In the wake of Philadelphia Amtrak tragedy, our useless and craven politicians just argue and point fingers over money

Instead of having the decency to wait a few days to give the respect due to the dead in the Amtrak crash, our deadbeat pols immediately began arguing over money and pointing middle fingers. Worse, they aren’t even pointing those fingers at Amtrak, where the blame squarely belongs, but at each other. Our elected officials are shamefully, once again, putting aside the good of the country for the good of their own parties. The Democrats used the horrific crash the day after it happened to argue the government should increase Amtrak funding by $1 billion to $2.4 billion. The Republican-led House voted instead to reduce Amtrak “grants” by $252 million. So, did the Dems mean that if the Republicans agreed to the extra $1 billion the day after the crash, the engineer or mechanical failure wouldn’t have sped the train to 106 mph the day before the vote? Or were the Dems implying the engineer, Brandon Bostian, did it to influence the vote? Instead of the Republicans having some dignity in their decision, House Speaker John Boehner ripped a reporter a new one for daring to legitimately ask a question about the Dems’ attempt to tie the two together. “Are you really going to ask such a stupid question?” Boehner snapped, sounding like he had snapped more than his lid. “You know they [the Democrats] started this yesterday ... Obviously, it’s not about funding!” The muddled truth is that Amtrak is a for-profit U.S. chartered corporation that has lost nearly $2 billion since 2009, according to Brietbart. Only a corporation that earns over $3.2 billion with a board appointed by government can do that. In 2014, Amtrak lost almost as much money as the Republicans cut — $227 million. It has been such a money loser that a law was even passed in 1997 requiring — requiring! — Amtrak to be profitable by 2002. Ah, no. So they broke the law by losing money? Continue Reading

Obama vs. gun violence, part 14: After every tragedy, he speaks passionately, then nothing changes

For President Obama, it was a painful, moving and totally redundant speech. With smarts, anger and resolve, Obama once again surfaced Thursday to confront murderous turmoil. This time it was a church in Charleston, S.C. “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” he said in the White House briefing room. “It is in our power to do something about it.” It was Obama at his passionate, tough-minded and realistic best. But where had I heard this before? Well, I realized, I had heard it sitting in that very room. But I hadn’t realized how many times we’ve all heard it before until asking Mark Knoller, a CBS White House correspondent. He catalogues presidencies with a data-driven rigor that would impress Google. It was the 14th time Obama spoke to the country after a shooting. I double-checked the incidents and when he spoke. Lord: 1) Fort Hood, Tex. (13 killed) — Nov. 6, 2009 2) West Bank (four Israelis killed) — Sept. 1, 2010 3) Tucson (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shot, six killed)— Jan. 8, 2011 4) Frankfurt, Germany (two U.S. airmen killed) — Mar. 3, 3011 5) Trayvon Martin— Mar. 23, 2012 6) Aurora, Co. (12 killed, 70 injured in movie theater)— July 20, 2012 7) Wisconsin Sikh Temple (six killed) — Aug. 6, 2012 8) Sandy Hook Elementary (20 students, six adults killed) — Dec. 14, 2012 9) Washington Navy Yard (12 killed) — Sept. 16, 2013 10) Fort Hood, Tex. (four killed) — April 2, 2014 11) Kansas Jewish Center (three killed)— April 14, 2014 12) Ferguson, Mo. (Michael Brown killed) — Aug. 14, 2014 13) Paris (11 killed at Charlie Hebdo) — Jan. 7, 2015 14) Charleston (nine killed at Emanuel AME Church) — June 18, 2015 Not every one of these, mind you, was a mass shooting, or even an American crime. Continue Reading

Migrant ship crisis in the Mediterranean as more than 1,000 feared dead amid spate of sea tragedies

Officials across Europe are scrambling to respond to a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean Sea, where more than 1,000 migrants are feared dead after the boats into which they were packed by ruthless human traffickers capsized. A weekend marked by tragedy continued into Monday, when a small wooden ship loaded with nearly 100 people ran aground in the Aegean Sea near the Greek island of Rhodes, killing at least three passengers, including a toddler. Italian authorities were also called in to help save three different migrant boats that experienced trouble off the Libyan coast, where an inflatable life raft packed with up to 150 people reported distress, as did another boat with 300 aboard. The horrid crisis has been fueled by human traffickers, who prey on desperate migrants trying to flee the violence and poverty that engulfs much of the Middle East and Northern Africa. Italian authorities have issued 24 arrest warrants in connection with the break-up of a major trafficking ring. Among those was Ermias Ghermay, an Ethiopian who helped orchestrate an October 2013 crossing that ended when the vessel capsized, drowning 366 near the Italian island of Lampedusa. “It is a very dark day for Europe,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said. “It really is horrific, the scenes that we have all witnessed on our television screens, the loss of life. We should put the blame squarely on human traffickers who are the ones managing, promoting and selling this trade, this trade in human life.” One of only two dozens survivors of a weekend shipwreck near the Libyan coast said some 950 people were aboard the boat when it capsized. Authorities originally estimated 700 were aboard and feared dead, but if the higher toll is confirmed, the sinking would be the deadliest Mediterranean Sea disaster in recent history. “He is pretty well now and he is reporting that there were really many, many Continue Reading


AFTER ALLOWING another child to die under its watch, the city's Administration for Children's Services was under the gun to take steps to avoid a similar tragedy. ACS officials said yesterday that a "full-scale child safety review" announced last month will start with cases in Brooklyn, where four children with ACS case histories died in the last two months. Two of those deaths came yesterday: 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown and 2-month-old Michael Segarra. The circumstances of Michael's death are uncertain, but ACS Commissioner John Mattingly said yesterday it was clear that his agency failed Nixzmary. "While members of Children's Services staff were in the middle of investigating a report of abuse involving her family, which we received on Dec. 1, the fact of the matter is that this little girl is no longer with us," he said. Mayor Bloomberg said the incident is "clearly something to worry about" and a "great tragedy," but he added he still has "enormous confidence" in Mattingly and his agency. "We'll see what we can do to tighten up our procedures, do investigations faster," the mayor said. Police saw no obvious sign of trauma on the body of Michael Segarra, and there has been no determination of cause of death. A neighbor who visited the East New York apartment of the boy's mother, Melissa Segarra, saw Michael lying facedown in his blue-and-white checkered crib about 2 p.m. yesterday. "The baby was on his face. His legs and arms were stretched out and cold. He was still, purple," said Monique Whitfield, 34. "I said to Melissa, 'Something's wrong with the baby.' " An ACS spokeswoman confirmed the family had a history with the agency but would not comment further. Sources, however, said the child's mother had a history of drug abuse and was seeking treatment while being monitored by the ACS. Mattingly said the ACS' internal review will "look very closely at all safety assessments, case practice, supervision, and how our staff is handling critical Continue Reading

Judge calls slaying of Bronx teen ‘a tragedy in our community’ as one of the accused killers appears in court

A judge called the execution-style slaying of a baby-faced teen a brutal blow to the Bronx as one of the accused killers appeared Friday in court. “It’s clear that this case represents a tragedy in our community. It also represents the problem of a proliferation of guns in our community, and is totally unacceptable,” Bronx Supreme Court Justice Marc Whiten said. Travis Bloch, 28, is charged with unloading a full clip into 14-year-old Christopher Duran on May 22 as the teen walked to school. Police are still searching for Jeremiah Thomas, 16, in what cops say was a gang-related murder. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Daily News wins awards for coverage of Eric Garner tragedy and aftermath, ‘broken windows’ policing

The Daily News cleaned house at the Deadline Club Awards Dinner Tuesday night, scoring trophies for the paper’s wall-to- wall coverage of the Eric Garner tragedy and its aftermath. The paper won an award for newspaper or digital spot news reporting, which was accepted by Ken Murray. The ace photographer obtained the video from the scene that revealed the horror of Garner’s death and helped spur an ongoing national debate about law enforcement. Stephanie Keith scored an award for her shot of a subsequent Garner protest. Theodore Parisienne was lauded for a pic of the dying gunman who killed NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. Newsers Sarah Ryley, Dareh Gregorian, Laura Bult and Barry Paddock won for their “Beyond Broken” investigation. The series highlighted the disproportionate impact of “broken windows” policing on minority communities News icon Juan Gonzalez also won an award for best opinion writing. Judges singled out his coverage of the outrageous spending of former Queens Library Director Thomas Galante. Continue Reading

Woman killed by falling plywood to be laid to rest Saturday, as investigators continue to search for cause of tragedy

Friends and family of the young woman killed by an errant piece of flying plywood will lay her to rest Saturday, the Daily News has learned. Tram Thuy Nguyen, known as Tina, died Tuesday as she walked along West 12th Street and Seventh Avenue. The 37-year-old was struck by plywood from a nearby security fence at a construction site. Nguyen, a broker with Keller Williams, was planned to get married in July. “Tina illuminated our lives with her gorgeous smile, effervescent laugh, and appreciation for the subtle joys in life,” her family said in a statement. “We grieve not only for our tragic loss but for all that she has lost. Only four months before her wedding day and weeks after launching her new real estate career, Tina was on the brink of a new beautiful life for which she had worked and waited so long,” the statement read. “We grieve that we will not see her walk down the aisle to marry her perfect mate, Alex, or have the little girl, Mai, of which she dreamed. Her capacity for love was exponential and the world is a dimmer place without her.” The family will hold a service for Nguyen at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the city buildings department continued its investigation into the cause of the tragedy, zeroing in on whether the proper screws were used to attach the 4' x 8' half-inch thick hunk of plywood to the construction site's perimeter fence, according to a source familiar with the matter. And investigators with the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) have joined the examination of what happened to see if any contractor violated job safety regulations. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Tourism on the rise in Malaysia despite association with plane tragedies

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Two airplane catastrophes put Malaysia on the map in a bad way in 2014. But they didn't hurt the country's tourism, and the higher visibility may even have helped: visitor numbers had their strongest growth in years. For the past decade, Malaysia has run an elaborate campaign to market itself abroad as an ideal Asian destination, touting a multiethnic culture, lush rainforests and pristine beaches. Despite the effort to internationalize, its tourism industry still relies heavily on tightly-packed neighboring Singapore and in a renewed push the government had designated 2014 as "Visit Malaysia Year." So when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, it put the global spotlight on Malaysia and seemingly dealt a blow to its tourism strategy. A double whammy came four months later when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Tourism, however, grew at its fastest pace since 2008. Figures for all of 2014 haven't been released yet but the January-October data shows 22.9 million visitors, a jump of nearly 10 percent from a year earlier. That far outpaced 2.5 percent growth for the same period in 2013 and a 0.7 percent rise in 2012. The full year growth rates for those two years are close to the 10-month figures. "The bad publicity has made Malaysia more well known to the world," said Jaya Kumar Sannadurai, vice president at Dayangti Transport and Tours. The overall effect on visitor numbers is probably marginal but being the center of attention "is an advantage to us in some ways," he said. The strong growth in tourism came despite a sharp drop in visitors from China, which had 153 nationals on Flight 370. Many in China were angered by Malaysia's perceived mishandling of the tragedy. The Malaysian government says satellite data showed Continue Reading

Though New Yorkers get used to cop murders obscenely fast, the killing of Police Officer Brian Moore is no less a tragedy

Five NYPD officers have been shot in the past five months, three fatally. We New Yorkers who get used to all kinds of wrongs way too fast, got used to three cop murders obscenely too fast, and there’s less media coverage with each funeral. On Friday, the scene was the funeral of 25-year-old Brian Moore, a cop since he was a 20-year-old kid. The barely adult officer had been shot in the face by a career lowlife whose name doesn’t deserve to be printed. Moore was promoted at his funeral to detective first grade. Comfort, if slight comfort, to his family, who would much rather have him alive. We are horrified, but we tend to think line-of-duty cop deaths are inherent risks in a high-risk job. When a cop kills a civilian, however, we don’t think that way — even when that person lived the high-risk life of a gangbanger, recalcitrant criminal or drug dealer. When a cop-on-perp killing is caught on video and appears unjustified, it’s indelibly burned into our brains. When a cop kills a suspect, race is always mentioned, but we rarely talk race when it’s the murderer of a cop. Sometimes, as in the case of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, the unarmed man who was killed walking down a stairwell, the deaths are disgustingly impossible to justify. But each of those cases caused the NYPD to increase and intensify confrontation training. Charles Slepian is an attorney who trains police officers about when to employ deadly force but also when not to. “A police officer is trained to respond with deadly force,” Slepian says, “not to run and hide. But it’s a tough, tough call to make in a split second. “In the unfortunate case of Officer Moore, he did not pull his gun and he was shot dead. Being in plainclothes makes it all that more difficult. Moore made 150 arrests in his five years on the job, but nobody had tried to kill him before. The Continue Reading

”Tis Pity She’s a Whore’ review: Red Bull Theater takes on classic taboo tragedy

Before a horror-flick ending streaked with gore from gouged eyeballs and, worse, the shish kebabbed heart of an expectant mother, the remarkable thing about the Red Bull Theater’s revival of “’Tis Pity She’s a Whore” is its hushed intensity. It’s about incest, after all, and the ruin it wreaks. There’s actually no need to shout. The seldom-seen 1620s tragedy by John Ford follows the taboo love between Italian siblings Giovanni (Matthew Amendt) and Annabella (Amelia Pedlow), who ends up pregnant by her brother. Director Jesse Berger’s fine revival gets a jolt whenever Kelley Curran appears to vibrate with venom as the revengeful Hippolita, mistress of the well-to-do Soranzo (Clifton Duncan), who weds Annabella and learns the truth about his bride. The honeymoon is short-lived. Same goes for Annabella. And Giovanni. And others. Continue Reading