New York Marks First Shooting-Free Weekend In 25 Years

New York: New York has marked its first weekend without a shooting in 25 years, police said Monday. 

"We went Friday, Saturday, Sunday without any shootings and homicides," New York Police Department chief James O'Neill told reporters.

"That's the first time in decades, and that's something not just the NYPD, but all New Yorkers can be proud of."

The last time the most populous US city of 8.5 million had a weekend without shootings was in 1993, according to police.

But there have been intermittent spikes. The weekend of October 6-7, for example, was "terrible," with several shootings in Brooklyn and the Bronx, authorities said.

The number of murders is on the rise again this year, after hitting a low in 2017 with 292 total -- a record since the 1950s.

In the first half of 2018, the city recorded 147 murders, an eight percent increase over the same period in 2017, and mostly in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

  • Published in World

Limousine Car Crash Kills 20 In New York, Nation's Deadliest In A Decade

Parking lot of a crowded store in Upstate New York on Saturday, in what federal authorities are calling the deadliest US crash in nearly a decade.

Police said that just before 2 p.m., they received reports of a crash involving two vehicles in Schoharie, about 30 miles west of Albany.

Authorities said a 2001 Ford Excursion limousine traveling southwest on State Route 30 "failed to stop" at an intersection with State Route 30A and flew into the parking lot of the nearby Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe.

The limousine struck an unoccupied 2015 Toyota Highlander, New York State Police First Deputy Superintendent Christopher Fiore said at a news conference Sunday. Two pedestrians standing nearby were fatally struck, Fiore said.

"There were witnesses on the scene, but just from the evidence discovered at the crash, it was apparent that this was the direction of travel and what happened," Fiore said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said members of its "go team" were at the crash site to investigate what happened and possible factors, including road and vehicle conditions.

Police said everyone inside the limousine, including the driver, died in the crash, and all those killed were adults.

Schoharie Town Supervisor Alan Tavenner described how two state highways meet at the bottom of a steep hill at a T-shaped intersection, with a three-way stop. The limo blew past the stop sign at speeds upward of 60 mph, according to witness accounts, Tavenner said.

Tavenner said the New York Department of Transportation outlawed heavy trucks on the hill in recent years because of instances when runaway trucks lost their ability to brake down the steep grade. He said the limo was carrying out-of-towners during a busy tourist weekend, Stone Fort Days.

"If somebody's new to the area or not familiar with the area, I can see how it'd be easy to miss that you're coming down to the T-intersection and going to have to stop at the bottom of it," he said.

"Twenty fatalities is just horrific," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters Sunday. "This is the most deadly transportation accident in this country since February of 2009."

It was unclear how many other people, if any, were injured. Police said Sunday that they were not releasing any of the victims' names, pending autopsies and notification of next of kin.

There were conflicting reports about where the passengers in the limousine were headed. The Albany Times Union reported the limo was carrying people from a nearby wedding to the reception. The Associated Press reported that the limousine passengers were on their way to a birthday party.

Erin McGowan's aunt Valerie Abeling confirmed that her 34-year-old niece and her new husband, Shane McGowan, 30, were among the 20 people killed. The couple were married in June.

"It's tragic. Horrible. I can't even begin to even explain. . ." Abeling said in an interview from upstate New York where her family was gathered. "Our lives have been changed forever."

The families have obtained little information about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones, largely comprised of a close-knit group of high school and neighborhood friends from Amsterdam, New York. The McGowans were part of the group of 18 people on their way to a brewery in Cooperstown, New York, for a party celebrating a friend's 30th birthday, Abeling said.

That friend, her husband, and three of her sisters, all of whom were accompanied by spouses, were among those killed in the crash, Abeling said. Erin McGowan's cousin, Patrick Cushing, was also among the dead.

Calls to the families of the other victims were not returned, and The Washington Post is withholding their names until they can be confirmed by relatives.

Abeling said her daughter, who was invited but did not join the party, recounted that the group had rented "some kind of bus" to go the Cooperstown but the vehicle broke down before reaching its destination. The travel provider then sent a stretch limousine to take the group the rest of the way.

"The vehicle appeared in terrible condition," Abeling said, recalling a text message her daughter received from Erin McGowan.

Twenty minutes later, all passengers on board the limo were dead.

"These were friends just starting their lives, getting married and this is how it ended," Abeling said. "It's a tragic loss of beautiful souls."

Photos from Schenectady Daily Gazette photographer Peter Barber showed a white van-style stretch limousine lodged in a ditch, along with police and emergency vehicles that had converged on the scene.

Jessica Kirby, the manager of the Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe, told the New York Times that the limousine was probably traveling over 60 mph as it came down the hill and that the store was crowded with visitors from out of town because of the long holiday weekend.

"I don't want to describe the scene," Kirby told the newspaper. "We've heard accidents before. You know that sound when it happens."

Calls to the Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe were not answered Sunday afternoon. In a Facebook post, the store said that it would remain open through the weekend despite the "horrific accident in front of our business."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, said state agencies should "provide every resource necessary" to investigate the crash.

"My heart breaks for the 20 people who lost their lives in this horrific accident on Saturday in Schoharie," Cuomo said in a statement. "... I join all New Yorkers in mourning these deaths and share in the unspeakable sorrow experienced by their families and loved ones during this extremely difficult time."

Questions arose in 2015 about the safety standards governing stretch limousines after four women touring wineries in Long Island were killed when a limo was struck by a pickup driver.

Months later, the NTSB committed to investigating crashes involving stretch limos on a "case-by-case" basis. Officials, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pushed for better federal safety regulations for limousines after the crash, citing "significant gaps" in safety standards for the vehicles - which are often modified using aftermarket parts and techniques.

Many stretch limos "may lack certain basic safety features like the necessary number of side impact air bags, reinforced rollover protection bars, structurally sound frames and accessible emergency exits that can aid passengers and first responders in the event of a crash," Schumer's office said in a news release at the time.

It's not known whether the limousine involved in the Schoharie crash had any of those deficiencies.

It's "just really sad - the whole damn thing," Tavenner said. Residents in the town of 3,000 mourned Sunday afternoon as the town supervisor reflected on the two volunteer ambulance companies who responded.

"There wasn't anything they could do there," he said. "It doesn't sound like anybody survived in that limo."

"It's sad because it's a small community, it's a nice place to live, we all like the people that come around here and visit here," he said. "It's just so tragic.

  • Published in World

Cuban National Hero inducted to New York Writers Hall of Fame

Jose Marti, Cuba´s National Hero, was included as new member of the New York Writers Hall of Fame in recognition to his work as poet, essayist, journalist and politician.

Thus, the Cuban creator became the second Hispanic writer to enter the exclusive room, after the Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos did it in 2011, according to Cubadebate website.

The proposal was promoted in recent times by Esther Allen, a Marti scholar and translator, and the Cuban-American historian Ada Ferrer, of New York University, both scholars and promoters of his work.

The induction to the select group took place during a ceremony, in which Ferrer and Lisandro Perez, a Cuban American sociologist and professor at John Jay College, were in charge of the opening speeches.

The New York Writers Hall of Fame is a project of the Empire State Center for the Book that annually grants membership to several writers, living or dead, who have marked the cultural history of that great city.

Some of the most famous members are Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Washington Irving, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Mary McCarthy, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, among others.

This year, along with Marti, five other writers were inducted, two of them also deceased: Ira Gershwin (1896-1983) who wrote many well-known songs with her brother George Gershwin; and E.L. Konigsburg (1930-2013), author of books for children.

The other three authors are the historian and journalist Russell Shorto (1959), Pulitzer Prize-winner novelist Colson Whitehead (1969) and Jacqueline Woodson (1963), current United States Ambassador for Young People´s Literature.

  • Published in Cuba

Painting by Modigliani sells for $157.2m in New York: Sotheby


A stunning nude that is the largest painting produced by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani sold for $157.2 million in New York on Monday, becoming the fourth most expensive work of art sold at auction.

Painted a century ago, Modigliani's masterpiece Nu couche (sur le cote gauche) fetched the highest price in Sotheby's history and was the star single lot in the May art auction season in New York.

Modigliani follows Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso as the third highest-selling artist at auction. Monday's sale failed to eclipse the $170.4 million paid for another Modigliani nude at Christie's in 2015.

Nearly 147 centimeters wide, the picture was the cover star of a recent retrospective at the Tate Modern gallery in London.

Modigliani reinvented the nude for the modern era, and when his series of paintings were first exhibited in 1917, they were considered so shocking that police closed the show in Paris.

Bidding was restrained, lasting three to four minutes and opening at $125 million before auctioneer Helena Newman brought the hammer down at $139 million. The final price includes a buyer's premium.

The price chalks up a healthy profit for its seller, who acquired the picture in 2003 for $26.9 million.

Modigliani completed 22 reclining nudes and 13 seated nudes between 1916 and 1919. Most of the former are found in museums, such as The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Simon Shaw, co-head of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's, said the painting sold Monday, while rooted in tradition, reflected the changing status of women during World War I.

"This is a nude of a very self-possessed, sexually confident woman who is not looking out from a distance. She's absolutely meeting our gaze," he told AFP prior to the sale.

Modigliani's dealer Leopold Zborowski gave him a stipend of 15 francs a day ($15) and paid the models five francs to pose for the artist.

  • Published in Culture

President Raul Castro chairs unveiling of Jose Marti's sculpture brought from NY

Cuban President Raul Castro unveiled here on Sunday a sculpture of Cuban national hero, Jose Marti, a replica of the original one located in New York's Central Park.

Castro was accompanied by First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, other local government and political officials, as well representatives of New York's city government, among other invited American personalities.

In the speech, Havana's official historian, Eusebio Leal, stressed that this statue is an absolute copy in every detail of the original work by the American artist Anna Hyatt Huntington, which was finished in 1958.

The famous sculptor made it at the request of the Cuban government of the time as a gift to the U.S. However, due to political differences, the sculpture was not inaugurated until 1965. It now stands close to statues of other Latin American heroes, Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin in the Central Park.

Joseph Mizzi, Chairman of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, stressed the honour he felt at attending the ceremony on behalf of his colleagues.

Mizzi defined the event as a great gesture for the peoples of Cuba and the U.S., and expressed his gratitude at the donations received by over a hundred people for the realization of the project.

"We have shared with friends, close and far, the idea of bringing to Havana an exact replica of Jose Marti's statue in New York, which is our homage to one of the greatest Latin American intellectuals," he said.

The original sculpture is the only one known to date, depicting the figure of Marti at the time of his fall in action at the battle of Dos Rios on May 19, 1895 in eastern Cuba.

It is based on a missing painting by the Cuban painter Esteban Valderrama and weighs three tons, stands 5.67 meters tall, and made in bronze, with a black marble pedestal.

Marti was born on January 28, 1853 and struggled from a young age to free Cuba from Spanish colonialism, until his death in battle at the age of 42.

The 165th anniversary of his birth has been marked with several celebrations this week throughout the country.

The sculpture of Jose Marti is seen during the unveiling ceremony in Havana, Cuba, Jan. 28, 2018. Cuban President Raul Castro unveiled here on Sunday a sculpture of Cuban national hero, Jose Marti, a replica of the original one located in New York's Central Park.

  • Published in Cuba

Deaths from 9/11-related illness are set to exceed initial toll

Fifteen years have passed, and the agony goes on for those who survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US. More than 1000 people may have died from health problems linked to the terrorist incidents – and the number is rising every year.

The latest official data released by the World Trade Center Health Programset up in 2010 to offer healthcare to those still in ill health as a result of the 2001 attacks – reveals a sharp rise in the number of people diagnosed with cancers that have been linked to dust generated when New York’s Twin Towers collapsed.

The data shows that 50,000 people have been certified sick as a probable consequence of the attacks and 1140 have died – which is more than a third of the 2977 deaths on 9/11 itself.

Cancer rising

Respiratory and digestive disorders account for the highest number of cases, which reached 32,291 as of 30 June 2016. But cancer cases are rising fastest, tripling from 1822 in January 2014 to 5441 in June 2016.

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Given typical survival profiles for cancer patients, some health professionals are now predicting that by 2020, more people will have died through fallout from the attacks than died on 9/11.

“It’s not based on hard numbers, but on the growing number of people who are going down with cancers,” says Ben Chevat, a spokesman for the support group, 9/11 Health Watch.

People searching through the dustMany survivors of the 9/11 attacks have developed dust-related illnesses / Rex Shutterstock

According to Chevat, it is difficult to say with certainty that individuals have died through exposure to fallout from 9/11. But he says that in 50 years’ time, an excess of cancer deaths in New Yorkers may be much more obvious, and people will doubtless link it to the carcinogen-filled dust that blanketed parts of New York in September 2001. Some 150 chemicals in the fallout dust have already been identified as cancer-causing, he says.

Gap in the data

If anything, the current figure of 1140 deaths probably fails to capture all 9/11-linked fatalities – particularly because cases only began to be recorded five years ago. “We wouldn’t have data for deaths before 2011,” says Christy Spring, a spokeswoman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Research last year comparing the health of New York firefighters before and after the event revealed a rise in cases of autoimmune disease. More spikes in disease may be found as health data increases in the wake of the disaster.

Aside from respiratory disease and cancer, the other major disease area linked to 9/11 has been mental health, with 12,500 certified cases so far in the health programme.

Septeto Santiaguero to Perform in New York

Cuba’s Septeto Santiaguero and Jose Alberto “El Canario” will perform next June 28 at the Lincoln Center in New York as part of the annual show Midsummer Night Swing to take plae from June 21 to July 9 in the Big Apple.

There they will perform tracks from the album No quiero llanto, Tributo a los compadres (Los Ca­narios Music/Egrem), Cubadisco 2015 Award winner and Latin Grammy Award winner in 2015 in the category of Best Album of Traditional Music. The album was also nominated to the Latin Grammy Awards in 2016.

The album has been previously presented in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela—where they will perform again with Eduardo Tiburon Morales—and in our country. It will continue to be presented in other countries of Latin America and Europe.

At this moment the Septeto Santiaguero is recording in Estudios Siboney, in Santiago de Cuba, a new album with EGREM, the oldest record company in the country. It will be titled Raiz (Root), a musical production that will homage the different figures they have been influenced in their work of more than 20 years, as said Fernando Dewar, director of Septeto.

Among them are included Ig­nacio Piñeiro, Miguel Matamoros, Ñi­co Saquito, Sindo Garay, Juan For­mell, Adalberto Álvarez, Arsenio Ro­dríguez and Silvio Rodríguez. It will be a varied record that will include danzon, son, trova, changui, sucu sucu, rumba in all its musical richness and it should be released September this year.

The members of the group have also been invited to participate in a new discographic production by Omara Portuondo.

Translation: Cubarte

  • Published in Culture

Cuban Photographs in New York

Renowned Cuban photographer and documentary maker, Roberto Chile, is scheduled to show his exhibition Somos at the Cuban Art Space in New York.

  • Published in Culture
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