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Recent Articles
Looting Main Street
Posted by: AJ 6:50pm, Sunday, 18 April 2010
How the nation's biggest banks are ripping off American cities with the same predatory deals that brought down Greece
On a sewer project that was originally supposed to cost $250 million, the county now owed a total of $1.28 billion just in interest and fees on the debt.;kw=[3351,53763]
Art of the Steal: On the Trail of World’s Most Ingenious Thief
Posted by: AJ 3:04pm, Wednesday, 31 March 2010
A couple of days earlier, Blanchard had appeared to be just another twentysomething on vacation with his wife and her wealthy father. The three of them were taking a six-month grand European tour: London, Rome, Barcelona, the French Riviera, Vienna. When they stopped at the Schloss Schönbrunn, the Austrian equivalent of Versailles, his father-in-law’s VIP status granted them a special preview peek at a highly prized piece from a private collection. And there it was: In a cavernous room, in an alarmed case, behind bulletproof glass, on a weight-sensitive pedestal — a delicate but dazzling 10-pointed star of diamonds fanned around one monstrous pearl. Five seconds after laying eyes on it, Blanchard knew he would try to take it.
He began to work immediately, videotaping every detail of the star’s chamber. (He even coyly shot the “No Cameras” sign near the jewel case.) He surreptitiously used a key to loosen the screws when the staff moved on to the next room, unlocked the windows, and determined that the motion sensors would allow him to move — albeit very slowly — inside the castle. He stopped at the souvenir shop and bought a replica of the Sisi Star to get a feel for its size. He also noted the armed guards stationed at every entrance and patrolling the halls.

But the roof was unguarded, and it so happened that one of the skills Blanchard had picked up in his already long criminal career was skydiving. He had also recently befriended a German pilot who was game for a mercenary sortie and would help Blanchard procure a parachute. Just one night after his visit to the star, Blanchard was making his descent to the roof.

AJ says: Another entertaining heist story from Wired.
Minor Drug Cases, Major Trouble for Immigrants
Posted by: AJ 11:15am, Tuesday, 30 March 2010
When a police officer in this Long Island suburb found a marijuana cigarette in Jerry Lemaine’s pocket one night in January 2007, a Legal Aid lawyer counseled him to plead guilty. Under state statutes, the penalty was only a $100 fine, and though Mr. Lemaine had been caught with a small amount of marijuana years earlier as a teenager, that case had been dismissed.

But Mr. Lemaine, a legal permanent resident, soon discovered that his quick guilty plea had dire consequences. Immigration authorities flew him in shackles to Texas, where he spent three years behind bars, including 10 months in solitary confinement, as he fought deportation to Haiti, the country he had left at age 3.

Under federal rulings that prevailed in Texas, Mr. Lemaine had lost the legal opportunity that rulings in New York would have allowed: to have an immigration judge weigh his offenses, including earlier misdemeanors resolved without jail time, against other aspects of his life, like his nursing studies at Hunter Business School; his care for his little sister, a United States citizen with a brain disorder; and the help he gave his divorced mother, who had worked double shifts to move the family out of a dangerous Brooklyn neighborhood.
Aaron D. Simowitz, 31, who shouldered part of the legal work, said the case often seemed surreal. For example, the New York criminal court refused to vacate, or erase, Mr. Lemaine’s first marijuana conviction, reasoning that there was nothing to vacate because the conviction did not exist; the case had been dismissed, as planned, after a six-month adjournment. But in Texas, the federal government still counted that as a conviction.
Oh, No: It's a Girl!
Posted by: AJ 4:39pm, Sunday, 21 February 2010
Do daughters cause divorce?
If you want to stay married, three of the most ominous words you'll ever hear are "It's a girl." All over the world, boys hold marriages together, and girls break them up.

In the United States, the parents of a girl are nearly 5 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of a boy. The more daughters, the bigger the effect: The parents of three girls are almost 10 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of three boys. In Mexico and Colombia the gap is wider; in Kenya it's wider still. In Vietnam, it's huge: Parents of a girl are 25 percent more likely to divorce than parents of a boy.

AJ says: Here's a followup article by the same author.
Judge Keeps His Word to Immigrant Who Kept His
Posted by: AJ 7:46am, Friday, 19 February 2010
Now Judge Corriero, 67, retired from the bench, is trying to keep his side of the bargain.

“Mr. Wu earned his second chance,” the judge wrote in a letter supporting a petition to Gov. David A. Paterson for a pardon that would erase Mr. Wu’s criminal record and stop the deportation proceedings. “He should have the opportunity to remain in this country.”

The letter is one of dozens of testimonials, including appeals from Mr. Wu’s fiancée, mother and sisters, who are all citizens; from the Police Benevolent Association, where Mr. Wu used to work; and from his employers at the Centerline Capital Group, a real estate financial and management company, where his boss, Tom Pope, calls Mr. Wu “a shining star.”

But under laws enacted in 1996, the same year Mr. Wu was sentenced, the immigration judge hearing the deportation case has no discretion to consider any of it. For Mr. Wu, who remains in a cell in the Monmouth County Correctional Institute in Freehold, N.J., the best hope may be that the Manhattan district attorney will retroactively allow him the “youthful offender” status that would scrub his record clean.

Recent Comments
I finally read this.
Posted by: AJ 5:44pm, Monday, 7 December 2009
Loved it!
Gladwell's not so bad
Posted by: AJ 9:33am, Tuesday, 24 November 2009
You're right. I think I was a little too harsh -- he does find fantastic examples. In that sense, he's a great distiller, but not a great synthesizer. So at the very least he provides you with the information to arrive at your own conclusions, provided that you ignore his =).
Gladwell fan?
Posted by: AJ 2:50pm, Monday, 23 November 2009
That was a work of minor genius right there! =)

I'm curious as to why you're such a Gladwell fan. The first few times I read his articles, I was impressed and entertained. Then I read one of his books... he really tries way too hard to tie things together. Definitely still entertaining, but the conclusions are useless.

Dahlia Lithwick weighs in
Posted by: AJ 10:12pm, Tuesday, 8 September 2009
An interview with Matt Taibbi about this article
Posted by: AJ 7:46pm, Friday, 10 April 2009
From Democracy Now