Posted: April 8, 2014 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, racism, sports | Tags: Al Sharpton, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, baseball, Cornelius Gurlitt, Crimea, FBI, Genovese family, Hank Aaron, hate mail, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Nazi Germany, pro-Kremlin protesters, social media, steroids, stolen artwork, Ukraine, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Vladimir Putin |
Today is the 40th anniversary of an amazing athletic accomplishment.
On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run and broke Babe Ruth’s “unbreakable” record of 714.
Sadly, on August 7, 2007, steroid popping cheater Barry Bonds supposedly “broke” Aaron’s record. But in the minds of many, Aaron’s amazing achievement still stands as the one that counts.
The NY Daily News has a wonderful article about Aaron’s record and the hell he went through to reach it. Even if you don’t like baseball, I hope you’ll read it.
Remembering 715: Forty years ago, Hank Aaron rocked bias and hatred with one mighty blow.
Tom House, an Atlanta Braves reliever at the time, tells about recovering the historic ball and giving it to Aaron after he touched home plate:
The game was stopped and, as fireworks flashed in the sky and Atlanta Stadium erupted into cheers, House made a jubilant dash toward home plate, where a relieved Aaron was being congratulated. “As fast as my legs would carry me,” House recalls. He held out the ball, which Sammy Davis Jr. had offered $25,000 for, and said, “Here it is, Hammer.”
Aaron, generally a portrait of quiet dignity and grace, was crying and holding his mother, Estella. “I had not seen much emotion out of Henry. That was cool,” House says now. “They both had tears in their eyes. She kept hugging him and hugging him.
“I heard later that she wouldn’t let go because she was afraid he was going to get shot. Some of the death threats had said he’d be shot at the plate.”
Hank Aaron hits No. 715 off Dodgers pitcher Al Downing on April 8, 1974 (NY Daily News)
When Roger Maris broke the Babe’s single season home run record in 1961, it was a hellish experience for Maris. The abuse he endured forever changed his life and affected his outlook; but at least Maris was white. Aaron was a black man in an era of racial turmoil.
It remains an important moment in the game’s history not just because the quiet, dignified Aaron toppled Ruth’s 714, which was probably the most famous single number in sports. But because of what Aaron endured to get there — death threats, vulgar hate mail rife with the worst kind of racism imaginable.
All these years later, the home run is significant in another way, too — it reverberates in today’s game, among today’s statistics. Plenty of people believe Aaron is still the true home run king, not the Steroid Era Barry Bonds, who topped Aaron’s career mark of 755 by seven homers.
As he approached the record Aaron was getting daily hate mail.
In a UPI story that ran in the Los Angeles Times on May 17, 1973, Aaron said he got letters filled with invective every day.
“If I were a white man, all America would be proud of me,” Aaron was quoted as saying. “But I’m black. You have to be black in America to know how sick some people are. I’ve always thought racism a problem, even with as much progress as America has made.”
Aaron said he read the mail anyway. It wasn’t going to stop him.
There’s much more in the Daily News article, and I do hope you’ll go read it.
At Time, John Friedman argues that “Hank Aaron Would Have Faced Worse Racism Today.”
Henry Aaron’s record-setting 715th home run off Al Downing on April 8, 1974 still stands today as one of the greatest milestones in Major League Baseball history. By breaking the four-decade mark of the great Babe Ruth, Aaron strode out of the shadows – and stepped into a cauldron.
This accomplishment transcended sports. By his own accounts over the years, we can recognize that Aaron went through hell during that time. It was tough enough when reporters and camera crews chronicled his every at-bat and invaded his privacy. But that was the least of it. Here, a black man stood poised—while playing in the Deep South, to boot—to claim one of the sports world’s most storied marks. Bigots hounded Aaron and made his life miserable, at a time when he should have basked in the glow of both his historic achievement and the recognition that had eluded him for decades.
Still, you know what? We might conclude that Aaron got off easy four decades ago, long before social media dominated every facet of our lives and removed any shred of privacy.
Just try to imagine how much more intense and challenging his predicament would have been. Can you picture the potential for incessant racist taunts on Facebook and Twitter, not to mention the blogosphere? In the 1970s, the haters reached Aaron by what we call “snail mail.” Today, in our sped-up-world of modern communications, Aaron would have had no escape.
Is Friedman right? I hate to think so, but after what we’ve seen after Americans elected a black president, I have to wonder.
The situation in Ukraine continues to escalate.
Pro-Russia protesters burn tires near a regional administration building in Kharkiv in a back-and-forth clash with riot police for control of the building. (Oleg Shishkov, EPA / April 7, 2014)
The LA Times reports, Ukraine cracks down on demonstrators; Russia issues warning.
Ukrainian riot police cleared a regional administration building and public square in the eastern city of Kharkiv of hundreds of pro-Russia protesters Tuesday morning, detaining scores in the process, officials said.
“Seventy criminals were taken into custody during the operation,” Ukraine acting President Olexandr Turchinov told the parliament in televised remarks Tuesday morning.
In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning against the use of force on pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine and alleged the direct involvement of private U.S. military experts.
“According to our information, Ukraine Interior Ministry and National Guard troops including militants of the illegal armed group the Right Sectort are being brought to the southeast regions of Ukraine,” read a statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official website Tuesday. “A special concern is connected with the fact that abot 150 U.S. experts from the private military organization Greystone dressed in the uniforms of [Ukraine] special unit Sokol are involved in the operation.”
“The organizers and participants in the operation are assuming huge responsibility for the creation of threats to rights, freedoms and lives of peaceful residents of Ukraine,” the statement said.
It really doesn’t look like Russian president Vladimir Putin is going to stop with absorbing Crimea into Russia. From the Wall Street Journal this morning: Ukraine Could Be Plunged into Civil War, Warns Russia — Update.
Ukrainian police on Tuesday regained control of a government building occupied by pro-Kremlin separatists in one volatile eastern city as pro-Russian protesters in another appeared to be slipping into disarray.
As Ukraine’s new government pushed to show its authority in the region, Russia warned that the use of force to dislodge demonstrators who had taken over government offices could plunge the country into civil war.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of instigating the protests that began Sunday in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk, suggesting that their powerful neighbor is trying to orchestrate a takeover similar to its incursion and annexation of Crimea. They have vowed to subdue the secessionists.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Tuesday morning that an “antiterrorist” operation had been launched in Kharkiv and around 70 separatists who had control of the regional administration building had been arrested.
He said roughly 200 pro-Russian agitators had barricaded themselves inside overnight and threw stun grenades and fired pellet guns at police and national guard officers who had surrounded the building. He said the protesters then set fire to a wing of the building and smashed windows. After the fire was contained, Mr. Avakov said special forces units stormed the building, made the arrests and seized a cache of weapons.
“The night in Kharkiv was endlessly long,” he said. “The boorish, brutal, ordered and generously paid pro-Russian aggression of the ‘protesters’ was off the charts.”
Mr. Avakov said that the Interior Ministry was moving more forces to the east of Ukraine to protect against further separatist activity.
But Russia’s foreign ministry threatened that any heavy-handed action by Ukrainian authorities could set off further violence.
If you’d like to read an in-depth analysis of the situation, check out this blog post by Prof. John Schindler of the Naval War College, Putinism and the Anti-WEIRD Coalition.
Awhile back I wrote about the discovery of a huge collection of art works
that had been found in Germany, many of which had likely been stolen by the Nazis during WWII. Now even more stolen art works have come to light, according to this article at Raw Story: German recluse’s ‘Nazi art trove’ much bigger than first thought.
Around another 60 artworks, including pieces by Monet and Renoir, have come to light at the Austrian home of an elderly German recluse whose earlier discovered art hoard is suspected to contain Nazi-looted works.
The latest pieces were found at the property in Salzburg belonging to Cornelius Gurlitt, his spokesman said Tuesday, just months after the art world was rocked by news of a spectacular trove of more than 1,400 works unearthed at his German home in 2012.
A first inspection indicates there is no Nazi loot — artwork that the fascist regime stole from Jewish owners or bought from them cheaply under duress — in the latest discovery, spokesman Stephan Holzinger said.
“More works were located in Cornelius Gurlitt’s house in Salzburg,” he said in a statement….
The Gurlitt case first made headlines late last year when it emerged that investigators had found more than 1,400 artworks in his Munich flat, including long-lost works by masters including Matisse and Chagall.
Gurlitt is now cooperating with authorities and has agreed to return any stolen pieces. From the Times of Israel:
Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, was an art dealer on assignment to the Nazis who died in 1956 in an accident; his son inherited the collection. In 2012, customs agents investigating Cornelius Gurlitt for tax evasion confiscated his Munich stash of some 1,400 works.
The existence of the collection — which includes works by artists such as Picasso, Dürer, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Beckmann and Matisse – was kept under wraps until Focus magazine broke the story last fall.
Spurred by art provenance researchers and restitution advocates around the world, Germany established a task force to deal specifically with the Gurlitt case. It includes experts recommended by the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, among others.
In the meantime, works collected by the elder Gurlitt also were found to be stashed in his son’s home in Salzburg, Austria, as well as in other locations in Austria and Switzerland.
Gurlitt, 81, has maintained that his collection is legitimate. Earlier this year, his attorneys publicized a new website where possible heirs could contact him.
Yesterday The Smoking Gun broke a surprising story about activist and MSNBC host Al Sharpton.
Rev. Al Sharpton with President Obama
Al Sharpton’s Secret Work As FBI Informant: Untold story of how activist once aided probes of NYC wiseguys
Beginning in the mid-1980s and spanning several years, Sharpton’s cooperation was fraught with danger since the FBI’s principal targets were leaders of the Genovese crime family, the country’s largest and most feared Mafia outfit. In addition to aiding the FBI/NYPD task force, which was known as the “Genovese squad,” Sharpton’s cooperation extended to several other investigative agencies.
TSG’s account of Sharpton’s secret life as “CI-7” is based on hundreds of pages of confidential FBI affidavits, documents released by the bureau in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, court records, and extensive interviews with six members of the Genovese squad, as well as other law enforcement officials to whom the activist provided assistance.
Like almost every other FBI informant, Sharpton was solely an information source. The parameters of his cooperation did not include Sharpton ever surfacing publicly or testifying on a witness stand.
Genovese squad investigators–representing both the FBI and NYPD–recalled how Sharpton, now 59, deftly extracted information from wiseguys. In fact, one Gambino crime family figure became so comfortable with the protest leader that he spoke openly–during ten wired face-to-face meetings–about a wide range of mob business, from shylocking and extortions to death threats and the sanity of Vincent “Chin” Gigante, the Genovese boss who long feigned mental illness in a bid to deflect law enforcement scrutiny. As the mafioso expounded on these topics, Sharpton’s briefcase–a specially customized Hartmann model–recorded his every word.
Sharpton told Politico that he wasn’t technically an informant. He had turned to authorities for help because of threats against him.
“I was never told I was an informant or I had a number or none of that,” the MSNBC host told the New York Daily News. “Whether or not they used some of the other information they got during that period for other purposes, I don’t know.”
The paper reported that Sharpton said he contacted authorities after receiving death threats.
“If you’re a victim of a threat, you’re not an informant — you’re a victim trying to protect yourself,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton also noted that this isn’t breaking news; it has been reported more than once in the past.
“I don’t see this as news,” Sharpton told FoxNews.com. “This has been brought up three or four times now. I don’t understand. It’s crazy.”
The New York Daily News also has a lengthy write-up of the story if you want more details.
Those are the stories that caught my eye today. What are you reading and hearing? Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great Tuesday!
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Posted: March 18, 2013 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Crime | Tags: FBI, Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, stolen artwork, the Gardner heist |
Photo of empty frame in the Garner Museum (thieves cut paintings from their frames)
There was exciting news in Boston today!
The Boston office of the FBI held a press conference to announce that they strongly believe they have identified the culprits who stole 13 paintings worth $500 million from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum 23 years ago today. The Boston Globe reports:
The officials also said they had determined where the artworks had traveled in the years after the robbery, which is considered the greatest art theft in history. But the officials said they did not know where they were now and were appealing to the public for their help in finding them.
“The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft. With that confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England,” Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI, said.
DesLauriers said that after the attempted sale of the paintings about a decade ago, the FBI did not know where the artworks — which included three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a portrait by Edouard Manet, and sketches by Renoir — had been taken.
They refused to reveal the names of the culprits while the investigation is still ongoing. The FBI decided to hold the press conference on the anniversary of the art theft–the largest such heist in history–in order to ask for help from the public. They no longer know the location of the paintings and they hope that someone will come forward, as happened when they request help in finding Boston gangster Whitey Bulger.
According to the Hartford Courant, the FBI
disclosed new detail about their interest in Hartford mobster Robert Gentile….They…would not answer specific questions about Gentile, a 75-year-old gambler and confidence man long associated with the rackets in Hartford. The officials said that, to discuss Gentile or other suspects, could jeopardize the continuing investigation.
But since 2010, Gentile has been questioned repeated about his membership in the Boston branch of a Philadelphia-based criminal organization, as well as leads that place at least some of the stolen paintings in Connecticut and the Philadelphia area.
DesLauriers said he doesn’t know what happened to the art after it was transported to Philadelphia.
The FBI, Boston’s U.S. Attorney and the museum’s security chief released surprising detail at a Boston press conference followed around the world about what for years had been a largely fruitless investigation. The officials were looking for a jolt of publicity to generate new leads in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The officials also referred repeatedly to a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the art….
Although the officials refused to discuss Gentile by name, the information the FBI released about who robbed the museum and how the stolen art was moved years later corresponds closely with their theories about Gentile’s involvement in the crime. The officials also said, without explaining why, that the investigation has been particularly active since 2010, which is when they first questioned Gentile.
Gentile is currently in jail for selling prescription painkillers. After his arrest, his home was searched, but no stolen paintings were found–just lots of drugs, money, and weapons.
Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” stolen from the Gardner Museum
Here’s some background on the Gardner Heist and the long investigation from a 2005 article in The Boston Globe.
As they struggled to remove a heavy-framed Rembrandt from the silk-draped wall of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the two thieves abruptly stopped as a high-pitched alarm beeped from the baseboard.
They must have been startled.
But not for long. Intended to alert guards when museum visitors ventured too close to the art, the alarm was quickly hunted down by the men. They smashed it silent and went back to work on what remains, 15 years after that misty March night in 1990, the biggest art heist in history.
The warning beeper proved to be the only part of the museum’s security system that deterred the men at all. They would spend 81 minutes moving through the darkened galleries of the Italianate mansion Mrs. Jack Gardner built at the turn of the century to house her private art collection and share it with the public; they could have stayed all night.
The men got into the museum by dressing as Boston police officers and convincing the guard on duty, Richard Abath, to let them in because they had been called about a disturbance. They then tied up Abath and another security guard and handcuffed them in the basement.
Once inside, the thieves ripped a Vermeer, three Rembrandts — including his only seascape — five Degas drawings, and a Manet from their wall placements, smashing them out of their frames and leaving shards of glass and remnants of canvas behind. The thieves took some of the museum’s greatest treasures but left behind some even more valuable objects.
When they were done for the night, they made two trips to their car with the loot. Then they vanished.
Where the paintings were, empty frames now fill the museum’s walls.
Richard Abath in 2013
Abath was 23, a student at the Berklee School of Music and a rock musician who worked nights as a security guard at the museum. He wasn’t a suspect at first–he even passed two polygraph tests, but today he’s being looked at as a possible accessory to the crime.
For years, investigators discounted the hapless Abath’s role in the unsolved crime, figuring his excessive drinking and pot smoking contributed to his disastrous decision to let in the robbers, who were dressed as police officers. Even if the duo had been real cops, watchmen weren’t supposed to admit anyone who showed up uninvited at 1:24 a.m.
But, after 23 years of pursuing dead ends, including a disappointing search of an alleged mobster’s home last year, investigators are focusing on intriguing evidence that suggests the former night watchman might have been in on the crime all along — or at least knows more about it than he has admitted.
Why, they ask, were Abath’s footsteps the only ones picked up on motion detectors in a first floor gallery where one of the stolen paintings, by French impressionist Edouard Manet, was taken? And why did he open the side entrance to the museum minutes before the robbers rang the buzzer to get in? Was he signaling to them that he was prepared for the robbery to begin?
No one publicly calls Abath a suspect, but federal prosecutors grilled him on these issues last fall. And one former prosecutor in the case has written a recently published novel about the Gardner heist in which the night watchman let the thieves into the museum to pay off a large cocaine debt.
It would be incredible if the paintings could be recovered! It would far more thrilling than finding Whitey Bulger. The statute of limitations on the theft has already run out, and anyone who came forward would likely be given immunity for revealing the location(s) of the artwork. According to the Boston Herald,
The FBI stressed that anyone with information about the artwork may contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI (1-800-225-5324) or the museum directly or through a third party, said Special Agent Geoffrey Kelly, who is the lead investigator for the theft and a member of the art crime team, “In the past, people who realize they are in possession of stolen art have returned the art in a variety of ways, including through third parties, attorneys and anonymously leaving items in churches or at police stations.” Tips may also be submitted online athttps://tips.fbi.gov.
The publicity campaign announced today includes a dedicated FBI website on the Gardner Museum theft, video postings on FBI social media sites, publicity on digital billboards in Philadelphia region, and a podcast. To view and listen to these items, link to the FBI’s new website about the theft: www.FBI.gov/gardner.
Below are photos of some of the missing paintings. See more at Time Magazine.
Vermeer, “The Concert”
Degas, “La Sortie de Pesage”
Manet, “Chez Tortoni”
Govaert Flinck, “Landscape with Obelisk”
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