I’ve been somewhat out of the loop for the past few days because I’ve had some kind of weird virus that has made it difficult for me to think. If it weren’t August, I’d wonder if it’s the flu. Everything ached. For a couple of days it felt like my skin actually hurt. Anyway I’ve been vegetating in front of the TV watching Criminal Minds reruns and Lifetime movies. I’m feeling better now, although I’m still sleepy all the time.
I’ve been surfing around this morning, and there is quite a bit of interesting news out there. I’ll begin with a fascinating archaeological find. According to a new study reported in Nature, Neanderthals invented tools made of bone that are still used today for leather-working.
Excavations of Neanderthal sites more than 40,000 years old have uncovered a kind of tool that leather workers still use to make hides more lustrous and water resistant. The bone tools, known as lissoirs, had previously been associated only with modern humans. The latest finds indicate that Neanderthals and modern humans might have invented the tools independently.
The first of the lissoir fragments surfaced a decade ago at a rock shelter called Pech-de-l’Azé in the Dordogne region of southwest France. Archaeologist Marie Soressi of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, knew the tool at once, says her colleague Shannon McPherron.
The tools are also known as slickers and burnishers, says McPherron. Soressi contacted luxury-goods manufacturer Hermès in Paris, and found that their high-end leather workers use just such a tool. “She showed them a picture, and they recognized it instantly,” says McPherron. The company’s line includes the wildly popular Birkin handbag, which sells for around US$10,000 and upwards.
McPherron says that a single artefact, however, was not enough for the researchers to draw broad conclusions. “You find one, and there’s always some doubt. You’re worried that it’s not a pattern — that it’s anecdotal behaviour.” But subsequent digs at Pech-de-l’Azé and nearby Abri Peyrony turned up further lissoir fragments, leading the researchers to conclude that Neanderthals made the tools routinely.
The researchers say it’s not clear if these kinds of tools were first invented by Neanderthals or modern humans. It’s even possible that modern humans could have learned how to make and use the bone tools from Neantherthals, although most archaeologists believe that Neanderthals learned the skills from humans. From Live Science:
Neanderthals created artifacts similar to ones made at about the same time by modern humans arriving in Europe, such as body ornaments and small blades. Scientists hotly debated whether such behavior developed before or after contact with modern humans.
“There is a huge debate about how different Neanderthals were from modern humans,” said Shannon McPherron, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Now, McPherron and his colleagues have discovered that Neanderthals created a specialized kind of bone tool previously only seen in modern humans. These tools are about 51,000 years old, making them the oldest known examples of such tools in Europe and predating the known arrival of modern humans.
Yesterday North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a new
voter suppression voter ID law and the ACLU, NAACP, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice immediately filed suit against it. USA Today:
Republicans who backed the legislation said it was meant to prevent voter fraud, which they claim is both rampant and undetected in North Carolina. Independent voting rights groups joined Democrats and libertarians in suggesting the true goal was to suppress voter turnout, especially among blacks, the young, the elderly and the poor.
“It is a trampling on the blood, sweat and tears of the martyrs — black and white — who fought for voting rights in this country,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP. “It puts McCrory on the wrong side of history.” [….]
Barber called the Republican-backed measure one of the worst attempts in the nation at voting reform and said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People considered the package an all-out attack on existing laws long seen as a model of voter participation….
The legislation signed by McCrory and approved last month by state lawmakers requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls and shortens early voting by a week, from 17 days to 10. It also ends same-day registration, requiring voters to register, update their address or make any other needed changes at least 25 days ahead of an election. A high school civics program that registers tens of thousands of students to vote each year in advance of their 18th birthdays has been eliminated.
On the same day that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a restrictive voter ID bill into law, Clinton criticized the Supreme Court decision that she believes “stripped out the pre-clearance formula that made [the Voting Rights Act] so effective.”
She noted that Texas, Florida and North Carolina are states whose recent voter legislation has shifted the burden, slamming the North Carolina bill as one that “reads like the greatest hits of voter suppression.”
“In the weeks since the ruling, we’ve seen an unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions to enact or enforce laws that will make it harder for millions of our fellow Americans to vote,” Clinton said.
Clinton also went after several provisions of the North Carolina bill that she believes place a greater burden on citizens facing discrimination, including limited voting hours, stricter ID requirements and restricted early voting.
CNN reports that Hillary also plans to discuss national security and transparency in an upcoming speech.
Clinton said her appearance at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association marked the beginning of a speaking series she’ll embark upon that will also include an address on the United States’ national security policies next month in Philadelphia.
Clinton said the September address would focus of issues of “transparency and balance.” The former top diplomat had not yet publicaly addressed the classified National Security Agency surveillance programs that were revealed through leaks at the beginning of the summer.
The move into the political realm marks a new phase in Clinton’s post-State Department life, which was previously occupied by speeches to global women’s organizations and a schedule of paid appearances. She is also writing a diplomacy-focused memoir for release in 2014.
The speeches will likely fuel speculation that Clinton is planning to jump into the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, where she is considered an early favorite.
Well there’s some exciting news! It’s becoming more an more clear that Hillary plans to run for president in 2016.
I’m sure you’ve already heard that James “Whitey” Bulger has been found guilty of murder and racketeering, among other charges. It was always a foregone conclusion. The only surprise is that the jury was only able to find him guilty of 11 murders out of the 19 he was charged with. The New York Times:
BOSTON — James (Whitey) Bulger, the mobster who terrorized South Boston in the 1970s and ‘80s, holding the city in his thrall even after he disappeared, was convicted Monday of a sweeping array of gangland crimes, including 11 murders. He faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.
The verdict delivers long-delayed justice to Mr. Bulger, 83, who disappeared in the mid-1990s after a corrupt agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation told him he was about to be indicted. He left behind a city that wondered if he would ever be caught — and even if the F.B.I., which had been complicit in many of his crimes and had relied on him as an informer, was really looking for him.
“This was the worst case of corruption in the history of the F.B.I.,” said Michael D. Kendall, a former federal prosecutor who investigated Mr. Bulger’s associates. “It was a multigenerational, systematic alliance with organized crime, where the F.B.I. was actively participating in the murders of government witnesses, or at least allowing them to occur.”
Of course there won’t be any punishment for the FBI except for embarrassment, if that troubles them. And there was only minor punishment for the parade of hit men and other criminals who were given generous deals in exchange for their testimony.
The families of the victims of the 7 murders Bulger was not convicted of were disappointed and angry.
As a clerk read the verdicts in the lengthy and complicated list of charges, Mr. Bulger looked away from the jury and showed no reaction. He was found guilty of 31 of 32 counts of his indictment, the one exception involving an extortion charge. While the jury of eight men and four women convicted him of 11 murders, they found the government had not proved its case against him in seven others, and in one murder case it made no finding, leading to gasps inside the courtroom by relatives of those murder victims and explosive scenes outside the court.
“My father just got murdered again 40 years later in that courtroom,” said the son of William O’Brien, who is also named William….
Perhaps one glimmer of gratification for Mr. Bulger was that the jury reached “no finding” in the death of Debra Davis, one of two women he was accused of strangling. He has long maintained that his personal code of honor did not allow for the killing of women, although the jury did determine that he had killed the other woman, Deborah Hussey. Ms. Davis was the longtime girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Mr. Bulger’s former partner in crime who testified against him. Ms. Hussey was the daughter of another of Mr. Flemmi’s longtime girlfriends.
One of the jurors has already talked to local Boston media about how stressful the experience was.
One of the jurors who voted to convict Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger for a string of gangland crimes described how the more than 32 hours of deliberations were “stressful” and involved “all kinds of dissension.”
“Slamming doors,” Scott Hotyckey told CBS station WBZ-TV. “People leaving. Peolpe wanting to get off the jury.” [….]
Hotyckey, juror number 5, said the evidence was overwhelming.
“If you could believe the testimony, and believe what you heard,” Hotyckey said. “I don’t see how you couldn’t find the person guilty.”
But Hotyckey says not all of the jurors believed the testimony they heard – especially from John Martorano, a former hit man who got a plea deal from prosecutors to testify against Bulger.
“There was one juror that constantly said that his testimony was not believable,” Hotyckey recalled. “(He said) over and over again that you couldn’t believe anything (Martorano) said because of the government.”
A study on rats shows that the brain experiences a huge surge of electricity during the moment of death, suggesting that they are experiencing a higher state of consciousness.
It could explain why people claim to see white light or “life flash before their eyes” during near-death experiences.
Dr Jason Braithwaite from the University of Birmingham says that since this surge is happening in rats, it could also happen in humans.
Watch an interview with Braithwaite at the BBC link. More detail on the study:
A study carried out on dying rats found high levels of brainwaves at the point of the animals’ demise.
US researchers said that in humans this could give rise to a heightened state of consciousness.
The lead author of the study, Dr Jimo Borjigin, of the University of Michigan, said: “A lot of people thought that the brain after clinical death was inactive or hypoactive, with less activity than the waking state, and we show that is definitely not the case.
“If anything, it is much more active during the dying process than even the waking state.”
Much more at the link.
Now it’s your turn. What stories have caught your fancy today? Please share your links in the comment thread.
There’s been quite a bit of legal and courthouse news this week, so I’m going to focus on that today.
Yesterday was a big day at the Boston Federal Courthouse as the Whitey Bulger trial was briefly eclipsed by the first court appearance of Boston Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. From The Boston Globe:
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shuffled into the courtroom, appearing confident despite the ankle chains and an orange jumpsuit so big on him that it made him appear younger than his 19 years.
As federal prosecutors read the charges against him Wednesday in his first appearance since being captured in April, Tsarnaev repeatedly looked over his shoulder at the packed courtroom, at one point blowing a kiss to his sisters, one sobbing and another holding a baby.
He leaned into the microphone in the hushed courtroom to tell Judge Marianne B. Bowler with an accent that he pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, including use of weapons of mass destruction. More than 30 victims of the Marathon bombings and about a dozen supporters who say they believe Tsarnaev is innocent watched intently as the accused terrorist yawned and stroked the side of his face, which appeared swollen from a wound.
Tsarnaev, who could receive the death penalty, fidgeted in his seat as he listened to the charges, one of his attorneys patting him on the back gently several times. He had a visible scar just below his throat and had a cast on his left arm.
ABC News talked to survivors of the April 15 bombings who showed up to watch Tsarnaev’s court appearance.
Friends and family members of people whose lives were shattered when two homemade bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 packed three rooms in a federal courthouse on Wednesday as suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to a 30-count indictment.
But the fleeting courtroom encounter brought little relief to Bostonians who said the 19-year-old —accused of conducting the deadly bombings with the help of his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev —showed little feeling.
“He came out and he smirked at the families,” said Ed Fucarile, 64, outside of the John Joseph Moakley federal courthouse along the water in South Boston. “The lawyers put their hands on his shoulders like it was going to be all right.”
Fucarile wore a Boston Strong t-shirt with the name of Marc Fucarile, his son who lost his right leg and still carries shrapnel in his body, the father said.
Marc Fucarile, 34, was standing near the second blast when it went off. He still has more surgeries to go, and has spent every day of the nearly three months since receiving medical care, his father said. Members of the family have taken weeks off work so that someone is always at Marc’s bedside, he said.
Read more survivors’ stories at the link.
At the Whitey Bulger trial, there was a bit of comic relief as Bulger flew into a rage toward the end of testimony and exchanged curses with his former close friend and partner Kevin Weeks. It was reminiscent of a scene from Sopranos.
Bulger’s lawyer, J.W. Carney, tried to portray Weeks as an opportunist who knew how to manipulate the system, someone who cut a deal with prosecutors to serve just five years in prison for aiding and abetting five killings, several of which, Weeks testified, he saw Bulger commit.
“You won against the system,” said Carney.
“What did I win? What did I win,” Weeks said, his voice sounding strained and tired. “Five people are dead.”
Asked whether that bothered him, Weeks shot back, “We killed people that were rats, and I had the two biggest rats right next to me …”
At that, Bulger turned and hissed, “You suck.”
“F— you, OK,” snapped Weeks.
“F— you, too,” shouted Bulger as the jury watched.
“What do you want to do?” said Weeks, his eyes locked on Bulger, who was flushed and staring right back.
At one point Weeks even threatened Carney, asking him if he’d like to step outside.
Weeks grew belligerent and threatening as Carney accused him of lying, challenged his motivation for cooperating, and suggested that Weeks, not Bulger, was a rat.
“You can’t rat on a rat,” said Weeks, adding that he lives in South Boston and walks the streets without being called a rat.
When Carney asked Weeks what he would do if someone did call him a rat, Weeks snapped that if he stepped outside the courthouse he’d show him.
Yesterday the testimony was even more grotesque and sickening, as forensic expert Ann Marie Mires testified about remains of murder victims Arthur Barrett, Deborah Hussey, John McIntyre, and Paul J. McGonagle. I’ll spare you the descriptions; you can go to the links and read more if you’re interested.
This morning Carney asked the judge for a break in the testimony so the defense team could catch up.
The defense team for James “Whitey” Bulger is asking the judge to suspend testimony until next week so they can catch up on evidence.
Defense attorney J.W. Carney filed the motion with the court on Thursday.
“Simply put, the defendant’s counsel have hit a wall, and are unable to proceed further without additional time to prepare for upcoming witnesses,” the motion reads. “Counsel have struggled mightily to be ready for each day of the trial since it began on June 3, 2013, working seven days a week and extraordinarily long hours.” [….]
“A major problem has been the delay in the receipt of discovery from the prosecution,” the motion reads, citing examples of receiving binders of documents pertaining to testimony to be given by witnesses the evening before they take the stand.
Yesterday defense teams rested in both the Bradley Manning and the George Zimmerman trials.
From the Guardian via Raw Story: Bradley Manning defense rests its case after calling just 10 witnesses
Having called just 10 witnesses over the space of three days, the defence phase of the trial was brought to a close far quicker than expected. The defence had indicated in earlier hearings that it intended to call more than 40 witnesses, although many may yet still be presented in court during the post-verdict sentencing stage of the court martial.
By contrast, the prosecution took 14 days to make its case, drawing on 80 witnesses.
On Wednesday, the defence team lead by the civilian lawyer David Coombs, focused its attentions on the most serious charge facing the Army private – that he “aided the enemy” by transmitting information to WikiLeaks knowing that it would be accessible to enemy groups notably al-Qaida. Manning faces a possible sentence of life in military custody with no chance of parole under this single charge.
The final defence witness called, the Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, delivered blistering testimony in which he portrayed WikiLeaks as a legitimate web-based journalistic organisation. He also warned the judge presiding in the case, Colonel Denise Lind, that if the “aiding the enemy” charge was interpreted broadly to suggest that handing information to a website that could be read by anyone with access to the internet was the equivalent of handing to the enemy, then that serious criminal accusation could be levelled against all media outlets that published on the web.
Yesterday was quite a theatrical one in the Zimmerman trial, as a mannequin was brought into court and both a prosecutor and defense attorney Mark O’Mara got down on the floor and straddled the dummy in effort to act out what might have happened during an alleged altercation between Zimmerman and his victim Trayvon Martin.
As professional images go, what followed in the courtroom was probably not something for which Mark O’Mara would most like to be remembered.
Hitching up his pant legs and straddling a life-size human mannequin, Zimmerman’s lead defense counsel got down and dirty on the courtroom floor and proceeded to demonstrate for jurors the “ground and pound” move that they have been told Martin exerted on the accused.
Coming a day after he encouraged one of his witnesses, gym owner and mixed martial arts trainer Adam Pollack, to “step down from the stand to give me an example of a mounted position,” prostrating himself on the floor and asking Pollack, “Where do you want me?” the episode made for an awkward role play, leaving court observers snickering and biting their lips in the midst of an otherwise tragic plot.
Earlier in the day, prosecutor John Guy—described by one public observer in the courtroom on the trial’s opening day as “the supermodel of attorneys”—had also hopped on the mannequin for a similar demonstration in front of the all-female jury.
Later Judge Debra Nelson had a “testy exchange” with defense attorney Don West as she asked Zimmerman whether he planned to take the stand. Zimmerman seemed unsure, and West tried to step in.
West repeatedly challenged Nelson’s decision to press Zimmerman for a clear answer. The judge repeatedly slapped him down, her voice gathering volume every time.
“The court is entitled to ask Mr. Zimmerman about his determination as to whether he wants to testify,” Nelson insisted tersely after West objected to her line of questioning.
She looked back at Zimmerman: “How long do you think you need before you make that decision?” she inquired again, as the defendant—who had a minute earlier been made to raise his hand and swear under oath that any decision whether to testify would be his—turned to his counsel for help.
“I object to the court inquiring of Zimmerman about his intention to testify,” West whimpered for a second time.
“I object to the court inquiring of Zimmerman about his intention to testify,” West whimpered for a second time.
“And I have O-VER-RULED” Judge Nelson spat back—several times—as the objections kept coming.
Finally Zimmerman haltingly said he did not want to testify. I think he actually wanted to–if only. What a disaster that would have been for his attorneys! Closing arguments are scheduled to begin this afternoon.
In other news, I can’t resist sharing this article from Time Magazine about what former Russian spies think is probably happening to Edward Snowden in Russia.
In the summer of 1985, KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky was called back to Moscow from the Soviet embassy in London, where he was serving as a resident spy. As a pretext, his commanders told him that he was going to receive an award for his service. But in fact the KGB suspected him of being a double agent — which he was — and they were looking to interrogate him. So upon his arrival, his KGB colleagues, still concealing their suspicions, took him to a comfortable country estate in the suburbs of the Russian capital, much like the one where Gordievsky and other former spies believe Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower, has spent the past few weeks….
The official story coming from the Russian government since then is that Snowden has been holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, waiting for some third country to grant him asylum. But few experts or officials in Moscow still believe that to be true. The accepted wisdom, unofficially acknowledged by most Western and Russian sources, is that Snowden was taken soon after his arrival — if not immediately — to a secure location run by some arm of the Russian government.
Experts and former spies who have dealt with the Russian security services are sure that agents would want to get the encryption keys to the data stored on Snowden’s four laptops. The only way to do that would be to get Snowden to give them up.
So Gordievsky believes Snowden would have gotten roughly the same treatment that the KGB spy got back in 1985. “They would have fed him something to loosen his tongue,” Gordievsky says by phone from the U.K., where he has been living in exile for nearly three decades. “Many different kinds of drugs are available, as I experienced for myself.” Having been called back to Moscow, Gordievsky says his KGB comrades drugged him with a substance that “turned out his lights” and made him “start talking in a very animated way.” Although the drug wiped out most of his memory of the incident, the parts he did recollect horrified him the following morning, when he woke up feeling ill. “I realized that I had completely compromised myself,” he says.
One of the substances the KGB used for such purposes at the time was called SP-117, which is odorless, tasteless and colorless, according Alexander Kouzminov, a former Russian intelligence operative who describes the drug’s effectiveness in his book, Biological Espionage. Now living in New Zealand, Kouzminov worked in the 1980s and early 1990s for the Foreign Intelligence Service, the spy agency known as the SVR, which handles undercover agents, or “illegals,” stationed in foreign countries. In his book, Kouzminov writes that various drugs were used periodically to test these operatives for signs of disloyalty or diversion. Once the drug had worn off, the agents would have no recollection of what they had said and, if their test results were satisfactory, they could be sent back into the field as though nothing had happened.
Yesterday, Snowden announced through Glenn Greenwald that “I never gave any information to Chinese or Russian governments.” I guess he assumes that Chinese and Russian officials don’t read The Guardian, The Washington Post, or the South China Morning Post. Anyway now it’s not clear if he would even remember if he gave them anything.
For all you Snowden and Greenwald fans out there, this information comes from an article in Time Magazine based on interviews with people who have actual experience with the ways Russia deals with spies. Don’t shoot the messenger.
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focused on today. Please share you links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a tremendous Thursday!
Tonight the news stories are focused on crime, and boy were there lots of criminals in the news today.
There was an article making news from the South China Morning Post that reported Snowden sought Booz Allen job to gather evidence on NSA surveillance. Which of course changes things…
A few recent articles and thoughts on this:
“Anybody who wants to accuse me or anyone at the Guardian of aiding and abetting Snowden has the obligation to point to any specific evidence to support that accusation,” Greenwald told me. “Otherwise they’re just spouting reckless innuendo.”
A prominent business journalist suggested Monday that The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald should be arrested for reporting on leaks detailing top secret surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, a financial columnist for the New York Times and a commentator for CNBC, said on-air that he’d “almost arrest” Greenwald along with NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who fled Hong Kong for Russia on Sunday in the hopes of ultimately receiving asylum in Ecuador.
“I would arrest [Snowden] and now I’d almost arrest Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who seems to be out there, he wants to help him get to Ecuador or whatever,” Sorkin said.
Well at least he said “almost”.
Uh, Wall Street sources? I’d be a little bit careful about talking to this person in the future. He’s clearly not a journalist and will sell you down the river the minute a government prosecutor decides to put you in the government crosshairs. True, the government has shown no desire to prosecute any of you for anything. But you never know — some rogue Attorney general might decide to make an example of you. Your good friend Sorkin here is a very good … patriot.
I’m just going to post this from the Press Freedom Foundation, which even defends sell-outs like Andrew Ross Sorkin, even though they don’t deserve it…
You can read the rest of the link, where she still is defending Greenwald.
As the U.S. intelligence community struggles to complete a damage assessment over the secret information allegedly stolen by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, sources told ABC News there is a growing consensus within the top circles of the U.S. government that the 30-year-old contractor could deal a potentially devastating blow to U.S. national security.
Then there is the joke heard round the world…well around the US at least. George Zimmerman Trial Knock Knock Joke 06/24/13 VIDEO | Mediaite
Zimmerman defense attorney Don West began his opening argument by trying to defuse the emotional impact of Guy’s opening, agreeing that “this is a sad case,” but then also ham-fistedly conceding permission for the slain teenager’s parents to grieve. “Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin are grieving parents, without question,” he said, adding “They have the right to grieve, they have the right to feel the way they feel.”
He then went into a long digression about why George Zimmerman’s family members were not seated in the courtroom , culminating in an objection that was sustained from the bench.
“Well, I think the evidence will show that this is a sad case, that there are no monsters here,” West continued. “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. So let me, at considerable risk, let me say, I’d like to tell you a little joke. I know how that may sound a bit weird, in this context, under these circumstances, but I think you’re the perfect audience for it. As long as you don’t, if you don’t like it, or you don’t think it’s funny or appropriate, that you don’t hold it against Mr. Zimmerman, you can hold it against me, but not Mr. Zimmerman.”
Yes, Mr. West, it is really weird, really really weird. Maybe the strategy here is to gain sympathy for the defendant because his lawyers suck so bad?
“Here’s how it goes,” he continued. “Knock knock, who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who?”
George Zimmerman just shot and killed your unarmed, 17 year-old son? Because that’s pretty much the punchline that Trayvon’s parents were told when they got a knock on the door in February.
“Knock knock, who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right. Good, you’re on the jury.”
The joke was met with complete, life-sucking silence in the courtroom. “Nothing?” West pleaded, to a tiny smattering of embarrassed titters. “That’s funny.”
Geez, yeah…that is funny. /snark.
George Zimmerman‘s defense attorney Don West was forced to apologize after a recess in his client’s murder trial this afternoon for making a knock-knock joke during his opening statement. “No more bad jokes, I promise that,” West told the jury. “I’m convinced in was the delivery though, I really thought that was funny. I’m sorry if I offended anyone.”
If you want to find out what happened during the rest of the first day’s trial:
Meanwhile, check out what they found buried in Jimmy “the Gent” Burke’s back yard…Testing finds human remains in New York gangster case
Test results on material found at the former New York home of late gangster Jimmy “The Gent” Burke have come back positive for human remains, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office said Monday.
An anthropological investigation is now under way on the material, said office spokeswoman Grace Brugess. She said investigators will try to extract DNA from the remains to try to identify who was buried there.
On Wednesday night, investigators at Ozone Park in Queens finished the search for remains possibly connected to a case that happened before 1996, said a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity last week.
According to public records, the house is now owned by Burke’s daughter, Catherine Burke, who declined Tuesday to comment to CNN.
James Burke died in 1996. According to his obituary in The New York Times, he was serving a 20-years-to-life sentence in a New York prison when he fell ill with cancer.
You may remember the Jimmy “the Gent” from the Scorsese film Goodfellas:
Robert De Niro played Burke as Jimmy Conway in the 1990 Martin Scorsese classic mafia film “Goodfellas,” and Burke is probably best known as the alleged mastermind of the 1978 Lufthansa heist, an $8 million robbery at John F. Kennedy International Airport, which was the largest robbery in history at the time.
The source said that Burke and his cohorts, closely associated with top members of the Lucchese crime family, also were allegedly involved in a number of other activities — so the search in Queens may not be related to the Lufthansa heist.
Wouldn’t it be something if it was Billy Batts character’s remains?
Take a look at the Wikipedia link on James Burke, it is fascinating. (It got me sidetracked…that is why this post is so damn late tonight.)
Also, if you have followed the Whitey Bulger trial…this may be a helpful link: The ‘Time Capsule’ Of Mob Lingo At The Whitey Bulger Trial : NPR
This week, we’ve been immersed in news about mobs both real and fictional, with the death of Sopranos star James Gandolfini and the continuing trial of James “Whitey” Bulger.
The Sopranos gave us a primer on mob language like “clipping” a “rat.” But Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang and his Boston Irish cohort were the real deal. Members of Bulger’s old cohort came to the witness stand and used the real-life slang of their gang days.
That caught the ear of linguist Ben Zimmer, who tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered, that he’s been fascinated by quotes from the trial.
“Hearing these senior citizens, actually, talking about misdeeds that happened 30 or 40 years ago, and describing it using these terms — it was almost like a time capsule of this amazing, colorful slang,” he says.
Cameras aren’t allowed in the courtroom, so there are no videos or even recordings of the trial for Zimmer to listen to. Instead, he’s relied mostly on journalists’ tweets, like when one local reporter joked that Bulger collected more rent than any landlord in Boston.
“If you had any bookmaking business or loan-sharking business, Bulger’s gang was trying to get a piece of that,” Zimmer explains. “So you had to pay your tribute, which they called rent.”
Another term that came up during testimony was “vig.” That’s short for vigorish, a word of Yiddish and probably Russian origin.
More at the link…The one think I find funny is the quote from Goodfellas, were Jimmy tells a newly arrested Henry Hill, “Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.” Then you have this nugget from former enforcer John Martorano:
Martorano also says the word “rat” doesn’t apply to him, though he’s now a government witness in the Bulger trial.
“He didn’t want to be accused of being a rat,” Zimmer says. “He’s a government witness for Whitey Bulger. Since Bulger was already an informant, that meant that Martorano himself was not a rat.”
In that same 60 Minutes interview, Martorano said there was a distinction between a government witness and a rat. A witness, he said, had the courage to give testimony on the stand. On the other hand, a rat was “doing it behind your back and dropping dimes.”
That quote – particularly the phrase “dropping dimes” – also piqued our interest.
“That evokes the image of putting a dime in a payphone, perhaps,” Zimmer explains. “That you’re calling up the authorities to rat on somebody.”
Well, you have a good evening.
This is an open thread…
Isn’t that a gorgeous photo? There was a double rainbow over Boston last night, and quite a few people took photos and videos of it. Here’s another shot of it over the harbor and seaport.
You can see more views of it here.
Some people said the rainbow must be a positive sign for the Boston Bruins, who are in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t work out that way though. The Blackhawks ended up winning game one, after what seemed like an endless triple-overtime hockey game.
In other local news, yesterday was the first day of the trial of 83-year-old Irish gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. Opening statements were apparently riveting. It’s a shame the federal courts won’t allow TV cameras, because this trial is going to be an incredible show. Yesterday both sides gave their opening statements. From The Washington Post:
BOSTON — The trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the Irish mob boss who allegedly helped scratch out 19 lives and ran this city’s underworld aided by corrupt FBI agents, got underway Wednesday morning almost 20 years after he fled the city on the eve of his indictment.
Now 83 and with just a bit of white hair left, Bulger wore a long-sleeve green shirt and jeans and listened without displaying any reaction as prosecutors laid out their 32 charges against him in a packed South Boston federal courtroom near the gangster’s old hangouts.
“It’s a case about organized crime, public corruption and all types of illegal activities,” federal prosecutor Brian Kelly said during opening statements. “He was no ordinary leader. He did the dirty work himself. He was a hands-on killer.”
Kelly told the story of one of Bulger’s alleged murder victims, Arthur “Bucky” Barrett, who prayed for his life before he was led to a cellar stairwell. “Barrett’s going downstairs to lie down for a while,” Bulger told an accomplice. Barrett walked down the stairs, and Bulger shot him the back, Kelly said.
Bulger’s rise as the city’s brutal organized crime leader was aided and abetted by corrupt FBI agents, who brushed off Bulger’s racketeering and violence in exchange for his help as an informant to bring down the local mafia, according to a lengthy ruling by a federal judge and other investigations.
On the defense side, (Hartford Courant)
Bulger lawyer Jay Carney made it clear in his remarks to the jury that much of the crime boss’s defense will be spent trying to discredit the government’s three chief witnesses. They are close former Bulger associates who agreed to turn on him for leniency or other considerations.
Carney argued to the jury that the three — John Martorano, Stephen Flemmi and Kevin Weeks — will say whatever they think the government wants in order to protect their cooperation agreements. Among other things, he said, they are accusing Bulger of their crimes.
Martorano was sentenced to 14 years in prison for 20 murders. Weeks, once a Bulger protégé, got a shorter sentence for less serious offenses. Flemmi, Bulger’s long-time partner, got a life sentence, but was not exposed to possible death sentences for crimes in Florida and Oklahoma related to the gang’s attempt to takeover World Jai Alai, once one of the country’s largest pari-mutuel businesses.
Carney compared the federal prosecutors to chefs and the three witnesses to elaborately prepared meals.
‘What [we] are going to try to do is show you what happens in the prosecutors’ kitchen before the witness comes out,” Carney said.
I guess I’ve bored you with enough Boston news for today. Let’s see what’s happening in the rest of the world. Read the rest of this entry »