March 25th, 2012
New York Post
By MICHAEL GARTLAND
It’s breaking and entering for dummies.
Picture the Homeless, a Bronx nonprofit that has received at least $240,000 in taxpayer money in the last five years, is giving a crash course on squatting — and city-owned buildings are a prime target.
Two weeks ago, board member Andres Perez held a teach-in on how to wrest “control” of vacant apartments. He called it “homesteading.”
“The best time to enter a building is in the late hours,” he advised a group of about 20, who gathered in front of the half-empty East New York housing complex Arlington Village.
“You make sure you have your proper tools. You remove the chains and padlock, and then you go in.”
He then led them through the next steps — including filling out a change-of-address form at the post office and setting up utilities. After that, “nine out of 10 times the courts will allow you to be able to have control of the property,” he said.
But squatting school outraged legal residents of Arlington Village.
“I can’t let nobody squat where I live,” said Pete Rolon, 64, a 35-year resident who claimed pimps had grabbed two apartments in the complex. “There were hookers. They were smoking crack. There were condoms all over the floor. There were hundreds of them.”
He remembers when the complex of 12 two-story, red-brick buildings was filled with families and children playing.
Police and residents eventually forced the sex-trade squatters out last fall, according to Rolon.
Mohammed Hossain, the super at Arlington, where pads go for $600 to $1,000 per month, said complaints about homeless people breaking in to steal pipes and metal fixtures are common.
“The homeless people, they have no right to be squatting here,” he said. “If they pay rent, that’s different.”
Residents also aren’t happy about city tax money going to a group that preaches squatting.
“That’s not right,” said one longtime resident. “That these guys are teaching classes on this — that’s ridiculous.”
The Web site for Picture the Homeless boasts a list of accomplishments that includes sending “delegations to the World Social Forum in Brazil.”
Perez, 46, a former city Housing Authority worker, said the group has “two major campaigns.” One is dedicated to opposing the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy. The other involves schooling people about “warehoused” property.
Homesteading, he lectured, is a permanent occupation, while squatting is only temporary “clubhousing.”
“The best properties are city-owned properties or bank-owned properties,” he said. “They warehouse these properties. They’re sitting on them.”
Picture the Homeless’s annual taxpayer funding is approved by the City Council and administered through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
“We absolutely don’t condone the practice of squatting,” said HPD spokesman Eric Bederman. “It’s illegal, and it’s dangerous.”
Bederman added that his agency has no control over Picture the Homeless’s funding. “It’s the City Council’s decision,” he said.
Robin Levine, a City Council spokeswoman, said, “We’re deeply troubled by reports that Picture the Homeless is instructing New Yorkers in how to engage in dangerous and illegal activities. If these reports are in fact true, they call the group’s entire funding into question.”
Recommended from The NY Post
March 25th, 2012
"Sweet-toothed" ghosts have come for the Fruit Roll-Ups at an Australian supermarket. Watch the security camera video of a box leaping from the shelf and then being tossed down the aisle and you tell us: CGI hoax or supernatural snacker? Owner Norm Hurst tells Aussie newspaper Adelaide: "The previous owners told me it was haunted.
I thought, 'Yeah, whatever.' But since we've owned the place, strange things have happened." Some claim a boxer gunned down in front of the shop in 1998 might be responsible for the haunting.
March 24th, 2012
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
About 20,000 atheists gathered within shouting distance of the Washington Monument on Saturday for a Reason Rally hell-bent on damning religion and mocking beliefs.
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A full pantheon of demigods of unbelief -- British scientist and full-time atheism rabble-rouser Richard Dawkins was the headliner -- kept a crowd of all ages on their feet for more than six hours (and counting -- I left before the band Bad Religion was set to play).
Dawkins didn't appear until five hours into the event, but few seemed discouraged by the near-constant rain or drizzle. They whistled and cheered for his familiar lines such as:
I don't despise religious people. I despise what they stand for ...
Evolution is not just true, it's beautiful ...
Then Dawkins got to the part where he calls on the crowd not only to challenge religious people but to "ridicule and show contempt" for their doctrines and sacraments, including the Eucharist, which Catholics believe becomes the body of Christ during Mass.
That was a step further than Craig Lowery, a Dawkins fan, said he's willing to go. Lowery, of Washington, D.C., applauded but admitted he's not a confrontational atheist, saying:
I might make fun of them in my head but I wouldn't say it. Most people, religious or otherwise, are good people.
Outrage was the parlance of the day, however, for many speakers, including David Silverman, Reason Rally organizer and American Atheists president.
He reveled in the group's reputation as the marines of atheism, as the people who storm the faith barricades and bring "unpopular but necessary" lawsuits.
Silverman may have gone a bit further in his rhetoric than he intended. In a thundering call for "zero tolerance" for anyone who disagrees with or insults atheism, Silverman proclaimed, "Stand your ground!"
Unfortunately, of course, the phrase "stand your ground," is in the news this week as the legal cover for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., last week. Under Florida's "stand your ground" law, George Zimmerman could claim he feared Trayvon, a teen armed with iced tea and Skittles, would harm him.
Silverman meant a verbal, not a literal, call to arms here. Still, the line didn't draw applause as his other take-no-insults charges did.
Several of the featured names were famous folks who sent in videos: Penn Jillette, Bill Maher and U.S. Rep. Pete Stark. Others, popular in the Internet niche of skeptics, free-thinkers and atheists, came to the microphone to address the soggy crowds in person. A sampling:
- Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta urged people to run for office, any post from school board to Congress to dogcatcher.
- Greta Christina, author of Why Are You Atheists So Angry?, attacked every major faith, even the teachings of the Dalai Lama. In a long litany of what makes her angry, she got all the way back to Galileo (overlooking the modern Catholic Church's restoration of his reputation).
- Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel, said there really is someone who loves and protects him and watches over his actions -- "It's me!"
Many were surprised to learn that Fred Phelps, head of Westboro Baptist Church -- famous for its anti-gay signs at the funerals of innocent people -- has an atheist son, Nate. Nate drew big applause for denouncing the fundamentalist faith of his family.
Meanwhile, 12 men with big signs warning Jesus demands repentance ignored the official holding pen fenced off for counter-demonstrators. Instead, they stood on the grass about 100 yards from the podium, each surrounded by a knot of eager-to-argue unbelievers.
Pastor Larry McCune, of Parkersburg, W.Va., found a thoughtful listener in Liam Shane, 18, of Leesport, Pa., who describes himself as "just in this world trying to figure things out as I go."
Because every rally seems to include a family that brought their tots to hear "the truth" -- religious or otherwise (The Washington Post had a sweet picture from the Religious Liberty rally in D.C. on Friday), I chatted up one of the many families at this event.
Michelle and Joshua Gajewski brought Mark, 2, and Amity, 7, with them from Richmond, Va., to "be with people who share our views," Michelle said. Joshua said they're the only out atheists in their families.
On Saturday, many parents might be getting the news -- "Hi, Mom, I'm an atheist" was a popular sign.
Organized by a coalition of godless groups led by the American Atheists, along with secularists, humanists and niche groups (students, blacks, Jews, etc. ), the American Atheists hold an annual convention in the Washington suburb of Bethesda on Sunday. The theme: "Come out, come out, wherever you are!
That's not easy, said Rebecca Cunningham of Fredericksburg, Va. When she changed her status on Facebook to atheist, she lost 34 "friends."
More from USATODAY
March 24th, 2012
Speaker after speaker at the two-hour protest in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol tore up copies of the law and condemned it as a threat to American freedoms and a violation of the Constitution.
The flag-waving rally by the Tea Party movement, which fueled a conservative Republican wave in 2010 mid-term congressional elections, was an early start to demonstrations by opponents and supporters of the law around the Supreme Court arguments.
The Supreme Court has scheduled six hours for the arguments over three days from Monday to Wednesday.
"If Obamacare stands, I would have, you would have, future generations would have a future that not even ("1984" author George) Orwell could have foreseen coming," Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, told the crowd.
Many activists huddled under umbrellas or wore ponchos against intermittent showers. The rally began with "The Star-Spangled Banner," the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, and some Tea Partyers wore colonial outfits.
Speakers repeatedly attacked the healthcare law as socialist and some condemned it as an illegal extension of federal power, just as, they said, Social Security and income taxes had been.
They cheered references to conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, who died this month, and waved signs that said "Keep your politics out of my healthcare" and "Obamacare Unconstitutional."
Herman Cain, who pulled out of the Republican presidential race in December, said the issue before the Supreme Court was not just about repealing the two-year-old law.
"This is about getting our freedom back to just be free to make our own decisions with our lives," Cain said.
The National Federation of Small Business and 26 states are challenging the law, whose key feature requires most adults to buy health insurance. The court is not expected to rule until as late as June 30.
Roger Hardwicke, 52, an engineer from Frederick, Maryland, said the healthcare issue was not a partisan one between Democrats and Republicans.
"It's (between) those that believe in limited government according to the Constitution and those who want to expand the government beyond what the constitution allows," he said. (Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by David Bailey and Eric Beech)
From around the web:
March 24th, 2012
I glanced at a popular post in Reddit and found this.
So, what gives? Granted the birth rates have dropped measurably since WWII for reasons aplenty.
But what could have caused this one year statistical plunge? Did it have something to do with the two nuclear bomb detonations a score of years earlier?