living legally in Florida, was about to confess to the Waltham slaying when the shooting took place.

However, officials have backed off that preliminary account, and it’s no longer clear what happened in the moments before the fatal shooting.

“I heard a couple of loud bangs and saw a couple of cop cars riding by,” said Jared Morse, who lives in the area. “They wouldn’t let anyone out to see anything or anything like that, so they made us go back inside.”

There is one more possible connection between the Waltham murders and a massive drug bust that took place several months earlier in Watertown MA, in May 2011. It “followed a year-long investigation by federal authorities and resulted in charges against 18 people.” This was mentioned in a Washington Post Story yesterday that some friends of one of the murdered men believed there was a connection. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s likely the Tsarnaev brothers were financing their lifestyles with illegal activities, including drugs and possibly some kind of scam involving luxury cars.

Finally, a must-read article on the Boston saga and the failures of the Homeland Security Department and the Boston Police Department: BRIC-ED IN: WHY THE BPD DIDN’T THINK THAT TAMERLAN TSARNAEV WAS A KILLER. It’s a cautionary tale for anyone who lives in a large city that could be a terrorist target. Basically, the article describes how the BPD ignored terror warnings and instead spent millions on surveillance of Occupy Boston and other peace and environmental groups. COINTELPRO all over again. One representative of the Massachusetts ACLU had some suggestions.

According to Kade Crockford, who tracks the BRIC for the ACLU of Massachusetts, it’s about time that authorities reconsider their priorities. “A big question,” she says, “is whether efforts to build a bigger intelligence haystack may actually be less effective than improving traditional policing methods that focus on solving crimes …”

“Perhaps instead of extensively monitoring activists who are petitioning the government through the democratic process, law enforcement resources should focus on investigating and solving actual crimes, starting with murder.”

“Fewer resources tracking peace activists and more focus on traditional homicide detective work might be the best way to ensure a world in which we are both safe and free.”

I’ll end there, and open the floor to anything you want to discuss. Please post your links in the comments and have a great Thursday!


Thursday Reads: Villagers Turn On Obama, Texas Tornadoes, West TX Investigations, and Boston Bombing News

tea6

Good Morning!!

It’s beginning to look like Obama’s second term is pretty much over before it begins. We’re facing years of Republican scandalmongering and “investigations” of a president who won’t fight back or even fight for his own favored legislation or judicial and government appointments.

What is Obama actually doing every day? Does he spend the time he isn’t fund-raising or doing meaningless public appearances deciding which “extremist” to drone strike next? Because he certainly doesn’t seem to be governing.

Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows. All I know is that the Villagers are finished with him. We got the news yesterday from Politico’s top gossip mavens Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in one of their trademark “Behind the Curtain” posts: D.C. turns on Obama.

The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.

Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.

Really? if powerful Democrats weren’t “big fans” of Obama, why did they work their asses off to hand him the nomination in 2008 when they could just as easily have chosen Hillary Clinton?

Of course the “establishment Democrats” that Vandehei and Allen choose to quote in their piece are hardly current insiders, as Charles Pierce pointed out:

Not to minimize the inherent political savvy of Chris Lehane, one anonymous former Obama aide, one anonymous “longtime Washingtonian,” or Vernon Jordan — who, I admit, I’d thought had long gone off to peddle influence in the Beyond — but I think they’re pretty much camouflage here for the fiery tantrum summoned up by the authors.

(And, not for nothing, but “longtime Washingtonian” may well be the beau ideal of TBOTP sourcing. They should make it the company motto. And the two presiding geniuses are going to be shocked one morning when they look in the mirror and see Sally Quinn staring back at them.)

Nevertheless, the Villagers certainly pay more attention to Vandehei and Allen’s pontifications than Pierce’s. Here’s a little more of their venom:

Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.

This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”

Even Greg Sargent acknowledges that Politico probably speaks for the DC establishment, particularly the corporate media.

Read the rest of this entry »