Category Archives: New York Times

New York Times stories

A cop buys a homeless barefoot man a pair of boots. You, yes you, can make a difference every day


Photo by Jennifer Foster

    I so touched by this story and photo of a 25-year-old cop using his own money to buy a pair of boots for a homeless man and then stooping to help him put them on. We rush by every day, forgetting that we can personally do something to help.

Photo of Officer Giving Boots to Barefoot Man Warms Hearts Online

Published: November 28, 2012

On a cold November night in Times Square, Officer Lawrence DePrimo was working a counterterrorism post when he encountered an older, barefooted homeless man. The officer disappeared for a moment, then returned with a new pair of boots, and knelt to help the man put them on….

Officer DePrimo, 25, who joined the department in 2010 and lives with his parents on Long Island, was shocked at the attention. He was not warned before the photo went online; the department had not learned which officer was in the picture until hours later.

The officer, normally assigned to the Sixth Precinct in the West Village, readily recalled the encounter. “It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,” he said in an interview. “I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold.” They started talking; he found out the man’s shoe size: 12.

As the man walked slowly down Seventh Avenue on his heels, Officer DePrimo went into a Skechers shoe store at about 9:30 p.m. “We were just kind of shocked,” said Jose Cano, 28, a manager working at the store that night. “Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing. Especially in this neighborhood.”

Mr. Cano volunteered to give the officer his employee discount to bring down the regular $100 price of the all-weather boots to a little more than $75. The officer has kept the receipt in his vest since then, he said, “to remind me that sometimes people have it worse.”



Rocco gets ready to give up the NEA for Miami

Rocco Landesman, the former Broadway producer and racehorse owner who has led the National Endowment for the Arts since 2009, announced Tuesday that he was stepping down as chairman at the end of the year.

In his statement, Mr. Landesman said, “The time has come for me to become a cliché: I turned 65, am going to retire and cannot wait to spend more time in Miami Beach.”

Read the story here.


Maureen Dowd cuts through the gossip and gets to the heart of the Petraeus, Kelley, Broadwell scandal

Maureen Dowd homes in on the real scandal in the  Petraeus affair: 

“The scandal is a good reminder that, although John McCain and Sarah Palin urge total trust and blank checks for the generals, these guys are human beings working under extremely stressful circumstances, and their judgments are not beyond reproach.

Petraeus’s Icarus flight began when he set himself above President Obama.

Accustomed to being a demigod, expert at polishing his own celebrity and swaying public opinion, Petraeus did not accept the new president’s desire to head for the nearest exit ramp on Afghanistan in 2009. The general began lobbying for a surge in private sessions with reporters and undercutting the president, who was trying to make a searingly hard call.

Petraeus rolled the younger commander in chief into going ahead with a bound-to-fail surge in Afghanistan, just as, half a century earlier, the C.I.A. had rolled Jack Kennedy into going ahead with the bound-to-fail Bay of Pigs scheme. Both missions defied logic, but the untested presidents put aside their own doubts and instincts, caving to experience.

Once in Afghanistan, Petraeus welcomed prominent conservative hawks from Washington think tanks. As Greg Jaffe wrote in The Washington Post, they were “given permanent office space at his headquarters and access to military aircraft to tour the battlefield. They provided advice to field commanders that sometimes conflicted with orders the commanders were getting from their immediate bosses.”

So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal.”


The man behind the anti-Muslim video that sparked murderous riots is a check kiter who was banned from Internet


As The New York Times reports:

credit: Bret Hartman: Reuters

“The man, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was questioned at the Los Angeles County sheriff’s station in Cerritos, where he lives. He was not placed under arrest.

“This was a voluntary interview he did with federal probation officers,” said Kim Manatt, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.

Federal court officials did not immediately respond to calls on Saturday.

In June 2010, Mr. Nakoula was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for orchestrating a check-kiting scheme. In addition, as part of the fraud scheme, prosecutors also said Mr. Nakoula possessed at least 15 credit and debit cards in the names of other people, along with at least five identification documents that were not issued lawfully. Though Mr. Nakoula served about only a year in prison, part of his sentence also prohibited him from using the Internet while on probation for five years without permission from his probation officer, court records show.

The review is intended to determine whether Mr. Nakoula violated the terms of his probation.

The incendiary, amateurish video, which depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a buffoon, a womanizer and a child molester, was first uploaded to YouTube in June and was translated into Arabic and uploaded several more times in the week leading up to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

That helped generate protests last week, first at the United States Embassies in Egypt and Libya, where the American ambassador and three other people were killed, and then at Western embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East.

Since the protests, Mr. Nakoula had remained holed up inside his house, while a media encampment kept 24-hour watch outside his front door….”


The death of Lia Lee, the protagonist of Anne Fadiman’s extraordinary book, which helped changed medical practices.

Margalit Fox has a touching and fascinating obituary today of Lia Lee, the little Hmong girl who was at the center of Anne Fadiman’s book, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.” The book details what turned out to be an unbridgeable gap between Western doctors and traditional Hmong practices.

Lia Lee in 1988. Photo by Anne Fadiman

“That cultural divide — despite the best intentions of both sides, Ms. Fadiman wrote — may have brought about Lia’s condition, a consequence of a catastrophic seizure when she was 4.

Over the years, whenever Ms. Fadiman lectured about the book, readers would press a single question on her before any other: “Is Lia still alive?”

Lia Lee died in Sacramento on Aug. 31. (Her death was not widely reported outside California.) The immediate cause was pneumonia, Ms. Fadiman said. But Lia’s underlying medical issues were more complex still, for she had lived the last 26 of her 30 years in a persistent vegetative state. Today, most people in that condition die within three to five years.

Acclaimed by reviewers, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” won a National Book Critics Circle Award. It has sold almost 900,000 copies, according to its publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and remains widely assigned in medical schools and in university classes in social work, anthropology, journalism and other fields.

As a result, Lia’s story, as few other narratives have done, has had a significant effect on the ways in which American medicine is practiced across cultures, and on the training of doctors.

“A lot of people in medicine were talking about that book for a very long time after it was published,” Sherwin B. Nuland, the physician and National Book Award-winning author, said on Wednesday. He added:

“There’s a big difference between what we call ‘disease’ and what we call ‘illness.’ A disease is a pathological entity; an illness is the effect of the disease on the patient’s entire way of life. And suddenly you read a book like this and you say to yourself, ‘Oh, my God; what have I been doing?’ ”

What Fox also points out in the obit is the extraordinary level of personal care and devotion that Lee’s family maintained for 26 years that Lee lived in a persistence vegetative state — something alien to most modern Americans.  And probably the reason she survived beyond the 3 or 4 years that most children in her condition live. Was it an example of futile devotion or enriched humanity?

The always quotable Robert Hughes had a way with language such as….


My colleague Randy Kennedy assembled some memorable comments from Robert Hughes, who died Monday at age 74.

The Quotable Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes in 2007.Andreu Dalmau/European Pressphoto AgencyRobert Hughes in 2007.

It often seemed as if Robert Hughes, the critic and historian who died Monday at 74, never wrote a bad sentence. And he wrote many hundreds of thousands of them in a wildly industrious career that stretched over almost a half-century, in books, in the pages of Time magazine and in almost any publication that asked him. Here is a highly subjective selection of some of his best:

From “The Fatal Shore,” a history of Australia, 1986:

An unstated bias rooted deep in Australian life seemed to wish that “real” Australian history had begun with Australian respectability – with the flood of money from gold and wool, the opening of the continent, the creation of an Australian middle class. Behind the bright diorama of Australia Felix lurked the convicts, some 160,000 of them, clanking their fetters in the penumbral darkness. But on the feelings and experiences of these men and women, little was written. They were statistics, absences and finally embarrassments.


On Cy Twombly, in Time magazine, 1994:

The sight of all these orts and fragments in Twombly’s pictures seems to have convinced his more ardent admirers that he’s a classicist, saturated in the myths and literature of the ancient Mediterranean, exuding them from every pictorial pore. All he has to do is scrawl a wobbly “Triumph of Galatea” or “Et in Arcadia Ego” on a canvas, and suddenly he’s up there with Roberto Calasso, if not Edward Gibbon. When an audience that has lost all touch with the classical background once considered indispensable in education sees Virgil written in a picture, it accepts it as a logo, like the alligator on a Lacoste shirt. The mere dropping of the name, or the citation of a tag, suggests that a classical past still lives, solid and whole, below the surface. But a toenail paring isn’t a body.

On the art market, in Time magazine, 1989:

If there were only one copy of each book in the world, fought over by multimillionaires and investment trusts, what would happen to one’s sense of literature – the tissue of its meanings that sustain a common discourse? What strip mining is to nature, the art market has become to culture.

And in The New Republic, 1987:

The unexamined life, said Socrates, is not worth living. The memoirs of Julian Schnabel, such as they are, remind one that the converse is also true. The unlived life is not worth examining.

From “Things I Didn’t Know: A Memoir,” 2006:

It wasn’t dying as such that I feared, but dying in a hot blast, the air sucked out of my lungs, strangling on flame inside an uprushing column of unbearable heat: everything the Jesuits had told me about the crackling and eternal terrors of Hell now came back, across a chasm of fifty years. I could envision this. It would look like one of the Limbourg brothers’ illustrations to the “Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry” – the picture of Satan bound down on a fiery grid, exhaling a spiral of helpless little burned souls into the air.


Construction on 9/11 museum halted because of fight over money

As museum officials, politicians, family members, rescuers, nearby residents, survivors, real estate and commercial interests and more argue over what the 9/11 museum should contain, the Port Authority and the memorial and museum foundation are fighting over who pays the bills. The planned Sept. 11, 2012 opening has already been delayed until next year and still there is no resolution.  Why haven’t Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York stepped in to resolve the deadlock, since they run the Port Authority?

Here’s the New York Times story

Construction Frozen in a Fight Over Financing

Published: June 2, 2012

For more than six months, work on the National September 11 Memorial Museum has been at a virtual standstill because of a multimillion-dollar dispute between the foundation creating it and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is responsible for the construction.

At issue is how much the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation owes for work on the surrounding infrastructure and for cost overruns. The Port Authority says the foundation’s share is more than $300 million. The foundation says it owes nothing; it argues that the authority’s delay in opening the memorial plaza has cost it $100 million.

Negotiations are proceeding, but late last year the authority all but stopped approving contracts for work.

The foundation is putting the total budget for the memorial and museum at $710 million, which it says it has raised through private donations and aid from the state and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

But no one expects the Port Authority to absorb the remaining bills, and powerful egos and competing agendas are complicating the negotiations: The foundation’s chairman is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, while the Port Authority is jointly controlled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

All sides agree on one thing: there is no way the museum will be finished in time to open this year……

[continue reading]

A Twist: Holocaust victim ordered to return gold to German museum

I’ve written a number of stories about Holocaust survivors or their families trying to reclaim valuables stolen from them during World War II, but this case is unusual because it reverses the claims: a Berlin museum seeking to reclaim an ancient artifact that ended up in the hands of a survivor of Auschwitz. A Brooklyn appellate court ruled this week that the family should return the item, but they will appeal this to the state’s Court of Appeals. The museum’s lawyer, who has frequently represented Holocaust families seeking the return of art stolen from them during the war makes the point that stolen goods, no matter their origins, should be returned to the owner. What do you think?

You can read the whole story in the Times:

“It is not clear how the survivor, Riven Flamenbaum, came into possession of the tablet after his liberation from Auschwitz in 1945, when he was sent to a displaced persons camp in southeastern Germany.

But when Mr. Flamenbaum immigrated to the United States four years later, he arrived in New York with a wife he had met at the camp and the inscribed gold tablet, which is about the size of a passport photo.

Only after Mr. Flamenbaum’s death in 2003 did his children discover that the thin golden square had been stolen from the museum.”

Jim Dwyer, always worth reading, on rush to “solve” Etan Patz case

Just last month, the police were digging up a basement, announcing the imminent answer to the horrifying disappearance of 6 year old Etan Patz 33 years ago. They came up empty-handed. Now a month later, a completely different answer is being trumpeted with press conferences. Jim Dwyer in the New York Times rightly asks what’s the rush?

About New York

Publicity First, Evidence Later in Patz Arrest

Published: May 24, 2012

Back from London, the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, stepped in front of the cameras in prime time Thursday evening to announce that the police were accusing Pedro Hernandez of killing Etan Patz in 1979.

The mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, had weighed in a few hours earlier, declaring that “we” had a suspect in custody. That wasn’t even the first word of the day: the police commissioner had beaten the mayor to it, issuing a statement at 6:30 in the morning, before he got on a jet in London.

The boy disappeared 33 years ago, the suspect had been in custody for barely a day, after decades of false starts, but already the publicity engine was outracing the actual investigation or filing of charges. “People heard the word ‘confession’ and they think that’s it, the case is solved,” a law enforcement official involved in the case said.

Is it?

“If this was a baseball game, we would be in the first inning,” the official, who would not be identified, said. “He is lucid, he’s persuasive. But there is not a lot of corroborating information.”

Nominated in the category of “Silly Corrections”

Published in regard to Ben Brantley’s wonderful front-page notebook in the New York Times on how meaningless the standing ovation has become:

“Correction: May 22, 2012

A critic’s notebook article on Monday about the prevalence of standing ovations at Broadway shows described incorrectly the quickness with which audience members appeared to be on their feet at a performance of the current revival of “Death of a Salesman.” Their ovation seemed to occur within a millisecond — one-thousandth of a second — not a megasecond, which is one million seconds.”