Posts Tagged “new york city”

Radar loop of WS StellaLast Tuesday’s winter storm (named “Stella” by the Weather Channel, but “Eugene” by WFSB-TV here in Connecticut) turned out to be a bust, in the mid-Atlantic and New York City regions. And there’s been a lot of grumbling about how it was forecast. Those places all ended up getting much less snow than had been predicted.

Lots of people wonder how meteorologists could have been as wrong as they were. Well, it turns out, they actually knew — as the storm approached — the storm wouldn’t live up to their stated projections. Yet, as the New York Post reports, they chose not to change their forecasts to match what they knew would fall (cached):

On the eve of Tuesday’s Winter Storm Stella, the National Weather Service got reports that its dire prediction of up to 2 feet of snow for New York City may have been exaggerated — but decided not to change its forecast.

Fears of a massive blizzard led officials to close city public schools and for above-ground train service to be stopped — but in the end, only about 7 inches fell in Central Park.

After announcing that snow could reach record levels in the city, NWS meteorologists in New York and other Northeast cities held a conference call Monday afternoon about computer models that dramatically cut predicted totals.

But they decided to continue forecasting deep snow, claiming that they didn’t change their forecast for fear people would mistakenly think the storm was no longer dangerous.

Their excuse? They wanted to make sure people were still “cautious”:

[Chief of forecast operations at the Weather Prediction Center in Maryland, Greg] Carbin said a last-minute change downgrading snowfall totals might have caused people to let their guard down because ice was still a potential danger for cities such as New York and Washington.

Full disclosure: It may have seemed to New Yorkers that this storm was a dud, but that’s not quite true. Where I live, in northwestern Connecticut, we’d been told we could get between 16 and 24 inches of snow, and that turned out to be accurate. So not all the predictions failed to pan out … just some of them.

In the northeast, and especially here in the Nutmeg State, folks often joke that our weathermen punch up their forecasts to make them seem more dire than they ought to be, in order to glue the public to their TV sets, radios, whatever. Perhaps this is just a perception error, as well as a function of the basic uncertainty of weather forecasting. Or, maybe it really is the play for ratings it seems to be. But in this case — and in the case of the January 2015 blizzard — it’s clear this actually happened, and that meteorologists do exaggerate; and moreover that they feel entitled to do so whenever they see it as necessary.

We’re used to politicians lying to us, and have come to expect it. And maybe we kid around about weathermen grubbing for ratings by predicting cataclysm when none is on its way. But clearly, they lie. And they know they lie. And they admit they lie!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Saint Patricks Cathedral in New York - NYC - USA - panoramioFallout from the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal continues raining down all over the place. The latest example comes from New York City, whose archdiocese wants to borrow money to improve their cashflow, as Reuters reports, which has been choked due to payouts to abuse victims (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is seeking permission for a $100 million mortgage on some of its valuable Manhattan property to fund its compensation program for people sexually abused by its priests, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The archdiocese said last October it would compensate people who had accused priests of abusing them as children, including those prevented by statutes of limitations from filing civil lawsuits. It said at the time it would seek loans to fund the payouts, which are being decided by two independent arbitrators.

On Monday, the archdiocese filed a petition in New York state court in Manhattan seeking approval for a one-year mortgage from JPMorgan Chase on land it owns behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral; the Lotte New York Palace hotel is located on the site. The petition was necessary under a New York law governing the use of church property, Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

“Because we have begun the process of paying out the compensation to victims, the archdiocese has taken this short-term loan to cover the payments,” Zwilling said.

As Reuters explains, the archdiocese is also soliciting claims by abusers who haven’t come forward yet, which may well add to their liabilities. That’s laudable, as such, but really, it’s the least they could do at this point. As with almost every other diocese on the planet, they spent years, and maybe decades, covering for abusive clergy and effectively enabling the abuse by continuing to grant abusers access to children, even in cases when they were known abusers.

It’s widely assumed that Catholic dioceses are wealthy … and nearly all of them are. But in many cases, their wealth is tied up in real estate, and while it has value, it’s not cash in the bank that they can write checks against. Hence, tactics like this, borrowing against their real estate. But I can’t say I’m sympathetic. As I said, this scandal was decades in the making and was fuelled by depraved and amoral hierarchs who put the reputation of their precious Church above everything else — even the welfare of children in its care. Disgusting.

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Afghan protests against the burning of a Quran in Florida. (AP photo, via Politico)Yeah! Let’s hear it for “the Religion of Peace” (as people like then-president George W. Bush like to call it)! This weekend we were treated to a sampling of that faith’s approach to life in the form of several terror attacks.

One of these took place in St Cloud, MN, for which ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood claimed responsibility (WebCite cached article). That one ended with the terrorist being killed.

Then there was a series of bombings and attempted bombings in Seaside Park & Elizabeth, NJ and in New York City. The suspected terrorist in those cases was caught and wounded in a gun battle (cached).

Despite the obvious terrorist angle to all of these stories, officials spent the weekend tap-dancing around the issue of whether or not these were terrorist attacks. For instance, in this New York Times story, we read (cached):

Officials said they did not know of any motive — political or social — for any of the attacks.

Really!? I’m no expert on terrorism or crime, but it was pretty fucking obvious to me that a bomb placed in a trash can near the finish line of a race is almost certain to have been a terror attack (cached). Feigning befuddlement over motive in cases like this is — in a word — inexcusable. It’s fucking absurd!

I grant that America’s Neocrusaders will jump for joy, again, over these attacks and attempted attacks. In their minds it will “prove” how horrific Islam is, and that it must be outlawed and all Muslims banished. They’ll also see it as “proving” their own religion, Christianity, is virtuous and perfect.

What they will forget is that Christianity is far from perfect. There is such a thing as Christian terror, as I’ve blogged previously, and that has maimed and killed Americans too … even if not many people wish to admit it.

It’s long past time for believers — in all religions — to own up to the extremism that lurks deep inside religions generally. It’s true that not all Muslims are terrorists like the cretins in Minnesota and New Jersey. It’s also true that not all Christians are clinic bombers and doctor killers. In fact, the majority of Muslims and Christians are the opposite. Nevertheless, their religions have produced those terrorists. People who followed those faiths, having read their sacred texts and having followed their teachings, became violent militants.

That doesn’t happen by accident. It also needs to be fixed. And only believers can do that.

Unfortunately, too many of them don’t wish to do so. They’re too busy waving off events like this, saying “Those terrorists aren’t ‘Real’ Muslims” or “‘Real’ Christians” or whatever. They don’t want to deal with the problem of religious militancy because they’re too infatuated with the presumed virtue of their religion to do so.

More’s the pity. Because as I’ve said many times: If the followers of a religion don’t respect it well enough to police it and control the militants within it, then they can’t reasonably expect outside observers, like myself, to respect it, or them for following it.

Photo credit: Associated Press, via Politico.

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Husité - Jenský kodexI’ve noted some time ago that the Christianist trope I call the Neocrusade has gone from a mere propaganda campaign to get Islam abolished in the US, to a violent movement that’s victimizing Muslims all around the country. It hasn’t abated; if anything, it’s gotten much worse, as all these recent stories make evident:

  • According to WNBC-TV in New York City (WebCite cached article): A Muslim woman was set on fire by a stranger on a midtown street, according to the NYPD, prompting an investigation into whether it was a hate crime.…

    The 35-year-old woman, a tourist from Scotland, was window-shopping on Fifth Avenue near East 54th Street Saturday night when she suddenly felt heat on her arm and noticed her blouse was on fire, police said.

    She noticed a man standing next to her with a lighter in his hand, according to police. He ran away eastbound on East 54th Street, not saying a word.

  • According to CNN (cached): A woman yelling anti-Muslim sentiment allegedly attacked two Muslim women as they pushed their children in strollers in New York, authorities said.

    Emirjeta Xhelili, 32, allegedly tried to rip the hijab from the women’s heads during the attack in Brooklyn on Thursday.

    She struck the women in the face and body, and repeatedly shouted, “this is the United States of America, you’re not supposed to be different from us,” court documents allege.

    Xhelili allegedly told the women, “get the (expletive) out of America (expletive), you don’t belong here.”

  • According to WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach, FL (cached): A fire overnight heavily-damaged the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, a mosque once-attended by the Pulse nightclub killer and another American terrorist.

    The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said later the fire is the work of an arsonist.

    Investigators say the person involved is shown on surveillance video.

    The video shows a man riding up to the mosque on a motorcycle, possibly a Harley-Davidson.

As I’ve also said many times, I get what the problem here is. I get that Muslim terrorists attacked Americans in Boston, in San Bernardino, at Ft Hood, and on September 11, 2001, among other times. I get that there are barbaric Islamist terror groups at large in the world, including al-Qaeda, ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever, Boko Haram, the al-Nusra Front, al-Shabaab, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and many more. They’re all around the globe, and they maim and kill almost at will. These groups have even managed to “inspire” attacks by Muslims who don’t even belong to them. Islamist militancy is dangerous.

But what the Neocrusaders don’t comprehend is that none of this means every Muslim is a terrorist. What’s more, even if Islam were eradicated from the US, there would still be shooting sprees and other sorts of horrific violence. Some of it would even be Christian-generated (even if Americans tend to ignore Christian terrorism). And they don’t seem to notice the obvious irony of victimizing innocents in the name of — presumably — preventing innocents from being victimized.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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novastock0015A lot of the time, metaphysical beliefs that people have appear harmless. What’s wrong, for example, with believing in angels? That wouldn’t seem a detrimental belief — unless one believes in angels so fiercely that one thinks one can leap from a rooftop and be caught by angels before hitting the ground (not that I think people are doing that).

Among some other metaphysical beliefs that also appear to be harmless, is reincarnation. When combined with the notion of karma, however, a lot of potentially-harmful complications can result from it. This story, reported by the Associated Press via ABC News, provides a sterling example of how this is possible (WebCite cached article):

A psychic accused of bamboozling clients out of tens of thousands of dollars was convicted on Friday after a trial that peered into the legalities of a business built on mysticism and uncertainty.

Sylvia Mitchell’s case drew back a bead-edged curtain on a Greenwich Village parlor where customers were warned about “negative energy” and their problems were traced to past lives. Prosecutors argued that Mitchell was a fortune-telling fraudster who preyed on vulnerable people.

The AP offers two examples of how Mitchell used the combination of reincarnation and karma to swindle people:

Lee Choong wandered in while working 80 to 100 hours a week at a New York investment bank, missing her family at home in Singapore and struggling with a one-sided workplace crush in 2007, Choong testified.

A skeptical but scared Choong gradually paid more than $120,000 as Mitchell told Choong she had “negative energy” and said Choong’s family had harmed the object of her affection in a past existence but concluded the two had a future together, according to testimony and prosecutors.…

Debra Saalfield, a ballroom dancing instructor from Naples, Fla., went to Mitchell after losing a job and a boyfriend within a day in July 2008. Mitchell told Saalfield she’d been too attached to riches in a previous life as a princess in ancient Egypt so she needed to prove she could part with money by giving Mitchell $27,000 to hold, Saalfield testified.

This is why reincarnation coupled with karma is the ideal platform for a perfect scam. According to the reasoning behind these ideas, you can explain anything for anyone at any time by appealing to “something happened in a past life” … and get away with it, because of course no one can remember anything from a past life and verify whether or not it’s so.

Which leads me to wonder about the logic of reincarnation and karma. If — as I’ve been told by “New Agers” who believe in this sort of thing — we each live multiple lives in order to learn cosmic lessons, it makes no sense for us to have no directly-accessible memory of all those past lives. What cosmic lessons can we possibly be “learning” if we can’t recall any of those past lives?

Maybe this is the kind of question that only occurs to viciously-cynical godless agnostic heathens like myself. Maybe I’m the only person in the entire cosmos who doesn’t inherently understand it. Oh well.

Photo credit: Gerard Fritz, via Flickr.

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Husité - Jenský kodexAs a counter-point to this past weekend’s staggering expression of violent Islamist immaturity, another attack, of a different sort, happened elsewhere. As (NY) Newsday reports, a violent mob ganged up on and attacked a lone Sikh in New York City this past Saturday night (WebCite cached article):

Columbia University professor Dr. Prabhjot Singh, recalling the Saturday night attack in which his jaw was broken by assailants yelling anti-Muslim slurs at him, asked Monday: “Did they know what they were doing?”

Singh, an East Harlem physician who provides health care to low-income families, said at a news conference at Columbia: “This does not represent Harlem or this city. Someone gave these 14-, 15-year-olds the green light to act this way.”…

Singh said the assailants pulled his beard and tried to tear off his turban on Lenox Avenue and 110th Street in Harlem. The professor, whose lower jaw had to be wired, said he heard his attackers yell “Get him!” and “Osama.” Several witnesses chased the attackers away as Singh ran, he said.

These raging juvenile brigands picked the wrong target — on several counts. First, Singh is a Sikh, not a Muslim. Although most furious Neocrusaders (like this gang) are unaware of it, Sikhism and Islam are two separate religions. The former is a Dharmic faith, the latter Abrahamic. Sure, male Sikhs wear turbans, and some Muslims do as well, and both faiths are monotheistic, but they’re more or less unrelated.

Second, these attackers thought they were “getting Osama.” I guess they never heard the news: Osama bin Laden is already dead, and he has been for over two years now.

Third, the guy is a physician and a professor, fercryinoutloud. He’s no threat to anyone! In fact, I’m sure he does a lot of good for people. What’s the point of breaking his jaw just because he was walking around with a turban on? Seriously!?

Misplaced fury at Sikhs over the actions of Muslims is nothing new. They have, unfortunately, been targets of Neocrusaders’ anger ever since the September 11, 2001 attacks. A white supremacist shot up a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and killed 6 people, just over a year ago. Being a Sikh in America can be deadly … and for no valid reason. Can we all finally just fucking grow up already before anyone else is hurt or killed, for nothing?

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VaccineA devout Catholic mother is suing the Big Apple over its requirement that students be vaccinated. As the Staten Island Advance reports, she considers vaccinations to be an affront to God … or something like that (WebCite cached article):

West Brighton resident Dina Check fervently opposes vaccinations, even for her young daughter, on religious grounds.

The practicing Roman Catholic believes the body is a temple, and contends injecting vaccines into it “would defile God’s creation of the immune system … [and] demonstrate a lack of faith in God, which would anger God and therefore be sacrilegious.”

Those strong views have put Ms. Check, 46, at odds with the city Education Department. They have also resulted in her 6-year-old daughter’s recent barring from PS 35, Sunnyside, for failing to be immunized.

Ms. Check has struck back, filing a civil lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court against the Education Department.

I’d never heard the Catholic Church teaches its followers not to allow vaccinations. The Advance checked into the matter, and confirmed it does not:

Professor Christopher P. Vogt, a moral theologian, said the Catholic Church doesn’t oppose vaccinations.

“I don’t see any tension between immunizing children and Roman Catholic teaching, belief or practice,” said Vogt, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at St. John’s University in Queens. “When we immunize children, we’re trying to protect children and the common good. As a Catholic, we have a responsibility to take care of our world.”

When read some passages Ms. Check had written, he said it seemed as though she’s taken a Fundamentalist view of Scriptures.

“Catholicism doesn’t hold that we take a literal reading of Scriptures,” he said.

Note, this is not the only occasion when Catholics have decided to opt out of certain medical procedures on religious grounds, even though Catholicism does not forbid them. A couple years ago I blogged about how many Hispanics — largely Roman Catholic — consider organ transplants to be sacrilegious.

Also, sadly, this is not the only time a parent has refused perfectly valid medicine for his/her children because to do so would betray a lack of faith in God. It happens even when getting medical care is a matter of life and death. It’s much more common than most people are aware.

Photo credit: John Keith, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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