Showing posts with label Pennsylvania. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pennsylvania. Show all posts

November 18, 2018

Bill Peduto Mayor of Pittsburgh Hangs Up on Trump After Massacre

MATTHEW ROZSA                 Image result for phil peduto
A new report reveals that Bill Peduto, the Democratic mayor of Pittsburgh who has been comforting his city's Jewish community since an anti-Semitic synagogue shooting last month, was stunned when President Donald Trump called him shortly after the attack. The phone call only lasted around three minutes.
Peduto told The Washington Post that although the initial portions of the conversation were appropriate, with the president extending his thoughts and prayers and promising Peduto a direct line to the White House for anything he might need, Trump soon began talking about the need for harsher death penalty legislation in order to prevent future mass shootings:
“I’m literally standing two blocks from 11 bodies right now. Really?” Peduto said, noting that he was numb and believed that talking about the death penalty wasn’t “going to bring them back or deter what had just happened. . . . I ended the conversation pretty quickly after that.”
Peduto's conflicts with Trump did not end there.
Despite publicly urging the president to stay away from Pittsburgh until after the Tree of Life synagogue mourners had an opportunity to bury their dead, Trump visited Pittsburgh on Oct. 30 to offer his condolences. As a result, the president was met with the predictable protests that marred what could have otherwise been an appropriately solemn occasion. "It could have been avoided. He could have chosen to go to the Holocaust museum and lay a wreath with his wife. Or put together a fund in order to memorialize the 11 people whose lives were lost for perpetuity, in the museum," Peduto told the Post.
Peduto was also angered by Trump's trip for a practical reason — the president's presence in the city required him to reduce law enforcement protection to other Jewish areas that he had promised the city's scared inhabitants in the aftermath of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting.
“I was at three Jewish schools and I talked to kids as young as first grade, and I had at least three or four police officers with me to introduce themselves, and our goal was very simple: ‘You’re going to see police officers outside your school this next week. We want you to know that they’re here to protect you.’ I don’t know if we’ll be able to have officers at those three schools, and if we do, we’ll have one," Peduto told the Post.
The Tree of Life synagogue shooting also personally impacted Peduto, who was acquainted with several of the victims. He has also not hesitated to point the finger of blame at Trump's right-wing rhetoric, arguing that "this obviously was somebody whose decision to kill Jewish people was based on what he was reading, with news of migrants who are trying to escape the hell they are in and potentially on their way to the United States. And somehow that story has become butchered into a story of an invading army and then that story being manipulated that it’s the Jews that are doing it and they’re financing it. Then this guy wakes up on a Saturday morning armed to the gills with bullets and guns to kill as many Jewish people as he possibly can."


Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

October 29, 2018

There is So Much dirt, hatred at the bottom it takes a long, deep enough stick to bring it up to the surface and Make America The Way It Is

Vandals spray-painted a Nazi flag and iron-cross symbols on a shed at the Congregation Shaarey Tefilla synagogue in Carmel, Ind., in July.CreditJustin Mack/The Indianapolis Star, via Associated Press
 Until recent years, many Jews in America believed that the worst of anti-Semitism was over there, in Europe, a vestige of the old country.
American Jews were welcome in universities, country clubs and corporate boards that once excluded their grandparents. They married non-Jews, moved into mixed neighborhoods and by 2000, the first Jew ran for vice president on a major party ticket.
So the massacre on Saturday of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, by a man who told the police when he surrendered that he “wanted all Jews to die,” was for many a shocking wake-up call.
“This kind of evil makes me think of the Holocaust and how people can be so cruel, that there is so much evil in the world, still,” said Moshe Taube, 91, a retired cantor from Congregation Beth Shalom in Pittsburgh and a survivor of the Holocaust.
But it did not come out of nowhere, said experts in anti-Semitism. At the same time that Jews were feeling unprecedented acceptance in the United States, the climate was growing increasingly hostile, intensifying in the two years since Donald J. Trump was elected president. And it comes at a time when attacks on Jews are on the rise in Europe as well, with frequent anti-Semitic incidents in France and Germany.
The hate in the United States came into full view last year as white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Va., with lines of men carrying torches and chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”
Swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti have been cropping up on synagogues and Jewish homes around the country. Jews online are subjected to vicious slurs and threats. Many synagogues and Jewish day schools have been amping up security measures.
The Anti-Defamation League logged a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017, compared to the previous year — including bomb threats, assaults, vandalism, and anti-Semitic posters and literature found on college campuses.

A spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League said that before Saturday’s shooting, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in recent United States history was in 1985, when a man killed a family of four in Seattle. He had mistakenly thought they were Jewish.
[The 11 people killed in Pittsburgh were remembered as guardians of their faith. Read more about their lives here.]
There was also an attack by a white supremacist on a Jewish Community Center filled with children in Los Angeles in 1999 that injured five. More recently, in 2014, a white supremacist opened fire outside a Jewish Community Center in a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., killing three people.
“I’m not a Chicken Little who’s always yelling, ‘It’s worse than it’s ever been!’ But now I think it’s worse than it’s ever been,” said Deborah E. Lipstadt, professor of Holocaust history at Emory University, in Atlanta, and author of an upcoming book on anti-Semitism.
Ms. Lipstadt said she did not wish to be seen as alarmist, because in some ways “things have never been better” for Jews in America.
But she likened anti-Semitism to a herpes infection that lies dormant and re-emerges at times of stress. It doesn’t go away, no matter how “acculturated” Jews have become in America, because “it’s a conspiracy theory,” said Ms. Lipstadt, whose win at trial against a Holocaust denier in England was portrayed in the 2016 movie “Denial.”

What has changed, said several experts in interviews, is that conspiracy theories and “dog whistles” that resonate with anti-Semites and white supremacists are being circulated by establishment sources, including the president and members of Congress. Bizarre claims about Jews have moved from the margins to the establishment.
Prominent recent examples include unfounded conspiracy theories about George Soros, a wealthy donor to Democratic Party causes, and a Jewish émigré from Hungary who survived the Nazis.
When white nationalist groups marched through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville in August 2017, some chanted “Jews will not replace us.”CreditMykal Mceldowney/The Indianapolis Star, via Associated Press

On Oct. 5, President Trump asserted on Twitter that the women who stopped Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator to plead with him to vote against advancing the nomination of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court were “paid for by Soros and others.” In a rally in Missoula, Mont., on Oct. 19, the president told the crowd that the news media prefers to interview protesters who were paid for by “Soros or somebody.”
Mr. Soros has also been accused of financing the caravan of Hondurans and Guatemalans fleeing north on foot through Mexico — another claim with no factual basis.
A day after a pipe bomb was discovered at Mr. Soros’s home in Westchester, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, wrote in a tweet, “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican Nov. 6.”
Tom Steyer is an Episcopalian and is of Jewish descent. Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, is Jewish. After more explosive devices were found in the homes and offices of other Democratic leaders and supporters, Mr. McCarthy deleted the tweet.
Anti-Semitism has also become a charged topic on many American college campuses, with Israel as the detonator.
Activists on the left — sometimes including young Jews — call for boycotts and divestments from companies doing business in Israel, or the occupied territories. Mainstream Jewish groups are now branding such campaigns as anti-Semitism. Where to draw the line between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is a growing source of friction in many colleges and state capitals.
In Europe, Jewish leaders have been confronting open hatred toward Jews, also sometimes linked to animosity toward Israel.
In France, Jews have increasingly faced attacks and insults from members of the country’s large Muslim community. In March, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, was knifed to death in her apartment by a young man who shouted “Allahu akbar.” Prosecutors classified it as an anti-Semitic hate crime.
In a 2015 study, 42 percent of French Jews surveyed said that they had suffered insults or aggressive acts at the hands of Muslims.
In Germany, anti-Semitism remains a daily occurrence, sometimes taking on the form of criminal attacks on Jews or Jewish institutions in the country, but often in more casual insults or the questioning of the country’s post-World War II commitment to “never again” repeat the Nazi Holocaust.

One of the most prominent anti-Semitic attacks this year, in which a young Syrian struck a man wearing a skullcap on the street of a trendy Berlin neighborhood, led the head of Germany’s main Jewish organization to warn Jews against openly wearing skullcaps, or other public displays of their religion.
A demonstration in support of the country’s Jews drew thousands of people to the streets, but months later, in the midst of violent demonstrations by neo-Nazis in the eastern city of Chemnitz, masked assailants threw rocks and bottles at a local Jewish restaurant and shouted anti-Semitic insults, the owner told the police.
Nadine Epstein, editor in chief of Moment, an independent Jewish magazine in the United States, said that in 2014 the magazine did a special section on anti-Semitism, interviewing a wide range of scholars and leaders in the field. She said that her conclusion was that anti-Semitism, while persistent, was mostly a problem in Europe. But “it wasn’t really an issue in the U.S.,” she said.
“Four plus years later,” she added in an email, “we live in a very different world where nationalism, and with it anti-Semitism, is on the rise, stirred up by the rhetoric of one candidate in the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s been building ever since, and now that we are in the run-up to the midterms, the first national election since, we are seeing the consequences of such dangerous rhetoric.”
Moment magazine now has a web page to monitor anti-Semitismaround the world, something Ms. Epstein said she never imagined doing.

Kim Lyons contributed reporting from Pittsburgh, Melissa Eddy from Berlin, and Adam Nossiter from Paris.

August 17, 2018

These Are The Most Shocking Cases of PA. Priets Sexually Abusing Boys and Girls-Watch Out for the Gold Cross



, York Daily Record

A two-year investigation of sexual abuse of children within six Catholic diocese came to a head on Tuesday, with the release of a report that details decades of abuse, and names 301 priests.
Even in a list filled with hundreds of shocking accusations, several stick out as particularly horrific or extreme cases of leadership turning their heads away from situations.
Here are some examples of these over-the-top cases. A warning, some of the information listed below is extremely graphic. 
A 'ring of predatory priests'
During the course of the grand jury investigation, it uncovered a 'ring of predatory priests' within the Diocese of Pittsburgh who "shared intelligence" regarding victims, exchanged the victims amongs themselves and manufactured child pornography. The group included George Zirwas, Francis Pucci, Robert Wolk and Richard Zula, and they used whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims. 
One victim, who is identified as "George," was made to get up on a bed. As the priests watched, they asked George to remove his shirt. Drawing on the image of Christ on the cross, they asked George to remove his pants. The priests began taking Polaroid pictures of him. 
George said the photos were added to a collection of similar photographs depicting other teenage boys. 
The priests, George testified, had a group of favored boys who they would take on trips and give gifts. 
"He (Zirwas) had told me they, the priests, would give their boys, their altar boys or their favorite boys these crosses," George testified. "So he gave me a big gold cross to wear."
In the report, the grand jury said, the crosses "were a designation that these children were victims of sexual abuse. They were a signal to other predators that the children had been desensitized to sexual abuse and were optimal targets for further victimization."

'A touchy/feely time'

In 2003, a woman notified the Diocese of Harrisburg that she was touched sensually by Rev. George Koychick while at St. Patrick’s in York. A report in Koychick’s Diocesan files revealed that when asked if there was any truth to the allegations, he said, “Yes, it was when I was going through a touchy/feely time in my life.”
In the file, Koychick admits to sensually rubbing multiple young girls, and said he had an attraction to them.
“This is a test of ones faith,” he said in the document. “I have lived in fear for years wondering if anyone would come forward with an allegation.”
Over the years, multiple allegations were rendered against Koychick before he retired. Read more details on those here
VIDEO: Survivors of child sexual abuse from priests share their stories in a video shown before Tuesday's news conference detailing decades of abuse. Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro

'Highly imaginative minds of pubescent girls'

In October 1965, the Diocese of Harrisburg received a phone call that Rev. Charles Procopio had molested multiple girls in the seventh and eighth grade. The person who made the call said the girls told the principal of the school – Sacred Heart of Jesus in Harrisburg – but nothing happened in response.
The actions include “immodest touches” and making motions simulating intercourse while his body was pressed against a girl.
The diocese sent a memorandum in return, noting that Propocio’s touches were “manifestations of his effusive nature, imprudent but pure on his part.”
He also wrote that the actions were “distorted interpretation in the highly imaginative minds of pubescent girls.”
The diocese allowed Procopio to stay in ministry.
The historic report detailed decades of abuse by hundreds of priests. John Buffone,

Sexual abuse to daughters and a granddaughter

Multiple diocesan memorandums in September 1994 advised that a family living in Florida, formerly of Lancaster, made sexual molestation allegations against Rev. Guido Miguel Quiroz Reyes, OFM, who had served at the Hispanic Center in Lancaster.
When the family moved to Florida in 1980, they asked Reyes if he wanted to live with them. He did so from 1980 to 1993. 
In 1993, the family confronted him, alleging that he sexually abused two girls in the family in the 1970s when they were minors and living in Lancaster. They said the abuse continued when they moved to Florida.
It was also believed he sexually abused a minor granddaughter.
The report does not give details about when the family learned of the abuse. 

‘You are a demon-child’

In 2004, a woman reported to the Diocese of Harrisburg that she was abused by Rev. Timothy Sperber in 1979. The victim said she was between 9 and 10 years old, and a student at St. Joan of Arc in Hershey. The girl was not doing well in math, and was sent to Sperber to tutor her.
While meeting with Sperber, he rubbed her hand, had her remove her shirt and fondled her breasts. When her back was to him, he touched her with things believed to be his finger or penis, and she believed he ejaculated on her back. According to the report, “she remembered having to sit all day at school with the stickiness of something on her back.”
When the new school year began, and she didn’t improve her math, she was sent to Sperber again. The victim told the principal that he touched her in weird ways. The principal became angry, scolded the child and said “How dare you make these terrible accusations? You are a demon-child.”
When the victim tried to talk to her mother, she replied, “We’re not going to talk about this. I don’t want anyone thinking that this was our fault.”
The attorney general's report comes after years of state and local law enforcement uncovering cases of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. Nate Chute, IndyStar

Multiple accounts of getting victims pregnant

Throughout the report, there are at least three instances of priests fathering a child with a victim.
  • Rev. Salvatore Zangari admitted in 1986 while at St. Luke Institute for evaluation after multiple allegations, Zangari told officials that he was “literally married” for eight or nine years and had fathered a child.
  • On Aug. 29, 1988, Bishop James Timlin received a letter from the sister of a high school girl who said Rev. Robert J. Brague had sexual relations with her 17-year-old sister, who became pregnant. Timlin responded days later with a letter saying Brague was removed from office, and to keep things under wraps to not cause further scandal. “What has happened is their responsibility.”
  • In 1964, 1965 and 1966, the Diocese of Scranton received letters that Father Joseph D. Flannery had affairs with women, dated a young girl and got her pregnant. The letters were received from a member of the clergy, a parishioner and the mother of the young girl. Nothing was found in the file reflecting an investigation or questioning the priest.

Sex for pay

An allegation was made in 1991 that Father James Armstrong of the Diocese of Pittsburgh gave homeless boys from Pittsburgh drugs, alcohol and money in exchange for sex.
One victim reported he was abused by multiple priests in the course of his life.
The man said that his father was a heroin addict, and his mother a prostitute, and ran away from home at about 14 or 15. In the winter of 1985-1986, the victim said Armstrong would drive him and a “hustler” to a back road and had them do “various violent sex acts like calling him degrading things while he gave them oral sex.” This lasted for a couple of years.

Priest abuse in Pa. 

Read more coverage of Catholic priest and clergy abuse in Pennsylvania: 

Statewide grand jury report released in August 2018
Harrisburg diocese

July 15, 2017

Killer of 4 Young Men Admits to His Crime in Exchange for His Life

A week after four young men disappeared in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and one day after investigators found human remains buried on a nearby farm, the son of the farm’s owners confessed to killing all four, his lawyer said on Thursday.
The man who confessed, Cosmo DiNardo, 20, knew the victims and had been described by the authorities as a “person of interest” in the disappearances. Prosecutors had filed lesser charges against him this week to put him in jail while they investigated the disappearances.
Officials gave no indication of a motive for the killings, but Mr. DiNardo, who suffered from mental illness, has had multiple run-ins with the local police, and an acquaintance said he had talked about killing people.
“Mr. DiNardo this evening confessed to the district attorney to his participation or commission in the murders of the four young men,” one of his lawyers, Paul Lang, told reporters late Thursday outside the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. “In exchange for that confession, Mr. DiNardo was promised by the district attorney that he will spare his life by not invoking the death penalty.” Asked whether Mr. DiNardo, who lives with his parents in Bensalem, Pa., acted alone, Mr. Lang said, “I can’t answer that.” No formal charges in the killings had been placed as of late Thursday.  Matthew D. Weintraub, the Bucks County district attorney, had no immediate comment but scheduled a news conference for Friday morning.
As Mr. DiNardo was being led by the authorities into a police van on Thursday evening, reporters asked him whether he had any sympathy for the victims’ families. “I’m sorry,” he said. On Wednesday, Mr. Weintraub said the remains of one of the missing men, Dean Finocchiaro, 19, had been found in a 12.5-foot-deep “common grave” on the sprawling farm in Solebury, Pa., owned by Mr. DiNardo’s parents. Officials have not said whether they have identified — there, or elsewhere — the remains of the other men, Mark Sturgis, 22; Thomas Meo, 21; and Jimi Taro Patrick, 19.
Mr. DiNardo has had 30 “contacts” with the Bensalem Police Department over the last six years, the department’s director, Frederick Harran, said in a telephone interview. He declined to elaborate on what they involved but said the suspect was well known to the police.   

Dean Finocchiaro, 19; Tom Meo, 21; Jimi Patrick, 19; and Mark Sturgis, 22.
Mr. Harran said Mr. DiNardo had been sent involuntarily to a mental hospital last summer, at the request of a family member, but said he did not know the details, or how long he was held there. This week, a prosecutor described him as mentally ill and schizophrenic. On Feb. 9, police responded to a report of gunfire in Mr. DiNardo’s neighborhood and found him in his car with a shotgun, and he told the officers that he had been involuntarily committed, Mr. Harran said. He was arrested on a gun charge, which was later dropped. He was legally prohibited from owning a firearm because he had been involuntarily committed.
Another Bensalem man, Eric Beitz, who was friends with Mr. Meo and Mr. Sturgis, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Mr. DiNardo had spent considerable time with them recently, and spoke of “weird things like killing people and having people killed.” He also said Mr. DiNardo sold guns.
On Thursday, Mr. Beitz, 20, confirmed to The New York Times that what The Inquirer had reported was correct but said he would not say more, at the request of the police and the victims’ families.
Mr. Finocchiaro, who graduated from Neshaminy High School, just outside Bensalem, and Mr. DiNardo were both members of a Facebook group for people in eastern Pennsylvania who are interested in buying and selling all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes. The Inquirer reportedthat text messages shared among a group of young men showed that they knew one another.
Mr. Patrick and Mr. DiNardo went to the same small, private high school, Holy Ghost Preparatory in Bensalem, graduating one year apart.

Solebury Twp.
Site of police

Mr. Meo and Mr. Sturgis were best friends who both graduated from Bensalem High School, and Mr. Sturgis’s father said he had heard the young men mention Mr. Finocchiaro.
The four missing men were last seen from Wednesday to Friday of last week, and the search for them has been one of the biggest law enforcement operations ever mounted in Bucks County, a fast-growing region of suburban subdivisions, farms and country estates north of Philadelphia.
A clue that emerged on Saturday afternoon focused the hunt on the DiNardo farm nearly 20 miles north of Bensalem: Mr. Finocchiaro’s cellphone was traced to that location.
Investigators searching another property nearby, also owned by the DiNardos, found Mr. Meo’s car in the garage, and Mr. Sturgis’s car was found in a parking lot a few miles away. Mr. Weintraub has said that Mr. DiNardo tried to sell Mr. Meo’s car for $500 to another person, who called the police.
Local authorities and a team from the Philadelphia office of the F.B.I., along with cadaver dogs, combed through the farm, sifting the soil between rows of corn, digging up concrete with a backhoe, and surveying the land on all-terrain vehicles. 
 The dogs led detectives to the grave, Mr. Weintraub said. The body of Mr. Finocchiaro, who vanished around 6:30 p.m. on Friday in Middletown Township, was identified on Wednesday.
On Monday, Mr. DiNardo was rearrested on the gun charge from earlier this year. Prosecutors had asked the police in June to rearrest him.
Mr. DiNardo’s father posted bail on Tuesday night, but prosecutors charged him the next day with stealing Mr. Meo’s car, and had him arrested again. The second time, a judge set bail at $5 million, and he stayed in jail.
The first of the victims to disappear, Mr. Patrick, was last seen around 6 p.m. on July 5 in Newtown Township, Pa., and did not show up for work the next day, the authorities said. According to a statement released by his family, he lived with his grandparents in Newtown, Pa., had just finished his first year at Loyola University in Baltimore, and worked at a restaurant in Buckingham, Pa.
Last Friday around 6 p.m., Mr. Sturgis told his father, Mark Potash, that he was going to meet Mr. Meo. Both young men worked for Mr. Potash’s construction business, but on Saturday morning, they did not report for work.
Growing more concerned, Mr. Potash dialed his son’s cellphone, but it went straight to his voice mail. He dialed it again and again, but it never rang. 
Even then, Mr. Potash said, he figured their cellphone batteries had died. Later on Saturday, Mr. Potash said, he called Mr. Meo’s parents, leading to a chain of calls among friends and family members. The two young men were inseparable, and no one had heard from either of them.
“I was hopeful that they just had a wild night,” Mr. Potash said. “My whole way to work, I thought these guys will be at work and will explain themselves.”

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